Starry Night

So it’s 3:00 AM.  A noisy truck went by outside the window and I thought it was the trash truck doing its rounds.  It wasn’t, but we are overloaded with trash from Christmas and I realized I hadn’t put it out to the curb, so I had to get up and do that.  It’s a beautiful night, crispy cold and a bit hazy but with bright stars twinkling in the sky.  It reminded me that I had not posted the “next” part of my reminiscing.

* * *

In 1960, my family moved to Hutchinson, Minnesota, because 3M had transferred my Dad there to a new magnetic tape factory.  We moved before I started third grade that fall.  My parents had lived in the city of St. Paul their entire lives, but now we lived out in the country, albeit in town, not on a farm.  However, at the end of our street there was a big cornfield and there were a lot of woods to explore.  I specifically remember that in the spring there were enough frogs around that we could fill jars with them.  Little boys, what are you gonna do!

Anyway, at about this time of the year, probably in the early part of 1961 after Christmas break, my teacher finally figured out that I couldn’t see the blackboard and she told my parents.  So I got my first pair of glasses.  I was amazed at what the word looked like and how much there was to see!  I remember one cold night I was walking back home from my friend’s house across the street, and I looked up into the moonless sky.  I mentioned earlier that tonight there are some bright stars in the sky which are very pretty, but this is, after all, New Jersey, and there are only a few and with the air being what it is and the ambient light in these parts, you really can’t see too many.  But in Hutchinson, Minnesota, in the winter of 1961 you can see them all!  Here there are trees all around, but not so in the Midwestern plains.  There were stars right down to the ground!

I had never seen anything like it.  I had only recently turned eight years old, but I was profoundly affected.  Ever since I could remember I had been told about God and how He had made everything, and now I understood what that meant.  I knew then that He was real, and that He had made each one of those stars, and that He was amazing!  Later I learned the words from Psalm 8:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

That was my reaction.  This might seem like a lot for an eight-year-old to take in, but I believe that this was God’s intention all along.  In Romans 1:20 we read:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Part of the reason for the work of creation is to reveal the nature of God to us.  And from that day on I don’t think I ever doubted that there was a God in Heaven and that He had created everything we see.  I didn’t know much about Him, but that would come later.

In a previous post I quoted the first verse of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” in reference to thunderstorms.  But it also mentions the stars:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

I love this hymn because it represents the simplicity of my youth, and it shows to me that God has made things so that even little children can begin to understand the majesty of God and all that He has done.  The last two verses are:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
To take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And there proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

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Your Heart

English is a language that is full of nuance. The meaning or concept behind a statement can change depending on the tone in which it is spoken (for example, sarcastically), or on the emphasis that is given to different words. I’m not sure if other languages are like this, but it lends a versatility to English that can be very useful.

When my children were young, it was always difficult to get them to do what they were told. I know this is not unusual, but with my oldest daughter (you can find her here) every direction I gave was met with a “discussion”, i.e., an argument. I remember one day I had reached the end of my rope, so I said to her, “Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room.” I then explained what I meant by each of the ways I said the same sentence.

Clean your room. Of all the things you can do to your room, clean it.”
“Clean your room. Of all the rooms that can be cleaned, clean yours.”
“Clean your room. Of all the things you have that can be cleaned, clean your room.”

There is a statement in Proverbs 23:26 that can be stated in the same manner:
My child, give me your heart.

My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.

I am going to look at this from the point of view of a person who has accepted Christ as Savior, who is born again, and has been made a child of God.

My child, give me your heart.
To whom do we belong? Each of us is a child of our parents, but here is a reminder that each of us is God’s child as well. In fact, his claim on us takes precedence over earthly relationships. He sent his only Son to die for us, to pay the price of freedom, to redeem us out of our slavery to sin. 1 Cor 6:19-20 says, “ye are not your own… Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

My child, give me your heart.
What is my relationship to God? I am his child. I am not just a servant or a hired hand or a friend, but I am, in fact, his child. “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13). We not only belong to God, we have been born again into a heavenly relationship with Him. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

My child, give me your heart.
We have a heart full of desires, and God wants it. How will he get it? Will he steal it from us without any input from us? Will he bribe us for it, buying our affection with gifts and promises? I suppose he could do those things or maybe others to gain our heart. But he won’t. He wants us to give it to him. Without any strings attached, he wants us to just hand it over to him. He wants us to give him all our affections, our desires, our longings, our love, without any thought from us that we will gain anything in return. Why would we do this? Because that’s what he did for us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16.

He gave the greatest gift ever given to show his love for us. He sent his only son to become a man to win our hearts, and our response was to crucify him. Yet this was so he could create in us a new heart, one that would love him unconditionally (Ezek 36:26).

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
(Eph 2:4-7)

By the way, he doesn’t want us to lend it to him just for a while so we can have it back to turn our affections towards other things – he wants us to give it to him.

My child, give me your heart.
Of all the people and things we could give our heart to, he wants us to give it to him. Well, what does this even mean? It sounds kind of poetic and not very practical. How do I give my heart to anyone? Well, in a simple sense, what do you spend your time doing? You work to make a life for you and your family, to make sure they are well provided for, that you have time to enjoy the life you have built up. You have ambitions about what you will do with your life to be productive, to leave a positive mark on the world. There is nothing wrong with these things. God has left us here in order to be good stewards of the time and talents that he has given us (see Matt 25:14-29). But there is something else to consider.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matt 6:19-21)

Our heart will follow wherever our treasure is. If we value the things of God, if we view our life from an eternal, heavenly perspective, even the treasure we gain here on earth will only reflect the treasure we are gaining in heaven: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor 2:9)”

My child, give me your heart.
When all is said and done, it is still my heart to do with as I please. Even though he paid such a high price to make it possible for me to even have a clean heart, he has left it under my control. It is up to me to give it to him or not. We all have a tendency to keep track of those around us and evaluate their behavior according to our sense of right and wrong. We always have a lot of advice for other people to follow as to the best course of action for them to take, especially as it relates to important, essential things. In fact, I am doing that right now, telling you how you ought to relate to God and eternity. But let’s look at the verse. God wants my heart. Yes, I know he wants your heart, too, but he wants mine. So this section is for me. I need to reconsider where my heart is, bring it back from wherever I have given it, and give it God.

My child, give me your heart.
Of all the things I have to give, God wants my heart. I can give him my time, my treasure, my talents, but he wants my heart and the love that is in it. He wants it all directed towards him. Most people are familiar with the “love” chapter from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. It is commonly read at weddings to express the feelings of the bride and bridegroom for one another. But read it again as if it is the love in your heart that is being spoken of and then make sure you have given it to God.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, [and] is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these [is] love.

My. Child. Give. Me. Your. Heart.

O the bitter shame and sorrow
that a time could ever be,
when I let the Savior’s pity
plead in vain, and proudly answered:
All of self, and none of thee!

Yet he found me: I beheld him
bleeding on the accursèd tree,
heard him pray: Forgive them, Father;
and my wistful heart said faintly:
Some of self and some of thee!

Day by day his tender mercy,
healing, helping, full and free:
sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
brought me lower, while I whispered:
Less of self and more of thee!

Higher than the highest heaven,
deeper than the deepest sea;
Lord, thy love at last hath conquered;
grant me now my supplication:
None of self and all of thee!

Theodore Monod, 1874