Weekend Walk, 09/23/2011

Hiding the Word:

Are you in a season right now—or are you even just having one of those days—-where you need the encouragement to keep going, to not give up and to persevere even in waiting on God?  I have a verse for you this week!

“Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord”

Psalm 31:24

Maybe you could use some heart-strengthening at the moment.  This verse is my prayer for you this week.  And, to be honest, I’m praying for a little of that for myself, too!

I hope you enjoy meditating on this verse through the upcoming week or find a verse of your own!

Weekend Rerun:

Traveling Companions, Originally Published 04/03/2011

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Quick! Close the Curtains, Turn out the Lights and Hide!

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her third chapter: “Take a Load Off”

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“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

I hadn’t invited her over.  It was a busy day with a lengthy to-do list and I had no time for visitors.

Yet, my best friend in the whole wide world unexpectedly appeared on my doorstep in the middle of the day and she brought some friends with her.

My first impulse was to hit the light switch and hover in the back of my house in the dim light, hoping she thought I wasn’t home.

But I didn’t.  I scooped up the laundry from my couch and dumped it on my bed, closing the bedroom door behind me. Glancing in the mirror, I smoothed back my hair and threw open the front door, pasting a welcoming smile on my face.

Hey!  What a surprise! Come in!  Welcome, welcome.  Have a seat.  I’ll be with you in a minute.

The sound of the dryer finishing a load cut through the small talk.  I meant to get my guests something to drink and scan the fridge for some lunch prospects.  I meant to.  But, I took a detour to the laundry room to switch over the clothes.

Then the phone rang.  I answered it and made apologetic faces at the visitors while ironing out the details for an upcoming church program with the lady on the other end of the line.

Hanging up the phone, I remembered that I had to get dinner in the crockpot right away or the 6 hours my food was supposed to spend on low heat would end up being 3 hours on high or maybe even 15 minutes in the microwave.

So, I shouted out, “What brings you here today?  What’s new with you?” from the kitchen as I chopped carrots and celery.  Then I made occasional sounds of mild interest and attention, (mmmm hmmmm,  Oh, I see, Wow) while my very dearest and best friend in the whole wide world told me what was on her mind.

Seeing my to-do list on the counter, I entered the living room and gave verbal cues to my friend that it was now time to go.

Well, it was great to see you.  I’m so glad you could stop by for this little chat.  Maybe I’ll call you later this week and we’ll schedule time to get together.

She quickly caught on and stood up to go.  The visit ended, just like that………………………….

Now, don’t cancel your plans to visit with me.  While hospitality certainly isn’t my spiritual gift, I’m not as rude as that made-up story would suggest.

Still, does it amaze you how Abraham reacted when God showed up at his tent door unexpectedly with two friends in the heat of the day?  God didn’t even call first!

When Abraham saw the three surprise visitors headed his way, he didn’t run inside his tent, hang a sign on the door that read “Out to Lunch” and then shut the flaps, hoping they’d think he wasn’t home.

No, he “hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground” (Genesis 18:2).

Then, he immediately and without complaint abandoned his plans for the day and made their comfort his sole focus.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant” (Genesis 18:3-5).

He showed hospitality to God.

Abraham begged the Lord to “not pass your servant by.”  And God didn’t.  Instead, He rested in that place.  Rather than delivering a divine message and then disappearing, He sat in the shade of the tree, eating and chatting with Abraham.

That’s right.  God and Abraham “hung out.”

And when the visit was over, the Lord, having been shown hospitality, shared with Abraham the plan for Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction.  This was not the purpose of the visit, but it was a divine revelation borne out of intimate fellowship with God.

While we have the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives continually, still there are moments when He shows up in clear and powerful ways in the middle of our busyness.

He appears at the tent of our heart.  He inquires if we’re home, if we’re willing to spend time with Him.

Do we tell Him to come back tomorrow because we’ve already fulfilled our quiet time quota for the day?  Or do we usher Him into the center of our hearts and show Him hospitality?

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When He comes to you in the heat of the day, do you bow before Him, offer Him the refreshment of your hospitality, and give of your possessions?  Do you aim to serve?  Then don’t be surprised if God lingers.  Don’t be surprised if He communicates with  you as with a privileged friend.”

I don’t know about you, but I echo Abraham’s prayer that God will “not pass your servant by.”  Oh, how I long for friendship with God.

But, why should He linger with us if we make it clear by our actions that He’s not welcome?

When He asks to spend time with you, turn off the TV.  The next time hubby watches the kids, don’t hit the shops, grab your Bible and journal and visit a park instead.  Or grab a cup of coffee (or in my case a scoop of ice cream) together—yes, go on a date with God.

Make it clear to Him, the best and dearest Friend you’ll ever have, that He is welcome in your life—not for what He does for you or because He fulfills your needs or fixes your problems—but because of who He is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

What about me?

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3

Last week, I needed to emphasize a life lesson and a character issue with my oldest daughter.  Leaning in close to her, nose to nose, I cradled her chin gently in my hand and met her gaze.   Her face was reddened by anger, her fists clenched tightly at her side, her body tense.  And I began with these whispered words, “I love you.”

Behind her, my youngest baby girl stood watching us intently.  When she heard my first words to oldest sister, my tiny one began bouncing up and down in excited anticipation.  With the limited vocabulary of “Mama, mama, mama!!” and her little dance, I knew what she meant.  She was saying, “Me next, Mom!  My turn!!!  What about me?  Do you love me, too?  Tell me you love me, too!”

Have you ever been the “other child” jumping up and down before God, trying to attract His attention?  Have you listened to a friend testify to the miracle God did for her and cried out, “Me next, God!”?  Have you sat silently in the corner of the small group room, listening to others talk about how God spoke to them, how He gave them this verse, how He told them to do something and wondered exactly what God’s voice sounded like?  Because you don’t know if you’ve ever even heard it.  So, you sit at your table with your Bible and journal and pen and say, “Okay, God, let’s get this You speaking to me thing started!”  And you read God’s Word.  And that’s it.  No lightning strikes or neon signs for you.

Then you ask
What about me, God?
I know You “so loved the world,” but do You love me?
I know You “know the plans” You have for people, but do You have a plan for me?
I know You are “The God Who Sees,” but do You ever see me, one tiny person on this planet of people?

There are those times, even for those of us who have walked with God for decades, when we hear silence from heaven and our prayers, heartfelt and constant as they are, remain seemingly unanswered.  We’ve checked our hearts; it’s not sin blocking God from our view.  And so we dance for Him, we wave our hands at heaven, we remain on our knees a little longer, we press in a little closer—all so that He will get personal with us.  Not general love.  Specific love.  Not universal plans.  Personal plans.  Not just words on a page.  A message designed for us.

When I read the account of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, I wonder if Sarah was doing her own jig before God and asking “What about me?”  Walk through this story with me and you’ll see what I mean.

In Genesis 15, God came to Abraham and promised him a flesh-and-blood heir and offspring as numerous as the innumerable stars in the sky (Genesis 15:4-5).  But God was silent about Sarah.  As far as the promise stood, Abraham could have fathered the child of promise through anyone.  From Sarah’s perspective, Abraham was the chosen and anointed one and she was the barren wife standing in the way.

In Genesis 16, moved by a desire to see God’s promise fulfilled, Sarah steps aside, asks Abraham to marry her maidservant Hagar and he does.  When Hagar, so easily pregnant while Sarah had spent decades with negative pregnancy tests, began to mock her mistress, Sarah threw her out.  Forget this surrogate motherhood thing.  Sarah decided no heir was better than an upstart maidservant with a baby on her hip.

There in the wilderness on the way back to Egypt, God appears to Hagar.  He tells her to name this son Ishmael and adds, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count” (Genesis 16:10).

Can you imagine what Hagar’s homecoming reception must have been like for Sarah?  She stood by while Hagar announced that not only was she carrying Abraham’s child, but that it would be a son and his name was picked out by God and he was promised numerous descendants.

Sounds like the answer to the promise to me.  It probably sounded that way to Sarah, too.  God appeared to Abraham and blessed him.  God appeared to Hagar, the Egyptian slave girl, and blessed her.  Sarah stood in the corner appearing overlooked and pushed aside.

In Genesis 17, God reappears to Abraham and clarifies the promise, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her” (Genesis 17:16).

I know you’re thinking, “It’s about time” because I certainly am!  The funny thing is, Abraham didn’t seem to bother telling Sarah anything about this.  He kept this astounding promise to himself while she was still waiting to be noticed.

Finally, in Genesis 18, the Lord personally visited Abraham’s camp and asked one important question before making any more statements of promise—“Where is your wife Sarah?”  This was no message just for Abraham.  This was no promise meant for everyone other than Sarah.  No, God called out her name to get her attention, to make sure she was listening at the flaps of her tent before He said anything else.  Then, once He knew she was poised to hear, He gave the promise, spoken for her benefit—“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

She laughed!  It seemed unbelievable that God could include her in this promise, a promise so outside the realm of physical possibility. If Abraham had told her about God’s latest visit to him, maybe Sarah would have been prepared for this, but instead she was surprised, even taken off guard and skeptical.  After all this time, it must have seemed like God’s promises were for everyone but her, that He appeared to others but not to her, and that He had a plan for everyone except Sarah.

And yet God had a plan for her, a blessing for her, a message just for her.

He does for you, as well.  Heaven might seem silent at the moment.  You may see God at work in the lives of others and feel His absence in your own circumstances.  God, however, is a personal God, with a plan, a blessing, a message  just for you.  “Though it linger, wait for it;  it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).


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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Nothing Too Difficult

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Am I the One, Lord?

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”  2 Cor. 13:15

Twelve disciples, one Savior, reclined and relaxed, celebrating Passover together in an Upper Room.  Thirteen share in a meal of remembrance that they would always remember and that we continue to remember.   The Last Supper.  Communion.  “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Together they have eaten and laughed, declared “For His mercy endures forever” and sung hymns in worship.  They are jovial, anticipatory, expecting Christ’s triumph in Jerusalem.

Jesus leans in, “While they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me’ (Matthew 26:21, NLT).

Silence.  Stillness.  Seriousness.

If Jesus said this at the end of a church service today and the pianist played the quiet first notes of the closing hymn, many of us would be nudging our neighbor or making concerted efforts NOT to stare at the person across the room.  (Or, perhaps, making lunch plans and quieting the rumbles in our stomachs. )  It’s you, it’s you, it’s you—we might think.  That sermon is for you!  That heaviness of the Holy Spirit—it’s for you!  I’ve seen your sin.   I know your need to repent.

And yet, 12 disciples, “greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, ‘Am I the one, Lord?'” (Matthew 26:22, NLT).

Am I the one, Lord?

This seeking is our salvation.  We ask the dangerous question and we allow the Holy Spirit to turn over our hearts and reveal our own true need to be at the altar and lay it down.  Or the Holy Spirit searches, finds purity of heart, and invites us to pray for those around us still struggling.

It’s our complacency and satisfaction with our spiritual dwelling place that leads to our downfall.  It’s when we stake our claim to land and decide we’ve traveled enough in this road to Christ that we edge our way to danger.  I’m pure enough.  Good enough.  I’m not lukewarm.  I’ve conquered the “big” sins.  I read my Bible.  I pray.  I’m close to God.  I have a strong ministry.

I’m good.  Right here, in this place, I’m good here.

But this journey to Christ is ongoing.  As long as we are alive on this planet, we are imperfect creatures in need of an ever-closer intimacy with our Savior.

This moving to Christ requires moving away from something else.  It’s a necessity of the road.   In order to go forward, we must leave something behind.

That was true for Israel.  God called them to Canaan when He beckoned Abram out of Mesopotamia and its many gods and idols.  God called them back to the Promised Land when He led them out of Egypt and they left slavery for freedom.

They walked towards promise, but it involved rejection—rejecting the old definition of “normal.”  It was “normal” for those in Abram’s home town to pray to statues and worship bits of stone and wood.  It was “normal” in Egypt for male babies to be slaughtered simply for population control.

It’s “normal” for us to be too busy for God, to lose it with our kids, to be selfish, to feel jealousy, to cheat, to lie, to overindulge , to worry, to rebel, to gossip. . .  We think these sins are acceptable because everyone does them and no one can be perfect.

Yet, God calls us out of “normal” and into radical.  He doesn’t ask us the hard questions to shame us or humiliate us.  He does it to draw us close to Him so that we are “being transformed . . .from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV).

Eugene Peterson wrote, “Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light.  It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.”

Peter sat at that Passover table and asked the dangerous question, “Am I the one, Lord?”  He allowed the searching of his heart.  It wasn’t him.  Eleven of those at the table endured their souls being turned over and could say that they were innocent of this betrayal.

Yet, then they stopped asking.  That’s our weakness, too.   When we stop asking the Holy Spirit to search us, when we become complacent and self-assured, it’s when we will betray.

Like Peter.  Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him.  “Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crowd, you will deny Me three times.’  Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’  And so said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:33-35, NKJV).

But, he was wrong.  Jesus arrested.  Jesus taken away in chains.  Jesus bullied, beaten, spat on, and mocked.  Peter in the courtyard answering the questioning accusations of others by the fire.  “I never knew the fellow.  I wasn’t one of his disciples.  I didn’t follow Him.”

He stumbled into betrayal because he was complacent.  Peter thought he knew what was in his heart, that he was right with God and strong in his faith.  So, he stopped asking, “Am I the one, Lord?” and started saying, “Not I.”

And so we must ask and keep on asking, “Search my heart, search my soul.  There is nothing else that I want more.  Shine Your light and show Your face.  In my life, Lord, have Your way, have Your way” (Hillsong United).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Traveling Companions

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Faith in the Fog

The other night, I had to drive through fog down unfamiliar, windy, dark roads.  Talk about a frightening experience!  I started out with my hands gripped tightly to the steering wheel (both hands, of course), sitting straight up instead of relaxing into the back of my chair, and my eyes squinting to see as far ahead as possible.  My whole body was tensely focused on seeing ahead, and I was inevitably frustrated and somewhat anxious because there wasn’t really that much I could see.  It was just haze and darkness.

But, I learned something that night.  Things were a whole lot easier when I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t see and redirected my attention to what I could see.  I slowed down and stopped squinting to see what was ahead.  It wasn’t easy to retrain my eyes, but I shifted my gaze to the point right ahead of my car, where my lights shone, and not the distant darkness.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my life is a foggy night and I’m trying to navigate a windy and unfamiliar path.  This frustrates me because I like to have the whole plan when I undertake something.  I’m also a question asker.  When I start a project, I want to know: What exactly is the final product supposed to look like?  What are the steps I need to go through to get there?  How long is this going to take?  What are the pitfalls?  What happens when it’s over?  Has anyone else done this before?  Will I get a blessing at the end of all this?

I’m no Abraham who, “when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8, NIV).

Oh no, I’m more of the “God, I’ll go when you tell me where, when, what, how, and why” kind of person.  That makes the faith walk hard for me.

I’m always straining and squinting to see what’s ahead in the darkness.

I’m so focused on what I can’t see that I miss out on what’s visible right now.

I’m paralyzed and unable to move forward because the unknown seems so treacherous.

In my quiet times this week, I came across this verse,“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed” (Proverbs 29:18, MSG).

This is one of those verses that steps on my toes a bit and calls me to account.  It asks me to put aside how I naturally react to things and make some tough changes so I can become more like Christ.  It cuts deep into my heart and reveals some of my hidden doubts and fears.

I wrote in my journal, “God, this is so true of me.  I feel like I need to be ‘in on’ what You’re doing in order to be encouraged and sure-footed.  Please help me to attend to what you reveal and not worry about what You’re doing that I can’t see.”

It’s hard to be content with just what He has revealed.  I’m easily discouraged because I don’t see the results of my obedience and all the effort I’m making in the here and now seems useless and unrewarded.  When I don’t know what’s ahead of me, I so quickly begin to worry about the details of the future.  What if there’s an obstacle I haven’t considered?  What if there’s a curve in the road that I can’t see?

It makes me think of Paul, who stood before King Agrippa and gave an account of his life and ministry.  In that testimony, Paul says, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19, NIV).  When Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus years earlier, he didn’t give Paul a detailed outline of his future life of ministry.  God didn’t describe the shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonments Paul would endure, but He also didn’t tell him about the salvations, the travels to faraway lands where no one had ever taken the gospel, or how many of his letters would end up in the Bible.

Instead, God’s initial call for the apostle was so basic, so simple, and so lacking in details.  God told him, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6, NIV).  At this point, Paul (at that point still called Saul) was literally and figuratively blind!  He couldn’t focus on the unknown.  All he could do was obey the next step, what God had revealed just for that moment, and towards the end of the life he could say with confidence that he obeyed “the vision from heaven.”

Years from now, will I be able to say that I obeyed God’s call?  Or will I wait so long for the details and assurances of success that I never step out in faith and obedience?  Will I give up on what God has called me to do because I don’t see results and reward?  Or will I remain obedient to the vision and refuse to give up when the future seems hazy and dark?

It is a matter of focus.  When I worry about the many things I don’t know, I stumble all over myself and get lost in the fog.  But when I “attend to what He reveals,” focusing only on what God has told me to do right now in this moment, I will be “most blessed.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Yes, Lord!

My favorite part of the song, Trading My Sorrows, has always been the second verse: “I’m pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed . . .”

Usually, that’s my favorite part.  Not this week.  After all God has been teaching me about obedience recently, this week my favorite part of that song is “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord–Amen!”

It reminds me of something I do with my daughters.  When I tell them something important, I ask them to look up at my face so I know they are listening.  Then,  I give them instructions and expect them to say, “Yes, ma’am” and if they don’t say that–well, they get some more instructions.  I want them to verbally show they’ve understood and then commit to obey.  All with those simple words, “Yes, ma’am.”

And to God, we say, “Yes, Lord.”

Sometimes God gives us clear instructions and He waits for our response.  He did it with Jonah.  He told Jonah, “Go to Nineveh and tell them to repent.”  Then, God gave Jonah the chance to say, “Yes, Lord.”  After Jonah’s famously blatant disobedience and a few days spent in a fish’s belly, God gave Jonah another chance.   Once again, God said, “Go to Nineveh.”  And Jonah gritted his teeth, bit his tongue and said, “Yes, Lord.”

That’s a far cry from Abraham.  God told him in Genesis 22 , “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”  Abraham didn’t put God off for a few days while he read several chapters of Scripture to see if anything confirmed this.  He didn’t call up his pastor and the men in his accountability group to see what they thought.  Instead, it says, “early the next morning” he gathered up his son, his servants, and the supplies and traveled to Moriah (verse 3).

It’s the same when Jesus called his disciples.  In Matthew 4:19-20, we read: “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Early the next morning.  At once.  Jonah instantly disobeyed.  Abraham and the disciples instantly obeyed.

It’s not that I think seeking confirmation is wrong.  In most cases, I believe God gives us the freedom to make sure we have heard correctly before we obey Him and He often uses His Word and the counsel of others to give that confirmation.

Yet, there are some moments in life when God has already prepared our heart for His instructions.   He’s asked us to look up into His face so He knows we are listening, just like I do with my daughters.

We talk so much about waiting on God, but sometimes I believe He is waiting on us.  He’s waiting until He knows our hearts are prepared to obey.  Only then does He tell us what He wants us to do.

In other words, He wants us to say, “Yes, Lord—whatever, whenever, wherever, the answer is yes.  I’ll obey and I’m listening.”  Our commitment to obedience often precedes His call. And if He knows we aren’t ready to obey, He waits on us.

We see this with the Israelites right before they received the 10 Commandments.  It says in Exodus 19:8-9: “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’  And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.”  It isn’t until after they’ve committed as a nation to obey God that He then created a covenant with them.

Priscilla Shirer writes in One in a Million: “Obedience to God was a requirement if the people were to receive the benefits of their covenant relationship with Him.  Only after their commitment did God offer to let them hear Him directly.”

It’s faith at it’s most basic.  It might even be a bit frightening.  We commit to obey God before we’ve even heard the question, before we even know what He’s asking us to do.  But, if we want to be used by God, if we want Him to take us to the Promised Land, if we want a deeper relationship with Him, if we want to follow Him, if we want to know Him—we must say, “Yes, Lord” and “All that the Lord has spoken, I will do” and then listen closely for His instructions.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Do You See?

Yesterday, I was thinking about how sometimes we disappoint God, but He still always loves us.

Today, I’m thinking about the times when God disappoints us.

Now, I know that ultimately in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).  I know He loves us and He promises never to leave us.   If I really consider it, I don’t really want a God who is small enough to fit into my finite understanding of how things should be.  If all God did for me was give me what I want, He’d be nothing more than a prayer vending machine rather than an all-powerful, all-knowing God whose plans and ways are much higher than mine.

Still, life is hard.  There’s no sidestepping that fact.  Little kids have cancer, people lose jobs and homes, husbands die, marriages are broken, bank accounts are empty.  And, if we’re being honest, we may very well feel confused, frustrated, hurt and disappointed by what God is doing because we can’t always see Him working in our circumstances.

It’s okay to be honest with God.  He’s big enough to handle the hard questions and gracious enough to allow us to bring all of those hurts to Him, rather than us having to hide them away under our “happy Christian face.”

In the midst of the hard times, I have personally asked God three questions.

  • Do You see?
  • Are You big enough?
  • Do You love me enough?

Do You See?

I have asked God before, “Do you see what I’m going through?  Do you know that I’m waiting and struggling here?’

In Genesis 16, we see that Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai (later renamed Sarah), felt very much the same way.   After Abram and Sarai had waited for over a decade for God to give them their promised child, Sarai finally decided God needed some help.  So, she did what any woman following the customs of that time and culture would do—she gave her maidservant to her husband as a second wife.  The problem is, that was never God’s plan for Abram and Sarai.

When Hagar did get pregnant and started treating her mistress with haughty disrespect as a result, Sarai was humiliated and angry.  She told Abram: “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me” (Genesis 16:5).

That’s one angry mistress!  Sarai took all that anger out on Abram and Hagar.  The Bible says that Abram just let Sarai do whatever she wanted to Hagar (“Do with her whatever you think best”), so in her anger, she “mistreated Hagar” and Hagar ran away (Genesis 16:6).

So, here’s Hagar, pregnant, beaten by her mistress, and now fleeing through the desert.

It might seem like God would only concern Himself with the main characters in this story–Abram and his wife, Sarai, who would be the parents of the Hebrew nation.  We might not expect God to care about the Egyptian maidservant caught up in all this drama, but it says He found her near a spring in the desert, gave her instructions to return home, and promised to bless her descendants.

Then—in such an amazing way—Scripture tells us, “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

God has names throughout Scripture that describe His attributes—The Lord our Healer, Peace, Everlasting Father, Our Provider, The Lord Our Banner, etc.

But, I find it so special that this hurting woman, a woman overlooked and mistreated by other people, a woman who wasn’t even a Hebrew–but an Egyptian–was allowed to give God the very first “name” in Scripture–-The God Who Sees Me.

Be assured that God sees you, also.  He knows exactly where you are in the wilderness.  Just as He did for Hagar, He has a plan and purpose for you and as you yield to Him, He will fulfill it.

I’ll tackle the other two questions—Are You big enough? and Do You love me enough? later.  Stay tuned!

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King