Open Your Heart . . .

Open your heart, dear Friend, open your heart.  There is a God in heaven and He is waiting for the doors to swing wide open that He may gain access.  “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

He is a gentleman.  He will not force Himself upon you.  But with love, He beckons you to let Him in.  “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Draw near, dear Friend, draw near.  Do not let this moment pass you by.  He’s waiting on you, but as with any opportunity, the days are fleeting and time continues to move ahead.  “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Will you welcome Him, dear Friend, will you welcome Him.  “Behold, I stand at the door,” He says, “and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

The Bible says that restoration is waiting for those who are truly repentant.  “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Open your heart to God and let Him rain on you.  He will cause you to grow with new life.  “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5).  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

The precious gift awaits.  Open your heart, and receive Him for yourself.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

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Returning to the Familiar

Returning to the familiar can be like a warm hug.  Its embrace is comfortable and welcoming and can give you a sense of belonging.

But what if you don’t belong in the familiar?  What if the place you are trying to return to is not the best for you?  What if you are trading the comfort of familiarity for the hard choice to move on to something new?

This time of year, many people seek to add new routines to their lives, new regimens to their health, and pursue fresh ideas about what they want out of life.  At the same time, many resolutions fall through because going after the new is not always the easiest thing to do.  The steps forward can be uncomfortable rather than exciting, and truthfully, it can be downright overwhelming.

In the Bible, God knew what was best for His people, but how often did we see that the children of Israel wanted to go back what was not best, back to the familiar (Numbers 14:4)?  In Egypt, although it was hard, they knew what to expect.  Their routines were predictable, and they knew which course of action would produce which results.

God wanted better for them.  He desired to take them on a life-changing expedition.

But when God wanted them to journey through the wilderness toward their Promised Land, many became apprehensive and disillusioned with the many challenges they faced in order to reach that goal.  And even though Egypt wasn’t good for them and caused them great pain, when times got hard in going toward their place of promise, they wanted to return to the familiar.

With rose-colored glasses on, they talked themselves into believing that the old place where they had come from was not that bad (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:5).  They convinced themselves that things were okay with the way they were and to be content with a life that was less than ideal because the prospect of the new brought too many challenges.

In pursuing change, we too must be careful not to romanticize where we have come from or where we are going.  We must remind ourselves there was a reason for wanting change in the first place.  To continually look back and want to throw oneself into that familiar embrace can sabotage where you are trying to go and what you are trying to do (Proverbs 4:25-27; Luke 9:62). 

At the same time, to look ahead as if everything is going to be peaches and cream, as if moving forward is going to produce automatic results without hurdles to overcome, is setting oneself up for a fairy-tale ending without experiencing the tragedy of the plot in the middle.  It just does not happen that way.

Although this is just the beginning of the year, as it progresses, there will be a few times, if not many, when the pull to the familiar will seek to lure you back (Isaiah 43:18-19).

The familiar, when used correctly, can be an incredibly beautiful thing.  But, if you are after real change this year, and the familiar place is not what was producing it, challenge yourself to stay the course, to keep looking ahead (Philippians 3:12-14).

Prayerfully, seek God’s wisdom and guidance, and as with the children of Israel, He will gladly show you the way (Exodus 13:21; Psalm 25:4-5).    

Yes, this year, the new may have its challenging moments, but when you reach your place of promise, think of the beauty there to behold.

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“Be Fulfilled”

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” Matthew 5:6

 As a mom, I look back and I can remember distinctly the graduations of my children.  They were very proud moments for parents and students alike.  As each graduate would come out during the processional, moving closer to the stage, soon to walk across it to receive their diplomas, you could see the look of accomplishment etched proudly on their faces.  A sort of contentment had washed over each of them declaring, “I made it!”  And with that, the feeling of fulfillment begins to set it.

Those joyous times that we get to celebrate achievements are wonderful.  No one can take away the feelings of awe and satisfaction that come with that sense of accomplishment.  Unfortunately, as Christians, I think we place too much value on the accomplishments to satisfy us and not enough value in the Christ that is already filling us.

Don’t get me wrong.  In no way am I stating that celebrating reaching goals such as these is wrong.  As a matter of fact, I believe it’s a very healthy thing to set goals and be proud of the achievement that follows.

But, what of the times in-between?  Most of our every day is what one would define as, “Humdrum.”  There are times when we are not in the process of celebrating those wonderful graduating victories.  We are not riding high on accomplishments and the like.  What of that time?

This is where most will begin to feel a sense of loss, a sense of not quite being worthy enough, carrying a feeling of not measuring up to one’s self or another’s standard.  These in-between times are when people start to lose their spiritual footing.  Some may even begin to venture backward with the feeling of, “Why should I even bother?”

That is not what God wants for us.  He does not want you to base your self-worth off of the things that you have done, but rather on who you are in Him. You are His child.  You are the one that He allowed His Son to be sacrificed for.  You are the one He chose to redeem.  And, if God saw that much value in you to do all of that, how dare we look to accomplishments for satisfaction.

The Bible declares in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…”   We don’t find who we are or content ourselves with anything outside of Him!  When I wake up in the morning it’s not because of anything that I have done.  The reason is that “in Him” I live, move, and have my very being.  I was not designed, as a child of God, to feel the need to be fulfilled anywhere other than in Him!

We don’t need to hunger after the things of this world.  We don’t need to feel like we can only be complete during those graduation victories.  Jesus said, “They which do hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.”  In other words, all we have to do is to have that sincere yearning within us to do that which is right for Him and live it.  He will fill us!  We shall be satisfied because we have found out where our real value lies.  In Him!

Graduation victories and celebrations of all kinds are wonderful, but we can’t live there all the time.  Day by day, I have to know that because I am His child, and because I am hungering and thirsting after righteousness, I can be filled.  Whether it is a rainy Monday, a get-over-the-hump Wednesday, or a celebrating Sunday; because I am in Him and He is in me, I can always feel fulfillment in my life.

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“The Lifter of My Head!”

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” Psalm 3:3

How much wrestling have you dealt with in life?  How many in just this week alone?  In the heaviness, in the heart, our God stands as the One who lifts our head:

“When confidence in others is fleeting,

And friends cannot be found.

It is God who restores,

And lifts my countenance from the ground.

 

Running, exhausted, weary, and worn.

With His salve of love,

He heals this heart

That was torn.

 

He takes the troubles,

As if they didn’t exist,

Encourages us in Him,

And our hearts, He lifts.

 

No more to feel like

I’m fighting alone.

God has lifted my head

And, called me His own.”

Friend, when troubles find their way into your life, remember Your heavenly Father is He who fights with you and for you.  David found himself in opposition often.  Some were of his own doing, and some were from others who pursued him with unrighteousness.  But in his heart, he never failed to keep believing in God, to keep his confidence and praise in the One who not only saw his sin and his circumstances – but God was also He who held his life in His hands.

A praise was never far from his lips.  Even when he was down, he knew in whom he believed.  He knew that in everything, God is the one who can restore and exalt.  God is the one who can return a smile to his face and gladness to his heart.  God is He who can bring a victory in the midst of a mess therefore, David kept his hope in the one and only true living God who can carry him and lift him during the hard times of life.

Friend, I pray that you will find your solace in God today.  May a praise be on your lips for the God who can save.

“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.” Psalm 9:1

“And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.” Psalm 27:6

Your biggest source of encouragement is found in God alone!

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“A Prayer for Wisdom and Spiritual Understanding”

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” Colossians 1:9

Although we may live in an age where information abounds, we also, in this time, live with more misinformation than ever before.  And through the various sources afforded to spread thoughts, ideas, information, and misinformation, the disease of misinformation not only spreads far and wide-reaching beyond unprecedented bounds, but it also spreads rapidly like a devouring fire bent on the destruction of all in its path.

When the Apostle Paul learned of the faith of those in Colosse (1:4), his immediate and urgent response was to pray that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”

God’s will, God’s Word, forever, will always be the right path to walk in one’s life.  But there will always be dangerous detractors that will try to pull people from God’s will and His Word.  But a heart of understanding will see the light in God’s Word and let it illuminate the pathway for fulfilling His will in their life.

While in prison in Rome, Paul, knowing the tender faith of these converts, did not want them to be imprisoned by false ways and false doctrines, by a stream of misinformation that would threaten to derail them from the truth they found in Christ Jesus.

Today, we need to, as the Apostle Paul did, prioritize praying for wisdom and spiritual understanding.  The same threats that sought to derail those in Colosse from their faith are the same threats that can do the same today – misinformation.

I would urge you to not only pray for genuine wisdom and spiritual understanding but to safeguard your own heart and faith against anything false, trying to infiltrate what you believe.

Take a proactive approach in minding what comes into you.  Many are careful to watch what goes into their bodies but neglect the same due diligence to their souls.

Another thing you must do is compare.  I know – there is so much taught to us about not comparing, but this is one thing you should compare.  Take what you hear and see and compare it to the Word of God.  The Word of God is always going to be right, and therefore, it will always be the proper compass to navigate your life by.

Lastly, watch who you listen to.  With the availability of social media and the various platforms for one to express their views, make sure what you are taking in is from good, solid Bible teachers and resources.

What we understand about our faith, the world, and the times we are living in needs to be viewed through the lens of godly and holy wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Do not neglect the study of His Word to gain the richest understanding of all.  And do not neglect to pray for His wisdom and spiritual understanding to direct you in His holy will and truth.

Father God, it is Your truth we need in our lives every day and in every way. 

” . . .let God be true, but every man a liar . . .” (Romans 3:4)  

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Listing and Lifting the Saints in Prayer

There has been such a burden on my heart for the saints of God lately. The body of Christ needs our prayers. Not that He, Christ, has lost any power, but the children of God need one another to lift them in prayer.

So much has been happening in our world, and I see so many who are dealing with confusion, and it seems to be upsetting their personal worlds in a way that is hard for them to comprehend. It is times like these when it is easy to lose focus on what really matters and to center ourselves in our faith, and what, and in whom, we believe.

Times like these can raise many questions in a heart, swaying them with insecurity and doubt therefore, we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, need to watch out for our family – watch out for the family of God. We need to see their concerns and empathize. We need to see their struggles and offer help if we can. We need to understand (as best as we can) where they are coming from and encourage them in their journey forward.

The community of Christ needs one another. This is not something we engage in as a one-time practice. The Bible teaches us to “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). As we walk through our day, we will likely face many people. And, these people may be facing many things, challenges, and worries (including the saints). What a difference it would make in their day to feel the comfort of fellowship holding up their arms in the fight as Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses (Exodus 17:12). Victories can be won in lives when they are encouraged through the right means.

We have all dealt with challenges. We have all faced overwhelming circumstances and, the right word, from the right person who was caring at the right time, made all the difference.

Even if we cannot come alongside someone physically; friend, we can lift and list their name and situation in sincere prayer, and with genuine, heartfelt concern, to the Lord. If the thought of a person drops in your heart today, do not hesitate to ask God to help them in the areas that are hard to figure out. Ask God to reach into the crevices of their heart and speak peace as only He can. If you see someone ready to crash under the weight of it all, ask God to intervene supernaturally to keep them from any seen or unseen danger or destruction.

We are so vitally important to one another. We are not designed to go about this life alone.   “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The care and concern we show for one another speak highly of the care and concern we have for Christ and His body (see Matthew 25:40).

We all want to make it on this journey. And our concern for souls should compel us to be concerned for others, that they make it too. As you are in prayer and listing your personal petitions to the Lord, take the time to list and lift the saints of God, as a whole and individually, in your prayer as well. May God bless His church with added strength, grace, and encouragement, in the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN!

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

(2 Corinthians 1:3,4)

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  For even Christ pleased not himself. . .”

(Romans 15:1-3a)

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The Father’s Hand is Still Moving!

When you read the stories in the Bible, stories that tell of God’s great moving power in the lives of people, what goes through your mind?

Do you think within yourself of the possibilities of if you were in Abraham’s shoes, or what it would be like if you present watching David fight Goliath, or maybe if you were there with the three Hebrew boys plus One in the fire, or with Daniel in the lion’s den?

Each of these stories is unique and beautiful in its way.  Each story tells how God took ordinary individuals and did extraordinary things for them and through them.

As I contemplate the stories, or I should say, the recorded events of these lives in the Bible, I see phenomenally mighty works done.

I see God moving faithfully in these lives who said “yes” to Him; in the lives of those who chose His will over their own.

As extraordinary as those events and lives are that are recorded, I am reminded that God is still in the business of working out remarkable things in surprising ways through people’s lives today.

Hebrews 13:8 reminds us, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”  And that with the Father, who does all things perfectly, there is no “variableness, neither shadow of turning” James 1:17.  The faithfulness and moving of God that was present when the pages of the Bible were written are still very much alive and active today.  It may not look like walking on water, speaking dry bones to life, or walking through the Red Sea on dry ground (but, if God wills, those miracles can come to pass again).  Perhaps they look like someone just taking brave steps to step out into the unknown and experience with God something they could have never imagined.  Maybe it may look like a repentant soul rising out of the ashes and coming back to life spiritually.  Or even adversity parting the way because God commanded it to hush that you may receive safe passage.

The point is, no matter how God chooses to move today, He is still moving.  The things He is doing in the lives of present-day people are a reason to get very much excited.

Their stories of deliverance, help, and another chance are phenomenal miracles to them and us, and we can rejoice because we know the Father’s hand, we read about moving in those historical lives, is still moving today.

After all, we are here today, also.  And, if we took the time to reflect and review the pages of our personal history, we know that we have a reason to praise God for His moving hand in our lives, as well.

God is still in the moving business today!  You may consider yourself to be ordinary.  But remember, it is the ordinary who God chooses to do the most extraordinary through. “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” Psalm 40:5.

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If only…

“If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” Matthew 9:21, NKJV

If only.  You have probably spoken or thought those words before.  I know I have.  Most of the time, these words said are like wishful thinking.  But what is astounding about this woman with the issue of blood was the action she put behind the desire of her “if only.”  She wanted to be healed and spent many years seeking a cure.  When Jesus came to town, she took the opportunity presented to her.  She knew that if she could reach out to Him, she would no longer have to wonder what it would be like to experience healing.  She had faith that she would.  Her belief propelled her from dreaming about her “if only” into putting action behind it.

Her story is powerful and quite an eye-opener.  For many, the “if only” does not come with expectation.  Perhaps that is why there is a lack of action toward fulfilling it because they are not expecting a change.  But wishful thinking was not for this woman.  She had already suffered enough, and now was the time to do something about it.  Granted, she had tried to “do” something before.  But now her doing is taking her, by faith, to Jesus Christ, whom she is convinced, can make her whole.

Are you convinced enough to move your “if only” from wishful thinking to have enough faith to do something about it?  That’s the difference between the two.  Wishful thinking is just that.  It does not expect the situation to change but, it is fun to dream and think about it.  Faith says I believe that things will change.  It is not always going to be like this, and it is waiting to back that faith up with actions that declare what it believes.

Hebrews 11 tells many stories of faith done in action that moves because of one’s belief.  When Peter himself wanted to walk on water with Jesus, he didn’t sit in the boat with the others and dream about what the waves would feel like under his feet.  He lifted his legs over the side of that vessel and stood where only his faith in Jesus would allow him to stand.

Faith is not at all passive.  Nor is it just about dreaming.  It is also about doing.  What is your “if only” asking you to do today for a better tomorrow?  There are many awe-inspiring and beautiful things still to be done in the lives of God’s people.  Don’t let your “if only” be a reason to put it on the shelf to collect dust.  Instead, let your “if only” propel you forward into wholeness.

Today, we can believe for more. Hope for more. And, put faith into action because our God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” Ephesians 3:20.

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Released to Love

 

“Therefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Luke 7:47

What does it mean to be forgiven?  We may immediately think of becoming unburdened from sins, a chance for a new start, and so forth.  And you are right.  All of that comes in the package of forgiveness.

But looking at the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at the dinner, I saw something more.  I saw that she was released to love in a way she had never loved before.

She was a woman of ill-repute, according to the thoughts of one of the Pharisees in attendance at the dinner (Luke 7:39).  He knew her to be a sinner.  He saw her as a sinner.  And he labeled her as a sinner.

She had a past filled with indiscretion and immorality.  Apparently, she had made wrong attempts to fill the love gap in her life, which would come undone once the pleasure associated with that dissipated.  She conducted a futile search to find the missing ingredient in her life that would give her something more – until one day, she met Jesus.

Like the Pharisee, Jesus, too, knew her past.  Jesus knew what she had done.  But, unlike the Pharisee who only offered criticism and disdain, Jesus offered her a chance, a way out.  Jesus offered her something she could not refuse.  He offered her forgiveness.  And, when the fullness of forgiveness landed in her heart, mind, and soul, an explosive release of love came over her, and she could not contain what she was feeling.

The woman known to be of ill-repute was seen as valued and treasured, something she could probably have never imagined.  The former sinner knew she was cherished and loved by the only One who could love her perfectly despite her past, and she, in turn, had the floodgates of her heart lifted, and a rush of love for her Savior came flowing out.

Forgiveness will release an uncontainable flood of love in your life.  This woman loved a lot because she had many bad judgments against her from which she was now free.  Thousands of years have passed since then, and the same forgiveness that Jesus Christ offered her (Luke 7:48) is still available today.  Are you ready to experience that great release?

“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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