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.

 

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!

 

 

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 IV

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share that faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” 2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

Eunice was a spiritually single mother. She, a Jewess, married a Greek.  She would share her life but not her faith with her husband. When they had a so, she named him Timothy, “one who fears God.” Eunice truly brought up Timothy to sincerely respect God, as his name would suggest. He grew into a man known for his faith.

How?

How did Timothy grow into such a man of God to inspire Paul to call him, “a son in faith”? (2 Timothy 1:2, NLT) A firm faith foundation, committed caring Christians, and a great dose of God’s grace all factor into this equation.

Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was known for her faith.  She taught Timothy all she knew from little up. I’d hazard a guess she also prayed for him relentlessly. I wonder if she wisely did not point out his father’s flaws in spiritual thinking but demonstrated Christian love and obedience by loving and being submissive to her husband. She might have encouragingly highlighted his gifts and taught Timothy to respect his father simply because he was his father.

She laid the foundation, teaching by teaching, story by story, and prayer by prayer each day trusting that God would bless her efforts.

She was imperfect, just as you and I are. Yet I believe she demonstrated before Timothy what we all need to do: confess our sins to God, and then receive His grace.

She might have been a single mom spiritually, but she had some help. Lois, her mother, shared Eunice’s faith and fervor for passing it on to Timothy. I imagine Lois not only reinforced her daughter’s teaching but prayed over them both for God’s hand on their lives. I would believe she was a God-sent encouragement to her daughter during those days she wondered if young Timothy would ever ‘get it.’

But young Timothy did eventually ‘get it’ and grew into a man of zealous faith.

I don’t know where you are today. Are you a single parent or a spiritually single parent? Do you fear for your child’s spiritual future?

Don’t allow fear to freeze you.

Do What You Can

Lay That Faith Foundation – Weave Scripture into daily life.  Tell Bible stories.  Study Scripture in an age-appropriate manner. Attend church, Sunday school, and youth group.

Pray – Everyday, pray for your child’s faith and future faith. God hears. God sees. God knows. He knows the plans He has for you and for your child.

Enlist Support – You don’t have to do this alone. Ask a prayer partner to pray for you and your child through these years. Join a mom’s group where mom’s share and pray together for their families. Facilitate friendships with Christians for each of you.

Grow in Grace –  Trust God with your efforts. Claim Romans 8:28 over your mistakes. Model what grace looks like and accept it from God. Allow your child to see your shortcomings and how to appropriately deal with them.

I imagine Eunice had some of the “those days” with Timothy. She probably wondered if she were raising the next hooligan. But she persevered. She prayed. And, she trusted God. When it was all said and done, her son did grow up to be a man “who feared God.”

And she did what she as a mother was supposed to do: lay that foundation of faith. Her husband may not have assisted in that goal, but God did provide what she needed.

 

Reflections:

 

How can I positively influence my children, grandchildren or children around me?

How can I support and encourage moms in laying that foundation of faith?

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 16 for the next post. Happy Mother’s Day!

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.

He Is With HIM, Part VIII

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

 

A new day dawned. Silence prevailed. Jesus was gone, He had died by the will of the people. He had died a criminal’s death. The disciples had scattered and it was over. The region was rid of one more religious teacher.

“He healed, but couldn’t save Himself,” was muttered with scorn.

The Bible is silent about what went on inside the tomb.  It’s silent about what each disciple thought and in what condition was his heart.

But, as humans, we can imagine.  The agony, the disbelief, that this is how things ended.  “I must have been wrong about Him,” many might have repeatedly thought.

Maybe, it seemed, God was silent.

It was back to life as usual on this Sabbath day. A day set aside for worship and rest. A day filled with empty minutes perfect for pondering just what had transpired.

We can imagine those quiet moments when we wish something else, anything else, could captivate and consume our thoughts, our attention, our hearts.

It was time to worship God.  God that was now seen in a different light. How could this have happened? Did I somehow misinterpret? What’s to come?

God was there.

He was with His people. He was in the tomb. Just as He refused to leave Jesus in the tomb, He refuses to leave us alone, afraid, and in the dark.

Oh, we might spend some time in silent solitude, but He will break that silence at our request, in His timing.

This day was not the day for revelation.  People’s hearts needed more time to prepare for what would come. Although no one understood, God was there.  True to His promise in Deuteronomy, He had not left them.

 

Reflections:

How do I mistake silence for abandonment?

After Jesus was placed in the tomb, the Sabbath dictated everyone worship and rest. The people had been through the most horrible day emotionally, and now, they needed to bring their broken hearts, confused minds, and exhausted bodies to worship.

When God is silent what should I do? WORSHIP and REST.

Worship reminds us of the character and truths of God. That He is God. That He loves us. And, He is ultimately in control.

When we focus on God, we can stop worrying about the problem, because we are focused on the problem-solver.  We can forget fear, because we are focused on the One who casts out all fear.  We can feel our blood pressures return to normal as we realize it is God who controls the future not me, not some madman across the globe.

And after the worship?

After worship comes rest. Because we have shifted our focus, we are less stressed, and can find peace to rest spiritually, and also physically and emotionally.

The timing of Jesus’ death was no coincidence.  Directly after His body was placed in the tomb, people needed to make final preparations for the Sabbath and then follow the rules for the Sabbath.  While many thought God was silent that day, God had already given His people instruction on what they were to do that day: worship and rest. This is how He intended for them to get through that awful, confusing day.

When they followed His command, they were sure to make it through the day with the greatest amount of peace possible.

This lesson applies to us today. When I don’t know what to do, I should worship God and then rest.  I must shift my focus from stress-filled life events and all-consuming burdens of the heart to God. He will take care of it. I can trust in His timing and His protection.

Prayer: Dear God, How often I, like the people who were terrified and disheartened about Jesus’ death, feel overwhelmed by events and underwhelmed by Your presence. Direct me to look to obedience to You, which is where I will find peace, and trust in You. Thank You for recording this example to instruct me on how I should do life. Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return tomorrow, for the next post.

He Is With HIM, Part VII

About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.’” Matthew 27:47 (NIV)

Excruciating pain pulsated with each weakened beat of His heart. His back ached against the coarse cross.  Splinters dug into His skin with every move.

His hands, sides and feet burned with searing throbs as sweat and blood raced down His body. There was no diluting this pain as Christ’s tears could not outrun God’s desire to reunite His children to Himself.

How could Jesus endure the cross? With such suffering for a thankless people, why didn’t He call down the angels to deliver Him?

To bear the burden of our sin, He had to take on sin, something He never knew, and carry it on His shoulders to steal its’ deadly power.

Before He drew His final breath, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?

In Psalm 22, we find the psalmist begins the psalm with the exact words of Jesus, words penned hundreds of years before Jesus spoke them.  The anguish of the psalmist echoes in verses one and two. “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”

How Jesus had the strength, the courage, and the stamina to continue the crucifixion is found in Psalm 22.

“You are my strength, come quickly to help me.” Psalm 22:19b (NIV)

“I will declare your name to my people, in the assembly I will praise you.” Psalm 22:22 (NIV)

“They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it.” Psalm 22:31 (NIV)

Jesus had completely submitted to His Father’s will. He loved God more than Himself. He wanted to do whatever God asked.

He knew the cross would be both emotionally and physically excruciating.  He also knew His time on it, and that anguish, would be temporary.  He knew death’s grasp from sin’s foothold would be permanently obliterated. He knew He would be reunited with God in heaven and it would all be over.

Finished.

With a glorious outcome.

So, because God asked, He did it.

God gave Jesus what He needed to endure the cross, endure the ignorant ridicule and lashing out of a people who just simply had no idea.

God gave Jesus: the faith He needed to trust God, the desire to obey God, and the courage to completely submit to God.

God supplied Jesus with exactly what He needed, to do the unarguably most difficult task of His life, of any life. Jesus trusted God’s sovereignty, and God met both those needs and expectations.

Reflections:

How do I grow a faith like Jesus demonstrated, to trust God, no matter what?

How do I foster a desire to obey God, even when I don’t love His assignment?

He promises that if, “You abide in me and my words abide in you, you can ask for anything you want, and you’ll receive it.” John 15:7 (NIV) Display that verse in a prominent location to remind that He will meet all needs.

We can ask Him for the faith we need, the desire to obey God, and the courage to completely submit to Him.

 

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the cross.  Thank You for Your son who completed that sacrifice for me. Please help me to remember the faith and love Jesus demonstrated on that cross. Please help me choose to be obedient to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you for reading! Please return tomorrow for the next post.

Mary’s Treaures, Part III

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:18 NIV

Joseph was a righteous man. He obviously was a man possessing a great amount of self-control.

First, when hearing of Mary’s pregnancy he knew he couldn’t be the father. Although engaged, and intending to become her husband, Joseph hadn’t touched Mary intimately.

Second, knowing he couldn’t possibly be the father of Mary’s baby must have cut him to the quick.  How hurt he must have been!  How many men would have publicly lashed out at her! Yet instead of pulling from personal pain to publicly persecute her, he mentally decided to end things quietly.

Joseph was a righteous man indeed.  When the evidence stacked up against the woman he promise to love, he didn’t denounce her to the world. He loved her even through her seemingly unforgivable misdeeds.

To both Joseph and Mary’s reassurance, God who had orchestrated the pregnancy, revealed the truth to Joseph in a dream and silenced his fear and confusion concerning Mary.

Mary had done nothing wrong. Joseph was strong enough in his faith to accept the incomprehensible complexity of an unchartered scenario, and accepted whatever God assigned him.

How Mary must have treasured Joseph’s love for both his God and his wife!

That even though unconventional, Joseph was accepting of their divinely assigned scenario and willing to obey his God.

 

Reflections:

Do I practice righteousness and self-control when faced with difficult circumstances?

 

How can I work at building my faith this year to strengthen my resolve to fulfill my divine assignment?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You that You promise to supply all  my needs. Please help me to grow my faith and trust in You so that I can do Your will. Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, January 18, for the next post.

 

Mary’s Treasures, Part I

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,’” Luke 1:28 NIV

 

The young Mary was startled and scared at the sudden appearance of an angel.

She hadn’t received a written notice of Gabriel’s impending arrival. Her mother probably never instructed her on how to entertain angels. Mary simply had no idea what to do!

But the angel set her at ease and Mary regained at least some of her composure and her mind as she listened intently to the words carried by the messenger.

She could not comprehend it all and she asked clarifying questions.

The angel answered her honestly and gently reminded her to have faith.

Mary had had plans for her future: Marry her betrothed, settle down and have some children, Lord willing. A baby in the womb before the wedding wasn’t part of that plan.

Yet, when God interrupted her future, how did she respond?

I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38 NIV

No pity party.

No argument.

No instruction.

No pride over being God’s chosen.

Just servant humility,

Humble servitude to God.

 

Mary handled her divine interruption with grace and humility. She set aside her plans and graciously allowed the Lord to work His will in her life and her heart. He not only changed her life, but our’s as well.

 

Reflections:

How have I responded when God has interrupted ‘my’ plans?

 

Have I ever felt alone in what God has called me to do? Hard to believe, but I’m really not the first or the only one ever in that place.

 

What lessons can I implement from Mary’s example?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your love and that even when facing the unknown and unplanned in my eyes, You already know and have already planned. Thank You for knowing the plans You have for me, and working them for my benefit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, January 4, 2016, for the next post. Happy New Year!