In Your Heart

It’s not in your day job or side gig. Your credentials or diplomas. It’s not in your trophies or alma maters. It’s not in your bank account or retirement account. It’s not in your likes or followers. It’s not in the concerts you attend or the books that you read. It’s not in the movies that you watch or the instruments that you play. It’s not in the spouse that you have or the child that you raise. It’s not in the school you attend or choir you join. It’s not in your social status or relationship status. It’s not in the car you drive or the boat you own…

It’s not in your parents choices or your grandparents wishes. It’s not in your past heartaches or future concerns.  It’s not in your mistakes, accomplishments, regrets, or failures. It’s not in your report cards or paychecks.

It’s in your heart.

The decision each one of us makes day after day as to whom we will serve, lean on, and trust is our own. Your spouse can’t make it. Your parents can’t make it. They may try, but they can’t. As a parent myself now, this is terrifying, but I turn this over. Over and over. My kids will make their own choices. As will I. As will you.

To love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul may look different to people. It may lead to choices others may not make. He gives us different gifts, passions, and paths. When we ask Him to lead, our lives may take directions we’d never choose on our own. But, the beauty before us is a life lived trusting Him. Let God be your guide.

We find Him in our trials, we help others with what we’ve learned, and we choose Him day after day. In the ups and the downs, we have faith He is with us. And, it’s in THIS faith, that our strength is found. Our callings may be every bit as different as the circumstances we face. But, pointing to the same God, brings us together in one accord.

Brothers and sisters. Hearts to hearts. Trials to trials. Victories to victories. Peace and strength abounds. In one name. The name of Jesus.

 

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Laser Focus

laser-focus

The closer I get to Jesus, the less legalistic and judgmental I get. I think this is because the closer we get to Him, the more our own imperfections are highlighted. Not in a bad way, but in a way that helps us realize we need Him more than ever and how much we are all alike. Sinners searching.

Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. Matthew 7:1-2 (GNT)

The closer I get to Jesus, although my own sinfulness is exposed, His love is amplified. He loves me anyway.

The closer I get to Jesus, the more I can empathize. Rather than seeing rebellion and hatefulness, I see the hurt behind it. I don’t necessarily engage or react like I used to (at least I try not to), but I do understand why it’s there. They are either trying to earn a love that is already there or they are not feeling the love that is already there. Both scenarios are sad. In these circumstances, remind yourself of His unwavering love and pray. Pray they will feel the Love they need. The Love we all need. The Love that is already there.

The closer I get to Jesus, the other “stuff” doesn’t seem to matter as much. A bad day at work is just that. A misunderstanding with a friend is an opportunity to grow. A temper tantrum thrown is an opportunity to practice patience. A tight month financially is an opportunity to trust. A critical comment is an opportunity to test my faith. A rejection is an opportunity to test my resolve. A mistake is an opportunity to show grace.

The closer I get to Jesus, the more thankful I get. It’s because of His love that any of us are here and it’s because of His love that we get to live with Him forever. It’s because of Jesus that I fight the fear to share. And, it’s because of Him, that I get to.

The closer we get to Jesus, the more He shines. My goal on this earth is to walk as closely as I can with my Jesus until that blessed day I get to look Him in the face….

Where is your focus? On the problem? The fight? The hardship? Focus on Jesus, take His hand, and don’t look down. Look full in His wonderful face. With laser focus on Him, the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace….

Same Faith, New Reason

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I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. I’m a product of SDA schools. Elementary, high school, and even colleges….I was raised a certain way. I’ve struggled. I struggled with the legalism that I felt was an inherent part of our faith. The unconditional love and grace of God was missing for me. As my relationship with God continues to grow and I get to know Him better, I see how legalism breaks His heart every bit as much as refusal to obey.

Keeping the Sabbath growing up wasn’t a heart thing for me, it was required, plain and simple. We had very specific rules that we had to follow that felt like nothing short of ridiculousness to me. As I’ve come full circle, misunderstood, felt misled, realized what was missing, gone to other churches, found what was missing, and returned for myself, I’ve come to a very different and beautiful realization about our faith.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we get accused of harping on the seventh day Sabbath. In my personal journey, I’ve come to realize that what feels like harping to others, is just us not ignoring it. We recognize it. We acknowledge it. We strive to keep all ten commandments, instead of just the nine. This makes us different, so we find ourselves having to explain it quite a bit, which sounds like harping to those who don’t agree. We REMEMBER the seventh day to keep it holy just like it says to in the 4th commandment. And, yes, this is different. But, if “Thou shalt not lie” was ignored by most and one denomination decided to take it under their wing, they’d be accused of harping on that. Those “Sabbath keepers” would turn into those “Not liars”. Doesn’t make sense.

Most people don’t argue that the other nine should be kept. Because I do still find it relevant and just as important as the other nine, I strive to keep it as well. “Keeping it” looks different to everyone. I strive to acknowledge it and remember it like He asks us to. There seems to be quite a bit of hostility over this belief because it’s different and challenges how life is set up for most people these days. I understand the challenge. But, what I don’t understand is how it can be dismissed and shrugged off as unimportant so easily. It’s neatly tucked right in the middle of all the other commandments that are collectively agreed upon as important. Why is it left out? Why has it been disregarded?

Will I keep it perfectly? No. Will I keep any of the commandments perfectly? No. Have I? No. That’s why Jesus sent His Son to die for us because we are UNABLE to keep God’s law perfectly. He knew we needed a sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice. This is why we don’t sacrifice animals anymore to atone for our sins. He satisfied that. The perfect Lamb fulfilled the law. He did not abolish the law. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, please keep all the commandments, except the 4th (now that Jesus has died).

Even Jesus kept the Sabbath. What broke His heart and caused Him anger was how the Pharisees “kept” it. Looking to accuse Jesus of anything, they got angry when He healed someone on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:1-6). Are you kidding me?? They couldn’t heal anyone on any day of the week! Their hearts were in the wrong place. Jesus kept the Sabbath and He kept it perfectly. Just like the other nine commandments. He lived without sin and died for our sin, so that we can be found blameless in the eyes of our Father. In light of this truth, I will still attempt to obey.

If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in His love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. John 15:10-11 (GW)

I believe obedience is God’s love language. If our hearts are right and surrendered to Him, all we WANT to do is what He asks us to do. Nothing more, nothing less. And, this brings us joy. When I stand face to face with my Creator, my Savior, I will have more peace knowing that I at least tried rather than ignored anything He has asked me to do.

True love WANTS to honor. I am fully convinced of the Seventh day Sabbath. I am not fully convinced on how to keep it. I think that’s personal between you, God, and what feels right for your family. What brings you peace. I do think it’s a special day and a gift, just like all of God’s commands are. I am aware that Jesus says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” in Mark 2:27.  He said this when he was, once again, extremely irritated with the Pharisees for calling Him out for picking grain to eat on the Sabbath! Beyond frustrating because their hearts were all wrong. This is how I felt growing up, beyond frustrated, because my heart was all wrong regarding the Sabbath.

God rested on the seventh day of creation, blessed it, and made it holy (Genesis 2:2). He asks us to rest on the seventh day and remember it (Exodus 20:8). Who doesn’t want a rest? A spiritually appointed rest? A divine excuse to stop what you’re doing, reflect on Him, spend time with your loved ones, relax, help and love on others, and trust God to provide. That sounds amazing! Not at all like a burden or an obligation. A requirement that I WANT to sign up for! Like the naps we despised as children and beg for as adults.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’ll happily go to church any day of the week. I love church. I love church service. I love praise music. I love being with other believers who love Jesus. I have no fundamental issue going to church on a Sunday, but because of my own personal study, I do have a fundamental reason for remembering the seventh day to keep it holy. And, that is Saturday. In others churches, I found the love and grace, but the 4th commandment was missing….Something was always missing.

I think God knew this commandment in particular would be forgotten or done away with. I think that’s exactly why He started this particular commandment with “Remember” as opposed to “Thou shalt not”. Do you think it would make a difference? Do you think if He had put “Thou shalt not forget the Sabbath day” like the others that more people would take it seriously? Interesting thought. Nonetheless, He put “Remember”. So, I will do just that. I will try to keep all ten. I have failed. I will continue to fail. But, I will not stop trying. Because I love Him and I trust Him and I think my willingness and desire to obey pleases Him. Humbly attempt to keep His Word and fully rely on His grace in my weakness is all I can do with a love like this.

Something was always missing in the puzzle to me….What’s your missing piece?

If this article leads to anything on your part, I pray it’s to study for yourself. I definitely plan to as well. What does the Bible say? Pray about it. Ask God if it matters. In my opinion, if anything matters to God, it should matter to us. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t.

Accountability?

accountability

Who are you accountable to? A few people pop into my mind…my boss, my kids and when I was married, my husband. Do you ever think about the fact that we are all accountable to God? At the end of time, we will be face to face with Him. Not these other people who we try to live and do right for. What about Him? Ultimately, it comes down to Him and me.

This fact actually helps me with forgiveness when I struggle. We will be held accountable by God Himself for our actions and reactions. How we live and what we do is seen whether we choose to think about it or not. Confession isn’t for God, it’s for us. Newsflash! He already knows. He’s God. And, He loves us anyway. Just get real with Him. Be real with your weakness, ask forgiveness, make amends, and move on….loved.

Knowing we are loved leads to a desire to obey. It rarely works the other way around. “Why should I do what you want me to do? And , if I do, it’s only because you’re forcing me”. We want to please those who truly love us as a way to honor them. We want to show our love, not just say it. We all know anyone can say “I love you”, the truth comes in the actions that follow and/or precede this term. Love is sacrifice. Love is patient and kind. Love perseveres and honors truth. Love never fails. We don’t have to be loved in return to love. We can choose to love anyway through our thoughts and prayers and let them be, if necessary.

As we go through our days and make our choices, remember who we are ultimately accountable to. I could trust a man who knows he’s accountable to Almighty God, not just me. If he is aware and seeking to honor God in his own life daily, I could trust him with mine. Neither one of us would be perfect, but we would both know that our actions towards each other are accountable to God and that would keep us on the same page. That’s a blessing and that’s being equally yoked. Once again, God knows best.

One of my dear friends gave me a book yesterday and on the inside cover she wrote a beautiful note. She signed with “Your accountability partner”. She didn’t know I was writing about accountability. She didn’t know I desired an accountability partner. But, God did. Her gift and love has been a blessing to me. I’m thankful for friends who lean on and look to God for accountability in their lives. They can help me with mine.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. –Proverbs 27:17

Let us continue to help each other, love each other, and look to God for our accountability. He knows best and loves us the most.

 

What More Can I Give?

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I was thinking today about how Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season, and so much more. God gave us the most lavish gift of sacrifice and salvation when He gave us His son. Jesus willingly became human in our broken world so that we could live with Him forever in His perfect one. He set the bar. Now, that’s a gift!! What more can I give?

When we buy for our loved ones, we try to think about what they would like personally. Some prefer experiences, others food, some sparkly things in little boxes, dolls that walk or talk, or trucks that dump and demolish. My girls asked for Legos and walkie-talkies this year. Bingo! Makes it easy to shop when there’s a list.

But, what can I give Jesus? Does He have a Christmas list? If so, what would be on it? Let’s not forget to give to the true Reason for the Season. I think near the top of Jesus’s Christmas list would be our TRUST, our TIME, and to TELL others about Him and what He’s done for us. Trust, time, tell. These are treasures in all of our relationships. It takes faith to trust, dedication to spend time, and courage to tell others. It’s no different in our personal relationship with Jesus. He doesn’t need us, He wants us. He chose us. He died for us. So, what more can I give?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

God’s gift of His Son was the greatest gift we have ever or will ever receive. The ultimate treasure. What are we holding on to? That is our treasure. What are we holding back? That is our treasure and that is what He wants. Our hearts are naturally stubborn and scared. But, God’s presence in our lives will transform our hearts. He loves us right where we are and too much to leave us there. His presence will prompt us to follow Him and fight our fears rather than succumb to them.

Trust. Time. Tell. Treasure……My heart. What more can I give you, Jesus? Thank You for the best gift ever. You.

Forgiveness….

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Forgiveness has weighed heavy on my mind the past couple days…The reason God asks us to forgive isn’t to excuse the hurtful acts done to us, it is to free us from them. It’s to put what was done to us back in His hands in order to move forward with our lives without the burden of constant bitterness and resentment. I think some people get so used to carrying the bitterness, they don’t even realize they carry it. It’s a painful poison.

“Forgiveness doesn’t make what the person did right, it just makes your heart right.” — Beth Moore

I wouldn’t have understood this quote until I had a doozy to forgive. The weight we carry by harboring unforgiveness can affect generations. It can also promote a cycle of bitterness, anger, and resentment that God does not intend for us to carry much less pass on. In my own situation, I couldn’t prevent the cycle of divorce no matter how hard I tried. But now, I want to do everything in God’s power to prevent bitterness, resentment,  and consistent conflict in our situation. This doesn’t excuse the behavior or erase the pain. It changes me. It humbles me over and over again as I seek His way to handle daily situations. Extending mercy and grace while handing over the need for revenge is one of the hardest things God asks us to do. But, just like everything else He asks us to do, it’s in our best interest. He is a loving and just God.

Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation either. It depends on the relationship and the two involved. It comforts me to trust that God knows exactly what happened. He knows the hearts involved and He will deal with it. Forgiveness takes faith because we have to believe God in order to take this giant leap. Forgiveness is not “letting them off the hook”, it’s letting ourselves off the hook to go in peace by leaving the offense in God’s hands.

If there is someone you feel like you need to forgive on a daily basis and you can’t seem to avoid like a mean spirited coworker or a critical family member or spouse, pray for them and ask God how to respond to them. In these situations, I tend to get back in the doormat position by turning the other cheek over and over. God’s will is that we love others, but not that we forget to love ourselves as His children in the process. We all deserve respect. These people may be the sandpaper in our lives that God is using to refine and test us. Love them in the process of standing up for yourself. I know that’s also not easy….none of this comes naturally to us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

His peace is priceless and His peace is worth handing our situation over. It is a process that He will help us with once we have the desire to forgive. He alone can soften and strengthen our hearts after what they’ve been through. Once our desire is to forgive, He will take the reins. Let Him have them…Forgiveness is the final act of love. Jesus proved that to be true.

Why the Wait?

waiting

We all want to hurry up and eat. The smells and ever increasing stomach growls can make waiting to eat excruciating. One of my daughter’s most common responses to what I want to make for dinner any given night is “how long is THAT gonna take?” Needless to say, I opt for quick dinners most nights with the little ones. Us grown-ups can act the same way with God when we have to wait, I know I do. Our mouths water, we sneak a bite, we open the oven to look, we ask how much longer?? Sitting down to our favorite foods is one of our favorite things on this earth. The bigger the feast, the more we slobber, anticipate, and……wait.

Waiting for something in our lives is no different. Patience is another fruit of the Spirit that does not come naturally to us, especially in our culture. We want it and we want it NOW. I feel God pressing on my heart and mind to remember that He is active while we wait. Waiting may seem like an idle waste of energy to us. I mean, what’s the hold up? We are all waiting on something….including Jesus’s blessed return to take us all home. I can’t wait! Well, we have to. What can we do while we wait? Trust, share, love, and ask for more patience.

Although we all want to hurry up and eat, waiting is like marinating. Marinating is where the good stuff happens and the food gets happy. If we shorten the marinade because of our impatience, the final product won’t be as delectable as it was intended to be. Remember that while we wait, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. We may feel idle, but God is anything but. There are family members to consider, hearts to soften, minds to strengthen, traditions to maintain or discontinue, generations to affect. These may all be factors in why we wait. He alone can handle all these variables.

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer WAITS for the land to yield it’s valuable crop, patiently WAITING for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. James 5:7,8

Naturally, we want to rush, get, take, eat, and run with it. But, He asks us to wait. To wait for His timing does not mean to be idle. There are all kinds of things we can do while we wait. Go do them! Trust the Chef and don’t rush the marinade…the feast will be worth it.