Monday, September 26, 2011

A Gateway of Release

In his book “A Prayer Journey with the Apostle Paul,” author Michael Green refers to prayer and communion with our Heavenly Father as a “gateway of release.” What a refreshing thought. Our Father God invites us to come to Him in prayer on a routine basis “casting all of our cares” upon Him (I Peter 5:7). He wants us to literally release everything to Him whether it is our fears, anxieties or simply our over abundant joys and adventures.

With the promise of release, restoration, and communion with the Father, why is it that we often refuse to go to God in prayer? Sin. We allow the enemy to use our sin to fill our hearts and thoughts with guilt and shame. We convince ourselves that God wants nothing to do with us and our filth, but this is a lie from Satan. Yes, we are sinners, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and washed clean. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Romans 8:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Christ’s bloodshed on the cross gives us the freedom to run to the Father in prayer seeking His forgiveness and grace. There is nothing to stop us from sitting before His throne in prayer. Open up, speak up, and allow time of communion with the Father to be a time of release and restoration in Him.
Originally appeared at JesusBoatMuseum.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Waiting on the Counsel of the Lord

Summer is coming to an end and before long fall will arrive. I can already feel the hint of a cool breeze teasing the summer humidity. The seasons are changing and so are the desires of my heart. It happens this time every year. God designed the earth to change with time and He did the same with each of us. None of us are ever meant to stay in one place (whether physically or spiritually) for too long. We are always on the move, reaching out and growing more towards Him.

Sometimes the Lord fulfills the changes my heart desires with a simple break from the everyday routine. Other times I find myself wanting to make a bigger change. I seek counsel from the Lord, but the desire to discover an immediate plan is overwhelming. It’s funny how lessons in waiting and patience coincide with our longing to make a move of some kind. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) says “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” or as the KJV versions says, “…the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”

My heart and mind is filled with new ideas, possibilities, and all kinds of adventures. If I were to act on my own impulses I would end up running in a hundred different directions without ever arriving at a destination. When we wait on the Lord and seek His counsel, which is both sure and direct, then we will find our feet on His appointed path arriving at His chosen destination. Not only that, but His chosen destination will be so much more than our hearts could ever have imagined! (Ephesians 3:20)

Originally posted at JesusBoatMuseum.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wisdom from Proverbs 2

A new school year has begun here in the U.S. Over the weekend, local retail stores were packed with parents and children buying school supplies. Shopping bags were filled with new back packs, books, pencils, pens, and notebook paper. Young children carried crayons and markers while older teenagers picked up computer disks and calculators. A new year of learning has begun and parents are making sure their children have everything they need to make the school year one filled with learning and growth.

Seeing all of the school supplies made me stop and realize that a child can possess all of the school supplies in the world and still not possess wisdom. Unless the child knows how to use those tools he won’t be able to move forward and gain understanding and knowledge.

We do the same in our walk with the Lord. We go to church and spend time reading the Bible and fill ourselves with as many spiritual supplies as possible. Yet, if we don’t know how to use those tools then how can we expect to grow in our relationship with God? All the time in church and in the Word of God won’t move us towards His path unless we know what to do with what He has given us.

Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding – indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

Originally appearing at JesusBoatMuseum.com

Monday, September 5, 2011

...With All Your Heart

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

There’s a lot of wisdom packed into these verses. This morning; however, the phrase “with all your heart” seemed to jump out at me more than the rest. I thought of a little girl telling her father that she loves him with all of her heart. The child doesn’t understand the depth of what she’s saying except that at that moment in time she loves her father more than anything else in her life. It’s a pure and honest declaration with no added exceptions or limitations.

Our Heavenly Father asks the same of us. He asks that we come to Him in childlike faith and trust Him with all our heart. In Psalm 20:7 the Psalmist writes, “some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord.” When Moses led the children out of Egypt the Egyptian army chased after them. At the Red Sea, Moses and the Israelites trusted the Lord to lead them to the other side and they lived. The Egyptians trusted the power of their own selves, their horses and chariots and they drowned.

Trusting the Lord is a humbling action that tells Him we are willing to give Him our lives to lead and direct. We may not understand the depth of what we’re saying, but like the little girl, we know that in life there is no better choice than to trust our Father above all else. 

Originally appeared at Jesusboatmuseum.com
 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Watch Out!

When life is running smoothly and everything is going precisely the way we think it should, we have a tendency to take on the mindset that we’ve overcome obstacles and are joyfully moving along all by ourselves. We’re proud of our accomplishments and we have no trouble letting everyone know what we have done. Life is at it should be and so we sit back, relax, and relish in the momentary peace that fills our heart.
Happy times? Yes. Dangerous times? Extremely! Proverbs 16:18-19 warns us that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”
How do we turn around our arrogant attitudes and avoid the path to destruction? By giving glory and praise to the Lord! When we praise Him, we acknowledge that He is the one who is in charge of our lives and it is He who lights our paths and directs our footsteps. “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20).
With eyes on Him and Him alone, we’re ready to walk out the door in His strength and in His peace. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27).
Originally posted at JesusBoatMuseum.com!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Smile

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). The world around us gives us a lot to frown about. Bad news, sad news, and a lot of “gossiping” news is quick to fill our lives and crush our spirit. Thankfully, our Heavenly Father is looking out for us and is continuously giving us much to smile about!

We’ve spent the past several weeks looking at ways to praise the Lord and one of those ways is to smile. When we stop to think on the blessings from the Lord, we focus our attention on Him instead of ourselves. Not only does this act of praise bring joy to the Father’s heart and a smile to His face, but it also creates a cheerful heart within us and gives us the undeniable urge to smile!

It’s no wonder that when God created us He designed us with the ability to smile. Our frame of mind changes the instant we smile. Smiling also “makes us attractive, changes our mood, is contagious, relieves stress, boosts the immune system, lowers our blood pressure, releases endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin, and lifts the face and makes us look younger” (Dr. Mark Stibich).

Through a simple God given act of smiling, we can change our heart and the heart of those around us! Keep on smiling!

Originally posted at JesusBoatMuseum.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Check Out Devotional Christian!

Hi everyone! If you've had the chance to surf around my blog, you've probably noticed the banner/button on the right that says "The Fellowship of Devotional Bloggers". This is an amazing group of fellow Christian bloggers who devote much of their blog time to sharing about the work of Christ in their life.

I was blessed to find this group through fellow bloggers and equally blessed when my blog Forever In Him was accepted into the group! If you're a fellow writer of devotions, check out the Devotional Christian web site and link your blog to their page. For those who are simply looking for some words of encouragement on a daily basis, but not sure where to search or which to read, check out Devotional Christian - "Encouragement for your daily walk with God, featuring all the best daily devotionals online."

Happy writing and happy reading!

That’s Why We Praise Him


I love to sing along with the church congregation on Sunday mornings. When we come together in agreement with one another our prayers and praises are carried in song to the throne of our Lord and King. Even though we are all different, we are all united in the love of the Father. “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). None of us are righteous. None of us are without blame; no not one (Romans 3:10). Yet, each of us has been extended the hand of mercy and grace at the cross of Calvary. For by His grace are we saved through faith and not of ourselves; it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

The song “Jesus Paid It All” especially hits a chord of humility, awe, and praise within my heart. This is the very reason that we praise and rejoice in His presence daily. We deserve nothing but death, but “Jesus paid it all” and “All to Him I owe.” Why? Because, “Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”
I don’t think we will ever completely understand the cost of what Christ did for us on the cross while we live here on Earth. But I know that the least we can do is give praise and thanks to our Lord God for inviting a sinful people like us to become His Holy children. Washed clean from sin, set free from death, destined to live forever in Him; that’s why we praise Him!

I don’t think we will ever completely understand the cost of what Christ did for us on the cross while we live here on Earth. But I know that the least we can do is give praise and thanks to our Lord God for inviting a sinful people like us to become His Holy children. Washed clean from sin, set free from death, destined to live forever in Him; that’s why we praise Him!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stop and Send the Praises

Originally posted at the JesusBoatMuseum.org


There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” This phrase serves as a reminder for those of us who are so busy in life that we rarely take time to just stand still and admire all that surrounds us. When we tell someone to stop and smell the roses, we’re telling them (as a friend that cares) to slow down, look around, and take in a deep refreshing breath of air. Instead of rushing by the roses to make it from one appointment to the next, stop and admire their beauty and refreshing fragrance.
The same can be said of our prayer life as well. Prayer and praises to our Heavenly Father need to be part of our everyday life. We honestly can’t make it from point A to point B without our Father’s guidance. When we try it on our own, we’re destined for failure. We should adjust the phrase of stopping to smell the roses to a reminder to “stop and send the praises.” There’s no telling how many times the Lord has intervened on our behalf throughout the day to save us from the enemy’s plots to pull us off course.
Our Lord and Heavenly Father longs to hear from us; especially our praises. When we stop to send up praises, we’re stepping away from self to acknowledge that God is in control and we are thankful for all His provisions. In Psalm 148, the Psalmist urges us to praise the Lord. He writes, “Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever…Praise the Lord!”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

King of Glory

By Amanda Johnson



Are you looking for a home? Someone to love you, hold you close, and call you his own? We don’t have to look far. Psalm 24:1 tells us “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” The world and all who live in it belong to the Lord. He is our Father, our God, and our King of Glory. He is our creator and He gave His Son so that we might have life (John 3:16). There is no way we, in our sin stained lives, could ever repay Him. What we can do is spread His message of love to those around us and give all praise and glory to the King of Glory.

Not sure how? Turn on the praise music, read through the pages of the Psalms, and lift your voice in praise and song to the King of Glory. Jesus Culture, a Christian music group, has a song out called “King of Glory.” The chorus of the song is “King of glory, have your glory. King of glory, have your glory. King of glory, have your glory.” What a joyful chorus. Let the King of Glory have His glory! No one should deny Christ the praise and Glory due His name! “Lift up your heads, you gates be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle…The LORD almighty-he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7-8, 10).

Wake up to each morning knowing that the Lord God has claimed us as His own. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14). Give the King of Glory His glory!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

In the present I will remain

I was typing up a few notes this evening and accidentally put in a date of 2001 instead of 2011. I stopped to think about what I was doing in May of 2001 and how different life was back then. Loved ones gone from my life now were living in 2001. The events of September 11 had not yet happened. Life found me in college, living at home, and not yet working at the career that launched my work in non-profits.

The memories of 2001 are bittersweet. Sweet because my grandmother and great-grandmother were alive along with thousands killed on 9/11. Bitter with the realization that my beautiful two year old niece had not yet been born, my puppy was not around and friends made along the way weren't there. Experiences and life lessons still waited to be learned. Struggles with unidentified illness and personal crisis were just beginning.

Don't get me wrong, 2001 was great for what 2001 was meant to be. But it couldn't last forever and it didn't. Sometimes I wish I could go back. I wish I could bring Grandma and Granny to the present with me. But it would change so much that God has brought into my life through those times of sorrow and loss. To erase the hard times would be to erase the lessons learned. As much as I want to go back, so much more pulls me forward.

God was with me in 2001 and He will be with me in the days and years to come. For now, He is here in the present and in the present I will remain.

R-O-A (Ready On Arrival)

"What's so special about May 21," my sister-in-law asked over the phone, "there are a lot of people lined up and down the road holding signs and shouting 'Get Ready." My heart sank with this news. Yet another group of people trying to get everyone hyped up about another end of the world prediction. Some even held signs stating "Jesus is Coming on May 21!" My twelve year old niece and I had just talked the day before about "crazy religious nuts;" the ones who are standing in the streets shouting proclamations and casting judgments. My niece had made the comment that those were the very people that give Christians a bad reputation. I agreed. Christians live out the life Christ commanded, not the whimsical fantasies of the world. Sadly, the ones casting judgment and condemning people are the ones the world pays attention to. Just like the group holding signs warning of Judgment Day instead of spending that time living out or speaking out their faith in Christ to a people in need of a Savior. 

In Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus gave an example of how we should live our lives in the world around us. "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

It's really sad that so many people are devoting their life's work to figuring out the day the world will end when there's so much more to live for - Jesus Christ! There's a lot of dates floating around out there including May 21, October 21, and December 31 2012. Obviously we don't know the day just as Christ proclaimed in Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." So why waste the time worrying or wondering? There is work to be done and people still waiting to hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Doomsday only exists for those who are not secure in Jesus Christ. His coming will be a glorious event. Judgment Day will be a day when we hear with our own ears in person that Christ has covered our sins with his blood and robes of righteousness. As believers we will be welcomed into His eternal Kingdom. Let's keep working to spread the word to be R-O-A or Ready On Arrival whenever the appointed day may be!

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak...You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:35-38, 40).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Daniel Fast Reflections

Check out my blog recapping some key moments in the 21 day Daniel fast my church and I participated in. It's available now as my first official blog with The Jesus Boat Museum. Read the blog here!

(http://www.jesusboatmuseum.com/galleries/jesusboatphotos/)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Garden of Growth

Green beans! I have green beans growing in my little balcony garden! This past week I discovered that a handful of green beans have sprouted from my little garden. So far I've pulled two, but there are plenty more that need to hang on for a little longer. Last year only three sprouted so this is an incredible jump in growth! OK, I know some of you are laughing. Yes, it's kind of pitiful if you think about it, but I love the idea that something edible is growing in my garden. Actually, I love the idea that something is simply growing! It's been a lot of hard work. Watering daily and making sure the sunlight is just right is not always easy to remember. But what a rewarding moment it is to sit back in the lawn chair and realize for the first time that there are actual beans hanging from the stems of the once plain green plant! God is so good! I'm sure He's smiling and laughing with me at this small yet powerful discovery!

Something very similar occurred in my heart over the past several weeks as well. The 21 day Daniel fast ended last week and I've been allowed to have practically any food that I want for the last several days. Granted on Easter I ate my fill of wonderful strawberry cake, carrot cake, and cookies, but other than that the sweets are limited and the junk food is remaining off limits. A treat every now and again maybe, but surprisingly I don't miss it! What I do miss are the quiet mornings of devotion time with God when I took extra time to meditate and think over the purpose of the fast and the opportunity to grow closer to  Him. It wasn't anything new. I've always started the morning with a quiet time, but the last three weeks there was a clear focus and an open heart. Not a major change, but definitely some growth going on in the garden of my heart. Sadly, when the fast was over it was like everyday life just fell into my lap and I've been trudging on ever since.


Praise God for this time now to sit and share the experience and receive a gentle nudge of a reminder that I can always go back. Do I need to fast again? Well, maybe for a day or even a couple of hours to help re-set my focus, but what really needs to change is my perspective. During the fast it felt like God was carrying my burdens for me. They were still there, but I was looking to Him for advice and guidance on how to handle them. When the fast ended, I (for some reason) assumed I had to take the load back since "fast time" was over. The truth is, God wants to be our guide, comforter, friend, Father, Savior, and yes, burden carrier all of the time. The purpose of the fast was to re-discover the amazing relationship He desires to have with each of us. The challenge after the fast is to allow continual growth by keeping the garden of our heart open and receptive to His voice and will.

It's not always easy, but the growth and leaps forward down His path are definitely worth it. So here we go to another 21 days and more of leaving the burdens and problems with God, taking extra time to literally stop and smell the beauty of creation, and enjoy times of prayer and devotion with the Father!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do You Hear It?

Do you hear it? Do you hear the sound of creation singing to the Father? Do you hear the heavenly hosts singing? Do you hear the chorus of praise? Listen carefully. Listen closely. Stop what you're doing. Sit quietly. Silence the thoughts in your head. Stand still and listen. Do you hear? The silence is singing. The busy city streets are praising Him. The wind is rushing to His throne. The children are sending up cries of laughter. The earth is moving in rhythm of glorious exaltation to the King of Kings.

It's day 17 of the 21 day Daniel fast. I'm in the midst of the third and final week and the focus is hearing God and Him alone. It's hard. Earlier all I could hear was the noise around me, but then God spoke. He told me to listen harder. "All I hear is noise," I replied. "Noise to you, but not to me, listen," He said once again. So I listened and I realized the noise and craziness going on around me is all to His glory. The sounds of the people and the congestion of busy city streets are translated through heavenly realms into praise to His Holy Name. Even those who do not choose to worship; they can do nothing to deviate the praise and exaltation to God.

Whether we deny Him or embrace Him we are His children and He loves us and is constantly speaking to us. Believers automatically translate the sound and understand His calling. Christ has opened our hearts, eyes, and ears to the sounds of Heaven. Unbelievers can't hear it. They don't stop long enough to allow their heart to listen. They're in a tunnel of darkness and it's up to us to shine the light of Christ and help bring them out of the mist and into His presence. But we can't do that if we aren't taking time to listen ourselves. We can get thrown back into the cloud of darkness just like unbelievers when we fill ourselves with the ways of this world. Don't get distracted. We "are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9). Sing loud and clear! Praise Him in all circumstances. Shine the light of Christ into the darkness of this world. Listen for the praises and join in!

Below is an awesome video about praising God in the midst of the noisy world around us. Enjoy!
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpVsF4W8V2Y)


Monday, April 18, 2011

God Reaps What He Sows

God reaps what He sows. That phrase may sound a little strange. Many of us are used to hearing the phrase "we will reap what we sow" meaning if we judge others we will be judged or if we treat others harshly then we will most likely be treated the same. The phrase is more of a warning than anything else. Yet in this case, God reaps what He sows is a beautiful promise to hold on to.

If we plant green beans we expect to sow or harvest green beans in a matter of time. If we plant tomatoes then we will get tomatoes. Flower seeds will grow flowers, herbs will produce herbs, and so on. We expect to reap what we sow into the ground. We expect the package of seed with green beans written on it to actually contain seed to produce green beans. Of course there's always a small chance we might not get what we thought we were planting. Human error in the factory, in our own garden, or even in our own pantry can change things up very easily. With God; however, it's 100% every time. He will reap what He sows.

Jeremiah 1:5 says "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." When God planted us inside our mother's womb, He knew exactly what He was getting. He created the seed, designed the package, and made sure all the inner ingredients mixed to form the exact being He wanted. I recently read a testimony about a woman in Asia who was told by her mother that she was conceived through witchcraft and offerings to idols. The woman was at first scared by this, but upon hearing the words of Jeremiah 1:5 she realized that it was God, not the idols, that allowed her to be conceived. No matter the actions of her parents, God controlled the entire process. He planted a seed that would one day become this woman and He destined her for great things for His Kingdom. Today she is serving Jesus and sharing His love with her family and friends. No amount of evil can change God's plan. He reaps what He sows!

Golden Sprout Award

Golden Sprout award given by Debra Elliott at Writing with Debra

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

What an amazing honor! Forever In Him has been awarded The Versatile Blogger award from Debra Elliott over at Writing with Debra! Thank You Debra :)

There are rules associated with the award which are...

1) Link back to the person who gave you the award...

2) Tell 7 things about yourself...                    

3) Award 15 recently discovered bloggers...

So okay there are rules with this award so I must follow some guidelines here.

Seven things about me:
1. I've been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.
2. I applied for my passport just so I could visit Canada.
3. I have two sons - both have four legs each!
4. I cried at the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
5. I can't stand the new Gain commercial that uses the word "gooder" instead of  "better"!
6. Up until 2002, five generations of my family lived within a five mile radius of each other!
7. I was blessed to have weekly family reunions growing up - they were known as Sunday dinner at Grandmas!

Now to pass this awesome award on:

1. A Beauty Glorious: Absolute Certainty
2. A Look at Life from a Deerstand
3. All in a Summer's Day
4. Chocolate and Coffee / A Pastor's Wife
5. Footprints in the Mud
6. Heading Home
7. Out of the Closet and Into the Light
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Don't Forget the Corners

Corners; every yard, home, and heart has them. They're the places that we often overlook and the places where the most dust, garbage, debris, and sin can gather. We tend to send different things to the corner in hopes of hiding them or at least getting them out of the way for a later day. The problem is that the "later" day never comes and things put in the corner tend to stay there for a very long time.

This afternoon I was putting away dishes and wiping off my kitchen counters when I suddenly got a good look at the tops of the cabinets and drawers. These particular cabinets and drawers have an indented top and a groove in the wood that serves as a handle or leverage to open and close them. I have no idea why I've never looked before or even how it caught my eye this afternoon, but what I saw was one of the biggest collections of dust and "catch all" areas I've ever seen. If I placed food on the counter then it most likely dropped crumbs into the grooves of the drawers and cabinets. If I spilled something sticky then it eventually made its way into the grooves forming a sticky residue. It was really gross! I got a scrub type cloth and pressed it into the grooves of the cabinet and started cleaning. Funny thing, it only took a few minutes to clean these unnoticed areas.

The corners of our heart can look the same way as the grooves in my cabinet tops. I don't know why, but we often let the corners be a "catch all" of junk, garbage, and sin we just don't want to deal with. We convince ourselves that it's not that bad and we can fix or clean it later. In reality, however, the dirt starts piling up and before long starts to grow into different types of bacteria. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." When sin builds up it multiplies and spreads bacteria of hate, bitterness, jealousy, and anger into all areas of our life. 

Thankfully, we don't have to let it get that bad and if we do there's still a way to clean it up. Jesus died so that we might have life and freedom from the dark corners of sin in our heart and life. His blood shed on the cross has wiped away all sin whether it's in the corners of our heart or right out in the open for everyone to see. Cleaning up the dark corners of our heart is simple. All we have to do is admit and confess that it's there and ask for forgiveness for allowing it to be there. Then in Christ's strength and not our own, the sin will be removed and the corners will be sparkling once again! "Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7b).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby The Garden

Florida winters are usually cold and damp. We may not get snow, but we do get plenty of cloudy skies and lots of rain. Last fall my granddaddy (grandfather) planted tomatoes. His plan was to have tomatoes to serve at Christmas and another round to give to family at the end of February. Friends of his also planted tomatoes around the same time hoping for bright red juicy tomatoes for the holidays. By Christmas as well as the end of February, my granddaddy was passing around beautifully plump tomatoes. His friends, however, had very few tomatoes.

What made the difference? My granddaddy babied his tomatoes all winter. On the coldest nights while his friends covered their plants to protect them from the frost and hard freeze, my granddaddy was out in his garden wrapping his plants with sheets and setting up incubator lights to keep them warm. He kept watch over the plants throughout the night and the following day. The extra care and hard work paid off and we all enjoyed tomatoes at Christmas and in February.

Throughout this 21 day Daniel fast I'm learning that there are times when the gardens of our heart need similar care. This past Sunday was one of those days and I wasn't prepared. I found myself tired, irritable, and on the down side. I caved and had a few chocolate chip cookies thinking I shouldn't have to feel lousy. What I didn't realize until later that night was that during the beginning of the second week it is completely natural to feel this way. I felt horrible for caving and giving in. If I would've read my daily fasting devotional I would have been warned and taken extra precautions asking God for strength to overcome temptation.

The point of the fast is to draw close to God and learn to lean on Him at all times in life good or bad. I missed that point in the beginning, but thankfully God was patient and brought me full circle. I confessed my shortfall and spent extra time in prayer. It was definitely not the easiest way to learn the lesson, but I thank God that He didn't give up on me. He ended up being the one to baby my heart and teach me that it's OK for me to do the same.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Let the Rain Fall

The rains poured out on my little balcony garden at the beginning of April and the plants were overflowing with water. The rains, however, haven't been back since and the soil has grown dry and the little vines of my burgundy shrubs are dropping. I've been on the look out for overheating and I do my best to water every day. The plants and the shrubs especially soak in as much water as possible. They thirst for this nutrient like nothing else. By the time I'm finished watering, the shrubs have started to perk up and glow again in the sunlight.

Our heart gardens are also susceptible to overheating and drying out. In Luke 8, Jesus shared the parable about the sower with the people. "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed...some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture...Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God...They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:5-6 & 11,13).

When we don't keep ourselves in the Word of God and find continual nourishment from Him then we will slowly wither away. It can happen to any of us. We find ourselves enjoying the fresh rains of the Holy Spirit pouring down on our soul, but the moment we leave the prayer meeting or step out of the church service, we go our own way never looking back to the life source. We get distracted and tangled into routines and tasks of the day. Before we realize it another morning or another evening has passed and we haven't stopped in our day to spend time feeding on the Word of God. In Psalm 143:6 David writes, "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah."

This is the beginning of the second week of the 21 day Daniel fast with my church. My prayer is that this week my focus will be fixed more on spiritual food and less on the physical. My church started out the second week of the fast with a service of song and prayer. The preacher didn't preach as planned, but instead invited us to sit, stand, or kneel before God and listen for His voice and the leading of His Spirit. What a remarkable time of quietness and awe before God. His spirit was raining down upon our souls refilling and refreshing us!

Whether we're fasting or going about our normal dieting routine, let's take a moment to remember that our spiritual heart garden needs as much nourishment and water as our physical body. Invite God's Holy Spirit to rain down and be prepared for an outpouring of His strength!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Growth in the Garden

It's day six in the 21 day Daniel fast (fasting from junk). Today was a tough day to get through. I was surrounded by snack foods and sweets most of the morning and by the afternoon I was so tired all I wanted to do was eat a pizza and drink a soda. The strength of God alone through the power of His Holy Spirit within me kept me from giving into temptation. In it's place, He began to direct my thoughts to the areas of growth in my life. I was feeling that my life was busier during this fast instead of more calm and devoted to prayer and time with God. While going through the fridge, of all places, God showed me just how much He is working in my life and especially in my heart.

If you've been on my FaceBook page you'll see that I've been blessed with a new four legged son. I have Dakota, my dog, and now I have Toby, my horse! It's unbelievable how it all came about. God just opened one door after another until my family grew from two to three. That's not all that He's been growing either. My heart has been opened up to new areas of growth through the process. For so long I've been stuck in a rut of working, staying home, and working more. I've been praying for a distraction or something to get me out of the house and out and about with people my own age, etc. It's hard to break habits and routines, but that's just what God has been doing. My schedule is unpredictable. My evenings are spent working the horse with a good friend of mine. (And let me tell you, tonight we really worked the horses and ourselves!) It's a complete change of pace for me and a growth I feel in my heart is from the Lord!

I'm totally enjoying my time restoring old friendships, building new ones, and learning to let go of my routine. Growth is not always fun and it can be painful, but the end results are such a huge blessing. Ask God to reveal the areas He is growing in the garden of your heart. We don't always recognize these areas as places of growth, but when we stop long enough to take a look from God's perspective, we'll be amazed at just how much He is working. We'll also be more aware and more willing to submit our will to His and allow Him to continue working in us. We're all a work in progress and what a blessing that progress is!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking Inventory of the Garden

This morning I spent some time on my balcony taking inventory of my little garden. It's not much, but I have a few tomato plants, green beans, bell peppers, flowers, a little palm, and some shrubbery growing. Some of the plants looked great, some needed water and a few of the tomato plants actually looked like they had received too much water from the recent rains. All in all, the garden wasn't too bad, but it was definitely evident that I had not stopped to give it some much needed attention. I've been distracted and a little unorganized lately, mostly because I've been trying to do everything on my own. Thankfully it wasn't too late for the garden! With a little extra work the garden was back in shape and looking lively in no time.

I found my heart to be in a similar situation this morning as well. I woke up with a thousand things running through my mind. I got out of bed and was about to begin my daily routine when I realized that I didn't want to just go through the motions. I was tired of all the craziness going on. As much as I was trying to gain control myself and put things in order, it just wasn't working. The main idea of participating in the 21 day Daniel fast is to spend even more time in prayer and quiet surrender with God. Even though I was doing that each morning, it was becoming part of my routine instead of a time to unwind and seek God's direction. I decided to sit down on the couch, take a big time out, and just read a devotional and wait for God to speak. I had the time and it was time I took it!

Before long my eyes grew heavy. I leaned back against the couch pillows and closed my eyes. Immediately I envisioned a picture of Jesus and a young girl sitting at his feet resting her head in his arms. I could just imagine the girl sharing all of her worries, hopes, and dreams with Jesus and He in return holding her hand and gently reminding her that He would take care of everything. It was time for me to do the same. I mentally placed my head in the Savior's lap and began sharing my own thoughts. I did an inventory of everything that I was worrying about, was upset about, and even what I was thrilled and excited about.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, but He invites us to open up and communicate with Him anyway. I took a look at my heart and the distractions around me and asked Him to help me stay focused on Him alone. What a huge relief it was to share and allow Him to take each thought from my shoulders and place it on His own.  Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (I Peter 5:7).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bring God the First Fruits of Your Heart

Walking in the my grandfather's garden admiring the luscious heads of cabbage, enormous onion bulbs pushing their way out of the ground, sprouting beans, tall tomato plants, and lettuce leaves, I am reminded of the scripture where God tells the people of Israel to bring to Him the first fruits of the harvest. "The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God" (Exodus 34:26). God asked for nothing but the best. He wanted the people to remember where the blessings of such a harvest came from. Imagine the pride filled heart of the farmer as he plucked the first bright red tomato of the season from the vine. My grandfather says those are the best and sweetest of the crop. What devotion to swallow that sense of pride and satisfaction by bowing before God and giving it back to Him.

It's Day Four of the 21 day fast and the Lord continues to reveal to me areas in my heart that need to be weeded out as well as areas in need of extra nutrients for continued growth. Today, the area of my heart garden in need of attention is the act of praise and thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for. God has blessed me beyond anything I could imagine, yet the day to day chores of life often block that praise and pull my spirit down into darkness. Complications come up, temptations cross the way, and last minute distractions push their way to the front of my heart. Before I realize it, I've become focused more one what needs to be done instead of what God has already done.

Through prayer and fasting; however, God is breaking through those barriers and filling my heart with joy and thanksgiving. He reminds me that when I come to Him with praise and thanks "the Light of [His] presence pours into [me], transforming [me] through and through" (Jesus Calling, p. 101). The things that need to be done are still there, but I am assured by God that they will get done in His timing and in His way. For the moment, I am in the garden with Him and I'm bringing Him the firstfruits of my heart.

"I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD" (Psalm 116:17). At my former church, we used to sing a song of praise with the following lyrics:

We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord
We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of thanksgiving
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of joy
 
We can bring God the firstfruits of our heart by offering to Him sacrifices of praise. We have so much to be thankful for that our hearts should be overflowing with joy and thanksgiving whether we think about it or not.



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nourish The Garden

Today is day three in the 21 day fast I'm participating in with my church. Last night I cooked a large head of cabbage for supper along with some red beans and rice (strange combination, yes, but so delicious). The cabbage was fresh from my grandfather's garden and tasted amazing! Tonight, just when I thought I was going to cave to the junk food temptations, God brought to mind an amazing Greek salad at a local restaurant. It was just an ordinary salad filled with nothing but vegetables, but it hit the spot!

I realized that even though my diet is primarily healthy, it has not always been focused on the most nourishing choices. I couldn't believe how good the vegetables tasted! Along with the great taste, I've already noticed how much better I feel since paying more attention to what I'm eating. Choosing the right foods really makes a difference in how we feel physically and mentally. It's surprising how the distractions of the fast food industry and quick to prepare meals have filled our minds and our kitchen cabinets. We've really been missing out on the best food out there!

 The same is true in the spiritual garden of our heart. Jesus tells us that we can't live by bread alone, we must feed ourselves "on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Spending time in God's Word pours nourishing principles and truths into our heart allowing it to grow and flourish. Ever notice how life seems to move along so much better (maybe not easier, but definitely clearer) when a steady diet of time spent in the Word is followed? When we let the junk food of the world (television, Internet, books, magazines, etc.) fill the hunger in our hearts then we find ourselves spiritually drained and making some pretty poor choices. 

Matthew 12:35 tells us "a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." We are what we eat physically and spiritually. Join with me in making a positive choice when it comes to nourishing the body and the heart!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Solitude in the Garden

"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).

Group prayer meetings and time spent in prayer with one another is a crucial part of the Christian life. We are encouraged to come together as a body of believers and make our requests known to the Lord. Likewise, we are also encouraged to take time out to be alone one on one with the Father. Several times throughout Christ's public ministry, we read that he made time to be alone in prayer.

In the final moments before his arrest, Christ went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me' (Matthew 26:36-38).

Making time to pray with God one on one in the quietness of the garden of our heart is essential to growing in our relationship with Him. God invites us to share all of our thoughts, worries, and anxieties with him. He wants to hear from us and the best way to do this is to establish a daily time of solitude with Him. "I meet you in the stillness of your soul. It is there that I seek to commune with you" (Jesus Calling, p. 99).

The stillness of our soul can be found in the solitude of the garden of our heart. As we ask God to continue to weed and prune the areas of our life, we should also invite him to sit with us in the stillness of the garden. Imagine having tea or lemonade with a close friend under the cool shade of a large oak tree. That is what it's like to sit with Jesus and open our heart up to Him. Share everything both good and bad and allow Him to comfort, work, and move within.

2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us that "the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him..." He will come to us, sit with us, and give us rest. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:2-3).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Garden Is Better Than Yours

Day one of the 21 day fast has officially started. It's not a typical "don't eat" fast, although I do hope to work up to juices and water only on the last three days. I'll let you know how that goes :)

This morning I went for a walk and as mentioned in the previous blog, I asked God to start revealing to me places in my heart, His Garden, that need to be weeded out and places that need extra time and care. This morning He reminded me of my judgmental heart. As I was walking along the path with my dog about 7:45 this morning, I noticed several cars going by carrying passengers dressed up for church. They looked my way and I thought, "They better not judge me, I don't have to go to church until 10 a.m. I've got time to be out here walking and still go to church." No sooner had the thought entered my mind then I realized that I was guilty of the very same thing. Many times I've pulled out of the community headed to church and have seen walkers enjoying a morning stroll. My thoughts, "I wonder if they've been to church yet. They should go. I can't believe they're out walking and not getting ready for church." I have no more right to think those thoughts then the people who passed me this morning. I don't know any of their stories. The people I see at 10 a.m. could very well have been to church at 8 a.m. Instead of judging I need to be praying for them. Not praying in criticism, but just taking note that I've seen them and ask for a blessing on their day.

Judgment, one of the first weeds to pull from my heart garden. Nothing gives me the right to stand around and say that my garden looks better than yours. Likewise, there is no reason for me to sit around sulking that your garden looks better than mine. Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." How can we grow beautiful gardens in our heart that are pleasing to the Lord if we spend all of our time focusing on the gardens of others? Matthew goes on to say, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:3-5)

We are most definitely welcome to lend a helping hand to one another, but make sure not to judge and step over the boundary line. If we call others out on their faults, we're sure to be called out on ours. All of us have a beautiful heart garden in the sight of God no matter what we're going through. He is the only one who has the authority to reveal areas of weakness. "But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up anothe" (Psalm 75:7).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Our Heart is a Garden

This month's theme for the National Blog Posting site is "SPROUT" so I thought I'd post a heads up that many of my devotional writings just might be along the lines of gardens, growth, plants etc. during the month of April :)  

"I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live; but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds." (Jesus Calling p. 97). 

Everything that we do, think, or say starts not in our minds or our brains, but within our heart. God doesn't send us an e-mail that says "today I want you to talk to your neighbor about me." OK, so He might send a reminder that way, but more often than not the little small voice and that inkling of a feeling that we should speak to our neighbor starts with a feeling in our heart. You know the feeling....tightening of the chest, pounding heartbeat, a sense of urgency like we need to move forward in some way; an anxiousness that cannot be calmed until action is taken. It's that overwhelming connection we suddenly have that causes a lump in our throat and a pain in our chest and it doesn't stop until we ask of God what He would have us do.

We may not always recognize this prodding within our heart. Like the passage quoted above says, our heart is filled with peace and love from God, but it's also filled with weeds of pride and selfishness. Weeds grow pretty fast and when not taken care of, they overcome and choke the life out of the rest of the plants in the garden. They fill our heart to the point that there is no room for the nourishing gifts from God. It's important that we learn to take time each day to examine our hearts and ask God to reveal what's growing there. We need to be on guard and cautious of what we're bringing into our hearts on a daily basis. What are we feeding our heart? Are we watering with God's Word or the voice of the world? What does the Gardener see when He takes a survey of our heart each morning and evening? What's growing in our heart?

Starting tomorrow I will be taking part in a church wide 21 day fast and I'm making it a goal of mine to take time each day to examine my heart and find what is really growing there. I don't have a green thumb and I definitely need some guidance so I'm asking God to reveal the areas that are in need of weeding and to pour His "miracle" grow on areas in need of growth. I look forward to sharing more on our heart as a garden in the days to come. Until then, here's a thought to ponder. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). What's growing in your heart?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Darkness and Light

It was noon, but the skies were black. I've never experienced such a darkness. The morning started out with typical Florida thunderstorms, but it was clear by the early afternoon that the weather was about to turn not so typical for the last day of March. My Nana (grandmother) said if March doesn't come in like a roaring lion then it will surely leave with quite a commotion and that is just what happened. An incredibly large portion of central Florida found itself covered in the darkness of powerfully strong winds, thick clouds, and sheets of rain in all directions imaginable. One weather station reported that it was a weather system similar to those of Kansas and Nebraska. Pitch black as the saying goes would accurately describe the world outside that afternoon.

About half past noon the heavens roared and poured out heavy, thick rain with hail in some areas. The skies remained black as (what we later learned) a powerful tornado and series of funnel clouds made their way across the state. Trees bent with little effort. Patio furniture flew across the yard. The ground felt like it was trembling. Extensive damage was done around the area as the storm system quickly moved along heavily populated roadways and interstates. The aftermath was both small and large.

Surprisingly, the next day dawned with partly cloudy skies with a few rays of sunshine peaking out every now and again. By noon the skies were completely clear. A bright beautiful blue spread as far as the eye could see. The sun shone brightly and darkness was nowhere in sight. A local airshow could be heard in the distance. Loud noises, yet nothing even close to the terrible sounds of wind gusts measured in some places at 90mph. It was an incredible contrast and unbelievable to be honest. So much had happened the day before, signs of debris still evident, yet nothing but bright skies and glorious sunshine.

One day we will see a similar contrast when we are reunited with our Lord Jesus Christ. He will come for us with a glory so bright that our world will vividly look dark and bleak. We will awaken to a new heaven and a new earth and the darkness of the past will be gone. John 1:5 tells us that "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." I can't tell you how many times I've overlooked this verse. Coming back to it though, I found myself truly intrigued by the simple fact that the darkness "comprehended" not the light. How amazing is that. The light comes into the picture and the darkness not only cowers in fear, but completely vanishes. It doesn't know what to do in the presence of such power. It understands nothing about it and flees. Kind of like the storms that passed through that day. They poured their furry on the state, but once the sun broke through, it fled. In all its supposed strength and might, it was powerless against the bright shining sun of the new day. It comprehended it not and vanished.

Praise be to the Father of lights. Praise be to God for His great power and might. He alone deserves our admiration and praise. The light of God's presence shines through each of us and through His light, darkness has no power. When we stand strong in God, there is nothing to fear for He surrounds us with His light of protection. Stand as the noon day sun and watch the powers of darkness flee!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In A Word: Awe

I am in awe of a number of things weaved into this life God has given me. I am in awe of the way He has carefully crafted me to be who I am and has gifted me with amazing gifts to use for His glory. I am in awe that this is day 31 of my month long goal to blog a devotional of some type every day. Through this time God has amazed me and wowed me with the words He has given me to share. He has worked a mighty work within me in so many different ways. Hurdles have been jumped and obstacles overcome. I've discovered new things about myself and the love of writing that I've been so incredibly blessed with.

There is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and an incredible sense of awe at what has transpired these 31 days. I am reminded again and again of the verses of Psalm 139 particularly verse 14, which says, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." My heart is overflowing with gratitude and amazement at God's most gracious care of me physically, spiritually, and even emotionally. He knows me better than I know myself. The devotionals I share seldom come from anything but the daily trials I face. Only when I write about these trying times and stormy seasons does the Lord reveal to me the bigger picture and I find myself on my knees long before coming to the keys to share the message with everyone. There is always so much to learn and I am speechless in the presence of the Lord and I stand in awe of His great care and love for me and for those He reaches through me.

This is most definitely not the end of the blogs here at Forever In Him. This month long blogging event has re-ignited the passion and purpose God planted in my heart so long ago. I am in awe of the very way He led me to the NaBloPoMo web site and introduced me to a concept that motivated and pushed me to blog no matter what every day for a month. A blessing to me as much as everyone reading. I pray for God's continued direction and guidance in future writings. I pray for a peace and calm of heart and not an over anxiousness to write because writing in haste never fully communicates the intended message. I pray to wait in the presence of the Lord and to first hear from Him before proceeding in typing His message across the pages of the Internet. Again, I stand in awe as I look back and I look forward in awe knowing of the many things God has planned.

In signing off this 31st day of March, I leave with the wonderfully amazing and awe inspiring words of Psalm 139:1-18; 23-24. Also, below is a YouTube video of the song "When You Believe" performed by Chloe Agnew. You can play it here or simply click the play button below and then proceed to read the words of Psalm 139.


Psalm 139

O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
thou understandest my thought afar off.
 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
and art acquainted with all my ways.
 For there is not a word in my tongue, 
but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
and laid thine hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
 If I take the wings of the morning, 
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
 Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
and thy right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
even the night shall be light about me.
 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
but the night shineth as the day: 
the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
 For thou hast possessed my reins:
thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
marvellous are thy works; 
and that my soul knoweth right well.
 My substance was not hid from thee, 
when I was made in secret, 
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; 
and in thy book all my members were written, 
which in continuance were fashioned, 
when as yet there was none of them.
 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, 
O God! how great is the sum of them!
 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: 
when I awake, I am still with thee.
...
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, 
and know my thoughts:
 And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In A Word: God

On Monday I blogged about the alphabet and how its 26 letters come together to form hundreds of millions of words both beautiful and sometimes hurtful. Today I want to focus on each of those letters and how they represent one of many words used to describe God. It's an exercise we used to go through at a ministry I worked with. We sometimes referred to it as the ABC's with God. Read along and then try it out during your next prayer time with God!


A - Absolute, Amazing, Awesome
B - Breath-taking, Beautiful
C - Counselor, Creative, Creator
D - Dependable, Delightful
E - Exalted, Energetic
F - Faithful, Father, Friend
G - Gracious, Glorious, God
H - Healer, Holy, most High
I - Immanuel, Infinite
J - Just, Judge
K - King, Knight, Keeper
L - Loving, Lord, Light, Life
M - Majestic, Messiah, Marvelous, Mighty
N - Never ending, Never leaving
O - Omnipotent (All powerful), Omniscient (All knowing), Omnipresent (Always present)
P - Patient, Perfect, Prince of Peace
Q - Quiet, Quick
R - Redeemer, Refuge, Rock
S - Salvation, Savior, Song
T - Trustworthy, Truth, Trinity
U - Understanding
V - Victorious, Valiant
W - Worthy, Wonderful, Wise
X - X-treme, X-cellent
Y - Yahweh
Z - Zealous

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In A Word: Debt


Debt. We all have it lurking in the corners of our life in one form or another. With tax day approaching, many of us are taking an extra long look at our financial debt. The debt may not be big or it may be overwhelming. No matter the size, debt is debt and the burden of it is taking up space in our bank account and our life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and make all of the debt and bills just go away?

Although financial debt weighs many of us down, it’s not the only debt causing sleepless nights. There’s another debt we often refer to as guilt that is pulling us down. Guilt is an emotion brought on by our own wrongful actions; actions we wish we could erase or ignore or even pay off through the system of good works. But, no matter how many good deed payments we make, the feelings of failure, inadequacy, and even hopelessness just keep piling on. Just like financial debt we wish we could make it all go away or make things right again, but we can’t.

Thankfully, hope is not lost and there is redemption through the blood of Christ. He took on the sins of the world in order to provide us with eternal debt forgiveness. Unlike debt forgiveness in the financial world, eternal debt forgiveness wipes all debt and guilt away completely, no strings attached. It’s hard to imagine all past debts and guilt wiped away, but the shedding of Christ’s blood does just that. What’s even greater is the fact that all future debt including those repeat offenses we so foolishly thought we had overcome are also wiped away. How’s that for a fresh start and a clean slate in life?

Sounds too good to be true. Forgiveness of our sins? Debt cancellation? No more guilt? For free? Well, free for us, yes, but it did cost something; it cost Christ His life. He who knew no sin, took on the sin debt and guilt of the world and He took it all the way to the cross. Jesus Christ lifted the burden from our shoulders and placed it on his own. The pain and the reality of the weight of the load He carried literally drained the life from His body. But why? Why would He do that? He could have simply said all is forgiven, but it wouldn't have been eternal. Something had to be given in exchange for complete forgiveness. Christ submitted to the will of His Father and gave himself as a sacrifice upon the cross in order to free each and every one of us from our sin and He did it because He loves us. He didn't stop there. He arose from the grave on the third day sealing the eternal forgiveness with eternal life to all who believe.
 
Can any of us truly comprehend a love so great?! Forgiveness of debt plus eternal life! There is forgiveness, there is life, and there is freedom in the blood of Christ!

Monday, March 28, 2011

In A Word: Alphabet

The alphabet plays a vital role in our language and of course in the writing of this article/blog. There would be no words and definitely no written words without the letters in our alphabet. Just think, 26 letters standing on their own don't look like much, but when placed in the right order they form millions of powerful and impacting words.When used for good those words can build relationships, establish strong foundations, and construct bridges of hope among many people of many different backgrounds. But, when used in a way that is not pleasing to the Father, words can destroy friendships, knock down walls of protection, and destroy the life of another.

The body of Christ, which is each and every believer, operates in a similar way as the alphabet. Standing alone, we may not look like much. Sure we may have been blessed with a gift of teaching, speaking, singing, healing, writing and so on, but on our own there's only so much we can do with those gifts. We need the gifts of other members of the body of Christ to come alongside us to make a much more powerful impact on others. As scripture points out, "The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?" (I Corinthians 12: 17 & 21) It is when we work together that we are able to fully accomplish life's purpose to the glory of God. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5).

There's nothing like bringing 26 letters together to create beautiful stories, inspiring melodies, and heart felt letters of encouragement to friends and family. Just the same, there is nothing more beautiful than watching individual believers coming together in unity for the purpose of telling others about Christ's love. The words of Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6 state it best, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In A Word: Surrender

Today wrapped up a great two day purity retreat with middle school and high school girls. One of our last individual sessions included a time to sit and write a love letter to God surrendering to Him things that we've let take over our life. Afterward, we wrote those things down on an enlarged price tag. The price tag had the following written on it: For SALE. Everything costs something. One thing costs everything. We placed the price tags in a basket symbolizing a place at the foot of the cross of Christ. This simple act reminded us that once we've given these issues over to God they are no longer in our hands. We've confessed them and surrendered them to Him and we're not to take them back.

We completed a similar exercise in surrender the previous day as well. During this exercise we were asked to take a piece of paper and draw pictures/designs symbolizing areas in our life that we are struggling with. We then cut the picture out in the shape of a cross. This was a reminder that Christ bore each of these pains, struggles and hardships on the cross. He took on our burdens and has lightened our load. When we confess and repent, He throws it out and washes us clean. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Psalm 103:12 goes on to say that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." What a weight lifted once all is surrendered!

Our final thoughts for the weekend were along these lines and continued with the reality that surrendering is not something that is a one time deal. The things surrendered are gone and removed from our hands, but that doesn't mean the temptation to allow those things to return is not there. We must continually give temptations, struggles, etc. over to Christ daily in order to remain pure and free. True surrender is learning to let go and let God. It's the understanding that Christ is now in control of what was surrendered and it is through His power alone that we are forgiven and blessed to move forward in His perfect love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In A Word: Weeds

Weeds are probably the easiest plant life to grow and maintain. They require no work at all. In fact, the more we leave them alone the more they will grow and flourish. They will take over the garden, sidewalks, yards, and anything else in their path. Some weeds take on the appearance of beautiful spring flowers popping up in purples and yellows all over the place. The Dandelions are especially hard to get rid of and yet they are the most fun to pick. Who doesn't love to pick the Dandelions when the flowers have turned to those white puffy looking spores? It's great fun to let the wind catch them and carry the spores across the yard never mind the reality that we're only increasing the Dandelion population by a million! Children especially just love to pick them and bring in big bouquets of them to go on the dining room table and of course we can't tell them no.

Weeds are a lot like sin. When we don't bother doing anything about them, they grow rampant and consume everything in their path. When we don't acknowledge sin in our life, we're letting it take control and grow through areas of our life we thought we're safe. Sin takes on many different forms and can often appear like a good thing when first encountered, but like the Dandelions, the true nature of sin will soon show itself and spread its spores in our lives multiplying troubles and problems all over the place.

Getting rid of weeds is a chore, but when we realize we can't hang on to the beautiful flowers for risk of killing all of the real flowers and plant life in our yard we understand that spraying the weed killer is our only option. One spray with powerful weed killer will do it. They'll droop, and shrivel and eventually sag down back to the ground. We must then pull them up by the root to prevent them from returning. Sin requires similar treatment. Once we realize that it's not good for us (even though it may look pretty), we are free to spray the Word of God on it and ask God's forgiveness and watch as He washes it away. Like the weed though, we must always get rid of sin at the very root of the problem. If we aren't honest with ourselves and we only get rid of part of it, it will most definitely sprout up again and will be even stronger than before. Look for the root, confess it, and ask for God's strength to pull it up and throw it out. It may be painful, but in the long run our heart will be so much cleaner and more beautiful that it will be worth the work!

Romans 7:25, "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"