Hard Hearted

September 28 Reading

SCRIPTURE

  • Zechariah 7-9
  • Luke 13

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’ Zechariah 7:8-10 NIV

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. Zechariah 7:11-12 NIV

“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 7:13 NIV

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord. Zechariah 8:16-17 NIV

OBSERVATION

I’ve read parts of the Old Testament previously, but this year is the first time I’ve been reading through the entire Old Testament.  Over and over I’ve learned about the character of God.  He is merciful.  He is good.  He is patient.  He wants me to do the same.

God’s character doesn’t change – from the Old Testament to the New.  He wants me to listen to him; soften my heart toward him.  Obey him by loving others.

Right now I am still struggling to soften my heart.  I am struggling with a grudge against someone, and I know that by holding that grudge against that person I am hardening my heart toward God.

I can remember a shift in my childhood when I no longer guarded my heart and mind, and at that point I started turning away from God.  I gave myself opportunity to think unkind thoughts, which soon led to gossiping.  And I liked it because it met some need inside me to feel superior.

I came to a crossroads – to start pursuing God again I had to quit pursuing thoughts that didn’t line up with what God wanted. I had to close the door of my mind to impure thoughts, which I didn’t want to do.  When I came to that crossroads – sometime in my early teen years  – I closed my mind and heart to God, just like Israel did in the Old Testament.

And I walked farther and farther away from God.

Around 2012, I started an active walk back toward following God, which meant guarding my heart and mind and spending time with God.  It meant actively trying to shut down thoughts that don’t align with what God wants.  And the main thing he wants is for me to love him and love others.  To be patient, kind, unselfish, forgiving, humble, not envious, not easily angered, not holding grudges or bitterness.

These are all things I struggle with and as I mentioned in Forgiving, right now I am struggling with Unforgiveness.

  • Does holding a grudge against this person and thinking about how they hurt me fill some need in me: Yes
  • Do I feel like holding this grudge is equaling the playing field of the hurt they caused me: Yes, but it isn’t
  • Is holding this grudge really helping anyone: No
  • Is holding this grudge hurting my walk with God: Yes. Not because God won’t forgive me, but because I can’t give myself fully to praising God, praying to him and reading the Bible when I am holding onto this sin

ACTION

I need to repent of this grudge and give this person to God.  Mentally take them off of my hook and put them on God’s.  I need to forgive and show mercy.  I need to show love.  This weekend I will purposely do something kind for this person and, with God’s help, guard my mind against unkind thoughts, selfishness and unforgiveness.

PRAYER

Lord, please fill me with your love.  Help me to see “______” through your eyes, Jesus.  Show me how I can love them and show them mercy.  Please take away this grudge and my anger.  Please help me to forgive.

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Minimalism

September 27 Reading (Yes, I’m already behind in posting!)

SCRIPTURE

  • Zechariah 4-6
  • Luke 12

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Luke 12:23 NIV

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12:31 NIV

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34 NIV

OBSERVATION

Last Sunday at church the topic was on storing up treasure in heaven, not on earth.  So the timing of this reading is perfect.  If you want to hear the sermon click here.

This is actually a journey I’ve been slowly traveling for the past year or so.  Several things:

  • I want to literally “honor the Sabbath”. No work-work, no housework.  Which means I no longer have two days to clean the house (Saturday and Sunday). And to be honest, I can’t even get my house clean in two days.
  • Lifestyle change: Over the past twelve months God has led me on a journey of making a career change.  I walked away from a lucrative (though high-stress) company that I owned and joined the non-profit arena.  So, from a practical standpoint, I’ve drastically minimized my income.  We are now living paycheck to paycheck and something has to go.  We are planning to put our house on the market in the next six months.  Downsizing!
  • I started a purge this past summer based on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It is far from done and the process has been far from perfect, but it is getting closer.
  • Several years ago Joshua Becker spoke at our church about “becoming minimalist” and it was very thought-provoking. I’ve started following his blog.
  • With my new job I traveled to West Africa this summer. They don’t have access to clean water.  Or basic medical care.  Or electricity.  And yet they are singing and dancing and smiling.  Bottom-line, these people are happy with so little and I’m usually complaining though I have too much stuff.  And $1 in the U.S. = $500+ in Togo, West Africa.  My money is much better spent on something that can save a child’s life than on the latest dust-gathering pretty knick-knack for my shelf.  For more about my trip, click here.

ACTION

This weekend: Take at least one bag to the Goodwill and spend at least an hour purging, not just cleaning.

PRAYER

Lord, please show me where you want me to store up Treasure in Heaven.  Open my eyes to where you want me to serve and where you want me to spend the resources you have given me.

Forgiving

SCRIPTURE

  • Zechariah 1-3
  • Luke 11

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.   And lead us not into temptation.’ ”
Luke 11:2, 4 NIV
http://bible.com/111/luk.11.2-4.NIV

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11 NIV
http://bible.com/111/luk.11.9-10.NIV

Therefore, tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Zechariah 1:3 NIV
http://bible.com/111/zec.1.3.NIV

But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
Luke 11:41 NIV
http://bible.com/111/luk.11.41.NIV

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13 NIV
http://bible.com/111/luk.11.13.NIV

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
Luke 11:42 NIV
http://bible.com/111/luk.11.42.NIV

OBSERVATION

So many beautiful instruction and promise instruction, as well as glimpses into the character of God and Jesus.  And conviction.

Right now I am struggling with forgiveness.  Someone I love deeply hurt me recently.  Lied to me and once again broke a fragile trust I thought we were working to rebuild.   I am hurt and angry.  And I’m using this family members’ sin as an excuse to sin.  I am looking at their sin and focusing on what they did wrong . . . and using that to justify my sinning.

  • I am holding a grudge and not forgiving them
  • I have been gossiping about this person and putting them down
  • I have been unkind

And honestly I have been struggling recently in my time with Jesus because of this.  I know Jesus wants me to forgive this person and reconcile and love them.  But I’m not.  Because I want to punish him.  I want to hurt him like he hurt me.

I am focusing on my family member’s sin, when what I should be doing is crying out to God, “Father hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.   And lead us not into temptation.”

And if I am truly asking for forgiveness and seeking to forgive, there is another beautiful promise in Luke – God will answer my prayer.

Side note: Forgiveness is hard, and involves much more than just saying “I forgive you”.  It also doesn’t mean that you don’t have boundaries or let someone abuse you.  For help in this area, I recommend Fresh Start: http://freshstartforallnations.org.  They are based in Omaha, Nebraska, but have resources online to help through the process of forgiving.

APPLICATION

Today I will focus on praying the Lord’s prayer and meditating on the words of the prayer.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, you are so mighty and powerful.  You commanded the sea to part and shut the mouths of lions.  And still you know ME.  And love ME.  Just like your will is done in nature and in heaven, I pray that your will will be done in my life.  Help me to obey you.  Thank you for giving me the Bible and all its truth.  And I pray I take the time, every day, to read it and be filled with your daily instruction and the bread of life.  Lord, I’ve been sinning.  I’ve been holding a grudge and punishing “_________”.  I’ve put him down to others.  I’ve had a bad attitude.  Lord, I’m sorry.  Please change my heart.  Please forgive me and help me to forgive him.  Please keep me from the temptation to keep unforgiveness and anger in my heart.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Starting Again

September 26, 2016

Scripture:

  • Haggai 1-2
  • Psalm 129
  • Luke 10

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”   Haggai 1:5-6 NIV

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:39-42 NIV

Becoming Mary.  That is why I started the blog in the first place.  A journey to become more like Mary.  But suddenly the blog itself seemed to take on a “Martha” identity.  Instead of being a place to journal about my time with Jesus and what he was teaching me, I was spending time on Pinterest looking for ideas on “how to create a successful blog” and “graphics to get your blog read.”

So I quit only a few blog entries in.

I didn’t want to change into Martha and have the blog be about all the “activities” to design and maintain a successful blog.  That would defeat the whole purpose.

But I wasn’t sure how to blog if my focus wasn’t on getting readers, finding sponsors and making it fabulous.  So I quit the blog and waited.  And prayed.  And a few weeks ago I felt like God was telling me it is time to get back to the blog.

And now after a long hiatus I’m back and I think I know what God wants this blog to be about. This year I’ve been reading through the Bible with the Life Journal Reading Plan through You Version.  Going forward, on the blog I’ll post daily what I read and what I learn.  I’m not going to get bogged down with making this pretty or maximizing readership.  I’m just going to share my SOAP:

  • Scripture for the Day
  • Observations
  • Application
  • Prayer

If anyone wants to read along with me on my journey through the Bible, feel free to join me here.  I’d love to have you.  And if no one joins, that is OK as well.

Like my house, this blog may be messy.  A web-designer or blog expert will probably have a million ways I should improve it.  It will be far from Pinterest pretty or perfect.  And there will probably be a spelling mistake (or two).  But my goal is to only focus on what really matters.  As Jesus said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

My goal is to sit daily at the feet of Jesus, for that will never be taken away from me.

Resurrection

Tomorrow we celebrate a Resurrection.

“Resurrection”: The act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.

As I’ve been studying Mary of Bethany – and her role in the Passion Week – there is another resurrection story I’ve heard time and time again, but for the first time I understood the significance of it as I tried to view it through the eyes of Mary.

Mary lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. Jesus was a close personal friend. Biblical scholars believe that Jesus stayed at their home when he was in Bethany.

I imagine that Mary knew that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Hanukkah, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to kill him, but He escaped when they tried to capture him and left the area.

A few months later Mary’s brother Lazarus was very sick.

What it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in that home, watching these three siblings who loved Jesus, deal with a tragic situation.

I can imagine Mary and Martha, in hushed tones, debating what to do:
– People in town want to kill Jesus
– But we need Jesus to come here to save Lazarus
– But what if Jesus comes to save Lazarus and the people who want to kill him find him?

Finally they sent word to Jesus “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

Did the sisters ever doubt that Jesus would come? Did they doubt He could save their brother? Or that He would?

Mary knew what is felt like to watch someone she loved dying. She knew what it was like to call out to Jesus for healing. She knew what it was like to wait for Jesus.

When Jesus heard about Lazarus’s sickness He said: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11: 4 – 8)

Jesus knew that a visit to Bethany would ultimately lead to His death. But He went anyways, because He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He also knew said that the sickness would not END in death. It didn’t end in Lazarus’s death and it didn’t end in Jesus’s death. It ended in God’s glory and our resurrection.

Imagine Mary, sitting in mourning with her friends and family and experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of her beloved brother. When Jesus arrived she left her friends and ran to Jesus and fell to His feet, sobbing. She cried out to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

What emotions might Mary have been experiencing at that moment?
– Hopelessness?
– Anger?
– Desperation?
– Fear for Jesus?
– Gratitude?
– Belief?

And then when Mary lifted her eyes from Jesus’s feet to His face, she saw His eyes glistening with tears.

Mary watched as Jesus wept.

And then she watched Jesus raise her brother from the dead. She watched her beloved brother, whose flesh had already begun to rot, walk out of the tomb.

And just like Jesus’s disciples had suspected, there were people who watched the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus and instead of believing in Jesus, they went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done and they began to plot to kill Jesus.

When Jesus was on the road to Bethany and saw Mary running to him and crying at His feet He already knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that in resurrecting Lazarus the plot for His crucifixion would begin. He knew that after His crucifixion, God would raise Him from the dead. And He knew that through His resurrection, all humankind would have the opportunity for resurrection: the act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.

Jesus knew that the one He loved was sick and even though it would lead to His death, Jesus made the journey to Bethany to save him.

And He made the journey for Martha, because He loved her.

And He made the journey for Mary, because He loved her.

And He made the journey to the cross for you. And He made the journey to the cross for me. Because He loves us.

#1 Tip for Sitting with Jesus

Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV):  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Making time in my daily schedule for Jesus has always been difficult for me.  I’ve usually spent 10 minutes in the morning – reading the Bible or a devotional book and saying a quick prayer.

Checking it off my to-do list.

But then after reading about Martha and Mary something dawned on me.  My time with Jesus should be my MOST important thing.  I’ve known it, of course.  But it never sank in before.

Time with Jesus is more important than TV.  More important than Facebook.  More important than work.  More important than spending time with my husband.  More important than spending time with my kids.

My days have always been busy – getting kids ready for school, working 8-10 hours, helping kids with homework, trying to get in a little downtime . . . and I’m sure all women experience the same thing.  There isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done.

But here is the thing.  I need to make my time with Jesus my most important thing.  Seriously.  More important than eating.  More important than exercise.  More important than housework.

Which means something has to give.  I need to accept I won’t get it all done.

I have to choose to let some things go.

There is freedom in discovering that we need less clutter in our lives.  And more time with Jesus.

I challenge you  to decide to let something go.  And choose time with Jesus instead.  Carve out at least 20 minutes a day.  The more the better.

It will be life changing.  I promise.

Joshua 24:15 – New International Version (NIV):  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

The Divine Mentor

I belong to “small group” at church of wonderful, funny, broken people who are all in different places on our Journey of faith.

At our 2015 Christmas party we busy playing games, eating cookies and exchanging white elephant guests when it was announced that everyone needed to vote on the next Bible study we’d be doing as a group.

With my white elephant gift in tow – a bag of quinoa and a can of mandarin oranges – I checked out the options:

  1. “Effective Parenting in a Defective World” by Chip Ingram
  2. “Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard
  3. To read through the Bible in 2016

I voted for the study on parenting. I struggle as a parent.  And my husband and I have very different parenting styles.

Also, I’ve already read Renovation of the Heart previously and reading through the Bible seemed like a very daunting task.  Finding even 10 minutes a day to read the Bible has often been a losing battle for me.

The group voted and we tallied up the ballots – Reading through the Bible in a year won.

Pinterest to the Rescue

I love Pinterest.  I have a huge collection of Pins – recipes to make, places to travel, great cleaning tips, DIY projects and gardening hacks.  98% are pages I like and pin, but never attempt.  I’d much rather read about  “green” cleaning techniques and how to make mason jar crafts than actually attempt any of them.

January was quickly approaching and my group had yet to come up with a reading plan.  I decided to see if Pinterest had any ideas.

Who knew how many great Bible study ideas are on Pinterest?  From color-coding your Bible to creating a war room out of a closet, Pinterest had everything!  Before getting too distracted by the ideas on creating Bible Study baskets out of shower caddies, I discovered a Pin recommending “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.

Game changer.

The basic premise of the book is that nothing has the power to transform your life like sitting at the feet of the Savior.

The book includes a reading program – I have the app – and use the Life Journal Reading Plan.  I also use the SOAP method outlined by Cordeiro:

  • Scripture
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Every morning I meet with Jesus.  I bring my coffee, Bible, journal, pen and “The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian.  My phone buzzes and my You Version app tells me what I need for the day.

Every day has been a blessing. What a privilege that I have the opportunity to spend time with a Moses, David, Paul and Peter.  I have gotten to know women who have experienced so many of the same highs and lows that I experience thousands of years later.  But mostly, I have been able to read a love letter from a man who died for me.

1 Corinthians 2:13 New International Version (NIV):  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

If you are wanted to grow in your spiritual life or are struggling to find a reading plan or Bible study, I highly recommend this plan.

Will you join me in sitting with Jesus and seeing where he leads us?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV):  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Reading through the Bible Plan
The Divine Mentor

Reading PlanApp or Written Plan (there is a plan in the book as well)

Tools

  • Bible
  • Journal
  • Pen

Deuteronomy 8:1-3 New International Version (NIV):  Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.