What Your Heart Needs For Today

It’s easy to neglect but imperative to guard. Each day, we’re either caring for or starving our hearts, and the results of each necessarily follow. As my guest Mirachelle Canada shares below, when we put first things first and allow Christ to nourish our deepest depths, life follows. Abundant, filled to overflowing life.

Picture of a heart drawn in the sand.

 

What Your Heart Needs for Today

By Mirachelle Canada

It’s there. I’ve passed it several times now. I promise myself I’ll get to it after I finish the other needs on my mental checklist…

Eat a breakfast granola bar. Check. Take my daily vitamins. Check. Pack an easy to eat on-the-go lunch a teacher is able to scarf down in less than 20 minutes. Check. Make sure the cap is secure on my travel mug to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s accident. Check.

As I head to the garage, weighed down by everything I’ll need for work, I pass it again. No, not the growing pile of dirty clothes in the laundry basket. I’m talking about the Bible on the end table next to my favorite chair. A layer of dust covers it. Dusting! Gotta add that to my list for later! Check.

I keep walking despite the invisible heart tug. There’s no time to spare for a daily reading, meditation, or responsive prayer. I promise myself I’ll get to it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have time to look up something inspirational on Google when I log into my classroom computer? Or maybe there’ll be a program I can listen to on the car radio?

The garage door closes.

There it all remains among the repetitious soft tick of the hall clock and consistent swishing swirl of the ceiling fan. Exactly what my heart needs for today. That word of encouragement to recall for a colleague who tells me of a sudden family death. Inspiration for an internal pep talk while I endure the hours long after school staff meeting. Hope and wisdom to respond with when my sister texts that she’s going in for a biopsy of a suspicious mass. The power to claim ever-present joy instead of being overcome with road rage when I get cut off in rush hour traffic. Strength to press on even when I get home at the end of the day and don’t feel like cooking dinner for the zillionth time.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)Quote regarding the Bible from Augusting of Hippo

Ah. The reason for the heart tug. God knows what my heart needs. My heart comes first.

Wait. Stop. Let’s rewind.

It’s there. I’ve passed it several times this morning. I promised myself yesterday I’d get to it after I finished my mental checklist. There’s an invisible tug on my heart. I stop. Take a deep breath.

The tea kettle will stay hot. Vitamins are easy to put into a sandwich bag. Eyeliner isn’t a necessity. The cat won’t starve. A teaching colleague I’d like to get to know better mentioned a new deli that just opened next to my school. I can stop and pick up something to share.

I curl up in my comfy chair, wipe the dust from the cover, and open God’s Word and my daily devotion. I read, consider, meditate, and pray. I feel lighter, more awake. Better. Stronger. Prepared. Now anything is possible because I know I have everything I’ll need for today.

Do you feel God’s heart tug to spend time in His Word? What pressing needs can you let go of to spend more time seeking what your heart really needs?

***

Scripture points to the Giver of life and reveals how we can find real and abundant life in Him. We weren’t meant to merely survive. Christ created us to thrive! Join us for the Fully Alive Conference, hosted by King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha to learn how to experience, daily, the filled to overflowing life Jesus promised. (Registration HERE!) And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to grab a free copy of our (Wholly Loved) Bible study, Becoming His Princess! You can do so HERE.

Get to know Mirachelle!

Mirachelle's author photoMirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater. She is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone.

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England.

Connect with Mirachelle at:

her Website  on Facebook,  Twitter, and  Instagram.

 

The Importance of Knowing and Teaching Truth

It’s the one area I was most concerned about. I knew I’d make countless mistakes as a mom, but this was something I needed to excel in! Though numerous other things my husband and I sought to teach our daughter were important, this was the only one with eternal implications.

I knew, regardless of how kind or successful she became, when her time on earth ended, her good deeds would amount to naught if she wasn’t right with God.

So, I started reading Scripture to her before she could walk or talk. We began with a picture Bible, then to one for toddlers, than for early readers, ending each night with prayer. This became our bedtime tradition, one that helped mold and train her little, impressionable heart.

I was certain I had this parenting thing down! Until the questions started coming.

“How do you know the Bible is true?”

“What makes what we believe right?”

“What about Buddhism and Islam and all the other religions?”

Though I tried to respond with a confident smile, internally I was terrified. She’d been exposed to things that had caused questions to arise and I wasn’t sure how to respond. What if I answered her incorrectly or insufficiently and she turned away from the only faith that can save?

I don’t remember what I said to her in the moment, but I do remember what I did shortly after—I turned to God in prayer. ‘Show me what to do, Lord. Help me. Help her. And please, hold her tightly.”

His response, whispered like a gentle thought that brought my anxious ones to a halt: “Don’t panic. Teach her.”

And so I did. We began to look at why Scripture was credible, the problem with man-made religions and their failure to deal with sin, and more. We didn’t shy away from tough questions, and I learned not to fear them. In fact, I began to welcome them as I realized they offered wonderful teachable opportunities that, if handled well, could strengthen our daughter’s faith, draw her closer to her Savior, and deepen our relationship with one another as well.  

I wonder if Paul and Timothy offered similar prayers on behalf of the Ephesians as I had for our daughter. Knowing eternity was at stake, did they, like I had, feel a rising sense of panic? And did God say the same thing to them I sensed Him saying to me, back when our daughter was young and curious about false truths that promised a way to God but lacked the power to save?

I’m not sure, but I do know what God instructed the young preacher through Paul: Read and thus reveal truth (Scripture). Encourage believers. Teach them. Keep a close eye on your teaching. (1 Tim. 4:16). Make sure it’s sound and true.

I believe Paul is saying the same thing to us, especially if we have children or grandchildren. But even if we don’t, as Maria mentioned a couple weeks ago, we all have a sphere of influence. And we should continue teaching ourselves, so to speak, as we read Scripture daily, allowing it to encourage us, and prayerfully focus on making sure our doctrine is sound and true.

This leads me to this week’s memory verse: If you’re a parent or grandparent, what are some ways you have or can focus on teaching your children or grandchildren truths revealed in Scripture? What are some ways you are working to teach yourself the same truths?

Share your thoughts here or join the discussion in our online Bible study group which can be found HERE.

You might also enjoy:

Discover One Thing (An online Bible reading plan with brief discussion of the text)

How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

From God to Us (Revised and Expanded) by Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix

Hearing From God by Lyndsey Baker

 

Taking Steps Toward Change

blonde-1031534_1920It really stinks when we blow it. It stinks even more when we blow it repeatedly, and yet, if you’re like me, you keep fighting the same battles again and again. But Scripture says we’re made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live godly, Spirit-led lives (2 Peter 1:3).

So where’s the disconnect? Why do I still lose patience? Say things I wish I hadn’t? Fight for my way and allow my fears, worries, concerns, and selfish ambitions to lead me rather than the will of Christ? 

When our daughter was ten, after five years of educating her at home, we felt led to enroll her in school. We knew it’d be a bit of a transition for her, but we had no idea just how difficult that transition would be. First, I hadn’t emphasized cursive (I focused more on keyboarding and computer skills), and at her new school, cursive was required for everything, from spelling words and in class assignments to homework. Then there was the whole matter of homework period, getting up and out the door in the morning, adapting to teachers other than Mom, she was young for her grade …

Suffice it to say, there were times when her little brain felt ready to explode.

And like she’d always feel behind, ill-equipped, and unable to master her new role.

One night, as I was tucking her in, tears streamed her face, and she shared her fears with me. “I’m trying, but it seems like I’ll never get better.”

Have you ever felt like that? When you look at certain behaviors, maybe how you react while in rush hour ache-19005_1920traffic, or when your child throws a fit while you’re rushing out the door, and you think, “Man! Am I doing this again? I should be past this, much more spiritual mature, by now!”

My response to you is the same as it was to my daughter, eight years ago. “You’ll get this. I promise. Just keep stepping, and give it time.”

And develop an action plan, because as the cliché goes, wanting doesn’t make it so.

The first step in anything is prayer, asking for God’s help, wisdom, perseverance, and grace. And this isn’t just a one time, “Lord, help me out here,” but rather, a practice of remaining in communication with Christ throughout the day (1 Thes. 5:17)–in an attitude of surrender. (Because what good is it to know God’s will if we don’t live it out?)

The next step is, through prayer and self-evaluation, to get at the root cause of your behavior. If you’re reacting with impatience, ask God to show you why. What are you afraid of? That you’ll be late for work and then lose your job? That your child will be late for school and fall behind? That others will be disappointed in you?

Whenever we react negatively, if we dig deep enough, we’ll find there’s a reason, and unless we address that reason, we’ll remain stuck in managing symptoms (reactions) without ever truly moving forward.

Once you’ve uncovered the reason for your reaction, replace whatever that is with truth. For example, right now I’m feeling squeezed. It’s an incredibly busy season where I feel I have more to manage than I have time or energy to do so. My fear is that I’m going to drop the ball, but more than that, as my time grows shorter, those things on my to-do list that are selfishly motivated become more apparent.

The solution, then, is surrender. To help with this, I’m focusing on (reading, meditating on, praying over, and memorizing) key passages of Scripture that are helping me to zero in on God’s will and leading in this crazy time.

My verses are 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 5:1, 16-24. I’m camped out here, reading the same Scriptures LivebytheSpiritpassagedaily, because I know God’s Word will change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, but this won’t happen overnight.

At this point, I must ask, do you memorize Scripture? If not, I strongly encourage you to start. It is incredibly powerful to be able to pause in the middle of a tense or difficult situation to pray God’s Word. The peace that follows is amazing.

Next, I’m practicing doing better. Notice I didn’t say “trying.” I suppose I could, but practice reminds me that I’m retraining myself, and the more I behave and react in line with Christ’s will, the more it becomes a habit to do so.

Finally, I’m persevering. I’ve mentioned this a few times in this post, but behavioral change, whether it’s changing the way one eats or learning how to handle conflict in a biblical manner, takes time. Often, progress comes slowly, but with God’s grace and power at work within us, it does come, until one day we’ve mastered that thing.

Then God reveals another area within us in need of growth. Ah, Christian maturity. Isn’t it fun? 😉

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Is there one area in your life, one challenge, temptation or character weakness/flaw you believe God may want to change? What are some ways you intentionally grow? Why do you think it might be beneficial to focus on one behavior or attitude and correlating verse for an extended period of time rather than trying to change numerous areas of weakness at once? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

And join me on Christians Read on June 20th to read about a slice in a very busy day when God granted me incredible peace and clarity amidst the rushed chaos.

Living With Wisdom

Today’s reading: Proverbs 2

Today’s focus: Seeking Wisdom From God’s Word

Wisdom is more than accumulating a headful of knowledge. Wisdom is living wisely, or, in essence, living out God’s Word–reading it, praying on how God wants us to apply it, then living it out.

This week’s memory verse: (I must apologize. Yesterday, early in the post, I called the day’s focal passage the memory verse, and, later in the post, mentioned the below was the memory verse. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)Proverbs2memoryverse

 

meToday’s devotional comes from writer, musician, and photographer, Emilie Anne Hendryx. Emilie is an author, photographer, and musician living in sunny Northern Los Angeles.  She is a member of ACWF and loves to read and write Christian Inspirational fiction while also blogging several times a week.  She has always been fascinated with the idea of story – whether it’s photographing a love story or writing one – and this passion fuels everything she does.  In her free time you’ll find her with a book and a cup of coffee wishing it was raining outside. Connect with Emilie online at her blog:

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Proverbs 2:1-8

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.

Wisdom.

It’s something we all could use more of and yet, when we search for it, we tend to turn everywhere but in the right direction. I don’t know how many times I’ve felt cornered in a situation and turned to my friends or to my own understanding for guidance but, as Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (emphasis mine).

When I first read this section of scripture with the intent to study it (over this last summer), it impacted me so much that I ended up writing it on a notecard and pinning it to the bulletin board by my desk at work. The first thing I did was go through and highlight the action words of the first part (v 1-4) of this section:

Receive my words (v1a)

Treasure my commandments (v1b)

Making your ear attentive to wisdom (v2a)

Inclining your heart to understanding (v2b)

Call out for insight (v3a)

Raise your voice for understanding (v3b)

Seek (v4a)

Search (v4b)

After I did that, I wanted to match up these action words and phrases with their adjacent promises in verses 5-8. One of the beautiful things in scripture is that the Lord tends to accompany commands with promises (Exodus 20:1-17 is a good example) and, though these promises are always dependent on His will, they are stated for a reason and represent hope from a loving and caring God.

Here, I’ve reformatted some of those phrases to reflect their intended promise. Remember, they are dependent on the actions of verses 1-4.

Understand the fear of the Lord (v5a)

Find the knowledge of God (v5b)

You will gain wisdom from the Lord (v6a)

If you are upright, He has stored up wisdom for you (v7a)

If you walk in integrity, He will be a shield for you (v7b)

He will guard and watch over the way of His saints (v8)

Aren’t these promises amazing? God doesn’t just promise knowledge and wisdom from Him, but His own protection over us! It is such a comfort to realize the all-knowing God, who created the universe, has our protection in mind.

As we come into a new year I pray that this passage of scripture would become our guide – that we would receive His words, treasure His commandments, and make it a priority to become attentive to His wisdom rather than turn to our own understanding. While we make our New Year’s resolutions, may we seek His understanding knowing that He will most surely guide us and direct our steps (Proverbs 16:9).

***

Emilee’s devo reminds me of this week’s memory verse. I love God’s promise to guide, protect, and teach us. I pray today you would really grasp this and the treasure that comes with it. God, the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe, wants to walk with us, in intimate fellowship, leading us toward His very best.

Here are some questions to ponder and/or discuss:

1. There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and even memorizing verses and living with wisdom. What are some ways we can apply what we read in Scripture? I’m thinking back to yesterday’s post on discipline and wondering if there might be a time commitment involved here. It’s fairly easy and quick to read through a passage and walk away, but I suspect God longs for more.

Question one begs a second question–when you read Scripture, do you allow yourself enough time to really digest and pray about what is read? If not, how might you change this?

2. Emilee mentioned how, often, when facing a tough decision, we go everywhere else but to God. Why do you think this is? Is this true in your life? Do you think patience or lack of might be involved? (Oy, we’re going back to the question of time again, aren’t we? 😉 )

3. Pause and consider–do you treasure God’s commands? What are some ways to do this? Do you treasure reading God’s Word? If not, think back to the post yesterday and how we discussed our ways of viewing things as hindering or helping our progress. If we think of our Bible reading time as a “have-to”, I suspect it will be much more difficult to make this time consistent. But, if we think of it as a joy and treasure, I wonder if we’ll look forward to that time. One of our Yahoo Group members shared an insightful comment regarding how she viewed discipline. She said when she thought of the word discipline, she associated it with self-deprivation. But upon thinking about her mindset and goals, she determined to change her thinking to what she would gain from the discipline–increased intimacy with God.

4. I found the wording in verse 7a intriguing:  “If you are upright, He has stored up wisdom for you.”

Many thoughts come to mind when I read this verse, one being Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

I’d love to discuss this further, but I’m at 1089 words, well over the legal blogging limit. 🙂 So, I’ll leave you with one last question: What do you think this means, that God has wisdom “stored” up for us? Do anything thoughts come to mind when you pair this with Proverbs 25:2? Or when you think of the parables. 😉

We can continue this discussion in the comments below or at our Yahoo Bible study/verse memorization group:
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