Heart Surgery

God cares about the position of my heart rather than the actions of my hands.


What is my motive for serving God? What is my motive for sharing my faith with others? Am I learning God’s word so that those who see me will think I’m great, smart, or something else about me? Or am I learning, sharing, and serving out of a grateful heart? Which describes you? Motives are often more important that the act.

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 119:33-36 (NIV)

The fourth plea from the Psalmist comes now to change the position of his heart. The Psalmist wants his heart to be bent toward God’s testimonies. That is really cool if we think about it. The psalmist wants his heart bent toward God. Why would he use such language?

“Incline my heart to your testimonies…”

Well, if we think about this I believe that the answer will be apparent. The heart of man is evil, that much is true from Scripture. Every inclination of mankind’s heart is toward evil, toward rebellion against God and His commands.

Nothing much has changed in the years since the first rebellion in the Garden of Eden. We continue to fight God for control. We continue to kick back at His commands. We scream and yell about our freedom and how God’s rules impinge on our freedom. We are indeed a selfish and arrogant people. God has placed His law to protect us. His rules form boundaries that will keep us from harm. Our harm is from not observing His laws.

The Psalmist is asking God to change the inclination of his heart. He is asking God to change how his heart is oriented. In essence he is asking God to correct the incorrect bend of his heart from rebellion and evil toward God’s righteousness. What a prayer this is to ask.

If God is to “re-bend” our hearts, we need to be ready to experience pain. This pain will be deep. To change the bend of one’s heart means that our every behavior—our every motive—must be changed. But can I change it myself? No. Only through God can our evil heart of stone be turned into a heart of flesh that seeks after God and His righteousness. It is only through the transforming work of God that we can do anything right or good.

The “re-bending” of our heart is a life-long process. It is like progressive sanctification I wrote about earlier. We continually become more like Christ. The process we undergo in this “re-bending” is fueled by trials. We get placed in trials to change our attitudes, heart orientation, and motives. Courage is needed—faith is required—to ask God to re-bend one’s heart. Do I have that faith and courage? Do you?

“…and not to selfish gain!”

The Psalmist wants his heart—himself—to be bent toward God’s testimonies—God’s words—but that is not the end. He desires that this re-bending will cause his motives will be toward God and not toward selfish gain.

Every church has experts in everything who are quick to judge, critique, and condemn. Sometimes these folks are pastors and elders. Other times they are those who sit in the pews. If a man can not serve quietly in submission to an elder or pastor, that person should never be allowed to lead a church. Someone who constantly draws attention to himself instead of being as quiet as possible should examine his motives. Sadly though these folks will probably never truly look at their motives. Remember, they’re the smart ones. But this problem has been around since the church began. It will remain until after the millennial reign of Christ.

We see this in the Judaizers in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We also see it in John’s 3rd letter when he referenced Diotrephes (3 John 9-10). When we read about Doitrephes we read about a man who out for his own gain, his own position. He wants to be first. He wants to be “the man” when it comes to things of church. He always wants to be first. He is not so much a servant as he is a taskmaster.

Have you ever met on of these folks? You probably have. I have both seen these types of people while sitting in the pew as a congregant and preaching form the pulpit as a pastor. I like how Chuck Swindoll refers to these folks. He calls them “Boars in God’s Vineyard.”

What about me? How are my motives? Am I overly critical about tiny things? Do I want to bend toward God’s testimonies? How about my motives? Do I serve to truly build the body of Christ or do I have selfish motives? The motives of the heart are more important than the actions of the hands. How about you?

Crush me O Lord! Make me into YOUR workmanship and not mine. Conform me, shape me, change me, use me for YOUR glory, not mine. Re-bend my heart toward you and not toward selfish gain.

Hittin’ Nerves


“Leaders aren’t born, they’re made.”

I remember this mantra being drilled into my head as I served in the Marine Corps in the 1980’s. Yes I know I’m old. But an aspect of a good leader that is often lost is that a leader is first a good follower. A good leader is willing to be led and has been led.

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 119:33-36 (NIV)

In saying “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” the Psalmist again hits a nerve in our modern culture. Actually I think he hits a few nerves. Especially for those in the Church.

The first nerve is that of being led by someone else. How long will we wrestle with God over just who, between man and God, is sovereign and who is not? How long will we battle with Him over control? And before you think I’m being holier-than-thou in asking these questions, I’ve already asked them of myself. Our battle for control goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. How much simpler and enjoyable would life be if we simply observed God’s leading and His sovereignty over us.

Another nerve is the one of knowing everything, or being the smartest. Being led means I have to admit that I don’t know it all. That can be tough sometimes. Well OK, often times! If you haven’t noticed I am quite an opinionated person. I like my opinions. I think my opinions are right. But I hope I know enough to know I don’t know it all. While I may believe my opinions are right, I know that I’m probably incorrect in some of them. I need to be teachable enough to admit I’m wrong when I’m demonstrated to be wrong. I need to be willing to be led to the truth regardless of how many degrees I have on my wall. Being willing to be led means that I don’t know it all but the One who is leading me does. Am I humble enough to be led? Are you?

“Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.”

And that is exactly what the Psalmist is asking God to do. Look again at our verse for today: “Lead me in the path of your commandments…” The Hebrew word here means “to tread on a path, to march or to cause to march”. Another meaning which I find interesting is that it can mean “to tread a bow (bend a bow to string it) by stepping on it with a foot”. It appears that the Psalmist is desiring that God make him conform his steps to His path. The Psalmist longs to be led into God’s commands, not into a particular place, circumstance, or anything else. Just lead me into the path of YOUR commandments! Are we willing to do this? There’s another nerve! Conform me to You, God!

The Psalmist also states his attitude: “for I delight in it.” Wow, what a great attitude. The Psalmist has his head screwed on correctly. Perhaps this is because he had seen so much disregard for God’s commandments in his life. Perhaps he had seen so much unrighteousness, so much ungodliness that his heart cried out for this. The Psalmist may have seen man at his worst and realizes that man at his worst—or even at his best—requires God to be center of all of man’s desires. Only God can save us from ourselves and our wicked ways.

 I delight in being led to God’s commandments

So the Psalmist not only desires the right thing (to be led God’s way) but also for the right reason and result: delighting in the way of God! How cool is that. Wouldn’t it be great to have a congregation full of folks this way? Wouldn’t it be great to have friends like this? To have those around me (and you) with this type of attitude would be encouraging and a huge blessing.

While we don’t necessarily have this universal attitude today, I know one way we can improve that situation. I can begin to have this attitude. I can desire to be led of God in His commands. I can delight in being both led in a certain way AND in the commands of God. And if every one of us dedicate just himself or herself to becoming this type of person, well, do I have to finish describing what this would look like?

Break my will, break my heart. Crush me O Lord that I might delight more fully in Your commands and Your leadership over me.

Shopping at God’s Feet

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 119:33-36 (NIV)


“I want this!” is sometimes heard in my trips into a store. Sometimes the demands for stuff are accompanied by kicks, screams, and tears if the person demanding the stuff doesn’t get what they are demanding. Our selfishness is often on display in the acquiring of stuff.

Sometimes our selfishness can slide into our spiritual life. I once heard a man say that he wanted all the rewards he could get. He wanted ALL the rewards. One of this person’s chief disciples said he wanted a huge crown. In fact he expected his crown was going be soooo big because of all the work he was doing. These folks didn’t seem to be serving God out of a thankful heart. They seemed to be serving God out of selfish motives. Is that really service? Motives are very important to God. James 4:1-3 come to mind when thinking of motives.

Some demand things to make our lives easier, life more certain, family more enjoyable. But How often do I ask for something to make a difference in my friendship with God? How about you?

Returning to our text in Psalm 119, we get a glimpse of such a person. Here we read the second thing that reflects a person who is teachable and one I think is used in a mighty way:

“Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.”

“Give me understanding…” 

The familiar “Give me!” is here but look at what the Psalmist asks: “Give me understanding…” Notice that he asks for understanding. This type of understanding is not just mental acquisition of facts. No this includes the idea of discernment. The Psalmist is asking for the ability to discern between things. But to what end?

“that I may keep your law and observe it…”

The Psalmist is not asking for understanding so that he will have a good reputation, be respected, or idolized. No the Psalmist wants to keep and observe God’s law. The Hebrew is interesting here. After the “give me” part, the two words translated “keep” you law and “observe” it are constructed in such a way as to show the purpose of the request or the result of the request.  A translation could be “Give me understanding for the purpose of me keeping and observing you Law” or “Give me understanding with the result of that understand being that I keep and understand your law.” Either way we decide to take this (purpose or result) the motives of the Psalmist are clear.The Psalmist is focused on God’s desires, not his.

Do we have this attitude in prayer? How often do we focus on what God wants for us rather than the things we want? I don’t mean the “if it be your will” caveat we attach to some of our prayers. I’m talking about prayers regarding our sanctification. How about asking God for trials so that we become more like Him? What about asking God to take us to a foreign land? What about asking God for the ability to understand His word so that we might conform to it all the more? How about asking God for challenges so He can glorify Himself in my life? And what about living a life more righteously?

As I look at these few questions, I think “YIKES! Do I have the faith to ask God for understanding so that I will conform to His will more?” How about you?

“…with my whole heart”

Finally, look at how the Psalmist wants to observe God’s law;  the Psalmist doesn’t want to give a half-hearted effort. He doesn’t want to give 90% effort at this. No, he wants to go at it wholeheartedly. He doesn’t want to hold anything back. In sports verbiage, he wants to leave everything on the field.

Have you ever seen someone serving God with their whole heart? Someone totally committed to serving God—totally committed to observing God’s will for their life is a sight to behold. I wish I was that person. I want to be that person. So what keeps me from being that person? What keeps you from being that person? I’ll work on the answers to thee questions and get back to you!

More than a great teacher, fantastic preacher, or renowned theologian we should want to be a teachable people.

We should want to be one who does not know everything but wants to continue to learn. We should never want to think that we have “it” all together but always want to be putting “it” together. We should want to desire to have understanding so that I can discern the things of God from the things of man. We should want to pursue God’s will for his life with our entire being rather than pursuing our own goals.

Will we be satisfied with the respect and admiration of man…or do we desire conformance—and the work that comes with it—to God even though the process of conforming is often painful?

O Lord, how I want you to give me understanding so that I can discern correctly your will from mine and that I would pursue You with all my heart, mind, and soul.

Are We There Yet?

One important lesson I have learned is that we never really arrive in learning.

Whenever we go on a journey of over, say, 15 minutes we invariably hear the question “Are we there yet?” come from one of the back seats in our Excursion. Sometimes our son Daniel will ask “How many more minutes until we get there?” The destination doesn’t matter—he just wants to know when we will arrive. My wonderfully gracious wife will sometimes answer “we have [x] minutes to go” and she’ll ad 10 to 15 minutes to our estimated time. My answer? “We’ll be there when we get there!”

Life is sort of like a ride in your Excursion (or whatever vehicle you drive). We are on a journey to our destination.

In a previous post I wrote about progressive sanctification. I wrote about how we won’t arrive at our destination—perfection—on this earth in this age. I’d like to expand that a bit more. I’d like to talk about arriving in the sense of knowledge and wisdom. An important question we all need to ask and answer is “Am I teachable?” How we answer that question tells a lot about how we see ourselves: do I know it all or do I know enough to know I don’t know enough?

One important lesson I’ve learned is that when we never really arrive in learning. We should always be learning because there is so much to learn (I am speaking specifically about the Bible here). Those who think they have arrived are in trouble. I’ve met some of these folks—they don’t need any input. They know everything about the Bible and they are THE authority for all things spiritual. To disagree with them is not to simply disagree, it is to be unbiblical.

But I know this isn’t true. There will always be something to learn. There will always be a better way of doing things. This process of finding new ways of doing ministry—of teaching, preaching, and reaching—is a never-ending journey of learning. No I am not there yet. I’m not even close. But I am still moving towards my destination.


I am a student of God’s word, not the master of it

I love to teach the Word of God. I love to use every method I can find to communicate the timeless truths that we find in Scripture. I want everyone to know what I know—no, I want everyone to know MORE than I know. But more than teaching God’s word, I want to learn God’s word. Although I have a Master’s degree (MDiv.) I never want to think I have mastered God’s word. I am a student of God’s word, not the master of it. After all, God is still God and I’m still not.

The words of the Psalmist seem appropriate:

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Psalm 119:33-36 (NIV)

The Psalmist introduces four themes in this short section of Scripture. He begins with “Teach me, O Lord!” continues with “Give me” then “Lead me”, and finally “Incline my heart.” Lets look at these one of these requests today and the response we should have.


Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;”

O how we need this attitude today. There is no one who needs this attitude than me. I need to be instructed by God. I would love to ascend to a mountain and sit by a burning bush and have God impart to me directly. But for our time He has chosen to work through others. So what am I to do? I am to sit at the feet of my Pastor and learn. I am to seek out others who know more and have experienced more than me. I am to receive their knowledge and wisdom. Then I am to pass that knowledge on to others (2 Timothy 2:2).
My time of learning did not end when I graduated from Capital Bible Seminary. The years I spent sitting at the feet of my professors was time well-spent. But that was just the beginning of my education. I’ve learned from those who have walked with the Lord many more years than me. I’ve also learned from those who have walked with the Lord many fewer years than me. I’ve learned from men gifted very differently than myself. I hope I continue my education.

Currently I learn at the feet of my Pastor, Carl Strine and my elders Rich, John, Paul and Charlie (though Charlie is no longer an elder at my church I have learned a lot from him and will always think of him as my elder).
I am also learning from the students in the class I teach on Sunday evenings. Listening to their questions, insights, and observations as we discover how God wonderfully preserved His word for us has shone a bright light in my path. I am thankful for those who have added to my education. I learn from my wife and children. I listen intently to my wife and take to heart what she says. Her wisdom in dealing with the stressors of life is not lost on me. My children, young as they may be, teach me every day about faith, unconditional love, trust, and just enjoying the life God has given us.

I learn from my friends—Jeremy Smith—whom I look at as Paul looked at Timothy. I learn from his wife Lake. I learn from Tom and Lora, Doug and Chastity. I learn from Tim and Beth, Larry and Debbie, Tim and Sherri, Chris and Dana, Keith and Kathy. All these and many more have invested their wisdom and knowledge in me whether they are aware of their investment or not. You see I’m watching you and learning from you even when you don’t think I am doing either. Thank you for your investment in me.


“…and I will keep it to the end”

All this learning is not without purpose. That purpose is not for me to gain standing or respect of others. All this learning is not to make me look smart, good, wise, or anything else. I learn the Lord’s statutes so that I will obey them. I want an obedient heart. One that yearns to be useful for God, not for myself. We should all want an obedient heart. Obedience, though, seems to be the root problem for us humans. Our desire to disobey can be traced back all the way to the Garden of Eden.
To obey means I must yield my heart to His. I must yield my will to His. I must yield my desires to His. My dreams for me and my family must give way to Him and His plans for us. I so want to obey unconditionally. I want to obey quickly, unreservedly, wholly, and enthusiastically. When I’m gone from this earth, I want people to say one thing about me: He obeyed God.

Teach me obedience O my Lord that I may serve You, and You alone.