Soften My Heart

Isaiah 6, 2018:

Help me hear and understand you, Father.

Help me see, Father.  I want to see more than just what’s on the surface.

Soften my heart towards the things you care about.

Open my ears, Abba.  Open my eyes to your truth.

When I am close to you, I see you.  I hear you.

I open my heart to you now, Father

I am turning to you.

Heal me, make me whole.

It’s Not Okay

I’m surprised at how often I find myself doing it – rationalizing.

Making up excuses for bad choices.

Telling myself that something is ‘not that bad’.

Do you do this, too?

Do you tell yourself “everyone’s doing it” or “no one will ever know” when you think about doing something wrong?

God’s words through Isaiah are very clear about our tendency to rationalize away bad decisions.  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter”.

Woe to me when I call evil good…..or call evil okay…..or call evil just easier.  These words echo through my head as I recommit to stop rationalizing things.

I need to be discerning – don’t accept evil as good, don’t call shades of darkness light.

I need to be wise – this doesn’t mean I go around judging other people.  God is their judge.  I’m focusing on my behavior and my values and my choices.  I’m focusing on calling good good and calling evil evil in my life.

Stop the excuses, stop the rationalizing.

Please open my eyes, Abba Father.

 

What If?

What if our sin and rebellion showed on the outside?

I’m reading in 1 Chronicles how God gave King Uzziah leprosy because of the king’s unfaithfulness.   Everyone could see the king’s sin.

On second thought, I think our sins also show on the outside.  We don’t have leprosy but some of us have broken relationships that are easy to see.  And these relationships broke because of our lack of forgiveness and patience.

Others of us have very difficult situations on our lives that are no secret and are direct consequences for bad choices we made.

Many of us have anger and frustration because of our selfishness and lack of self-control.  Those of us who ignore God or fail to live our life by faith, can be filled with fear because we trust other things like money, careers and relationships to give us security.  This stresses us out because we know – deep inside – that these things are not secure.

Yep – all of this shows on the outside.

But it begins on the inside  – with our heart.  That’s why God starts his transformation on the inside.

God has brought his love and light and truth and grace into my heart – transforming me one step at a time.  And – gradually – it begins to show on the outside.

God wants to do the same transformation for you –

will you let him?

Thank you for your transforming love and grace, Abba Father.

Stumbling

Who is wise?  They will realize these things.

Who is discerning?  They will understand that God’s path is the right path and they will walk in it.

The book of Hosea ends with this truth – But those who rebel stumble.

How do they stumble?  They spend many hours on things with little or no ultimate value.  They spend a lot of money on things that provide little or no satisfaction.  They spend much energy looking for something that will complete them and give them a purpose when the Provider of these does not live on this earth.

Those who refuse to acknowledge God as Creator and Savior will stumble.  And they will continue to stumble until they submit to God and get on his path.

Meanwhile, God opens the eyes of the wise so they can walk with him.  There are still small stumbles but they know how to get back on the right path.

How do we walk right with God?  By loving God with our whole heart, mind and soul and loving others.  Simple……..yet profound.

When we walk with God, he completes us and gives us a purpose.

He also gives us joy.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

Not Entirely

I used to pick my way through the Bible – only reading the easier, more interesting parts.  I memorized scripture but it was always the famous verses that everyone chooses as their favorites.

Of course, I avoided studying the Old Testament – who wants to read pages and pages of details about how to build the temple and huge paragraphs about acacia wood?  Why would I want to read rules about what to do with your neighbor’s donkey?

And then God challenged me many years ago to help lead the way in motivating my church family to read the entire Bible in a year.  Through that year, God opened my eyes to how important it is – for me, for my relationship with him, for my goal of being a devoted disciple of his – to read the Bible completely.  No more picking and choosing.  I have been reading the entire Bible every year since then.

I have now discovered that God speaks as clearly to me through the Old Testament as he did the new.  He taught me that his direction to the Israelite community about how they should treat their neighbor’s donkey relates to how I should treat my neighbors and their possessions.  He showed me how his concern for the details of building the temple of the Lord is the same concern he has for the details of my life.  Now I like the parts about acacia wood.

So, as I’m reading 2 Kings and see how King Amaziah followed God but didn’t take care of all the details of removing the high places where his people worshipped pagan gods, I understand why this king’s reign was not blessed as much as King David was.  King Amaziah was not fully devoted to God.  He picked and chose how he wanted to obey God, ignoring some of God’s directions.  And he missed the ultimate blessing of having a close relationship with God.

I will miss it, too, if I pick and choose my way through God’s word.  If I decide to obey him when its easy or just when I feel like it, I will not receive all the blessings God has waiting for me.

I have decided that I’m going to continue to read the entire Bible every year so I can hear everything that God wants to teach me.

What are you choosing?

Thank you for your precious Word to us, Abba Father.

 

A Whirlwind

It’s hard to understand.

Dying seems like such a permanent thing here on earth.

Because I have accepted salvation through Jesus, my death on earth is when my body stops functioning, but my soul – the core of who I am – does not die.  I have already started my eternal life – this first part is on earth, the second part will be my forever home with my Father.

As I reach the fall season of my life, my body reminds me daily that it has a specific shelf life and there will be an end.  My forever home is waiting for me.

My husband and I built a new home last year in a new community so a lot of the discussions with our new neighbors are about our houses.  And I’m amazed at how many people call these man-made shelters their ‘forever home’.  Not me – my forever home is waiting for me when this part of my journey ends.

The prophet Elijah is one of two people in the Bible whose bodies didn’t die.  A chariot of fire with horses of fire appeared and “Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind”.

I would love to go to heaven that way – now you see me, now you don’t!  But I believe my journey home is going to be a lot less dramatic.  When I breathe my last breath, Jesus will be holding my hand and he will walk my soul into heaven with him, leaving my body behind.

No chariots of fire.

No whirlwinds.

Just joy.

I will finally be in my forever home.

Thank you for preparing a place for me, Abba Father.

Under a Bush

It’s happened to me.  Has it happened to you?

I’ve gone to a great seminar or a camp or a retreat – feeling more and more motivated as the event progressed.  I’m on the mountaintop – very close to God!  Right on track!  Ready to tackle the world!  Fired up to make my dreams come true!

You get the point.

And then I come back to reality.  I have to face the real world – disappointments and distractions and disillusions.  The people and problems and various perspectives drain away my enthusiasm.  I am no longer on the mountaintop – now I’m in the valley.

If you’ve been there with me, we are all in good company.  In 1 Kings, Elijah the prophet orchestrated an epic confrontation on a mountaintop with 850 pagan prophets.  I can’t believe this story hasn’t been made into a major movie because it has tons of drama and great visuals.  God sent fire down from heaven to burn up Elijah’s sacrifice and even dry up all the water around the altar.  The pagan priests slashed themselves trying to get the attention of their gods and then they were all slaughtered.  All of this violence would fit right in with our ‘action movies’ today.

What a mountaintop experience for Elijah!

But then Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he crawled under a bush, praying that God would take his life.

Have you ever felt like crawling under a bush?  I have.  I’ve never asked God to take my life because I know he has already determined that date.  But I have ‘crawled under a bush’ and wanted to stay there….. forever.

Instead of taking Elijah’s life, God sent an angel to feed him and care for him.  God still sends angels to us today when we’re in a valley – often human angels – to love us and care of us.

Then God told Elijah to go back up on the mountaintop so he could get close to God.  Because God does not often talk to us through the powerful wind or the earthquake or the fire.  God usually whispers.

When you and I come down off the mountain into a valley of disappointment and confusion, God says the same thing to us – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

As I seek God when I’m in a valley and draw near to him, he wraps his arms around me and whispers his truth and love  into my mind.  This is where I find peace.

I love you, Abba Father.

 

Where Am I?

It’s good for me to ask myself this question once in a while.  How is my relationship with God going?  After all these years, am I still letting God change me?  Transform me?  Am I more Christ-like today than I was 1 year ago?

God explains to us one of his guiding principles for being a Christ-follower in 2 Chronicles 15, ” The LORD is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”

If I want God to be with me, I need to spend time with him.  When I seek him, I will always find him.  And forsaking God is not an option for me.  That’s not happening in my lifetime.

So where am I?

I have loved God my entire life and have been serious about building my relationship with God for over 30 years.  God continues to open my eyes and change my thinking.  He is revealing himself to me as I study and memorize his words.  I have felt him very close to me this last 2 years as I have gone through many dark valleys of grief and loss.   I know God is with me on this journey towards the truth.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Slaves

We all have things we are committed to – things we spend a lot of time and energy on along with a big chunk of our money.  Things like careers, houses, cars, sports, shopping, the latest gadgets, video games fill our hours, leaving little or no room for a relationship with God.

If we lived back in Biblical times, it would be said that we are a slave to these things.  We choose who we serve and when we put anything above God in our priorities, there are negative results.

King Rehoboam led his people in turning away from the One True God to serve idols – all kinds of idols.  Since the people were unfaithful to God, God let King Shishak of Egypt capture Judah.  The people then realized their sin and God saw.  As a good father, he let them pay the consequence of their sin which meant the King of Egypt became their king but God promised to give them deliverance soon.

In 2 Chronicles 12, God said, “They will, however, become subject to him (the King of Egypt), so they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”

When we choose something other than God to be slaves to, we also pay consequences, such as – large debt, broken relationships and lack of purpose and meaning in our lives.  When we turn back to  God, he promises to deliver us from this misguided slavery.  It may take a while.  It will probably take some real effort and work and commitment on our part.

But God, our good Father, is faithful.  He will deliver us.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

What do I want to Hear?

When I’ve got something important happening, God has told me many, many times in his word to seek wise counsel.

Get another opinion.

Discuss options.

And consider a different perspective.

But who is wise counsel?  If I get my advice from the wrong people, I’d be better off not getting any at all.

This is where King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, made a big mistake.  He had an important decision to make early in his reign regarding the workload he was giving his people so  he asked the elders who had advised his father for their perspective.  He didn’t like what they said so he went to a group of his friends who told him exactly what he wanted to hear.

Bad choice.  His people rebelled and the king barely escaped with his life.

Rehoboam was obviously not seeking wise counsel – he was looking for people who agreed with him.

Do I ever do that?

Do you?

When we talk with people about issues in our lives, are we looking for wisdom?  Or do we talk to the people we know will agree with what we want to do?

If we want to avoid the disaster Rehoboam experienced, we will choose our counsel wisely.

Please give us wisdom, Abba Father.

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