How Is Your Heart Hearing?

Therefore take heed how you hear… (Luke 8:18).

Therefore—when I see this word, I need to ask, “What came before?” Jesus has just shared the parable of the sower and given its fuller explanation to His disciples. Now Jesus is speaking privately to His disciples and telling them, “Be very attentive to how you are hearing My words.”  

Why would Jesus tell them that? He says that the way we pay attention to His words can either bring more blessing to our lives, or cause us to miss out on His blessings: “For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken away from him” (v. 18). 

In other words, every single one of us has the capacity to have hearts like all four types of soil Jesus talked about in His parable: hard, rocky, thorny, productive. 

I must be attentive to how I’m listening to Christ’s words…

  • …with a prepared (plowed) heart 
  • …not preoccupied with worldly things
  • …ready to obey what He says
  • …ready to share the blessings of what I hear with others

Lord, my heart is ready. Speak to me. I am ready to hear, ready to obey, and ready to share. Give me more insight into what You are saying to me.

The Powerful Name Of Jesus

As we approach Christmas Day and we think about the First Advent, many times our thoughts go to the scene of a lowly manger, tired parents, and a newborn baby wrapped in cloths. We tend to focus on the Baby. 

And rightly so! 

It is fascinating to think that before He was even born an angel appeared to both Joseph and Mary to tell them that this Baby should be named Jesus (Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:31). But have you also noticed all of the other names and titles given to the Baby at His birth? 

    • a Savior who is Christ the Lord
    • Immanuel which means “God with us” 
    • Son of the Most High 
    • King of the Jews
    • Ruler of God’s people
    • Son of the Most High God
    • God Himself

What do we do with the name of the Lord? 

When I say “the name of the Lord” I’m not talking about the five letters that spell J-E-S-U-S or even C-H-R-I-S-T. The name of the Lord means all of God’s character, His majesty, His personality, His magnificence, everything that makes God God. 

The Bible clearly tells us how to use God’s name properly. We are to use the name of the Lord for

    • salvation
    • protection
    • batting the enemy
    • preaching
    • praying
    • casting out demons
    • healing the sick

The use of the name of the Lord should distinguish us. CHRISTians bear the name of Christ, so they should represent the character of God accurately, and in a way that causes others to glorify Him and want to approach Him. 

If there is a proper way of using the name of the Lord, that also means there are ways we can misuse the name of the Lord, something God expressly forbids in the third of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7). 

We misuse the name of the Lord when we… 

    • …use His name as a throwaway phrase or as a curse word  
    • …make light of His majesty
    • …allow Jesus to be one of many options to salvation (see Acts 4:12) 
    • …use His name to make us look or sound religious (see Matthew 7:21-23) 
    • …perform parlor tricks (see Acts 19:13-16)

There is a holy balance—Jesus is both King of kings and a Friend of sinners. God paid an incredibly high price so that we could be reconciled to Him, but not so that you could treat Him ignorantly or carelessly. This calls for some serious searching by the Holy Spirit! Perhaps you could pray a prayer that David penned: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Poetry Saturday—Jesus, The Very Thought Of Thee

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run. —Bernard of Clairvaux

Thursdays With Oswald—Dealing With Persecution

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Dealing With Persecution

     If a disciple is going to follow Jesus Christ, he must lay his account not only with purity and with practice, but also with persecution [Matthew 5:38-42]. … 

     When we are on Jesus Christ’s errands, no time is to be taken in standing up for ourselves. Personal insult will be an occasion in the saint for revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus. … Naturally, if a man does not hit back it is because he is a coward; supernaturally, it is the manifestation of the Son of God in him: both have the same appearance outwardly. … 

     Our strength has to be the strength of the Son of God, and “He was crucified through weakness.” Do the impossible, and immediately you do, you know that God alone has made it possible. … 

     The miracle of regeneration is necessary before we can live the Sermon on the Mount. The Son of God alone can live it, and if God can form in us the life of the Son of God as He introduced Him into human history, then we can see how we can live it too. …  

     The Sermon on the Mount is not, “Do your duty”; but, “Do what is not your duty.” … You will go the second mile, not for their sakes, but for Jesus Christ’s sake. … The first thing God requires of a man is to be born from above, then when he goes the second mile for men it is the Son of God in him Who does it. …  

     We always say we do not know what Jesus Christ means when we know perfectly well He means something which is a blunt impossibility unless He can remake us and make it possible. … We can always find a hundred and one reasons for not obeying our Lord’s commands, because we will trust our reasoning rather than His reason, and our reason does not take God into calculation. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount 

If the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount sound humanly impossible, that’s because they are! 

I cannot turn the other cheek, give to everyone who asks me, or go the second mile; but Jesus in me CAN. I have to allow the Holy Spirit to transform me, to mold the character of Jesus into me. When this happens, it is no longer I who are trying to do these things, but the Spirit of Christ in me that is actually doing these things.

Blessings And Woes

… blessed are you … woe to you … (Luke 6:20-27). 

Blessings and woes: the positives and negatives of the Christian life. Jesus listed these back-to-back to remind us that we need to keep both of them in mind, sort of like two rails that keep us on track. 

It’s interesting to note how many of these blessings and woes are opposites of each other. It comes down to this—

there are blessings for seeking the Kingdom of God, AND there are woes for seeking our own immediate pleasure.

Notice the contrasts Jesus lists:

  • You are blessed when you seek heavenly rewards; you experience woe when your focus is earthly treasure (vv. 20, 24). 
  • You are blessed when you are driven by a hunger for God; you experience woe when your god becomes your selfish appetites (vv. 21, 25). 
  • You are blessed when you acknowledge your sin, weep over it, and repent from it; you experience woe when sin is laughed at (vv. 21, 25). 
  • You are blessed when you are hated by the world for loving God; you experience woe when you are loved by the world for loving sinful pleasures (vv. 22, 26). 

I think C.S. Lewis captured these thoughts well when he wrote in Mere Christianity, “Give yourself up and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. … Look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” 

Blessings for seeking Jesus and His kingdom; woes for seeking only your own kingdom. 

So how do we live blessed? Here’s what Jesus taught us (vv. 27-49)—

Love your enemies
Always do good, even (especially!) to your haters
Bless those who curse you 
Don’t fight for your rights
Be an impartial, liberal giver
Treat others the way you want to be treated 
Love and give to others without expecting a return
Be merciful
Don’t be judgmental
Give, give, and give some more
Look in the mirror at yourself first before looking out the window at others
Serve others
Check what sort of fruit your life is bearing
Build everything in your life on God’s Word

Avoid the woes AND enjoy the blessings of God! 

The Everlasting Hope In Our Everlasting Lord

It was for our benefit that God came to Earth in His First Advent, not in thunder, and lightning, and all the brilliance of His heavenly glory, but as a Baby. Otherwise, He would have been unapproachable by sinful man. 

But make no mistake about it—although born as a human baby, Jesus was still “Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord”! 

The thought of God being everlasting permeates the Scriptures:

    • He is everlasting Lord
    • He fulfills an everlasting covenant
    • so He is worthy of everlasting praise
    • His everlasting arms support us
    • and give us His everlasting love and everlasting kindness
    • His everlasting salvation gives us everlasting life, or rejecting it leads to our everlasting punishment
    • and in His presence is everlasting joy  

Charles Wesley captures this fully-God-fully-Man essence in his song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by calling Jesus the everlasting Lord and then listing His humanness at His First Advent with phrases like offspring of a virgin’s womb, veiled in flesh, incarnate Deity, pleased as Man with men to appear, and Immanuel. 

Jesus came to earth as Man not because He was forced to, but because it fulfilled the everlasting covenant that God had planned. The writer of Hebrews explains beautifully how He became like us in all of our humanness so that He could be a merciful help to us (see Hebrews 2:10-18). 

When Matthew tells the birth story of Jesus, he includes a line pregnant with meaning: “All this took place to fulfill…” (Matthew 1:22). 

What “all this”? Just take a look at Christ’s genealogy in the opening verses of Matthew 1. You see Abraham who tried to “help” God fulfill the covenant by fathering a child with another woman; Jacob who swindled his birthright from Esau; Judah who fathered Perez through his widowed daughter-in-law, whom he thought was a prostitute; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a non-Jewish foreigner; David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed, and from their relationship came Solomon; Solomon’s son split the kingdom in two; from Abijah to Jeconiah the kings became progressively more and more evil; from Jeconiah forward the kings were without a kingdom; and then Joseph was a prince without a throne or even the glimmer of a hope of a throne. 

Yet ALL THIS took place to fulfill God’s plan. All of history is His story! Every deed and misdeed was used by God to fulfill His everlasting plan of redemption. Jesus had a very human family tree so that none of us could be outside His merciful reach.

What’s your genealogy like? More good than bad? What about your own history? More mess ups than positives? Nothing in your genealogy—past or present—can ever stop our everlasting Lord from fulfilling His everlasting covenant with YOU (Romans 8:28)! 

Christ’s genealogy is proof that your genealogy is no hindrance to His everlasting plan! 

It may appear He is late in time, but behold Him come at just the right time. Accept Him as your everlasting Lord, lean on His everlasting arms, and bask in His everlasting joy. 

Jesus—our Immanuel here—came so you could have all of God’s everlastingness! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the amazing messages in our old familiar Christmas carols. 

A Leader’s Intercession

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you (1 Samuel 12:23).

Leaders teach, and encourage, and train, and correct, and sometimes even warn. But despite all of this effort sometimes people still do wrong—and even sinful—things. And sometimes there are consequences for these poor choices that even a leader cannot deflect away from them. 

  • Position-conscious leaders say, “It’s not my fault, and I hope this doesn’t reflect poorly on me!” 
  • Selfish leaders say, “I’m glad I’m not in trouble!” 
  • Vindictive leaders say, “It serves you right!” 

Godly leaders say, “How can I serve you?” 

The Israelites grumbled against God, and God was angry. It would have been understandable if Moses would have said, “You complained so you’re going to have to bear the consequences.” But instead, Moses interceded before God on their behalf (Numbers 11:1-2). 

The people rejected God as their King and chose instead a man named Saul to lead them. Samuel could have said, “You’re in big trouble now!” But instead, he said, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). 

What about you? Have you ever grumbled against God or chosen a path that wasn’t best for you? Jesus could say, “Well, you should have known better!” But instead, we read that He intercedes before God’s throne on our behalf (Job 9:33-34; Hebrews 4:15-16; 7:25). 

The mark of a godly leader is one who intercedes for his people.

If you are a Christ-follower and you are a leader of people, then follow Christ’s example. Yes, continue to teach, encourage, train, correct, and warn. But if people mess up, don’t write them off; instead, intercede before God on their behalf! 

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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