Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guard Your Heart

Sometimes we forget what is best for our heart.  How many of you have experienced heart break at some point?  We gave too much of ourselves away to what we thought was that special someone, only to have our hearts shattered like a broken mirror.  Or what about giving our heart away to the sin that plagues our thoughts? 

Like Solomon, the Lord has told us to observe what he has commanded, to not turn our hearts away from Him.  'Observe' in the Hebrew is shamar, meaning "to keep, guard, observe, give heed" (Strong's H8104).  We are to guard His commandment to not turn our hearts away, we are to guard our hearts!

1 Kings 11:1-4, 9-10 - 1 Not King Solomon loved many foreign women... 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods."  Solomon held fast to these in love.  3 He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.  4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been... 9 Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded.

In those 6 verses, "heart" is mentioned 6 times!  I truly believe that the overall message to be conveyed is to guard your heart.

First, we are to guard our heart in regards to marriage.  In verse 2, you see what the Lord told all of Israel, including King Solomon.  Just because he is king does NOT mean he is exempt from the commands of the Lord.  He did not want them to associate (let alone marry) foreign women who worshipped other gods for they would turn their hearts away from the Lord.  Likewise, we are told in 2 Corinthians 6:14 - Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

I always refer back to an illustration I read when I was much younger - Sunday Sally represents a believer.  Foolish Freddy represents an unbeliever.  Sally stands on a chair while Freddy stands beside her on the ground.  She cannot pull him up to stand next to her, no matter how hard she tries.  But the minute Freddy tries to pull Sally down next to him, she falls right off the chair.  It is much easier to pull someone down than it is to pull someone up.  God knows that.  He has made that perfectly clear in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  While we may not have to deal with other "gods," unbelievers today can still certainly turn our hearts away from the Lord.  Therefore, guard your heart.  Know your morals, your standards, and don't settle for anything less!

Next, we are to guard our hearts for the sake of others.  Solomon should not have had that many wives, princesses, or concubines to begin with.  Deuteronomy 17:17 says - He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away...  Yes, Solomon sinned in marrying foreign women (multitudes of them) but he also sinned when he began "multiplying wives."  'Multiply' comes from the Hebrew word rabah meaning "be or become great, be or become many, be or become much, be or become numerous" (Strong's H7235).  Who's to say when a number becomes 'great' or 'much' or 'many,'  but I think it is safe to say that 1,000 qualifies.  But where did Solomon get this idea for multiple wives?  David set this example.  Which may have caused Solomon to believe that it was okay, you see, "One bad act of a good man may be of more [harmful] consequence to others that 20 of a wicked man" (WesleyHenry).  David was, overall, a very good man.  So it would make sense for Solomon to look to him for guidance.  His thought process might have gone something like this, "If it was okay for David, whom God loved, to have multiple wives, than it should be okay for me right?"  

We have to remember, when we are believers, when we are leaders, when we are good friends...that people are watching us.  One tiny sin of mine could be a major fall for someone I know.  We must guard our hearts against sin for the sake of others.  I do not want to be responsible for the fall of my brother or sister in Christ.

And last, but certainly not least, we must guard our hearts against the sins of the world.  That sounds like an obvious one doesn't it?  But sometimes, we need to be reminded of the obvious things.  It is easy to justify homosexuality these days since it is "the new normal."  But just because something is 'normal' according to societies standards, does not make it right.  Solomon could have easily justified his multiple wives because of the world around him.  But it still didn't make it right.  Also, it should be pointed out that, "Solomon deserved more punishment for his worship of Ashtaroth than any of the Sidonians did, though they performed precisely the same acts.  The Sidonians had never known the true God; Solomon had been fully acquainted with Him" (Clarke).  

Sin is "a willful transgression against the known law of God" (I believe that is Wesley...but I'm not sure.  I had to memorize that definition for school).  If someone does not know God and His law, they cannot be held accountable for the wrong they do.  But we do know God and because we know God we are supposed to know His law.  Therefore, our sin is sin.  No questions asked. 

I challenge you today to guard your heart in this fallen world.  It isn't easy, but it is essential.  Keep God and His word close - it is a matter of life and death.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For the Whole of Time

Known fact: Mom's have eyes in the back of their head.  And not just when your little.  Recently my mom was whipping up some of our family recipe "Christmas Salad":  Cool Whip, Pudding Mix, and Mandarin Orange goodness.  As she went to the cupboard to get a container for the finished product, back turn towards me, I stuck my finger in the mix for a tiny taste.  Without missing a beat or turning around, "Brianna, get out of the Christmas salad!"  The only possible explanation: those mysterious hidden eyes in the back of her head.  She is always watching me.  hehe.

But even more than that, she is always caring for me.  Even when I lived over 1200 miles away, her affection was apparent.  From the numerous phone calls to the nice care packages to the surprise visits.  She was always thinking of me, caring for me, loving me.

1 Kings 9:3 - The Lord said to him, "I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually."

Solomon had just finished the dedication of his infamous temple.  This was God's response.  Isn't it wonderful? 

Thanks to some wonderful commentaries, I was able to see how drastically this applies to you and I.  Today, we don't have a dwelling place for God.  The church is simply a building for our community to come together as one body in order to worship the one true God.  Today, God dwells within us, we are God's living temple: 

1 Corinthians 3:16 - Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19 - Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 

Just as the temple was consecrated, so we have been consecrated)  If we "apply [this verse] to persons, the living temples...have His eye, His heart, His love and care...perpetually" (Henry).  As His temple, we have His eyes, "[His] watchful and gracious providence" and His heart, "[His] tender affection" or love and care as Henry puts it (Wesley).  And all of this we have forever and always!  'Perpetually' is actually translated from two separate Hebrew words, kol, meaning "the whole" and yowm, meaning "time" (Strong's H3605Strong's H3117).  So we have God's watchful and gracious providence as well as His tender love and care for the whole of time.  Neat to think about isn't it?

I challenge you today to rest in the beauty of this truth.  Whatever baggage you are carrying whatever mountain you are climbing, lay it at His feet and rest in His presence.  We don't do that often enough.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Plague of the Heart

The Black Plague, otherwise known as the Bubonic Plague, is something that everyone has at least heard about.  Why?  Because it was a significant historical event.  In 1347 the Plague killed one-third of the human population!  Talk about deadly!  It is even believed that this was a significant turning point for European economic development because such a large number of the working class was lost (Wikipedia). 

A plague is "a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly" and "causes high mortality" (  From chills and fevers to swelling and seizures, a plague is not something you want to "catch" - it affects your entire body and could possibly result in death.

1 Kings 8:38-39 - 38 ...whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; 39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men... 

The condition of your heart matters.

Take a look at the word "affliction" in verse 38.  Nega' is the Hebrew word used here, meaning "stroke, plague, disease, mark, plague spot" (Strong's H5061).  So really this is saying that each man knows the plague of his own heart.  Many versions even refer to it this way, including the King James (Parallel Bible).  We can assume that sins are the "plague of the heart, because that is both the principle seat of sin, and the fountain from whence all actual sins flow" (Wesley).  Now go back to our discussion of a plague - it spreads quickly, affects the entire body, makes you feel absolutely miserable, and could result in death - it is even contagious.  That is sin!  Sin starts at the center of your being, your heart, and spreads quickly throughout your entire being.  It makes you miserable emotionally, spiritually, and yes, sometimes even physically.  Sin can be very contagious at times.  And if not treated, it will most definitely end in death.  Sin, like the plague, has quite a high mortality rate.

But this plague, these sins - "Every Israelite indeed endeavors to know these, the he may mortify them and watch against the risings of them...These drive him to his knees, drive him to the sanctuary.  Lamenting these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer" (Henry).  When we notice the beginnings of these sins, this plague, we need to come before God with a sincere prayer.  Sincerity is expressed in these verses through the expression of "spreading his hands toward the house."  This would put their faces toward God, in a manner of speaking.  It made them vulnerable and open to Him.  We have to be sincere in our prayers if we want the Lord to hear us, as Solomon is asking here. 
But even without spreading their hands toward His house, God knows their hearts.  He knows our hearts.  He knows not only the plagues but the wants and burdens, the sincerity or the hypocrisy.  He knows what the condition of our heart is and He will only listen if we are truly sincere.  

The condition of your heart matters!

I challenge you today to examine your heart.  Is it plagued by sin?  Take a piece of paper and write down all that you need to ask forgiveness for.  Is your heart sincere when you approach the Father?  Take the time today to put everything else aside, clear your thoughts, and show the Lord your heart, stretch your arms toward His house - be open, honest, and sincere.  

He will hear and He will forgive.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

He Had to Ask for It

How is your prayer life?  I have to be honest, mine isn't the best right now.  I acknowledge God throughout the day with quick little "thank you's" or "can you's"...but I haven't been spending time communicating with him.  I haven't been really talking to Him and I definitely haven't been listening.  How did I realize this you might ask?  Through the wisdom of Solomon.

1 Kings 3:9-13 - 9"So give your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.  For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"  10It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.  11God said to him, "Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, 12behold, I have done according to your words.  Behold, I have give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.  13I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days."

There are a few things we can learn from Solomon here:

1. We must pray.

God didn't just give Solomon wisdom.  He had to ask for it.  God could easily give us everything we want or need for He knows our hearts (Psalm 44:21).  But I truly believe that He wants us to communicate with Him to entrust Him with our wants and needs, the secrets of our hearts.  He craves that intimacy with us.  

It is easy to push that time with Him aside, to place it on the back-burner (trust me, I know).  But why!?!  If we truly desire an intimate relationship with God, then we must communicate with Him.  If a husband and wife don't communicate with one another their marriage slowly begins to fall apart, they lose the intimacy they had on the day they said "I do."  Communication is ESSENTIAL in any relationship.  

And let us never forget that, "When [we] pray, [our] prayers are heard by the same God who answered Moses' prayer for water in the desert, the God who gave Abraham and his barren wife a son, and the God who made the slave Joseph second in power only to Pharaoh" (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, pg. 116).  Isn't that amazing!?!

2. When we pray, we need to put God first.

Solomon was praying for discernment so that he would be able to do the job that God had called him to do - "By this choice Solomon made it appear that he desired to be good more than great, and to serve God's honour more than to advance his own" (Henry).  How different would our prayer life look if we were to apply this concept?  How different would our lives look if we were to apply this concept?  Instead of approaching God with a list of things we selfishly want or need what if we approached Him as Solomon did and prayed for the things that will help us succeed in serving Him?  

3. When God answers, we need to be faithful with what He gives us.

Sometimes God will say "no."  And we must respect that.  But often times He does say "yes," just as He did with Solomon.  He even blessed Solomon with the riches and honor he didn't ask for!

Unfortunately, in the end, Solomon didn't use his riches, honor, or wisdom faithfully.  He became unfaithful, brutish, and even worshipped the gods of the Moabites - "He received much; but he would have received much more, had he been faithful to the grace given.  No character in the sacred writings disappoints us more than the character of Solomon" (Clarke).  

We cannot use what God gives us to our advantage, we cannot squander His blessings away, we cannot turn our back on Him and expect everything to remain the same.   We must be faithful to Him and all that He gives us, whether that be wisdom, courage, wealth, or fame.

I hope I sparked something in your mind today.  I challenge you today to look at your prayer life and see what needs fixing.  

Do you need to communicate more intimately with God?  

Do you need to put Him first in your prayer life?  

Are you having trouble being faithful with what He has given you?

Make this a checklist and look back on it often.  Our walk with God is a journey and while one thing might come easy now, it could be a struggle next month.  But for today, pick one of these things and go pray.  Drop everything you are doing right now and give Him some time to truly and deeply communicate with you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Box Syndrome

1 Kings 2:4 - so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.

Not too terribly long after this Babylon took over and the Israelites lived in exile for a very long time.

I kept looking at this verse thinking, "If only Israel hadn't messed up...if only they had followed these simple instructions..."  

Maybe we would still be under Israel's reign - a wonderfully united nation of God...

But someone else would have messed up.  I guess it was probably inevitable.

The thing is...why is it so hard??  Those instructions seem pretty simple.  

  • Be careful of your way
  • Walk before God in truth
  • With all your heart and with all your soul
I think it's that "all" that gets us.  I think we all truly want to give God our heart and soul...but only parts, not all, I meant that's just a little bit excessive don't you think??

Justin and I had a long talk on our way home from Michigan yesterday about how people can separate their faith from politics.  For us, that is an impossibility.  I will not vote for a man who literally covers up crosses in any area that he is speaking.  I cannot do so in regards to my faith.  But for others, the two are completely separate things.  I referred to it as "Box Syndrome" - they have each section of their lives perfectly boxed up and labeled.  One for "Faith," one for "Politics," "Friends," "Family", "Recreation/Hobbies," "Business," etc.  Not one box invades another...everything is separate.  And if you are living with "Box Syndrome" then I suppose the only box God gets is the "Faith" box.  Does that sound like God is getting ALL of our heart and soul???  I don't think so.  Our "Faith" should be the box the encompasses all other boxes.  We shouldn't be able to access any of the other boxes without first having to open our "Faith" box.

So here's to not taking the easy way out - gather up all of those boxes today and put them in one collective box - the "Faith" box.  Give God ALL of your heart and soul today...see how much it will truly change and shape your life!  (For the good of course!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

He Has a Purpose

God has a purpose for your life.  What?  You don't think so?  You're not good enough?  You don't have enough faith?  You're too scared?

None of that matters.  God will still use you.

1 Samuel 27:1 - Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand."  (ESV)

Background: Saul was still king and his current mission in life was to kill David.

But hadn't David been anointed in order to be the next king?  Hand chosen by God?  Why then did he think he would die at the hand of Saul?  

He was doubting.  This statement "proceeded from gross distrust of God's promise and providence; and that after such repeated demonstrations of God's peculiar care over him" (Wesley).  God had done so much for David already!  Before he was even 20, David had defeated Goliath - a giant that the toughest, most experienced, bravest soldiers of Israel wouldn't even dare go up against.  Time and time again, God had provided for David is amazing ways...yet David forgot all of this in an instant and ran scared for his life.

Not only was David doubting and untrusting at this point, he ran to the one place he shouldn't have.  The Philistines are enemies of Israel (Goliath was a Philistine), outside of "God's chosen," and they worshiped other gods!  David was running to a place where one day, as king, he would have to wage war!  And he was abandoning the very people he had been anointed to rule and protect (Henry).

He messed up.  Big time.  But (spoiler alert) Saul did not kill David and David did become the King of Israel!

God still used him.

God did not choose "perfect" people then, and he doesn't choose "perfect" people now.  God will use you, no matter your imperfections, no matter your fears or your doubts.  He has a purpose for you.

I challenge you today to discover what that purpose might be and start living it.

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I'm sure we've all heard the phrase, "Think before you speak" or "Think before you act."  Both phrases are very good advice.  But how often do we actually apply that advice to our lives?  This is one of those times where the phrase "Much easier said than done" is very easy to apply!  :)

1 Samuel 25:30-31 - 30 And when the Lord does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, 31 this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself.  When the Lord deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.

Yes, this section is a little bit confusing.  Abigail is speaking to David here.  Who is Abigail you might ask?  She is the wife of a certain man named Nabal. Nabal had refused to help out David's men in quite a rude and ungracious way.  David was outraged at Nabal's reply and immediately set out to avenge him.  Abigail met him halfway and talked him out of his revenge mind set.

In these verses we see her appeal to his conscience, his heart: 

"She cannot but think that if he should avenge himself it would afterwards be a grief and an offence of heart to him...She is confident that if he pass by the offense it will afterwards be no grief to him; but, on the contrary, it would yield him unspeakable satisfaction that his wisdom and grace had go the better of his passion" (Henry).

She knows he would regret this vengeance later.  After all, it would have been reckless and causeless "for though Nabal had been guilty of abominable rudeness, and ingratitude; yet he had done nothing worthy of death, by the laws of God or man.  And whatsoever he had done, the rest of his family were innocent" (Wesley).

If only we all had an Abigail to intercede and give us a chance to think about the actions in which we are about to partake.  It would be so much better for us if "when we are tempted to sin we should consider how it will appear in the reflection.  Let us never do any thing for which our own consciences will afterwards have occasion to upbraid us and which we shall look back upon with regret" (Henry).  

I challenge you today to think before you speak and think before you act.  When does the reflection of sin every prove good?  It doesn't!  Think.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Tell-Tale Heart

In elementary school my best friend had a super sensitive conscience.  If she did anything remotely wrong...even if it really wasn't a big deal, she would get very upset.  Tears would fall and apologies would be profusely made.  I often look back on those times and wonder if that is part of the innocence of a child that God has called us to maintain.

1 Samuel 24:5 - It came about afterward that David's conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul's robe.

"Conscience" is actually translated from the Hebrew word used for "heart."  Most translations leave "heart" in the text, but a few, as seen above, change it to "conscience" in order for it to make more sense (Parallel Bible).  However, "bothered" is defined in the Hebrew as "to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill" (Strong's H5221).  It makes much more sense when paired with "heart" instead of "conscience" for the lexicon explains that his heart "palpitated most vehemently and struck his internal breast."  I've had that feeling once or twice - you know you've done something wrong and your heart feels like its going to jump out of your chest - you can even hear it beating extra loudly  *thump thump* * thump thump*  

David had a chance to kill Saul here and he didn't.  Instead, he simply cut off the edge of Saul's robe.  Doesn't really seem like he did anything wrong does it?  But it bothered David "because it was an affront to Saul's royal dignity" (Henry).  Saul was still king and David shouldn't have done anything to disrespect his authority.

Henry makes a great point here: "It is a good thing to have a heart within us smiting us for sins that seem little; it is a sign that conscience is awake and tender, and will be the means of preventing greater sins."  If it doesn't bother us to lie or cheat on a test/taxes or disrespect authority...then how do we know it would bother us to murder or steal or kidnap?  Each time we sin and it doesn't bother us, it builds up an immunity to our conscience.  We are putting a wall between our heart and our actions, making it easier and easier to sin.

I challenge you today to let your heart, your conscience speak to you!  Don't ignore it!  What are you doing that your heart is telling you you shouldn't?  Listen to that *thump thump*  *thump thump* and let it break down the walls of indifference.  Every little sin should bother us until we make a change!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Weak Things of This World

Everyone has heard at least one story of someone unexpected making a huge difference in this world.  The story that pops to my mind first is of a 21 year old girl who moved to Africa.  I can't recall her name or any specific details but I know the story and I want to share it with you.  After a brief missions trip to Africa, this girl could not get the homeless children she had seen out of her mind.  So she decided to do something about it.  She moved to Africa and adopted not one or two or even three children, but close to 20 children who were living on the streets.  Now, they all have a home, and she is "mama."  Because of her, these children will know the love of Christ and they have a future full of love and shelter.

1 Samuel 17:32-33 - 32 David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."  33 Then Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth."

From Day 1, no one expected David to be anything great.  He was the youngest of countless sons (not even 20) and his job was merely to tend to the sheep.  He wasn't even supposed to be near the battle, a novice at such things (Wesley).  But none of that stopped David. You see, God often uses the unexpected, the weak, the untalented to accomplish His goals.

The difference is our attitude.  David was willing and committed as we can see in verse 32.  You see, "a person with a [willing] attitude is like a bumblebee.  The bumblebee should not be able to fly, because the size, weight, and shape of its body in relationship to its wingspread makes flying aerodynamically impossible.  But the bumblebee, being ignorant of scientific theory, flies anyway and makes honey every day" (John Maxwell, Real Leadership, pg. 144).  David shouldn't have been able to take down Goliath, he shouldn't have even had the courage.  But David knew that God was on his side. 

And he was looking out for the good of the people, not himself.  No one else was even willing to attempt to fight with Goliath.  Because of this the Israelites seemed doomed for failure.  David knew that God didn't want His people to fail, so he stepped up to do what was for the best of the community, despite the fact that everyone told him he was going to fail or that he seemed the most unlikely candidate to defeat such a giant.

How often are we willing to look past ourselves and look out for the good of the church?  How often do we attempt the impossible, knowing that we shouldn't be able to accomplish such a task?  I am weak.  I'm not very talented.  I'm not any more special than anyone else I speak to throughout the week.  But God can use me!  After all, like David's story, "God often [does] great things for his people by the weak things of this world" (Wesley).

I challenge you today to let God use you!  No matter what your station in life, no matter your talents or abilities, God can use you if you are willing!  Don't let the world tell you you aren't good enough.  Those are lies!  The truth is that we can ALL be used be God...again, if only we will let Him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Have a Beautiful Heart

Our society is completely caught up with looks.  From interviews to churches to a simple lunch with friends - how we dress, how we style our hair, how we look, impresses those around us.  I'm reminded of a the new ABC series, "The Neighbors" (it is really funny, go check it out) where the teenage girl asks the teenage alien if he thinks she's pretty...then proceeds to say something about "I don't mean pretty on the inside..."  Don't we all take offense to that?  

"You are so beautiful on the inside."

"Really??  So you think I'm ugly?"

"I didn't say that...I...I...I...just really appreciate and love who you are on the inside..."

*cricket cricket*

"...and out..."

But I think we've got it all wrong.

1 Samuel 16:7 - But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Did you catch that?  The Lord looks at the heart!  He looks at what is inside.  I could have the body of a 6 ft, bleach blonde, Vanity Fair model but if my heart is wicked, it doesn't matter.  God does NOT look at our outward appearance!  He looks at our heart!  (And yes, the Hebrew means the same thing, so no argument there.)

I think the greatest compliment I could ever receive from God would be:

"You are so pretty on the inside.  You have a beautiful heart."

And I wouldn't snap back about being ugly on the outside.

I challenge you today to look at the heart of your family, your friends, and every new acquaintance  Look past their appearance, whether it is good or bad, and see what their beauty holds on the inside.  You might be surprised what you find.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wait Upon the Lord

Waiting....and waiting...and waiting...  Who likes to wait?  No one that I'm aware of.  Especially in today's world - we have got to be the most impatient generation to ever exist.  We are a want it NOW, need it NOW, have to have it NOW society.  If we don't have something right away we throw a fit about it until we get what we want.  If someone isn't doing something right we feel the need to step in and do it ourselves to accomplish the job faster.  If there is an empty position, we fill it ourselves even though our plate is already full, because it needs to be done now.

1 Samuel 13:14 - But now your kingdom shall not endure.  The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.

Let's back up and find out just why Saul needed to hear these words in the first place.  Israel was about to go to war with the Philistines.  This process included offering a sacrifice asking favor from the Lord.  However, Samuel, who was, by law, supposed to offer the sacrifice was running a little bit late.  Saul grew impatient and decided to offer the sacrifice himself...which is going against the commandment of the Lord.  The verse above, is a direct result of Saul's disobedience.

While to us, this disobedience seems a bit trivial for such a punishment, "It was not little: disobedience to an express command, tho' in a small matter, is a great provocation.  And indeed, there is no little sin, because there is no little god to sin against" (Wesley, emphasis added).  I love that Wesley points out how there is no little sin!  I think that is something we easily forget!

But the biggest thing I learned while studying this verse, was the importance of waiting.  And more importantly, waiting on God - "We are taught hereby, how necessary it is, that we wait on our God continually.  For Saul is sentenced to lose his kingdom for want of 2 or 3 hours patience" (Wesley).  If Saul had waited just moments longer (verse 10 says Samuel showed up as soon as Saul finished the offering) he wouldn't have lost the entire kingdom.  Samuel is God's intermediary at this point (which is why he should have offered the sacrifice), so in not waiting on Samuel, Saul did not wait on God.

How often do we jump into a role that is not suited for us because we aren't waiting on the Lord.  I have seen it happen so many times in different churches and ministries.  There is a need and because no one else seems to want to do it, one of "the usual" people (who already has a full plate and then some) jumps in and takes over.  But I don't think that's what we are called to do.  Yes, we need to be giving of our time...but not to the point that we are burnt out.  And if you don't have the talent that suits the need whats the point in taking over anyhow?  Just like Saul, we get ahead of ourselves...when Samuel might be just around the corner.  We just have to wait on the Lord!  I am a firm believer that if there is a need, He will provide in one way or another.  If no one is jumping to fill the role immediately, give it some time.  He will provide someone.  And if you aren't supposed to be doing it, He will provide someone to take your place eventually anyhow...just as he mentions in this verse.  God already had someone to take Saul's place (that someone was David).  He knows what we need and when we need it and I have faith He will always provide - it just might not be in our timing!

Isaiah 40:31 - Yet those who wait for the Lord
                    Will gain new strength;
                    They will mount up with wings like eagles,
                    They will run and not grow tired,
                    They will walk and not become weary.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

3 Simple Steps

Some people look at the "God of the Old Testament" and the "God of the New Testament" or the "God of today" and feel the He is very different in each of those scenarios.  However, our God is the same, yesterday and today.  And one thing I love about Him that is a definite constant is that our God is a God of second chances (and just to clarify...He is the ONLY God).

1 Samuel 12:20,24 - 20 Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear.  You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart... 24 Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you."

You see, Israel had judges who oversaw them, kind of like pastors for us today.  God was their "king."  Yet, they were unhappy because everyone else had a physical king and they wanted to be like everyone else.  God relented and gave them what they wanted (though He definitely knew better...) by placing Saul in the position of king.  This is the evil that Samuel is referring to.  

Even though they had committed such an atrosity and gone against God's better judgment, He was willing to look past it - "...what was past God would pass by, provided they would be obedient in the future" (Clarke).  As long as they would fear (or revere) God and serve Him in truth with ALL of their hearts, He would forgive them and not forsake them.

The same is true for us today! God will look past what is in the past so long as we are obedient in the future.  Samuel lays out 3 simple things we must do in order to be forgiven and accepted as God's people:

  1. Fear the Lord - Again, to fear the Lord is more of a reverence - "reverential trust with hatred of evil" (Scofield).  We must trust Him and hate evil.  If we hate evil does that not mean we avoid it at all cost?  What exactly is evil?  The Hebrew word, ra' can be translated as "displeasing" meaning that we should hate (and avoid) anything that is displeasing to the Lord (Strong's H7451).
  2. Serve Him in truth - Truth is defined in the Hebrew as "firmness, faithfulness, truth."  If I were to tell you to be faithful to your spouse, though would mean to not cheat, to have eyes for your spouse and only your spouse.  The same goes with the Lord.  We are to be faithful to Him, we should have eyes for Him and only Him.  
  3. Serve Him with all of your heart - God asks for nothing less than ALL of you.  Yeah, it is pretty intense.  But so is His love and His mercy and His power...I could go on and on.  To give Him all of me is a small sacrifice to make for all that I get in return.  When we serve the Lord (which should be in all that we do) it should be 100%, not 25% or 70%...not even 99%...but 100%.
Clarke puts it a bit more simply: - "Act towards your God as an affectionate child should act towards a tender and loving parent."  But regardless of how simply you look at it, if we do these 3 things (and truthfully, it is hard to have one and not the others), God will forgive our past and accept us.

I challenge you today to give 100%, to be faithful, and to hate the things that displease God.  As the old saying goes, "It couldn't hurt."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

History Repeats Itself...But Only if we Let It

History repeats itself.  From bell bottoms to genocides to the collapse of solid can flip through a history book and see the same things yet different eras.  You would think we would learn from mistakes made throughout history...but it seems that we just don't care that we're making the same mistakes they did - surely the outcome will be different - right?

1 Samuel 6:6 - Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?  When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed?

The Philistines had taken the ark of God from the Israelites. And, obviously, God didn't like that.  So...He made that known via death or painful tumors (this word in the Hebrew can also be translated as hemmoroids) (Strong's H6076).  Most of the Philistines were very ready to send it back to the Israelites by this point.  It does seem though that in this verse there were at least a few who wanted to keep the ark of God.

However, someone was smart enough to learn a lesson from the mistakes of others.  It might have been something like this:

In a mild panic:
The Egyptians and Pharaoh had hardened their heart to the will of God and           look what happened to them!  10 plauges!  10!  Do you really want to deal with more than these tumors?  How about we add gnats and frogs and the death of our first born to the list?  That sounds like a plan! took the Egyptians 10 plagues to figure out that they needed to listen to what the God of Israel wanted...can we just stop at 1?  The God of Israel is going to get what He wants one way or the other...

Why don't we learn from the mistakes of others?  After all, "It is much cheaper to learn by other people's experience than by our own" (Henry).  And I'm not just talking about watching the people around us.  The Philistines were not even God's people and they knew He meant business.  They just had to look at history.

We ARE God's people, we have access to our entire history...and yet, we make the same mistakes that are written there for all to see.  David had an affair and God made sure he learned from that mistake. Yet, we see affairs happening within our churches like it isn't a big deal.  Soddom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their wicked ways...also known as homosexuality.  Yet, some churches are allowing homosexuals to be ordained and preach from the pulpit...without repentance.  Ananias and Sapphira lied and they died on the spot.  Yet, we lie everyday and usually don't think twice about it.  Jonah ran from the will of God and was eaten by a whale!  Yet, we go to church, listen to the sermon, and go home unchanged, completely disregarding what God has asked of us, what we are called to do.  I could probably go on and on with more examples, but these will do for now.  

Do you see it??  We have been given a history and we are letting history repeat itself every single day.  We do the same things and expect the outcome to be different.  God gave us stories like this so that we wouldn't make the same mistakes.  The Philistines knew He meant business and they didn't want history to repeat itself.  We should live the same way!

I challenge you today to learn from someone else's experience before you have to pay the price.  The Bible is full of wonderful history and experience but so is life.  Look to the Word but look to others as well.  Chances are, you can find someone who struggled previously with what you are struggling with today and they can help you through it by sharing their own experience.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, we were created for community.  If you don't have a good community now, try to find one!  My hubby and I tried several churches around our area but never found one where we felt the community was healthy, growing, and supportive.  Now, we travel 45 minutes each way on Sundays to go to a small town church where we feel loved and accepted.  And let me tell you what - if we are stumbling and someone notices, they will tell us to straighten up and give us the tools we need to do so.  That is what community is about!  Don't settle - find somewhere that community is priority or make it your priority to create a better community experience!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

All Good Men...

"You can't understand, you aren't a mother."

Yes, I've heard it...a few times.  No, I can't completely understand what it is like to be a mother because I haven't yet had the chance.  But that isn't the point.  The point is that mother's worry and fret over their children.  For those of us who are not mothers, sometimes it seems a little much.  But when I hurt, my mom hurts...and that's a fact.  When my brother hurts, she hurts...  You get the picture?

1 Samuel 4:13 - When he came, behold Eli was sitting on his seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God.  So the man came to tell in in the city, and all the city cried out.

You see, Israel was at war with the Philistines and Eli knew they wanted the ark of God.  He knew they were a threat to what God had given Israel.  And his heart was trembling... 

In other words, he was afraid - "Though old, and blind, and heavy (vs. 15, 18), yet he could not keep his chamber when...the glory of Israel [was] at stake, but placed himself by the way-side to receive the first intelligence..." (Henry). I've been there - you can't sleep, you are completely restless, all because you can't stop worrying or thinking about a certain situation.  Eli solved that by sitting by the gate and keeping watch.

What we can learn from this is simple: "All good men lay the interests of God's church nearer their hearts than any secular interest or concern of their own, and cannot be in pain and fear for them if at any time they are in peril" (Henry).  Eli's sons were in that battle (and they both died), yet he was sitting there awaiting news of the war not because of his sons but because of the ark of God (Clarke)!

I'm not saying to abandon your family or anything...but maybe your priorities aren't quite straight.  Maybe you are more concerned with work than whatever is going on in the church.  Maybe your health becomes a bigger issue than the  issues facing God's church.  It isn't easy to be kingdom-focused all of the time.  But I challenge you today to try.  Try to focus on eternal matters - what issues are facing God's church as a whole today?  Or what issues are facing your church?  But the big question is: What can you do about it?

For a peek at some very big issues facing God's church today, check out the facebook post I just stumbled across (moments after publishing this post).  This was written by Dr. Donald E. Wildmon, President of the American Family Association - it is pretty good and puts things in perspective:

In 1973 The Supreme Court said it was ok to kill unborn babies. Since then, we have killed more than the entire population of Canada. And it continues. A woman's choice? Half of those who have died in their mothers' wombs have been women. They didn't have a choice. It is called abortion. 

Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

First, it was in dingy, dirty theaters. Then, convenience stores. Then, grocery stores. Then on television. Now it is in the homes of millions via the Internet. It is called pornography. 

Me, I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

They call it no-fault. Why should we blame anyone when something so terrible happens. Haven't they already suffered enough? Half of the marriages in America end this way. The children suffered. The family broke down. It is called divorce. 

Me, I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

At one time it was a perversion. We kept it secret. We secured help and hope for those who practiced it. Now it is praised. We have parades celebrating it, and elected officials give it their blessing. Now it is endowed with special privileges and protected by special laws. Even some Christian leaders and denominations praise it. It is called homosexuality. 

Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

It used to be an embarrassment. A shame. Now a third of all births are to mothers who aren't married. Two-thirds of all African-American children are born into a home without a father. The state usually pays the tab. That is why we pay our taxes, so that government can take the place of parents. After all, government bureaucrats know much better how to raise children than parents do. It is called illegitimacy. 

Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

At one time it was wrong. But then the state decided to legalize it, promote it and tax it. It has ripped apart families and destroyed lives. But just look at all the money the state has raised. No longer do we have to teach our children to study and work hard. Now we teach them they can get something for nothing. We spend millions encouraging people to join the fun and excitement. Just look at the big sums that people are winning. They will never have to work again! It is called gambling. 

Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

Not long ago, Christians were the good guys. But now any positive image of Christians in movies or on TV is gone. We are now depicted as the bad guys - greedy, narrow-minded hypocrites. The teacher can't have a Bible on her desk, but can have Playboy. We don't have Christmas and Easter holidays - just winter and spring break. We can't pray in school, but can use foul language. It's called being tolerant. 

Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now. 

Yes, all these things came to pass within 30 years. Where were the Christians? Why, they were in church. All these things are for someone else to deal with. Times have changed. Involvement has been replaced with apathy. 

But don't blame me. I didn't do anything. I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That's what Christians do now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Gift or the Giver?

When was the last time you were so excited about something that you literally jumped up in down with joy?  I remember countless times in my childhood...but I think the most recent time was when Justin popped the question, a moment I had been waiting for my entire life!  But I don't remember at what point I thanked God for that moment.  Don't get me wrong, I thank God for my husband everyday (okay, well almost everyday...), but I'm not sure if I ever thanked God for our proposal and the beginning of such a joyous and wonderful chapter.

1 Samuel 2:1 - Then Hannah prayed and said,
                     "My heart exults in the Lord;
                      My horn is exalted in the Lord,
                      My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
                      Because I rejoice in my salvation."

(If you haven't read her history, I would check out 1 Samuel 1, or for a brief run down check out my previous blogs: here and then here.)

Though she never says his name, Hannah is praising the Lord for her long-awaited son, Samuel.  The important thing to note here is that, "she overlooks the gift, and praises the giver; whereas most forget the giver and fasten only on the gift" (Henry).  You cannot miss the joy in her words here (and this is only the beginning - her praise continues through verse 10).  

Let's take a minute and think of the definition of the word "good."  Okay, well not literally - but if I were to define it simply, my dictionary entry would look like this:

good - God.

Yep, that's all my definition would include.  God IS good.  And I think we forget that a lot of the time.  You see if God IS good, then everything in our lives that is good, is Him.  Simple as that.  And how often do we thank Him for ALL of the good in our lives?  I might literally leap for joy...but am I giving Him credit where credit is due?  More often than not, I don't.  And I assume that is the same for most of us...

I pray for myself today, and for each on of you that reads this, that I can be more like Hannah.  For everything good thing that I encounter or receive, I want to immediately recognize God.  I challenge you today to look past the gift and praise the Giver.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Zealous Prayer

Have you ever reached that point where you can't even find the words to pray because you are so overwhelmed?  Or maybe you have witnessed it...  I have seen it a few times.  When humans face problems and difficulties beyond our comprehension, it is sometimes impossible to find the right words, to find any words.  But thankfully, we don't need words for God hears our hearts.

1 Samuel 1:13 - As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard.  So Eli thought she was drunk.

If you haven't read my previous blog on Hannah, I suggest starting here.  It will give you a good background.  This verse takes place between the time Elkanah spoke with Hannah and the time when their prayers are answered with the birth of their son, Samuel.

I read that verse and I can picture it clearly in my mind, I find it extremely relateable.  Even though Hannah wasn't speaking out loud and her passion was so vivid that Eli thought she was drunk, God still heard her prayer.  He hears our hearts, not our words - "Thoughts are words to Him" (Henry).  By praying without speaking, by engaging her whole heart, "she testified her belief of God's knowledge of the heart and its desires" (Henry).  

What would happen if we always approached Him with such a passion?  What if we always engaged our whole heart when speaking to the Father?  I think our communication with God would be on a whole new level and thus, our relationship would be also!

I challenge you today to approach our Savior with your whole heart, with a zealous passion.  The next time you pray, remember to engage your whole heart.  

He will listen...even if you don't speak.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sinful Sorrow

Right after my husband and I got engaged, I went through a really rough patch.  My heart was hurting immensely over the loss of a very good friend.  Though both parties had been wrong, it was devastating to me that whatever happened couldn't be fixed.  It affected my entire being.  Justin and I were only engaged for 5 months before our wedding...but even after that there were still many nights I cried myself to sleep or days he would get home from work and I would just be lying on the couch where he left me that morning because I was too broken to get up and do anything.  I let my sorrow control my life in a very negative way.  I missed out on the blessings around me because I let my sorrow invade every inch of me.  Don't get me wrong, there were many days when Justin didn't understand and he became very frustrated.  But I treasured those moments that he would hold me close while I cried or when he would be angry for me - he was hurting because I was hurting.

1 Samuel 1:8 - Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

You see, the Lord had closed Hannah's womb (vs. 5).  She desperately wanted a child and was completely unable.  On top of that, Elkanah's other wife taunted her over the matter, just to irritate her (vs. 6).  

I have not yet had the experience of trying for a child, but I know many women that have.  And I know a few who tried for years with no success - I have seen the pain and sorrow.  I truly believe it is one of the most difficult burdens to bear in our world, a world where abortions are the norm and thousands, probably millions, of children are not taken care of properly and are only around because they bring their parents an extra check each month.

It would be so easy for anyone in this situation, for Hannah, to let the sorrow overwhelm her and become a sin.  Yes, I said a sin - "Our sorrow upon any account is sinful and inordinate when it diverts us from our duty to God....when it makes us unthankful for the mercies we enjoy and distrustful of the goodness of God...when it casts a damp upon our joy in Christ..." (Henry).  Any time we let anything get in the way of our relationship with God, our reliance on Him, and our duty to is a sin.

Elkanah saw that this was happening with Hannah and he gently came to her side.  He was hurting, if for no other reason, because she was - "Those that by marriage are made one flesh ought thus far to be of one spirit too, to share in each other's troubles so that one cannot be easy while the other is uneasy."  Yet, he still let her know that she had other things to be thankful for (his love for her, which was very favorable, vs. 5).  The next verse even goes onto say that she ate and drank!  Elkanah must have talked some sense into her!

I look back now and I know that my hurt, my anguish became sinful.  I let it interfere with my duty to serve God to my fullest and I became unthankful for the wonderful husband God had JUST placed in my life.  While Justin did hurt for and with me, there were many times when he told me I was being ridiculous.  He was constantly reminding me to live in the present and not the past.  Because of his encouragement and the encouragement of many others I was able to overcome my overwhelming sorrow.

And, if you don't already know, the story ends well for Hannah too.  She finally turns to the Lord in her desperation (vs. 10-17) and He answers her prayers with the birth of her son, Samuel (vs. 20).

I'm not saying that being sad is a sin, it only becomes a sin when you let that sorrow consume your life and interfere with the relationship between you and God.  I challenge you today to remember this the next time you are faced with overwhelming sorrow.  Give those sorrows to Him that He may comfort you and bring you joy when it seems impossible.  If you are in the midst of a sorrow so deep you can't see the light of day, tell someone.  We are created for community - do not travel this road alone.  God has given us people to help us through the dark places.  And always remember that your spouse is one of those people!  Lean on your spouse for support - they should hurt with you AND be able to tell you when enough is enough, just like Elkanah.

...Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning - Psalm 30:5

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Last Words

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Live like you were dying?"  It makes you stop and think for a second doesn't it?  Here's another question, along those same lines: What would your last words be if you were to die today?

Joshua 23:14 - Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed."

When Joshua says that he is going the way of all the earth he is basically saying that he is about to die (Clarke).  'Way' in the Hebrew is derek meaning "way, road, distance, journey, manner" (Strong's H1870).  So, Joshua is going on the journey that everyone must go on.  

And these are the beginning of his last words.  I love that his last words are a reminder of the awesomeness of God.  It isn't about him, it never was.  He knew what was important and he wanted to make sure that the people he cared about knew that as well.  Joshua was a great example of the "I'm Third" mentality.  He put God first, others second, and himself last...even on his death bed.

I hope and pray that my last words, my last actions are a reminder to the rest of the world of what is truly important.  But the thing is, I cannot know when that moment will be.  I could die a death of natural causes 60 years from now and live a full life or a bizarre accident could take my life today.  So, yes, maybe we should live like we are dying.  My every action, my every word should show the world what is important - it should show them that I am third.

I challenge you today to live like you are third at ALL times.  If your life ended tomorrow would you be happy with the way you lived today?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


If I placed a ticking bomb in front of you right now and told you to disarm it - would you rush through the process and not think about it?  Or would you take your time and think about each step in order to make sure you got it right?  I mean, we wouldn't want to confuse the red and blue wires now would we?  It would be in our best interest if you were very careful!

Joshua 22:5 - Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him will all your heart and with all your soul.

Did you see all of those "ands" in there??  That is one long sentence.  But I want you to catch something: Only be very careful to...with all your heart and with all your soul.  Everything in the middle there (the dot, dot, dot) is framed by be very careful and with all your heart and soul.  So let's put it this way:

Only be very careful to:
  • Observe the commandment and law
  • Love the Lord your God
  • Walk in all His ways
  • Keep His commandments
  • Hold fast to Him
  • Serve Him
And do ALL of these things with all your heart and with all your soul. Or as Wesley puts it, "with the whole strength of your minds, and wills, and affections."  

You see, these aren't options.  This is God telling us how to be, how to live - "What good counsel was here given to them is given to us all.  God give us grace to take it" (Henry).  This verse doesn't just say "be careful."  It says "be  very careful."  'Very' in the Hebrew is the word m@ 'od which means "exceedingly. much" (Strong's H3966).  'Exceedingly' holds the idea of going above and beyond the norm.  We should be following these instructions as if we were disarming a bomb!  We should be thinking through all of our actions, making sure we get each step right...  

Clarke states that "they must ever consider that their prosperity and continued possession of the [promised] land depended on their fidelity and obedience to God."  In the same way, our promise of eternal life and glorification depend upon our fidelity and obedience to God!  We can't live our lives ignoring the law, neglecting our relationship with God, and serving everyone but Him.  We must be exceedingly careful to observe His commandments, to love Him, to walk in His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with ALL of our hearts and souls!  Our very lives depend on it!

Look back up at the list again.  Which of those 6 things do you struggle with the most?  Take some time today and focus on that weak link.  Look at that link as if it were a bomb about to explode.  Give it the attention it needs today to be secure tomorrow!  Take it one step at a time....