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Faith

15 In Faith

Cultivating A Heart Of Love

I heart this treephoto © 2010 Tim Simpson | more info (via: Wylio)


A
s I enter the second week of my 21 day fast, my heart has been stretched.  I feel vulnerable, raw and tender.  In this place of voluntary weakness, my desperation for God is something I cannot ignore.  My need of Him has risen to the forefront. Apart from Him I can do nothing.  This week, I am more aware of the groaning inside my spirit to know this Man Jesus.

My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God.  (Psalm 84:2)

I
‘ve grown closer to the Lord this last week, yet there is an internal struggle to stay in the place of prayer.  There are so many other things that are demanding my time and attention.  As a wife, mother and ministry leader, I cannot ignore these other things.  Yet, I understand the importance of continually seeking His face in order to receive the fuel that I need to do these other things well.

One thing I have learned is that my love for God and this 1st commandment lifestyle must be cultivated.  In Mike Bickle’s teaching, “Becoming A Person of Extravagant Devotion” he says,

“We must consciously carry our hearts. We must consciously cultivate a spiritual atmosphere in our hearts and in a way that we are more responsive to God. God wants to enable us to be responsive to Him in love. This anointing to be able to respond to God in love is not something that is automatic. It is cultivated. The ability to respond to God in love is cultivated. It is cultivated deliberately. It takes time to cultivate it, and it does not come automatically. What happens is that our love for God diminishes? If we do not invest in growing in love for God, our ability to respond to God in love diminishes. …The ability to respond to God in love is something we cultivate. It grows, it increases, or if it is something we do not pay attention to, it decreases.”

I have been faced with my lack of God this last week.  I have felt a little edgy, a little stressed, a little out of sorts. As I turn my attention to God, I have a heightened awareness of the condition of my own heart. My selfish attitudes, negative thoughts and wrong views have all risen to the surface and are staring me in the face.  I’ve been forced to look at my weakness.  I want to cultivate my love for God, but how do I do that when I am faced with myself — my lack, my weakness.  Even so, I must continue to be diligent and purposeful in my pursuit of God.  I must set aside time each day to be with him.  It’s not about doing for God, but being with God.  This is where I am changed, by simply being in His presence.  This year, I want to learn how to “be” in the presence of God without feeling like I have to do something for Him.  Anything that is cultivated takes time.  A garden does not grow instantly. Once the seeds are planted, it is watered, nurtured, tenderly cared for.  Every now and then the Master Gardner has to come and weed the garden in order to allow it to produce more fruit.

I must invest my life in cultivating my love for God.  Mary of Bethany had the right idea.  When Jesus came to visit, she stopped everything she was doing and chose to sit at His feet and minister to Him. Her sister, Martha, got upset and began to complain to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her.  Here is Jesus’ response to Martha:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary was extravagantly devoted to Jesus.  And this type of devotion would never be taken from her.  Mary took the time to invest in her love for her Lord by forsaking her duties to sit at His feet.  Mary will not be known for her works.  Rather, she will be known by her devotion to Jesus.  I want to be remembered as a person who was extravagantly devoted to Jesus.  Nothing else matters.

God has planted a seed of love in my heart.  It is up to me to water it, nurture it, care for it, so that it will grow.  I want to know this Man Jesus, intimately, above all other things.  Will it always be easy?  No.  Will it be worth it? Absolutely, 100%, YES!

(Photo Credit for this blog post here.)

7 In Faith

He Knew You

Before the world began.  I was assisting in the Children’s Equipping Center last night and we were talking with the children about a God who knew them before they were born.  We shared how God thought about each one of them before He even laid the foundations of the earth.  We had the children meditate on a song that expressed God’s heart for them. I loved hearing the children share what they wrote in their journals.  They have such a rich understanding of God’s love.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.  (Psalm 119:13-18) 

I was not privy to this information, about a God who loved me deeply, while I was young. I came to know the Lord at the ripe age of 20.  Understanding, and even fully experiencing the freedom of this kind of love is something I’ve struggled with all of my life.  I wish I could say that I have fully come to know and understand this love.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19) 

But I can’t. Oh, I believe that God loves me.  I believe it because I know His Word to be true.  I believe it with my mind.  Head knowledge.  But I long to feel the depth of that love, like waves crashing in the ocean, overwhelming my heart.  A portion of the above scripture was used for the tagline in my header “rooted and grounded in the marvelous love of God”.  I chose that not because I have arrived at a place of understanding, but I chose it as a constant reminder to continue to pursue the knowledge of God and the love that He gives.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3) 

The children at CEC get it.  They understand and are able to comprehend.  I can imagine how they feel when they hear about a God who loved them before He even made the world.  And I find myself longing for those feelings, those butterflies, the warmth of knowing. Why is it so hard for this love to go beyond “head” knowledge and sink deep into my heart?  Is it wrong for me to want to “feel” this love?  I am not lacking in experience.  I’ve felt His touch on my life.  It goes deeper than that.  And then I ask the question, “God, what is it that makes it so hard for me to fully comprehend your love”.  And I wait. And my heart is raw and tender before Him today as I ask Him to come bring revelation to my heart.

1 In Faith

Bursting Forth!

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:12)

This was painted at Convergence House of Prayer on New Year’s Eve.  While I was painting, I remember sensing a “bursting forth” in my spirit. I felt a sense of joy and a sense of freedom.  As I’ve had some time to reflect on it in prayer, I see in this painting a “coming together” of heaven and earth. I see something breaking open, something bursting forth out of the Heavens, and the earth is reaching up to receive it. Do you see it?  Will you reach for it?  It’s yours!

10 In Faith

Constant In 2011

I am so excited to share with you the word and scripture that the Lord has spoken to my heart for 2011.

Constant
continual, persistent, sustained, unceasing, relentless.

When I think of this word, it reminds me of God, His Character.  He is the only thing, the only person, who is constant in my life.  He never changes.  He continually cares for me.  He persistently and relentlessly pursues me, even when my heart is not fully His.  He has sustained me through heartache.  His love for me is unceasing.  There are so many areas in my life where I need to be more constant, but none more so than in my relationship with God.  In 2011, I am making Him my focus.  This year, I am resolving to fix my attention on God.

I want to know Him.
I want to be fascinated by Him.
I want to be constant in my pursuit of Him,
as He is in His pursuit of me. 

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” 
(Romans 12:12)

2010 was a rough year for my family.  My husband was unemployed off and on throughout the year, and we lost our home.  But God has been faithful to always provide for our every need.  We have had heartache, but we have learned to rejoice in the storm.  We have learned how to hope.  Not just the kind of hope that says “maybe”, but the kind of hope that reaches deep down into your soul and clings, with every ounce of strength, to the unknown goodness of the Lord.  The kind of hope that knows, beyond a doubt, that everything will work out, even though you cannot see.

We have learned to be patient in tribulation.  There were many times were we had become frustrated in the process, yet God has shown us how to wait on Him.  Patience is not something that comes easily for me. Especially when we would wait, take a step forward, wait again, then two steps back, and then everything fell apart.  Yet through it all, God was teaching us how to lean into Him, “being patient in our affliction”.

I am still learning how to be constant in prayer.  Sometimes, things just got too difficult, and believe it or not, prayer was what I lacked. But still, God was faithful. This year, I want to be constant in prayer. He has opened my eyes more this year to His faithfulness and His constant presence in my life.

I am looking forward with great anticipation to all that 2011 holds for me and my family.  I cannot say that it will be a year without trials, but I will continue to rejoice, have hope, be patient in tribulation, and especially, be constant in prayer! God is faithful and I know that everything will work out.

Do you have a verse, or word from the Lord for 2011 that you would like to share?  If not, there is still time to pray and ask for one!

4 In Faith

Unwrapping The Promise

I had a wonderful Christmas with my family.  Even in my lack, I realize how truly blessed I am. My heart is heavy and full of prayer for those who are missing loved ones, sick, lonely and facing extremely hard circumstances.  Tonight as I was sitting here reading blogs and unwrapping my Dove Chocolate to read the little promises inside, I got to thinking about the many promises that were given to me by God through His Son, the greatest gift of all.  This most precious baby, born in a stable, laying in a manger.  This child, so small, yet so full of promise.

In Him lies the promise of LIFE to those who accept it.
In Him lies the promise of HOPE to those who hold on to it.
In Him lies the promise of FAITH to those who receive it.
In Him lies the promise of LOVE to those who embrace it.
In Him lies the promise of JOY to those who choose it.
In Him lies the promise of WISDOM to those who seek it.
In HIM lies the promise of GRACE to those who walk in it.
In Him lies the promise of PEACE to those who rest in it.
In Him lies the promise of MERCY to those who give it.
The season of Christmas may be over, but I will continue to unwrap the promises that Jesus, the Child of Promise, has freely given to me.