An Overflowing Heart

ID-10051375Is there any better time to write a post than when my heart is overflowing? You may ask why? … a raise? … a new sofa? Is it because of the beautiful covering of snow this morning? … the 25+ birds on my feeder? … my terrific husband? …wonderful kids? … adorable grandchildren? No, none of these.  My heart is overflowing because of the feast I just enjoyed this morning from the Bible! Oh, the joy of precious time alone with my Lord and Savior! It brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my chest because my heart is ready to burst!

Just a little background …

I started off this year using a new Bible reading plan which will take me through the Bible in 90 days! That’s a lot of Bible, but I wanted to give it a try.  Now, here on day 13, I’ve been able to keep up with it, but it’s been a challenge. The greater challenge is getting something from the Word.  With that much Bible pouring into my brain, there hasn’t been the luxury of “studying” the Bible, and I’ve missed it.

So, this morning I studied God’s Word. My friend, Matthew Henry, was a great blessing and took me over the top! I suppose I love his writing because he wrote before…

  • The 2000s millennial worldview
  • The 1990s fundamental shift
  • The 1980s contemporary movement
  • The 1970s Christian school movement
  • The 1960s anti-establishmentarian movement
  • The 1950s post-war era

He wrote before…

  • The colonies were even established in America!
  • Voltaire made his inroad into “modern” thinking
  • World Wars
  • Hitler’s diabolical Third Reich

However, his times were not without troubles:

  • His father was ejected as a pastor from the Church of England because he would not conform to church policy (Act of Uniformity 1662)
  • Matthew Henry himself was a Nonconformist, which certainly meant swimming against the tide!

That was a bit of a sidetrack, so back to this overflowing heart and a challenge:

Will you be at church tomorrow?  Why do you go to church? You see, when we spend time with God it will make our hearts overflow with joy, gladness, thankfulness, adoration, praise.  We just want to honor and praise and glorify our wonderful God.

We go to church for those reasons: to glorify, praise, worship, and honor God. We go to express our love and thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us! We don’t look at the color of the carpet, the outfit someone is wearing.  We don’t complain about what hymn or song is sung.  We don’t go to critique the teacher, pastor, song leader, pianist or instrumentalist.  We don’t ultimately go to see our friends, but we go to focus on God and realign our hearts and lives back to HIS normal.  It’s sort of like going to the chiropractor!

Here are the thoughts and Words from God that triggered the overflow:

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.  Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Psalm 84:1-2

The whole sparrow thing took me to Matthew Henry.  Look at this:

 David … would rather live in a bird’s nest nigh God’s altars than in a palace at a distance from them.  It is better to be serving God in solitude than serving sin with a multitude.  David envies the happiness not of those birds that flew over the altars, and had only a transient view of God’s courts, but of those that had nests for themselves there. David will not think it enough to sojourn in God’s house as a way-faring man that turns aside to tarry for a night; but let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell. And he takes notice that these birds not only have nests for themselves there, but that there they lay their young; for those who have a place in God’s courts themselves cannot but desire that their children also may have in God’s house

I hope your church is your “home away from home” –a place where you gather with your fellow journeymen and gain strength, rest, and the satisfaction that you have done what God commands, not grudgingly, but with a heart overflowing! Make your “nest” there! Own it! Make it yours! 🙂

 

Advertisements

Sail On!

DONT QUITA new year, a new resolution—it’s January 3rd, how are you doing? Perhaps January 1st is just another day for you, but for me, it’s a new beginning!  I love new beginnings; however, the challenge to accomplish something—sticking to it to the end—can be overwhelming! Last year’s Master Club* Award’s ceremony brought this into clear focus for me.

One young lady received an award which some of the students had never seen before because it requires three years of complete dedication to earning every badge in the program.  This is not an impossible feat, but it does require a lot of commitment. Several students who would return the following fall showed great excitement and interest in earning that award. Now, here we are in the middle of that particular challenge, and I’m having my doubts that any of them will complete all the requirements. How does it happen: completing a task, sticking to it to the end?

Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2Timothy 4:7).”  Isn’t that every believer’s goal? Sometimes the Christian race can seem daunting. Yes, we break forth at the starting line with “new babe” joy and expectancy, but sometimes, when we are out there in the middle somewhere with no end in sight, it can be lonely, discouraging, and seemingly impossible to keep fighting “a good fight.” You’ve probably heard of the farmer who keeps his eyes focused on a certain post or tree to ensure that he has plowed straight rows, but if there’s nothing to focus on, what do we do to keep the line straight? Here’s what my hero, Ron Hamilton has to say:

                        When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

                        When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

                        Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

                        If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

 

Do you see Him? Can you sense His presence? Do you feel His guiding hand upon your shoulder? He is there beside us… IN us! Wow! So…

  1. Remember that you have a Friend that sticks closer, cheers louder, sees better, loves deeper, and knows you better than you know yourself!
  2. Don’t forget all of God’s helpers! Hopefully, you have a pastor, pastor’s wife, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or family member who can help and encourage you on your journey. Don’t be afraid (or too proud—I can say that because I struggle in that area!) to ask for help.
  3. Set goals! You will never hit the bull’s eye if you don’t put up the target! It’s OK to be hard on yourself and stretch yourself a bit further. This year, I’m trying to read/listen to the Bible in 90 days. That’s a big one for me, but here’s the plan:
    1. I’m using Youversion.com which puts the Bible at my fingertips.
    2. I’m mostly listening to it in pieces throughout the day. (Praise the Lord for earbuds!)
    3. HERE’S THE BIG ONE: I’m not listening to anything else until I am finished with my Bible listening for the day! When I first wanted to become faithful in my Bible devotions, I would not eat until I read the Bible. That worked!
    4. Keep focused on the goal. Sometimes we crash and burn and Satan is right there at our elbow to feed us his lies, like: “You’re being legalistic.” “This really isn’t necessary.” “Who says you have to read the Bible to be a good Christian?” “You’re just doing this for prideful reasons.” Then your flesh comes along and says, “I’m tired.” “I don’t want to read anymore.” “You should be doing…” “I can’t concentrate anymore.” “My eyes hurt.” “My head hurts.” “My feet hurt.” Then the dog barks to be fed, or the kids need help, or hubby interrupts.

When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

 When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

 Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

Is it worth it? Oh, yes! Can you imagine hearing this from Jesus:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:21

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

* a children’s Bible club in which the students earn badges, etc.

 

If Only in My Dreams

61MS3M5UGILBing Crosby made “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” popular in 1943. With US troops fighting both fronts of the Second World War, it’s easy to see why this Christmas song struck a common chord both here and abroad.

We all have dealt with separation from loved ones at one time or another, but the Christmas season seems to magnify the ache. Memories of past Christmases when all the bambinos were under your roof, or a loved one who is now missing was still sharing the holiday gatherings with us can turn our moods blue in a heartbeat!

As my husband and I listened to our Christmas gift from our youngest son—a collection of family favorites played by him on the piano and cello—brought tears to our eyes. Tears on Christmas morning? It happens but it’s OK. Tears are so necessary in this life!  They wash away the hurt, release the pain, and clear our vision.

Separation at Christmas—do we stop to realize that, even though we praise our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for coming to this world, this greatest gift would mean separation for them? We cannot comprehend God’s omnipresence. Were they really ever separate? Certainly, on the cross, Jesus’ words would indicate that His Father forsook Him. I believe it is Martin Luther who pondered this thought: God forsaken by God. We cannot understand, but we can be grateful. We can allow the Father’s sacrifice and separation to be a comfort to us when we are separated for a time from those we love. The greatest blessing for every believer is that we will never suffer the separation from our heavenly Father that Jesus felt on the cross. Hallelujah!

Family is a wonderful bond that cannot be broken. We may be separated emotionally, spiritually, mentally, politically or even physically from family, but the bond of relationship cannot be dissolved.  Whoever said, “Blood is thicker than water” was right. As this precious, festive season draws to a close and we start another year, may I challenge you to do all that is within your power to restore lost relationships as well as find comfort and peace in our forever Father when separation cannot be helped? Blessed Christmas to you all! Emmanuel—God with us!

Pr 18:24 ¶ A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Christmas Lights and Jonah’s Gourd

 

 “So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” Jonah 4:6

24852525_10215477430155882_3326722355540250083_nChristmas lights—a source of great delight and fierce frustration! I’m sure you’ve all experienced the irritation of placing LIT lights on your tree or around the highest point of your house, only to descend the ladder, look up, and see a section that is not working!  So was the case at the MacAvoy household this year.  After pitching three half-lit strands of lights, I finally got the tree completely illuminated; however, the following week while serenely sipping coffee and reading my Bible beside the tree (what ambiance!), I noticed a flicker of light in my peripheral vision. When I looked over at the tree, I saw the lights go on and off once again in a section of the tree!

They stayed unlit for a few days until I had a chance to check it out. When I did, I felt like someone working for their salvation.  Surely, if I pull out each darkened bulb and replaced it, checking to make sure that all the wires were intact, God would reward my efforts.  As in Naaman’s situation, God waited until that last bulb before intervening, but when I pulled out that bulb the rest of the lights came to life! I looked at the empty socket, and then at the bulb in my hand! A miracle!

The following morning I was talking to God, praising Him and thanking Him for the blessing of the previous day, when I remembered the lights. With “exceeding gladness,” I thanked Him for lighting my tree!

Isn’t that just like Jonah? He was so glad that God took pity on him and make a vine to shield him from the hot rays of the sun. He did not thank Him for having pity on the eternal souls of men, including himself, but rather was overwhelmed with joy because of physical comfort.

The Lord’s challenge for me this Christmas season is this:

 Can I look past the pressing things, the daily trials, and the difficult circumstances, and focus on the blessings and needs of those around me?

To do so takes extra time which is already limited at this time of year, but so many of our friends and families desperately need to see Jesus in a tangible way! So, do the extraordinary for Christmas. Think out of the box.  After all, Jesus left the dazzling perfection of heaven to be entombed in Mary’s womb, to undergo the pangs of labor, and to surround His deity with the scent of barn animals and smelly shepherds. Can’t I do something extraordinary for Him for His birthday?

And, by the way… “Doest thou well to be angry [with the Christmas lights] (Jonah 4:9)?”  🙂

12 Days to Celebrate

Every year, I ask the Lord for something insightful–something I may not have seen before about this special time of the year. This year, He gave me several blessings!

I came across these words for “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I’m not certain of their origin, but some claim that, as was so often the case, the words were cryptic and used to teach biblical truths during a time of persecution. If true, how special and meaningfully crafted were these words!

15192687_10155043450453888_2889645564572740303_n

A partridge is a small bird, quite defenseless; however, like many small birds, they will fight to the death against much larger foul to protect their young.  I’m so glad that I have no foe bigger or more powerful than our God! The pear tree brings forth fruit.  Think of all the “fruit” our Lord has produced because of His great sacrifice on the tree!

Two turtle doves, perfectly matched, work together not only to build their nest but to care for their young. How beautifully the Old Testament and New Testament complement each other, giving us security and nourishment!

Hens produce one of the most valued ingredients in baking: eggs! While most bread recipes, a staple food, do not take eggs, cookie or dessert recipes are limited without these oval gems! Faith, hope, and love are some of the main ingredients in our lives, and because of them, we are able to have a sweet walk with the Lord and others.

The “calling” birds were originally the Colly bird, which is a black, nondescript songbird. And is there any better symbol of what the Gospels do? They tell the story of our dear Savior, and, in the process, the Gospel goes forth calling out the Good News that Jesus saves. Often, the most effective messenger for our Lord is the quiet, still, small voice which goes forth without much pomp or glamour!

The Pentateuch: five books which contain our history from the Creation account to the completion of Israel’s wilderness wandering. They are foundational, and like five golden rings, they link together to tell us about our rich heritage as well as our promised future!

Geese a-laying–once again we see the beginning of life. What better image for creation?

Swimming swans–From Isaiah 11;1,2 “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”and piety (derived from the following verses), the gifts of a Spirit-filled life are portrayed by the power and graceful swan. And is there a more beautiful image than a swan gracefully swimming through water? As born-again believers, we go forward, showing forth a beautiful testimony when we “put on” these gifts from the Holy Spirit which become available to us at our spiritual birth.

Maids a-milking conjure up images of hardworking women.  The idea of a fruitful life–one which is truly blessed when we practice each of the beatitudes–is portrayed as working maidens. Ladies, if we parallel the Trinity with the home, the only Person left to represent Mother is the Holy Spirit. Just like that daily milking that would begin the day of a milkmaid, we must drink from the Word every day if we wish to grow these nine fruits!

Leaping lords! Walking lords? Running lords? No, leaping! This image shouts of joy, and truly the commandments of God bring joy to our lives. I often quote Proverbs 13:15b, “… the way of transgressors is hard.” But these lords are leaping because of the first half of the verse: “Good understanding giveth favor.” Although life can be hard, living “by the Book” not only gives us strength for the day by puts a hop in our step!

Ladies dancing–Another picture of grace. When ladies dance together, as in a ballet or 18th-century minuet, the effect is beautiful. As one, they move, not drawing attention to the individual but to the collective motion. Think of nine ladies–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, all working together to bring praise and glory to God. And where is this dance being performed? In your heart, dear friend!

Drummer–the percussion section of any band or orchestra gives a pulse to the music. Pulse means life. What is our life–our true, spiritual life? Is it not our beliefs? Here they are summed up for us in the Apostles’ Creed:

  1. I believe in God the Father almighty;
  2. and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
  3. Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
  4. Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
  5. on the third day rose again from the dead,
  6. ascended into heaven,
    sits at the right hand of the Father,
  7. whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
  8. and in the Holy Spirit,
  9. the holy Church, the communion of saints
  10. the remission of sins,
  11. the resurrection of the flesh,
  12. and life everlasting.

Who is the One who gives us all these gifts? Our True Love! So… Whether a tool to teach children their catechisms or a reminder of the blessings of our great Christian heritage, I hope when you hear this tune, it will be a blessing! Merry, meaningful Christmas!

 

Drop Dead!

Postcard with text "Greetings from the Sunny South." Five African American people in interesting dress--fancy suit, hats, umbrella, frilly dress. One has a fiddle and a dog. Text: "Cake Walkers. Way down south in Dixie."For a short while, we had these words on our mirror in the bathroom: Drop Dead. The idea was that we would start the day with this thought in mind. It was a good reminder; however, I remember the time when a young girl, who came for dinner with her unsaved family, came out from the bathroom, wide-eyed and saying, “You have bad words on your mirror!” To her, the idea of telling someone to drop dead was a threat!

As a church, we have been memorizing verses from Romans 6. (By the way, are you memorizing Bible verses? Is it me or does it get harder as you age? Anyway, that is my “New Year’s Resolution” for 2018! I’m not sure how I’m going to implement it, but I MUST be memorizing more scripture.) Whether it’s a piece of music, a famous speech, or a Bible verse, memorizing allows you to see it differently. As you memorize, you are meditating on the words and phrases in a different way than if you just read it.

Here is December’s verse for our church:

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Romans 6: 13

As I was working on it, I noticed something. We are urged to yield ourselves to God.  That’s easy to understand, but then Paul adds this phrase: “as those that are alive from the dead.”

OK, Jesus died and rose from the dead. We are to be like Him? Is that what Paul is saying. Of course, that is certainly part of it. But as I “meditated” on this portion of the verse, I dug a little deeper! As born-again believers, we are not only dead, but we are resurrected.  When we

  • Are saved
  • Ask Jesus to be our Savior
  • Trust Christ for salvation
  • Believe and receive Jesus as our Savior

However you want to phrase it when that happens, we die to the power of sin! We die to living our lives for ourselves. We die to our wants, our plans, our path, and we allow God to do the leading.  He directs our paths, guides our plans, and often changes our wants. We are dead BUT alive!

Later in chapter 12:1,2, Paul puts a little more meat on the bones:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

A living sacrifice—we are alive, but we really can’t live for God until we die. That hurts! Death can be painful, and what I’ve found is this:

The tighter we hold on to our wants, our plans, our life,

the deeper God needs to cut to “kill” this world from our hearts!

What are you loving more than God? Can you be honest about this? Is it your traditions? Family? Church denomination? Entertainment? Way of worship? Money? Security? The way you do life?

Look at this verse:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Revelation 12:11

Wow! What a challenge (and a good one to memorize)! As the Lord’s Return draws closer, will we need to follow their example more: they loved not their lives unto the death?

It’s all quite a challenge, but then, true believers understand that the Christian life is not a cakewalk. (FYI and total rabbit trail. Check out the link if you want to know where that phrase cakewalk originated!)

Will you drop dead today AND allow God to resurrect you so that you can yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God? That’s a tall order. Thankfully, our loving God also supplies the grace to make it possible!

 

 

Are You Doing It?

 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34

As I read two different devotions today, they were remarkably opposite of one another. The verses above were part of the daily devotional called “Days of Praise” which I’ve sometimes quoted. Today’s reading was called “Godly Pursuit.” As I read the verses above, I did a personal check on each one:

  • Do I “keep my tongue from evil?’ OUCH!
  • Do I keep my “lips from speaking guile (deceit)?” YIKES!
  • Do I walk away from evil, or do I allow it to come right into my living room on that flat screen?
  • Do I do good, going out of my way to do it?
  • Am I seeking peace, or am I stirring things up, even in my home, because I want things to go my way?
  • Am I pursuing (fervently running after it, chasing it, hunting for it as though my life depended on it) peace—dying to self to allow the peace of God to rule my life?

Henry M. Morris III goes on in the devotional to say,

“So many today appear to desire the approval of the world’s philosophy or its adherents, attempting to compromise the clear messages of the Word of God with the views and lifestyles of the wicked.”

The opposite path was sadly expressed in Jeremiah 44:16-19:

“As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?”

How sad! But the question for us is, “Will we only be faithful to God when things are going well—when we are prospering?”

God gives us so many promises but that doesn’t mean that the Christian life will be problem free and full of prosperity. Why?

Because rough waters make the best teachers!

Are you discouraged—tired of watching your godless neighbors prosper in all they do? The psalmist sums the whole picture up nicely for us in Psalm 73 (might be good to read the whole psalm!)

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end (v 17).

So, if you’ve fallen off the “Godly Pursuit Trail” today, take heart! You’re not alone. Seek the Lord’s help and even the help of others to get back on the horse and ride! You will never regret making wise choices.