buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Heart Matters”

Ho Ho Home for Christmas

No matter what stage of life I’m in, I always want to be home for Christmas. I love being there with my family gathered together. This year is extra special since my nephew and his family is back from the far country where they have been for the last few years. I am grateful that God has brought them home again safe and sound. But I am also grateful for the time they have had serving the Lord in what He has called them to do. As we all gather, my nephews and families, my sisters and husbands, my Dad and his wife – it will be as it should be – together again.

Home has changed throughout the years. When my parents and I moved when I was twelve, home moved with us. However, the dynamics changed because my sisters didn’t move with us. Christmas became a moving event. We either went to my sisters or my sisters came to us. Sometimes it was just for a day, sometimes it was for two or three days; every year was a bit different. But when my parents settled back in my hometown after their retirement, it once again felt like it should be. It was home in every sense of the word.

When my Mom died, it felt like everything got off kilter and we lost our center – our anchor. The first year was a tough year. But we managed through it. As the years have passed, I have come to realize Mom wasn’t the center of our family. Mom was a representation – a physical presence – but what lives on is love. Love is the core of who we are as a family. It wraps us up in a warm embrace. It feels like home.

This morning, I read about Jacob’s dream (found in Genesis 28:10-17) about seeing God and the angels that went to and fro from the place where he rested. God gave Jacob a promise that night. God said that Jacob’s descendants would possess the land where he rested. That land was going to be home to millions. But at that time, Jacob had no one. He was alone and running from his brother. God promised Jacob “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). That’s a big promise.

Eventually, Jacob did make it back to that place and settled in that land. Eventually, there would be millions who would come from his family line. God fulfilled His promise to Jacob. But the bigger promise of everyone being blessed because of Jacob’s family was much more defined by a person than the family itself. The blessing came centuries after the promise through Jesus Christ. A baby would be born in Bethlehem to a virgin; an announcement from the angel under a starlit sky to shepherds watching over those sacrificial lambs; God had done this thing He promised to do. The blessing was born – the promised fulfilled.

The author who wrote the devotional this morning (Tim Gustafson, Our Daily Bread, December 21, 2017) had this take away from the Jacob’s dream scripture: “Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.” Jesus is our home. He is the love that surrounds us and gives us that belonging. He is the center of our family and He is the one who draws us close.

Sometimes we can run away from home, but love will always bring us back. If we are truly Jesus’ followers, no matter how far away we run, He will always search for us and receive us back. He wants us to be home with Him forever. He went to great lengths to assure us of His promise that we will always have a place with Him. “Home is where the heart is” but it’s Jesus at the center of that heart that makes it true in every sense.

Jesus gave us another big promise at the end of His life. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Just as the promise for Jacob was fulfilled through Jesus, we can trust that what Jesus promised will also be fulfilled by His word. We have a home being prepared for that day and it’s going to be glorious.

During this Christmas season as my family gathers, I recognize that this is just a small representation of what heaven will be like one day. The larger family will gather in a glorious place filled with love. There will be a feast beyond imagination and a celebration of Jesus that we cannot fathom at this time. This is the idea that helps me celebrate with more enthusiasm every year that passes. One day, I will be home for Christmas and the best gift of all will be the eternal blessing with Jesus.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

Advertisements

If Then Statement

Have you noticed lately there has been an emphasis on prayer? Priscilla Shirer wrote the Armor of God Bible Study a couple of years ago, which begins with prayer as the first step to putting on the armor. The movie War Room came out about that same time, which is about getting on our knees before God; crying out to Him. Anne Graham Lotz just recently released a book called The Daniel Prayer; again about getting on our knees before God. There must be something to this that we need to understand for these times. I think we are at a crossroads in our culture today. I think God is preparing us to be battle ready for whatever is coming next.

I also think in order to be ready; our hearts have to be right before God. In James 5:16 we are told that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James goes on to write in the following verses that Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Pastor James MacDonald is currently preaching a series on Breakthrough Prayer. Pastor James pointed out a few things in the Book of James that needs to be considered. In James 4:16 we are told to confess our sins to one another so that we will be healed – spiritually. Sin is a blockage to prayer. Elijah was in the midst of a battle. He didn’t pray for Ahab and Jezebel to be struck by lightning – he could have – they were a thorn in his side to his effective ministry. He prayed so that the people would be humbled. Pastor James mentioned that “Elijah prayed a little step on a long journey to bring God’s Kingdom purpose.”

We get caught up in our lives and forget this is a long journey in God’s Kingdom. We have just a small part while we are here for this short amount of time. But God has the long range view. We get messed up with this short life with all the complications, thorns in our side and our panties in a twist. It’s hard not to. But if our hearts are lined with God’s; we would pray like Elijah and ask for God’s Kingdom purpose to be fulfilled in our time. We could be instruments that God uses that would change kingdoms and nations just like Elijah.

I am currently reading Beth Moore’s Audacious. There is a chapter titled “You would ask me.” In this chapter, Beth writes about Jesus’ encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-54). Beth points out this small statement in verse ten “If you only knew” (NLT). The next phrase that stands out to Beth is “You would ask me.” If we only knew then we would ask Jesus.” There’s a promise in this passage as well. “I would give you.” If we only knew then we would ask Jesus and He would give it to you.

If we don’t know, then how are we supposed to ask for it? There’s a catch in the belief system. The prayer of a righteous person; He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4); when we are aligned with God’s heart and know His will. Beth wrote: “The axis of our approach shifts dramatically when we know beyond a doubt that we’re perfectly aligned, asking God for something He is more than anxious to give than we are to receive.” There are some things that God is only going to do through prayer. He would do it if only we would ask.

It all starts with us. Our hearts have to be right. We can have confidence in prayer because of God’s character. He is a good Father and loves His children more than we could ever know or understand. Understand this – God answers, but sometimes it may take a while before the answer comes. Pastor Dhariaus Daniels recently pointed out in a message during Code Orange Revival at Elevation Church that the Israelites cried out to God; God talked to Moses. There was no message back to the people of God. The Israelites continued to cry out and God continued to work on Moses to take the assignment. Sometimes the prayer isn’t being answered immediately because God is working on something or someone behind the scenes. Our call is to persist in prayer until the answer is received or we get an assurance from God that He has heard and the answer is coming. The prayer of the righteous is heard and in God’s time and in God’s way; it will be done. Have confidence in God’s character and His love.

If you only knew + you would ask Me = I would give you. This is the formula for fervent prayer that will change things. Pastor James pointed out in his recent message: “Great prayers come from people like us who choose to pursue God in fervent prayer.”

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

Source: Elizabeth Moore, Audacious (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2015) pages 124-129.
James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel, message series Breakthrough Prayer.

The Pharisee

This past weekend I heard a sermon on the Pharisee and the tax collector. The parable is found in Luke 18. The self-righteous man believed he was right with God because he was keeping the letter of the Law. He did more than he was required. He fasted more often than what Pharisees were expected to do. He gave a tenth of all that he received. The requirements were to give a tenth of what was earned. He believed he was right with God by the things that he did; by the rules he kept. The tax collector knew his heart and knew he was not able to keep the Law. He knew he was a rule breaker – a sinner. I tend to keep rules too. But I recognize my own heart. I am a rule breaker too – I am a sinner who is only saved by grace, not by obeying the rules.

The preacher did not go where I am getting ready to go. What struck me about the topic was the giving part of the story. The man gave on everything he received; not just on what he earned. In essence, he was trying to out give God. By all means, giving is good. Scripture tells us we are supposed to discern in our hearts what we want to give. The attitude of the heart is where we go wrong. If we are only giving because of the requirement to give or to give only to get recognition of the gift; it accounts for nothing. We are to give because God gave to us first, and we are returning the portion that is rightly His. In Malachi, God says we are robbing Him if we do not return His portion. But it is not supposed to be done grudgingly. Paul taught in Second Corinthians that we are to be cheerful givers.

Money is a hard thing to part with. I have a financial background, and this can be one of my most difficult areas of obedience for me. Not necessarily giving back to God; but giving in general. When money is tight, I am not quite so willingly to donate to worthy causes. I check my expenditures for the month before I decide whether the cause is worthy enough to sacrifice for. This is not the way I want to be. I want to have a generous heart. But it is a constant struggle to let go of those things that God has given me. God has given me the challenge to do more with less. God is teaching me that He is sufficient to meet all my needs. He has worked on my desire for less stuff. I have to watch my thoughts though because I can get on my Pharisee corner and think too highly of myself because I have done this “great thing” to reduce my possessions. There is nothing that I have done by myself. It took God working in my heart and pointing out the things that have hindered my walk with Him. I can get too possessive of my stuff if I am not careful.

Then there is the lust game that comes at me from every angle. When I look at my neighbors or my friends, I see they have all they need plus some. They drive nice cars. They go out to eat more than I do. One of my neighbors is fixing up their house. My friend mentioned she found twenty dollars in the parking lot. I can get dissatisfied too if I am not careful to keep it all in the right perspective. I am reminded that if I don’t have something, then it’s because I am not ready for it. If God brings a blessing to me, then I know that my heart is right to accept it with gratitude. I also realized that I don’t need any debt in my life. God gives when we can handle it properly. The nice car is nice when there is no car payment that has to be made every month. Or the nice house is not so nice when the mortgage is more than I could afford.

God has been good to teach me the right principles to live by and how to honor Him with spending wisely. I am learning His principles of money management – it’s taken a few years, but I think I am finally over the “mine” phase. It’s all His. I am just the money manager for a short time. Someone else will get the job when I am finally done here on this earth! In the meantime, I no longer give because I have an obligation to God and want to follow the rules. I give because He is so generous to me. The budget will never look good on paper, but in God’s economy everything is always paid on time and with the right attitude!

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Post Navigation