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Each Punch, Each Stride, Each Step

So, I’ve been solidly single for ten years.

Oh, sure, I’ve dated a few guys and been on a few dates here and there, but I am still solidly single. Such a prolonged single season has really rocked my faith in God and my sense of worth so that I’ve had to practice self-control.

Self-control is one of those concepts that I know is a fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, etc., etc. and SELF-CONTROL.  But, I always thought of self-control as being more of a theory than a practical virtue to be practiced and maintained until I needed self-control in my singleness desperately.  At some point in my late 20s, I realized my thoughts were being controlled by fear and disbelief instead of faith.  My sense of worth was crippled because I thought I was less than because I wasn’t married, so that negative thought pattern determined my belief about myself.  Here’s the thing:  God doesn’t say that everyone is going to be married at 21, so it takes self-control to not surrender to disbelief, doubting that God has a plan during the period of waiting.  And He does have a plan.

Self-control is mandatory if we are going to live lives that are pleasing to our God.  Paul said in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that everyone who competes in athletic and spiritual competitions exercises SELF-CONTROL in ALL THINGS.  The athletes he referenced were Greeks who trained their mind and bodyfor ten months to concentrate on winning their unique competition.  He compares our individual, God-given destiny to running a race or boxing with aim, so that each punch, each stride, each step of your life is focused at a the target of God’s purpose.  Paul disciplined his body so that he would not be disqualified because he relented to immorality, sensuality, anger, jealousy, strife, etc.   I’ve almost been prey to letting the same “deeds of the flesh” disqualify ME from my God-ordained destiny, until I realized that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free” so I didn’t have to clothe myself daily in my old sins, habits, and thought patterns – I was and am free because of Jesus.

Sexual sin, lust, and negativity may be what our culture permits and even encourages in singleness, but we cannot live effective lives for the glory of God if we let our bodily passions and minds run the show.

Keep your mind strong in the power of GodPractice self-control. He has set a race before you that only you, in whatever relational season of life, can run with boldness and courage.

 

QUITE YOUR SOUL — Worship Song:  “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser.

“I’m no longer a slave to fear – I am a child of God.”

BE ENCOURAGED — Read these Scriptures:

I Corinthians 9:24-27–“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Galtians 5:1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

DIG DEEPER — Life Evaluating Questions: 

  1. Evaluate your mind. Do you control your thoughts or do they control you?  What thought patterns have you allowed to dictate your worth?
  2. Identify areas in your life over which you need to control yourself. Pray over these weaknesses, allowing God to strengthen you in His power and truth
  3. Pray over yourself and for your God-given, unique purpose. What does God want YOU to accomplish with your talents and gifts for the kingdom of God, regardless of your relationship season?

 

-Heather Carey

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Armed and Dangerous

“NO weapon formed against you shall prosper…this is the HERITAGE of the children of the Lord.”

I gripped the steering wheel, my arms shaking and my back rigid. I stared ahead at the expanse of Highway 80 East, my eyes glassed over. I began praying as my car sped toward another day at the high school where I taught. The tone and timbre of my voice shaky as I cried out to my God: “Lord, you MUST go before me today, because if You don’t, I have no idea how I’m going to survive. Take over my words as they come out of my mouth and use them as instruments of your grace, mercy, and love. Teach me how to love my students with Your love and not my own. You have to help me.” As I drove off the entrance ramp onto the highway, I saw a billowing cloud of smoke in the east and started crying. God was telling me that He was already there.

In the spring of 2014, I felt God moving me to Dallas, Texas from Lynchburg, Virginia. After living twelve comfortable years in the glorious beauty that is Virginia, I knew that I didn’t want the comfortable life to become my norm. So, I prayed about the move, sought Godly counsel, confirmed His call through Scripture, resigned my job, sold the majority of my stuff, and drove into Dallas on July 1, 2013. I was scheduled for an interview at a high school in the area on July 2; so, I prayed and PRAYED over that interview and got the job – the only job offer I had received in three months. I accepted, knowing that God wanted me there. I could not have imagined the opposition I would face daily as a result of that decision.

That school year of 2013-2014, I worked with sophomores and freshman whose life circumstances and stories could emotionally cripple most mature adults. One sixteen-year old student witnessed his thirty-three-year old mother’s murder by her ex-boyfriend and then the ex-boyfriend’s suicide. One set of twin boys had just discovered their biological father over the summer after their mother, who was a drug addict, admitted that they actually had a father after Child Protective Services intervened. The boys, after years of living in chaos, were thrown into a home with structure and struggled to make the appropriate emotional and behavioral adjustments.

These stories represent only two of the approximately one hundred students who filtered through my classroom every day. Students who were accustomed to adults flittering in and out of their lives, signifying their lack of worth and enhancing long-established fears of betrayal and abandonment.

Jesus tells us that, “in the world you have tribulation, but TAKE COURAGE, I have overcome the world.” Paul, Peter, and James tell us that trials and tribulation hone our perseverance, develop our patience, and perfect our faith. That year, I would learn how those truths fit into and built my spiritual arsenal.

I could feel the spiritual oppression heavy over that town every day when I drove to work.   I could see it in the eyes of the children who had been told by Satan that their value was nothing through the actions and words of former teachers, who I represented. I could feel and see it in the dissension and apathy of the faculty and the chaos of the school environment. Satan had been allowed to thrive and the marks of his presence were everywhere.

But, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Jesus was using me as salt and light in an environment that desperately needed His peaceful touch. He needed me to love those children as He loved them, not as I did.

Every day, I prayed on the armor of God: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, and, most importantly, the shoes of peace. I prayed that every place that the sole of my foot touched would be blessed with the peace of Jesus. I would have spiritually perished if not protected by the spiritual armor and the constant strength of the Holy Spirit.

Some days, I just showed up.   God spoke His words through my weak emotional and physical state to students who were hurting, scarred, and broken in ways that I could never fathom. I didn’t quit and therein lay some of the greatest victories. Scripture says, “ Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” I obeyed a principle of Scripture and watched as God turned their hearts toward him through His Spirit working through me. I conquered the evil that bred in the hallways and hearts of my students as I prayed over them, rebuking the demonic influence that was pervasive in the school IN THE NAME OF JESUS. I was armed in Jesus and threatened the enemy’s hold on my students. I was spiritually dangerous against the forces of darkness.

DO. NOT. QUIT. Though the battle is long and fierce, stand protected by the armor of God – the heritage of the children of the Lord. Though you tire, falter, and even fail, get up again and stand firm, knowing that Jesus has overcome the world. You will not be put to shame and you do not labor in vain. Attach those truths to your belt and stand in the power of God.

– Heather Carey

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Giving Thanks

“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – and this year I feel like I really get it. I’ve been thankful for my life in years past, but I’ve been the kind of thankful that is obligatory, with the cloud of “what I don’t have” hanging heavy and ominous over me. This year, I know that I am blessed. Really and truly blessed. I’m blessed that I get to watch Lincoln with my father who has experienced total healing after his bypass and maize procedure this spring. I live in the best country in the world, a country that fiercely defends the ideals of freedom and equality that Lincoln tried to uphold. I am blessed with a job in a current economic climate that fights stability. I have my health, after a year of fighting with back misalignment from a treadmill….”

Thanksgiving and praise have been on my heart for a few weeks; I wanted to make a list of what I was thankful for to praise God for all He has given me. And then I found this blog I started two years ago.

I’m still thankful for everything on the list. I am so thankful that I just bought a house, a tremendous blessing – one that still shocks me. I am blessed to have a mother who calls to ask me a million and two questions about boys and a dad who would rather crash his car into a ditch than talk about boys, but who will talk to me about insurance and oil for my car. I’m thankful for a sister who will help me shop when I HATE IT and who is a fearless visionary and a brother-in-law who loves to smoke and grill barbecue and is an amazing servant leader. I’m thankful that I have a niece and nephew who teach me how to enjoy EVERY SINGLE THING about life. I’m thankful for a brother, a philosopher at heart who loves people and desires for them to grow closer to Jesus. I’m thankful for a sister-in-law who is like me in many respects and whose addition to the family completed and perfected it. I’m thankful that I can talk about literature with my seniors when I teach AP Lit. I could go on and on.

But, most of all, I am thankful for Jesus. I am so thankful that God put on human flesh, came to the earth He created, and lived a life so revolutionary, full of integrity, wisdom, and power so that I, and all of humanity, would have a blueprint for radical Christian living. I am so thankful that He obeyed the Father to his own death so that I can live an abundant life here on earth and I can spend the rest of my existence praising and communing with Him. I’m thankful that He is ALWAYS here with me – He is faithful and true. I’m thankful that He saw fit to create me, ordain my calling, and speak life and vision over that calling. I am thankful that I get to call Him Savior and Friend, because that’s what He has called me.

The Bible is full of outpouring of praise for our Lord. We are to enter into His courts with praise and His praise is to continually be on our lips. He speaks His peace over our lives so that we can praise Him for everything He is to our souls – rest, peace, life, and joy. He is the giver of every good gift, even trials. In Him we live and move and have our being.   He is our sustainer.

Give God praise today for EVERYTHING in your life. As you give Him praise daily, watch how He weaves every single occurrence in your life together for your good and the world’s betterment.

Jesus, I admit that I have not praised you with my whole being. I give you praise now for Who You are. I love you. Give me the strength to praise when I don’t have it and the words to praise when they fail me. I recognize that You are my Creator and Sustainer. I thank you for those never-changing constants. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– Heather Carey

We serve a God who creates something from nothing. We worship a God who gives life to a crippled man’s dead legs. We serve and worship a God who will restore YOUR dead, broken life. Instantly. From nothing. Begin today to look to Him, EXPECTING to receive something and watch how your life will transform.

Death to Life

“And he began to give them his attention, EXPECTING to receive something.” Acts 3:5 In Acts 3, a man, over forty years old, is being carried like an infant into the gates of Jerusalem during “rush hour”, the time when everyone filed into the city for prayer. Everybody knows him, so the sight of a grown man being carried is no surprise; the man had been “…lame from his mother’s womb” and was “more than forty years old.” This man’s crippled state was all he had ever known – he was used to being carried and “begging for alms…every day.” The crowd didn’t even bother to look at him fully – they had gotten used to him begging daily in the heat of the day amid donkeys braying, children crying, vendors shouting, and dust flying. The crowds and the man woke up this day, like every other day, focused on putting one step in front of the other, their minds focused on survival. Perhaps prayer in the ninth hour had become routine as had seeing the crippled man. Maybe the crippled man even begged halfheartedly, expecting nothing from others because he did not expect his situation to change. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, commented on the human condition by writing in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Although this scene in Acts occurred over two thousand years ago, we still see it occur in our daily lives, especially in America. Here’s proof: #1: The man was desensitized to his crippled condition and expected nothing more from his life than what his reality afforded him. How many people, crippled by sin, anxiety, fear, despair, and hopelessness, look down at the circumstances of their perceived reality? How many people tread water, just barely existing, much less surviving and thriving in their own lives?? #2: The crowd had grown so used to the man’s condition that they didn’t perceive it as abnormal. His crippled state had become his normal state. How many of us, on our way to prayer or church or connect group or serving the homeless or to an overseas mission trip miss the crippled condition of the people right in front of us? Quite a bleak portrait, right? The story, in Acts and in our lives, doesn’t end there. “BUT Peter, along with John, FIXED HIS GAZE on [the crippled man] and said, “Look at us!” Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, started staring at the crippled man and would not look away. But, even with somebody as intense as Peter staring him down, the man didn’t look up until Peter yelled at him to look. He was so accustomed to people overlooking him that he didn’t RECOGNIZE or IDENTIFY special acknowledgment. “And [the crippled man] BEGAN to give them his attention, EXPECTING to receive something from them.” Finally, he looked up, expecting to receive some money, but…. “…Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!’ And SEIZING [the crippled man] by the right hand, [Peter] raised him up; and IMMEDIATELY his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap [the healed man] stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple WITH them, walking and leaping and praising God.” Jesus. The life-giving, soul-cleansing, beautiful, HEALING power of the name of Jesus. This man expected only money, but Jesus HEALED him, a man over forty who had been living with this condition since birth, through Peter. How many of us, born with the cancer of sin sucking at our souls, have experienced the healing power of Jesus? How many of us look to Him only for the cares of the day with prayers like “Bless this food to our bodies” and “Lord Jesus, help me through this day” when we are drowning in doubt, fettered in fear, and destroyed by discouragement? Jesus is FIXING HIS GAZE on us, maybe through a friend or a pastor or the reading of His word so that He can HEAL you from your chronic brokenness. One of the missions of Jesus’ life was “that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) This man’s healing was the result of Jesus creating something from nothing, just like He did at Creation. This is what God does. He replaces death with LIFE and nothing with SOMETHING. Romans 4:17 claims that we serve a “…God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” Romans 6:13 says, “Surrender your very selves to God as living men who have risen from the dead.” Ezekiel 37:5, 6 says, “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 6 I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’” Ezekiel 36:26 says, “…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” We serve and worship a God who makes dead things live. We serve a God who creates something from nothing. We worship a God who gives life to a crippled man’s dead legs. We serve and worship a God who will restore YOUR dead, broken life. Instantly. From nothing. Begin today to look to Him, EXPECTING to receive something and watch how your life will transform.

-Heather Carey

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The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

The bearded hunter, wrapped and smothered in heavy wool garments, trudges through knee-deep drifts of snow, desperately searching and seeking to shoot a deer to feed his family.  The deer is elusive, hiding in crevices of rock or in bands of trees.  Because of his desperate need, the man hunts.  Yet still the deer hides.

The heart is a lonely hunter.   Lonely, adrift in this freezing, brutal, shell of a world.  But our hearts seek something even more elusive than the deer.  Our hearts seek fulfillment.

In 2014, our hearts assume a different dynamic than the literal.  The heart is the center of our soul, the essence of our physical and spiritual life.  Picture a young woman hunting for something to appease the hollowness left by deficiencies in her “desperately sick” heart.  She doesn’t know Jesus – doesn’t even know who He is.  So, because Scripture is still true whether she believes it or not, her “desperately sick” heart goes hunting for fulfillment – in boys, in booze, in a bong, in bulimia.  She doesn’t even know that she can’t trust her heart because she doesn’t know just how sick she is.  She doesn’t know about sin and she doesn’t know about how Jesus came to this world, dragged on human flesh, and was brutally crucified so that her heart could be clean.  So she hunts, she prowls, she lurks, she manipulates, and she aches – for fulfillment.  And when fulfillment doesn’t come in, anything she catches, she despairs.

God is concerned with our hearts because our hearts define us.  He tells us to circumcise (cut away) sin from our hearts and “watch over our hearts with diligence” because “from [the heart] flows the springs of life.”

Jesus wants to be the object that we hunt for fulfillment because He knows that “all our springs of joy are in [Him].”  Jesus is the lover of our hearts and souls.  He pursues and woos us with a love that will last FOREVER.  We don’t even need to seek and hunt for Him because He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”  He also says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Jesus doesn’t need to be hunted, bargained for, or manipulated.  He’s already standing in front of you, waiting for you to open your arms to Him.  He doesn’t require you to slosh through the mounds of wintry snow in your heart or cut through weeds and brush of self-doubt and betrayal to get to Him.  All you have to do is surrender.  Surrender to His love, His ways, and His plan.  We, as frail humanity, make surrender more difficult than it is.  We wrestle with our desires and our hungers and fight for our existence when infinite peace and mercy await us in Jesus.

Jesus will never stop hunting for you.  Surrender your heart, your center, and your soul to Jesus, the One who pines after you endlessly.  Bask in the glory of His plan and marvel that you are, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…”  Let your heart come home from the hunt.  Let it come home to the warmth of His embrace.

 

Revelation 3:20

Jeremiah 17:9

Psalm 87:7

Matthew 7:7

I Peter 2:9

 

-Heather C

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On Behalf of the Expectant

“God, why has this happened to me again?”

I pushed open my front door and slammed myself onto one of the steps directly inside my foyer.  I used those steps as one of my holy of holies, a sacred place in my home where I cried out to God in agony, fear, and pain.  Tonight, He heard a cry that was always on repeat in my battered, bruised soul – the cry of my broken heart.  I had been rejected by yet another guy and was raw with anguish.

I sat on those steps, my entire body taut with emotion and, in between sobs, I cried out for a word from Him.  “Lord,” I said.  “ You have to speak to me.  Right now.  You must encourage my heart.”

My Charles Stanley Study Bible fell open to a page where Stanley explains his Life Principle 14.  This is what my burning, swollen eyes saw:  GOD ACTS ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHO WAIT FOR HIM.  New sobs racked my frame as I bent over, my head in my hands and my Bible on the step.

God spoke to me that night in April as clearly as you can read this blog.  He told me that He was working on my behalf in my singleness.  But the way that His actions on my behalf will come to pass will not be what I expect.

I was bullied as a child, so I retreated into books.  I read voraciously.  I especially loved to read of strong young women who were swept up in the arms of equally strong young men who just could NOT stay away from the young women’s beauty.  I longed for that day to come in my life and I dreamed that the day would be awash with blushes and soft blues as the breeze blew tendrils of my dark hair away from my face and my eyes met his.

But that may not be what it looks like.  I’ve had my mental pictures, my expectations, of what that one day will look like.

Expectations.   Our humanity can rise or fall under the weight of our human expectation.  We have expectations for EVERYTHING – how we think we’re supposed to look and act or how certain life circumstances will occur.  The key to disappointment in that sentence is “we think”.  Our thoughts and expectations are so soiled by our carnality that we CANNOT trust their accuracy.  And, if you’ve been a disciple of Christ for any length of time, you know that God does not operate according to our human expectation – He operates in His own time and manner.

Our soul was infused at creation by God with expectation.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “11 He has made everything [a]appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, [b]yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”  He set eternity in all of our hearts when He created humanity in the Garden of Eden, yet He makes everything appropriate in its time.  God clearly communicates this principle in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways  My ways,” declares the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Many people make the mistake of confusing God’s promise and His timing for the promise.  Many people are waiting on God to fulfill longings and desires that were placed in them by a loving Creator who WILL fulfill the desire in HIS way and in HIS time.  You could be waiting for a job, a spouse, a child, a healing, or deliverance, but don’t get God’s promise confused with your expectation.

Abraham was promised by God that a nation would come from him, then waited 25 years for God to fulfill it.  David was anointed king of Israel by Samuel while still a teenager, then waited fifteen years for God to bring about his anointing.  Joseph dreamed of his future greatness while still a teenager, then waited fourteen years until those dreams came true.  One of the characteristics of God’s workings with us is waiting.  If you don’t understand this principle, you’ll get disillusioned and discouraged.  Don’t let your expectation of timing cloud God’s timetable.  Wait for Him.

These men probably did not “expect” their respective promises to unfold the way God chose.  Joseph was enslaved, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned, then promoted.  He probably did NOT expect that to be the pathway to greatness.  David was hunted by Saul, lived in caves, and often fought violent battles before becoming king.  The psalms he wrote during this time tell us that he did not expect nor enjoy such hardship, but He trusted God’s heart.  Abraham waited and waited and waited and waited, until he and Sarah were way past childbearing age, before God’s promise was fulfilled through the birth of Isaac.

Jeremiah understood the frailty of man’s expectations vs. God’s way when he said, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”  Solomon understood it when he wrote in Proverbs 20:24:  “Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way?”

Our expectation is to be in God and God alone and in His ways and His time.  We do not know what is beneficial for our souls, but the God of the universe, who created us with eternity in our hearts, does.  Trust Him with ALL of your expectations for EVERYTHING and watch the way He works.

-Heather C

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Faithful and True

Revelation 19:11 says that the apostle John, “saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” The one sitting on the horse is Jesus in all of His resurrected glory. A little later, in Revelation 21, Jesus says these words: Then He (Jesus) who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me (John), “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

 

Faithful and True.

True and Faithful.

 

Words that so beautifully encapsulate the steadfast love of our Savior.

He is faithful.

Always.

He is true.

Always.

We never, ever need worry about where He stands with us, how He feels about us, or His intentions toward us because they are constantly true and faithful.

Some of you may have faced situations, circumstances, and obstacles in your life that you could NOT make sense of. Maybe, at a young age, you’ve suffered through the intense pain of your parents divorcing. Maybe neither of your parents are speaking to each other or maybe they’re using you as a pawn to get at the other one and you’re left picking up the emotional pieces of your life. You wonder where God is, lash out at Him, or defiantly turn from Him, not able to accept that a God who is supposed to love you could allow such hardship in your life.

Maybe you’ve been abandoned. I mean, completely, totally abandoned by somebody. Maybe a boyfriend left you right when you needed him the most and you, again, were left to pick up the emotional pieces. Maybe you deliberately turned from Him and ran the other direction, choosing a lifestyle of alcohol, drugs, sex, or partying to numb the pain. All the while, Jesus, He Who is Faithful and True, is watching, waiting, pleading.

A few years ago, I struggled through what was one the most difficult times in my life. I broke up with somebody and in one night lost everything. I lost him and my group of friends and was plunged into darkness. I know my tendency to withdraw from people, so I sought people out to be with me during that time, but to no avail. I was flat on my face before God, begging Him for a reprieve and wanting to turn from Him, but I was constantly drawn back by His love. Even when we turn from His love, He still loves us. He is forever faithful and true, constantly, silently calling us to His side…

God loves us when we push Him away and He loves us when we draw Him close. He is always standing there, offering His love.

Always.

Always.

Always.

He defined faithful and true and will embody those characteristics even when we don’t. Why? Just listen to Him… “Write. For these words are faithful and true.”

 

-Heather C

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Fearless Like Amos

I wish I were more like Amos. Amos, God’s prophet from the Old Testament who wrote a book that bears his name. Amos, the man who did not claim to be a prophet, saying, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. BUT the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel.’” So Amos did. He just did. He obeyed the Lord and immediately left his profession to prophesy to the nation of Israel.

Amos was called to prophesy during a time of great economic prosperity. But, God saw the heart of the people and said in Amos 6:1-7: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria…Those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches…yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.” The Israelites were lazy in their luxury and had “turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.” God was horrified at the social injustice of their laziness, which sounds identical to American society today. God has blessed our nation because of previous generations’ unrelenting faith and trust in Him and has blessed our society materially, socially, and politically. But, subsequent generations have dissented from God’s statutes and judgments and have languished in the same luxury of the Israelites. We live in an age of immediate gratification and material blessing so immense that its immensity has drowned out awareness to social injustice like sex trafficking and dulled spiritual sensitivity to moral issues like abortion and differing views of sexuality.

Material blessing is just that – a blessing. But, when people start ignoring God’s statutes that were put in place for our spiritual, mental, and emotional health, God gets angry.

God sent Amos to tell his culture, “I loathe the arrogance of Jacob…I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. The high places of Isaac will be desolated and the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste…”

A plumb line ensures the straightness of a wall; builders laying brick stretch a line across the top of where the bricks are supposed to go to ensure that the wall is level, which is critical to the structural health of a building. The plumb line measures and ensures that the brick stays within the structures and confines of the wall. God was using a plumb line to carefully evaluate and measure the hearts and motives of the Israelites and the same is true today. But, God’s plumb line is for our good and benefit, not some whip to torture us. He knows our weakness and frailty BECAUSE HE CREATED US and knows the emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial boundaries in which we operate at our most healthy capacity. God is using that same plumb line of His statues to evaluate the hearts and motives of Americans – make no mistake, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and He rules over American culture. We are under His jurisdiction and protection and His evaluation will prove to be accurate in the end. Will your motives be judged pure? Will mine?

Who will be an Amos today? He was to prophesy against a society that widely ignored his message, but he prophesied anyway. Who will rise up against the sin, perversion, and spiritual laziness of our culture to declare the judgments of God in the face of its own apathy?

God’s statutes are for our health, safety, peace, and joy. Will you declare that message to your friends? Will you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might AND love your neighbor as yourself? Will you not be jealous of your friends? Will you not worship anything else in your life over God? Will you declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life by your actions and words? Will you be the love of Jesus to your sphere of influence that desperately needs to hear YOUR story of how Jesus saved you?

Charles Stanley says about Amos, “How many of us today have the mighty spirit of Amos? How many boldly face a hostile world and faithfully proclaim the truth of the Lord? How many obey, regardless of the repercussions?” Will you be an Amos to yourself, declaring truth even when you don’t want to hear or obey? Will you stand up with the “mighty spirit” of Amos to your sphere of influence, declaring the holiness and love of God? Our culture needs YOU and your witness, sweet girl. Stand and live in the mighty spirit of Amos…

-Heather C

 

 

Thief

Comfort Is A Thief

You try to adjust the thermostat to be comfortable. You buy jeans because they’re comfortable. You try to arrange your class schedule with the easiest classes at the best times because you want to be comfortable. We love and idolize comfort, especially in America where we are blessed to have the abundant resources to create our own comfort. But, here’s my question: why?

Does Jesus call us to prize comfort as His disciples? No. He actually tells us gently, but emphatically, that our lives will NOT be comfortable if we are pursuing His kingdom. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24, “…If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” These verses have been quoted again and again, but really think and meditate on them. What is Christ saying to your heart about comfort? Don’t dismiss the verses because we don’t carry around literal crosses in 2013 – meditate on what the cross is metaphorically for you. Christ says that we will carry that heavy, splintered wooden “cross” daily. This definition of discipleship from our Lord demolishes the idolization of comfort.

I believe that we as an American church have rationalized these verses and the brief conversation that Jesus had with the rich young ruler so that we can include our sense of comfort. Jesus’ “conversation” with this young ruler is brief, but profound. Jesus says, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The young man walked away. While researching this passage, I came across this explanation of it by the editors of Bible Gateway, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German minister martyred by the Nazis, pointed out in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, the difference between us and the rich man in the story is that Jesus stood before him and did not allow him to reinterpret His words in a more convenient manner. Bonhoeffer claims that the man’s honesty in rejecting Jesus’ command was better than the disobedience that pretends to be obedience today.”

Dang.

This message against comfort is unrelenting because idolizing comfort ROBS us of God’s perfect, exhilarating, adventure for our lives and the rich blessing that He wishes to bestow on His faithful children.

In January of this year, I evaluated my own comfortable life. I had been working at the same school and living in the same apartment for nine years, going to the same church for around eight years, and I was turning 34 in April. Was this really what I wanted for my life? My answer was, “No.” Cut to a few months later and me pouring my heart out to God, begging that His shekinah cloud of glory would go before me into Dallas, Texas, confirming or denying the pull of His Spirit to relocate. God said, “Go.” He said it through the church, through songs, through family, and through friends. He finally, definitively, and completely confirmed it through His Word as I was reading Deuteronomy 1:6-8 when He said, …”You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country…See, I have placed the land before you; GO IN and POSSESS THE LAND…” God couldn’t have been more clear. So, I resigned my job, sold all of my furniture, and left for Dallas on June 26, 2013. All throughout the months of April, May, and June, when I had resigned and was in the process of selling everything, I faced the taunts and questions of Satan. I did NOT have a job when I left for Dallas, but God’s call was so clear that I struck out in faith in the vein of my spiritual forefather, Abraham. And, TWO DAYS after my feet touched Texas soil I got a job. The blessing followed the action. If I had been wedded to the idol of comfort, I never would have followed the voice of God in faith. But, I listened to the Spirit and obeyed; God was pleased and has blessed me IMMENSELY in the wake of that decision. I get to live in the same city as my family, watch my niece and nephew grow up, serve and work in a church that is the living embodiment of the church in Acts, and get to work in a job that I love with a future that is glowing with hope because of the constant, steady light that is my Lord and my God. The choice wasn’t comfortable, but it was glorious.

I do not write this to glorify myself, but to give ALL praise and ALL glory to a God that calls us higher and deeper than we EVER dare dream for ourselves. David prays in 2 Samuel 7:21, “For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know. For this reason You are great, O Lord God; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” I know how he feels. I had no idea that I would be living this life a year ago, but God surpassed ANY dream or hope I had for myself because He perfects that which concerns us if we abandon EVERYTHING for His call.

Why are we always striving for comfort when most of our life is already uncomfortable? Why not settle into the discomfort and call it the norm? Experience the beauty of TOTAL surrender to a God who says in Hosea 2:14, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. …I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord.” Leap out in faith and let the Lord catch you and take you farther than you can ever imagine.

-Heather C.

Wherever you go

“I Have Been With You Wherever You Have Gone”

If you love somebody, you’re constantly wanting to do stuff for them.  You want to get them cute gifts, leave notes on their car, text them funny pictures or cute little quotes all day.  You want to Skype or Facetime so you can see the reaction on their face when you tell a funny joke.  What drives that behavior?  That person is constantly on your mind, right? 

David felt this way about God.  If you read I and II Samuel, you’ll read David’s story.  He was anointed to be king of Israel while still a teenager, then killed Goliath, served in King Saul’s court, was chased by Saul, lived in the caves and hills of Israel as a fugitive, pretended to be insane to escape capture, joined the Philistine army to survive – the list continues.  David didn’t become king of ALL of Israel until he was 36 years old, a good two decades after God had promised him the kingship.  But, throughout all of I, II Samuel, and the Psalms, you see David praising the God he knew so intimately.  David poured his heart out to God in grief, anguish, suffering, and despair.  He boldly asked God to destroy his enemies and vindicate his name before them.  He told God when he was broken and weary.  He asked God’s opinion before decisions in his life and then did exactly what God said.  He danced before the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, with all his might.  He knew God intimately, loved Him passionately, so much so that God called him “a man after my own heart”.

When David finally became king, he wanted to give God a gift, just like we’d want to surprise someone that we care about.  David felt guilty because he lived in a palace, but the Lord dwelt in a tent, so he wanted to build the Lord a temple

Listen to what God did.  He knew David’s heart and appreciated what David wanted to do for Him, but, He said in II Samuel 7, “…I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent…did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’  Now…thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel.  I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth…Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.’”  God loved and knew David’s heart so intimately that, instead of letting David build Him a house, He established David’s throne forever through Jesus Christ. 

Wow.  God loves us so much.  So, so much.  He loves us deeply and longs for a relationship with us, just like you might long for a friendship or romantic relationship.  Meditate on that for a minute.  God longs to have a relationship with you like He did with David —  He longs to be your comfort, your Friend, your Provider, your Deliverer, your confidante, and your one true love.   He wants so much to be our everything because He knows that His plan for us is the best and that only He can provide for us adequately. 

God loves you, sweet girl, and He longs to surprise you with special gifts just like He did with David.  He longs to love and know you intimately and deeply in a bond that is steady and can never be broken.  Let Him surprise You with His love all day, every day, for the rest of your life!

-Heather C.