Mission Impossible?

Psalm 73:26 — My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

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Sometimes life can really be confusing and hilarious at the same time. We want so much to be married and have a family. Yet, we are not quite accurate in our idea of how that would play out. Our imagination had things working so much better and everyone being loved and cared for and living “happily ever after.” Imagine my surprise and disappointment when things didn’t go quite like I had imagined! I was dreaming more of “Little House on the Prairie” or “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” (I know this dates me!!) What I came to realize was my life felt more like “Mission Impossible.” Sometimes it seems that God has a sense of humor, yet in His omniscience He knew what I needed better than I. He knew I needed more, not less, because I was very good at doing things in my own power.

Too often my “perception” of the way things should be was so distorted that there was no way my husband or children could ever get it right.  I was focused too much on what was going on externally in my home and missed the internal and eternal.  My heart is a powerful tool and when my heart is in the wrong place, so is everything else. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable — who can understand it?” Whoa!  That really makes me feel better.  My heart is more deceitful than anything else!! And is incurable!  If Scripture stopped there, I would be hopeless.  John 3:16 is the perfect answer to our hopelessness. “For God so loved the world (me) that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever (anyone) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is our hope for eternity, but also our hope in this life with our families.  Without Jesus we cannot love in a way that offers hope to our husbands, our children, and those around us.  Left to ourselves our hearts are deceitful and incurable.

I want my perception to become like God’s perception.  He has commanded us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:36-40, Lk. 10:25-37, James 2:8) These are just a few verses that tell us to love our neighbor.  Since God mentioned it so many times, I wonder if He wants us to pay attention and obey? He know us so well, and He knows that we need to be reminded over and over. He loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son.  What am I willing to sacrifice in order to love my family well? I think as wives and mothers we often sacrifice our comfort for the sake of our families. We sacrifice our time, rest, and sadly, sometimes our health. The kind of sacrifice I am speaking of is a sacrifice of the heart. The kind that nailed Jesus to the cross. I can assure you I have never had to sacrifice my life unto death.  It may feel like death sometimes, but I am still here!

So, how do I know if I am loving in the way that God wants me to? Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude. Love is not self-seeking, irritable and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices in the truth. It bears all things (“covers all things,” burdens of others), believes all things (those things that God says are true), hopes all things (hope in promises of God), endures all things (tribulations, temptations, and persecutions for the sake of Jesus Christ). And finally, love never ends. I have much work to do. I’ve blown it countless times on the very first one, patience!

Too many times my own agenda gets in the way of my loving others.  I don’t want to be bothered because I am in the middle of something.  I have a list a mile long of things I need to get done.  I have given out emotionally and do not want to have to deal with family. I could go on and on.  As I think on these things though, God did not call us to be so busy and to have lists so long that we are unable “to love others as we love ourselves.”  God gave sacrificially and He wants us to do the same.  The truth is, my list never gets shorter no matter how many hours I work on it.  Every day more seems to get added to it.  I have to choose which is more important.  My list of things to do or the people that God has blessed me with to love and care for.  For me it is a purposeful choice to love my husband, children, and grandchildren. Left to myself, too many times, I will choose my list because it is easier and doesn’t require my heart.   Plus, I’ve never had my list argue with me!

To truly love and put others first is not easy.  That is why I need God so desperately.  In my own strength I cannot be the wife, mother or grandmother that God wants me to be.  Without Him I get caught up in my own junk and it flows out onto everyone around me. Yuck! He is the One that changes my heart. He is the One that opens my heart to love others.  He is the One that I want to please and serve.  When I die, my list will still be here, and no one will care if I finished it or not.  When I die, I want my family and those in my life to know they were loved unconditionally by me, and that they knew that love came from God alone and the amazing work He has done and continues to do in my heart.

New Again

Psalm 51:10 says, “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

 

My last blog was on the first part of Psalm 51:10. We looked at the word “create.” God is in the business of cutting out or pruning those things in our life that keep us from becoming who He wants us to be.

 

Today we will look at the second part of verse 10. David is asking the Lord to “renew” within him. To renew something means to make it new again.  David knew that he had sinned against God, and he knew that it was the inner person that was the problem. He wanted his entire body to be restored to the Lord. God is the only one that can renew our souls. He will create a “steadfast” (loyal, faithful, unwavering) spirit in us if we are willing to confess our sin, repent to the Lord and ask Him to change and renew our spirits. We need a steadfast spirit so that we will not be sucked in to all of the distractions around us.  Sin is a “spiritual cancer.” In order for us to have a renewed spirit, we must allow God to cut out the infected parts of our soul.

 

In verse 12 of Psalm 51 we read, “Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit.” Sin affects our entire being. When we have sinned, it is impossible to have a joyful heart. No matter how hard we may try, there is always that nagging voice inside of us. We cannot have true joy when our hearts are not right before God. The phrase “willing spirit” refers to David’s own spirit, as in verse 10. A “willing spirit” is one that is not in bondage but is free and yielded to the Spirit of God, who ministers to and through our own spirit (Romans 8:14-17). It isn’t enough simply to confess sin and experience God’s cleansing; we must also let Him renew us within so that we will conquer sin and not succumb to temptation. (The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren W. Wiersbe)

 

God wants nothing more than to forgive us, cleanse us and renew us. Do those things that grieve the Lord also grieve me? Have I become lazy in seeing my sin and asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness? Have I become calloused and acceptable of sin because of society? Father, help me to see my sin as you see it…a complete offense and abhorrence against You. Keep my soul and heart open and tender to those things that break Your heart, and help me to be steadfast in You when I am tempted to do wrong. Lord, I want a spirit that is free in You and not locked up in bondage. Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a steadfast spirit.

Create in Me

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Welcome spring! My favorite time of year.  The dormant trees are bursting with vibrant, green leaves and flowers.  The bulbs in the ground have appeared and are showing their sweet faces.  The birds and wild animals are preparing homes for their young soon to be born.  It seems as though the world around me is waking up from a nice, long nap!

As I was reading this morning and thinking of spring and the gift that it is, I thought, ‘What a beautiful time for us to “wake up” and to ask God for a new and fresh Word.’ Maybe spring is not just a renewal of life in nature, but a wonderful time for a renewal in our spiritual lives as well.

Psalm 51:10 says, “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  The word create, from the Hebrew word “bara”, means “to form by cutting or carving out”, a pruning so to speak.  Just like we have to prune our trees and bushes so they remain healthy and beautiful, so God needs to prune our lives and to cut out those things that are unnecessary and keeping us from relationship with Him.  God is the only One that is capable of “pruning” our lives for His glory.

What are some things that might need pruning in our lives?   Maybe we need to cut out unkind words and actions that have become a part of everyday life. Maybe we have a bad habit or attitude that we know we need to change. Maybe we are once again spending a little too much time on our phones and on social media.  (This is a hard one in todays world!) Do we maybe need to cut out some of the time spent here and use it to spend more time with those that matter, like our kids and husbands?  What about time with God? Is there something that keeps getting in the way of spending time in His Word? Is that something we can adjust or change?

If we want God to create something in us, we need to make sure we are carving out time and cutting out the clutter that keeps our hearts and minds from focusing on Him.  He desires time with us, and He will not let that time go to waste.  Now is the time to open our hearts and ask the Lord “to form” something in our hearts by “cutting out” what He sees as damaged or not growing. Let’s open our hearts so that we will be ready to spring forth with what God wants for us! Let’s enter this spring season with our hearts and minds focused on God and His purposes.

A wonderful devotional I have enjoyed is by Francine Rivers, “Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature”

Following the Leader

Mark 10:21b-22, “…Then, come follow me. But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.”

I was reading recently in Mark 10 about the rich young ruler.  In verse 21 the Bible tells us that Jesus loved him.  He was pleased with the young ruler because Jesus knew his heart was striving after better things.  Sadly, the young ruler “had many possessions” and was not willing to part with them in order to follow Jesus.  He missed the greatest possession he could have ever had. This young man’s focus was set on earthly things.

 

I began thinking about myself. I am a believer in Christ, unlike the rich young ruler, but there are things Christ may want me to give up in pursuit of Him.  What “possessions” am I not willing to give up in order to follow Jesus?  Maybe it is not so much about material things, but what do I hold on to in my heart? Do I hold on too tightly to ideas and dreams that I may have?  Do I hold on too tightly to situations I “think” I’m in control of?  Where is my heart when I have to give up my time and plans to help someone else?  Where does my heart go when God may ask me to wait?  Do I hold on too tightly to the people that I love?  Do I follow Christ in my insecurities and my fears?

 

In The Bible Exposition Commentary I found this definition of a “disciple.” A disciple is more like an apprentice. A disciple is more than a student who learns lessons by means of lectures and books. He is one who learns by living and working with his teacher in a daily “hands on” experience.  Too many Christians are content to be listeners who gain a lot of knowledge but who have never put that knowledge into practice. In Luke 9:23 Scripture tells us to “take up our cross daily, and follow me.”  These words are an action. It is something I am to do! We are told to “take up and follow daily.”  Notice that this is not a one-time thing.  This is an everyday giving ourselves over to Christ and what He wants for us.

 

I do know from personal experience that nothing or no one can do in my heart what the Holy Spirit can.  Yet, I still struggle with hanging on and not releasing everything to Jesus. Do I really trust Him?  Do I truly believe He has my best interest at heart? My actions often show that I do not.

 

In Proverbs 3 we are encouraged to, “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  Then the very next verse says, “don’t be wise in your own eyes.” How often do I feel “wise” in my own eyes and forget about Christ?  Do I trust Christ with my whole heart or just the pieces I want to trust to Him? Am I confident in Him to direct my path? Am I confident that He will be there for me? Am I confident that He will provide – in His way, maybe not mine?

 

Sometimes I am like a child when they do not want to hold a parent’s hand thinking they are big enough to walk alone.  The harder the parent grips their little hand, the harder the child pulls away! Lord, I don’t want to get so confident in myself that I believe I know what’s best. I want to daily seek You, and follow You, and bring glory to Your Name. God, help me to trust You with all of my heart, soul, and mind.

Strike Three, You’re Out!

“For we  walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

 

In 2 Kings 13:18-20 is the story of Elisha and Israel’s King Jehoash. Jehoash was not a king devoted to God, however, one commentary I read said that Jehoash could be having a moment of realization that Israel’s only chance is the power of God and not military force. Elisha has Jehoash shoot an arrow through the window in the direction of their enemy the Arameans. He passes this “test” so to speak.  Then Elisha tells Jehoash to, “Strike the ground!” Notice that Elisha did not speak how many times.  When Jehoash struck the ground only three times, Elisha was incredibly angry with him. Then Elisha tells him he should have struck the ground “five or six times”, for then he would have struck down Aram until they were destroyed.

 

Why was Elisha so angry with Jehoash?   Because Jehoash revealed his level of faith and zeal by the extent of his obedience in doing something he did not understand. He lacked faith in God and lacked zeal in committing himself to the task that lay ahead. Since his spiritual senses had been dulled by habitually defying the law of God (2 Kings 13:11), the king failed to garner complete victory over Aram, but God would not fail to keep the promise to strike down Aram three times.[Women’s Evangelical Commentary OT]

 

This passage got me to thinking about my own faith in God.  How strong is my faith and trust?  Do I give up too quickly and miss what God has for me?  What do my actions show about my faith in and zeal for God? It is so easy to tell someone else to pray about a hard situation and to be patient, but what about when I’m the one in the hard situation? Do I have the faith to “strike the ground” believing that God will come through for me, or do I “strike the ground” a few times and quit?  God does not prove His faithfulness by what I consider enough faith. He is about my heart and soul. Do I have a faith and zeal for God in my deepest soul to keep on keeping on until He says enough. I wonder, do I not seek or ask often because I do not believe God will truly come through for me.  Of course, I believe this in my head and hold onto it outwardly.  It’s the internal heart battle that I’m talking about.

 

Jesus tells me in the Gospels to “ask….believing”.  Sometimes I ask, sometimes I do not.  When I do ask though, do I truly believe or am I “believing” with my breath held? Often times I find myself praying and then thinking, “I really hope God comes through on this one!” What?? I’m pretty sure God sees through this! Jesus wants me to trust and believe and to not be anxious for anything. Holding my breath (so to speak) and waiting to see when the next shoe falls is not trust, belief, or faith.  Jesus, forgive my lack of faith and trust in You.  Your faith and love for God sent You to the cross. Jesus, I want my faith to count. Help me to not be like Jehoash and to only “strike the ground 3 times” and be done. Help me to be fearless and courageous and to “strike the ground” as many times as is needed to accomplish Your purpose.

The Journey Begins

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God.” 
Psalm 42:1-2a
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In Luke 10: 38-42 we read the story of Jesus and His disciples being invited into the home of Martha and Mary. Martha clearly had the gift of hospitality and the means if she just invited 13 more people in for dinner! She has a decent size crowd, so understandably she is going to be busy.  Martha is moving and shaking and looks over to see Mary, her sister, sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to Him teach!  During this time, women were not permitted to sit under teachings by the rabbis in school.  What Mary was doing was not a “normal” occurrence for women. The word for listening means to “hear with attention”.  So, Mary is fully engaged with Jesus and every word that He is speaking.

 

But Martha (vs. 40) was “distracted with all her preparations”. The King James says she, “was cumbered about much serving.”  In the Greek this means being over-occupied about a thing!  Martha wasn’t just being hospitable, she was going overboard. Doing more than she needed to. Jesus tells Martha that she is anxious and bothered about many things that are not important or necessary.  Had she not been doing all the extra things she also would have had time to sit at His feet.

 

I love this story.  It draws me back to what is most important every time I get distracted.  We may not be distracted with preparing a meal for a large group of people, but there are so many distractions in our lives today.  We have difficulty finding time to sit at the feet of Jesus and to soak in His Word, yet, we find time for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, losing hours of time scrolling on Pinterest, Amazon, E-bay, you name it.  Of course, there’s still TV, emails, and the list can go on and on.  How much different would our lives be if we just took 30 minutes of this time and spent it with God?  What extra things do we do that are not necessary? Our homes can be Pinterest perfect, but God is not looking at our homes, He is looking at our hearts.  He is more concerned that we seek Him every day instead of liking someone’s post.

 

We are like Martha in that we can get distracted easily with things that really don’t matter.  Sadly, they seem so important to us.  We are also like Mary, though, because God created us to desire relationship with Him.  We will never be filled the way He desires for  us to be filled with anything other than Jesus. I challenge you to take some time today fully devoted to Jesus.  It may be hard at first…..even now some days are difficult. My thoughts are everywhere except where they need to be.  I do believe with all of my heart, the more we are faithful to show up, God’s Word will come alive to us! We were created to desire relationship, and the ultimate relationship is with our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is waiting for you!

 

“Your Word, Lord, is a lamp for my feet and light on my path.” Psalm 119:105