The Grace God Gives for the Wearied Soul

psalm 51-12

I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.

It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.

I recognized the discouragement because

I

Have

Been

There

Before.

We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.

So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time.  We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace.  We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.

How do we know?  That’s what they might ask.

Oh my friend, how I know.

Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow.  Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.

Yet, we know this also.

We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.

You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.

Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.

The Psalmists prayed:

Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)

and

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest  (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)

and

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).  

Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.

We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again.  That’s what they asked.

That’s what we need, too.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion.  The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish.  The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).

So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.

We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.

No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.

We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.

We had lost everything and God restored us.

God did this for me, that’s what we say.  And He will do this work in you, too.

And we pray, of course we pray.

We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.

God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?

But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.

Live Generously (Because our Kids are Watching How We Live)

2 Corinthians 9

He said he learned generosity from his mom.

I read an article this week that said the founder of Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya, watched his mother give to others.  Now he in turn will give, donating at least $700 million to Kurdish refugees and refugees around the world fleeing ISIS. This is what he said:

“Today, I dedicate my signing of the Giving Pledge to my mother and I am publicly committing the majority of my personal wealth—along with everything else I can do—to help refugees and help bring an end to this humanitarian crisis.”

I’ve watched the videos this week and seen the pictures of families crammed into every available space onto boats desperate to escape civil wars and persecution.

And I’ve cried over the children.

Maybe I can’t give $700 million, I think, but surely I can give something!

It would be easy to read an article like this and shrug it off, thinking, “well, if he gives so much, surely my small gift won’t matter.”

But that’s not it at all.

That’s missing the challenge to give as God compels us, give in obedience, give every little bit we can, give because maybe we are setting the example for our kids who will one day learn to give, as well.

I am reminded to Live Generously, not hoard and protect my own resources with stinginess and self-preservation.

This in turn reminds me that living a generous life is about so much more than money anyway.

Today, the librarian chats with me as she checks out my books.  She says I remind her of her niece…the way I look, my facial expressions, and how patient I am with my kids.

Oh, she was generous, so generous with her encouragement as I chase my two-year-old away from the automatic door openers and back to the checkout desk.

I think about the time this very same librarian watched as my kids (who are old enough to know better!!!!!) started playing with the poles that mark the check-out line and they absolutely would not leave them alone and I about shot a hole through the floor when I looked at them with my laser eyes.

Still, today, she chooses to live generously, to slip in the sweetest word of praise just when my Mom-heart needs it.

How many times have I been the one feeling defeated, feeling worn, feeling overlooked or undervalued, and someone slips me that word of courage?  You are doing a great job.  I see you.  Well done.

And this week I have struggled, oh I have struggled, in anger about someone’s hurtful words toward my kids.

I pray in the night and I tell God all my woes.

I hear it back, just the whispered reminder:

Extend generous grace.

This is what it means to live generously: To pour out to others without holding back, fully aware of how God has poured Himself out for you.

Generous with our money.

Generous with our talents.

Generous with our time and our attention.

Generous with encouragement.

Generous with grace.

Generous with forgiveness.

Generous with patience.

I consider Paul on those days when I want to stop answering the phone, stop reading emails, stop answering to the name, “Mom,” stop being responsible and doing things like making dinner and washing laundry.

Paul said,

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls…. (2 Corinthians 12:15a ESV)

and

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all (Philippians 2:17 ESV).

and

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come (2 Timothy 4:6 ESV).

Paul chose to be spent, to be totally poured out for the sake of the church.

Oswald Chambers writes,

Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted–not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?

Some days not so much.

And, while I understand the health of caring enough about ourselves as women and as moms so that we are healthy enough to care for others, I recognize this:

The calling to a generous life is a calling to pour out, to empty yourself in service, to love sacrificially and selflessly, not for our own purposes and not just for the benefit of those we love–but as an offering to the Lord.

I myself become the offering, poured out at the feet of Jesus, pleasing and acceptable to Him when I live with generosity and He, in turn, enriches me so that I can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians 9:11).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” ~Anne Frank

Please visit Samaritan’s Purse to see how they are serving refugees and how you can support that effort.

Please visit Ann Voskamp’s page to find 5 Ways to Stand Up, Be the Church in the World’s Worst Refugee Crisis Since World War II, including organizations to support and ways to give.  She also gives you a list of items they desperately need and where to send them.

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.

 

Teacher Gift Ideas and Links and a reminder to say, “Thanks!”

For ten years, it sat on my desk.

And I’m not a “stuff” person really.  I have kids.  Things break.  teachergiftideas

Yet, this I mourned a little, when I sat down at my desk and saw what a child-who-shall-remain-nameless broke this week.

Ten years ago, in my pre-Mom days when I was still teaching in the classroom, parents and students gave this simple picture frame to me.  Each teacher in the school received one with a card inside displaying their name along with the fruit of the spirit or character trait the students said that teacher most represented.

Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.  Sometimes you think you know who you are, but it takes someone else to say, “I see this in you…” and you haven’t ever seen that before so you know exactly what that means.

It’s proof that God’s been working in you.  He’s been transforming you and changing  you all up from the inside.  Maybe you’ve missed it, but someone else saw.  They noticed.  And they took time to say….Jesus is glorified in you.

So, I opened up that teacher’s gift ten years ago and just marveled at God because what the kids saw in me was “Joy.”

I never would have guessed that.  Didn’t see it.  Didn’t know it.  Can’t even tell you now how exactly the Holy Spirit chiseled, scraped, sanded, and carved that out of a misshapen rock like me.

But I knew one thing for sure.  That was God’s hand, His glory, an artistic endeavor that only a Master Creator would undertake and accomplish.042

That little picture frame gift never was just about remembering students or recalling the old days when I commuted and dressed like a professional instead of donning jeans, a t-shirt and canvas sneakers to head out for a full day of Mom-life.

No, it was about so much grace.

And more.

This world condones, encourages, evokes, and just pulls right out the selfishness in us.  It tells us: Focus within.  Look out for #1.  Fight to get ahead.  Don’t let anyone stand in your way.  Help yourself.  Take what’s yours.

God, though, didn’t just tell us to stoop down low, to reach out, to humbly pull out the cloth and the basin and wash another’s feet.

He did it Himself.

And then He asked us to do it for others.

Hebrews 10:24 says:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT).

001

Now, I’m the mom with the young kids and they have the incredible teachers.  This, again, is grace.  The way God blesses us and pours into us.  Then He asks us to pour ourselves right on out for others so they can be blessed and filled to overflowing.

And so it goes, a perpetual fountain of grace-giving that only stops when we break the chain and stagnate the flow until we’re all swamp-stinky and covered in a grime of selfishness.

Maybe your days of classroom teachers are long over.  But we all have those special ones who give so much and if we’ll just take one moment to look at them instead of at ourselves, we’ll marvel at the creativity, the thoughtfulness, the gentleness, the devotion, the commitment, the faithfulness, the care and the compassion.

And we’ll want to say, “Thanks.”  We’ll want to tell them—”I see this beauty in you.”

For those looking for ways to bless a teacher or other special servant, here are some ideas as we end this school year or even thoughts to give you a head-start for the fall.  We’ve collected these ideas from Pinterest, the Internet, and from other moms.  I’m hardly creative enough to come up with these on my own!

To see my whole Pinterest board of Cute Gift Ideas, click here!

Of course, gift cards are great, too.

Most importantly, though, is a genuine, heartfelt note of appreciation and encouragement.  That’s something we can all give to another this week.

Originally published 5/20/2013

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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Renew, Revive, Restore Us Again

I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.

It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.

I recognized the discouragement because

I

Have

Been

There

Before.

We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.

So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time.  We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace.  We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.

How do we know?  That’s what they might ask.

Oh my friend, how I know.psalm51

Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow.  Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.

Yet, we know this also.

We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.

You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.

Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.

The Psalmists prayed:

Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)

and

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest  (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)

and

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).  

Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.

We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again.  That’s what they asked.

That’s what we need, too.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion.  The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish.  The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).

So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.

We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.

No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.

We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.

We had lost everything and God restored us.

God did this for me, that’s what we say.  And He will do this work in you, too.

And we pray, of course we pray.

We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.

God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?

But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.

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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 05/05/2012–Stressing Over Stupid Stuff and an Undivided Heart

Hiding the Word:

It was all stupid stuff and it all stressed me out.

That afternoon, we spent too much time in the school library during the family reading time because my kids wouldn’t stop reading, which normally makes me grateful, but that afternoon made me a bit frustrated.

Then, while changing into her ballet clothes, my oldest daughter asked me to help her untie the knot in her laces.  “Sure,” I said, holding out my hand for one ballet shoe.

Instead, she plopped two ballet shoes into my hand that she actually had tied together last week because “it looked like fun.”  She was still giggling a week later.  I was not.  Now the slender laces of her slippers were pulled together in a knot that would have made any sailor or Boy Scout proud.

Zooming out of the school bathroom, across the school parking lot and into the mini-van, I still picked at the knot on the shoes unsuccessfully.  When we arrived at ballet, I reached into the bag to pull out the bobby pins and hair net and the other jumble of hair accessories we tote around in order to pull my daughter’s mass of princess-like hair into a perfect ballerina’s bun.

They were gone. We had left them all piled on the bathroom sink at the school.  I tugged a ponytail holder out of another daughter’s hair, made the messiest bun of all time on my oldest girl’s head, and ran into the ballet studio.

I asked the lady at the desk for scissors and held up the attached ballet shoes apologetically.  She haplessly searched for scissors—which she couldn’t find because of course most people don’t need to cut the laces of their ballet shoes before class.  Fortunately, a nice man with a pocket knife slashed the laces apart so I could run the shoes into my daughter, already poised at the barre and pointing her toes.

And so it went.  There were bigger stressors that day.  There were other petty annoyances still to come.  The crazy whirlwind of it all left me dizzy and exhausted, but I knew one thing was true:  Nothing that day was worth the frustrated attention I was giving it.

Nothing there was life-threatening or mattered in the eternal way that some things matter.  They were silly and foolish worries, just pests that nipped at my heels and made the simple treading through my day difficult.

Would less stress have made it all better?  Would untied ballet shoe laces or un-lost hair accessories have improved my day? Perhaps.

But what I really needed, what I usually need, isn’t a more smoothly running life with less obstacles and bothers.

I need the eternal perspective that only Christ can give, the reminder of what really matters now, what will still matter 20 years from now, and what God and I will agree matters when I’m hanging out in heaven and worshiping at His throne.

That’s the perspective Paul writes about in Colossians and it’ll be my verse for the week.  I encourage you to copy it down, pray over it, meditate on it, memorize it and ask God to help it change your perspective this week when life gets hard or even slightly tiresome or stressful.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

Weekend Rerun:

One Heart And Mind
Originally published April 21, 2011

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”
Psalm 86:11

Multitasking is my spiritual gift.  Somehow the Apostle Paul left that off of his lists in Romans, Corinthians and Ephesians.  Even if it didn’t make the Biblical list, some of you share this gifting with me.  You mop the floor, do laundry, type emails, care for children, talk on the phone and make dinner all at the same time.  What can we say?  It’s a talent.

Usually my multitasking works quite well for me and truthfully I am sometimes bored when I am simply keeping one ball up in the air instead of juggling several.  But there are those moments, I’ll confess, when I open my pantry cabinet to find that I accidentally put the frozen broccoli away there and when I open up the freezer, there are the spaghetti noodles.  It’s a sure sign that I have too much going on and things are starting to fall apart.

Multitasking may work for me (most of the time) as I clean my house or plunge through my to-do list each day and yet its a choking hand of death on my quiet times with God.

This morning I sat at my kitchen table, my place for meeting with God every day.  My Bible was open and ready, my journal and pen set to the side waiting to be used.  My cup of tea was steaming hot, strong and sweet.  Everything I needed to spend some focused time with my Savior was at my fingertips.  Everything was prepared—-except my heart.

I was distracted.  Distracted a little by projects and to-do lists, the phone and the emails left unanswered.  Distracted by my children asking and asking for help.  Distracted a little by frustrations and situations needing to be handled.  My thoughts drifted to all of those things as I read the words on my Bible’s open page.  Words that normally hold power and relevance for me, the living and active Word of God, now made dull by a scattered heart and an unfocused mind.

Not wanting to give up, I prayed over Psalm 86:11.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (NIV)

and in the Message:

“Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path.  Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear” (MSG).

I prayed, “Lord, create in me an undivided heart.  Put me together, one heart and mind—wholly focused on you.  There are so many things vying for my attention, captivating my heart, stirring up my emotions, and setting my thoughts wild.  Please fill me and focus me so that You alone are my heart’s desire.”

It’s not a magic formula, a mystical incantation that somehow brought clarity out of chaos.  No, it was a confession of desire.  A request for God’s strength in my weakness.

I am a forgetful and distracted creature, and I need the help of my God to cut through the clutter and noise so that I can pay wholehearted attention to Him.  That’s why David writes this verse as a petition to God.  He knew He needed heavenly help also.  He asks for God to “give” Him an undivided heart or, as the message says, to “put him together” so that he can be receptive vessel, prepared to hear and receive God’s teaching and training.  David knew He couldn’t achieve an undivided heart on His own.

And yet, I didn’t just pray this prayer and then sit down to the best quiet time ever, full of revelation and inspiration.  It took effort on my part to reject and discard the jumble of thoughts that kept popping into my mind.  I had to stand guard over my heart and not allow it to take my focus off God’s Word.

When I suddenly remembered an item for my to-do list, I jotted it down on a piece of paper and returned to Scripture.  When I started rehashing what was frustrating and upsetting me, I cut off my thoughts and whispered a quick prayer that God would take care of that situation.  And I returned to Scripture.

It was work, but it was worth it.

Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  By asking God to give me an undivided heart, I was making a similar petition.  I was allowing Him to sanctify me (make me holy) through and through—spirit, soul, and body—and this brings me peace straight from the God of peace.

********************************************************************************************************

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

Now Recruiting Team Members: Job #1, Barnabas

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

We have the world’s largest dress-up collection.

Our closet holds two Rubbermaid containers full of tiaras, fairy wands and wings, long flowing dresses, and clickety-clacky high-heeled shoes.

But after my daughters choose their perfect outfits, they find themselves missing a piece in most of their fairy-tale games.

They can play Sleeping Beauty, but there’s no prince to wake her up.

They can play Cinderella, but there’s not much point in going to a ball if you have no dance partner.

They can play Snow White, but once she eats the poisoned apple, she’s a goner without a prince to rescue her.

With three girls in the family, we’ve got the princess roles pretty well covered, but we’re always missing the prince.  My oldest daughter always suggests what seems like the perfect solution, “Mom, if you just had a boy than he could play with us.”

Never mind that he won’t pop out of the womb and instantly be ready to ride over the hill and wake sleeping princesses.  Or that even if they waited until he was five years old, he might prefer playing Legos to wearing tights and a feather cap and dancing at balls.

My girls are missing a role.

It’s made me think about the roles we are sometimes missing in our own lives and ministries.  Maybe we all could do some recruiting for some open positions in our circle of friends.

Job posting #1: Barnabas

  • Must be willing to believe in you when no one else does.
  • Must always “have your back” and stand up for you against opposition.
  • Must know exactly the right encouraging words to say when you need it most.
  • Must be willing to work alongside you and give you friendship and practical help in whatever God calls you to do.

All applications will be considered.  Deadline for applying is as soon as you can! Equal opportunity employer.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed someone to put their arms around you and say, “You’re great.  You’re beautiful.  I believe in you.  What you do matters.  Don’t quit.  I’m with you all the way.”?

You need a Barnabas.

We all do, I suppose.

It’s hard for any of us to be strong and confident on the tough days when our hair doesn’t look right in the mirror and the ten outfits we try on make us look frumpy.  Oh, and of course a runway model stands next to us in line just to accentuate our plainness.

We tend all day to needs that seem so vital to the little people at our feet, but don’t ever seem to make it on the news.

We pour ourselves daily into ministries that don’t make a bestseller list or pack arenas and at times seem to make so little difference, no one would care if you quit.

We make ourselves vulnerable and put ourselves out there in obedience to God’s call and others come trampling all over our dreams with massive steel-toed boots of apathy or even outright opposition.

Yes, we surely need a Barnabas.

Paul certainly did.

Paul didn’t start out as a massively famous and successful missionary who penned the bulk of the New Testament.  He began as a devout Jewish man named Saul who was famous for his brutal persecution of the early church.

When he encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and dramatically converted to Christianity, the disciples didn’t welcome him into the Christian fold with welcome arms either.

They were terrified of him, “not believing that he was a real disciple” (Acts 9:26).

The church thought Saul was a faker with a capital “F.”   Everyone except Barnabas, that is.

Luke writes, “But Barnabas took him (Saul) and brought him to the apostles.  He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord” (Acts 9:27).

This was Barnabas’s great spiritual gift, encouraging others in their faith and bolstering their ministry.  In fact, his real name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, “which means ‘son of encouragement'” (Acts 4:36).

It makes sense then that Barnabas would believe in Saul when no one else did.

He wasn’t just a source of encouragement for Saul.  In the early days of the church, the Gospel message was spreading, but only to Jews at first.  When some people crossed the line and started telling Gentiles about Jesus, the church leaders weren’t too sure that this was acceptable.

So, who did they send to visit with the Greek believers in Antioch?

Barnabas, of course.  Just like he did with Saul, he put aside prejudice and “he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:23-24).

Barnabas was forever encouraging others, telling them “Don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  I see God at work in you.”

Even when others counted people out, he had the faith to see what God was doing in their lives.  Not only that, he put himself on the line in order to give the ministry of others a boost.

He didn’t just affirm God’s call on Saul’s life, he said, “I’ll come alongside and join you in your work.  I’ll travel with you.  I’ll endure hardship and persecution because I believe in the call God has placed on your heart.”

Without Barnabas, would we have Paul?  Would the Gospel have spread to Gentiles everywhere?  Would Paul’s New Testament epistles be written?

Maybe not.  It took someone with the gift of encouragement to help Saul reach the full potential of the Paul we know.

We all need a Barnabas.

And we all need to be a Barnabas for others.  Someone today needs you to be a Barnabas for them.  How will you be the encouragement they need?

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.

Eyewitness to Murder

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

I was an eyewitness to a murder at Wal-Mart.  Not just one.  Many.  In the baby section.  Among the girls’ clothes.  Along the aisles of frozen foods.  Standing in line.  Two of them in the parking lot.

And not just at Wal-Mart.  Wherever I went on Friday, I witnessed the battering of husbands to wives, wives to husbands and parents to their children.

It was murder by words.

Sure, I lose it with my kids sometimes.  My tongue sharpens when we’re in a hurry and I’ve asked for shoes to be on feet four, now five times, and still my children play with their toys in their socks.

Sometimes I lose it when I can’t find something I need.  I fly through the house frantically shuffling papers, opening and shutting doors, shoving things aside and my kids tag behind me wanting to chat.

And then there’s pestering.  The guilt-inducing nag, nag, nagging attempts to wear me down.  Why haven’t I sewn a rag doll for her yet?  It’s been a long time since she asked me.  She clearly sees me sitting down (for the first time in 12 hours) and shouldn’t I now be able to whip out just one more project for her, because clearly I am not doing enough?

But at Wal-Mart that day I didn’t see a slightly tired and exasperated mom juggling shopping list, coupons, and three kids who touched everything, talked about everything and argued about everything.

No, it was a mom screaming at her preteen daughter about outfits.  It was a father mocking his son in the parking lot, bringing the boy to the point of humiliated tears.

I didn’t see a husband and wife disagreeing about detergent or the dinner menu for the week.  It was a wife snidely joking about her husband to a crowd and a husband screaming in anger into a cell phone.

And I was sick over it all.  The kind of sick you feel when you witness violence and you just want to intervene and rescue and make the world better.

Jesus came to bring abundant and overwhelming grace through His sacrificial death on the cross.  But, He did something else, too.  He reset standards.  He told people that good isn’t good enough.  Do more than avoid adultery, He said, don’t even throw lustful glances at a woman who is not your wife.

Do more than just avoid murder, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (fool) is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

He said our tongues are murder weapons.

John echoed this again later, writing: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15).

Still, we do it.  We call each other names.  We gossip.  We slander.  We quibble and argue in a public show of disunity and disrespect.  We talk about our husbands behind their backs.

We make jokes that humiliate.  Proverbs 26:18-19 says, “Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

Isn’t that what people find funny now?  We put others down and then say, “Just kidding!”  As if that makes it better.  As if that erases the damage already done by our words.

Maybe that’s not you.  Maybe you don’t do that.

But, do you ever find yourself “sharing opinions” about others, perhaps even about your friends, commenting on their parenting decisions, their career choices, their clothes, their money, their ministry?  Do you feel it necessary to share your thoughts about everything?  To rise to every occasion with a verbal slap of a sword in a duel of opinions?  To criticize and judge and judge and criticize?

James wrote: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”  (James 1:19-20).  How often do we skip right over listening and instead jump right to the speaking part?

God held Ezekiel to the highest standard imaginable when it came to his tongue:

“I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ ” (Ezekiel 3:26-27).

God essentially glued Ezekiel’s tongue to the roof of his mouth.  The only time Ezekiel could talk was when he was saying what God wanted him to say.

What if that became the standard we used to decide when to talk and when to keep our opinions quietly tucked away in our brains rather than spewing out of our mouths?  What if we asked, is this something God Himself wants me to say?  Maybe we could give ourselves a little grace and just ask, “Is this something God would approve of me saying?”

Either way, I know I don’t meet that standard 100%.  I wonder if any of us do.

My mom had all of us kids memorize Ephesians 4:29 when we were little.  We’d bicker or start name-calling and she’d intervene and ask us to quote this verse:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

No unwholesome talk.  Nothing hurtful.  Nothing weighted down with criticism and oozing with judgment.

Instead, we ask, “Is what I am saying right now helpful?  Will it encourage someone else and build them up?  Will it be of benefit to anyone listening?”

If not, then they are words best left unsaid.  Because words are powerful.  They are life and death weaponry in our arsenal.  We speak words of hope and people remember them for years, thriving on encouragement and being renewed by praise.  We speak words of criticism and people remember them for years, dying a slow death from the poison of language.

How can your words bring life and not death to others today?

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

The Giving of Courage

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various  kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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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

I Choose to Obey

“Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”
(1 Corinthians 15:58).

Today is piano lesson day in my house.  I stopped giving lessons to other students when my youngest daughter was born, but I still teach my older girls once a week.  At times, this may seem like a raw deal to my daughters, having a teacher there not just for lessons, but for practice time, as well.  They might not fully appreciate me hovering over their shoulders and correcting their mistakes all week.  I change their hand positions when they shift their fingers too far.  I show them the right notes when they stray to a wrong key.  I remind them of the OTHER song they were supposed to practice this week, not just the song they really like.

In many ways, me being their mom and their teacher has been helpful, not just because I make sure they practice the songs the right way all week long, but also because I’m there to encourage them each day to keep going and not give up.

In the beginning, my oldest daughter asked me to quit about once a week.  Any time she got a new song that was just a little bit harder than the last one, she thought it was a good time to give up.  One minute, she would be super excited about mastering her old lesson, playing it 20 times so I can hear how great she is, and then I’d turn the page to a new song.  Some new notes.  A new hand position.  A new skill.  And she’d be discouraged and a little afraid.  She’d tell me that what she had learned was enough , that she was a great piano player because of how well she could play “Old MacDonald,” so there was clearly no need to play “Aura Lee.”

But, I’m her teacher and mom and I know better.  I know the new song isn’t too hard and that if she just gave it one good practice session, she’d regain confidence. Within a week she’d have mastered it and be ready for something new.  So, I tell her, “Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  You can do it.  The best things in life take hard work and the effort is worth it.”

Today, I feel like giving up.  I’ve looked around at where I’m at and how hard it is, and I’ve thought, “I’ve gone far enough.  I’ve exerted enough effort.  It’s just too costly and time-consuming and emotionally draining and I think I need to stop.  Take a vacation.  Escape.  Quit and do something easier.  Settle for something less.  Did you really call me to this?  Did I hear correctly or am I just off doing my own thing?  I just can’t do this anymore, God.  I’m not seeing any results, blessing or reward, so this just doesn’t seem worth it.”

Have you been there?

Have you changed your 13th diaper for a morning and thought, “I’m over this.  I’m done.   Nine months old sounds like a perfectly reasonable time to potty train.”

Have you listened to yet another fight between your kids and wanted to scream and just shut the door and hide until your husband comes home?

Have you washed every dish and bit of clothing in your house only to find the sink and hampers filled by the evening and just been totally overwhelmed by the endlessness of it all?

Have you given everything you had in ministry only to see little tangible result and watched as someone else seemed to reap success with little effort, so you just want to pack it in?

Have you worked hard to get out of debt or saved to put money aside, only to face a totally unexpected bill or rising gas prices that cut into your budget, and find that you’re never any closer to your goals no matter how hard you work or cut expenses?  And you think, “What’s the point.  Why am I trying so hard?”

But, God’s our Teacher and our Father and He knows better.

He knows that sometimes we grow tired and weary and that in those moments, it’s hard to remember the vision He gave us or the call He placed on our hearts.  He knows we just want to escape sometimes and curl up in His lap for comfort and rest, but He encourages our hearts by telling us, “Don’t give up.  Don’t run away now, not when you’re so close to the reward.  It is worth it; it is all worth it.  Just take another step, go a little further.”

Today, I’ve felt a little like John the Baptist just before the end of his life.  This man had boldly proclaimed the coming Messiah, publicly baptized Jesus and personally witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove with God’s voice from heaven proclaiming, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.   It may seem like if anyone in Scripture had the assurance of his calling and confidence in his ministry, it was John.

Yet, when John was in prison, he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2, NIV).

As he sat in that prison, preparing for death, John must have begun to wonder, “Was it worth it?  Did I put everything on the line for the truth or for a lie?  Should I just give up?  Did I hear wrong from God?  Should I have stayed in the desert and never stood before a crowd to preach at all?  Was this guy even the Messiah or has this all been for nothing?”

So, Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5, NIV).   Jesus didn’t just send back a message of platitudes and inspirational quotes.  He gave John concrete evidence and specific reminders that God was at work and that it was all true and worth it.  Just like I tell my daughter at the piano, “Remember when you couldn’t play this song?  Now you can.  Remember when playing with hands together was hard?  Now it’s easy.”  I give her tangible signs of progress and success.

God gives us encouragement for those days when we question our call and think giving up sounds a whole lot better than persevering.

  • “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).
  • “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV).
  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

These Scriptures remind me that it’s worth it, all the effort and sacrifice and heartache and time.  There’s a reward and blessing at the end of this as long as I don’t give up.  But, I can’t stop here.  I have to keep going, step after step after step. Even though I can’t see the end result, I can trust that to God.  All I can see is now and in this moment, I choose to obey.

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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

From the Inside Out

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12, NIV

I like to pretend I’m perfect.  Not for my benefit, because I know I’m far from a perfect person, woman, wife, mom, ministry leader, friend . . .

Not with other people either because I truly believe that openness and vulnerability are the only way we can help one another through this thing called life.

I mostly like to pretend I’m perfect with God.  When I sit down for my quiet time, I rarely pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).

Instead, I usually pray something like, “God, it’s so great to spend some time with You.  Please meet me here and teach me.  Encourage my heart.  I could really use some comfort and lifting up today.”  In other words, “Tell me You love me and are proud of me and promise me blessing.”

This week I’ve been writing about how God’s Word is His intimate and personal revelation of Himself, a testimony of God’s activity in people through history, His love letter to us, and our daily bread.  God’s Word is all those things.  It is where I go when I need encouragement, comfort, peace, and a reminder of His love and it’s totally okay to ask God for help when I need it.

But, God’s Word does one more thing.  It unsettles my heart.  It interrupts me and my “perfect” plans.  It calls me to account.  It bruises my ego sometimes.  As Lysa TerKeurst says, it “steps on my toes.”  It shines a light on the dark places of my heart and reveals the hidden sins.

Sure, I’d rather just pretend I’m perfect and ignore the quiet nudging of the Holy Spirit, but I’d be missing out on God’s plans for me.  In the vocabulary of child rearing, I’d be asking for perpetual positive reinforcement and never accepting discipline.   Getting gold stars on my spiritual behavior chart is fine.  Sometimes, though,  in order for me to grow more Christ-like and thus become a more usable vessel for God to work through, I need a “heavenly time out” or a “Holy Spirit grounding.”

That’s why I totally understand where Asa is coming from in 2 Chronicles 14-16.  Asa was a king of Judah who “did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 14:2, NIV).  When the nation faced an enemy that was too powerful for them, Asa cried out to God.

God answered Asa’s desperate plea for help by totally routing the enemy.  Then, to further encourage Asa, God sent a prophet with an encouraging message:

The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. . . But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your hard work will be rewarded (2 chronicles 15:2, 7 NIV).

I’d take that message from God any day!  Asa had gotten it right.  He was a good king with a heart for God.  When he needed rescue, he cried out to God and was saved.   As a result, God blessed him with encouragement and promises that he could hold onto in the tough times.

So far, so good.

Still, something happened in the later years of Asa’s reign.  He faced a new enemy and instead of asking for God’s help again, this time Asa did something that seemed totally logical.  He made a treaty with another king and they fought the enemy together.

So, God sent another prophet to Asa, this time with words that cut to the heart.  He said:

Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand . . . Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.  For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war ( 2 Chronicles 16:7-9 NIV).

Ouch.  Those aren’t feel-good words of encouragement for a hurting king.  Asa was totally willing to accept encouragement and God’s promises in the past, but he wasn’t so willing to accept conviction.  This time, “Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison” (2 Chronicles 16:10 NIV).

Later on in his reign, Asa became ill with a disease in his feet.  Scripture says that “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (2 Chronicles 17:11 NIV).

Asa never accepted God’s discipline.  For the rest of his life, he placed his trust in himself or in other men, but he didn’t turn to God for help again—not even when his diseased body became a daily proof of his need for God’s rescue.

How we react to the conviction of God’s Word will determine God’s ability to use us. Maybe Asa could have defeated those enemies if he had asked for God’s help.  Maybe his kingdom could have been at peace through the rest of his reign if he had repented.  Instead, Asa chose a life of perpetual war and unending disease all because he couldn’t react to God’s Word with humble submission.

I don’t want to be like Asa, stubbornly clinging to my sin just because I don’t want to repent and respond to God’s convicting words.

In James 1:23, it says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (NIV).  God’s Word should have a transformational power in our lives.  When He holds the mirror of His Word up for us and we see our sinful reflection, we shouldn’t ignore what we see and pretend we look perfect.  Instead, we should be willing to let Him give us a heart makeover.  It may hurt a bit and sting our pride.   Yet, when we allow God’s Word to change us from the inside out, we grow more and more like Christ and are better able to reflect His love to those around us.  When they look at us, they will see Him.

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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