For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 ESV
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6 NLT
(Although it didn’t make my Top Ten, this is one of my favorite blogs from last year. I hope you like it, too!)
I’m a To-Do List, planner, scheduled-day kind of person. I didn’t realize how much until recently.
It was early in the morning, about 6:00, when I let my dog, Bella, out the back door. Sunny skies, a gentle breeze, and the sweet sound of birds singing greeted me. I sat down on my little black bench to enjoy it for a minute.
I already had coffee in hand, so I drank it outside instead of hurrying into my office. Suddenly, a hummingbird darted past and paused to drink from the bright pink Hibiscus bloom peaking out from my neighbor’s balcony.
A baby bunny hopped out of the cornfield and looked around. A striking red cardinal flew to my bird feeder and looked me right in the eye. “Are you going to put any seed in this feeder or what?” he seemed to say.
A bright yellow Monarch fluttered by. It was like God had orchestrated his creation to entertain me. I couldn’t leave my seat.
After a while, this Scripture came to me, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
I sat peacefully, obediently, enjoying the beauty right outside my door. My brain stopped buzzing around like it was on fire.
Then, God reminded me that His plan is never what a person thinks it will be. Abraham didn’t know that Sarah would give him a son in her old age. Jacob didn’t know he would have to work twenty years for Laban before he could leave with Rachel. And Joseph could never imagined that God’s plan would land him in prison. But all these things were part of God’s plan!
If these men of God were like me, they would have been thinking that it was all their fault that things were working out so badly. But God’s will was being accomplished through ordinary, imperfect men – in spite of their flaws.
I learned something important that day. Sometimes I just need to slow down, quiet my brain, and observe God’s creation. It reminds me that He is God. And I might hear that still, small voice.
“And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19: 11-12 KJV
To be “as pure as the driven snow” refers to the snow that has been blown into a drift where no one has walked through it. It is as clean as it was when it fell from the sky.
King David cried out to the Lord, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:10) And “God testified concerning him, I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” Acts 13:22
I find it meaningful that David, a man who committed adultery and murder, would be God’s example of a man with a pure heart. This tells me that no sin, nothing we did in the past that has been forgiven, can keep us from being a person after God’s heart. “Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)
What did God see in David’s heart? Does God see those things in my heart? In your heart?
No matter what we do outwardly that may look good to others, God sees our heart. If we are selfishly motivated, arrogant, or proud, God knows.
God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse and told him, “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 1 Samuel 16:1
Samuel thought for sure that Eliab would be chosen,but the Lord said, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7
Finally, Jesse brought in David, his youngest son, who was tending the sheep. The Lord told Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” 1 Samuel 16:12
God chose David to be King, instead of King Saul. Saul didn’t obey God’s commands because he “was afraid of the people …and gave in to them.” (1 Samuel 15:24)
He sacrificed offerings to the Lord. But Samuel said to Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) We need to follow God’s commands, not motivated by what people think.
God knew that David was unafraid and would obey His commands. He knew that David believed the Promises. God knew David did not depend on his own strength and ability. He didn’t think too highly of himself, but was humble in heart. David said, “He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.” Psalm 18:17
David trusted in God and in His Word. He prayed, “Show me your way, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me.” (Psalm 25:4) We can get a glimpse into David’s heart when we read the Psalms he wrote. I want God to say that I am a woman after his heart. Don’t you?
In 1 Samuel 17:47 David said to Goliath, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands.”This is what David believed in his heart, but he didn’t become this strong overnight.
“David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:34-37
My prayer is that, just like David, our faith will grow stronger every time we put our trust in the Lord and depend on Him to win the battle.
“(David served) God’s purpose in his own generation.” (Acts 13:36) I believe that God is looking for people with a pure heart to accomplish His purpose today. Will he use me? Will he use you?“
Are you ever too hard on yourself? When confronted with our failures or weaknesses, we can feel like we’re not good enough, not measuring up. I struggle with this sometimes, especially when I have been too harsh with my middle school students. Why can’t I be more patient?
When we’re too hard on ourselves, we get discouraged and feel like giving up. Nothing could make Satan happier! Remember: Satan is “the accuser of the brethren.” and “a liar” (Revelation 12:10, John 8:44) But the promise of God is this:
“there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 NIV
Sunday in church, I was feeling discouraged. We sang the song His Mercy is More. As we sang, the Holy Spirit comforted my soul like only He can. The lyrics say, “Our sins they are many. His mercy is more.”
I felt the love of God embrace me. God is not a hard taskmaster. He is loving, merciful, and kind. No matter how many times we mess up, He still loves us more than we will ever understand. Let the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, speak to your heart through God’s Word.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;” Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
His mercy and love are greater than all our failures, mess-ups, and shortcomings.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” 1 John 4:16 NIV
The Apostle Paul wrote, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power …… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5 NIV
This is our God. If you need His encouragement today, I urge you to listen to and sing, this beautiful song. I pray that it will comfort you as much as it comforted me. God’s love is reaching out to us every day.
Lord, may we have a deeper revelation of your love.
Those bad Pharisees! I can’t believe how stubborn they were! I’m not like them! I’m A-OK! Now, those people at the church down the street, well …
We tend to see the faults in others before we see our own. Isn’t that true? I’m pretty sure that’s called pride. So as we examine what the Bible says about worship, let us look inward, at our hearts.
Jesus talked about two kinds of worshippers – “true worshippers” and those who “worship me in vain.” Do we really understand the difference? Let Jesus explain.
To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said,
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23-24 NIV
But when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, He said,
“You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;” Matthew 15:6-9
The Greek word translated “worship” in the first passage is proskuneo. It means to prostrate oneself in worship, to reverence, to adore.
To lie prostrate implies total surrender. Dictionary.com defines prostrate – “to cast (oneself) face down on the ground in humility, submission, or adoration”.
The Pharisees put on a show of reverence, but were not totally surrendered to God. It is interesting to note that Jesus did not use the same word for worship in Matthew 15:9. He used the word sebomai, which means to revere. There is a big difference. The Pharisees honored God, but they were not surrendered to His will. Their hearts were somewhere else.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
The Heart of Paul translation says,
“…offer your whole self to God with no strings attached.”
Let us examine our heart. What kind of worshipper am I? Is my worship pleasing to God? Am I surrendered to His will? Or, do I worship Him in vain? Do I give Him reverence, but cling stubbornly to my own will? Do I worry more about how I appear on the outside, or the condition of my heart?
Am I totally surrendered to Jesus?
“If we will only surrender ourselves utterly to the Lord, and will trust Him perfectly, we shall find our souls “mounting up with wings as eagles” to the “heavenly places” in Christ Jesus, where earthly annoyances or sorrows have no power to disturb us.”- Hannah Whitall Smith
“God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.”- Andrew Murray