Wednesday, July 30

He Hears My Heart

“…God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves…” Romans 8:26 (MSG)

I love this verse. Although I tend to have plenty of words–often, too many–they don’t always come out the way I intended. I’m like that in prayer, too; what I mean to say isn’t necessarily what I actually end up saying. One of the reasons I enjoy writing is because it helps me organized my jumbled, rambling thoughts. I like to talk things out, and my dear husband has learned that he doesn’t have to “fix” anything or offer solutions (unless I ask), but just listen as I ramble on. But this verse reassures me that the Holy Spirit is taking all my ramblings to God, and translating them to what my heart actually means. Isn’t that a lovely thought?

This verse also speaks right to those who are in such pain that they can’t even think of words to pray. In deep grief and heartache, the Holy Spirit speaks for us.

I like to think this verse applies to singing worship songs, too. I love singing, but it’s certainly not one of my gifts! I used to be a little self-conscious about people hearing me, but if I apply this verse to my singing, then I figure the Holy Spirit sings for me, and when my songs reach God’s ears, my voice is as glorious as an angel’s. (I do, however, feel a little bad for the person sitting in front of me at church because he or she just gets my plain ol’ earthly voice.)

Last Sunday, instead of a sermon, several people gave their testimonies, and we had a little extra worship music in-between. It was an awesome service. Every song and every testimony touched me heart. But one testimony touched me in particular. They played a videotaped testimony of a few of the children who recently made a decision to trust Christ. Each child said how and when they became a Christian, recited a favorite Bible verse, and told why they wanted to be baptised. It was very sweet. The third child who gave his testimony was an 8-year-old boy named Bennett, who has serious disabilities but has defied doctor’s expectations by attending school and church and doing many of the things they said he’d never be able to do. Bennett is rather difficult to understand, so his video had subtitles. He ended his testimony by saying, “I want to be baptised because I asked Jesus into my heart, and God understands me.” God knows exactly what Bennett is saying, because God sees right into Bennett’s heart. And He does the same for you and me.

Sunday, July 27

I'll Stand

“So what can I say,
And what can I do,
But offer this heart, O God,
Completely to You…

So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all.
I’ll stand,
My soul Lord to You surrendered,
All I am is Yours.”
Every time I hear this song it moves me deeply. Christ was perfect, free of sin, but he gave himself up for me–imperfect, sinful me. In thinking about all that he did for me, enduring a painful and shame-filled death to pay the price for MY sins, then what else can I possibly do but give my whole self back to him? Ephesians 5:2 says we should “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” There is no other choice but to offer my heart completely to God, and I stand in awe of the one who gave it all for me. All I am is his. I pray that I might glorify him in all I think and say and do.

Saturday, July 26

Supply and Demand

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
(John 6: 9-11 )

Last Sunday’s sermon was on the story of the feeding of the five-thousand. Actually it was likely closer to fifteen or twenty thousand, because there were 5,000 adult males there. Anyway, the guest pastor gave a great message, but a couple of points in particular struck me…

At first I didn’t know where the pastor was going with the economics law of supply and demand, especially in relation to this loaves and fishes story. But the “aha” point in this part of his message is this: without Christ, demand will always exceed supply. No matter how much we get– whether it be money, or a bigger house, or sex, or alcohol, or power and fame, or even the “perfect” spouse– it will never be enough. We’ll always want “just a little bit more.” Just think about that a minute; it’s scary how true that is.

On the other hand, with Christ, we will always have plenty. Those people on the hillside had enough; in fact, they took “as much as they wanted.” And there was even some left over! Nothing–no person, no thing, no power or fame or wealth– can fill the void we have when we don’t know Christ. As Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

I know this from my own experience; I’ve tried to fill that void other ways.

The other really big “aha” moment in Sunday’s sermon was this: when that little boy packed his small lunch and left his home that morning, he had no idea that he had the potential to feed multitudes. We do that all the time. We think we don’t have much to give, so why bother. I’m sure that boy had at least a minute or two of thinking, “I’d like to help, but all I’ve got is these five little loaves and two small fish. This won’t make a difference to all this crowd.” But because that boy decided to give it to God, a miracle happened. Another thing to note: the boy gave everything he had; he didn’t just give most of it but keep a loaf and a piece of fish for himself to make sure he’d have a good lunch. He just trusted Christ and gave it all, knowing that Christ would take care of him, too.

For more on this subject, please read “my loaves and fishes” on my Rose Cottage blog.

Thursday, July 24

Joy of Wisdom

“Wisdom is a tree of life
to those who embrace her;
happy are those who hold her tightly.”
Proverbs 3:18

Wisdom is the ability to discern or what is true, what is right. We might have an entire encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge, but still not have wisdom; the only way to gain true wisdom is by learning what God teaches in his Word. (Proverbs 2:6) And to be in this world but not of it, it’s absolutely essential to learn true discernment.

Proverbs 3: 13-15
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.”

I think one of the reasons wisdom brings happiness is because we aren’t so overwhelmed and confused about what to do in every circumstance we’re faced with. And I believe the biggest reason wisdom bring joy is because it’s impossible to have true wisdom without knowing God–nothing brings more true and lasting joy than a close relationship with Christ.

Sunday, July 20

Graven on His Hands

“Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God”

Two of our worship leaders did an awesome performance of this song today. I don’t think I’d ever heard it before, although it sounds like an old hymn. All the words are awesome (seems like there were more, but this is all I found online), but that part about my name being “graven in His hand” and my name being “written on His heart” really touched me today. I know that, I’ve read it in the Bible (Isaiah 49:16), but sometimes something I “know” just doesn’t sink in until I’ve heard it quite a few times. Just imagine that…

God had my name (and yours!) engraved right on the palm of his hand, and he has my name (and yours!) written on his heart! He loved us enough to pay the price of our sins with his own blood.

And then that part about Satan reminding us of our guilt. He loves to do that, to make us think so little of ourselves that we doubt ourselves, even doubt what Christ did for us. But we are special, despite our flaws, despite our sins, because Christ loved us enough to die for us, enough to engrave our names on the palm of his holy hand.

Tuesday, July 15


“May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to You LORD,
my rock and my Redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14

I spent a long time learning to tame my tongue and had a bunch of verses copied down to help me when my tongue was running away from me again. Back then, it was mostly an effort to not say unkind or slanderous things to or about the people I was having difficulty with at the time.

This verse goes further than that, though. Here God is showing me that I should do more than just avoid saying bad things. Everything I say, every single word that comes out of my mouth should be pleasing to God. Not only my words, but even my thoughts! This is definitely one of those times I am extra glad for the Holy Spirit as my helper because this would be humanly impossible for me. I know I’m still not there yet, but with God’s help, I’ll keep getting more like he wants me to be.

Sunday, July 6

Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from the heart of anyone who believes in me.’”
John 7:37-38

Today’s sermon did a wonderful job of explaining the background of this passage. To fully understand it, we have to understand what festival this verse refers to, so I’ll sum up what I know (some I knew before today, but I learned more during the sermon).

This was during the Feast of the Tabernacles (Tents), or the Festival of Booths, which was to celebrate and remember how the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. (Leviticus 23:33-44) Everyone came to Jerusalem for this week-long celebration, and “camped out” in tents the whole time. There was singing, dancing, many sacrifices, and many hours of worship in the tabernacle each day. Every evening the people lit torches to remember how the Lord appeared as a pillar of fire at night to the Israelites during their time in the desert. But the last day of the festival was the most sacred. One of the “big finale” ceremonies was the water-drawing ceremony to recognize that all “living” or fresh water comes from God: the priest would make the trek down to the river, where he filled a golden pitcher with fresh water (as compared to the stale, often diseased water in the man-made cisterns) and carried it back to the temple. While he was on his journey to and fro, the people (probably at least a half-million of them!) enthusiastically recited the hallel, which is Psalms 113 - 118. When they got to Psalm 118:25, they repeated it over and over. . .

“Lord save us! Lord, grant us success!”

Finally the priest would return, the shofar would blow, and the throng of people would become silent. The priest would hold the pitcher high, and speak about how the Lord had saved them, and ask the Lord to grant them success by sending his living water to them for their crops. He then poured the water out on the altar, and the people all began shouting and reciting the hallel again. (By the way, “hallel” + “Yahweh” = hallelujah! How cool is that!? But it’s more than our sometimes lame hallelujahs; theirs was truly worshipping with ALL you’ve got, both body and soul!)

Now let’s jump back to the verse at the beginning of this post. Although we don’t know this for a fact, our pastor thinks that when Jesus stands up and shouts these words, this must be at the only time the crowd of people would have been silent; it must have been when the priest stood with the pitcher of water held high. Everyone would have been shocked that Jesus “broke tradition” by speaking at this time. He spoke boldly, as only he could have done, about being this living water.

I think that we all choose the stale cistern water sometimes. Rather than choose the living water of Christ that truly quenches our “thirst”, we seek the things that we think will satisfy us. But nothing will fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts except God himself.

Wednesday, July 2

Who is your Timothy?

"The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
2 Timothy 2:2
Timothy was a younger man than his mentor Paul, and had been an eager and willing student of all Paul had to teach him. He was fertile ground, because his faith had been taught to him from a very young age by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Just as we all need a “Paul” (mentor) and a “Barnabas” (encourager), we also all need to have a Timothy: someone to pour ourselves into- someone to share whatever wisdom God has given us.

Once Timothy had learned from Paul, he was instructed to go teach others; he was to become a “Paul” himself, with other “Timothys” to instruct. I once heard someone compare us to sponges: a sponge can only soak up so much water. It must be wrung out and give that water to others before it can go back to soak up more water. We’re like that, too. We can soak up learning but at some point our capacity maxes out and we must go share that knowledge before we can come back to learn more. So we start out learning all we can, and then we go teach and mentor others.

For those of us who are parents, our children are Timothys for us. It is our responsibility as parents to instruct and mentor our children. In fact, I believe parenting is discipling. Just as Timothy was instructed my his mother and grandmother, we must instruct our children. “Teach [God's words] to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

Even for those who are not parents, there are plenty of Timothys available. Whether you are very mature spiritually, or just a brand-spanking-new believer, you can find someone to mentor: anyone who is not as far along as you are in your walk with Christ, or perhaps someone who isn’t yet a believer at all.

Who is your Timothy? Your Paul? Your Barnabas?

Tuesday, July 1

Be Barnabas

“But Barnabas accepted Saul and took him to the apostles. Barnabas explained to them that Saul had seen the Lord on the road and the Lord had spoken to Saul. Then he told them how boldly Saul had preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus.” Acts 9:27

When a man named Joseph joined the disciples, he was called Barnabas, which means “son of exhortation and or encouragement.” To understand this verse above and to understand exactly what Barnabas did here, we have to remember the background of this story. Saul had been one of the absolute worse anti-Christian terrorists the world has ever known. He hunted them and had then killed. He had a part in stoning Stephen, the first of Jesus’ disciples to be martyred for his faith. Saul’s reputation was known far and wide. So when he showed up wanting to join the disciples, their wariness was very understandable! Sure, he had a story about a bright light and a voice from the heavens, but they figured this could just be an elaborate plot to infiltrate their group and have them all arrested and executed!

I’m not sure exactly how Saul and Barnabas met, but Barnabas believed his story. He believed in Saul, and spoke on his behalf, convincing the other disciples to welcome him. Barnabas stood up for Saul when no one else would. Most likely, this was a very encouraging and very humbling experience for Saul, after all he had done to persecute the Christians. Later, Saul became known as Paul, and was one of the mostly Godly men and powerful preachers who ever lived. And that was largely due to the encouragement he received from Barnabas.

We all need a Barnabas or two: someone to encourage us and stand by us; someone committed to Christ and to us. We all need to be Barnabas to others, too! For those of us who are married, our spouse should be one of the Barnabas relationships in our lives, but I think it’s essential to have some encouraging Christian frienships (with the same gender) as well. Recently a friend told me she considers me a “life-giver” - that is one of the very best compliments I have ever received, but it’s also a lovely way to say that I encourage her. I pray that I continue to be a Barnabas for her and others, and I am thankful I have great girlfriends and a wonderful husband to be encouragers to me as well!