What she said on the mountain….and why I didn’t expect it

She stepped right off that bus and kept on going.

The rest of us shuffled off after the long drive and congregated silently on the sidewalk, awaiting further instructions.  No one really knew each other so we generally avoided awkwardness by pretending to be busy getting our stuff together.

Not her.  She pushed right past and flung her arms open into the cool October air.

She even spun around.  I’m not kidding.  It was just like Maria from Sound of Music only she didn’t break into, “The hills are alive…”psalm19

But she could have.

Instead, I heard her say it and it stopped my self-obsessed heart right there:  “It’s so beautiful!  How could you see all this and not know God?”

That’s what she said.

It’s the first time I really noticed her.  I mean really noticed, more than the passing glance and distant, friendly nod in our college history class.  We’d spent a whole semester together and I think perhaps by the end I’d at least learned her name.

But here she was, declaring the glory of God in the mountains of Western Maryland as we spent a weekend at a leadership retreat for college students.  She was bolder than I had been all year, didn’t care what anyone else thought, just threw herself into a declaration of faith and worship while everyone else looked on.

I didn’t know about her faith, didn’t know her heart at all.

Sometimes we think we know what’s inside the hearts of others.  We think we can tell—-who knows God?  Who doesn’t?  Who is close to salvation?  Who is “hopeless.”

But we can be wrong

God isn’t.  He declares,

But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives (Jeremiah 17:10 NLT).

He knows.

So, when we feel like giving up on someone and think no way will they ever believe in God, remember that only God knows.  Maybe we stop that persevering prayer for their salvation because it just won’t ever happen, but maybe they are just one moment away from faith.

Or we think all this depends on us.  Our words, our prayers, our testimonies make salvation happen.

But really, God is at work.  He grants us this privilege to be part of His love for others, but it’s never all about us.

We just share our heart.  We live out Christ.  We love others like Him.  And we pray.

We obey Him and trust Him with the rest.

And we can get all tangled up in worry over, ‘What about the people who never hear about Christ?  How can a good God deny them heaven?”

But the truth is the same…It’s All About Him….and He is more than capable.  He knows the hearts of every one of us, knows who is close to faith, who needs to hear the message, whose heart is made ready for the Gospel.

Rahab lived in that pagan town Jericho.  No one would have expected her to be a God-follower, not a rescuer of Israelites or the one person in Jericho who was closest to salvation

She was a prostitute.  Hopelessly lost, for sure.

Maybe that’s what any human would judge with all the external evidence we could muster against her.

But God knew her heart.  He knew that of all the people in the city, she was the one person who heard the testimony of the miracles God had done and would think, ‘This is a God who I can trust to save me.”

That’s what she said in a whispered conversation with two Israelite spies she hid on her roof:

For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below (Joshua 2:11 NLT).

She believed.

Who would’ve thought?

God, that’s who.  He sent those spies straight to her door because He knew she would save them…..and He knew that He would save her.

He knocked down a seemingly impenetrable fortress of walls around Jericho, but kept her one lone house standing.

He moved heaven and earth to save a woman whose heart was ready for grace and faith.

This is our God with His heart to save, with His power to do the impossible and to share the Gospel with those who need to hear because He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV).

Lord, forgive us when we’ve given up praying for salvation for others.  Help us to persevere in prayer. 

Give us a heart for others and the boldness and compassion to share our testimony and display Your love and truth.

Remind us that only You can know what is in the heart of another.  No one is ‘hopeless’ or so far from You that salvation is out of reach.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

VBS Lessons: No Matter Who You Are

Every year at Vacation Bible School I watch as adults lead the excited children around the church from station to station, sing the songs (maybe we even do the accompanying motions), shout and laugh.  Do we also, though, compartmentalize? Do we box up the VBS messages and declare they are just for kids and not relevant for us?

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people under 18? We older and wiser ones sometimes make faith so complicated and fail to recognize or really consider the beautiful truths in these simple messages. So, this week, I’m thinking about VBS and what the lessons for children mean for you and me.  Our church is doing Group’s Sky VBS, so that’s what I’ll be sharing about here.

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No Matter Who You Are….Trust God

I’m easily duped.

I view another person’s life from afar:

Big house, family vacations, nice cars: Finances are solid.

Posts on Facebook about a husband bringing home flowers and how often he cleans up the house, makes dinner and does bath night with the kids: Their marriage is strong and the husband is divinity in human flesh who puts all mere mortal husbands to shame.

Reports of kids’ school achievements, activity accomplishments and cute parenting stories about bedtime prayers and how much they love Jesus: They are perfect parents.

Then their life implodes.  The marriage crumbles seemingly overnight with pain that’s been ripping away the threads of their home for years.  They teeter on the cliff’s edge of bankruptcy and foreclosure or fall right on over into a financial pit.  Their kids rebel.  They disappear from church.  Perhaps they seek solace in suicide.

And we all are catapulted into shock.  We just didn’t know.

It’s true that a life without Jesus can’t be truly fruitful and that “a good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit” (Luke 6:43).

Sometimes, though, we’re terribly accomplished counterfeiters, building a facade of happy perfection that belies the truth of what happens in the hidden places of our lives . . . . our marriages . .. our homes . . . our families . . . even more pointedly our hearts.  Maybe it’s just wax fruit that we’ve been surreptitiously tossing onto our branches all these years, but it looked so real.

It’s just impossible to know sometimes what goes on behind the closed doors of another person’s life.

But we try.  In the same way, we might quickly glance at a person’s clothes, makeup or hair and decide whether or not they love Jesus or whether or not they are close to salvation.

Maybe we’re the ones making judgments about others or maybe we’re the ones playing pretend.

God can give us a spiritual discernment to help us see truth in these situations, but often times we finite-minded humans only have what we see–the outward appearance–to help us form judgments and make our minds up about people.

To quote from my favorite movie, The Philadelphia Story, though, “The time to make your mind up about people is never.”

Consider how God’s story would change if He was fooled by outward appearances as we often are:

He would have overlooked the prostitute Rahab as a potential savior for the Israelite spies.

He would never have chosen the teenage shepherd boy, David, to rule Israel.

Jesus would have selected pharisees and teachers of the law to be his disciples instead of a tax collector, a bunch of burly fisherman, and a guy so prone to doubt it became part of his name, good old Doubting Thomas.

A raging bull of a man bent on the destruction of the New Testament church would never have become the apostle to the gentiles, the great advocate for salvation by grace alone, and the predominant writer of the New Testament

And when a centurion burst through the mob surrounding Jesus and asked this miraculous healer to save his ailing servant, Jesus would have turned in disgust.  This Roman soldier was an enemy.  A Gentile.  An occupier.  Instead, Jesus, amazed by his faith, heals the ailing servant with a simple command.

Scripture confirms that “people judge by the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).  Aren’t you thankful for that?

King David shared this same wisdom with his son Solomon: “the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts(1 Chronicles 28:9).  In Hebrews, we read that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

God always knows our motivations and the condition of our heart.  He’s not duped as I am by the Kodak moment snapshots of our lives, where the makeup is perfect, the hair in place, the smiles just right.

He sees all the photos we rejected, not just the one we framed on the wall for all to see.

Yes, God knows the truth about us all—and the truth that God sees ever so clearly—-is that we all need a Savior.

And He is there ready to receive us, whether we’re joyful or broken with sorrow, whether our marriages are strong or crumbling, whether we live in massive new homes or tumbledown shacks, whether we’re church girls from way back or partyers who’ve discovered the emptiness of indulgence.

No matter who you are . . . trust God.

He doesn’t require us to have it all together before we stroll into His presence cocky and self-assured.  He accepts us crawling in on our knees seeking grace, sweet grace, unmerited and undeserved salvation.

Then He lifts our heads up so we can gaze on His glory, covers us with forgiveness, redeems us and makes us new, uses us for His kingdom purposes, and invites us continually into His presence, where we don’t need to pretend or hide any more.

And He reminds us that others need to know this grace-giving Savior, too, not just those who look broken and needy, but even those who seem to have it all together.  No matter who we are, we all need a Savior.

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.