Opening My Heart

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Trust is listening, accepting and doing the work of God. Before we can trust Him, we have to be willing to be open with Him.

Trust is a frightening prospect in any relationship, including with the Lord. It is a vulnerable place to be. Trust is letting someone else influence you. When you trust the Lord, you are willing to risk the opinions of the world to serve Him.

Before we can trust, we have to be willing to open our heart to the Lord. If we don’t fully open up to Him, we will always be held back in our trust. Asking the Lord to prove Himself before we are willing to walk with Him is a conditional relationship. He wants unconditional access to our hearts and our lives.

Opening our hearts means practicing coming before Him in our daily life and being willing to trust Him. If we hold back our willingness, we are holding back our connection with Him.

When you come before Him, ask yourself and Him if there’s any part of you that is being held back. Maybe there’s fear about what He’ll ask you do, or maybe you are afraid of Him not answering a prayer. Maybe you are struggling to submit your family to Him or your work.

The Bible talks about the Lord testing your heart. Ask Him to test it and find what’s in it that you are holding back. Where are your feelings closed off? Where are you shutting a door in your mind, asking Him not to go there?

As your willingness to open your heart before Him grows, your ability to trust Him will grow. You will experience His faithfulness and His gentleness in leading you through your day.

Trust opens doors to a deeper and more life-altering relationship with the Lord. We can’t force trust or demand it. Instead, we grow into it by being willing to be vulnerable with Him in our mind and hearts.

The Wise Brought Flasks of Oil - Matthew 25:3-4

Working Like the Lamp Ladies

Life is full of work. Sometimes that work can be satisfying and interesting; sometimes it’s brain-numbingly dull and feels pointless. How I view my work and how I can choose to make work important is vital to whether or not I enjoy my work. In reading the parable of the 10 virgins, I realized that the wise virgins had an understanding of preparing that can help me understand truths to help me maintain a sense of value in my work, even on the days when I feel like it doesn’t matter.

The parable of the 10 virgins is in Matthew 25:1-12 and it tells how they handle keeping their lamp lit (or not) while they wait for the return of the bridegroom. While this is a parable about waiting for the return of Jesus, like all scripture, its truth can apply on many levels in many ways to my life. By thinking about what made the differences in the decisions between the two groups of women, I can see in this passage two truths that relate to understanding preparing for work.

For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. … And while [the foolish] were going to buy [oil], the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. – Matthew 25:3-4, 10 ESV

There’s two things those 5 wise women had to believe in order to want to take their oil with them. First, they had to think about what they have. If you have a lamp and you’re going to take it with you, perhaps on a camping trip, at some point you have to stop and think about what you’ll need to make the lamp work. There’s nothing worse than showing up at a campsite after dark and not having light you need to set up camp because you forgot the batteries to the flashlight. You can forget setting up the tent in the dark; you’ll be sleeping in the car, right?

I can apply this to my work in the sense that God has called me to certain assignments (Ephesians 2:10). The unwise response is to wander through life just seeing what happens. The wise response is to understand the gifts, talents, and resources that have been given to me. It’s about taking stock of what I have and knowing how to go about completing my assignments with what God’s provided me. The women with the lamps had to know if they had oil in the house already to take with them or if they needed to do a marketplace run to buy oil before they set out. The foolish virgins were more worried about going than about taking stock of what they had and what they needed.

The next thing the wise virgins did is that they had to believe that what they had taken with them was enough. Since they didn’t know when he was coming, they had to take what they had and trust it would be enough.

Sometimes in life it can feel like what I can see available to me isn’t going to meet my needs. The usual two culprits that make me nervous are time and money. Do I have enough time to get everything done? Do I have enough money to pay all the bills? I must choose to believe that, after taking stock of what I have and using it wisely, I will have enough to get me from one point to the next. I don’t have all the money I need for my whole life, and time only comes one moment after another. However, as it comes and as I live life, I must choose to believe that in all areas of my life, what I have will be enough.

The final thought on this concept is that, when all 10 virgins had burning lamps, no one would have been able to tell the difference between the wise and the foolish. Only after time had run on and the oil in the lamp ran out, would you be able to truly see who had prepared and who hadn’t.

I believe that as I work hand in hand with the Holy Spirit that the wise decisions that He is asking me to will be a blessing to me as I live. I may not understand somethings as to why He’s asking me to do them this way or at this time. I may not be able to see a difference in the result of my life yet compared to others that are living foolishly. However, I believe that as we see the results of our life choices playing out in our life, the wisdom of living as the Lord leads will be apparent to all.

May God do what seems right to Him - 2 Samuel 10:12

Joab’s Faith

In 2 Samuel 10:6-19 we see an example of the kind of faith that gives God room to be God. The story starts after a group of David’s men have been humiliated by his enemy after they were sent on a mission of comfort (v. 1-5). The enemy realizes that David was upset at their treatment of his men, so they regrouped and called in (paid) allies to come and defend, possibly attack David. David sends out Joab, commander of his army, with what is described as “all the host of the might men” (v. 7).

Joab sees that they’ve flanked his group and he divides his men into two groups to face the army. Their loose battle plan is to fight and if either one seems to be losing badly, the other group will come help (v. 11). Not exactly a detailed attack plan, but Joab follows it up with an observation that shows his understanding of their true source, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him” (v. 12).

Joab is going to do his best for the people he cares about and he’s going to allow God room to be sovereign. He doesn’t demand an outcome or hinge his belief on the outcome on his view of God’s favor for him. He simply allows God to do what he things is best in situation and pours himself in to doing his best.

Too often we confuse faith in God with the idea that we deserve something from Him. We think that because we love Him, he must or should do something. God is a good god and He is always working for our best interest. However, He is not a force we can manipulate or connive. He doesn’t operate out of guilt. He is a sovereign God (meaning he’s the boss), and He will do what is best for all His children for all of time. That may or may not line up with your selfish outlook on what he should or shouldn’t do.

God will do what seems good to Him, and we are to do our best. We are to step into the role and circumstances that we find ourselves in and let go of the outcome. However it turns out, it’s the good outcome. Sometimes, it might be easier to accept that than others. It’s our faith in God that allows us to see past our limited circumstances to accept His goodness because of who He is and what He’s accomplishing.

The outcome for Joab, by the way, was the fleeing of the entire army before him. Then, after the enemy gathered even more men to attack with, David came with all of Israel and defeated them so soundly that the paid soldiers were too afraid to attack David anymore (v. 19). That’s God working for the good of his people: He’s working toward our ultimate win, not just momentary relief.

Expecting Vs Wanting

Wanting vs. Expecting

Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. – Daniel 2:12-18 ESV

I was watching a business training video online today and she talked about in it the difference between expecting success and wanting success. She said, “Expecting to succeed and just wanting to succeed are two very different things, because if you expect it, you act very different and you put very different steps in motion than if you just want it. Wanting is just like a pipe dream or a wish.”[1]

Our small group is studying Daniel and a topic that we discussed last time we got together seems to line up exactly with this definition. Daniel expected God to come to his aid, so he put different steps in motion than I probably would have in his place. I believe that we can and should apply this idea to our faith, just as he did.

In chapter 2 of Daniel, we find the King Nebuchadnezzar is demanding an interpretation to a vision he’s had. When he finds they can’t meet his demands, he orders all their deaths. Daniel doesn’t know about any of this, even though he is among the ones that have sentenced to death, so he goes to the captain of the guard to learn what’s happening.

When he hears that a dream is the cause of the trouble, Daniel immediately sets up an appointment with the king to interpret it for him. Then, Daniel goes to his friends and asks them to pray for him to receive the interpretation, which he receives in a dream.

The part of this story that is about expectation is the moment right after he talks to the captain of the guard about why he’s been sentenced to death. The moment that he heard the reason, he went to get an appointment with the king. THEN, he went and got prayers. First, he took action, then he begged before the Lord with his friends.

I’m sure there was prayer coming out of him the whole time, as this was probably a very intense time for him. I’m not trying to say that we should not pray before taking an action. I’m saying that I think we should trust our relationship with God enough to know when to take an action and when to stop and pray before taking that action.

Daniel didn’t stop and ask God if it was alright to go tell King Nebuchadnezzar that he would interpret the dream. He didn’t ask God for a guarantee about getting that interpretation. He didn’t try to beg for more time or ask, “Why me?!”

What he told his friends to do was to, “seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.” That doesn’t sound like what you ask for when you’re confident of the answer. That sounds more like asking to get the answer, which means: Daniel didn’t have the answer when he set up the appointment with the king. He had no idea what the dream was and he didn’t know the outcome of the conversation that would happen.

Daniel knew something far more important. Daniel expected God to help in his time of need, not just wishing for it. He also knew that he had to ask for it from the Lord; he couldn’t just waltz into the king’s court unprepared and expect the Lord would hand answer to him. Daniel walked the line of expected God’s answers and taking the action that happens as a result of that expectation, while still staying humble before the Lord and seeking Him in all things.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. – Psalm 73:24 ESV


[1] Renae Christine

Fret Not Over Evil Doers - Psalm 37:7

Trust in His Long-Term Plan

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. – Psalm 37:1-6 ESV


When we read an inspirational scriptures, we can often imagine the passage in glowing and pretty images. We feel warm and fuzzy over what it says, but we don’t’ stop to think about how the passage would look in real life if we lived it out. Psalm 37 is one of these that has beautiful, true, and inspiring promises. However, if we pick out only those phrases, we don’t see the true image that’s being painted of what we are stepping into.

Truth 1: There are evildoers, and we must let them be. This passage is about letting the Lord fight our battles and believing in His long-term plan. It’s about how we’re supposed to live in the midst of bad people. We sometimes act like, as Christians, it’s our job to get rid of the bad people or at least convince them their bad and try to make them stop doing bad things. Psalm 37 is saying that there are evil people in the world, and we’re not to get worked up about it, but to let the Lord deal with them in his way and His time.

Truth 2: Our righteousness is to be highlighted by God, not us or our friends. Our righteousness isn’t defined by what group of people we associate with or how good we’ve followed a list of rules. We are to wait on the Lord to acknowledge our righteousness, not ourselves. He will bring it about, after we are patient. Note, it says, after we wait on Him; He doesn’t say it will happen right when we want it, or when it will make us look good to other people, or anything else that is based on our desires and expectations. It’s His work to do and it will be done in His time and His ways. Our job is to wait.

Truth 3: Belief first. We often want God to answer our prayers or give us blessing and then we’ll believe Him. We don’t say that outright, of course. Our minds are a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. This passage highlights how important it is to put our belief in God first, before we demand proof or blessing or protection. Our hearts must be in Him and held there as circumstances change. We will face temptation after temptation to remove our faith and hold onto something more tangible and immediate.

God promises us wonderful things, but the path to those blessings is one of patience in the face of evil, wait for acknowledgement from Him alone, and choosing to believe no matter whether circumstances make you look crazy or not. This is a slightly less rosy picture than just believing for happy blessings. However, if we can keep this image in our mind, we will stay closer to God during the less rosy times. Otherwise our happy image of how things should be collides with the truth of our reality and we feel disillusioned or let down.

Life isn’t pretty or easy, but God will come through in the end. Don’t let the selfishness and harm that comes from the evil in the world stop our eyes from seeking the Lord. We must remember to not worry or be jealous of their success or fear that God has forgotten to deal with them. God is the boss and He will bring about His justice in the perfect time.

Feed me with what I need - Proverbs 30:8

Enough Is Enough

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV

Proverbs 30:7-9 shows us the troubles of both not having our needs meet and having too much stuff in our lives. On the one side, not having enough tempts us to get what we need in whatever way we can. The flip of that is that we tend to trust in ourselves and our stuff when we have more than what we need.

The desire of the author is to be content with what he has, saying, “Feed me with the food that is needful for me.” In order to be satisfied with what we have, we have to know and believe one thing, what we have is what we need. Or, perhaps, we will have what we need.

So many things in our lives distract us from what is truly needed in our life. I’m not saying that, since we can live on bread and water, we should never have more than that. I personally don’t call that living. But I also know that I cling to things that I think are valuable or important but that in the end, have no lasting value.

In addition, I base my decisions and sense of comfort and stability on some underlying idea of what happened yesterday will happen today and will continue on in the future. We all do this; it’s a part of staying sane in this world. In and of itself, I don’t think it’s a wrong way to think. The problem comes in when we limit our future to what we know and can see. The future is a big unknown and trying to mold it and manipulate it into our way of thinking only ends in disappointment.

God holds our days and knows our steps (Job 14:5). We can fully rely on and trust Him to provide for whatever is coming our way. In fact, fighting Him about what we need or don’t need only ends with us having to learn the hard way that He knew what He was doing the whole time.

I recently read a fantastic example of this on Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience. Her son had some difficult health issues recently and she talks in her entry about the struggle and pain, but also joy and growth that comes through that.

God knew this would happen. He knows what will happen and knows the length and quality of Ann’s son’s life. He isn’t surprised or disappointed by the diagnosis her son received. Ann says this, “Grieving how plans change — is part of the plan to change us.” Just because tomorrow brings unexpected news to us doesn’t mean God won’t be there every step of the way. He will provide what is needful for us today, tomorrow and forever.

God Is for Our Ultimate Good

Limitations for Our Good

When we are seeking the Lord’s guidance in our life, we are often only looking for open doors. “Tell me where to go.” “Tell me what to do.” A question we ask less often is, “What doors are closed?” Often, even if we get an answer that a door is closed, we fight it or feel like we haven’t heard right.

Accepting the limitations that God puts on our choices is an important part of walking with Him. The world says, “Make a plan and make it happen.” God says, “Do what I say, when I say to do it.” Apostle Paul demonstrates this in his journey and how he handled ministering in Asia.

In chapter 19 of Acts, we learn that Paul spent two years in Asia and it says, “all the residents of Asia heard the words of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Sounds great and wonderful, but if we look back three chapters, we see that Paul didn’t just get this handed to him.

In Acts 16:6, it says, “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” Paul accepted that limitation and moved on. He continued following the leading of the Lord even when it contained a limitation. Then, after Paul’s continued obedience, the door that had been forbidden to him was opened.

There are areas in my life where right now I have limitations, things that the Lord has asked me to let go of or hold back from. Many, many times I want to fight Him about it. I have many arguments against it, but the usual one is something along the lines of “Everyone else can!” Not the most mature response, I know, but it seems unfair and I don’t understand.

God is so good, though, that I’m learning to trust the limitations and accept limitations or withholdings. Not because I think that the point is to do without, I don’t think that at all. My personal opinion is that God doesn’t ask you do without something just to see if you can or if you’re willing to. It always has a purpose in transforming you.

So far my experience is that God’s withholding something I want or asking me to not do something is for several reasons. One, protection. God knows how to give good gifts to His children (Luke 11:13), and He also knows what won’t be a good gift. Two, transformation. There are times when getting what I want would block him because I’d turn to something other than Him. By letting Him withhold or limit me, I can choose to be transformed more and more as I lean on Him and wait. Three, focus. There are things in our life that we put above God and rely on more than we rely on Him. God wants us all to Himself and will do what it takes to bring us an awareness of what’s more important to us than Him. (Exodus 34:14).

As we walk with Him, let us accept all things from him, both the gifts and the limitations. He is always after our ultimate good (Romans 8:29).

God's Strong Support - 2 Chronicles 16:9

Strong Support for Our Purpose

When we hear “You’re here for a purpose,” what do you think? Many people seem to think that it means that you are going to be accomplishing a pre-set list of things. What if, however, there is a broader meaning to purpose that can open up some powerful truths for living?

In 2 Chronicles 14-16 we meet a king of Judah who was a Godly king, Asa. He sought the Lord and he fought against the idolatry in his lands. Among the other events of Asa’s life, we see two battles that he fights. One, he fights with purpose and one he fights without it. The results? He wins both.

The first battle is Judah verses the Ethiopian army. Asa goes before the Lord and he asks for the Lord’s help and blessing. He acknowledges that they fully rely on the Lord for victory. The Lord gives them victory and much riches and spoil are collected from the army and the surrounding cities.

The next battle happens much later in Asa’s reign. After many years of peace, the king of Israel decides to cause trouble with Judah. Asa, being savvy, goes to their ally with a big army: Syria. He sends them money and asks them to break their treaty with Israel. Syria agrees and the ensuing fighting sends Israel packing back home. Asa comes in and takes over the land they had encroached on and gains all the spoils they left behind.

From an outside perspective, Asa won both battles and he gained material goods in both cases. Once cost some money and one cost a fight, but they both ended up in a way that benefited Asa and Judah. We can’t stop reading there though. The Lord wasn’t as pleased with the second outcome as the first one.

A seer comes to Asa with a message, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV) Asa’s reign that had years of peaceful living was now doomed to trouble. In fact, Asa ends up not putting the Lord first and ends up being cruel to his people and suffering from disease (vs. 10, 12).

Our purpose is to put God first and let Him take care of accomplishing what He sees is good for us.

The Lord Delights in You - Isaiah 62:2-4

Delighted and Determined

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. – Isaiah 62:1-5 ESV

Isaiah 62:1-5 is a beautiful promise of hope and celebration. I love the idea of renewal fresh from God in, “you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give” (v. 2). I love the focus on belonging in, “your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her.” (v. 4). I love the imagery of happiness and joyful relationships in, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (v. 5).

There are so many beautiful promises in this passage, but those aren’t what jumped out to me at first. The first sentence is, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.” The emotion behind this is determination. God, through Isaiah, is telling us how determined He is to bring His righteousness to life through us. He doesn’t sit with His fingers crossed and hope that we figure it out. He isn’t silently waiting for us to remember or think things through. He is determined to bring bright shining salvation to His children, and He will be as loud as He need to be to do it.

As we learn about His salvation, grace, love and hope, we will then be able to the promised blessings in our life and our culture. Once we accept that Jesus is the hope for eternal life, we will be given a new name, a name given by God as we are adopted into His house (Ephesians 1:5). As the world see us being righteous by His power, they will learn to see righteousness as beautiful, not constricting or cruel (John 16:8). As we learn to trust in Him and walk closely with Him, He will pour out blessings beyond what we could have imagined for ourselves, even sometime material blessings (Ephesians 3:20).

The Lord is continually calling to us and desiring us. What is the Lord speaking into your life? What promise is He giving you that you can hold onto? Remember, He will never give up on you.

Becoming the Clay - Isaiah 64:8

Becoming the Clay

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. – Isaiah 64:8 ESV

In Christendom, there are many scripture verses that we like to quote that sound so nice and pretty. They make us feel good and encapsulate some idea that seems above us somehow, like Isaiah 64:8. The imagery of being the clay and God being the potter seems right in line with a pretty Kincaidian view of Christianity. However, there’s a way that we become the clay that’s mentioned earlier in the chapter and it’s far less flattering and pretty. We must take the whole picture, though, if we truly want to experience the joy of giving ourselves over to the potter.

The potter verse comes near the end of Isaiah chapter 64. That chapter opens with another beautiful, but slightly more terrifying verse, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence–  as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (Isaiah 64:1-2). Isaiah is seeing that people don’t know God or remember His greatness. Others who haven’t experienced God are unaware of the awesome power He holds and the fear of Him that we should keep in our hearts.

Isaiah goes on to remember the works that God has done and the promise to the righteous, “When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” (Isaiah 64:3-5a) Beautiful reminder! However, there’s more to this chapter than just a promise and reminder of God’s goodness.

Isaiah speaks honestly with the Lord in the next section, “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. …for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” (Isaiah 64:5-7 partial) Uh oh, not so good news in this sentence. Isaiah is talking about the sins of the people and the damage and loss that comes from disobeying the Lord.

Now, we finally get to the feel-good verse. After remembering who God is and abject humility because of honest confession of sin, then we talk about being pliable and willing to be formed by God into His design.

We become the clay by always remember who the Lord is and keeping His glory and power in the front of our minds. We become clay through honest assessment of our heart’s condition before the Lord and being willing to admit when we’re sinning. Only then can we become transformed into a useful vessel for God’s service, designed and made by His hands.

Are you willing to become the clay? Or are you still in the mindset of just assuming that you are the clay? God wants to work with us and save us and create us into His image. He is calling to us to become the pliable servants who are humble before Him.

In fact, the next chapter gives us the promise for those who choose to become the clay. In this passage, the Lord is talking to those who refused to listen to Him, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart and shall wail for breaking of spirit.” (Isaiah 65:13-14)

Compare the promises to those who humble themselves to the promises to those who refuse: servants eat, drink, rejoice and sing. The others are hungry, thirsty, ashamed and in pain. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to become clay to be able to trust in God and be filled with Him and His goodness.