Intents of the heart

Proverbs 16:2 “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

“In our constant quest for self-improvement, we focus on the things we do. As we grow spiritually,  we measure ourselves by our actions. We’re preoccupied with outcomes, and as long as those are improving,we think we are improving. But God has a different agenda. He looks at our motives. In fact, Jesus was particularly harsh with a group of legal experts whose deeds were right but whose motives were wrong. The outward behavior, while important, could be ruined by misplaced intent. God wants internal integrity.  If that is there, deeds will follow. But it is entirely possible for us to appear right on the outside and be hollow on the inside. Jesus referred to that phenomenon as “whitewashed tombs” – a beautiful
exterior masking the death within. The problem with our perception of ourselves is that we are rarely discerning enough. All of our ways seem innocent to us; we think our intentions are good. But God calls
for a closer examination. Are we acting out of self-interest or a passion for God and his Kingdom?  Are we focused on our reputation or on His? Are we disciples for the long haul or because we want something soon from God? The answers aren’t as easy as we might think. We cannot arrive at them ourselves.  We must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He must shine heavy doses of reality into the hidden purposes of our hearts. David asked God to search him and know his heart (Psalm 139:23-24). He knew that his intentions mattered to God. He knew well enough that he needed a more objective assessment than his own.  There is always more to our designs than we see. Do you want God to expose your intentions? Ask Him to.  He who is motivated by holiness and compassion wants you to share His desires. He wants His motives to become yours. He wants you to share in a purity deeper than you can even imagine.” (Chris Tiegreen)

Anxious in the times

Our times are causing many to suffer from anxiety. Some fear a nuclear showdown involving the countries known to be racing for nuclear warheads in the Middle East. Others fear the presence of ISIS. News of this group of radical Islamist is educating us quickly of their capabilities and inhibitions. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is causing added tensions to the unrest in a war-torn area of the world. Christians and Jews are both being persecuted in unprecedented numbers. It is said more have died for their faith in Christ in 2013 than any other time. This week an American family is dealing with the gruesome beheading of a journalist recorded and available to the world on YouTube. Many are talking of survival tactics and disaster preparation. What do you do with your anxiety and fear?

The names of God describe His character. Never before in my life has the name Jehovah Sabaoth meant more. Some define it as the Lord of hosts. It is more reassuring and bolstering to know it is translated as the Lord of armies. In 2 Kings 6 the king of Aram is furious that the King of Israel has intel on his war plans. He is told the prophet Elisha is the king of Israel’s source of the Aramean king’s tactical plans. The king of Aram sends horses, chariots and a great army to Dothan to silence Elisha. Elisha’s servant says to his master, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” I hear his panic. I feel his overwhelming sense of fear. We are surrounded by an enemy. What can we two do? Elisha lets his servant know there are more with them, than with the surrounding army. Elisha then prays, “Open his eyes that he may see”. And the Lord allows the servant to see the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire, all around Elisha.

Jehovah is the Lord of armies. He has legions of angels at His command. We are not outnumbered. Nor are we without a defender. Find your strength in Jehovah Sabaoth. He knows His enemy’s battle plans.

Burning within me,

JOY!

The inexplicable question

One day, years ago, as I put my oldest child down for a nap, he asked a question for which there was no answer. It was a question about God allowing pain. Though I don’t remember how the inquiry came, I do remember being prepared to reply. I had to find that answer myself through the course of life. There is gut wrenching pain that isn’t physical in its source. There is evil beyond what the mind can fathom. We struggle knowing that God has the power to stop it all. But through the teachings of many godly men and women through the years, I have learned that I must hold on to two truths. 1) God is good. His Word repeats this precept time and time again. Listen to David resound it through the Psalms in spite of his trials. 2) God is sovereign. Though He has the power to stop the orbit of this world and destroy it all at any moment, He patiently waits. We are constantly bombarded with the depravity of man and the results of our corruption, but we are somehow conscious enough to turn to God for an answer – though He is not the source of the evil.

Our days are full of whys. Many are saying “Where is God if He exist?”, and I want to tell you He is on His throne patiently waiting for “whosoever will to come”. When He closes the curtain, when the door has been shut, when the trumpet has sounded, time will be no more and no more will be rescued from His wrath. Therefore, He is not slow as some count slowness, but He is unwilling for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9). So to satisfy the question which at some time comes to us all, we must rely on two truths. Good is good, and God is sovereign. Trust Him; He’s coming.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Meaning for all time

Philosophy is not my strong suit. I generally shy away from such discussions since they tend to confuse me even in their definitions. Today, however, as I listened to Ravi Zacharias, I actually understood a point he made concerning various world views and our Savior. Existentialism is the belief system my choices define me. It is concerned with the here and now. Traditionalism, as it sounds, is based on tradition, and therefore relies on the past. Utopianism is a hope for perfection in the future. All three of these belief systems are limited in their time space. Jesus Christ however gives meaning to the past, the present and the future. This facet of our Savior makes Him unique. In the beginning, Jesus was. (John 1:1) The Word teaches us that He offers us salvation today. (2 Corinthians 6:2) Jesus is also our future. He is coming to take believers home to live with him forever more. (1 Thessalonians 4:17) How good to know a God not constrained by time! (Revelation 1:8)

Burning within me,

JOY!

Calluses on their knees

“We believed that real Christians around the world surely had calluses on their knees from praying for the nightmare to end.” This is a line in the autobiography of Anita Dittman, “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell”. The truth is many didn’t know what was occurring in WWII. My mother living at the time did not. The media was not such as it is today. Now, sixty years removed, an article I read last week stated only 30% of those living today believes the holocaust actually happened. We are seeing the carnage in Iraq and Iran from the persecution of Christians. We do know it is taking place. How often are we praying? How long before the persecution reaches our shores? There is an enemy of every believer of Christ. Satan’s role is to steal, kill and destroy. Will you pray for your brothers and sisters? We need all to prepare for the days ahead.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Ephesians 6:13-18 The MSG

Burning within me,

JOY!

The cube

Mathematicians are a peculiar lot. They find humor in odd jokes like “Keep Calm and use the Pythagorean Theorem.” They enjoy pointing out that God too had a penchant for numbers; He named a book of the Bible as such. They find beauty in perfect shapes. Cubes fascinate them. There are two places in the Bible were perfect cubes are found. One is in the Holy of Holies. The other is the New Jerusalem. When God places His presence in a place it is 3x3x3. He is God in three persons. As a math minded person my thoughts began to whirl around this fact. How deep is our God! So much is in Him and in His Word that if we were to continue to learn through our life time, our finite minds could not contain all that there is of Him. That is the God I worship! Have thoughts of God blown your mind lately?

Burning within me,

JOY!

Psalm 139:17 (NIV)  How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!

A commitment

I made a commitment to a teenage friend to aid her in launching a campaign to remind married individuals of the devastation of divorce. “God hates it”, she posts on Facebook and Twitter, “and I see why.” She follows with the anguishing profession, “It hurts the kids too.” The pain sounds fresh, doesn’t it? The fact is the divorce happened more than a decade ago.

I want to add a disclaimer of sorts here. I am not condemning or judging divorced individuals. My family as well as my husband’s is riddled with divorce. My role is not judge; I am not qualified. I have great sympathy for all who suffer from this catastrophe my sister-in-law deems as worse than death. In her words, “If he had died, I wouldn’t run into him at Wal-Mart.”

My point is to bring to light a fact that seems hidden from those considering divorce. As I have blogged this week, there is a hook. It may look as if this option is so much better than where you are now. And you may very well be right, but it will have painful consequences and costs regardless. From the experiences of those I know, divorce is not an event but a life style. The stigma sticks. The pain dulls but can be reignited instantaneously. My favorite description of it came from “Fireproof” the movie. The fireman tells his chief after super gluing the salt and pepper shakers together, “You cannot separate them without damaging one or both permanently”.

The children, as my friend lamented, are torn indefinitely. Even if they aren’t forced to hop from house to house on some schedule after a certain age, for years to come they consider who to invite to what occasion. And unfortunately some are used as pawns to exact vengeance on the “ex-spouse”.

After reading an article recently by Albert Mohler, I realized we keep silent about it these days. It’s so common place, even among Bible believing people. We might wrongly assume all these families are okay; the divorce didn’t affect them. We couldn’t be further from the truth. I know so many who are coping long after those papers are signed, and so are their kids. So before you entertain that option, please look for the hook. Find a divorcee who will be honest with you about life now. Look long and deep into the face of your children. God wouldn’t say He hates it without reason.

Burning within me,

JOY!

As a note, several churches have divorce recovery classes and groups. If you are rebuilding yourself after divorce, seek out a local church with ministries meant to encourage you in the Lord. He is forever there for you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Me too Lot

Lot escaped the destruction of Sodom because of his Uncle Abraham’s pleas to God. When Lot went to warn his future sons in law to escape with him, they thought he was joking. (Genesis 19:14) When urged once again by the angels to leave, Lot hesitated and “the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters”. And then the phrase that caught my heart came, “for the compassion of the Lord was upon him”. (Genesis 19:16) Oh how great is our God! In our ignorance and in our reluctance, He shows great compassion. Verse 19 gives another touching description of God’s favor and mercy, “you have magnified your loving kindness, which you have shown me by saving my life.” Me too, Lot; He did the same for me too.

We are sinful people living among a sinful people, but God has compassion on us. He has magnified His loving kindness by sending His son. Oh that those we share this news with today will not think we are joking. Destruction of the world is coming. (2 Peter 3:10) Just as God destroyed those in Sodom and Gomorrah, He will judge this earth and destroy it. We need to be like the angels and grab those we love by the hand and urge them to the one who has magnified his loving kindness by saving our lives.

Share His love saint.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Do your children know?

I want my children to know every good and perfect gift comes from God above. (James 1:17) One of the statements I often make to them is “God gave you to me”. I conversely tell them I love them with God’s love. It’s not because I am a wonderful woman that I have this deep love, but because God gave me a great love for them. My goal is to make sure my children realize that if for some reason God chooses to take me out of their lives, He will still be their guide, the lover of their souls, their provider and their friend. Why am I so inclined? I have read of children who disbelieved God’s love because a parent was taken from them at a young age. I want to wisely make sure their trust is in One who will never let them down. I have, and I will. It saddens me. I want to be the best mom to them ever, I want to protect them and provide their needs. I am, however, imperfect and finite. In a world that is constantly changing, where tomorrow is not known, make sure your children know who holds tomorrow, today. He is the same forever more. (Hebrews 13:8) He never fails and will never leave them alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

Burning within me,

JOY!

Look for the hook

When Satan tempts Eve in the garden, it seems as if she hasn’t even taken a look at the tree from which God told her and Adam not to eat. Genesis 3 states, when she saw that the tree was “good for food” and would “make one wise”. (Genesis 3:6) Before that point, it doesn’t appear she paid attention to the tree’s fruit. Growing up we learn many things we should not do. We should not lie. We should not steal. We should not commit adultery. We should not murder. It’s not until we look at these things and they appear beneficial to us that we realize, “hey, that looks good.”

The Bible doesn’t lie to us. Hebrews references the life of Moses saying, rather than enjoy the “pleasures of sin” for a season. (Hebrews 11:25) Sin is fun for a while. Like the tree in the garden, whatever you are being tempted to do that you know God has said not to do looks like fun. It looks pleasing. It looks beneficial. However, sin bites in the end. That is how you get caught. Like a fish chasing a baited hook, it isn’t until after it bites it realizes it is in trouble. That’s the point James is making when he says, when sin has been conceived, it gives birth to death. (James 1:15)  It takes time for birth to come about, approximately 40 weeks in humans. It takes time for the effects of sin to be seen as well.

Therefore, we humans like fish need to look for the hook. If something you know in your heart is against God’s Word appears appetizing, pleasing, beneficial, start looking for the hook. It’s there. When the hook is set, there is fight for release. Pain is in store regardless whether you win the freedom fight or not, there is a hook in your mouth. Be wise. Be discerning. The devil roams about seeking whom He may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Learn from Eve. If she could speak to us now, imagine what warning she would give.

Burning within me,

JOY!

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