Stepping Out of the Boat – AGAIN

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Matthew 14:28-30

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Joshua 1:9

“I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.”

Standing in the midst of an assembly of people all worshiping the LORD, the speaker’s eyes caught mine.  “Young lady, please come up here.  The LORD has a message for you”.  Twenty-six years ago as a new Christian, I was unsure of what was about to happen.  God had called me through a prophetic message given to me in a dream when I was a little girl.  I do not know why, in His mercy, He chose me, but I know I cannot cease praising Him for His mercy.  At this moment, in front of all these people, I was singled out and a music ministry was spoken over me.  I would be singing and playing keyboard on stage.

Funny thing was, I really was not a pianist at the time and did not seek to be in front of people.  In fact, I played the mini-tuba, puffing my cheeks and pulled the music stand just high enough so no one could see anything but my eyes.  I liked it that way.  An introvert by nature, why on earth would the LORD want to use me in front of people?

Within weeks of that prophesy, I was asked to play keyboard and sing on a worship team of a church plant.  “What?”  “Me?” There were far more talented people – extroverted people with charismatic personalities.  Uncomfortable as I was, I could not deny that the LORD has begun to pour songs into my spirit and I was suddenly writing music, singing and playing piano – something I had not had the ability to do before.

When God calls you to something, it is not always fully realized until a much later date. The Israelites would wander 40 years until they got to the promised land.  Joseph would ultimately see his prophesy come to pass, but not before many side roads that did not seem to be of God.  Abraham had to wait until he was 100 to finally gaze upon his promised son. Who says that when God calls you it will be fulfilled right away?  Not this girl – not this girl.

My music ministry has seen some interesting twists and turns.  Confirmation again and again, despite setbacks.  Winner of the “Do Good” ministry award (2000), chosen to be on The Spirit Radio Compilation CD (2001), radio play from both CDs, (2001, 2007), Inspirational album of the year (2006), first place IMMA Christian Contemporary Artist on “An Evening with Champions” television show (2007), an artist with Mission of Mercy helping sponsor children, a worship leader on staff and as a volunteer in several churches.  In the midst of all of these things was the greatest calling and delight of my life – raising my children, home educating them and discipling them.

But all the external validations are not what meant the most to me in ministry.  Seeing people encouraged and the opportunity to share God’s amazing, awesome goodness to help others keep putting one foot in front of the other and to know the One true God – brought me far more joy than any award ever could.  Seeing my children get a heart for missions and ministry by being a part of the process – priceless.

At the height of ministry, horror and trauma impacted my family and I set aside formal ministry.  My attention was where it needed to be – with my children.  Over the years, I have wondered if that calling was over or if God was not through with me yet.  I have battled with self-doubt and a variety of reasons why I should just give up, but inside me is an insatiable calling that I can no longer deny.  When I sing and write music, or I write or speak about my LORD, I sense His pleasure.  (Sure, this is a line borrowed from one of my favorite films, “Chariots of Fire”, but it so well describes the confirmation in my soul of this calling).

I am humbled and excited to share with you all that I am officially stepping out of the boat and going to step back into formal ministry.  So here it is, the eve before I officially begin the process of recording my next CD and step back into a calling that was interrupted by tragedy, but not forgotten.  It is hard to express the feelings in the depths of my soul.  At New Life Community Church in Louisa, VA tomorrow (Sunday), I will be sharing personal testimony and announcing the recording of a new 5-song EP to be produced by Shay Watson and released this summer.

We are launching a Pledge Campaign TOMORROW on 2/1/15 and invite you to partner with us. Be a part of the creative process by pre-buying music, donating or participating in exclusive offers on our campaign website. Please visit and come with me on this faith walk.  Learn more about the Seeing Deep project and join us in this adventure. Thank you all so much!!

Blessed and Amazed,
Denise Pass | Seeing Deep

Called to Die

Somehow we were tricked into thinking that this Christian life was to be a cushy one.

Romans 8:5-6, 12-13

5 For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. 6 For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, 12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh 13 (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.

I do not imagine that many of us, when we came to Christ, were eager to die.  We had just been given eternal live – death was probably not on our minds.  Somehow we were tricked into thinking that this Christian life was to be a cushy one.  No pain, rose-tinted glasses, maybe even prosperity.  Certainly not suffering or hardship.

Where was the disconnect?  Christ made it clear that in this world we would have trouble.  That we would be hated because of Him.  Not much of a salesman, it seems.  He said we would have to carry our own cross, too.  Who would want to follow that plan?  Perhaps it is because of our view of death.

The flesh wants us to live for self.  We want to live!  God placed eternity in our souls – a desire to continue past this space and time, but the way our lives are lived might be the problem.  It is all about us – our pleasure, our peace, our way – until the LORD opens our eyes to see.  To really see.  Not just a temporary view of our fallen nature, but the realization that there truly is no good thing in our corrupt flesh.

The grace of God enters and we are changed.  Over time we can forget what we were saved from and begin to think the righteousness was our own, God forbid.  Why would we be redeemed and then called to die?  Because living for self means we do not see the hurt all around us.  Living for self means we are not living for the Kingdom of God.  When we accepted that free gift of salvation, it was a call to die and live solely for Jesus and His glorious kingdom.

Die, friend.  In the best sense of the word.  Dying to self means we are alive in Christ.  Live sold out to Jesus, available to His call and make the flesh submit to His will – You belong to Him.

Lord, help us to not lose the sight and understanding You gave us.  We want to be used by You – effective to minister to others all for Your glory.  Thank You for dying for us, LORD.  We will never be worthy of all You have done for us.

Thoughtful Thursday: Debunking Positive Thinking & other Escapes

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Job 9:25, 27-28

25My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaintI will change my expression and be cheerful,’ 28 I dread all my sufferings, for I know that you do not hold me blameless. 

Job 10:8-9, 15

8Your hands have shaped me and made me, but now you destroy me completely9 Remember that you have made me as with the claywill you return me to dust?  15 If I am guiltywoe to me, and if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head; I am full of shame, and satiated with my affliction.

Job 8:21

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughterand your lips with gladness.”

Psalm 27:13

“Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the LORD’s favor in the land of the living?”

Life can deal some painful blows that do not make sense and cannot be rationalized by our human perspective.  Well-meaning people can try to either hyper-spiritualize our situation or prescribe the power of positive thinking dogma.  Others might even try to pin your current demise on the possibility of your own sin being the cause.  These solutions do not bring us out of our pain, they only serve to multiply our sufferings.

Be honest about the struggle.  It is not fun – in fact, it is often heartbreaking.  A good attitude is a great approach, and seeing things through the lens of faith a necessity, but we cannot just resort to positive thinking as our solution.  A good profession of faith in God, yes, but not just merely saying positive words or self talk which are not grounded in Scripture. Pretending won’t work, either.  Religion, too, is not our Savior.  Using Scripture or numbly trying to manipulate the results we want is also not effective and ultimately trying to bypass the heart surgery God wants to perform on our character.

We don’t like being examined so ruthlessly, put through such prodding; we would rather worship God in our comfort zone. But Christ is in the dark valleys with us.  It is there that we fellowship with Him and realize our perspective was focused on self and our deliverance – being free from the trial at hand.  Deliverance is given, but not the kind we were seeking – escaping pain or the end of hardship.  No, instead we receive the priceless gift of deliverance from self and a right focus of bringing God glory in all of the many testings life brings.

Sometimes when calamity visits our home or our life, if we are honest, we admit that the trial can create a doubting of God. He let it in.  We thought He loved us, and our definition of love evidently meant that no hardship would be allowed to encroach upon our lives.  Instead, the medicine God provides is His counsel, His comfort and His presence.  This happiness does not mean all is well.  It is choosing to trust God and delight in Him, choosing to place our hope in Him when sorrows abound.

There is a sweetness in surrendering and trusting in God when it appears that He slays us.  The profession of Job in the book of Job 13:15 was such a surrender.  Instead of looking to escape adversity, it is an opportunity that we do not want to waste.  In that place of knowing God is good and knowing that He has covered all of our sins, we begin to see that temporary hardship is not the final judgment – it is just a passing through and a refinement which will pale in comparison to the sweetest moment of all, when we are with Him for all eternity.

Lord, we are but flesh and cannot comprehend how anything good could come from pain.  Give us Your eyes and understanding.  Give us faith when life hurts.  You are our sufficiency and with us always.  Thank you, God!

Worshipful Wednesday: Who is Worship For?

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Psalm 9:1-2

“I will thank the Lord with all my heart!  I will tell about all your amazing deeds! 2 I will be happy and rejoice in you!  I will sing praises to you, O sovereign One!”

John 4:24

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Hebrews 13:15

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Hebrews 12:28

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

Thank you for stopping by on this Worshipful Wednesday!  Worship is often misunderstood as a part of the church service alone, but it is a lifestyle of thanksgiving to the One Who has given us every blessing we have.  As a worship leader in churches for over twenty years now, I confess that contemplating God’s Holiness, goodness and character in song is one of my favorite things to do.  I say one of, because just reading and listening to His Word fills me with an inner joy that cannot be contained.  But I fear our worship is lackluster in comparison to what God deserves.

Worship is cultivating gratitude from a heart that recognizes our own dependence on God.  It is in the very act of worship that we draw nearer to God.  Affection in marriage or in the parent/child relationship is the most essential aspect of those relationships.  A child and a parent both want to know they are loved and adored.  We can become hardened in this world and begin to think that receiving adoration is our highest goal, though.  God knows we need affirmation and love, but our greatest joy is found in giving that highest worship to Him.

I remember as a new believer not understanding why God would require us to worship Him.  It seemed a little vain to me at the time, though I did not want to even think such a thought.  But if God had not commanded us to worship, we would worship far lesser things.  What our hearts are set on to worship affects greatly how we live on this earth.  Practically speaking, when we worship created things which cannot compare to the greatness of our God, our aspirations are lesser than what God could accomplish in us.

Until we grow deeper in our relationship with God and see that He is worthy of the highest praise and adoration, it does not make sense to us in our humanity.  Certainly contemplating all that God has done makes Him praiseworthy, but in our pride we can be deceived into thinking we deserve what God has done for us.

Our flesh can be overwhelmed with worshiping God for all eternity – it seems tiring and repetitive.  That is when we realize that we have not really gotten a glimpse of Who God is.  We need to worship Him to know Him more.  We can be fans of people on this earth, but they will ultimately all perish and their splendor will fade.  But God – the great I AM, is not like us. No, He is Holy, perfect in all He does, without beginning or end.

We need to worship someone greater than we are.  Worshiping the creation could never fulfill us like worshiping our Creator – the only One truly worthy of praise!  We need to be transformed and that happens in His presence.  Our hearts and minds easily falter and can be divided.  Worshiping God aligns our will with God’s, and helps us to focus on what really matters and to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives: knowing Him.

The irony in God’s command for us to worship Him is that He does not need our worship – it is we who need to worship.  It is in love, not selfishness, that He is requiring us to worship Him.  We are harassed and helpless sheep who need direction. Thank God that He has shown us Himself and our need to worship Him alone.  Worship Him now.  Contemplate all that He has done for you.  Set aside the barriers that hinder sincere worship.  He is worthy.

Lord, help us to worship You in humility and truth.  You are worthy of all our praise and adoration.

The Guilt Complex and False righteousness

Romans 8:1-4; 31-35, 37-39

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed,he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him,freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulersnor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 9:13-14

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

I suffer from a natural proclivity of feeling guilty.  Those who can identify with me on this know why I say suffer.  I can pick up the same sin that I have already brought before my heavenly father multiple times and feel the judgment afresh.  I cannot imagine someone willingly doing this in our court system, yet in the court process of our own minds, our guilt echoes loudly.

Perhaps recognizing that we do not deserve forgiveness can seem like a worthy, humble quality.  Indeed, we do not deserve anything but God’s wrath.  But wallowing in past mistakes does not bring God glory nor help us to walk victoriously. Instead, it saps us of strength and is yet another filthy garment, sometimes cloaked in false righteousness, as if our guilt will earn us a reward or make us feel better for the suffering that guilt incurs. Any punishment for our guilt would never earn salvation – only Christ could bear the punishment for all of our sins

Our accuser is always ready to agree with us on our wretchedness.  He and our flesh can even offer potential things to feel guilty about which are not even our own offenses.  What to do with the constant vicious cycle of judgment and guilt?  Accept God’s gift and believe Him at His word.  I, for one, do not want to doubt Him and that He has the authority to justify.  Instead of feeling sheepish about our unworthiness, such amazing forgiveness can be an incubator for a life of gratitude and serve to motivate us to live lives worthy of such lavish grace that has been given to us.

The guilt complex is just one aspect of the battle that takes place in our mind.  Unseen by those around us, it is a sharpened tool in the enemy’s arsenal to attempt to discourage Christians and lay the groundwork for us to live unproductive lives.  What a waste.  That is not why Christ died.  He died to free us not just from the sinful lifestyle, but from the guilt of our sin, too.

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  God help us to ever allow such a salvation to become merely a means of forgiveness.  Christ carried all of our sins, all of our pain, all of our judgement that we deserved. I must pause to worship Him.  I hope you are, too.  He loves you so much and does not want His children any longer to be imprisoned by their own faulty application of what it means to accept His salvation.  No more guilt, no more judgment.  We are free indeed!

Oh God, I am overcome when I consider how great your gift is!  Help me to daily remember this undeserved forgiveness and live in a way that reflects being accepted by the King of all kings, my Lord, Jesus Christ!

Walking in His Sandals – the Call to Ministry

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Isaiah 20:2-3

“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush.”

Matthew 3:4

Now John wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.”

2 Kings 1:8

They replied, “He was a hairy man and had a leather belt tied around his waist.” The king said, “He is Elijah the Tishbite.” 

Ezekiel 3:1-3,25

1 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you – eat this scroll – and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth.  25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and tie you up with them, so you cannot go out among them.

Ezekiel 4:4-15

4 “Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. 5 I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days for you – 390 days. So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 “When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days – I have assigned one day for each year. 7 You must turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. 8 Look here, I will tie you up with ropes, so you cannot turn from one side to the other until you complete the days of your siege. 9 “As for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put them in a single container, and make food from them for yourself. For the same number of days that you lie on your side – 390 days – you will eat it. 10 The food you eat will be eight ounces a day by weight; you must eat it at fixed times. 11 And you must drink water by measure, a pint and a half; you must drink it at fixed times. 12 And you must eat the food like you would a barley cake. You must bake it in front of them over a fire made with dried human excrement.” 13 And the Lord said, “This is how the people of Israel will eat their unclean food among the nations where I will banish them.” 14 And I said, “Ah, sovereign Lord, I have never been ceremonially defiled before. I have never eaten a carcass or an animal torn by wild beasts; from my youth up, unclean meat has never entered my mouth.”

15 So he said to me, “All right then, I will substitute cow’s manure instead of human excrement. You will cook your food over it.”

Isaiah walked around in his underwear barefoot for three years, John the Baptist ate locusts and honey.  Ezekiel ate a scroll and laid on his side for 390 days, eating 8 ounces of food each day.  Each considered themselves unworthy, just a tool, a forerunner to Christ.

God knows we don’t get it if we haven’t walked in those sandals.  If we are going to be used by God to share with others, we don’t understand unless we have suffered similarly, the compassion gained in the lessons of suffering is priceless.

We think being a vessel for God can mean a position that is respected – the Israelites thought the Messiah would be a King, triumphing over all.  He did.  But not in the way they would have chosen.  He served, laid down his life and bore our humiliation – embraced suffering instead of seeking to be elevated.

We all can think we want to be a man or woman of God, used for His kingdom, but are we willing to pay the price?  Life’s lessons also teach us to refrain from judgment on others, for we begin to understand that the pain others walk through has a larger purpose than what is on the surface.

Some of the things God calls us to do or allows in our lives do not make sense.  The compassion that Ezekiel had after enduring 390 days of punishment for Israel would cause him to passionately plea with Israel.  He saw what was coming and was a watchman indeed.  The hope was that Israel would turn away from their sin.  One who had suffered could deliver God’s message with zeal and a fortitude that would hopefully turn God’s children back to Himself.

What are our hopes for ministry?  Our aspirations?  If we belong to the LORD, we are all in ministry.  Will we be used as He wants to use us?  I remember well when God first called me.  Newly saved at the age of nineteen, my heart was full with a desire to minister for Him.  I did not know or understand what that meant.  I recall weeping as I would drive to D.C. to work every day.  This was not God’s calling for me.  I was supposed to be out on a mission field somewhere, or something that appeared more like ministry.

God began to give songs to me on the piano as a music major at the University of Maryland.  It was not my instrument, but God clearly opened doors for me to serve Him in this way.  Over time, songs were given with a desire to help others along in their walk with God.  I began to notice a degree of suffering before a song was inspired and asked God if He could use me to encourage others without me having to suffer first.  How foolish of me.  Ministry was never intended to be a cushy experience.

Our calling is ultimately God’s calling.  It is His life lived through us.  He chose a path of humility and service.  Will we?

Lord, help us to be yielded clay in Your hands.  Your will, not ours.  Whatever suffering we will walk through, we know You ordained and permitted it.  Help us to trust You despite what is on the surface of this life.

In the Beginning God Did Not Create Patriarchy (Mini-series: Part 3)

Redefining Everything

All of this talk about Genesis may have you thinking, “But what about the part about Eve being created as a helpmate?”  This was a point of concern for me for a long time.  Was I just created as an accessory?  Was Adam tired of doing the dishes and cooking his own meal, so He asked God to give him a helper?

If you’ve been around Christian circles for any length of time, you are probably aware that the word helpmate, translates to the Hebrew word “ezer.” (Genesis 2:18) (We will see in a bit that “ezer”’s partner, “kenegda”, has been forgotten or deleted in most modern American churches.) What exactly does that word mean?

Ezer is derived from two Hebrew root words. One meant “power” and the other meant “strength”.

Carolyn James, in her book, “The Gospel of Ruth”, enlightened me on the word helpmate.  Before Eve was created…

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Thoughtful Thursday: Job’s Lessons – Trusting God in Affliction

Job 8:5-7

“But if you will look to God and make your supplication to the Almighty, 6 if you become pure and upright, even now He will rouse himself for you and will restore your righteous abode.  7 Your beginning will seem so small, since your future will flourish.”

Sitting in handcuffs, dazed and shocked, I wondered how this could happen to me.  I was innocent.  But in that moment the LORD spoke to me clearly.  “Guilty by association”.  Associating with one who had lied to me and placed me in a mess. You’re a modern day Job, lady”, the police officer told me sarcastically, yet laced with compassion.  Me?  Job?  No, I could not compare my sufferings with his.  Or could I?

Life has some crazy turns in it – many we would rather avoid, but traveling down those roads leads us to unexpected places with cherished lessons learned.  Job’s counselors all speculated that some hidden sin caused his demise.  Why would a good God allow such suffering in, after all?  I am sure Joseph felt similarly.  He was only prophesying what God placed in his heart, only to find himself at the bottom of a well and then a betrayed slave.  What was God thinking?

Staring at the spot on the ceiling of my hospital room, I wondered how I got there, too.  Worried faces of doctors unsure of what to say, I laid there and trusted.  Patiently.  In the midst of that hard place, a resolve began to form that was not from me.  Even in that horrid place, God spoke to me.  Would I be willing to let Him use me in this way?  Yes, God.

Back to Job.  He questioned himself, examined what could be the cause of such difficulty in his life.  He did not know that Satan had asked if he could mess around with his life.  Job’s chief sin was in doubting God and in justifying himself rather than God.  When we cannot figure out what God is doing, we can cry out to God to trust Him and place our faith in Him. Lack of understanding is not wrong, but doubting God’s goodness and purposes are.  Introspection at times of confusion is a great gift – an opportunity to pause and clarify our lives before God.

In the end, God blessed Job more than he was before.  Sometimes we cling to what we knew as the past, wondering if we will ever see God’s goodness again.  Our view of the past just might not be all that we thought it was, either.  God has new heights, new blessings for us.  His idea of a blessing might be different than ours, but He and His ways are always good.

Lord, when we don’t understand, help us to draw near to You and to trust You fully.  Be glorified in our mess – You Who makes sense of everything, almighty, sovereign LORD!

Worshipful Wednesday: He Delights in You

Psalms 147:3, 6, 11, 14 (NET)

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. 6 The LORD lifts up the oppressed, but knocks the wicked to the ground. 11 The Lord takes delight in His faithful followers, and in those who wait for His loyal love.  14 He has made His people victorious and given all His loyal followers reason to praise – the Israelites, the people who are close to Him – praise the LORD!”

Psalm 149:4 (ISV)

“For the LORD is pleased with his people; he beautifies the afflicted with salvation.”

Zephaniah 3:17

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

There is nothing so precious as the smile on a child’s face when that child knows they are delighted in.  Almost embarrassed from the expression of love surrounding them, the smile gives away their delight in the security of your love. In much the same way, a spouse can sense when they are adored – it makes the soul happy to be the source of someone else’s delight.

It is that part of our being that craves acceptance, wants to know we are pleasing, that yearns for a Daddy’s love, which only God can fill.  Much like Adam and Eve, we are easily deceived and tend to want to hide from God when we think we have not lived up to His expectations.  All the while He is saying, come to me – you who I love with an unconditional, everlasting love – and let me wash you and make you as white as snow.

Time and time again people will let us down.  But perhaps we are going to them for the acceptance that God can only give. It is painful to have to be so needful – we would rather be in the position of strength, giving to others.  But it is on the receiving end of such a love that we are truly able to give that love out to others, as well.

Are we weary, beaten down, feel like we can never experience the goodness of God?  Come.  He delights in you.  Do we feel the sting of rejection from others?  Come, He delights in you.  Do we hurt from afflictions of this fallen world – diseases, betrayal, failure?  Come, dear one.  He delights in you!

Tears well in my eyes when I consider His faithful love.  Never fading, always accepting.  Fully knowing, yet chasing after us to reveal His steadfast love to us.  As we are delighted in, so may we delight in Him.  Living like we are delighted in makes all the difference in the world.  Made in His image, secure in His love, we can delight in others, as well,

Lord, help us to rest in the knowledge of Your delight in us.  Heal wounds in Your children today all for Your glory.

The Guarded Heart

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Our heart – an organ that pumps out blood and sustains our lives, yet we ascribe to the heart the ability to feel or to choose righteousness.  The word, “libbecha” (Hebrew for heart) in the Scripture above is translated as pertaining to that “inner man, mind, will or heart” (Strong’s).  Our soul cannot be found on any anatomical chart, though it is evident in our mind. Much like the phrase, “the very heart of a matter”, refers to the main point of something, so the very heart of a person is the inner core of that individual.  What defines the person is based on their actions or decisions which are in accordance with their convictions.

So what does it mean to guard our heart?  Ironically, guarding our heart, which is the embodiment of our emotions, includes taking captive emotions that are not biblical.  Protecting oneself from sinful tendencies or temptations is another practical application, but what is interesting to me is that what flows from the heart – issues of life.  What are these issues?

Jealousy, the poison of bitterness, hurt, pain, feelings of abandonment, insecurity, betrayal, and the list goes on and on. Drama is a fact of life, but guarding our heart is applying God’s word when drama happens.  Our feelings cannot go unchecked – even if they feel so authentic and accurate.  We cannot perfectly judge another person’s heart, either.  Actions can be an indicator, but people can also respond out of their hurt and we can presume falsely.

Recently, the LORD showed me another application of this verse.  Sometimes when we have been so wounded by others, we can shut down and build walls.  We just don’t want to be hurt again.  We can hide under the Scripture that says we are to guard our hearts, but ultimately this hiding is not safety at all when we use it to shut people out.  Locked up in our hurt, we begin to lose the capacity to show our feelings and emotions.

So how do we handle people who have harmed us?  Common sense wisdom dictates that some people have to have limited access or no access to you, but faith in the living God sets us free to trust Him that He will enable us to overcome any hurt that lies down the road.  Guarding our hearts does not have to equate to keeping our love from others. Boundaries can be applied in faith, and free us to reach out and love others with the love of Christ.  He’s got our back.

Lord, help us to guard our hearts from ungodly influences but to love the ungodly and recognize our need of You, too.