Archive for January, 2013

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word opens His heart to us, giving us the opportunity to learn how He thinks and see how He loves. It also opens our spirit to His spirit, giving us the opportunity to breath in His peace. God’s Word carries His power and presence. It is living and breathing, and it gives us life. There’s some motivation to spend time in it each day.

You’ll find our February reading schedule in the January/February bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the January-February bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the January-February 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Don’t forget to share what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on my Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for February is below.

RARE February 2013 Blog Schedule

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

8Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9and become one with him.
Philippians 3:8-9a (NLT)

The Apostle Paul puts everything in perspective in these two sentences – when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ everything else is worthless, and as such, seeking Him wholeheartedly is the only appropriate response. Paul says that he has discarded everything so that he might gain Christ – that he might become one with Him.

That’s what a seeking heart looks like.

It is the heart that lays aside everything else to pursue what is most important. Earlier in the chapter Paul exhorts the Philippians to “put no confidence in human effort” but to rely wholly on Jesus. Paul had plenty of human effort he could put confidence in – he was born into the right family, went to the best schools, got the best grades, lived the most righteous life, and was more zealous than all – but he had come to understand that all those thing which he formerly considered of utmost importance were rubbish when compared to knowing Christ.

The things were not bad in and of themselves. They were just worthless in obtaining salvation and rubbish compared to knowing Christ. There’s nothing wrong with being from a “good family,” going to good schools, studying to get good grades, living a holy life and/or being zealous. I have a masters’ degree in Christian ministries. That’s a good thing. I value it. But I don’t put confidence in it to earn my salvation and compared to knowing Christ – it’s nothing – it’s a representation of human effort and knowing Christ is a spiritual journey.

Paul continues in the chapter that he wants to know Christ in all ways –

10I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Philippians 3:10-11 (NLT)

Paul wants to experience the mighty power that raised Christ from the dead – that’s the mountain top experience. He also wants to suffer with Christ, sharing in His death – that’s the valley experience. Paul wants to experience – to be as one with – Christ. He wants to know Him.

I do too.

Paul goes on to tell how he pursues God:

12I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14

Do you feel the intensity in Paul’s efforts? “I press on.” “I focus on one thing.” “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” “I press on.” Paul is pushing forward full speed ahead. Paul’s letter agrees with the letter written to Hebrews:

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith [that is, all the saints who have gone before us], let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

Again there is a palpable sense of intensity to the words: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.” “Run with endurance.”

That’s wholehearted seeking that honors God.

That’s wholehearted seeking that God honors.

Next week we’ll look at how our heart changes when we wholehearted seek God. This week, let’s pray and pursue God wholeheartedly – with the intensity of Paul and the writer of Hebrews. Let’s “press on.”

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I saw billboard the other day – “Practically Scarless” it promised in large letters. It carried the picture a woman in a bikini caressing her abdomen – she was so proud of the perfect body she had – if there were scars on her body, they were too small to notice. The billboard was advertising some kind of “practically scarless” surgery. Quite frankly, I found it a bit offensive.

The extreme emphasis on physical perfection in our society isn’t healthy. It creates incredible insecurity in young girls that grows to maturity as they become young women. It portrays beauty as an external thing, when true beauty is found in how we live and love. Besides…

I like my scars! I’ve got a number of them on my body, and they serve as reminders to me of God’s tremendous goodness!

I have a small scar on my hand. There is absolutely no reason I have this scar. Phil and I had taken his mom and aunt with us on vacation to Cozumel, Mexico. There was a mix-up with the rooms (as in the hotel didn’t have the reserved rooms and there were none available on the island). While we tried to sort things out, Gladys and Velma went and sat poolside at the outdoor bar. Phil eventually joined them while I waited at the front desk. When I joined them, I cut a corner too close as I entered the open air bar and scraped my hand against a wicker chair. No big deal, right? Right. My hand was cut and bleeding a bit, but nothing a napkin and some pressure couldn’t stop. A few band-aids and a few days later I had a small scab that eventually healed – into a scar that is still with me today. It’s about an inch long on the back of my left hand. Which means I can see it every time I look down at my hands when I’m typing. And I type a lot. This scar is an “imperfection” that reminds me of the many vacations we’ve been blessed to enjoy, which reminds me to be thankful. It also reminds me of the great mother-in-law Gladys was…which reminds me how much Phil misses his mom, which reminds me to pray for him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us such wonderful times together. Thank You that we were able to share many of those times with Gladys and Velma. Lord, draw near to Phil when he misses his mama. Comfort him and bless him.

I have a rather large and ugly scar on my right fore arm. It’s the result of two surgeries that were required to put an elbow back together that the doctor described as looking like someone had taken a sledge hammer to it. Shattered as it was, my elbow required plates and screws to hold the pieces of bone in place while they healed. Fifteen months later the plates and screws were removed to provide me with greater movement and use of my arm. This was a hard one – a difficult time during which I spent three months living in a dark room because the pain meds made light unbearable. But it was during those long dark nights that God met me in a more tangible way than He ever had before or has since. I clearly remember one night. Phil was sleeping on the couch to be near me. (I was so thankful we had a reclining chair for me to live in during those months.) I was awake and we had worship music playing softly. I so wanted to wake Phil but he was getting precious little sleep as it was. So I began to pray – to cry out to God in my pain and loneliness and fear. And the presence of God became so strong in that room – I reached out with my good arm believing I would physically touch Him. Of course, I didn’t, but what an awesome thing it was.

When I see the scar on my arm, I remember God’s awesome presence that night. I also remember that three doctors told me I’d be lucky to have 50% use of my arm after it healed and I would probably live with pain. I have 95% and essentially no pain. My scar is a beautiful reminder of God’s nearness and a beautiful testimony of His power.

Finally, there are the internal scars we all have. Rejections. Disappointments. Accusations thrown against us and believed by others. These scars can be the ugliest or the most beautiful. They are the ugliest when we allow them to fester or solidify – that is develop poisonous roots or harden our hearts. When my elbow was healing, the doctor had me massage it many times a day. It hurt to massage it, but he assured me that it was this massaging that would stop the buildup of hard scar tissue that would limit my future movement. The same is true of those internal scars. We can’t simply stuff them down, cover them over or ignore them. We need to work through them – let the Holy Spirit massage them with healing balm of Gilead.

Perhaps you’ve heard that African-American spiritual:

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”

The balm of Gilead refers to verses in Jeremiah (8:22 and 46:11) in which God says there is no healing for the Israelites, even with the balm of Gilead. The spiritual brings in the New Testament and declares that the Holy Spirit revives us – Yes! There is a balm of Gilead. (Click here to hear a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing it.)

Often, perhaps usually, healing is not something we can accomplish on our own. It takes the supernatural work of God in our life. When my elbow was healing, despite my best efforts, that scar tissue began to form. The doctor was impressed by how little I had, but it was limiting my movement and I could tell it was a precursor to a painful future. I went to a healing service one night and God supernaturally touched my arm. One moment the area around the scar was hard and limiting; the next moment, the area was soft and pliable and my arm became flexible again. Praise God! He supernaturally completed the work that the surgeon had started and I’d been continuing.

After Jesus was tempted by satan in the desert for forty days, he returned to his boyhood home of Nazareth. “He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.” (Luke 4:16b) He read the following passage from the Old Testament:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
Isaiah 61:1 (NRSV)

He concluded His reading by proclaiming that the Scripture was fulfilled that very day. In other words, He was the fulfillment of that Scripture. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. You can experience that healing and freedom in Christ. He can do for you what He’s done for me. He can heal wounds, both physical and emotional and spiritual. Seek His face, do what you know to do and trust Him with the results.

Yes, it would be nice to live in a world in which nothing caused scars – no injury severe or deep enough to create the trauma that results in scarring. But without the trauma, there can be no opportunity to experience God’s tremendous healing power.

I’m not looking for scarless perfection. I’m looking for a God who heals. The scars are a testimony to that healing.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

The humble shall see their God at work and be glad;
And you who seek God, your hearts shall live.
Psalm 69:32 (NLT/NKJV)

A seeking heart is not simply a curious heart. Rather, it is a heart that approaches God with purpose and intent. Curiosity is simply a “wondering.” I wonder what’s at the end of this road. I wonder if that dog is friendly. We may begin our pursuit with a wondering – does He exist? Is He real? Will He answer me? God will respond to our wonderings – our curiosity, but only to a point. He will reveal a bit of Himself to the curious. But if we truly want to know God, we must move beyond curiosity to humility and obedience.

Satisfying our curiosity is something we do for entertainment and amusement. While God will provide entertainment and amusement, we don’t seek Him for that. We seek Him because He is worthy of our attention, praise and obedience. Curiosity is me-focused (satisfying myself); it carries a degree of arrogance in it. Seeking God is God-focused. A heart that seeks God recognizes the difference and approaches God in humility.

Let me pause here to say that there is a kind of curiosity that is truly innocent and child-like. That curiosity is filled with awe and it honors God. Curiosity in adults has been tainted by our sin and it places a distance between the one being curious and the thing being sought. It carries inside it a degree of arrogance that places the seeker above the thing being sought. Child-like curiosity is the very opposite. As we mature in Christ, He transforms our curiosity into child-like curiosity. That transformation occurs as our degree of humility grows.

The humble shall see their God at work and be glad;
And you who seek God, your hearts shall live.
Psalm 69:32 (NLT/NKJV)

The humble heart recognizes that He is the Creator and we are the created. It recognizes that we are but dust and He is all glory. It knows that He is King and we are His servants. We may not always act that way, but it is truth. If we want to know God we must seek Him with the proper attitude. He holds the power of life and death. We ought to tremble with both anticipation and fear as we approach Him; not simply with curiosity at what we might find.

As we develop a humble heart, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Jesus described Himself as being “humble and gentle at heart” (Matthew 11:29). We not only honor God when we seek Him in humility, we become like Him.

An Obedient Heart
A heart that seeks God is a heart that desires – plans – to be obedient to Him. Samuel provides an excellent illustration of this. Samuel’s mother had been barren many years until God gave her a son whom she named Samuel. When Samuel was weaned, she gave him back to God and he grew up in the tabernacle being mentored and discipled by the priest Eli.

2One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God.

4Suddenly the LORD called out, “Samuel!”

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
1 Samuel 3:2-5 (NLT)

This happened two additional times. Each time God called, Samuel immediately “got up and ran to Eli.” Samuel was sleeping when this happened, but when he heard his name called, he immediately inconvenienced himself and ran to be obedient. He didn’t roll over thinking “I’ll deal with it in the morning.” He was immediately obedient. It was in his heart to be so.

A heart that seeks God – one that wants to know Him more and more each day – will have the same disposition. Samuel was new at this – he didn’t know it was the Lord calling him, but his heart was already prepared to be obedient. After this happened two additional times Eli realized that God was calling Samuel’s name. He told Samuel to respond to the Lord when he called again.

And the LORD came and called [a fourth time] as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3:10 (NLT)

Samuel has been quickly obedient to run to Eli each time he heard his name called. He was then obedient to Eli by responding to God when he heard his name called a fourth time. What is interesting about Samuel’s response to God is the word “listening.” It is the Hebrew word shama (pronounced shaw-ma’). It means to listen or hear with an intention to obey. What Samuel really said to God was “Your servant is listening and ready to obey.”

A heart that seeks God is one that has a predisposition to obey. God rewards obedience. No, our salvation is not based on our performance – our salvation, spending eternity with God in heaven, is based on our faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. It is based on asking His forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed and placing our trust in Jesus who already paid the penalty for those sins. Period. Yet…God rewards our obedience. The Bible is as clear about that point as it is about faith being the sole requirement for salvation.

If you want to know God more, you must be willing to be more obedient. When He calls, run to obey. You will see Him perform things through you and you will get to know Him in a deeper and more wonder-ful way. It will build in you a more humble heart. It will cause you to seek Him more with a heart filled with child-like curiosity – a heart filled with awe and wonder.

God doesn’t speak because He likes the sound of His voice! He speaks to get our attention and to teach us or give us an assignment. The Lord’s voice is precious…don’t waste it!

Fortunately, He is willing to speak to us again if we’ve ignored Him in the past (and we all have at some point or another). Repent of having “deaf ears” and “slow obedience” in the past and ask Him to speak to you again. Then listen closely for His voice and when He speaks, respond as Samuel did “Lord, your servant is shama.”

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Whew! It’s already January 18! I feel like January is slipping away quickly. So much that I am just getting around to doing my 2012 in Review! At the beginning of each year, I like to review my notes from sermons I heard the year before. And I like to share the gems with you. So I sat down this morning to do just that.

What a tremendous blessing to read through all my sermon notes from the first half of 2012. Looking back, I see themes that God was developing as I heard from different speakers. I didn’t necessarily absorb those themes as I heard the sermons over a number of weeks. But taken as a whole, they were powerful.

Here are some of the best “lines” from sermons I heard in the first half of 2012. I try to let them stand on their own, but sometimes just couldn’t resist adding my own commentary. Be blessed as you read! Free free to pause and reflect as frequently as you want!

“When God shows up, the norm is set aside.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 1/8/12

This sentence both excites and challenges me. It excites me because I want God to show up and do the unexpected. I want to be a part of that. Yet I know my nature is to control what is happening and we have a plan so let’s stick to the plan! The quote challenges me to be more attuned to God’s plan and more quickly throw my plan out the window when God shows up.

“God is waiting for us to come into agreement with Him.” Jack Nehmer, 1/15/12

How true! It’s interesting that I heard this message just a week after making these notes in my personal journal:

“There is a difference between God’s power and His authority. God has the power. When He’s given us the authority, it is the authority to ‘use’ his power…Lord, I give my schedule to you – because submitting to You is where Your power is.”

In my prayer on that especially stressful day, I was coming into agreement with God over my schedule. I was submitting it to Him to resolve and saying “I will agree with You in working this out in whatever manner is pleasing to You.”

“We all believe in Jesus…but do we know Him? If you want to know Jesus, you must go to the cross and look into the eyes of Jesus.” Pastor Dan, 1/22/12

I would add “If you want on maintain your relationship with Jesus – not just learn more about Him, but get to know Him more – you have to continually go to the cross and look into His eyes.”

“Jesus didn’t die for you to live in doubt and discouragement. He didn’t die for you to live under the circumstances.” Pastor Dan, 1/22/12

“There is a beauty and radiance that flows from the spirit of a Godly woman.” Sandy Hovatter – this was a nugget God dropped into my heart while listening to a sermon on Psalm 34

“Sometimes we have to set everything aside except our covenant with God.” Pastor Larry, 3/4/12

In other words, all that matters is our relationship with Him. All that matters is my promise to Him and His to me.

“The beauty of the Lord is light and color and song and flowing movement.” Sandy Hovatter – from my personal journal on 3/12/12

“Wherever we go, we are the house of God…We need to live in the awareness that we have the ability to bring others to Christ through our obedience and maturing…We are the gate to heaven. We are the ambassadors of Christ.” Pastor Larry, 4/8/12, 4/29/12

“There is power in the tongue. Words are containers – they carry faith or fear. They carry blessing or cursing. Do you really want all the negative things you’re saying to come to pass? ” Randy Wolff, 5/4/12

I love the imagery of words being containers. Randy’s question was so logical and powerful – “Do I really want all the negative things I say come to pass?” Lord, forgive me.

“Don’t deny that sickness exists, but deny its right to exist in your body.” Randy Wolff, 5/4/12

“God’s Kingdom purposes were overshadowed by the pain of the journey in Joseph’s life.” Julia Schatz, 5/6/12

When we keep things in perspective, we can live as Joseph did – allowing God’s Kingdom purposes overshadow our pain. Julia continued with some hard-hitting lines:

“We don’t have to let our circumstances thwart God’s plan for our lives…Let’s not settle for anything less than God’s purposes in our lives…Don’t let your trails go to waste – use them as the place form which you glorify God.” Julia Schatz, 5/16/12

“Where we struggle in life, somewhere there is a lie! We’re looking at the world through a broken piece of glass.” Pastor Dan, 5/13/12

“If we’re to walk tall and consistently with the Lord, we must be unmovable in Him.” Pastor Dan, 5/27/12

“Faith is not idleness. It’s an action word.” Pastor Larry, 6/3/12

So let’s live it!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartLord, I want to know You and I want to know Your ways. Yet I get caught up in this world at times. Grab my attention – remind me that You are waiting to respond to me. Teach me Your ways so that I see You at work in this world. Lord, develop in me a heart to seek You in every situation and every moment.

That’s the prayer we ended with in the first blog of our focus on a seeking heart. Have you been praying it faithfully? Or something like it, anyway? I hope so. But if not, that’s OK. You can always start today! God’s mercies are new every morning. Seek Him for them today!

This week I want to focus on developing a heart that seeks God. We have His promise that when we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Seeking God is not about doing all the right things, although developing the Christian disciplines is a good thing. It’s about connecting with God. It’s about continuing to pursue Him until you have connected with Him. It’s not about knowing things about God. It’s about knowing God. And to truly know God, you must have an experience with Him. Having an experience with God means more than simply reading Scripture and praying. It means lingering with Him. It means not giving up until you have touched the hem of His garment.

In his excellent book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney wrote this:

When you pursue God with all your heart, soul, and body, He will turn to meet you and you will come out of it ruined for the world.
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, Destiny Image Publishers, 1998 (p. 14)

Expect God to turn and meet you and expect to be changed! Expect the things of this world to hold less value for you – because when you have touched the eternal, the temporal loses its shine.

Because the things of this world are always before us, however, we can easily become deceived that they have value and we become “satisfied” with them. Satisfied with an easy life. Satisfied with prestige. Satisfied with having a happy family life. Being content is good, but being satisfied can lead to complacency and that kills our motivation to pursue God. Again, to quote Tommy Tenney:

There is much more of God available than we have ever known or imagined, but we have become so satisfied with where we are and what we have that we don’t press in for God’s best. Yes, God is moving among us and working in our lives, but we have been content to comb the carpet for crumbs as opposed to having the abundant loaves of hot bread God has prepared for us in the ovens of Heaven!
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, Destiny Image Publishers, 1998 (p. 23)

Pursuing God with all your heart will change you! But don’t be scared! It’s a good change.

How do you pursue God whole hearted?
How do you develop a seeking heart?

The first step is developing the God Chaser mindset – be determined and diligent about seeking Him. Don’t settle for reading your Bible a few minutes a day. Don’t settle for short prayers. Don’t settle for doing the same things you’ve always done and getting the same results. Don’t settle! I’m going to discuss spiritual disciplines here, but more important than practicing the disciplines is how you practice them. Practice them with persistence and with expectation. Look for God! Connect with God. Otherwise, it just becomes more doing and more learning about God. And we want to know Him, not just know more about Him.

Bible Reading
Don’t rush through it. Linger over it. Pray through it. Read smaller portions so that you can digest them fully. In our Resting at the River’s Edge reading, we have the opportunity to see the whole picture because we are reading larger portions of Scripture. That’s a good thing. It’s also a good thing to take time each week to read smaller portions and mull them over. Read the passage in several different translations. Ask questions about the text – What’s the background? Why would the disciplines say that or do that? What’s that word mean? What does the passage reveal about the nature of God? Most importantly, ask God directly, “Lord, what do You have for me in this passage? How should I apply this passage to my life?”

Meditating
Meditation is a Biblical practice. It is the practice of rolling something over and over in our minds, turning it this way and that, looking at its many facets to find all its beauty and significance. After reading a small passage of Scripture, meditate on it. Highlight a key verse and carry it with you throughout the day. Think about it often. Consider how many times today you thought about something that happened yesterday – perhaps a conversation you had with someone, perhaps a television program you watched, perhaps the words to a song that has your attention. God’s Word is infinitely more important than any of those things. Mull over the Word of God, not last night’s episode of your favorite show. As you stay focused on Scripture, you’ll find that your thoughts change and your conversation will change. You’ll also find that God reveals more and more about that small verse you’re meditating on. You’ll find a whole treasure chest of diamonds in the passage.

“What do you see?”
In his book Developing Your Prophetic Gifting (Sovereign Word Publishing, 1994), Graham Cooke analyzes how God often gave prophetic messages to his prophets in the Old Testament. Again and again, God would ask them “what do you see?” The prophet would describe the picture in front of them – a pot boiling over from the north (Jeremiah 1:13) or good and bad figs (Jeremiah 24:3) – and God would give its prophetic significance – an enemy about to attack from the north (Jeremiah 1:14) or God’s intention for His people (Jeremiah 24:4-10).

I learned from that to ask God to reveal prophetic meaning in scenes that catch my attention. A child that distracted me during worship one Sunday morning became a lesson about how I am prone to wander outside the boundaries God has set for me (as the little boy was want to do that morning) and then pout when God sits me in a chair for being disobedient (again, mirroring the behavior of the child when his mother disciplined him). If I had not asked God if there was a message in the scene I was watching, I would have missed it entirely.

Ken Gire gives many examples of this in his book Windows of the Soul. It is a book about seeing God through glimpses of every day life – like watching a scene through a window.

To see what is in those windows we first have to stop, and then, as C.S. Lewis advised, “we must look, and go on looking till we have certainly seen exactly what is there.”

God speaks through many things. The field of a sluggard and the fruit of someone’s life are just two of them.

How many times, though, have we passed those fields without stopping to see what was there? How many times have we seen the fruit of someone’s labor but not the soul of the laborer. How many times have we seen but not learned, watched but not wondered what lesson this person’s life could be teaching us?
Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire, Zondervan Publishing House, pages 42 and 43

Breathing Prayer
Begin to think of prayer as an ongoing dialog that you have with God throughout the day. I call that “breathing prayer.” In other words, develop an ongoing prayer life – one that mirrors our breathing – regular, constant and refreshing. It is life-giving. As we inhale we listen for God’s answers and His heart; as we exhale we ask our questions of Him or breathe our thanksgiving. This imagery and practice can help center us in the midst of a chaotic day. It’s in or from that center that we find God. We won’t find Him when we are reacting to or become a part of the chaos around us. But we’re likely to find Him when we pause to seek Him. A simple inhaling of God’s peace and exhaling of the stress of this world, then a second inhaling to ask Him what He is doing in the situation and exhaling while we listen and look. Two deep breaths. Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking you don’t have time to take two deep breaths.

Lingering Prayer
Seek God by lingering with Him. Transform your prayer life by losing your shopping list! Don’t view prayer as the mall you go to periodically to pick up a few things you need. Think of prayer as time you linger with God. Time you spend with your best friend getting to know Him. I remember one summer in high school when I would spend hours sitting on a backyard swing with a couple of friends just talking. For the life of me I can’t imagine what we talked about for hours day after day, but it’s one of my most vivid memories of that time. Sitting on the swing, moving slightly back and forth as I talked with my friends.

Find a place where you can meet with God just to talk. Then visit that place frequently. Read Scripture a bit, then ask Him questions and wait for answers. This is a relatively new practice of mine and you know what? He answers my questions. Sometimes I have to ask them a few days or weeks in a row – I don’t know why He does that, but it’s my experience. Perhaps He just wants to make sure I’m serious. I don’t know. But I do know that He answers.

Remember, though, this is time with a friend. It’s not a time when you demand answers. Attitude is everything. He isn’t likely to answer questions that are asked with wrong motives, and there will undoubtedly be questions that He doesn’t answer. Sometimes He just asks us to trust Him. But it’s OK to ask. So go ahead and linger with God awhile and ask Him those questions you have.

I’ve been asking Him lately what it is about me that pleases Him. I’m not asking because I want the pat on my back. I’m asking so that I can do more what pleases Him. For the first few weeks, He answered the question I didn’t ask – He told me what didn’t please him. Oops! So I worked on those things. Then He told me something that pleases Him. I want to bring joy to God’s heart, so I’m doing more of that.

Linger with God and He’ll answer your questions, too.

Study Nature and Science
God has revealed so much of Himself through nature and science. When we look at the tremendous variety in every species of plant, animal and humans, we see just a glimpse of God’s infinite creativity. When we look at the stars we see the immensity of God. When we look at how the universe is held together, we see God’s preciseness. When we look at our bodies, we recognize with the psalmist that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Combine these studies with some of the other disciplines to hear God’s heart about creation and to learn His purposes.

Worshiping
Don’t just sing, worship. Close your eyes. Think about the meaning of the words. Pray as you sing them. Sing them again and again until their meaning moves from your head to your heart to your soul. Sing aloud when you’re alone, not just at church on Sunday morning. Worship Him. Enter into His presence.

Journaling
I journal because it focuses me to write more in quantity and specificity than I would think. In other words, it causes me to go deeper than I would if I weren’t writing. If I were only thinking about a passage, I would easily become distracted and miss the opportunity to delve more deeply into the treasure of God’s Word. If I am only thinking a prayer, I would stop at the surface level. When I write (type) them out, I find that my repentance is more genuine (because I become specific about what I am asking forgiveness for), my pleading more sincere and desperate, my desire to hear from God more urgent. I would offer a caution here – I sometimes physically remove my fingers from the keyboard when I am lingering with God because my typing can become a distraction to simply enjoying His presence.

Putting it Into Practice
Do I do all these things? Yes. Do I do all them all the time? No. Not even close. And that’s OK. This isn’t meant to be a list of things you should be doing all the time (although you should consistently be in God’s Word and in prayer). It is meant as ideas to help you seek and experience God in a greater way. May I challenge you over the next couple of weeks to try one of these methods that are new to you? Not just once, but a few times. Because God is ready to respond. He is waiting to be caught.

Resource Links
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney

Developing Your Prophetic Gifting by Graham Cooke

Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire

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1Later Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special Jewish feast. 2In Jerusalem there is a pool with five covered porches, which is called Bethzatha [Bethseda in NIV, Bethsaida in others] in the Jewish language. This pool is near the Sheep Gate. 3Many sick people were lying on the porches beside the pool. Some were blind, some were crippled, and some were paralyzed. 4 5A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?“ 7The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.“ 8Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.“ 9And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk. The day this happened was a Sabbath day. 
John 5:1-9 (NCV)

This passage was part of our Resting at the River’s Edge readings on Monday. Ugh! It’s only January 10 and I’ve fallen behind in my reading – I didn’t read it until Wednesday and I haven’t made it much further. That’s OK. There’s plenty of time to catch up and hearing from God is more important that completing the readings. And as I read this passage, God impressed a number of things on me.

“A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years…”
My first thought was that we humans are pretty good at adjusting to our circumstances…and that can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. It is wonderful that God has created us with that ability because if we didn’t adjust to our circumstances – or perhaps adapt to our circumstances is a better way of putting it, we would live miserable lives – we would always be discontent. (More about contentment later)

Yet when we adjust to our circumstances too much, we become complacent – satisfied where we are when God has so much more for us. There is a fine balance with being content and striving for more.

I brought up this passage in a small group I’m a part of and one woman began a discussion about being content in God. It didn’t occur to me as she talked, but as I sat to write this blog, it seems to me that she hit upon the key – we’re to be content in God while always striving to see more of His Word become alive and active in our life. Yes, we need to adapt or adjust to our circumstances, but not allow them to lull us into a shallow satisfaction.

We see in this story that the sick man had been striving for more. Verse 4 is missing from most modern translations because it is not in the earliest manuscripts. It provides context that makes the verse confusing without it. Verses 3 and 4 read like this in some manuscripts:

3Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches, waiting for a certain movement of the water, 4for an angel of the Lord came from time to time and stirred up the water. And the first person to step in after the water is stirred was healed of whatever disease he had.
John 5:3 (NLT)

The sick man was lying by the pool and tried to enter the waters when they stirred, but someone else always got in first. He had undoubtedly experienced countless disappointments over many years. Yet he continued to lie by the pool waiting for the waters to stir.

“Do you want to be well?”
We can become so content in our circumstances that our limitations become our security or our comfort. What would happen if the sick man became well? He’d have to get up and move. He’d have to earn a living. He’d have to contend with things that those who are ill often don’t have to contend with – relationship issues, chores and living.

“Sir, there is no one to help me…”
I find it interesting that the sick man doesn’t answer Jesus’ question. Jesus asked a specific question – “Do you want to be healed?” One would think an enthusiastic “Yes!” would be the immediate answer. Instead, the sick man raises objections – he gives reasons why he hasn’t been healed. So do I. As I studied this passage this week, I realized that I do the same thing. Jesus offers life and life more abundant and I give excuses why I don’t have it. Instead of saying an enthusiastic “Yes!” I mutter to myself why I can’t really have it.

When I read the question “Do you want to be well?” a specific situation came to my mind. In this case, it was a ministry that I believe God inspired and I dropped the ball. No, it’s not a healing issue, specifically, but the principle of the story applies. God was asking me “Do you want me to do this for you?” My immediate answer was “I don’t know what to do next.” I immediately felt a catch in my spirit – I realized that I wasn’t being truthful with God – I did know what to do next – I knew the next one and a half steps. I hadn’t taken any action because I wasn’t sure what the second step would be. I could see a life-giving ministry at the end and I obviously could see the ground zero that I am at now. I just couldn’t see how to get from where I am now to the life-giving ministry God had shown me. So I hadn’t done anything. God asks “Do you want to be well?” Or in my case “Do you want me to open this ministry for you?”

“Then Jesus said, ‘Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.’”
God is compassionate. The sick man had the wrong answer and God was ready to bring healing anyway. Our healings are not dependent on us having perfect faith. In this case, though, it required the sick man’s obedience. He was to stand up and walk. And when he did, Jesus’ healing miracle was manifested.

In The Bible Expositon Commentary (New Testament, Volume 1), Warren Wiersbe wrote this:

British writer George MacDonald pointed out that John 5:17 gives us a profound insight into our Lord’s miracles. Jesus did instantly what the Father is always doing slowly. For example, in nature, as mentioned earlier, the Father is slowly turning water into wine; but Jesus did it instantly. Through the powers in nature, the Father is healing broken bodies; but Jesus healed them immediately. Nature is repeatedly multiplying bread, from sowing to harvest; but Jesus multiplied it instantly in His own hands.

Is there some aspect of your life that Jesus wants to instantly do right now? As I read this passage, Jesus made it real to me, asking “Do you want to be healed?” “Do you want me to do something extraordinary in your life?” Is he asking you the same thing? And have you been like the sick man, making excuses for not being healed? Or have you been like me, making excuses for not taking the next step? If so, perhaps God is telling you to “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” It’s what He was saying to me. Since reading this email, I’ve shared what God was speaking to me with our small group (for accountability), asked another woman to pray about being involved in the ministry and sent off an email to schedule our first get together to pray about the ministry and ask God what the next step is. Because we want to stand up, pick up our mats and walk. How about you?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartAs we begin our series Living God’s Heart the first characteristic we want to focus on is developing a seeking heart. A seeking heart looks for God. It watches for what He is doing because what He is doing reveals His nature, His plans and His purposes. It seeks Him in every situation.

A seeking heart wants to know God – know ALL of Him – the good, the bad and the ugly we might say…except that there is no bad and ugly in God. There might, however, be some things that appear bad or ugly to us. If that’s the case, it’s because we don’t yet know God. What might seem bad to us might be things that are good for us but we resist them – like eating our vegetables when we were a child (or perhaps still as an adult). Or what might seem ugly to us is really God’s justice – or even His love. If we seek to know God, we will set aside our agendas, our expectations and even our opinions and say “Lord, I want to know You. Teach me Your ways.”

We are in good company when we develop a seeking heart. Moses, a man God called His friend, desired to know God better:

12One day Moses said to the LORD…“13If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor.…18bThen show me your glorious presence.”
Exodus 33:12a, 13a, 18b (NLT)

King David, the only man Jesus described as after God’s own heart desired to know God better. He wrote these passages in Psalms:

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.
Psalm 25:4 (NKJV)

LORD, teach me your ways, and guide me to do what is right because I have enemies.
Psalm 27:11 (NCV)

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Psalm 86:11 (NLT)

And although it doesn’t specifically say that King David wrote Psalm 119, it bears his fingerprints and many scholars attribute it to him. I like this verse:

Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law.
Psalm 119:29 (NRSV)

Clearly, King David desired to know God.

A heart that seeks God wants to know Him personally and intimately. A heart that seeks God takes delight in Him. Such knowledge and such delight doesn’t happen without intentionally pursuing the One who wants us to be caught.

In his book The Stronghold of God, Francis Frangipane reminds us that God “will not fight for our attention, He must be sought.” God does not impose Himself upon us. In my first blog of 2013, I quoted Isaiah 65:1:

The LORD says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.
Isaiah 65:1 (NLT)

God waits for us to seek Him. And when we do, He rewards us – we have His assurance that we will find him

13“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:13-14a (NASB)

His promise to the Israelites remains His promise to us today. We will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart.

God wants us to seek Him and He promises that He will respond – He promises that we will find Him. What a reassurance, when our earthly bodies and spirits feel so inadequate to touch the heart of God! Next week we’ll look at how to seek God – how to develop a seeking heart. This week, let’s work on desiring to know God – let’s work on the desire to develop a seeking heart. Pray with me:

Lord, I want to know You and I want to know Your ways. Yet I get caught up in this world at times. Grab my attention – remind me that You are waiting to respond to me. Teach me Your ways so that I see You at work in this world. Lord, develop in me a heart to seek You in every situation and every moment.

I encourage you to pray a prayer like this each morning this week. God will answer your prayer and next week you’ll be ready for the next step.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartLast spring I wrote a series of articles titled Live…Like Someone Left the Gate Open! It was a series that impacted me more than any other that God’s given me. A few months ago God began laying on my heart a focus for 2013 – essentially, a year-long series – about living from a heart that has been transformed by God – living from a heart that reflects His heart – living from God’s Heart! I am trusting that this series will take us more deeply into Christ-likeness than we’ve ever gone.

Each month we’ll focus on a different aspect of a healthy heart – healthy as God defines it, that is! We’ll start with a seeking heart and look at other conditions such as a faith-filled heart and a generous heart. We’ll also look at having a repentant heart and a joyful heart. (To name just a few.) For each condition of the heart, we’ll examine what that condition looks, how we develop it and how we live it.

Let me encourage you to take these messages into your heart and focus on developing them in your own heart, as I will be doing throughout each month. More than ever, I sense that it is time for us to go deeper into God – to allow Him to transform us into the image of Christ in a greater way. This world needs us.

I’ve not seen the movie Gladiator, but this morning as I was getting ready for work I had the television tuned to a Christian station. The preacher quoted the movie and it grabbed me: “What we do in life echoes through eternity.” (A subsequent search revealed that I’m probably the only preacher who hasn’t heard the quote. Oh well. Guess I lead a sheltered life when it comes to battle movies.)

What a great line, and what a biblical truism! What we do in this life – how we live, how we trust, how we hope – echoes in eternity. And how we live is largely determined by the condition of our heart.

The things we say are determined by the condition of our heart.

The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45 (NRSV)

Do your words bring life to those around you or are they carrying a spirit of criticism and death?

The things we do are determined by the condition of our heart:

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 
Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NIV)

Are your actions consistent with holy living? Are you living as one who has been set apart for God?

How we love God is determined by the condition of our heart:

Moreover, the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
Deuteronomy 30:6 (NRSV)

Our hearts must be circumcised – our desire for sin and our attachment to worldliness must be cut away – so that we can love God better, and in that loving receive life. Is your heart pining after the world or the Lord?

I expect to be challenged by this series – if I were to tell you the truth, I’d have to admit that I’m a bit afraid of it! Yes, I know, fear is of the enemy. I admit that I don’t have enough of God in me yet because I am afraid of the changes He’ll want me to make as I learn more about the heart He wants me to have.

But what I do here on earth does echo through eternity and I want those echoes to be good ones. I want them to touch people with life. I want to hear God’s heart beat and live it out.

So friends, I invite you to come along. And I encourage you to heed the words of the Psalmist:

6Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts…
Psalm 95:6-8a (NIV)

Let the adventure begin! Watch for the first blog in our Living God’s Heart series.

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I wonder if the story of Noah impacts other people as much as it does me? I’ve already blogged about it three times:

In 2009 I wrote a blog titled Shut In & Remembered about how it was God who shut the door behind Noah and his family after they entered the ark, and then it was the Lord who remembered them and sent a wind to cause the flood waters to recede. What pictures of protection and compassion.

I wrote a second blog that year titled Worship First about how Noah’s first action – his FIRST action – when he got off the ark was to build an ark and worship God. After being cooped up in an ark with all those animals, he didn’t enjoy the freedom of running in the fresh air and he didn’t stand with the sun streaming down on him. He bowed and worshiped. Wow!

In 2012 in a blog titled A New Lesson from an Old Story I rejoiced at God going above and beyond when he repopulated the earth with plants before he even released Noah from the ark. I had always pictured Noah stopping off the ark into a world that had been devastated by the flood. Not our God! He prepared the land before releasing Noah and his family into it.

In today’s Resting at the River’s Edge readings, a different aspect of the account of Noah impressed me. The story of Noah begins with a simple verse:

But Noah pleased the LORD.
Genesis 6:8 (NCV)

It is followed several times by verses like this one

Noah did everything that God commanded him.
Genesis 6:22 and 7:5 (NCV), with similar verses in Genesis 7:9 and 7:16

Noah pleased God. And God asked him to do what would seem to be a wildly crazy thing – build an ark because it would rain for forty days and forty nights. Noah had never seen rain because the earth had been watered by springs from the ground prior to the flood. But Noah did everything that God commanded him. The desire of Noah’s heart was to please God. It was such a strong desire that he did an outlandish thing when God requested it. There isn’t a hint of complaint from Noah anywhere in the story. (And you know there was plenty to complain about – how foolish he looked to those around him as he built the ark (not to mention the cost of it), how closed in, dark and smelly the ark must have gotten, how long it must have seemed that he had to care for all those animals. It couldn’t have been a pleasant time of serving the Lord.)

Lord, I want to please You! Give me a heart that says “Yes!” to you without complaining!

The story ends with a lesson –

Then God blessed Noah…
Genesis 9:1 (NCV)

God blesses those who please Him and those who are obedient.

I would not have wanted the assignment God gave Noah. Sometimes I don’t want the assignments He gives me. I have found, though, that no matter how hard they seem at the time, they carry God’s blessings.

Next week we’ll begin a new series – Living from God’s Heart! It’s a series about developing a heart that pleases God and living out of that heart. Noah had a heart for God and lived from his heart. Be watching for our introduction to the series in the next few days.

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