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Archive for the tag “Heart Matters”

Golden Opportunity

Jesus stopped and called them, “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. This question is found in Matthew 20:32 and Mark 10:51. Jesus was walking out of the city of Jericho when he passed by two blind men who were begging by the side of the road. Mark names one of the men as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46). The blind men called out to Jesus asking for His mercy. Everyone around the two men rebuked them, but they called out even louder. Then Jesus stopped. He wanted to know what these men really wanted from Him. Was it a few coins? Did they have a pressing need greater than the obvious? They had to verbalize their need to Him. They wanted to see.

Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on them. He recognized their faith and touched their eyes. Matthew records the healing as immediately they received their sight. Immediately. Isn’t that one of the best words you could read? Wouldn’t it be great to have an immediate answer? I’m sure the blind men had been begging for years. But the minute that Jesus crossed their path, they saw their opportunity to act on His mercy. And they asked Him for their greatest need to be met. They knew what they wanted from Him. Immediately.

They must have heard stories about Jesus before this day because when He was coming their way, they shouted out “Son of David.” They recognized Jesus for who He was. This wasn’t just any one. This was the Promised One. They may have been physically blind, but they were more able to see than the Pharisees who never recognized Jesus for who He was. Immediately, they were healed because of their faith in the Promised One.

Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem when He came upon these blind beggars. It would be the final time He would travel that way. There would be no more opportunities for these men if they hadn’t acted when they did. Jesus was on the way to the cross. By the end of the week, everything would be different. No more opportunities for Jesus to touch these men or any other. This was it. Did the men know this was their golden opportunity? No. None of the people in the crowd that day knew what waited just a few days away. This was the last week in the life of Jesus – in the flesh.

We just never know when we have that last opportunity or our own golden opportunity; when we should have acted but didn’t. Maybe we don’t know what we really want and failed to see the opportunity when it came along. If Jesus asked us the same question, how would we answer? Do we really understand the implications of not knowing our greatest need? Probably not. It could be the greatest need that could have the greatest impact on this generation for the glory of God.

God often does more than we request – greater than we can imagine – when our hearts are aligned with His. Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Alignment comes first. If God hasn’t answered our prayers yet, maybe it’s a heart problem that is being corrected before the answer comes. Maybe we have the wrong motivation or the wrong request, or maybe things just haven’t lined up on God’s timetable.

The blind men might have been on that roadside for years, but one day they were at the right place at the right time for a Jesus encounter that changed their lives. They were ready when Jesus came to that place. We need to be ready too. We too will have divine encounters. We need to know what we really want. We need to know it within our souls that this is an encounter we cannot afford to miss. Grab it and let God do something amazing in it. Don’t miss the opportunity. It could be a one shot deal. We may never pass this way again.

Have you heard about this Jesus? Do you know Him for who He really is? The blind men knew Him and received their healing. Once healed, they praised Him; but they also joined Him on the journey. Whatever God is leading you to, don’t waste the opportunity – it could have an immediate effect on you and your world. This is our time to meet Jesus on the road to where He is going. Join Him on the journey. Delight in Him and you will be amazed by what you finally see.

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:8-10a

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Be the Light

Have you ever had a dream that left you feeling unsettled? The last two mornings, I have had that feeling. I don’t know why I dreamed the things I have dreamed, but they were disturbing nonetheless. This last one was about a storm brewing that I could not escape. The winds were picking up and the black clouds were rolling in. I was not at home and I couldn’t make my way there because I couldn’t find my car – actually it was a van which is a bit more unsettling to me as well! Anyway, I woke up in that state of “what am I to do?” “Where am I going to go?” Yuck. I didn’t get to finish the dream. I guess that’s why it’s so unsettling; there’s no conclusion. Did I make it through the storm? Did I ever find the hideous van? (Nothing against vans, but this one was a wreck.)

Maybe this dream was because of the unsettled times we’re in. The storm brewing feels like it’s never going to end. And we are, for sure, not at home in this place. I don’t usually write about the tragedies we are experiencing. But I read some of the comments on Facebook last night about gun control, mental illness and politics that left me feeling a bit unsettled. There is a lot of anger coming from all corners. I don’t have kids so I really don’t think about the things parents think about, but I understand the anger.

I don’t have a problem with guns, although I don’t like them. I feel sorry for those who are dealing with mental illness. And I am sorry that all they are given are drugs instead of helping them with the problem. There has to be a different course of action. Background checks will continue to fail the system. Evil is still a problem that cannot be legislated. Parkland maybe the latest but unfortunately will not be the last. There is always a way for evil to find its way. “Where there is a will there will be a way.” It does feel hopeless and unsettling.

We have been on this slippery slope for quite some time. I can remember the unsettling times we had when I was growing up. Back then it was rioting and knives were the course of action. Guns were not an issue. I don’t remember what set it all off. I was in grade school when the riots happened in the local high school. When the high school kids came onto our school grounds, the principal made them leave – and they did. There was respect for authority back then.

Maybe it was my generation that began this slippery slope. We didn’t like the rules we had growing up and we relaxed them for our kids. Maybe the baby boomers got it wrong and the generations coming from them are experiencing the consequences. We took out spanking the kids when they broke the rules – I know; child abuse and all that – I get it. We have to be politically correct and not allow any mention of God in school life. No prayers; although I don’t remember prayers in my school at the time. But the things I grew up with, seemed to have gone away. School isn’t the same as it once was. I don’t know whose fault it really is but culture will not change any time soon. We’re too far down the slope to turn back now, right?

The real problem we’re facing is a heart problem. Somewhere along the way, the heart problem got more pronounced. It’s the law of sowing and reaping. We haven’t sown into the heart the ideas of right and wrong; of love and kindness; of respect for authority. We have gotten way off track. I think we started chasing the almighty dollar and left the family to fend for itself. The dollar has failed us. The family unit is no longer the same. When the family unit has been destroyed, so will the community as a whole. The threads of life are unraveling at a faster pace than ever before. It’s hard to get the family and the community back together again. And the systems are failing because of it.

So, what is the answer we are seeking? Yes, the correct answer is Jesus. However, the community needs the church to wake up to the problem. We need to stop chasing the dollar and start paying more attention to the family. We need to bring back the heart of Jesus’ message to the church and to the community. Love God and love one another. When we follow those commands, it will change the family and the community. It’s not a simple change. It’s a small ruder to turn this boat around.

The church has quite a bit of accountability for this slippery slope. We have allowed evil to reign in our communities and in our families. The church has to be more proactive instead of reactive. It’s not about our programs that will change this world. It’s about the heart of Jesus and showing it to others outside of our walls.

You do know who the church is, right? It’s you. And me. Anyone who follows Jesus has a part to play in solving this problem. And we need to get more involved – even if we don’t have kids – yes, I am talking to myself now. The light will dispel the darkness. We have to be out there showing the love of Jesus to those who have no idea He will change their lives – He will change their hearts. We can’t just talk about it anymore. We have to demonstrate it. Let others experience this love for themselves. It changes everything.

Maybe we need to experience it again too. Maybe we’re part of the problem. We have forgotten God’s love for us and we feel unloved as a whole. Are you on your knees? It’s time, church. We can make a difference. One child at a time. One family at a time. One community at a time. One state. One nation. One world. It’s our purpose. Let’s get on with it.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

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)

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

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