Monthly Archives: January 2015

ABIDING: A Heart Matter

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John 15:7: If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Have you ever just sat back and watched people and their positioning? Have you noticed how the back seats fill up first at church but the front seats are the high-dollars seats at a theatre? At work people want the corner offices. At dinners people want to sit at tables where the powerful or wealthy are seated. Let’s face it, there’s no place worse than the back of the line (especially at the grocery store).

The Word has a lot to say about position. We’re all familiar with the teachings on servantship and Christ’s statement that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Yet I still don’t see many running to get to the end of the line. As I read John 15:7, I realized Christ is giving us another glimpse of proper positioning. We can stop trying to figure out how to get ahead and run into Him. The key word in the verse is abide.

Webster’s Dictionary’ description of abide:

  1. (v. i.) To stay; to continue in a place; to have one’s abode; to dwell; to sojourn; — with before a person, and commonly with at or in before a place.
  2. (v. i.) To wait; to pause; to delay.
  3. (v. i.) To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.
  4. (v. t.) To wait for; to be prepared for; to await; to watch for; as, I abide my time.
  5. (v. t.) To endure; to sustain; to submit to.
  6. (v. t.) To bear patiently; to tolerate; to put up with.
  7. (v. t.) To stand the consequences of; to answer for; to suffer for.

This simple word has a complex meaning that involves not only place, but time, endurance, patience, stability. It’s as if God is saying, “No matter what. . .stay put in me.” The essence of the word is that you are going to move in—live in Him. Yes, you are going to set up housekeeping in Him. He’s not offering you an overnight guest room or a week’s condo for a vacation—this is a full-time residence in Him. You and all your stuff (yes, that baggage you can’t seem to part with) is all moving into Him because you have no plans to go anywhere else. You are putting down roots and setting up housekeeping in Him. He becomes your safe haven, your security, your place of rest, community, love, sharing, refuge and shelter—IN PLACE—IN HIM.

When you are abiding in Him, His Spirit will talk with you, lead you, guide you—His words will abide in you. I thank God for the memory verses my parents instilled in me at an early age because it gives voice to God’s Spirit. Because His words are in me, the Spirit can use the Word to stop me, encourage me, guide me. His commands are my guide.

But more than all the benefits of abiding and being led by His Spirit through the Word, there’s a promise . . . “you can ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” Now maybe there’s nothing on your prayer list that you want God to do for you, but I cry out daily to the Lord for answered prayer in my life. And because of John 15:7, I move closer to Him. I’ve moved from abiding in to clinging to Him. I don’t want any wind to move me from Him. I study His word more and pray more because I want my prayer answered more than I want food to eat. I claim this promise for my life and thank Him that I can know my answer is on the way. He promised. I abide. I believe. He will answer.

Christ goes further to explain the motivation for abiding: Love.

John 15:9-11 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Have you ever watched a young couple in love? They are inseparable. They can’t sit close enough together or spend too much time together. They embody the sense of abiding. They will be together if at all possible. They will do things together. They are in lock step with one another. Next thing you know, you will see them setting up housekeeping together. . abiding. Love opens the door to abiding.

Is Christ someone you have heard about, think must have been a great guy, an important figure in history. . .or is He the love of your life. Fall head over heels in love with the Savior. Do what He asks of you (which is easy if you love) and move right on into an abiding with Him. Not only will your prayers be answered, but your joy is also going to be full. Joy isn’t dependent upon circumstances; it’s all about your position: abide in Him.

ABIDING. . . .position, patience, stability. . .waiting on and with Him.

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TEA TIME–A Heart Matter

 

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I love teapots–have a collection that spreads over most of the surfaces in my home. As I sit here sipping my tea in a favorite cup given to me by a favorite aunt, I think about relationships. Maybe the custom of tea should be brought back. It’s about two people taking the time to sit down together and share their lives over a simple cup of tea. Tea Time is Heart Time.

Truly our relationships are all matters of the heart. First, let’s look at the posture of our heart:

1.  Open–It’s not just a piece of jewelry by Jane Seymour that we hang around our necks, it is an attitude of welcoming the other person into our lives. It means your teapot is whistling and your heart is welcoming.

2. Closed–This attitude is a “Do Not Disturb” sign. It signals the other person that they are not welcome, we don’t want them to sit down and visit with us–they should just be on their way. We don’t want to bear their burdens or share in their joys nor do we have any intent of sharing our lives with them. You have no hot tea, only cold water to throw in their face.

Christ tells us that He stands at the door of our hearts wanting to come in, wanting us to open our hearts to Him and His ways. Have you left Him standing at the door or have you invited Him to come in and make Himself at home in your life? Have you given Him permission to rearrange the furniture, turn off the TV, change your priorities and your attitudes? I love the song, Softly and Tenderly because this is the way that He works. He won’t beat the door down, but His Spirit will softly and tenderly call to you. You have the choice of whether or not you will harden your heart and walk away or swing wide the door, heading His call. Hebrews 3:7-13 describes a downward path of the heart:  a) an erring heart, b) an evil heart of unbelief, and c) a hardened heart (through the deceitfulness of sin). Was He once welcome but now is being edged to the door?

John 13:35 tells us that the key evidence of a right relationship with Him is that we will have right relationships with others. He describes it as more than being kind or tolerant of one another–He says we will LOVE others. It’s a genuine heart love, not an act. In other words, we allow His love for those He has placed in our lives to rule our hearts.

What are evidences of an open heart in your relationships:

1.  You spend quality time with them. You make room in your life for them.

2.  You gladly listen to and care about the trials they may experience. You want them to lean on you even as Christ asked us to bear one another’s burdens.

3.  You celebrate the joys of the other person. You are never jealous but rather as excited when good things come to them as if they had come to you.

4. You are transparent with them. You share your joys and triumphs, your fears and disappointments.

5.  When you feel insecure or tragedy befalls, you pick up the phone. . .and their # is on your call list. You know they will answer quickly and drop everything because you called.

6. There’s a harmony. You may not see each other for a period of time, but the next time you are together, the music continues right where you left off–it’s as if you never skipped a beat or a single note.

Where is Satan making inroads in your relationship with God? In your relationship with others? The Bible tells us that above all else we must guard our hearts for the issues of life spring from our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).

Make a list of your relationships–Grade each relationship on a scale of 1-6 based on how many of the 6 attributes above are true in your relationship. God’s watching and keeping score. He will call all your actions and attitudes before the judgment seat. You aren’t going to fool Him, so maybe it’s time you stop trying to fool yourself. Take a little time out and check your heart attitudes while there is still time to make a change.

A.  Is your heart open? If the door is open (even just a crack), what can you do to take it to the next level where the door is wide open and the welcome mat is out?

B. Who have you closed the door on? Or maybe you’ve never really opened the door more than a crack. Where, when and why did your heart begin to err toward them? When and why did you begin to have evil or critical thoughts toward them? Have they sinned against you or you against them? Have you dealt properly with forgiveness? Have you hardened your heart toward them–possibly unjustly? Did you know that God considers a hardened heart a sinful act?

God gives us choice in our relationships. We can choose to bless and be blessed or we can choose to do harm to others and suffer consequences and judgment. This doesn’t mean that everyone becomes your best friend–most of us do not have time to be besties with everyone. But what it does mean is that your heart’s door is wide open. If and when God makes opportunity for interaction, your welcome mat is out, your teapot is overflowing and you rejoice in the time together.

It’s ALL about the heart. When your heart is open, who knows who God may bring your way. Is it possible that He has led amazing people and blessings past your door because of your closed heart? So shake out the welcome mat and put on a cup of tea. Time for a heart to heart.

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BURNED COOKIES

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Our women’s ministry recently hosted the movie Mom’s Night Out. It is hilariously funny, but at its core portrays the heart of moms everywhere. The lead character is trying so hard to get this wife and mom thing right—it’s all she’s ever wanted or dreamed of. Yet, the demands, frustrations and exhaustion of life replaced her fantasies, leaving her to feel like a failure.

As we laughed together, I could see myself in her (as no doubt could all the other moms in the room). Maybe I watched too many episodes of Lassie, Leave it to Beaver or the Donna Reid Show. All I know is that, like our heroine, I wanted to get this wife and mom thing right more than anything. I worked tirelessly to insure that my children were well cared for, clean, fed nutritious meals, clothed in the finest I could make or buy, entertained with fun toys, got the rest they needed, received appropriate medical care, had everything they ever needed, were taken/not sent to Sunday School and church, could attend a private Christian school—I even worked in their school so I could be nearby—just in case they needed me. And I wanted them to be proud of me so I did my best to live honorably as unto the Lord.

And I loved them beyond measure. I had lost my first child to cancer so I knew deep within my heart just how precious each of these little ones were. They were the air I breathed. I watched them play, memorized their adorable sayings and antics, and hold these memories deep in my heart. Even when I became an executive, I always saw myself first as their mom—my favorite job—it was all I ever wanted to be. But as hard as I tried to do everything perfectly, it seems my failures were many. Just ask my kids—they will regale you with many tales that will make you laugh as hard as we did at the movie’s heroine. One of their favorite stories involves my feeding them liver because in those olden days it was considered to be very important for their health. I wonder if the next owners of our home found liver in the heating vents where the kids confessed they hid it when I looked away. And I must also confess that they have named me Mrs. Burns. Let’s just say I dreamed of them walking through the door after school to the aroma of delicious cookies baking in the oven—all nice and hot, ready for them to eat. But the phone would ring, I needed to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer—something always happened. The next thing I knew, we had charcoal lumps instead of cookies.

A mom sacrifices for her children. She shops for groceries at midnight when the kids are asleep so she can get it all done–who needs sleep; she stays up and sews some great costume for a school program; she eats the free packet of soup/broth mixed with hot water for lunch that her employer provides in the break room to save for that birthday coming up or the cool shoes that her son dreams about; she takes on extra jobs and clips coupons to make ends meet. The list is unending.

Many, if not most, of the things moms do are never seen, remembered or appreciated. And truly they weren’t done to gain some accolade – they were done simply because we care—we love. But for all we do, there seems to be that mountain of things we still didn’t get done—and certainly didn’t do as well as some mom down the street. And just like the heroine of our movie, we feel defeated.

This is Satan’s plan—to accuse and condemn—to make us feel worthless and like a failure. There was one line in the movie that stood out—the turning point. The tattoo parlor biker (you really MUST see the movie) says to our overwhelmed mom, “God doesn’t make mistakes. He picked you out to be the mother of those three children because He knew you’d do your best. He knew you were just the right mom for them.” WOW! I may not have accomplished the perfection I so tried to achieve, but my best was all God was asking me to give. And isn’t that all anyone could ask of us—that we do our best as unto the Lord? He picked me out to be their mom because He knew I was just what they would need to succeed.

So give yourself a break. Things aren’t going to go perfectly. And you probably didn’t give birth to perfect children despite your rose-colored glasses. You may never have the finances, time or energy to create perfection. Just give it your best every day and ask God to use you to create Godly men and women. That’s all He asks of you.

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COVENANT RELATIONSHIPS

 

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From the very beginning, God desired a close relationship with man. We see this in the partnership He established with Adam and in their daily walks to review Adam’s work in the garden.

After the fall, God once again attempted to draw close to man–He chose a people unto Himself and established a covenant with them. Just like with Adam, there were blessings but there were rules to be obeyed. God wanted no one or anything to come between Him and His people. He wanted intimacy with them. The Mosaic covenant was written on stone and man broke it. God then sent His own son to redeem man–to rebuild the way to an intimate relationship. As Christ took wine with His disciples at the Last Supper, He spoke of a new covenant—a blood covenant—that was written on man’s heart rather than tablets of stone.

When I was in fifth grade, I had my first experience with pledging a commitment to a friend. Best friends affirmed their relationship by making a small cut and touching blood to blood. Blood sisters. We were young and it was a playground thing, but we understood commitments and they were strong—Paula and I will always be blood sisters.

At a very elaborate ceremony, dressed in the most beautiful dress I’ll ever own, I took the hands of my very handsome prince and pledged my allegiance and love to him and he to me—a covenant. There were papers to sign, but the real covenant took place in our hearts. When we adopted our daughter, we went before a judge and pledged to love her and care for her.  She likewise pledged to love and honor us. These commitments made us family. And isn’t that what defines family: blood and/or commitments?

We desire close, intimate relationships defined by love and support for one another. The Greeks have a word (koinonia) that embodies the essence of intimacy in relationships. We want to be able to be just who we are in front of someone and know that they love and understand us even if we are having a really bad day. For intimacy to occur, there must be respect, trust, understanding and love from both parties. I Corinthians 13 adds a few other descriptors for love. Disrupt any of these pillars of intimacy and the relationship crumbles.

Unfortunately, many covenant relationships start out with all the right intentions; then life happens. We discover that our loved ones have feet of clay; they aren’t perfect (God really did make them out of dirt). We get busy with the demands of life and the relationship becomes defined by duty rather than intimacy. Hurt feelings and misunderstandings creep in and are not dealt with properly. Communication shuts down. Time passes. Walls are built brick by brick. People step away from the ones they have been committed to—the ones above all others with whom they desire(d) a relationship.

So how can you get back to that sweet communion–sweet communication? The Israelites desecrated the covenant relationship established with and by God. Yet, because of God’s great love, He said He would create a new covenant with them with His own blood—a heart covenant.

Maybe it’s time for peace talks: a time out to just figure out what went wrong. Could it be time for a new treaty—a new heart covenant? Recently, my son and his wife renewed their vows before their friends and family. They started out with great intentions and are a precious couple. But they wanted to take their commitment to the next level. A love and relationship that has been tested and rises above that testing to a renewed commitment becomes stronger through new roots of humility and forgiveness. What do you need from the other person to be able to tear down the walls, replacing them with trust, respect, honor, understanding . . . faithful love–a I Corinthians 13 kind of love? How might you need to humble yourself to open the door to the love you need and want–a strong, tested love? What might a new covenant look like to you?

We each make choices in our relationships. We can choose our own way (a place of pride) and take a downward path from a foolish heart to a wicked heart to a scornful heart toward our loved ones—destroying love, commitment and relationship on this path. Or . . .we can find a place of humility. We can seek knowledge, try to understand the other person’s feelings, right our actions and experience the joy that comes with a wise heart toward our loved ones. Many times impartial counseling is a wise investment to guide each party back to a shared path.

My dad often taught me that Satan hates two things: the church and the family because these are the two things that Christ established. Therefore, he will do anything he can to cause division. Why? John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Satan wants to destroy your testimony. He is after your influence for God; your ministry. He is after your family and church. Give him no place in your heart, your life, your friendships, your marriage, your family or your church. Be assured that God is not the author of misunderstandings and unforgiveness–God is love. If the love of God is not ruling your heart, who is? Be not deceived, resist Satan and his lies and he will flee from you. When we shed light on his deceptions, they will poof into thin air. Choose a new covenant of the heart – one of love and sacrifice that Christ modeled for us.

I Peter 4:8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

 

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TIME SLIPS AWAY

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66 New Years. . that’s a lot of ball dropping. It totally blows my mind how fast the years fly by. It’s hard for me to believe how quickly my life is slipping away. I remember days and simple things that were so precious, yet I took them for granted.

* Talking and giggling after lights out with my sister or sitting on my bed cross-legged just being together

* Talks with my dad–and his sweet hugs; hearing him preach and teach

* Anything with my mom. She gave me no slack but I knew she loved me. We never had much but she taught me to appreciate things and to make the most of what God gave me.

* Sweet days with my honey

* Card games with the kids–even just watching my boys and their dad play together.

* Making a beautiful dress for my daughter or braiding her beautiful hair

* Eating out or playing games with our best friends.

* Rocking my babies; watching the kids grow

* Fun times watching the kids play together at home or at the lake

* Vacations from special trips to Disney with our kids and then the grands. . .and so many weeks in Myrtle Beach

There are also misplaced priorities and stupid mistakes. Wasted time. There are misunderstandings and I wish we could replay those moments. I’d give about anything to hold my baby just one more time, to hug my dad or to tell my mom I love her just one more time. There are people, things and hurt feelings that I gave too much space to in my mind and heart. There are times I lacked faith in God and so He let me struggle til I looked up. There were those days when dust gathered on my Bible.  There were too many things I should have taken to Him in prayer rather than fretting over.

But that is the past. . .and I can’t hold onto the good or erase the bad. What will I do with the days ahead? “Lord, help me to redeem the time for you” (Ephesians 5:16).

I will put my relationship with God above all else. I will cherish the moments and the precious ones who want to be a part of my life. I will let go of hard feelings and past hurts or disappointments. I will reach out to love and forgive. I will play more and enjoy the moments. I will look at each day as a gift and ask God to make me a blessing. I will unwrap each day with love and pack it full until days end. And as I lay my head on my pillow, I will spend those last few minutes before sleep falls just recalling the blessings of that day.

Time slips away so quickly. James 4:4 says that life is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then just vanishes. When the time comes to stand before the Lord and give account for my days, I pray He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant;” but at the very least I hope He will say, “You struggled a bit in the beginning, but I’m proud of how you finished your race.”

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