The Blessed Heart

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. [Psalms 32:1-2 NIV]

There is a lot of misunderstanding around the idea of what it means to be blessed. We have all heard strange assertions about blessings coming in the form of new houses, cars and other big trinkets. Some speak about blessings in such a way that seems to indicate that they are earned by the receiver.

I love the way David speaks about how blessings have nothing to do with performance. There is really no blessed quid pro quo. A blessing, like forgiveness, is a free gift from heaven. A blessing is spiritual in nature and is often at odds with our physical reality. It is why Jesus could call persecution a blessing.

These sort of blessings are difficult to get our heads around because blessings are only understood with the heart. In truth, every other blessing begins when a person receives a new and blessed heart - when their transgressions are forgiven. Such a one has a blessed heart that has absolutely no deceit.

I am humbled by your forgiveness Lord. Thank you for the blessings of forgiveness and a new heart.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

Thankful for Who You Are

You are a righteous God ... You are my refuge and defense ... You are a faithful God ... You are my God. ... Praise the Lord! How wonderfully he showed his love for me. [Psalm 31:1,2,5,14,21 GNT]

In this season of Thanksgiving, I think that we sometimes forget to give thanks for who God is. I love how David speaks to the character of God in this psalm. There is an intimacy projected in each of these verses. It is as if David had personally experienced each of these divine qualities in his life.

Sometimes people confuse rightness with righteousness. When I consider what it means to be righteous I think about justice and mercy. The Prophet Micah teaches us that a humble walk with God requires us to act justly and love mercy. These two qualities seem to define what it means to be righteous.

The words refuge, defense and faithful speak deeply to me about prayer. I have often come to God in times of deep distress and found spiritual refuge in him. I have sensed him defending me against mental assaults. He has been so faithful to speak comforting and encouraging words to me when I most need it.

You are my God. I give you thanks for who you are and for how you show your love for me.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Thankful Heart

Remember what the Holy One has done, and give him thanks! [Psalm 30:4 GNT]

There is something healing about the giving of thanks. We acknowledge God's goodness when we give thanks to him in the midst of struggle and pain. We seemingly reach back to times of divine blessings when we remember what God has done in our lives. Such memories can be an anchor in the storm.

I can relate to times of pain when all I had was a memory of the goodness of God. There is something about a memory that can cause me to be thankful. When my parents passed on my memories of them caused me to be thankful for their lives. I think that it is helpful to give thanks to God in hard times.

The issue, I believe, is whether we follow the loud dictates of our head and ignore the small voice of our speaking heart. Our minds are somewhat rational and have difficulty giving thanks to God when it does not make sense to do it. Yet the heart has a different perspective because it has a better memory.

We remember what you have done in our lives Lord. And we give thanks.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Aligned Mind

Even when they engage their neighbors in pleasantness, they are scheming against them. [Psalm 28:3]

Can you resonate with what David writes here? Have you ever known a person to say one thing and do something different? Or have you been that person? I have. I can relate to listening more to my duplicitous mind than the still small voice of my heart. I have been embarrassed by such behaviors.

James, in his epistle, tells us that whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin. The new heart knows the right and honest thing to do. We are double minded when our heart and mind are not in sync. We have integrity when our mind is in alignment with our new heart.

Oprah Winfrey echoes James defining integrity as doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not. There is a consistency of heart and mind when integrity is present. And for the believer this means that their mind and their actions are aligned with their honest new heart.

Help us Lord to have lives and minds aligned with our hearts.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Courageous Heart

When the armies of the enemy surround me, I will not be afraid. When death calls for me in the midst of war, my soul is confident and unmoved. [Psalm 27:3 NLV]

We all have fears. We have all had times when we have been afraid. When unexpected things happen my mind often plays out worst case scenarios. It is so easy to capitulate to fearful thoughts. It is difficult to be brave when our brains exercises dominance in our lives because courage is not logical.

In reality fear is the product of our mind. Sometimes the fear is very rational. Bad things do happen. Fear can be helpful when it teaches us to stay away from things that will do us harm. Yet sometimes our minds cause us to embrace fear because we are not tuned in to that inner still small voice.

In times of battle it is best to listen to the courageous voice of our heart and not the bellowings of our head. In troubling times our heart can be an immovable anchor for every part of us. In times of strife our new heart is a place of peace. And when death knocks on our door the heart will answer with confident faith.

Lord help us to not be afraid. Teach us to listen to the courageous voice of our new heart.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Tested Heart

Test me and try me, O Lord. Test my mind and my heart. [Psalm 26:2 NLV]

Life is filled with trials that test us. Disappointment. Unemployment. Sickness. Hopelessness. Betrayal. Death. These try our faith like nothing else. These make little sense and sometimes cause us to doubt, with our minds, the goodness and love of God. These sometimes bring unbearable weights to our souls.

Yet in the midst of dark times a beautiful light sometimes emanates from deep within us. I remember one such time when I was taking my nightly walk. It was just a few weeks after my first wife died. It was a dark time. As I walked I became aware of how much God loved me. Darkness was becoming light.

The journey from darkness to light is one of testing. Will the darkness drive dark thoughts? Or will life's testings cause mental darkness to yield to the beautiful light of the heart? My thinking is that the stronger part of us will win out. Will we feed and strengthen or heart or allow dark thoughts to prevail?

Lord, please help the beautiful light of our new heart to prevail in dark times.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Satisfied Heart

Oh keep my soul, and deliver me. Let me not be disappointed, for I take refuge in you. [Psalm 25:20]

Have you ever prayed to be delivered then disappointed when your request was unanswered. Unanswered prayer is a universal experience. David seemed to understand the feeling. John the Baptist experienced it firsthand when Jesus refused to deliver him from the clutches of his jail keepers.

I suggest to you that the source of disappointment is our brain. The feeling emanates from our logical expectations. Our heads wrap themselves around rules and logic concerning prayer. We develop expectations when we pray. Our brains cause us to feel disappointed when answers do not come.

In contrast the experience of the new heart is satisfaction. When the heart prays it does so with a deep seated sense of contentment. The prayers of the heart are centered in trust. The heart is not disappointed when answers do not come. The new heart continues to trust God and not rely on the head.

Help me to not be disappointed Lord. Teach me to pray with my heart and not my head.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Surrendered Heart

O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! [Psalm 25:1-2 NLT]

What do you think of when you consider the word "surrender"? A battle fought and a white flag of defeat waving? In a carnal sense. In the mental realm. The word conveys a sense of defeat. It is a capitulation to an enemy that has waged war against you. There is absolutely no joy in this kind of surrender.

In contrast, on a spiritual level, there is no more of a glorious concept than that of surrendering your heart to Jesus. I think that the phrase, "I give my life to you" is one of the most beautiful phrases in the bible. When we surrender our hearts to God we are not doing so in defeat but as a gift of service.

To trust is to surrender. We can only trust God for what we have surrendered. If we retain control we are not trusting and have not surrendered anything. In a very real sense salvation is all about giving our life to the Lord each day. He is not really interesting in having our things. He wants us. Our lives. Our hearts.

O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God!

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Hopeful Heart

    I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
    and your house will be my home as long as I live. [Psalm 23:6 GNT]

The word "hope" is sometimes confused with the word "wish". When we say "I hope you get better" we are really conveying a heartfelt wish for a better tomorrow. In that context hope is tenuous and no more than a wishful thought. In contrast, hope is not wishful at all. It emanates from the heart not the head.

When David speaks about goodness, love and eternity he is writing about something that he knows. Hope that he has experienced not something that he wishes would come later on. The nature of hoping is knowing not wishing. In this sense we can only hope in what we know. In Who we know in our heart.

We can have hope for future goodness and love because of what and Who we know today. We can understand that God will be good to us tomorrow because he was good to us yesterday. This kind of hope is not rational because it is not based on what we know with our head but Who we know with our heart.

Help us to remember that we have hope today Lord. Attune our ears to listen to our hopeful heart.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Heart in the Valley

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. [Psalm 23: 4 NKJV]

My first wife Ellen had a heart attack and kidney failure in 1990. She was 39. I was 40. The following years seemed to be filled with one health crisis after another. When I read this verse I remembered the image of a valley I once saw in a vision. A vision of my journey through the valley of Ellen's death.

I was driving to work. I was worried. I was thinking about Ellen. As I began to pray, I saw a picture in my mind. In this vision I saw myself standing on a mountain looking down at a valley. Somehow I knew it was the valley of the shadow of Ellen's death. As I looked into the vision I saw Jesus come to my side, take my hand, and walk with me into the valley. The image reminds me yet today of how I can trust God in dark valleys.

In the days after Ellen's death I sensed my friend Jesus walking with me through that dark valley of death. His presence comforted me. I remember how close I felt to him as I would take walks in the evening listening to worship tapes. My heart seemed to be strong even though every part of me was falling apart.

Come Holy Spirit and walk with us in our dark valleys. There is no greater comforter than you.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.

The Trusting Heart

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. [Psalm 23:1 NLT]

I love this psalm. I gave a Sunday morning talk about it a few years ago. The word 'trust' seems to bleed through every word in Psalm 23. It reminds me of Tony Snow. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and died in 2008. Here are the words that he wrote about the experience in 2007.
Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces. The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." -Christianity Today, July 2007
We have been called to trust the Lord with all of our hearts. When cancer strikes our bodies. When people let us down. When life is out of control and simply does not make sense we are called to trust in our Shepherd. In truth we need trust God with our heart only when our brain is not in control.

Dear Shepherd of our souls. Our lives are in your hands. Help us to trust in you.

... this devotion is part of a series about King David.