Keeping the Long View

And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David…..(Ruth 4:17).

I read something yesterday that said quite simply, “keep the long view in mind.” I’m not very good at this. Mostly because I’m super concerned about what’s best for me. Selfishness is an issue in my heart that manifests itself in different ways. Mostly during those times when I feel like life is treating me unfairly.
 
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Ruth didn’t respond this way and God blessed her life in great abundance. Even after her death, her faithfulness rippled on into the generations that would come after her. In God’s great grace He used the child that Ruth and Boaz would raise to be the father of Jesse, who would, in turn, become the father of King David. The Davidic line would be the line from which the Messiah, Jesus, would come. Truly, Ruth kept the long view in mind.
 
Some of us have difficult children, marriages, or heartbreaking realities. We must live as people who are faithful. Without faithfulness we, personally will not see the blessing of God in our life. We will not see His overcoming life join with ours to bring us victory. Could it be that God wants to bless our great, great, great grandchildren through our faithfulness, but our view has become so short that we cannot even fathom the thought of it? Or maybe we just don’t care, because quite frankly, we just want what we want. Our greatest concern is that our present lives would feel better, even if our obedience to walk through suffering means the blessing of someone else’s’ life. I just need to raise my hand really high on that one and say, “Yep, that’s my issue….. Lord change me.”
 
I have noticed something in my own heart, it is the sin of unbelief. It’s an attitude in my heart that says, “What good could come from this?” “Your life has now become pointless, congratulations.”
 
Sometimes the short view wants to steal the long view from my heart and mind. More often than I care to admit. When this happens, I must choose to rejoice, to praise God in all circumstances. After all, life is not about you. It has never been. Until we get over that reality we’ll always live believing that we deserve more.
 
Lord, I have everything I need in you. I have your peace, purpose, victory, and love that surrounds me. Thank you that your grace finds me. Thank you that you will bless the generations after me as I walk in faithfulness. Forgive me for being so concerned about what’s best for me. I am selfish, but I want to live as a woman who is not. Thank you for your grace for people like me, in Jesus name, Amen.

Redeemed: At the City Gate

Meanwhile, Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along….(Ruth 4:1).

Last night I asked my girls bible study, “What do you need God to redeem in your life? What are you walking through right now that’s painful and hard?” With their eyes locked in on me, I shared about my own painful seasons of life that I had walked through. I shared about the dark seasons I walked through as a teenager and how my life, at the time, felt purposeless and hopeless. Yet, God gave me hope.
 
I think that’s one of the best messages we can share with a young person- God offers hope.
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The story of Ruth hits yet another climactic moment as Boaz sits down at the town gate. Ruth is about to be redeemed after a time of desolation and despair. The way in which Boaz will redeem her blesses her life in great abundance. He is fully prepared to be that man for her and redeem her life from the pit.
 
Maybe you’ve been there in the place of desolation. Sometimes our desolation intensifies or continues because we have hardened our hearts towards God. Other times our lack of faith keeps us from seeing the goodness of God, so we never practice faith and stay stuck in unbelief. In my own heart, I often get impatient with God, wanting Him to redeem my situation in my way and in my timing. For me, I have to daily offer up myself and my heart as a sacrifice before God. Until I live as a daily sacrifice, joy dies in my heart because of things like impatience, unbelief, and discontentment.
 
I want to live as a dead woman, but not a woman who has no life in her, but someone who is dead to the attitudes, and coping mechanisms that have long tried to destroy me.
 
The longer I grow in love, the deeper my heart becomes changed. Changed into something brand new. Changed into something with great peace and purpose. Changed into what my own life needs most in the midst of difficult circumstances.
 
Sometimes I think we’re looking for God to change our circumstances when really what He’s trying to do is change us in them. Therefore, we must believe in hope that God is working out all things for our good and His glory, in Jesus name.
 
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! I have so much growing to do still! I need your love and grace to surround me. Jesus, be my joy. Forgive me for my impatience and lack of faith. Grow me in joy as my heart lives surrendered to your love. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace. I need more of it in my life, Amen.

Seeing Jesus

But we do see Jesus….(Hebrews 2:9)

I have this issue at work. I can never find my keys. They’re always somewhere different. Someone needed them so they’re no longer sitting in the place I last put them or I just can’t remember where I put them. This sends me frantically searching to find them. Until I do, my heart cannot rest.
 
Sometimes I hit the panic button in my heart when life doesn’t go the way I had hoped. My eyes start searching for something to ease my anxiety so I’ll go scurrying about using my temporal fixes to ease my present worry. Maybe you’ve been there too, where all you can see is the bad in front of you, but not the peace of God in the midst of calamity.
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I often think about Jesus, the joy, and delight that sits within His heart await those who would be willing to look for Him. When I was a child and afraid, whenever I found my daddy, I knew I was safe in His arms. When our hearts feel panicked, worried or afraid we need not look further than our Heavenly Father’s arms. There in His warm embrace, He comforts the hurting, bringing joy to a heart wrecked by worry.
 
Lord, you offer us peace. Today, I look at my Savior. I want to see Him, not my worry, pride or anxiety. I want to live in the fullness of His great love. He is a good, loving Savior. His love for me is all that I need. May I be reminded of that today, in Jesus name, Amen.

Just Hold On

“I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised… (Genesis 50:24).

Joseph stepped in to be the man God would use to help save and preserve Israel. God gave Joseph wisdom and insight and Joseph used this insight to save many lives. The people of Israel looked to Joseph and now Joseph is about to die. He reminds the people, “God will surely come to your aid.”
 
Can we all just have an honest moment with one another? It doesn’t always feel like God is coming to our aid. It’s easy to focus on how things aren’t ideal or what we wish we had but don’t. It’s also easy to look to something or someone to provide for us apart from God.   Feelings tell us nothing about God; only faith rooted in trust speaks to us of who He is.    
 
I’ve sat in those places of discontentment and worry. I have not trusted God to provide for me. I have allowed fear and worry to direct my steps instead of the sovereign will of God. I still feel like God is trying to get me alone, somewhere deep in my heart, to speak tenderly to me of His love for me.
 
There are things in my heart that feel locked up in prison cells, not because I’m fearful to go there, but because at times it feels like the enemy is still, “sifting me like wheat.” Maybe you’ve been there too when your heart and mind have a hard time understanding the present season you’re in or why God walked you through the season that He did.
 
Sometimes, I just want to go home and see Jesus. I long for a life free from pain, tears, anguish, and hurt. I think we all feel that way from time to time. There is a great purpose for us in this life, but praise God that something so great is coming we wouldn’t believe it.
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There are days when my heart feels sad because of a deep longing to walk in the fullness of love. A love so free that nothing would oppress me any longer. A love so glorious that I would be able to give it fully and freely to others without a shred of selfishness. I want to give and receive that kind of love.
 
I don’t think its possible this side of Heaven to experience that kind of love. That’s why I long for that day when God will wipe every tear from my eye. When things like cancer, autism, anger, pride, fear, rejection, mental illness, and betrayal are no longer commonplace. The only thing that will surround us is the freedom to love others and be fully known and loved by God.
 
As Joseph left Israel, God did not. We must remember that no matter where life finds us, God is there. His love is there to hold us up, carry us and lead us towards victory. No person, circumstance or thing can do what only God can do for us. If my heart is satisfied in the love of God I can have the freedom to carry on with a heart that is full, knowing that a day is coming soon when God will make all things right. I can bank my life upon that.
 
Lord, you are so good. Why would I even question your goodness even for a moment? Forgive me Lord that I have a hard time accepting things in my life sometimes. Forgive me that my heart wrestles with contentment. I want to live fully and freely in you for your great name. Use me to be a world changer for Jesus I pray, Amen.

A Cry of Anguish

“I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.”- Psalm 142:1

I remember one of my first experiences in Israel back in 2010. We were all huddled in the cave of Adullam. The very place where David found himself a few thousand years earlier while fleeing for his life. There, alone in the cave with no one to come alongside him, David cried out to God and God brought a rough and tumble group of about 400 men to come to David’s side.
 
I remember John, our director, letting out a bellowing scream of agony there in the cave that day as he cried out the Hebrew word (za’ak) David would have used. He said this word is used when you’re in deep agony. It’s a word you use when you have nothing left and need God to show up and intervene.
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As John cried out it felt as if the cave walls began to shake. You could see David, there in the cave, crying out in a similar manner. He was desperate and God heard his cry. I’ve been in that place where I need God to show up. Where my heart feels in deep agony and I wonder if God is hearing my cry.
 
Sometimes my heart still feels like it is tumbling in anguish. Although I am seeing the hand of God working in my life I also see another hand at work. I am having a hard time letting go of the injustice I see dispersed upon my life from the Father of lies. I’m sure David felt a similar way when He dealt with the deep anguish and injustice in his life of having his own son try to overthrow his kingdom. I’m sure Joseph, also, dealt with those feeling of anguish as he sat alone in a prison cell accused of a crime he didn’t commit, betrayed by his own brothers and sold into slavery.
 
One might say that God was unfair to both of these men. However, what God did was use the injustice inflicted upon them as preparation in their lives for the next step He had for them. No season, pain or circumstance in our lives is ever wasted. God is always preparing us for something new, something glorious, if we would be willing to trust in His redemption and timing.
 
So today friend, let’s go to the cave of Adullam together and cry out. There, in our desolation, the Lord meets us. He longs to meet our needs and fill our hearts with His love.
 
Lord, I trust you. I cry out to you. I need you. Forgive me for not believing in your greatness, but allowing my circumstances to steal my joy. Lord, grow my heart. I want to be more like you, in Jesus name, Amen.

The Song of Our Hearts

 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning…. (John 15:27).

It is easy, as Christians to forget to tell of the wonderful deeds of the Lord. It is commonplace for most of us to tell of what He’s not doing, instead of letting our hearts sing of the mighty works He has done.
 
The disciples had much to testify about, for they had walked with Jesus, following all throughout the Judean countryside into cities, towns, and villages. They witnessed many miracles as they walked with Jesus. Their testimonies would be long and lengthy because their hearts became full of their experiences with God.
 
Could it be that our hearts are not full of stories to tell about God, because we do not experience Him? Instead of seeing the goodness of God, we see His hands empty and our hearts are left wanting. I have found when my own life gets into these places, it’s because I have held onto a lie in my heart. A lie that says I must have something, become something or do something. I have made my pursuit of whatever it is more important than my pursuit of God.
 
I am learning that the greatest stories I can tell for God are not ones that my fingers type or my mouth says, but the testimony that sings from my heart. My words are of little value if my heart does not first- sing of God’s greatness. If the song that sings from my heart is one of discontentment, anger or bitterness I have shouted a message to the world that Christ is of little significance in my life. It is the song of our hearts, birthed out of our experiences with God that draw people to His love. How can we be a lamp on a stand or a city on a hill if we are not first captivated by His love? How we will ever move from saved peopled to fully devoted follower without becoming someone deeply immersed in His love?
 
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When the master calls you to follow, do not delay, but simply, trust. As the heart grows for God, our song deepens and our light shines brighter for the world to see the love of God made manifest in His people.
 
Lord, I am a kingdom worker for you. Thank you for using my life. I want to be of good cheer to the world for Christ. I long for my light to shine and my heart to sing of your love. Jesus, be my joy. Be the song that my heart sings. I do not want to live in discontentment, worry or fear. I want to live in deep, abiding trust, found only in your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Snuggling My Nephew, The Father’s Heart, and The Greatest Gift

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”….. (John 14:21).

As I was snuggling with my three-year-old nephew this morning a thought flashed across my mind. “It matters not what is wrapped up in our hands, but what we hold in our heart.” In those precious moments holding my nephew, I was giving him nothing but the love that I have for him stored up in my heart. Sure, I can gift him with a brand new toy, but the greatest gift I can give him is sacrificial love that comes from what God has stored up in my heart through the Holy Spirit.
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I think what Jesus means when he says, “I will show myself to them,” is that He will show us His heart. The only way to know His heart is to sit with Him and allow His love to overwhelm us. We should never be looking for a handout from Jesus, but instead, quiet our hurried minds and hearts to find Him and HIs love for us in the stillness of rest.
 
I remember being held by my father and my mother. As they held me, my heart grew. Something happens when we hold another person. The love we have for them grows in their heart a deeper capacity to love and be loved. I believe what we need in our lives is not greater excess, but deeper love in our hearts. When my heart grows, my love for God increases and my ability to love others extends beyond myself and into their heart. As we give love to one another we show them the Father, because sacrificial, unconditional love does not come easy. It’s an aspect of the Father’s character that we can give to the hurting. It’s a part of us that we show can show to the world. It is the greatest extent of love we can give someone; a listening ear, a silent presence and a heart that is full of the love of God.
 
Lord, thank you that you love me. Today I want to sit in your embrace to be found by you and loved deeply by you. Grow our hearts for one another as we sit with each other in places of deep, abiding rest. Lord, we love you, show us more of yourself, in Jesus name, Amen.