“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!” (Deuteronomy 6:5 MSG)
What would our inner thoughts be like if we loved God with our whole heart? I wonder if there would be room for criticism of others? I wonder if we would be more teachable or better listeners? Would we be slower to label and quicker to find common ground? Maybe the key is going back to the start and making sure it is God who is our God and not something or someone else, especially ourselves. Just some questions I am answering for myself today and thought you might want to join me. We have the daily choice of living lives consumed by the love of God. Can you think of a more exciting way to live?
*Picture of our youngest bringing our oldest as her “show and tell”.
“Mercy for others will reveal your ongoing need for mercy, driving you to the end of yourself and into the arms of your merciful Savior.” -Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies Devotional
I read these words this morning and my heart just about burst with thanksgiving. It reminded me of the verse in Luke, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Is this not marvelous? Such a reminder to remember how much we have been forgiven and to be merciful every opportunity we are given. Is this easy? Absolutely not, but it becomes easier with practice. Take a look back over your life and remind yourself of the many, many times God has forgiven you and given you another chance. It is astonishing and extremely humbling. We may never understand the offense, but we can choose to forgive again and again. For the Lord also said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). I am in great need of mercy daily and for that I am ever thankful to serve a merciful Savior.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
These verses reminded me of reading scripture. We read and think on it little by little, planting the seeds of truth in our mind and heart. The seeds take root and our life begins to be transformed. Small changes, new desires, turning from old things as we grow into something new. We may not even be mindful of what is growing, just that we are more aware of the needs and hurts of those around us. And the thought of our sowing providing something for someone else is extremely beautiful. Just a reminder that our God wastes nothing, even those seeds which have been sown and watered with tears. You never know who may need a place to perch today and be reminded there is hope.
“She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.” Proverbs 31:15
This “wife of noble character” has always fascinated me. How did she become so wise and get so much done? Were her children never young? How much help did she have? For too long I think I was only focused on her work, and felt like I would always come up short to this impossible standard. Then one day this part stood out to me. What if the food she provided for her family was also the Word of God? Since she could not serve what she did not have, what if she fed herself first God’s word and then fed her family His Word too? Truth and breakfast make a great start to the day. From there, she would be able to feed anyone else she came in contact with throughout the day. She would have a word of encouragement, patience, joy, love, peace, strength, purpose, confidence, discernment, wisdom and was genuinely kind. Her eyes would have a light in them that would not dim, maybe even drawing strangers in. Fear of the unknown would give way to laughter, for she knows where her help comes from. And the most beautiful reward on earth would be having her husband and children consider her a blessing to be praised. All because of how she began her day.
I need multiple lessons to make a lasting change. Thankfully, our God is faithful, patient, merciful and full of grace with His children. I am not sure when or why it started, but I have lived much of my life in defeat. I would start something, get tired and quit or settle for good, but not best. The list is long and at times comical. Some years ago, a certain discipline was presented and I took up the challenge. The habit became so transformational that I could not stop. Spending time in the Word of God has that affect on a person. As only the Lord can do, He has not left any area of my life untouched. Scripture after scripture has healed, encouraged, convicted, strengthened, corrected and increased my love and dependence on our Savior. I know I will spend a lifetime pouring over my opened Bible, written words from my first love.
One of the areas He has recently been highlighting is this habit of defeat or settling. I see now that the root has been fear all along. Amazing how that also leaves nothing untouched, isn’t it? I feel like a healed soldier, declared able to fight again. I stand ready, praying for His will to be done. For He is God and I am not.
“Then, for a second time, they made David’s son Solomon king; they anointed him as the LORD’s ruler…”. (1 Chronicles 29:22)
Sitting beside our oldest daughter in church on Sunday, this thought seemed to whisper inside, “You have raised a worshiper.” To take credit would be to deny grace and an attempt to steal His glory, so none will be taken. It is because she knows she is loved unconditionally, trusted and is lead by God who leads us all, that she is who she is. When I read this verse today, Sundays memory came to mind. As I dug a little deeper, it appears that this second anointing was done more publicly and the first was not. So it seems with parenting. What we sow daily in our hearts and the hearts of our children can often feel very private, just between you and the Lord and maybe a few that know you. Then as they grow up and you do too, the overflow of all those years of sowing privately becomes more public, especially when they head off to college. We do not deny that there are plenty of bumps in the road, making us that much more grateful for grace, but we keep sowing. Day in and day out we do the heart work, trusting the Lord to bring about a mighty harvest that will outlive us. When the days get long I pray I remember Sunday.
I’ve mentioned it before, but there is a picture my mom chose for my room growing up that I still have. It is of a gardener removing a thorn from a small girls hand. It is tender and loving in every way, such a picture of Jesus. (Remember Mary thought Jesus was the gardener when she went to his tomb.) Studying the scripture this week, where Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish from his disciples hands, made me think of this picture. It reminded me that Jesus is able to take what we give him from our hands too. Like a thorn, He took fear from my outstretched hand. It often hurt me and would act as a weapon I used to unknowingly hurt others too. And just like the Savior He is, He allowed me to have a real scar on my hand that serves as a reminder not to pick up that thorn of fear again. Circumstances and words tempt me daily, but the scar reminds me of the cost Jesus paid for my healing. His perfect love casts out my fear again and again when my eyes are focused on Him. What a Savior! I pray that He multiplies the healing only He can give to feed many who remain in fear.
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.” Matthew 2:13
We are studying the book of Matthew as a church. Yesterday, our pastor said something I will never forget. He said that “God gave Joseph the dream because he could do something about it”. Joseph’s obedience sent their family into the night and to Egypt. Do you ever feel like you have been given a dream and it sends you into the dark and unfamiliar? Your hearts desire is to be obedient. You begin to move forward with the dream, planting a seed so to speak. It appears to be the start of something, but quickly withers. Discouragement can quickly follow.
Could it be that it was not the seed, but the soil or the condition of our heart? Further in Matthew we read a story Jesus shared about sowing seeds. Some fall into rocky soil, others into weeds of worry and others into good soil. For me, my heart needed some weeds removed that were pretty well rooted. Tears make the soil softer, repentance follows and for that I am thankful. Nothing is wasted with our God. So, a small seed is planted, an obedient step has been taken. I pray it grows and bears much fruit.
There is this incredible warrior in scripture whose name is Benaiah. He does many courageous exploits, yet he was not one of King David’s top three warriors. Instead, he was highly honored and put in charge of the king’s bodyguard. How trusted this warrior must have been. You want someone who is trustworthy and courageous training those who protect life.
As is often the case, this made me think of fathers. Their role is so vital to our families, cities, states and nation. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we are where we are as a country. Not to let us women off the hook, could it be that we have not let men take the role they were created to be in our homes? We are quite capable of running the show, so to speak, but how much more effective would our training be of the next generation if we let fathers be the guide? What if we honored, trusted and encouraged them? I have a feeling we would be raising up a generation who know they are loved, protected and worth fighting for.
At just eight years old, our daughter has believed a lie. I have no doubt where it came from, the enemy does not seem to be a respecter of age or innocence. She told me she thinks she is ugly and hates the color of her hair, wishing it was different. I asked who told her these lies, planted the seed, and her response was shocking. She said nobody did, she told herself. Evidence of his whispers. This completely contradicts what is so obvious to anyone and the truth written in scripture. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14). And there in lies the key, her soul does not know. Her soul does not know that she is one of God’s works. Another thing, if this lie is allowed to take root and grow, her entire life will be impacted. So what do we do? We pray, we tell her the truth, remind her of the gift she is and we do not give up until her soul knows it very well. I am thankful to get watch this happen!