In our hearts, on our hearts

“Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight.” Psalms 119:111

I had the harrowing experience recently of helping my 12-year-old pick out a swimsuit. For most girls her age, clothes shopping is a battle of wills to see how far the child can get into “grown up” territory. Thankfully, we have the opposite problem: she has an inmate desire to be modest, something that she has had from a very young age.

After this shopping trip (and some meltdown moments) I assured my daughter that I wasn’t frustrated with her, but with the fashion industry in general.

“It’s really not your fault,” I told her. “You just have higher standards than many girls these days.”

“But mom, they’re your standards too!” was her reply.

And then I had the opportunity to explain that it didn’t matter if I had those standards, if they weren’t in her heart as well. Otherwise, I’d be enforcing rules that she tried to rebel against.

The Lord has set out His standards in His word, and they need to not only be on out heart like a to-do list – they need to be in our hearts, like a non-negotiable that we really believe in. When His word is in our heart, we will be more likely to follow Him with all our hearts.

I challenge you today to let His word soak into your spirit. Put His standards in a place where they become a part of you. Don’t look at them as His laws – make them yours as well.

Car wash lessons

“This I declare about the lord : He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” Psalms 91:2

I had an epiphany in the car wash.

My daughter was enjoying the experience.

Now, that might not seem like a big deal. But it taught me a great deal. You see, when she was a toddler, my daughter was terrified of car washes. She would tremble and cry so much that one of us had to wait outside with her while the car went through. She talked about car washes when we were at home, and she would wake up at with nightmares about them.

But now, there was no trace of fear. As she grew, as we worked with her on this phobia and prayed, she had realized that she had nothing to fear when the car was getting clean. The big, noisy brushes could not harm her. The car was between her and the chaos, and she was safe.

As I thanked God (again) for the shift, He spoke to my heart about my fears. He showed me that if I abide in Him, He will keep me from harm. He stands between me and the chaos without, keeping me safe within. I don’t have to be afraid of what life throws my way, because it can’t hurt me.

Rest in the safety of Him today. Watch the storms through the glass of His protection, and know that He has you kept safe. Next time you pass a car wash, remember His care for you!

A stable foundation

“When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.” Proverbs 10:25

Have you ever watched the massive, heavy trucks hauling tons of goods down the highway? I have sometimes wondered how something like asphault, which basically has the consistency of sand, can support so much weight.

The answer is in the preparation, in how the foundation is laid.

The pavers have to prepare the road bed properly, or the blacktop above will crumble. No matter how pretty and smooth it is, if what isn’t seen isn’t right, the highway will collapse upon itself when the pressure mounts.

Solomon, the wisest man who lived, knew the importance of putting our spirits in proper priority. He knew that we have to look ahead and build our lives on something solid – a Godly life.

Our foundation, our strength, comes when we prepare ourselves with the word of God. We aren’t promised that every day will be paradise here on earth, but we are promised that if we put our trust in Him that we will make it through.

Is it time to examine your foundation? The time is never better than right now to make sure you have everything in place to help you weather life’s storms.

Show, not tell

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35

The Jewish people were used to living under a long list of rules and regulations, some handed down by God (and some invented by man.) These laws distinguished them from other nations as they lived in a different way.

They had rules about eating, about caring for the sick, about cleaning mildew from their walls. I’m thinking it’s a safe bet that most other people groups looked at the Hebrew to-do list and shook their heads.

But then, Jesus came.

One word was all He brought: love.

Just four letters to us, but it came with an asterisk. It couldn’t be our definition of love. We’re human, and we want to pick and choose! We want to put conditions on it. But that isn’t what He says.

Just as I have loved you.

Unconditionally. Unselfishly. Unreservedly.

This is how we will be known by others – not the cut of our clothes or our hair, not how often we wash our hands, and not even how often we attend religious services. Because, you see, all those things are external. God wants to do a change in us that begins on the inside and shines to the outside. We can only love like Jesus if we have a change where no one else sees.

I’m checking my reality today. Do I love on my terms, or on His. Loving like my Savior is the only way to point others to Him.

Power’s out!

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” Isaiah 40:29

I’ve been thinking a lot about power lately – specifically the way we use the word for “electricity.” In the past few days, severe storms have passed through our area, threatening our power.

One afternoon just before 2 pm, the power company cut the power to the church where I work, meaning I could get absolutely no work done! On the way home that afternoon, the ignition switch in my husband’s Jeep failed, cutting power to the radio, windshield wipers, and air conditioning. That night just as I was about to go to sleep, a transformer outside my house blew, cutting power to several homes around us. Thankfully, that outage only lasted about an hour!

In each case, I realized why we say “power” when referring to electricity. In our modern age, we can’t get anything done without it! And in each case, the first concern was figuring out what needed to be done to restore that power.

As Christians, we sometimes suffer power outages. It usually comes after times of extended storms in our life, or when we have not “plugged in” through prayer, praise, and God’s word for awhile. Sometimes we don’t realize the power is out until we go to use it, and the light switch doesn’t work!

We can have our power restored by turning back to the Source. He promises “power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” That’s a pretty comforting thought when you feel like you’ve been disconnected – all we have to do is plug back in to Him.

And, that is my prayer for you today, that if you feel weak and powerless you will turn to the One who has promised to restore. He wants to use us, and He wants to provide the power we need to get the job done.

The long way round

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Exodus 13:17

God knows our human nature so well, doesn’t He? After all, He called it before the Israelites even got out of Egypt: these former slaves needed time to get their heads straight, to come into unity with their brothers, to get Egypt out of their spirits before they could go on to their next assignment.

God had to take His children the long way round to their Promised Land.

He has to do the same to us sometimes. There are mindsets He needs us to break, unity He needs us to cultivate, and strongholds that need to be broken off our lives before we will be ready to receive His promises.

He has to take us the long, hard, hot, dry way so that we will learn to trust Him at all times. I don’t know about you, but I pray that I learn those lessons as quickly as possible so that I don’t have to stay wandering around in the desert!

Don’t get discouraged when roadblocks come up along your way. Look up and consider what He is working out for you and in you, to make you ready for your promised land.

Humblebrag

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Ever heard of the “humblebrag?”  It’s an attempt to boast about how awesome your life is, thinly veiled as humility. Observe:

“Ugh. It’s so hard having a shiny new car, always worrying about that first scratch!”

It’s rampant on social media, but it can also invade church circles.

“My feet are SO tired from standing during the awesome worship this morning!”

It’s ok to be proud of the things going on within the body of Christ, but when we begin to boast, we take the glory away from the One who deserves it and put it on ourselves.

And that, according to scripture, is not cool.

So, make sure that when you tell others about how awesome the Lord is, it’s in an attitude of love, not pride. Because without Him, we really can’t accomplish anything, anyway! Beware the humblebrag!

Rebel with a cause

“Esau knew that his father, Isaac, had blessed Jacob and sent him to Paddan-aram to find a wife, and that he had warned Jacob, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” He also knew that Jacob had obeyed his parents and gone to Paddan-aram. It was now very clear to Esau that his father did not like the local Canaanite women. So Esau visited his uncle Ishmael’s family and married one of Ishmael’s daughters, in addition to the wives he already had. His new wife’s name was Mahalath. She was the sister of Nebaioth and the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son.” Genesis 28:6-9

Poor Esau. He had been taken advantage of by his twin brother Jacob, over and over again. He went into the fields every day, while Mama’s boy Jacob hung out at home. He had seen his younger brother get the upper hand on more than one occasion, taking what should have been his.

Unfortunately, he did what many of us do when we feel we’ve been dealt a poor hand: he figured out what his dad’s “deal-breaker“ was, and he set out to do exactly that. It hadn’t taken Esau long to grasp his father’s distrust for foreign women, so he went straight to his uncle Ishmael’s house to find a bride!

What did this rebellion cause him? Not joy, peace, and family harmony, but strife, grief, and division. In Chapter 26, we learn that Esau’s Hittite wives made his parents’ lives miserable. It’s a good bet that he didn’t have much accord at home, either.

It’s never a good idea to live in open rebellion to our Father’s wishes. God has our whole lives in view, and our best interest is always at His heart. And even when we turn from our rebellion and make a fresh start, we can be saddled with the consequences of our poor choices for years to come.

It can be so tempting to turn away from God when we’re angry and do exactly the opposite of what He has instructed us. But in the end, only heartache can come of it. Be sure to guard your heart against the pride and rebellion that can only come between you and the one with your best interest in His heart.

I surrender all

There sure are a lot of songs sung in churches which implore us to surrender to the Lord. I used to think that just meant giving up what I wanted and how I wanted to live, and submitting my life to Him.

I don’t think that anymore.

We were singing one such song recently at worship practice, and the Lord began to deal with my heart. It isn’t just our will that He wants us to surrender. He wants our hurts, hangups, and disappointments too.

We have to turn over every part of us, entrust every facet of our lives to His care. If we try to hang on to our heartaches, they will continue to cause us pain. If we try to keep our hurts, we’ll hold ourselves back from truly trusting Him and having community with others. If we don’t give over our disappointments, we are denying others the chance to be ministered to through our recovery.

All of us is all He asks. He wants to take all the pieces of our past, present, and future, and put them together into a life that He can use for His glory. Think about that the next time you feel like damaged goods, like a broken vessel, like a worthless servant. Let Him have all of you, and make you all He has designed.

In the same boat

Here is a thought to ponder for today:

You may think you are alone in your struggle, but you are not. I know, you are expecting me to say that Jesus is with you, and that is right.

But that isn’t what I was about to say.

Yes, Jesus is with you, but you might be surprised how many of your fellow man are riding right alongside you. The trouble is, life can leave us in the dark sometimes, and sometimes people hide in the shadows. It can be difficult to see who else is in that same boat with us.

It won’t make your problem go away to know that others are traveling right alongside you. But, it can take away the feeling of isolation that our Enemy desires for us. It can help us not to fall into hopelessness and despair.

So yes, Jesus is with you, but so are a lot of flesh-and-blood people whom you might not suspect. Open your eyes, and you might just see a few of them. In the meantime, when Satan tries to tell you that you’re the only one going through this, remind him – we’re all in the same boat.

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