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THE Falsehood OF The Heart

Meditative Verse:
“I will cut off them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham”
– Zephaniah 1:5 KJV

Such persons thought themselves safe because they were with both parties: they went with the followers of Jehovah, and bowed at the same time to Malcham. But duplicity is abominable with God, and hypocrisy his soul hateth. The idolater who distinctly gives himself to his false god, has one sin less than he who brings his polluted and detestable sacrifice unto the temple of the Lord, while his heart is with the world and the sins thereof. To hold with the hare and run with the hounds, is a dastard’s policy. In the common matters of daily life, a double- minded man is despised, but in religion he is loathsome to the last degree. The penalty pronounced in the verse before us is terrible, but it is well deserved; for how should divine justice spare the sinner, who knows the right, approves it, and professes to follow it, and all the while loves the evil, and gives it dominion in his heart?

My soul, search thyself this morning, and see whether thou art guilty of double-dealing. Thou professest to be a follower of Jesus—dost thou truly love him? Is thy heart right with God? Art thou of the family of old Father Honest, or art thou a relative of Mr. By-ends? A name to live is of little value if I be indeed dead in trespasses and sins. To have one foot on the land of truth, and another on the sea of falsehood, will involve a terrible fall and a total ruin. Christ will be all or nothing. God fills the whole universe, and hence there is no room for another god; if, then, he reigns in my heart, there will be no space for another reigning power. Do I rest alone on Jesus crucified, and live alone for him? Is it my desire to do so? Is my heart set upon so doing? If so, blessed be the mighty grace which has led me to salvation; and if not so, O Lord, pardon my sad offence, and unite my heart to fear thy name.
Copyright © Daily Searchlight 2019
All rights reserved.

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Eye’s-Off

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:11-12 (NIV)

The story in Exodus 3 and 4 is fascinating. Moses, tending his sheep in the desert, sees a burning bush, but the bush isn’t consumed. He goes closer to check it out and hears a voice. “Moses! Moses!” It’s God. Realizing he’s standing on holy ground, Moses removes his sandals.

Then God reveals his great plan: “I’ve seen the misery of the Israelites. I’ve heard them crying because of their slave drivers, and I’m concerned about their suffering. It’s time to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Good news, Moses! I’ve chosen you to make this happen.”

If Moses hadn’t been barefoot, he’d be shaking in his boots. “Wait a minute, God. You’re sending me? Who am I to do a job like that? I’m just a grownup basket case. I can’t do it. Can’t you ple-e-e-e-e-a-se send someone else?”

God’s response? “I will be with you. It doesn’t matter who you are, Moses. It matters who I am.”

Once Moses took his eyes off himself, he accomplished amazing things for God.

I’ve had many “Moses moments” in my life. When asked years ago to play piano for Bible Study Fellowship, I questioned why God didn’t choose a better musician to do it. “I’m a scriptural pianist, Lord. My left hand doesn’t know what my right hand is doing.” God reminded me that he didn’t call someone else; he called me.

When God made it clear he wanted me to write, I said, “Lord, how am I supposed to write? I can’t even talk without problems.” God reminded me to trust him.

When God wanted me to become a speaker, I protested. “But Lord, don’t you remember the excuse I gave for not writing? You know how I get tongue-tied.” God reminded me of the time he used a donkey to get his message across.

Each time I’ve feared my inadequacies, my underlying thought process was: “What if I fail or look like a fool?” And God reminds me that it’s not about me; it’s about him. If it’s about him and for him and by him, doesn’t it just make sense that he will help me do his work?

God doesn’t need our help. He can get the job done with us or without us, but he chooses us to carry out particular works so we might be blessed and bless others. We can take courage in the fact that God never gives us a job without equipping us for it. He doesn’t want our competence. He wants our obedience. And if we walk forward, hand in hand with him, he will come through for us every time. Guaranteed.

God, I have big problems when my eyes are on myself instead of on you. I see my insecurities, my weaknesses, and my shortcomings, and I forget that it doesn’t matter who I am. It matters who you are. You don’t want my competence, and you certainly don’t want my excuses. You want my willingness to do what you ask. So rather than questioning, “Who am I?” like Moses did, would you help me to say, “Look who God is”? Lord, I want to accomplish big things for you. The only way for me to do that is to step out in obedience and to trust you for the results. 

Power Statement: When God asks me to do something, I will say yes, even if it’s scary. Who I am doesn’t matter. Who God is, does.

Reflection and Response: Has God ever asked you to do a particular task that was scary, or that you didn’t feel competent to do? What was it? How did you answer God and how did it work out? What is he calling you to do right now?

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Missing My Perfect Person

Many people may have had an experience like that of the little girl who heard the Holy Ghost (as the Holy Spirit is sometimes called) mentioned in church from time to time, but so vaguely and infrequently she could only guess what sort of ghost this might be. So one day, when she ventured down into the dark furnace room in the church’s cellar, she decided with a child’s firm logic that this spooky place must be where the Holy Ghost lurked.

The fact is, adult believers often act as if the Holy Spirit really was hiding in the church cellar. They may know something about the Holy Spirit, but they don’t know Him personally or realize that He is God in the same way the Son and the Father are God. When they read the Bible, many people are surprised to find that the Holy Spirit was at the very dawn of time: “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2), and many are amazed to find out there are approximately 100 references to the Holy Spirit throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Nevertheless, the Spirit’s role is fundamental both to creation and the life of the believer. When a person comes to Jesus Christ, he receives Christ into his heart. The Spirit of God comes and joins with the spirit of the believer. This “indwelling Spirit” reproduces the life of Jesus in the believer’s life.

What, Then, Is The Baptism In The Holy Spirit?

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is an empowering for service that takes place in the life of the Christian (Acts 1:5,8). In it we are immersed in the Spirit’s life and power.

To illustrate, if we drank water from a glass, then the water would be inside us. However, if we went to the beach and stepped into the ocean, then we would be in the water. We receive, as it were, a drink of the Holy Spirit when we are saved, but when we are baptized in the Spirit, it is as if that initial drink becomes an ocean that completely surrounds us.

Just as the indwelling Spirit that Christians receive when they are saved reproduces the life of Jesus, so the outpoured, or baptizing, Spirit reproduces the ministry of Jesus, including miracles and healings.

Why Do We Need The Baptism In The Holy Spirit?

We need a power beyond ourselves for service and ministry in Christ’s Kingdom.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), He knew that His disciples could not fulfill it in their own power. Therefore, He had a special gift in store for them: It was His plan to give them the same power that He had — the power of the Spirit of God. So, immediately after giving them the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father promised, “which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). He further promised: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The disciples waited in Jerusalem as Jesus had commanded, and one day when they were all together, “suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing winds, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:3,4). Then Peter explained to the crowd that gathered that they were seeing the working of God’s Spirit and told them about Jesus. The Christian church began that day with the disciples and the 3,000 people who joined them as a result of the day’s events.

We can undertake making disciples of all nations with some degree of success without the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but when we do, we are undertaking a supernatural task with limited power.

It is God’s will – it is His commandment – that we be baptized, or filled with the Holy Spirit: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The knowledge and reality of the empowering Spirit enables us to reproduce the works of Jesus.

When May I Receive The Baptism In The Holy Spirit?

It can take place at the moment you confess faith in Christ, as in the case of the first Gentile convert, Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46Acts 11:15-16); but often it occurs some time after the salvation experience (Acts 8:12-17).

Is There Anything To Fear?

Some people fear that if they ask for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, what they experience won’t be the authentic working of the Spirit. But once they do ask for it, they are always glad they did. God doesn’t cause us to do anything we don’t want to, and all His gifts are good and perfect (James 1:17). Jesus said, “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will be? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:11-13). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is an even better gift than any material gift you could receive, and God wants you to have it because He loves you and wants the very best for you.

What Should I Do Before Asking?

The Bible says that a wise man counts the cost before he begins to build a tower (Luke 14:28). This beautiful experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a free gift, but you must be willing to submit fully to God to receive it.

Jesus will respond to a totally yielded vessel. He never asks anything of you that you are incapable of giving, nor does He ever fail to give you something greater in return when you do give your all. The joy He gives through total obedience to Him far outweighs anything you could possibly give up.

There is one more important consideration: In Acts 8, a man named Simon, deeply involved in the occult, wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter sharply rebuked Simon, commanding him to repent. Therefore, if you ever at any time had anything to do with the occult (Ouija boards, fortune tellers, seances, horoscopes, ESP, transcendental mediation, hypnotism, or other such practices), you must renounce and turn away from all such sinful participation, and you must ask for God’s forgiveness and cleansing.

How Do I Receive The Baptism In The Holy Spirit?

You only have to do two things.

First, once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you just have to ask God to baptize you in the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “Ask, and it shall be given to you” (Luke 11:9).

Second, believe you have in fact received this gift from God. The apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, said, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith?”

(Galatians 3:2). The answer, obviously, is faith. You have to believe that if you ask, you will receive.

Pray this prayer if you sincerely desire to receive the baptism in God’s Holy Spirit:

“Heavenly Father, at this moment I come to You. I thank You that Jesus saved me. I pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me. Lord Jesus, baptize me now in the Holy Spirit. I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit right now by faith in Your Word. May the anointing, the glory, and the power of God come upon me and into my life right now. May I be empowered for service from this day forward. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for baptizing me in Your Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Now, having asked and received, begin to practice the power of the Spirit. An ideal place to begin is where the first apostles did, praising God in a new language. To do this, begin praising God out loud in whatever words come to you. Tell Him how much you love Him. Thank Him, worship Him, and yield your voice to Him. Now let Him give you new words of praise you never heard before. Praise Him with those words, too. You’ll find that this can be a very rewarding experience of communication with God that will build up your faith. Continue to pray to God each day in the language that the Holy Spirit has given you.

But this “prayer language” is just one of the gifts that God wants to give you through the baptism in His Spirit.

The Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit

The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit would manifest Himself among them in special gifts, of which speaking in tongues was only one: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware….To one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the distinguishing of spirit, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues” (I Corinthians 12:1,8-10).

Paul also wrote that the Holy Spirit produces “fruit” in the lives of believers. These are virtues that demonstrate Jesus’ righteousness in the lives of His disciples: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

So, in asking for the baptism in the Holy Spirit you are availing yourself of these gifts for advancing God’s Kingdom and allowing the Holy Spirit to further cultivate in your life the fruit of righteousness – two great helps in living a life God can use mightily for His glory.

That’s the way it is with God. God is offering the baptism in the Holy Spirit to people who need only to reach out and receive it in order to be on fire to fully serve Him.

Walking in the Spirit

By now you can see that the Holy Spirit is so much more than a shadowy figure to pay lip-service to on Sunday morning. He can be with you and in your to bring new life to your Christian walk. Likewise, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is more than a single experience. It is a continual dependence on the Spirit for guidance and strength in all circumstances. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

The baptism in the Holy Spirit cannot be earned. You cannot become “good enough” to receive it. It is a gift from God. It is not a “cure-all” for your problems. But the same wonderful power that enabled Jesus to open blind eyes, to command the elements of nature, and to live a life pleasing to the Father during His ministry on earth is also available to you. Ask, and it shall be given to you.

Scripture references are taken form the New American Standard translation of the Bible.

Don’t Be Too Sure!

Every day I walked along the concrete walkway that led from our condominium unit to the stairway. And each day I was annoyed by the sight of a bedraggled, overgrown plant hanging over the edge of the walkway above, down to the second floor where I lived at the time.

“Why doesn’t David do something about that thing?” I asked half aloud. “It’s an awful sight and it’s practically dead anyway.”

I complained to my wife about it.

“Don’t look at it,” she said. “It’s his. Leave it be.”

I should have listened, but I didn’t.

Later that week, I could no longer resist the urge to clip, clip! So I did. I reached over the railing with my pruning shears and snapped them shut around the ailing limb. It dropped into my free hand and from there I sent it down the trash chute! I felt better–almost heroic. I had put this poor thing out of its misery.

I went on with my day. About 11:00 I returned home from some errands, picked up our mail, and ran through the tetraces, suddenly stopped by the sound overhead of a man crying. Then I heard the soothing words of another woman. I looked up and there stood David, my neighbor on the third floor. His neighbor Nancy stood with him, as the two commiserated about the plant that had been pruned.

I felt like a criminal. My heart pounded so fast, I could hardly talk. But I knew what I had to do. I had to confess or someone else in the building, and I knew who it might be, would receive the blame for something I had done.

I ran up to the third floor, breathless. “David,” I said, “I’m the culprit. I’m the one who cut your plant. I’m so sorry. I should have asked first. But I thought it would be okay to prune it a little since it was hanging over the railing all the way down to the second floor…and….”

I couldn’t stop. I was mortified, embarrassed, apologetic, and defensive all at the same time! How right the Bible was in reminding me that

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 (NIV).

David stood listening with eyes wide in disbelief. And Nancy didn’t know what to say. I stopped. David spoke. He told me how she had worked so hard to get that little plant going. She couldn’t imagine why anyone would be so cruel. Of course he was right. It was a cruel thing to do–even though I didn’t see it that way at the time. I was so caught up in my opinion of what looks good that I took action regardless of how it might affect another person. I certainly did not consult with the Lord about what to do. I simply had done what I wanted to do.

I apologized profusely, hoping David would understand that I wasn’t motivated by spite (though I wasn’t sure at that point). I was only tidying things up a bit!

He thanked me for being honest, dried his eyes, and we parted. The rest of the day was pure misery for me–not so much because of the plant. I knew it would keep growing. I hadn’t destroyed it. But I had hurt a neighbor. Someone I like. A person who lives close by.

I couldn’t let it rest. I prayed about what to do. And the Lord spoke clearly. I needed to make amends. There was no second guessing his guidance. I ran downstairs, jumped in the car, and drove directly to the local nursery. I spent some time selecting a beautiful, thriving, flowering plant that looked similar to the one I had cut. I bought it, wrote a note on a card, acknowledging my fault once again, and asking for David’s forgiveness.

Within moments of leaving the gift at his doorstep, I received a phone call. David accepted my apology and thanked me for such a thoughtful gesture. I was stunned at how easy–and how difficult–that experience had been.

That day had turned out differently than I expected, but still, it had turned out. I had made things right when I had been wrong—by asking for and receiving forgiveness–and in turn, my neighbor did something for me. He, like the Lord, gave me the gift of a second chance.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” Luke 6:37 (NIV)

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Precarious Dreams

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” Genesis 15:12 (NIV)

I can recall with vivid clarity the terror I felt sitting in the Atlanta airport with no ticket, no cash, and no way home. My connection flight from Nicaragua left one hour later than scheduled. For the duration of the flight, I had silently prayed that my connecting flight to D.C. would also be delayed.

It was not.

I disembarked and approached the ticket counter near our gate, inquiring about another flight. All full. I suggested flights to alternative airports. Those too were sold out. I had two choices: sleep in the airport and wait for an early morning flight home or pray.

I retreated to a solitary area away from the shouting hoard of irate passengers and opened my Bible. After highlighting passages and claiming God’s pledge of provision I whispered my prayer: “Please, Father, I just want to go home.” An unnatural peace settled upon me. Though my circumstances had not changed I knew somehow God would deliver me to my bed that evening.

There is a sickness that settles in the pit of my stomach when I sense the absence of God’s presence. My ears ring, skin becomes cool and moist. Nausea overwhelms me. The symptoms are similar to motion sickness and perhaps that’s what it is — an unholy motion of me moving into a thick and dreadful darkness without Him.

The Psalmist writes:

“The Lord God is a sun and a safe-covering. … He holds back nothing good from those who walk in the way that is right.” Psalm 84:11 (NLV)

“… they who look for the Lord will not be without any good thing.” Psalm 34:10 (NLV)

“The angel of the Lord stays close around those who fear him, and he takes them out of trouble.” Psalm 34:7 (NLV)

Powerful promises. And yet sometimes despite God’s assurance of safety we succumb to fitful dreams full of darkness and dread.

Abram left the security of his father’s people and walked with God into a land of promise. His reward? Famine. He believed God’s promise of a son but his wife remained barren well past her child-bearing years. Abram pitched his tent in the shadow of God’s mountain, yet lived among evil people bent on destruction and rebellion. Promises from God — problems from man.

In desperation, Abram asked, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know…?” Genesis 15:8 (NIV)

Isn’t that the question we ask? How can I know? How can I be certain there is a God? And if there is, how can I be certain he loves me, will care for me, and will protect me?

In the depths of Abram’s nightmare, God appeared to him as a blazing torch and a smoking firepot. Hardly comforting images. But the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31 (NIV)

Terrifying indeed. He is a consuming fire. This too is a part of his presence.

That night in the Atlanta airport, I sensed God nudging me to check another counter, plead my case with another ticketing agent. I explained that while my rented/hired car was in D.C., my visiting home was in Raleigh. “Is there any way, any chance at all, you can put me on a flight to Raleigh?” She checked. One seat left. My eyes misted as she handed me my ticket.

God does not always sweep away our problems but He does promise to be with us through the trials. Do you sense a dreadful darkness sweeping over you? Perhaps the gloom you feel is the shadow of the Most High leaning over you as He prepares to scoop you up in His arms. If so, let the trials come. Then watch in awe as he loves you through them.

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Evident Savoury

 

Mark 9:50; Matthew 5:13; 8:11,12

Meditative Verse:
“Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”
– Mark 9:50 (KJV).

“Salt is good”. In Matthew 5:13, however, the primary reference of the words is to the visible community of believers, the Church of Christ, as preserving the world from corruption. Here the words admonishes primarily of the inward grace of the believer. And the salt is the symbol, and which alone makes the Church what it ought to be, as “the salt of the earth”, not just a localised salt- having the pervading effect.
Have salt in yourselves.—The words that follow, “have peace in yourselves,” seem to refer to the contention in Mark 9:33, with which this portion of our Lord’s teaching had begun. The purity from selfish aims, which was symbolised by the “salt,” was the chief or only preservative of peace.

In that text, Christ compared His disciples, whether preachers or others, to salt. Because by their doctrine, and holy life and example, will keep the church and the world sweet. These are good.
But if any appearing such- as the salt, apostatize, or be lazy and inactive, what are they good for? Or what shall season them?
how sobbering! If after influencing lives with preaching and sharing the word of God, giving alms, etc., and you lost the most important part of living- holiness unto the Lord, what good are you for? What is left for you if all the offering you gave in the church and you did not offer yourself spiritually? Nothing left than to be cast out!
Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. Here salt is taken in a little different sense. In the former sense themselves were the salt. Salt to influence Spiritually. Now, they are commanded to keep salt in themselves. They could not have been salt to season others, if themselves had not first been salted with gracious habits of knowledge, faith, love, fear of God. Now Christ commands us to “have salt in yourselves”. Let not this holy fire die from the altar, take heed of losing your savour. Be cautioned of what could lead to lose of saltness.

“And have peace one with another”.It is one thing in the nature of salt to unite and knit the parts of the body salted together, so as the upholding of a union and peace one with another will declare that you have salt in yourselves. By this we know “we are translated from death to life, if we love the brethren.” In order to which men must avoid envy, and emulation, and contests for superiority, etc., salt becomes a necessity!

Prayers: That I will not lose my saltness, give me grace to alway draw close to You and walk in Your steps. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Further Reading: Matthew 13:47-50

Copyrights reserved. DS13112014.

God be with you!!!

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Banging On The Lifeless Door

I love mornings. One of my favorite pastimes is sitting in the backyard with a steaming cup of coffee, listening to the delightful chorus of singing birds. Recently, a persistent knocking caught my attention. A wooden utility pole is situated near the corner of my yard. On top, a woodpecker was pounding on the dead wood for all it was worth.

Woodpeckers primarily eat bugs in living trees. I was curious why it was wasting time banging its head on dead wood, so I did some research. I discovered that, while there are various reasons, the best explanation is that they simply don’t know any better. To them, a tree is a tree is a tree.

Have you ever watched someone (or been someone) looking for fulfillment in the same old, dead places? Some poor choices are obvious. Such as drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, gambling, being a workaholic, etc. I am ashamed to admit I’ve traveled many of these roads. They all lure us with the same bait: the possibility of reward. It might be hitting the jackpot, chasing a drug high, or another career achievement. However, in the end, the satisfaction, if any, is short-lived. And the price we pay is often too high.

“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” Proverbs 14:12 NLT

But before we judge, even the “do-gooders” can be susceptible. Many turn to “religion” – which is just another dead tree. Religion in and of itself, with its “good deeds and religious works,” also leads to empty promises. Personal self-fulfillment simply cannot be satisfied with external activities, no matter how noble. Without transformation on the inside, these efforts quickly become exhausting.

What about you? What dead wood have you been beating your head against? Have you taken a close look at what’s really on the other side? I can assure you there is nothing but lies, empty promises, death, and dust.

Deep down, most of us desire the same things. We all long for purpose, unconditional love, and acceptance. These desires are healthy and good. We know this because God placed them within each of us. But He did this so that we would reach out to Him. He is the only One who can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

So let’s stop chasing the world with its lies and empty promises. Let us run to our heavenly Father and surrender our hopes and dreams to Him. In turn, He will begin to transform us on the inside, satisfying our hearts to overflowing with His peace, presence, and love. Then, we can finally stop pounding our head against the wall.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NASB