Make a Date

My entire schedule has been messed up the last couple of years and like everyone else, especially in 2020.  I used to set aside every Saturday morning studying the Bible or researching lesson plans. This time alone with the LORD was always fruitful and a blessing to my spirit.

My schedule really changed when the pandemic set aside early shopping times for the “at risk” people (insert smirk emoji). Instead of spending time with God, I spent it going to the store before the crowd. This eventually became my new habit. My time studying suddenly vanished and I had a hard time focusing on it at any other time. Something always got in the way. This was supposed to be my date-morning with God.

I fast every January as a first fruit offering to the LORD and for guidance for the year ahead. I fast alone and with my church. This year I asked God to help me realign things again. I felt out of control with the inability to focus. I needed His help. Praise God, He never disappoints!

I am at the end of my first fruits fast and I was feeling a little disappointed in myself. I felt that somehow, I failed in focus, prayer, and study. Nothing had changed. I felt I hadn’t done enough through the fast (which is a works mentality and lacks faith in God’s grace.)

But God!

Last night as I was crawling in to bed, God reminded me of our Saturday date-mornings. So, I set a date for 6:00 am. I can go to the store later in the morning, I can run later in the day. I can clean house this afternoon. But today, beginning at 6:00 am, that is God’s time.

My life verse is Ezra 7:10, especially the part that says Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the law. But I love to teach it too 😊

Whenever I study for others I am so blessed because I learn for myself as well. If I try to just read the Bible as something to check off my reading plan for the day, I usually leave rather empty. It was a duty and not a joy. Oh, but when I set aside time to meet with God, on purpose, for the joy of it, I am so very blessed, each and every time. God is faithful.  

As I began reading Ephesians, I had focus today and I started to see Scriptures that related to the class I begin to teach on Monday! It was awesome. I was reminded of God’s love, His grace and the Power that He has bestowed upon us. I was reminded of the life I am called to live.

Make a date and be faithful. Give time to God and He will give to you in greater measure.

Ezra 7:10

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Discipline or Privilege

I have been reading James W Goll’s book THE SCRIBE and he said something that really hit home.

He had always used the phrase “spiritual disciplines” when it came to setting habits for prayer, worship, journaling, being in the Word and so forth. He recalls a time when the Holy Spirit said to him “you are not disciplined enough to have spiritual disciplines.”  Well, if that is true of James Goll, it is even more true for mel!

The Holy Spirit’s response to Mr. Goll was to call these things ‘privileges”.

This puts a whole new spin on things. A discipline is performance based. It often turns to a drudgery or just something to check off a list. Doing the same thing as a privilege, however, means doing it because you can do it. You do it because God has equipped you to do it and because you want to do it. You do not have to do these things for God to love you more. He loves you already! Praying, studying His Word, praising Him, worshipping Him are all things we get to do! They are things He invites us to do so that we can can have relationship with Him. They are benefits and gifts that our Father has lavished on us!

To take this thought a little further, what if we have that same attitude in everything we do? What if I do not see cleaning house today as the drudgery, I believed it to be? What if I saw it as cleaning and caring for the home that God gave me 10 years ago? What if my commute to and from work every day is not seen as a long drive and time wasted, but as time spent worshipping God with the radio or being taught God’s Word through audiobooks I’ve downloaded? What if its neither of these things and just quiet time with Jesus? What if I see going to work every day as the privilege it is! What if I see it as something God has enabled to do? It is God’s provision for me. The same with errands like going to the store.

I believe if we looked at more of the everyday things in life as privileges instead of routine things we must do, we will be more thankful, and in doing so, we will reap the benefits of a blessed and more joyful life.

Philippians 2:14-16

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 

Psalm 121

Meditating on Scripture is probably one of the most rewarding things a person can do. When you spend time with God in His Word your entire perspective on things change.

Recently, I have been going through one of those “phases”. With everything going on with the pandemic, the political craziness, the increase of lawlessness, and just life in general, a feeling of loneliness was settling heavy on my heart. A spiritual war was intensifying on the battlefield of my mind. I knew the only things that would win the battle would be the arsenal of the Word and a renewing of my mind.

I made a big mistake this year and did not have a study plan in place by January. I read the Word every day, but this year the plan was haphazard at best. I love the Word. I love seeing the story unfold and I absolutely love meditating on it. But these past few months, I seemed to have just drifted. Funny, how that happens. You just seem to drift and before you know it, you are not where you know you need to be.

Then one day, as I was putting things away and battling things in my mind, I glanced at the bulletin board in my home office and I see Psalm 121.1. I don’t remember when I actually wrote this, but God knew I would need it soon!

That one Scripture changed everything! I still have to fight the battle. The weapon I am using is meditating on Psalm 121; memorizing it, and letting the Holy Spirit recall other Scriptures that are hidden in my heart that strengthen my resolve to be the victor in the battle. The more I meditate on Psalm 121, the more the battle changes in my favor.

Not only is it renewing my mind, it is renewing my heart as well!

The next few posts on A Heart After Him, will be how God is renewing my mind with the washing of His Word. It’s a personal journey but you are welcome to come along.

Part 1

Theme

Two of the keys to effective Bible Study and effective meditating are to pay attention to the words and pay special attention to repetitions. You look for the theme

These eight verses pack a mighty wallop and the theme is obvious in one Hebrew word, shamar (שמר).  In this Psalm, the NIV translates the Hebrew word shamar (to keep, guard, watch over, attend to carefully) as watch. Other versions translate as keep, but really, any of the translated words reveal and mean the same thing and each brings its own powerful impact. More on this in the study of each verse in following posts.

“He watches” is mentioned five times in eight verses. Four times it says either “watches over you” or watches over your”.

In every verse it says things he will do or something that he is to you: He will not let your foot slip; He is your shade, he is my help. We see that He will not let the sun or moon harm (representing the dangers in the day and night.) Verse seven says he keeps us from all harm (evil).

The theme for Psalm 121 is that God watches over us, He guides us and He protects us from everything,  around the clock and He will never stop!

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

CLEAR THE FOREST

Praying Ephesians 1:17-23 and 3:14-19 is exciting! Why? Because God  does what you are praying for! However, sometimes the revelation he brings may not necessarily be what you were expecting!

In today’s reading of Joshua from the Year of the Bible reading plan from my church, we find ourselves with the Israelites taking the land as God commanded….well some of them were taking it. In chapter 17 we see that the clan of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) want more land because they were numerous. They asked for it, but didn’t want do the work to “clear the forest” or fight something stronger than themselves. They wanted the easy route.

Then God revealed how this passage described…….. my own actions and desires!!!! Wait a minute….. me, God? I thought this was about the Israelites!

I have been praying for something that I wanted God to do (give me)  and it didn’t appear that He was working in the direction I wanted him to work. I didn’t want to have to clear the forest and I definitely didn’t want to fight for it!!! I wanted to wait for God to just give it to me all wrapped and ready exactly how I wanted it and how I desired it.

Well, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way! God has something really good for us and sometimes it just might take some effort on our part to get it. I’m not talking about “works” or “earning” something from God. I’m talking about a faith partnership. God has provided and he will go to battle in front of me, I just have be willing to do what is required of me. For one, I needed an attitude adjustment! I also needed to remember Proverbs 3:5-6. I will trust in Him and not my own understanding. I will trust that He will guide me in all that I set out do in His will as I submit to Him.

The Israelites didn’t just waltz into the Promise Land…. they had to fight for it with a dedicated trust in the One who gave it to them. And so shall I.

FRUITS OF PERSONALITY

As we mature as Christians, we begin to display The Fruits of the Spirit, at least we should anyway!

As I was reading Galatians 5:22-23 it occurred to me the “fruit” described in these verses could also be used to describe the Holy Spirit. As we mature, we become more like Him and we have the same personality traits.

The Holy Spirit is love.

The Holy Spirit is joyful.

The Holy Spirit is peace.

The Holy Spirt is patient. (forbearance.)

The Holy Spirit is kind.

The Holy Spirit is good.

The Holy Spirit is faithful.

The Holy Spirt is gentle.

The Holy Spirit displays Self-control.

A NEW LENS FOR MY HEART

I recently had cataract surgery on both of my eyes. For a two-week period I had one “good” (right) eye and one “bad” (left) eye since most eye surgeons do not perform the surgery on both eyes at the same time. It was challenging during that two-week time frame because I could no longer wear my bifocal glasses.  They had been rendered useless the first day. My left eye is the dominate eye so it still needed them, but my right didn’t since I had upgraded to a multifocal lens that would eliminate the need for glasses for the most part.  I read a lot for both work and pleasure so I still needed my reading glasses to read my Bible and other really fine print for my left eye to be effective and because my right eye was still healing and adjusting. I didn’t need glasses at all for distance or for using the computer.

I often found myself covering up one eye and comparing it to the other eye. The difference was quite remarkable. I would tell people it is like the difference between regular TV and HD. However, the most notable difference happened last week while I was getting a pedicure. I must have been bored because I found myself covering my eyes one at a time to see how they compared after almost two weeks.

Thank goodness, I was there early on a Saturday morning and there weren’t a lot of people looking at the crazy lady covering her eyes one at a time while uttering “whoa” out loud in complete amazement.

When I covered my left eye, I could see bright white walls, sparkling color and HD like definition to the things around me. When I covered my right eye, it was looking through a golden-brown filter that left everything looking dull, dirty and fuzzy. Letters were often in double vision.  I was stunned by the difference. I hadn’t noticed the stark difference until I looked at the light-colored walls under the light of a brightly lit nail salon.

Then on Sunday, during my evening “prayer walk”, I thought about the upcoming second part of cataract surgery to replace the lens on the left eye. I thanked God for the success of the surgery on the right eye and I prayed that the second surgery would be just as successful. After a slight chuckle over my antics at the nail salon the day before, I remembered my optometrist trying to convince me over the last few years that I needed the surgery. I kept putting it off telling him I was “too young” and that I could see just fine as long as I had new glasses. He said that new glasses wouldn’t do any good since it was the presence of the cataracts that was impairing my vision. He said, “You will be surprised after you have the surgery. You have just gotten used to not being able to see clearly.”

As I pondered this, my prayer changed from my physical eyes to the eyes of my heart. Have I been walking with a cloudy, golden-brown filter that distorted what my heart could see? Have I become accustomed to not being able see the things of God clearly?  Am I confused by  double vision? 

So, I prayed Psalm 119:18.

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Oh, Lord, give me a new lens for my heart. I want to see things fresh, new, bright and clear. Open my eyes to see the hidden treasures in your Word. Remove the cataracts of my heart and help me see the world through your eyes under the bright light of Jesus.

 

TOOLS FOR A LIFETIME

Father, create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Search me, O God and  know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 51;10, 139:23-24)

I begin this post today  with this  prayer from Psalms . Why? Because, honestly, I’m a little scared. God has placed a wonderful desire in my heart to learn to study His Word. But, the desire is not just for me to hold on to for myself; it’s a  desire to share and teach others what I have learned.

Disobedience to His call will kill the desire, pride will kill the desire, procrastination will kill the desire, doubt, sin, unfaithfullness and many more things will also kill the desire….all of which I am guilty.

God placed A Heart Him on my heart a few years ago as a tool to share the things that I have learned with others. I have not been faithful to the call.  I pray to change that with this wonderful second chance (or is it the third, fourth or hundreth chance?) I may not have been faithful to the call but God is always faithful!

Tools for Lifetime  are tips and methods that I have learned over the last few years from well known teachers. Each teacher has a style and method all their own, but I have discovered that they flow together beautifully. Each method I learn builds on or enhances the understanding of the one before, until BOOM, it makes sense and, above all….it WORKS. Scripture has opened up like never before. It’s mind blowing! It’s exciting! (see the SLOW DOWN post coming soon!)

Tools for a Liftime will be a small group at my church. However, I pray that those of you who read the posts will know that, from the bottom of my heart, the posts are not intended to be an “advertisment” for that group . My desire is that somehow, through these tips that are posted, God will stir a hunger in hearts and begin to open doors for people who want to read his Word and understand what it says.

Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.

I love you all and may God give us hearts that are open, eyes that see, and ears that hear.

Sherri

 

 

 

 

It’s NOT about me!

I recently read the book, IF, by Mark Batterson. In the book he asks “If money was not an issue and you knew you could not fail, what you be doing?” My immediate response was I would spend hours and hours in His Word, studying and sharing what I learn. The author then prompts this response “What if I started living it, even if?

So today, while doing my Bible Study homework for the Armor of God Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer, I read her reference to Ezekiel 36:24-32. I know that we are not to read things into the Bible that aren’t meant to be, such as, in this passage Ezekiel is talking about the restoration of Israel and not to me personally. However, the Bible is timeless. It is also how God speaks to you and me.

The amazing thing about this whole process is being obedient to what God has placed in my heart. To do that I need to……WRITE IT DOWN. So, I wrote out the passage in the margin of my study guide. As I wrote it out the Holy Spirit gave me the following  revelations about how this passage applies to me!

v24) God rescued me from a life of sin, hurt, anguish fear and strife. He brought me to a place to call my own.

v25) He saved me, washed away my sins and changed my focus to worship Him alone.

v26) He changed my heart (work in progress) by showing me His love. He changed the inner me and broke down the wall I had around my heart of stone. He is giving me the heart of Jesus, one day at a time.

v27) He gave me the Holy Spirit to guide me in His ways and on His path.

v28) I will live in the places he gives me. He is my God and I am His daughter!

v29) He will save me (forgive me) when I confess my sin. He provides for me in abundance even when things look bad all around me.

v30) He will increase the fruit of the Spirit. I will have an increase of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

v31) I will remember my old self and know that I have sinned. I will remember my sin to use as my testimony of the results of a life going down my own path instead of His path.

v32) God changed me, saved me, rescued me, and blesses me in great abundance in ways above any I can think or imagine……But I must realize…..IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!

It’s about HIM, about HIS work in me for the benefit of others so that they can have it too!

Praise the LORD. He blesses my heart of stone every day! I can feel the mortar cracking 🙂

Ezekiel 36:24-32 (NIV)

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!

A Prayer for Spirtual Wisdom and Growth

The more I read the letters of the Apostle Paul to early churches, the more his prayers are highlighted within my heart. He loved Jesus so very much and he loved the people of the church with such passion. His letters are full of prayers that should be etched on our hearts for each other.

The following prayer is adapted from Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21.

A Prayer of Spiritual Wisdom and growth for Victory Family Church

All praise and glory, to our Father God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who have blessed us, with every spiritual blessing, because God made us to be His family!

God, I thank you for my church family and the people you have brought into my life. Thank you for their faith in Jesus and the love they demonstrate for your people.

I pray, Father, for each and every one of the people of VFC, including myself, that You, our generous, merciful and loving God will give us, spiritual wisdom and insight so that we grow in knowledge of You.

I pray that our hearts are open, receptive and flooded with light so that we can be confident in the hope that you have given to those you have chosen to be your holy people, rich and glorious in the inheritance through Jesus Christ.

I pray, Father, that we understand your incredible power for us who believe.
I pray that we would know, understand and BELIEVE that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us! That this same power that gave Jesus all authority, far above any ruler or authority, in this world or the world to come, has also been given to us.

I pray that we grow, like Jesus did when he was on earth, in favor of God and man so that the work you have assigned to us is fully completed.

In the awesome name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God be the glory.
Amen.

APPOINTED TIME

In preparation for an upcoming Beth Moore Bible Study on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, I decided to read Acts 16 and 17 to get a feel of the setting.

In doing so, Acts 17:26 caught my attention.

“and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation”. ACTS 17:26 NASB

Once in a while, something happens or something crosses my mind and I wonder how in the world I got where I am and why. Am I where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do? Then a Scripture like Acts 17:26 pops in the picture.This scripture made me realize that I am exactly where God made me to be!

I have entrusted Him with my life and in knowing that, I know that I was born at the right time, to the parents I was meant to have, in the land I was meant to love, to do what I was meant to do.

I couldn’t help but stop and praise God. I know that throughout my life I have made choices that were not in the will of God, and I have suffered through many of those choices. However, through it all, God has blessed me… more than I realize and definitely so much more than I ever deserved. And through it all, I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this particular time doing what I am meant to do. Oh, the peace that brings to my soul!

Father, you have my life. You have my heart. Guide me so that I will always be where you want me to be, doing what you want me to do for Your Kingdom purposes. Amen.