I will #REJOICE in the Lord

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Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will REJOICE in the LORD,
I will be JOYFUL in God my Savior.  

—Habakkuk 3:17-18

When Rick and I lived in the central valley of California, we lived in the midst of a farm belt that feeds the whole country. We lived near groves of almost every kind of fruit and nut trees. Cotton, strawberry and corn fields bordered farms and housing developments alike. I could therefore relate to the words of these verses as I gazed upon field after field of grape vines.

During the summer months, we could see certain fields of grapes drying in the sun to make raisins. And when we looked out into our backyard, there was our fig tree, several weeks past harvest but still in full leaf.

As I contemplated these verses, I wondered about Habakkuk’s strong faith. Here was a man who questioned his LORD’s motives and supposed inaction, yet he also learned to trust and REJOICE in Him, no matter what. His JOYFUL attitude makes his words sing.

What about me? Can I still “be JOYFUL in God my Savior” in spite of how I feel each day?

I have spent many years learning to live with chronic illness. In addition to several illnesses, my immune system doesn’t work that well after years of taking too many antibiotics. I seem to fall prey to all the little bugs that are going around, and it takes me more time than most people to recover. I have little energy to complete the smallest tasks in my home; even sweeping the floor seems a monumental project. But in spite of all this, I can still trust that God is taking care of me, that He is still in control, and that I can actually REJOICE in that fact.

This season of my life in which I’m struggling with different illnesses is a time when I can complain about the injustice of it, or I can instead be JOYFUL and thankful for God’s presence in my life, no matter what. I choose to be JOYFUL because God promises to be with us in every situation, good or bad.

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REJOICE in the Lord always.
I will say it again: REJOICE!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
—Philippians 4:4

Heavenly Father: Thank you for the JOY You provide in every situation. Help me to be Your light, your JOY and your promise of hope for others, even during times of pain and frustration. Amen.

Jesus, You’re Beautiful

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I recently heard a song that truly touched my heart. “Jesus, You’re Beautiful by Sara Groves is a lovely song of praise to Jesus, with sweet lyrics that are wonderful to sing and easy to remember.

As you listen to this song, thank God for Jesus our beautiful Bright and Morning Star:

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me,
to give to every one according to his work.

13 
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
the First and the Last.”

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life,
and may enter through the gates into the city.

15 
But outside are dogs and sorcerers
and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters,
and whoever loves and practices a lie.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel
to testify to you these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

—Revelation 22:12-17

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Wholehearted #Faith


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By Patricia Knight

When Scripture refers to the heart, it does not allude to the muscular pump located in our left chest. Heart and soul were commonly interchanged in Greek literature. The soul is identified as our invisible psyche where Jesus abides. The heart/soul symbolizes our intellectual, moral, and emotional control central. It contains personality, shelters memory and love, the longing for God, and is the only part of a believer transported to heaven immediately following physical death.

In modern times our hearts are described as the epicenter of our emotions and worship. It is a wellspring of life in which wickedness must not be allowed to take root. Jesus knows the thoughts and motives of our hearts at all times, discerning whether we are wholeheartedly devoted to him alone, hard-hearted unbelievers, or indifferent to His love and sacrifice. “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

God is involved in the heart affairs of our lives. He is far more interested in our souls, the inner characteristics of a follower of Christ, than with our outward features.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Amaziah was 25 years old when he became king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2a). Amaziah typically manifested obedience toward the Lord, but after conquering a pagan country, he brought their gods home. “He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them. The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah” (2 Chronicles 25:14-15).

Amaziah began his 29 year reign as king with zeal and determination to uphold God’s laws. What caused Amaziah’s downfall? At one time he apparently served the Lord with his whole heart. Though we have few details of King Amaziah’s  career, evidently he suffered gradual loss of commitment and devotion to his Lord and to his people. Selfishness and greed replaced wholehearted devotion. He no longer possessed intense passion for leading a nation with God as his priority and guide.

To serve God wholeheartedly is to express in thought or action, in the most exuberant but sincere way, with every part of one’s being, a dynamic commitment to walk with our Lord. Jesus commanded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you  love your neighbor as well as you do yourself’” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

What do our individual lives disclose about our heart focus? Do we display the fervent desire to serve God? Do we possess the eagerness and energy that should flood our hearts when we pray? Exhilarating joy bursts into wholehearted service when we are committed wholly to our Lord. Jesus gave His life as the ultimate gift to redeem our sins and to secure for us eternal life. As our response, Jesus expects a wholehearted relationship of absolute devotion, intense love, and unmitigated obedience. Jesus then extends to us dynamic power to follow his commandments.

Caleb was one of twelve Israeli men sent into the Promised Land for a fact-finding mission. Upon their return, ten of the spies claimed exaggerated details, intending to evoke fear among the masses. Caleb and Joshua presented realistic, encouraging information, asking the people to depend upon God’s power to lead them into triumphant victory in the new land. “God said, ‘Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to’” (Numbers 14:24).

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Many parents instruct their children from an early age, “Do a job well or don’t do it at all.”  If secular teaching devalues half-hearted efforts, our love and service for our Lord must attain a much higher standard. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

The adverse of wholeheartedness toward God was best exemplified by the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time Moses was negotiating release of the nation of Israel from slavery. God created ten major, horrific plagues affecting every aspect of the Egyptian’s lives. With each increasingly ugly plague, Pharaoh weakened his resolve to let God’s people go, until he begged Moses to appeal to God to discontinue the most current plague. Exhibiting patience and mercy, God granted Pharaoh’s request. But, when Pharaoh witnessed evidence of relief from the plagues, he sunk into his old behavior with an unyielding hard heart, ultimately refusing to permit the Israelites to travel. Pharaoh’s hardened heart revealed a consistently sinful life of unbelief, dispassion, and bitterness.

Hardheartedness implies refusal to take God and His Word seriously. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by his own deceit. Later, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart permanently to accomplish His purpose of releasing His children from slavery. If it had been available in Pharaoh’s lifetime, his heart/soul ECG would have printed a straight line of apathy and death.

Suppose your name and life accomplishments were included in Scripture, exposed for all generations to read.  Would God declare you as wholeheartedly devoted to Him? Or, would He have to clarify, as He did for King Amaziah, that you did right in God’s eyes, but not wholeheartedly? There are times in life when we display eager enthusiasm, animated dedication, or intense thirst. We love a spouse wholeheartedly; we often pursue a hobby with energy and commitment; we may thirst after knowledge. Most of us would accept a financial windfall with wholehearted ecstasy.

Why is a wholehearted lifestyle often applied to our physical endeavors, but ignored in our spiritual relationship to our Savior? Jesus desires that we open our heart/soul as His residence, to proclaim complete trust and zeal toward Him. Our relationship then becomes a wholehearted witness to the world that we are passionate and effervescent about serving our Savior. Let us perfect our wholehearted health and outreach, glorifying our Lord as we serve Him and others.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1-2,The Msg.).

Faith is a wholehearted affair!

Sunday Praise and Worship: As for Me and My House

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Today’s praise and worship song is “As for Me and My House” by John Waller. The last portion of Joshua 24:15  reads: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So, what exactly does that mean? How should we serve the Lord in our homes?

If we have made the choice to truly live for the Lord—that is, to repent of our sins and follow Him as our Savior and Lord—we must also choose to follow and honor Him in our homes. We can best do this by living out Jesus’ command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37, 39).

If we purpose to love in this way, we will always be living to serve the Lord.

Read through this section of Joshua 24, where Joshua called all the Israelites to Shechem to hear his final words. He challenged the people to make a conscious choice to always serve God rather than their man-made idols:

14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!

15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

16 So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;

17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed.

18 And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.

20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”

21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!”

22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.”

And they said, “We are witnesses!”

23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.”

24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!”

25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.

—Joshua 24:14-25

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

#Complacent

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Complacent

By Patricia Knight

Each day I traveled to work, I encountered a stretch of residential build-up on a secondary road where the speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 35 mph. Familiar with the road land marks, I decreased my vehicular speed in preparation for the new speed zone.

One morning a state police vehicle passed by me from the opposite direction. I perceived I was within the posted speed limit, so I ignored his presence, assuming he had business elsewhere. That is, until he negotiated a screeching U-turn! Suddenly I was engulfed with eye-popping blue lights and ear-piercing sirens. The policeman then had my undivided attention.

When the imposing officer appeared at my car window, he was straightforward. “Do you know you were traveling 52 mph in a 35 mph zone?”  He had the proof; I had no excuse. Still I felt obliged to offer a weak explanation: “I drive this route to work every day and I’m usually more compliant with my speed.”  To my surprise, the state policeman gently responded, “It’s easy to act complacent when repeating the same activity frequently.”  Fortunately the officer dismissed me with a warning. Little did he know the impression he made that day, affecting my driving alertness and compliance, as well as my reaction to life in general.

Complacency denotes self-satisfaction that results in false comfort, diminishing an awareness of danger.

Apathy is closely related, expressive of indifference, a lack of feelings, or inaction. The opposite of complacency is passion; zeal rather than indifference. Jesus taught that love knows no boundaries, tantamount to the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

Jesus defined our neighbor with a parable: A man was attacked while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho through rugged, crime-ridden terrain. He was stripped of his clothing, robbed of his possessions, beaten unmercifully, and left for dead. A Levite, a priest, and a Samaritan eventually passed the victim’s way. The first two ignored the assaulted man and intentionally crossed to the opposite side of the road.

Complacency reeks of self-importance and indifference. What could possibly have been so pressing in the lives of the Levite and the priest that neither could conjure up the minimal time and compassion to cover the naked, bleeding man with a garment? It is obvious that neither religious leader cared about his fellow man. The suffering victim’s pitiful condition didn’t tug on their heart-strings. For them it was easier  to turn away and ignore their neighbor with an indifferent attitude, though they would likely claim personal righteousness. Complacency is the greatest hypocrisy.

Historically, Samaritans and Jews exhibited open hostility toward one another. But, it was a Samaritan who ran to the aid of the beaten, robbed man lying beside the road. He bandaged his wounds, and lifted him onto his own donkey for transportation to a local inn. There the Samaritan cared for the assaulted man. The following day, the Samaritan gave sufficient funds to the inn keeper to provide for the man’s future care, assuring the inn keeper he would reimburse any extra expenses incurred when he returned (Luke 10:27-28).

The man who posed the question to Jesus, “ ‘Who is my neighbor’” (Luke 10:29), learned explicitly from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ story highlights a neighbor as one we help when a need is displayed, to whom we may give of our time and treasure, and for whom we are willing to be inconvenienced.

One great danger of complacency is that it gradually overtakes the heart space reserved for kindness and decency. Apathy is so deviously replaced with nonchalance and mediocre responses that it is easy to ignore danger along life’s journey. Complacency bows to subtle changes. The process is so insidious that before we are aware of the changes, we’ve been converted to a curmudgeon who increasingly replaces a once tender, passionate heart with reluctance. What happened to fierce, dynamic faith? It cooled to tepid.

Jesus didn’t call us to follow Him when it is convenient. Our time on earth is brief; we are here on assignment. There is kingdom work to be done, people to help, and the gospel to proclaim. He wants 100% of each of us, with the adoration of our hearts, the zeal of our souls, and the days of our lives. Because Jesus died for us, no sacrifice can be too great for us to make for Him.

What is your response to Jesus when you recognize a paramount need in another person’s life? Do you avoid prayer, assuming Jesus is incapable of surpassing human limitations? “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27). Continual prayer is our most powerful deterrent to apathy, preventing us from slipping into smug self-dependence and self-satisfaction. Acknowledging that God is supreme and capable of the miraculous, dispels indifference. Apathy requires low energy output and provides no positive returns.

There are blue lights of warning surrounding many of our personal scenarios, reminding us to slow down to discern and evaluate. It is never too late to comply to the greatest commandment in which there is no provision for self-serving motives. Complacency and apathy provide only convenient excuses.

Jesus desires to fill our hearts with a deluge of joy. In addition, He clothes us with joy.

You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing robes of rejoicing define us externally, as Jesus, the source of our praise, engulfs our hearts. Joy is to be the constant dimension of a life of faith, a sovereign characteristic that flows freely from dwelling in God’s presence, a gift that interlocks with God’s everlasting nature. Following His example, let us love our neighbor, reaching out with enthusiasm and joy.

Thankfully, neither complacency nor apathy are permanent states, easily remedied with commitment to spiritual renewal as we discover anew the exhilaration of displaying our Lord’s characteristics. We are transformed by Christ; a holy reconstruction project uniting us with Him that motivates us to ask,

“What can I do to help my neighbor?” 

#Majesty and #Mercy

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  In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

—Matthew 6:9-13

Marriage: So much more than a partnership

This great article about marriage is reblogged from a wonderful site, Oceans Never Fill.

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MARRIAGE: SO MUCH MORE THAN A PARTNERSHIP

My husband recently matched into a residency program on the other side of the country, far from the area I have considered home the entirety of my short life. The Pacific Northwest, with its mountains kissing ocean, its gloomy rain and gloomier culture, has shaped my childhood and most of my adulthood. The enormity of this move isn’t something we took lightly when my husband applied for residency programs, but when you look at the whole of life: our purpose and what’s truly important, suddenly the comfort of home, familiarity, and even preference, fade in light of the hope of following  God wherever he leads. It’s a bit terrifying as we gaze at this great chasm of eternity that opens up with limitless, unknown possibilities for our future; but simultaneously peaceful as we rest in the knowledge that our eternal future is already secured, and all these moments in between are held in the hand of a good God.

Through the process of applying to residencies I had countless people ask me how I felt about the move; if I wanted to go wherever it was my husband’s career took him; or if I was okay with his specialty choice. It was a weird line of questioning to me. Of course I want to go wherever my husband’s career takes him.

Read the rest here.