Is your heart “following” or “wandering”? Take the test!

which direction 1.  Am I asking God to lead or am I following after my own heart and desires?

“There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

That is a sobering Proverb.  If our hearts were completely and perfectly good, it would be great advice to “follow your heart”.  An honest assessment of our hearts, however, will provide evidence that  “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”.  But, there is One who is completely and perfectly good. He desires for us to live abundantly (John 10:10).    In fact, he doesn’t plan to harm us, he plans to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

When we follow our own desires, we end up hurt.  Following God’s plan will bring healing and peace.

So, why do we struggle to trust God and ask for His direction?  Why do we make decisions without asking for His guidance?

Do we really believe that God’s way is better than our way?

Leaning on our own wisdom and knowledge is not only limiting our potential, it is leading us to destruction (remember Proverbs 14:12)  The only way to follow Jesus is to be willing to let HIM lead.  Be willing to choose what He wants over what you want.

A heart that is willing to put his/her own desires aside and obey God will find the “promised land.”

A heart without faith to trust that God’s direction  is a heart that will die in the wilderness.

Lord, may my heart fully trust in You and obey you with every step.  Let me obey you because I love you. “…remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do”  Numbers 15:39

2.  Would I rather return to slavery (sin) than  face and fight the “giants” that are keeping me from God’s blessings (God’s best for me)?

It is shocking that the Israelites, who experienced amazing demonstrations of God’s power, wanted to go back into slavery.  These people had seen water stand up in glorious demonstration, forming walls around them.  But, when their enemy followed them, the water walls collapsed on the enemy.  After experiencing that, how could they have ANY doubt that God would not fight their next battle as He led them toward the promised land?

Of course, we all know.  It is easy to forget who our God truly is.  When we investigate God’s promises, as the spies investigated the promised land, it is easy to focus on the physical struggle that is required of us rather than the spiritual promises and God’s faithfulness.  When we consider the “giants” in our lives, it is easy to be fearful, discouraged, and overwhelmed.  In our own strength and wisdom, we should feel those things.  But, when we focus on God, obstacles do not make us tremble.  We don’t “fear anything that is frightening.” (1 peter 3:6)  When we determine in our hearts to follow God, we know that He will destroy the obstacles that go before us.  He fights for us. (Exodus 14:14)

But, we are not to sit in the wilderness and pray that God will destroy the giants.  We are to fight WITH God.  We follow Him into battle.  He brings the victory, but we have to engage in the battle, also.  We have to move away from fear and choose to trust and obey God.  Then, we will have victory through Christ and enter into the promises of God.

3.  Am I focused on the future or is my mind dwelling in the past?

What if your vehicle had a windshield as small as a rear view mirror and the rear view mirror was a large as our windshield?  Disaster.  We would never be able to move forward.

Allowing our minds to take up residence in the past will keep us from experiencing the good, new adventure that God has planned for us.

Paul said, “one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

In order to press forward, we can’t live in the past.  We have to forget it.  “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and get moving (Hebrews 12:1)!  Start obeying God.  If your past is keeping you from moving or if failures and regrets are keeping you from experiencing God’s great plan for your life, you need to throw it off.  You need to forget the past.  God makes us new.  He gives us a new day to remind us that He loves a fresh start.

When the children of Israel were at the door of the promised land, they longed to go back to slavery.    Their ambition, their drive, and their ability to press ahead to the promised land was suffocating because they couldn’t let go of the past.

4.  Do I choose faith and trust God even when the odds are against me and everyone says I will fail?

When everyone was shouting that it was impossible to take possession of the promised land, Caleb silenced the crowd and declared that it was possible!  He urged them to trust God and receive what He promised for them!  The people chose fear over faith.

The people who did not trust God never received God’s blessing.  Caleb did.  And Joshua.  They got to experience what the others refused to receive.

Let our hearts not grow weary.  Let us not be fearful.  Let us remember who our God is and rejoice in the face of a challenge because we KNOW that God is with us! Lord, make us like Caleb and Joshua that believed You and trusted You.  They were eager to follow you.  Let our hearts follow you  and not continue to wander around chasing our own whims and desires.  Lead us into the promised land and bring victory to our hearts!

5.  Do I have an attitude of expectancy or do I constantly complain and grumble?  The generation of Israelites that chose to wander in the wilderness rather than dwell in the promised land had a complaining problem.  Their attitude was so negative, that it was like a sickness.  They grumbled and complained constantly.  It would wear us out.  It angered God.

The two men that broke this pattern, Caleb and Joshua, refused to mimic the grumbling crowd.  When their friends saw through a negative lens, they saw through a faith lens.  When their families complained about the present situation, they planned to change the situation through the strength of God.

Whatever is in our hearts will come out of our mouths.(Luke 6:45)  The hearts of those people were unhappy.  Circumstances couldn’t change their hearts.  The promised land was right in front of them, but they couldn’t get excited.  They couldn’t thank God for the opportunity to live abundantly.  They wallowed in their the misery.

When we hear complaints come out of our mouths, let us repent and ask God to help us.  Let us live with an expectancy and an excitement that God has something good in store for us.  Let us fight whatever obstacle is in front of us with great joy, knowing that God is with us and He will bring the victory!

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what is #trending in heaven?

header what is trending in heaven

 

I can tell you what’s trending,

What the republicans think,

And what song is number one

Before you can blink.

 

I’ve spent all my energy

And time and money

Finding out what’s popular,

trending, or funny.

 

I’ve heard what you think

And he thinks, and she thinks,

But I wonder what God thinks.

I wonder what God thinks.

 

He explains what He thinks

In the soft gentle breeze,

And the water that falls,

Unannounced, and then leaves.

 

He speaks in a language

That all understand,

When he became an infant,

All of God in man.

 

He spoke then, He speaks now.

He speaks clear and strong,

Calling all to hear:

Come sit and belong!

 

Who cares what is trending

Or what’s popular this season?

I’m exhausted from listening

To arguing and teasing!

 

What is here in a moment

And then fades away,

Has no lasting value;

It’s worth is dull and gray.

 

Why have I spent

My abundance on nothing?

I’ve worked and I’ve slaved

And longed for something.

 

But here in my hand,

All that I’ve earned,

Is disappointment and emptiness

And a heart that is scorned.

 

I bought and paid

For a life destroyed

By my own selfish cravings

And my own broken toys.

 

But I hear a voice calling.

I feel a gentle breeze blowing.

Whisper come, come to the cross

Where forgiveness is flowing!

 

Come hear what’s trending

In heavenly courts

And forget death’s taunting

Let new life rise forth!

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Give My Child a Break!

CahracterDesign smallGive my child a break.

Social pressures are nothing new. Everyone remembers uncomfortable moments, classes that wouldn’t end, and environments that made us want to disappear. School days were packed full of the good, the bad, and the ugly. When the school bell rang, it shook the weight of worry from our shoulders.

There was something relaxing and peaceful about walking out of the social drama and into a controlled, family environment. At home, we knew what to expect. And even though the social interaction didn’t completely stop, it was escapable. If we didn’t want to play basketball with friends, we didn’t. If we wanted to ride our bikes, we did. The social pressures in the school versus the social pressures in the neighborhood were entirely different. There was an escape from it. There was a rest from it.

Recently, I realized my child never gets to experience a break from social pressures. There’s no rest. There’s no pause from one conversation before he engages in another – because he’s engaged in several conversations at once – all day, every day! That alone is exhausting. Day after day, his mind is engaged, constantly navigating through social pressures. He wakes up in the morning and begins texting. He texts until his head hits the pillow. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

My child needs a break.

As intelligent as he is, he won’t turn off his phone until his body forces him into sleep. The last text he sends is “good night.”

We haven’t worried about his phone use because he is a good kid. His conversations are okay.  But as good as he is, he is more capable of making poor choices when he is mentally exhausted and socially drained. Constant social interaction can overwhelm kids, even the good kids.

I LOVE being around people. But, I’m exhausted after spending a lot of time with my friends. I can’t imagine how tired I would be if I never got a chance to rest alone, away from my friends, my bosses, or my acquaintances. We need a break. We need a rest from social interaction. Our kids need it, too.

So, since my highly intelligent kid will not put his own phone away, we have decided to help him. We are giving our child rest. We are giving him a break from social pressures.

At 6:30pm every night, phones are put away. Think of all the things that we can do! Think of all the conversations we will have! Think of the rest we will have! What seemed like a big deal the night before will be put in its proper perspective in the morning. What was once an addiction will be a tool to communicate.

Brilliant ideas are not always celebrated by teenagers, of course.  We expect grumbling to continue for a long time. But, the mornings are worth it! Our child is rested and happy. He is grateful when he gets to have his phone. It’s better for us grownups, too. I enjoyed reading to my youngest. One night we made cookies. It’s amazing how much time we gained by giving ourselves a break from the world of digital social interaction.

Give yourself a break and rest.

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If God made me beautiful, why do I feel so ugly? 3 ways to feel beautiful again!

Chalked vector sketch of vintage mirror.

Hitler had his own idea of how to define beauty. He had it terribly wrong.

So, when we begin talking about beauty, it is important to define beauty. God loves beauty. God is beauty. Everything He creates is beautiful. One of my favorite things God created is a sunset. Add a gorgeous sunset to an endless ocean, a gentle breeze, and crashing waves and I could forget we are even on Earth because it feels so heavenly. It takes my mind to places of peace and joy that I don’t get in the nine to five work day. It’s God smiling at me, holding me, and whispering He loves me. He reveals Himself to us through what He has made.  (Psalm 19 & Romans 1:20)

When He made the earth, God said everything He made was good. But, after He added mankind to the picture, He said it was VERY good. You are very good. You are beautiful. After all, you are made in the image of God and He is the epitome, the ultimate standard, for beauty. God is beauty.

So, when God looks at you, He looks at you like I look at a sunset nestling slowly into the ocean’s horizon. Perhaps He silences the angels and gathers His heavenly hosts to listen to your voice and to watch you do your thing, just as I gather my family and point to the majestic sky melting into night. He intended us to be perfectly beautiful, a reflection of His amazing love and kindness.

But, if we are made to be a reflection of beauty itself, why do we feel so ugly? We know we could never hush the heavenly chorus on our own whims and orchestration. In fact, we run for cover. Like Adam and Eve, we have hidden ourselves from God because we are ashamed. We are ashamed because we are not the beauty that God originally intended. Sin has defiled our hearts. Sin has made us ugly.

Adam and Eve went from having no idea that they were naked, completely free of any body image, to being ashamed of their bodies and running to hide. What changed? In that moment, they didn’t gain weight or age drastically. The only change was they had experienced sin. Sin changed everything. One of the things that sin changed was how they felt about their bodies.

3 Ways to Feel Beautiful Again:

1. Start Fresh.

Allow God to give you a new heart. Sin leaves us broken and bruised. It not only makes us feel ugly, it actually destroys us. Because of our own folly, we have become broken and ashamed. No one needs to convince us that we need God’s love and forgiveness; we know it. No one needs to point out our ugliness or our weaknesses. We are painfully aware of our ugliness. But God responds to us as He did to Adam and Eve in the garden when they hid themselves from Him. He calls to us. He calls us out of our hiding places. Our ugliness doesn’t scare Him. Our shame doesn’t cause Him to love us less. In fact, it moves Him to action.

It is our sin that caused God to dress himself with flesh and hang on a cross. He took our ugliness upon Himself. He carried it to the cross. He bled for us. He was bruised for us. He was killed for us. He was raised from the dead for us. And we live because of His death. We live and breath and have our being in His resurrection power. We are not just cleaned up. We are made new.

When God healed a man, Naaman, of leprosy, his wounds didn’t just go away. There was no scarring to remind him of the disease. God made his skin like new skin. He made Naaman’s skin like a baby’s. (2 Kings 5)

Jesus offers that to us. He offers us a brand new start and a completely healed heart. He offers the original, beautiful reflection of Himself for us. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 When God heals you, He makes you new. When you repent of sin that is destroying you, beauty is restored to its original state in you.

2.  Win the War Against Sin.

Ah, this struggle with sin can make us feel ugly again. We sin, therefore, we feel ugly again. It’s a cycle that Paul knew well.

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Romans 7:21

If you know what is causing you to hate your body and yourself, stop! Wage war against it. Jesus would often heal someone in the New Testament and say, “Now, go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Stop sinning – not because He wants us to abide by a bunch of rules, but because sin destroys us. Because God wants us to live in the beauty that He planned for us, He tells us to stop sinning.

That’s easier said than done, right?

Perhaps the reason we can not overcome sin is because we won’t face it. We won’t admit that we have a struggle with a specific sin.

James 5:16 tells us that in order to be healed from sin we need to: “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

So, you don’t need to face sin alone. Fighting a war takes more than one soldier. Find a righteous person and put James 5:16 into practice so you may heal from the suffering sin has caused you.

3.  Look into the right mirror: God’s Word

So, if God has made us beautiful and we are waring against sin, why do we still feel so ugly? It’s because we are not looking into the right mirror.

I really don’t like the state fair. It’s creepy. Everything seems a little skewed, especially the “fun house”.  A person could knock himself out with the endless maze of mirrors. As if cracking your head on a mirror isn’t enough, the fun house displays huge carnival mirrors that distort your perception of yourself. Your head looks 100 times bigger and your body is twisted like a pretzel. It’s not a pretty sight. We can safely say that we look ugly in those mirrors.

That’s what the world does to us. It holds up endless mazes of carnival mirrors for us to view ourselves. We end up thinking there is something horribly wrong with us. We can’t get a clear picture of who we are because the mirror is distorted. Those mirrors are designed to confuse us. They are designed to give us a distorted image of ourselves. When we listen intently to people rather than God, we are looking into a distorted image of ourselves.

Often, people will tear one another apart. Often, people’s intentions are not pure and good. People may want to discourage us. Their language is meant to give us fear and discouragement. Realize that the opinion that others have of you may not be a clear reflection of who you are.

Surround yourself with people that build you up. Avoid people who are trying to keep you from enjoying the beauty God has for you. If you can not choose who you are around, be aware of what mirror people are thrusting in front of you. If it is a distorted image of yourself, know that it is a lie.  But, make it your goal to be around people who encourage you to see yourself as God sees you.  The only clear, accurate picture of who we are is God’s word.

James 1:23-24 “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

God says that His word is the mirror of our hearts. Look intently into God’s word, not the fashion magazines or pop culture. Don’t base your parenting upon popular television or base your decisions upon the five o’clock news. Instead of looking into the world that says you aren’t wealthy enough, smart enough, talented enough, thin enough, or strong enough…..

Look into God’s word and you will hear:

You “are fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139

I have “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

“Fear not, I am with you.” Isaiah 41:1

Fill your mind with God’s word so that you will have a clear picture of how beautiful you are and how perfectly you are loved! Think on God’s word. When you are tempted to gaze at yourself in a distorted mirror of pop culture, remind yourself of what God says about you. Meditate on Him. View yourself covered with the love of Christ.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

God made you beautiful. Don’t settle for anything less.

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The Pitching Mound

catheyIt’s a scary place to be:  the pitcher’s mound.  Especially for an eight year old.

At first windup, we celebrated her potential and her natural talent.  In practice cages and warmup fields, we marveled at her improvement.  We would almost get giddy with excitement, like parents watching their baby take her first steps.

But the moment she stepped onto the dusty, hot pitching mound, her first windup to an actual batter, we held our breath.

It was hard to read her expression.  She seemed at ease.  But maybe she was a little anxious.

She flipped the ball into the air before settling it into her glove.  She lifted her glove, swung back, wound her arm like a clock, and threw with all her heart.

The ball left her hand like a bullet.

The batter shrieked in pain.

Every other pitch was wild; batters walked meekly to the plate, dodging and swinging like an out of step dance.

Our little pitcher looked defeated.  She walked slowly toward the dugout, face flushed, head bent, wiping tears.  This was not at all how we expected it to go.  We cheered for her as she approached us sluggishly.

Several pep talks later, we were back at the practice fields, the pitching cages, and backyard drills.

She is a pitcher in training.

Aren’t we all?

I am very familiar with hits and misses.  I’ve pitched a few wild balls.

I’m so thankful for my team.  They didn’t refuse to step up to the plate for me to practice pitching.  They hugged me and patted me on the back when I was feeling defeated.  They still do.

We are a team.  We are training for the big game.

One of my precious friends calls our lunch dates “lunch church.”  I get so excited to see her.  I pour out my heart to her like a waterfall.  She catches every word I pitch with perfect patience and encouragement.

Pitchers get to bat, too.  We have to catch; we have to listen.  I hope to be a friend that will encourage my teammates to practice their faith, dare to walk on water, boldly share their testimonies, and strengthen their pitch.  I hope I will encourage them and forgive them when they throw a wild pitch that strikes me right in the gut, knowing that I will need the same measure of mercy and forgiveness.

I have another friend that is a natural home run hitter. I can’t sit with her for any amount of time without cheering her home runs in the Lord. But, she tells of her strike outs, too. Her story sounds like most of ours. We are still in training.

This big game, this serious battle, this spiritual journey is not an easy win.  We have to train.  We need our team.  God, in His great wisdom, has put our team together.  Each one of us has a position to play.  Let us cheer each other on, practice mercy, and rejoice when our teammate shines.  We know that God has brought us together and equipped us to win.  So, with joy and confidence, let’s fight to win!

 

 

 

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