Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grace for My Obedient Heart!

If you explain away your disobedience, you won't seek the grace that has the power to form a willingly obedient heart in you.
--Paul David Tripp

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Heart or A Vain Heart?

Believing the gospel is harder than trying to obey the law.
The first requires a new heart, the second a vain heart
-- Scotty Smith

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Divine Distastes

And he could bear Israel's misery no longer. --Judges 10:15-16

God has a strong distaste for suffering. His tenderness is aroused by human anguish. But what all of those natural disasters? you wonder. If he's so touched by suffering, why does he allow events like that terrible tsunami that swept across the shores of Asia in 2004? The suffering and loss of life were beyond comprehension.

I can't begin to explain the unexplainable. But I know this: If Adam had never fallen, if the Creator could rewrite the story, he would have never allowed suffering out of the cage. "For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men" (Lamentations 3:33). But sin did leave the cage and, consequently, the curse fell. And ever since man's rebellion in the Garden of Eden, our world has groaned under wars, floods, earthquakes, disease, and much more. Like you, I shake my head at the mysterious plans and purposes of God. Tragedies like these either drive people away from God... or draw them to him. Calamities either harden people's hearts... or soften them as they run to the Lord for help and hope.

And beyond all else, I know this about my Father's heart: "God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him." And again, "God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son" (Romans 5:8, 8:32, The Message).

No one could ever accuse God of "sitting back and watching" while people suffer. How could anyone look at the cross and say anything like that?

Tragedies, great and small, happen every day in your community! How can you become God's hands and feet, his tender touch and his encouraging voice to those who suffer in your city-and in your world? Ask him to express his compassion toward hurting people through you.

Father, may I simply trust your heart, even today, when I can't trace your path.

Joni and Friends
Taken from Pearls of Great Price. Copyright © 2006 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Thank you, Joni, for this blessing today!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What Good is a Busted Heart?

Winter has come back again
Feels like the season won't end
My faith is dying tonight
And I won't try to pretend
I've got it all figured out
I don't have any doubts
I've got a busted heart
I need You now - Yeah, I need You now

Hold on to me, hold on to me
Don't let me lose my way
Hold on to me -

I am the wandering son
Your love is never enough
I keep chasing the wind instead of chasing Your love
I'm screaming out Your name
Don't let me fall on my face
I've got a busted heart
I'm in need of a change
I'm desperate for grace

Hold on to me, take all of me
Don't let me lose my way - Hold on to me

Broke Your heart a thousand times
But You've never left my side
You have always been here for me
You never let me go - You never let me go
Don't ever let me go

Hold on to me, hold on to me
Don't let me lose my way
Hold on to me, Hold on to me, take all of me
Don't let me lose my way - Hold on to me!
Until it comes to an end
Soon this season will end
I'll surrender tonight - You meet me right where I am

--from the album For King & Country

What good is a busted heart? We all have one. We are all broken. The world is a mess. We are a mess!
Our glorious hope is that Jesus came to fix our busted hearts, lives and world! He is the King! AND the best part of all is that HE holds onto us not the other way around!! 'Cause busted hearts and people don't have a very strong grip and tend to let go! SO it's the BEST news that He's the One holding on AND He will meet me (and you) "right where I am"I!

Hope for the Broken Heart!

Hope For The Broken Hearted

"He is intangible and invisible. But His work is more powerful than the most ferocious wind. The Spirit brings order out of chaos and beauty out of ugliness. He can transform a sin-blistered man into a paragon of virtue. The Spirit changes people. The Author of life is also the Transformer of life." --R.C Sproul

Speak from the Heart!

A voice of truth and determination can beat a loud voice.
Speak from the heart and people will listen. - Stuart Duncan

Friday, November 25, 2011

Distressed Heart!

I am deeply distressed. I just listened to President Barak Obama's Thanksgiving Day address to the nation. In it he spoke eloquently and smoothly as befits the gifted orator he is, but some of his words and phrases distress me.

  • He spoke of spending Thanksgiving Day with his family and reflecting on "how lucky we are."

  • He talked about being thankful for our service members ... and others "serving in soup kitchens and shelters" so that others can have a hot meal.

  • He spoke about a "mutual sense of responsibility" we share as Americans.

  • He talked about our having "faith that tomorrow would be better than today."

  • He mentioned the "pilgrims, pioneers and patriots who made our country great."

  • He spoke of all Americans having the "chance to determine our own destiny."

  • He said "all it takes is to work hard."

  • He talked about the "blessings of family, community and country."

  • He said, "We have to overcome the challenges of our time."

  • He concluded, "Together we can make tomorrow better than today."
I agree with most of what he said ONLY it doesn't go far enough! He never mentioned God at all! He never acknowledged that America is a great country because of the rockbed principles upon which our country was founded and constituted (as in our Constitution) which all acknowledge the guiding hand of God and His blessing on this great country.
It is true that pilgrims, pioneers and patriots have worked diligently and faithfully. Many of those same pilgrims, pioneers and patriots also spent time on their knees praying to the God who gave them strength and Who alone blessed their lives. When our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to establish our republic, they did so knowing they might give their very lives for this country they loved. They did so with hearts committed to doing what they did under the watchful eye and hand of the gracious God they served and upon Whom they depended to establish this new republic. That is more than clear in our founding documents!
For our president to talk about thanksgiving and list things we have to be thankful for on a National Day of Thanksgiving without one single reference to Almighty God is distressing to the max!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Truly Thankful Heart

Happy Thanksgiving!

Most history books say that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 when these colonists who arrived on the Mayflower broke bread with the local Native Americans - the Wampanoag Indians. The second Thanksgiving celebrated at Plymouth was in 1623. There is only one small problem: there is good evidence to suggest that the first Thanksgiving feast and celebration was actually at Berkley Plantation in Virginia in 1619.

But wherever or whenever isn't nearly so important as it is to have a thankful heart! And getting a truly thankful heart requires a healthy dose of humility. I (and you) need to come to the place where we know we cannot "do life" alone, that we need God's grace in great abundance. Then and only then are we ready to be truly thankful!

On Thanksgiving we actually celebrate our great God and King and all His wonderful, amazing grace poured out so lavishly! Do you have a thankful heart?

Monday, November 21, 2011

He Made Our Hearts to Seek Him as He Seeks Us!

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. ― C. S. Lewis

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.
--Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus. --Blaise Pascal

Are you looking for hope and help for your heart - at the deepest core of your being - today?
O, you may be a believer in Jesus Christ and a follower of Him serving Him BUT there are still moments and days when there is that unquiet and vacuum and unsatisfied desire that should cast us on our knees in great thanksgiving that this world IS NOT our home - that we are just passing through and that someday Jesus will welcome us to our new home where there will be no more pain and sorrow and lonliness and NO darkness at all because He Himself will be our light and will light that new city! That's a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! That's a lot to focus on when the pain or sorrow or lonliness or darkness of this world closes in. He will push back the pain, sorrow, lonliness and darkness here too!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

REAL Test of a Thankful Heart!

My youngest sister Elizabeth posted this on her Facebook page today and it's right on or spot on as my brother says!

"I give God thanks for my quadriplegia. It has become the strange friend which helps me know Jesus better. It is the shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of the Savior where I find grace and comfort. Your affliction falls well within the overarching decrees of God. It comes from his wise and kind hand and for that, you can give thanks. In it and for it." -- Joni Eareckson Tada

It's one thing to thank God IN the middle of your suffering, but quite another to thank Him FOR the suffering itself. This is the challenge of having a really thankful heart! Can I (or you) be thankful FOR the suffering itself?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Living Faith from the Heart

When I was in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades my mother used to go to the orphanage in the next block from our church. We had a Chevy station wagon. It was in the days before seat belt laws. Mother would cram four of her own kids and twenty or so orphans in our car and drive us all out to our house on Pensacola Bay. We would swim, play games, have snacks and talk about Jesus. Then Mother would drive them all back to the orphanage. She didn't do this just once or twice. She planned these outings regularly. For some of these kids this was as special as it got!
Some of these orphans had terrible stories of how and why they ended up living in an orphanage. Over the years I sometimes wonder where they are and how life has turned out for them. I hope those afternoons on our beach are special memories for them just like they are for me!
Today is National Adopt an Orphan Day! Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, has written a great op ed piece in his blog today:
My mother really loved those kids and she showed them the love of Jesus! My mother loves Jesus so much that it used to embarrass me. But one thing I have never ever doubted: my mother loves Jesus and she wears her faith on her sleeve, in her heart and lives it out in amazing ways!

Listening with my Heart

Recently my sister-in-law spoke to me about my son's family and particularly my granddaughter who has Down Syndrome. She said, "Obviously she is so loved. You can just tell by how they care for her. She always looks so adorable. She's always included in the middle of everything because she is so special."
It is true! Vania has a hard time expressing herself. I have to listen carefully to "catch" her words. She is saying something significant when she speaks. She just has a different way of speaking. I have to listen with my heart as well as my ears.
It is also true that Vania is greatly loved! Her mother treats her like any other young teen and dresses her in the latest style. Her mother has loved her from before she was born and through all the challenging years in-between: multiple heart surgeries and all the accompanying challenges that come with special needs.
My son married her mother several years ago. He too loves Vania with a Daddy-heart and Vania knows it! She sits as close as she can to him and calls him "Daddy Dave"!
Vania calls me "her" and her Granddaddy "him" but she knows who we are and always gives her special hugs and smiles!
Vania's name is the Englishized rendition of the Hebrew word for "Gift of God." She is truly that - God's VERY special gift to our family!
God, thank you for sending me Vania to love and to love me! Help me to love her well!

Brokenness Lived Under Blessing!

Hope For The Broken Hearted
Many people don't think they are loved, or held safe, and so when suffering comes they see it as an affirmation of their worthlessness. The great question of ministry and the spiritual life is to learn to live our brokenness under the blessing and not the curse. Henri J. M. Nouwen

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mercy - Heart Deep!

Depth of mercy! Can there be mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear - me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand falls.
I have spilt His precious blood, trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable, I, who yet am not in hell!
I my Master have denied, I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name, put Him to an open shame.
Whence to me this waste of love? Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus' face, now before the throne of grace.
Jesus, answer from above, is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget, permit me now to kiss Thy feet?
If I rightly read Thy heart, if Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow, pardon and accept me now.
Jesus speaks and pleads His blood! He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father's mercies move, justice lingers into love.
Kindled His relentings are, me He now delights to spare,
Cries, "How shall I give thee up?" Lets the lifted thunder drop.
Lo! I still walk on the ground: Lo! an Advocate is found:
"Hasten not to cut Him down, let this barren soul alone."
There for me the Savior stands, shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel; Jesus weeps and loves me still.
Pity from Thine eye let fall, by a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert, cast a look, and break my heart.
Now incline me to repent, let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore, weep, believe, and sin no more. --Charles Wesley

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cure 4 Fainting Heart

My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine;
Now hear me while I pray, take all my sin away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire;
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee
Pure, warm and changeless be - a living fire!
While life's dark maze I tread and griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow's tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life's transient dream, when death's cold sullen stream shall o'er me roll,
Blest Savior, then, in love, fear and distrust remove -
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul. --Ray Palmer

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love is the only dynamic that brings about heart change.
--Tullian Tchividjian

Change my heart oh God, Make it ever true.
Change my heart oh God, May I be like You!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eye of the Heart

"Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.” St. Augustine of Hippo

Battered Heart - Good Thing!

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

--John Donne

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moi Speaks

Philosophical "truth" can come from surprising sources:

"Only time can heal your broken heart just as only time can heal his arms and legs"
- Miss Piggy

There won't be time in the world to come which must be one reason that there will not be broken hearts ever again nor will time be needed for healing arms and legs! O, what a day THAT will be!

Change My Heart, O God ...

Change my heart, O God, make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God, may I be like You!
You are the Potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me. This is what I pray.
Change my heart, O God, make it ever true.
Change my heart, O god, may I be like You!
-- E. Espinosa, Vineyard Press

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Forgiveness Leaves NO Regret!

We will NEVER regret doing the hard and heart work of forgiveness.
--Scotty Ward Smith

Friday, November 11, 2011

God's Heart for Ministry

When God Owns the Ministry ...........

we all are on common ground.
the ministry can grow stronger because it's not built on me.
conflict can occur without getting ugly.
other people matter more.
my own feelings matter less.
worry isn't necessary, because it's not my job to be in control anyway.
people are included, whether or not we're BFFs, because I'm not central to what we do.I can share what we're doing freely with others because it's not mine anyway.
it's a good place to be.

Thanks, Shannon!

Taken from blog "The Works of God Displayed" by Shannon Dingle
Titled: When God Owns the Ministry

This is a great column by Dr. Jeff McNair, professor at California Baptist University and an expert on disability issues. I love his reference to the movie Babe! It's a fabulous analogy I wish I had thought of!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Opportunities and realities
Opportunities abound for the possibility of doing good. The question is will we see those opportunities, or be distracted by some comparative trivia, some historical reason for resisting change? The "we have always done it this way" as foolish as it sounds remains a powerful argument. We resist change because change moves us out of our current positions of comfort, or prestige, or simple thought processes. "If people with disabilities are suddenly worth my effort, what does that say about my lack of caring in the past?" Well, it says you were uncaring IN THE PAST. The real question is, will you be uncaring IN THE FUTURE?But courage is needed and I don't mean to demean that courage.

Take my favorite movie, for instance (although it is a bad comparison). The reason I love the movie Babe, is not because there are singing pigs and crazy ducks. It is the story of a man, Farmer Hoggett (I think), who saw something that no one else saw. A pig who could herd sheep. He then had the courage to enter the pig in a herding contest, to the laughter and demeaning of the crowd. At the end, the deriders are speechless as they finally see what he had seen. But it takes real courage to act on something that you see, when you know that most others don't see it. If the pig had not herded the sheep before the crowd, the farmer still would have been right, he just would have lost that particular opportunity to convince the crowd of what he had seen, of what he knew. He would have been ridiculed, but he would have been right.We are facing those kinds of opportunities today. We see something that I am hopeful we can help others to see. If we fail, that does not mean that our vision of a church that includes persons with disabilities is not a glimpse of reality. It means that we were simply unable to convince those who need to be convinced of the opportunities that lie before them, before us. I must also realize that I must be subservient to my Master, the Lord, who might be saying that the timing is not his timing. I must submit my will to his.
(Jeff McNair, blog Disabled Christianity, 10/28/2011)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Talk about Restoration!!!

This is what God's restoration of one heart at a time looks like in real life lived in the light of the Gospel! Tullian's story is the story of many ministry families without the same public visibility but this same formula is true over and over again in life and ministry when we live and walk as sons and daughters of the Most High God. Then truly Jesus + Nothing = Everything!

How can someone live without depending upon the approval of others?

This is something that we as sinful people will struggle with for the rest of our lives. None of us will ever come to a place where what people think about us (good or bad) doesn't matter to us at all. But a deep grasp of the gospel does help us to become less dependent on the approval of others because the gospel announces that all of the approval we long for and need, Christ has already secured for us. We no longer need to live under the slavish pressure of trying to earn the approval of others because Jesus has already earned God's approval for us.

In the book
[Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, recent author of Jesus + Nothing = Everything] I tell the story of how this became real to me.

With the merger of the church I planted and Coral Ridge back in 2009 and the leadership transition that accompanied it, a small but vocal group of long-time Coral Ridge members immediately began voicing opposition to practically any and every change we initiated. Blogs were posted, letters were circulated--some anonymously--with false accusations about me. Just three months after I arrived, a vigorous petition drive was started to get me removed. Battle lines were drawn, rumors raced. There was a crescendo of misunderstandings, frustration, and pain. Just three months in, I was ready to call it quits.

About that time, I opened up my Bible and in the reading plan I was following, it so happened that the day's passages included the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Colossians.

Desperate for help from God, I read those verses and my eyes were opened to see the incredible sufficiency of Jesus with greater clarity than I'd ever experienced. In my misery I told God that I wanted my old life back. The answer from God that I received from Colossians that morning was simple--but sobering: "It's not your old life you want back; it's your old idols you want back, and I love you too much to give them back to you."

You see, I never realized how dependent I'd become on human approval and acceptance until it was taken away. For the first time, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted. I was realizing just how much I'd been relying on the endorsement of others to validate me--to make me feel like I mattered. In and of itself, human approval and acceptance are not bad things. They are, in fact, a gift from God. But I had turned them into idols by making them my primary source of meaning and value and worth and significance, so that without them I was miserable and depressed.

The verses that set me free, specifically, were Colossians 1:9-14. In those verses the Apostle Paul says (my summary): You will grow in your understanding of God's will, be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding, increase in your knowledge of God, be strengthened with God's power which will produce joy filled patience and endurance (v.9-12a) as you come to a greater realization that you've already been qualified, delivered, transferred, redeemed, and forgiven (v.12b-14).

What those verses liberatingly taught me was that because of Jesus' finished work for me, I already had the justification, approval, acceptance, security, freedom, affection, cleansing, new beginning, righteousness, and rescue I was longing for. I started to see the many-faceted dimensions of the gospel in a more dazzling way. I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel--that the gospel doesn't simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future. It also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance.

It was on that day that Jesus plus nothing equals everything became for me more than a preachable tagline. It became my functional lifeline!

It was rediscovering the gospel that enabled me to see that,
Because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak;
Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose;
Because Jesus was Someone, I was free to be no one;
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.

-- Ed Stetzer's blog 11/08/2011, interview with Tullian Tchividjian

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Little Story in the Bigger Story

If you have rest of heart because you know your story has been embedded in the larger story of redemption, you know grace has visited you. --Paul David Tripp

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kim Kardashian's Heart

The "lives of the rich and famous" has taken on new meaning with the much publicized wedding and 72-days-later-divorce filing of Kim Kardashian.
She was interviewed by an Australian cable channel morning show today where she stated, "I just followed my heart (to file for divorce)."
Her "follow-up" in the discussion on TV includes that there is "no right or wrong" - that filing for divorce is just a matter of following her heart.
Well, I suppose she may be right in one sense BUT the pressing question that begs to be asked is: Well, what's the condition of your heart? How reliable and stable is it? Can you trust your heart to be your guide in matters of life and death?
God says, "The heart is deceitful ... and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Following a deceitful and desperately wicked heart can only lead to more tragedy and darkness. All of of hearts lead us deeper into darkness without the light of the Gospel shining brightly into our hearts!
For all her riches and fame, I'd rather have the light of the Gospel shining brightly into all the crevices of my heart! Jesus and His Gospel are far more precious and lasting than all the riches and fame (or infamy) of a Kardashian!