Faith · Uncategorized

What Child is This?

Today’s post is a nod to my pastor, John King, and a sermon he delivered a couple of weeks ago. You can watch it here.

I used to fancy myself as an easy-going, roll-with-the-punches kind of person who loved change and adventure. Truth be told, the older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that I am not nearly as flexible and welcoming of change as I would like to think. In fact, my stubbornness regarding the subject is not so unlike that of a pig I once knew.

The fact is, life is changing. Some of it’s good. Some, not so much. Either way, I’m finding it challenging to deal with much of it. But I’m reminded that God is still God. The following four points are those laid out by my pastor along with my own two cents.

1) . Lay claim to the nearness of God. “You will never be where God is not.”

In fact, Psalm 139:7,8 says the same thing:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”

Just because it doesn’t feel like God is there in the middle of our chaos doesn’t mean He isn’t. Emotions are God-given and have their place, but when the rubber meets the road, truth is what we fall back on. And the truth is that God will never leave us or forsake us.

2). Rely on the character of God.

In his sermon, Pastor King told the story of JJ Jasper who was given some devastating news that he was going to have to tell his family. Before he did, though, he sat them all down and asked them to start listing off everything they knew that was good and true about God.

This is quite possibly the most valuable exercise we can do for several reasons:

  • It’s an exercise in recalling what God has done for us up to this point. What characteristics of God has He displayed in the past? How has He answered prayer in the past? How have you seen Him work in your life?
  • It’s an exercise in renewing our mind: It replaces the doubts, questions,  and worry we have regarding our situation and replaces it with truth.
  • It’s an exercise in reciting His praises. There is nothing quite like singing the praises of God to drag us out of our pit of self-pity and into the realm of truth.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9, ESV).

3). Pray your pain out.

“When you’re going through tough times, it’s not a time to stop praying. It’s not a time to pray sweet little prayers.”

We have the freedom to tell Him how we feel. He already knows anyway. I have found myself over the years praying something like this: “Lord, I don’t know what to pray anymore. I feel like the magnitude of my situation requires words I don’t have, that the ones I’m using are just not reaching your ears, that possibly my situation is too big for you.”

Ever felt that way? Ever wondered if your situation is the one situation that will trip God up?

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:25-27, ESV).

Tell me one other belief system in the world whose god, in spirit form, intercedes on behalf of his followers when they’re too distraught to know what to say. There are none. Only our God is so intimately involved with the daily goings-on of His people who even when words fail them, he fills in the gaps. Amazing.

4). Don’t isolate yourself.

I will admit that when things get hairy, my initial reaction is to hibernate, to hole up in the deepest corner of my house and sulk. The last thing I want is to be surrounded by other humans with just as many problems as me especially if it’s other people who have contributed to my current state of frustration. Besides the fact that this is a case of me pointing one finger at someone else with three pointing back at me (immaturity at its best), it’s also unbiblical. We are not an island meant to do life alone.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

Adoption into the family of God comes with unparalleled perks. Just as the Holy Spirit speaks for us when we can’t, the family of God is a built-in support system for whatever we’re going through. Don’t run from the one thing that God designed so specifically for the way He made us. We are relational. We need each other.

What Child is this? The simple truth is this:

The Child is everything we need. There is no substitute for Jesus. God’s plan of redemption is complete in this Child.  We don’t need, nor can we, add anything to Him. He’s completely perfect. Completely redemptive. Completely restorative, loving, all-encompassing, not lacking in anything, completely gracious, merciful, and good.

I pray this Christmas will be especially meaningful to you as you remember God’s great Gift of hope to us. Merry Christmas.

 

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An Ode to Christmas Trees | Blogmas 2017

I had the opportunity to be part of Blogmas with some of my blogging friends. In case you missed this post from three years ago, I resurrected after determining it was too perfect a fit for the theme my friend, Jaclyn, was going for. So I resurrected it, and it appeared on her blog.
Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

see all Blogmas 2017 Creators

By Kathryn Nielson

Like most kids, I grew up loving Christmas. Hands down the best part about the whole season was decorating the Christmas tree. My mom and dad would drag it up from the basement, pull it out of the box and assemble it, fitting the branches into their color-coordinated holes in the base. I loved it. We doused it with colorful felt ornaments, homemade ornaments, sparkly ornaments, colored lights and a truckload of silver tinsel. To my young eyes its grandeur stood unmatched dwarfing every other ornament placed around the house.

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But…there was always this niggling frustration in the back of my head. The tree wasn’t real. I don’t know where the obsession with real trees came in. I didn’t know anyone who had one. But the oddity of placing something real from the forest in the middle of my house taunted me.

In moving to an apartment, to college, and back to apartment, I had all shapes and sizes of trees. Short trees, emaciated trees, skinny trees. No matter what they looked like, they all had one thing in common: they were fake. I wanted a real one, and it was a dream that would not die.

Enter Bruce, my husband, the quintessential New Englander. Unlike my history with fake trees, he’d never had one. He knew they existed, but no true self-respecting New Englander would actually have one-at least not as their only tree. One could accessorize with the copycat version, but to have a plastic evergreen heralding the season in one’s home was unthinkable.

Our first Christmas came two months after we were married. We decided to spend it alone in our little apartment watching Christmas movies, eating steak, and gazing at what I insisted would be a real tree to which my husband responded with a look of is there any other kind?

So one Sunday afternoon while my sister was in town we set off for a tree farm to pick out our own tree and cut it down. Not only would the blessed thing be real, but Bruce was going to show me what picking out a tree was really all about. Ritualistic in nature, it involved the tedious task of finding it, cutting it down, mounting it to the top of the car and driving it home. Lest you think all trees are created equal, you couldn’t be more wrong. A Fraser Fir, considered by my husband as the Cadillac of trees, was simply the only option. The whole thing was incredibly romantic, and I almost couldn’t take it.

About an hour and a half into the search, I got a little tired. We walked all over the stinking farm looking for the perfect tree. In my head, they were all perfect because they were real and big and smelled like Christmas. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this painstaking search for perfection would be how my sweet my husband would research all future purchases from baby strollers to sandwich bread. I could appreciate that he excelled at the skill of tree shopping. Apparently, he was so good at it that his family would not purchase a tree until he was home from college on break and able to go get it, no matter how late in the season it was. It was impossible for anyone to pick out a tree like Bruce. So I’d been told.

Weary of the whole thing, my dream of authentic foliage dashed by the sheer absurdity of the search, I suggested that a fake one from Walmart would suffice and marched off in the snow back to the car with my sister in tow. We waited another hour and a half. Finally, from the distance I saw a tree moving toward us. As it got closer I realized that buried under this mass of foliage was my husband manhandling this thing proud as a peacock. We waited another half hour as he hoisted onto our little Ford Tempo, triple checking the bungee cords to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere while we drove home.

To say that it was large would be an understatement. It literally took up most of a the wall where the sliding glass door sat, protruding out into the living room leaving no one to wonder what season we were in. I could not wait to get my hands on that tree and decorate it, bringing to life what I was feeling inside.

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The decorating of a Christmas tree is much like accessorizing an outfit. “Forest fashion” represents the “wearer” to the outside world. In this instance, my “forest friend” donned blue Christmas balls, red tinsel, and big white lace bows leftover from my wedding representing my newlywed bliss and diehard patriotism.

In my humble opinion, no more beautiful a tree could be found anywhere. Every morning as I sipped my coffee, I would sit and stare at its blinking lights and be taken back to that beautiful childhood tree-though fake-that I found so mesmerizing.

In the 24 years we’ve been married, only twice have my husband and I ignored our tree standards, disappointed both times. In moments of strict frugality, my romantic visions of the perfect tree were thwarted by the price, and we succumbed to plastic simplicity one year and something real but very pokey the next year. We decided that like saving for Christmas presents, saving for a tree that lasts a month at best, then dies and is thrown to the curb, is a priority that cannot be ignored.

These days my house is filled with trees; one in my bedroom decorated with all of the ornaments created by my kids through the years; one in the dining room, white with lime green, fuchsia and turquoise decorations, a nod to my lime green walls; two in my daughter’s room because there is no other person more obsessed with Christmas than she; one in my son’s room, and finally the rock star of them all, the big Fraser Fir in the living room crammed with white lights, Nielson ornaments tracking the years we’ve been a family, cat ornaments because next to the Christmas tree in importance is the cat (of course) and a variety of others we’ve collected over the years. Take all the other decorations away, and you can still eek out a bit of Christmas cheer. But take away the tree and none of the other decorations make sense. Plus, where would the presents go?

Whatever makes Christmas merry for you, enjoy it with your family, rejoice in it, and for heaven’s sake, get a decent tree!

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ABOUT ME

When I was a kid, I remember lying in bed one night and, to my great disappointment, was struck by the realization that there simply wasn’t enough time in life to do everything that I’d dreamed of doing.  I wanted to get married and have kids, be a war correspondent, or a famous writer living the life of a recluse in a New York City high rise accompanied only by my cats. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to be Asian and speak fluent French.

As I’ve gotten older, the list of things I want to experience has gotten bigger and includes owner of a cat cafe, living out of a backpack and working remotely, complete location independence, being a contestant on the Amazing Race. And assuming Jesus has an affinity for coffee, my dream job in the Millennial Kingdom is to be His barista.

What does all of this have to do with blogging? Simple. This is the place where I write about all of the things that interest me in an effort to curb my insatiable appetite for coffee, cats, minimalism, simple living, money management, and travel. First and foremost, though, it’s the place where I sort out what God is teaching me about living an authentic Christian life. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that piques your interest.

 

Faith · Uncategorized

How An Attempted Ban on Bump Stocks Got Me Thinking About the Miracle of Faith

On the radio the other morning, I listened as the commentator gave a rundown of local news, everything from the impending first frost to legislation over the ban on bump stocks. It was a quote regarding the latter subject that piqued my attention.  In response to passing a ban on bump stocks, Illinois state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer had this to say:

“You’re turning law-abiding citizens into criminals,” he said.

That single sentence played over and over in my head all day. Maybe it’s because we’re studying Romans this year in bible study, and my heart has been reminded of grace and without it I am a simple criminal. Maybe it’s because we’re hours from celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses and the beginning of the Reformation.

Whatever the reason, I was struck by that quote and continue to be so for two reasons. First, despite our law-abiding tendencies, apart from grace we simply remain criminals next to a holy God.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,  that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).

As if His dying on the cross to fulfill the Law’s requirements wasn’t enough, that was merely the beginning. It was enough that every slap of the whip and pound of the nail through soft flesh was payment for every evil thought, unkind word, ungodly motivation I have indulged in over my lifetime.

But it doesn’t stop at the cross, and it is this second part that I find stunning. He finishes His work of salvation by not just offering me the gift of going from criminal to forgiven through unmerited grace, but then extending another gift: faith. The faith to not only believe that all of this is true but to accept it as such and believe.

When I was teaching my kids to pick up their toys, I would take their small hands in mine, walk them to the pile of toys and one by one, walk them through the process of picking up each toy. Closing their hands around the toy, I walked them over to the toy box and opened their hands where it would slide down their fingers and into its designated spot.

In the same way, God reaches down, takes the curled fingers of our clenched fists and opens them one by one until they are reaching back to His.

Ephesians 2:8 says it best.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (ESV).

The simple truth is this: as humans, we take part in a myriad ofcactivities over the span of our lives; activities that get things done, accomplish goals, and change the world. Let’s marvel at the one thing we will never be credited for doing, having the faith to accept Christ’s gift of salvation. We are simply too broken and rebellious to ever accept the life-saving act of Christ without His intervention. Praise God for the completeness of His work.

Faith · Uncategorized

Angel Army

I had the opportunity to contribute a blog post for 31 days of Halloween on the blog, mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com. 
Each writer picked a “creature” and wrote about it in any style they wanted. I chose angels and wrote a story loosely based on an experience I had in high school. Enjoy!

https://mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/angels/

The door of the yellow Chevette came swinging back toward the passenger in response to the swift kick she’d given it.  Throwing out her acid-washed denim covered leg, she stepped out and thrust her right hip against the door, swiveling to grab her bags.

“You really need to get this door fixed,” she said to the driver.

“I know,” yawned her friend. “My dad said he’d look at it one of these days.”

“Am I the only one who mentions it?”

“You’re the only one who complains about it.”

“Figures. Thanks for the ride.”

“Sure. See you tomorrow. And don’t forget I want to borrow that dress you bought tonight.”

“I suppose it’s the least I can do for free taxi service.” She kicked the door behind her with her left foot and headed for the entrance to her building.

Evening air blew crispy leaves across her path as she made her way to the building entrance. Her tall blonde bangs bent back at the winds’ pressure. The royal blue discs hanging from her earlobes fluttered in the breeze. Standing under the building’s only light, she piled her belongings under her left arm and reached for the door. Cool metal felt good on her hand as she pulled open the door and entered the building heated in a temperature a bit too ambitious for the season.

The stench of stale urine gripped her nostrils. Sighing she wondered when the manager would ever wash away the stream that had dried days ago between the first and second floor landings. She dragged her tired body up the three flights of stairs stopping at the door that would take her to the third floor hallway. Her eyes rested on the walls of the landing, taking a minute to register. Their dull white shone in superficial brightness against the rich red gloss splattered across them.

From the left wall the spray traveled over the hallway door and onto the right wall where it stopped and hung in three strands halfway down before drying midstream.

She slowly let out the breath she’d been holding as she looked from side to side at the scene in front of her. Just mere feet from her stood the door to the small two-bedroom apartment she shared with her mom and younger sister. The problem lay in the fact that it was behind the door she now stood in front of, and not knowing what might be waiting on the other side caused overwhelming anxiety.

She looked behind her at the three flights she’d just climbed. Should she turn around and go back down? And then what? Back outside into the darkness to whomever might be waiting to finish what they started? Unsure of what to do, the seconds crept by. Her pulse quickened, and she could feel a fear rise up that threatened to choke the life right out of her. She felt frozen in a body that couldn’t move while she desperately wanted to move somewhere, anywhere.

Pull yourself together, Casey. She could hear the words in her head, but her lips refused to move. In any other stressful situation, tears poured easily, but this time was different. Her tear ducts refused to release the wet that often ushered in the release of stress.

At that moment, on the other side of the door, the sound of footsteps running down the hall pulled her out of her stupor. With each step toward her, another part of her body began to wake up until she finally had full use of her legs again. Her arms released their contents, and she turned and flew down the stairs, her feet barely touching the orange-carpeted stairs.

She pushed through the door and into the cool night air, stopping in the middle of the quiet parking lot bending over, catching her breath, crying, and wondering how she would ever get back upstairs and into the sanctuary of her apartment. Had she been followed?

Spinning around, she turned to look where she’d come from. But there was no one. The night air was quiet and crisp and breathable. It held a peaceful calm.

I can’t stay out here all night, she thought as she savored the peacefulness. You have to get back upstairs. Suddenly her thoughts went to her mom and sister. Were they safe? Had they been there when whatever had happened, happened? She had to get to them. Her fear threatened to surface again. She felt stuck knowing she couldn’t stay outside, scared to go back in, wanting to get home.

Lord. What do I do? she whispered the words. I’m so scared.

Look up.

Jerking her head from side to side, she looked around for the source of the words. But there was nothing. Nothing but the sound of dried leaves scooting across the pavement, the flicker of the building’s one light, the smooth breeze that moved the almost-empty branches back and forth in a rhythmic sway.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. This is crazy, she thought. Your mind is just playing tricks. Get it together. But the thought of moving toward the door caused another surge of panic that threatened to overwhelm her, and she could feel her eyes heating up with the tears that refused to come moments earlier. Determined to get a handle on herself and the situation, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Then she heard it again.

Look up.

This time, without thinking, she lifted her chin and opened her eyes to an unbelievable scene hovering over her building. An army of white-robed beings cloaked in blinding light stood in a circle each facing outward and holding a flaming sword raised to the sky. Beautiful and unexpectedly calming, it reminded her of a painting she’d expect to see in a museum that leaves the observer transfixed. She couldn’t take her eyes off it.

I will take care of you, the voice whispered. You’re safe.

And then a verse she’d been taught years before in church suddenly came to mind.

For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

She drank in the truth of the words evidenced in front of her like a cool drink for a parched mouth

Thank you, she whispered and moved toward the door.

At the top of the stairs, her stuff lay strewn across the landing where she’d left it. She gathered it up, opened the door, and tried to ignore the evidence of evil on the walls as she entered the third floor hallway making her way the few steps to her apartment.

She turned the key into the lock and pushed open the apartment door. Inside, her sister was laying in front of the television on the living room floor, her mom standing over the stove stirring that night’s dinner.

“Hey honey,” her mom greeted. “How are you?”

“I’m good. Long day.” She dumped her stuff on a kitchen chair and kissed her mom. “How was your day?”

“Uneventful,” her mom said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Casey shrugged.

“It was odd though.” Her mom said. She turned off the stove, reached for three mismatched dinner plates scored at a garage sale, and began serving up dinner. “Earlier today, I was going to run some errands, but I just had the strangest feeling that I shouldn’t go. I don’t know why.”

“I do.” said Casey. “I’ll tell you later.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith · Uncategorized

Directionally Challenged

The first time my parents and I realized that I was born without a sense of direction was in seventh grade during a semester of map skills. I hated it immediately. First of all, as a visual person, the workbook wasn’t even a little aesthetically pleasing. Printed on newspaper-like paper and covered in bright blue and black ink on dirty white paper, it was all I could do to get through the pages stapled together. Coupled with my assumption that forward-facing is always heading north, it’s not hard to believe that I didn’t do well as evidenced by the massive amounts of red pen covering my work and screaming “fail!”.

Once I got my license, things didn’t improve much. Because that was the era of no GPS or cell phones, much of my time on the city roads included tearful stops at the nearest gas station to call my mom and ask for directions on how to get home. If I thought ahead and got directions before leaving my house, they always started with, “Imagine you’re at the mall…” For some reason, I always knew where I was in relation to it, and the following instructions seemed to make sense.

After marrying my husband, he took over the task of getting me from point A to point B; often taking me to the house of a new cleaning client the night before I started so I wouldn’t get lost on my first day. When he wasn’t with me, his instructions would often start with, “Ok. Imagine you’re at the mall…”

I’d say the GPS has been helpful, and it has been to a degree. But even the talking machine sitting on my dash has failed me as it did one day as I was driving to work. It was a fairly new area for me with road construction, and after doing exactly what “she” said, I still ended up in a farmer’s cornfield where he stood at his door screaming at me to get off of his property. “Do you think I want to be here,” I screamed back at him tears pouring down my face.

Hebrews 13:8 says this,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”

In recent months, I have been hit by just how closely this idea of alternate routes parallels the Church’s evolving theology. If you pay attention you will notice everything from Christians wanting to change the message of salvation to appeal to the culture, to questioning whether we can really be sure that absolute truth exists. We’ve gotten to a place of entertaining Satan’s age-old question of “Did God really say?” leaving ourselves naked and without God’s hand of protection meant for us. I recently heard someone say that one of the greatest issues facing the Church today is homosexuality. This makes about as much sense as our government telling us that the biggest problem facing our world is climate change.

While homosexuality in the Church is definitely a disheartening trend we are now seeing I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that it is one of the greatest issue we face. The greatest issue facing the Church today is the absence of absolute truth and the courage to stand by it.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

As a person who cannot read maps, decipher drawings, or leave the house without a GPS, this verse is especially meaningful to me. Nothing strikes fear in me quite like the big orange detour sign I’m not expecting. I only know one way to get to any of my destinations.

One of the worst instances of getting lost happened when my friend Mary and I were headed to a conference in a town about 2 hours away. I didn’t realize her sense of direction was as lacking as mine until I watched an exchange between her and her husband taking place right before my eyes, echoing the one I’d just had with Bruce. The conversation was filled with concentrated instructions and words and drawings in an effort to help us get to our destination as smoothly as possible. An hour later, we still hadn’t made our way out of our own town. Due to road construction, the exit that both of our husbands had told us to take was shut down so we continued to circle the circumference of the city until we had to decide which one of us would put our tails between our legs and call our husband. When I explained the situation to my husband later on from the hotel (by the way, we totally missed the opening night activities), I remember wondering if he was even listening due to the silence at the other end, until I heard him finally take a breath in the middle of hysterical laughter.

There are multiple ways to get someplace in any given city which for people like me is a real problem. Praise God that His Word never changes, nor does His truth, nor do His instructions. In a culture that is constantly changing, don’t we want to cling to the one thing that doesn’t? I would caution all of us with these words:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power “(Col. 2:6-10).

Want know how to obtain eternal life? Open His Word. Want to know how to treat other people? Open His Word? Want to know if what you’re being told from the pulpit or the culture is correct? Open His Word. It’s all in black and white, much like my map skills workbook. However, instead of screaming “failure”, the words in red are coaxing, “follow me.”

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On Establishing Good Habits

When my son was about two years old, he had a favorite shirt he always liked to wear. It was red and white striped, made of super soft cotton and cost me all of five dollars at an outlet mall. I’m guessing that the soft fabric next to his previously burned skin felt soothing, and it didn’t hurt that it sported his favorite color-red. The shirt wasn’t just a favorite. It became the only shirt he would wear to the point that getting him to switch it out for pajamas at bedtime became a fight I was most nights too tired to deal with. So I did what any parent whose kid is running the show did and waited for him to fall asleep. I would then take it off, wash it, dry it and put it back on before falling into bed myself. Had it not been for the fact that it spent several days on the body of a two-year old I may have let it go, but at some point the thing had to be washed.

Nick was and still is a creature of habit. He wears the same clothes most days, jeans and a t-shirt, eats the same foods, sits in the same spot at lunch via a seating chart he and his friends have made up and followed all school year, orders the same thing at the two restaurants he will eat at for fear of wasting hard-earned money on something that may turn out to be too exotic for his simple American taste buds. He brushes his teeth with the bathroom door closed, drives with the windows closed so as not to muss his perfectly styled hair and always buys the same kind of Nike tennis shoes when a new pair is warranted.

Psalm 112:7, 8.

“He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies.”

To say my son is established in his habits and lifestyle would be a gross understatement. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t much different. We find security in the routine, mundane habits of daily life. Then there are those of us who are caught in habits that provide anything but security, but we can’t seem to shake them so great is the pull they have on us.

When I first read this Psalm, it was these two verses that popped out at me, specifically the word “established.” I started asking myself what makes a heart established in something? Is the author assuming that because the heart is established, the person does all of the things listed in the preceding six verses, or is it the actions of these verses that causes a heart to be established?

I started reading the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In the book are seven habits that the author argues will that produce certain results provided the reader spends time establishing these habits. In the same way a heart established in God will produce certain behaviors. Habits are established through the repetition of certain behaviors, but that repetition has to start with the choice to make those behaviors a habit.

In Psalm 111:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is just the beginning. Fearing the Lord is the start to the life of a righteous man. Get that down, and you’re well on your way to establishing your life in righteousness and all of the blessings that flow from it. In Psalm 112:1, the author states that a man who fears the Lord is blessed, and so we have the rest of chapter 112.

S. Conway, a famous preacher said this:

This fixedness of heart, which is so blessed, is the result of habitual trust. Trusting in the Lord. We can form habits of trust, as of any other act of the mind. It is not a single act of faith, or a spasmodic intermittent trust, which will ensure this fixedness of heart. Built must be perpetually repeated until the habit is formed. We must put our will into it, and we must abandon everything which would render such trust impossible, as all allowed sin will and must. – S.C.

It’s for this reason that some people, when given bad news about their health, have a complete calmness about them, a peace that passes all understanding, while others go home, pull the curtains shut and go to bed to avoid having to deal with the reality of their situation. It’s for this reason that some of us find ourselves in debt because of certain spending habits that have been established while others roll with the punches when something comes up they weren’t expecting to have to spend their money on.

Established habits and routines are comforting. We count on them when everything else around us goes haywire. The Hebrew word for establish is samak which means to lean against, rest weight upon, to support.

One commentator says this:

“[Trusting] in Christ, the essential Word…leaning upon him, laying the whole stress of his salvation upon him.”

Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 3:17 (NIV).

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Having been established in love, the reader can then fully grasp the love of God. Without the foundation of God’s love, the very root of our souls, we cannot know the depth of it for ourselves. In the same way, the Psalmist is arguing the case for the righteous life. The way to it is the established fear of the Lord as the base from which flow all other disciplines and blessings of righteousness, one being a steadfast heart as quoted in verse seven.

To drive it home just a bit further, note Ezekiel 24:2 in the King James version:

“Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.”

In other translations the wording is laid siege to Jerusalem, the same word, samak, used in Ezekiel and again in Psalm 112:8. Essentially, King Nebuchadnezzar, driven by his animosity for both God and His people, set himself or bore of his weight upon, the task of destroying Jerusalem. That the same word is used in this verse as it is in Psalm 112 speaks to the strength of its meaning. King Nebuchadnezzar set himself against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. His heart was established, and his actions backed it up.

In answer to the question at the beginning, Scripture shows both that a heart established in truth renders righteousness while, at the same time, the continual righteous acts of the person further establishes a righteous heart.

So what are your habits established in? What is your thought process established in? Why do you do what you do? Are your habits motivated by righteousness, or are they merely perpetual action?