Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Purposing In Our Hearts

"But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself 
with the portion of the king's food, nor with the wine which he drank; 
therefore, he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
Daniel 1:8

Have you ever purposed in your heart to do or not to do something? In this story, Daniel and his three friends were living as captives in Babylon. They desired to eat the Jewish diet that found in the Old Testament Law as a way of honoring the Lord. However, they were being offered the rich foods of the Babylonian king. Daniel very diplomatically expressed his desire to eat according to God’s laws to the Babylonian leader that was over him. He did not berate the king's diet or the man with whom he was speaking. He simply stated his case and suggested a trial period at the end of which it was shown they were healthier eating God's diet. Now, what does that have to do with us?

We are often guilty of reading the Bible, hearing a sermon, or feeling conviction to work on our weaknesses and then don't follow through. Sometimes, we give into our weaknesses, knowing that it is sin, thinking tomorrow will be a new day or God will forgive us. When my daughter was in high school she told me that she was struggling with cussing. I prayed daily she would win the battle she was fighting as that was her heart’s desire. Shortly after she talked to me, we had to go to her school for something. As we stood in line, the language all around us was laced with strong curse words. I asked her if it was like that all the time and she said yes. Later that night I told her I understood why she was having a difficult struggle with language and that her desire to overcome it was proof God was working in her heart. Because she was constantly around foul language, she would have to purpose in her heart not talk like other kids and she would have to focus on loving God, by the words she used. Just as Daniel had to smell and look at the the rich food every day, she would hear the wrong language all day every day. Just as Daniel had to say no daily, she would have to choose not to cuss daily, maybe even hourly. It’s important to realize Daniel's daily decisions to obey God began with a purposing in his heart, but it had to be lived out on a meal-by-meal basis. As he smelled the rich food he may have had to remind himself of what his decision meant.

Another beautiful illustration of someone “purposing in his heart” is that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked His heavenly Father to take the cross from Him, not just once, but several times. He also submitted His will to His Father’s when he said, "Not my will, but yours be done." Hebrews says that Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. Often when we are at a place of struggle it feels so uncomfortable we give in to some kind of sin to ease the anxious feelings. We must remember in the painful places that when we choose obedience there will be joy on the other side of the decision. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." If we want to live an exciting life we must purpose to trust and obey God like the people in Hebrews Chapter 11 did! By keeping their eyes fixed on Christ, their faith was perfected. Was it easy? No! Even Jesus struggled so hard He broke capillaries in his face resulting in sweat tinged with blood. I hope I get to the point that obedience is so important to me that I will be willing to wrestle long and hard enough when my flesh is clashing with my spirit, that I am forever changed and resolve to handle it God's way. 

Have you purposed in your heart to love God through obedience? Have you asked Him to reveal the "weights" that keep you from fully running the race for Christ? What are the things that you deal with every day? Is the language you hear permeating your speech? Are the world’s moral standards becoming your standards? Is the world's immodest dress code becoming your style? Are you allowing the anger of our culture to permeate your speech and your posts on social media? No matter what your struggle is, it comes back to the same thing – will you purpose in your heart to love God through obedience? Will you purpose in your heart to trust the Lord and His word. Will you persevere for the joy of having Christ say, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" At the times it is hard to obey, remember the garden--Christ wrestled long and hard and repeatedly committed Himself to His Father’s will resulting in our redemption. When we trust God and obey Him, it will have an eternal impact. Our words will be a source of blessing and light. Our actions will be loving and kind. Our attitudes will reflect the Savior who saved.

Prayer: Lord, as we look at a person like Daniel who purposed in his heart to obey You regardless of the consequences and we are faced with how wishy-washy our own hearts tend to be. Please help each of us to respond to your call to love You with all that we are and to love others as Christ has loved us. Out of that love, help us to purpose in our own hearts to obey You in the same way that Daniel and Christ did. Allow us to be bright lights in this dark world, ever humbled by Christ’s decision to obey resulting in His death on the cross as our sin was laid upon Him. Help us to remember that our obedience has eternal value and is the source of our joy. AMEN.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!