Working God’s Word Into My Heart

Luke 6:48-49  is a beautiful scripture that explains why some folks either don’t like to read the Bible or read it without joy while others can’t get enough of it.

“If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” (The Message)

Studying the Bible is like self-examination. It’s wonderful when the Word works its way into my heart, but it’s terrible when over analyzed. The Word of God is the only literature that is literally alive. I have books I’ve read ten times or more, but there’s no comparing them to the Bible. As I began my study of Mark this week, I was reminded of how much I love his Gospel. I said the very same thing a few months ago when I went through the Gospel of John.

Every time I read Jeremiah, I am awed by the way the prophet’s poetry touches my heart. David’s psalms reach into my soul, break my heart, or lift my spirit depending upon where my heart is at the time of my reading. Revisiting a book of the Bible is like meeting an old friend. My love for them bubbles to the surface, and I cannot contain the emotion they stir up in my soul. Last Sunday, Pastor Jeff challenged us to read the Bible together this year. He asked that we not look at the challenge as a chore but rather as a way of getting closer to God. I had to grin because I’ve been there and knew just what he meant. I appreciate God’s Word more than ever before in my life and lose track of time when I’m in it.

To me, the Bible is a beautiful love letter read over and over until the pages grow soft and the ink fades. There is tragedy, pain, and hurt in the pages, but that’s what makes it real. Love isn’t about getting what I want; it’s about sharing the hurt and the joy with someone who hears my heart. God’s Word does that beautifully as it points to Christ’s precious love, a love so amazing and real that it takes my breath away. I marvel each time it works its way into my heart.

A friend told me today that the ladies in her Bible study discussed the fact that we might live to experience a time when our Bibles are taken away from us. I told her that isn’t a problem if the Word is in our hearts. It can’t be taken from my heart from anyone other than me. It isn’t the printed book I cling to but rather the healing Word that lives in my heart. The Holy Spirit gives the Word life. I have a relationship with God’s Word just as I have a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God.

Arguing over what a passage means is the best way to keep God’s Word from taking root in my heart. I love the book “The Blue Parakeet” by Scott McKnight. In it, he discusses the ways in which the Bible has been picked apart by those who would use its precious words to promote their agendas. It’s like taking a love letter and breaking down the syntax or picking out grammar and spelling mistakes. That ruins everything. Jesus fulfilled the law and became the Word. He knows the Word intimately. He is my model when it comes to God’s Word. Satan knows God’s Word well, but he hasn’t allowed it to be worked into his heart. It’s all in his head, and that’s obvious in his encounters with Christ. He is the perfect example of using God’s Word to promote his personal agenda. God forbid that we ever follow his example!

Next time you read God’s Word, let it wash over you like a stream of living water. It sometimes cuts deeply into my heart, but it opens up a beautiful space each time it does. God’s Word isn’t always just what I want to hear, but it is always just what I need just when I need it.

I love that about it!

Working God's Word Into My Heart

The Feeling That Follows

At the Last Supper, both Jesus and Judas make up their minds to obey. Jesus decided to obey His Father, and Judas decided to go with his gut. Jesus knew about Judas’ heart, and I know it broke His own to see His disciple and close friend go in a direction He knew would bring separation and intense pain. Jesus would taste such pain on the cross as He bore the sins of the world. Christ’s pain turned to joy as He obeyed His Father. Judas’ momentary victory turned to unimaginable pain as he decided to go his own way. Satan satisfies self beautifully, but the pleasure is temporary. God satisfies the spirit beautifully for an eternity.

Each moment of every day, I make decisions in regard to my heart, soul, mind, body, and spirit. When I decide to follow God, I often find pain; but it gives way to indescribable joy. I get a taste of heaven when that happens and feel very close to God. When I decide to follow self, I find great pleasure; but it gives way to terrible misery. I get a taste of hell when that happens and find myself far away from Him. Decisions are, and always will be, up to me. It is so tempting to go with the immediate pleasure. I’m human and too often make my decisions based upon feeling good.

The beautiful news is that Christ made it clear at the last meal He shared with His disciples that He wasn’t leaving them, or us, alone. In John 14:16-20, He says to them:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” NASB

He says the very same thing to me today and every day. The problems I have with decisions come from forgetting that I am not alone or on my own. I am one with God and Christ through the Holy Spirit. If I follow God, as did Christ, those decisions are clear. If I follow myself, as did Judas, those decisions are also clear. The difference is in the feeling that follows those decisions. With self, I get a great feeling followed by a terrible let down. With God, I get confusion and pain followed by understanding and joy. Life is all about the ending. Life with God is guaranteed to end well, and that is well worth any temporary pain that may come as a result of obeying Him.

Christ kept His eyes upon what was to come, and I have to do the same if I am to live a life, as a dear friend reminds me, worth living forever!

The Journey Home

I knew I was home this morning when I awoke to the sounds of Lillyann and Mylah squealing. I’ve missed my sweet morning wake-up call while I was away from home. Traveling reminds me that home is truly where my heart belongs. I’ve always  loved coming home, and that was never more true than it was this week. I loved the beauty of Topsail Island, and it was wonderful to see my sister. However, I’ve never been happier to see the mountains than I was on Friday.

For over a week, I’ve struggled with God’s image of coming home. I just couldn’t wrap my heart around the lesson God had for me. I was getting very frustrated this morning as I continued to miss the message. I decided to leave it alone, stop trying so hard, and just wait it out. That usually works when I hit a stumbling block. I was shocked this morning when Pastor Jeff began talking about Jesus telling His disciples He was going home. I hope I am always surprised and delighted by the way God works.

The message today reminded me that I attach my definitions of father and home to heaven rather than letting Christ’s definitions shape my vision. I did, at least, understand that God was referring to heaven when He was bidding me to come home. Going home can be difficult, as Pastor Jeff reminded me this morning. Our homes and fathers are imperfect and always will be. I had to unpack my feelings about my father and home so I could embrace the Father and the home Jesus is trying to get His disciples to see. I’m sure they struggled as I did; in fact, they must have struggled even more because they had Jesus right in front of them. They could reach out and touch Him, so I’m sure they did not want Him to go anywhere without them.

Jesus used the best examples in this world to try and get across the love He so wanted them to know was waiting for them. As I told Jodi this morning, I’ve been looking at home and father from the wrong perspective. I understand God, the Father’s loving home much more clearly that ever before if I think of my own son coming home. It doesn’t matter what he’s done or where he’s been; I want to see him and love him. There is nothing in this world I love more than seeing Tyler after being away from him for a while. God feels the same way about me. I’ve been thinking about past hurt and the difficulty of going home in terms of how I would be welcomed. Looking at it from a different perspective healed my heart in a very beautiful way this morning.

Christ’s precious love brought me to the shore and cleared the path for me to go home long ago on the cross. His grace and love are all along the way home, and His Father’s love is waiting for me at the door of heaven. He’s waiting for me to come home so He can do what I do each time I see my son, my precious grandbabies, or any one of my dear family and friends. I can imagine that love now, and that changes everything. I know the way I feel about my son coming home is a drop in the ocean compared with how God feels when He sees me coming home, and that makes the journey home worth all the stumbling and getting lost.  It makes me want to jump for joy the way my little girls do when they see me. Lillyann literally jumped into my arms yesterday when I was waiting for her at the Play Lodge, and Mylah did the same this morning after church. Children delight in coming home and seeing those they love after being separated for an hour, day, week, or month. It doesn’t matter to them how long they’ve been away. They just delight in seeing a loved one, and I plan to take their attitude as I continue on this journey home.

This picture of Tyler and Lillyann reminds me of how God will feel when I get home 🙂

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Grace Flippers

An afternoon of swimming left me beautifully worn out. What a blessing it’s been to watch the girls learn to love the water. I wasn’t sure about having a pool with two little girls who didn’t swim, but seeing them play in the water has been a beautiful blessing. My father got tired of trying to teach me how to swim, so he threw me in the deep end of a very cold pool. I got to the side and only recently stopped swimming as though my life depended up getting to the side. The pool has been such a blessing  as I’ve overcome my fear of the water and swam without panic for the first time in my life. I’ll be sorry to see the pool covered and hope to get in at least another month of swimming in before having to close it.

The key to swimming is the same as the key to loving, letting go. That’s been God’s powerful lesson this month. I’ve let go of fear and kicked guilt out of my heart. What a difference that’s made in the way I feel. Guilt made my heart feel as if it had a concrete block attached to it. I’ve replaced guilt with grace. I noticed that Gina and Tyler were swimming with flippers today, so I donned a pair and couldn’t believe the difference they mde. I think my ankles may be a little sore tomorrow, but I loved the feeling they gave me.

God’s grace has the same effect on my heart as those flippers had on my swimming. God not only gave me an image; He also let me feel His lesson in grace today. It’s so good not to be guilt ridden anymore. God is love, and guilt destroys love faster than anything else in this world. It’s a lesson that’s taken a lifetime to learn, but I’ve finally got it and don’t plan to forget it. I felt like a mermaid in the pool today, and that is a feeling I won’t soon forget. If I ever feel guilt creeping back into my heart, I plan to swim away from it as fast as those grace flippers will carry me.

Flippers

A Beautiful Thing!

As I was eating gelato with friends yesterday, I said very seriously, “Toasted pistachios are a beautiful thing!!” We all laughed out loud, and I’m sure those walking by must have thought we were a little nutty 🙂 I looked at the ladies surrounding me and realized friendship is a beautiful thing. I am blessed with more than my share of dear friends, and I pray I never take any of them for granted. I also have three amazing sisters who are my dearest and oldest friends. God manifests His love in the laughter and tears of friends who share my path.

I had lunch on the river today with my dear friend Robbie. As we shared gelato afterward, I told her I felt nineteen again. I explained that God took my heart back to a time of innocence that renewed my faith and reminded me that I am still who I was at nineteen and always will be. It may seem an odd analogy, but I feel as though God picked me right up off the path and put me back down right before the intersection where I took a terrible turn away from Him.

I’m very thankful for the lessons I’ve learned over the past four decades, and I’m thankful for the lessons this week that reminded me that friends who hear my heart and love me with an honest openness are as good as it gets. My path has been overflowing this week. The connections and reconnections God placed in my path were just what my wounded heart needed. There is nothing better than having friends who share the pain and the joy of the journey. It is a beautiful thing indeed!

With Robbie on the River

How’s Your Love Life?

When fishing for details about intimacy, folks used to ask, “How’s your love life?” Friends, strangers, and even doctors would ask the question to gauge how things were going in regard to relationship. Physical intimacy is still a measure in the minds of many when it comes to love. The lessons this week have been about God’s abstracts conflicting with the world’s concretes. Love is abstract, and that makes it difficult to define and even harder to measure. Physical contact is part of the gauge we use to determine how loved we are. God took abstract love and made it concrete when He entered the world in human form. He understands our need to measure that which defies measurement.

I’m a hugger, so physical contact is very important to me. I respect those who do not like to touch or be touched, but I love to be held. I’m glad I’m surrounded with friends and family who offer hugs to me and accept the hugs I offer to them. It feeds my soul to be touched, and I love being close enough to my son and his sweet family to get my fill of hugs each and every day. When I find myself with a physical intimacy deficit, I remember Christ’s precious love, and that gives intimacy a new meaning and fills me with His sweet Spirit.

I’m learning abstract measures are more powerful than concrete ones when it comes to measuring my love life. God is redefining love for me and changing my heart in the process. He is helping me understand that the most valuable things in this world and the next cannot be held or seen. Love, grace, forgiveness, faith, hope, compassion, joy, and peace are all beautifully abstract, and there is nothing more real. As I get away from my need for concrete evidence and physical proof, I’m finding my love life is improving dramatically:) 

Oh! Look at This!!

As Lillyann and I visited the shops in town today, she tickled me and those we visited with her enthusiasm. She loved everything and kept saying, “Oh! Look at this!!” A very sweet lady gave her a beautiful little frog as she admired a display in one store. I told Lillyann to pick out a little gift for Mylah, and I would buy it for her. She picked a cute little ladybug because Mylah is crazy about them. The lady said she wanted Lillyann to have it to give to her sister.. Lillyann and I were touched by her love, and she just couldn’t stop talking about it on the way home. Mylah squealed with delight when she saw the sweet little gift.

I could hear God saying, “Oh! Look at this!” as the kind woman went out of her way to share Lillyann’s joy. She extended love and told Lillyann that she was a big sister too. The look on Lillyann’s face when we got into the car was priceless. The little gift was literally priceless, and that was what made it so very special. I saw God in a sweet and powerful way today. I’m glad it was the last shop we visited because the glow of the woman’s lovingkindness followed us home and grew as we told Mere and mommy all about the kind lady in the city. I’m still smiling:)

God’s lessons this week have been simple ones about walking and witnessing in His kingdom. He doesn’t need fancy programs or filled agendas; He just wants us to be willing to give a frog away occasionally:)

Insurance or Assurance?

There are some crazy insurance polices out there!! The eleven weirdest policies are listed on this website Strange Insurance Policies I personally think Tom Jones’ chest hair should be number one, but that’s just my opinion:) When it comes to love, I can’t buy an insurance policy. The closest thing to a love insurance policy would be a prenuptial agreement if I’m concerned that my love may go south with my money, but that isn’t really insurance.

Because I don’t like to gamble, I have my fair share of policies on life, house, cars, health, etc… The insurance business thrives on my fear of losing what I have. Like Tom’s Jones and his chest hair, I am closely connected to my stuff and my body and do not want to part with any of it. Sadly, some folks see Jesus as an insurance policy and miss the joy, hope, and peace His love brings to a world filled with fear.

Jesus offers assurance, which is much better than insurance. Insurance will pay me if I lose whatever it is I’m worried about losing, but it cannot insure that I will keep it. God’s love is a different matter; it’s forever, and Christ offers a wonderful assurance policy if I am willing to trust Him and accept His love. Sounds simple enough, and it truly is simple enough for everyone to afford when they come to the place of believing He is who He says He is. The fact that it’s too good to be true keeps some from acquiring a policy that allows me to not only to spend eternity in heaven, but also walk in His kingdom right now.

Christ assures me that I can walk in God’s kingdom with the help of His Holy Spirit. He is Christ’s assurance agent, and He is much better than the very best insurance agent. The only problem with this wonderful policy is that I can refuse the offer. Sometimes I wonder why God lets me walk away, but then I remember that love isn’t something to be forced upon me. That goes against love’s very nature. God is love, so it goes against His nature to make us take Him up on His beautiful offer.

I’m so very thankful that I accepted His assurance policy back in 1964. It is a policy that gets better and better with time. His policy is good for eternity, and I just keep discovering new benefits. The most beautiful one is the blessed assurance that He is mine, and I am His. I’m learning that kingdom love doesn’t have to wait until I am in heaven. It begins as soon as I let Him show me how to love as He loves. I’ve had my love assurance policy with him for almost 50 years, but I’ve only just figured out that I can walk and love in His kingdom now. The healing that came this week was better than winning a big jackpot or a mega million dollar lottery. Check out the policy on the list when it comes to lotteries:) God’s assurance is better than the best insurance policy in this world, and I plan to hang on to my policy and help others accept His sweet offer of everlasting love:)

Temptation

When Satan tells me what I want to hear,

I’m tempted.

When he says it’s best for those who are dear,

I’m tempted.

When I’m at the end of my rope,

I’m tempted.

When he offers a ray of hope,

I’m tempted.

When I am divided and filled with fear,

I’m tempted.

When I can’t feel God’s presence coming near,

I’m tempted.

When I breathe in the Spirit’s breath,

I stay.

When I stop and think of Christ’s death,

I pray.

When I open my heart and ears,

I hear.

When I take a look at my fears,

I see.

When I remember Who God is,

I exhale.

When I remember I am His,

I smile:)

Wholeness and Holiness

The scriptures this morning are about being one, and the lessons this week have been about wholeness. Holiness and wholeness go hand in hand. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 are beautiful verses that describe the oneness God desires.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” NASB

The image of drinking from one Spirit struck me this morning. Sharing a drink with someone is very intimate, and I don’t usually drink from the same cup as others. The scripture clearly says that we were made to drink of one Spirit. God made us for the intimacy of oneness, and holiness is about experiencing the unity Paul describes.

Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are all one, and it is His desire for us to be one with Christ and so become one with Him through the Holy Spirit. The church is a poor example of oneness, and I know that breaks God’s heart. As we are apart, so is His heart. It is humbling to realize that I have the power to break the Creator’s heart, but I know I do. So do we all, and that should cause us to lay aside differences and come together.

I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again. Satan loves individuals, and God loves unity. I pray that we all will truly hear the words spoken to the church at Corinth and know that they apply more today than ever before. So much division exists in the body of Christ that He becomes an unrecognizable pile of pieces.

What a beautiful world this would be if all Christians came together as one! It would truly be His Kingdom come, and His will would be done in a way that would make us all wonder what took us so long to figure out that being whole is much better than being broken. Our brokenness is healed by the wholeness Christ affords. Thanks be to God:)