STEP THREE, IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Psalm 119:11

A few months ago, while packing boxes, I was standing in a room full of books and items trying to determine what I needed to keep, and what could be given away or trashed.  There were things which, at one time, had been necessary for the moment but were no longer worth keeping.  I was trying to be very discerning as to what was most important; what was of great value to me; and what was of utmost importance to store.  If you’re like me, boxes of things you’ve forgotten about tend to follow you from one move to another.  It wasn’t an easy process, and at times it was emotional, but it was necessary in order not to waste storage space with things that I really didn’t need.  

Recently I was unpacking a box, and came across something my mom had kept and given to me years ago.  It was a sweatshirt from when I was in Kindergarten at Carnell Elementary; the Carnell Colts.  For those who know me, I can hear you joking about how I could probably still wear it.  Maybe I can, and maybe I can’t.  Nonetheless, I didn’t need it and it was just another thing to store somewhere that would continue to follow me, in a box, from one place to another.  Don’t get me wrong, just looking at it brought up some great memories.  It was the sweatshirt that made me run faster when I wore it, and gave me special skills when I was playing football at recess.  But it was time to part with the sweatshirt.  “Kenny, give me the woobie.”  (Those who know great lines from great classic movies will get that reference.)    

Here’s the point:  It is hard to store what is most valuable, necessary, and important when there are lesser things taking up space.  I’m speaking of something of much greater worth and significance than the things of this world that get lost, are stolen, fade away, become destroyed, or rust.    

The Psalmist writes,“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Psalm 119:11

To “store” something means that I not only keep it, but in this context in the Hebrew writings it means to “hide away,” because it is like treasure.  In other words, the writer of this psalm is saying that God’s word is of such great value in showing me how to navigate life so that I take steps in the right direction, that its counsel, comfort, and truths are worth treasuring in the place where my emotions are stirred.  God’s word is of great worth because it becomes guardrails to my affections and emotions, pointing them in a Godward direction.  As well, it speaks truth to the thoughts in my mind that so often can become conflicting.   

CLEAN OUT THE CLUTTER . . .

There was a popular show a few years ago, Hoarders, that shed light on compulsive behavior revealed to hoarding items within a home: food, trash, books, toys, clothes, and other things piled up to the ceiling, blocking the hallways, filling up rooms,  thus making it impossible for healthy and safe living conditions. There were some episodes that were hard to watch.  To see what some people had become trapped in due to trauma or a tragedy in their lives was heartbreaking to say the least.  The purpose of the show was to bring in help by way of therapists and professional organizers to assist in the physical clean up, as well as ongoing counseling for those suffering from compulsive hoarding disorder.  Some were success stories; others were not.  

When I think about what I’ve stored in my heart, and what I still have a tendency to hoard, they are certainly not things that keeping me from sinning against God, but rather keep me in sin against God:  anger, jealousy, envy, pride, unforgiveness, and the list could go on.  Some of these are blatantly obvious; you can see them clearly.  But there are, perhaps, those feelings and thoughts that have been tucked away deep in the recesses of your heart and mind, that you have kept so long, yet give no thought to, that are negatively affecting your life in ways you haven’t really considered.  All of these take up space that crowds out our heart, and leaves no room for the true treasure we need to store.  When God shows me what I need to rid my heart of, as I confess those things as sin, I begin to experience and enjoy the freedom found in treasuring Him.      

King David, prayed this in Psalm 139:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”  In other words, David was acknowledging, “God you know my heart.  You know what hurts me, and grieves You!  Show me and lead me in how to really live life well!”   

I’ve found that asking God to show me what is in me, that I’m not even aware of, is a healthy spiritual discipline that eliminates the clutter and creates space for the true treasure God has for me.  It believe it will be for you, as it is for me, a daily discipline that will help you take steps in the right direction.   

KEEP THE TREASURE . . .

There is a state park not too far from where I live that is known for digging for diamonds.  People will come from all over the country to explore the 900-plus acres in hopes of unearthing diamonds.  Just a few years ago, there was an 8-carat diamond found that was worth close to $500,000.  That’s crazy.  I really do need to get a shovel.  

Can you imagine digging up a diamond that’s worth half a million dollars?  Talk about finding treasure.  But there’s a different kind of treasure in God’s word that is lasting; it’s eternal; and it is much more valuable than an 8-carat diamond.  I can hear some saying I’ll take the $500K . . . in cash, please.  Money isn’t evil, but the love of it sure is.  I don’t have time to tell you the countless stories of people who thought they had true treasure after winning a lottery, only to later declare for bankruptcy. 

When your soul lives lavishly on the riches of God’s word you have stored in your heart, you recognize more clearly the worthless trinkets the world seeks to sell you as treasure.  I’ve come to realize that when a heart is void of the authentic treasure of God’s word, it will easily pursue what deceptively sparkles like diamonds.  

To begin a day without storing up the life-sustaining and life-protecting treasure of God’s word, is like waking up and deciding to walk across the Sahara Desert with no water or food.  You will not make it far.  So, I strive to begin each day digging into the Scriptures.  And daily, I always come away with treasure that enriches my life, and helps me take one more step in the right direction.

As you think on this, ask yourself, What do I need to rid my heart of that is keeping me from storing up true treasure and taking one more step in the right direction?  

CULTURE IN CHAOS: LIVING IN A POST-TRUTH WORLD

post truth imageThis afternoon I came across this video on an NBC news site, and although not shocking it did greatly grieve my heart. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfzL8BrNSLQ) A similar story of Drag Queen Story Hour at a New York City is equally disturbing. (https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/drag-queen-story-hour-at-nyc-library) It is sad. It is foolish. And even though it seems utopic, it is destructive. I truly do feel sad for these children, and the parents of these kids. Sadly, we don’t need to wait to determine how this will turn out. Time will tell the same tale of those who have suppressed the truth because they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened: it will be chaotic, not utopic.

A person’s worth and identity is not determined by the acceptance of others. All who are seeking gender neutrality so as to find common ground, equality, and dignity are creating a false reality. Our bodies attest to this, which is why some are choosing not to reveal their biological gender to their children because to do so would be an admission of that which is absolutely true. To deny who we are by God’s sovereign design is to reject true dignity, worth, value and identity. Because we are a fallen humanity, marred by sin, there will never be a place where everyone is fully accepted, with no stereotypes or prejudices this side of heaven. That sounds so insensitive and fatalistic, but thus is the result of the curse of sin; which all the more makes the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ so incredibly life-giving and full of grace and hope.

In Romans 1:18, the apostle Paul mentions those who “suppress the truth.” A people who suppress the truth will become a people who are unbridled in their sin. By suppressing truth, Paul is referring to those who refuse to acknowledge God and His ways. When a person refuses to acknowledge God, it is to numb the conscience of their mind and ignore the longing of their soul so that they might live as if there is no God. To live as if there is no God, is to live with no sense of accountability to the truth of God. Regardless, a person’s choice to not believe in God or to not follow the ways of God does not negate the truth that God does exist and His ways are true. The truth does not hinge on our opinion.

But again, it is no surprise that truth has become relative. In 2016, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year was “post-truth.” It is defined as this: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, regardless of the facts, biological realities, common sense, or anything else that may be empirically evident, our culture would say truth is determined by how a person feels or what a person wants to believe. Incidentally, there are some who profess to be Christians who are walking lock-step with culture regarding this flawed definition of truth, as opposed to clinging to the timeless truth of Scripture as the reference point from which our worldview should be shaped.

So what is our response as followers of Jesus? How should the Church respond to a “post-truth” culture?

As the Church, our desire should be that we become a people who, transformed by the grace and hope of the gospel in Christ Jesus, love all people regardless of their choices. It does not mean we condone or celebrate their choices. As the apostle Paul would say, “May it never be!” Rosaria Butterfield said it well when she wrote in her book “The Gospel Comes with A House Key,” that as believers we are called to sit with sinners but not sin with sinners. What that means is that we are willing to step into uncomfortable situations and engage in meaningful conversations for the purpose of making much of Jesus and the hope that is found in Him. If we as the body of Christ, those who are true believers and not “cultural Christians,” do not press into what is taking place in our culture, we will be like those who pave roads over a treacherous cliff. Our burden for those who reject the truth of God should be as heavy as that described by Charles Spurgeon: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

May we, as followers of Jesus, pray instead of criticize; speak words of truth in love and immersed in grace; be uncompromising, yet engaging. And may all we do point to Christ and the hope of His gospel. It is our only hope, and the only hope for this world.