"Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!" 1 Chronicles 16:11 (ESV)
My granddaughter Elle is almost three. Recently we had a family event and Elle and her parents arrived before we did. It had been a few weeks since we had seen her, which is unusual. When we walked in the door, a wide smile filled her face and she ran into my arms.
For the next several minutes Elle circled around the crowded room. Each time she made her way purposely back to me, placed both hands on my knees, looked me in the eye and said, "There you are!"
It was as if Elle wanted me to know that, in the midst of a crowd, she delighted that I was in the room.
I wonder if I show my Savior this same joy? I wonder if I seek Him like 1 Chronicles 16:11 teaches me to.
In a crowded schedule, do I carve out time to find Him?
The reality is that sometimes, if I am not intentional, my time with Him can get pushed to second or third place behind deadlines, bills to pay, errands to run, events to attend. And yet when I seek Him out and sit in His presence, I realize all over again how beautiful it is to worship Him, to feel the pleasure and love of a Heavenly Father.
In my crowded thoughts, do I pause and say, "There You are!"
Or do I let anxiety, anger, frustration, or worry take center stage, forgetting His promises of comfort, of strength, of peace in the midst of storms. Yes, He's there for He assures us that He is (Joshua 1:9; Romans 8:38-38; Hebrews 3:15). But do I ask Him to shine His Light on my troubled thoughts?
In my crowded life, do I invite Him in to every area?
Time with God is not confined to a prayer time or a few moments reading Scripture. Instead, we are invited to live and move and breathe in Him (Acts 17:28). That means that He is with us as we parent, as we go to work, as we reflect on a beautiful sunset, or as we comfort a friend. As believers, we don't just have to live. We live in Him, and He lives in us.
Elle had many options that day. Aunts and uncles held out open arms. Toys and books were offered at every turn. Cousins gave her kisses.
But she delighted in me instead. She didn't have to, for I love that little girl with every fiber of my being. But the fact that she loves me back with abandon is sheer joy for this grandma.
How long has it been since you delighted in God? Or experienced His pleasure in your presence? He loves you; that we know for certain. But what if today you pushed aside crowded thoughts, a crowded schedule, and a crowded life to proclaim with delight, "There You are!"
Dear Heavenly Father, I delight in You. Not for what I might receive, but simply because of Who You are to me. I love You with my heart, my soul, my mind. No matter the crowd I find myself in, with You is where I long to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Find a "There You are" moment in your thoughts or schedule today. Speak a word of praise or breathe a prayer of gratitude.
How would things change if, instead of responding to situations with stress, doubt or worry, you looked for God in the moment? Instead of choosing these other things, decide to find the Lord and delight in Him in the middle of your moments today.
Psalm 92:4, "You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done." (NLT)
"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…” Nahum 1:7
God is good. He is good when times are bad. He is good all the time. Do not relegate God to the bad side of the ledger just because you are experiencing bad. Focus on the goodness of God, for He is good. His goodness is a refuge for you in times of trouble. Your security is in the safe environment His goodness provides.
God’s goodness is the standard by which people act "good". No person’s goodness exceeds God’s goodness. Your goodness is but a reflection of His, because apart from the Lord there resides in us no good thing. “I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). His goodness is foundational for all goodness.
Thus, Christ dwelling in you by faith, allows the goodness of God to flourish. It is one of the wonders of grace. Indeed, faith in Jesus unleashes the goodness of God in your life. Good works without the goodness of God are just good works for the temporal. But, good works, motivated by the goodness of God, reap eternal benefits. The Lord is good.
People receive food, shelter, clothing, a job and forgiveness. This is the beauty of God’s goodness. He cares for those who trust in Him. Earthly goodness is fleeting. It is here today and gone tomorrow, but heavenly goodness is eternal. You can always depend on the goodness of God. Your trust in Him guarantees His care—His godly goodness.
However, God’s goodness does not preclude His judgment. Rather it demands it—because God is good—He must judge bad. In Christ—it's all good—but when sin enters the equation, bad inflicts its evil influence. Evil inebriates people with bad behavior. Corrupt men and women are not conscious of the goodness of God. An insomnia of righteousness drives them to sin, as demons sear the conscience of the ungodly.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
Furthermore, do not be stunned or disillusioned when bad things happen to good people. God rains on the just and the unjust. His judgment does not always discriminate between the good and the bad. He wants our attention. He wants a loving and growing relationship with His creation for His glory and goodness sake. His people are good because He is good. Rejoice for He can be trusted and the goodness of God cares for His children!
“May your priests, LORD God, be clothed with salvation, may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness” (2 Chronicles 6:41b).
Prayer: Do I exhibit joy, trust and gratitude for the goodness of God?
Related Readings: Luke 16:25; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; Titus 1:15
Post/Tweet today: Our goodness is but a reflection of His, because apart from the Lord there resides in us no good thing. #goodness
The only true alchemy in this world occurs when trials turn to gold, the debris and heartbreak of life transformed and polished into shining beauty by a loving, unseen hand. We try to catch a glimpse of this remarkable change in action, yet human eyes fail us. However, once these storms of life pass, we see the afterglow through signs as sure as Noah's ancient rainbow. A loved one overcomes. Morning breaks after an impossibly long night. Grace thunders through spiritual drought with a mighty downpour of living water. All of this, and more, affirms the fact that yes, life is beautiful.
Such was the thought going into the new album from The Afters. I sat down with lead singer, Josh Havens to discuss the lines between the lines of what made up life and it's beauty.
John: New record. Life is Beautiful. Josh, what is underneath the title? What is the theme of the record. When you guys are singing about the idea of life as being beautiful, what does that mean for you guys?
Josh: Well, this record is really a collection of stories that comes straight from life. It's little vignettes that come straight from our lives. It's the beautiful things that we experience in life, the things we're thankful for and the good things, but also some of the pain and the struggles that we go through. What ties this record together is how God is present in every moment of it. He's with us on the beautiful sunny days and the good times in life, but he's also there when we face the valleys in life and walk through the harder things too. That's why the stories on this record are a real collection of some of the joy and the sorrow that we've walked through and just God's faithfulness through all of it. Ultimately, I think no matter what situation we find ourselves in, God can make beauty in anything. That's definitely been our experience as we were walking through the making of this record.
John: Was there ever a moment in the recording process where either you, individually or the four of you guys together, after a lyric is written or a song is recorded, you kind of just step back and go, "Okay, this is a God moment." Where the song almost becomes outside of who you are and God is speaking to you?
Josh: Absolutely. Yes, there's definitely been songs where it's almost like you blink and you're like, “Okay, where did this come from? Where did this song that did not exist just a little while ago come from, because there is no way we could have just done this ourselves?” There were moments for instance in the song called “Broken” where I remember looking up, and we were all in tears as we were writing that song. The subject matter was so personal to us, and you know, I think writing in a way is therapy for the people who did the writing because you're dealing with the harder things that you go through and you're facing some of these things that are sometimes difficult to confront. For instance, with the writing of “Broken,” we were all discussing different losses that we've been through. I had just come out of being in the hospital with my son. When my son was born he had some unexpected complications and had to spend quite a while in NICU, and that was a pretty crazy experience. We saw other children there who never left the hospital. Parents that never brought their children home, and it was a difficult thing to be there and see all the suffering. We also saw God do some pretty amazing things and he really did show us His faithfulness in those times. I remember being in the hospital and reading the book of Job for comfort and seeing a man who lost everything in his life. I mean he lost his family. He lost all of his possessions, and then in the midst of that loss and brokenness he shaved his head and took off his clothes so he truly had nothing left, and then he fell to his knees and worshiped God. I just remember being so inspired by that and just thinking, “Wow, that's the man I want to be.”
John: You guys had the opportunity to partner with the Erwin Brothers on their film October Baby. Then you made a music video for the song "Life is Beautiful" that was in correlation with the movie. What kind of experience was that like seeing your song being such an integral part to the message of that movie?
Josh: Well, the way that that all came about was pretty interesting. We were actually on tour with Casting Crowns and we were working on songs for the new record. Most of the venues were these sports arenas, so we would have stinky locker rooms that were basically our dressing room for the day. So we would bring out equipment into these locker rooms and set up kind of a little mini studio. The idea for “Life is Beautiful” is one that's been kind of in my head for a while. I've wondered about that song and thought even about maybe doing a record with that scene for a while. We started discussing the concept of it and it just flowed out. It was one of the fastest songs we've ever written. We had it written and demoed within a day. Sent it to our manager. It was almost like once we started talking about the idea of things that we're thankful for in life and things that make life beautiful and those little gifts from God, it just started flowing. I remember sending it to our manager the next day after we had demoed it, and he said, "I've got to send this to the Erwin brothers because they just did a movie that this would be perfect for." Well, they had already finished it and turned it in, but they actually pulled it back and asked if they could make a tweak on it and they put the song in the movie because they felt like it would be a perfect fit. Then we did the music video for it. They had a whole campaign surrounding this film called “Every Life is Beautiful.” They didn't know about our song and we didn't know about the campaign. It just happened to be the perfect blend of ideas and the right thing at the right time that got put in place. It's been cool to see. It's such a great film. It's been cool to have a song that was a part of it and see the lives that were impacted by that movie.
John: Josh, are you always writing songs?
Josh: Try to. Right now we're writing songs, but not necessarily for us. We're working with some other artists on some songs. I try to keep fresh. It's one of those things like a muscle. If you don't work it out it gets flabby and you've got to work it back up and tone it again. It's better to not get out of shape. Songwriting is the same way. You don't want to lose it because it seems like once you practice the songwriting muscle as they say, you get better at it and faster at it and you're able to collect your ideas a little better. I definitely feel like once we're in the songwriting groove it's easier to finish songs and to channel ideas. I try to stay up on songwriting. I heard Charlie Peacock, he said he writes a song everyday whether it's good or bad. I think that's a great discipline to have. I'm not that disciplined, but I definitely try to stay up on it.
John: What does this year look like for you guys? You're going on tour?
Josh: Yes, we just finished a tour that we did together with Francesca Battistelli, and then during the summer we're basically just traveling all over doing festivals and fairs and things like that. Then come fall, we're doing an exciting tour. We're partnering with our friends Building 429 and we're going to bring out Hawk Nelson, some good buddies of ours as well. We're going to do a big fall tour so that's going to be really fun.
John: Awesome. Josh, when you look back at The Afters touring experiences through the years, through all of your records that you guys have done, is there a most embarrassing moment that comes to mind?
Josh: Most embarrassing moment. We've had quite a few numbers of them. We've had a number of embarrassing moments. I think for me, I've had some pretty epic falls on stage because I'm pretty mobile. I move around a lot and I go into the crowd and I climb on my piano and things, and I've had a couple of instances where I’ve had some pretty big falls. One of which was actually collected on video and somebody put us on You Tube. That's always fun. I think just the shear length of time that we've done this, we've all had our fair share of embarrassing moments.
There's been times when I walked on stage and said the wrong city’s name and that's something I think most singers have done at sometime or another, and that's always something that's hard to recover from. And it’s like, no really, I am glad that I'm in your city.
John: Yeah, wherever we are.
Josh: Wherever it might be.
John: Have you ever broken a bone on stage?
Josh: No, I've been fortunate to not break a bone, thankfully. I have broken equipment before. My guitar has suffered through my falls.
John: What has God been teaching either you personally or the band in the last month? You had mentioned a few minutes ago in looking at some of the songs you guys were wrestling with the fact that God is present in all things, both good and bad.
John: What about today? What would you say ... you're a married man who has children. Speak to other guys that are just kind of hitting the daily grind, attempting to love their wife well, love their children well, and pursue Christ. What does that look like on a daily basis for you, Josh?
Josh: I think that the reality is we all struggle with very similar things. We all want to be better husbands. We all want to be better parents. We all lose our temper at times. We all say things that we regret. We all make mistakes. I think what God has really taught me on a family level here recently has really been showing me through having kids is a little glimpse of the picture of grace. It's kind of given me an understanding of grace that I didn't have before being a parent, because anyone with kids knows that kids can be rotten sometimes and I have great kids, but they can still be rotten sometimes. No matter how rotten they are, it's not going to change my love for them. If they lie or if they hit their brother or sister or if they do something that I've asked them not to do and are disobedient, that's not going to change my love for them and they can't make me love them any less than I already do, and they can't make me love them anymore than I already do because I already love them as much as possible. That's given me a little glimpse of what God's grace for us is like and His love for His children. That no matter what we do in life even though we can be rotten sometimes and we make mistakes, that doesn't change God's love for us. He loves us so much that nothing we can do can take away even a single bit of that love.
John: Amen. That is a good word, Josh.
Josh: On the band side of things, I think gratitude has been something that God has really shown us through the years. We feel really fortunate to have done this as long as we have. Matt and I have been playing music together for going on 14 years. As a band, we've been touring full time since 2004. So we feel really blessed to be able to do what we do. I always remind my guys, if there's a day where people are complaining or maybe the bus breaks down or we miss flights or things happen that make the day difficult, I always remind them even on the worst of days that we're living somebody else's dream and we're so fortunate to be able to do this day in and day out. We definitely feel gratitude. It's cool to be able to see the fruits of what we're doing because when you write music you never know how God's going use it. Through touring you get to see a little glimpse when people come up to you and tell you these stories. We'll never hear all the stories, but when we do hear those little glimpses of what God has been using the music for, it's definitely encouragement to keep going.
So what are the beautiful things in life? Havens sums it up thus: "Our hope for our record—and a lot of heartache went into this album—is that it will encourage people to see how God is working in their lives. He's not just there on the sunny days. No matter what we go through in life, God is still with us and life is beautiful—God is beautiful."
"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found..." Proverbs 10:12-13a (ESV)
My husband and I often joke about what would have happened in our college-courting days if we had sent our profiles to an online match-making website. We are pretty sure that instead of pairing us, the computer screen would have blinked DO NOT DATE!! TOTALLY NOT COMPATIBLE!
We're a lot like the two candlestick holders on the dresser in our bedroom. While both are crafted from solid brass with similar round bases, the rest of each holder couldn't be more different.
One is straight and streamlined, more functional than fancy. That candlestick holder has tall, strong lines. The second is designed with a touch of flair. It has two strands of brass that whirl and swirl from top to bottom in a "look at me" manner.
I found the candlesticks at different yard sales. While their styles aren't the same, somehow this eclectic pair is an interesting match. And more importantly, they're a visual reminder to my husband and me of our marriage.
My husband is the first candlestick. No frills. Straight-forward. Only about function. I am the second one. Crazy. All over the map. All about fun. While we both are "forged from brass" in that we are followers of Christ with the same spiritual foundation, pair our opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum personalities together and disaster could ensue.
Beyond the normal male/female differences, we have a lot in our personalities that cause friction and sometimes (mostly from me) snapping and harsh words.
Mismatched personalities in marriage, parenting or in work or friendship situations, can cause frustration, anger and at times, wounded feelings.
Someone who is not wired as we are, does not think like we do and who makes decisions and carries out actions we would never dream of, can rub us the wrong way. It causes our feathers to ruffle and not-so-nice thoughts enter our brains.
Usually, if dealing with a non-family member, we manage to keep our composure and tame our tongues to avoid saying anything we might regret. With our children or spouses however, sometimes we open the floodgates and spew cutting comments, nasty words, criticisms and awful accusations. My husband and I call it "throwing flesh balls." At that point, we no longer "walk by the Spirit" but "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16 NIV).
If I allow it, my flesh likes to be satisfied and nothing satisfies it more than a good ol' verbal assault on my thinks-and-acts-so-differently-from-me husband.
There's a different way God calls me to respond though. Proverbs 10:12-13a provides direction for how we should handle conflicts that arise from trying to mesh two differing personality types. "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found ..." (ESV).
Love is key to wise responses in a relationship. Because we love God, and others, we should seek to understand when we clash. And ask God for wisdom when we don't understand. We should love intentionally. Not necessarily in an "ushy-gushy, touchy-feely" way, but in an "I am going to choose to react gently and behave kindly because that is what God is asking me to do" sort of way.
Cementing this thinking in our minds will help us to respond with God's love and biblical truth. Especially when faced with someone who thinks and acts differently than us.
Will you join me in purposing to stop stirring up strife when it comes to someone in your life? And to choose to love and understand them? Especially when they are oil while you are water. Yes, even your spouse.
Dear Lord, grant me the ability to speak kindly, respond gently and at times, to hold my tongue. I want my actions and reactions to please and reflect You and Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What is the driving force behind your words when you spew anger? Wanting to be right or to be heard? Anger, selfishness, or pride? Take time to formulate a loving, understanding, and godly reaction for the next time you clash with someone.
Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (ESV)
John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
Am I an affectionate father? Like the geyser “Old Faithful,” do I spontaneously spew out love and affection on my children? Am I faithful to fill my daughter or son’s emotional tank with a warm embrace or a kiss on the head? Or am I so caught up in my own career and needs that I have no emotional capacity to give affection? Affection must be displayed.
A father with affection reflects his heavenly Father’s affection for him. It is out of an overflow of being comforted and loved by Christ that redeemed fathers show affection to their children. When the Holy Spirit gives us a warm and secure hug, we can’t help but hug our children and grandchildren. Eternal affection translates into earthly affection.
“Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today” (Deuteronomy 10:15).
Perhaps you have a routine of kissing and hugging your children each time you leave home and when you arrive home. There is no rushing out the door until you have made emotional deposits in your most valued relational account. Your child is your lockbox of love, waiting with a tender heart to be touched by their daddy. Initiate hugs and kisses.
When a child’s heart hurts from fear, rejection, or physical harm, move closer with care and compassion. Listen with empathetic ears and outstretched arms. Affectionate fathers are up close and personal, distant fathers are unsympathetic and impersonal. Your seeds of affection reap a harvest of healthy adult children who want to come back home.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20b).
Since He sets His affections on you, you set your affections on Almighty God. A father who is first loved by his heavenly Father has the capacity to love his children appropriately and fully. Adult children who have experienced their father’s affection more easily show affection. So seek affection above and then apply it below.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8).
Prayer: Do I regularly receive affection from my heavenly Father? How can I intentionally be the most affectionate with my children?
Related Readings: 2 Kings 17:41; Psalm 103:13; Malachi 4:6; Luke 11:13
Post/Tweet today: When the Holy Spirit gives us a warm and secure hug, we can’t help but hug our children and grandchildren. #hugs
You see it in every Father’s Day commercial or Hallmark card, images of dad playing catch with his son, embracing his daughter, scenes of a blissful and carefree love of a father. However, that is not everyone’s reality. For years, I lived the reality of a distant dad, and by God’s grace have gleaned wisdom through this process.
Dad's distance began with divorce
Dad divorced mom soon after I turned five years old. I remember a stern man who expected me to be thorough in my chores. As a young lad raking the leaves at our humble home was one of my assignments. Dad was quick to point out any missed leaves and slow to affirm the vast majority that found themselves wrapped warmly in mom’s old tattered blanket.
My brother Mitch and I did spend summers with Dad and his new wife Pat. He met Pat at a bar in Grand Rapids, MI. She was a pretty and patient lady from England, who was able to stand up to my father with grace, and sometimes not so much grace. Pat accepted us, and always made sure we were fed and cared for during our brief time together.
Dad took us fishing from a pier in Pensacola, FL. and to Six Flags in Dallas, TX. We always engaged in activities, but never engaged much in discussions. Busyness competed with our conversations. Dad seemed comfortable not showing much affection and buying us gifts to somewhat sooth his growing guilt.
Dad's distance never changed until I did
When Jesus Christ became a reality in my life at age 19, I learned that I was to forgive my dad as God, for Christ's sake, had forgiven him. It was freeing for me to release anger, resentment and self-pity. Now I was energized by God’s grace to love my dad to Jesus. Rita, Rebekah and I moved to Ft. Worth, Texas in 1982 to attend seminary, but with a bigger mission to know my earthly father with the leadership of my heavenly father. I decided it was time I pursued my distant dad.
I learned to love dad in God’s strength, not my own. As a result he relaxed and bean to open up about his fears, dreams, work and upbringing. Though he was an accomplished technical writer of operational manuals in the Aerospace industry, he would lament that he was only a hillbilly from Kentucky. Amazingly, he even attended church with us one Easter where I pastored a small congregation outside of Comanche, TX.
Dad's distance transformed to pursuit
Fifteen years after I graduated from Seminary Dad had his third heart attack. It was in his horizontal state of sickness that he looked vertically to the Lord. He called and invited me to visit him! The next three years I traveled once a month to Dallas for work and stayed in Garland, TX. with my Dad and Pat for a day. It was rich as we went deeper in our respect and understanding of each other. We discussed the Bible and prayed together.
Dad attended the Pastor’s Wednesday Bible study at the local church. He told me in the hospital that he believed in Jesus Christ as the Savior for his sins! In 2000 my father went to heaven. I wept tears of grief and tears of joy, because my distant dad was close to Christ and close to me. Here is just a sampling of the wisdom I learned from my Heavenly Father through this time:
1. Pray, pray, pray and get others to pray for you and your relationship with your father.
2. Pursue your father with grace and patience.
3. Do not take his remarks personally, because unbelievers act like unbelievers.
4. Find common ground like a grandchild, sports, investing, food, golf or chess.
5. See your father as your Heavenly Father sees him: with compassion, forgiveness, love.
“When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” Genesis 49:33
Jacob gave his dying instructions to his sons as they waited at his beside. They lingered there out of love and respect. They had observed his life. And though not perfect by far, it was a life of overall faithfulness to God. The sons of the father wanted to receive his blessing and they were proud of the legacy left to them, a legacy of faithfulness to God.
What legacy will you leave? If you died today, how would you be remembered? These are important questions for your children’s sake. Maybe your parents did not leave you a godly heritage. Nevertheless, you have a wonderful opportunity to start a new tradition, one based on the principles of Scripture. Lord willing, your legacy will start a godly lineage that will reach across the future for generations to come. Yes, your name will probably be forgotten, but what you stand for will be held in high esteem for all to remember.
Perhaps you can start by documenting your family vision and mission. Write down outcomes you are praying for related to your family. Pray that your parental example of character compels your children to walk with Christ. Hold the Bible in such high regard that its commands and principles are lived out in love and obedience. Love your children with acceptance, discipline, training, and kindness. Follow the ways of God, and your children will see and secure a clear path of purpose to pursue.
Moreover, consider a family credo that defines what you value as a family. Character traits like humility, hard work, community, forgiveness, communication, and relationship. Weave these beliefs throughout the language and behavior of your family. Challenge each child to be intoxicated by Scripture, so much so that God’s word is on their breath and seen through their behavior. Slow down and be intentional in legacy building. Then your children and your children's children are more apt to love Christ.
“But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children” (Psalm 103:17).
Prayer: Do I live life with legacy in mind, and do I uniquely and fully bless each child?
Related Readings: Daniel 10:19; Joshua 24:27-29; Luke 2:29; Hebrews 11:13-22
Post/Tweet today: Follow the ways of God, and your children will see and secure a clear path of purpose to pursue. #modeltheway
Taken from Reading #3 in Wisdom for Fathers, click here: http://www.wisdomhunters.com/bookstore_category/books/
"I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people." Psalm 116:14 (NIV)
As soon as the opening prayer ended, I knew I had to leave my wedding. Whispering a quick apology, I turned and ran.
My patent leather shoes burned rubber, leaving my soon-to-be groom in a cloud of confusion at the altar. Fast down the aisle where my father and I had just walked. Past the curious wedding guests. Straight to the powder room where my purse and coat were waiting.
I breathed a sigh of relief. There they were, my written vows, forgotten in the excitement of preparations.
I hurried back to Joshua waiting patiently for me at the altar. Facing the man I loved, we exchanged our vows.
It's not every day that a girl makes a lifelong commitment like that. But it is every day I get to carry one out. Not just to my husband, but to my God.
Sadly, although I made a vow to follow God years ago, there've been times when I've left my vows behind. I've been a run-away bride, leaving Jesus and my commitment to Him in the dust as I took off for what I thought were greener pastures.
The whole time, He waited patiently. Waited for me to return and say, "I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people" (Psalm 116:14).
We can run all our lives, but we're never truly settled until we make and keep a lifelong pledge to the One to whom our heart truly belongs. In Him, we have all good things, including the gift of love—God's love.
As I read my marriage vows out loud at my wedding, I realized they were vows my heart needed to make to Christ as well. So I took the promises I made to my earthly husband, and re-addressed them to Jesus, as a covenant with my Savior, to record my heart's vows to Him:
There really is no place like home. I've come to know this with great certainty as my love for You, Jesus, has grown. You're my favorite place to be. That's because You are where I am most at home ... You are where my heart is settled, comforted and loved.
I vow to always keep You as my home base. To never stray emotionally, physically, or in my thoughts.
I vow to keep You as the center of my home. To seek You every day with all my heart, mind and soul, and to serve You with all that's within me.
I vow to keep my home clean from doubt, strife and unnecessary cares, and will fill it with believing the best about You, humility, and prayerfulness.
I vow to willingly submit to You as head of my life, to lean on You, and not be stubborn. And to allow You to serve me.
I vow to stay healthy and keep active, inviting You into my everyday activities.
I vow to dream and plan and pray for my future with You.
I vow to love mercy, act justly, and to walk humbly with You.
I vow to let You know every day just how very much I love and honor You. And to thank You for all the wonderful things about You that make You ... YOU!
If home is where the heart is, then my heart will always be with You.
I don't know where you stand with God right now ... how near or far you are. But I know from experience, the further away you are, the more lost you will feel. Today, let's run to Christ—and make or renew our vows to Him.
Lord, You alone are worthy of all my heart, soul, mind. Please help me keep my vows to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Consider your relationship with God. Do you take it as seriously as a marriage covenant? Write your vows to Him today.
Joel 2:12-13, "'Yet even now,' declares the LORD, 'Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.' Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil." (NAS)
Ephesian 5:25-27, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (ESV)
“‘Wanted’ is about a universal need, speaking to the child in all of us that is desperately longing just to hear somebody tell us we’re wanted. Somebody to tell us that we’re cherished and that we belong,” explained Maclean. “To not be wanted based on your performance -- We all have those relationships in life where we are loved based on how good of a friend we are or how good of a daughter or son, sister or brother we are. It’s conditional and it never seems to be enough. This song is calling out to the outcast and saying, ‘You’re not unlovable. You’re never too far gone -- in your worst moment, in your loneliest moment, you are still wanted, just as much as the person that seemingly has it all together, is loved by everyone and looks to have this perfect life.’ The baby that opens its eyes for the first time and the hardened criminal that gets sent to jail for the millionth time, does God want one more or less? We are all the same, we are all in need of Jesus and we are all desperately wanted by a Father that won’t stop until He finds every child that is lost.”
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalms 139:7-10 New King James Version)
“I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting to share with you my friends, the ones that have been such a support and on this journey with me, the heartbeat behind the song and ultimately, this record,” continues Maclean. “My prayer is that every note reveals the heart of God the Father and that His Love does what it always does. It heals, restores and makes new again.”
Powerful vocalist and songwriter Dara Maclean first sparked the music industry’s interest with her 2011 debut, You Got My Attention. The album introduced a powerful new voice in Christian pop, steeped in Motown and soul and beaming a heart for the broken and struggling. The LP reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Christian Albums chart, and album tracks "Suitcases" and "Free" each hit the Top 20 on Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart. "Suitcases" appeared on the 2012 installment of WOW Hits, celebrating Christian radio's biggest songs, and You Got My Attention closer "Home" was included in The Bible: Music Inspired By The Epic Mini-Series, a companion to the smash History Channel series. The Texas-bred singer-songwriter earned a New Artist of the Year nomination in the 43rd Annual GMA Dove Awards, and spent nearly two years straight on the road with some of Christian music's biggest names, including Casting Crowns and Newsong, and on major tours including Winter Jam and the KLOVE Acoustic Christmas Tour. Maclean has earned high critical praise throughout, NewReleaseTuesday including her among its Top 10 New Female Christian Singers in 2012, noting that "Dara displays the strongest vocals I've heard in years." Maclean is also passionate about raising awareness and bringing an end to human trafficking and is an advocate for the International Justice Mission.
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Exodus 37:3-4.
Do you outwardly favor one of your children over another? Have you used a phrase like, “I wish you were more like your sister, she always gets an A on her tests?” If so, you are in danger of creating an environment that fosters rivalry between your children. Sad is a child who thinks they have to live up to a sister or brother’s unreachable standard.
Jealousy jabs at the heart and causes a child to react angrily toward the object of their parent’s affection. Since they don’t feel like they measure up, they try to discredit the favored sibling or they create chaos to draw attention to themselves. It is disheartening to see even grown children remain in a state of fierce competition. Cruelty needs to be replaced with calmness—and anger with forgiveness, patience and love.
“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Proverbs 27:4-5).
Is there chronic conflict between your children? Is it to the point that they are becoming a poor testimony to the model of Christ’s caring approach to relationships? If so, consider creating boundaries in the home that help prevent disrespectful—even mean behavior. Start early on and instill disciplinary actions for disrespect, dishonesty and disobedience.
Perhaps you are one of the few Christians in your family and other family members treat you as suspect or strange. If so, prayerfully use your position of integrity to invest unconditional love and acceptance into their lives. Serve them unselfishly and forgive their insults expressed by their insecure attitudes and actions. You know better and they don’t.
“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace” (Acts 7:9-10).
Eventually you may be in a position to crush or care for your siblings—it is of course God’s will that you extend compassion and forgiveness toward them. When those who should love you the most treat you unfairly—forgive them—and model the gracious way or our Lord Jesus Christ. God chose your family for you to influence them for Him.
“But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).
Prayer: How can I embrace and celebrate the accomplishments of my siblings?
Related Readings: Job 42:11; Luke 14:26; Acts 13:45; 2 Corinthians 12:20
Post/Tweet today: Sad is a child who thinks they have to live up to a sibling’s unattainable standard. #rivalary