Am I Treating God Like a Jack-in-a-Box?

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The other day I heard a testimony that hit me to my core.

The visiting pastor at a church where I was also visiting explained how he is sometimes guilty of treating God like a Jack-in-a-Box.

Whoa.

That hit me right between the eyes.

He went on with his sermon, but I stayed right in that moment, right in the question of… “Do I treat God like a Jack-in-a-Box?”

Well, it really wasn’t a question. It was a knowing. I knew immediately that I often do treat God like a Jack-in-a Box.

I pack Him around and set Him in a situation. I wind the handle. Meaning, I pray. I quote Scripture to prove to Him I’m right. I pray some more…and some more…and sometimes a little more, but God doesn’t pop out when I think He should …and I get mad.

So, I change tactics. I try harder. I pray some more. I may even add fasting. I quote Him more Scripture. I use my essential oils. I check every box I can think of…winding, winding, and winding … waiting for God to pop out. Waiting for God to keep His end of a bargain I assume we had made.

The more I wind, the more frustrated I become. The more frantic I grow into being.

The more I wind, the more I expect God to pop out at my request.

The more I wind, the more uptight I become.

1 Kings 18:21-29 describes an amazing account where Elijah has a showdown with Baal worshippers. It’s really worth reading, but what I want you to see now is how the Baal worshippers tried to get Baal’s attention. Here’s what the book of Kings says,So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed over them. All afternoon they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice…”

I think this is what I must look like when I am winding the handle on my Jack-in-a Box god. I think I’m right, so I assume I will be able to prove it. I don’t actually cut myself, not on the outside anyway. But, on the inside? On the inside, I torture myself with what-ifs.

What if I had prayed more specifically for my kids as they were growing up? Are the choices they are making now my fault?

What if I had given 5 days a week to church work and not four, would I still have been the subject of gossip?

What if I had tried harder, accomplished more, dug a little deeper… would God have popped up as I expected?

This is what happens when I treat the God of the universe like a Jack-in–a–Box.

I go, go, go instead of being still and knowing that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

I wind the handle and wind the handle and wind the handle as tears flow wondering how long I can keep this up.

Sounds like I’ve been worshipping an expectation instead of a Savior.

Sounds like I’ve been worshipping a box and not God.

Sounds like I need to breathe and stop winding the handle on the Jack-in-a Box…now.

So…where do I go from here?

How do I stop the obsession with the handle on that stupid contraption that has no place in my life?

First off, I set the box down and remember who God is… who He really is.

Psalm 18 says, “I love You, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold… “

Secondly, I quit picking verses out of the Scriptures to suit my own agenda. I read until God places the Word He has for me deep in my soul.

Jeremiah 15:16 says,Your words were found, and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart, for I am called by Your name, Yahweh God of Hosts.”

Third, I quit praying just to get needs met and instead pray simply to be close to Jesus. I pray in order to stay in close connection with my Best Friend. I remember it’s about relationship.

 Fourth, I fast only when I get a direct call from God to do so and not just for financial gain.

I choose to worship instead of wind the box.

I choose to leave the handle alone.

I choose the connection of the Vine (John 15) over the expectation of the pop up.

I’m taking my Jack-in-a Box to Goodwill and leaving it there.

Our God deserves to be worshipped for Who He is and not what we think He should be doing.

Our God deserves complete trust and faith in His plan and the timing of it.

Our God deserves to be adored and loved not accused of not keeping the end of a bargain He never made.

God is not a Jack-in-a Box who comes and goes at the whim of our attentions.

God is God.

He is faithful.

He is true.

He is perfect.

He is love.

He is Savior.

He is Lord.

Let’s worship Him and throw the Jack-in-a-Box in the trash where it belongs.

*image by depositphotos

http://www.seekinghearts.org www.seekinghearts.org

Going a Little Farther

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A friend of mine on Facebook posted this beautiful picture with this caption: “Sometimes you have to walk a little farther to get a better view.”

Isn’t that so true? We can be in a place of discouragement, but as we keep hanging on to our Savior’s hand, we eventually end up in a place of beauty.

Why are we surprised? After all, it’s exactly what God says will happen. Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mournto provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him.”

When we go a little farther, our God exchanges a bad view for a great view, a muddled outlook for clarity, mourning for festive oil, captivity for freedom…the list goes on and on. All we have to do is just go a little farther.

As many of you know, my husband and I love to hike. Put some dirt under our feet and we are happy people. I especially love when our destination includes a waterfall.

This past summer, my man and I decided to take a 9 1/2 mile hike that included a massive waterfall. Trekking in, all became worthwhile when we started to hear the roar and then see the utterly spectacular view of this incredible creation. Trekking back out? Well, that didn’t hold the same appeal. Going in, we could say, “Just a little farther and we get to see the Falls.” Going out, all we would see was the parking lot…which eventually began to have its own appeal.

On life’s journey, we don’t know what’s around the bend. We don’t know what the year, or even next month will bring, but when we are abiding in Christ, we know sometimes we have to walk a little farther to get a better view. We know when we hold the hand of Jesus, whether it’s a waterfall, or a parking lot, an even better view is coming.

Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”

Psalm 27:13 says, “I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.”

How could the Psalmist be so sure? He was sure because he had walked just a little farther. He was certain he would see the Lord’s goodness on this earth because he simply kept taking the next step of faith. He was hand in hand with His Savior, straining to see the better view that he knew was coming. He had faith that God had come to him to set him free and change all his despair into realized hope. He just had to walk a little farther.

So, if your year is starting out great, or not so great, you can know that when you go a little farther with Jesus the view will always get better.

 Keep hanging on to Him, dear one, strain to see the better view, knowing that you “will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”

** Thank you Cindy Osborne for the picture and caption.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

New Beginnings

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Hope image in clouds

Hey Everyone!

As I was praying about the best way to start our year together off right, I couldn’t help but be reminded that the best words are God’s Words, not mine. So, that’s what we are doing. We are going to delve into the Word together, remembering that He is faithful, He is true, and He is our very best Friend who wants us to have an abundant life this year and in the years to come. Speak the following verses out loud over your life today, knowing that, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” – Proverbs 18:21

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘If You can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe! Help my unbelief.’ ” (Mark 9:23-24) – I so relate to this father. I want to believe. I know I should believe. I say I believe, but then I realize I need God’s strength in me to believe. Help us to believe You this year, Lord. 

“…For I [Jesus is speaking] assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) – Notice that Jesus says “tell this mountain”. He wants us to be specific, not general. He wants us to concentrate on one mountain at a time. Ask Him what mountain He is calling you to move in this season, and then ask for His faith to empower you to believe and act on it.

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) – Didn’t get all your goals accomplished last year? Don’t give up. Trust that God is completing that good work in you.

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) – You have a purpose! Believe it. Receive it. Walk in it. Thank Him for it and trust Him for the results.

“I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) – Think all you have to look forward to is in Glory? This verse tells us that we can see God’s goodness “in the land of the living”. How amazing is that? Ask Him for the eyes to see His goodness this year.

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I [Jesus speaking] have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10) – Pray for God’s amazing abundance over your life this year.

Meditate on these beautiful promises of God this week and throughout the coming year.

Be Blessed!

*image by zedjams.com

The Mysteries of Christmas

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There are so many mysteries surrounding the birth of Christ and oftentimes I simply gloss over them. To sit and examine them seems overwhelming, so I thank Jesus for His birth… and move along with my day.

This year though, I have found myself delving into the wonder of Christ’s birth more. I have allowed myself to plunge into the questions of who, what, how, and why. Scriptures from Philippians, Deuteronomy, Hebrews, and of course, John have jumped out at me over the last few months and shown me a touch of what Christ gave up to become humankind’s sacrifice for sin.

When I think of Jesus’ sacrifice, I usually think of the Cross and Easter, but I am finding that becoming a baby must have been just as hard… if not harder. The trust it took to be that vulnerable? I can’t even imagine.

You and I have no choice about how we enter this world, but our Savior, Jesus, was not just already mature, He was eternal.

He had always been.

He was infinite.

He was all-powerful and well, who knows what else? He’s God! Yet, He placed Himself in His Father’s hands and said, “Your will, not mine be done.” He had known God the Father for all eternity and fully trusted Him. This would have been the perfect time for the Father to kill off the Son if there was any jealousy, or strife in the Godhead, but Jesus had been with the Father for all time and fully trusted Him. Jesus knew the mind and heart of the Father. He knew there was no darkness, or dark shadow in Him (I John 1:5).Our triune Godhead loves with no envy, or strife, and Jesus knew this with every fiber of His being. He trusted with every fiber, holding nothing back. He knew the Father and Spirit would cover Him, protect Him, and help Him reach His designated path.

No worries, only trust.

Hebrews 10:5-7 says, “Therefore, when He [Jesus] comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for Me’; …Then I [Jesus] said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.’”

Jesus knew from the beginning of time that a body had been prepared for Him to come to this earth for us. He trusted the Godhead enough to be completely sold out to the solution and was willing to endure the extreme vulnerability that would be required of Him. I too often take for granted the miracle of birth, but Jesus intimately knew the complications that could occur. He knew everything, yet still agreed to do the will of the Father.

He trusted Him completely.

The choice of mother, the choice of father, the choice of living conditions, everything was placed in the Father’s hands.

do wonder if Jesus helped pick Mary to give birth to Him, or did He leave all of the decisions up to the Father? I think He at least realized as she was growing up that this was it, the time had come.

What did He think of Joseph, the man who would be His earthly Father? Did He watch Joseph play as a boy more intensely than He watched other Hebrew boys? Did He smile when Mary first heard Joseph’s name? When the betrothal was formalized was Jesus excited to see the first step in His “parents” life together?

I also wonder if being fully God and fully man, did Jesus know the reality of the womb? Did He want the “full experience” and give up His omniscient side during this uterine experience? Was the baby Christ fully aware even at this time of His humanity? When the birth took place did He remember that He had created this world that He had just entered?

Oh, the mysteries of Christmas!

When Jesus was a child in the synagogue, did He have to work at memorizing the holy canon like other children, or was He a genius who knew everything by heart? After all, He helped write it.

When He was read the words of Deuteronomy 31:8, ‘And the LORD is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed,’ did He jump up with joy and yell out that He knew this to be true, or did He sit quietly knowing His Father was proving this daily in His own little life?

Oh, the mysteries of Christmas!

Then, we must look at the other side of things. What was it like in heaven with Jesus gone? It had never happened before. Was He missed? Were all of the angels with Him on earth? Were they taking shifts, or volunteering for overtime to be with Him?

The Godhead itself… were the Spirit and Father lonely at times? They were ever-present with Jesus, but not in the same way. Yes, Jesus was fully God, but He was fully present on earth as well. I don’t believe we will fully understand even a fraction of the sacrifice they all made until we are in heaven. To be totally one for all of time and then… suddenly… not to be…the mysteries of Christmas are almost overwhelming at times.

I wonder… when Jesus was full of the Spirit in Luke 4, did He feel almost “normal”? Was the intensity of not being one with the Father still as strong?

As Jesus later in His life would go to a “lonely place” to pray was the communication frustrating, or refreshing?

Did He just want His stint on earth to be over, or was He relishing every moment?

The Word shows us that He grew frustrated with humanity at times, yet still never said that we were not worth it.

What a mystery!

So, this Christmas as you go about your busy days, stop and contemplate some of the mysteries of Christmas. Contemplate how our GOD came down in the form of a human. Think about how He was one of us. Remember He had the same vulnerabilities, the same defenselessness, and the same struggles… and still chose to go through it for us.

He chose to trust all of Himself into the hands of the Father. He knew He would be taken care of. He knew He would be safe in His arms. He knew His Father’s will was worth any struggle.

He trusted fully.

Oh, what a mystery!

Am I Kind?

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A few years ago, my youngest son had surgery. As we were waiting to be called back, we met a man in the waiting area who obviously loved to talk. My youngest loves to talk to people who seem to need it, and let me tell you it was some conversation. The gentleman was very nice, but obviously very lonely. He talked… and talked… and talked…so much so that when he (we’ll call him Mr. S) was called back to get prepped for his surgery, he still talked to my youngest a minute while the nurse waited for him to finish.

Several hours later, my son’s surgery was finished. I was in recovery with him as he was waking up from anesthesia. Still groggy and being acclimated to his surroundings these were his words: “I wonder if Mr. S is okay.”

My heart melted a little. Who wakes up from surgery concerned about a stranger? I have never been a prouder momma.

I pondered that question for the rest of the day: “Who wakes up from surgery concerned about a stranger”?

I tried to come up with the word to describe the person who thinks of others, who talks to people in a waiting room they’ve never met as they are facing their own fears, a person who wakes up from anesthesia concerned about someone else.

The word I finally was satisfied with was kind.

I had forgotten what kindness looked like.

Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let not kindness and truth forsake thee: Bind them about thy neck; Write them upon the tablet of thy heart:”

Kindness takes so little effort, but it can literally change a person’s entire day.

Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith.”

Kindness wasn’t something my youngest had to work at. It was natural because He had the Holy Spirit living in him.

Kindness isn’t something we have to work up to. We have it when we have the Holy Spirit living in us. It’s just a matter of whether we use what we already have.

I may have a hammer in my garage, but unless I pick it up and use it, it’s worthless.

So it is with kindness. We must utilize what God has placed inside of us.

As I remember the sweet words of my youngest waking up from surgery that day, I am reminded that kindness comes from within. It’s a choice whether I use the tool God has already placed in me.

So today, instead of swinging the hammer of hate, apathy, and selfishness, I’m choosing to be kind. I’m choosing to remember what kindness looks like.

Is God Just My Spotter?

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image of spotter two

If you’ve been around me at all, you probably know I’ve been reading a lot of Andrew Murray’s books. The one I’m currently studying is called Absolute Surrender and I highly recommend it.

As I was reading along a few months ago, Mr. Murray took us to Galatians 3:1-3. It says, “You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified? I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?”

Part of verse three says, “…after beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete (KJV says “perfect”) by the flesh?”

That really hit me.

Did I receive Christ by the Spirit? Yes.

Am I receiving and acting on that power today? That’s where things get iffy.

Am I depending on Christ’s Spirit in me, or am I depending on my own self will and determination to live the Christian life?

Am I white knuckling the Word, or resting in the completion that Christ has gifted in me?

Again… all of those questions are answered “yes”, or “no” depending on the day.

His Spirit is in us for a purpose and yet I find myself thinking I have to figure out how to get all these “good works” accomplished that He has called me to fulfill. Christ is in me to achieve all He has called me to do, not so He can simply whisper where I’m supposed to go and leave me to it, but also to empower me every step of the way.

I Thessalonians 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

This verse reminds us that not only does God call us to good works, He is the One who accomplishes it in us.

I just found this verse in Proverbs10:22, and I got so excited. Listen to what it says: “The LORD’s blessing enriches, and struggle adds nothing to it.”

I’ve deceived myself into believing that I’m supposed to work out my completion in Christ. I’m supposed to struggle. Each day, I’ve taken Jesus by the hand and powered on in my own ability. Sometimes dragging Him along instead of submitting to His lead.

I’m discovering though that I will never be able to grow in Christ. Only His Spirit can accomplish that in me. My flesh, my will, my determination is not what makes me a mature Christian. Only my absolute dependence on Christ makes me complete.

Look at all the times we have failed Christ when our intentions were good. Look at all the times we made new commitments, renewed vows, or even woke up thinking “Today, I am going to do this, or not do that,  like yesterday”, but lunchtime arrives, and we look at the day and wonder, “What happened? I was so determined to make it work this time.”

I’ll tell you what happened. We tried to do it in our own strength. Philippians 4:13 says, “I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We forget this verse is describing Christ’s strength in us.

It’s not describing walking along the path of our Christian life in our own strength and when we need help, Christ giving us a boost. Philippians 4:13 is reminding us that in order to do anything, it’s about Christ’s strength, not just using Him as our spotter.

Are you familiar with who a spotter is? This isn’t something that’s usually in my scope of everyday life, but my oldest is into weightlifting, so I’m learning.

Wikipedia describes the action of spotting in this way, “Spotting in weight or resistance training, is the act of supporting another person during a particular exercise, with an emphasis on allowing the participant to lift or push more than they could normally do safely.”

How often have we treated the Holy Spirit as a spotter when He simply wants us to be the weights in His arms. Picture that…we are the weights, not the weightlifter. That’s a huge difference.

It’s His job to lift us to heights we never realized were possible.

It’s by His strength we are able to join with others in tasks we never imagined.

It’s by His power we can do all things because as a weight in His hand, we are relying on His force, His strength, not ours.

That’s when verses like Psalm 112:7 are possible. It says,He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the LORD.”

I’ve actually memorized this verse and tried to will myself into the completion of it in my life. In the past, I start to imagine a bad scenario that may, or may not happen soon. I remember this verse and will myself not to fear. That works for a while, but what I’m finding is that I need to go a step further.

When I’m simply a weight in the arms of God, I rest in His strength. I tell Him I can’t accomplish this verse without His muscle, and He lifts me by His strength into the empowerment of this verse.

Then, I really and truly do not fear bad news because I’m living in His strength. He will pack me where I need to go. He will lift me to where I need to be and because I am in absolute surrender to a faithful, trustworthy God, His strength becomes my reality.

“O, foolish Galatians…”

“O, foolish Christians…”

“O, foolish Melissa…”

Our Lord never intended for us to complete our lives on this earth in the power of the flesh. Our God has given us everything we need to live our Christian faith and it’s not by willpower, it’s by His strength alone. Simply and totally Him.

Isaiah 40:28-31 says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

That’s His desire for you. Rest in His arms today and let Him lift you higher than you ever thought possible.

*image by fitness19.com

Seeking Hearts Ministries

Fruit in the Lowlands

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Sycamore tree image

The other day my husband and I were discussing the Biblical account of Zacchaeus. You remember, he’s the “wee, little man” who climbed up in the sycamore tree to see Jesus in Luke 19.

As we were talking, he told me about a discovery that he had made recently. He said the name “sycamore” actually meant “rebirth”. So, when Zacchaeus chose to climb that sycamore tree, he was choosing to be in a place where rebirth could occur.

In those first steps to find Jesus, he was trying to draw nigh to God. We know from James 4:8 that when we draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to us. He just can’t help Himself. It’s who He is.

This discussion led me to look up every time the word sycamore was used in the Bible.

Take a guess. How many times do you think sycamore occurs in the Bible?

There are eight occurrences in the Bible regarding sycamore trees. Almost every single occurence refers to where they were grown. They were grown in the land of Judah in a place called Shephelah. It just so happens that Shephelah is in the lowlands. It’s actually the term used for the whole region of the lowlands.

Take a minute to read First Kings 10:27. It says, “The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar as abundant as sycamore in the Judean foothills.”

Other references in First Chronicles 27:28, Second Chronicles 1:15, and Second Chronicles 9:27 also talk about where sycamores grew.

The fact that sycamores are grown in the lowlands reminded me that rebirth can only happen when we humble ourselves, when we are willing to seek God’s face in meekness and when we are willing be in the lowlands.

I think Christians and non-Christians alike don’t enjoy being in the lowlands of life. We all enjoy riding high on life. The lowlands? No, thank you. We are fine on the mountain. When we do have a lowland experience, we want to run through it quickly, but we want to meander as slowly as possible when we’re on the mountain. At least, that’s how I am.

In studying the geography of the lowlands, I found this: “the Shephelah was a zone of low, rolling foothills separating the high, rugged hill country of Judah from the flat, open coastal plain. The heavy runoff from the western slopes of the hill country flows into a series of six broad, shallow valleys furrowed into the soft limestone of the Shephelah, each of which is a focal point of rich, agricultural life. Historically, the Shephelah as a whole, and its six valleys in particular, has been a buffer zone between the hill country and the coast…” The Rose Then and Now Bible Map goes on to say that people in the Shephelah were more rural and conservative than on either side, but “the Shephelah, a true land between was desired by both.”

Even though the Shephelah was in the lowlands, it was desired because of the agriculture, because of the fruit it was capable of bearing. I pray that is how we begin to look at our lowlands, as places of rich fruit.

The mountains are beautiful yes, but its climate is not conducive to growing much of anything. Have you ever seen huge fields of wheat, or a massive grove of fruit trees growing on the side of a mountain? Not usually. But, in the lowlands of the Shephelah there is rich agriculture. Everyone wanted the Shephelah region due to the yield that it could produce.

We should desire our lowlands as well knowing that in those places God can till and tend and grow fruit that we never dreamed possible.

John 15:8 says, “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”

Since fruit is in the lowlands, that’s where we want to be, isn’t it?

When we understand the ministry of the lowlands, we find that they are places of replenishment, of rekindling and a place to develop a deeper level of trust in the Lord. The lowlands can be tough, but they are places of rebirth where everything has the possibility of change. The lowlands provide a feeding of our soul that otherwise would be missed if we were only on the mountains. Refinement requires being at peace in the lowlands.

An amazing example of fruit in the lowlands are the early Christians in the book of Acts. The book of Acts doesn’t have to say the word fruit for it to be obvious that a massive harvest was being produced. The Christians in the book of Acts were definitely in the lowlands physically speaking. They were being ridiculed, thrown in jail, beaten, and even killed for the cause of Christ, but the fruit they bore was remarkable. In fact, their lowland experience is still bearing fruit today. They took advantage of their time in the lowlands. They trusted God for the fruit.

Psalm 25:10 says, “All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.”

Let’s be thankful for every path that He leads us to. Let’s not run through our lowlands as quickly as possible, but absorb every moment, every lesson, and every opportunity to bear fruit. Before you know it, we will be headed to the mountain once again with a bag full of fruit, shallowness of soul gone forever and a richer trust in the Lord than we ever thought possible.

Ask yourself, “Am I in a lowland experience right now?”

If you are, are you thankful?

Why, or why not?

What changes can I make to bear more fruit in my lowland experiences?

Refinement requires being thankful for all the lessons God has for us, even if it means we are in the lowlands.

** Image by ExploreTraveler

A New Perspective

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blackberry image

Several years ago, my family found a wild blackberry patch growing in the field behind our home. My youngest son and I would go out about every third day and pick all the blackberries that we can find. It was so fun to pick these amazing berries right in our back yard.

One morning as we were out picking, I happened to drop one. I bent to pick it up and ended up on my knees. I looked up and lo and behold there were more beautiful, ripe blackberries in spots I never dreamed. I was amazed that I hadn’t seen them before. If I had still been standing, I would have never realized that they were there. I recognized in that moment that I just needed the right perspective to see all the fruit. I needed to be on my knees, looking up.

Over the years, verses like Matthew 12:33 and John 15:5 and 8 have frustrated me. They say things like, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit.” “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” “…for the tree is known by its fruits.” Frustrating stuff because I know I’m a disciple of Christ. I think I’m abiding. I think I want God to receive glory, but where’s the fruit?

As I was kneeling on the ground that morning, I realized the fruit is there. When I am abiding in Christ, when His Spirit has invaded every part of me at my request, and when I am seeking His face with every fiber of my being, the fruit is there. I just need the right perspective.

The right perspective is not getting distracted with the overgrowth, the thorns, or what fruit is in someone else’s bowl. The right perspective is acquired when I am on my knees, looking up at my Savior. Then, I am able to see the fruit that He has allowed in my life.

Second Thessalonians 3:13 says, “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”

When we don’t readily see the fruit in a situation, we can grow weary. Our tasks become harder when we don’t see results. By having the right perspective though, we are in a position to better see His fruit in our life. When we are on our knees looking to Him, the thorns aren’t so tangled and the nettles aren’t invading our senses quite so much. We can actually see the fruit and be encouraged.

Let’s look up and ask God to show us the fruit that He has allowed to grow in our lives.

Has that teenager in your life decided that they won’t immediately leave when you enter the room?

Will the neighbors let you pray for them now?

Has your spouse decided to give your marriage one more try?

Has your youngest quit complaining about going to church?

There is fruit. We just need to kneel down to see it.

I also love to think about when we get to our heavenly home, we will have the best perspective of all. As we are on our knees before our Father, I have no doubt that He will pull away the branches, the thorns and the weeds that were as big as we were in this life, lift our precious faces and say, “Look at all this fruit, sweet one. Look what you allowed Me to grow in your life.”

As we look up with His gentle prodding, I believe our jaws will drop. I believe our faces will light up, and we will be amazed at all the fruit that grew in our lives without our even realizing it.

We will be assured that every task was worth it. Every opportunity did bear fruit. We just needed the right perspective. We needed His.

*image by fruitgrowersnews.com

Seeking Hearts Ministries

 

Being a Fast Paced Christian

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running on beach image

Psalm 119:32 in Young’s Literal Translation says, “The way of Thy commands I run, For Thou dost enlarge my heart!”

So many times when I imagine my Christian life, I picture a slow plodding, a testing of each step to make sure there are no land mines and honestly, a rather slow experience overall. The psalmist in this passage? He describes a Christian life that is filled with running. He is so sure of God’s commands that he is able to run forward because he is sure of the steps that God has before him.

Are we able to run as well?

We are. When we know God’s commands, we are able to not just meander along, but run. We can move faster than we imagined because we can be sure of our steps. We don’t have to second guess everything because our path is clear before us.

So, what are some of our Lord’s commands?

Jesus Himself said that the greatest command is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22). So, we can run in that experience with Him. There is no need to be shy in His presence, or to avoid Him. He has called us to love Him and He has made a way in our hearts for that to happen, so we can run into His arms with complete abandon knowing that loving Him with unrestraint is His command.

Another sure command of the Lord is to love our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, Jesus calls this the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22). So, we know that this is another path in which we can run.

We can run towards telling our neighbors about Jesus, because we know that we would want to be told about Jesus. We can run towards forgiveness because we know we want to be forgiven. We can run to help someone who needs encouragement because we know we want encouragement. We can run to our knees for a request for a friend because we know we cherish the prayers of others.

You see? Running is easy when we are running in His commands.

I love the second part of Psalm 119:32. It tells me that when I run in His commands, my heart enlarges. My love can’t help but grow. Maybe I don’t feel like encouraging anyone today, but I know I need encouragement. Instead of waiting and sulking for someone to encourage me, I run in His commands by loving someone as I want to be loved (in this case, a simple word of encouragement) and He enlarges my heart. I end up feeling encouraged myself because He is always faithful to enlarge my heart when I am running in His commands.

I can’t help but think of The Grinch and how “his heart grew three sizes that day.” Maybe that’s why we all love that part of the movie so much (the 1966 version!). Our spirit knows that’s what God does for us when we run in His commands. He enlarges our hearts. He puts a goofy grin on our face and we are able to serve others in genuine love.The truth is, when we are faithful to run in our Lord’s commands, He fulfills His part of the bargain. He empowers us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. He lifts our spirits in ways we can’t imagine. He enlarges out hearts to love as we could never love before, even more than Mr. Grinch.

So, let’s lay down the idea of a quiet, slow Christian life and start running in His commands. Let’s stop looking for land mines and take Him at His Word that He will enlarge our hearts to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let’s stop limping around injured and afraid and run into arms wide open for discovery.

Let’s pick up the pace and run!

My Story    Seeking Heart Ministries

A Good Day to Praise

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image of hands lifted in praise

Psalm 150 verse 6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

So many times I am guilty of reading a verse of Scripture, thinking what a great idea it is, but then falling short of implementing it.

Psalm 150:6 invites everything that has breath to praise the Lord. So today, instead of reading through Scripture and thinking it’s a good idea, let’s take a moment and actually do it.

Father, I praise You today for Your awesome greatness. There is no one like You. You formed every planet and creature with only Your word. You formed mankind out of dust and breathed into him the breath of life. You are Creator and I praise You.

Father, I praise You today for Your kindness. You sent Your only Son to live among us and sacrifice Himself for us on the Cross. Your Word tells us that Your kindness leads us to repentance and I praise You today that no kindness is greater than Yours.

Father, I praise You today for Your healing power. Whether You choose to heal on this planet, or in eternity is not the point, but the fact that there is hope in You is why I give You praise today. You are the Great Physician and I praise You that nothing is beyond Your ability. We always have hope in You. You are the Great Healer of all and I praise You today.

Father, I praise You for Your power. I thank You for leaving Your Holy Spirit with us to empower us with the same strength that raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing is too difficult for Thee and we look to You for the ability to run through troops and leap over walls (Psalm 18:29).

Father, I praise You today for Your unbridled love of us. You never let go. You never give up. You are the Great Shepherd that cradles the lost sheep in His arms. You are the Great Defender of the lambs and Protector of our souls. Nothing can strip us from Your hand (John 10:28-29). I praise You today that we are safe and secure in Your arms.

Father, I give you praise today and ask You to remind me to praise You daily in the way in which You deserve. Let every breath I take breathe out praise to You.

You alone are holy.

You alone are God and I choose to praise You today.

What are you praising Him for today?

Seeking Hearts Ministries

*image by myocn.net