Gifts

Teachable Heart

ScripturesAll Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16

A teachable heart is essential for a Christian. It’s a big part of being humble. It’s vital for surrender and submission to God. And yet, so many of us stubbornly cling to our ideas, intentions and inclinations, refusing to let God’s Spirit and God’s Word do the necessary rehabilitation of our souls.

And let’s be clear: our souls do not need a little ‘sprucing up.’ It’s not a renovation or a remodel – we’re a total tear-down. All the worldly junk and decay must be cleared out, so we can be truly transformed.

Believe me, I know this is not easy. Just as it is nearly overwhelming to go through our accumulation of ‘stuff,’ which includes precious memories and sentimental trinkets, and make hard decisions to let it go, it is even more hard to let go of our ways of thinking and behaving and coping. We kept those behaviors out of habit or because they serve us. Yet we know that “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 The biggest theme of all four Gospels is that God, through Jesus, is turning our understanding of our world and the Kingdom of God completely upside-down.

And so, we need to be re-educated. There is a saying “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” It’s true. The older you get and the more you learn, you realize there is so much you didn’t understand when you were younger and more ignorant. Only the prideful say, ‘I know it all,” or “I know I’m right.” A teachable heart says, “Let me hear or learn more about this.” A teachable heart asks the Lord to point out areas where we are holding on to old patterns. A teachable heart asks to be softened and remain tender. A teachable heart appreciates loving correction by the Lord and by others because that’s the way we grow more Christlike.

There are many places in the Scriptures that are challenging to our thoughts or beliefs. When we meet with these, the important thing is to understand that it is we who need to explore more and change. When Nicodemus learned about being born again, he was challenged, but he accepted. When Mary heard the angel say she would give birth to God’s son, her understanding was challenged, but she accepted. If we lead with a teachable heart, fully surrendered to God, we can walk in His will and His ways even if we don’t completely understand. And complete understanding is impossible anyway. That’s what faith is for.

Tenderhearted Blessings,

Jen


Teachable Heart

ScripturesAll Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16

A teachable heart is essential for a Christian. It’s a big part of being humble. It’s vital for surrender and submission to God. And yet, so many of us stubbornly cling to our ideas, intentions and inclinations, refusing to let God’s Spirit and God’s Word do the necessary rehabilitation of our souls.

And let’s be clear: our souls do not need a little ‘sprucing up.’ It’s not a renovation or a remodel – we’re a total tear-down. All the worldly junk and decay must be cleared out, so we can be truly transformed.

Believe me, I know this is not easy. Just as it is nearly overwhelming to go through our accumulation of ‘stuff,’ which includes precious memories and sentimental trinkets, and make hard decisions to let it go, it is even more hard to let go of our ways of thinking and behaving and coping. We kept those behaviors out of habit or because they serve us. Yet we know that “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 The biggest theme of all four Gospels is that God, through Jesus, is turning our understanding of our world and the Kingdom of God completely upside-down.

And so, we need to be re-educated. There is a saying “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” It’s true. The older you get and the more you learn, you realize there is so much you didn’t understand when you were younger and more ignorant. Only the prideful say, ‘I know it all,” or “I know I’m right.” A teachable heart says, “Let me hear or learn more about this.” A teachable heart asks the Lord to point out areas where we are holding on to old patterns. A teachable heart asks to be softened and remain tender. A teachable heart appreciates loving correction by the Lord and by others because that’s the way we grow more Christlike.

There are many places in the Scriptures that are challenging to our thoughts or beliefs. When we meet with these, the important thing is to understand that it is we who need to explore more and change. When Nicodemus learned about being born again, he was challenged, but he accepted. When Mary heard the angel say she would give birth to God’s son, her understanding was challenged, but she accepted. If we lead with a teachable heart, fully surrendered to God, we can walk in His will and His ways even if we don’t completely understand. And complete understanding is impossible anyway. That’s what faith is for.

Tenderhearted Blessings,

Jen


Love for Breakfast

Breakfast Special revised big bestNo one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12

I recently went to breakfast with my Aunt. It has always been my favorite meal of the day, but I hadn’t been out for breakfast in a long time.  The crepes were delicious.

But what really made that meal special was sharing it with my Aunt. She is pretty much all that is left of my family now, and hearing her side of family events is precious. I helped her fill out her Health Care Directive and Living Will and filled out mine as well. Working on it together made the task much less difficult and it was nice to get clarity on situations that might not be all that far off for either of us.

Pancakes and bacon are a wonderful way to start a day, but fellowship and loving-kindness are much sweeter, and the joy lasts way longer. Besides, tenderness and patience won’t go straight to your hips!

When I drew the above illustration, I was still a relatively new Christian. I included those specific attributes because although I might have thought I exhibited those, the truth is, until I became a Christian, I really did not. I tried to be kind and devoted and patient when it suited me, but too many times, when it got hard, I gave up on people. I often tried to ‘look on the bright side’ of things, but in my heart, I always expected the worst. My positive outlook was generally me being a bit delusional about how bad some situations truly were, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with them – ‘spin’ you might say.

As a bit of a lonely loner, I thought I was humble. But in reality, I had a high opinion of myself and my talents, and I enjoyed accolades and compliments. My striving could be very competitive at times, as well. I had no faith, little hope and no clue what true love really was.

In any self-help program, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Christianity is no different. To make the hard decision to follow the narrow path of The Way, we must first accept that we are sinners. Sinners are on a path that leads to sorrow and utter destruction. Luckily, we have a Savior who has cured this condition of our soul by ransoming us with his own life. He was sent by God, and if we follow Him, His Commands, His Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit within us, we can be transformed from the inside out from sinners headed for destruction to saints headed for Heavenly eternity.

Nearly 30 years later, I can look back on my life and see the difference. My values, character and desires have been completely rearranged. And for those that weren’t, I learned the proper way to achieve them. I learned how to love, how to serve, how to be patient, and how to trust God in every circumstance. My life looks very different from how I imagined it at 22. I have made choices that baffled my family and friends, and even baffled me at the time. But I knew I was following God’s will with each of them. I haven’t been disappointed, and I have no regrets. This Christian life is not easy, and I spend a lot of time readjusting my natural, worldly tendencies to do what Jesus would do. I’m far from perfect (or even good) at it. But it has been a rewarding adventure that has transformed me into a person I’m mostly proud to be, and someone I never knew I COULD be.

I had few Christian role models in my life. Those I did have wooed me with their kindness, patience, tenderness, humility and love. “…If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” People will SEE and KNOW God through us, and our actions! What a wonderful honor it is to carry God to those longing for a better life – here and now, and eternally.

Blessings of fellowship,

Jen


Guiding and Satisfying

Good Things heart onlyIsaiah 57:15-19

New International Version

15 For this is what the high and exalted One says—

    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:

“I live in a high and holy place,

    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

16 I will not accuse them forever,

    nor will I always be angry,

for then they would faint away because of me—

    the very people I have created.

17 I was enraged by their sinful greed;

    I punished them, and hid my face in anger,

    yet they kept on in their willful ways.

18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;

    I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

19     creating praise on their lips.

Peace, peace, to those far and near,”

    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

If you have been blessed to have many friends and family to guide and counsel you, you should definitely count yourself blessed. For much of my life I was not so blessed. As an only child, I had to figure out things by myself. And I had a hard time developing friendships. My parents were sympathetic and helpful in some areas, but not in others. No cousins and no nearby aunts or uncles left me kinda adrift when it came to guidance.

Without much good guidance and wise counsel, I turned to television, books and movies for inspiration. Later I delved into self-help books of all genres. Eventually I gained friends and had the benefit of their advice. However, they all left something to be desired. I felt a nagging feeling that there was a better way out there somewhere, if only I could find it.

It wasn’t until I began following Jesus that I realized good and godly guidance was a big part of Christianity, and the part of ‘life’ that I had been missing. As I dug into God’s Word, I began a life-long process of UN-learning what the world, television, misguided gurus and well-meaning friends had taught me about the meaning of life, setting goals, how to treat people and my own personal behavior. When I look back, the pile of wrong assumptions, selfish behavior and misadventures was huge.

Slowly I replaced those thoughts and behaviors with those in God’s instructions for us. I clearly remember the first day I ever read 1 Corinthians 13, the love passage. I was so shocked I said aloud, ‘I’ve never seen anyone live this way!’ In fact, each of those character traits’ reverse flaw is the subject of numerous movies, shows and plays!

And so, little by little the sure and steady guidance of the Lord has satisfied me with good things – things like unconditional love, self-control, joy, self-respect, freedom from debilitating fear and anxiety, etc. And I have learned the joy of a Jesus-centered marriage partnership, the pleasures of a Church family, the happiness that serving others can bring, the satisfaction of using your God-given talents to serve God’s Kingdom.

And this guidance is available to all of us. Just type into Google, “what the Bible says about…” and fill in your current issue or interest. I had pages of those in the back of my first and best Bible. That section is worn out from use. I can tell you, in the beginning, every verse surprised me because it was so different from what I wanted to do. All these years later I’m much better at guessing ‘what would Jesus do?’ As you read and listen and learn more, the blessings will begin to fall down: positive resolutions to crises, healed relationships, personal growth, all kinds of overcoming and breakthroughs!

God so loved the world He gave us Jesus to teach us and guide us into the best possible life we could have – the life God designed us to have. Fulfillment begins in letting the Lord guide you and satisfy you with good things.

PRAYER: Lord, on this Valentine’s Day Ash Wednesday, remind us that true love is surrender and sacrifice. It’s not about me. It’s about You, Lord. Make me an instrument of Your love and peace and set me to Your purposes.

Blessings,

Jen


Write it on Your Heart

Letter from Christ4 Attention, Israel!

God, our God! God the one and only!

5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

6-9 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 The Message

The passage above from Deuteronomy is known as the Shema Yisrael (O, Hear Israel) or Shema for short. It was and still is the centerpiece of morning and evening Jewish prayers. Many Jews teach their children to say it at bedtime and many Jews say it as their last words. It is a statement of faith and a command to be faithful, and most of all to carry God with you throughout every part of your day.

The last part, “inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes” was taken literally and evolved into the mezuzah. A Mezuzah is a small piece of parchment on which the verses above are inscribed in indelible ink by a Jewish scholar. It is rolled up and placed in a small case and affixed on the doorposts of the home (and maybe every doorway in the home).

After watching a few recent episodes of The Chosen, I noticed all the characters kissing their fingers and touching their doorposts as they left their homes and I remembered the mezuzah. It seemed like a good practice to me to remember the Lord on our comings and goings and so we got one (from Amazon, of course) and installed it. It’s been a hard habit to establish, but I’m working on it.

When I was a parent of small children, I was more diligent about talking about the Lord, His Law and our faith when we were ‘walking along the road’ or more likely driving in the car. We had our best religious discussions there, figuring out what Jesus would do in situations at school, how we could be more self-controlled, or loving, or whatever. I also committed to listening primarily to Christian radio which helped focus my heart on God.

Of course, all the inspirational signs and verses, Christian songs, mezuzahs, cross necklaces, etc. won’t be worth anything at all if the Lord and His Commands are not written on your heart. God, Jesus and their Holy Scriptures need to become a part of our daily life and daily focus. We need to tuck those special verses down deep in our hearts and minds to be there for us in times of distress. When there’s no Bible handy, what is in your heart? Do verses come to mind? Perhaps some hymns? We need these as guardrails on the road of life to keep our eyes focused on Jesus as we endure the race to the finish.

If you “love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got,” then there should be joy in hiding Him and His Word in your heart.  He loved us so much He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. We have a debt of gratitude we never could repay. But we can put the Lord first in our heart, first in our minds and first in our lives.

Blessings,

Jen