Archive for the ‘The Heart of the Matter’ Category

The young father lifts his child up overhead and smiles as he looks into the face of his baby that brings him such great joy.  He speaks up at the child playfully and then brings her down into his arms and tucks her  into a tight hug.

Do you need a picture to visualize how God responds to His children? Then keep the picture of the young father and his child in mind as you read this part of God’s blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 that is often read at the end of a church service.

“May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

The position that God has towards His children as He “lifts up His countenance” is one of a Father lifting His small child high over head and looking up in loving pleasure.

Spend a few minutes imagining yourself being lifted up by the Lord and looking down into His eyes full of love, joy and peace.  He desires you to be at peace with Him and at peace in your soul.

Peace.  If you cannot look into the eyes of God, is there sin in your life that needs to be confessed?  Is there shame or fear that makes it hard to believe He could want you as His child?  Are there circumstances that whirl around you that pull your eyes from His face?

Whatever sin has been committed, confess it quickly and look into His eyes of forgiveness for restored relationship.  Whatever the source of your shame or fear, dare to lock eyes and find understanding and a source of courage.  Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this day, seek the eyes of your Savior and return to this position of peace in your soul.  Seek Him and walk through the circumstance with Him in His peace.

Dear Lord, thank You that You are a loving heavenly Father.  Help me to believe that You love me and desire to be in constant relationship with me.  Help me to picture myself as Your child looking down into Your face and seek to restore or keep my relationship with You strong and constant.  May I find the peace that comes from looking into Your eyes.

Job 33:26;  Psalms 123:2;  Hebrews 12:2


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Okay, so as the pastor was ready to let us out of the church service,  he raised his hand and said, “Receive the blessing.”   Now I ask you, if he goes ahead and says the blessing over us, do we really have a choice but to receive it? 🙂

The word “receive” has been rolling around in my brain for the past several days.  When my husband speaks loving words to me or a friend gives a compliment to encourage, how many times do I allow it to run off like water and not receive it into me to glean its intended benefit?

If the words of a blessing are like a gift, then let’s pretend that you think of the perfect gift and then place it in a box to give to the person of your choice.  You go to your loved one’s door and with anticipation, ring the bell.  When they come to the door they say, “Thanks, just leave it there on the porch.” and return to the house.

It has been received in one sense of the word, but not as the giver intended.  How disappointing to you, who so wants the gift to be opened and used.  If the gifts keep stacking up on the porch, you are so sad that your loved one isn’t really getting the benefit of your gifts.

The word “receive” can mean something is given, but in the deeper sense it means to welcome, to hold, to accept as true or valid.

In the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, he states that each person has a gate to change and no one else can open it for them.  Do we also have a gate for receiving, a gate that no one else can open so that we can’t be truly encouraged or blessed without opening that gate and receiving it?

The Bible speaks of many things that we are to receive, to allow in through the gate; the gospel, salvation, Jesus Christ, baptism, the Word, the Holy Spirit, power, God’s promises and blessings, forgiveness, love and grace to name a few.

So today let’s examine the gate that may be preventing us from receiving the blessings from God and from others who desire to encourage us.

Find one verse in the Bible that addresses a challenge in your life and visualize it as a wrapped gift from God.  Take it in your hands and unwrap it, look at it from every angle and enjoy it.  Let it come into your heart and have its intended result of encouraging, directing, or convicting you.  Look into the eyes of the Giver and see the love He has for you, His desire to give good gifts to you and to help you.  Use the words to ward off discouragement or hardship as they are intended to do.

If a friend or spouse compliments you, stop, look into his or her face, think about what they said and say “thank you” (with no “but…” or “if only…”).  Take the words in and let them speak to your heart and encourage you.

I know that gates also keep certain things out, and for a good reason, but we’ll look at that another time!

Now, receive Gods blessing;

“May the Lord bless you  and keep you; may the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;  May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you His peace.  Amen.”

Lord, thank you for Your Word that is full of promises and words of help and direction.  May I open the gate that allows me to receive them into my life and use them as You intended.  May I better understand Your love for me and Your desire to walk through every moment of every day with me.  Bless me, keep me, shine on me, be gracious to me, lift up your face to me, and give me Your peace.

Numbers 6:24

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Process.  Isn’t that a great word?  It’s a noun that means something is going on, there are gradual changes that are leading to a particular result.

Process.  Process isn’t an excuse word (as in- don’t expect anything, it’s in process), no, it makes it clear that a work is ongoing, and best of all, it implies that it is going in a forward direction towards a specific end.

We are in process.

Paul said, “I press on to the goal of the upward call of Christ Jesus”.

When I was young I wondered if I was really a Christian because I still did things wrong.  I asked Jesus to forgive what I did wrong and come into my heart over and over thinking that perhaps this time I’d get it right.  What a tremendous relief it was when someone made it clear that God makes a person good, He removes the heart of stone, forgives the wrong doing,  and then replaces the heart with one that is perfectly holy so that He can set up residency there.

So my heart is a holy place because the Holy God made it that way.  The rest of me is, well, in process.

Yes, we’re in the process of becoming holy throughout this life… but we’re not alone in that journey.  The God of the universe honors a believer with His very presence and strength as the director of the process.  He wants us to be Holy like He is Holy.  By ourselves, that would be impossible.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  But nothing is impossible for Him, if He’s allowed to direct.

Ever wonder why God did that?   Why He didn’t just make us perfect the moment we committed our lives to Him?  Seems that there is great value to Him that we are in process together as a team.  That we turn to Him, the director of the process, constantly, in every thing we do, in every aspect of our lives, each and every day.  He values constant relationship and does not condemn the process of pressing on to the goal, because our goal is to be with Him… He is the one calling us upward towards holiness.

It’s a win, win, win.  We’re placed in process by His cleansing our hearts of sin, we’re with Him in the process of becoming Holy as long as we live, and He is the goal at the end of our process.

I am in process.  You, my friend, are in process.  We are in process together.  Let’s press on to our goal with God who is our Goal.

Dear Lord.  Sometimes I am frustrated by being in the process of  the upward call of becoming holy.  Thank You for being present and active in me and for providing the direction and strength for the journey.  Please help me to allow you access into every area of my life so that you may direct my process.  Forgive me for trying to go it on my own.  Help me to desire being in relationship with You more than anything else and to set my eyes on You only.  May I give encouragement to others as well as receive the encouragement they give as we press on each day towards the goal of being with You forever.

Philipians 3:7-14

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To live on a farm and work on a farming schedule is both a great joy and a great challenge.  It is a gritty occupation with little buffer between the worker and nature.  As my husband says, “nature always bats last”.

A farmer is said to live by faith.  He or she places seed in the ground in faith that the cycles of nature will continue for another year and there will be sufficient sunshine and rain to bring forth a crop.  Personally I have a love/hate relationship with this occupation as its’ uncontrollability does just what it is supposed to do, challenge my faith in God’s provision.

But lately I was again presented with the thought that God linked the events of His plan for human kind to the farm calendar.  One could say He “planted” His plan in the calendar that He set at the time of creation.  It is not a coincidence that the festivals for His people, the Israelites, were connected to the yearly farming schedule and the crops that they grew and harvested.  Their work and celebrations placed them in a God given rhythm that pointed them to Him.

The set of spring feasts, between the barley and wheat harvests, recount the events of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  It is no coincidence that Jesus died on the day  Passover is celebrated (Passover remembers the death of the historic passover lamb) or that the Holy Spirit came on the day Pentecost is celebrated (Pentecost is celebrated to remember the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai).  They are divine appointments set at the time of creation to show God’s glory in His plan of salvation.  Nothing is by accident.

On this day in May, we are currently in the time between these spring feasts when the Jewish people count the 49 days until Pentecost.  They count the  days with a daily blessing.  It reminds them that they had to learn to trust God for His promised provision each day in the desert.

What a reminder, to count on God daily for His provision and blessing.

For all the times I bang my head in frustration over the challenges of farming, it has certainly provided me reasons to count on God.  The rhythm of the calendar (not just the rhythm of me banging my head!) and the lack of control over nature are reminders to lift my eyes to God.  He made the regularity of the seasons, the water and mineral cycles, the seed that is able to reproduce its own kind.

What is it that you are banging your head against?   What is providing the opportunity to depend on God?  What is the “gritty thing” that is the constant reminder that you are not in control?  Is this the very thing that may be teaching you to live by faith, to count on God?  Nothing is by accident.

As uncomfortable as this position may be, could one actually say “thank you” to God for this gritty thing, grateful it brings us to count on Him, and counting the blessing that each day is one day closer to the fulfillment of His promises?  Follow God on whatever path He provides and celebrate His presence within you as His child.

Lord, thank you for the gritty things in life that cause us to count on You.  We acknowledge Your sufficiency to meet our needs and our inability to go it alone- for in times of strength it is easy to forget Your presence and provision.  In times of weakness help us to seek You and focus on You to lead and empower us to walk through the situation in Your strength.  Grow us up into a person that reflects Your glory as we count each day with a blessing until all of Your promises to us are fulfilled.

Deuteronomy 16:9-12;  Deuteronomy 8:10-18

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On a Saturday afternoon in May it was beginning to warm up as the sun came out from behind the clouds.  One by one, cars found their way down the winding, dirt road out to the lake situated several miles away from the college town. Out tumble laughing students with bright eyes.

More and more came and they gathered around to sing songs of praise and hear the Scripture that was read.  Various words from the songs stir the individual hearts as only the Holy Spirit can do.

For me it was a line from Amazing Grace.

“The Lord has promised good to me,  His word my hope secures,  He will my shield and portion be,  as long as life endures.”

Hearts are readied and seem to meld together as knowing glances of deep meaning pass between various members of the group.  Tears fall and a quiet spirit of worship makes the tree shaded area a sanctuary.

The group moves to the bank of the lake and each of the ten give words of testimony.   Their stories tell of their journeys to this point of time, this pivot points of decision.   The details of their journeys vary, but their purpose for today is the same and is crystal clear.

This is an outward sign of an inward reality.

“I want to live a decided life, committed to following Christ.”

“I am all in, no matter what, no matter where.”

One after another were placed under the cold water, decided, all in, committed and wanting to make this commitment public.

Each came up smiling and laughing, with hearts that were warm from excitement despite the chilly wind off the lake.

My mind has returned to this experience many times since that day.  “I want to live a decided life, I’m all in.”

How often will each of them revisit this event in their minds and hearts to remind themselves of this outward sign of their inward reality, using it like an anchor for their faith?

How many times have we returned to the pivotal points in our faith journeys, the anchor times that help steady us in difficult or uncertain times?

We return to those events in reverence, for they are personal Holy Places that bring us back to that act of commitment to following Christ.   “I want to live a decided life, I’m all in”.  It isn’t a one moment deal, it’s all moments of one’s life, it’s being “all in”, it’s belonging to Christ.  All means all.  It is a decision that sets one on a journey of discovery as to what that means for each day.

So what “all” in life needs to be “all in”?

Dear Lord, Thank you that when I come to You and say, “yes, I want to live a decided life for You, I’m all in”, You receive me into Your arms and take me all in.  Show me the areas of my life that cause me to struggle, knowing these are the areas that I’m not trusting You to guide me through and arrange for my greatest good.  Help me to rest in Your presence and see You at work in and around me through the circumstances You have allowed to touch my life.

Romans 6:3-7

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I have been pondering lately the use of drawing and other more right brain or hands on learning techniques in approaching Scripture to help people who may learn in less academic ways to absorb more of what we read or hear about the Bible.

Some doodling notes became a fun attempt at using words and few pictures to look at the first chapter of Romans.  From a little drawn megaphone the concept of being “called” was explored. We’re called to obey God from obedience, to belong to Christ, to be a saint.  For His names sake, we receive grace to call others to obedience from faith.

I’m called and then given grace to call others for His glory.

So, when asked to give a “chalk talk” to the Week Day Church School 3-4th grade children in our town  for Easter and again in May for the 5th-6th grade I gladly said yes to the opportunity.  How could I give the call to these children? What could one do or say about the resurrection story? I would do a quick chalk drawing of a picture of Jesus coming from the grave, but how could the informational “talk” part of the short time  be done?

A few days later a word began jumping off the page of the Bible during a second study of the first chapter of Romans.  Don’t you love it when that happens? Thank you Holy Spirit.  The word “power” looked,  to my spiritual mind,  twice as big as the other words on the page and begged for a second look.  Jesus Christ our Lord was declared with POWER to be God’s Son by his resurrection from the dead (vs 3-4). The gospel is the POWER of God for salvation of everyone that believes (vs 16). God’s invisible qualities such as eternal POWER and divine nature are understood by all men by what He created, by nature (vs 19-20).

That’s the theme for the talk- POWER.   Using the picture drawing idea from the earlier Bible Study, during the talk we doodled on the wall sized paper with pictures of God’s POWER in creation,  POWER wars in the fall, Jesus laying aside his POWER to live as a man emPOWERed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus being raised from the dead by the Spirit’s POWER after His crucifixion,  the Holy Spirit being sent to dwell in us and emPOWER us, and in the end Jesus’ return with POWER… too cool.

The kids found God’s power cool as well, better than Superman and Spiderman any day, as five new hearts heard the call.  To God be the glory.

Dear Lord, Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.

Romans 1:1-20

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Because of my husband’s health issues I have been doing more thinking and reading on business management as I am being stretched to oversee our home businesses. Of course the word “goals” comes up quite often in the literature as one starting point in management and decision making.  In this case the goals are financial and the action steps to achieve these goals can slowly pull one to believe that those steps are as concrete as the ones up to the front door of the house and one can confidently walk up those steps in the next few years and open the door to the goals  placed on paper today.

I look at the goals from every which way and try to find the sure proof way to bring them to fruition.  The inner dialogue begins… I should know what to do, be able to make confident decisions, should have done this or that years ago. I remember the goals from a couple years ago which were set aside with one heart beat.   Some of the goals were altered, some may never be considered again. Why even try?   How can we plan and make decisions when we don’t know the future? There are too many variables, too much is out of control, something always goes wrong, it’s hopeless.

Finally, tired of the impossible thought circle, I spiritually turn toward God and ask,  “What should I do”?

The quiet Voice patiently waits until the eyes of His child’s heart look to Him and focus on His face.  The Creator gently points out the problem to His creation, using His Word to shine Light on the issue at hand.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.  (Prov 16:9)

“You are looking at goals for the future, hoping to make perfect decisions so that circumstances will turn out as you plan, providing a comfortable life of total security.  I have created you to live in communion with Me and you are not capable of bearing the weight of knowing the future.  But I AM.  Your identity is in Me, not in your financial statement or in accomplishing your goals. I AM in your today and I AM in your future, we will walk the path together and I will never leave you or forsake you. I have provided, am providing, and will provide for you.”

“Choose to trust Me. Choose over and over and over and over to trust Me. Each time you feel this way, use it as a signal to stop, listen to the whisper of Truth and return to a position of trust in Me. Thank Me for the circumstances that have brought you again to seek My face. Don’t feel foolish if it is a process that happens  1000 times a day, for in time the process will train your mind to focus on Me for every need and in every circumstance. This is the goal of your life, to know Me.  From this position of trust we will find what is best to do in obedience today and how to loosely plan for tomorrow. Rest your mind, little one, hold my hand and step forward with Me into the unknown.”

God made us to plan and set goals. He just didn’t make us to do so apart from Him. It is done in conversation with the indwelling Holy Spirit and the goals are held lightly as we live in the “now” and trust God with the future.

Thank you Lord, for the circumstances of yesterday, today and tomorrow that cause us to depend on You.  Help us to focus on You and trust You fully as our provider. From this humble position we pray for guidance and strength to  step forward in obedience to Your leading.

James 4:13-15;  James 1:2-5

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