Archive: June, 2009

"Hopes and Expectations" By Heidi Avery

Even before my first child, Hannah, was born I was praying over her and making great plans on how I would care for her precious life. I was obsessed as any soon to be new mom is with reading baby books and educating myself on the best way to care for her.

I had it all figured out too, I knew just how I wanted to hold her and how and when to nurse her. I knew how to properly secure her into the burrito wrap of a warm receiving blanket and just the way to lay her down so she would sleep safely and soundly. These are but a few of the many, unending ways that I would care for my little angel.

Seven years later I am still joyfully caring for Hannah’s every need, along with her brother, Robbie and sister, Isabelle. God has carefully placed the responsibility to care for these children into my hands and I am blessed every day by it.

It’s really no surprise that they have come to expect things from me. Every day I change them, bathe them, dress them, feed them and teach them. I define their daily schedules, when they will wake and sleep, eat and drink and play and learn. I am not the only one they expect to care for them. They also have expectations in their dad, family members and even friends.

Why? Because that’s all they’ve ever known, from the moment they were breathed into existence people have been caring for their needs, wants and desires. Oh, sure we teach them that God provides all of their needs, but do they really get it?

A bigger question is do “we” really get it?

Who are you holding responsible right now to meet the expectations in your life?

Psalm 62:5 in the New Living Translation says “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” Webster’s defines the word hope as to cherish a desire with anticipation, to desire with expectation of obtainment, to expect with confidence, to trust.

The King James Version of Psalm 62:5 says “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation [is] from him.” Hope and expectation are used interchangeably in the two versions, they mean the same thing. To put your hope in God also means that you place your expectations in Him too.

We saw how easy it was from birth to naturally come to expect things from the people that love and care for us, so as Christians we must be diligent to never forget that it is and always will be God who fulfills all of our hopes and expectations. The people in our lives are only the vessel by which He chooses to use to perform the act of fulfilling all that we need and desire.

Dangerous things can happen when we expect people to meet our needs. We will more then likely find ourselves drowning in a sea of disappointment. Over time that disappointment will spill over into our hearts and a bitter root will spring to life and resentment rolls right in after it.

Bitter roots can be destructive to any relationship, but especially a marriage, often times bringing it to a slow and painful death from the inside out. Bitterness and resentment are rapidly growing weeds in our hearts that cover and strangle the fruits of the Spirit, they will literally snuff out love. Hebrews 12:15 tells us to “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many are defiled.” By placing our hope and expectations in the people we love we literally risk the health and life of our relationships. It’s careless and often costly.

If we rightly place our hope and expectations in the hands of our creator there is no one left to blame when they are unmet. By doing this we hold no person responsible for fulfilling our needs, we bypass anger, bitterness, resentment and our relationships are saved, love is allowed to live. That is good news! This is a great battle plan against the flesh and the devil.

The only way we can truly place our hopes and expectations in Gods hands is through prayer. God clearly asks us to “… not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” (Phil. 4:6) He’s not only waiting, but wanting to hear our every concern, our every desire our deepest needs. We can trust Him with our hopes and we can expect His very best plans for us.

The only right way to receive our unmet expectations is as an answer from God. Maybe it’s not the “Yes” that we hoped for, but it could simply mean “not now.” Sometimes it just means “no”, but because as Isaiah reminds us… “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) we can accept His answer and know “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…” (Phil. 4:7) The assurance of answered prayer brings about precious longed-for peace.

Father, you are the awesome fulfiller of all that we need and desire. It is so easy to get off track by expecting others in this world to meet our needs. Forgive me for allowing any bitterness to take root in my heart, for risking the very relationships that you have handed to me as a gift. Help me to wait quietly and only upon you, my hope is in you and only you. Faithful God continue to allow me to veer off path so that you can keep rescuing me and revealing to me your precious and Holy Truth.

"Distracted Sheep," By: Kelli Zaniel

“Be still and know that I am God; The Lord Almighty is with us”
(Psalm 46:10).
Have you ever strayed from the will of God and as a result lost precious intimacy with Him? It is easy to fill our schedule with so much “busyness,” that we neglect to actively pursue a daily love-relationship with the Father. I recently read an acronym for the word busy (Being Under Satan’s Yoke). If this preoccupation is not identified in a timely manner, it could potentially cause us to slowly drift away from God, sacrificing our divine fellowship with Him. If I miss personal time conversing with my heavenly Father, I can feel myself slipping under sin’s spell. I am quick to anger, impatient, irritable and negative. I then succumb to overwhelming situations, adopt a discouraging attitude and miss out on opportunities to discover God’s presence in ordinary tasks. There is nothing on my calendar that is more priceless than my daily relationship with God.

God is in pursuit of me; He chooses me (see Hos. 11:7-1). He is the One who initiates a love relationship that is both personal and sincere (see John 1:12). He desires to develop my character through my absolute dependence on Him and complete surrender to Him.

Jesus spoke about how intimacy is lost with the Father and described this in Luke chapter 15. In versus 3-7, Jesus made reference to lost sheep. How do sheep lose their way and become disconnected with the shepherd? Sometimes, as sheep travel along with the flock, temptations creep up like thieves, stealing their attention away from the leader. They are robbed of their focus and therefore, tend to investigate and pursue whatever catches their eye at the moment. It was never their intention to wander off, but curiosity seduces them down unfamiliar paths. Gradually, after one glimmering distraction and then another, the sheep realizes that it has wandered so far, that the rest of the flock is no longer visible. Now the sheep has entered uncharted territory and is vulnerable to imminent danger. The sheep loses all sense of direction. The security of knowing the shepherd is nearby for protection and instruction has vanished. Without its guide, the sheep will stumble and surely perish.

Aren’t we sometimes easily distracted, just like the sheep described in the book of Luke? I am guilty of wandering off in my own selfish direction seeking to satisfy the curiosity of the moment. At these times, I tumble out of my Father’s righteous right hand into the open arms of a sinful world around me. When I am spiritually separated from my Master, I settle for less than God’s best. I am more susceptible to Satan’s slithering hisses of doubt and discontentment. The Bible tells us we are to keep our focus straight ahead, look for the Lord’s footprints and cautiously detour away from evil (see Prov. 4:25-26).

Maybe you have set aside prayer and conversation with God because you have become overly engaged with daily concerns. We saturate our calendars with worthy activities but later feel prisoner to them. We, like the sheep, sometimes drift out from underneath the protection of our Shepherd causing us to stumble into the bushes of temptation. Unfortunately, one day, we may wake up to discover we do not hear from God anymore. We may have lost treasured intimacy with our heavenly Father. We may realize we are no longer spiritually victorious. We are ordinary sheep if we stand alone, but if we remain under the guidance of the Good Shepherd we become extraordinary.

As our little sheep hooves trudge across the narrow path, we may encounter prickly vines of evil and treacherous paths of temptation but we will remain unscathed. “Let God guide your way of wisdom and make your path straight” (Prov. 4:11). It is good to be near our heavenly Father (Ps. 74:28). He is my refuge, He sustains me, lifts my head and delivers me (see Ps. 3:3,5,7).

When the Good Shepherd locks eyes with yours and asks, will you spend time with me, get to know me and love me? How will this sheep respond? Will you be still, refuse self-imposed busyness and reverently honor Him? Can you make the proper adjustments in your life and in your heart that require total dependence on Him? I am willing to deny myself, take up His cross daily, exalt Him and follow Him (see Luke 9:23-24).

Will you be the sheep who’s preoccupation gets her into a steep mountain of trouble or will you be the sheep who consistently relies upon the limitless strength and guidance of her Good Shepherd?

"The Desires of Your Heart" by: Heidi Avery

Have you ever been given the well meaning, meant to be encouraging advice that God will give you the desires of your heart?  I have.  Being an encourager myself, I am sure I’ve even said it.

Unfortunately, I discovered a long time ago that much of the time this portion of scripture is taken completely out of context.

Let’s think about this out of context for a second.  If God gave us all the desires our hearts then we’d have everything we wanted, even when it’s not necessarily the best for us.  And, we ultimately would not need God if all we wanted in our flesh was ours to be had.

As an exercise, let’s take a look back into our past and think of something that we once wanted so desperately.  

 

Got it?  

 

I’m thinking of a man that I once loved and wanted to marry.  I was in my early 20’s and was not yet a Christian.  I thought I loved Scott, but it was a bad relationship; he did not easily return my feelings.  He cared about me, endured me, he gave me the least of him, he used me if you really want to know the truth and he didn’t love me.  However, despite all of that if he would have asked me to marry him, I would have sadly said yes.  At that time of my life I had the wrong idea of what it meant to love someone and obviously I had no idea what it was to truly be loved.

Can you imagine what my life would have been like had I been given the desires of my heart for that relationship?  

 

Can you imagine what your life would have been like if God had given you the desires of your
heart for what you wanted so desperately back then?  

 

My point is that sometimes the desires of our heart are based on wrong thinking or emotions which can be deceiving and they can ultimately lead us down the wrong path.  Remember, what Jeremiah 29:7 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Now, let’s look at Psalm 34: 7 says in full context… “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  In Strongs the word delight also means to be delicate or soft, to be glad in.  That means to be delicate or soft towards God and to be glad in Him only.  So, if we are soft towards God’s ways and glad in Him at all times then our desires will be His desires which He will faithfully give to us.

I like what Beth Moore from Living Proof Ministries says…

“Anyone who truly delights in the Lord will one day realize that God has become the desire of her heart. When He is our delight, we begin to want what He wants. We come to trust His best for us. When we struggle with self-seeking desires, we hit our knees in prayer. We become wise enough to ask Him to overrule any desire that would ultimately betray us. We no longer want anything that lacks His approval.”

When I think of Psalm 37:4 I like to also remember 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.”

So, today I’m going to delight myself in the Lord and expect the desires of my heart to be met. 

 

Join me?

 

Father, we know if our hearts are softened towards your ways then the desires of our hearts will be your desires and you will be faithful to deliver.  Thank you that you see the whole picture of our lives and that you have it perfectly planned out.  Help us to not be led by our feelings and emotions especially when they are not lined up with your Holy word.  Give us wisdom in your Word, patience to wait for your leading and courage to say no to what is not of you.    

 

 

"Sweet Blessings Realized," By Kelli Zaniel

As I aggressively removed my husband’s smelly clothes off the bathroom floor and tossed them (where they should go) down the laundry shoot and pushed aside the debris off of the girls’ beds, I could feel a grumbling in my heart begin to stir. At that moment, I felt God say, “Do not take for granted the gifts I have given you.” As I scraped last nights supper off the hard wood floor, I thought, why can’t I just have my dream, cut it out, with my 4 year old scissors, and make it fit neatly into my life? I prayed, Lord, please help me to trust in you when things do not work out and I have to surrender my dreams. Help me rest in the fact that you see things from a much bigger vantage point then I ever could. Help me to uncover your heavenly perspective for my everyday life. Help me to praise you in advance for what you will do with my dreams in the future.

God spoke to my heart, “How would you feel if the blessings I have given you, a loving husband and children, were suddenly taken away? What if you were alone and had prayed for years to have a family, then one day you woke up blessed with all those precious gifts?” Gasping for my own breath, I reviewed over the past several days and thought, the very people who sometimes, “drain the living life out of me,” are the very ones who supply the oxygen to my soul. Without them, I would be a stranger to good night kisses from the truest of loves, roller coaster rushes, overwhelming happiness, winks and smiles, giggles to go around and spaghetti kisses. These are blessings as sweet as a honeysuckle vine in summertime! “They are more precious than gold, and are sweeter than honey” (Psalms 19:10).

When I was young, the fairy tale image of meeting “prince charming,” and riding off into the sunset while the phrase, “happily ever after,” danced across the sky was burned into my memory. Some days I feel as if my big fuzzy house shoe slipped into the fairy tale, only I became one of the seven dwarfs or worse, the wicked queen, not the beautiful damsel in distress who wins the heart of the handsome prince. Wait, I have already won the heart of the only prince that truly matters, my “Prince of Peace!” By Jesus’ death and resurrection, I have been adopted into His royal family and have received the golden ticket to eternal life.

Sometimes, when we feel our life does not “sparkle and shine,” quite the way Cinderella’s did, we must reach up our hands to Jesus and allow His righteousness and wisdom to sprinkle over us. We are His precious jewels…His unique treasures! We must shake out the cobwebs and allow our godly light to shine and sparkle from the inside out. We must make the conscious decision not to allow ourselves to be swept away by the world’s standards of what our lives should look like from the outside. “Be strong and put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-12). We have to keep our eyes fixed on Him and His perfect will for us, his cherished children. If we do this, all will be well with our soul and we will be satisfied. “Give thanks to the God of heaven; His love will endure forever” (Psalm 136:6).

How do we honor and please God when we feel overwhelmed, dusty and less than sparkly? Psalms 91:15 tells us, “We can honor Him by calling on Him, making communication part of our daily relationship with Him, by reading His Holy Word and obeying what it says (see John 14:23-24). “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). “Do not merely listen to the Word, but do what it says” (James 1:22); you will be blessed if you do these things (see John 13:17). I believe what honors God most is when we engage in a love relationship with Him, surrender to Him, and allow His sparkling power to shine through us.

We cannot be the wives and mothers God intended without experiencing His presence, seeking His counsel and requesting His portion everyday. We can only catch a brief glimpse of that Proverbs 31 woman when we have a continuous and daily relationship with the lover of our soul, our heavenly father. He desires to be the “Prince of Peace,” in our homes, lives and hearts. When there is a knock at our door, all we have to do, is let Him in (eg, Matthew 7:7-8).

Isn’t it funny how we have to reach that infamous “last straw,” before reaching the end of ourselves? I feel when I reach the end of myself, I find myself. I find the woman, wife and mother that I want to be. The me who puts the needs of other first, the me who steps faithfully out of her comfort zone to serve her heavenly Father and the me who surrenders her overwhelming circumstances to God so that He can turn them into fruitful opportunities.

Even after all of the heart wrenching mistakes that I have made in my life, He not only forgave me and wiped my slate clean but He entrusted this family, his precious treasure to me. God laid this realization on my heart and as a result, He used His heavenly brush to paint a joyful smile back on my face. I answered, “Yes, Lord, this is and will always be my greatest day ever. I am so thankful for all your blessings!” I threw myself at the feet of my creator asking forgiveness for shifting my focus away from His beautiful face and “spotlighting,” my wants, my needs and my selfish desires. Help me to always be mindful of your power that is always at work in my home and in my heart. Lord, please help me to say “no,” to self and pick up the cross just like I pick up the dirty laundry and toys. I know when I do these things with humility those I want to impact the most (my family) will notice. Lord, please pour your gracious living and merciful water into me so that it will rush through me and spill over into my home making it a place where lives are impacted, encouraged and shaped into your perfect and masterful design.