A United Heart

Lou Ann stopped by my blog a few days ago and in turn, I visited her blog. I love her heart, her mission, and her writing! So, I am sharing it with you. Please read her short devotional on what it means to have a “United Heart”–obviously a subject near and dear to me. Enjoy!

Teach me thy way, O LORD;
I will walk in thy truth:
unite my heart to fear thy name.
(Psalm 86:11)
Most of this verse is simple in language and easy to understand. I stumbled a little at the word unite. What does it mean here? I looked up the Hebrew equivalent, and it means “unify; join.” Okay, but what is a unified heart or a joined heart? Commentators have several ideas about this word in the context of this verse. It can mean a “completely dedicated” heart or a heart with “undivided loyalty.” I thought of “single-heartedness,” something like single-minded.
In any case, the psalmist profoundly states his desires. This verse is his prayer:
            Teach me Your way.
            I resolve to walk in Your Truth.
            I want a heart that is wholly dedicated to respecting and following You.
Are the psalmist’s desires our desires?
            Do we really want to be taught what God wants us to do?
            Have we ever resolved (promised ourselves) to walk in the Truth (the Bible)?
            Do we have an “undivided” heart to respect and follow God?
In my counseling experience, I have found many women who want to do right. “Oh yes, I want to.” But, they don’t really want to be taught—not by God and not by anyone else either. They have never made a conscious decision to follow and know Truth. They don’t have time for God’s Word, don’t pray, and then they wonder why they’re having such a hard time grasping Truth. They have divided hearts. Part of them wants to do what everyone else does—follow “fun.” And, part of them really wants to follow God, but they’re not fully dedicated (united hearted) to it. Unfortunately, these ladies will always flounder spiritually.
I’ve also counseled women and girls who would say a hearty Amen to the psalmist’s three desires in this short verse. They are growing and changing. And they’re some of the happiest people I know.
May we all have undivided hearts!
Lou Ann Keiser is a missionary pastor’s wife with almost thirty years of ministry experience. She loves Bible study and people. Lou Ann is the mother of two married children and a grandmother. She lives in a quaint little town in Europe.
Please visit her blog: In the Way
**If you or anyone you know enjoys writing, www.servantsisters.org is currently looking for new writers to contribute devotions or photos with inspirational thoughts. You can check out the writer’s guidelines: Write For Us**
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Festering Wounds

Psalm 139:21-24

Festering Wounds

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Search me, O God…point out anything in me that offends you.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

I’m a self-admitted Band-Aid fanatic. As a child I fainted at the sight of my own blood, so I learned to cover my wounds with Band-Aids, no matter the severity. It’s a habit that continued into adult-hood, despite being told it was “all in my head”.

Recently I had a surgical procedure to remove a tumor and after surgery I did what I always do, covered the wound with ointments and Band-Aids. In a matter of weeks the incision site was infected. I couldn’t understand why, after all, I had taken excellent care of it with creams and dressings.

A good friend of mine suggested I leave the incision uncovered, open to air. As much as I hated the thought of seeing my wound exposed every day, I gave it a try. Within days the incision began to heal properly.

About as much as I enjoy seeing my physical wounds, I enjoy facing my sin. But the only way it can be eradicated is with the healing air of the Holy Spirit. When I keep Band-Aids on my spiritual weaknesses, deep infections develop in my life and I have to rip off the blinders of denial to let God reveal diseases that need healing. This is the essence of inviting God to search my heart.

PRAYER: Make me uncomfortable with what offends you, Lord, healing my heart with your Spirit of truth.

 

1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ by Jonathan Falwell

Jonathan Falwell, vice chancellor for spiritual affairs at Liberty University and senior pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church, has written a detailed account of the life of Jesus during His earthly ministry in 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ. Falwell does an extraordinary job chronicling the life of Jesus in an interesting, thought-provoking way. But this book isn’t just a list of activities; it delves the depths of Christ’s motivations, feelings, and experiences walking this earth in human flesh. The reader is not only informed, but challenged to apply spiritual truths to their own lives—to adopt the mission of Christ as their own.

“Jesus did not promise us a life free of trouble. He is called the God of all comfort—and if there were no troubles, He would not need to be called by this name. Jesus does not promise freedom from all problems, but He does promise that we will never face situations alone.” –1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ by Jonathan Falwell (pp. 9-10)

1000 Days addresses not only the ministry of Christ but the impact His ministry has for every person claiming to be a Christ-follower, both past and present. The text carefully walks through Jesus’ mission along with His expectations of those who follow Him. I particularly appreciated chapter four which walks through the first several verses of the Sermon on the Mount. He answers some important questions regarding this passage like what do the “beatitudes” really mean for you and me, and how did Jesus display them in His life? This chapter alone merits the purchase of this book and is something I will be referring to many times over.

Falwell also addresses the subjects of hypocrisy among believers, the doctrine of hell, dealing with temptation, authentic worship, pure motives, and what it really means to be a “Christian”.

“What does He mean that apart from Him we can do nothing? Jesus was not talking about what you and I can accomplish on a daily basis, what tasks to perform, what skills we can exercise, or how fast we can tick off our to-do lists, He was saying that we will accomplish nothing of eternal value unless what we do is based on the resources God gives. Without the life of Jesus flowing through us, our accomplishments don’t amount to a hill of beans.” (pg. 150)

Overall it is a phenomenal read and I highly recommend it. 1000 Days left me encouraged, motivated, inspired, and challenged to know and reflect the life of Christ more. Questions are also included at the end of each chapter for personal or small group study.

(I received 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ by Jonathan Falwell from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give positive feedback and every opinion expressed here is my own.)

To purchase 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ Click HERE.

No Way Out But Through by Graham Aitchison

Mental illness, spiritual warfare, addiction, bullying, rage, hopelessness, physical sickness, abuse, emotional torture–Graham Aitchison divulges the deepest secrets of his life’s journey with startling transparency in No Way Out But Through.

Anyone who has experienced the pain of the above mentioned issues will find themselves nodding in agreement as they read Graham’s story. The text is refreshingly real—as if you are sitting in a living room listening to the author tell you his story first-hand. It’s rare that a book is written from the view of “sharing” rather than “preaching”. Along with the “realness” of the authors journey is a manuscript packed with spiritual truth.

I found this to be a fascinating read once I got into the meat of the story. So much of Graham’s life reflects my own struggles with mental illness. Often the journey through mental/emotional sickness leads one into isolation, misunderstanding, and intense loneliness, but knowing others have suffered as you have brings great comfort. Even for the reader who has not experienced such things, there is much to learn from No Way Out But Through. Graham’s book provides a resource for the confused family members and frustrated friends of those who do deal with these issues. All around it’s a book many people could benefit from.

What I found most interesting was Graham’s discussion of Christianity and mental illness. No doubt this is a subject of much debate in the Church today leaving the mentally distressed guilt-ridden and most everyone else critical of such “mental” experiences.

“Throughout everything I was learning to break through, there was one essential factor to the whole process that I became more and more aware of over time – the great love and endless patience that God has for people, especially those who struggle with any form of mental illness.”

Graham acknowledges the spiritual warfare at play within his mind as well as how God brought him through overwhelming, debilitating darkness. Much of his journey to healing started with honesty within himself and before God. Many of the points he makes throughout the book remind me of what I learned in the 12-step programs I’ve been through. I especially appreciated his conversation regarding change within the heart rather than change in one’s circumstances.

“Change for the better starts from within, and will then eventually be followed by external change – not the other way around. We will never solve our own problems through trying to blame others for what are actually our own responsibilities, nor will we solve our problems through continued disregard of our own emotions and hearts, and through listening to an increasingly shallow and self-serving society.”

“Modern society in many ways tells people to look for peace and happiness in external circumstances, hence the abundance of consumerism. Christ’s way of thinking, which He passes on to those who follow him, encourages the individual to seek out true, lasting peace and understanding through looking honestly into the mirror and journeying with God through the parts of themselves they would rather avoid.”

Admittedly not everyone will relate to Graham’s story, but plenty of people will relate or know someone who can.  If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone suffering with mental illness such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, severe anxiety, anger, or bullying, then you will learn much from Graham’s story. No Way Out But Through reads like a journal–raw and real.

“God’s way of thinking is a total contradiction to the world’s way of thinking. The world’s way of thinking encourages dishonesty, shallowness, irresponsibility and pride. God’s way of thinking encourages honesty, depth, personal responsibility and humility.”

Thankfully, this is exactly what Graham has done—spoken with depth, honesty, responsibility and humility.

For a limited time you can purchase Graham Aithchison’s book, No Way Out But Through from Amazon.com for only $2.99. Click HERE to buy the book now.

(I purchased this book with my own money and did not receive it in exchange for a good review. The opinions expressed here were my own.)

 

Nourishing Pathways

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine August 2012 Issue**

Nourishing Pathways to Health (part 1)

13 years ago I met Rebecca. Besides sharing the same first two names (Rebecca Anne) we found we had a mutual love for Jesus. Rebecca has been a blessing in my life, though we walked different paths for many years, we have come together once again bonded not only by our love for Jesus, but our desire to glorify God with our bodies.

Rebecca is now married and has three beautiful kids. Her husband, Luke, is the music and youth pastor at Hillsdale Blvd Baptist church while Rebecca teaches Sunday school for the youth. Together they serve God passionately, seeking to honor Him with their bodies while teaching those habits to their children. I know you’ll be encouraged by her story.

Nourishing Pathways to Health

Chemical additives are common and convenience is praised in the modern diet, but Sacramento California resident Rebecca Gertner has chosen a different path for her family’s health, especially her husband who, at the age of 32, was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer.

“When God’s word says that our bodies are His temple, that means we should honor them. Just like we wouldn’t go spread trash all over our church sanctuary or purposely destroy the building, we should be mindful of how we are treating this flesh and blood sanctuary.”

Rebecca hasn’t always practiced a healthy lifestyle. As a member of the Finley Family, who travelled and performed as a way of life, she learned the art of eating on the go. Rebecca recalled her life on the bus:

“Growing up I ate a lot of fast food and drank a lot of soda pop. For years we didn’t have a refrigerator and just an ice chest. That left us consuming a lot of things that were either non-perishable or quick to purchase or eat.”

When the Finley Family wasn’t touring they worked together at home booking concerts, practicing music, and making bus repairs. Eventually a system was developed to trade off cooking responsibilities for the family so everyone would have a turn preparing food. Making meals for a large family with varying tastes often meant preparing fried foods, drinking sodas, and baking hefty desserts.

“I was unhealthy when I got married,” Rebecca admitted, “I had food allergies that caused me to have migraines regularly, but since my family wasn’t thinking much about the quality of our diet, it never occurred to me that the headaches were a result of what I was eating. Eventually I was able to maintain a headache free life just by the choices I made concerning food.”

Rebecca’s husband, Luke, had learned about nutrition when his brother became sick as a young boy. Unable to find healing through traditional means, his mother turned to nutrition. His family then adopted and maintained a healthy lifestyle.

“Getting married to Luke changed the way I saw food. Not only did I have the freedom to cook what I wanted, but I also had someone encouraging me to cook healthy foods,” Rebecca explained.

“The biggest factor in deciding to change the way we ate was when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 non-smokers lung cancer. As you can imagine we were shocked, scared and motivated to do whatever it took to beat this cancer. Food seems to take a back-burner when you’re looking at the statistics of this kind of cancer. Life is more than food. Food is simply what makes life possible.”

Rebecca spent countless hours in research via the internet as well as seeking advice from medical professionals. After learning how excessive amounts of sugar and carbs can suppress the immune system, Rebecca and Luke decided to limit Luke’s carb intake and focus on whole foods instead of processed refined foods, limiting the amount of added sugar to his diet and giving him the best opportunity to heal through proper nutrition as well as traditional cancer treatments. She admits it’s often difficult to discern what advice to take and what to discard, considering there were hundreds of contradictory medical opinions. Ultimately it came down to seeking God’s will and wisdom in every health choice.

You can read the rest of Rebecca’s interview in September’s issue of The Christian Online Magazine! Stay tuned!

Comfortable

Suggested Reading: 2 Samuel 23:8-12

Imagine an entire army running for their lives as the enemy draws near. Hundreds, if not thousands of men running in a panic seeking the comfort of safety. All of a sudden one lone guy stops running as his fellow soldiers fly past him. This one man decides he’s not going to run to comfort, he’s going to face the uncomfortable and trust God no matter what the outcome. Shammah turns around and faces the Philistine army alone, then, “The Lord brought about a great victory.” (vs. 12)

The mighty “heroes” of the Bible were used by God when placed in uncomfortable situations and each one of us has the potential to be a mighty warrior; there’s no reason God can’t work miracles through us as he did then. What is required? I’ll quote Pastor Pat on what he called “the Shammah Principle”:

He did what he could with what he had where he was.

With God, Shammah had everything he needed to achieve victory. Right now we are equipped with everything we need to be a hero. We have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, residing in us. The same God who uses one man to defeat hundreds of people uses us every day right where we’re at with what he’s given us.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to the opportunities you’ve placed in my path to be your mighty warrior. Motivate me through discomfort and continue to develop my faith. 

(Patrick McCalla is the teaching Pastor at New Life Community in Peoria, Arizona. You can read more of how God is using him as an every day hero through his blog, http://www.patmccallablog.com/.)