Archive for the “Our Priorities” Category

We sure do have it backwards!

Part of the message I preached at our church last Sunday was about making worship a priority in our personal lives in 2016. I encouraged all of us to interrupt our busyness to focus on the Lord more regularly. I talked about how that would impact our corporate worship on Sunday mornings, but more importantly how it would impact our relationship with the Lord and our ability to carry the miracles He wants to birth through us. And I admitted that personal worship is an area in which I’ve become lax. Ouch!

So all week the Holy Spirit has been whispering to me “let’s do what you preached about on Sunday – let’s set aside some time and worship.” “How about today – can we do it today?” It’s been a positive urging, not a nag. It’s the Lord saying “come away with me, my love” (Song of Solomon 2:13b, paraphrased).

Finally tonight I did just that. As I sat with my head back and eyes closed, listening to a song about how much God loves me, sometimes singing along, sometimes not…my mind began to say “you know, you could be sorting that big stack of mail while you listen to this.” And then “You’re really wasting time just sitting here – you can listen to the music while you wash the dishes in the sink.”

And then it hit me – we sure do have it backwards! Our society has it backwards. Society values doing above all things. We have been programmed to think that doing something is better than sitting with the Lord. Even in our time with the Lord, we tend to think we need to be doing something – reading, studying or actively praying for needs.

When God’s highest priority is for us to worship and to listen. Jesus told Martha when she was so worried about getting everything done that Mary, who was sitting at his feet, had chosen the “better part” (Luke 10:42, NIV). For years, I regularly prayed, “Lord, show me the better part.” And over time, I became a worshiper. I learned how to choose the better part… But somehow that got lost in the busyness of last year.

There will always be tasks to do. There will always be things to keep us busy. There will always be things we’re leaving undone. That was as true for Mary as it is for us. But Mary chose to sit at the feet of the Lord. The Holman Christian Standard Bible says that “Mary has made the right choice.”

Wow did I have a challenging year last year. It seems like I was always trying to decide what the “right choice” was in situations for which I had no knowledge, training or wisdom. The right choice in each of those situations would have been to step away from them and sit at the feet of Jesus. (I’m afraid I didn’t make that choice as often as I should have. But you know what? God still loves me with a passionate love! I am loved by God with an everlasting love – even when I don’t make the best choice all the time – and so are you!)

We must go against our culture and training to choose the better part – to choose to relax into worship instead of sorting the mail or doing the dishes. Instead of spending more time at work or helping to plan the next great evangelism outreach. All those things are “needful” but as Jesus told Martha, we are “fussing far too much and getting [ourselves] worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42, The Message Bible)

One of my goals for 2016 is to stop fussing so much, to stop angsting over decisions – to make them and trust that the Lord’s got it – whatever it is. Choosing the “better part,” the only thing that is “essential” is what will make that goal achievable. So my bigger goal is to worship me. Want to join me?

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Recently God reminded me of a very important principle in Scripture. He reminded me as I was reading one morning in Isaiah:

God awakens my ear in the morning to listen.
Isaiah 50:4

Every morning when God awakens us, He does so for one purpose – to listen to His voice. His desire is that we begin each day listening for His voice.

The theme is carried over in the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, for example, Jesus urges over and over again, “let everyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit says.”

Yet I find that it’s often so much easier to wake up in the morning and listen, instead of to the Lord, to the radio or the television or the first person we see. Often, we allow them to set the tone for our day.

Imagine, however, if we asked God to help us listen to His voice every morning. What kinds of things would He say to us?

I’m writing to Christians today – people who have asked God to forgive them of their sins and take control of their lives. If you haven’t done that, you can do so at any time. Check out this blog to learn more.

If you are a Christian, here are some of the things God would say to you each morning:

God would say: “You’re forgiven.”

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
Psalm 103:3 (NLT)

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.
Colossians 2:13 (NIV)

I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
1 John 2:12 (NLT)

What does that simple phrase “You’re forgiven” mean? It means that the separation that existed between you and God has been put back together. Scripture describes us as being at war with God because of our sin, but we have been reconciled – brought back together.

It means that we can live in the freedom of knowing that we are accepted by God without reservation. There’s nothing you or I have done that God isn’t ready to forgive. Scripture says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And it means we will one day spend eternity in heaven. Being forgiven brings us freedom in this life and eternity with God in the next life. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Not only would God say “You’re forgiven”, He’d also say: “You are loved.”

But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children
Psalm 103:17 (NLT)

Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.
Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT)

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.
John 15:9 (NLT)

Knowing we are loved gives us courage to live the life that God has prepared for us. I don’t know about you, but it makes me smile every time I think about it. You are special to God. You are loved. Deeply loved.

God would say: “I gotcha! Don’t be afraid. I’ve got your back. Whatever comes your way – I’m with you.”

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 (NLT)

God is our protection. He has our back! No one can snatch us from His hand. But there’s another element to God having our back. Not only is it His protection, it’s also His provision.

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

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

Friends, for those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior, when we listen to God’s voice in the morning, we face the day knowing that we are loved, that we are forgiven, that there’s nothing that will come up during the day that God we have to face alone.

God’s reminder that He awakens me to listen was one I needed to hear. It came after a very long time of being very busy. Yes, I kept reading my Bible during that time. Yes, I prayed regularly. But at some point, I wasn’t lingering with God. You know, Phil and I have our best conversations when we’re not rushing from one thing to another. The same is true with God. I am being more purposeful about lingering over my Bible reading and prayers. And every morning, I am reminding myself that I am forgiven, I am loved and God’s got my back. I gotta tell you – it’s  a great way to start each day!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartOur society doesn’t breed compassion. Compassion requires connecting with the pain of others and sacrificing to help alleviate that pain. It requires that we be outwardly-focused – seeing the needs of others more than we see our own needs. Compassion requires margin in our lives – that is, “white space” in which to see, feel and do for others. When we have no margin – when our schedules are overflowing and our stress levels are spiking, the white space in our lives is crowded out and we become focused on only our own needs. When that continues too long, life becomes all about us instead of all about others.

Read these verses about the compassion of Jesus:

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14 (NLT)

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Matthew 20:34 (NIV)

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
Mark 1:41 (NIV)

When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Luke 7:13 (NASB)

Do you feel the compassionate, loving heart of Jesus in these verses? As I read them, all together, not separated by circumstances and other stories, I see Jesus’ loving and compassionate heart more clearly. I see Him with His hand reached out to touch, heal, wipe a tear and comfort. I see His extreme care for those who are harassed and helpless, for those who are sick or hungry, and for those who need to be made clean or be comforted. I see His extreme care for people like me.

Jesus’ heart of compassion stepped into the hurting experience of others and did something practical to alleviate their suffering. Joni Eareckson-Tada talked about compassion and suffering in an address at Westmont College. I was moved by these words:

Helping somebody like me [that is, someone suffering with a severe disability] – God asks us to hook our veins up to that person who is hemorrhaging human strength – because we show Christian love when we pour our heart out into another’s life as though giving a spiritual transfusion. Warm and personal, reviving and life giving. That’s what Christian compassion means.

When we reach out in compassion to somebody, we’re reaching out into their suffering.

The world has so much suffering in it today – it is bleeding out of control.

When people are hurting, His church – and who else is there, it’s just you and me – His church is the agent of comfort and mercy and grace and encouragement, showing, not just telling, but showing His love. Not just proclaiming it, but portraying it. Helping them to experience it.

Jesus had crowds and crowds of people pressing in for attention from Him. He knew the pressures of too much to do and too little time. Yet He kept His outward focus. He saw the suffering of others, was moved with compassion and took action. He wasn’t too busy or too poor or too tired, although surely he had too much to do, too little money and too little sleep. He found His margin – that is the white space within the noise – by spending time with His Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35 (NIV)

It’s in the Father’s presence where we find our margin for the day. It might seem like adding an appointment with God to our already full schedule would take away even more of our white space, but it doesn’t. Somehow it expands the white space, giving us margin and purpose at the same time. It allows us to hear God’s heart – that heart of love and compassion toward us and others – and enables us to show that heart to others.

The passage in Mark goes on to say that when His disciples found Jesus they said something like “Come on! Everyone’s waiting for you!” Jesus didn’t let them steal the peace and purpose He’d just received from being with the Lord. “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” (Mark 1:38, NIV)

Jesus had a full schedule. He had little money. He had others pressing in on Him. But He allowed the Lord to work through Him, showing compassion to people who are harassed and helpless, sick or hungry. He showed His compassion to us so that we might show His heart of compassion to others.

Last summer I met a woman who was widowed at a young age. Undoubtedly she and her young children suffered a great loss. One of the things she told me is that she doesn’t let a day go by without doing something good for someone in need. It might be as small as helping an elderly woman reach an item on an upper shelf at the grocery store or buy a burger for a man living on the street. The key is that she does something. Every day. Developing a habit like my new friend changes the way we think. Little by little, act by act, it builds God’s heart of compassion into us.

What about you? Are you showing God’s heart of compassion to those around you? Do you see the pain, suffering, loneliness and hunger in the eyes, the walk and the behavior of others? If not, perhaps it’s because there is no margin in your life. Perhaps your own needs are crowding out the needs of others. Follow Jesus’ example so you can follow His behavior. Get alone with God so He can pour His heart into you and then you can pour it into others. Pray for a compassionate heart like His – then live it!

You can watch Joni’s entire message at Westmont College here:


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Planning Against the Clock

We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.
Proverbs 16:1 (NLT)

Our Resting at the River’s Edge reading for Monday, June 10 is Proverbs 16. I’m a day ahead, but have to share my reading because it is a perfect message to take us into the weekend. Of course, it’s also a perfect message for a Monday, so I’m a bit torn — should I write it and schedule it to post on Monday. Nah…I’m too excited about it today so I’m sharing a bit early. Perhaps God can use it to help us shape our weekend, and then remind us of it on Monday to help us shape our week.

As I woke up this morning, I began making my plans for the day and weekend. You see, we’re behind (aren’t we always – aren’t you always behind in something? Everything?)…My biggest concern right now is that we don’t have our garden in yet (and all of a sudden it’s the end of the first week of June). It seems that the days we could have planted we were too busy with other priorities and the days we had time to plant the weather said “Nope, not gonna let you do it today.” So I woke up, trying to balance my work, ministry and social commitments for today through Sunday with the need to garden. I decided not to take a shower (don’t worry, I work from home) hoping I might be able to sneak in an hour of gardening during lunch. (That’s never happened before, but one can always hope.)

I came downstairs and got my breakfast, then came further downstairs to the basement and sat at my desk to begin my day. I opened my Bible reading program on my computer (I use WordSearch 10), and turned to my next scheduled reading. I noticed the Post-It I put on my monitor last night to remind me of my first work task this morning. I glanced at the time and recognize that I’m running a little late.

Then I began to read. Did you notice that it doesn’t say anywhere in there that I prayed first? I confess. I didn’t. I always try to remember to pray in the morning – often before I get out of bed or when I take a shower. Didn’t happen. I always try to remember to pray in the morning before I begin reading God’s Word. Didn’t happen. I share that just to let you know that we all get it wrong sometimes. I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m thanking God for His goodness to me even when I forget to invite Him in. I’ve apologized to God (which is a whole lot like confessing my sin to Him), and know that I’m forgiven.

Back to the reading. I love God’s Word. Here are 6 of the 33 verses in Proverbs 16:

1We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.
2People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.
3Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.

9We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

25There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

33We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.
Proverbs 16:1-33 (NLT)

God is so gracious to remind me – especially when my mind begins to go a bit haywire from the tasks I want to put in my schedule – that I can make all the plans I want, but He will give me the right answers and He will cause them to succeed, and He will determine my steps and He will determine the end results.

The rest of the Proverb is filled with direction on how we should live – fearing God, in humility, in Godliness, honestly, in peace, listening to instructions, with patience and much more. All good stuff to hear, read and live.

Whether you’re reading this before the weekend, at the beginning of the week, or even in the middle of the week – let God make your plans!

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Pair of Dolphins KissingLet me give you some insight into our typical schedule. Three or four days a week my husband works second shift at the job God has graciously provided to pay our health insurance. I work fulltime in our home-based business during the normal work day (and beyond). So I am in the office by 8am, but because he doesn’t get to bed until about 2am several nights a week, Phil doesn’t come in until 9 or 10am.

This morning, I was busy working – in the middle of writing something – having a full thought in my head that I was trying to rapidly get on paper (well, screen actually). I also had a second thought in my mind that I desperately didn’t want to lose – it was firmly planted as the next task, but if I didn’t get to it soon, I was afraid it would wilt before blossoming.

That’s when my husband came into the office. He didn’t follow his normal routine – going to his desk and cheerfully say “Morning, Beeb!” (now you know our favorite term of endearment for one another). Instead, he came to my desk, pulled up a chair and came in for a kiss.

Now I love my husband dearly and I love his kisses…but I REALLY wanted to get these thoughts down…kisses could wait, but could my thoughts? Yet I felt prompted, yes, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to turn away from my keyboard and give my full attention to my husband. Praise God that I was obedient to that prompting. My husband greeted me with a very tender kiss followed by professions of his undying love. It wasn’t a peck, and it wasn’t passionate – it was soft and gentle, letting me know that I am a treasured woman. Wow!

And the Holy Spirit turned it into a teachable moment.

§ Giving and receiving love and affection from my husband is more important than getting the next thought on paper or the next task done.

§ God can use moments to change our lives. How long was my “interruption” this morning? Not long. Yet my day is changed. And I know Phil’s day is changed. In the front of my mind is the tender moment we shared and the knowledge that I am very special to him. Moments that can change days can change our lives.

§ God is my Husband. He has given me an earthly husband not only for my joy, but also as an illustration – an earthly picture/experience – of my relationship with Him. He wants to surprise me with tender moments that can change my day and my life. I could have said to Phil “I’m in the middle of something” when he pulled up a chair this morning. I would have missed out. I can say the same thing to God – “Lord, I need to finish this thought before I pay attention to You.” And it will be my loss – I will miss the opportunity to experience God’s love, His grace, His wisdom – all things He wants to shower upon me. I will miss the moments with God that can change my life.

Lord, thank you for lessons that come out of tender kisses. Thank you for my husband, who loves me and who gives me glimpses of Your love and care for me. Help me to be tender toward You and toward him – even when I’m in the middle of some seemingly urgent task.

Husbands and Wives

1In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God….

7In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

8Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9 (NLT)

Gentlemen – Kiss your wives tenderly. Love her.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Colossians 3:19 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Ladies – Love your husbands passionately. Read Song of Solomon in a modern translation and love your husband as the young woman loves her bridegroom. And resist the urge to nag.

2Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. 3How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance. No wonder all the young women love you!
Song of Songs 1:2-3 (NLT)

A quarrelsome [or nagging] wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.
Proverbs 27:15 (NLT)

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When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
2 Corinthians 10:18 (NLT)

“The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.” How often do we look for commendations from the world? We want the world to think well of us. We want our friends and family to think well of us – and to tell us how great we are and how great we’re doing. This scripture reminds us that whether we are commending ourselves or others are telling us how great we are, it doesn’t really count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend us.

I was recently asked to speak at an event I had not planned to attend. I struggled with the decision of whether or not to accept the invitation. Having not planned to attend the event, it felt like agreeing to speak was motivated by wanting to look good to others. I talked with my husband about it and he gave me some wise advice – in this case, I needed to ignore the mixed messages my brain and emotions were giving me and just do the right thing. The right thing was to accept the invitation. When I took all the motivations I would have for speaking at the event out of the equation, I knew that accepting the invitation was the right thing to do. It was an honor to be asked and it was an opportunity to serve God and others. I had previously not planned on attending the event simply because it inconvenienced my schedule and strained my finances.

When I called to accept the invitation, I immediately knew that saying “yes” brought relief to the person asking and it brought peace to my heart, mind and spirit. I also knew that if I had declined, I would have been feeling regret at the lost opportunity to bless the organizer and others. I would have known that I had really said “no” to God.

Our emotions can mess us up sometimes. Our sinful craving for attention and public adoration is just that – sinful! That adoration doesn’t count for much. Pleasing God is what matters. In my example, pleasing God would bring me the accolades of others, so I struggled to make a decision. Phil wisely reminded me to please God.

When faced with a decision from which the right answer will bring bad consequences, I often say “do the right thing and leave the results to God.” I’ve learned that when making these choices He often shields me from those anticipated bad consequences. Not always, of course, because bad consequences are part of the process of conforming us to the image of Christ and/or displaying Christ to the world. Sometimes, however, doing the right thing brings accolades our way. In all cases, it’s important to remember that the accolades of others don’t count for much. The important thing is to please the Lord.

Of course, the point isn’t that we should stop giving those accolades! Even though the accolades of others don’t count for much, don’t let that keep you from encouraging others. Scripture is clear that we are to encourage others, especially those in the body of Christ. Encouraging others gives them courage to do the right thing…there will be a blog about that soon. Do both – make encouraging others a priority…but in your own life, always remember – the important thing is to please the Lord.

When have you struggled to make the right choice? Share your experiences below so that we can learn from one another.

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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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I love the discoveries I make as I review my notes from sermons I heard the previous year. As I read over the sermons from the first half of the year, I found a continual calling back to dependence on God, a continual encouragement to live above our circumstances by trusting them to Him. You can read highlights from those sermons here.

I got waylaid a bit before going over my notes for the second half of the year. It’s almost Easter and I’m just now publishing highlights from the second half of 2012. Sometimes life gets away from us, doesn’t it? I was tempted to not publish these because I’m so late, but these are too good to not share. I pray that you are as blessed as I’ve been reviewing what God said through mighty men and women of God in 2012.

On June 11th, I attended a prayer meeting. It wasn’t your typical prayer meeting, but a weekly “soaking” prayer time that takes place at Ekklesia Revived, our local prayer center. (You can find their Facebook page here.)  This is a time of sitting and listening to the Lord – soaking in His presence and waiting on Him. At the end of the prayer time, people share what they’ve heard from the Lord. Often God speaks through images, thoughts that come to our mind, or things others say. Here are my notes from one such “speaking”:

“I saw us dancing with the Lord” one woman said. When she said that, I immediately thought of the movie Hitch. “This is your dance space, this is my dance space” [Hitch instructed his client]. The Holy Spirit immediately said to me “It’s time to dance outside your space.”

How cool is that? I love the way the Lord speaks to us. Is it time for you to dance outside our space?

“For God to mend our hearts, we have to give Him all the pieces – or it will never be fully mended.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 6/17/12

“It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it.” A stray note in my written journal. I have no idea who said it. But it’s a good line!

“There must be a desire in each of us to see God move. Wherever we are is to become a habitation of our Lord.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 7/22/12

“He is our Shepherd and without Him we are helpless and harassed. (see Matthew 9:36)” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 8/26/12

“There isn’t a wall that satan can build that cannot be torn down – demolished – with praise.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/23/12

“Praise disarms a complaining spirit.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/23/12

(And I would add – and we all need that!)

During our worship time on September 30, 2012, I made these notes in my written journal:

During worship I saw an image of mighty warriors standing in front of the king – creating a protective wall around him. Nothing gets through them. That’s how we’re to be for one another – especially when we see one who has fallen. As I considered this, I saw an image of many guards standing over a fallen warrior. They were clearly giving the fallen warrior time to heal. They were not standing guard over his death. It was not a death watch, it was a protection detail giving time to heal. They were saying to the enemy “we’re standing here and you’re not getting through. We’re providing a protective barrier until our brother has healed.”

Lord, make me one of those warriors!! Enlist me in that army. Teach me that dedication and that steadfastness and that courage to stand. Not here, satan! Not now!

PS note: The sermon that followed that day was titled “Faithful, Fearless Courage!” God was preparing me to hear the sermon and respond!

“God says that no one can stand against us. Does our life show we believe it? Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“Trust requires action before God moves.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“The battle has nothing to do with the size of the enemy; it has everything to do with the size of our God. So don’t minimize the size of the problem, just maximize the size of your God.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“Let the darkness cause us to be excited – because the light is preparing to come!” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“Darkness gives off an air of deception that nothing can penetrate it – making it seem as if there’s no use in trying to impact it. It is a deception. God is the God of Light. He created the Light. The Light has overcome darkness.” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“There’s been a lot of talk about ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Satan now uses ‘weapons of mass distraction’ and it leads to a quiet erosion of our life.” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“In the uncertainty of change, cling to God.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 10/28/12

“God’s sole purpose is to change us – to make us more like Christ. Therefore, our sole purpose should be to let Him!” Pastor Dan Caudill, 11/25/12

Comments Comments Off on Best of 2012, part 2

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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Make the DateGod is so good. I love His peace. It comes from sitting at His feet and understanding that He is in control. It comes from sitting at His feet and knowing – knowing – that He loves me.

If you’re following the Resting at the River’s Edge readings with us, you read this verses this week:

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NLT)

What a great verse to remind us of the benefits of setting aside time for God! I pray that during this season when things can become so hectic and emotions can run amok, that you are setting aside time to enjoy God.

…Time to linger in His presence.

…Time to be refreshed.

…Time to regain your strength.

Scripture says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can only experience that joy when we spend time with the Lord. (Here are some ideas about what to do during that time.)

A few verses later in Isaiah it says this:

So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.
Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

The Lord is waiting for you to come to Him so that He can show you His love and compassion. Do you want to experience His love and compassion this season? In these remaining weeks of 2012, pull out your calendar right now and schedule times (notice that said times, not time) when you will visit with God. I’m guessing your calendar already includes scheduled gatherings when you will visit with family and friends. Add blocks of time when you will visit with God. It is during those times that you will find your peace (quietness of spirit), your confidence and your strength to meet all those other appointments. It is during those times when God can show you His love and His compassion.

Don’t be late for those very important dates! God has something special for you. And just in case you don’t sense or experience it on your first date…don’t despair and don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get to know Someone. And getting to know God is infinitely worth it!

No go grab your calendar and make a date with God!

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