God’s Vindication

He who vindicates me is near….(Is 50:8).

God’s vindication often comes in the most unlikely of places. We can never be certain of how God will do it, who He will raise up, or how He will make it happen. However, we can be certain of one thing; God’s vindication always comes in the waiting. It never comes in the worrying, I’ll take charge kind of life. God’s deliverance always comes to those who would walk through the crucible of testing and walk in the wisdom of His refinement.

If God says He will do it, then sit back and let Him make it happen. If God says, I will fight for you, then wait and listen, watch and pray for His hand to move mountains, breakdown strongholds and set you free.

The pressure to step in and wield our own will is at times, overwhelming, but nothing will be accomplished in our own feeble strength.

We may wonder, worry and fear where God’s deliverance will come from, but we can trust and know that God is orchestrating a beautiful symphony. We dare not snatch the baton from His hand. In doing so, we delay the process of seeing His will be put on display in our lives because we stay in the places of fear, distrust, and pride.

Lord, we need. your grace. We are weak, feeble people who love to be in control. Lord, I am one of those people, but I want to sit with you in the waiting. I want to see your glory on display. Lord, shut my mouth if no words are supposed to come from it. Keep my feet from moving any direction that you have not ordered for me. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Camelback, The Desert and Water From a Rock

They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock…. (Is 48:21)

Camelback saved my life as I was hiking through the Judean wilderness on an adventure throughout the land of Israel. Each day we’d fill up on water for the day. Our director encouraged us to purchase a camelback, which is a backpack with a small water pouch you can fill that has a tube with a mouthpiece so you can walk and drink at the same time.
I don’t know what I would have done without my camelback. There’s one thing I know to be certain, I wouldn’t have made it very long in the desert without it.
As we walk into this Christmas season there may be some who are waiting for God to do something. It could be you’re walking through a desert season, wondering how and when God is going to show up.
It’s the desert that tests our faith to see who and what we will trust in. God is taking me through a bit of a desert season right now. It’s for a great purpose though, I feel it. As my faith is being tested, tried and challenged I hear the Father say, “Don’t step in and take over Heather, I’ve got this.” I have a tendency to take charge. It’s a good and bad part of my personality. Now, I’m learning how to let God take charge for me.
I want to see water come from the rock, but I never will until I stop trying to make it happen for myself. Could it be that we don’t experience the miracles of God, because we have become self-sufficient within ourselves? We have no need for God because we’re going to make it happen. Lord, I am so quick to live like this; forgive me.
Some of us are wondering, during this Christmas season, if our health is going to make it much longer, if we’ll be able to pay the bills between now and the tax return, if our child, that we love deeply is going to forgive us and return home, or if we’ll ever find true happiness or contentment. There’s something to be said about the longing of the human heart, but where we go with our longing determines if we’ll either be filled with greater peace and purpose or be left wanting in the desert.
There is a great deliverer, healer, and provider. His name is Jesus. He takes brokenness, giant messes, lives full of fear and redeems them. That’s right, HE redeems them. The place He redeems them is in the waiting. As we wait before Him, He brings the victory.
Jesus, the desert feels like such a vulnerable place. However, it’s where you’re showing me more about myself than I ever thought possible. There’s something about the desert that’s exposing my weaknesses, insecurities, and self-sufficiency. Lord, thank you for the desert. Thank you for how you’re changing me. Abba, if I step in, please show me so that I might repent and be changed. Lord, bring water from the rock in my life, in Jesus name, amen!

I’m Not Arrogant: I Just Think I’m Better Than You

The images that are carried about are burdensome…. (Is 46:1).

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it only leads to death. Such is the way of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness ties down heavy loads on its fellow man. It seeks not to understand their plight, but to burden them with the weight of it. Self-righteousness does not consider the individual, nor their pain, but simply, the severity of their sin.
 
We are all self-righteous judges in our own right. I lived this way for many years, feeling as though my job was to act like the sin police, reminding people of the gravity of their sin and the consequences of it. In doing so, I only stacked even an even greater burden of condemnation on their back.
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This is how the Pharisees lived and Jesus called them a brood of vipers, white washed tombs and warned His followers against their behavior.
 
God, lifts our burdens from us. He becomes a place of safety and peace. Should not our job as Christians be not to pour down judgement, but to point people to the lifter of their burdens?
 
Compassion and love is the key. Without compassion for our fellowman it will be impossible to do this. Self-righteousness puffs up our pride, it blinds us to the reality that we too are sinners in desperate need of the gospel. Self-righteousness keeps us from having compassion for anyone else, except of course, ourselves.
 
Yes, we should call out a person on sin if God directs us to do so, but if we do it without love, we have become a self-righteous, condemning Pharisee. Harshness, rarely, if ever, wins a person over, but love does.
 
Love is what kept Jesus on the cross. Love is what sent Him to die for us and love is what draws us to repentance. Love is God’s motivation when we are disciplined, because without it, we would stay the same old wretched sinners. Love is what should be our banner as Christians. Love is what changed the world over 2000 years ago and love will come back again in the last days to make all things new.
 
Jesus, I have lacked compassion and love; forgive me. I want a deeper heart of compassion for those around me. I want to be like you. Abba, transform my heart. Grow your love and compassion in me, so that people can go to the lifter of their burdens. Help me to balance grace and truth for your glory, in Jesus name, amen.

When God Levels the Mountain

I will go before you
and will level the mountains; ….(Is 45:2).

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A few years ago I was on an adventure in the land of Israel. We explored and experienced new biblical sites everyday. One day, our bus pulled up to the desert fortress of Masada. Our director wanted us to have the full experience of what Jesus’ followers would have experienced in the first century, so instead of taking the plush cableway ride up the mountain, we walked the 700 foot winding snakes path in the blazing desert sun. The trek took us nearly an hour and a half to complete. By the end of it I thought someone had shot my legs with needles, lodging them deep into my calf muscles as they shouted with excruciating pain at me with every step I took towards the top.

Eventually, I made it to the top, and the climb, albeit difficult, gruesome and laborious was well worth it. The sense of accomplishment I felt as I took my last step was extremely rewarding and life giving.

Often times in life we view our present challenges as a deep and dark mountain to climb. However, there’s something about the power of God that can take even the steepest of Masada’s and level them out with His love, grace and peace. This doesn’t mean the whole climb is level. God asks us to keep climbing and as we do, His grace meets us there.

As I was climbing Masada, I’ll be honest, I had a hard time keeping my thoughts on the proper perspective. It was much too easy to focus on what was bad about the climb instead of what was good. For example, I focused on the fact that my calves felt like a blazing furnace instead of thinking about how at the end of the climb I was strengthening my calf muscles. Who knows, maybe thanks to the arduous climb I could have gotten a calf modeling contract? Ok, probably not, but the point is that the difficulty of our climb will be determined by our perspective to see the hand of God at work or not.

Masada strengthened my resolve, it taught me how to persevere and not give up. It taught me the reward of hard work. The same is true of our difficulties in life. God places them before us not to punish us nor to weary us, but to grow, strengthen and build our faith. He levels out the climb when we start believing in His greatness apart from our seemingly difficult circumstances.

As I was listening to a Beth Moore sermon the other day she said something like, “The devils plan is not to destroy our health, job, marriages, relationships and finances. HIs plan is to destroy our faith.”

When the devil can weaken our faith, the mountain gets a bit steeper and the climb towards the top of believing God for the healing of our health, relationships and the like seems impossible. It is our faith in the Lord Jesus that lessons the severity of the climb. It is our faith that keeps our eyes set upon our victory in Jesus Christ.

Jesus, you are the goal of our faith. You can flatten our worries. You can make all things new. Jesus, you are the joy of my heart. When the climb seems impossible, that’s just the devil. Lord, he cannot destroy our faith, because you are a mighty God. We trust you, in Jesus name.

 

 

My Own Heart: A Place of Chaos

All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless…. (Is 44:9).

When my life is run by confusion I must ask myself what idol I have clung to more tightly than the Lord Jesus? The Hebrew word for nothing in the above scripture is “tohuw,” which means emptiness, confusion, a place of chaos, etc. It is the same word used in Genesis 1:2 when describing the earth before God formed it. It was void, empty and without meaning, so will be our lives if we choose to let them be run by idols fashioned by our own human hands.

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I have been in such a state of denial before in my life that I have convinced myself and others that my pursuit of x, y or z was from God, when in reality, God wanted nothing of it. I cared more about what was good for me instead of what needed to die in me so Christ could be raised as the King of my heart.

If we tell ourselves long enough, “This is what God wants, I’m sure of it,” when we know deep down inside it isn’t, we’ll slowly start to become more and more like our own idols. Even though our hearts feel uneasy, uncertain, and a bit chaotic, we ignore the pressing of the Holy Spirit to give up our idol and destroy it before it destroys us. The discipline falls on us when God hands us over to our idol. The very thing that holds no power until we wrongfully empower it. God will set up roadblocks and warning signs, but He will give us what we want if we pursue it long enough without repentance.

Now our ears, eyes, and mouths become just like our idol. Therefore, we are blinded to the truth, unable to see what God really desires. We cannot hear the words of truth, because we walk with a heart hardened by our precious idol.

If often takes a great awakening before we come to our wits about it. Either we become humiliated by our own undoing, thanks to the preciousness of our own idol that reaps destruction on our lives or we ask God to go to the deep, hidden places to reveal the dark secrets of our hearts showing us why we built false gods there in the first place.

We can certainly fall flat on our faces thanks to our idols and continue in stubborn rebellion, clinging to them with a vice grip of false comfort and control, or we can get to the end of ourselves and destroy our foolishness, before it continues to heave down destruction on our lives and everyone else in sight.

Jesus, if I could be honest, sometimes you do not reign as the King of my heart. Please forgive me. I want you to take up full residency in my life. Jesus, would you show me the idols I have caste? Would you shine your light on them so I could place them before your throne room so that together we might destroy them? Jesus, I’m sending out the SOS, please help. I want to be more like you. Forgive me for my pursuit of worthless idols that run my heart into places of chaos. You are the God of peace, may my heart live there, for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

 

Hurting: I Feel Alone

“we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,”….(Ps 78:4).

“Heather, I feel so alone and unimportant to my parents. My mom has never really been there for me and it makes me feel like I’m not good enough. I feel depressed all the time and I try to talk to my parents about it, but they just think it’s a phase and won’t do anything to get me any help,” a student said to me a number of months ago.

“Heather, I feel so alone”…..


As I sat with this teenager in their pain my heart broke for her. As always, I pointed her to the real giver of love, Jesus, encouraged her to continue to reach out to her parents to see if they would get her help and even offered to call them and talk to them myself to see what we could do to help this young girl.
The Bible exhorts us to tell the next generation of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. Telling our children about God is of utmost importance, however, we must also take the time to sit with them in their pain and listen. I think sometimes we believe that telling our children more about God will fix their problems when in reality, the greatest thing we can do for them is not talk at them, but sit with them in their pain, hear their hearts and really listen.
I recall the greatest example of God’s love that was shown to me as a teenager. I was lying in bed, feeling completely empty, without hope and wanting nothing more than to just to disappear and be done with life. The thing that lifted me up out of my deep sadness began when my father and sister sat down on the edge of my bed and listened to my heart. They cried with me in my pain saying very little.
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Looking back, it was the presence of God, in their love that starting wooing me out my sadness. Many people had told me what I needed to do, but it was their tangible presence of love that began to draw me out of the darkness and into the arms of the Father. That day was the first day of a new beginning for me. I knew that someone was there for me. I knew they cared. I had sat in bed so many other times, in deep pain, crying myself to sleep, but that day, someone came alongside me and it made all the difference.
I can’t help but think how many teenagers are crying themselves to sleep too, and no one is sitting on the edge of their beds and really listening to their hearts. This is why I have made it one of my missions in life to love as many teenagers as possible, To reach out to the brokenhearted and care for the hurting. To sit and listen to their stories, with the hopes of pointing them to the only love that satisfies- Jesus Christ.
Lord, we are distracted and there are so many who are hurting because the only person we can think about is ourselves. Father, forgive us that we have chosen to look inward instead of outward. Lord, we do not listen, because we do not take the time to sit and care for the hearts of the broken and hurting. Lord, break out hearts for the lonely and use us to point them to you, in Jesus name, Amen.

Safety Compromised: 6 Steps to Find Healing

the entrance to every house is barred…..(Is 24:10).

Home is meant to be a safe place, but for some, it is not. I have sat with students, in their pain, who have told me about home not being a safe place. They find outlets to keep them away from home because home to them is a place of uncertainty. It lacks love, concern, and care. Maybe there’s been some form of abuse, neglect or a parent filled with unceasing anger. To avoid the explosion they stay away from the home.
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When a child’s sense of stability and safety becomes compromised, they question who they can trust. They feel alone and unwanted. They are crying out for a safe place, but are uncertain of where to find one so they may spend countless hours after school in after-school activities. They may hang out at the YMCA for hours to pass the time or be at the church every time the doors are open. To them, all of these places are a good place to be, as long as they can keep themselves away from the place that seems so scary and uncertain.
This does not change much even when we enter into adulthood. As adults, we long for places of safety too. If our safety, in any way, has been compromised, we look for a place to belong. A place we know is safe, where we are loved and accepted. If we do not have that place we feel alone and unwanted. We question who we can trust. We’re searching for someone, just anyone, who is there to support us on our journey.
In my experience working with a number of families, hurting parents and wounded teenagers, the tragic result of sinful man is that home is not a safe place, because those inside of it are not whole persons. Their wounds run so deep that they bleed into everyone within their reach inside the home. In all honesty, they don’t wish to inflict such pain upon those closest to them, but truth be told, the pain they wrestle with inside keeps them from being able to love a person wholly and fully for the glory of God. They mask pain with alcohol, anger, criticism, sarcasm, and abusive behaviors. They’re not a safe place, because quite possibly, they themselves have never felt safe either. It could be that someone compromised their safety long ago too.
How then, can we move into creating places of safety for the generations to come?
1. We have to do the hard work of addressing our own wounds. What is underneath all of our pain? What happened to us along the way that made us so bitter, angry and untrusting?
2. We have to be humble. We will never go to hard places, if we are not first willing to admit that we need to go there. The longer we hide, the more damage we will cause to those we love the most.
3. We must be about restoration. It is so much easier to run from things that are hard, bury them or just not deal with them. However, running and hiding doesn’t change the problem it only makes it worse.  I have talked to so many parents and students who have literally cut people out of their lives, but this doesn’t solve the problem, it only buries the wound.
4. We have to want to be different. Until we come to a place of true brokenness over the mess we have caused due to the unattended mess inside of us we will never move past where we are to where we could be.
5. We must invite others into the journey. Becoming a whole person is never done alone. You need others to love you towards healing, support you and hold you up in your time of need. Isolation only keeps us stuck, but transparency sets us free.
6. Don’t fear the mess. It’s going to be messy, really messy, but truth be told, the end results will be worth wading through the mess of things. If. you’re helping someone, don’t give up on them too soon. They need you to stay strong as you walk alongside them.
Jesus, we know that you love the broken, disheartened and wounded.  Jesus, please bring healing to families and restore what the locusts have eaten.  Jesus, keep children safe who need a safe place to belong.  Help us to rise up and defend them.  Bring healing into our lives so we can start loving others as whole persons, in Jesus name, Amen.