Taking Inventory

Have you ever taken inventory? Grocery stores take inventories of their food shelves. Factories take inventories of their stock. In a little twist on the same theme, for those in Alcoholics Anonymous, taking inventory is one of the recovery steps. It’s a self-examination of what’s in their heart, and what’s on their mind.

In Psalm 139, David asks God to take inventory of what is in his heart. He tells him to search the shelves of his heart so that he can test and know the kinds of thoughts that are there. He wants to have a completely transparent and authentic relationship with God.

Most importantly, he wants to know that he is on track to enjoy everlasting life in heaven. Is his heart pointed toward the promised Savior? Are his thoughts focused on God’s grace? Is sin an issue that needs to be dealt with? Have his anxious thoughts been replaced by thoughts of forgiveness and God’s acceptance, of God’s certain love and constant protection?

This is a prayer that every Christian should pray daily. It belongs with every confession of sin. It is a great way to begin reading and studying God’s word. It is a tremendous prayer for before the Lord’s Supper. It is an awesome way to end the day, and ready one’s heart for a peaceful night of rest.

It means that we simply want to have a frank, open, honest, authentic and transparent relationship with our God. And we do not want to hold on to any thoughts or feelings that might block or hold back our relationship to him.

“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” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

Prayer: Repeat the words above from Psalm 139.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, December 8, is Zechariah 5:1 – 8:23, Jude 1:1-25 and Psalm 139:17-24.

Header image based on "Pre-Packaged Bread/Peanut-Butter Department" by Anthony Albright, CC By-SA 2.0

Greater Than Our Hearts

Our hearts are a constant pendulum. We waver between emotions — back and forth. We’re happy and then we’re hurt. We’re angry and then we’re over it. We love, and then love becomes hatred.

Almost everything about our hearts can be strangely fickle.

And this applies to our faith in Jesus Christ as well. One day — even one moment — to the next, our faith can swing from one extreme to another. We’re supremely confident in God’s promises. And then our confidence is dashed to pieces.

This is nothing new. It’s the human experience. It’s the sinner’s experience.

That’s why all the way back in the first century, John the apostle spoke to his people about how to regain lost confidence and preserve rapidly evaporating faith.

First, he says, you need to understand your own heart. Your heart will find ways to condemn you. And actually, it’s not all that hard.

Your sins will raise up feelings of guilt and shame. The words and actions of others will provoke feelings of hurt and alienation. Your mistakes and weaknesses will foster feelings of incompetence, unpreparedness and lack of giftedness.

Our hearts easily fill with un-grace. And it’s a lack of grace aimed at our own selves. It’s an inner voice of self-judgment.

Second, John says, you need to understand your Savior’s heart. You must remember that God is greater than your heart.

In other words, what his heart says about you is far more important than what your heart says about you. And what his heart says about you is found at the cross of Christ and the empty tomb.

Where is your heart at right now? Don’t be surprised if you have to admit that your faith is a little shaky. Don’t be shocked if your heart is hurting, not whole. Don’t be taken off guard if you’re sensing more anger and frustration than love and kindness right now. This is all a part of the life of a sinner-saint.

The good news is, if you feel that way, now you know what to do to set your heart at rest. You can look to Jesus, and know that his forgiveness, love and power are with you all the way!

You know this because the holy God who condemns sin in sinful mankind is also the compassionate God who condemned his own Son to pay for your sins. Jesus’ condemnation made God’s compassion your new reality.

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20, NIV).

Lord Jesus, my heart feels shaky right now. My faith is weak and wavering. But you are greater than my heart. Set my heart at rest. Help me to know that you are with me, and to do the things that will refresh and restore my faith in you. I want to possess a confident faith that leans fully on all your promises.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, December 3, is Daniel 9:20 – 11:1, 1 John 3:11 – 4:6 and Psalm 137:1-9.

Header image based on "Colosseum" by Bob Garland, CC By-SA 2.0

Trading Pain for Praise

What’s impoverishing you these days? What’s making you feel needy, or captive?

When I think of these questions, I can’t help but be reminded of our Resilience and Recovery Ministry at CrossWalk. This ministry has been a huge blessing to our congregation.

And I think I know why.

As David says here in Psalm 69, all of us are going to deal with feeling poor and needy and captive at times. If you know David’s life, then you know he certainly did!

In our Resilience and Recovery Ministry, we use different terminology, but we mean the exact same thing. We call them “hurts, habits and hang-ups.” There’s really no difference — other than the words we use to describe the situation.

And we all have hurts, habits and hang-ups, don’t we? This is no specialized group of people. This is not just someone who by some weird situation in their life has been afflicted. This is the human experience. And we all deal with it, to one extent or another.

Which is precisely why David writes about it. And why he states so clearly what we are to do with our hurts, habits and hang-ups — with our poverty, our need and our captivity.

Seek God. Because God has the most powerful medicine for our souls. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we find Christ in his words and promises, when we locate our Savior in the very sacraments he instituted, when we walk to the cross and the empty tomb — our hearts will live!

As David writes so poetically (and so factually), we will see our gracious and merciful God and be glad. We can be assured God loves us.

David reassures us God has not lost his hearing either. Not one of our prayers or pleas for mercy slips past him.

So, in faith, joy and gratitude, let’s trade in our pain for praise!

“The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live! The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them” (Psalm 69:32-34).

Our Bible reading for June 4, 2015 is 2 Samuel 5:6 – 6:23, Acts 1:23 – 2:21 and Psalm 69:29-36.

One last thing. If you haven’t checked our Resilience and Recovery Ministry on Saturday nights at 6 at Cesar Chavez High School, let me recommend—strongly—you give it a shot! It’s for you, it’s for me, it’s for all of us.

Header image based on "A Need" by Richard Camacho, CC By 2.0