So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

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Promises in the Rain

“Mommy, mommy!” Samantha raced into my bathroom where I was comfortably relaxing in the shower.

“What is it?” I poked my head out thinking someone or something was on fire.

“Mommy, it’s raining!”

“Ohhhhh….” was the resignated realization of a promise I had made to her the previous weekend. The weather report had predicted rain, and she had begged me to let her play in the mud puddles. I agreed. Then the clouds opened up and it didn’t rain. I had succesfully dodged that bullet, until today.

“Fantastic,” I thought, “I have so many things to do today, and standing in the pouring rain while my 4 year old jumps in the mud isn’t on my list.”

You need to honor your promise.

Sigh. “Ok, Lord, I will honor my promise.”

I got out of the shower and ready to stand in the rain. It occured to me I should bring my camera and record the one time I agreed to let my little girl splash in the mud. Samantha was in her pajamas and flip-flops and we set out. I was immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings. The pouring rain, the trees bending under the wind, the smells of fresh moisture, and even my daughter covered in mud. It was like viewing a movie in 3D for the first time, everything came alive to my senses.

rain

I lifted my camera and began snapping pictures, thankful for the marvelous beauty God was showering despite my reluctant obedience.

puddles

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Samantha, discovering her dirty feet, decided two hops was enough and wanted a shower.

muddy flip flops

I took that time to catalogue the beautiful treasures God had given me through my camera lens. If I hadn’t obeyed the Spirit’s prompting, I would have missed out on a glorious experience; an opportunity for reflection, praise, worship and teaching my daughter that she can trust me to follow through on my promises.

fresh pathway

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

I learned a valuable lesson this morning. I need to slow down and take time to reflect on the treasures around me:

birds nesting,

birds nesting

flowers resting,

flowers resting

trees growing,

trees growing

and children playing.

muddy Samantha

There’s more to my world then finishing the next project, making the next phone call, or cooking another meal. I need to remember God’s faithfulness and love and delight in his handiwork and maybe the day won’t seem so hectic after all. Sometimes I just need to throw that “list” in the wind and dance in the rain.

“It is good to praise the Lord.” Psalm 92:1

pink flowers

God Grant Me Grace

“I am insignificant and despised, but I do not forget your commandments.” Psalm 119:141 NLT

Our status in life need not dictate whether we know or obey the word of God. We may (or may not) be intelligent in matters of nuclear science, molecular biology, or cell functions but the only intelligence that matters in God’s eyes is our remembrance of his commands. We can have master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, or engineering degrees but without Christ, it is nothing. He cares about our hearts, not about our stature in the world.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor [grace] to the humble and oppressed. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5-6

Where we are insignificant to the world, we are significant to God. Where we are despised by the world, we are favored by God.  Where we lack in recognition we gain in grace from our Lord. Our status in this world is irrelevant.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Let’s review some people who found favor (grace) in God’s eyes:

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

“[David] enjoyed God’s favor.” Acts 7:46

“The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11

Every time you see the word “favor” in these passages its original translation is “grace”. It can also be said that Ruth and Esther both found grace or unmerited favor (Ruth 2:10, Esther 7:3).Would you like an outpouring of God’s favor in your life? Do you desire to be significant in the kingdom of God over your significance in the world (Matthew 6:3).There is one ingredient in the recipe of grace: humility. Remembering the word of God is the beginning of humility. The cause and effect of truth in our life is this:

When we know the word of God we know who we are in God’s eyes, and this knowledge humbles us. As we are humbled under the mighty hand of God, he lifts us up with his grace.

Are you smart in the world or smart in the Word?

“He…gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34

Prayer

Jesus, it’s not easy to ask for a humble heart, but I want more of your grace. Grant me the spirit of humility in order for me to have your unmerited favor. When pride creeps in I ask your Spirit to convict me immediately. Pride cannot dwell in the house of grace so purge this awful sin from my life however painful that may be. Help me to remember your words even if that makes me mocked and scorned by those around me.

Please Join&Support

I have a new page for those of you on Facebook, please “Like” and share with your friends so we can spread the truth of the message of Psalm 119!

http://www.facebook.com/DailyInspirationsPsalm119

Thank YOU!

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:68

Holy Water

Holy Water

“With my lips I recount all of the laws that come from your mouth.” Psalm 119:13 NIV

I’ll admit it, I like to sing in the shower, in my car, while I am doing the dishes, vacuuming, or even cleaning the litter box (which is tricky when you’re trying not to inhale).  Music has always been a part of my life and as an accompaniment pianist, I find myself hearing rhythms, accompaniment patterns, and ad libs whenever I listen to a song. I can’t even hear a clock ticking without hearing tempos and singing songs in my head. I have memorized many songs unintentionally just by listening to them and singing them over and over again. It’s really annoying when I get a commercial jingle stuck in my head, and I find myself singing about auto insurance at odd hours of the night.

A lot of times we think we can’t remember anything, and it’s true we all misplace our keys or lose our debit cards occasionally. (In my case almost daily in the pit that is my purse.) If we’re honest we’ll admit it’s not as hard to memorize something as we think it is; in reality it just depends on what’s important to us and what we choose to listen to/look at on a consistent basis.

The Psalmist said he could recount all of the laws verbally. That’s a pretty impressive statement. How do you suppose he was able to do that? I doubt it was because he glanced over them for an hour once a week. He most likely repeated them over and over again out loud many times a day; just like that commercial jingle that gets stuck in your head because you hear it over and over again during that football game (or movie or whatever you like to watch). When we hear something and repeat it out loud we tend to remember it better. Often times when I am trying to memorize a verse I repeat it out loud many times as I lay in bed until I fall asleep. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and I remember it a lot better than just reading a verse on a page. You would think having spent over a year studying Psalm 119, I would have most of it memorized by now, but it’s not the case. I only remember the verses I have intentionally sought to remember and spent time speaking them and hearing my own voice saying them. That verbal reinforcement is powerful and transforming.

The Hebrew word for recount in this verse is actually to declare, inscribe, enumerate, celebrate, commune, speak, talk or tell.  This is not just a mental exercise; it’s also a physical process involving the tongue. It’s no wonder this is necessary in training the mind as we see in James 3:6:

“The tongue is also a fire, a word of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.”

Have you ever said something you regretted? Has your tongue ever gotten you in trouble and lit up your life like a flaming wildfire? I know I have. The Scriptures are our way of dousing those flames with “holy water”, so to speak. When we declare the words of the Lord with our mouths, we reiterate to our minds truth that transforms. It takes black and white off the page and puts it into practice. We’re more likely to remember the words and attitude of Jesus that we are told to emulate if we are spending time repeating them. Is there something in your life that you struggle with? Perhaps it’s anger, gossip, or impatience. Find a verse that addresses the issue you struggle with, and commit it to memory by repeating it out loud several times every day. Listen to the word of God spoken on a cd in your car, or record it yourself to listen to you when you’re driving. Declare it in your bed at night until it begins to transform your mind and you can say, “With my lips I recount your laws, Lord!”

Prayer

Jesus, I ask that you reveal a verse to me that I need to commit to memory. I want my actions to mirror the life of Jesus, and I realize I need to have a transformation of thinking in order for that to occur. Control the damaging flames of my tongue with the cooling water of your word.

Effective

Effective

“I pray with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 NLT

It’s impossible to talk about the word of God and not mention prayer. The Psalmist says that he will not only obey with all his heart, seek with all his heart, but also pray with all his heart. This, of course, implies that we could pray with less than our whole heart. What would that look like?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.” Matthew 6:5-6

Jesus knew there were many people who loved to give lip service and be seen and admired by men. He strongly urged his disciples to avoid this kind of prayer at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with praying in public, we do it every Sunday in churches all over the world, there is something wrong with praying to impress others. It shows a division of heart. The intellect is involved with fancy words and long elegant speeches, but the rest of the heart (acting out the truth with the will, for example) is not on board or backing up the prayer. Jesus also warned us:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Prayer is a form of worship, just as much as singing songs, Bible study, or tithing. We are told that no gift should be offered when we are not right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have we persisted in prayer, study, and singing while knowing we were bitter against someone else or they were bitter against us? We are admonished to do all we can to keep peace and unity in order for our offerings to be accepted. We cannot change how people feel about us, but we can make every effort to make things right. 12 step programs often refer to this as “making amends”. While the person we seek to restore fellowship with may not accept our offer, we must make the effort in sincerity of heart in order for God to be honored and our gift to be accepted.  Perhaps when we pray and God is silent, it is because He is waiting for us to act in obedience to his revealed will.

“The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them.” Psalm 34:17

The word righteous in this passage comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “cleanse”, “clear”, or “morally right”. Thus, the believer who is pure in heart or cleansed is the just believer whose prayers are heard. I don’t know about you, but I want my prayers to be heard! This is a powerful motivation for keeping my conscience clean before God, and others. What good does it do to spend an hour in elaborate prayer when my prayers are not being heard?

A few years ago my brother in law was diagnosed with leukemia. There was a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out well, and deep down in my spirit, I knew the outcome, though I certainly believed that God could bring healing if it was His will to do so. This was a life-changing event for me. I knew God could heal, I knew God had a plan, but I also knew I was called to pray over the situation in earnest. God brought me to James 5:16b over and over again.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

The word righteous here is translated “holy”, “just”, or “innocent”. I realized that if I wanted God to hear me, I needed to have a clean heart before Him. Realizing that there are so many needs today for health, healing, freedom, truth, enlightenment, and wisdom (among many other things) was also a realization that praying for these things was a useless endeavor if my heart was not right with God. I was wasting my breath. I clearly remember this time of my life because God used it to motivate me to holiness, and being sold out to Him in living my faith.  Many times my prayers begin with confession as I come into the presence of a holy God and am reminded of my own ungodliness.

In order to have an undivided heart in prayer, we need to seek cleansing and purity before God. In order to be an effective prayer warrior, we need to ask God to convict us that we need a change of heart. God is the only One who can reveal to us faults we otherwise cannot see. I have experienced this truth time and again when asking God to cleanse my heart. There have been grievous sins committed on my part that I never even realized were sins until God opened my eyes to it! Once he did, I was horrified at my attitude! But unless I had asked him to search me and show me what needed fixing, I would have ignorantly gone on with an undivided heart probably wondering why my prayer life wasn’t as effective as it could be.

Just to be clear; I am not saying that the only way our prayers will be heard is if we are perfect. I am saying that God is clear in his word of what will hinder our prayers from being effective; willful disobedience, sin in ignorance, or a divided heart. I don’t want to be guilty of any of these things, and I pray you feel the same way! Let us obey, seek, and pray with a whole heart. Let us seek to be right before God in all we do, and keep a clear conscience in order to be the most effective prayer warriors that we can be!

Prayer

As I come into your presence, Lord, I ask that you reveal to me any secret sins I have hidden in my heart. I want to wholeheartedly serve you and I want to pray with a heart that is united to fear you. I want to be an effective prayer warrior; even more so I want to be right and have a clear conscience before you. Search me and cleanse me, give me a heart that understands your holiness and give me displeasure for the things that will divide my heart. Thank you for being merciful and loving to show me where I need cleansing!

Emotional

Emotional

“I obey your commands with all my heart.” Psalm 119:69 NLT

“I will put them into practice with all my heart.” Psalm 119:34 NLT

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:35

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Acts 4:32

How many times have you heard someone say, “I know it in my head, but I need to know it in my heart”? I know I have said it!  We are designed very uniquely. We have a heart, or an inner being that is multifaceted. Our spirit is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. We can practice the word of God with our minds (look at the Pharisees in the Gospels) and not have our will and emotions in the right place.

The Psalmist understood that the word needed to penetrate every aspect of his inner being, not just his head. The word needed to be molded through every aspect of his heart. His mind, will, and emotions needed to be bent towards God.  It’s quite easy, actually, to have our minds bent towards the things of God, and not our emotions. Our emotions are often the thing that trips us up. We read the word, and even know the word intellectually, but our emotions tell us we feel different. Much of the world’s philosophies involve living on emotions. “Do what feels right.” Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is right! The only way we can do what is right, is to know what is right, and to know what is right is to know God’s word.

We must come to the word of God asking him to unite our hearts to his truth; that is, unite our minds, wills, and emotions towards his truth. This involves taking captive our will to do what is unnatural to the word of God, and our emotions that often feel what is not in line with the word of God, and demanding they obey the word of God as much as our minds.

There will be many times in our Christian walk that we don’t feel as if God loves or cares for us even though we know it in our minds; we won’t want to do what we know is right with our wills, yet we must ask God to order all of our heart to obey! We must practice walking in the truth of God with our intellect, our emotions, and our wills. I believe the Psalmist knew how difficult this was, and that is why he stressed the point so many times in this chapter. I can personally attest to making very poor decisions when allowing myself to be ruled by my emotions. I am a very sensitive person, so this is a very hard subject for me. Hard or not, it is the truth of God’s word. I must ask him to unite my heart in order to be effective, stay away from sinful attitudes, and stay in his will.

The only way to stay on the path of holy obedience is to have a wholeness of heart.

Prayer

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complicated, Lord! Teach me how to love and obey you with all of my heart, not just my intellect. I want to know who you are, and I want the truth of your word to penetrate my will that I may walk in your ways, and my emotions that I may be sensitive to your truth.