I’m Building an Ark Here

They say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

This morning, I think: “The ark wasn’t built in a day either.”

I think it as my baby girl (too big to be called “baby,” she tells me) bursts into my room far too early to announce, “Mom, it’s morning time!” And I’m tired.

The ark, remember the ark.

I’m pouring cereal and reviewing ancient China with a girl who is taking her big test today.  I pulled my other girl’s hair back into a ponytail, but it was the wrong kind.  She wanted it differently.  Using her hands, she tries to explain it to me and I’m slow, so I lean down trying to understand and experiment with the brush until I get it just right.

That ark takes time to build.

They’ve dressed and stepped into shoes.  I’ve reminded and reminded them, brush your teeth, grab your back pack, zip your coat.  Hurry!  It’s time!  We huddle at the bus stop with our backs to the February wind and I snuggle close to block them from the strength of the blasts.  Then I whisper a prayer for their day, for their tests and their friends and their obedience and their learning and how proud I am of all their hard work.

Just building an ark here.  Just taking the time.

Because sometimes you wake up tired.  Sometimes you’d rather pull those covers right on up to block out the sun and the cold and sleep away some of the day and lounge away the other half in pajamas and slippers.

Sometimes you just need the reminder that what you are doing has significance and value.  Sometimes you need to know….This Matters.

Even if today isn’t the day you pound the final peg into the ark and the animals step on two-by-two and the rain falls…

Even if you don’t see the final results or immediate success, know that every peg you place and every board you lay has purpose.

It takes about nine months for God to intricately fashion a human life in a womb.
It takes 365 days for the earth to circle that sun, spinning around in its orbit.
It even takes 8 minutes from the sun to stretch its light down to our planet.
And it took decades for Noah to build that ark.

Progress happens over time, seconds and minutes and day after another day of don'tgiveupperseverance, dedication and refusing to give up.

How often Noah must have woken up to a new morning and wanted to stop.

Surely there were days it felt impossible to construct a massive floating vessel without power tools and contractors.
Surely the ridicule from the masses and those he considered his closest friends—yes even from his family—must have wearied his soul.
Surely there were moments he just needed God to reassure him that he wasn’t crazy, that he heard correctly, that what he was doing was necessary.

Some days it must have seemed so hard.  Some days maybe he wanted to give up.

Yet, had he given up one decade….one year…one month…one week….one day too soon, had he abandoned the project and left the ark unfinished, it wouldn’t have saved anyone.  God couldn’t use an unfinished ship to rescue, save, and redeem.

God saved him…and us…because “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 5:22).

Just one simple verse; it makes it sound so easy.

But I know the truth.  I know every time I sit down and open the Scriptures up on my kitchen table on days when I’m tired and the interruptions just keep coming, that I can’t give this up.  Even if the inspiration doesn’t come, even if God seems silent or my soul unstirred, still I build this ark.

When the chores seem endless…when you’re deep-soul tired…when you can’t seem to find your joy and don’t know where you lost it…when no one says, “thank you” or appears to notice your serving them…when others ridicule your efforts and tell you it doesn’t matter…when you’re teaching but they don’t seem to understand….when you’re pouring everything you have into this but you don’t see results….when you give with passion and what you receive back is criticism….

You get up in the morning and you lay one more peg and one more board into the ark that God told you to build.  You do everything just as God commanded you, not because it’s easy or fun or seems so rewarding in the moment.

We do it because we’re building into eternity:

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Devotions from My Garden: What Are You Waiting for?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit (Galatians 6:9 MSG).

We planted in pots and crates on our deck, tiny seedlings of cucumbers, tomatoes in three varieties and jalapeno peppers.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We watered.  We tended.

But mostly we waited.

From one day to the next, the leaves didn’t appear to expand and the stems didn’t seem to reach any higher than the day before or the day before that.

It took standing back and surveying growth over time for us to notice we had plants and not seedlings any longer.  Then there were the first tiny yellow flowers on the cucumber plant.

The day we spotted the tiniest baby tomato, I called all three of my daughters over to see.  There we stood, a mom and three girls gently pushing aside green leaves to marvel at the promise of growth.

And then we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

For signs of ripeness and readiness for harvest.

Gardening, like life, is so often about waiting.  The difference, though, is that we waited for our first vegetables with anticipation and excitement.  We tracked the progress and closely watched the physical signs of a promising future because we knew the day would come when we sat down to salad and salsa from our garden.

But in life we often wait with a hopeless aggravation and a frustrating impatience.

We wait on God, tapping our foot and glancing often at our wrists with urgency.

Perhaps, though, we should wait for God, watching the signs of growth, rejoicing over every bud and clapping our hands with joy every time we see a reminder that the harvest is coming.

This is how the crowds prepared for Jesus’ arrival:

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). 

Can you imagine the crowd watching the road for the first glimpse of Jesus’ sandal?  Perhaps kids ran back and forth bringing news of Jesus’ journey.  “He’s coming.  He’s near.  He’s closer.  He’s just around the corner.”

He’s here!

Imagine the hush of the people.  They weren’t whining about the wait or postulating that perhaps Jesus wasn’t coming after all.

No, they were likely listening intently for the first sound of His voice chatting with His followers as He traveled on the road.

This is how we wait for God–we look forward with excited anticipation and uncontainable joy for the moment we see God at work.

And while we wait, we prepare to receive all that He’s bringing our way.

Like the kings who faced the overwhelming enemy might of Moab, we wait for God’s promise.  He said He would “fill the ditches in the dry streambed with water” overnight and without wind or rain.  Yes, He would bring the refreshment and victory they needed (2 Kings 3:16-18).

In the very next chapter, Elisha tells the destitute widow to gather “empty vessels and not too few” and then the Lord filled as many as she gathered with rich oil, saving her from starvation and poverty (2 Kings 4:3).

In two back-to-back passages, God miraculously fills His people up to the brim, giving them all they had prepared to receive.

I feel this now, this urge to prepare, to grab as many jugs and cups and bowls and pots and buckets as I can so I don’t miss out on one drop of God’s provision. 

I stand at the foot of the dry streambed and rather than complaining about my parched throat, I want to dress in my swimsuit, ready to dive into the pools overflowing with His miraculous water-without-rain.

It’s waiting, surely.  I’m not there yet.  But I see the signs.  I see the growth, the buds, the tiniest hint of vegetables to come.  I see God-movement here and there, projecting change and something new.

Part of me is scared.  Waiting is what I know.  Change, even good change, frightens me and stresses me out.

So what’s a girl to do?

See the signs of God on the move, the promises of harvest, and yet refuse to budge?  “No thanks, God, I’ll stick with what I have and what I know because at least I’ve dug into a trench of trusty comfort and reliability.”

Or do I hang my shoulders in defeat and stomp away, not seeing the harvest quickly enough?  Tired of waiting, I dump over the vessels waiting for oil, I walk away from the streambed thirsty for water . . . I turn away from those waiting for the first sight of Jesus and choose instead to complain at home that He didn’t come.

Or I could wait, joyfully and with excitement, nervous perhaps but ready nonetheless.  Jumping up and down trying to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd, I’m waiting for God, not waiting on Him.

This is how we reap the harvest, when “we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9).  This is how we don’t miss out on one drop of what God has planned.

More Devotions From My Garden:


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

It’s A Dirty Job, But Somebody’s Got to Do it

It was as exciting as Christmas morning.

Our girls had been asking us for a Wii since last summer.  So, when a friend from church said he was selling his used Wii system, we knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

We surprised our daughters with it as a way to celebrate the end to their school year and my husband explained to the girls how proud we were of their hard work and their many achievements.

The girls jumped around the living room squealing and hugging us.  My oldest announced, “I just can’t stop thanking you enough!”

Giving good gifts to our children brings me incredible joy—to see them so excited, so grateful, so delighted to have the desire of their little hearts placed into their hands.  Matthew 7:11 tells us, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

If giving the perfect gift excites me, I can only imagine those moments of divine anticipation as God prepares to bless us.  Does He laugh as we dance around the room, full of thanks and praise?  Does He hug us as we humbly bow, so aware that we don’t deserve His gracious blessings?  Does He wipe away the tears of overwhelming gratitude?

We enjoyed just a taste of that pleasure as our girls popped in the first game and began to play.

Then the whining began when they couldn’t make their guy jump high enough after just one try.  The frustration kicked in when they didn’t know how to move their hand to make their bowling ball slide just the right way down the electronic alley. There were angry grunts and declarations that, “it’s too hard.”

Even worse, when the girls played a game together, there was the inevitable struggle over winning and losing graciously.  Apparently, kids are not innately “good sports.”  At first the winner was kind and encouraging; the loser begrudging and complaining.  Then the winner gloated.  The loser started declaring, “it’s not fair.”  It was war.

Overall, the girls still love this gift and they are getting better at it all the time.  As parents, though, there were some moments when we weren’t so sure this was such a good idea.  Our gift seemed to be bringing out the worst in them.

But the reality of parenting is that it’s a messy job.  And I’m not talking about potty training, dirty diapers and sickness.

We could shuffle along on the outskirts of our kids’ character and life would be pretty easy.  If we closed our eyes to their weaknesses and ignored their mistakes, this would all be more “fun.”

We’d be failures, though.

Sometimes we have to put on the big muddy rubber boots and wade into the mess in order to pull out the gunk that is sin and human nature and weakness.

We have to buy one toy and insist our kids learn to share.  We have to play games and teach losers how to lose and winners how to win.  We have to look in the face of a defeated child and remind her that the best things in life are worth working hard for and that giving up simply ensures failure.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it—and that someone is us.

In the same way, the circumstances God gives us, the jobs He calls us to, the ministries He lays in our hand, the responsibilities He entrusts us with and the relationships He places in our lives often bring out the worst in us. They certainly do for me.  There are times that I am shocked and embarrassed when all my “uglies come out” (to quote Lysa TerKeurst).

God’s not surprised, though.  Our heavenly Father never shirks His parental job and uses these opportunities to deal with the sin that is bubbling to the surface of our hearts.

This is why “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  God uses conflict to mature us.

This is why we should “count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-3).  Trials mold our character and make us more like Christ.

Spoiled children that we often are, we might think God always needs to give us the gift we so desire, the blessing we’ve been longing for, and the success we see others enjoying.  Yet, we’d never grow, never mature, never get one tiny bit closer to Jesus in a life free of conflict and trouble.

Proverbs 30:12 says, “Don’t imagine yourself to be quite presentable when you haven’t had a bath in weeks” (MSG).

We might at times do just that, walking around without any awareness of our own mess.  Then something like a Wii brings out the worst in us.  We want to give up.  We fight with our brother or sister.  We whine about how hard it is and how unfair.

Sometimes that’s a good thing–as long as we’re willing to let God scrub at us for a while and deal with the sin that surfaces.  Then we can enjoy the gifts He’s given fully and completely and He can laugh with us in delight and bless us with His favor.  It’s a dirty job and He’s just the One to do it.

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

Two steps forward and two steps back (or so it seems)

This was an unfortunate setback.

A few weeks ago, my husband gently suggested that it may be time for a serious attempt at potty training my two-year-old.

Now, to understand how I felt about this I first have to tell you potty training my two older girls was no easy task.  In fact, it’s fair to say that I’ve never felt as much like a failure in my life as when I was pleading with a toddler just to sit on the potty chair.

I laid awake at night designing reward charts and incentive plans.
I prayed for help from Almighty God so that my kids would be ready for preschool.
I bought books, movies, stickers, M&Ms, toys, and more to bribe them into success.
I avoided all moms who proudly announced their genius 18-month old had been perfectly trained with absolutely no effort in all of a day.

But my husband is a good husband and I’m a good wife.  So, when he asked me to start potty training my toddler, I plunged into what I was sure would be months and months of misery, stress and clean-up.

I pulled out the trusty movie, Potty Power.  I explained underwear to my daughter.  Every 15 minutes, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.

And a miracle happened.  A real live, genuine miracle of God.

She figured it out.  She wanted to learn.  She graduated to underwear in a matter of days.  I bet God never had anyone thank Him so much for help potty training her child.

And then.

Then there was the setback.  One week of sickness kicked my baby girl back into Pull-Ups and made her absolutely terrified of a trip to the bathroom.  Now my sanity is loosely held together by a can of Resolve and a bottle of Febreze.

I was discouraged.  She was scared and confused.  We’re baby-stepping our way forward, hoping to regain lost ground.

Have you ever encountered a setback that left you dazed, uncertain, and full of fear?

Perhaps you stepped out in obedience to what you believed was God’s call, but circumstances shifted, obstacles arose, and you’re not reaching the goal.  Perhaps you’ve even begun to question whether you heard God clearly and made the right decision in the first place.

Sometimes God’s plan just doesn’t make sense to us.

For the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, the most logical route to the Promised Land was straight along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  After a few battles with the Philistines, the Isrealites thought they’d march right into Canaan after no more than a month-long journey.

God had other plans.  Exodus 13:17 tells us: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'”

Sometimes God takes us the long way around for our own benefit.  In her book One in a Million, Prisicllar Shirer writes that “the wilderness is often safer than the alternative” (p 73).  God chose the wilderness for His people.  Maybe He’s chosen it for you, as well, for your protection and personal growth.

Even after the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire in the direction God had chosen to take them, there were still setbacks.  In Exodus 14:2, God said, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back.”

Turn back?

God led them one way only to turn them around and march them off in a different direction?  Did it seem like God had momentarily lost His compass in the desert?

And yet, this turning back placed the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea and the only way across now was through His miraculous deliverance.

He turned them around so that He could save them.

So, what do we do as we make confusing desert tracks in the wilderness in our efforts to follow God’s lead?

We could give up.  We could question our listening skills.  We could doubt God’s leadership.  We could stomp off and follow our own course.

Or we could remain focused on our goal and the passion God has placed in our hearts.  That’s the only way the Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  It’s the only way we’ll receive all that God has promised us.

It’s also the only way Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Kelly Minter in her book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, writes:

“After verbal assaults, physical threats, discouraged laborers, abuses of power and economic distress, Nehemiah never diverted his focus from the wall.  The process may have been slowed and altered as a result of enemies and wayward citizens, but the goal never changed.”

In fact, Nehemiah himself writes, “I also persevered in the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16, ESV).

He continued to build despite threats, fear, confusion, discouragement, distractions and disappointments.  He continued to build despite setbacks.   He never stopped placing brick on top of brick on top of brick in obedience to God.

What has God asked you to build?  Choose today to place another brick on this wall instead of giving up because of obstacles and disappointments.  Choose to “persevere in the work on this wall.”

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, 02/25/2012

Hiding the Word:

My small group is reading through the Bible this year and we’ve made it to Leviticus.

(Insert audible groaning here.)

Most of the time, people complain about Leviticus being boring.  Or maybe they rejoice in its soporific side effects.  It has, after all, been the solution of many a person’s insomnia.

Whenever I read this book of the priestly laws God gave to Moses, however, I’m not as likely to say, “how boring,” as I am to say, “Ewwww . . . . gross!”

Leviticus with its gory splattering and smearing of blood from sacrifices and its detailed discussion of fungi, bodily discharges, and skin rashes is hardly comfortable reading.

But it’s really not meant to make me comfortable.  Leviticus, if anything, is designed to make me uncomfortable with the law and the sacrificial system.  It’s to remind us that we just can’t ever be pure enough to meet God’s holy standard.

We’d need constant sacrifices, ritual cleanings, and a priest all up in our personal business just to keep us from dropping dead in the outer ring of the tabernacle courtyard.

That’s why as I read Leviticus I am giving thanks and praise for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who became our once-for-all sacrifice.

Not only that, I’m flipping my Bible over to the New Testament book of Hebrews chapter 10, which tells us:

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

This week, I’ll be meditating on verse 14 and giving thanks to Jesus for sacrificing so that I can be sanctified.

Weekend Rerun:

I Choose to Obey
Originally published 03/14/2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: 01/27/2012

Hiding the Word:

Today is our Awana derby race at church.  The girls announced two weeks ago that they wanted cars shaped like an ice cream sandwich and a cheetah.  My husband cut the shapes into the wood and the girls painted the cars (and much of themselves) and drilled holes.  They are excited and proud of their hard work!

At the race, the girls hope for a trophy of some kind, maybe for speed or for their car’s design.

Me—I mostly hope that our car isn’t the one that hops the track and flies across the gym.  Also I hope that our car makes it all the way down to the finish line without getting stuck along the way.

I kind of stand to the side, squint my eyes and breathlessly plead, “Please stay on the track.  Please make it to the end.”

With racing on the brain, I decided to pick a verse for the week that focuses on perseverance in the race God gives us to run.  No flying off course.  No giving up.  No getting bogged down and stuck halfway through.

I’m hoping for victory.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Weekend Rerun:

Hot Enough For You?
Originally Published 08/12/2011

One night years ago my daughters discovered popcorn.

At first, we did our popping in microwavable bags, but we soon switched to a popcorn popper.  On that first exciting day when I pulled the contraption out of the cabinet and set it on the counter, the girls stood on stools so they could watch what would happen.  The kernels tumbled into the popper and I plugged it in.  One daughter covered her ears with her hands and the other shouted, “What’s going to happen?” over the roar of the machine.

And then that first kernel popped.  They squealed in surprise!  And then more kernels began popping in quick succession until there was a constant stream of fluffy white popcorn pouring down the shoot and into the bowl.

The girls danced, laughed and shouted and kept calling our attention to the popcorn as if we’d never seen such a magic trick.  My husband and I watched the girls more than the popcorn; their excitement was joy-giving.

It does seem like magic.  Dump into an inauspicious machine a hard, dried up tiny little crackle of corn and with heat, it transforms into a new texture, color, shape, consistency and taste.  Who would have ever thought looking at the original kernel that the wonders of popcorn lie within?

Likewise, who would look at us much of the time and fully realize all that God has placed in our hearts and all that He has planned for our lives?  Others might see a brittle surface with no flavor.  We might look useless or dried up.  We might simply look un-fun and plain old ordinary.

Yet, God is the Master of transformations.  Although He sees us and fully knows who we are in this moment, He also always sees what we can become.  And He’s willing to turn up the heat to change us.

Because heat is what it takes to break us down, cracking our exterior and softening our insides so that we’re receptive and usable.

To the untrained popcorn popper, it might seem like waste, like the Master is burning His kernels over the flame and they’ll be ruined and tossed aside.  Or that this process is pointless and no good will come from the heat; nothing will ever change.

God, however, never takes us through the fire without purpose and never leaves us in the flame a moment longer than necessary to achieve transformation.  He isn’t reckless or thoughtless.  He’s not cruel or forgetful, blind or oblivious.

Paul wrote in Romans:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Over the years, I’ve read these verses often and just as often shrugged them off as an impossible standard.  “Glory in our suffering?”  Not hardly.  Truth be told, I’m more of a whiner than a perpetual rejoicer.

But as a toughened kernel who’s experienced at least a bit of transformation from my own sessions in the heat, I’m looking at these verses anew.

My commentary says:

This is more than mere Stoic endurance of troubles, even though endurance or steadfastness is the first result in a chain-reaction outgrowth from distress. This is spiritual glorying in afflictions because of having come to know (as in “to know by intuition or perception”) that the end product of this chain reaction (that begins with distress) is hope.

This gives me pause.  Have you really considered how hope fits into this picture?  Perhaps I can begrudgingly endure a trial here or there because some periodic heat produces perseverance and fixes flaws in my character.  But how does that stir up hope?

For the Christian, hope is confident expectation that God will do what He says He will do.  The only way we know that is through experience, the kind of experience that develops perseverance and strengthens our character.  We have hope because we’ve seen God deliver us time and time again and we’re confident that He will never fail.

Paul finishes those verses by telling us “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” In other words, we won’t be disappointed or shamed by unfulfilled promises.  The commentary continues:

“The reality of God’s love in a believer’s heart gives the assurance, even the guarantee, that the believer’s hope in God and His promise of glory is not misplaced and will not fail.”

It all comes down to the reality of God’s love for us.  He loves us enough to know that we’re more than a golden kernel with a tough exterior.  He knows that sometimes it takes heat to reveal, refine and transform, but He also knows just how hot it needs to be and just how long it needs to last.  He’s not out to singe us or blacken us with despair.  He’s lovingly and expertly making us new.

I use The Bible Knowledge Comentary, New Testament Edition, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck.

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.

No Pain, No Gain: Part III

I went back for day two.

Sure, I still ached in all my muscle groups and couldn’t navigate the stairs for two days, but I dutifully started the exercise DVD again and followed the instructor’s ever-patient directions.

Then, she told me to “feel joy in the challenge” just as I thought I was going to collapse.  She calmly whispered that I needed not just to focus on moving correctly, but also on looking like I “took joy in the exercise.”

She wanted me to smile about the fact that my legs were on fire.

I talked in No Pain, No Gain: Part I and Part II about the reasons we often fail, give up, and fall back into old habits.

Lesson Three: You Don’t Have to Like It

There’s another agent of sabotage, though.  It’s not just that we demand immediate results from our exercise efforts; it’s that we expect to actually like this fitness stuff.

Some people really do enjoy bicycling frantically and never getting anywhere or kicking at imaginary objects in the air or whatever their fitness plan involves.  These are the Facebook friends whose fitness posts last all year long.  They’re still kickboxing in October and they’re running marathons in December.

But, if you’re anything like me, the problem with exercise is that you . . . don’t . . . like . . . it.

I’d rather spend my time doing most anything else than sweating and aching along with an upbeat exercise instructor.

That’s right, I would rather clean.

And do laundry.

Even go to the dentist.

Here’s the catch.  I don’t like to exercise.  Yet, if I stuck with it and endured the daily boredom and soreness, I would like the results.

I don’t just mean I’d transform into a poster-child for physical fitness.  It’s not about weight loss.  It’s not about dress sizes.  It’s not about looking gorgeous.  Not for me.  After all, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that means we need to tend the Temple.  We need to keep it healthy, in repair, and cleaned out.

But, the Temple itself shouldn’t be the object of our worship.  It’s too easy to become obsessed with how our Temple looks on the outside and neglect the internal dwelling space of the Holy Spirit.

No, for me it’s about the fact that my body needs the exercise.  I know my heart and other body systems benefit from the movement, exertion and rhythm.  Not only that, but I know my emotional balance gets a bonus, too.

It’s good for me.  That’s the bottom line.

Even beyond that, I am doing something I know that I need to do even though I don’t like it.  That, my friends, is the very definition of self-discipline.  So, popping in that exercise DVD even when I’m tired, whiny, busy, or just plain (to be honest) lazy works on my character.  Pretty soon, I’m seeing the Holy Spirit fruit of self-discipline popping up all over my life.

We may not enjoy the exercise of our faith-muscles, either.  Not the spiritual battles, the trials, the waiting on God, the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and daily study.  It takes self-sacrifice to trade in an hour with the TV for an hour with the Lord.  It takes self-denial and some cross-carrying to exchange our will for His and walk in painfully radical obedience.

This isn’t fun.  It certainly isn’t easy.  We don’t journey to Christ-likeness for a good time and a few laughs.

We do it for the results: for the intimacy of our relationship with Him, for the power of our testimony, for the glory of His name, for the future in heaven when all this earthly turmoil is traded in for true unhindered joy.

James wrote:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

His message to the Jewish Christians was to keep their eyes on the prize.

Notice he didn’t tell them to “feel pure joy” about the trials they faced.  Beth Moore in her study James: Mercy Triumphs says, “The word ‘consider’ calls us to a mental exercise, not an emotion.”

This is when we “boss our feelings around” as Lysa TerKeurst would say.   We may not feel like jumping around rejoicing about our circumstances, but we deliberately and purposefully choose joy in the midst of them, because we know that God is working in us.  There will be results.  We will be more Christ-like tomorrow than we were today.

Now that’s something to motivate you to keep going, my friend.

Not only that, but this perseverance isn’t just passively buckling the seat belt and holding on for dear life as God maneuvers around obstacles.  We don’t just survive various trials.  We don’t collapse at the end of the finish line, having walked the last mile or two of our journey.

We actively endure.  We battle the Enemy.  We conquer our emotions and the slings and arrows of doubt and shame that Satan pommels our mind with every day.

We fight spiritual foes on our knees and then we defeat our own fleshly selves by practicing self-discipline.

And it’s not because we like it.

Our joy is that He’s with us.  It’s our joy that He cares about us enough to carry us through, to fight on our behalf, and to keep working away at our character so that we can be more useful to Him–a vessel fit for showing off the Master’s expertise and also filled to the brim with a testimony of grace to share with others.

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

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?: Part II

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her eighth chapter: “The Bride Who Tripped Down the Aisle”

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“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 52:12).

My first grader brought home a book from school to read over the weekend.  For two days she followed me around the house giggling uncontrollably and reading me her favorite sections aloud.

“Mom, listen to this,” (she’s giggling already).  “This kid just said George Washington was in his underwear.  He said underwear!!!”

“Isn’t this hil-ar-i-ous, Mom?  It says this kid put carrots up his nose and then he ate them!”

She could barely control herself on that one.  Left to her own devices, she’d probably have spent a half an hour in hysterics on the living room floor.

It’s not humor I could understand.  Me, I’m more of a Marx Brothers kind of girl.

In Part I of this post, I wrote that “we Christians should have a joy that people who don’t know Christ just don’t get.”  It’s just as mysterious to them as my daughter’s humor is to me.

Certainly this incomprehensible joy comes from the goodness of our message, the very Gospel of grace itself.  When life weighs us down with its humdrum dailyness, we must remember the great news we have received and that we share with the world.  It’s reason enough for joy in every situation.

Yet, while we always have reason for joy, life isn’t always joy-full.

God never commands us to paste on perfect happy faces to convince the world that Christians never suffer hurt or sorrow.  It’s a deception Christ Himself never engaged in.  He cried out, He asked others to pray with Him, He wept, and He suffered pain.  He assured us that this earth is a place of trouble.

Yet, Peter wrote:

Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world ( 1 Peter 4:13).

Does it sound like impossible truth? Being joyful in trials because God will be glorified?  If we’re honest, often our prayers are more for our comfort and relief rather than for God’s glory.

So, was Peter a guy who preached impossible things that he never put into practice himself?  No, not Peter.

His ministry had never been more powerful or full of impact.  He and the other apostles were spreading the Gospel message and people were responding in droves.  Their reputation for miracles spread, so the crowds lined the streets with the sick hoping that Peter’s shadow would fall on them as he walked by and they would be healed (Acts 5).

Reason to have joy?  I’ll say!  Wouldn’t you be celebrating such ministry success?

Yet, full of jealousy, the Sanhedrin and religious leaders imprisoned Peter and the other apostles. After hearing Peter’s astounding defense, the court determined to have him killed, but not immediately.  For now, he and the other apostles were flogged and turned away . . . only to be martyred at a more opportune time.

Acts 5:41-42 tells us, “The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

Peter didn’t just preach joy in all situations.  He lived it.

He had joy because of the message he had to share: Jesus is the Messiah!

He had joy because he knew that every trial was “for the name of Jesus.”

It’s not that God rejoices in our suffering, but instead His grace for us, the way He brings us through trials and redeems us from the pits we find ourselves in, the way He carries us through the fire and out the other side of the furnace—it all brings Him glory.  It shows the world that our God is faithful, powerful, mighty to save, and merciful to save us.

This outlook requires continual perspective adjustment.  We remember what matters in eternity.  We consider what will bring God glory.

That’s how the Christians described in Hebrews, “suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy.  You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever” (Hebrews 10:34).

We likewise know that the eternal is what truly matters and that God’s glory is our ultimate goal.

Still, just being honest, that doesn’t make most of us want to kick our heels and break into song when we’re facing trials.  It’s theologically sound, but practically difficult.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Psalmist has to plea for God’s help with this?  David wrote, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 52:12).

That is our prayer also.  “Lord, we ask that You restore our joy.  Help us to recall the excitement about Your Gospel of grace.  In all circumstances, help us to submit to Your plans for us, because that is what will strengthen us and sustain us.  We rejoice that You will be glorified and we ask that You will work in each situation we face so that we can give a testimony to the world of Your power and Your love.  Amen”

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