Guard Your Heart!

How do we manage “guarding our heart” without “pushing people away”?

I always struggle with it; I try to be kind to everyone around me, but some people mistake my kindness for weakness, or a willingness to accept whatever behavior they might choose to display….

We all crave love and respect. I am speaking of love in general, not necessarily romantic love. I think there is much love that people want to give but it’s harder and harder these days to show love, to celebrate pure and genuine love.  Some people mistake kindness for flirtation, or some may hold back, thinking that others must want something from them. How sad! But the point is: how do we walk the fine line between loving unconditionally and guarding our own personhood? 

Fortunately, God has given us the answer in the Bible. [Proverbs 4:23-27] clearly warns us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

To be kind to everyone, you must realize that everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. The Bible tells us over and over to be kind to one another and help each other, and repeatedly emphasizes that there shouldn’t be any limits to our compassion. Sometimes people are so beaten down by life’s trials and failures that they need someone who is willing to be a long-term friend to help them. It can be challenging to help someone who at first seems unwilling to take any steps towards a solution. He or she may seem like a hopeless case. But a long, patient friendship with such a person can also be very rewarding.  It pleases God to see this wonderful characteristic of perseverance in our lives. 

However, in this area of giving and helping, the Bible also teaches that we must have wise discernment. We must “guard our hearts” by not saying or doing things that we may regret. God gives us certain standards and we must draw a line when it comes to giving our time to others or, even more than that, our hearts. 

Our emotions and feelings can overwhelm us at times. But wisdom evaluates our “Why, How, and Where”. The book of Proverbs and Psalms of David in the Bible are filled with knowledge of good judgment, insight, and common sense.

Psalm 111:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. 

Proverbs 1:7

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. 

The Word of God not only tell us to follow the precepts of the Lord, but also tells us to make this a matter of prayer, asking the Lord to show us what He wants us to do. He will give us wisdom to recognize genuine needs and discern between protecting our hearts and giving into distraction. 

Regardless of how others view our kindness — Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D says, “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”

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Rely on God’s Promises for Your Needs!

Contentment  is not a place where you arrive after a long and arduous journey, and  thankfulness is not found by striving and struggling. The sin in our lives has made contentment elusive and difficult to achieve. In life, many situations are attached to temporary satisfaction. This fleeting happiness arrives without any substance and lasting fulfilment. There is one, and only one way to live a life of sustained satisfaction: contentment is a gift from the hand of God to us. It comes when our relationship with God is right — and our heart is filled with gratitude and thankfulness.  

Are you content in any circumstance? Paul the apostle of Christ, knew how to be content, whether he had plenty or whether he was in need. His secret was to draw close to Christ’s power for strength. This is what he said in [Philippians 4:12-13], 

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” [Timothy 6:6-7]

Paul encourages us, whether we have great needs or are mildly discontented with our life.  In either case, we learn to rely on God’s promises and Christ’s power to help us to be content. God knows what is best for us and will supply our needs.

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Do You Need a Breakthrough Prayer?

Sometimes we find ourselves praying for something earnestly and devotedly, asking God repeatedly to heal an illness or bless our finances, relationships, home, job, etc. But we don’t see any changes. Why not? It seems like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.

At times we wonder if God even hears our prayers. Then our prayers may begin to change, becoming less about asking and more about complaining and grumbling. Anger, frustration and bitterness begin to build, leading us to turn our backs on God. At this point, a state of absolute hopelessness sets in and we’re desperately in need of a breakthrough prayer.

How and what does it take to have a breakthrough? The key is to change how to pray. My pastor and other leaders, bible studies and personal experience all point me to verse (Mark 11: 24) where Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, BELIEVE that you have RECEIVED it, and it will be yours.”

According to the verse above, we must believe and lay claim to our prayer requests, as if we have already received our answer. That is called #FAITH. Ultimately, anything we ask of God in complete faith through his son Jesus will be given to us according to HIS WILL.

You may say, ”Why didn’t God answer my prayer?” The answer may be simply because it didn’t fit into God’s plan for your life. We may never know why God doesn’t answer or He may reveal His plan later on……

Remember, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death (he would soon be crucified to pay for the sins of every person). His human flash didn’t want to go through that horrific death. But he humbly asked,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

He asked for God’s will to be done. God’s purpose for His son’s death on the cross had enormous impact on the lives of all humanity.

Based on God’s WILL, no matter whatever we go through, He will still be with us. If our small or large requests do not fit into His perfect plan for our life, He will graciously change our hearts and will gently lead us to His plan.

Rick Warren said in one of his sermons, “Thanking God before He gives you something – that’s called FAITH. Thanking God after He gives you something – that’s called GRATITUDE.”

The most important key to having a breakthrough prayer (besides thanking God before and after He answers our prayer), is to pray as Jesus did in verse (Matthew 26:39) — let your WILL be done, O Lord, not my will. Amen!

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What Does it Mean to Love the Darkness?

It is easy to love the light, but how can you come to love the darkness? We know that darkness is the absence of light and it comes only when everything else has gone.  Darkness is moments of loss, emptiness, struggle, adversity, pain, loneliness, and nothingness.

Mother Teresa once shared how she came to realize the reality of darkness. She wrote:

“When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love — the word — it brings nothing. I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul…. In spite of all — this darkness and emptiness is not as painful as the longing for God…” 

We can definitely agree with her — nothing can be as painful as the longing for God.  But what did she find in those murky hours of her ministry that would finally cause her to love the total absence of light?

Eventually she wrote: “I have come to love the darkness. For I believe that it is a part, a very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.”

The verses below describes how Mother Teresa shared the agony of Christ Jesus throughout her ministry helping the poorest of the poor. 

1 Peter 3:18 | NIV

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  

1 Peter 2:24 | NIV

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  

Most days I study God’s word in the morning and then meditate on them for a time, loving Him, talking to Him, and even singing worship songs with heartfelt adoration. But sometimes, when pain comes and darkness tries to dim the light in my soul [the secret-self], then there is no movement and I find myself getting down and quiet. Yet deep down somewhere in my soul the longing for God keeps breaking through the darkness, reminding me what God has done for me. I am reminded of all His blessings in my life and am assured that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion.  Those painful moments through the dark tunnel are part of the process which gets me to the light found in repentance, and the love inherent in salvation.

When you find yourself “in the days of pain”, feeling that your spirit is floating down into that dark and motionless tunnel, you may want to consider it as a blessing. For your stillness may lead to repentance; which will strengthen your mind, body, and soul.    

In [Isaiah 30:15] this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. 

The bottom line is: our pain is part of the plan whether we like it or not. As we stop resenting our circumstances and quietly wait for God’s answers, we will come to realize that, as much as we think of “darkness” as moments of emptiness, loneliness, and nothingness… Yet it’s everything.
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Roadblocks – the Dark Night of the Soul!

We all at some point in life will confront roadblocks — or, as the ancients called it, “the dark night of the soul.”

We encounter a roadblock when a crisis turns our world upside down.  These roadblocks may be one-time events, or they may show up numerous times in our life’s walk. They may be the result of bad habits rooted deeply in early life, or foisted upon us by unfortunate circumstances. We try to trim and touch up the surface temporarily, but never address the root of our issues. Unknowingly, we fall back into the same habits. Each time our return gets harder and more painful. 

But if we unclench our fists, and with an open heart offer ourselves to God, allowing Him to dig up these deeply buried roots, He will re-establish our roots in Himself.  

When you’re ready to surrender “the dark night of your soul” [the roadblocks] to God and trust Him to do the impossible, you will see and know you are standing on sacred ground.  

God has promised us over and over in His word through Christ Jesus who is the advocate of God — he tells us in [Matthew 7:7-8]

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…”

I’m still learning to unclench my fists. Through Jesus Christ I surrender everything to God daily. 

What about you?  What things and habits are rooted in you that God may want to dig out, so that you can be free from the boundaries that are the cause of “your dark night of the soul?”

So, should we be thankful for the detours and roadblocks? Yes, they protect us from the paths and places that are not meat to be for us. And they’re there to teach us lessons.

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Who is Your Cornerstone and Solid Ground?

We’re all in search of solid ground, a promise or a support that will help us to stay secure. If you have discovered a source of stability in your life, that’s wonderful. But have you ever thought of what actual foundation you are using as you start building your life on the solid ground that you think you’ve found? What is holding up your foundation? Building a strong and safe life is like building a stone house. In every stone building, one stone is the most critical. For a stone building to stand, the rock which holds the weight of the entire structure must be reliable.  This stone is called the cornerstone. 

Personally, I couldn’t find a safe place before I discovered my identity and purpose in life through my faith in Christ Jesus. Formerly, I trusted in people who I thought might be my rock. I believed they wouldn’t let me down. Unfortunately, that time of life took me through layers and layers of disappointment and at times, shook the ground beneath me. We are all human and are prone to disappoint each other. Human relationships will always be an important part of life, but the chains of family and friendship inevitably break down at some point. Yet God is faithful and close to the broken-hearted. [Psalms 34:18-20]

As for me, those experiences taught me to be vigilant in whom and in what I place my trust. It’s a work in process – though I may feel a daily tug-of-war within me regarding where to build my life’s foundation, I have come to realize that I must muster the courage to stop bowing to the wishes of others. I must instead let the Holy Spirit of God be my solid ground.  Jesus is my cornerstone.

The Holy Spirit has taught me many lessons. One of them is to keep on praying for those who have let me down. And I must pray for myself as well, to become more Christ like rather than responding in kind. The Lord’s word encourages me daily: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” [1 Peter 3:9]

I’m hopeful because [Isaiah 28:16] echos the Lord God’s word: “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: “Whoever believes will not be in panic.”

WITH WHOM DO YOU TRUST YOUR LIFE? WHO IS YOUR CORNERSTONE? 

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Why do we Pollute our Freedom?

We are the only creature in all of creation that have been blessed by God with free will and we’re called to respect this freedom. From the very beginning of time, we have unfortunately squandered and misused our freedom.  If we look at the patterns of our behavior, comparing what God wants for us as a loving Father with how we’ve been responding, we will see how frequently we push the envelope by desecrating our freedom.

The question is: Why did God give us the free will? Wouldn’t it have been easier to create mankind genetically good? We would have lived happily ever after! 

Thankfully, God didn’t create us to live as robotic beings. Living without personal agency is meaningless, one must have freedom to choose. God wants to have fellowship with those who by choice truly love Him. He has given us the ability to choose to be better and have the potential to know what true love is. He has also given us the intellect to believe in facts, not myths; courage, not fear; peace, not chaos; order, not confusion; love, not hatred; forgiveness, not blame. Above all, He has bestowed us with the ability to worship the creator, not the creation. 

But sadly, we have been inherently selfish. From a very young age we say, “ME, ME, ME”, and, “I, I, I”.  We always make everything about us. I am not judging our natural tendency to put ourselves first. I admit that just like Eve (the first woman on earth), I am attracted to beautiful things and desire to have them. I’m as guilty as everyone else. With the knowledge that I’m a child of God, I have a hope to grow in the truth and am learning to stop saying “ME, ME, ME”, and, “I, I, I”.  It’s a work in process. 

Furthermore, what about our children? We repeatedly remind them (no matter their ages) what’s good and bad; what’s safe and unsafe; what’s true and untrue. We continuously we tell them about the consequences of their choices. They may listen or not, but as they reach adulthood, they make their decisions based on what they think they know. At times, our silent words may be the loudest voice, saying, “Hey, don’t dishonor your freedom. Make the right choices!”  As Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus reminds us in [Galatians 5:13],

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” 

We must be careful however not to quickly judge the choices of others. Your own choices of behavior or how you raise your children is a matter between you and God. Who are we to judge you? From your children’s early days, you have taught them the true meaning of a moral life. You are not to be blamed for how your grownup children live their lives. They may be enticed by the rules or trends of this world for a little while, but if their foundations are rooted strong on solid ground, they will come back to their roots. The most loving thing to do is to be there when they need you and welcome them back with open arms, just as God always welcomes us back with open arms.  And He has promised us in verse [Matthew 28:20], “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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“Our Pain Can be Conduit for God’s Glory.”

Don’t you believe there is a side to our sufferings we miss when we focus on our pain rather than on God’s greater purpose?

“Our pain can be conduit for God’s glory.”
— Lisa Harper

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It makes so much sense if you can see the purpose behind the pain, you can find the way out of this lie. If you can see the purpose beyond the pain, you will understand God’s ability to leverage the suffering in your life for greater things.
God uses the good and the bad in your life to help you grow. Growth often means pain.

”Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” [James 1 :2-4]

We know why suffering should be counted as joy, because it will change us for the better. It will draw us closer to God.

God says in [Jeremiah 29: 11]
”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Experience the Marvelous Sight! 

As I was reading the story of Moses and the burning bush, I pondered it’s meaning for quite some time. I wondered how it was that Moses found himself in the presence of God, in an unusual place and at an unexpected time.   I thought, “What would be our reaction if we suddenly found ourselves in the presence of God? What would we do?” Let’s first look at Moses’s divine moment with God in [Exodus 3: 1-7] before we reflect on our miraculous moments with God. 

“Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness, [Exodus 3:1]. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God…”

 Our tangible experiences with God may not be as bold and pronounced as Moses’s total amazement with God’s display. Yet we have had those jaw-dropping moments when we are utterly sure that only God could have done what was just witnessed. 

 I have had those astounding moments in my own life. Without any doubt, it was clear to me that the voice I was hearing in my heart belonged to God. I knew with all my being that the words weren’t my imagination or a hallucination. They were His — the Holy Spirit. Those miraculous and precious moments became the greatest testimony of my life. Though the presence of God didn’t fix my problems right away, it changed my perspective, and gave me a new understanding of my circumstances and how to move forward in faith. I’ve learned through bible study that the actual ground which Moses stood on was not holy; it was the presence of the holy God that made it holy.

 Some people think the only way to stand in the presence of God is to enter a holy place. Depending on their belief, it might be a temple, mosque, church, or another location deemed holy. God certainly dwells in these places! But you do not have to go anywhere to be on holy ground. God manifests his power to us daily; we’re the ones who fail to recognize His presence. His dwelling place is in our hearts.  When through praise and worship, we position ourselves for an encounter with God, He will enter our circumstances with power. We are already in the presence of God, the only thing missing is our awareness! 

 The Bible emphasizes on this in [Deuteronomy 31:6], “Don’t mistake God’s patience for His absence. His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant. He’s always with you!”

Dennis Prager, in his writings, sums it up like this, “The question is: Who sees the miracles of daily life? And the answer is: Whoever choose to see.”

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What has God promised you that hasn’t yet been delivered?

Maybe God has asked you to do something, and you’ve done it, but not only has your mission failed to unfold in the way that you expected, it has caused more headaches and delays. You feel apprehensive and doubtful, wondering why God does not want you to succeed. God is not primarily interested in our success; he is more interested in building honorable character traits in us. He is longing for us to trust him. Even more, he is remarkably faithful to deliver on his promises in his timing.

Let’s take a close look at how we treat our children. Do we always give our children what we’ve promised them right away, or might we wait until we see improvements in their behaviors? And would it please us to see them wait patiently and trust us as we reward them accordingly?

Moses’s journey with God exemplifies the journey we have with our Heavenly Father. God told Moses, [Exodus ‪3: 10-13‬], “So now, go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt…” God assured Moses that he would be with him as he delivered the message to pharaoh, the king of Egypt. God even enabled him to perform miracles and change the mind of both the King and the Israelites. As for as the Israelites, this is what the Lord said to Moses, “That they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, did appear to you.” [Exodus 4:5]

God not only promised his people freedom, he also promised them a rich land flowing with milk and honey. At first Moses pleaded with God to let him out of this mission. The task was difficult; it seemed impossible to convince Pharaoh to let go of the Israelites. Not only did the king of Egypt refuse to let God’s people go, he also gave them harsh tasks. Over the years, they faced trouble after trouble. It all happened as a result of their lack of faith and trust. They were grumbling, complaining, and blaming Moses for their misery. God did finally respond, not to their complaints, but more likely to build up their trust.

Bringing God into your life takes effort. Trust in God, carefully built over time, is a valuable and empowering character trait. The Bible says in [Psalm ‪9: 10‬] “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Did God deliver the Israelites to a rich land of milk and honey [The promised land]? Yes, indeed! Their 40 years of wandering in the desert is a life-lesson for today’s modern life. Moses’s life story is historical record, not a fairy tale.

Desert wandering is a reality that we will all face at some point in our lives. Yes, at times we’re skeptical (not to mention spiritually immature) and have no patience to wait for whatever our “promised land” is — job, career, marriage, home, education, children, etc. Some of us have it completely backward when we say, “Show me, then I will believe.” God says, “Believe Me with trust, and I will show you.” [Psalm 37: 5] “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
We may think we are waiting for God to act, but in fact, God is waiting for us to trust him. With this in mind, ask yourself this important question, “Do I have the kind of faith [a faith that can be the size of a mustard seed] and patience that will allow me to embrace the waiting-period, by trusting God without expecting immediate delivery of His promises?”

Another more serious question to ponder this week – Where is the promised land that God hasn’t yet led you, and how might you get there?”

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