Lesson One – Activity Does Not Indicate Life

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I’ve been learning a lot of lessons over the last few months, so I thought I’d begin to share them with you.

Lesson one – Activity does not necessarily indicate life.

Throughout my life I have often assumed that as long as I was active in church, as long as I was checking all my “good girl” boxes, I was living the life meant for me.

Same with churches I’ve been involved with. As long as the calendar is full, everything must be okay, right? I thought that we must be on the right track if we are a church filled with activities and good deeds. I thought that we must be alive in Christ because we were active.

What I’m learning though is that activity and life are not the same. Growth indicates life. Fruit reveals life, not just a flurry of activity.

Think about it, every Saturday I could go into my back yard, pick up a dead branch and shake it around. The branch would be active every Saturday, but it would still be dead. In order for the branch to be alive, it must be attached to the tree. It must have a life source.

In order for me to be alive, I have to be attached to my Life Source as well.

Jesus says in John 15:4-7, “Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

I am to remain attached to my Life Source, my Vine, my Jesus. That’s the only way I am truly alive. That’s the only way any ministry is truly alive.

Activity does not equal life.

I pray moving forward that I remember this lesson well. I pray I remember that even when I’m active, if I am not drawing every ounce of strength from my Lord, nothing of worth is taking place. Without a Life Source, everything will be like branches that are dried up and withered that are only good for a very brief flash of light. I don’t know about you, but I am so sick of the small flashes of light. We are called to be reflections of the glory of a God who lights up every inch of heaven, not a flash.

So, let’s ask ourselves, “Am I truly alive in Christ? Am I depending on Him for every resource? Or, am I okay with just being active?”

Lesson One – Activity does not indicate life.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story

** Photo by livingprepared.blogspot.com

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When God Doesn’t do what you Thought He Would

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I’ve said for some time now that there is a certain crisis of faith that comes to every human when deciding whether they believe God can do what He says He can do. Can He really save me? Can He really heal? Can He really drop manna from the sky? And then, there is the crisis of faith that comes when you know without a doubt that God can move mountains, but He’s just not doing it for you. I mean, what is more frustrating than knowing that someone, anyone, can help, they’re just choosing not to? When that happens, a whole new crisis of faith occurs. Your mountain is looming large and you know your God can move it, but He’s choosing not to and you are left floundering with questions. Is my God really good? Can my God really be trusted? Does He really have a plan for my good? Do I really matter to Him?

I’m not going to pretend to know all the answers to why God is allowing certain things in your life. I’m not even going to pretend to know why He is allowing certain things in my life. I’m not going to pretend to have the answers as to why God would allow children to have cancer, rapists to go free, or even why food can’t be put on every table this week? But, I can tell you (and me) what to focus on when God doesn’t do what we want Him to do.

Let me start by assuring you that you do indeed have a good God. You have a God who does choose to move mountains for you. You have a God who wants you to look like Him and act like Him and love Him as He loves you. You have a never failing, never ceasing, never forsaking God who has a detailed plan for you since before the first molecule was on this earth. Know that because it’s true.

Lamentations 3:17-26 says, “My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. Then I thought: My future is lost, as well as my hope from the LORD. Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. I continually remember them and have become depressed. Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.” Verses 31-33 go on to say, “For the Lord will not reject us forever. Even if He causes suffering, He will show compassion according to His abundant, faithful love. For He does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind.”

This passage is so great. We get to see the struggle that Jeremiah had with what was happening all around him and to him. He couldn’t understand it and he became depressed. He even admits in this passage that he lost his hope in the Lord. Then, he decided to remember who His God is. He decided to think about God’s faithfulness, His love and His mercies. He decided that The Lord was his portion for this life and his hope. He decided to rest in God knowing that His God would come through. God’s deliverance obviously wouldn’t look like Jeremiah thought it would. It obviously wouldn’t come at the time that Jeremiah thought that it should, but Jeremiah decided to look up, remember His God and trust. That’s the kind of faith I want, don’t you?

First John 1:5 tells us, “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” You can trust that. Our God has no ulterior motives. He has no dark side. He is good. He is holy. He is true and He. Is. In. Love. With. You.

Song of Solomon 7:10 says, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” God’s desire is toward you. God wants to be with you. He wants to be so melded with you that all people see is Him being uniquely displayed through your personality, your giftings and your sweet face. He has fashioned you for such a time as this and will not stop pursuing you until every fiber of your being is His. He is obsessed with you. Hebrews 13:5 says He will never leave us and Zephaniah 3:17 says He sings over us.  That is not a God who fails. That is a God who loves. Believe that today. Know it with every fiber of your being. If you have to be like the father in Mark 9:24 who said, “I do believe!” and then, quickly added, “Help my unbelief,” so be it, but keep pressing in to your God. He can be trusted. He will come through. He will strengthen you for the task and He is worthy of every fragment of faith you place in Him. He has you, precious one. He has you. Rest in that today.

Seeking Hearts Ministries          My Story

Can Perfect Peace be Found?

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Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee: for he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.”

I love these verses. In fact, if you have ever received a card, or an e-mail from me, most likely these verses were below my name. I don’t know if it’s what I would consider my life verse, but it’s a seasonal verse for sure. After all, how can you resist the only formula known to man for peace that actually works? It’s not only true because it’s the Word of God, but I also know from experience how true it really is.

Think about it. When you are upset about a situation, or something that is on the horizon, or even an emergency that hits, are you more peaceful when you keep replaying the event over and over in your mind, or when you speak the name of Jesus? Are you more peaceful in an emergency room thinking about what all the doctor may choose to do, or when you are focusing on the fact that God is your ultimate Healer?

I was just sitting in a doctor’s office yesterday and let me tell you I was letting my mind run away with me. What if she thinks I’m nuts? What if she takes a biopsy? What if she wants a biopsy and makes me come back? What if she draws my blood? How much will all this cost? Then, the Holy Spirit reminded me to focus on Him. My mind was in such a dither that all I could do was whisper the name of Jesus. Eventually, I was able to go through some ABC’s of who God is… “God, you are amazing. I trust You. God, you are bold. I trust You. God, you are compassionate. I trust You…” I was even able to remember a few Scriptures and say those as well. Which helped me more? You know it! Focusing on the Lord.

Let’s open these verses a little more and see how the Amplified Bible translates them. It says: “You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character],
Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].
Trust [confidently] in the Lord forever [He is your fortress, your shield, your banner], for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].”

These verses tell us that not only is perfect peace possible, but constant peace as well! Constant peace! How do we get it? With a steadfast mind. What is a steadfast mind? It says that a steadfast mind is committed and focused on the Lord.

I can be committed to something without being focused on it at all times. I am committed to my husband, but I am not focused on him continually (Sorry, honey.). That’s why we have to commit to date nights, hikes in the woods together and conversations where we are looking each other in the eye without distractions. Our commitment stays strong when we focus on each other.

When we commit ourselves to God, no doubt we are all in, but our focus can shift at times. Life can crowd in on us. So, these verses remind us to not only commit, but focus like a laser beam on who He is. Then, the peace we all crave reigns in our life.

The next part of these verses say, “Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].”

We have peace because we are focused on Him and who He is. When we are focused on Him, we are pressed in to Him as close as we can get. We are trusting and taking refuge in Him and this gives us hope which leads to confidence in what He is going to do in our lives.

Think about a hunter who has been sitting in his deer stand for hours when all of a sudden his target pops over the horizon. Do you think he is looking anywhere but at his target? His confident hope has been focused on this objective all morning. He is laser focused on his commitment to feed his family with this deer. That’s how we need to be with God. We need to remember that He provides for us in every way, so our commitment to Him keeps us focused on who He is. God is our prey and our minds are the gun. And, the strength to stay on target? The Holy Spirit.

So, when I am sitting in the doctor’s office and remember (focus in on the fact) that my God is good and that there is no darkness in Him at all (I John 1:5) I have a confident hope that even if the doctor tells me bad news, God is not a mean God. He is good and has good in it for me. When I am sitting in the doctor’s office and I am remembering that God is my Provider, I start to rehearse what miracles of provision has already taken place and I then look with confident hope at how God will provide for these expenses as well. We are able to confidently hope when our minds are focused on Him. When we have hope, we are strong because He is our strength and His strength is everlasting. It never runs out.

Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” He’s left His peace for us to take hold of, so let’s grab it and shine like the stars we are meant to be, (Philippians 2:16).

My Story to Peace

Seeking Hearts Ministries

When you get Dehydrated

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Water… we all need it. Some of us hate that fact and some of us are okay with it, but all of us know that we must have water to quench our thirst.

Over the course of my life my feelings have changed regarding water. When I was little, I would drink it, but I really preferred other things. When I was a little older, because I got my own drink, water was seldom on the menu. After a few years, water became a necessary evil. I knew I had to drink it, but, “yuck”, I really didn’t like it. I simply thought I was a person who would never care for water. In present days though, I GUZZLE water. I love it. Now, I can’t imagine not wanting water! My relationship with water has definitely changed.

Even though I love water now, there are some days when I have gone too long without a drink. When that happens, I must sip water for a while or it’s too much for my system. If I were to guzzle water at that point, it would do more harm than good. It would cause my body to release even more hydration and I would keep getting weaker. Of course, we know this would cause dehydration.

We’ve seen athletes get dehydrated over the years. We’ve even seen some athletes become so dehydrated they collapse. Their medical staff doesn’t run over and pour water down their throat. No, they gently see to their needs and give them sips of hydration. Sometimes, an I.V. is required and once again the needed liquid has a slow release into the body. This is the only way the athlete can get better. A slow release is much better at that point than a waterfall. A gentle drink is better than guzzling. Their body is craving hydration, but it must be taken in slowly.

Sometimes, this is what our Great Physician must do with us. We are so spiritually dehydrated that we collapse. He lays us back in His arms, as we see medical staff do with dehydrated athletes, and He allows us to sip at His wellspring of life drop by drop and sip by sip. The spiritual athlete in us is craving hydration, but we have been too long without replenishment. Guzzling is out. Sipping is in. This way, when the time is right and when we are rehydrated with His wellspring of life, we are able to keep running our race that He has set before us. At times, we’ve had to stop and lay on the side of the road because we have forgotten that we need to run in His strength, with His hydration and not our own.

Oftentimes, when I am in a dehydrated place I want to hurry and get the nourishment I need and keep running. I just want a quick fix, but this is where the trust comes in. God knows that I need more than a quick fix. He knows if I begin running again too soon the collapse, the spiritual dehydration, will happen once again. I need to trust and lie back in the arms of my Savior. I need to be open to His nourishment in the time He knows my system can handle it.  In His arms is the most hydrating place on the planet and this is where I should have been all along. I should have been running the race with His Living Water running through my veins.

Think about a child who has been sick all night. When dehydration sets in, we are told to place an ice chip in the side of their mouth. We wait a little while to make sure their system can tolerate the moisture and then place another if their little body is able to absorb it.

That’s our God. He places a truth in our mouth and waits for us to absorb it. He gives us a gentle sip that our system can handle. The well of God is too deep for us in the moment. We can’t guzzle it yet. We are too dehydrated and are now finally willing to sit and sip. He places truths in us slowly to absorb like ice chips. Truths like…

“I’m here.”

“I’m always good.”

“I see you.”

“Forgive.”

“I am your strength.”

“I love them even more than you do.”

“I love you.”

“I am your Healer.”

“Talk to Me.”

“You are NEVER alone.”

“Trust Me. I’ve got you.”

“I AM…”

Whatever truth we need, He places it gently into the side of our mouth and helps us to absorb it into the core of our being. We are so thirsty and we want to guzzle the truths of His Word, but He knows a truth absorbed deep into the heart is worth a thousand truths resting unused in the mind.

At times like these, I sometimes look around and see so many others guzzling truth after truth and I want to quote verses to Him like Psalm 81:10, “…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” God’s response to me is, “Not this time. Be still and learn. Rest in Me. Sip. Absorb. Sip a little more. Rest in My arms.”

Some truths must be sipped. God uses these times of spiritual emptiness to place His truth into our very bones. Some lessons can only be taught when all other voices are gone, when you are so dependent on His next drop of moisture that your senses are only alert to Him, to His voice and to His rain.

Dehydration is never good, but God uses this place as He uses all things for the greater good (Romans 8:28). He takes these times of need and places us in His arms to take the burdens that we would otherwise never give up. He looks at us drenched in sweat and dehydrated to the core and says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me…you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

When the truth He is teaching enters our body and has truly been absorbed, our Great Physician will allow us to start running once again. We are rehydrated, but still weak. He will look us in the eye and keep placing that truth deep into our souls, one drop at a time. That’s our God. That’s our sweet Savior. He’s always teaching and always giving us the hydration we need.

As we make our way on the road once again fully hydrated and fully restored, we have His voice still in our ear, “I am here. I am good. I am your Healer. I am your Great Restorer. I love you…” Whatever lesson we were taught is in the very core of our being maturing and bearing fruit. We were so empty and the truth we needed to learn was too deep to do anything but sip, but sip we did. Restored we are. Running once again with His hydration filling every pore with the full knowledge that our Savior restores, redeems and refreshes all who are willing to lie in His arms and trust.

If it’s your time to sip, rest in the fact that God is faithfully holding you, teaching you and restoring you. He will NEVER leave you or forsake you (Hebrew 13:5), and remember some truths are just too important to gulp. So be still and sip in the arms of your Savior.

Seeking Hearts Ministries            My Story

*image by Mark’s Daily Apple

 

 

Propping Things Up

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Isaiah 40:18-20 says, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; He seeks out for himself a skilled craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.”

In the blog Even Though we discussed how the children of Israel worshiped a golden calf while eating the provision that God had provided (manna). Although we didn’t discuss the fact that the Israelite people gave the gold of their earrings to be used for the idol, we read it in Scripture. The provision that God had given them when they left Egypt, they threw away on an idol they asked Aaron to fashion for them. God had given them a savings account to buy whatever they needed in The Promised Land and they blew it in servitude to something that only God Himself could provide.

Every idol we choose to serve takes God’s provision from us as opposed to serving God who continually gives back to us. Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t out give God”? It’s true, but an idol will take everything you have… and then some.

In Isaiah 40, the Lord tells His people that the gold and silver that He provided is nothing compared to Him. They molded the provision of the Lord into objects of worship and ignored the “real deal” of God Himself. Even those who could not afford gold, silver or another precious medal went out into the woods and gathered pieces of trees to give to a skilled craftsman. At their request, he then fashioned it into an object that “would not totter” for them to worship. Once again, we see people taking the provision of God and shaping it into objects of worship for which they were never intended.

Isaiah 40, verse 20 says that wood was fashioned into an idol that would “not totter”. An object that “does not totter” would take skill, would it not? What would you prop it up with? At first, I’m sure the wood itself would be stable enough to withstand the elements. A little wind, a little rain…no problem, but as time wore on and the rains kept coming, what could be used to prop up the idol then? Would it take a few more pieces of wood? Would a few nails have to be driven into a more sound structure? Would you cunningly place flowers all around to hide the props? After all, what would your family and friends think if the item you worship is falling to the ground?

If the job God gave me is my idol, but I have been demoted, how would I prop it up? How would I spin the situation so that others would not notice that the object of my worship is now face down on the ground? How would I trick people into thinking that my job was still giving me the fulfillment that I claimed?

If the ministry God entrusted me with is my idol, but God’s Holy Spirit is not evident, would I create emotionalism to prop it up?

If my spouse is my idol, but my marriage is falling apart how can I hide it? Do I get the help I need, or cover it in flowers?

 Propping up human idols is hard work, work that God never intended for us to bother with. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11). When we worship the one true God we do not have to make excuses. He does not totter. Verse 25 and 26 of Isaiah 40 says, “‘To whom then will you liken Me that I should be his equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see who has created these…” God will not allow our idols to continue. They will topple, whether they are fashioned from gold, silver, or wood. The only true Source of strength is Jesus. The only thing worthy of our worship is our Holy God.

There will always be rain and there will always be things in our lives that cause instability. Matthew 5 tells us that it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous, but when we are worshiping the one true God, we become stable because He is stable. Matthew 7:24-25 says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it DID NOT FALL, for it had been founded upon the rock.” We are secure because He is our security.

God loves us too much to allow us to worship things other than Him, things that were intended for blessing, not worship. Are we made to worship? Yes! Let’s just be sure we are worshiping the Creator and not the creation.

We have to remind ourselves to thank God for His provision, but also to thank Him for His character. We have to make sure that we want God Himself and not what He can do for us. He is not a genie in a bottle. He is God Almighty, worthy of ALL praise. Let’s remove the idols that totter and replace them with the one, true and living God.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story

*Image by DailyMail.com

Helping to Build

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Nehemiah 4:6 says, “So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”

I love the book of Nehemiah. There is so much goodness in it. The leadership of Nehemiah, the teamwork of the people, the enemies getting stronger but God’s people steadily plodding to build the wall anyway, all the prayers and encouragement throughout the book and of course the strategy…I love it all.

When I came across Nehemiah 4:6 a while back, I focused on “for the people had a mind to work”. After all, that’s usually what pastors preach about, isn’t it? This time though I was asked to look at how smart Nehemiah was to build all the wall to its half way point. My devotional leader Kelly Minter said, “So instead of completing the sections that were easily coming along and leaving the more difficult chunks for later, they decided to get the whole wall to the halfway mark. This may have meant leaving certain portions that were well-along in order to fill the gaps that were leaving vulnerable holes. It was better for the whole wall to be shored up, even though incomplete, than to have fully built sections here and there while others lie disconnected. This feels like divine wisdom to me.”

It felt like divine wisdom to me as well and I couldn’t help but think about people within our churches. Each church has people who are great at “wall building”. They just seem to be able to pray and trust and have the kind of faith everyone desires. They build great walls of protection around their loved ones through prayer, standing firmly on God’s Word and depending on the Holy Spirit. Through years of pressing in to Jesus they have faithfully built their section of the wall.

Others are more vulnerable. They haven’t gone through as much faith testing. At times, they’ve trusted in things besides their Lord. They sometimes forget to pray when an attack comes. They may not have as much Scripture memorized and they often forget to rely on the Holy Spirit. Their wall still has gaping holes where the enemy can easily penetrate.

Nehemiah 4:6 tells us the smart thing to do is to come together and help each other build the whole wall until all the sections are joined. We may not understand why their section isn’t further along, but we are still called to help.

The people of Jerusalem knew they were still vulnerable if any section of the wall was crumbling. Just because their section was finished, they realized in order for everyone to be safe all the separate walls needed to become one, big wall.  That’s just being smart. That’s wisdom. How many times have we heard that we are only as strong as our weakest link? It’s true. It’s also true that our church is only as strong as the wall of protection around it.

There are many people in our churches who need help building. Many people are still too vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. Their foundation is barely started and they need help.

Oftentimes, it’s just a matter of teaching. People need to know the basics of building a strong foundation through prayer and Bible study, but they also need a side by side mentor that helps teach them the building process.

Others in our churches once had a magnificent wall, but sin, tragedy, or just the pounding of life has reduced it to a crumbling mess. We need to be faithful to help those dear ones clear the rubble away and rebuild. Christian counseling may be needed, forgiveness is often required and the clearing away of lifestyle choices can often help the rubble to be gone and the rebuilding to occur. This takes time and effort. A fresh build is much more exciting than the clearing away of old debris, but it often takes rebuilding the old before the whole wall can be strong once again.

Then there are those who are building for all they are worth, but need our protection. This is especially close to my heart right now because we have some friends who are being hit from every side imaginable. It’s not quite Job, but it’s getting there quickly. We need to be especially vigilant with these precious wall builders. Our wall is doing okay in the moment, our wall is standing strong, but our sweet brothers and sisters are being beat to death by the enemy. They are trying to build, they are trying to learn, they are trying to keep the faith, but the fiery darts keep hitting their backs over and over again. They can’t build because they are too busy defending.

Later in Nehemiah 4, Scripture tells us that in order for the wall to be built and joined together, guards had to be stationed. Some would build and some would guard. Those building had their sword at the ready as well, but they knew someone else was guarding, so they were able to focus on building and not be as distracted. They were encouraged to keep building because their fellow wall builders were taking the time to protect them.

Imagine that…guarding each other so everyone’s section of wall can be built. That’s beautiful. That’s what we need to do for one another and Nehemiah is a beautiful picture of Zephaniah 3:9. This is what it says,Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder.”

Serving shoulder to shoulder. That’s what it’s all about. Protecting each other and helping each other to build no matter what task that may include.

So, who in our churches needs to be guarded?

Who can you hold your sword up for today?

I’ll admit I look at my half built wall and think, “I still have so much work to do.” The sad fact is we will always have work to do. Our walls will never be finished completely, but God has called us to protect each other, to help everyone get their wall to the halfway point, to join all our walls together and become less vulnerable from attacks by the enemy as a whole church fitly joined together (Ephesians 4:16).

That’s a wonderful picture isn’t it? Building and guarding. Building and guarding. Building and guarding. Loving each other like the family we are. Praying together as a true army and lifting our swords not just for ourselves, but even more readily for those around us. Let’s take the example in Nehemiah and make it true today. Let’s build, help, protect and love as we are called knowing that the vulnerable places in our brothers and sisters will become our own if left in a state of rubble. Knowing that building together is the only way our churches will be strong. Knowing that without the Master Builder we would all be lost. Knowing that our walls will never be perfect, but that fellow believers are raising their swords for our protection and we are raising our sword for theirs.

Beautiful! Absolutley beautiful. Now, let’s get out there and actually do it.

My Story          Seeking Hearts Ministries

 

Depending on the Flesh

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If you’ve been around me at all recently, you 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 this week, Mr. Murray took us to Galatians 3:1-3. This is what 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?”

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. But, how am I receiving power for each day? 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?

His Spirit is in me for a purpose and yet I find myself thinking I have to figure out how to get all these “good works” done in my own strength. Christ is in me to fulfill 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 forget that.

I’ve deceived myself into believing that I’m supposed to work out my completion in Christ. By studying His Word and praying, I’ve thought that I knew what I was supposed to do. So each day, I’ve taken Jesus by the hand and powered on in my own ability. I am 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………., or not …………. like yesterday”, but then lunchtime comes 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 that 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 all about Christ’s strength and 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 weight lifting, so I’m learning. Wikipedia describes it 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.”

 I confess, I have treated the Holy Spirit as a spotter when in reality He simply wants me to be the weights in His arms. It’s His job to lift me to heights I never realized were possible. It’s by His strength I am able to join with others in tasks we never imagined. It’s by His power that I can do all things because as a weight in His hand, I am relying on His force, not mine.

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.”

This is a good example because 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 in the near future. 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 am 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. I truly then do not fear bad news because I am 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. Our flesh cannot accomplish this in us…only our God can make this happen.

“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 out our Christian faith and it’s not willpower, it’s Him. 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.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

** Image by Fitness Health

Overworking the Dough – A Journey in Contentment

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Contentment is something none of us like to talk about, or maybe it’s just me that doesn’t like to talk about it. It is definitely not part of the American Dream and is often seen as a lifestyle with no goals, no ambition and a “going with the flow” kind of an attitude like that not too smart surfer dude we’ve all seen on T.V.

Biblical contentment is so different from this picture. In fact, I think that the Biblical rendition of contentment is some of the hardest work we are called to do. There is nothing lazy about it. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4 that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. He says in verse twelve, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Notice he says there is a secret to contentment and he had to learn it. He admits to us that contentment does not happen naturally. It takes work, but Paul doesn’t leave us in suspense. In the very next verse he tells us how he has learned the secret of contentment. It says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Paul willingly admits that only through Christ’s strength can contentment be a part of who he is and who we are. That doesn’t sound lazy to me. In fact, contentment sounds like hard work if it can only be accomplished through the strength of Christ.

We see that contentment is not defined by laziness, it’s defined by resting in Christ’s strength. There is a big difference. Laziness is simply sitting on your bum and not doing the work you are called to do. Resting is completing necessary tasks and then, you guessed it… resting.

It reminds me of baking bread. When baking bread, you get your recipe out that the great recipe creator of all time designed (Betty Crocker). You put your ingredients on the counter. You mix all of the ingredients at their proper time and in their proper way, checking your recipe continually and then, you work the dough. You knead it until your wrists are going to fall off. Then, you let it rest. You might go to another task, or you might read a book for a while, or even watch T.V., but you leave that dough alone. Are you being lazy? No! You are content with letting the bread rise. When the time is right, you go back to the dough, work with it some more and once again allow it to rest. At the proper time, the dough finally gets put in the oven where once again you will rest while the bread is doing its thing. The awesome aroma of baked bread fills the space and you are content knowing that the recipe you followed has helped produce the results you want.

In our spiritual life, just like in the process of physically making bread, we get the recipe out (the Word of God) and we get the ingredients together for the task He has before us (Don’t worry. His Spirit will tell you through His Word what those ingredients need to be). As we check the recipe continually, we are sure to mix the right ingredients at the proper time and in the right amounts. Then, we work the ingredients until His Spirit in us says to let it rest. I think this is the hardest part. We look at the lump of dough and then back at God and say, “But, it’s not finished.” We try to work the dough more and finally He has to stop us in some way knowing that we will ruin the dough if we don’t allow it to rest. This is what contentment is all about. Trust. We have to know that even though we aren’t “working the dough”, He is.  Second Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” This verse tells us that we are called, but ultimately, He does the work. He is completing the perfect work while we rest in Him. Are we lazy? No. Some of the hardest work we will ever do will be resting in Him, learning contentment and not over-working the dough.

I might just nail that phrase to my forehead: “Don’t overwork the dough!” If there is something that drives me to distraction, it is an uncompleted task. Learning contentment is knowing when to step back and let the dough rest in Him. That doesn’t mean it’s unfinished. It just means He has it handled. Contentment is remembering that if I keep working the dough it will become an unusable, elastic mess, but when I allow it to rest in Him, it will turn out perfect every time.

Let’s press in close to Him this week, allowing Him to speak to us as we read the recipe of His Word over and over again, teaching us what ingredients to place on the counter (knowing that He has already provided every one) and then allowing Him to gently remove our hands when our part is completed in the task knowing that He who began the good work will complete it (Philippians 1:6). That’s the secret of contentment Paul was referring to. That’s allowing Him to be strong in us. That’s allowing the dough to be perfected. Rest in Him today.

 

Seeking Hearts Ministries

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God’s Perfect Preservation

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Psalm 32:7 says, “Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.”

The Lord will preserve us from trouble. He is our hiding place. He surrounds us with songs of deliverance. You might be thinking, “Really? All I see is trouble. All I know is abandonment and all I hear is madness.”

Look closely, my friend. He is here. He is your hiding place. He was in your past. He will be in your future and He is here now, in your today. Even if your trouble surrounds you, you are winning your battle because He is on your side. In the midst of it, know that He is preserving you.

Remember what it’s like when you are canning vegetables from your garden? Things get hot. This is all in the process of preserving, isn’t it? Through that process, things get hot and uncomfortable (for us and the vegetables). Just like those garden goodies, we would like to stay on the vine, being watered gently daily and basking in the pleasant sunshine. We don’t like the boiling water bath, but that’s the only way true preservation can take place. God’s preserving methods sometimes feel just as uncomfortable as canning must feel to a vegetable (if it had feelings), but rest assured you are being protected, preserved and sheltered for the winter ahead. I Peter 5:10 says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm,  strengthen and establish you.” What better preserving could we ask for?

To take our example a little farther, nothing tastes sweeter than fresh vegetables from your own garden. You can buy things from a local Farmer’s Market, but the absolute best is knowing that through God’s provision and your own hard work, the food you are eating came from your own plot. So it is with God’s spiritual provision for us, we can hear other’s testimonies (and they are encouraging), but there is nothing like experiencing our own tests and coming out victorious. We are then experiencing our own fresh fruit from our own God-given garden. Spiritual preservation can then provide fresh faith for us in the middle of our spiritual winters. We “open up” our jar of faith and remember God has already provided in times past and He can and will provide for our now. We just have to open up what’s already on the shelf. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing.

It is so  frustrating to buy tomato juice at the grocery store only to discover another stack of homemade, well-preserved juice ready to use. Somehow, I always manage to shove a few jars behind some green beans, or jelly of some sort. They are forgotten for a time. When I finally find those jars, they can still be used, but oh, how great it would have been in that homemade soup last week!?  Just like those forgotten jars of juice, we need to remember that God has provided for us. He has preserved us and established us with exactly what is needed. Sometimes though, His provision gets relegated to the back. Let’s ask Him to help us remember what has already been preserved in us. Let’s open up what He has already established in us! Let’s feast on what He has already provided.

Psalm 32:7 also talks about God surrounding us with songs of deliverance. I really enjoy singing when I’m in the kitchen, don’t you? There’s nothing like humming (or belting out) a little tune while going about our tasks. So, just imagine that while God is in “our kitchens” preserving us for the coming winter’s trials, He is actually singing over us as He works. I love that! He is molding us and preserving us into the men and women that He designed for us to be. God is excited throughout the preserving process knowing that what He is making us into now is exactly what we need to be in our future. The process may be hot at times, but He is lovingly watching the clock, knowing exactly how many minutes we need in the boiling water to produce the desired results, all the while singing precious songs over us. When we allow Him to guide the process, He never allows a jar to crack; He never ruins a batch. He is the Perfect Preserver.

No matter if we are in the middle of needing to hide in Him, being preserved by Him for the coming winter, or hearing clearly His songs of deliverance, let’s rest in Him today. Let’s rest in Him knowing that He will never leave us, or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He will not ever stop loving us (I John 3:1) and He will always perfectly preserve us for the coming days (Psalm 41:2).

Seeking Hearts Ministries

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** Photo by simplyeclectic.com

 

Becoming an Expert

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Song of Solomon 3:7-8 says, “Behold, it is the traveling couch of Solomon; sixty mighty men around it, of the mighty men of Israel. All of them are wielders of the sword, expert in war; each man has his sword at his side. Guarding against the terrors of the night.”

As I came across these verses last week, I realized that to be an expert in war, you have to have had some incredible experiences in battle. I thought about the battles that I would have rather not been through and the battles I would rather my family not have had to face, but I also realized that if we didn’t experience those battles, we would not become the experts in war God would have us to be.

We have to have battles before we can become experts.

Notice as well that these men surrounding the King held their own sword at their side. This reminded me that I need my own relationship with Christ. I can’t depend on someone else’s sword and expect to win my own, personal battles. I have to have my own sword ready to go. Ephesians 6:17 tells us that our sword is the Word of God. I have to know Scripture, memorize Scripture and know how to use it in battle. How exciting to know that Word isn’t just for information and to make us feel good, but to train and use in warfare!

Notice as well how close these experts in war were to the King. This shows us that being close to Christ is a requirment for becoming an expert in battle. When we follow Christ, we will see conflict. Christ Himself tells us to not be surprised when the world hates us because it hated Him (John 15:18-19). Sometimes, I think we have told ourselves that the closer we get to Christ the easier life will be. In one sense, we are absolutely right. The closer we are to Christ, the easier issues will be to handle because we are in agreement with Him and His power is enabling us to handle whatever He allows in our paths, but it does not mean that our paths will be clear of all problems.

As we start our week, let’s remember that battles are ways for us to become the experts in war that God has called us to be. Let’s remember that when one of our family members is facing difficulties we are called to encourage them in prayer, asking God to help them learn what they need to learn in that particular battle. I know that’s hard. I know we just want to pray to get them out of the fray, but for them to be the experts they need to be, the men and women that God has called them to become, they must carry their own sword and use it as battles arise.

Battles are tough and let me be clear… I don’t like them, but knowing that they serve a purpose in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones helps, doesn’t it? Knowing that each battle makes us more adept at wielding our swords, knowing that each battle draws us closer to our King, is beautiful to think about. So, let’s choose to be thankful for our battles today knowing that each has a purpose, each has a lesson and before you know it we will become experts in war as God intended.

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Seeking Hearts Ministries

*Image by Popular Mechanics