hearts

This Sunday many people will celebrate their relationships.  It is a day often marked by flowers, chocolate, cards, and romance. If we believe all the hype of the day we will be overwhelmed and overdrawn in our bank accounts.  When we look at Scripture, we find that the description of love is very different.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV). 

We can do all sorts of things that are seen by others as amazing, but if Love isn’t our motive, then it isn’t worth anything– it is just noise.

Many of us use the verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 at our weddings, but we seem to forget them around year four or five of the marriage.  Somewhere during those years of marriage we tend to get focused on the calendar, the kids, the job, and the bills, instead of our motives.

I have watched couples self-destruct into divorce because it became more about the individual than the team.  Each person decides it matters more to be first than to put the other person first.  Our hearts grow cold, indifferent, and calloused and the gentleness and mercy are squeezed out of them.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day we-and this includes me- need to take time to listen to our spouses, to hear their hearts, their dreams, their hurts, and work toward re-knitting together the hearts that God has brought together in the beginning.

My prayer is that through the Holy Spirit I will be able to put my name where the word Love is in the following verses: 

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

May this be true of your heart, too.

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chocolate

I have a thing for chocolate. A deeply-seated crazy craving for chocolate every day. It can be a few pieces of chocolate candy, a candy bar, whatever. There is just something about chocolate. I love it.
This craving was so well known when I taught years ago, that my students and their parents would bring me chocolate for my birthday, for Christmas, for Easter, and at the end of the year. All seemed to be well in the universe if I had chocolate.

I started to realize that my “love” and craving for this confection is more evident to others than the love and craving I have for Christ.

There was a time when my love for Jesus was so evident that I rarely had to say anything because it was evident in my actions. I had grace in my everyday behavior and mercy in the words I chose. I prayed without realizing it and often found myself praising God in song as easily as I exhaled.

I cannot put my finger on when things started to shift. It wasn’t all of a sudden, it was a quiet, gradual change in my actions and my heart. Slowly my attention turned to the busy schedule I had, all the plates I had spinning in the air. It became less about my time with God and more about where did all my time go?
As I find my heart turning again toward wholeness and healing, my attention is less distracted and my focus is becoming more clear.

I am finding my first love again.

Hebrews 10:22 says, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
I am drawing nearer and the sweetness I have in my spirit is more decadent than any chocolate I have ever tasted.

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on saying yes

We face decisions every day, from what to eat to when to go to sleep. We must decide if we will take a job, move to a new city, marry someone or not marry someone, it is all about what we choose to do.

On our Faith Journey we will stand at places where the terrain changes and we will need to choose yes or no. I put the word “yes” in a search engine on a Biblical website to see the times the word “Yes” has come up in Scripture.  I was amazed and a bit amused at how the verses seemed to make their own kind of story.  One hundred times the word “yes” is used in the Old and New Testament.

I was reminded that whether it was Isaac, Miriam-Moses’ sister, or Peter affirming his love for Jesus on the beach, each time someone said Yes, they were choosing to say No to something else.

Somehow the Yes they said was far more powerful, more rich, more rewarding than whatever they said no to at first.

Saying yes to God is always the better adventure.  Want proof?  Check out all the examples in Hebrews 11.

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messing

When God made the world back in Genesis 1, He declared it good. Everything He made, He declared good. Then He made Adam and Eve and declared them “very good.”

God was content and pleased with His work.  But the first recorded facts about Adam and Eve were their desire to change things.  Who was in charge, who was in the know, they “messed” with what God had already declared good.

Have you ever stopped when your heart or your mouth said, “But God…”  We tend to tell Him how we want things arranged, when we want events to happen, as well as their outcome. We mess with God’s design and plan.

When we step in to “make” things happen the way we want, we are telling God by our actions He isn’t good enough to care for us.

Really?

We forget that we are the created- not the Creator. God can see through eternity and see the outcome of His purpose and plan.  We cannot. When we step in where we think God messed up, we may actually prevent a blessing for someone else.

We are called to share each other’s burdens, but that doesn’t mean taking over. We are called to act, but action without hearing where God is already working, isn’t helping at all. It’s messing where we don’t belong.

We need to Seek first — then act.

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speeding

S0 often we work from the perspective of “hurry” we must hurry to work, to school, to sports or other activities.  We forget that there is a blessing in time that is fully lost in the speeding.

When it comes to healing it is the same thing.  We cannot rush healing, sure we can expedite it by applying ointments and bandages, but we cannot make it better overnight.

Healing must come with time.

I would like to hurry to the “better place,” instead of trudging through the hard places.  I love the view from the mountain top, not so much from the valley where the peaks seem daunting and nearly impossible to climb.

Speeding past the hard things doesn’t allow us to learn the lessons God wants to teach us.  We need stillness, we need quiet.  We cannot grow faster or healthier if we are constantly rushing.

For the past two weeks I have been at home on a “stay-cation” with my husband, working on our house and quite honestly, just spending time together.  We ran errands together, went out to eat together– without the teenagers, and even took a short road trip.  It was healing sitting next to each other, being quiet, talking about the little things.

We re-stitched the places that had become unraveled. We healed the neglected places.

Slow down, don’t move too fast, you’ll forget the important things– the things that last.

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elbows

Sitting in church I have felt the occasional elbow when the pastor says something I am “supposed” to hear.  Maybe you have been the receiver, maybe you have been the giver, but the intent is still the same, “Pay attention, this message is for you.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) said that we are to be reading the Word of God as God’s Word for me. In other words, not looking for the message for someone else so you can “stick it to them”, but instead looking for how you can learn from God’s Word– allowing the Holy Spirit to poke you in the ribs where you need to work.

We have the tendency in this life to find the wrong in others with a magnifying glass and see ourselves with a blind eye. Spouses do this the most, we seem to find all the things wrong in our husbands and wives instead of striving to correct our own wrong behaviors (Matthew 7:3). We forget that we are all sinners in need of a Great Savior.

Brothers and sisters, maybe it’s time for us to stand in front of the mirror and see ourselves with the true Light and recognize what we need to work on and then put our heads down and get to work- on ourselves with Christ’s help.

We long to see the hearts around us changed because of the Love of Christ.  If the vessel meant to show His Love and Grace is too busy pointing fingers and elbowing rib cages, then the lost will go in search of something else, something else.

The battle for the hearts of mankind is reaching its peak in our century.  Are we going to nudge them toward Christ or away from Him with our actions?

It’s your move.

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who do you love?

Jesus, 

Challenge me to look into the eyes of those who are different from me in looks, beliefs, and life choices to love where other people have hated.  To remember the love I offer to those around me is a reflection of the Love God has given to me.  If I am compelled to love because of Christ’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14), then that means those I claim as a brother and sister, and those who don’t yet know the Amazing Love of Christ are to receive Your Love from me.  

“In very dire situations the Kingdom of God can be made manifest,” Bill Hybels. This Truth can be manifested through giving food, clothing, shelter, mercy, kindness, friendship, building relationships with those who have not experienced the Kingdom’s kind of Love.

We cannot just choose to love the people who are similar to us as believers.  We are to impact the world for the Love of Christ, for the Mission of Reconciliation, for the purpose of drawing others to Christ.

Meet me where I am Jesus, and bring where I am more like You and less like me.

Amen.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (1 John 4:20:21).

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straighten up

One of the biggest successes the enemy has in keeping believers from being effective is getting the believers to doubt their worth, their effectiveness, and how their action/inaction will effect Eternity.  In the broken, hurting, angry world we are living in, it can be hard to see any changing hearts.

We forget that what God sees in rarely what we see.  We start to believe the lies the enemy whispers in our ears, we start to forget that we are on a “mission from God” and it is to be a part of the Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).

The enemy wants us to watch the news, the political leaders, the wars, the disasters, the loss, the devastation, and feel like we are never going to bring things to right (1 Peter 5:8).  If we are lulled into this negative view of the world we will not try to encourage the same changes that God made in our own lives when He turned our brokenness into wholeness.

We are victorious because of Jesus.  We are to live as described in 2 Corinthians 5:14, For Christ’s love compels us.  We are to be moved to action, not to allow the enemy’s whispers to derail the Mission.

Recently my news feed has been filled with the following image– it says the truth of God’s word (Galatians 3:26).  When we feel like a balloon losing helium we need to remember that the Holy Spirit fills us continuously.  So, let us remember to straighten up our crowns and return to the mission of God–Reconciliation.
IMG_6403

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bags, boxes, baskets, and jars

I have a thing for containers. I love looking at each item that holds something precious to me whether it is books, needlework, or seashells collected long ago.  Each item holds a part of who I am inside.

As believers we are God’s bags, boxes, baskets, and jars.  We contain something precious to Him–His Holy Spirit and the perfected Grace of the Cross. We are simple in design, nothing special to look at usually, but the content we hold has incredible worth– eternal worth.  We contain the death and resurrection of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:10).

There is nothing more powerful than this amazing gift from God we carry inside.  We who have no right to Heaven, we who have no inheritance until we have embraced the Grace God offers to us.  We cannot do a thing until we reach out to the God who reaches out to us.  When we do, we become something beautiful. Something good.  We become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Into us is poured the New Life, new wine, new Spirit and we get the opportunity to pour it out for the Glory of God into and onto a hurting, broken world.  But, when we choose to pour it out, we choose to become a target of that hurting, broken world.  Take heart (John 16:33) though.  When we are filled with this amazing Holy Spirit, our spirit becomes stronger.  We find we are able to endure the brokenness of others with the same kind of Grace that was given to us.  By God’s grace we love those who have yet to experience that Amazing Grace.

Be encouraged fellow traveler, if you are having trials, struggles, and battles God is still bigger.  He is still on the Throne, He is still the Great God of the Universe and through His mighty power we will see a lost world found.  A broken world restored, and hurting hearts healed.

Take heart.  Let us be the Jars that shine with the Glory of God for the world to see.

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (2 Corinthians 4:5-12).

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Caution: it’s Contagious! 

It’s brutally cold here and I found that cold had seeped into my soul.  Even though I agreed with the words I sang during worship, I was having trouble getting into my heart. I looked at those around me and found the warmth returning. I watched the joy of those who were singing from the depth of their souls and hearts, the truth of the hymns resonated into their very bodies and poured out of their mouths, hands raised, eyes closed, their full bodies worshiping the God of the Universe. 

As I watched them worship I found my soul filling again with the joy I have been missing for the God I love.  Their joy was contagious and I was grateful to catch it.  By the time we finished singing my arms were raised, my eyes were closed, and my whole self celebrated the God I love.

The thing is, we are all suceptible to catching what others have.  We can catch their bitterness and anger, their critical nature and inability to forgive.  Or we can catch the joy, the love, the Fruit of the Spirit God has designed for us. 

It’s a matter of having hearts and souls softened by the Holy Spirit to allow the Joy of the Lord to fill them.  I know it isn’t easy. Seasons of life can make things hard, brittle, and feel nearly impossible to change.  But God is big, strong, and also tender and if permitted will thaw the cold places to allow the Joy inside. 

So take heart dear one, God is loving, compassionate, and longs to fill you with His joy.  Not the fleeting happiness that the world knows, but the deep, rich, soul-satisfy joy that only He offers. 

Allow yourself to catch the Joy then share it with others. 

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