“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:12 NASB
Sometimes we want what we want when we want it. I know I do. On the surface everything may look good, even great! But when I pause and pray to ask God’s will, sometimes I hear His voice — that gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit — and it says “no.” There’s not a why or a reason. Just a simple “no.” Not even a “not now” which would be more palatable. So in that moment, what do I do? Do I rationalize and talk myself into the fact that I can’t possibly be hearing correctly? I can’t see any harm in this thing I want. How can I have heard “no?” How can that be right?
It might take me a few moments to sit with the dialogue a little longer and wait for my mind to quiet down again from all the internal dialogue (all my own dialogue by the way). I have to wait for my mind to quiet down from rationalization and justification. And then I hear the still, small voice again, “Do you trust Me?” It’s usually in that moment my heart melts a little. It’s such a gentle reminder that I don’t know everything. God does. I don’t know the big picture and how all the pieces fit together. God does. God is all knowing, all seeing, ever present, 100%perfect. If I truly accept all these things to be true, why do I trust myself more than God? Why do I spend so much time and energy looking for the “perfect” justification to do what I want to do? Because I’m fleshy. I’m no different than Adam and Eve. Same pitfalls of pride, greed, and jealousy. It is only in humility that I can lay all my fleshiness down at the cross and truly accept God’s voice. I have to crucify my flesh. I have to trust that God is so much bigger than my mind and heart can comprehend. I have to cling to that knowledge and believe. I have to choose.
Our fleshy issues are not new. God’s Word is full of strategies to combat the flesh. Two of my favorite characters in the Old Testament are Joshua and Caleb. I yearn to have a warrior heart and spirit like theirs. Joshua instituted a rigor of reflection, a time of accounting, for the children of Israel. It was a time reserved to recall the miraculous, God-sized ways that God had demonstrated Who He Is to them. This week I had a morning of accounting and appreciation for God-sized miracles in my own life. It was beautiful. It filled my heart with joy and love to remember each one. Then today I heard one of those hard to hear, truthful, Holy Spirit “no’s.” So here I am, faced with a choice. Do I really believe God’s perfect will for my life? Do I believe the Holy Sprit, the Comforter that Christ sent to make sure I am always cared for and tended to in the spirit? Do I choose to step forward in faith and grab hold of God’s “no” as fervently as I would His “yes?”
“24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” Matthew 13:24-25 NIV
As I was weeding in my yard one summer, I received insight from the dandelions I was encountering. I started to look at them more closely and here is what I noticed:
From a distance they are pretty, adorned in bright colors. They can even appear to be a flower versus a weed to the untrained eye.
As I started pulling them, I realized how deep their roots are – deep and tough. It’s hard to get the whole root off because it breaks easily. Pieces stay that will spring up again.
They spread easily – insidiously. Their multiplication system is very easy – where the wind blows, the seeds go. Indiscriminate. High volume.
It’s also tricky. I started simply picking off the flowers, and then I saw deep down in the core other buds coming up. It was almost creepy they were so hidden.
They choke out healthy grass and other plants. They want all the space. They don’t cohabitate well.
They don’t require care or nutrients to prosper and multiply. They remind me of something so ancient – like original sin. Old and ugly. Life smothering. Steal, kill, and destroy.
Still green, they blend in with the grass except when they bloom (bear fruit).
I won’t dissect every point. From a big picture level I realized this is exactly how Satan operates. By being grounded in God’s word we are not deceived. God’s word, time with Him in prayer, and praise and worship of our King is what nourishes us. They are our fertilizer, rich soil and eternal water supply!
Father, let me absorb all the spiritual nutrition that You so readily provide!
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”Micah 7:7 NIV
I had a long season of waiting. Being still. Over a year I was still. My year consisted almost exclusively of reading, prayer, and journaling. Other things had gradually been stripped out of my life. Some of the stripping was easier than others. Some was downright painful. When I stumbled upon this verse, the word “hope” stood out to me. In my stillness, my one desire was to be obedient and learn a new way of life. It didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It was more of a determination to do things differently.
For years I had tried to do things my own way and that didn’t work out very well. Now I was determined not to repeat the same patterns all over again. The “hope” in this verse was as loud to me as a thunderclap. It started as a warmth in my belly. It occurred to me that I can be still and sit in hopefulness for what is yet to come. I do not have to have any direction. I can still sit quietly but hopefully. It made me want to spend the day watching Karate Kid. It made me realize that in my daily activities, small as they might be, a transformation was taking place. A kinder, gentler lifestyle that depended on someone else for a change. A hope for something better. So much better in fact, it required a purging of old patterns, relationships and hurts that I no longer needed to carry around anymore.
Hope was the beacon that lit my new path.
Lord help me to always place my trust in you and not myself, others, or material things!
4 Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; 5 it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs 6 or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! 7 Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. 8 Love will never become obsolete. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 The Voice
One day during my devotional time I decided to let my Bible fall open and that is where I would read. It fell open to the last page of the concordance. The words “wrong” and “wronged” caught my eye. It took me to scriptures in 1 Corinthians and Proverbs. The gist of the scriptures I read was this:
Isn’t it better to be wronged than to have wronged someone else?
Love covers all wrongs
This gave me pause. I still had quite a few sticking points in my heart with some folks. They felt like rough ragged edges that my feelings would get caught on. It was a place of injury. So I started to pray. I started to ask for the characteristics of love. I asked for patience, kindness. I asked to be able to rejoice in the truth, protect always, trust always, hope always and to always persevere. I asked God to help me let go of all the junk associated with these ragged edges in my heart. I began to realize that I was not the only one injured. I was able to lift others up in prayer too.
Father, show us where the frayed and ragged edges are in our hearts. Make them more smooth from experiencing and practicing Your love.
Embed from Getty Images“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24 NIV
This one has been ticklish for me. The world reinforces some very bad behavior that serves the world well. The problem is that it doesn’t serve God. It’s everywhere. The truth is, it wears me out. I read this scripture during a particularly tiring week. In addition to the demands of the week, I was struggling between my old way of operating – performance oriented, self-sufficient, frantically rushing to meet deadlines — and God’s way – a more elegant flow that is thoughtful, intentional and efficient.
In the middle of my shame attack, I recognized a nudge. I heard the words “Yes, you slip…but you catch it.” I paused for a moment to reflect. I feel when things are off. I really do try to tuck into God as a check point. The shame melted away. I realized I had cause to celebrate! There had been a shift inside of me. It had happened so subtly that it was not discernible to anyone watching. The big shift was inside. It was in my heart. My heart was searching for a better way. There were now alerts that went off inside me when I began to toil and struggle. That was my cue to check the rule book I was using. A peace washed over me. I am so thankful! I realized that God was pleased too. He knows my heart and my desires. I am the apple of His eye.
God, help me to be bold and courageous walking in Your ways. Continue to nudge me as I grow and shift. Thank you for the precious gift of the Holy Spirit as my comforter, guide and intercessor. Thank you for teaching me a new way! A kinder and gentler way of operating in You!
Embed from Getty Images 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23 NIV
This prayer is a prayer for us. This blew me away when I understood it for the first time. We are the ones who heard the message of Jesus Christ all these centuries later from the messages carried on through His disciples. As Jesus was getting ready to face the most horrific of executions, here he was, interceding for us. This touches my heart so deeply. What incredible love. He wanted us to have the relationship with God that He had. He wanted us all to be together again…even before we were born.
I have always heard the scriptures of God knowing us before we were “knit together in our mother’s womb” but this scripture made we realize very practically how much Jesus was a part of that picture too. It made it very real for me. It is right there in black and white.
Jesus, thank you for Your unfathomable, unconditional love and sacrifice. It humbles me to a point that words cannot express.
“29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40: 29, 31
Have you been at that place where you were so tired that you didn’t think you could take another step? It could be work. It could be caring for a family member or friend. When you are too weary to carry on, that is when the darkness creeps in. It is especially during those times that it is critical to lean heavily on God. His love light is so refreshing. He will take your burdens and worries if you let Him. He will restore your body, mind and spirit.
Glory to You, God, for the mighty works of Your hand. You reign. You rule. Teach us how to lay down our burdens for You to carry. Father, renew our strength when we are too tired to go on. Carry us to Your throne to bask in Your love light. Be a cloud of protection around us when we are weary. Wrap Your arms around us to show us the marvel and wonder of Your might and beauty and perfect love.