Warm Wednesday Words: The Heart of the Matter

the heart of the matter

I am so thankful Jesus gets to the heart of every matter.  When I let His Words be driven deep into my heart, the burden will be personal and, in the end light, as I respond to Him in obedience.   (Matt. 11:30)   When I keep my eyes focused on Him, and my heart tuned to His, then I am eager to carry out His mission, which is tailored for me and also interested to hear the unique mission He has given you.  We then can celebrate His glory in unison, even if He displayed it quite differently in each of us.

don't waste a minute comparingThe Pharisees of Jesus day were forever trying to appear one up on their Jewish counterparts and even on Jesus.  Even the disciples fell into the temptation to one up their performance above others on occasion.  Jesus told them the folks they were concerned about would surely be changed by His own powerful name, which they were proclaiming.  He went around their argument to the heart of the matter.  He made it clear that His divine Words to the heart of each matter were superior to anything they had ever heard before.

come to meTo really allow God to get to my heart is a far different matter then tritely saying He does, and He certainly knows the difference.  To allow His Holy Spirit to soften my heart means allowing His hands, in effect, to take a hardened portion and squeeze it back to mold-ability and usefulness.  It may mean  a layer is pulled back to expose something starkly in need of correction.  It means I will be willing to accept His challenge to do more for Him.  It means I will be thinking on what He is trying to say to me, and praying for further revelation.  It means I will be open to wise counsel that embraces God’s creativity in accomplishing His purposes in myriads of ways, and that I will not feel peer pressure to compare with anyone else, nor impatience to run ahead of Him.  Peer pressure can be a good thing, if it wakes us up to what we’re to be doing and inspires us to get on with it, while giving us support.  Yet, as long as we are truly seeking God’s will and striving to perform it and support others as they do they same in whatever way they are inspired, there really is something to the strange saying, “There’s more then one way to skin a cat.”

responding to God's challengesResponding to God’s heart work means I will be putting into practice His mission in me that “fits” with my unique circumstances that I am in, unless He sees fit to change them.  When God gets to the heart of my matters, it changes me.  I am restless to hear more from Him.  What about you?  How does it change you when He softens an area of your heart?  Do you find it hard to press in to His will that is tailor made for you?  Do you feel the excitement of His personal revelation to you?  Is waiting for further direction hard for you, as it is for me?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Consciously Dependent

Hope from God alone

Today I contemplate Who I am dependent on, not what I’m dependent on Him to make me or do for me.  He can change that as often as the wind shifts direction if He chooses.  And it’s not my business to hole up at any given “stop” and sing the praises of how used of Him I may be in that stage.  Nothing’s more boring and uncomfortable then hearing someone sing the arrogant praises of their usefulness to God, which can be a lengthy delusion.

arroganceTo truly take stock of His leading and “nudging”, especially in retrospect, can bring me to stark realizations of my failure to follow.  I become keenly aware of His gentle tugs and my reasoning to the contrary.  Of course, if I haven’t spent much time in prayer, meditation and Bible study, then I’m not as likely to have experienced His personal comfort, exhortations, nudging, and yes, even discipline.

Lean not on your own understanding

But once the soul searching has commenced, I fasten my eyes on Him and take a deep breath before “marching on”.  It doesn’t matter what others judgement of my walk is (within the guidelines of the Word).  “Theirs” is to take stock of His leading, which may be very different then mine.  “Mine” is to take His personal instructions and proceed, keeping my eyes on Him, without heed for the judgment, which some are sure to issue, and without indulging in judging or bitterness myself.  “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold…” Ps. 62:2 HCSB.

the Lord is good for those who Wait for HImThe only definite thing we believers have in common, other than Christ and Him crucified, is whether we are striving to obey His individual calling in our lives; not whether our individual instructions look similar.

shift from logical reasonings

Oswald Chambers set the bar high in his November 15 “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘When we are consciously being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, there is another stage to be reached, where all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated.  A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.’

humilty vs pride

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Intensive School is in Session

 

from dark cloudsI am in a Master’s Degree School Program as I trudge through some one way valleys.  After over 25 years of homeschooling seven children I have become accustomed to curriculum, whether bought as a package or whether I put it together hodge podge style.  I spent many an August watching kids and sometimes grandkids swim at the city pool while I poured through the following year’s school plans and calender.  Implementation of each year took off with grandiose thoughts of how organized I would be, how much they would learn and what balance of study versus hands on and field trips would be used.  In addition to hours of planning, there were many, many more hours of reading out loud, drilling of tables and verses, etc.  Admittedly, I did fall asleep a few times while reading out loud in the evenings, and my kids won’t let me live down the way I mastered “reading” in my sleep.  There were a few such times when I sent them to bed, but still under the spell of sleepy delirium, told them to do such interesting things as “Brush your teeth and get in the toilet.”  But none of those years of homeschooling required my focus as much as the intensive classroom of praying and keeping faith while an adult child wades through serious troubles.

As I focus on standing on many scripture promises, I can’t allow myself to indulge in logic and reasoning.  Oh no.  I serve a big God who is able to do exceedingly above all that I ask or think.  (Eph. 3:20).  Nothing is impossible for Him.  (Luke 1:37)  He can reach where I can’t.  (Isa. 59:1)  He will rescue my children, even when they’re not innocent if I keep my hands “pure” because of Christ.  His rescue is first and foremost the soul, but sometimes he rescues circumstances also, if He chooses to bring glory to Himself from them a different way.  (Job 22:30)  His Word that we helped them store away, won’t return void.  (Isa. 55:11) He is able to bring our children back to the Way; i.e. their own spiritual “land”.  (Jer. 31:17)  And best of all He is able to accomplish all this in spite of me, and all of my teaching efforts, because He will actually be their teacher and give them peace.  Not only does He not judge me, He makes up for my lack.  (Isa. 54:13)  That is my teaching retirement verse.  The very spring of my last year of supervising our home school, God caused that one to stand out in “neon” letters, both as a wake up call and a comfort, so that I can get on my knees before Him each day and give the teaching results to Him.  Then I’m able to start a new day with renewed faith knowing He made this day for my faith to land on and soar in, no matter what circumstances I’m in.  He causes me to repeat such promises as “What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.”  (Ps. 56:3) and Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6)  And most of all, He brings me around to a sacrifice of praise to Him even when I’m down.  My praises may come out in a sob but they switch my focus to Him and bring His presence into my circumstances or that of someone I’m praying for, sometimes with a surprising turn of events.

Giving the results to God as I bow my head in the “faith” school takes focus, but is rewarding.  I have set backs, where I just don’t really want to display His glory.  I’d rather stay under a pile of blankets (at least mentally) and indulge in some grief over some latest turn of events.  He is patient with me as I need a little “down time” before forging ahead in this Master program He has me in.  During those times I feel all the brokenness and all the pain and know that it is real.  There is healing in this acknowledgement and in tears, which God collects and keeps.  He hears my cries and yours!

But back in the faith classroom, He carries me to the table where I don’t see my brokenness anymore.  I see things from His perspective and it’s so much better then my own.  I’m whole and I know He is fulfilling His promises as He sees fit in my life and that of my family.  This degree program doesn’t commence until eternity, but the dividends can’t be equaled in any other program out there.  There is faith and peace for character enrichment and future crowns to lay at His feet.   This is a program that some of the most intelligent folks don’t acquire; since it requires a surrendered heart.

Who am I to question His ways or His timing.  It is enough that He carries me to a table I don’t deserve.  Do you struggle with trials and His timing?  What ways help you not see your brokenness, or that of a loved one, anymore, but rather the One who carries you?

Warm Wednesday Words: Broken Hallelujahs

face down broken hallelujahEveryone has times when their “hallelujahs” are broken; i.e. they grieve, yet still worship.  For some, their worship may look and sound the same while their heart is broken.  For others, the words, music and energy won’t come for a spell.  They are worshiping in silence as they process their grief.  They may be soaking in the worship they are hearing.  A lump in the throat may prevent the escape of words even if they tried.  A groan might be the only sound for them.  For still others, the worship of grief may start slow and crescendo.  There are many biblical characters who grieved and worshiped.  Job lost all of his children in one day, he stood up, tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground and worshiped, saying in effect, ‘I came into this world with nothing, it’s not mine to hold onto.  The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’  I’m betting those words were poured out in heaving sobs as he lay on the ground.  Jacob mourned for Joseph many days and refused to be comforted.  Hannah accompanied her husband to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice, but because she was barren her “worship” came out in a torrent of silent bitter brokenhearted prayers, which God heard and answered.  David mourned as he prayed for his child Bathsheba bore him, but worshiped after he knew the child had died and, therefore, his mourning would not induce God to relent.  This probably was not the jubilant and expressive worship that had characterized David on the day the arc was returned, not that we all, at least consistently, have such expressive personalities in worship.  But we are told he worshiped.  David also mourned when Saul and Jonathon died in battle, and several other occasions.  The instance of David seeming the most broken was when Absalom was killed, in which he sobbed for him and publicly grieved.  In fact Joab had to sternly counsel David to snap out of it and encourage his men.   Rachel  had great difficulty giving birth to Benjamin and mourned for her children in a lament (which is a song and likely a sort of mournful worship). She died in childbirth.  In this prophesy given by Jeremiah, God heard and promised that her reward would come.  She represents all the mothers in Bethlehem who lost their baby boys because of jealous and wicked Herod’s edict, and every mother who has ever suffered for her children.  Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched in grief and terror as the crucifixion of her son unfolded before her eyes.  John (19:25) tells us that there were three other women there with her united in grief.  (Yay, for sisterhood!)  Mary had pondered the things God had told her in her heart.  She had significant  insight into what was unfolding.  But this was her son.  There were no words or songs recorded from her position of grief, loss and agony that day.  Yet, she knew.  She worshiped in silence as she grieved.

stronger in the broken places

God expects us to grieve.  Jesus grieved for Lazarus.  But we are to grieve with hope, because He wants us to see things from His perspective.  (1 Thes. 4:13)    Ps. 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”  When your hallelujah is broken, do you find a way to worship anyway?   Your grief is not the final say.
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Warm Wednesday Words: God Leads His Dear Children

 

fear notThe only guarantee you have in life as a Christian is that God will lead you through whatever is ahead and, if you let Him, He will use it for good.  If you’re one of those people who feel you have life squarely under control, enjoy that feeling while it lasts, because it is a fleeting illusion.  Whether it’s the dandelions in your yard or something of a far more serious nature, life holds variables.  We like to know what’s ahead.  We think this makes us feel secure.  Having a plan insofar as our insight takes us, is a good thing.  However, we need to keep our eyes on Christ in this sojourn, because life circumstances may veer out of our “controlled” course.  But they will never, ever veer outside of God’s control.  It is not what we know about the future.  It is Who we know, because He will lead us.  It may be hard, at times, to keep our eyes on Him and pray in faith, instead of taking in the enemy’s lies, but God will gently lead us along, lifting our focus back to Him, come what may.


He not only will lead us, He sometimes will carry us.  Most of us have read the poem about the footprints in the sand and we may even have these sure enough words framed on our wall.   Our Savior really will pick us up and let us take refuge from the storm, while He carries us.  As my pastor reminded me recently, “He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”  (Ps. 18:30b) He is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  (Ps. 9:9)  When we get “down under it all”, He often sends someone to “pick us up” with prayers, encouraging words, and other tokens of love and friendship.  His arm is not too short to reach down to us and pull us up to refuge one way or another.

In the place of refuge and surrender we find rest, grace, faith, trust, promises, renewal, nurturing, comfort and liberating eternal perspectives.  This place of refuge is a hidden place of shelter and not for the double minded.  Our baggage of pride, control, plans, ideas, fears, worries and expectations gets checked at the “door”.  In their place we get so much more.  Circumstances may or may not be going on the course we prefer, but there, in our Refuge, we regain our footing of trust in the One who will navigate us through the storms and variables and not waste a thing along the way.   The saying is much more true than trite, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.”

coffee

 

 

 

Warm Wednesday Words: I am Learning

I Surrender AllI’m learning God wants my devotion to Him and not what I want from Him.  Slowly  learning.  A few years ago someone  said to me, “Whatever you think you must have in order to experience peace with God is an idol.”  [Insert eye opening head thump here.]  Putting it into practice doesn’t come quite as quickly as the revelation, though.  Life goes on with some improvement in that regard.  Yet, old fretting habits and figuring things out logically, well, they die hard.

Fast forward to the new year, 2014.  I listen to “I Surrender All”, this time in yet one more arrangement and style on Pandora.  And it hits me.  One more thing I have not surrendered since I am nearly sweating bullets if ____ happens.  Yikes.  I thought I surrendered “all” the last time God laid it out plain for me in a different trial.  Guess I put back on a few more layers of “my way” again in my thinking.  Not that “my way” is anything bad. In fact, it’s peaceful, lovely, not offensive and usually socially desirable.   It might be “your way” too, if you knew.  It’s just…well…MY way, and not necessarily the way God will choose.

So I resolve to lay it down.  Yet, how quickly and subtly I entwine another layer or two of my own logic into my prayers.  A few weeks later, I read in my “Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘were you devoted to your desire or to God?’.  Okay, God.  Trying.  Thanks for your patience and reminders.  I’m learning to embrace the occasional darkness of dismay and getting better at seeing His light shining into it.  I’m learning to marvel at His continual grace.  I am reminded that Jesus works in the supernatural, not in common sense ways.  If He finds it best for my soul (or that of another) to grant what I ask of Him, He will do the impossible above all I ask or think.

Then I read in the March 25 “Utmost” devotional, “A beautiful saint may be a hindrance if he does not present Jesus Christ but only what Christ has done for him.”  Yes, my testimony is important and it is often about what God has done for me, but ultimately it is about who He is to me!  It’s about me making Him my master ambition.  No circumstance can ever mess with that.  I am learning this is a place of peace and unspeakable joy.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Slowly.  I am learning.

Trust without borders

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