Am I the One, Lord?

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

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

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

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

Silence.  Stillness.  Seriousness.

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

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

Am I the one, Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Cultivating a Quiet Heart

“I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content”
Psalm 131:1-2 (MSG)

I work from home at my computer so that I can take care of my three young daughters.  Mostly, my work days go something like this:

  • Get everyone settled and sit down at the computer to work.
  • Help child put clothes on her doll.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get a drink for another child.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Spell “Pocahontas” for older daughter who is systematically drawing every princess she’s ever heard of.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Change baby’s diaper.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Break up fight between older girls who each want to be the same princess.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get snack for children who declare that they are indeed starving and will die if they don’t eat something now instead of waiting for dinner.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get lemonade for the children who forgot that they were also thirsty and not just hungry when they asked for a snack.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Look for a particular book for a child who swears she’s looked everywhere, including the bookshelf, and it has just simply disappeared into thin air.  Find the book on the bookshelf.
  • Sit down to work.

You get the idea.

Yesterday, I was working away and getting up every 20 seconds (perhaps an exaggeration, but it FELT like every 20 seconds), when my oldest daughter stood at my feet, appearing like a child in need.  So, I looked at her and sighed and waited for the request.  One more thing someone needed from me.  One more expectation to fill.  One more bit of help to give.

And she gave me a hug, placed a kiss on my cheek, said, “I love you, Mom” and walked away.

My baby does this all day long.  She plays and asks me for things and then at least two or three times an hour, she walks over to me and just lays her head down on my arm and waits for me to stroke her head and kiss her.  Then, she runs off again to dump out all the blocks and pull every book off the bookshelf as she plays.

I love my children and I love that I can be at home to help them when they need it and to give and receive kisses and hugs when all they ask for is affection.   Some days, it’s draining because it’s a job that involves giving, giving, and giving some more.   I know they’re kids who just need help and that’s okay.  I would much prefer they ask me for help than find my house torn apart from their efforts to do things on their own.  Still, sometimes I think a few minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time sitting in one place sounds luxurious.

That hug and kiss from my daughter yesterday reminded me of my relationship with God.   So many days, I go to Him in need.  I ask Him for help, encouragement, intervention, provision, healing.  All day long, I pray for myself, my family and for others.  Thankfully, God is a far more patient parent than I am.  He never sighs with fatigue and frustration when I show up before His throne again with another request.

Yet, how precious are the moments when I come into God’s presence not asking for Him to help me with anything, but just pleased to have His company.

Psalm 131:1-2 says:  “I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (MSG).  In the NIV, this description is of a “weaned child with its mother.”

The image here is of a baby content to be with her mother, not because she’s looking for food or the fulfillment of a need, but just because the mother’s very presence brings comfort.

It’s part of the maturing process in this Christian walk.  God weans us so that we don’t just look to Him for help, but we respond “to Him out of love . . . for God does not want us neurotically dependent on Him but willingly trustful in Him” (Eugene Peterson).  It’s not that God no longer cares for us or sees our need.  Instead, He’s asking us to trust His love for us so much that we can lay our burdens at His feet and leave them there, choosing to focus on God Himself rather than our troubling circumstances.  We see His love and not our empty bank account.  We look to His faithfulness and not our illness.  We focus on His might and not our broken relationships.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson goes on to write, “Choose to be with him; elect his presence; aspire to his ways; respond to his love.”

This reminds me of Psalm 42:1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV).  It’s a cry for communion and relationship rather than a desperate plea for help.  It’s a call to enjoy God’s presence, not for what He does for us, but for who He is.

“Father, I thank You that You are so patient with me, hearing each of my requests and responding to me with lovingkindness and compassion.  I’m sorry for not spending more time just enjoying Your presence instead of meeting with You in order to get something for myself.  I trust in You to care for me and all these needs that weigh on my heart and I put them aside in order to commune with You and give You praise.  I choose to cultivate a quiet and contented heart.”

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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

A Blameless Heart

“I will walk in my house with a blameless heart”
Psalm 101:2

Yesterday, I went to a funeral home where family and friends gathered around a casket that should just be too small to exist.  A slide show displayed pictures of the sweetest little baby girl, enjoying her first birthday, meeting Chuck E. Cheese, looking no bigger than my youngest daughter—and a few feet away was this baby girl’s casket.

A moment like that is a terrible shock for someone like me.  I’m a to-do list maker, a go-getter, a get-things-done kind of person.  There are days when it probably seems to my daughters that since Candy Land isn’t on Mommy’s very official to-do list, we can’t play.

Yet, last night I saw an unmistakable reminder that people are ever so much more important than any deadline or production goal.

It’s very easy for me to let external priorities take precedence over my relationships with people.  Over the years, I’ve had to slowly learn not to begin conversations by going directly to “business.”  God has taught my heart how to truly mean it when I ask someone, “How are you doing?” and to linger there in the relationship time before moving ahead to any items on my agenda.

From God’s perspective, people are always top priority.  His entire goal from the creation of the world was to build relationship with us.  When Adam and Eve’s sin caused a breach in that precious communion with God, He immediately began planning a way to reunite us, ultimately sacrificing His Son all because of His great, enduring and passionate love for us.  Relationship with us was always part of His plan.

If God loves people that much, then we should reflect His heart by loving people also.   In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

People are at the center of the Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies.  We travel light.  The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships.

When the Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3, “Children are God’s best gift,” it reminds my mommy heart to value God’s greatest gifts to me by prioritizing time with my children over my work.

But this verse isn’t just for parents.  It shows that God’s focus is always on relationships over tasks, people over productivity.  Eugene Peterson wrote, “We invest our energy in people.  Among those around us we develop sons and daughters, sisters and brothers even as our Lord did with us.”

In our efforts to love people, though, sometimes we fall into the trap of “ministering” to people and “serving” in the church, but never really loving anybody!  Even ministry—the programmed and scheduled kind of ministry—can get in the way of actually ministering to people.  Are we too busy attending meetings to take dinner to a sick friend?  Are we on so many committees we no longer have time to meet another woman for lunch and encourage her?

And then there are the times when loving and serving people means “other people” and not those in our own homes.   We’re “showing God’s love” to the neighbor, to the single mom at church, to the child in our Sunday School class.   Yet, sometimes the people we love the very most can get the worst part of us.  We can be gentle with anyone but our kids.  We can be encouraging to everyone except our husbands.

In one of my most favorite books, Bleak House, Charles Dickens described Mrs. Jellyby as: “a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects, at various times, and is at present (until something else attracts her) devoted to the subject of Africa”.

Just like me, Mrs. Jellyby was a get-things-done kind of woman, but her eyes were so fixed on saving orphans in Africa, that her own children were starving, dirty, uneducated, in rags, and totally unloved.

Mrs. Jellyby is an extreme, but it’s not difficult to see how we can get our priorities scrambled at times.  I had a friend who had some special recipes that her family loved,.  More importantly, though, the people at her church loved them.  So, she would fix them for church potlucks.  After all, everyone wants to have the empty dish at the end of the covered dish meal!  But when her kids would come home and smell the delicious cookies baking, she’d say, “Those are for church!”  Then, one day she was reminded that she should cook the special dishes and treats for her precious children also—not just for the people outside her home.

I love what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is Christ whom you serve.”

In the past, I’ve taken that verse to mean that I should work hard at my job, give my best effort in ministry, and just generally DO stuff for God.  Yet, I have no greater work or ministry than serving and loving my husband and my children.  After that, my top priority should be relationships with the other people God places in my life.

That means: Being patient with my daughter as she learns to tie her shoelaces.  Taking a break from work to play Candy Land.  Fixing my daughter the pasta salad that I normally reserve for church potlucks.  Writing a note to my husband, not just the ladies in my Bible Study.

I do all of these things “as for the Lord rather than for men” because “it is Christ whom I serve.”   We will get no earthly recognition, plaque, award, or productivity bonus from loving people.  In fact, if we love as we’re supposed to–humbly, quietly, and sacrificially–no one may ever even know it’s happening.  Nevertheless, God always sees our actions and heart when we, like Him, make people our priority and  He will give us “the reward of the inheritance.”

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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

Everyday, Ordinary Life

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1, MSG).

I love that verse in Romans and I came across it again today in my reading. The thing is, there are so many parts of my “everyday, ordinary life” that don’t seem really offering worthy.  I don’t mean because they are mundane.  I mean because they’re ugly and messy and well, failures really.

Like when your daughter decides to take the ballet shoes that you placed next to the front door, hide them and then forget where they are 5 minutes before you have to leave for ballet class and you lose it.

Maybe that kind of stuff only happens to me, but believe me, my reaction to this “irritation” wasn’t really an offering worthy of God.

To be honest, how I react to the big crises in life is much more holy and Christian.  I lean in to God and I grow in my faith in the process because I have no other choice really.  I know fully well that I’m not able to handle any of the big stuff on my own.

It’s the daily annoyances, interruptions, and irritants that bring out the worst in me, partly because I forget to look to God for any help or input at all.

So, how—-how do I turn my everyday, ordinary life into an acceptable sacrifice and a way to give God glory?

I’m reading this fantastic book by Eugene Peterson called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and he drew my attention to something I had ignored before in this verse.  Three little words: “God helping you.” In the NIV translation, the verse reads:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

With God’s help and in view of God’s mercy, I can make my life–my whole life, not just the “important” parts—an offering to God.

In Romans 9:16, Paul writes, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m so thankful to know that my salvation, my joy, my future don’t depend on anything other than God’s great mercy.

That means when I mess it up and lose it over hidden ballet shoes that actually don’t reappear until 3 days later (hidden behind the chair in my room), I can have a fresh start.  As it says in Lamentations 3:21-24:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.

We fail, but His compassion doesn’t fail.  He gives us new grace every morning.  He is our portion.  He is all we need in every difficult, annoying, frustrating moment of our everyday lives, just like He’s faithfully with us in every crisis.  It is only with His help that my reactions to the daily can be placed before Him as an offering.

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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