Heart Check Up

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. ‘ Matthew 15:8-9 

I have always been a cheerleader at heart. Yes, I did have the uniform to prove it from 1985-1988. Even after my cheer leading days were but a memory, I loved to cheer on the underdog. The one who always seemed to get the short end of the stick so to speak was the one I tried to lift up, encourage, and cheer on. In my quiet time today I was reading in Matthew 15. At the get go, in this chapter, the Pharisees were after Jesus and disciples again. They were criticizing the disciples for not holding to their traditions and doing things a different way. My inner cheer leader hollered, “Get ’em Jesus!” He did. Yet what He said gripped my heart. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (v.8) 

Wait a minute! Am I guilty of this? Am I quick to honor God with my words when I know my heart is not honoring Him with my actions? Is my heart far from God? Do I say all the right things because people are watching, yet in my heart I know I am not where I need to be? I had some self evaluation time with my Savior. I won’t give you the results. That is between Him and Me. I will say it has set me to look after the things that I say.

I want to draw close to him with my whole heart not just my words. I want my motives as well as my lip service to be in line with God. The reason this issue is so important is because in the next verse it reveals why. A heart not right with God affects our worship of Him.(v.9) When we sing in church on Sunday, do the words we sing reflect what is in our heart. We may lift up His name with our mouth, but does it echo from our heart or merely lip service. Do we do more sinning in the song service than out in the world? Can I truly say with my heart “I trust and obey”, or “I surrender all”?

The second part of verse 9 states that instead of clinging to the truth of God’s Word we place in higher authority what men say. How we worship God can affect our view of God. I want to say that in my heart I hold what God says to be more important than what man may say. I want to show that my heart speaks and shows honor to God when I open my mouth. Pleasing God needs to come before pleasing man. My husband is fond of saying, “In my life, I serve an audience of One.” We do. We strive to serve God and honor Him alone. In our walk with the Lord, may we be careful that the words we say come from a heart that is drawing close to the Savior daily.

I am cheering for you, my friend. Let us together practice checking our heart before we speak!


Wanting It All…

In my quest to get ready to leave town for a few days, I called a good friend and asked her to feed my cats. Being the good pet owner that I am (hehe), I bought a large, brand new bag of cat food to make sure Marshmallow, Mocha, and Tom had all that they needed and would not run out of food. I put it up on the barbecue grill to await my friend who will be stopping by tomorrow. I finished my packing and “hit the hay”. Much to my chagrin, this morning I walked out on my  porch to find a large, brand new bag of cat food on the floor. They still had food in their bowl yet they had managed to knock it off the grill and eat a hole not only in the bag, but also all the way through it. When I held the bag up for a look, I saw my neighbors through the hole in the bag. Crazy Cats!

I think sometimes I find myself in the same predicament. I want what I want when I want it, not being content with what I already have at my disposal.  I can’t help but wonder if I am alone in this. All throughout the Bible there is verse upon verse on contentment. This could be because the Lord knew this would be a weakness in us. After all, didn’t Adam and Eve have the Garden of Eden at their finger tips to use and consume? They chose however to go after the one thing that they could not have, “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. (Genesis 3) In His Word, God gives us several powerful verses for us to use to combat discontentment.

Paul said it best in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: but I have learned that whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul knew what it was like to want something. I think of the ailment he experienced with his eyesight, and how he asked the Lord to remove it three times. When God did not, Paul chose with God’s help to be content. He speaks of contentment as something that he had to learn to do. The state of being content is just like anything else; we have to work at it daily. When we constantly focus on the things that we do not have or own rather than the things that we have, we can grow discontent in our lives. It is a daily decision to be thankful and content.

In I Timothy 6:6-8, we read, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing in this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” I think the second thing we need to realize is that nothing that we have is ours to being with. Our possessions are blessings from God. All that we have in this life is given to us by God. How often have you seen someone accumulate so much and it is lost to a fire or flood? To cultivate contentment we need to realize our things are just things, and all things belong to God. In Psalm 8 and 24, we read how “earth is the Lord’s and all that dwell therein”. When we begin to look at what we have from God’s point of view, we see how our focus will change from “the things we possess” to the “God of all possessions”.

Thirdly, Contentment can be achieved because of who we have, Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13:5 reads, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” We should not sit around and talk over our possessions. Such as, “This person has this and this, wouldn’t that be nice to have.” Too much of this can lead to coveting what someone else has. I think in this verse Christ is saying to us, “You are not alone. You have me. The wealth of my kingdom is for your use. Let me give to you the things that you need, and be content with what I choose to give you. No matter what I choose for you, I will be with you through it all. I will be your constant companion.”

To many times we fall in the trap of discontentment. May we all rely on the one who began us in this life and will be with us no matter what we have. May we all trust Him to know what is best for us. Remember, When we have Christ, we truly have it all.

Love to You, Mary Lou!

The summer of my 6th year, I did a bold and daring thing.  I talked my mom in to signing me up for gymnastics classes.  For the last few years, I had watched those amazing girls on T.V. as they twirled around the uneven bars and tumbled across the large floor mats. I wanted to be that girl. I asked my mom if I could be the next Mary Lou Retton. She said,”Yes”, and signed me up.

It did not take a long time for me to realize this was not my cup of tea.  I realized this when I failed to execute a simple “penny drop” on the uneven bars. This is a cute name for a method of torture. I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t do it.  The tumbling was not much better and the balance beam proved to be my undoing.  I could walk around a little, but could not perform the smallest trick or stunt.  So I abandoned my “Mary Lou” dream and was content to watch the girls on the television.  I found out much later that the girls who could do such great things practiced about 7 to 8 hours per day.  More power to you, Mary Lou!

In my Christian life, I have struggled with balance also.  Over the last few years the Lord has taught me some things about myself and even more about who he is.  The balance I strive to attain will take a lot of hard work on my part, but it is also something that God has to do through me.  God has shown me some guidelines I can follow to become the Christian he wants me to be.

Let me briefly point out that these guidelines follow salvation.  When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become part of the family of God.  I believe God gives to his children guidelines in his Word to follow and obey.  The first guideline or “rock”, as we looked at in my last post, “Rock Hunting”, is that of pleasing God rather than pleasing men. We should want to please God in our relationships, homes, churches, and in the world.  We should desire to please Him above all.

The second guideline is to “love others”. Let me start by saying that God has given to each of us a great capacity to love.  We were made in the image of God.  We were fashioned by Him and made in His likeness.  Who has greater love than God?  The Bible says that “He first loved us”.  Love is also one of the fruits of the Spirit. Love is at the heart of God.  We have been given the mandate to “Love”.

It is so easy to love the people who love me. This includes my hubby, my family, my parents, friends, etc.  I have a wealth of people who love me.  I have no problem loving these precious people. The problem begins when I am face to face with someone who does not love me. We all come in contact with those who we don’t like much less love.  You know who I am talking about that one individual who after approximately 30 seconds you long to “pinch their head off”  hypothetically speaking.  It is the person who immediately comes to mind when the word “conflict” is mentioned, because they embody conflict.  As a was thinking about this topic, the Lord brought some verses to my mind from Philippians chapter 2.

  1. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if an bowels and mercies,
  2. Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

If there is going to be any love, fellowship or mercy, let it be for Christ’s sake.  Christ endured such great suffering so we could have life abundant not only here on earth but also in Heaven someday.  He experienced suffering on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  He knew what it was like to be beaten beyond recognition and to have nailed driven in his hands and feet. He knew what it felt like to be rejected by his own people, the people he came to save.  He knew the heartache of being rejected by his Heavenly Father who could not look on the sin Christ bore for us. He was willing to take the punishment for our sin. How could we not be willing to put ourselves and our feelings aside and love the unlovely for his sake?

Let our love for others give Him joy.  The phrase that has echoed in my heart all day is “the same love”.  We need to have the same love for everyone even those who do not like us or go out of their way to irritate us. He wants us to connect with others by showing love to them. Does this mean we condone their sin or wrongdoing? No.  There are times when we can only love with Christ loving through us.  He knows when we are hurting and will be there for us.  We can love others even though we do not like what they are doing.  God, the Father, loves us even when we are disobedient to his Word.  Loving others is not always easy, but we are more and more like Christ when we love. 

The balancing act we try to perform in our Christian life is like trying to balance on the beam in the gym. Though we sometimes may fall, the mat of God’s love softens the blow.

Ministry: It could happen to you!

Lunch hour of late has been a time for me to get away from the computer for a bit and run errands. I always manage to grab a little something to eat as well. Hey, that’s why we call it the “lunch hour”. However, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of getting ready for a new school year, I have been doing more running than eating which can sometimes be a good thing.  It is amazing to me how when we least expect it an opportunity for ministry appears right in front of us.

I was doing my usual running and the Dollar General was my last stop before I had to get back to the office.  As usual, It was crowded.  I grabbed what I needed as quickly as I could and headed for the check out line pausing ever so briefly by the candy. (I am such a “sucker” for M & M’s. he he!)  Because of my brief pause, a lady came flying in from the right and scooted in front of me in line.   Though I was in a hurry, I remembered to smile.  Seemingly, out of nowhere, she began sharing with me about her life and her children. We chatted for about a minute when she began to pour out all of the things she had been going through in the last year. This included illness, family problems, her husband’s arrest, and her 18 month old going to heaven.  She wasn’t out for sympathy or for something from me. She just needed someone to listen.  How quickly a 5 minute stop turned into an opportunity for ministry.  God put us together at the right place and at the right time. She was a lady who needed some ministering, and God allowed me to be a help.

So many times I find myself not ready for such an opportunity. What would have happened if I had gotten in the the line grumbling and complaining about the crowd or how I was going to be late?  (I have done this before a lot more than I would care to admit.)  I would have missed such a great blessing. 

The Lord brought this verse to my mind,  “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)  Before this verse meant to me that when there is a conflict with someone I need to speak with grace and understanding or when I am speaking with a non-christian I will not discredit  or turn someone from Christ.  Yet the verse very simply says, “Let your speech be always with grace.”  I need to “always” practice gracious speech.  When I think over a normal day in my life and start analysing my speech, I am convicted that my speech is not “always with grace”.  I am so grateful that my speech did not in any way dissuade or discourage this lady. 

I am thankful that God showed me again the importance of being ready at all times for ministry. You never know that the next person you encounter may be the one God has placed in your path at just the right moment for you to minister and help. 

When our speech is gracious, we might find ourselves with more and more opportunities to reach out to those around us in our homes, in our churches, in our communities, and even in our “Dollar General”.