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Archive for the ‘From My Heart’ Category

 

Ezekiel 33:10-11

10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?” 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

The Israelites were crying out from the weight of their offenses and sins. They cried out that they were wasting away because of them. Carrying the weight of our sin can be a heavy burden. I have had to repent recently of my own wrong attitudes of anger and resentment. I know first hand how sin can weigh us down and separate us from God and God’s best for us. I was wallowing in my anger and pride. I didn’t want to give an inch and was NOT setting the Christlike example that I knew I should be setting. I knew that my attitude was wrong and yet I refused to give in. What’s even worse is that I was hanging on to an anger and resentment that wasn’t rightfully mine to hold on to. It has been weighing me down. I hate knowing that I am choosing to let sin keep me from God’s presence.

So what do we do when sin is weighing us down? In verse 11, God tells us to Turn! Turn from our wicked ways! I read this verse yesterday and God used it to bring me to a place of repentance and restoration. I had to swallow my pride and make amends. I now feel reconnected to God and a relationship is in a place where Jesus can transform both of our hearts.

No one on this earth is exempt from sin. At one point or another, we will ALL sin and become weighed down by our sin and wicked ways. But God tells us that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He would much rather that we turn from our sin and transform our hearts. He would much rather give us life than sentence us to death.

2 Peter 3:9

 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

1 John 2:1

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

We WILL sin! But because God does not want any of us to perish, He has provided an advocate to intercede on our behalf. His name is Jesus. If we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, we can repent from our sin and we will be forgiven. BUT we also must TURN from our wicked ways! Accept Jesus. Repent of our sin. And turn from our wicked ways.

There is life in Jesus! Allow Him to transform your heart and live for Him.

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Philippians 4:6-9

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

We live in a world of chaos and evil. From natural disasters to the destruction caused by human hands, I don’t believe that there is one of us alive today that has not struggled with anxiety at some level. We become so anxious about making enough money that we start living lives devoid of joy and peace. We live in fear of being in crowded areas because of the violence of the society we live in. The media bombards us with news of shootings, abuse, drugs, natural disasters, and all kinds of evil under the sun. We begin to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. We are robbed of the joy that God so freely gives us.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We do not have to live our lives in a constant state of anxiety. God has given us a blueprint to handle the anxiety producing situations in our lives.

Part 1:

The Command:

Do not be anxious about anything – God tells us not to be anxious about ANYTHING. This is not a suggestion, it is a command. I know how hard it is not to let panic overwhelm your spirit. Believe me, if anyone struggles with this command, it is me! Still, it is a command and God expects us to obey ALL of His commands!

But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God – God expects us to pray about and surrender EVERY situation that causes us anxiety. Not only are we to present these situations to God, but we are to give thanks! Why give thanks in a stressful, panic attack producing event? We give thanks, believing that an all powerful God has our back and is with us in the crisis. We give thanks, knowing that He may not take us out of the situation, BUT He can and will calm the storm that rages inside of us.

When you face a situation that is causing you to panic, STOP where you are and START praying. Give that situation over to God. Pray for the presence of God to enter into the situation. Pray with thanksgiving, knowing that God is already at work to provide refuge in the mist of the chaos.

The Promise: 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If we are faithful to give every situation that causes us to feel anxiety or fear to God through prayer and thanksgiving, He will be faithful to give us a peace that transcends all understanding. That peace that only God can give will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

Part 2:

The Command:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

We are to think on ALL THINGS GOOD! After we give our anxiety to God through prayer, we need to focus on the good things of God. We need to focus on the true aspects of God’s character. We need to focus on the love of God. We need to focus on how we can serve others who may be suffering. We need to focus on the positive things in this world. Turn on a Christian radio station and let the songs sink into your soul. I have the K-Love app on my phone and I listen in my car and I can tell you that there have been times when a song hits me right where I am and I will bawl like a baby. There are other times when a song will speak right to my fear and God will use the song to calm me in a very real way. Do whatever it is helps you to focus on the good that is God.

The Promise:

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

If we are faithful to focus on the goodness of God in an anxiety inducing situation, then God promises to be with us. The God of peace promises to be with us in our anxiety. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, the God of peace has promised to be right there in the midst of it with us! If God is with us, there is nothing to fear.

I know that trusting in the middle of a panic attack seems impossible. Just remember that YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT! Take a few deep breaths. Present your requests to God with a prayer of thanksgiving and focus on the goodness of God and on the goodness that can still be found in this world. If you are faithful in this, then the God of peace will be faithful to be with you no matter what you face in life. God has your back, friend! He is faithful!

 

 

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Jonah: Part 4

 

 

Read Jonah: chapter 4

Recap: In chapter 1, Jonah runs from a direct command from God to go and warn the people of Nineveh to repent or God would deal harshly with them. In chapter 2, Jonah has been swallowed by a huge fish and is now crying out to God in his distress. Chapter 3 finds Jonah back on dry land (having been vomited up by the fish) and obeying God’s command to go to Nineveh and warn the people there of God’s judgement.

In chapter 4 we find Jonah angry that God has had compassion on the people of Nineveh. He proclaims that this is why he tried to run, because he knew that God is a compassionate God and would have compassion on these unholy people. Nineveh was the oldest and most-populous city in Assyria. From the description of Nineveh in Nahum 3 we see that the people of Nineveh were wicked, evil people and Nahum 1 tells us that they were enemies of Israel and of God. Jonah was angry because God had compassion on these sworn enemies of Israel. God teaches Jonah a lesson in compassion through a plant that grows and provides shade for Jonah and then withers away, leaving Jonah in the scorching heat. Jonah was angry about the plant withering away and in verses 9-11 God addresses Jonah’s anger:

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” 10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” 

Yes, we could focus on Jonah, who seems to be acting like a petulant child, but I want to focus on the bigger picture. I want to focus on the lesson that God is trying to teach Jonah.

In verse 2, Jonah describes the character of God:

He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 

When Jonah went to Nineveh in chapter 3 and warned them of their impending doom, they turned from their wicked ways. The people listened to Jonah and repented. Because of their transformed hearts, God chose not to deal with them the way that He had intended too. He sent Jonah to warn them before He wiped them off the face of the earth. Even though they were His enemy, He still gave them a chance to repent. Why? God had created the people of Nineveh, just as He created the rest of us and He didn’t want them to perish. He didn’t want to have to deal with them harshly, just as He doesn’t want to deal with any of us today harshly. He sends His people to warn us of  the impending consequences of our sin. Romans 5:10 tells us:

 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

We have ALL been God’s enemies! He has chosen to save every one of us because He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love. We don’t deserve His compassion any more than the people of Nineveh did, but He relents from sending calamity when we repent and transform our hearts.

What Jonah is not understanding is that God expects the same of us. We are to be gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love. We are to be willing to forgive an enemy. We are to warn those who are buried in their sin. We are to warn them from hearts of compassion and love. God gives us ALL chance after chance after chance to repent and change. Why do we think that it is okay for us to just write other people off just because they have offended us or they believe differently? Why do we think that it is okay to wallow in our anger and self-righteous attitudes, when it is so far off from what God wants?

I admit that I have been known to hold a grudge and have spent some time wallowing in my anger over a slight or perceived injustice. Even when I was justified in my anger, I allowed it to harden my heart against those who had bullied me or hurt me. I did not act as God would want me too. I acted as Jonah and I too, became a petulant child who was only interested in my pride, my pain, myself. I did not care about praying for the situation or about seeking reconciliation. I was willing to write the person off and never think of them again.

NOT A VERY CHRIST LIKE ATTITUDE!

My Challenge To You: Is there anyone that you think of as your enemy? Why? I challenge you to start praying for that person and the situation. Ask God to open up the doors of communication that would allow healing in the relationship. Be an example of grace, compassion, peace and love as you seek to build that relationship. Do not allow your anger turn you into a dramatic, all about me, petulant child.

James 1:19-20

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Jonah was out of control. Don’t allow his attitude to keep you from God’s will for you and for those He is seeking to save. Luke 19:10 tells us that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. We have the same mission on this earth. We can’t seek and save the lost when we are wallowing in our self-righteous anger. Let go of the anger and take on the characteristics of God. We are to be obedient to God’s will. ALWAYS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Read Jonah: Chapter 3

In chapter 1, Jonah ran from a direct command from God and ended up in the belly of a huge fish. In chapter 2, Jonah cries out in his distress and God commands the fish to vomit Jonah on dry land. Now in chapter 3, God again commands Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim God’s message there. Jonah obeys this time and goes to Nineveh and gives the residents there God’s message.

What I find myself wondering is: what is Jonah’s motivation for obeying God this time around?

Is he wholeheartedly and gratefully obeying God’s command?

Is he reluctantly stepping out in obedience because he knows he doesn’t have a choice?

Is he obeying, but still holding onto a rebellious heart and a grumbling spirit?

Motivation matters. For me, I usually obey reluctantly and fearfully. I don’t think I have ever obeyed with a rebellious spirit, but I know that I usually don’t obey wholeheartedly and gratefully. I will admit to arguing with God and making excuses as to why He shouldn’t use me.  Moses and Gideon were reluctant servants. Although, God does bless the reluctant servant, I believe that He would prefer us to serve like Jesus, who served from a humble heart. Jesus was on this earth to fulfill His Father’s will (Luke 22:42). Jesus never complained about His God-given assignments. He never argued with God. He did what was expected of Him from a posture of submission and love.

My Challenge To You: I want you to reflect on your own motivation to obey God. Use a journal and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are you obeying a command from God reluctantly because you know you don’t have a choice?

2. Are you obeying, but still holding onto a rebellious heart and a grumbling spirit?

3. Do you argue with God and make excuses, trying to convince God that He needs to choose someone else?

4. Are you obeying wholeheartedly and with a humble heart like Jesus?

5. Are you obeying because you know that God’s will is above your own and that is the only thing that matters?

6. Are you obeying out of love for God and others?

Be honest with yourself. Your answers will reveal where some heart work needs to be done. I have heart work to do myself. It is a part of the process of sanctification and transforming ourselves into the likeness of Christ. It is a lifelong journey. Don’t get discouraged. God sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and encourage us in the journey, so never give up. Keep moving forward and remember that God works all things for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

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Read Jonah: Chapter 2

In Jonah chapter 1, we find Jonah disobeying a direct command from God. Instead of being obedient, Jonah ran the other way.

Jonah chapter 2, we find Jonah in the belly of a big fish. Because of his disobedience, God had a big fish swallow him. Jonah is now dealing with the consequence of his actions and he is not happy about it. He starts to pray a prayer of desperation, ” In my distress I called to the Lord” “from deep in the realm of the dead I called for help.”

I imagine that Jonah has now realized that God is not messing around and he has started to panic. Will he die in the belly of this fish? Will God spare his life and give him another chance? Will God still be willing to use him for His purpose?

The big lesson here is that we CAN’T hide or run from God! Adam and Eve found that out when they tried to hide from God after they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis chapter 2. I am almost certain that most of us turn to God in desperation when we are sinking in the mess of our own making and can’t seem to find the way out on our own. We call out to God in distress when we are stuck struggling with the consequences of our own sin.

Jonah would have saved a lot of time and heartache had he obeyed God in the first place. In my own life, I have been running from God. I have been hiding behind my anxieties. Using my anxieties as an excuse not to do what God is calling me to. But Guess what? God did not just leave Jonah to die in the belly of that fish! After Jonah prayed, God had the fish vomit Jonah onto dry land. God continued to pursue Jonah! He did not seek someone more willing to carry out this mission. God had handpicked Jonah for this job and even though Jonah wasted time in his disobedience, God waited until Jonah got over himself.

WOW! I see where this is going, Lord! My hiding behind my anxiety is a sin. Anxiety IS NOT from God and the longer I wallow in it and use it as an excuse to keep me from my God-given mission, the longer I keep other women from hearing about the love of God or knowing that they are loved by a risen Savior. God has pursued me for years now. I run and I hide. God will not choose someone else to fulfill a mission that He has handpicked me to accomplish and I guess I better stop playing Jonah and get my act together.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU: If you are running from God or hiding behind an excuse so you won’t have to fulfill a God-given purpose, STOP RUNNING! STOP HIDING! Take it from me, it doesn’t work. God will not give up on you. If He has handpicked you for a special mission then, believe me, He will pursue you until you crack under the pressure and become an obedient vessel that He can use. Don’t choose living in sin over being obedient to the will of God. It never works out. It just makes you miserable. I am there. Living a life trapped in a prison of anxiety for years is no fun. I am crying out to God and I will be seeking help. FINALLY! And when God commands this big fish of anxiety to vomit me out, I will be ready and willing to accomplish His will in my life.

Heavenly Father,

I am so sorry that it has taken me this long to see the anxiety for what it is, SIN. I have wasted so many years wallowing in my own pathetic issues. I have wasted so many years making excuses for my running and hiding from your will. I am so sorry for my disobedience. I have been horrible and yet you pursue me still. I am 49 years old and you still pursue me. Never once, did you give up on me and choose someone else for this mission. I am humbled and I am grateful. Forgive me, Lord and help me heal as I seek help. I am here, Lord, use me.

In Jesus name,

Amen

Side Note: Many times when I write a post, I don’t know where it will go until I start writing. They all end up going in directions that I never intended. That is God. I am the instrument and He is the author. This one is very personal. It touches on something that I have struggled with for ages. I had no idea when I started writing this post that it would go this way. I could have kept it personal and not publish it, but I made a promise to be transparent. I want to let you see my mess, so that you can see a God that loves and heals. My blog has been a journey in my relationship with God, as I have struggled with my own humanness and God’s continual pursuit of me.

 

 

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Read Jonah: Chapter 1

I think we have all heard the story of Jonah, the guy who was swallowed up by the fish because he ran away from God. In verse 2 God tells Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” In response, Jonah boards a ship headed in the opposite direction. This did not go over well with God! He sent a storm that terrified the ships crew. They eventually confronted Jonah and at Jonah’s command, they threw him overboard. The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

In this chapter, we need to address the sin, the consequence, and the presence of innocent bystanders:

The sin:

Jonah was disobedient to God’s command. Instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded him, Jonah took off in the other direction.

The Consequence:

God sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah sat in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

The Innocent Bystanders: 

The ships crew were innocent bystanders that got sucked into the mess Jonah made when he tried to run from God. They were thrown off schedule because of the storm. They lost precious cargo because they threw it into the sea, trying to lighten the weight of the ship. They dealt with emotional trauma because of the storm and ensuing chaos and didn’t know how to make it stop. These men suffered because of Jonah’s sin.

My Challenge To You:

We ALL have sin in our lives. That is simply a natural part of being human. I am challenging you to search your heart of any sin(s) that you might be struggling with today.

Journal the following:

The Sin: 

What sin or sins are you struggling with today? Be specific. This is between you and God. But, you can’t heal it unless you confess it.

The Consequence:

What consequences are you dealing with because of that sin(s)? How do you feel knowing that you could have avoided the consequence had you made a different decision? How will you address the temptation to sin in the future?

The Innocent Bystanders: 

Who are the people affected by your sin? Be sure to name everyone that was affected by your sin, even if you feel the harm to them was minimal. If someone was affected in ANY way by your actions then they have suffered and need to be acknowledged. How were they affected? For every person on your list, write down how they were affected. BE SPECIFIC! Write down every way someone else has suffered because of your actions. Lastly, what can you do to repair the damage that you have done? If you have caused someone to suffer, you need to take responsibility for your actions. You need to be proactive in repairing the damage that you have done. You need to seek forgiveness for your sin, regardless of whether you are forgiven, you need to seek forgiveness.

 

Jonah found out the hard way that sin results in consequences. I’m sure if we are honest, then we all can admit that we have suffered consequences as a result of sin in our lives. Consequences that we could have avoided, had we made a better decision. Unfortunately, other people often have to suffer the consequences of our sinful behavior too. This is not fair to the other people who get hurt because of our foolish choices. Other people should not have to clean up the messes we make because we CHOOSE to sin. SIN IS A CHOICE!

SEEK GOD:

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Hebrews 2:18

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

James 4:7

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We are not tempted without having a way out. God loves us enough that He sent His Son to die for our sins. HE GIVES US A WAY OUT! We need only to ask for His help. Seek God and He will show you the way out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew 26:69-74

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Let’s take a look at a few verses back. In Matthew 31-35 Jesus was telling the disciples that they would all fall away on account of Him. Peter answers that even if the rest fall away, that he never will. Jesus tells Peter that he will disown Jesus three times before the rooster crows. Peter declares that he WILL NEVER disown Jesus.

Then we get to verses 69-75 where we find Peter in the courtyard, surrounded by people. The people start to accuse him of being with Jesus. He denies it three times. Not only does he deny Jesus, he calls down curses and swears to them that he doesn’t know the man Jesus. Immediately after the third denial a rooster crows and Peter remembers the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter was distraught. He went outside and wept bitterly.

I can imagine how Peter felt. He loved Jesus deeply and I believe that he was sincere in his belief that he would NEVER disown Jesus. He got caught up in the moment. He was afraid of what would happen if he acknowledged Jesus. He was overcome with guilt, regret and shame at what he had done and he wept bitterly.

I have made mistakes that caused me regret. I have lashed out in anger, yelled at my kids in frustration, and I have been mean spirited to those I love and strangers who happened to cross my path at the wrong moment. I have found that there are usually three reasons for regret:

Things we have done in the past – We have all done things in the past that we regret. Those actions that haunt us for years after they happen. We carry them around and they condemn us and keep us judging ourselves harshly.

Things that we did not do in the past – Those things that we SHOULD have done, but didn’t. Those things we wish we would have done, but now it’s to late. These can be just as condemning as those things we actually did. They haunt us, making us forever tell ourselves, “I wish I would have.”

Things we are doing now – Those bad decisions that we continue to make that we regret each and every time, but we can’t seem to stop ourselves from making them. These regrets will condemn us until we don’t care anymore and we give up trying.

Regret. Guilt. Shame. Condemnation. These are all feelings that the devil piles on us to keep us stuck in our choices and mistakes, keeping us separated from the God who loves us. God does not want us to be stuck in our feelings of regret, guilt and shame. God does not condemn us for our past or present bad choices (Romans 8:1). We have a new life in Jesus, IF we choose to accept Jesus as our Savior. We WILL be forgiven and cleansed of our sins, IF we repent and change our ways. God will NEVER weigh us down with those negative feelings of regret, shame, guilt and condemnation, so if you are feeling any of those right now, they are from the devil and he is trying to keep you from the love of God. Go to the Father and cry out to Him in your distress. He is a loving, compassionate, forgiving, merciful God who is full of grace. He will come to us in the midst of our bad decisions and He will cleanse us right where we are.

Make that decision not to live in regret. There is no reason to allow regret to keep you from all God has for you. Keep your eyes on God and let go of those emotions that are from Satan. If there is anything I can do to help you, I am just an email away! In the meantime, God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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