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!


November 28, 2018

Live Alive {Day 28}: Tell the Story

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

Today's post is simple.  Alive people tell the story of what God has done in their life: they tell it in word; they tell it in deed.  Their whole lives are an expression of joy and thanksgiving to God, even through hard circumstances and pain, (shockingly).  Quite naturally, alive people offer Life to those around them.


photo credit

As we walk, alive, with the Lord, we start to look like this too.  Faith overcomes fear more often.  Joy sneaks into places in our hearts where it's never dwelt before.  Hope invades the dark corners of our minds and transforms our thinking.  Love fills us up with security that surprises us with its comfort and reassurance that perhaps, no, indeed(!), "it is well with my soul."

I wonder if you are familiar with the hymn, I Love to Tell the Story.
Here's a link to a beautiful a capella version, if you'd like to listen.
I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do.
Refrain:
I love to tell the story,
'twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.
2 I love to tell the story;
'tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it,
more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story,
for some have never heard
the message of salvation
from God’s own Holy Word. [Refrain]
3 I love to tell the story,
for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting
to hear it, like the rest.
And when in scenes of glory
I sing the new, new song,
'twill be the old, old story
that I have loved so long. [Refrain]

People love stories and are shaped by them.  The story of redemption is the best story every written!  As alive people share the story, it becomes sweeter and sweeter to them.  Remembering drives us to rejoice and also makes us long for more people to hear it and have the opportunity to respond.

Lord, make the story of your love so wonderful to us that we cannot help but share it! Amen

Tell the old, old story!
(Leave it up to the Lord to turn hearts to Him; if He saved you and me, anything's possible!)
Heather 💛

November 27, 2018

Live Alive {Day 27}: Living on the Edge

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

Today's post is related to yesterday's, about prayer being a (the?) critical time for the alive person to recharge.  Things happen when we pray.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God's name would be hallowed and that His kingdom would come, to ask Him to meet their daily needs, to seek His forgiveness (and be reminded of our need to forgive others), and for protection from temptation.  The Luke account of what is commonly called The Lord's Prayer is simpler than what you may say in weekly worship, but no less meaty.  Jesus prayed and taught His dead-but-now-alive people to pray in a way that says Hey God, so I'm totally dependent on you here, regardless of how I act or how independent I might think I am.  Your name is the only one worthy of glory and You're the only one who can meet my needs, forgive my sins, and preserve me until I spend eternity with you.



The simplicity of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples reminds me of Ecclesiastes 5:2
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
And now we come to the point of today's post:

When we keep quiet space in our prayer time,
there's time to hear God's voice and receive His direction.

I firmly believe that one reason we Christians are still walking around like dead people is because we are not listening.  We are too busy, too tuned into ourselves and not to the airwaves of heaven, too afraid of what might happen if we let go.  Yet, when we start listening, we will finally hear God's voice and the directions He has for us.  Some will be expected, even if they're not easy: forgive that dude that offended you or be kinder to your spouse today.  Then there will be things that give you pause: get involved with this group that scares you a little, start something new whose outcome you can't control, reach out to that impossible personGod will invite you to live on the edge with Him.  The excitement that is lacking - you know, that feeling of being involved in something greater and taking risks to see growth and what God can do, yeah, that excitement - will come with God giving you mission, vision, and purpose within His plans to have His kingdom come "on Earth as it is in Heaven."

One final thought.  This prayer can be a dedicated time set aside.  That is the perfect place to start. Prayer is also a posture of the mind, one that always has an ear for the Spirit's voice at all times.  Pair that with a posture of the heart that is always ready to respond in faith, and you'll be living alive on the edge with God.  There's no space for death when Life is at work!

The Lord longs for us to live alive in Him, because He made us alive to be alive!  Of course it seems silly to have to say it, but like we talked about earlier in this series - we are engaged in a fight, the enemy is at work trying to keep us distracted and disabled.  Let's stick it to him by opening up our ears to the Way, the Truth, and the Life and responding in faith to whatever He speaks to our hearts.  I know my most alive times are the ones when I have done this.  Maybe the best way to begin to day is to share a story about a time you watched God do amazing things when you stepped out on the edge when He called.  Remembering is a powerful thing.  If you can't think of a story, then it's time to ask God what edge He might be calling you to right now.

Listen, and come to life!
Heather 💛


November 26, 2018

Live Alive {Day 26}: Recharge

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

Self-care is a hot topic these days.  Modern life is bonkers, so we look for ways to take care of ourselves in the midst of the hustle and bustle - because if we don't, we might just go crazy.  No joke.  At the heart of it, I believe this practice is wise.  We can't serve others on an empty tank.  But I find that my attempts to find rest in what this world has to offer always come up short.  There is something in our souls that needs something "me time" can never quite satisfy.  (Though I'm always down for a massage.  Just sayin'!)


One thing you need to know about me, if you don't know me well: I do not know how to rest.  I know how to make a plan to be productive.  I know how to get really distracted and do unproductive, but not restful, things.  When I get a chance to have "me time," my first thought is What can I accomplish in the x number of hours I have?! I believe my personality is a gift in many ways.  I appreciate many aspects being the way I am.  But I am learning the pitfalls.  I have got to learn how to rest if I want to live alive!  This may not be the case for you, but hang in with me, because I think what I'm going to say is universal and also applies to those who are blessed (from my perspective, haha) to have the opposite personality type!  The world needs us both, by the way; and I need to learn from you how to rest, and I can teach you how to make a list and stick to it.  <wink>

I spent the last two weeks, between Love God Greatly Bible studies, reading the book of Luke.  Y'all, Jesus is NO JOKE in the book of Luke!  He comes across as harder than hard core to the reader, and totally calls His followers to the same.  But there was something else I noticed: 

Jesus stopped sometimes.

He pulled away from the crowds.

He made the time, even early in the morning.

Jesus recharged;
and He did it in prayer.


But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.  5:16 
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. [and then He chose His disciples!] 6:12 
On their return the apostles told him all that they had done.  And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida.  9:10 
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  9:28 
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."  11:1 
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  And shen he came to the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."  And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed .. "  22:39-41

How many of you turn to prayer first thing when you need some self-care?  Yeah.  Me neither. I mean, the very name implies that you're trying to take care of yourself yourself.  But even in the midst of a restful activity, how hounded we can be by guilt, failure, fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, hopelessness, and so on!

Jesus withdrew to pray.


If the God-man needed to connect with the Father to be able to do live alive, I feel confident we ought to follow His example!

Please don't misunderstand me.  I think that doing things we love and find relaxing are wonderful!  Get that massage; go for that run; treat yo'self to that manicure; watch some Netflix; grab coffee with a friend!  But remember that, ultimately, only Jesus can lift the weight of the world off of our shoulders in a soul-rest kind of way.  He is the Prince of Peace.  Only the Lord can direct our path in the way of righteousness.  He is the Wonderful Counselor.  Only Yahweh is our sure protection from the evil one.  He is Almighty God.

I'm not an expert on prayer.  Like I told you: I know nothing about proper rest!  But I do think one huge thing prayer does to recharge us is to remind us Who is in charge.  Prayer - simply talking with our Father about anything and everything - not only fuels us for service, but fill us with joy, as we remember who God is, what He is capable of, how He has provided for us, the depth of His forgiveness and love, and so on and so forth.  Humbly taking our place as dependents sets our soul at rest and sets our hearts free.

Do you know how Jesus replied to the disciples that asked Him how to pray? (Luke 11)

And he said to them, "When you pray say:
"Father, hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come.Give us each day our daily bread,and forgive us our sins,for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.And lead us not into temptation."

I guess we should begin our live alive recharge from that place of humble dependence.  God will take care of the rest.  (See what I did there?!)

Pray on!
Heather 💛

November 25, 2018

Live Alive {Day 25}: A Hymn - Come Thou Fount - and a Bonus Track for Fun

This hymn seems appropriate for this series, perhaps this is a new version for you.
Sufjan Stevens' Christmas albums are some of my faves.




And now, just for fun, a song by Stevens that makes my Christmas season every year!
It captures the holidays perfectly.

November 24, 2018

Live Alive {Day 24}: Rejoice and Mourn

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

Guys!  We are in the homestretch; only seven posts remain to be written!  If you've hung in and been reading all of these, thank you. I'd love to hear from you about how God is using the series in your life.  If you're just popping in for this post, welcome!  In these final posts I'm going to share about some specific habits and perspectives that alive people have.  At the end of the post about love not envying or boasting, I noted that I wanted to revisit and expand upon the topic of contentment.  Let's go there today!


When I think about interacting with others in a godly way, falling neither into envy nor boasting, this is the verse that guides my behavior:


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15


These words are nestled in a little passage of instructions from Paul to the Romans that my Bible subtitles, Marks of a True ChristianIt's a great summary of how to live alive!  For our purposes today, though, we'll focus on verse 15.

There was a period in my life when I had one baby and everyone else around me was moving on to having their second.  My husband was not ready for more, which was perfectly fine.  However, I was desperate to have our children close together.  It was a difficult season for me, (and for him because he had to live with me)!  During this season of discontent, God spoke into my life with verse fifteen.  It went something like this:  Heather, you may not be getting what you want, but that does not excuse you from celebrating when others announce their pregnancies.  This is how I want you to live, trusting Me and loving others.

Of course, it's not like a heard an audible voice or anything, but over and over again, the Lord brought this verse to mind.  During this season there were also very hard times for those around me: miscarriages and babies that died.  Our ladies prayed for each other, made meals, and even put together a funeral luncheon for one family.  Mourn with those who mourn.

When we imagine our self in another's position, rather than focusing on how it compares to our own, it is so much easier to live alive and enter into their season of rejoicing or mourning.  As we do, we can let go of our envy of their good fortune or our judgement of their situation.  We can rest contented in the space occupy in our lives and enter into that of another.  We are not competitors; we are family.

Even in this season of life when I really don't want any more babies (like totally do not), I feel a prick of jealousy when someone announces they are expecting.  It is so fun to share that news!  I want in on it, to be the center of attention and care!!  It is embarrassing, but it's true; this is just one delightful way temptation comes to me.  But the Lord offers me the Romans 12:15 alternative.  I can enter into their rejoicing and thus participate in the excitement!

Now, I don't have any trouble being jealous of another's mourning.  That would be pretty silly!  But I know the temptations to minimize their suffering, give advice, or share a story about my life, when what I need to do is zip my lips and mourn with those who mourn.  We all know about how many foolish things are said at funerals and to grieving friends.  Sometimes we just need to sit in the mourning with our brother or sister and weep with them, no matter how minor we think the loss is.  It's not time for pride; it's time for brotherly love.

I wish I could tell you how quickly I applied Romans 12:15 to my life in that childbearing season.  I can't.  But I can tell you the tale of how God has used this verse over time to shape my character and help me to choose contentment and to really love my neighbor.

In this holiday season, you're gonna see a lot of awesome pictures on social media of people having fabulous times in situations that tempt you to envy: decorations, vacations, traditions, stable families, romantic love, good looks, etc.  Pause in that moment of enticement and hit 'like' on Facebook or that heart on Instagram, and rejoice with those who rejoice.  For others you know, the holiday season is one of grief and pain.  Don't ignore or fluff it away, ask how they are doing, offer to help them with anything they need, sit and weep alongside them: mourn with those who mourn.

I'd love to hear how it goes.

To God be the glory in all our endeavors to live alive!
Heather 💛

November 23, 2018

Live Alive {Day 23}: Bears, Believes, Hopes, & Endures

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

Jesus with the Weight of the World on His Shoulders, 1952
Siegfried Reinhardt


We've come to the end of the road for the love passage in this series with these verses:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  I Corinthians 13:7

Surely hundreds of sermons have been preached, devotionals written, and studies done on this passage.  It's kind of warm and fuzzy, to think about love conquering all.  Then I think about having to live out this kind of love and the cozy feeling gets a cold.  This kind of love perseveres till the end.  I might be able to persevere till the end of the day, but not without lots of grumbling!

What kind of love is this?!  Or, to ask it another way, what does this verse mean?

I poked my nose into a couple of commentaries this morning to see what others had to say.  And guess what the New Bible Commentary from InterVarsity Press said.

Love provides both the stability and consistency
in which life thrives.

Dang!

As we live out this kind of bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things kind of love in the world, LIFE WILL THRIVE.  I believe that means life with thrive within us and life will spill out of us to enliven others.

The Jamieson Fausset Brown commentary goes into a little more detail about what this love looks like (vol 3 p 322):

bears all things = enduring without divulging to the world its distress.  Literally, holding fast, like a watertight vessel: the charitable man contains himself from giving vent to what selfishness would prompt under personal hardship
believes all things = all that it can with a good conscience believe to the credit of another 
hopes all things = that which is good of another, even if the world has given up hope
 endures all things = goes through persecution with a patient, loving spirit

Friends, the world needs love like this - love that bears the weight without complaint, believes anything is possible, hopes beyond what is rational, and endures with patience.

Jesus, of course, lived out this kind of love and showed us the way to walk in it.  He also sent the Spirit to enable us to love like Him and follow in His way.  We won't do it perfectly, but because we know Love and have been changed by it, each day we look to the cross and repent, look at the empty tomb and rejoice, and then carry on to bear more, believe more, hope more, and endure another day.

Jesus says something very interesting (and dare I say startling to our modern senses) in John 15:9-11.
"As the Father has loved me, so have I 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, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."
We are loved the way God the Father loves Jesus!  Obedience to the commands of Christ is the way to remain in that love.  Obedience to His commands.  That's somethin'.  As we walk in obedience, we will know the joy of Christ and it will be full.

Not quite what we expect, huh?

What I hear Jesus saying is, if I want to know the joy that comes from abiding in Him I can't just sit around writing blog posts and thinking nice thoughts. I need to get my obedience on: loving God, loving my neighbor, bearing more without betraying my distress, believing more about what God can do in people's lives, hoping on even when were the world has given up hope, and enduring longer with a patient and loving spirit.  Okay Lord, I hear You.  Now I think we need to pray!
Lord, let us become people who abide in your love, delighting to walk in obedience to your commands, so we can know thriving life and invite others into the same.  We so desperately want to live alive and we know our only hope for that is found in You and following Your way.  Thank you for living such a life of love on our behalf, so we could be set free.  Have your way in your people, in Jesus name. Amen.

Abide in His love,
Heather 💛

November 22, 2018

Live Alive {Day 22}: Thanks Giving

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

It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  Happy Thanksgiving!  The whole month is spent with extra focus on what we are thankful for.  Perhaps the most important question we need to ask is: What's the point of giving thanks?  Obviously it is important to be thankful and it is universally agreed that being thankful is good for your mind, body, and soul.  We can also agree that sometimes giving thanks is hard.  We find ourselves in a bad mood or very trying circumstances and expressing thanks is the last thing on our mind.  Complaining or despair come out of us a lot more quickly.  Another observation I've made about how we give thanks, is that we often give it in comparison to something else.  I'm thankful for X, because it could be a lot worse.  It is hard to give pure, unadulterated thanks.

Perhaps that is why in the Bible, over and over, we find verses reminding us to give thanks or be thankful.  The default of our old, sinful nature is not to look at God and give thanks.  The fact of the matter is that thanks giving has an object - the Giver.  Sometimes people use the phrase "return thanks," which perfectly illustrates the idea of giving thanks in return to the One who has provided all things.  The one who is alive in Christ gives thanks to the one who made him or her alive: God the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Living alive is to live thankfully. Not only does the alive person know they have been redeemed and daily gives thanks for that, but they are also perpetually aware of how dependent they are on the Giver.  They know all they have and are has been given to them: every gift, thing, experience, personality trait, etc.

A truly thankful heart develops out of an awareness that nothing is deserved and all has been given.  Today as you give thanks, turn your heart toward the Giver in awe and wonder at what He has done and how He has provided for you.  May the Lord transform our hearts from ungrateful to thankful, even this day.

Here's a biblical description for being in God's will; not surprisingly, thanks giving is included:

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:16-16

The Lord in time will help us each understand what this looks like as He transforms us more into the likeness of Christ.  In the meantime, live alive by giving it a go in response to His command!  I do pray this is a wonderful Thanksgiving day for you today.  We all know holidays can be "interesting" with family and friends - a perfect opportunity to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances, right?!  😉

Live alive: give thanks!
Heather 💛

November 21, 2018

Live Alive {Day 21}: Rejoices with the Truth

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

Tonight I'll be brief.  My husband and I just returned from a refreshing little trip to North Carolina and tomorrow is a holiday, so blogging time is limited today.

Today's section on love from I Corinthians 13 says this:

[love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

It reminds me of Paul;s other words in Romans 12:9

Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.


Living in the way of love is living alive.  So what we learn here is that living alive involves rejoicing in the truth, and not at wrong doing, iniquity, or evil.  There's a call on the alive life to be active: actively seeking to avoid or prevent evil, actively pursuing and rejoicing in what is true and good.  This can be in our personal life or on a grander scale in our communities, societies, etc.

Looking briefly at some commentaries this morning, several commentators mentioned how this relates to our interpersonal relationships.  Living alive in love will mean we will want the best for others and refuse to color things against others.  Matthew Henry says of this I Corinthians verse, paraphrased and quoted:

Love has no pleasure in doing hurt or injury or in others' faults or failings.  "... the sin of others are rather a grief of a charitable spirit than its sport or delight; they will touch it to the quick and stir all its compassion, but give it no entertainment.  IT IS THE VERY HEIGHT OF MALICE TO TAKE PLEASURE IN THE MISERY OF A FELLOW-CREATURE." (emphasis mine)
Love rejoices to lift up the other and not latch onto any opportunity to harm or mock them.  Love delights to rejoice in the truth that that person is also an image-bearer with a capacity to respond to God in faith.  It reminds me of Proverbs 24:17-18
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,lest the LORD see it and be displeasedand turn away His anger from him.
I don't know that it always works out that way, but what a warning, right?  Don't rejoice when someone against whom you've set your heart has a setback or a real failure.  That is wrong.  Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, in others ... or in ourselves!  If we want to live alive, which is living in love, we must renounce our desire to delight in wrongdoing.

But we also have a new outlet for rejoicing: truth!  Yesterday I was in chapter 15 of Luke in my daily reading, which tells three different stories of lost things being found: a sheep, a coin, and a prodigal son.  Each story ends with a verse about rejoicing and celebrating:

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance. v. 7 
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. v. 10 
It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.  v. 32
Rejoicing in the truth means not only in righteousness triumphing in the world or people around us making good decisions, but also when the kingdom advances and grows as people who are lost are found, i.e. made alive!

Living alive means getting excited at the work God is doing in the world.  Maybe this week, as you give thanks, you can throw in some rejoicing at what God has done in your life and what Hes doing around the globe, advancing Truth and bringing new life.

Rejoice with the truth!
Heather 💛

November 20, 2018

Live Alive {Day 20}: Irritable and Resentful

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

By this point in our brief journey through the description of love in I Corinthians 13, you may be thinking, Alright, that's enough of that. I will be busy enough trying to be patient, kind, not arrogant and rude, and not insisting on my own way.  To which I must reply:

But wait!  There's more!!

Don't groan; this is good for us!  In our alive life in Christ we have a whole new mission: love God and love our neighbor.  The hard part is that it doesn't come naturally to us, despite having been saved from out sin.  BUT Jesus sent the Spirit to live in us and help and guide us until we are fully glorified with Him.  So hang in there with me.  If we pursue the way of love as God intends, we will experience even more of the alive life He has given us.

[love] is not irritable or resentful.
I Corinthians 3:5b


I grew up reading the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible which says, it is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.  I love how the English Standard Version (ESV) pairs these two and states them so succinctly.  To live in love, I must resist being irritable and resentful.

What makes us get irritable and resentful?  What are the loving alternatives we need to practice to live alive?  To some degree what irritates us is very individual, but the easily-angered response is common to all the situations.  What is it that drives us there?  Again we come back to the power of our own preference and how we use that to justify treating others cruelly.  As a person who is easily angered, I feel qualified to used the word cruelly, because even if we are quiet in our anger it is no less loving toward our neighbor than lashing out at them.  Either way we are thinking, I am better than they are and they should know it!  Embarrassing to put it in those terms, right?

Resentfulness simply takes that anger and doesn't let it go, keeping a record of wrongs and clinging to bitterness. Sure doesn't sound like there is anything life-giving in that space!  Makes me think about the Lord's prayer where Jesus instructs us to pray and forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.  I really want my Lord to forgive my sins all around.  It appears clinging to resentment definitely disrupts living alive, by not only how it affects our relationship with our neighbor, but also with God.  We cannot be alive, active love-pursuers if we are constantly tripping over our quick anger and falling into our pits of resentment.

This strikes a chord in my heart.  Often I am easily angered in situations where the "evil perpetrator" is not commuting any sin against me!  A kind word might be enough to get them to stop what they are doing.  And how tempting it is to let resentfulness disrupt my relationships with my family, and refuse to treat them compassionately (as I would want for myself).  How much I need to grow in faithfulness in this area!

The Gospel helps us so much here.  God demonstrates this kind of love for us when we are made alive with Christ.  He alone would have the right to be easily angered at how we sin against Him day in and day out with our self-love and lack of trust in Him.  He definitely could be justified in resentfulness toward us.  I mean, for real.  But the Scriptures tell a different story:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;12 as far as the east is from the west,    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12 

Hey! Let's practice being slow to anger and releasing people from our resentfulness.  These are the steps of the redeemed: to trust that the Lord's way is the good way  and the alive way, and to walk in it.  He is our help, strength, and life!  I have a feeling Thanksgiving week will give us ample opportunities to draw on His help and ask Him to show up and change our hearts.

You are loved!  Live alive!
Heather 💛

November 19, 2018

Live Alive {Day 19}: Insisting On Its Own Way

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

1 Corinthians 13:5 says love does not insist on its own way.


Chew on that for a minute.  Now think about how you have insisted on your own way in the last 24 hours.  I am right there with you, if your answer is, "More than I'd like to admit."  But love offers us another option: the path of not insisting on one's own way.  Please note that the verse doesn't say that love never expresses a desire or need, but simply that the character of love is not to insist on getting her way.

Hm.  This is very interesting considering God's character and how He relates to us.  The Bible says He is love.  It also says He is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)  Love does not insist on its own way, though, so He never forces us into repentance, despite His deep, loving longing to redeem us.

In my natural way, the way of self, I want God to violate His nature and save everyone.  I want all people to experience new life in Christ!  But  real love doesn't function like that.  And if the Lord can exercise patience in a matter of such importance, perhaps I can let go of my need to choose what restaurant we go to for dinner.

We build this love muscle by developing the habit of hearing the needs and desires of others, and placing them before our own.  We won't always choose theirs over ours, but the more often we do the more natural it will become and the less it will hurt.

Not getting one's own way hurts because, in our sinful nature, we are hardwired to put ourself first.  Not doing that feels like dying a little.  How in the world does that help us live alive? Every time we trust the Lord and look to the interests of others, though it may hurt for a while, we are expressing the newness of life that dwells within us.  And over time, God transforms our hearts and minds to delight in meeting others' needs and desires.  Yes, God can do that!

Also, let's face it, insisting on our own way is not much more than a toddler-style tantrum, even if it is quiet, bitter sulking about not feeling valued or about a prayer not answered as we hoped, rather than actual kicking and screaming.  Ain't no body wanna be refining those skills!  Alive people are maturing into their Christ-likeness and willing to feel the pain so another can feel the love. Sounds a lot like what our Savior did for us.  The love of God brought us to this point, and He will carry us through.  Let's be obedient and allow God amaze us with how He provides for us.

Build that love muscle for His glory!

Heather 💛