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Monday, August 4, 2014

Digging into the Psalms (Part 4)- Give Me a Clean Heart

Psalm 51 has always fascinated me. When King David wrote it he had just been involved in some pretty scandalous things. He had slept with another man's wife and to make matters worse he manipulated events so that her husband would be killed in battle. The story is full of intrigue and countless lies on top of lies. On the one hand when I read those passages in 2 Samuel I want to yell at David not to do it like you would at a really bad horror movie as the main character is about to open the door to the serial killer. On the other hand, I love that this story is included in the Holy Scriptures. It is comforting to know that all men and women, even men and women of God, sin and fall sometimes. David was human. As he says in verse 5 he was "brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

David was just like you and me and everyone else on this planet. He lost to temptation and fell into sin. As I said in my last post, the human heart is so prone to wander from the heart of God. Even for those that know God and are in relationship with him, we daily have to confess our sin to God and repent because we are continuously tempted to turn from His ways and walk down the wrong path. It is a daily battle we all have to fight.

Our sin, if left unconfessed, creates a barrier between us and God. When that happens the distance we experience from our heavenly father leaves us joyless and in despair. Sometimes this is an instant sense of lostness and sometimes its a gradual process of the deadening of our hearts to the things of God. Either way allowing sin to remain unconfessed leaves us broken and burdened. David, in verse 8, asks God to restore the bones in him that have been broken because of his sin. Confessing sin restores joy to our hearts and brings praise to our lips.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

(Psalm 51:7-12 ESV)

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

(Psalm 51:17-18)

David tells us that God doesn't delight in our rote religious practices or empty words of praise or our dutiful sacrifices. God delights in confession, in having a broken spirit before Him and in handing Him a heart that can be cleaned and molded for His use. God doesn't despise our honest confession of sin, He desires it and calls us to do it on a daily basis.

I don't know about you, but I am so thankful that no matter my sin, when I come before Him I know that because of His steadfast love He will always forgive me and extend His never ending mercy to me. Oh what freedom there is when we are washed from our sin and given a clean heart! Daily I am so thankful that He is not finished with me yet!

Create in me a clean, clean heart
Create in me a work of art
Create in me a miracle
Something real and something beautiful

Create a miracle in me

You're not finished with me yet
You're not finished with me yet
By Your power I can change, I can change
'Cause You're not finished with me yet 

(Create in Me by Rend Collective)




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Digging into The Psalms (Part 3)- Prone to Wander

One of my favorite old hymns of all time is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Today, while studying Psalm 27, I couldn't help but sing the third verse.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

The words that struck me were "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love...". My heart is so prone to wander. It constantly wants to run after other things and other people. Oftentimes my first thoughts are not of God, they are about my to do list or my kids or my friends or social media. Oh how prone my heart is to wander!  David's main goal for the majority of his life was to seek God's face, to experience His presence and to behold the beauty of the Lord.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4 (ESV)

You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8 (ESV)

Because David sought the Lord and truly desired to be in His presence, he could confidently call God his light and his salvation. He could be free from fear of his enemies and his circumstances. God was his refuge, covering and the rock on which he stood. He could sing with joy and make melody to the Lord because he daily experienced the presence of the one true God. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that God heard him when he called on Him. David also knew that when he sought the Lord, God would teach him and lead him on a level path. He could be strong and take courage because he intimately knew the God that he served.

Why do I so often feel like my prayers hit the ceiling and I don't know which level path to walk? Why am I often fearful and anxious? Because I allow my heart to wander away from God and I seek the things of the world.

Thankfully, God's grace is all-sustaining and can "bind my wandering heart" to His! If only I would turn towards His face and "gaze on the beauty of the Lord".

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reflections on Father's Day

With yesterday being Father's Day, I spent some time reflecting on fathers and God as my Heavenly Father. We all have various experiences with our earthly fathers. On one end of the spectrum some of us had fathers growing up who were loving, supportive, devoted and trustworthy. On the other end, many of us had fathers who were absent or distant emotionally or harsh and demanding. I'm not saying that any father is perfect but many people had dads that were pretty close. And others had fathers that were far from the ideal. And most of us, in some way at some point in our walk with God, project our relationship with our earthly fathers on our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

But Scripture reveals to us that God is the only truly perfect Father. Since I've been studying Psalms, let's start there.

"As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him." Psalm 103:13

Psalm 68:5 calls God a "father to the fatherless".

"For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in." Psalm 27:10

The New Testament is also chock full of verses on God as our Perfect Heavenly Father.

"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

Luke 11 begins with Jesus' teaching on prayer and includes the Lord's Prayer. From there he explains how God our Father delights in answering the prayers of His children. God loves to listen to His children talk to Him and He loves to give good gifts to those who are His own.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

Paul also writes often in his letters on the subject of sonship (or daughtership) and how when we are brought into the fold of God as one of his children, we get to experience God as our daddy, our perfect father. One of my favorite passages of Scripture and one I cling to often is Galatians 4:6-7.

"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

When I became a child of God through Jesus, I gained a relationship with God my father that could never be had with even the best earthly father. I now get to call the Almighty God, Abba or Daddy. What a precious privilege!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Digging into the Psalms (Part 2)- Psalms of Confidence

As I've been reading through the first few Psalms (1-5), I've noticed a theme- David's confidence in His God. One can see while reading through these Psalms that David was going through a lot. He was being attacked from outside enemies as well as enemies within his own ranks, even his own family. David was on the run from his enemies for long stretches of his life. He had every reason to be depressed and discouraged and he oftentimes was, but he was also very confident in the Lord. He was confident that the Lord would protect him, fight for him and keep His promises.

"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around." Psalm 3:3-6 (ESV)


David, in these few verses, describes God as his shield, his glory and the lifter of His head. He rejoices in the fact that he can cry out to God and God hears him and answers him. He says the Lord will sustain him and that even though many are against him, he has no reason to fear.


Again in Psalm 4:8 he says, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Even while David was running from his enemies, He had enough confidence in the Lord to be able to sleep peacefully at night and know that God would keep him safe.


When I first noticed David's confidence in the Lord, I thought well of course David is confident in God. God had helped David to defeat Goliath, God had sent Samuel specifically to anoint David as king of Israel, God had saved him from the hands of Saul and David had watch numerous foreign armies fall before him through God's intervention. He had seen and experienced numerous miracles of God.


Then I think, "Well if I'd seen God act in such big ways in my life of course I would be nothing but confident in Him even in the darkest times." But, the New Testament tells us that as Christians we can have the same confidence David had in God through Jesus.


We can be confident that through Jesus, God will give us victory and He will protect His own.


"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37 (ESV)


"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 (NASV)


But not only can we be confident that God loves us and protects us and gives us victory through Jesus. We can also confidently come before God in worship, praise and prayer knowing that through Christ we have constant access to our Father.


"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)



"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." 1 John 5:14 (ESV)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Digging into the Psalms (Part 1)

Over the next few months, I plan on doing a personal study in the Psalms. I'm really excited about it so I'll probably post more often on what I'm learning as a I study. Today I started with Psalm 1.


Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.


The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

(Psalm 1:1-6 ESV)


What a great introduction to the Psalms! The Psalmist starts the Book of Psalms with a description of those who delight in the law of the Lord and those who do not (the mockers). The line that always stands out to me from this Psalm is, "...and on his law he meditates day and night". Until today I thought that meant that I literally had to sit and pray and read the Bible for hours on end. Well, as a mom of young children that's almost impossible. As I type my daughter is watching Mickey Mouse while my son is crying in his crib because he decided to finish his nap a little earlier than I'd planned. So much for meditating in peace!

Then it hit me. When the psalmist speaks of delighting in God's law and meditating on His word, he's describing a lifestyle, a manner of living if you will. From the moment I wake to the second I close my eyes in sleep, I should desire to do the will of God and glorify Him in every area of my life. Does that mean I will spend some time in His word and have moments of dedicated prayer? Yes! But, it also means that while I'm making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wiping noses and changing diapers and running carpool and watching my daughter at gymnastics I can delight in God's word and glorify Him as I go about my day. And as I do that, I'm also teaching my children to "delight in the law of the Lord."

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

The Word of God should be my delight and I should meditate on it day and night by living out His will when I talk and I sit and I walk and I lie down. As I do that, my children and all those around me will experience the blessings of one who lives for Him.

Reading Psalm 1 has gotten me really excited to dig into the Psalms. I hope you'll join me!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lean Into Him

For Lent I've taken a little break from the internet so I can focus more on study and prayer, but given that today is my son's first birthday, this mama couldn't resist posting some birthday pictures to Facebook. I've also spent a lot of time the past couple of days reflecting on the past year and felt like I needed to testify to God's faithfulness here on my blog.


For such a little person, Nathan has had a rough go of it.  Now I know that we have so much to be thankful for because there are so many more kiddos sicker than he has been, but he's still had to go through some hard things his first year. For those of you who don't know, Nathan was diagnosed at 2 months of age with sagittal craniosynostosis. In layman's terms, Nathan was born without the soft spot in his skull that most babies are born with that allows their brain to grow. To correct that defect and allow his brain to grow, Nathan had to go through an endoscopic craniectomy. Nathan underwent this surgery just shy of 3 months. A wonderful team of surgeons removed 3 pieces of Nathan's skull in order to allow his skull and brain to develop properly.


We saw God's hand in all aspects of Nathan's surgery. Because of our wonderful, vigilant pediatrician Nathan was able to have the endoscopic procedure instead of the more invasive open vault surgery. The endoscopic procedure can only be done before 3 months and Nathan was able to get into surgery 2 days before his 3 month birthday!


Nathan was so well taken care of at Scottish Rite and even though there was lots of swelling, blood loss and multiple transfusions; he only had to be in the hospital 4 days. I was so amazed by how quickly he recovered and was able to get off pain medications. God has definitely blessed him with a sweet, laid back disposition which really helped during those hard weeks of recovery.


There is no way to describe the anxiety, worry and fear that parents experience when one of their children is very sick or undergoes surgery. The first few months of Nathan's life were filled with concern, worry, anxious waiting, fear and so many other emotions. In all of those scary moments, all I could do was LEAN into God and I can testify that He proved to be oh so faithful. Even in the middle of the darkest days, I experienced peace that was indescribable. Until then I had never truly understand Philippians 4:6-7:


"...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (ESV)


The peace God gave me during those months definitely "surpassed all understanding".


Even after Nathan recovered, our weeks were filled with follow-up appointments with multiple surgeons and he also had to wear a corrective helmet for four months because his condition had caused his skull to be misshapen. Once again, God revealed himself in so many ways during Nathan's helmet therapy. It seems trivial now, but after all he had been through my heart hurt that he had to wear a helmet 23 hours a day for months.


But, God is good all the time! Just last week we saw our neurosurgeon and he cleared us for 2 years! Plus, he said that the chances of a secondary surgery has been reduced to 1%! We are so grateful for his progress in just a few short months.


Nathan is behind in his gross motor skills for a one year old, but once again I am trusting God that he will develop normally and that, if needed, we can continue to give him great care and therapy.  In most areas though he is a normal one year old and is the sweetest, happiest baby. My mommy heart explodes with the idea that God can and will use the trials Nathan has endured in mighty ways in his life. I can't wait to see the man he will become and experience the good works God will produce in him. (Ephesians 2:10)


Just this morning as I was reading Proverbs 3 and God led me to pray verse 5-8 for Nathan (and Myla too!).


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones." ESV

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hide 'Em in Your Heart (Guest Post)

Today I want to share a post from a friend of mine- Heather Ashe. I'm sharing because her post is a perfect follow-up to my last one. We are on the same page when it comes to being a mom and spending time with God. Enjoy!


PS. This post is actually a guest post that Heather has written on I Take Joy, Sally Clarkson's blog. (Confused, yet?) For all my mom friends, if you've never read anything by Sally; I highly recommend you exploring her blog and her books. She has many wise words for mothers. I have benefitted greatly from her ministry.


http://www.itakejoy.com/hide-em-in-your-heart/


To all of my friends in the Southeast, happy snow day!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Giving God the Scraps

So, my title might be a little deceiving. This is not a post about how we shouldn't give God just our scraps meaning we shouldn't just give God what we have left in our day or of our time. While that would be a good post, that's not what I'm writing about right now.

I'm talking to those of us who only have scraps of time to begin with. My tendency is to be an all or nothing sort of person. If I can't do something all the way, why start? Sometimes that's a great principle but in the area of spending time in the presence of God it's a very poor one. I would love to be able to plan my day to the point where I could spend hours reading, praying, meditating, etc. but I'm not in that stage of life right now. All I have are scraps of time. You know what I'm talking about- those 5 minutes you have when you wake up before your kids sense you are awake and wake too. Or, those 30 seconds that your kids are playing harmoniously together before the fighting ensues again. Or, when you are spending all of their short precious nap time in the afternoon folding laundry. Those are the scraps of time I'm talking about. We all have them but what do we do with them?

Unfortunately, many days, I spend those precious minutes surfing the internet or daydreaming or watching television. Why? Because I think, "I don't have time to have a real quiet time or my kids are just going to interrupt me so why even start reading or praying?"

And then I read a great quote the other day that was written by an unnamed English monk from the 14th century- "You only need a tiny scrap of time to move towards God." Those words struck me, hard. I haven't been taking the time to move close to God by reading and praying because I haven't felt like I could give Him adequate time so I haven't done it at all. But, God wants all of what I can bring and what I can bring right now are scraps of time. And He would be delighted if I spent those brief moments with Him, giving Him all that I have. He knows where I am and what I can give right now. And He knows that about you, too.

"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8 (ESV)


Friday, January 10, 2014

Don't Forget!

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The Valley of Vision

One of my favorite devotional books is "The Valley of Vision", a collection of Puritan prayers compiled by Arthur Bennett. The prayers, hymns and devotions in that book are so raw and honest and humble; I can't help but read them over and over just so that maybe my prayer life would one day reach the depths of those whose prayers are cited in it.

The first prayer in the book is by far my favorite.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
I love the phrases, "the valley is the place of vision" and "the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine".

As 2013 ended a week or so ago, my initial reaction was to be extremely thankful. I was very glad to say goodbye to last year. I have definitely spent the last year or two in a valley. Of course there have been a few "hills" along the way, but overall it was a toughie for me personally. But this morning when I re-read that prayer, God reminded me that He shows up in the valley. We are most often times drawn closer to Him when we are in the pit then when we are in the palace. True spiritual growth struggles to take place, at least in my own heart, on the mountaintops. The times that are the hardest for me are also the times where, after some kicking against the goads; I see true growth and maturity take place.

So, even though I am very excited for a new year and new beginnings; I want to praise God that He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5) even in the deepest, darkest pits.

Ezekiel 37 has always been a fascinating story to me. God takes the prophet Ezekiel out into the middle of a valley full of bones. Then God speaks and breathes life into the dry bones through the prophesying of Ezekiel. The next thing Ezekiel knows the bones are covered in flesh and tendons, the breathe of life enters them and they turn into a vast army. God finishes his visual teaching lesson by saying to Israel through Ezekiel, "Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14)

Yes, God often places us in valleys. But, He also promises us that even in the valley He is with us and He will be there to breath life into us as we draw closer to him.

Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley. (The Valley of Vision)