Been There, Done That, Wearing the T-Shirt

Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Psalm 20:6

One of my indoor cats decided this week to go for an extended stay outside.  He forgot to let me know where he was going and when he would be home.

So inconsiderate of him.

We didn’t see him slip out the back door as we took out the recycling and watered our vegetable garden.  It wasn’t until I returned home from running errands all morning that I realized something was wrong.  Only one cat (my massive black behemoth of a feline) greeted me at the door to see if I had brought home cat food.

After searching the house in all of his favorite hiding spots, I realized the truth—he wasn’t inside, so he must be out.  That’s when I began calling his name and searching along the trees and brush on the edges of our yard.  I peered underneath our deck and rattled some cat food in a dish to get his attention.

My kids and I prayed for him to come home.  Well, most of my kids prayed.  My youngest daughter had been worried about him all day and kept peeking under the beds or tables asking, “Oliver?”  My middle girl declared, “He’s my buddy and I’d be sad if he didn’t come home.”  They prayed.

My older daughter, however, said she thought we should get rid of his cat dish if he was lost forever and, by the way, if we just got rid of our other cat, perhaps we could get a puppy instead.

She’s not a cat person.

At church, I asked my Bible study girls to pray and then my daughters and I prayed again as we drove home.  Once we pulled into my driveway, I drove extra slowly and asked the girls to keep a lookout for him.

That’s when my two-year-old screamed, “There he is.  I find him!!”

I didn’t believe her at first.  She’s the tiniest one of the bunch.  How could she spot him so quickly?  Still, I asked, “Where do you see him?”

“At the house.  There!”

Sure enough, my striking orange cat was sitting up tall on the deck of our house just waiting for us to come home and let him inside.  He was nonchalant about the whole thing, as if his return was never in question.

During our persistent prayers that evening, we didn’t know that God had already delivered the answer we had been seeking.  We were praying for my cat’s return.  He was already hanging out on the deck by our back door.

It was the same for the Israelites, poised on the outskirts of the Promised Land.  Their first major obstacle to possessing the territory they had pursued for 40 years now loomed large in front of them, daunting, impenetrable, impossible.  A walled city.  Jericho.

We’re told, “now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites.  No one went out and no one came in” (Joshua 6:1).

Yet, it was just at this moment, in the shadow of those thick walls with closed gates, that the “Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands'” (Joshua 6:2, NIV).

The Message says it this way: “Look sharp now. I’ve already given Jericho to you.” (Joshua 6:2 MSG).

It’s the tiniest matter of grammar, the simple fact of the past tense here that draws my attention.  God didn’t say, “I’m going to give Jericho to you” or “In about a week, the walls will fall down and you’ll win the day.”

No, God already declared the victory.  “I have delivered Jericho.”  “I’ve already given Jericho to you.”

It’s a done deal, a finished conquest, a promise, an assertion of fact that the Israelites couldn’t yet see.

They saw the towering walls still standing and blocking their entrance into the Promised Land.
God saw the walls crumbled into pieces and scattered on the ground at the feet of His people.

Then, after declaring that the victory was already theirs, God gave them instructions on how to achieve it.  He described the crazy march, the circumventing of the city for seven days.  He instructed them to shout after that final foolish-looking journey around Jericho.  He declared that the walls would collapse and the Hebrew army would march into the city.

There are some promises we’re waiting to see fulfilled, some prayer requests we’ve brought to God’s feet year after year, and it’s hard to maintain what seems like impossible hope in the light of circumstantial evidence and walls that never seem to fall.

Yet, perhaps God has already declared your victory.  He sees what you do not: The battle finished and the walls toppled over like a block tower sabotaged by a toddler.

This is why we do not lose hope, because God will be faithful to deliver the victories He has promised us.  He has declared it.  The battle is already won.

So we obey the instructions He gives, no matter how foolish-looking, crazy-sounding or wildly imaginative they may seem.  March and shout as He instructs and watch the tiniest gravel start the avalanche that brings down the impenetrable fortress of your circumstances.

If you’re just standing at the walls looking up, don’t lose hope in God’s ability to grant you victory.  Leave the battle in His hands and wait for the rocks to come tumbling down.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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.

Please Break My Heart . . . Really and Truly

It’s the drill, the sound if it screeching unnaturally close to your face.

Plus there’s the inescapable smell of sterilized tools and latex gloves.

There’s the tooth-shaped clock on the wall and the charts portraying healthy and not-so-healthy gums hanging here and there.

It’s the dentist’s office and I don’t love the place, but I had to be there for a filling—easy and routine, my dentist tells me.  He asks me how I’m doing today.  “Nervous,” I confess with a conversational giggle.

Still, I like him.  He’s pleasant and efficient.  His degrees and certifications adorn the walls, assuring me that he knows what to do.  He’s the kind of doctor I prefer, one who explains to you what’s going on and assumes you’re intelligent enough to understand.

So, he glances at my chart and sees the note written in large letters, “Needs extra anesthetic.”

He asks me about it and I tell him the gruesome story of another dentist starting to drill and me feeling it.  I tried to fake it and pretend like I was numb just for the sake of expediency, but my flinches and the pain in my eyes apparently gave me away.

When you’re numb, you ironically can’t help but feel it.  You feel that your face is heavy and your speech difficult.  They ask you to rinse and it takes effort.  It’s a simple filling and yet here I sit at my computer five hours later, feeling the last remaining bit of numbness around my mouth.  I’m a poster child for the old Bill Cosby standup routine about a dental patient.

Numbness takes time to fade, but thankfully it eventually does.  Truly, I’m grateful for the fact that two shots of medicine helped me not to feel the dentist’s drill.  It’s a comfort of the modern age that I’m happy to enjoy.

Yet, as I sit in the chair waiting for the drilling to start, I wonder if I’ve grown too numb in other areas of my life.  Unfortunately, the numbness of our hearts and minds doesn’t fade away as assuredly as a dentist’s shot.

I’ve been listening to a song by Hillsong called Hosanna and then for the first time today, I actually paid attention to the final lyrics:

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into

Similarly, the World Vision founder, Bob Pierce, famously prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

So I wonder, is my heart too numb?  Has it become an unfeeling organ?  Or, if I feel God’s broken heart, do I just cry for a moment and then resume life as normal, patching up momentary sorrow with practicalities and emotional distance?

What actually breaks the heart of God anyway?

Surely it’s our sin, our breaking faith with God and causing Him disappointment and sadness (Numbers 5:6, Hosea 11:8b).

The Bible tells us King David was a man after God’s own heart. How so?  Was it his faith in God and his bravery against a giant?  Was it his heart of worship?  Or perhaps instead that after devastating sin of adultery and murder, David’s heart broke before God, hating his sin and desiring restoration and forgiveness (Psalm 51).

Are you grieved over your sin and the times you’ve broken faith with God?  Do you shake it off with excuses and acceptance, compromising because it’s “normal” and just “who you are?”  Or do you humbly bow at His feet and ask for His help and His forgiveness?  Do you hate your sin enough to do whatever it takes to change?

Of course it’s the lost, the “sheep not having a shepherd,” who stirred Jesus’ heart to compassion and self-sacrifice (Mark 6:34). 

Are you broken-hearted over those who do not know Jesus and moved to compassion and boldness by their presence in the world and in your community?

Then there are the hurting and needy.  When Israel complained that God didn’t seem overly impressed by their fasting rituals and legalistic religiosity, God told them exactly what kind of fasting He desired: freeing the oppressed, sharing bread with the hungry, caring for the homeless (Isaiah 58:6-7).

James agreed when he wrote, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, ESV).
Is your heart broken by the orphaned, the widowed, the hungry, and the oppressed?  Do you do more than shed a tear at an Internet video and actually advocate for those who need a voice? 
We have a God whose heart is broken over sin, over unbelief, over the hurting, oppressed, defenseless and hungry.

What about our hearts?
It’s a strange thing, this spiritual numbness.  While a shot at the dentist’s office fades over time, our hearts respond in opposite ways to hurt.  We may begin compassionate and then grow numb from forgetfulness.  We may grieve over sin at first and then slowly grow accustomed to it.
Instead of needing extra doses of anesthetic, we must go to God continually and ask for more of His broken heart.
To listen to Hillsong’s Hosanna, you can click the link here or watch the video posted below on the blog:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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

Lost and Broken

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost
Luke 19:10, NIV

I get lost . . . a lot.  Every time I bravely drive off on my own, I carefully write out step-by-step directions with landmarks and mile markers.  At first, I try talking to myself in my car, verbally reviewing the directions and hoping no one I knows drives by and sees my one-on-one conversation.  Inevitably, I concede defeat and call my husband asking frantically for help.  When I leave on these adventures, I suspect he just keeps the phone by his side awaiting my S.O.S.

Directions confuse me.  My body lacks some sort of navigational center.

Besides that, my memory is jumbled and crowded to the point of spilling over and there’s no room for more trivialities.  I rejoice at remembering my hurriedly scribbled shopping list.  Victory!   The cost is forgetting where I parked my car.

So, I wander.  I wander down side streets and make U-turns and scowl at inconvenient one-way roads.  With my eyes squinted tightly, I try ever-so-hard to read the road signs before it’s too late to turn.  I pray that no one else is behind me, frustrated with the clearly lost driver who is inching down the highway.  I wander around parking lots, searching for a familiar license plate and one gray van among a sea of gray vans.

My life wanderings sometimes happen by mistake.  I am distracted and too busy to pay attention to where Jesus is going.   Stopping to chatter with others and stare at merchandise, I  finally look up and find I’m alone.  My Savior has kept moving forward, and I’ve failed to stay by His side.  I’m the child lost in the Wal-Mart—the one they announce over the loudspeaker, “Would the parents of a small girl wearing a blue shirt please meet her at the service desk?”

That’s me sometimes.  I fail to keep up.  I get lost.

Other times, I am the one who walks away.  I take a wrong step, make a wrong decision.  I stumble and lose sight of the path.  Suddenly the way ahead seems uncertain and shrouded in darkness and I feel alone.  Desperately,  I search the faces of those in the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of Christ’s robe, His footsteps etched in the dust.  I listen for the sound of His voice.

We tell our children if they ever get lost to stay in one place and we will find them.  It’s true for our Savior.   He’s a seeker of wanderers, a finder of the missing, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”  Luke 19:10, NIV.   His heart is always for reconciliation and restoration.  Sitting down in the places I find myself, I cry out for help.  He finds where I have wandered, lifts me up into His arms and carries me home.

The next time I journey with Him, I grip God’s hand tightly and hover at His side because I know I’m “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” (Robinson).

Then there are the times when I’m lost, not because I’ve accidentally lost sight of God or wandered astray in a mistaken attempt at independence.  I’m lost because in this place where God has led me, it is dark and hard to see Him.  I know He’s there.  I know I am not abandoned.  I know this is His will for me.  But still it hurts.

Luke 19:10 expresses the heart of the Gospel, declaring that Christ “came to seek and to save the lost” and by lost here, it means “broken beyond repair.”

I’ve been that broken before.  Shattered into too many pieces to puzzle back together and glue into place.  With David, I’ve cried out, “My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3, NIV).  I’ve plastered on Band-Aids and gauze in a sorry attempt to hide wounds and prevent infection.

Those bandages work sometimes temporarily, enough to make me think I’m whole and strong.  Enough for me not to sob out ugly, blotchy-faced, red-eyed tears in public during every worship song and in the middle of every conversation.

But, there’s a weak spot left in my heart where the wound still seeps underneath the skin.  One day I’m fine.  One second I’m okay.  Then words and circumstances penetrate the sores I’ve covered over.

I’m broken.  Broken beyond repair.

The same Savior who calls my wandering heart back to Him, accepts my empty-handed offerings when all I have to give is my heart in pieces.  Like King David, “my sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17, NIV).

And God does something wonderfully mysterious in our brokenness when we place our shattered pieces at His feet.   His Son Jesus was sent “to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV).

God binds up the brokenhearted.  He compresses our hemorrhaging hearts, applying pressure to stop the uncontrollable bleeding.  He brings deep and true healing in miraculous ways to a heart that was broken.  Broken beyond repair.

I get lost . . . a lot.  I’ve been broken and crushed.  But our Savior, with inexplicable love and abundant grace, left heaven and endured the cross to seek and save those of us who wander and heal and restore those of us who are broken.

And so this wanderer is found and so this broken one is made new.


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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