Heart Guard

I am so blessed, I get to go to work today! Sierra thought as she jumped from bed minutes before the alarm sounded.

Humming happily, she buzzed through her workout and breezed into the shower. Smiling as she shampooed, she thought of how she might create today.

Her first commissioned work was foremost on her mind.  She needed to do her ultimate best to boost her work, promote the studio, and hopefully someday earn a comfortable living.

How blessed am I to use my gifts, my passion, to glorify God. Stepping out onto the fluffy, white towel, she suddenly stopped; realizing something which halted her heart.

All week I’ve been thinking of and planning for work each morning, breaking my routine of focusing my thoughts on the Lord. I’m so anxious to use the gifts He gave me, to see what I might accomplish in a career, and so excited to finally see the end product; I’m more focused on what I might create than the Creator who gave me the gift.

Sierra slowly toweled off, her heart deeply troubled. “Lord I didn’t mean for my love of my art to overtake my love for You.”

Proverbs 4:23 quickly came to mind, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Her heart had hung all week on her artwork, her masterpiece-in-the-making. It was filling her final thoughts as she drifted off to sleep and consuming her conscience as she awoke each day. It was forever on her mind, always the top priority.

Not today, she thought, shaking her head. She turned on the Christian radio station, streams of Scripture flowing through the lyrics, soothing her longing soul.

After completing her grooming, she carried her Bible to the breakfast table, vowing to start her day with Jesus. She began a conversation that she would revisit throughout the day.

Can you relate to Sierra? I know I have. I can get so excited about an assignment, especially when ministry related, sometimes I forget the true purpose in pointing life toward God.

In the work He gives us, He wants us serving Him, loving Him. What a blessing to enjoy the assignment! But we need to be on guard that the assignment we get to do does not overtake the position of the One who assigned it to us.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember our hearts are to be first and foremost overflowing for God, not for our God-given assignments.

 

CPR for the Soul

As she steered into the street, her thoughts got away from her.

It was a mess.

A royal mess.

She never intended for the white lie to grow as it had.

Now what? she asked herself as she drove to the next errand.

She sighed.

She knew the answer.

But knowing didn’t make it any easier.

No wonder God felt so far away. All sin matters to Him.

He must be up in heaven, so disappointed, she thought as she pulled into the parking lot, wallowing in her sorrow.

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15b.

He’s not just sitting up in heaven judging me. He is here with me trying to revive my heart for Him.

She had done something to halt that heart. Her choice of sin had built a barrier between her and God. But God knew she was sorry and she knew she was sorry.

Leaning over the steering wheel she verbalized her apology to her Heavenly Father who was waiting with open arms.

As she lifted her head and focused out the windshield, her heart and soul felt lighter. Her heart and soul were revived.

Jesus had jump started her heart.

Her soul soared as it no longer searched for a far-away Savior.

He was here, with her, the whole time.

She had just needed a little spiritual CPR to align her hear with His.

 

Tend Your Flocks

Do you have a specific calling on your life? Are you stuck in a place that your can’t imagine how or when the fulfillment of that calling could possibly transpire?

David, a simple shepherd boy, youngest son of a humble herdsman, received a colossal calling. God’s servant, Samuel, anointed young David as God’s chosen for King.

King!

A simple shepherd boy?

After the anointing, you may expect a festive fanfare, a sensational celebration, and rampant rejoicing!

What did David do after his anointing?

He returned to his flock.

After Samuel’s proclamation David returned to his task at hand: tending his flock.

He didn’t waste time wondering the exact how or when of God’s timing. He trusted God to fulfill His promise in His good timing, although it didn’t appear to be anytime soon.

Sometimes, we have a deep desire to do something which God has laid on our hearts. Sometimes, we may wonder, “Did I misunderstand? Did God really call me to this?”, or “Is this really ever going to happen?”

And, what should I do in the meantime?

David was anointed as King. His ruling did not begin that day. Instead, he returned to tend his flock. Protect, feed, and shelter those sheep in his care.

All the while knowing, someday God would place him in a different role.

While he was waiting, David utilized that time to draw close to the Lord. “From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” (I Samuel 16:13 NIV)

He continued on with his tasks at hand while growing in faith – all for preparation to fulfill his calling.

Maybe you believe you have a calling on your life. Maybe you can’t imagine being any further from it today. Maybe you are even feeding doubts and despair. Don’t!

God does not forget His children! We need to simple do what He’s assigned us today. He knows our future assignments. He knows how today’s tasks prepare us for tomorrow’s to-do lists.

He also wants us to learn in the wait. Learn to trust Him, even if it doesn’t make sense to us.

Learn to act in obedience, even if it’s to do tasks we might not choose.

Learn to love God more each day. Allow and encourage our faith to grow so we are as prepared as possible for every assigned calling each and every day!

Author note: A special thank you to author Kira of @GodGirlGram on Instagram. We had a special conversation this past week which inspired this message. Thank you Kira, you have wisdom beyond your years!

 

 

Faithfulness Under Construction

“Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see.”

That refrain repeatedly played in my head.

Faithfulness.

God is always faithful. Even when circumstances might suggest otherwise.

God gave Joseph a big dream. A God-sized dream. A dream even Joseph himself could not fully comprehend.

Yet, that dream didn’t come to fruition until after more than a decade had past.

What was God doing all that time?

Refining Joseph.

Humbling Joseph.

Building Joseph’s faith.

Before Joseph could meet Pharaoh and be appointed second in command in Egypt, he needed refined. He needed to know what faith in hard times looked like. He needed to know what reliance on God, not his dad, not himself, was. And he did learn to trust God, rely on God alone.

Before wielding power before everyone but Pharaoh, Joseph needed humbling. True humbling. To understand what it was like to be falsely accused, to wear ragged clothing and to be hungry. Some things he would never have experienced at home with a wealthy father.

Joseph chose humility and serving God when Pharaoh called upon him rather than wielding a self-serving attitude. He honestly knew what God was capable of, and what he, Joseph, was not. Those seventeen years of hardship served to build faith in a young man who might not have constructed such a deep and honored reference for his Heavenly father otherwise.

It was over seventeen years since that vision. His lifespan had more than doubled from when he first dreamt the dream. He’d experienced the worst years of his life. The worst scenarios, the worst fear, and the worst challenges.

But it was also a time of tremendous faith-building.

Joseph served God wherever he was. He humbled himself to whatever God placed him in. He allowed God to construct his faith one brick at a time, throughout events Joseph himself would never have chosen.

God proved faithful to Joseph. Throughout his story, we are reminded that God was with him.

And Joseph learned to hold God close. Even without family support. Even without knowledge of the local language or culture. Even without a friend who really knew him.

He witnessed God’s faithfulness.

He experienced God’s faithfulness.

He learned God’s faithfulness.

And he, became faithful to his God.

 

Prayer:

Dear heavenly Father, Thank You for Your great faithfulness. Thank you for teaching me what true faithfulness looks like and how, no matter how long I have waited, You will fulfill Your promises. Please help me to be faithful to You, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Surprised But Blessed

I never would have dreamt this, I reflected. I found myself in a completely unexpected position.  Yet God’s fingerprints were clearly evident all over it.

As that situation unfolded, I had continuously prayed, asking God to close that door if I should not walk through it.

Yet, the door swung wide open.

God, close the door if I shouldn’t go there.

Yet, if remained open, refusing to budge.

I felt truly ambivalent about this unplanned opportunity. On one hand it was perfect for me and my family. But… it wasn’t wrapped up in the package I envisioned.

I don’t get to see the whole picture just yet… but God can.

He knows the plans he has for me, plans for my future, plans to give me hope.

After a while in that new opportunity, I knew it was right for me. I can’t imagine I would ever have authored it, but I’ve already been blessed by it.

As I reflect on my surprise, I ask myself, what do I truly know about my future? I can’t see all, know all, or imagine all. But I know the One who does and I trust Him completely.

Even with the unexpected.

 

Reflections:

How can I willingly relinquish my ideas when God points a different direction?

How can I surrender my plan before God, and accept what He does?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, how often do I get caught up in what my wishes demand?  Remind me to simply trust in You, that Your ways are above my ways.  You know the plans You have for me, plans to give me a future with hope, plans to prosper me and not to harm me. I can trust in You. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Because I Love You…

“Why, Mommy?” asked each of my three precious daughters as she traveled through childhood. No matter which child or what circumstance, the answer was always the same, “Because I love you and want to keep you safe.”

Each could rarely fathom the reason behind a rule, (Why can’t I run out into the street after my ball?) Hopefully she would learn to trust my judgement and my rules, even when she didn’t understand.

As each has aged and begun babysitting, the realization dawns. Young children truly think for themselves. But they don’t always possess the knowledge or experience to uncover the best answers.

My daughters now understand why we have rules and enforce them. They now comprehend how dearly we love them and wanted to protect them, keeping them out of harm’s way.

God does the same with His children. He gives us rules for our own good. He also gives us the Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re going the wrong way.

Instead of rebelling and claiming independence, doing things my way, I find life is better and more richly blessed when I obey Him.

James 1:16-17 warns us, “Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift is from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like the shifting shadows.” (NIV)

Basically:

Don’t buy into any lies.

All gifts are blessings from God.

God doesn’t change.

Don’t buy into the lies you hear in the world. Listen to His words, words filled with wisdom. A wisdom we can’t fathom and will never find ourselves. Be careful what you put before yourself.  Those messages in the shows you watch, the media you read, and the music you hear will penetrate your mind. If you spend more time with those things and hearing those messages, those are the things you will think about and will act upon.

God doesn’t change.  While our world ‘evolves,’ and man thinks he makes considerable progress, God stays the same.  God is holy. He doesn’t need to progress. He’s waiting for us to realize what we really need is Him. What a comfort that the Creator of the universe is constant in His ideals, His love, and His expectations.

He loves us and He wants to keep us safe: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

He truly has incomprehensible wisdom; we do not.

He can see the entire picture; we can not.

He knows the plans He has for us; we do not.

Why should we obey Him? Simply put, He is a loving Father to His children. He loves us and He wants to keep us safe.

 

Reflections:

How have I been blessed by following His rules?

Which of God’s rules have I considered unimportant in my life?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, How easily I write off some of Your rules, as outdated or not applicable to me. Please forgive such attitudes and convict my heart to obey You. Please teach me to focus my thoughts on You. Please prompt me to spend more time with You, so I know what You expect.  Thank You for loving me, and working to protect me with You laws. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Friday, July 8, for the next post.

 

The Power Of A Woman, Part VI

Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in the house shall live because she hid the messengers whom we sent.” Joshua 6:17b (ESV)

Opening the door to her well-known if not well-despised inn, Rahab spied the foreigners.

Terror-filled eyes searched the room for safety.

Somehow, something inside her knew these men. This was drastically different from how she usually knew men; this was a spiritual revelation.

The cadence of running soldiers propelled her to usher them into the room and quickly close the door. She knew what was about to happen. “Quickly, to the roof, under the flax,” she instructed pushing them up to a hiding place.

The alarm in their eyes stirred her compassion as she confidently continued, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us and that all the inhabitants of the land melt before you.” (Joshua 2:9 ESV)

How did she know?

She had housed many foreigners. She had heard the stories of what Israel’s God had done. She also had her finger on the pulse of the people and knew they trembled in fear at the thought of the Israelites.

She believed in this God of Israel. If the Israelites were coming, she’d see certain death.  If the King learned she’d lied and concealed these men, she’d die for treason. Just about any outcome of this scenario ended with Rahab’s death.

Yet, “she received the spies in peace.” (Hebrews 11:31 ESV)

Peace, what peace?

Most women in Rahab’s occupation know fear – fear of personal safety, fear of dealing with someone physically stronger than herself, fear of who might enter her door. She didn’t have any protector.

Here, with spies hidden on her roof and a King’s demand on her doorstep, Rahab could confidently face death knowing she now believed in Israel’s God. She now had the Greatest Protector.

She wasn’t alone. For the first time, she was not alone.

After the imminent danger had disappeared, Rahab bargained for not only her life, but also for the lives of her family members. Although she probably knew slavery to others, she herself acted selflessly.

Rahab’s deep faith in God gave her the power and strength to save the spies and the confidence of cleansing through God’s grace.

She knew God. She believed in Him. She believed in what He saw in her. She didn’t see herself as only a scarlet woman tying a scarlet cord to save her life.

She believed in the grace of God: she had a right to ask for her life to be saved.

God saved her life in two ways. First, her life was spared when the Israelites came and conquered. Second, her way of life was forever altered. She was no longer a condemned prostitute, but she became the esteemed wife of Salmon and would have her name in the lineage of Jesus Christ. (The power of God’s grace!)

This astute business woman didn’t buy any lies that she was “just this” or “just that.” She didn’t buy into the lie she wasn’t “good enough” or that she “could never change.”

Rahab possessed the power of a simple, sincere faith that promised God could do anything.

And He did more than she ever could have fathomed.

 

Reflections:

What lies do I “buy into”?

What truths from God’s word reveals those lies for what they are, lies?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your power, the power to propel me to live the life You authored. No matter where I’ve been, no matter what I was, You can change all that with Your amazing grace. Please help me to focus on You and who You are and accept forgiveness from You. Please help me to fix my eyes on You and the future You have planned for me.  Remind me not to stare into the rearview mirror as I live my days for you. Thank You for Rahab’s example; Your love and grace are truly all I need. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 30, for the next post.

The Power Of A Woman, Part V

Then when the King’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” Esther 1:20, NIV

King Xerxes had a problem.

His Queen publicly disrespected him. Refused his request. Made him look like a fool.

“Then the King become furious and burned with anger.” Esther 1:12b, NIV

He consulted with his seven vice-regents on what to do.

“Get rid of her,” was the answer, “or no woman will show her husband due respect.”

Now, the King needs a new Queen. What are the required qualifications?

Beautiful? A must.

Young? Of course.

Humble, reverent, and submits to authority? Hmmm, he might not have articulated it, but deep down, that’s exactly what he wanted. Because his first Queen didn’t possess those qualities, King Xerxes found himself searching for another.

A plan is put into action. All the beautiful and young ladies are rounded up and slowly presented to the king.

He can choose any of them.

Who will he choose?

 

Esther did not lead a charmed life.  She grew up without either a father or a mother.  Thankfully, she did have her cousin Mordecai, a devout Jew who took his guardianship responsibilities seriously. He taught Esther humility. He taught her reverence for God and for those in authority. He taught her respect and how to show it.

He didn’t know as he taught little Esther, he was raising an effective Queen and preparing one of the biggest heroines in biblical history.

Now the King was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other woman, and so won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins.  So he set a royal crown on her head and made her Queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17-18 NIV

Unbelievably, Esther won the King’s favor. But she didn’t let it go to her head.

When she discovered trouble, she relied on Mordecai’s advice and her and her servant’s fasting – searching for God’s great plan in all this mess.

She did not rely on her earthly position. She did not cash in on her hard-won favor. She didn’t dream of ordering around servants to save herself.

She humbly went to God in a three day fast. Then, she humbly went to the King, inviting him to a banquet where she would further serve him.

Did she know that each time she served him she endeared herself to him all the more?

Maybe, this queen became more than an ornament. Maybe the love and respect she showed him was commanding his attention off her lovely appearance and was attracting his heart.

Esther was, by biblical record ‘lovely in form and feature.’ But beyond her pretty face was something that served to captivate a king. That something moved Esther from the status of concubine to Queen.

The power of this woman was in her humble heart. She knew where the greatest power resided: in God. She wasn’t afraid to humble herself before Him and ask His will.  She also didn’t feel the need to “prove” herself worthy of status. Her power of position was on her knees, submitting to God’s will. Through her obedience and service, God saved His chosen people.

 

Reflections:

What position of power do I frequently choose?

What is the source of power I choose to wield?  Is it an ability of myself or do I rely on God?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Please help me honestly evaluate where I stand in my attitudes and actions. Please convict me where needed and help me to change the focus of power off what little power I think I possess to focusing on Your power and allowing You to use me as a vessel. Thank You for never giving up on Your children, Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 23, or the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

The Power Of A Woman, Part II

Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.” I Sam 25:17 (NIV)

Abigail lived in a time when a woman wasn’t formally educated and was never superior to a man, especially a husband.  She lived with her husband, “a mean and surly man,” as he was known.  Her opinion wasn’t considered. Her words weren’t counted. How easy it would have been for her to hear her servant’s report and to wring her hands in despair!  Her Nabal had done it again! Now he’d offended this David, the King’s trusted leader of the army. Nabal had refused David’s request for supplies while his troops were hungry (and after David had honored him), and now David was coming to kill all their men.

Abigail lost no time. (verse 18) This beautiful woman was also intelligent, decisive, and confident. She quickly loaded up food and set out to alleviate both the men’s hunger and their wrath at injustice.  As David spied the arrival of animals laden with food, he also glimpsed Abigail for the first time, a determined woman bowing at his feet, offering all Nabal had refused. She delivered food, honor, and humility to this anointed future-king.

He listened to her astute assessment and opinion of his character and his calling. He also heard words of wisdom from a woman who feared God.

Her words and actions assuaged his anger and even prompted him to praise God for saving him through Abigail’s initiative.

“May you be blessed for your good judgement and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” I Samuel 25: 33-34 (NIV)

Women of integrity are confident in who they serve and quick at observation,

Women of integrity are decisive and won’t waste time on fruitless conversation.

Women of integrity are quick to hold men to their calling,

Women of integrity help keep God’s chosen from falling.

 

Abigail made atonement for her husband’s mistakes while only speaking the truth about her husband. She honored the anointed future king with his requested food to preserve the physical strength of his troops and words of wisdom and honor to preserve the integrity of David’s calling. She was wise enough to understand the position to which God called her, and humble enough to realize when God called her to a different role as her days progressed. She not only thought it over, as the servant suggested, she quickly devised a plan that honored God and saved both men’s lives and the integrity of the future king’s reputation. A powerful woman indeed.

 

Reflections:

Make a mental timeline of the various roles Abigail played: wife to a “mean and surly man”, a woman of faith saving her people, and a woman marrying a future king.

Now overlay that timeline with a graph measuring her humility. Once people taste power, many often refuse to relinquish it.  Is this how Abigail apparently responded?

What motivated her to respond as she did?

What motivates you?

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts on Abigail’s motivations.  Hearing a different point of view helps us each to learn to better think outside the box.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 2, for the next post.

 

He Is With HIM, Part IX

“He is not here, He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” Matthew 28:6 (NIV)

After a quiet yet distressing Sabbath, Mary and Mary rushed to Jesus’ tomb with heavy hearts.

Their beloved teacher, the One who knew them, the One who loved them, had died.

It was still too much to comprehend.

The day literally began with a bang. On the way to the tomb, there was a violent earthquake. The shaking of the ground could not begin to compare with the quaking of their hearts. How to process the death of their dear Jesus?

At the tomb, what did the ladies find? The expected guard detail was all unconscious and the tomb was not sealed, as it should be. In fact, the stone had been rolled away.

Atop said stone sat yet another surprise: an angel, glowing white.

Heaping shock and surprise on their already fragile minds, Mary and Mary listened to his words, “He is not here, He has risen just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

Peering into the tomb, it appeared the angel knew something; Jesus was not there!

Too much had happened. It was too hard to know what to think! Shaken and fearful from recent events the ladies hurried to find the disciples.

As their feet fairly flew down the path, an indescribable, unmistakable joy welled up inside each one. What if the angel were right?  Jesus had said He would rise up again. No one gave it much thought, after all it had never happened before.

The tomb was empty.

The tomb was empty.

The angel reported Jesus had risen.  If Jesus walked out of that tomb, that changes everything!

Though it may have taken ages to process they would find the truth.  Jesus really was the Son of God. Why did He die? He chose to follow the Father’s bidding and offer Himself as a perfect sacrifice to obliterate the deadly eternal consequences of sin on humanity. Through His death and resurrection He created a bridge between God and us.

That empty tomb changed how Mary and Mary mourned Jesus’ death.

The empty tomb changed how the disciples counted their time with Jesus.

The empty tomb should change how we do life.

Jesus truly is God’s son. He was perfect, without sin. He willingly obeyed His Father when He was sent to bear the burden of humanity’s (yours and my) sin.

We no longer need to shed innocent blood like a sacrificial lamb, (See Leviticus) to approach God. We only need to believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness in His name.

Yes, the empty tomb changed everything. It changed everything for those alive 2000 years ago and for every person who lived since.

How has it impacted you?

 

Prayer: Dear Father God, I pray that as I repeatedly hear Your love story of my salvation, I don’t allow familiarity to dull my senses.  Your love is the greatest love the world has ever known.  May I know that love personally and reciprocate it to You. May Your love shine through me and my interactions with others. Amen.