Have mercy on us

daniel 9

My oldest girl gave a speech that was bursting with righteous indignation.

Her class had misbehaved in the school lunchroom.

These fifth graders had been out of their seats, standing up on the little round chairs attached to the lunch tables.

They had been loud and obnoxious.

So they were punished.

It wasn’t just the misbehaving few, though, who bore the load of consequences.  Oh no, the whole class had to write a letter of apology to the lunchroom monitors.

And that wasn’t fair, my daughter said.

Why should she apologize for the bad choices of others, for their immaturity and out of control actions?  She had sat there quietly eating her lunch.

Yet, she had to write, “I’m sorry.”

So, she devised a plan: Write a letter that absolved her of responsibility.  “I’m sorry that others in my class were out of control.  I’m sorry that other students were so bad.”

That kind of thing, the kind of line-in-the-sand distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous, the right and the wrong, the worthy and the unworthy, the good and the bad.

We’re experts at these kinds of distinctions.  We draw lines politically.  We draw lines socially.  We draw lines at work and maybe at church more than anywhere else.

Our prayers are “us” versus “them.”

“Lord, please forgive those people who sin.  Please forgive those who really aren’t following you.”

We know those prayers don’t include us, of course, not the good and holy ones who clearly have earned God’s favor.

Yet, I challenge my black-and-white, rule-following, fairness-and-justice-demanding daughter with a prayer from the book of Daniel that’s a shock to pride and self-righteousness.

Israel had committed idolatry.

Not Daniel, of course, but masses of people had been traipsing after foreign gods and stone idols for generation after generation.

Israel had disobeyed the law and dishonored the temple.

Not Daniel, of course, but so many others had turned their backs on God, choosing blasphemy and rebellion instead.

God finally declared, “enough is enough!”  He disciplined his people by allowing them to be conquered, the temple destroyed, His people taken away from their homes.

Now Daniel was in Babylon, one of the first to be carted away from his home and taken into captivity in a foreign land.

He was now a subject of pagan kings, living and working in an environment often hostile to his faith.

Daniel bore the full weight of God’s punishment for his people, but he hadn’t done anything wrong.

He was a sinner, of course.  We all are.  Yet, he hadn’t committed idolatry.  He hadn’t defiled himself.  He hadn’t sacrificed children to Molech or bowed down to Baal.

Still, when he prayed for his people, Daniel said this:

“Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets… (Daniel 9:4-6).

We have sinned.

We have disobeyed.

We have not listened.

We.

I share this with my daughter and I ask her to consider what it would look like if she apologized for the “We” and not the “Them.”

She didn’t do anything wrong, yet could she humble herself enough to set aside the ‘fair’ and ‘just’ and choose the low and the merciful and the heart of intercession?

“I’m sorry that our class caused such a disruption.  I’m sorry that we didn’t behave in the lunchroom.”

Could she make that choice like Daniel did?

Can we?

When we pray for others and when we pray for our nation and for our churches and our communities, our husbands, our kids, our family, our friends, can we choose to pray with them instead of praying while looking down at them?

Not, “Lord, please forgive my husband for not praying like he should and leading our family like you want him to.”

Not, “Lord, please forgive my friends who gossip.”

Not, “Lord, please forgive the people in our country who are messing it all up.”

No, like Daniel, we drop down on our face before God and cry out, “God forgive us!!  We have messed up.  We have sinned.  We are unworthy.”

And we know this truth, that God doesn’t wash us clean because we deserve it, not because we’re good enough or holy enough or righteous enough to merit grace.

Daniel said it:

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18 NIV).

How could this change the way we pray for our marriages, families, churches and nation?

 

The sky is falling (or is that the cheesecake?)

The last time I made cheesecake, it fell on my daughter’s head.

True story.

We loaded up that brand new, never-before-used springform pan with cream cheese and sugar and eggs and all the yummy, gooey goodness of cheesecake batter.

I lifted up the hefty weight of this New York-style cheesecake and just as I made the move over her head and towards the kitchen, the bottom of the pan just collapsed and out ran the cheesecake all into her hair and down onto her forehead and back and hands.

Even after an emergency bath, she smelled delicious.

Their grandparents arrived for a visit and handed the girls hard hats to wear while baking, just in case mom decided to make cheesecake again.

So, I’m browsing through recipes for summer picnics and I see this cheesecake covered with cherries and consider the possibilities.

But I also consider my daughter’s reaction.

Cheesecake?  I hate cheesecake.  It’ll fall on my head.

As if every time I bake, she’s in the line of fire.  Or that every cheesecake ends in a messy implosion and a dessert shampoo.psalm46-1  Photo by Ruud Morijn

She is, in effect, terrified of cheesecake.  Or, to be more precise, afraid of being present while I’m baking cheesecake.

All this month, I’m pursuing the presence of Christ by enjoying the Creativity of our Creator God, and in between pictures of desserts and ingredient lists and recipe instructions, I’m thinking of what to do when the sky falls, the world caves in, or when the cheesecake unexpectedly slams down on your head.

Truly I have these terrors of my own, restless anxiety and sleep-stealing fears that leave me pacing before God’s throne long into the night.

Like Change: The way it shifts my life and maybe I’m tossed a little off-balance, all that routine and familiarity disturbed by the unexpected and unknown.

What is it about that unplanned phone call, the shifting of an expectation, the closing of a door, the altering of a plan?  It knocks me right off of my two solidly planted feet and I’m grabbing a hard hat for fear of the sky (or a cheesecake) falling onto my hapless self.

But change is one thing that’s constant in this life.

Here’s what’s also constant:  God’s presence.  His help.  His perfect plan.  His love.

The Psalmist said:

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
 (Psalm 46:1-2 ESV).

Because, after all, God didn’t just create this world and then let it go.  It’s still all in His hands.

So, I’m doing all this fighting, all this power-praying asking God to please, please, pretty please with a cherry on top, do not let things change….

But maybe I’m praying against the work He wants to do for me, and maybe even the work He wants to do in me.

Like those Jewish captives who had been carried off to Babylon and lived there under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and then Beltashazzar’s.

Maybe they always longed for home and Jerusalem, but they lived day in and day out in a Babylonian city and under Babylonian laws.

Slowly that foreign city became home.

Then came those Medes and Persians… conquering the empire with a regime change, shaking up every ‘constant’ the people had in that day-in-and-day-out life.

What if Daniel had fought against it?  What if those righteous captives had asked God to please just keep things the same? What if they set up prayer vigils pleading with God to keep that conquering nation at bay?  What if they had clung to the known and rejected the unknown?

Even if they were captives, after all, at least they knew what this captivity was like.

But they would have missed out on the blessing God planned for them.

And so might I.

Long before He ever allowed Jerusalem’s walls to fall, long before Israel’s captivity began, God ordained the time it would end and that King Cyrus of the Medes and Persians would be the one to send His people back home.

He promised change and the change was for their benefit.

He promises this for me, too:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV).

All these changes around me are so that He can do a changing work in me and transform me to be more like Jesus.

So, what do I want, after all?

Maybe I’ll need to wear a hard hat, and yet I’ll choose His presence, wherever that takes me.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Create Beauty’?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

 

 

Why The ‘Best Mom Ever’ Is In Need of Mercy

“Thanks, Mom.  You’re the best mom ever.”

It was a casual minivan conversation.  She climbed up into her seat after preschool.  I promised to make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with strawberries and pretzels for lunch.

She bestowed on me the title of “Best Mom Ever,” clicked her seatbelt, and then asked if she could play on my Kindle.

But two days later, I am still thinking about the mercy of this.

psalm116-1

Photo by Viktor Hanacek

I may be a good mom, a making-an-effort-mom, an intentional mom, an organized mom, a take-this-seriously mom….

…but I am not the “Best Mom Ever.”

I have those days.  (Don’t we all?)

I grow weary.  I snap.  I grumble over dirty dishes and toilets.  I push too hard.  I hold on to things when I need to let go.  I feel distracted or selfish.  I forget.

This girl, though, this tiny encourager in the minivan seat behind me, doesn’t give me what I deserve or merit or earn.  She overlooks the faults and failures.

That’s what mercy does.

Mercy says, “You deserve judgment, discipline, and second-class status….but I choose not to give you what you deserve.”

And this is how I’ve learned to pray.

Lord, have mercy.

That Pharisee stood all bold and confident in the synagogue, booming out those prayers.  “God, I’m so righteous.  God I’m so worthy.  I’m not like those other people, the riff-raff and the sinners.”

But that tax collector dropped his eyes low:

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 8:13 NIV).

Have mercy on me, Lord.

And that blind man begging by the side of the road heard that Jesus was passing by and what could he cry out?  That he deserved healing?  That somehow he had suffered long enough and had earned a miracle?

No, he screamed it out so Jesus could hear this one desperate cry over the noisy chaos of the mob:

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  (Luke 18:38 NIV).

This mercy prayer is what Jesus loved, the one that caught His attention and made Him pause, turn aside, and deliver.  Lord, have mercy.

Even Daniel, this man so righteous in the Baylonian world of unrighteousness, knew he couldn’t pray because of his own merit.

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18 NIV).

So I pray this also about situations for others and situations for me: Lord, have mercy on me!

This is no manipulative mantra, no magic incantation.  It’s not the words themselves that matter.

It’s the attitude of my heart.  God delights in the humble.  He shows compassion to the needy.

And it’s right here where I recognize my utter dependence on Him that He shows His glory most clearly.

God, I know what I’ve already been given—mercy and grace, so much grace. You have been good to me.

And I know I can’t come here asking for Your help because I’ve worked this hard or because I am this good.  Not because I’ve tried to obey or because I’m righteous.  Not because I’ve spent this much time in Your Word today or got down on my knees when I prayed instead of praying with my eyes open while I’m driving.

There’s no holy act that could earn me the right to ask this….

No amount of “good” that makes me “good enough” to request Your favor or Your blessing.

And yet, I pray simply because You are merciful.

Scripture says God hears my prayers, but the answers don’t seem to come and it feels like He’s not even hearing me.

Am I being too bold?  Am I asking for too much?  Are there far more important things on His agenda?

Am I complaining too much and should I just settle for less and be grateful for what I get?  Am I too needy?  Too demanding or spoiled?

But then this.

I open up my daily Bible reading and start to run right through that Psalm for the day and at that first verse I sit stunned.  I read it over and over again:

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2 NIV).

He blows this fresh wind of mercy over me and He fills my hyperventilating lungs with His very own breath of hope and life.

I still can’t see the answer to my prayer.  I don’t see the solution or the end.

But I know this—He hears my cry for mercy.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

Devotions for Thanksgiving: Thank You for This Day

Every year, my daughters’ preschool teacher pulls the children aside individually and asks an important question:

What are you thankful for?

As a mom, I’ve grown accustomed to the tradition.  The week of Thanksgiving, I can check the bulletin board outside of the classroom and see what crazy thing popped out of my child’s mouth in that one moment with her teacher.

I think I’ve only ever had one year where a daughter was thankful for me.

Image by Rudy Bagozzi; 123rf.com

Image by Rudy Bagozzi; 123rf.com

Mostly, they’ve been thankful for loose teeth or funny things their dad does or some toy that I never see them actually play with.  Last year, my girl was thankful for her stuffed animals.

Thanksgiving tends to highlight what’s important to us, usually family and friends more than toys, but still we’re motivated to be grateful at least one month, or week, or day out of the year.

Some of us start Thanksgiving journals and gratitude lists.  Others post daily Facebook status updates of what we’re thankful for this year.

We’re sincerely excited to acknowledge the blessing and it’s beautiful in its season.

One of the things I love about my little girl, though, is that she isn’t just thankful for stuffed animals when the teacher pulls her aside for the annual preschool Thanksgiving assignment.

Every single time she prays, she begins with, “Dear God, thank You for this day.”

Mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, prayers in June or in December, if it starts with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen,” she’s thankful for the day she’s had.  Time-outs, sadness, fights with her sisters, none of that can mar her thankful heart.

I’m reminded of Daniel, who prayed in a similar way in Babylon.  Despite exile far from his beloved Jerusalem and his family, despite political intrigue and plots against him, despite religious persecution and antisemitism, still Daniel prayed.

And he didn’t just plead and petition God for help in the midst of sorrow or stress.

He “knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10)

He prayed on his knees.  Three times a day.  Every day.  Not so everyone could see, but in a manner people could notice if they chose to look his way.

And he “gave thanks.”

That’s why King Darius knew there was hope for Daniel even after he was shut up in a darkened den of ravenous lions and locked in overnight.

The King trusted in the God “whom you serve continually” (Daniel 6:16, 6:20) and his trust was not misplaced.

Daniel’s faithful, day in and day out, no matter what the circumstances, continual determination to get down on his knees and give thanks to God was blessed in that moment.  God sent the angel to slam shut the jaws of the lions until Daniel could be lifted out of the pit unscathed.

It might seem that the miracle was the reason to give thanks, and that’s what King Darius did, issuing a proclamation of praise to the “Living God” of Daniel.

But Daniel had been giving thanks all along.

Thanksgiving is over this year.  We’ve feasted and visited family and friends.  We’ve probably thought and even shared what we’re thankful for this year.

But I don’t want to just be a once-a-year grateful girl.

I want to be thankful for this day and the next and the one after that, regardless of the circumstances or annoyances or even fears.

I want to make it a discipline and attitude and habit of mind and heart to give thanks to God, maybe three times a day, maybe 20 times a day.

I want people to refer to my God as the one “whom I serve continually,” not periodically, or seasonally, or around the holidays.

When they see the lions’ den, I want people to know my God can rescue and deliver.

Don’t you?

If that’s our true desire, then our first step is today.  When everyone else has finished the annual mantra of thanks and the turkey is reduced to leftovers and others have moved on to Christmas lists and shopping, we make a choice to be thankful.

Today we choose to pause and give praise, give specific thanks, notice God at work and drop our head for a whispered moment of gratefulness.  We choose to look past the obvious and the bothersome or scary, to see reasons to thank Him “for this day” every…single…day of the year to come.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: Prayer Helps Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Prayer Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)
Originally published as “Run to the Throne,” May 6, 2011

“Teach me to run to you like they run to me for every little thing.”  That’s what Caedmon’s Call sings in their song, Sacred.

Yes, that’s true in my house.  I button buttons and zip zippers, diffuse arguments and mediate disputes, kiss bumps and supply Band-Aids for nearly invisible scratches, refill juice cups and find lost toys, help with homework and hard-to-sound-out words.

I answer to “Mom” all day, every day.  And, while at times I would like to sit still for more than five minutes at a time, I love that they turn to me for help.  At some point I know they will feel too grown up to bring all their problems to me.  Or maybe they’ll still come, but their problems will be so big that my supply of Band-Aids and apple juice won’t fix them anymore.

God must love when we turn to Him for help with all of the hopeful innocence that I see in my daughters’ eyes.  We could struggle to solve our troubles in our own strength or we could offer them up to Him—both the life crises and the daily concerns—-giving them over to a God both big enough to handle them and compassionate enough to care about them.

And as we do, we confess belief.  We say, “God I believe that You are Lord over all things, that no situation is too much for Your strength or too small for Your compassion.  I believe that You have saved me and will continue to save me.  I believe that You are Love.”

Years ago, a godly woman gave me this advice: “run to the throne before you run to the phone.”  Before we call on our friends and our own mommas with a problem, we should bring it to the God who can actually solve the problem we’re facing.

Too often we don’t.  We worry, we fret, we gossip, we chatter with others and seek solutions of our own making.

And all along, God’s waiting for us to just bring it all to Him.

Philippians 4:6 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

and Ephesians 6:18 says:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

We are to pray “in everything,” and “on all occasions.”  We should drop to our knees over a health concern or a family in crisis or a daughter’s lost toy.  It’s all too much for us anyway.

That’s what men like Daniel and Nehemiah did.

When King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream no one could interpret, Daniel and his friends plead “for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” (Daniel 2:18).  When the decree was signed saying no one could pray to any god but the king, Daniel went home in front of an open window and “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

Nehemiah prayed when he heard about the horrible state of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. When the king asked him what he wanted, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of heaven” before giving an answer.  Enemies threatened the work of Nehemiah and his crew, “but we prayed to our God” (Nehemiah 4:9) and when the enemies tried to frighten the Israelite construction team into quitting, Nehemiah prayed to God: “now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

They went to God with every annoyance, difficulty, burden, sadness, disaster,  enemy, and worry.Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_5902698_mature-woman-sits-on-the-beach-with-her-head-bowed-and-praying-as-the-sun-sets-on-the-water.html'>sframe / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

At times, I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the requests I’m carrying to the throne.  I’ve been duped by impossible-appearing circumstances into thinking that it’s fruitless to pray any longer.  That there is no hope.  That the marriage is truly dead.  That the housing situation will not be solved.  That the cancer statistics are too certain.  That the job market is too sparse.  That I’ve prayed for so long with no answer, nothing could possibly change now.

A friend confessed this in a whisper to me this week:  “I’m just tired of praying about it.”

I knew exactly what she meant.  Fighting and fighting to have faith for so long, to pray and pray with no evident answer, no release, no deliverance, it makes a body tired.

But we are to “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  And God, who is so gracious and compassionate, knows the exact moment when we need to see a glimmer of His light in the dark places and when we need the smallest reminder that He is active and alive where we only see death.

And He does this.  He gives us these glimmers of hope and hints of His glory and it becomes prayer that helps us stand a while longer, stand no matter what, and even stand strong.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: I’m Not A Boy!

I’m not a boy.
I’m not a good dancer.  I’m not easily offended.  I’m not a blonde or a red-head.
I’m not tall.
I’m not artistic.  I’m not quick to cry.
I’m not usually a fan of “chick flicks.”
I’m not much of a TV watcher.
I’m not from a small family.
I’m not a quick decision maker.
I’m not an extrovert.  I’m not athletic.  I’m not fond of “outside.”

We all define ourselves by lists of “I ams” and “I am nots.”

“Are you a Christian?”
I am.

“Are you fond of sports?”
I am not.

Is it any wonder that God has a list, too?  His “ams” and “am nots” through Scripture establish His character and give us reliable assurances in times of trouble.

We rest in safety because we know He is “I AM.”

It’s the most powerful declaration of God’s identity in Scripture, when He tells Moses His name: “I AM WHO I AM . . .This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” (Exodus 3:14, 15).

My Bible notes that His name could also be read as: “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.”

He is I AM and I WILL BE.  He is eternal.  He has existed before our human history began and He has walked through the entirety of our time on this planet and will still remain forever.

So, we can trust Him.  We can place in His capable hands all that frightens us because He knows where we have come from and where we are headed.

It’s more than that.  He tells us:

  • “I AM with you” (Genesis 26:24).
  • “I AM God Almighty” (Genesis 35:11).
  • “I AM the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
  • “I AM the LORD your God” (Exodus 16:12).
  • “I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
  • “For I AM the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:3).
  • “I AM the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5).
  • “I AM the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17).
  • “I AM the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is His name” (Isaiah 51:15).

Can you read through this list of what God says about Himself, His “I ams” and not be in awe, not be filled with the desire to worship, not be comforted?

He is with you, there in the places of hurt and despair.  He heals you.  He is holy.  He is your Savior, pulling you out of the pit and redeeming you through the blood of His Son.  He is the only God.  He directs our steps.  He is Lord Almighty, in control of all creation, including the circumstances you find yourself in.

Praise God!

He doesn’t stop there, though.  He also has “am nots.”  Just as powerful, these are declarations of His dominion over all the fake gods that vie for our worship.

In Daniel 2:11, the magicians and advisers of King Nebuchadnezzar whine that no one can possibly tell the king what he dreamt except the gods, and “they do not live among humans.”

Not our God.  He made His dwelling among His people, directing them to “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).  He abandoned the glories of heaven and “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

He can say, “I am not distant from you.”

In Psalm 135:15-18, the Psalmist writes:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.  They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear nor is the breath in their mouths.

Not our God.

Our God is the Shepherd who speaks to His sheep (John 10:27).  He is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13) and hears our voices when we call to Him (Psalm 5:3).

He can say, “I am not ignorant of your need .”

And our God “is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).

Colin Urquhart wrote, “God is the God of promise.  He keeps His word even when that seems impossible.”

He can say, “I am not a promise-breaker.”

It may feel difficult at times to believe in God’s nearness, responsiveness, concern, love and faithfulness because we are immersed in a pit of circumstances that blocks our view of Him.  And yet, He tells us all the things He is and all the things He is not and it is that Scriptural assurance of His character to which we cling.

We can rest in safety knowing that He is I AM.  We can rest in safety knowing all that He is not.

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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Remembering: I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

Hi all!  I’m still enjoying time away with my family and am just logging on to share an old post with you about prayer initially and fervently about all things—without worrying and fretting first.  Enjoy!

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I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

Originally posted on August 19, 2011

“Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10)

Bam!
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.
Sniffle, sniffle, sniffle.
Mom!  Mom mom!!

With my genes, my girls didn’t have much of a chance at grace and my baby girl is no different. So these are the sounds heard in my home multiple times any given day.

It’s the immediate reaction of any child to trouble, the crying out to mom and the running to her side to tell her all about the tragedy and pain.

There’s little I can do most of the time to fix the problem.  My baby’s fallen and hurt (maybe even angry) and while I can’t change the fact of her fall and no Band-Aid is going to alleviate the temporary soreness, I can kiss her, cuddle her close and tell her I love her. And so I do.

Then I fall down, tripping over my own sin, or another person who invaded my space, or an obstacle I didn’t foresee, or an unexpected pit in my road.

To whom do I run?  What is my immediate response, my instantaneous reaction to pain?  What is yours?

For some, it’s to hold our bruises close for a while and to snap at any bystanders who offer to help us stand back to our feet.  Maybe even hide our heads in embarrassment for the spectacle of the fall in the first place.

For some, it’s to call out for help from those nearby, asking them to both hoist us up and even bear the burden of our weight for a while as we wobble around on a weakened leg.

For some, it’s to haul out our own first aid kit and apply ice and bandages to our own wounds and refuse the expert care so readily available.

For some, it’s to sit without moving, paralyzed by fear.  What if our leg is broken?  What if we never walk again?  What if . . . what if . . . what if . . . ?

In Beth Moore’s study, Daniel, she notes how his immediate response to the king’s edict prohibiting prayer was to go “to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

He didn’t worry first and then pray.  He didn’t try to fix the situation through his political abilities and then pray. He didn’t even concede defeat and stop his public prayer habits, choosing instead to silently petition God at night while others slept.

Daniel prayed.  It was his initial reaction; it was his only solution.

Then there’s the matter of what he prayed.  Sure, some of us have indeed trained ourselves to “take it to the Lord in prayer” without hesitation.  We run to his side and bury our noses in the hem of His robe, sniffling out our requests to Him.  But are we giving thanks amidst those tears?

Daniel was.  Scripture says he “got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God” (Daniel 6:10).  When I’m smarting from an injury, I’m more likely to complain about the pain than sing hymns of thankful praise.

Not Daniel. Political enemies, a manipulated king, a dangerous edict, his faith attacked, his life on the line—still Daniel gave thanks.

Paul made the same connection when he wrote,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Peace in the midst of pain is there for the taking sometimes, and yet we choose anxiety instead.  We opt for fear by trying to control our own problems rather than running to God’s side and dumping them at His feet.  We allow worry to reign in our hearts and minds by refusing to pray with thanksgiving at all times and in every situation.

I confess I’m a rebel at times.  Even though I know I should shove aside my grumbling and choose to be thankful—even when it takes struggling and squinting to see that sparkle of light in a dark place– still I decline.

I dusted off my thankfulness journal this morning after two weeks of shoving it aside. I didn’t want to be thankful.  I wanted to feel wronged.  I didn’t want some secret formula to maintaining joy in trials; I wanted no more trials!  I wanted God to feel pity for me and feel sorry for letting me be hurt.  Perhaps what I wanted was an apology from Him.

It’s like emotional manipulation of the Almighty God.  “I’m not going to praise You or worship You or give You thanks or hand over my fears to You until You rescue me in the way I desire.”

It’s handing God a sheet and pillow and pointing to the couch.
It’s ignoring His phone calls and giving Him the silent treatment at the dinner table.
It’s holding my breath until he gives me what I want.

And it’s just about as effective as all those tactics.  So when my tantrum is done, I pray and I give thanks.  Reluctantly at first, perhaps, and yet I try.  Maybe the next time I trip and fall, I pray with thanksgiving immediately because I have learned that gratitude shifts my focus off my need and onto the face of my Deliverer.

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 © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: Packing Up The Tiara

Originally posted on August 5, 2011

There I sat, cuddling my oldest daughter as she sobbed disappointed tears into her pillow.  Sitting in the minivan that night as we drove home, she had suddenly realized that God wasn’t going to make her a fairy tale princess when she grows up.

Her little life dream had been dashed.

After her sad announcement, my husband tried to shout back persuasive logic to her from the front seat, explaining that princesses don’t really live such great lives.  They can’t choose where to go, what to eat, how to dress, or even who to marry.

Somehow the lack of freedom was overshadowed by Disney ballgowns, glass slippers and tiaras.  And so after the pajamas were on, the teeth brushed, the prayers prayed, there we sat in her bed and she cried and we talked about feeling disappointed.

How life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect.
How sometimes we can’t have what we really want.
How movies and fairy tales rarely represent the reality of life.
How it’s hard to trust God when He tells us, “no,” but that we need to leave our future in His hands.
How our job is to work hard to develop the gifts He’s given and His job is to direct and guide our service.

No matter how you chat and philosophize sometimes, though, disappointment hurts.  For a while, we can hope that despite all odds, God is going to miraculously give us what our hearts desire.

But it doesn’t always happen that way and that’s the truth.

Sometimes God says, “no.”  He may do it so gently and with grace, and it’s not because He hates us or wants to see us sob ugly tears on our pillows.

In most cases, He does it for the same reason I tell my child “no” she can’t wear her favorite skirt that is now too short for her, “no” she can’t have cookies and milk at 5:30 p.m. as I’m dishing up dinner on the table, “no” she can’t watch that movie even if her friends have all seen it, “no” she can’t have a cellphone and laptop for first grade.  “No” is for people we love enough to protect.

Then there are other cases where the “no” is so He can be glorified and our faith refined.  In Beth Moore’s study, Daniel, she notes that there are always three scenarios:

  • God delivers us from the fire.
  • God delivers us through the fire.
  • God delivers us by the fire into His arms.

For the three men who refused to bow down to the towering image of King Nebuchadnezzar, there was no question of whether God could keep them out of the furnace that was blazing in front of them.  They declared:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

They had to go through the fire, but Christ showed up in all His magnificent glory and walked them right on out of there.  God said, “no, I won’t deliver you from the fire, but I’ll take you through.”

For others of you, God has said, “no” and it’s not clear why.  Maybe we’ll never know the reason this side of eternity.  You can’t see how this is protection.  You can’t see how He is being glorified.  Maybe it’s disappointing, this waiting for the healing or rescue that doesn’t ever seem to come.

Have you ever wondered how Stephen did it, the first martyr in the church, the first one to take stand up for Christ to the death?  Were he and his friends disappointed that God didn’t rescue him from the riotous Sanhedrin?  Were they waiting for the earth to open up and swallow the mob now raising their stones in murderous rage?

How disappointed and confused did they feel as God didn’t deliver Stephen from or through the onslaught of rocks, but instead delivered him home to heaven?  There was no last-minute rescue or miraculous intervention.

Acts 7:6-7 says:

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” (MSG).

Stephen “hardly noticed” the deafening noise of those about to kill him because “he only had eyes for God.”

Whatever disappointments we face, a fairy tale dream that never came true, a furnace God asks us to walk through, a definitive “no” instead of miraculous intervention, we are victorious by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Just like Stephen.  Just like Jesus Himself looked to His Father as He suffered painfully on the cross for our sake.

We’re not looking at the enemy, the storm or the overwhelming circumstances.  We’re not looking at the hoped-for miracle or the anticipated rescue.  We’re looking at Jesus “standing at God’s side,” knowing that even when God chooses not to give us what we want or hope for, He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

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 © 2012 Heather King

Remembering: Even If He Does Not

 

Originally posted on February 20, 2011

 

Today, the sermon at our church was on miracles and how God uses them to bring glory to Himself and to grow faith in us.  It is always exciting to recount what God has done and give testimony, both Biblical and current, to His might and majesty.

But, today was a hard day for me to talk about miracles.  I’ve been praying for two years for a sweet baby girl, born terribly premature.  She’s fought so hard for so long, receiving a liver transplant, undergoing open heart surgery, and more.  Yesterday, though, I got the phone call saying she had passed away in the night.

Yes, it’s a hard day to think about miracles.

It’s not that I think this was too much for God or that He didn’t love this little girl enough to give her another miracle in her already miraculous life.

The hard thing for me is that I’m a question-asker.  In any room at any time, I am usually the one asking the most questions.  I am willing, sometimes even with people I hardly know, to ask them far more than the superficial sanctioned small-talk.  I’m not a “How are you doing?  Where do you live?  How’s the weather been?” kind of person.

Thus, as I’m praying for the family of this tiny girl, I’m bold enough to ask God some tough questions.  It’s at times like these I’m thankful that He is such a big God, that He allows us to lift our pain-filled faces up to His, look straight into His eyes, and ask Him, “Lord, why?  What are you doing in this situation?”

When one of Jesus’s closest friends fell sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3, NIV).  Surprisingly, Jesus didn’t rush to their home to heal Lazarus.  In fact, by the time Jesus arrived, Martha greeted him along the path:  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Then Mary went out, fell at His feet and said exactly the same thing,  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32, NIV). Some of the bystanders even bluntly asked, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (Luke 11:37, NIV).

These sisters didn’t hide their confusion and hurt and Jesus didn’t rebuke them for confronting Him.  In this case, Jesus quickly answered their questions.  He called Lazarus up from the tomb and displayed His power over life and death.  He asked a question in return ,“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV).

The prophet, Habakkuk, wasn’t like most of the other Old Testament prophets, who delivered messages from God.  Instead, much of what Habakkuk wrote is full of questions for God, just as Mary and Martha asked questions of Jesus. In his brief book, Habakkuk asked:

  • How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
  • Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13)

After presenting a chapter-long list of complaints to God, Habakkuk says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).  And God answered Him.

For us, sometimes it does become clear why God chooses to answer “no” or “wait” to our heartfelt pleas for a miracle.  I can look back now and see how God used my husband’s job loss and temporary unemployment not just for God’s glory, but ultimately for our blessing and benefit.  What seemed like harm, was actually salvation for us!

In other cases, though, our questions remain unanswered this side of heaven.

When the three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to and worship King Nebuchadnezzar, they faced instant death in the fiery furnace.  The king offered them one last chance to deny their faith and worship him instead.  To this, they replied:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

What faith!  The miracles aren’t what we should be seeking; we should be seeking God and hoping for whatever brings Him glory.  If He rescues us, then we praise Him.  Even if God doesn’t give us the miracle we’re looking for or provide for us in the way we expect, we can, like the three men in the fiery furnace, still worship God alone.  We can trust His hand.  We can know that somehow He will be glorified even in our tragedies.

When God answered Habakkuk’s tough questions, the prophet was moved to write what my Bible notes is a “hymn of faith” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV).  It’s one of my favorites:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk says, “Even when we’re starving and we have no hope of a harvest, we’ll choose to praise God.”  The Message translates verse 18 as: “Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.” It’s when we walk through the hard times with God, counting on His rule to prevail, pouring out our questions to Him and learning to trust Him, that He gives us the toughened, sure “feet of deer” and trains us how to “tread on the heights.”

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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 © 2012 Heather King

Let There Be Light

She stood by my bed at midnight.  Holding her Bumblebee Pillow Pet in one hand, she dragged her pink and purple quilt behind her.

I fumbled for my glasses and reached out a hand to stroke her hair.

“Mom,” she cried, “it’s too dark.”

I walked with my daughter back to her room and realized that the one light we always keep on had been turned off accidentally.  Our house was truly black.

It’s as if my girl has an internal light-sensory device.  As soon as she sensed darkness, she had awoken and plodded across the house half-asleep in order to regain light.

Have you ever grown aware of darkness? 
Have you woken up to a sun-bright day, but still feel the heaviness of the unknown? 
Have you felt pommeled by Satan, test and trial after test and trial, and you lose hope of the brightness of the future? 
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by shadows, gloom, fear and worry?

We’re like plants, always growing toward a source of light, reaching up and over obstacles until we bask in the warm, nourishing rays of the sun.

We can do this with God because He is a light-bringer.  He is always shining brightness into our dark places.

God “divided the light from the darkness” at creation (Genesis 1:4) and declared that it was good.  It was His first act as Creator in a formless void of a world.

And when God sent us a Savior, He declared that Jesus was “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:7-9).  This is what the prophet Isaiah had promised: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2).

What does this mean for us?  What does a God who forms light out of darkness and a Savior who brings light to the world mean for our lives now?

It means we can trust Him to shine on the steps we need to take, to reveal His will, and to be present in our darkest moments.  David rejoiced: “For you are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29).  In the Psalms, David also wrote:
“For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness (Psalm 18:28).

God is just like the one light we leave on in my house after we’ve flicked off the other switches.  He is our Lamp at all times and in all places.

Even so, we all have moments when we can’t see the light, can’t feel its warmth, can’t identify its glow.  We’re in the shadows and we know it.  What then?

David also wrote : “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

He is with us in the shadows and He will walk us on out of there.  We need not fear.

In the same way, my daughter stopped crying the moment I grabbed her hand at midnight and guided her back to her room.  She was calmed by my presence even before I turned on the lamp and tucked her back into bed.

God is with us in the dark places.  He knows and sees us there.  Not only that, we can ask Him to reveal to us the treasures hidden in the shadows.

Isaiah tells us:  “I will give you the treasures of darkness and And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel” (Isaiah 45:3).

Daniel similarly wrote: “He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22).

Maybe there’s great treasure hidden in your darkness right now.  Perhaps God longs to share with you secret things that are covered over in shadow, lessons we can’t learn in perpetual sunshine and a knowledge of Him that we can only discover in the valley.

Why is darkness so frightening to us?  Is it because we can’t see where we’re going?  Is it because we don’t know what’s hidden in the shadows?  Is it because we can’t tell who is next to us?

Whatever our fears, whoever “walks in darkness and has no light” can “trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon His God” (Isaiah 50:10).  We can be certain of His presence.  We can trust Him to shine brightly when we need to see.  We can count on Him to see through darkness and reveal to us the secrets and treasures of the deep places.

So, reach for God’s light today, just like the plant on the windowsill bending toward the sun.  In the middle of your darkness, your sadness or despair, your gloom or hopeless state and all the shadows of the unknown, stretch out until you are warmed by His presence and in awe of His glory.

For more thoughts on this topic, you can read these other devotionals:

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