With All Our Heart

When Moses addressed the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, he gave them this command. Israel, remember this! The Lord—and the Lord alone—is our God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

That commands still applies today to all who claim God as Lord. God wants us to be all in. Totally committed. With every part of our being. All the time. Not just when it’s convenient. Not just when we feel like it.

We are sinners who live in a broken world. A world which works overtime to pull us away from God and Jesus. This world tells us we’ll never measure up. It tries to define us by its standards. It is a world which tells us our efforts are hopeless, and we should just quit trying.

Sometimes we buy into Satan’s lies telling us we are unworthy, failures, and too far gone to have a chance at redemption. But those are just lies from the father of all lies. That is not God’s truth.

Our brokenness doesn’t define us. Our relationship with Jesus does. Jesus tells us we have the right to seek him and chase after his heart. In fact, he invites us to do just that.

Sure. We mess up. We sin. We fall short way too often, but Jesus knew all that before he willingly took our sins on his perfect sinless self. He allowed himself to be crucified for those sins. That’s where his grace comes in. Something we desperately need, but which we can’t earn or bargain for.

And what are we told to do in response?

Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We are to worship God with our entire being. Despite how the great deceiver might try and tell us our sins disqualify us from God’s presence, the only One whose opinion matters tells us he loves us with an everlasting love and adopted us into his family.

We are God’s beloved children. As such, we should strive to love him with all our heart.

How do you put this command into practice in your life?

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Israel, remember this! The Lord—and the Lord alone—is our God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (GNT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Through the Lens of Faith

When problems loom huge before us, do we look at them through the lens of faith, believing with God’s help our problems can be conquered, or do we look through the lens of fear, turning those problems into unconquerable giants?

I have to admit, this is an area I struggle with. Many a time I’ve allowed fear to keep me from stepping out to conquer those scary giants in the land.

When Moses sent twelve spies to scope out the land God promised them, ten of the spies looked at the land through a lens of fear. They exaggerated the proportions of what they saw. Large men became giants. They themselves became like insects. Walled cities became impenetrable. Looking through a lens of fear, these spies determined conquering the land was impossible.

Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, looked at the land through a lens of faith. They saw the same obstacles as the other ten spies. They saw the same large men and walled cities. Their faith, however, said with God’s help conquering the land as possible.

It took forty years of wandering in the desert before Caleb and Joshua entered the Promised Land they said could be conquered. Because of their faith, they enjoyed God’s blessings.

Because of the ten spies’ fear, they died in the wilderness. They did not enter the land and enjoy God’s blessings.

Like the ten spies who allowed their fear to become doubt to the point of refusing to enter the land and conquer it, our fears can become doubt, causing us to believe we’ll never conquer whatever it is that lies in front of us. We can exaggerate and enlarge our fears to the point of paralysis to move forward in faith. We can focus on the scary, and forget all about the God who promises to be with us in the midst of the scary.

I want to be like Joshua and Caleb. I want to look through a lens of faith. Instead of looking at the obstacles in front of me and allowing fear to keep me from moving forward, I want to look to God in faith. Knowing with God’s help, even my largest seemingly insurmountable giants can be conquered.

How about you?

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They told Moses, “We explored the land and found it to be rich and fertile; and here is some of its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and their cities are very large and well fortified. Even worse, we saw the descendants of the giants there. Numbers 13:27-28 (GNT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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No Other Gods

Well, here it is. The second week of February. Prime time to idol worship.

The Grammy Awards, Oscar Awards, and  Super Bowl have come and gone. Race cars will start swapping paint next week when the Daytona 500 kicks off. The Boys of Summer are headed to Spring Training. Hoops are being shot. Hockey pucks are flying. Soccer balls are striking.

We have television shows which idolize singers, dancers, and various other talents. And in no particular order, we idolize athletes, politicians, performers, business moguls, movers and shakers, ministers, authors, artists, family members, friends. The list is long.

Several months ago, the thought of how we humans idolize various people and things was brought back to mind as news reports stated members of the Houston Astros organization illegally stole signs of opposing teams using technology during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

As a result, the Astros were fined $5 million and forfeited their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. General manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A. J. Hinch were fired. Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets were also implicated.

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Unfortunately. It is.

For many in my area of Texas, the news hit hard. I don’t see as much blue and orange Astros gear sported of late. Not too many Astros flags flying, either.

Which leads me back to how we humans idolize people or things.

God made it abundantly clear.

His people are not to put any person or thing, ANY, ahead of their devotion and allegiance to him. God’s people are to live by God’s standards. They are not to live by the standards of the world. God’s people are to be ambassadors for Christ. They are to love as Christ loved.

Celebrating and appreciating talent is a good thing. Idolizing the person instead of honoring the Giver of the talent is where, I believe, we sometimes get off track.

No other gods.

God and Jesus Christ alone are worthy of our worship. Period.

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 Then God gave the people all these instructions;

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

“You must not have any other god but me.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:1-5a (NLT)

 

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Settle Down

courtesy pixabayWhen God allowed the Israelites to be taken into captivity by the Babylonians, he instructed the prophet Jeremiah to tell them to build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and enjoy what they planted. They were going to be there a while.

This wasn’t a day by day arrangement. Give it a go. See what you think of the neighborhood. If you don’t like it after thirty days, okay. You can go back.

Nope. God meant for the Israelites to put down roots in this foreign land because whether they realized it or not, he had a purpose for their time in Babylon.

Sometimes God sends us into a type of Babylonian exile. He sends us to a place we’d rather not be. Into a job or circumstances we’d rather not face. Those exiles might be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

When God exiles us and tells us to settle down, it isn’t by mistake. We certainly might wonder and question, but God did not get it wrong. He has lessons he wants us to learn about ourselves and about him.

Often, Babylon is the only place we can learn those lessons.

Some of us learn faster than others. I’m a slow learner.

Several years back, God exiled Pilot and me to our own Babylon. I often joked about us being in Babylonian captivity. But it was not funny.

I’ll spare you the details but believe me, I did not want us to build a house, settle down, and plant a garden. Not at all. I wanted us out of there ASAP. Like yesterday.

One godly friend patiently listened as I whined and complained to her week after week the whole entire time. (Waving to you sweet friend. You know.)

“Why isn’t God getting us out of here? Why hasn’t he opened other doors? Why is he ignoring our prayers? Why? Why? Why?”

My mentality was more rent by the month, rather than build a house and join the community mentality. I did not want to look for any good in the situation. I did not want to see what God’s purpose for exiling us was. And I certainly wasn’t going to enjoy it.

I was miserable. And I made those around me miserable as well. Not intentionally. Just as a by-product of my own misery.

Plant a garden? Not likely.

You know the saying you may not be able to control the wind, but you can adjust your sails? Pilot adjusted his sails. Not me. I restlessly kept an eye on the door for God’s deliverance. Not that it made our captivity end one second earlier.

From experience I know by refusing to build a house, settle down, and plant a garden during whatever exile God leads us to, we just might miss out on an opportunity to learn the lessons only that specific season of our life can teach us.

And wouldn’t you know it?

Three days ago, two and a half weeks after I wrote and scheduled this to post today, God told me to pack my bags. Looks like he’s leading me on another journey where he intends for me to build a house, settle down, and plant a garden.

I have a feeling I’m going to be there a while.

Ever felt like you’ve been exiled to Babylon? Were you able to build a house, settle down, and plant a garden?

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Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Jeremiah 29:5

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Hidden Behind the Clouds

courtesy pixabay

This time of year two of my favorite constellations, Pleiades and Orion, are visible over our house in the early morning hours.

Except this morning. This morning they were hidden behind the clouds.

Before I walk down the driveway to retrieve the paper I pause, look skyward, and marvel at God’s creation.

I wonder the One who placed the stars in the heavens and planets in motion is mindful of me. I am amazed the Creator who bound the cluster of stars forming Pleiades and put a belt around Orion’s waist, knows exactly where I stand when I go outside each morning.

But the other morning I was disappointed when Orion hid behind the clouds. There was no sign of his belt, his shoulders, or his sword. Clouds separated me from the stars I so enjoy viewing.

Although I wished the clouds would move as I stared upward, I was confident Orion was right where he was supposed to be.

Sometimes we might be in a place in life where we feel as if God is no longer visible. He’s hidden behind the clouds of life. Something moved in between us and blocked our view. During those times it might be easy to believe God left us all alone to stare skyward into a cloudy, dark sky.

Even when we look and can’t see God, he’s still there. He’s as constant as the Northern Star. We can count on him. When events in our life block our view of God, we need to hang on to what we know is true about him. Not what our eyes or emotions tell us to be true.

God loves us. He will never leave or forsake us. He has a plan; a good plan, for our lives. Our name is engraved on the palm of his hand. He counts the very hairs on our head. He knit us together in our mother’s womb.

And yes. The Creator God who placed the stars in the heavens and planets in motion, knows us by name and calls us his child.

Do you spend time marveling at God’s heavenly creation? Is there a constellation, or two, you favor?

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“Can you direct the movement of the stars—binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?” Job 38:31-32 (NLT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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