Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moment by Moment

Every day we are faced with a ton of choices:

Do I sleep in today or not?
Am I going to have a good attitude about work today or a bad one?
Should I wear these shoes or the other ones?
Should I wear a scarf or not?
Am I going to pack a lunch or buy today?
Are we going to cook tonight or get delivery?
Am I going to watch TV or go for a walk?
Early to bed or stay up for a little while?
Should I brush my teeth or not?  (The answer here is "you should")  ;)

The list goes on and on...and on...and on...

What about the bigger choices?  The choices that will make a life-changing difference?

2 Chronicles 16:7,9 - 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the arym of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand... 9 For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.  You have acted foolishly in this.  Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars."

I absolutely fell in love with the imagery of the beginning of verse 9.  Let's take another look at just that section:

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

Beautiful isn't it? 

Okay, now that we have seen the beauty, we can take a step back and truly examine this passage.

Because the eyes of the Lord roam all of the earth we have two choices before us:
  1. We give Him our hearts completely.  
  2. Or we don't.
If we are giving Him our everything, our entire hearts, we should naturally be relying on Him.  "Rely" is translated from the Hebrew word sha'an meaning "to lean on, trust in, support" (Strong's H8172).  If He has our hearts completely, the natural outcome is that we trust Him, that we lean on Him for our matter what the circumstance.  Asa did not do this...instead of relying on the Lord, he tried to rely on a human.  We cannot rely on any human being 100%, not our spouses, not our parents, not our best friends.  Humans make mistakes, even when they don't mean to, even when they are trying their hardest not to.  Fact is: they aren't God - "It is a foolish thing to lean on a broken reed, when we have the rock of ages to rely on" (Wesley).  As seen in vs. 7, Asa's reliance on the king of Aram didn't work out.  And because he relied on a human for his troubles and neglected to rely on the Lord (therefore not giving God his entire heart), there were consequences.
  1. If we give Him our hearts completely, He will strongly support us.
  2. If we don't, He won't.  Simple as that.
Because Asa didn't give the Lord his heart completely, the Lord allowed wars to ravage Israel, He no longer strongly supported Asa.  In my study of the word 'heart,' if there is one thing I have learned, it is that if we don't give Him all of us, He won't give us all of Him.  I've written on it over and over because it is in His word over and over.  Why is that?  My hunch is that it isn't an easy thing.  Giving 100% of our heart to God is a daily choice, a daily struggle.  Scratch that, it is a moment by moment choice.  Every thing we are faced with - our daily routines, our worries, our fears, our problems, our triumphs, our joys - we have to choose to give those to God.  It might be the hardest thing we have to do.

I challenge you today to say a prayer.  Ask God to give you the strength you need to choose Him, to rely on Him, to trust in Him, to lean on Him.  Pray for an extra few moments before you make a choice to hear His voice so that the choice becomes easier.  This life is a journey but He is here to help us every step of the way...  Give Him your heart today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

If God Has the Heart...

"Obsessed people know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift the must be chosen and cultivated, a gift the ultimately comes from God." - Francis Chan, Crazy Love

For clarification purposes, 'obsessed' here is a good thing.  Chan defines it as "To have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic" - in this case, God.

2 Chronicles 15:12,15 - 12 They entered into the covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and soul... 15 All Judah rejoiced concerning the oath, for they had sworn with their whole heart and had sought Him earnestly, and He let them find Him.  So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

All of Judah rejoiced, in other words, they were joyful.  But why?

Because they had sworn this covenant or oath with their entire heart after seeking God earnestly.  'Earnestly' in the Hebrew is translated from two different words: kol meaning "all, the whole" and ratsown meaning "pleasure, delight...will" (Strong's H3605Strong's H7522).  This means that they searched after Him, not only with all of their heart, but with all of their pleasure, all of their delight, all of their will - they were obsessed. 

Because of this obsession, this covenant, God let them find Him and granted them rest...on every side.  Ultimately, He was the cause of their joy.  But they could not have truly rejoiced if they had not given all of their hearts: "Those only experience pleasure and comfort of [Christianity]...that are sincere and upright in it.  What is done in hypocrisy is a mere drudgery.  But, if God has the heart, we have the joy" (Henry).  

If we can truly let go of ourselves and give Him our all, our everything, He will provide true, unending joy.  As Francis Chan said, joy doesn't depend on circumstance or environment...ultimately God is responsible.  But if He doesn't have our heart, how can He affect our attitude?

I challenge you today to examine your attitude?  Is it a little rough?  Are you having a glass-half-empty kind of day?  Are you depressed and stuck in a rut?  Maybe what you need is to give Him all of you.  If He has your heart, you will have joy.  "We have a God who loves us more than we love our children or even ourselves - a God who sent His Son to die for us and who has prepared a place in eternity just for us" (The Dobson's, Night Light).  There is ALWAYS something to be joyful for!  God will get you just have to give Him all of you.   

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It Is Not Building Churches

"Today in history class, we are going to learn about viking burial rituals..."


But really, did you know that when vikings were buried, all of their belongings were buried with them?  This obviously included precious valuables but also food, weapons, and jewelry (Matador Network).  

When life came to a close, what was important for them?  Possessions, belongings, things...


And the reality of it is that they will never see those things again.  So if "stuff" isn't important, what is?

King David had just witnessed an amazing offering for the soon-to-be-temple.  He knew his reign and life were coming to a close and he offered a beautiful prayer to the Lord.  Below is just a snip-it of the prayer in its entirety, but take notice of what one word sticks out:

1 Chronicles 19:17-19 - 17 Since I know, O my God, that you try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You.  18 O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of your people, and direct their heart to You; 19 and give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Your commandments, Your testimonies and Your statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision. 

You see, David knew what was important.  Unlike the vikings, he didn't talk about material things - not about the wealth I'm sure he had accumulated, not about his weaponry or the wars he had won, and not about food (the good or the bad).  He talked about the heart.

First, he acknowledges the truth of the matter:  God knows and tries the heart.  The Hebrew word for 'try' is bachan - "to examine, try, prove" (Strong's H974).  Let's take a look at the English definition of 'prove': "to establish the truth or genuineness of, as by evidence or argument" (  God will establish the genuineness of our hearts - He can see ALL of the evidence...  This is fact and David knew it.

He then goes on to confess the integrity, or uprightness, of his own heart - in my opinion, to show that he was sincere (Strong's H3476), the whole time knowing that God would see the truth anyhow.

Then he brings his own people before the Lord, the people that he had ruled over, fought with, and cared for.  He doesn't ask that they be kept safe or that they have great wealth...he asks that the Lord preserve the intentions of their heart and direct their hearts toward Him - "Since it is from Thy grace that Thy people have such willing minds, continue that grace to them, that they may persist in the same generous disposition towards Thee and Thy worship" (Wesley).  Matthew Henry expounds further: "...that what good God had put in their minds He would always keep there, that they might never be worse than they were now, might never lose the convictions they were now under, nor cool in their affections to the house of God, but always have the same thoughts of things as they now seemed to have."  While David's prayer was not this lengthy, I do believe that all of this is what he had in mind.  This prayer should be a regular one among believers.  It would be the ultimate in building one another up!  And think of the effect this prayer could have on your children!

And lastly, he lifts up a prayer for his own son, Solomon.  Again, notice that he doesn't ask for Solomon to have wealth or that he would live a long and healthy life.  He only asks that Solomon would have a perfect, or whole, heart for the Lord and His work (Strong's H8003).  David knew that the Lord had blessed the work of the temple - but he also knew that Solomon's heart had to be in the right place: "It is not building churches that will save us if we live in disobedience to God's law" (Henry).

In the end, it would do the people (including Solomon) no good if they build the temple and forgot where their hearts belonged.  That is the key!  God does not look at the temples we build or the work we do...He looks at our heart!

I challenge you today to examine your life.  Are you doing the Lord's work?  Are you building up His church (and I do not mean the building)?  Are you serving Him in any capacity?  If your heart in the right place?  Because if not...all of the former will have been in vain.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A True Reason to Rejoice

In our society we are taught to receive willingly.  Let's take a look:

  • Have you seen how many people are on our welfare program?  4,300,000.  Or the number of people using food stamps? 46,700,000.  And what about unemployment? 5,600,000. I'm not trying to get into politics here.  The programs have good intentions but they can definitely be abused.  I just want to point out how many people are willingly (and probably joyfully) receiving (Welfare Statistics).
  • People my age seem to think they should get a huge paycheck for doing the bare minimum.  Show up, get paid.  That's how it works right?
  • Christmas has become almost entirely about receiving.  Yeah, we say we know the true meaning of Christmas.  But when we don't get gifts, we are a little (if not a lot) disappointed.
The list could go on.  I just wanted to give a visual of how we LOVE to receive, and how we do so willingly and joyfully.

1 Chronicles 29:9 - Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made the offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

We are not talking about tithe here.  We're talking about going above and beyond their tithe.  These people were rejoicing over the fact that they gave so willingly!  Did you catch that?  They didn't receive, they gave...and rejoiced because they did so.

That is quite the opposite of our society.  Maybe even ourselves.  For my husband and I, going above and beyond tithe is a stretch.  It makes the budget tight...really tight.  Though we don't stress about it anymore, and it often makes my heart happy, I'm not sure that I would use the word "rejoice" when I'm writing out that check.

Then why did it come so easy to these people in Chronicles?  Two things.  First, rejoicing was "an affect of God's grace in them" (Wesley).  They had a whole heart when they gave.  "Whole" in the Hebrew is shalem - it can also be translated as "complete, safe, peaceful, perfect, whole, full, at peace" (Strong's 8003).  What can we get from all of that?  Their heart was in the right place.  They weren't giving to look good, they weren't giving to get something, they weren't giving because they felt guilty.  They were giving out of their hearts.  And God blessed that.  His grace provided the joy they needed for giving so willingly.

And because they gave, they had joy in knowing that the Lord's house would be built, that His work would be done.  When we give with a whole/perfect/complete heart, we should be confident in knowing that the Lord will use it to fulfill His purposes.  That should bring us true joy!  With our giving, His work is being done!

I challenge you today to focus more on giving than receiving.  Instead of receiving so willingly, try to give willingly - but make sure your heart is in the right place.  If it is, God's joy will emanate through your soul and give you a confidence of accomplishing His work - a true reason to rejoice!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Worst He Can Say is "No"

Have you ever known anyone that has had cancer?  In today's world, it feels like cancer lurks around every corner.  If you don't directly know someone who has or had cancer you know someone who knows someone.  It doesn't seem fair.  But that's the thing about cancer and sickness and death - no one is exempt.

2 Kings 20:1-6 - 1 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill.  And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'"  

2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3 "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.  

4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 5 "Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you.  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. 6 I will add on fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David's sake."'"

Sickness and death are not picky.  It doesn't matter who you are, you are susceptible.  Anyone of us could fall ill or die tomorrow - "Neither greatness or goodness can exempt us from sickness" (Henry). The other truth about death is that no one knows for sure when it will happen.  Hezekiah is the only man we are aware of that was ever given a time from God.  You see, "God has wisely kept us at uncertainties, that we may be always ready" (Wesley).  Unfortunately, for some reason, we don't feel the need to be ready.  According to Frederick Beuchner, "Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us.  We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true.  On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever."  

Thank goodness for prayer, or more accurately, thank God!  Without it, we wouldn't have access to Christ or salvation.  We wouldn't have hope of life after death.  And prayer always brings healing.  It may not be physical, but it is always spiritual, and sometimes emotional.  When Hezekiah receives his death sentence, what is his first response?  To pray - "He had now received the sentence of death within himself, and if it was reversible, it muse be reversed by prayer" (Henry). Some say his prayer was simply meant to calm his anxiety or fears, others say it really was for healing (though he never asks for that outright).  Not every prayer is answered with a "yes" or a "you have been healed" but the truth to learn here is that "we have not if we ask not" (Henry).

God can change circumstances!  He did it for Hezekiah and He did it for many others...and He will do it for you!  God is bigger and better than sickness.  And He is MUCH bigger and better than death!  God IS life!  It doesn't mean He will always run to the rescue - His plans are much bigger than ours and there is this tiny thing called "free will" that tends to make a mess of things sometimes.  But He is there.  And you will never know if the answer is "yes" or "no" unless you ask.  My parents always reminded me growing up: "The worst thing they can say is no."  I didn't really understand it when I was really young, but as I grew, it made more and more sense.  If you don't ask, you are stuck in your situation.  If you do ask, there is at least a chance things will change!  And the worst that could possibly happen is that you would be in the same boat you were before.  This, most certainly, applies to prayer.

I believe, sometimes, that God is just waiting for you to ask Him, to trust Him.  After all, wasn't it God's own messenger, Isaiah, that told Hezekiah he was going to die?  You see, God never "says and unsays; but upon Hezekiah's prayer, which He foresaw and which His Spirit inclined Him to, God did that for him which otherwise He would not have done" (Henry).  Essentially, what Henry is saying here, is that if Hezekiah wouldn't have prayed, God wouldn't have healed him...he still would have died.  Sometimes we have to be the ones to reach out.

Is God waiting on you?  Have you come to Him with your situation?  Whether it be sickness, finances, or something else...have you asked Him for help?  Maybe that is all He is waiting for.  After all, the worst He can say is "no."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

We Cannot Get Away with Murder

Our secrets are not secret.  I've used the illustration of the Mom with the eyes in the back of her head.  But you see, it doesn't quite do God justice.  He sees ALL and He knows ALL.  We can hide nothing from Him, absolutely nothing.  He knows the magicians secrets, He knows what lies at the bottom of the sea, He knows what lies in the back of our mind and in the depths of our hearts.  He knows.

2 Kings 5:26-27 - 26 The [Elisha] said to [Gehazi], "Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you?  Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? 27 Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever."  So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

This man, Naaman, had gone to the prophet Elisha in order to be healed from his leprosy.  After being healed, he went to offer a present for his thankfulness.  Elisha honorably refused and sent Naaman on his way.  Gehazi was working for Elisha and in seeing this all happen, his greed got the best of him.  In seeing Naaman walk away with all of this treasure, Gehazi "ran after him" in order to "take something from him" (vs. 20).

Upon his return Elisha asks Gehazi where he has been and he replies "Your servant went nowhere" (vs. 25).  Elisha, being the prophet of God, the eyes of God, knew differently.  Elisha knew what he did and knew what he was going to do: "Gehazi intended to purchase [olive trees, sheep, etc.] with this money: and therefore the prophet names them, to inform him, that he exactly knew, not only his outward actions, but even his most secret intentions" (Wesley).  Gehazi thought he had gotten away with it.  But in reality, God had seen everything he had done and God knew his heart, what he intended to do with his new found riches.

It is so true though isn't it?  We think that the sins we commit in the absence of human witness are unseen.  But that is so far from the truth it isn't even funny!  If you haven't figured it out yet, God sees all and know all.  He sees what we do and He knows the intent of our heart!  And He does have the final say.  Gehazi did not get away with what he had done - he was punished with leprosy.  We, quite literally, cannot get away with murder...or anything else for that matter.  

I challenge you today to confess your secrets.  God knows everything already but take a moment today to confess those things to Him out loud.  Let Him know that your heart is ready to change and that you don't want to try and "hide" things from Him any longer.

"Nothing done, said, thought, by any person, in any place, at any time, is out of the reach of God's cognizance" (Henry on 2 Kings 6:11).