February 17, 2019

Why Having a Relationship with God is so Hard, and What You Can Do about It.

My guess is that you, my dear reader, like many - if not most - Christians, find having a relationship with God really challenging.  You were brought from death to life when God filled your heart with faith to believe and receive the Good News of Jesus' work on your behalf; it was an incredible moment!  Or you grew up in the church and never know a time you didn't believe Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life; you know you're saved.  But beyond that, you feel like you have no idea what you're doing when it comes to relating to God.  You know you should be goin' to church, reading your Bible, praying, and trying not to do bad things.  But you're painfully aware that there's not much passion, so you believe that you must be really doing something wrong.

May I suggest that the reason it's so hard to have a relationship with God is because you're trying to relate to Him based on the way other people do, and not the way He created you to have a relationship with Him?  Think about all your relationships.  Each one is unique because each one is between you and another soul, both of you bringing your individual personalities into the connection.  My daughter's relationship with me is different from the relationship that she has with, say, one of her friends.  Neither relationship is better than the other, each one is built on some mutual history and affection, but they look quite different because though she is the same person, the one to whom she's relating is different.

Let's think about this when it comes to having a relationship with Almighty God.  Each one of us was knit together in our mother's womb and is known by GodNo two of us are alike.  As such, the way we relate to God and interact with Him will be influenced by who we are.  And since the way we are is the way God made us, I can confidently say that is good.  So when it comes to trying to figure out how to have a relationship with God after He has brought you from unbelief to faith, begin where you are and always pursue Him sincerely as YOU.


Here's what I'm getting at.  We can get distracted and stymied when we look around at how so-and-so church member or Jane Doe super-blogger has a relationship with the Lord.  In our attempt to have the "right" kind of relationship with Him, we copy what others are doing rather than asking the Lord to direct us by His Spirit, within the bounds of our personality and circumstances. Whatever those other folks are doing is wonderful, for them, but may not be what will help you best feel connected to your loving Heavenly Father.

Of course, there are Biblical guidelines for how to deepen our relationship with God.  You know these basics: the Word, prayer, hearing the Word preached, Christian fellowship, etc.  But never, ever, ever let yourself get caught in the lie of the enemy that you have to have the same kind of relationship with God as anyone else.  How you and God talk, is between Him and you.  And it is, to borrow form Goldilocks, just right!

  • You get more out of devotional Bible studies than reading commentaries and studying the minutia of theology?  Grab those devotionals and ask the Lord to keep directing your path by His Word!
  • You LOVE all that theological minutia? Go nuts with the Hebrew and Greek and the commentaries!
  • You can't focus to pray without being on your knees?  Get on your knees and don't be embarrassed!
  • You can't focus to pray with out a pen and journal on your lap?  Collect what you need, and write out those prayers!
  • You love apologetics and discussions about such things?  Read up, study, and take advantage of opportunities God gives you to talk with the skeptical!
  • You love to laugh and have fun?  Feel free to delight in your relationship with God!
  • You really adore God and His holiness?  Meditate on it, go deep, and invite others along!
  • You're a fiery one, full of passion and emotion? Have you read the Psalms? Let God have it!  He can take it and He wants to use you for His purposes!

All I'm trying to say is this.  The only thing about your relationship with God that needs to be exactly the same as everyone else's is that you call on the name of Jesus to be saved from your sins and depend on Him alone for Salvation and New LifeBeyond that, enjoy growing in relationship with God by taking advantage of getting to know Him in the Word, prayer, and worship as He leads you within the context of who YOU are.

Guys, Jesus talked about setting His people free!  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  If you feel bound, it's time to break those chains.  Don't give the enemy the satisfaction of keeping you stuck.  God loves you, chose you, knows you, and wants you to enjoy being in relationship with Him: child to Father.  Let Him bless you with the freedom to be who you are in your relationship with Him!

Grace and peace,
Heather 💛

January 1, 2019

New Year, New You? Resource Suggestions

Happy New Year!  Last time I wrote I encouraged you to consider how you'll get into the Word this year, first and foremost, above all other resolutions or commitments you might make for the next twelve months.  Please read that post; it is my new-years gift to you, my readers.  (And, also, seriously guys, thanks for reading; you bless me!)

At the end of that post I promised I'd offer some suggestions for where to start.  I have a page on this here blog called Deepen Your Roots (see it there at the top?) with some suggestions of how to grow in your faith.  There I offer several ideas: Bible studies, books, and general tips.  But it has been a while since I've updated that, so I can add some things here.

  • Love God Greatly has become a favorite of mine.  They offer mostly 8-week studies throughout the year on various devotional topics, books of the Bible, or people in the Bible.  Starting Monday they will begin a series called "Choose Brave" or you can use one of their previous studies which you can find on the site.  Their resources are free, BUT if you order a journal all the proceeds go to help with translation costs for their international ministry - super cool!  With each study they include M-W-F blog posts and you can join an online group or start one of your own, to have accountability for your Bible study.  Read more on their website, or let me know if you have any questions.


  • Read through the Bible!  This is an ambitious undertaking, but certainly not impossible.  I have done it several times and it is amazing what you learn about God and how He interacts with His people.  This year I'm going to give a chronological Bible my husband bought a few years ago a read-through. It's only $8 on Kindle if you wanted to join me.  But there are lots of different read through the bible options out there.  Do some exploring!  There's a link to another option in the Deepen Your Roots above, too.  I enjoy the schedules that have you read Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs; helps a lot when you're in OT law books which can be a little dry!  Do some poking around to find something that would work for you.  And feel FREE to read through the bible in 3 or 5 years instead of 1!


  • She Reads Truth has come highly recommended by several people, though I have never followed any of their studies.  Here's what it says on their home page:  We create beautiful, accessible Bible reading plans and resources, using old and new technology, for women and men worldwide to grow in biblical literacy and affection for God and His Word.  Sounds like a perfect place to poke around for a plan and get started!



  • Daily devotional readers are a perfect place to get started with the habit of feasting on God's Word.  I can recommend three.  Click on the photo of each to learn more.

  



Alrighty, I think that is enough to get you started.  While you are eating healthy today to recover from the last month of 2018, pull out your Bible and let the crunch of your celery serenade your first Bible reading of 2019!

May 2019 be the year you fall in love with God and His Word, to His glory, honor, and praise!

Heather



December 30, 2018

New Year, New You? Start here.

Before you sign up for that gym membership and go out and grab all your clean eats to start the year of right on Tuesday, I have something I want to say to you:

But [Jesus] answered [the devil], “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 in response to the devil's temptation, after forty days of fasting, to turn stones into something to eat.

[God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.



And now, a question for you: Who are you?

Are you a number on a scale?  A checked-off to-do list?  A physical accomplishment?  How your kids behave?  Your salary?  Your degree(s)?  Your leadership position?  How clean your house is? Your relationship to someone else?  The neighborhood you live in?  The car you drive?

Sisters and brothers, we need to give all this up!  Who you ARE is none of these things!  And I don't know about you, but the harder I try to find my identity in any of the above, the more miserable and dissatisfied I become.  Our souls were not made to be satisfied by things, accomplishments, physical appearance, or relationships.  Our souls will find their satisfaction and peace only in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save His people from their sins.  And the place we learn about who we really are and how to become what He desire us to be is from our Creator in His Word.

So before you proceed with your resolution-making for 2019, I must ask:

Do your new years resolutions include a plan
to feast on the Word of God?

Because according to Him, we need His Word as much as we need bread to survive!  If Jesus needed the Word to refute the evil one, how much more do we?

Filling up on a diet that daily reminds us that we are sons and daughters of the King of kings, who have an eternal inheritance that can never spoil, perish or fade, who are indwelt by the Spirit of God who will equip and enable us to resist the temptations of the world, flesh, and devil, who are loved with an everlasting love by which our souls were made to be satisfied, will protect us form trying to hang our hope on one or more of the idols I listed above.  The Word that reminds us that we are in much greater trouble that we ever thought, but that God's rescue plan is beyond what our wildest dreams could fathom.  Feasting on the Word of God keeps us in our place, not in a humiliating way, but in a humbling one that will cause us to wonder and worship the God who formed, saved, and sustains us and to desire to extend mercy and love to others, for we have known a love that must be shared.  You will even find you love you more, when you look at yourself through God's lens, not the world's distorted mirror.

Let's neither trust in useless idols to define us, nor invent a god in our head who is not God at all; instead, let's dive into His Word where He reveals Himself so we can know Him.  He has done this, and it should leave us astonished!  Why God?  Why?  Well, 2019 is the year for you to dive into His Word and find out!  The transformation He offers is of far greater value than any resolution can offer you this year.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 



With all my love in Christ,
Heather


PS: I'll share some resource ideas later this week, if you need some ideas of where to begin!

December 9, 2018

Fighting for Christmas (a Repost)

I am thankful not to be feeling this year like I did when I wrote this in 2016, but I want to offer it again as a gift to those of you who may be ready to throw in the towel in 2018.

Fight on; don't give up!





Earlier this month in an Advent devotional provided by our church, which includes Bible passages and selected readings from C.S. Lewis, I read:


Christianity is a fighting religion.
It thinks God made the world - that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colors and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God "made up out of His head" as a man makes up a story.  But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.

Christianity is a fighting religion.  I don't know what December has been like for you, but I think that sentence really struck me because I feel like I have been fighting this month - fighting for Christmas to win over in my heart.  Not Christmas-the-feeling promoted by Deck the Halls, White Christmas, and Holly Jolly, but Christmas-the-Truth proclaimed by Joy to the Word, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

December has been a tug-of-war in my heart and mind between the Truth and the lies.  I have been more impatient and frustrated in the last few weeks than I have been in a while, and for no good reason that I can find other than the reality of the earthly battle every Christian faces against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And oh!  How the latter would love to see us stop fighting:
  • to give up on the Advent readings with our family, because it seems like no one is listening;
  • to let go of the traditions, because they seem like too much this year;
  • to give in to all the stress of preparations, because it's more natural to complain than rejoice;
  • to take our eyes of that precious manger, because it seems more comforting to wring our hands and lament than to cast our cares on Him and live in the freedom Christmas heralds into the world;
  • to forget about loving our neighbor generously, because we aren't sure we have the reserves to care for anyone else.




Christianity is a fighting religion.  And I'm gonna fight!  Why?  Because I know Jesus.  Because there is victory over the grave.  Because I'm in enemy territory and I want to stand firm.  For What?  Not a feeling, but for Truth.
  • So my kids can taste and see that God is GOOOOOD. 
  • So that in my little spheres of influence I might have the opportunity to see the Kingdom come in new ways.
  • So that I can see my Savior demonstrate His strength in my weakness.
  • So that God can be glorified, as He is worthy to be.



None of us are entitled to anything, not even a holly, jolly Christmas. But Christians know the Prince of Peace.  And we can let Him rule in our hearts.  As Lewis points out, we can participate in God's work of putting the world right again.

So when I lose my patience, I ask my kids and my Gracious God to forgive me.  When I feel my pulse quickening with anxiety about gifts, or plans, or not measuring up, I stop and look to my Good Shepherd to takes my hand and says I love you, always, little lamb; let's take each day one step at a time.  I will lead you.  When I want to grumble, grovel, or gripe, I will turn on the Pandora Christmas Hymns station and let the lyrics permeate my mind and soul.  When we pass a bell ringer and her red bucket, I dig in my wallet, the kids throw in coins, and we talk about God's love .  Through all of those things I am reminded how the Lord has put my soul right with Him thought Christ, and it renews my desire to be a part of His ministry of reconciliation in the world.

Christmas, true Christmas, is restored in my heart.


Every time we choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, despite every fiber of our being wanting us to go in the opposite direction, we are fighting the good fight!  Every time we repent and believe the good news, heaven rejoices and hope is restored!  Every time we put our neighbor's interests before our own, the Kingdom comes and Christmas is rightly observed!

Christmas is God-come-down, true, life-changing love.  That "sweet baby Jesus in the manger" came to rescue a world lost in sin and destined for death and destruction.  When our hearts are filled with the faith to believe that Truth, well, everything is different.  Christmas holds fresh new wonder, and will year after year!

We have a choice.

Will you fight with me? 

Let's start here.  Sing along and rejoice!




Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

December 2, 2018

Believe.

I originally shared this post in early December 2011,
and repost today for your edification as Advent 2018 begins.



'Tis the season!  Stockings are hung, halls are decked, carols are playing (everywhere you go!)  It is a season of wonder, of joy, of hope, of delight.  And according to Macy's we should Believe.

Believe what?

Yes, surely it has something to do with the fun of Santa Claus making his yearly appearance (without being seen!) in the homes of those with little ones.  But for Christians, people often referred to as "believers," that word and this season offer so much more.

These weeks leading up to Christmas are a time of wonder, joy, hope, and delight because we believe not in one we outgrow, but rather in One who is eternal, all-knowing, ever-present, and Almighty.  The One who came on that first lonely Christmas night so many years ago.

Emmanuel.  God with us.

Jesus.  The Lord saves.

Christmas is no blip on the screens of our lives, to be momentarily enjoyed and immediately forgotten.  Christmas is, rather, a major "we interrupt this program" service announcement than changed the course of human history.  God, set in motion events that would bring real justice and real peace between man and Himself.  Christmas looks toward Easter and points to eternity.

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16


Believe.


Our culture invites us to believe in something during this magical season, but offers no real consensus on what.  And it leaves most of us disappointed on Dec. 26 when the fun ends, the decorations are down, the gifts are opened, and the parties are over.

But God invites us to  believe in Him, the only wise God who offers a living hope, a new life, the true light that is the light of men and does not fade when the bright decorations come down.

Christmas is an invitation to believe.
Thanks for the reminder, Macy's!

Do you believe?

Will you believe?


St. John does not include the Christmas story in his gospel account; he zooms out to the bigger picture, looking from eternity past into eternity future:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”  From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

God has made Himself known in Jesus. (Whoa!)


All the longings of creation are met in Him.


The waiting is over;
the kingdom is near;
repent and believe the good news!

November 30, 2018

Live Alive {Day 30}: In Conclusion

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

Hey!  This is it: the end of November, the end of the Live Alive series!  Thanks so much for joining me on this journey.  I pray for you as I do for myself that, though we've come to the end, this will be the beginning of something wonderful in your life with the Lord.

I started the series in these verses:


The purpose of series was to explore the idea that once we were dead people walking, but now we are ALIVE in Christ!  There were three questions I posed in the first post:

  • Have you experienced being brought to life by God?
  • Are you living alive?
  • What the heck does that even mean?

If being made alive together with Christ is a new idea to you, I pray this series has ignited in you a desire to know God, be made alive by Him, and to follow Him.  If you have more questions, please be in touch with me or a local pastor or friend.  If you follow Jesus, but have been feeling like there isn't any "spark" in  you life, I pray that this series has given you a sense of how to draw near to the Lord and live alive in Him in some new ways.

I wonder after thinking about this for a month how I would summarize "what the heck it even means" to live alive.  Here's what I would say:

To live alive the Christian acknowledges daily that they belong completely to and are utterly dependent on God (Father, Son, & Spirit) for all things pertaining to life and salvation, and not in a miserable way, but in the joyful manner of a child who knows how deeply loved and secure he/she is in relationship to a good parent.  From that solid foundation, the Christian then lives alive in the world by loving God through the love they show other people, the things they pursue, what they discipline themselves to think about, the decisions they make, and the risks they take.
The alive person is always thinking: How can I love and honor God today?  How can I lift up my fellow human here?  What is the next step God wants me to take?  And none of these questions are asked in fear or guilt, but in anticipation of what God will do.  They are grateful to have been invited to participate in God's work in the world.  The alive life is intentional, but not stressful, because the Christian knows the details are not up to them; they simply heed God's voice as He calls and directs.  And this life is lively because they can never anticipate the exciting ride God has for them until they step out in faith!

There.  Does that cover most of what we went over for the last twenty-nine days?  Anything you'd add or subtract?  What have you been thinking about as you've read this series?  I've gotten emails from my mom and dad about it, so I know I have at least two readers!  Hahaha.  But I really would love to hear your story!

I feel sad that this is the end; it's been fun!  No word form the Lord yet about what comes next on this blog, but stay tuned.  Let's close in praise of the one who makes us alive:
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen. 
Ephesians 3:20-21

LIVE ALIVE!
Heather 💛


PS  Don't forget I want to send someone my favorite Christmas album.  Drop me a comment anywhere you find this post on the internet before Sunday, Dec. 2 at noon and your name will be entered to win!




November 29, 2018

Live Alive {Day 29}: One Eye on Eternity & a Giveaway!!

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

Before wrapping up this series tomorrow with a little summary post, I have one more thing to share that I think characterizes the alive life: living as if eternity with Jesus will be a reality someday.

It is so easy to forget that we were made to live forever in relationship with our Creator.  Bombarded by cares, temptations, and challenges, we lose sight of the fact that there is something beyond what our eyes can see.  Quickly we fall into thinking it will always be like this: the struggle against the sinful nature at war with our new self, the impossibility of having a peaceful relationship with anyone, the constant sense that perhaps the darkness is overcoming the light.

Then the Spirit reminds us:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Philippians 3:20-21
Then we can join Paul in saying:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14
Friends, what I look forward to most about eternity (whatever it may look like!) is that struggle being over.  Finally and forever we will know how to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth and love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, without effort!  Always and eternally we will love our neighbors as ourselves, without having to think about it and make ourselves do it!  How joyful this will be!  Freely we will dwell with the Father and He with us, and with our fellow citizens of heaven and them with us.  Oooh, it's gonna be somethin'!

In the meantime, here we are in the training space.  Getting conditioned for the day that the Lord returns and every knee bows and every tongue confesses His name, either with delight or under compulsion.  Alive folks know that the promises will be fulfilled just as surely as the long-awaited coming of the Messiah who we celebrate at Christmastime.  Eternity with God is real, and alive folks are looking forward to it!  So they join Paul in forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

I confess that I don't live like this regularly; I am supremely distracted by what is in front of my face and my desire to control all the things!  But regular habits like personal Bible study/reading, worship on Sunday mornings, conversations with friends, prayer, etc. are rhythms that clear my head so I can remember Who is in charge, what He is capable, and (sometimes many times a day!) repent and believe the good news that I will spend forever with Him.  Do you have rhythms that remind you to keep one eye on eternity?

Doing so brings us to life, lighting a fire under us, so to speak.  Alive people share the story not only because it is precious to them, but because they know there will come a time when we no longer can respond in faith and be saved.  Alive people lean on the Spirit now to shape and mold them for eternity with their Father, because they know that will be a way longer time than the few years they spend here - and it is worth it to prepare for the bridegroom!  Alive people think about eternity not so that "they'll be of no earthly use," but so they don't get too attached to what they see and experience here and rather store up treasures in heaven.

I was sifting through my brain trying to think of verses related to our eternal life, and the phrase and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever came to mind.  That's from Psalm 23, you may know it; it's pretty famous.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

And so David summarized what alive living looks like: total dependence on the Shepherd, total provision from His hand, and total assurance of His presence now and forever more.

Live alive!
Heather 💛


*     *     *     *     *

Historically when I've done a series, I do a celebratory giveaway at the end.  This year I'd like to give away one of the best Christmas albums ever: Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God: the True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ.  In one album, Andrew Peterson takes his listeners on a remarkable journey from Genesis to Christmas.  Drop me a comment here, on Facebook, Instagram, or email and let me know you'd like to have your name in the drawing, and it could be yours!   If you already have it, throw your name in and you could give it to a friend (since it's all Amazon has, I'll be mailing you this 2 disc CD set).  If you've only read one post all series, no worries, get your name in the running anyway.  I really want you to have this album to help you worship through this Christmas season, and to help you believe God keeps His promises!

Comment by Sunday, 12pm EST and I'll let you know the winner Sunday afternoon!