Alignment

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).

Recently our church did a painting event, where an artist walked us step-by-step through how to paint a Christmas tree with a cross as its trunk. I was helping my six-year-old son, Jack. We could see what the goal was for our painting, yet as we painted the artist often said, “If you like this, do this. If you want to do something else, go ahead and put your own style into it.” As we painted, Jack expressed his own interests and desires in what his painting should look like, and when I walked around the room, I saw many, many different Christmas trees with crosses for trunks. The variety was incredible, and yet the purpose of the artwork was the same every time.

This is a beautiful picture (no pun intended) of God’s purpose in our lives. He doesn’t just dictate his will to mindless slaves to obey or die. He invites us into the process. He created us with thoughts and emotions, dreams and aspirations. He is interested in what our hearts long for, and he makes space for us to express our own “style” as we go along the way. God works with us to accomplish his purpose, and that is profoundly amazing.

Yet, we must remember that ultimately, it is God’s purpose that prevails. If our plans go against his purpose, we will surely be frustrated. As I was reading and praying through Proverbs 19, the Lord brought verse 21 to my attention. I distinctly sensed him say to me, I want your plans to align with MY purpose. I think when that happens, we experience the fullest sense of meaning, freedom, and joy. We are painting with our Father, who is showing us the purpose while allowing us to be who he created us to be in the process.

This brings to mind Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). May the Lord forgive me the times when my plans have not aligned with his purpose!

My prayer for this week is that our hearts will sync with God’s heart, and we will find the sheer delight of aligning our plans with his purpose.

Shhhh!

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)

Have you ever known someone who loved to hear the sound of their own voice? Or a person who never really seemed to listen, but always cut you off with their own story or advice? How about someone who always seemed to know exactly how you felt and what you were going through, even though they never took the time to actually understand your situation?

I’ve known many, many people like that in my life. And, if I’m honest, there are times when I’ve been one of those people! If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of such a person, you can testify to the truth of Proverbs 18:2. A person who doesn’t really care about you, but just wants to hear himself wax eloquently, shows himself for a fool. He may think he’s wowing you with his wisdom and brilliance when in reality he’s making a donkey of himself because he won’t shut up.

Everyone struggles with pride in one way or another. All of us have opinions, but we need to remember that sometimes our opinions don’t matter. Sometimes what someone needs is our attention, not our advice. Our care, not our solutions. Our prayer, not our opinions. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of being understood, and being loved in the understanding.

My prayer for the week is that God will give us each an opportunity to listen, and that he will nudge us through the Holy Spirit when we need to stop talking and start understanding.

Don’t be a Drama Queen

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1, NIV)

Thinking back over Thanksgiving, my guess is that most of us enjoyed a house full of feasting. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, pumpkin pie–you name it, we ate it! Sadly, for many the feast was accompanied with strife.

While we can all relate to a little strife in the home from time to time, Proverbs 17:1 struck a chord with me beyond just family. At some point in our lives, we’ve probably all had to deal with a relative, a neighbor, a classmate, a co-worker, or a brother/sister in Christ who was (or is), shall we say, melodramatic. Melodramatic is an adjective that means exaggerated, overly emotional, or overdramatic. And while we make every effort to treat our drama queens with love, patience, and grace, after a while the words Solomon penned in Proverbs 17 ring true.

As I was reflecting on this verse, I began to think of all the other people I know who tend to be a little melodramatic. Then God gently reminded me that I needed to examine my own heart first. Am I overly emotional, overdramatic, or easily offended? Do I exaggerate to downplay my own faults or play up the “woe is me” line? Sometimes I am, and sometimes I do. Thank God for his grace and forgiveness.

When I tend to the melodramatic, it’s usually because somewhere deep within, insecurity is rearing its ugly head, causing me to question my value, question my contribution, and be threatened by others. So, I overcompensate. I become hypercritical. I turn into a serial complainer. I exaggerate. I stir the pot. I draw attention to myself because I need you to like me and approve of me so that I can feel secure in myself.

But the truth is, I’m not secure in myself; I’m secure in Christ. And that makes all the difference.

I don’t need to perform to be accepted and loved. I just need to remember who it is that loves me, accepts me, has called me, and takes care of me. When God is your Father and he loves you with an infinite, unconditional love… that’s security–who cares about anything else? My prayer for the week is that we will all remember just how much God loves us, we’ll rest in him and leave the melodrama to someone else.


Enjoy this song by Tauren Wells, and enjoy God’s love for you!


Rest in Him

This post comes from Tara Wheeler, our Children’s Ministry Director at LakeView Church.


“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hand to you in prayer.” (Psalm 63:3-4, NLT)

Time to take a breath and slow down….this is what I’m telling myself…..but having a hard time applying it.  Slowing down goes against every fiber in my being.  I grew up on a dairy farm and there was never a lack of something to do.  We all worked together as a family to get done what was needed.  I’ve been told that I’m exactly like my grandma and that I simply don’t know how to sit and do nothing….a.k.a. RELAX.  Sometimes this drives my family nuts.  Sometimes I put my to-do list ahead of quality time I should be spending with the kids or my husband.  Then I find myself getting frustrated that the kids or my husband aren’t doing everything on the list I’ve created in my mind that HAS to get done.  Sometimes I put tasks first and think that I’ll open my Bible for quiet reading and prayer after I just get this one more thing done…

Yes.  Guilty as charged.  I’m totally a “Martha” a little too often. Take a look at Luke 10:38-42 for a refresher on that sister drama, but a humbling reminder from Jesus to keep HIM at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.  My anxiety and stress level lessen when I take time for HIM first.  I need to remind myself to put quality time with my kids and husband before my tasks.  They’re growing fast and I can’t get back time. As the holidays are approaching, it’s timely for me to share these thoughts if for nothing more than a reminder to myself of what’s IMPORTANT and not urgent. Just slow down. Rest. HE has control and will give the strength that is needed to get through every day.

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Dear Jesus,

YOU are important.  Thank you for your never-ending love, strength, and care for each one of us. Please bring calm to our spirits and our minds so that we stay focused on you, our families, our relationships, and the important things that you would want for us instead of our to-do lists. Thank you for your grace and love.

Amen

May you all have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week with family and friends!

~ Tara


I hope Tara’s words have encouraged you as much as they have me. Have a blessed week!

Hidden Motives

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2, NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I have a fantastic ability to justify my own actions. In fact, according to my self-preserving analysis of my decisions, I almost never sin–there is always a reason behind everything. I even tend to do this when I apologize: “I wasn’t trying to snap at you, and didn’t even realize my tone was edgy. I’m sorry you perceived it that way.” Almost as if I didn’t really sin: “You just misinterpreted me, again. It sure would be nice if you would get better at understanding me. Do you know how hard it is to never be understood?”

And just like that, I’ve turned my crappy attitude that I need to change into something for which someone else (usually my wonderfully supportive wife who didn’t deserve to be snapped at) is supposed to apologize to me.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 says:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9–10, NIV)

My prayer for the week is that God will reveal the hidden motives of your heart and change them through the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.

Lord, I Need You

The series on prayer continues with a look at Psalm 16, a prayer of dependence and confidence in God. How can we say that God is our only hope? Why do Christians put all their eggs in God’s basket? Why do we pray: “Lord, I need you”?

The Eyes of the Lord

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3, HCSB)

As I was reading the opening verses of Proverbs 15, I noticed that verse 3 seemed out of context. I’ve learned over the years that when something in the Bible appears to be out of context, it’s usually worth digging into it to find out why. It’s kind of like God puts these little clues or hints for us to find so that we dig a little deeper, and that process can generate a conversation with God about what we’re looking for or finding, which means we’re spending more time with our Father in his Word.

In Proverbs 15, verses 1, 2, and 4 all had to do with the tongue, our speech. But verse 3 wasn’t about us or our tongues at all. Here’s the full text, so you can see what I mean:

1 A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
2 The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive,
but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.
3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
observing the wicked and the good.
4 The tongue that heals is a tree of life,
but a devious tongue breaks the spirit.

Notice that verse 3 doesn’t seem to fit in with the others? That really stuck out in my mind (which is also one of the ways God speaks to me in my quiet time–he makes a verse or two jump out at me as I’m reading). As I was talking with God about it, and reflecting on the passage, God asked: Do you trust me?

Suddenly I saw what God wanted me to understand. God is everywhere. He sees everything. He’s watching over us, and he will handle things. I don’t need to use my tongue to speak harshly, manipulate the conversation, blurt out my foolish thoughts, or stir the pot because I’m not getting my way. I need to trust God enough to let him take care of things. I need to use my tongue to speak encouragement, wisdom, and life.

The extent to which I trust God to see everything and deal with it his way is the extent to which I can stop using my mouth as a hammer or a wedge and start using it honorably. My prayer for this week is that we will trust God enough to stop attacking people with our words and start building them up instead.

Praying for Our Country

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, NIV)

We live in a time and social context in which our country is deeply divided over politics, sexuality, race, religion–you name it, we’ll split over it. We also live in a context in which sin runs rampant. Indeed, Romans 1:18-32 could almost be a description of our society today. Sin wreaks havoc and devastation everywhere it appears, and while our nation is floundering, drowning in its own depravity, what are we doing to help?

Let me suggest that rage against those who disagree with us isn’t helpful. Wishing everyone from a particular political party or religious movement would just go away and live somewhere else isn’t going to fix any of the challenges we face. Now more than ever we need to be praying for our nation and its leaders. We need to be the light of the world that Jesus called His disciples (that includes us) to be in Matthew 5:14-16. We need to live righteous, holy lives devoted to our Savior, and we need to pray for those who haven’t yet heard or accepted the good news of Jesus. It is the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in true believers, that will exalt a nation–not its laws, its political views, its tolerance, its social services, or its GDP.

So, let me also suggest that aside from being a living picture of the gospel, a reflection of the Lord to your family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers–the most important thing you can do for our country is pray. It doesn’t matter if we view our neighbors as friends or enemies. It doesn’t matter if we see our governing authorities as friends or enemies. If they’re friends, we should pray for them, and if they’re enemies… well, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, too.

My prayer for the week is that we will all remember to pray for the people who make up our nation, even the ones we don’t like.

Be Wise, Take Advice

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Proverbs 13:10, NIV)

Have you ever known someone who was always asking for advice, but never taking it? Have you ever been someone who frequently asks for advice, but rarely takes it? There have been times in my life when I was desperate for advice. In those seasons, I drank in wisdom from older, more experienced people who’d already been through whatever I was in the middle of.

There have also been times in my life when I was pretty full of myself. I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t want advice. When a well-meaning person offered me a word of wisdom, I only pretended to listen. My face was interested and attentive, but my heart was smug and prideful. I can always tell when I start getting this way by how I react to unasked for advice. If I’m annoyed, there’s a good chance I’m complacent and arrogant (even if I’m hiding it well).

What I have discovered, often the hard way, is that most advice has something of value I can take away. There are plenty of times when someone gives me advice I don’t want to hear. In fact, that may be the majority of the advice I’ve received throughout my life! But it’s often when I don’t want to hear it that it has a valuable nugget of wisdom for me.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received came from Dr. Green in a class at Moody Theological Seminary. He said (paraphrased), “You will leave Moody with a Master of Divinity–a higher level of theological education than most people you’ll meet. But, don’t think that you know God better than anyone else in your church–you don’t. You may have read books and written papers, but there’s a whole lot more to knowing God than that.  You can learn something from every single person you meet. Never forget that.”

My prayer for this week is that we will each receive some advice with humility and grace.