Empty

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When my daughter was 3 1/2, she had to have another set of tubes put in her ears.  We were at the doctor getting all of her pre-op papers in order.  While we were waiting, she picked up a stethoscope, put the eartips in her ears and placed the chestpiece on her heart.  She looked up at me with a smile and said, “Mommy, I hear God in my heart!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if that is all we had to do to hear God working in our hearts?  Especially the times when God seems to be silent and our hearts feel empty.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the struggles and benefits of being our hearts being in that “desert” place, but I think this is different.

I think we can be close to God, but our hearts can feel empty because of a certain circumstance we are dealing with, an answer we are waiting on from the Lord, a lesson we are learning, a broken promise, deception from someone we have trusted, etc.

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

As I looked up passages in the bible that referenced the heart, I read that the heart can harden, weep, rejoice, yearn, fail, soften, grieve, hate, fear, praise, desire, despise, instruct, fight, love, discern, change, commit, seek and the list goes on. Every emotion we feel comes from the heart.  The heart can lead us down the right path if we guard it from emotions that eat away at its core and leave us feeling empty.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

Our prayer must be for God to fill our hearts with his love, praise, joy, peace, instruction, gladness and forgiveness.  If we fill our hearts with all of these righteous things and pray for God’s protection how could there be room for the things that leave us empty?  However, I guarantee that if there is one spot in your heart that is not filled up by the Lord, Satan will find his way in with greed, anger, fear, guilt . . . whatever will fit.

Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2

Put on your stethoscope today and listen to your heart.  Pray for God to reveal the weaknesses in your heart so that you can confront them, resolve them and clean them out.

Love vs. Fear

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I have been reading my son Star Wars: The Clone War books.  He loves them and I confess, I do too.  I even enjoyed Star Wars as a child.  Yoda is one of my favorite characters.

“Yoda (the great Star Wars Jedi) said that fear is a way to the dark side of the Force.” Even the little green guy gets it.  Fear can destroy us, our faith, our trust and our focus on what is good and right.  Fear can certainly lead us to the “dark side”.  Only in our lives the “dark side” is sin and Satan – not Darth Vader.

One of the things I fear the most is something happening to one of my children.   I have learned to recognize it before it paralyzes me.  In fact, as soon as I begin to take on that worry and fear creeps in, I give it to God.  I wish I could say I never faltered and I never tried to take back the steering wheel, but I can’t.  The truth is, I  have to hand over my fears to God almost daily.  I have to trust in Him and His love for me and my family.  My children are, after all, His children before they are mine.  God has entrusted them to me, but they are just on loan from Him.  As a mom, it is difficult  to imagine, but I know that He loves them more than I do.  The word love (loves, loved) is mentioned almost 700 times in the NIV.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends John 15:13).

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love (John 15:9).

These are just a few scriptures that describe the awesome love that our God has for each one of us.  Have you ever tried to write a love letter or note to someone and express how much they mean to you?  Even for the best writer, it is often difficult to find words that can express our deepest emotions.  For many, words aren’t enough.  We need to do something tangible for someone to express our love.  For example: visiting, mowing a yard, making a meal, sending a card, etc.  Our God has done more than that for us.  Not only did He leave us the descriptions and promises of His vast love for us in the bible; He proved it when He allowed His son to die for us.  Oh, He is all about LOVE. Love we can’t even comprehend.

The questions I am contemplating today are:  How can we let fear control us when we have someone who loves us more than we can comprehend?   How can we let fear control us when we have the ultimate protector?  How can we let fear control us when we have someone who has laid down their life for us leading us down the path of life?

What is your greatest fear?  Do you trust that God is bigger than your fear(s)?  Do find comfort and rest in His infinite love?

Let the one who loves us more than anyone else sit in the driver’s seat of your life.  We have nothing to fear from Him.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:16-21).

Having Issues?

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, God frequently uses my children to teach me valuable lessons.  Their adorable and sometimes very profound statements can stop me in my tracks and make me consider a deeper message.

On the way to preschool this morning my son said, “Mommy, I need to go to the doctor.  I need some issues medicine because I am having issues!”  Oh, I got a wonderful laugh from his adorable statement and I replied, “You know what?  We all have issues and some “issues” medication would be great.  I wish they made that.”

Oh course, as my wheels started turning and I thought more about what he said I heard the whisper. . . “It does exist.  There has always been a medication for any issue you have.  It is the Bible, God’s written Word.”

Why isn’t the Bible the first place we turn when we are faced with a problem or issue?  If we are sick – we go to the doctor, if we need advice – we call a friend, if we have a legal issue – we call a lawyer . . . the list goes on and on.  What if our first stop was God and His Word?  I wonder how many issues could be resolved by just stopping and having some quiet time with the Lord.

All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

Everything we need to know in order to live our lives to the fullest is in the Bible.  God has provided the answers and direction.  All we have to do is open the book, our hearts and soak it in.  If our car is broken we go the mechanic because we know he has the skills to fix the problem.  Usually, we don’t even know the mechanic and we still trust him to fix our car.  As Christians, we say we know our God.  We say we trust Him and that we love Him.  Let’s live that example, not just say it.  Let’s trust our God to come through for us.  Let’s be patient while we wait for his plan or for Him to help us tackle our “issue(s)”.

“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

When I approach God in prayer to discern His will in a situation I simply say, “Father, I don’t want to do this if it isn’t your will because if I do it and it isn’t your will it won’t work and will just be a big mess – so please guide me and lead me in Your direction – not my own.”

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Now, I would love to be able to tell you that I approach every situation like this and that I take everything to God first, but I can’t.  However, I am trying to become more obedient and take this approach with every detail of my life. I have learned (the hard way) that I am incapable of doing anything without the Lord by my side.  Alone, my skills are completely inadequate!  I couldn’t face a day as a mom, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer, sister without knowing that my Lord is instructing me and teaching me in the way I should go and guiding me with His eye Psalm 32:8.  What a peace that can bring if we only accept it.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:4,7




Is God on Your Shelf?

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Christmas is around the corner.  Soon our “Elf on the Shelf” will be returning to keep watch over the kids.  He reports back to Santa every night with the details of  who have been naughty and nice.  I don’t have a ton of trouble with my kids, but there is something about that “Elf on the Shelf”.  He is a huge motivator around the holidays.  My children remind each other daily:  be careful what you say, you better not hit, you better say please.  All because the elf on the shelf is watching.  All because they are trying to earn the delivery of toys that may be coming on Jesus’ birthday.

What if we lived our lives like this?  If we would realize and understand that God is always with us, knows all we do, all we think and all we plan before we even do it.   Can you imagine how we would change the way we do things?

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23

We don’t need to be good and obey God’s commandments because we want the BIG prize – salvation, love, grace.  He has already given us that.  We aren’t worthy, but He has given it to us anyway.  It is ours if we just accept it – if we just accept Him.  “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins”.   Colossians 2:13

God doesn’t force us to live according to His word.  We live according to His Word and commandments because we choose to.  We choose to honor Him, we choose to show others His kindness and grace, we choose to forgive the unforgivable.  No, it is not easy and we are not capable if we try to do it alone, but with Christ we CAN!   “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

If we clothe ourselves in Christ (Galations 3:26-28), soak in His Word, listen for His whisper and trust Him for all our provisions our actions will come naturally.  His kindness, love, compassion, forgiveness, grace will flow out of us and spill out onto everyone we come in contact with.

We don’t have a God on the shelf who is watching to see if we deserve His love!  We have an active, living God who loves us, who wants to know us intimately, help us navigate our lives in the best way possible and use us as instruments of His peace and love.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11


Unconditional Love

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My son came into the kitchen crying.  He was upset with his sister.  Apparently, he had hit her and she was mad at him for that.  If you are a mom, I am sure you have heard it all before!  So, we had a talk about hitting, why it wasn’t kind, why people don’t like it, you get the drift.   Then he said to me, “Mommy, why do you always love me?”

My first response was a thought, “I am so thankful he understands that even though I don’t love his actions, I always love him.”  My second response had to be answer to his question and honestly, my response felt very weak as I looked at him and said, “I always love you because I am your mom and your are my son.”  Seriously, couldn’t I come up with anything more creative and inspiring than that?  Thankfully, it was good enough for him and off he went.

Isn’t that how it is with us and God?  We are his children and when we have sinned or done something terrible we sit at his feet and say, “How can you still love me?  How can you possibly forgive this?”

Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13

His answer is so simple, it doesn’t seem like enough.  It feels like we should have to do more, pay a bigger price or suffer some sort of punishment.  No!  He forgives because He is our Father and His love for us is deep, constant and unconditional.  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”  Isaiah 54:10  If that love didn’t exist, if he didn’t love us as He says He does there is no way He could have allowed His son to die on that cross for us.

God forgiving us that is the easy part . . . the question is usually can we accept that forgiveness and move forward.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.  Isaiah 43:25

Trust Him.  Believe in Him.  Follow Him. Celebrate Him.  You are forgiven.  God washes our sins away daily and allows us the opportunity to start each day with a fresh start.  Take advantage of it.  Rejoice in it.  Don’t allow the bondage of sin to hold you down, harden your heart, make you lose your way, or lead you into more temptation.  God’s love is priceless, take refuge in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 36:7).

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”  Isaiah 44:22

GODCHICK

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A few years ago my husband gave me a bracelet for my birthday.  It was silver with “GODCHICK” engraved on it.  I loved it, but eventually the bracelet wore out and I decided to make it the personalized license plate on my car.  I’ll tell you, it puts a lot of pressure on a person when you are driving around town everyday and everyone knows you are a Christian.  No cutting people off or losing your temper with the person who cuts you off.  You get the picture!

I have even thought to myself, “maybe I should take it off”.  It is a lot of responsibility and what if I can’t live up to the example I need to portray as GODCHICK?  What if I need to scream at my kids one morning on the way to school because they won’t stop arguing?

Then I reconsidered and took a tough look at myself.  Why does it take a license plate to make me feel accountable?  It should be that – I want to please God and live in such a way that brings others closer to Him.  Hypocrite!  That is what so many Christians are accused of and why so many turn away from Christianity.  We talk one way, but live another. I don’t want that to be me.  How about you?  Even if we can fool others, we can never fool God (Job 13:9).

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

No one said it would be easy.  As this scripture states, those who receive much are held to great accountability.  As Christians, we receive the greatest gift that can be given – complete forgiveness, atonement for all sins and eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  If that doesn’t inspire us to live our lives as an example of His love, I don’t think there is anything else that could, not even a license plate!

We will be held accountable for all we do and say in this life.  We will all give an account to God (Romans 14:12).  We need to take God’s words and our responsibilities as Christians very seriously.  Do this out of a love for our Lord and Savior not just for looks or reputation.

As an exercise, for the next week imagine a big sign hanging around your neck that says, “I am a Christian!” or if you are really brave wear a shirt that says it!  See how your words and actions change and reflect on it.

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse- the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today;  the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.” Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Lift Up Your Hands

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I recently saw a picture of a friend at an NC State basketball game.  He was up in the stands with both arms raised, making the wolf sign with his fingers, wearing his NC State red, mouth wide open cheering passionately for his team.

It struck me like a ton of bricks.  So many people attend rock concerts and sports games, raise their hands, cheer and worship the team, singers or players.  Why can’t people walk into church and feel like they can do the same thing?! It is certainly a prime example of how our society elevates music, sports, self and Hollywood above all else and sometimes we get sucked in. It is OK to join the crowds at sporting events or concerts in wild praise, but how about in church?

I am not going to tell you that I have always been comfortable worshipping with such emotion: hands in the air, eyes closed and soaking in the comforting and inspiring words of the music.  However, as my relationship with God has grown more intimate, my body has responded and I am unable to keep from responding to His glory and majesty in a physical way.

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
“Let God be exalted!” Psalm 70:4

Church and worship feel incomplete if I haven’t had an opportunity to sing, praise and worship my Father in Heaven. I love to read 2 Samuel 6:14-15 and imagine David wearing his linen ephod singing and dancing with great abandon before God.

“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”

Have you danced with great abandon before God recently.  Have you let your hair down and shown Him with praise how much He means to you and how thankful you are for his many blessings?