Dumbo Always Makes Me Cry

Dumbo gets me ever time.  It’s the one Disney movie I remember bawling at as a kid. I haven’t gotten over it either, not after all these years.

Once one of my girls found a storybook at the library about Dumbo.  She checked it out and then climbed up in my lap at home so I could read it to her. At first it was easy.  Baby elephant with big ears . . . Blah blah blah . . .

Everyone makes fun of him, mocking and taunting (sniffle, sniffle).

The mommy tries to defend him and they lock her up.  Dumbo gets dragged away from her, their trunks locked in embrace until the last possible second . . .

Someone please pass the tissues!  I just can’t do this story without tears.

In fact, it’s hard for me to do this story at all.  I sent the book back to the library ahead of time and I can’t bring myself to watch the movie.  My response is always so intense.

Sure it’s a cartoon elephant who ultimately flies and makes friends, but it’s still a child hurt by the cruelty of others and taken away from his mama!

In Scripture, we see people reacting even more intensely than how I snatch at tissues at the slightest Dumbo provocation.  Not because of a fictional scenario, though.

They are hearing God’s Word.

Eighteen-year-old Josiah, for example, was king of Judah when a member of his court went to the temple to perform some administrative tasks.  There he met the High Priest, who announced that he “happened” to have found the Book of the Law.

So, the royal secretary read it and then read it aloud to King Josiah:

“When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal aide. He ordered them all: “Go and pray to God for me and for this people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found!” (2 Kings 22:11-13 MSG).

Josiah knew that God’s Word requires a response.

In the same way, when the exiles returned to Jerusalem and stood inside the rebuilt walls of the city, Ezra the High Priest read the Book of the Law of Moses to everyone.  Men and women and kids old enough to understood stood from morning until lunch time listening to him read Scripture aloud.

Just God’s Word.  And nothing else.  For hours and hours.

They didn’t yawn, tune it out, roll their eyes, poke their neighbor, or skip attending so they could do chores or kick back with the latest release of ancient Middle-eastern epic poetry.

Instead, “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

At first, the people were filled with remorse and driven to repent.  Yet, Nehemiah (their governor) and the Levites (their priests) encouraged them to celebrate instead: “And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:12 ESV).

Their response to Scripture was emotional and intense.

There was true repentance and grief over how their sins had broken the heart of God.

There was a hunger for more and the willingness to stay as long as it took to hear what God had to say.

There was passionate worship with shouts of “Amen” and bowing low to the ground in awe of Mighty God.

There was joy and celebration because “they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

 How do you respond to God’s Word?

If we pick it up and read it with unemotional disinterest or with a bored and distracted mind we are missing it!

We are missing out on all the power of Scripture to revolutionize our hearts and minds, driving us to repentance, inciting us to intensely passionate worship and filling us with the kind of joy that makes us want to tell everyone what we’ve learned.

Scripture can’t be a mandatory item on our to-do list or an occasional emotional pick-me-up we drag off the shelves and dust off anytime life gets hard.

It’s got to be life and breath and food and drink to us because it holds God’s very own words, so active and relevant in our lives!  As you read, pray and ask God, “How do you want me to respond to this?”

Maybe you’ll need some of my tissues or maybe you’ll dance, but either way you’ll be giving God’s Word the response it deserves.

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 Walk: Needing Big Hair

Hiding the Word:

I ran my comb through my wet hair this morning and glanced into the mirror.  Bells certainly chimed somewhere and little stars likely danced around my head because I had an epiphany.

What I need as a writer, what I really and truly need to fill in some of my voids and deficiencies, is big hair.

Stay with me on this one:  How many female Christian writers can you think of who have a flat hairdo?

This was an astonishing revelation.  Every conference I’ve attended and DVD I’ve watched is led by beautiful women with big hair.   Anita Renfroe even posted a picture of herself at her salon this week with her hair covered in Saran Wrap and painted with hair dye and highlights. Even those without particularly high coiffures tend to wear it spiky, in a daring, edgy, cool kind of way.

I, however, do not have big hair, spiky hair, colorfully highlighted hair, or “cool” hair.

So, it seems clear that what I really need is a personal style team.  If they could just pop by every day and apply my make-up, fix my hair and then pick out my outfits, it would just be perfect.  It would be particularly helpful if they could make me beautiful while I’m busy doing other things.  As it is, I never seem to have time to blow dry my own hair.  Maybe they could do it for me while I wash dishes.

Isn’t it sad how easily our culture of the external seeps in?  How there is always something that we “need” and it’s usually what the person next to us has.

What I really need is . . . her job, his house, her car, her marriage, their kids, her ministry, her spiritual gift . . . her hair.

The Psalmist, Asaph, reminded us that there shouldn’t be anything on earth we long for more than God Himself.  We may not have the personal stylists we dream of or the health, wealth, and prosperity the world assures us we need.

But we have Jesus.  We have the Holy Spirit active in us.  We have God’s very own Word to us written down and at our fingertips throughout every day.  This is what we truly need.

Our verse for the week, to remind us of what we’ve already been given is:

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26 NIV).

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

Catching Fireflies on a Summer’s Night

For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:7

It’s what summer looks like to me.

Stepping out into the slightest hint of coolness in the final minutes of a hot summer’s day, we carry an empty Mason jar with a foil lid folded down over the edges of the glass.  The sun drifts down and the light dims so that we can see the fireflies at play.

Last night, I called them “lightning bugs” like we did as kids, and my daughter scrunched up her nose in confusion.

Lightning bugs.  Fireflies.  It’s the freedom of summer.  We stay up past bedtime and run around the yard swinging our arms and cupping our hands trying to catch one.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve scared off the fireflies in our particular area.  They hear us coming and taunt us by flying just a little too high and just a little too far into the woods.

Still, we manage to catch a few.  For those daughters who don’t succeed in the hunt, we gently ease a bug into their hand and they giggle because it tickles, of course.  Then we drop the firefly softly into the Mason jar and deftly replace the foil lid so none escape.

On TV, whenever you see a jar of fireflies, it’s lit up, a natural lantern for the evening jaunt.

But I haven’t seen this.  Last night as I watched the few captives in our jar, they remained dark.  They didn’t expend any energy for light.  Instead, their every effort remained focused on escape.  Most of them immediately scaled the jar and sat at the top, right up against the foil, just waiting for me to open the lid again so they could fly to freedom.

Usually, we manage to defeat their various tactics and keep them in the jar until the end of the night when one daughter whines because she didn’t catch one and another daughter begs to catch just one more.  Then they all ask if we can just keep them overnight or for an hour or just a few minutes.

Pleeeeease?   Pretty please?

But I’m sympathetic to the plight of our captives.  So, before we trudge inside we lift up the foil lid and let loose the fireflies.  They jump into the air and without hesitation light up—probably sending out a warning that predators are on the move.

Whatever their message, freedom helps them shine.

Their freedom comes at little cost to them really.  They’ve made attempts at escape, but most have failed.  Ultimately, their freedom flight simply requires me to lift the foil beneath my fingers.

Our freedom, however, is costly.  Physically, most of us receive the gift of freedom because of the sacrifice of others.  I read this week that Thornton Wilder, the famed American playwright and novelist, fought in both WWI and WWII.  People like him paid the price for people like us.

In the same way, our spiritual freedom carries a high price tag, one we could never pay.  Instead, we are the recipient of freedom because of another’s sacrifice.

Paul tells us:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom is God’s design for us.  It has always been His intention and plan and Christ willingly paid the costly price on our behalf.

A girl in my online Bible study group reminded me of this verse:  “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38 ESV).

Jesus is a freedom-giver, a defeater of oppression and freer of captives.

But Paul charges us with a task, as well. Christ offered us freedom and now it is our job to “stand firm” and refuse to submit to slavery again.

It seems silly, but we often choose prison over the freedom Christ offers.  We sit in the bottom of our Mason jar, unwilling to fly and light up the night.  Perhaps we want to do it on our own, scale the glass, escape the lid.  Perhaps the night air is too frightening and the jar too comfortable because it’s what we know.

Do you do this?

If anxiety is your jail, do you rebuild the prison walls by wallowing in fear, allowing your mind to travel where it shouldn’t, looking up information that you know will disturb you, inciting emotions and then letting them run wild?

When the rigors of legalism and the chains of people-pleasing threaten to oppress you, do you submit–check the boxes, follow the crowd, follow expectations, try not to rock the boat, don’t do anything crazy or radical?

If shame holds you captive, do you allow Satan to throw your past in your face, to call you names, to cover your eyes so you can’t see the totally loved, totally forgiven person Christ has made you?

God never meant for you to live oppressed. 
So, now that He’s offered you freedom . . . live free by living in truth (John 8:32).

Combat lies with the Word.
Feed on a diet of Scripture so that doubts and Satan’s schemes starve.
Be alert to the first sign of shackles and chains as Satan, the world, and even your old habits try to sneak them onto your wrists and feet.

Freedom is Christ’s gift to you, so refuse to accept captivity any longer.  He’s called you to shine and to fly and to share the message of sweet, sweet freedom with other prisoners.

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.

Weekend Walk, 05/26/2012: Memorial Day Memory Verse

Our church sponsors a Boy Scout troop and many of my friends have sons who participate, so this Memorial Day weekend has taken on a new significance for me recently.

On the Saturday before the holiday each year, my Facebook wall fills with pictures of families placing small American flags on the graves of soldiers throughout cemeteries in our county.  They call this event Flags for Vets and even just from the pictures, I love it.  I love how families are teaching their sons to value service, sacrifice, and bravery.

At first it seems a little unselfish for busy families at the hectic end of the school year, who are likely buried under a calendar packed full of graduations and parties, to take a Saturday morning to honor those who have died.  Maybe it’s hot.  Maybe they missed out on other activities in order to participate.

And yet, considering the sacrifice these soldiers made—to fight and serve our country’s armed forces in order to defend us—then surely the setting aside of a Saturday morning and walking among headstones and grave plots to place a flag doesn’t seem like much too give in return.

Is it really much different in our service of Christ?  How easy it is to feel sometimes like the sacrifices we make for Him should merit something.  We feel a little proud of ourselves perhaps when we reject sin or give up something we want so we can give to another or set aside a Saturday morning to serve our community and minister to the least of these.

But Christ gave everything for us, His very life laid down in painful sacrifice so we could be free from the inevitability of hell and the prison of sin.

Thus, my verse for the week focuses on Jesus’ sacrifice for us and reminds us to love others in return.  It seems a fitting way to remember the responsibility we bear in order to honor the service of others.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:2

Weekend Rerun:

Marco Polo

Originally posted on February 24, 2011

 

My house really isn’t that big, so it’s a little surprising that my daughters can lose me in it.  And yet, it happens.  I’ll be in the room with my youngest daughter and then I leave to switch over the laundry or put something away in another room.  It’s not long before I hear the shuffle of her feet as she quickly searches for me in one room and then the next.

She doesn’t search long before she assumes the worst–that I’ve abandoned her and left her all alone in the house.  I can tell just by the sound of her voice that she’s standing at the back door and crying for me.

Of course, I would never abandon her.  So, I call out her name as loudly as I can, reassuring her that I’m still here.  Her crying pauses as she listens closely to my call.  Then after just a few seconds of this “Mommy Marco Polo,” she follows the sound of my voice to the one room she didn’t think to look in.  When she sees me, her face lights up for a moment and then she falls into my arms, crying for just a few seconds more as if to tell me how frightening it was to lose sight of me.

Sometimes in the everyday busyness and chaos of life, we can lose sight of God.  We are walking with Him and suddenly we notice that He’s taken another path, and we’re no longer by His side.  Maybe a life crisis or tragedy interrupts our communion with Him and we can’t seem to find God through the darkness we’re in.

It’s so comforting to me that God never really abandons us.  He doesn’t head out the door of our hearts and leave us all alone.   God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV) and  Brother Lawrence wrote, “You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we think.”

Just like my daughter finds me as I call to her, we can also follow God’s voice to safety and reunion with Him and His purposes for us.

John 10:3- says:

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Sometimes our Shepherd opens the gate and calls out our name so that we’ll follow Him to a new place.  At first, we may think we’ve been abandoned when we no longer see our Shepherd by our side.  But, He’s simply leading us out and He’s issuing a truly personal call for us to join Him.

He knows you, His precious sheep, and He has called you by your name.  God not only loves the whole world, He loves you.  He not only died for everyone, He died for you.  He not only has the whole world in His hands, He has your world in His hands.

Because of His personal care for us, we don’t have to fear abandonment.  We don’t have to fear any circumstance in our life, any tragedy, any deficit, anything new, anything from our past.  God tells us, “Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

So, how do we succeed in this “Spiritual Marco Polo?”–this search for God in the dark places of life?  We know His voice from the time we’ve spent with Him, so even when we cannot see Him at work in our lives, we can hear His call.

This takes effort on our part.  It is a discipline to make time in our busy, fast-paced lives to focus on our Savior.  A.W. Tozer wrote, “God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age.  It is well that we accept the hard truth now: The man who would know God must give time to Him!  He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance.”

We might grow in our faith a little when we listen to Christian speakers or read Christian books or take notes on the sermon on Sunday mornings, but only time spent in God’s presence, meditating on His Word to us in the Bible, really teaches us the sound of His voice.

We can argue that we’re too busy to study the Bible.  Our work schedule is too hectic to allow for significant time in prayer.  Our kids are too loud for us to spend any time in meditation.  Yet, the time to learn the Shepherd’s voice is before darkness.   Then, when we cannot see His face, we can still distinguish His voice and respond to His call.

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

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

Shout! A Little Bit Louder Now, Part II

It seems like such a simple test, but it’s more complicated than you might expect.

My daughter sat up in the bed in the doctor’s office for her annual checkup.  She had already stepped on the scale, stood up straight and tall, and read the eye chart.  Now it was time for the hearing test.

The nurse held the contraption into her ear and gave instructions.  “Raise your hand when you hear the beeps.”

I know, however, from years of experience that it isn’t so easy. We’ve been through this before.

There was the time she thought that meant raise your hand when the beeps begin and keep holding it up for the whole test.

So, I say, “Now, raise your hand when you hear a beep and then put it back down again so you can raise it up when you hear the next beep. You need to raise up and down, up and down.”

There was the time that she raised her hand just two or three times for the whole test and the nurse said, “Did you hear all those beeps?”

“Yes,” my daughter answered, “but some of them were quiet.”

So, I say, “Raise your hand every single time you hear a beep, even if some are loud and some are quiet.”

Unfortunately, the whole time my oldest daughter is listening intently to beeps, my youngest two girls are trying to tell stories, sing songs, fight with each other, play peekaboo, and any other number of extremely noisy and distracting past-times.

How’s a girl to hear a quiet beep in the middle of all that noise?

Yes, the hearing test sounds so simple and always ends up so very complicated.

In Part I, I talked about how we feel sometimes like we need a microphone to broadcast our cries to heaven so God can hear us.

But, today I’m thinking about our own spiritual hearing tests and how hard it is at times to hear what God is saying.

Sometimes it’s the noisy roar of circumstances that makes God’s voice so difficult to distinguish.

That’s what had the Israelites failing their spiritual hearing exam.

Initially, when Moses appeared back in Egypt with God’s promises of hope and deliverance, “the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31, ESV).

Then Pharaoh hardened his heart again and again.  Life got harder before deliverance came.

So when Moses reassured them of God’s promise, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9).

They weren’t even listening to God’s messenger any more.  They were listening to bricks and mortar, to an earthly king, to slavemasters and work orders.

God spoke hope and all they heard was hopelessness.  God spoke peace and all they heard was dread and fear.

Then there are the times that we hear voices, many voices—on the radio, from our friends, in our devotions, in sermons, in books and in conversation.  Which is God’s?  How can we discern the sound of His beep among the confusing mess of beeping in our ears?

How do we know what God is saying?

Paul wrote, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Whether it’s the message of salvation to a lost world or a message of peace to a hurting believer, we hear God when we are in His Word.

We always go back to the Bible.  We always rely on Scripture to discern truth.

That’s what happened when Paul arrived in the city of Berea to teach the Gospel: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Notice they “examined the Scriptures every day.”  The ability to discern truth doesn’t come from a random romp through the Bible every few months.

Discernment develops when we spend consistent time in God’s Word.  Discernment happens when we know His character and the sound of His voice from what He has done and said over thousands of years.  Discernment comes when we can lay every message beside the pages of Scripture and tell when they align and when they don’t.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote:

The Bible is God’s message to everybody.  We deceive ourselves if we claim to want to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes.  We must read His Word.  We must obey it.  We must live it, which means rereading it throughout our lives.

We live noisy lives in a noisy world.  It’s a confusing mess at times and an overwhelming cacophony in other moments.

But we know that God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17) and that “The word of the Lord holds true, and everything He does is worthy of our trust” (Psalm 33:4).

Whether we’re sifting through the sounds of circumstances or sorting through information overload, we can always trust Scripture to speak to the truth of God’s character and will.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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 #2, “Camel Knees”

I don’t think I’m traumatized now because my PE teachers made me play dodgeball as a kid.

But it’s a miracle.

I was terrified of PE on dodgeball days.  Also on kickball days.  The worst moment of every year came when I walked into the gym and the PE teacher pointed to a rope dangling from the ceiling and told us to climb up.

I hated the gymnastics unit since I was the only girl on the planet incapable of doing cartwheels.  I’ve been hit with a softball, basketball, and hockey puck before.  In volleyball, I just prayed no one would serve in my direction.

I was a physical education disaster.

So, it’s little surprise that the other kids weren’t jumping all over themselves to pick me for their team.  It’s a cruel ritual of waiting for some person to have mercy on you and call out your name so you wouldn’t be the dreaded last.

In Part One of this series, I wrote about one kind of person who’d be the first pick on my spiritual dream team.  I’d want a Barnabas, an encourager.  He was a talent scout who could always spot the good in others and would stand up for them against naysayers.

He even had a cool nickname.  His real name was Joseph, but the apostles called him Barnabas or “Son of Encouragement” to show off the great spiritual gift God had given him.

Now, for my second draft pick, I’d choose a guy with a nickname of his own: James, AKA “Camel Knees.”

Job Posting #2: James

  • Must be full of wisdom and good counsel, giving you sound, Godly advice whenever you need it straight from Scripture.
  • Must get down on his knees for you, continually lifting you up in prayer and being your greatest supporter before the throne of God.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, became the head of the Jerusalem church.  One thing is clear about him: He knew God’s Word through and through.

When Paul appeared before James and the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 to present his case for evangelism to the Gentiles, James immediately referred back to Old Testament prophecy (Acts 15:16-18).  He had the power of God’s Word at instant recall.  There was no lengthy pulling out of a concordance or searching through scrolls.

James had committed Scripture to memory and used it to inform his decisions and to give advice to those who needed it.

Clearly, this is a man who clocked significant time in the study of God’s Word and all that time in Scripture had convinced James of one thing.

Prayer Matters.

In her book, James: Mercy Triumphs, Beth Moore tells us the early church called him ‘Camel Knees’  “because he knelt and prayed so long that he developed thick calluses” (Beth Moore, James, p. 177).

James began his letter to the church with a call to faith-filled prayer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6).

He ends his book by coming full circle and exhorting the church once again to pray with great faith about all things:

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray . . .  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  (James 5:13, 15-16).

If there’s anyone we need on our team, it’s someone passionately in love with God and His Word, who will consistently intercede on our behalf.

Not only do we need someone like that to support us, we need to be that support for someone else.

It may seem an insufficient offering for a hurting friend.  You want to rescue them, make them well, pay off their debts and fix their relationships. Sometimes God allows us to serve others in practical ways by fixing meals, watching children, cleaning a house, or visiting them in the hospital.

There are times, though, when all we can do is pray.

And we say it just like that—“All I can do is pray,”  as if praying isn’t of real value or impact

Yet, James reminds us that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV).

We don’t just pray quick and general prayers of blessing, either.  “Bless him.  Bless her.  Bless them.  Bless this.  Bless that.”

Five minutes in prayer for a few folks in a small group didn’t give James callouses on his knees.

We drop to our knees and pray with intense faith.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible says “the urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16, HCSB).  The NKJV translates this verse: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We pray with urgency.  We make fervent requests before God.  As God brings people to mind, take the time to pray specifically and passionately for them because it will have a powerful impact on their circumstances.

And pray this prayer for yourself as you have need—ask God for a James in your life.  Ask that He give you a Scripture-knowing, Godly person who will consistently cover you in prayer.  As James himself says, if you’re in trouble, if you need wisdom, if you need forgiveness, if you need healing . . . pray and ask others to pray with you.  It will make a difference.

Want to read more on this topic?  Check out these posts:

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

Back to School Lessons, Part One: How to Use the Bathroom

On the first day of preschool for my oldest daughter three years ago, I drove up to the doorway.  The teacher leaned in to open the car door and greeted my beaming girl, who had her hair done up sweetly and her clothes picked out special.

Other children had been lifted out of the car by the expert educator, as they screamed for mom and hung their heads low in sorrow at the separation.

Not my daughter.  She bounced out the door and practically sprinted down the hallway to the classroom.  So much for separation anxiety.

I, on the other hand, wiped away tears.  For two hours, I would not know what she was doing or whether she needed me.

At the end of the day, I wanted a full report on all her activities.  Instead, the teacher helped her back into the car and said, “She had a good day!”

A whole two hours of her life spent without me there even to watch.

Truly, it’s the difficult goal of parenthood—to train our children so they function independently.  Teach them what they need to know now so that they succeed tomorrow.

While God never trains us for independence, He is forever building into our lives, hearts and minds today what we will need the next day and the day after that. 

And sometimes we miss it.

So often recently, I have heard people denounce the study of God’s Word in favor of what is “practical” and “relevant,” what’s meaningful to them right now rather than digging in deep to the Scripture.  We want to learn “how to” rather than learn who God is.  We shrug off discipleship in favor of temporary spiritual programs built around a single verse or two.

Now, personal application matters.  The holy words on these pages aren’t there for amusement, or intellectual stimulation, or comfort alone.  If we read without change, we are missing it.  We are missing all that Scripture was intended to be for us.

But, how are we to know now what will matter in our lives tomorrow?  If we seek only that which has immediate application to our lives today, here, now, in this situation, the Bible becomes nothing more than a Band-Aid for life’s boo-boos or a pocket map for our life’s journey.

To celebrate the last day of summer vacation, I sat down with my girls today and had a heart-to-heart about the beginning of school.  (I know some of you have already started the school year, but for us it begins tomorrow).

I looked them in the eyes in all their bright-eyed excitement about school and making new friends and opening new crayons and learning new ideas . . . and I gave them the most important instructions I could think of for the year:

  1. Do not wait to go to the bathroom until it’s an emergency.
  2. Go to the bathroom before you go to the playground for recess and before you get on the bus at the end of the day.
  3. Raise your hand and ask your teacher permission to go to the restroom.
  4. Close the door behind you.
  5. Flush when you are done.
  6. Wash your hands.

To me, these seemed like essential words of wisdom.  To them, they seemed banal and unimaginative.

Just wait until they have to go to the bathroom tomorrow . . .

God so often is giving us the training we need for the future, and we in similar fashion, roll our eyes, shrug our shoulders, and avert our gaze at anything so boring, so unnecessary, so impractical.

How could David know that days spent in the fields watching boring, stinky sheep would train him to be a warrior king?

How could Moses know that a childhood in an Egyptian palace and 40 years in the wilderness moving sheep around would prepare him to be the deliverer of the Hebrew nation from 400 years of slavery and then the leader of that nomadic people for another 40 years?

How could Joseph know how years spent managing Potiphar’s house as a slave and another season managing his fellow convicts while wrongfully imprisoned would prepare him to save the entire Egyptian nation and the surrounding countries from a 7-year famine?

How could they know?  How do you know as you sit with your Bible before you what verse you will need to whisper in the night a year from now or the passage you’ll need to cling to even a decade later?

We don’t know.  But God does.

So, we open up His Word and we dig deep.  We search passionately—not just for the solution to our current problem or the manual for our present situation—but we search for Him, God Himself, and who He is.  We sit attentive in His classroom and become the student of God’s character through the study of His Word.

The Psalmist wrote:

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.  With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.  I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word (Psalm 119:10-16).

The Psalmist was a dedicated student of Scripture and he tells us how to be the same in this passage.  He tells us:

  • Seek God—not what He can do for you, but God Himself, with all your heart.
  • Memorize Scripture and call it to mind during moments of temptation.
  • Give God praise.
  • Ask Him to teach you.
  • Talk to others about what you’re learning from time spent in His Word.
  • Treat God’s Word like it’s a treasure chest filled to the brim with the most magnificent jewels imaginable.
  • Spend time meditating, contemplating, and praying through the Bible and what it reveals about Him.

And more than anything else, do not neglect His word.  You’re guaranteed to need it, if not today then tomorrow.

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.

Shedding 5 Pounds With Yogurt

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth”
(John 17:17).

While my daughters munched on morning toast and cereal, I toted a yogurt around the house, eating an occasional spoonful in between changing diapers, putting away blankets, feeding the cats and all the normal start-the-day chores.

My daughter wide-eyed in innocence asked me, “Mom, are you trying to lose your weight?”

My weight?!

“Well,” she explained, “I saw that commercial on TV and they said you could eat that yogurt and lose your weight like even 5 pounds maybe and it would be easy.”

Thanks Mr. advertiser, sir, for making my six-year-old a personal diet coach.

Truth hurts a little sometimes, doesn’t it?

At least it should.  When Jesus prayed for the disciples, He asked God to “sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).  Sanctify means to make holy and that’s what this Bible with all of its packed-in and sometimes painful truth is supposed to be working out in our lives–our sanctification, our holiness, our transformation into Christ-likeness.

While the truth sometimes comforts us, it also shakes us up a bit.  It reminds us of ways we need to change and calls us to repentance.

When I read God’s Word quickly, glossing over the Scripture passages just so I can check off my Bible reading for the day, I miss out on the conviction and also the power of God to change me.

Sometimes reading the Bible should make me squirm a bit in my chair or turn my face hot with sorrow at revealed sin.  Because I’m not perfect.  Because I don’t want to stay this way.  Because I want people to look at me and see Christ and as I am now, I’m an imperfect reflection.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

When Jesus drives something home to you through His Word, don’t try to evade it.  If you do, you will become a religious impostor.  Examine the things you tend simply to shrug your shoulders about, and where you have refused to be obedient, and you will know why you are not growing spiritually.

The author of Hebrews said:

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.

The Word of God is wielded as a scalpel by a Master Surgeon, cutting into our wounded and broken places, separating out what is healthy flesh from what is diseased, dead, and necrotic.  The Surgeon doesn’t dissect in order to hurt and bring pain; He cuts deep to bring health, healing and wholeness.

And if we never feel the sting of the knife’s blade or run our hands over a scar left in place of the wound, then we’ve never allowed His Word to clean out the pockets of sin buried in hidden places of our life.

It’s not that the Bible becomes a club of accusation or that it’s never an encouraging or comforting word.  It’s not just that Scripture points a finger in our face and dumps burdens of shame on our back. Not at all.  Romans 8:1 promises us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No, Scripture reminds us of our mistakes, but accompanies that with the offer of grace.  It’s always a package deal.

Ezra, the high priest of Israel, and Nehemiah finally finished rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem after returning from exile.  They gathered “all who could understand” into the square while Ezra read aloud the Book of the Law of Moses.  The crowd listened in silence, except for their weeping as God’s Word uncovered their disobedience.

The people stood for hours, morning until noon, each day while he read, and they fasted and donned sackcloth and dumped ashes on their head in sorrow for their sin.  Theirs was the natural response of people who were attentive to God’s Word.

In the midst of their distress, their hearts brought low in shame, they declared, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Oh yes, truth hurts sometimes.  If it’s never painful or uncomfortable, maybe we’ve tuned it out or accepted watered-down adaptations.  Even as we wince with pain, though, we know that the one yielding the scalpel does so with grace and compassion, pouring out a healing balm of forgiveness that washes away the signs of sin.

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

Here, There and Everywhere

Confession time: I am a huge Beatles fan.  Hidden away in those messy closets of mine are Beatles magazines, t-shirts, records, a Paul McCartney figurine, postcards and more.   I have the CDs and movies and have been trying to get my kids to sing Beatles songs since they learned “Old MacDonald.”

So, this weekend, my husband gave me an amazing gift–the chance to see the Beatles in concert.

I know what you’re thinking, where’d the time machine come from and when can you borrow it?!   Really, we went to see four guys amazingly like the Beatles perform the songs with an entire orchestra behind them.  It was great.  More than great.  If I closed my eyes, I wouldn’t be able to tell you Paul McCartney hadn’t flown in from England to sing his songs to me.  Even with my eyes open, it was hard to tell, especially with the Sergeant Pepper outfits and groovy glasses.  I loved every minute of it, even “I Am The Walrus!”

It was as close as I could possibly get to hearing the Beatles sing and it was a fantastic “next best thing.”

Being there, though, made me think how often we as Christians are willing to be satisfied with the “next best thing” when we don’t have to be.  It’s not like me with the Beatles, where the source is gone and the time has past.  We Christians can choose whether to go to the source or accept an interpretation.

We read the Christian books, study our devotional every morning, fill in the blanks in the bulletin about the Sunday sermon, sing with the Christian radio station and travel to arenas to hear our favorite Christian speakers.  And all those things can be great.

Obviously, I wouldn’t keep writing this blog if I didn’t think talking about God’s Word mattered.  I’m an avid reader of Christian books and I love listening to others teach about the Bible.

I believe that God blesses us with Christian writers, authors and leaders who help us learn how to study the Bible and apply it to our lives.  What if we stopped there, though?  What if we only read and listened to people “interpreting” Scripture for us and never read God’s Word for ourselves?

In Exodus 20:18-20, the Israelites did just that.  They told Moses: “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (verse 19, NIV).  In other words, they said, “We’ll pass on the whole talking to God directly thing.  How about we just listen to whatever He tells you.”

I get where the Israelites were coming from.  Sometimes God’s Word is daunting or overwhelming.  Sometimes it tells me what I need to hear instead of what I want to hear and that bruises a bit.  The Israelites were afraid.  They saw the lightning and smoke around the mountain and heard the trumpets blaring and the thunder when God came down on the mountain.   God’s glory astounded them and it says “they trembled with fear.  They stayed at a distance.”

My heart aches to think that sometimes I stay at a distance instead of willingly meeting with God one on one.  I’m missing out on the fullness of what He has for me and instead just accepting what He’s given someone else.  It’s as if I’m offered a brand new outfit and I choose hand-me-downs instead.

But, the Bible is God’s intimate and personal revelation of Himself to us.   He wants us to:

Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, MSG)

Yes, we’re busy.  Life is noisy and hectic and finding “quiet time” seems impossible.  Yes, sometimes it’s hard to understand the Bible or we don’t know where to begin.  We might even be afraid of what might happen when we meet with God one on one.  What kinds of mess will He ask to clean out of our hearts?  What kind of life changes will He want us to make?

God invites us to have one-on-one time with Him and sometimes, because of these excuses, we turn down His invitation.  We settle for the “next best thing” and life seems fine that way.  Then, life gets hard.   It’s in those difficult times that we desperately need that deeply personal, relevant and real relationship with God.

Please, keep reading the Christian books and listening to Christian speakers.  Let them be an encouragement and challenge to you.  Watch how others apply the Bible to their lives and implement that in your own life.

But, don’t stop there.  Go up on the mountain yourself and meet with God.  Get His Word deep inside you, think about it and talk about it, take it “Here, There and Everywhere” (I couldn’t resist a Beatles reference!) and let God use it both to transform you to be more like Christ and to draw you into a closer relationship with 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