January 18, 2013

What Matters Most?


For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
Proverbs 23:7


We know that we are to take our thoughts captive and think on truth but we also have to be careful about what we focus on because wherever we focus our attention or energy, those things can and will develop in our words or actions.  Basically, whatever we focus on, we become.

When I get a craving for cheesecake, it does not take long for me to pursue that desire where I end up at Target picking up a yummy cheesecake.  Our thoughts stir our desires and emotions and lead us to make choices, good or bad, where we must decide whether we will follow through with them.  If we find ourselves only focusing on the negative in our situations, lives or relationships then we become negative and develop a critical spirit.  Our conversations and actions become negative and it begins to consume us to the point that we lose the joy that God has placed in our lives.  To think that we can lose our joy based on one negative thought is not appealing to me.

 When trouble arise in life it is important to evaluate where it came from because most of the time, we create our own drama based on our focus and thought life. When we feel depressed or discouraged and cannot quite put a finger on where it is coming from, we should examine our thoughts and find what it is that is fueling our emotions.  It is important that we keep a reign on our minds and feelings.  We can choose whether to think the worst or best in our life and in our relationships.  Scripture says that we are always to think on what is true, right, good, lovely, noble and pure which means we are to think the best in our lives and of people.  We should focus on God’s grace, mercy and love and not on the things we do not have.   I saw a quote once that said, “As you wander through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”  It is somewhat corny but there is a lot of truth to it.  Too many of us focus on what is not there, what we do not have or what is not right or fair. 

How often do we talk negative about the things God has given us? How often do we focus on the negative and allow Satan to devalue what God has so graciously given to each of us.  These are the very things that shape our character and speak to the condition of our heart. 

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  
Proverbs 4:23 

What is it that really matters in our lives?  Is it Him?  I cannot help but hear the words to this hymn while writing this post.

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Helen H. Lemmel-1922

Our happiness and direction in life are decided by our thought life and this is a powerful thing because our thoughts are not just things that pass through our minds and are then gone. We have to remember that our mind is like a battlefield.  Satan is always looking for the opportunity to find his way in and take our focus off Christ.  It does not matter how well we live our life if our thoughts are not true or right and especially if they are not pure.  We must focus on the things that have eternal value and stay clear of those things that will lead us down a path of discouragement and unhappiness because are we truly happy when we’re complaining?



January 15, 2013

A Heart that Listens


“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
Mark 4:23

Those words are repeated throughout the gospels and Revelations.  A reminder that it is not enough to have ears but that we use them as well.  So many times, we hear the Word spoken but we do not truly hear and allow it to take root in our hearts.  However our hearts cannot be ready if there are those things, hearts that have become hardened, shallow lives or fretful minds, that are keeping us from missing the ultimate message He wants us to hear.  

How long has it been or have you ever let God actually have you? Have you ever given Him the opportunity to have uninterrupted time with you to speak where you were actually listening? Even Jesus knew that it was important to spend time with God.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed”.
Mark 1:35

So the obvious question is simply this, if Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless One thought it important to put everything else aside and spend time in prayer with His Father, why is it that we do not find it imperative to do the same?  Jesus not only spent time praying but He also spent time in His Father’s Word.  He found it important to not only spend time talking with God but studying the Word as well. Why do we not also find those things important?

Here is where this gets a bit personal.  Many tune out when the suggestion of a quiet time is mentioned.  Most of us spend time trying to find time to squeeze God into our busy schedules instead of making Him the priority.  We check Him off of our to-do list. Some avoid spending time alone with God because they become  frustrated from a lack of understanding with what they are reading and others avoid time alone all together because they believe that they will gain what they need from a Sunday morning sermon or the reading of some Christian book. The problem with all of this is that it is coming second hand.  When you rely on those things, you are experiencing someone else’s personal time with God.  You have missed your own special encounter with Him.  God wants each of us to have our own first-hand experience with Him not a substitute because He longs to be with each of us every day.  Our desire should be that He be the highlight of our life every day.  God give us ears that want to hear and hearts that long for time spent with You!


January 11, 2013

Grace killers

We all know them. They are family members, church family and even friends. They can be found  anywhere.

Grace killers squash the work done on the cross. They stomp on the gospel. They turn people away from Christ.

I love the way in which Charles Swindoll speaks to this topic. What or whom does our self righteous attitude truly reflect?

Swindoll states that grace killers...

"leave no room for any gray areas. Everything is either black or white, right or wrong. And as a result, the leader maintains strict control over the followers. Fellowship is based on whether there is full agreement. Herein lies the tragedy. This self-righteous, rigid standard becomes more important than relationships with individuals. We first check out where people stand on the issues, and then we determine whether we will spend much time with them. The bottom line is this: We want to be right (as we see it, of course) more than we want to love our neighbors as ourselves. At that point our personal preferences eclipse any evidence of love. I am of the firm conviction that where grace exists, so must various areas of gray.

I can cultivate a judgmental attitude toward those who may not agree or cooperate with my plan. Grace killers are notorious for a judgmental attitude. It is perhaps the single most un-Christlike characteristic in evangelical circles today."

Charles Swindoll
The Grace Awakening Devotional


January 2, 2013

Heartsick


"Hope deferred makes the heart sick" 
Prov. 13:12

To live a life without hope sounds incredibly scary to me.  I cannot imagine facing the hard times of life without knowing that my God is in control and is working all things out for a greater plan.  I have really been working through this lately as a friend of mine recently had a miscarriage.  Now this is not something I have ever had to endure but as a mom of five, I can begin to imagine the pain and hurt that comes with losing your precious baby.  What has been so hard to watch her deal with is the lack of hope.  She does not believe in heaven.  She believes in God but she does not profess to follow Christ.  I have watched her struggle with the hurt and anger and it has been incredibly painful because I cannot comfort her with truth.

As Christians hope plays an important role in our lives. Hope brings us comfort.  It puts our heart and minds at rest during troubling times.  On the other hand, when our lives lack hope, we become overwhelmed with the uncertainty of what will happen next.  During the course of the past few years of my own life there were days when I felt hopeless.  I wanted to give up.  I doubted God’s goodness and presence.  It was as if I were standing at the end of a very dark tunnel with no glimpse of light in sight.  I felt trapped and my entire situation felt overwhelmingly bleak but thankfully deep inside my heart there was a small light attempting to penetrate the darkness that wanted to swallow me whole.  That small light was shining drawing me close. That small light was Christ.  He was there offering me hope and wanting me to trust Him through that dark tunnel.  He was asking me to place all of my cares down and trust Him with it all.  He became my strength when I was too tired to move ahead any further.  He became my peace when the enemy worked so hard to create turmoil within my life.  He became my comfort when the pain was too much to endure.  He WAS my light in that incredibly dark tunnel, He gave me a hope to keep on moving no matter how dark and ugly the battle became.

How does one move through hard times without hope? Without Christ?  I am so incredibly thankful that I do not have to live life without knowing. I wish I could give my friend the hope that I have but all I can do is offer her the Truth of His word and pray that God use my words to penetrate her heart so that she can see the light in her darkness. I will strive to live a life that is a reflection of His love, grace and hope. God is sovereign and He knew that I would one day be able to share my story and help someone else know Him.  He knew I would have this friend and He placed me in her path for this very season. My prayer is that I successfully live out a life that draws her to Him so that she will not have to live a life without hope. 

"So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.
 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls."
Hebrews 6:18-19b