Archive for April, 2013

Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

Your assignment during this focus on thanksgiving has been to memorize these two verses. How’s it going? I have them down, and I attribute it to quoting them first thing most mornings and last thing most evenings…and then any time throughout the day when I am tempted to complain about things.

What I’ve become convinced of is that giving thanks is a strong aggressive and preemptive play against the enemy. He wants to neutralize our witness for Christ. Giving thanks and proclaiming God’s unfailing love in the morning and His faithfulness in the evening puts us in the position of standing against satan before, during and after any and all attempts he makes to derail us. Here’s how:

Morning thanksgiving sets the stage for the day – and it establishes that we’re playing on God’s stage, not satan’s stage. It says “OK, satan – this is the field we’re playing on today.” It starts the game each morning with the home field advantage.

What’s the impact of starting every day by proclaiming boldly and declaring with enthusiasm that God’s love is unfailing; that His loving kindness is constant and that His mercies are new every morning? How will the first hour of my morning be different if I proclaim God’s unfailing love while I get ready for work instead of going over my to do list for the day or a taking stock of my aches and pains or rehashing the argument I had with someone the day before? It will be night and day different! These actions allow us to take control of our thoughts first thing in the day, setting the pattern for the rest of the day.

It also puts on my shield of faith. As I remind myself of God’s unfailing love my faith rises to meet the day’s challenges. It puts me more in the mindset of being on the offensive instead of playing defense.

Continuing to give thanks throughout the day puts me in a position of obedience because it is impossible to be actively praising God and actively complaining at the same time. “Stop complaining” Jesus told the crowds in John 6. The Apostle Paul wrote telling us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing” in Philippians 2:14. As I wrote in this blog – let’s be counter-culture and stop the complaining and grumbling.

Not only does being an aggressive giver of thanks put me in a position of obedience throughout the day, it repeatedly changes my focus from this world to the Kingdom of heaven; from bricks and mortar to gold and glory; from sinful, fallen attitudes and behaviors to righteousness and holiness and loving kindness. That’s being on offense.

And becoming more obedient in my thanksgiving and changing my focus to the Kingdom of God, has another huge impact – it repeatedly puts me in the presence of God. Psalm 100 says:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 100:4 (NLT)

Thanksgiving and praise bring us into the presence of God. And that’s where my victory comes from; that’s where my joy in life’s challenges is found.

Not only are we to proclaim God’s unfailing love in the morning, we’re to proclaim His faithfulness in the evening. “Lord, You are a faithful God and I thank you for it.” How different will our sleep be when the last thing we do is remember – declare and give thanks for – God’s faithfulness?

I love the bookending of praising God morning and night: “It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.”  To me the psalmist is saying “Sandy, frame your life within the structure or boundaries of thanksgiving and praise. Morning and night, remember God’s goodness and thank Him for it.”

I’m working on my frame, how about you?

Lagniappe (a term used in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, it means “a little something extra”)

Here’s a kind of cool thing about the word  translated “good” In this passage,  – “It is good to give thanks…” and “It is good to proclaim…”: It’s the same word that is used in Genesis when God declared that what He had made was “good!” God created the light and saw that the light was good. He caused the waters to be collected and the dry ground to appear creating the land and the seas and He saw that it was good. He created all the plants and animals and He saw that they were good. He created the sun, the moon and stars and saw that they were good. All of God’s creation was declared to be “good.”

And in the psalms, David writes that our thanksgiving and praise is likewise, “good.”

I think that’s pretty cool!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Get to know God better by reading through the Bible a little bit every day. Pray, ask God to reveal Himself to you, then read. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The main readings schedule readings that allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in the schedule put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. He always does. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June 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 May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Join us as we read, then email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today?

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for May is below.

Resting at the River's Edge May 2013 Reading Schedule

 

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Christianity in America tends to major on love and minor on obedience. We seek intimacy and try to avoid obedience. We like the soft, feely stuff but hate the hard, uncomfortable stuff. Leviticus 26:14-15 got my attention when I read it a couple of weeks ago.

14“However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, 15and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, 16I will punish you….”
Leviticus 26:14-16a (NLT)

Don’t get me wrong. It was coming into a greater understanding of God’s overwhelming love for me that set me free to be the person God wants me to be. It was understanding how outrageously passionate He is for me that changed my mental image of Him. I used to see God as always standing in heaven shaking His head at me wondering when I’d ever get it right. Now I know He’s my greatest cheerleader, my greatest encourager, and the proudest Abba Father you can imagine. It’s the over-the-top pleasure He takes in me that brings joy to my life.

That great love frees me to take risks for Him. I know He will always love me, even when I get it wrong.

But that doesn’t mean He is pleased with wrong actions, and embracing His love must not come at the expense of embracing His righteousness and justice. It must not come at the expense of His holiness.

I admit it – I don’t know how and when and where to draw the lines. But I know that our churches are filled with people who praise God on Sunday mornings yet live unholy lives. And that grieves me. Because we, the Church, could have so much more impact. Yet I also know that it is not my place to judge another man’s servant (Romans 14:4). So perhaps the place to start drawing the line is with myself. I must be diligent to embrace obedience and God’s holiness. I must put into practice what I read – which means I must read with the intention of responding.

Apprehending the grace God has for us each day is done in many ways – by seeking Him every morning, by taking what He offers by faith, by receiving His love and by obeying His commands. Obeying God’s commands – that is, making daily life and lifestyle choices that are consistent with God’s Word – is just one way of bring more of His grace into our lives. It pleases Him. Even when we don’t get it all right.

Conversely, disobedience displeases God and brings punishment. He is our heavenly Father and He disciplines us as a father.

5And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

10For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Hebrews 12:5-6, 10-11 (NLT)

In the midst of celebrating God’s great love, it’s critically important to remember that He is also a holy, holy God who disciplines His children. When things go wrong in our lives perhaps sometimes we are too quick to give the enemy credit for hassling it – perhaps we should be asking if God is punishing us.

At the risk of diluting the message of obedience in this blog, I want to provide balance. There are people who haven’t embraced God’s passionate love for them. There are those who see Him as I used to – as the One who always sees the flaws in their actions and whose standards are so high I can only feel condemned by them. Condemnation is from satan. Conviction is from the Lord. You can read about the difference in this Apprehending Grace blog about how very much God loves us.

If you fall into that category, I highly recommend that you read books by Brennan Manning. The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out is a great place to start. Brennan Manning died just a couple of weeks ago. This blog by Steve Wiens captured Manning’s message. Check it out and don’t miss the compilation video at the end.  It’s long, but it’s worth listening to. You will be inspired by God’s message of compassion and love spoken to and through his servant Brennan Manning.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

In his article “How to Spot a Transformed Christian” Gordon MacDonald identifies 12 outwardly visible characteristics of transformed Christians. Thanksgiving made his list as number 11:

11. Overflows with thankfulness. And that implies prone toward cheerfulness.

Some of us (me, for example) needed to learn the exercise of thankfulness. Our default pattern is to simply receive, to take, as if we are entitled and deserve the generosity of others.

But now and then comes along that unusual transforming person who literally walks through the day looking for things to be thankful for. With each expression of thanks, they press value on what someone (or God himself) has done. They believe that no human transaction is complete until it is covered with appreciation

Just as a marathon runner goes into training by running a bit more each day, we’ve gone into training in world-class thanksgiving by deliberately giving thanks a bit more each day.

In the first blog on thansgiving I suggested that you memorize Psalm 92:1-2. (Pause here in your reading to recite the passage for practice. If you can’t remember it, check out last week’s blog again.)

As I pursue God, I want my lifestyle to become characterized by giving thanks to God. The only way that’s going to happen is if I increase my thanksgiving muscle.

So how do I do it? How do we move from where we are to where we want to be – to where God wants us to be? How do we train our thanksgiving muscle to help it to grow stronger? Here’s some tips

  • Memorize Psalm 92, verses 1 and 2 if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Pray, asking God to make you aware of complaining and grumbling and to put a guard on your lips. When you’ve asked God to help you not do something, I’ve found that it becomes a little harder to do it!
  • Identify issues that cause you to complain and make a commitment to give thanks in those situations instead of complain – that’s putting the enemy in the corner. My guess is that you are tempted to complain and grumble about the same things every day. Turn those things into opportunities to be thankful.
  • Similarly, identify things that annoy you but you don’t actually complain about them (yet). There are lots of small things in my life that cause me to tighten my lips a bit or take a deep breath . I don’t complain about them because they’re not worth complaining about, but still, they annoy me. Turn these little annoyances into occasions for giving thanks.
  • Find triggers in your daily activities – anything you do regularly throughout the day – eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, putting your shoes or your sweater on or taking them off, putting your glasses on or taking them off, thinking about food – you get the idea.
  • Here’s a suggestion that links your behavior to Psalm 92. The last word of the last verse 2 – “proclaim God’s faithfulness in the evening” – means just that – evening or night…but it’s literally means “a twist away of the light.” It’s properly translated night, but I can use that literal translation as a trigger to remind myself to remember God’s faithfulness every time I turn off the light!

Giving thanks is a tangible way that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We can’t say that we love God and then grumble and complain about our circumstances. Well, we can, but the two actions are inconsistent. Yet we do them. Let’s not. Let’s become world-class givers of thanks. Lets live transformed lives. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

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And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

I don’t typically include ministry updates from other organizations here, but I was so blessed and instructed by this testimony that I wanted to share it. Most of my readers have their daily needs met many times over. In Mozambique, Bush Bunny Brenda (BBB) ministers in true life and death situations regularly. She has built an organization (Orphans Unlimited) that provides food to 2800 orphans (and many others that show up on their doorstep with short-term needs). In America, we would ask for finances to meet the needs. BBB has done that, and she has the funds, but her challenge is to find the food to buy. Read this excerpt from her recent update. Let it challenge you to trust God to meet your needs and answer your prayers.

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From the 4/19/2013 Bush Beat Blog, the ministry update of Bush Bunny Brenda Lange

CALLING IN THE BEANS

A TEACHABLE MOMENT

Might sound a bit weird to some of you, but the Lord Jesus tells us in the Bible to ASK ANYTHING IN HIS NAME, and it shall be done as long as we do not ask amiss.

WE ASKED for beans for our orphans, and God is answering in a very unusual way.

THE NEED IS FOR 100 TONS of beans if we are to help the 2,800 orphans that are registered in our program.

Capena, our Project Manager visited the 6 villages that “ordinarily” are able to grow the ENTIRE 100 TONS.  It was a bit disturbing when his report showed that they “might” have 10 tons to sell.  Too much rain is the culprit, as most of the crops drowned.

THEN GOD STEPPED IN to surprise me with the fruit of my teachings from last year.
Yesterday, the 2 Pastors from the villages of Namara and Pequaria came to tell us that their church members, along with some of the villagers, had almost 21 tons they could sell!  This is not a normal growing area for beans, so this took us all by surprise!

When I was teaching in Namara last November (planting time), I showed those members how to walk their fields PRAYING as they planted.  Their prayer was to be very specific—ASKING JESUS TO BLESS THEIR FIELD WITH A 100 FOLD HARVEST as they planted their seeds.  From these reports it is obvious, they did just that!
WOW, to go from a normal harvest of just enough to feed their families to a SURPLUS of over 21 tons is truly a blessing of the Lord.

My objective when teaching was to help them achieve a maximum harvest that would sustain their family and give them extra to sell.

I had no idea it would be OUR ORPHANS who would benefit from their obedience and the blessing that God placed on them.

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If you would like to donate to Orphans Unlimited, you can do so on their website or by sending gifts to:

ORPHANS UNLIMITED, INC.
11152 WESTHEIMER RD., PMB 391
HOUSTON, TX 77042

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In his Monday Morning Memo on April 15th, Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting wrote this:

Every day we write the story of our lives, a continuing autobiography. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot! Some of us are rooted in a poverty mentality, as if we’re trying merely to survive; some are in stability, feeling alive; some have an abundance mentality, feeling it’s good to arrive; and a few are in self-mastery, believing they can thrive. As we ascend, the key is to avoid sliding back, and to create water-tight, closed doors behind us. How interesting is your story? You can still change it.

I don’t know if Alan Weiss is a Christian. His Monday Morning Memos are directed to the business community. I couldn’t help but recognize the spiritual implications of his memo, however. As Christians, we know that God has created us for a purpose and that He works the circumstances in our lives to bring us into those purposes…if we pursue Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The enemy, however, has one goal – to derail us from the path God has created for us. His first tactic in achieving that goal is to keep us from spending eternity with God. When he fails at that, his tactics change from keeping us from heaven to minimizing the impact we can have while here on earth – to keep us from accomplishing God’s purposes for our lives. He does that by convincing us to believe lies about who we are and who God is.

  • He gives us a poverty mentality, when the truth is that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).
  • He makes us comfortable in a stability mentality – we’re alive and enjoying our Christian culture…and we’re happy to settle there. That’s enough. No, it’s not. God calls us to more. In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul write to Timothy “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine…But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge your duties of our ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NIV) Paul wrote this shortly before his death. He wrote just a few verses later that he had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, and because of that, there was a crown of righteous waiting for him – a crown that would be presented to him by the Lord. Wow! You may not be a preacher. You may not be an evangelist. But Paul’s message to Timothy applies to you. Whatever God has called you to do, continue in it. Discharge the duties of the ministry God has given you. Don’t become complacent.
  • He gives us an abundance, and with that comes the temptations of  “pride in our achievements and possessions.” But “this world is fading away… But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17)
  • He distracts us with pursuing success for the sake of success and the temptations of personal glory. This is what I take from Weiss’ description of “self-mastery.” As we pursue success by the world’s standards, we can easily in our own ability to achieve our destiny. We no longer depend on God for all things, but are confident in our own ability to thrive. We’re to do all things as if unto God (1 Peter 4:10-11), which means we ought to approach all things with excellence, but we’re to rely on Him in the doing. We’re not to rely on our own abilities, our own wisdom, our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Friends, God has gone to tremendous lengths to save us. He works continually in our lives – and that means in our circumstances – to work all things together for good if we continue in our love for him and in pursuing the purposes He has for our lives. Let’s make the story we are writing every day bring glory to Him and echo through eternity long after we’re with Him.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, I published a blog titled The Proof of Repentance – Living Differently. The point of the article was that when we agree with God about our sin, we choose to live differently. We choose to let go of sinful behaviors and replace them with behaviors that are pleasing to God. That makes us counterculture.

If ever there was a lifestyle pattern in which we need to be counterculture, it is grumbling and complaining. It is the most common conversational “style” I find – both among Christians and non-Christians. Ask anyone how they are doing and you are unlikely to hear about how blessed they are, even though we live in a most blessed country. Yes, we’re going through a recession and perhaps they’re not feeling as “blessed” as they were five years ago, but on our very worst days, we’re still living in a blessed country.

Psalm 92 instructs us to give thanks, sing praises and proclaim His unfailing love in the morning and His faithfulness in the evening. That’s a lifestyle of thanksgiving and praise. And it’s inconsistent with grumbling and complaining. A thankful heart must be developed and cultivated in our culture because grumbling and complaining is so prevalent. I confess – sometimes I feel like I have to complain about something just to be a part of the crowd. If I’m not complaining, I’m just too different from everyone else to be comfortable! Lord forgive me! Teach me to embrace the discomfort of not being like everyone else so that I can live in the joy of thanksgiving!

A thankful heart lifts our eyes to the Lord – I need that. A grumbling and complaining heart puts my eyes on the situation – and the very worst elements of it. Next week’s blog is going to be all about that!

This week, I want to get us thinking.

  • What do you have to be thankful for?
  • What keeps you from being thankful?
  • How strong is your thankful heart? Mine is doing OK, but I know it could be stronger.

I’m looking forward this month to learning about how to grow my thankful heart and then…actually growing it! My goal for the next four weeks is to become a more thankful person. Because I’m convinced that there is joy to be found in thankfulness. In good times and in bad times. I am hoping that people notice the difference, but even if they don’t, I will.

I am anticipating going into a difficult few months. We all face times that are more challenging than others. I want to experience my thankful heart growing stronger before I get too far into that difficult period.

So let’s start with an easy assignment. (At least I it’s an easy one.) Memorize Psalm 92:1-2.

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

And if you find that to be a really easy assignment, begin to implement it.

  • Every morning when you wake, proclaim – declare with enthusiasm and confidence – God’s unfailing love.
  • Pause before each meal to give thanks – truly give thanks, don’t just repeat words you often say but frequently don’t fully embrace.
  • At least once each day sing praises to God. (Perhaps you could sing your thanksgiving before one of your meals.)
  • Every night before you go to sleep, proclaim – again, declare it with enthusiasm and confidence – God’s faithfulness.

I’m looking forward to this week…and next week and the week after that. I’m looking forward to them because I believe that developing a heart of thanksgiving has tremendous power to transform us into the people God wants us to be. And that will not only please God, it will bring more joy into my life.

So…let grumbling and complaining cease and let the thanksgiving begin!

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I love it when the absolutely perfect Scripture comes to my mind just when I need it! That’s the working of the Holy Spirit. But He doesn’t have a lot to work with if we don’t regularly read and memorize Scripture. King David wrote:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

Memorizing Scripture puts a hedge around our heart, minds and actions. The Holy Spirit uses it to direct us, to re-direct us, and to comfort us. Those are good things!

There was a time in my life when I was much more active in memorizing Scripture. I think the time has come to return to the practice, so I wanted to share some tips for memorizing Scripture with you.

  1. Pray! Ask God to help you memorize the passage. Ask Him to bring the passage alive to you.
  2. Repetition is the key to memorization. Whichever of the following tools you implement (and I recommend you use a combination of them), use them again and again to help you own the verses you’re memorizing. Make use of previously “lost” time – like standing in line at the store, sitting at a red light, waiting for your dinner to cook or the TV commercial to be over.
  3. Speak and hear the passage. Repeat the verses out loud first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and last thing at night. Speaking the verses uses a different area of the brain than simply reading them and it allows you to hear the passage, bringing in yet another area of your brain into the process.
  4. Visualize the words of the passage. Write it on a business card and carry it with you. Take a picture of it with your cell phone and make it your cover image. Put it on a physical or digital post-it on your desktop computer, your laptop or your notebook. Tape it to your mirror, your refrigerator or your TV. The point is to put it in a place where you will see it regularly. As you see it, say it.
  5. Visualize the meaning or sense of the passage. Imagine the scene of the passage or associate it with an image that draws out the meaning of the passage.
  6. Use the passage. There must be a reason you’re memorizing it – so use it! If it’s a passage about giving thanks, repeat it before giving thanks. Share the verse with a friend who needs the encouragement or wisdom provided by the passage. Quote the passage when facing temptations.
  7. Sing the passage. Either find a song or make one up!
  8. Teach the verses to someone else – your children or a friend. Teaching something always reinforces it in the teacher’s mind.
  9. Find a friend who will memorize passages of Scripture with you. Everything is better with a good friend.
  10. Study the passage in more depth. Often learning what the words mean helps me to remember the passage.
  11. Find a “hook” – something that helps you get past stumbling places in the passage. For example, I’m memorizing Psalm 92:1-2 this week. The hardest part for me is remembering the first phrase – that is, getting started. I studied the passage (tip #9) and learned that the word “good” in the first phrase was also used by God to describe His creation. So when I go blank at the beginning of the verse, I pause and remember the hook instead of the words to the verse. The phrase “it is good!” comes to me immediately and from there I’ve got the verse down. (OK, I almost have it down, I’m still working on it a bit.)
  12. Look for transition words. If you find yourself getting partway through the passage and then get stuck, think about what transitions the passage you know with the passage you don’t know. Often there’s a small word that connects the two parts and you can use that word as a trigger for remembering the second part of the passage.
  13. Try an app! Desiring God has an app called Fighter Verses that is available for both iPhone and Android. And there are others. If you’ve got one that works for you, let us know so others can check it out.
  14. Enjoy the passage! Remember, it’s God’s Word! His love letter to you. His instruction book to you. His guide for successful living.
  15. And in the now infamous words of Nike – Just Do It!

I’ve read some other pretty creative ways to help people memorize Scripture as I’ve researched the topic. If you’ve got a unique (or not so unique) approach or tip that works for you, share it with us. It might just be the tip that someone else needs to be successful at memorizing Scripture.

Preview There’s a purpose in me publishing this blog today…watch for Tuesday’s post!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartOur Living God’s Heart series has one goal – allowing God to transform our hearts so that we are living from a heart that reflects His heart. Each week I’ve written a blog about a condition of our heart, encouraging us to develop a heart like God’s. Because it is out of our heart that we speak and act (Luke 6:45). And how we speak and act in this life has impact on those around us and those who come after us.

Before moving forward, I thought a recap of our first heart conditions might be helpful. I’m providing the highlights of the blogs in this series, but you’ll find links to each of them throughout this article.

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 because a seeking heart wants to know God – know ALL of Him. At the end of this

Developing a seeking heart is not about doing all the right things, it’s about connecting with God. It’s not about knowing things about God. It’s about knowing God. And to truly know God, you must have an experience with God – which 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.

As we seek Him, we must do so with a humble and obedient attitude. We don’t read and pray simply out of curiosity or hoping to get something. Rather, we read and pray in a more purposeful and intent manner – desiring to know Him and His ways and being willing to come under His authority – to change our actions to be consistent with what we learn about our Creator. 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.

An Obedient Heart flows out of the heart that seeks God. We listen for His voice with the intent to obey. An obedient heart has a predisposition to obey. We see that attitude in the prophet Samuel and in Paul. The Apostle Paul wrote that 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 wrote that he discarded everything so that he might gain Christ – that he might become one with Him. (Philippians 3:8-9a) That’s living with the intent to obey Christ.

A Repentant HeartWhen we seek God with our whole heart, it changes us. In many ways. One of those ways is that we begin to understand how deeply horrible our sin is to God. We become grieved in our hearts and spirits at the things we’ve done and the things we’ve thought. That’s the beginning of repentance.

The word “repent” literally means to “think differently” about your sins – as we become grieved at our sin, we are thinking differently about it. We are agreeing with God that it is an offense.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near” was the call of both John the Baptist and Jesus.

“Live the way you are supposed to live,” was their message. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Thus, the proof of our repentance is in how we live. We’re to live in love and holiness and obedience to God.

A Clean Heart is the result of regularly coming before the Lord to confess our sins. God promises that when we confess our sins, “He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is so faithful. He forgives and He cleanses. He turns our sinful heart into a pure and clean heart.

That pure heart is one that can now see God in greater ways (Matthew 5:8), and when we see God, we will worship Him.Those with a pure heart will gaze upon the Lord in awe or amazement. We won’t just look at Him in passing. We won’t seriously inspect Him. We won’t watch Him from a distance. We will gaze at Him in awe – we will worship Him.

A Heart Filled with Outrageous Praise flows from the heart of worship. We’ll look at the heart of worship and praise in more depth later in the year, but we paused from our monthly focuses to look at the heart filled with outrageous praise during the week of Palm Sunday. How can we focus on anything but praise as we read the story of Jesus triumphal entry and hear the shouts of all around “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The praise of Jesus’ followers was quite fickle, however, because it soon turned to “Crucify Him.” It was for God’s purposes that Jesus died on the cross (Acts 2:23).

A Beating Heart – But God raised Jesus from the dead “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Hallelujah! “He is risen from the dead” the angel said (Matthew 28:6). Jesus is alive forever! His heart beats for you and for me. It is a heart of compassion and love, yet it also beats with the power that raised Jesus from the dead. That power is available to those who believe.

Wow! We’ve covered a lot of ground during the first quarter of 2013.And we have a lot more ground to cover, but I thought it was a good idea to pause for a week and remind ourselves of what we’ve been learning. Living God’s heart truly will transform us if we persevere in it. But if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get sidetracked. So this is our “catch up” week – the week during which we review what we’ve learned and refresh ourselves in those areas where we might have been distracted. Here they are again:

  • A Seeking Heart
  • An Obedient Heart
  • A Repentant Heart
  • A Clean Heart
  • A Heart Filled with Outrageous Praise
  • A Beating Heart

Which “heart” did God highlight as you read today’s blog? That’s the heart condition for you and God to work on over the next few days.

Tell me how it’s going. I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment to the blog, on Facebook, or email me.

And if you’re finding our Living God’s Heart series helpful, I hope you’ll share it with a friend. Just click on any of the links below.

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God tells us in His word that:

16ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

And I choose to believe that…Then I come to long passages like the beginning chapters of 1 Chronicles. How are we to read and love Scriptures when for the past week it seems all I’m doing is reading names, names and more names. Most of which aren’t pronounceable and most of which I can’t relate to one another. Yes, I suppose it’s nice to know that…

10The descendants of Solomon were Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, 11Jehoram, Ahaziah, Joash, 12Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, 13Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, 14Amon, and . If you’re reading the additional reading Josiah.
1 Chronicles 3:10-14 (NLT)

And I might even be able to remember some things about some of those people (although without research I can’t be sure if what I remember about Jehoshaphat is really about this Jehoshaphat or some other Jehoshaphat), but…inspired by God and useful for equipping me for the works God has prepared for me? OK, that’s a bit of a stretch in my faith sometimes!

Yet it is God’s Word, so I choose to believe it. So I choose to read those passages. But let me be honest with you – because perhaps you’re a bit like me and wondering…why? And beyond the “why”, I want to address the “how” – how do I read those kinds of chapters.

First the “Why”
Why should I read chapters that seem to have no impact on my faith and practice? The answer to that one is simple – because God has told us that ALL scripture is God-breathed and has value for us. OK. I don’t get it. But then I also don’t get why He had to make more than 35,000 different types of spiders. This falls into the category of obedience for me. God said it would be profitable. I choose to believe God. I choose to do things that I wouldn’t normally do because I believe God.

Then the “How”
How do I approach chapters of names upon names? All of the above not withstanding, I usually don’t read these passages with the same deliberateness that I read other passages. Let me say that occasionally I do read them carefully, focusing on each name, or even reading them aloud forcing myself to concentrate on each name. Occasionally. Because I take God at His Word and believe there’s value in it for me. But most times, I approach the passages in one of two ways:

From a “Why did God include this” perspective –
I ask the bigger “why” question – “Why did God choose to have them included in the Bible?” Considering this question when reading passages that seem irrelevant to us will help us begin to appreciate them and find value in them. It’s often where I find the lessons in these passages. In the case of names, for example, I learn that God cares about individuals enough to have their names recorded. I learn that He is a God of detail and precision. I learn about the importance of genealogy to God. I can take any of those lessons into more depth (through study or meditation and prayer) to learn more about the heart of God and the ways of God.

From a “what catches my attention” perspective –
I skim the passages, letting my eyes touch each paragraph to find anything that is different about the paragraph or any name that jumps off the page at me. If there is, I will carefully read that passage and then study it if God leads.

It’s this kind of reading that will cause passages like this to jump out at you:

9There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. 10He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NLT)

These two verses about Jabez fall in the midst of 37 verses of names upon names. All other verses simply tell us who was the father of whom. Names, names and more names. Except these two verses devoted to a man named Jabez. When reading long passages like 1 Chronicles, I look for anomalies – things that are different and stand out. Jabez stands out.

I’ll leave the discussion of these two verses for another time – or you can check out one of the many books on the verses the book here one of the many books on the verses the book here. For now, let me encourage you to keep reading! It’s OK to skim sometimes, but keep reading!

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