Above All Things

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” Proverb 4: 23

The writer of Proverbs warns us about the importance of what goes into our heart or inner person, the true ‘you’. “…with all diligence…” is also translated “above all things…”. Above all things we should watch over our heart for from it flow the springs of life!

He then goes on to tell us how to guard and examine our hearts. He uses such terms as “put away”, “put…far from you”, “watch”, “do not turn”, and then in another verse he tells us to “turn”. In other words, it is our responsibility to be pro-active in watching over our heart. A passive mind and will is the enemy of our heart and the welcome mat to our sinful nature and demonic intrigue.

First he warns us about our “mouth” and “lips”. “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious lips far from you.” (verse 24) If we wish to know what is in our heart, all we need to do is listen to the words coming out of our mouth. The words of our mouth reveal the content of our heart. If we find evil (i.e. bitterness, deceitfulness, lying, boasting, etc.) pouring out of us, we need to find the root in our heart and remove it by repentance based on the word of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, he warns us about what we are paying attention to. Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” (verse 25) Paul told Timothy to play close attention to himself and we need to do the same. Does good and noble things have our attention or are we fixated on worldly and sinful things? Do we like to tip toe into satan’s territory, exposing ourselves to his snare. If our attention is drawn to worldliness and sin, we need to determine where this is coming from in our heart and deal with it.

Thirdly, he warns us about where our thoughts and corresponding actions are taking us, are we walking in fellowship with Lord Jesus or are we on the path of the wicked? Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. (verse 26-27) If we look honestly at the fruit of our lives, what path does it show we are own? Are we becoming more like Christ or more like the world? Or are we just wallowing around in complacently, worldliness and lukewarmness?

Paul, a brother who once found himself on the wrong path, tells us in 2 Corinthians 7 that we need to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God. The healthy, profound, adoring, awed respect (reverential fear) of the Lord teaches us to hate evil and to keep His commandments. Obedience is how we show our love for Him. (John 14: 21). By removing evil from our heart we become more “holy” or “set apart” unto the worship and service of God. I Corinthian 1: 2 tells us this is what God the Father through Jesus Christ has called us to. We are “saints by calling”.

So above all things watch over your heart, that hidden person who you truly are. That is the person the Holy Spirit sees and we need to see ourselves as He sees us. Thank your heavenly Father that His goal is to cause us to walk in agape love that flows from a pure heart, a clear conscience and sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5). If we obey His word in the power of the Holy Spirit this will be accomplished and our heart will be purified (I John 3:3 & 1 Peter 1:22). Thank you, Father God.

Carl

Food For Your Inner Man

“As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God-not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.” ― George Muller (The Autobiography of George Muller). From Berean Call

Christians and Christ’s Intention

“The true Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God: all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are his marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which he nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered!”

John Wycliffe (c. 1320s – 31 December 1384),

He was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, biblical translator, reformer, minister, and professor at the University of Oxford. He was an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood and is considered an important predecessor to Protestantism. Wycliffe attacked the privileged status of the clergy, which had bolstered their powerful role in England. He then attacked the luxury and pomp of local parishes and their ceremonies. Wycliffe also advocated translation of the Bible into the common language.

From The Berean Call

The Insanity of Sacrifice

“Coming out of an environment of debilitating persecution and death in the Horn of Africa, we set out to visit other believers in similar settings to discover for ourselves if Jesus was trustworthy. Is Jesus able to accomplish in the Somalias, the Afghanistans, and the Syrias (and in every other place!) of today what He did among the Roman Empire of His day? Was His resurrection simply an isolated historical event –or is that same resurrection power available to those who walk with this Living Jesus today?

Within a brief time, we were given the opportunity to travel the world and learn from brother and sisters in Christ who had survived —and who were continuing to survive—in settings of severe persecution. Over the next decade, we visited more than seventy-two countries, and interviewed more than six hundred followers of Jesus who live in environments of persecution and the possibility of imminent death. Much to our amazement, we discovered that these fellow followers of Jesus were not merely surviving —they were thriving in their faith. And God was blessing them in remarkable and startling ways.

What we learned were life lessons from believers living in persecution, who are living out the resurrection —even today. Our search through countries revealed dramatic testimonies of believers who have come to know God intimately as a faithful friend —a friend who calls us to a life of sacrifice modeled after His own.

This matter of sacrifice is a challenge for all of us. And we will be wise to approach any conversation about it with a spirit of humility and prayer. It is our sincere hope that, through the stories contained in these devotions, God will change all of us. It is our prayer that God will give you a heart for the world. It is our desire that you will embrace the privilege of sacrificing for His glory.

God, we are so thankful for Your sacrifice that allows us to know You as Father, Savior, and Lord. God, we recognize that You have sacrificed Your Son for us. And we wonder if maybe that sacrifice should be the end of the story.

But You invite us to join You in sacrifice.

Why is our sacrifice still needed? Following You is so much harder than simply studying about You. Please give us courage as You call us forward.”

Excerpt from The Insanity of Sacrifice, A 90 Day Devotional by Nik Ripken with Barry Stricker, p. 6 – 7

Other recommended books by Nik Ripken:

The Insanity of God

The Insanity of Obedience

Please pray for an abundance of God’s grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to be with those suffering persecution and the possibility of imminent death, in many nations today, for the cause of Christ. Do not forget them. May God fulfill every desire for good works that are in your heart and the desire for resurrection power.

Carl

The Importance of Kindness

To him who is about to faint and despair, kindness is due from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.

Job 6:14 Amplified Bible

Though I have read the Book of Job several times, I did not remember this verse until I heard a sermon on kindness.

Job is addressing one of his friends who came to “comfort” him. Job was faint and in despair from the trial he was undergoing and he needed “kindness” from his friends instead of judgementalism. Satan’s goal in Job’s trials was to have him curse God to his face which would amount to forsaking the “fear” or “reverence” of the Almighty. He would cease to conduct himself in the healthy, wholesome, overwhelming, profound, adoring, awed respect (reverential fear) which manifested itself in obedience.

After hearing this sermon, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I had walked right by another Christian who was “faint and despair” and did not stop to offer a word of encouragement or to tell them that God had not forsaken them, but would see them through the deep waters they were going through. I wondered if a brother or sister in Christ had turned their back on the Lord due to my lack of sensitivity and just common kindness.

God put several Christian hospital workers in my wife’s path when she was receiving treatment for breast cancer. They were an unbelievable encouragement to her and me during this time of spiritual fainting and despair. Just to know that the Lord had not forgotten us, was such a blessing.

Do you know anyone that is fainting and in despair due to some trial they are undergoing? If you do, show them kindness. Encourage them to not let their trial deter them from continuing to offer the Father the profound, adoring awed respect that He alone is worthy of. Remind them that He chose them in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, to spend eternity with Him as His adopted child. And how He has lavished His grace upon them by sending the Lord Jesus to die on the Cross for their sins while they were yet sinners.

In closing, remember our brothers and sisters in foreign lands that are being persecuted and murdered for their faith in Christ. One way to express our kindness is to ask the Father to strengthen their faith, give them an abundance of grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Let us heed the Holy Spirit through the writer of Hebrews:

[Therefore beware] brethren, take care, lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart [which refuses to cleave to, trust in, and rely on Him], leading you to turn away and desert or stand aloof from the living God.

But instead warn (admonish, urge, and encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamor of his sin may play on him]. Hebrew 3:12-13 Amplified

Carl

Reflections on Psalm 51 – A Repentant Heart

“This is the greatest of all penitential prayers, biblical and extra-biblical. Through the centuries men with a burden of guilt have been led to the very throne of grace by its words. The author is not only conscious of being a sinner in general, he is also conscious of being a heinous sinner in some specific way. Yet, he is not one of the habitually wicked who refuse to repent. The saint is the sinner who repents; the wicked man is the sinner who refuses to throw himself upon the mercy of God. It is no wonder that in tradition the Psalm was associated with David in his deep sin and soul-searching repentance (II Sam. 11-12).

“Even in the laws of sacrifice in the Old Testament there is no sacrifice for sins committed with a high hand. This means that for the one who was guilty of such willful disobedience there was no sacrifice. He must throw himself directly on the grace of God. Since this was true, it also stands to reason that no one of the legal sacrifices was adequate to express the psalmist’s heartfelt thanksgiving and praise for so great a salvation. The only sacrifice known to him under such circumstances was his broken and contrite heart.”

Layman’s Bible Commentary – The Book of Psalms- Arnold B. Rhodes (1960) p. 85, 88

Since we New Testament believers still commit sin, I encourage you to read Psalm 51 in the light of these comments and remembering that David was saved by grace just like we are. He was looking forward to the Cross and we are looking back to the Cross. No one has been saved by their good works or keeping the Jewish law. It is only by God having mercy upon us.

Therefore, we need to continue to confess our sins so we keep ourselves clean of defilement from sin, which makes it impossible to fellowship with the Father and Lord Jesus (I John 1: 4-10). The Lord Jesus said the following:

“But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments and they will walk with me in white for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4

Some Sardis believers were serious about purifying their ways and were keeping their sins confessed and forsaken; therefore, He said these would walk (fellowship) with Him in white. He would not walk with the other believers because they were defiled with their “deeds” that were characteristic of “dead” or lost people, not saved individuals.

Yes, the sacrifice of Jesus paid for all of our sins; past, present and future. But He that paid for our sins on the Cross taught His disciples to ask daily that God the Father would “forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12). He also told the New Testament believers in Sardis (Rev 3: 3), Laodicea (Rev 3:19), Thyatira (Rev 2: 21-22), Pergamum (Rev 2:16), and Ephesus (Rev 2: 5) to repent of their sinful ways. And that is just in the New Testament.

After reading Psalm 51, read Psalm 32 where David describes what he experienced when he did not acknowledge his sin. See if you can relate to it. I can. Then read on and see what he says after he confesses his sin. I can relate and I believe you can to.

Oh, saint how God loves us and wants us to walk with Him in white; to fellowship with Him and serve Him in practical holiness being separated from the defilement of the world and sin. The hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in us and the awesomeness of His power toward us are so astounding and stunning and undeserved, shall we not prepare ourselves for the day we will see Him face to face? While we are on the earth, shall we not return His love that He has lavished upon us with eager service to Him and His cause?

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous ones. And shout for joy all you who are upright in heart.” Psalm 32: 10-11

Merry Lord Jesus’s Birthday to you and your family.

Carl

Knowing God In A Deeper Way

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him.” Ephesians 1: 17

Following is a true story from Dr. H. A. Ironside, a former pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. The subject is Ephesians 1:17. The story also contains the best definition of biblical meditation I have ever read. Enjoy. Carl

“I remember years ago, while my dear mother was still living, I went home to visit the family, and found there a man of God from north of Ireland. I was a young Christian at the time, engaged in gospel work. He was a much older man, an invalid, dying of what we then called “quick consumption.” He had come out to Southern California, hoping climatic conditions would be of some help to him. But it was evident that he was too far gone to be recovered to health again. He lived, by his own desire, in a small tent out under the olive trees a short distance from our home. I went out to see him there, I can remember how my heart was touched as I looked down upon his thin worn face upon which I could see the peace of Heaven clearly manifested. His name was Andrew Fraser. He could barely speak above a whisper, for his lungs were almost gone, but I can recall yet how, after a few words of introduction, he said to me, “Young man, you are trying to preach Christ; are you not?” I replied, “Yes I am.” “Well,” he whispered, “sit down a little, and let us talk together about the Word of God.”

He opened his well worn Bible, and until his strength was gone, simply, sweetly, and earnestly he opened up truth after truth as he turned from one passage to another, in a way that my own spirit had never entered into them. Before I realized it, tears were running down my face, and I asked, “Where did you get these things? Could you tell me where I could find a book that would open them up to me? Did you learn these things in some seminary or college?” I shall never forget his answer. ” My dear young man, I learned these things on my knees on the mud floor of a little sod cottage in the north of Ireland. There with my open Bible before me, I used to kneel for hours at a time, and ask the Spirit of God to reveal Christ to my soul and to open the Word to my heart, and He taught me more on my knees on that mud floor that I ever could have learned in all the seminaries or colleges in the world”

Is it not true that most of us do not stay long enough in the presence of God? We do not get quiet enough to let Him talk to us and reveal His mind to us. “Meditation,” someone has said, ” is becoming a lost art in our day.” To meditate is really to chew the cud. Just as the cattle take their food in the rough, and then ruminate and get the sweetness and the good out of it, so the believer needs to read the Word and then spend time quietly in the presence of God, going over it again and again, ruminating, chewing the cud, until it becomes truly precious to the heart.

It is when one thus gets in the presence of God that the Holy Spirit delights to take of divine things and show them unto us. It is thus we grow in the knowledge of Christ. That is one reason why the Spirit came. Every believer to a certain extent has the knowledge of Christ, but the original word implies more that that. It is not merely knowledge as such; it is really super-knowledge, or full knowledge. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him.” Perhaps you know him as Savior, as the One who has redeemed you from everlasting destruction, as the glorious Head of the Church, with whom you are linked by the Holy Spirit. He would have you to go on to know him better, for there are riches in Christ that you may be sure you have never yet entered into. We cannot afford to be negligent, or to let other things crowd out the blessing we might have by giving more time to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. ”

H. A. Ironside, LITT.D – In the Heavenlies [Ephesians] (1937), pages 86 – 89