The heart of a child

“Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” ~Matt 19:14 (CEB)

I think God puts children in our lives to open our eyes. This week our church is holding VBS and the mission it is supporting this year is “the heifer project”. Through the Heifer Project International you can donate animals to poor countries. It is a project geared to end world hungry and provide sustainability in areas of need. My son told me what he had learned about the mission project today while we were traveling in the car. He takes a big breath of seriousness and says, “Now I need to give all my money to the mission project.”

A few weeks ago my son had a freak accident with his lap top. While he was carrying his computer it slipped out of his hands, landing on one edge. This cracked the computer screen causing black streaks to run from top to bottom. Even though he was not being careless when the laptop fell, I still told my son that he would have to earn the money to repair the screen. To buy a replacement screen it will cost him $70. Thus far he has saved up $27. He has earned this money by a $1 here, $2 there. We do not give allowance so this $27 was hard earned.

Knowing how hard it was for my son to come by $27 I tell him he doesn’t have to give it all away. He can just give some of the money to the mission project. Then my son tells me that his computer is really okay. That he can shrink the window moving it to the upper right corner to be able to see.

Tonight at VBS my son tells his youth pastor that he is going to bring his $27 to give to the heifer project. Again he speaks to me of his desire to bring in his money. He is in the living room right now counting up the ones and the coins preparing to bring it with him tomorrow night. It isn’t because he has no “wants” that he has felt led to give this money. He has a long list of “want-to-buys” when he has his screen paid for. But he sees an opportunity that he can make someone’s life better and this “want-to-help” is bigger than all the passing wants and interests of a 10 year old boy.

… “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them. (Mark 10:14-16)

If you read Mark chapter 10 after this story of Jesus with the children is the story of the rich man’s question. “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” He has kept the law, but Jesus asks him to sell all he owns and give the money to the poor. The man is dismayed by this statement and walks away saddened still bound to all his many possessions. “Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!’ His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, ‘Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.’” (Mark 10:23-25

With the heart of a child we can see God’s kingdom here on earth. Through the love my son feels for a family he will never know God’s kingdom will be realized, one piece of the puzzle at a time.

Heavenly Father, help me to have the faith of a child. Help me to love like a child. May Your Kingdom come may Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

A love that knows me

If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean— even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~Psalm 139:9-10

 

Psalm 139 is my favorite of all Psalms. Verse 15 speaks of God knowing me while I was in the womb of my mother. He knows how I was put together and how I would develop once outside in the world. He saw my whole life before Him while I was still in the womb. He saw the heart aches I would endure, the strength I would gain and the love I would share.

God knows all my thoughts. He saw them before I ever had them. It does not surprise Him when I go astray. He completely surrounds me and keeps a hand on me. I am never alone. Even if I try to run away, He is still with me. There is no where I can hide from His presence. Even if I go down into the depths of despair He is there right beside me. Though darkness surrounds me and hides me from others it is not too dark for God to find me.

I can rely on God truly knowing me from the inside out. I cannot hide who I am from God. Though no one sees me for who I really am I can count on God truly knowing me… and still loving me. He knows how I feel about all the injustice in the world and when I don’t react in the way I should He gently reminds me that He once loved me when I was still astray.

God’s plans are beyond my understanding to numerous for me to comprehend. His love for me is humbling. If I came to the end of time I would still find myself in His hands.

Heavenly Father, look at my heart! Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts! Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me, then lead me on the eternal path! Amen.  

a living testimony

I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other. ~Gal 5:16-18, 22-26 (CEB)

 

One of the most intimidating things to me as a child was witnessing about God. Growing up in church we were taught this was important work for God. Wondering where and how to bring God up in my conversations and how to convince others about the need of God’s presence in their life was overwhelming.

As an adult I still find myself overwhelmed with the thought of giving my “testimony”, sharing how God has worked in my life to others. Henri Nouwen in his book The Wounded Healer says, “The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).  These fruits speak for themselves.  It is therefore always better to raise the question ‘How can I grow in the Spirit?’  than the question  ‘How can I make others believe in the Spirit?’” By allowing the fruits of the Spirit to work through my life and shine out to others, I can serve God as a living example.

Verse 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires.” When I am ruled by my “self” it is hard for the fruit of the Spirit to shine through to others. I find myself becoming arrogant, jealous and angry. When I live by the Spirit it is easier to show love to others; joy despite present circumstances; peace that passes all understanding; kindness even when I am not show it in return, goodness even when it’s not the easiest path; trustfulness in all circumstances; gentleness instead of forcing my ideas; and self-control even when I am afraid.

When “self” is at the center of my daily life I cannot be a good testament to the love and good works of God. Only when I die to “self” and am lead by the Holy Spirit can I begin to live the example that shows that God is alive and at work in me. By living differently than the world lives, I invite others to wonder and sometimes ask what is different in my life. Thus doors are opened for conversation without my forcing my way in.

Lord, I thank You for Your Spirit that lives in me. May I ever be listening to its promptings and allowing the gifts of the Spirit to work in me and shine though me as a beacon to others that leads to You. Amen.

Wisdom

What we say is wisdom to people who are mature. It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about Gods wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. .. But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them? In the same way, no one has known the depths of God except Gods Spirit. We haven’t received the world’s spirit but Gods Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people. ~1Cor 2:6-13 (CEB)

It is so easy in my finite view of life to second guess God but my view point is limited. I have to remind myself that there is a bigger picture that I am a small part of. A picture that God in His wisdom has prepared in advance before time began.

Wikipedia describes wisdom as a “deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action.”

It is only when I read the Bible in its entirety that I begin to see the ‘optimum judgment”, “wise outlook”, and “insight” God had in His dealings with human beings. Only in looking at the big picture can I see  God’s wisdom for us. With a finite view it can be easy to be lead astray from the truth. We get a glimpse into His  wisdom through His word which was also with Him in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” (John 1:1-5 CEB)

God`s wisdom is interwoven throughout time. Studying His word helps me to tap into this sum of learning, helping me to discern what is true, right and lasting. The Bible helps me to see beyond my own emotions to reason, knowledge and to a course of action. It doesn’t matter if my own view point is limited. Through the Word I have an eternal view point that crosses all the ages into eternity. Every time I read His word I touch a piece of His wisdom.

I thank You God, that I can look to Your scriptures and find wisdom for my life. May I always remember to hide Your words deep in my heart and may I allows remember to allow them to guide all my steps through this day. Amen.

Crossroads

Don’t be afraid of them because the LORD your God is the one who will be fighting for you. ~Deut. 3:22 (CEB)

Do not be afraid. This is a phrase that is used throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. It seems these words are said during times of great change or before a call of service. To Abraham when he was called to leave all he had ever known. To Moses who was called to lead his people out of Egypt; to Joshua who was called to lead the people out of the desert into the Promised Land.  Gideon.., Samuel.., Joseph…

Mary was called at a young age. The first words that were spoke to her were “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Before Mary hears anything else, God first wants Mary to hear that she is safe and that she has found approval from God. Her identity is a gift ~ “favored child of God”. These words are meant to strengthen and empower. To others Mary may seem an unlikely candidate for helping God save the world. She is young, poor, has no social standing and she is female.  Nothing about Mary declares that she can be who she is called to be apart from God.

Mary is treasured as the mother of Jesus. At one point she was just flesh and blood, just like me, no stronger or more intelligent. What elevates her was her simple offering of herself to God, knowing that she was inadequate for what God called her to do, but with a willing heart to go where He wanted her to go. She knew she was limited in what she could do apart from God. It is her willing heart that has set her apart.

I have a gift from God, His love for me. My identity is that I am a Beloved child of God. I am called to hear His voice among my crowded and distracted life. What is my call? My call is to hear and to be willing to go where He leads me. “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it…” (Jer. 6:16) Nothing is more urgent in my life than the yearning to know and do God’s will. Every day I need to ask God, “Where are you leading me today?”

Every day is a crossroads Lord. Will I do your will, or will I follow my own desires? Lead me in the way I am to go.  I know that I am limited by what I can do on my own but with the Holy Spirit directing me I can know and do Your will. I thank You for Your love. Amen.

An awakening

When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” ~Acts 2:37-39 (CEB)

Maybe it is hearing tv evangelists or street corner preachers that plant the idea in our heads that coming to Christ is a lightning bolt moment. While coming to Christ may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience it is really an ongoing journey within us. Conversion is a lifelong process of turning more and more fully toward God in all that we are, possess, and do. I can look back over my life and see earthshaking moments that seemed to shift my life more in line with Christ. But such moments are just part of the process not the end as I give myself over to the transforming power of God.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that change is not instantaneous. While conversion requires our decision and action, it takes time to change us into the image of Christ. I have also learned that it took time to develop my bad habits so it will also take time to undo the habits I have formed. Without the work of undoing the bad habits they will come back or new bad habits will take their place. (Matt 12:43-45)

Macrina Wiederkehr in her book, A Tree Full of Angels, gives us an insight into Paul’s conversion experience, “When Saul was knocked down by that flash of lightening, that was not conversion. That was just God getting his attention. The conversion came as he groped his way in blindness to Ananias, able to see with interior eyes because he had no external eyes to depend on. His conversion continued day after day as he began to give meaning to his new name, Paul. He was still in the process of conversion when he was on his way to Rome in chains.”

I get a glimpse of Paul’s ongoing conversion when I read in Romans 7:15-21, “I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, its sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.”

Conversion is an awakening of the spirit. Suddenly the world begins to make sense despite the absurdity, the injustice, the pain. Our vision is opened up enough to be able to absorb the contradictions and the collision of opposites. We go from being blind or short sighted to seeing with God’s eyes. The love of God dawns upon us and with it comes the most amazing promise and a new hope. What we cannot redeem, God can, and what we cannot erase God will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your grace that saves me. I thank You for awakening my spirit and the transformation You allow in my life. I claim the strength You promise as I try to do Your will, one day at a time. Amen.

To act when called

Teach me your way, LORD, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name. I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever, because your faithful love toward me is awesome and because you’ve rescued my life from the lowest part of hell. ~Psalm 86:11-13 (CEB)

 

What is God’s wish for us? His wish is for us to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called. The Holy Spirit plants seeds, little nudges- feelings that this or that should be done or not done; we get hunches and leadings, signs and signals, and sometimes direct messages. When I make myself available by always giving and unqualified yes when God invites obedience, witness and service, I permit signs and wonders to occur with and through my life.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable that when God put an idea into our mind we could comprehend that idea and immediately act upon it with unquestioning determination? The more I walk in truth the more I give my heart to God undivided.  The more I revere His name the more I am able to discern His will and the actions He desires me to make. The less I hesitate or second guess His prodding’s the more assured I can be stepping out to do His will. The more I say “Yes Lord” the more joyful I am in my work. “Yes, you will go out with celebration, and you will be brought back in peace. Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you; all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isa 55:12)

God calls me to a spiritual life.  A life living in which I bear witness joined with the Holy Spirit that I belong to God as a beloved child (Rom 8:16). Part of discerning God’s will for my life involves every aspect of my life. Paul says, “Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). When I discern God’s will and act upon it I give glory to God and give full visibility to His signs and wonders.

Living a spiritual life is living a life in which my spirit and the Spirit of God bear a joint witness that I belong to God as God’s beloved child, (see Romans 8:16).   This witness involves every aspect of my life.  Paul says:  “Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God”(1 Corinthians 10:31).  And we are the glory of God when we give full visibility of what it means to live in communion with God’s Spirit. “God delivers and rescues, He works wonders in heaven and on Earth. (Dan 6:27).
Heavenly Father, allow the Spirit to manifest itself through me as I learn to discern and do Your will. I thank You for rescuing me and the wonders You have done in my life. May I ever bear witness to Your love in all I do this day. Amen.

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