Heart Condition

Our polarized society seems to operate in clusters where people only consider the voices which match their own lifestyle and opinions. 2 Timothy 3:2 warned of a time where “… people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.” We seem to exist in such times.

Yet, Mark 12:30-31 states that we are to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” God commands us to love. But what does this love mean? Society at large uses the word love all the time, usually relating to possessions, destinations, or activities. We seem to apply energy in selfish, futile directions, then wonder why we feel so frustrated and discouraged.

Whenever we feel troubled in our minds, we must examine the condition of our heart. The mind is the powerful battlefield that controls the filter through which we view the world. Sometimes circumstances can skew our filter. The heart is our innermost being. The soul is our eternal spiritual being. We often feel troubled when our mind, heart, and soul is in conflict. Our mind thinks something different than what our heart feels. Our soul is saddened by something which seems like a logical decision. The core of the issue is a heart condition. Since He created us, the Lord knows all about us – mind, body, heart, and soul. Psalm 139:13-14 says For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” We can often give others the impression that all is well, but the Lord knows our motives. 1 Samuel 16:7b reminds us that “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 

Praying to ask for God’s forgiveness as well as godly wisdom, healing, restoration, unity, love, faith, hope, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are the best cures of any heart condition.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Galatians 5:22-23

Beware of Blind Spots!

Navigating traffic requires a high level of focus. When you are about to change lanes, the place you plan to occupy may look clear and available, but as you begin to make your move, you might quickly learn that you missed something and the space is not available after all. It can be frustrating and discouraging, not to mention dangerous, as you try to regroup and revise your plan.

It is the same with us spiritually. We can become so preoccupied with our next move that we only view our situation from one angle. As a result, we may miss something critical that nearly bowls us over.

The most dangerous driver is the one who assumes they drive perfectly. Similarly, the most dangerous Christian is the one who assumes they are completely righteous and have no areas to learn, grow, or mature. Pride is a major spiritual blind spot that the enemy often attempts to use against us.  Psalm 10:4 says In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” It is contrary to our human nature, but we must confess our need for God. Proverbs 28:13 says “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

To avoid painful collisions on the road of life, we must ask our omnipresent (all-seeing), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) Creator to check the blind spots of our lives. Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” We must trust God to help us navigate through bumps, unexpected slowdowns, and dangerous blind spots. If we seek His guidance ahead of making a move, we are guaranteed to not only make it to our destination but to enjoy the journey along the way.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

May God’s power continue to work through you!

Don’t Be Shy!

It’s interesting how society favors the extrovert – the brash, outgoing, overtly expressive person. We are often encouraged to be bold in our public lives. Then somehow, when we step into our prayer space, we become timid, shy and reserved. We limit our petitions, we lower our expectations, then wonder why we feel spiritually dissatisfied.

God calls us to be humble, but not shy nor reserved with Him. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” My spiritual antenna goes up every time I see the word “all” in the Bible. Cast ALL my anxiety on you – really Lord? There are so many situations with myself and the world that burden my heart. Faith is believing that our heavenly Father is powerful enough to handle them all. Humility is recognizing our dependence on God – that we do not have to carry burdens, find our own solutions, or forge outcomes for ourselves. When we admit our limits and weaknesses, it releases that burden and serves as an open invitation for God to address whatever concerns us.

We are often plagued by fear, doubt, or shame. Those are tools of the enemy designed to hinder our prayer lives. Think about it: we have a relationship with God that the enemy can never have again. The devil is not after us per se, but after that rich, abundant relationship we can cultivate with our Creator.  When our spiritual self-esteem is low, we struggle to believe that God even cares about us or our situation. God absolutely cares! As the Negro Spiritual song says “King Jesus is a’listening when you pray.” 1 John 5:14-15 says This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

If you find yourself experiencing fear, doubt, guilt, or shame, ask God to remove those hindrances and just as it says in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Then, proceed to pray boldly! Tell Him what upsets you, what troubles you, what scares you and invite Him to move in every situation that concerns you. I promise God is up for the challenge. He hears you, will never leave you and will answer when you call. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. “
-Ephesians 6:10-18

Acknowledging Gifts

For some people, gift-giving is a task. For others, it is a joy. Major gift-giving often accompanies important milestone celebrations such as a wedding, birthday, or anniversary. By contrast, small gifts simply reflect appreciation. A small token can brighten someone’s day and remind them that they are loved. However, gifts require a measure of graciousness by the giver as well as the recipient. If you received a gift and didn’t express appreciation to the giver, what is the likelihood of receiving another gift from that person? Similarly, if someone gave you a gift and repeatedly boasted to others about what they did for you, would you want to receive another gift from them?

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something nice for someone and they never thanked you? It’s frustrating to behave in a thoughtful manner which is not acknowledged. Can you imagine how our Heavenly Father could feel?

Thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways. Every day, we receive multiple gifts from the Lord – life, health, strength, wisdom, favor, peace, protection, provision, grace, mercy, and the list goes on. We often take these gifts for granted and barely acknowledge them. Yet the following day, by His grace, we are gifted with similar blessings all over again. We rarely express any measure of gratitude for receiving these gifts, only frustration and disappointment when the flow of gifts seems to dry up. The Lord blesses us with magnificent and common, regular and extraordinary gifts that are designed just for us. He winks at us, taking note of our obedience, being in touch with our innermost needs, then orchestrating events across the expanse of the universe that minister to us, even addressing needs which we don’t realize we have. God encourages us in our growth and extends mercy where we fall short. Psalm 145:9 says “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Adopting an attitude of gratitude is essential to cultivating a vigorous and fulfilling prayer life. Reflecting on God’s goodness means changing your prayer priorities. Spiritually shifting focus from what you want to who God is cultivates a grateful and humble heart. The more you take an inventory of blessings, the more you recognize God constantly at work in your life, the better you’ll feel about every situation that concerns you. Acknowledging who God is and what He does sets the stage for an extraordinary life of gratitude.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

 

 

Respecting God’s Seasons

Our lives are composed of a series of seasons. Some seasons of life are highly anticipated and occur naturally. Other seasons of life come upon us unexpectedly, starting and ending with little warning. Seasons of our life may run the gamut from being joyful and inspiring to difficult and discouraging. We often want to control or dictate the seasons our lives apart from seeking God’s will for our lives. We are quick to make assumptions based on what makes sense to us instead of seeking God’s answers. Proverbs 12:14  says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

No matter how dismal or triumphant each moment, we must remember that our sovereign God has a plan for each of us. We often enter or exit seasons based on our logic and limited understanding. As we deepen our prayer lives and seek God’s face, we begin to rely on God’s timing, trusting that He will show us the timing of each season. As we mature in our understanding of God’s grace, we will begin to desire the things of God, submitting our will to His. We learn to trust in God’s will and plan, knowing that it is far superior to whatever exists in our own mental map. Ephesians 5:15-2 says “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Regardless of what each season brings, we can trust in God’s faithfulness. He is always with us. His faithfulness is not dependent on our ability. Faithfulness is simply God’s character. 2 Timothy 2:13 says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

I feel the winds of change blowing. The Holy Spirit is leading me to new endeavors. I thank God for each person who has encouraged me as I added to this blog weekly for 20 consecutive months. I hope that these posts have ministered to you and strengthened your prayer life. The Hebrew word for 20 is “Kaf” which is symbolized by an open hand, meaning to cover or give, open or allow.

As for me, I fully believe that God is allowing me to walk into a new season. Many dynamics and aspects of my personal life are changing, but I am excited rather than fearful because God is faithful. Psalm 136 says “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” His timing is perfect. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

I pray that the Lord continues to bless, strengthen, protect and inspire you in your own new season. I encourage you to follow the Unite in Prayer and The Devotion Cafe blogs. Both of them offer heaping helpings of inspiring, convicting soul food. Trust in God’s seasons and remember always that prayer works!

Pause and Remember

Whether it involves our health, career, family, finances, household, or another aspect of our lives, crises have one thing in common: they always happen at the most inopportune time. When faced with disheartening news, it is easy to find yourself in an emotional tailspin, wondering whether you could have somehow averted the situation. Heavy bricks of fear, stress, confusion, frustration, doubt, discouragement, and worry, build a wall of uncertainty that disrupts your prayer life at a time when you need it most.

Although a crisis may have you fixated on an uncertain future, I encourage you to return or even improve your prayer life by making an intentional effort to pause and remember. Doing so will break down that wall! Deuteronomy 4:9 says to “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—” Reflect on your personal history and testimony. Run the mental movie of your life, reminding yourself of previous dire situations that the Lord brought you through. Romans 8:37 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Remind yourself that the same Lord who created, delivered, rescued, healed, comforted, kept, provided for, and encouraged you in the past is the same Lord who is present with you now. Deuteronomy 31:6 says Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Remind yourself of how far God has brought you, the many creative ways that Lord sustained, elevated, and encouraged you, divinely arranging situations to ultimately benefit you, turning your weeping into joy. Psalm 30:11-12 says You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

In our humanness, we deeply desire to be complacent. God’s focus is less on our comfort and more about our maturity. God wants us to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him. If our lives were always smooth, we would have an inflated sense of self and miss cultivating a genuine appreciation for The One who is capable of mending every broken place within us. Our God is one of restoration! He renews us each day, blessing us in ways that we cannot fully comprehend. Our everlasting Father is constantly on standby, never sleeping, never tired nor too busy, and always available to us.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
-Psalm 77:11-12

 

Unnecessary Roughness

Our increasingly abrasive society seems fascinated with demonstrations of power. Media reflects the many ways that we equate power with strength. Whether it’s a game show, reality show, or infomercial, we are constantly bombarded with the message that being strong means being extremely opinionated and self-serving, seeking to “win” at any cost.

This pervasive worldly view is the exact opposite of the teachings of Christ. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” As disciples, or followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to gentleness. Modern society equates gentleness with weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being gentle requires supernatural strength beyond our human capability. Gentleness is a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Gentle behavior requires a great deal of awareness because first, you need to know your own flaws and limitations. Second, being gentle means that despite those personal shortcomings you resist the urge to wrongfully take out your aggravations on others. James 3:17 says “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Our news headlines are brimming with non-examples of gentle behavior. Oftentimes, people commit cruel and insensitive acts, then dismiss the pain they’ve caused, excusing themselves with the simple explanation: It’s just the way I am. True enough, that IS the default behavior and the way that we are in our flesh. Yet the fruit of the Spirit means putting aside our self-centered ways for a more excellent, God-centered way.
1 Corinthians 12:31 says Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

Fortunately, we are blessed with opportunities each day to draw upon God’s strength and respond with gentleness rather than callousness. It is my sincere prayer that when the next opportunity presents itself, we will respond with gentleness – one of the many spiritual weapons available through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9