What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died – Triumphal Entry

{Read the previous post – an introduction to the posts I’ll be sharing this month as we lead up to Easter}

It’s midday on Monday, springtime in the city of Jerusalem. People bustle in the streets, preparing to celebrate the Passover. You’ve been observing the feast your entire life, commemorating the night the Angel of Death passed over the houses of your ancestors and killed all the firstborn in Egypt.

You hear a commotion in the street ahead and follow the noise and other curious people until you come to a place where the crowd has stopped to watch a man riding by on a donkey colt. Some of the people begin waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks into the road for the donkey to walk over. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed if he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, ESV). Your eyes widen as you realize the man is Jesus of Nazareth! You’ve heard about his miracles and his teaching, but you’ve never seen him before.

You watch him ride slowly by and continue looking until he’s out of sight. Then, you return to your work, too busy with your preparations to realize that something life-changing is about to happen…

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Readings for the first week of March

*As you read the various accounts of each event this week, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the Triumphal Entry, see Jesus on the donkey, hear the crowd shouting Hosanna…imagine you are there in the scene as it happens.

Monday, midday – Jesus enters Jerusalem.  It is springtime, and the city is preparing to celebrate the Passover.

READ:

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Luke 19:28-44
  • John 12:12-19

Things to Consider:

  • Why do you think it was significant that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  • Some accounts say the people shouted “Hosanna” as Jesus entered the city.  Use the Blue Letter Bible app, your Bible’s commentary or other source to look up the original Greek word for Hosanna.  What does it mean?  What were the people saying?
  • What is the overall feeling of “the people” or “the crowd” (not the religious leaders) in the city as Jesus entered?

Tuesday – After spending the night in Bethany, Jesus returns to Jerusalem and cleanses the temple*.

READ:

  • Matthew 21:12-17
  • Mark 11:15-19
  • Luke 19:45-48
Image Credit: hearthymn.com

*Just a little piece of geographical information – Bethany is roughly a 2-mile walk from Jerusalem (cited in John 11:18. It would have taken about an hour to walk at a decent pace). Details from several writers show that, rather than staying in the city, Jesus went back to Bethany at night to rest. Some speculate he may have even stayed with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, his dear friends, who lived in Bethany.

{Optional Event and Reading}

Wednesday, midday – Jesus enters the temple in Jerusalem to teach and is challenged by chief priests and elders. 

  • Matthew 21:23-22:14 (Chapter 21 verse 23-Chapter 22 verse 14)
  • Mark 11:27-12:12 (see above)
  • Luke 20:1-19

Wednesday, evening – Back in Bethany, Jesus is anointed by Mary at dinner and Judas conspires to betray Jesus.

READ:

  • Matthew 26:6-16
  • Mark 14:1-11
  • Luke 22:3-6
  • John 12:2-8
Image Credit: pinterest.com

During the week, reread the verses as many times as you can. Read them in different versions of the Bible. Listen to the verses on a Bible app that will read them to you. This will help you visualize everything and really write the events on your heart.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

How To Be A Godly Woman – Mary’s Example

I want to be a godly woman, a woman whose life has been visibly impacted by the gospel message. This type of life brings glory to God, and that is a Christian’s purpose.

I want that for your life as well.

Let’s be women whose lives please God. Let’s be women who respond with humble obedience to the Good News that Jesus gave His life for our salvation…

Ok, whoa. Time out. Let’s stop here. This sounds great and all, but what does it mean? HOW do we live godly lives? It’s great to want to, but how do we live it out?

We’ll look to God’s word for examples. Jesus’ mother Mary, called “favored one” (Luke 1:28) by the angel Gabriel when he came to tell her about God’s plan for her life, is an exemplary model of a godly woman.

Image Credit: Olivetree.com

Gabriel said, “the Lord is with you! You have found favor with God…you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (excerpts from Luke 1:28-33)

Man!!! That’s some overwhelming news to get from a stranger as you’re going about your daily business.

{Plus, Mary was probably about 14 or 15 years old at the time}!

However, Mary showed herself to be a godly woman in her response to the news from Gabriel. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38a)

Image Credit: (incourage)

Basically, she said, “bring it on. I’m gonna do whatever you say.” 😉

But seriously, this is what we learn from Mary about how to be godly women: godly women submit to God’s will for their lives.

We yield to what God has planned for us.

We say yes to where He leads us.

We turn away from the things He says no to.

Submitting to God involves trust in who God is. It involves confidence that He is sovereign and good and just.

Again, this sounds good, but how exactly do we get to this point?

Pray. Ask God to help us to do this. Ask God to have his way in our lives. (Then be ready to yield when He directs you).

Listen. How does God respond to your request? Where does He say to go? What does He say to do?

Read. Go to scripture and read about other godly women for more examples of holy living.

Talk. Seek out women who are leading godly lives. Consider why you think they’re godly? What about their lives leads you to believe they are living a life pleasing to God? What behaviors do they model? Ask them to describe times in their lives when God has required them to submit. Find out what obedience to God looks like and feels like in their experiences.

This isn’t something that will happen in a day or two. This will take repeated time alone with God in prayer and in reading His word. This will mean praying daily for God to help you submit to His will…even after you think you’ve submitted, pray each day that God will help you submit to Him that particular day.

I passionately encourage you to pursue a deeper relationship with God in this way. Submit to His will for your life. Adorn the gospel with your behavior. Let the world see how your faith has impacted your life.

Image Credit: pinimg.com

Guided Prayer:

Father,

Thank you for sending your Son to die for me. Thank you for making a way for me to have eternal life with you. Thank you for pursuing me and for bringing me to yourself. I want people to see that your sacrifice has impacted my life. I want people to see that you have changed me. I am your servant girl, Lord. May it be to me as you have said. I am blessed because I believe you will fulfill your promises to me. You have shown me that I can trust you. I want to submit my life to you, Lord. I don’t know what that looks like, but you do. I don’t know how to do it, but you do. Help me to do it, Lord. Help me to yield my plans and my agenda and my schedule and my to-do list to you. Make me humbly obedient. Make me your servant girl every day of my life.

Amen

What To Do if You Want to Hear From God

Have you ever asked any of these questions:

  • Does God have anything to say to me?
  • Is God trying to tell me something?
  • How do I know if God is speaking to me?

The short answers are:

  • He does.
  • He is.
  • Learn to hear His voice.
Image Credit: tounearth.com

Yes. God speaks to His children in a million different ways and about many different things.

Why should we care about hearing from God?

That’s easy…so we can bring glory to His name by being obedient to His will.

How do we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, when He speaks and what He says?

The answer to that question is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is – we have to be familiar with His voice.

The complicated part is HOW we become familiar with His voice. (But it’s only complicated because we make it that way).

We become familiar with His voice the same way we learn anyone’s voice: by listening to Him speak.

  • Walk and talk with Him.
  • Pray to Him.
  • Read His Word.

You probably know about those. If you’ve been to church or to a Bible study or Sunday school, it’s likely someone has told you those things. But there is another way to learn to hear from God, to familiarize yourself with His voice:

Work with Him.

That’s what Samuel did in 1 Samuel 3:1a – “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli”. The Bible doesn’t say exactly what Samuel was doing, but we know he was helping in the temple in some way. And one night, the Lord called to Samuel by name…

Image Credit: bible.com

I want that. Don’t you? I want to hear God calling my name. So, I want to know, How do we minister to God?

When we minister, we give help, serve, offer ourselves or our services. When we minister, we are sent to others, we supply something to meet a need, provide something, attend to someone, take care of someone, show care or concern for someone…

That tells me, if we’re ready to hear from God, we need to be in His service – attending to Him, caring for Him, helping Him. This means that we serve others. In serving others, we serve God. In ministering to others, we minister to God.

When we are God’s hands and feet in the world, when we work with Him, we will start to hear from Him. We will hear from Him and talk with Him so much, we will know His voice when He calls us.

Image Credit: pinimg.com

How can you serve God where you are right now? In your family? In your circle of friends? At your job? At your child’s school? Ask God to show you what to do, where to go, and how to minister to Him by ministering to others. Then, be ready to listen to what He has to say to you while you work.

Guided Prayer:

Lord,

Thank you for choosing me and making me your child. Thank you for desiring a relationship with me. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son to die for me.

Forgive me when I don’t honor that sacrifice. Forgive me when I don’t glorify your name with my life.

Help me to bring you glory, Lord. Show me what it is you want me to do to minister to others. Show me how to care for you by caring for others. Show me where to serve. Show me where to help. Show me where to minister. I want to hear your voice, Lord. I want to be in service to you.

Amen

God Desires a Relationship

Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. Furrowed my brow. Turned my face to the right and then to the left to look at different angles. Something was off…

Oh! No mascara! I’d been putting on make-up and stopped to eat breakfast with my daughter when she came downstairs dressed and ready for school. I must have stopped before I got to the mascara – the last step in the morning put-on-make-up-routine. I’m in the habit of putting my make-up on in the same order, and I guess since I stopped before I got done, I was thrown off. I didn’t stick to the routine, and it completely messed me up. I didn’t realize I missed a step, but I knew something was wrong when I looked in the mirror.

That’s how routines work. You do certain steps in a prescribed order. You follow a procedure. There’s a formula. Many routines become internationalized to the point that you don’t think about them – you’re on autopilot when you do them. Can you think of some of your daily routines that are like this? The only time you think about the routine is if you mess up somehow, like I did when I forgot my mascara 😉 Then you have to focus on the steps, really think about the procedure, to figure out where you went wrong.

Routines and rituals and procedures and formulas get us through life, don’t they? They’re helpful. They’re effective. They work. They’re safe.

It isn’t bad to have them and to use them…but our relationship with God can’t be like that. If we’re doing rituals or trying to follow a formula to get to know God, we’re going about it the wrong way. Focusing on the wrong thing. A ritual is all about the ritual. The formula is all about the steps. We’re trying to make something happen in a certain way for a desired result. When it comes to our relationship with God, though, our focus has to be on God. Who He is and what He’s done. We shouldn’t try to follow a set protocol to get to know Him. He isn’t interested in something we memorized to say to Him. He’s interested in our hearts. He’s interested in having a relationship with us. Relationships are more important to God than rituals.

Again, I’m not saying rituals are wrong of themselves. We have plenty of them in the Christian church. Tradition has its place – to help us remember. But, if all we focus on is the formula, we’re missing the friendship. If we relay on ritual, we miss out on the relationship – on the genuine, life-changing encounters with our Lord.

And I don’t want to miss that. Do you?

Image Credit: weheartit.com

Hearing God’s Voice

Did you know that Almighty God wants to have a relationship with you? It’s true. He wants to walk with you and talk with you. Actually, He already does, but if you aren’t familiar with His voice and how He reaches out to His children, you might miss His still, small voice.

Image Credit: pinimg.com

I’m not an expert, but I know He reaches out to me. I am much more familiar with His voice than I was a decade ago. I can point to specific experiences in my life when I know He led me in a certain direction toward something or away from something.

The first time I know for sure God was reaching out to me was when our older child was just a few months old. It happened over several months, so it wasn’t just one “conversation” if you will, but a series of little nudges from God. At that point, I wasn’t familiar with His voice, so although I knew something was going on, I didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. I only knew I had this wild idea to leave my full time job and be a work-from-home mom so I could be with my child. It took time and wise counsel to realize God was speaking to me.

As I gained more experience hearing from God and recognizing His voice, I realized sometimes He tells us no. Yes, you can go your own way and continue to do what you want, but that doesn’t mean God changes His mind. When God says no, He means no, and eventually, we have to learn to submit our lives. But life in His will is better than living in our own. I am definitely coming to understand and accept that.

If you are unfamiliar with God’s voice, I pray that some of the posts I’ve linked here will help you start to learn different ways you can experience God. These aren’t the only ways – I’ve had other types of encounters as well, but these are some of the most memorable ones for me.

As you learn God’s voice, you also learn to differentiate the enemy’s voice as well. I found this graphic that clearly illustrates some of the differences between God’s and Satan’s voices.

Image Credit: FortifyMyLife Blog

I pray you will seek Him. I pray you will listen to Him and talk to Him as well.

I pray you will learn to recognize and respond to His voice and submit to His will for your life.

Have you experienced a time when God reached out to you? What was it like? How did you know it was God? What was His message? What was your response? I would love to hear from you. You can leave a comment on the blog, on the Facebook thread, or email me at heather@heatherhooks.com

When Satan Tries to Lie 2

It’s 3pm. I’m standing in the kitchen mentally scrolling through my to-do list and comparing it to how much time is left before I need to get Ethan from school. 

One of the tasks that should be done ASAP is meal prep – there is chicken to cut and marinate for tonight’s and tomorrow’s night’s dinner. 

There isn’t time.  You’ll have to do that after you get Ethan. The message in my keeps repeating.

I look at the clock again.  It’s 3:10. I need to cut the chicken.  But I tell myself again, You don’t have time for that. 

Quickly, I shook my head, grabbed the chicken, and started to work. Guess how long it took to get it done?

About 15 minutes!

Fifteen minutes to prepare the main course for two separate meals.

AND there was still about 5 minutes left before it was time to get Ethan!!!

When I realized how quickly I completed the task but how hard I fought to put it off, I thought, what the heck?  Why tell myself I didn’t have enough time when I had plenty? 

I also realized I have been repeating similar phrases for years: 

There isn’t enough time to do that.

You don’t have enough time.

You need to leave in a little bit.  No need in starting something you won’t get a chance to finish.

And it hit me.  Man! These were lies from the devil, the king of liars!  Satan will lie to us and try to lead us astray and distract us even with simple things. He doesn’t always try to tempt us to do big, bad, sinful things. He’ll lie to you about anything and everything.

When I buy this lie, rather than getting started on what needs to be done, I open Facebook or Instagram or check my email or whatever else…anything to fill that space…and many times it isn’t healthy or productive.  I’m not being efficient with my time.  I’m not being a good steward of the space God has given me.  Then, a chunk of time has gone by, and I honestly could have done the task that needed to be done. 

But, Satan convinced me that I didn’t have time.

Does this happen to you?

The same thing happened the next morning.  There was about 45 minutes before time to get in the shower.  When I thought through my to-do list, I remembered the introductory video series I needed to watch for Flourish Writers Academy

Guess what the first thing was that popped into my head?  You’re exactly right.  I thought, I don’t have time to do that before I take my shower.

But the video series was 30 minutes, and I had 45 minutes before I needed to get in the shower! (You can do that math, right?!)

(It didn’t occur to me yet how similar this incident was to the “chicken cutting incident” from the day before).

I sat there a minute longer and decided to try to squeeze in one or two of the videos in the series. 

Well, I ended up watching all the videos in the start-up intro series for the academy.  Every.single.one.of.them.

If I’d bought the lie that I didn’t have time to watch the videos, I probably would have wasted that 45 minutes.  Maybe I would have gone ahead and taken my shower.  But, it’s more likely that I would have checked my email or gotten on Facebook and gotten caught up watching some crazy movie clips or scrolling around and reading all the mean things people were saying to each other about the inauguration and getting all bent out of shape about it.  More than likely, I would have done something that wasn’t life-giving or wouldn’t help me prepare for my day.

Instead, I ignored that voice telling me I didn’t have time and watched the videos. 

You see, Satan wants to steal from us, to distract us.  One of the ways he steals from us is by convincing us that we don’t have time to do the things we need to do.  Many of the tasks we need to do honestly do not take a lot of time.  They could be checked off the list in 30 minutes.  15 minutes.  10 minutes even.

I want to learn, and I want to help you learn, to recognize Satan’s lies. 

He does not have your best interest in mind.  He doesn’t care what you end up doing with your time, but he wants you to get your priorities out of line. He doesn’t want you checking off your to-do list. Instead, he wants you to waste your time doing something meaningless so later you’ll feel rushed, frustrated, or stressed and snap at your children or your spouse, for example.

And, Satan isn’t picky about what it is you’re trying to accomplish.  It could be something to build your faith; it could relate to Jesus or it might not.  But, it could also be something your family needs you to do, something you need to do for work, an errand you need to run…or any number of things. 

The thing is, if Satan distracts you from your tasks and get on Instagram and see pictures of your friend’s kids dressed all cute in matching outfits, then you’re going to be upset because you can’t get your kids to take pictures like that.  Now you’re distracted.  Now your mind is off God and into comparison-mode, and comparison will steal your joy.

Or you see a post about what someone’s husband built her or bought her.  And you feel hurt and jealous and think, my husband never does anything like that for me.

There goes that joy. Right out the window.

Or you see all the pictures from a friend’s recent trip, and you can’t remember the last time you went anywhere…

Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all a distraction.  It’s all lies.  It all sends you down the same dark path.

The best way I can think of to learn to detect and combat Satan is to know God.

People who are trained to spot counterfeit money don‘t spend much time studying counterfeit money.  They study real money.  They become experts at what the real thing looks like, what the paper feels like, and where watermarks are hidden. 

If you study the real thing, you recognize the real thing but you also learn to recognize the thing that is fake. 

That’s what I’d rather do.  I’d rather know God’s voice and know when something comes into my head that is different from God’s voice.  Then, I know – this isn’t God.  God isn’t going to say things like this to me.  God isn’t going to make me feel this way.  God isn’t going to lead me down this path. 

So, we can figure out we’re being lied to and take that thought captive and hold it against the truth. 

Let’s not do Satan’s job for him. 

But we also can’t blame everything on Satan. Some is our own doing.  He has gotten into our mind, yes, and a led us astray at first.  But then he backs off, once he’s convinced us that the lie is truth, and we do his job for him from then on.  We continue to do the things he’s put into our heads.  We’ve listened, bought into the lie and now we’re on autopilot telling ourselves we can’t do something we need to do because we don’t have time. 

How does Satan have you on auto-pilot?  What are the lies he’s taught you to tell yourself? 

What thoughts run through your head every day? What are the negative, unhealthy ones? They probably start with a phrase like “I can’t,” “I don’t,” or “I won’t”…

I can’t do that job.  I wouldn’t get hired.

I don’t know enough about this.

I won’t ever get a raise.

I don’t have enough friends.

I don’t have enough time.

I don’t have enough money.

My kid’s don’t ever act right.

Bring those into the light.  Call them out.  Name them what they are – lies from Satan meant to distract you from what’s true and what’s important.  Meant to keep you confused. Busy. Behind.  Tired. Frustrated. Stressed. Sad. Angry.

The next time you hear those negative thoughts in your head, start talking to Jesus.  Out loud.  Satan has to flee when he hears Jesus’ name.  So, start talking to Jesus.  Say His name and ask Him to expose the lie and replace it with truth from His word. 

You’ll be surprised at how quickly He answers.

Struggling Believer… I See You…I Am You…Together Let’s Discover What It Really Means to Be Servant Girls

So you believe in Jesus.

You know He was God’s Son, and you know He came to earth and lived among us as a man, as one of us. You know He taught about God and performed some miracles. You know He died on the Cross so the sins of those who believed could be forgiven. You know the tomb is empty because He rose and is in heaven with the Father. You believe. You’re a Christian, maybe even a member of a church somewhere.

But something is missing.

You aren’t growing. Or, you haven’t changed.

You took the big step: you believed.

But you don’t walk every day in what you believe.

You know stories about Him but haven’t experienced Him for yourself.

It is time to walk in what you say you believe. Every day. Be a servant girl. Live in it every day.

It is time to serve.

It is time to respond to the Good News, to God. To what He’s offering.

It is time to discover God’s will for your life and obey it.

It is time to recognize His voice and respond to it.

It is time for an intimate relationship.

It is time to pray and listen.

It is time to open your Bible.

It is time to live the every day details of who you say you are.

(I’m talking to myself, too).

Maybe you’re asking: How do I walk as a servant girl? How do I serve God? How do I respond?

I can’t answer those questions for you personally. God has to tell you that.

But I can tell you how to seek the answers.

I am learning to walk daily.

I am learning to recognize His voice.

I am learning to obey.

Image Credit: challies.com

I have to stop here because this is where Satan is telling me that I don’t do these things that I’m saying I do.

And he’s right. To a point.

I don’t do them every day, all day.

I get full of pride.

I get lazy.

I get distracted.

I get on the wrong path.

I am human, so I make mistakes and try to go my own way and do things in my own power.

But very soon God calls me back. I hear His voice. He shows me my sin. I repent and get back on the right path.

Yes, I still sin. Yes, I still make mistakes and get my eyes off God.

But I know His voice. I have a relationship with Him. We are always talking so it isn’t long before He gets me back where I should be. It isn’t long and I don’t go very far before He corrects me.

Because I know Him. I recognize His voice. I talk to Him and listen to Him.

I walk with Him. I read His word. I obey Him. I submit. I serve.

I want to share with you what He’s taught me about being a servant girl.

In 2021, I want to help you discover how to daily walk with God.

If you don’t already, please subscribe to Servant Girl Stories by clicking the “Follow” button at the top right corner of the blog’s homepage and leave your email address. New things are coming this year and further in the future, and I want to share them with you. As a whole, I hope to offer practical information, action steps, people to relate to and examples to follow as we learn to lead godly lives.

I’m looking forward to the journey.

Image Credit: A Bloomin’ Mum

Prayer of Affirmation

Lord, you have told me that you go behind me and before me and that you hem me in on all sides. You have assured me of salvation through your Son and of a relationship with you through your Spirit. You have shown me that I can always trust you. In these assurances from you, Lord, I am blessed. I will fix my mind on these things and receive your comfort. I will fix my mind on you and what you have already done and already given. I will yield to you. I will trust you. I will rest in you and be at peace.

Amen

Why We Suffer (Repost)

{The pandemic has me thinking a lot about suffering, especially its purpose; so I’m reposting this article I wrote in the spring}

It’s 1 in the afternoon.  My husband won’t be home for at least 3 more hours.  And the baby won’t.stop.crying.

He’s had a nap.  Been fed. Had a diaper change.

I’ve held him.  Bounced him.  Sung to him.  Put him down.  Picked him up again.  Everything I can think of.

But he won’t.stop.crying.

I remember a DVD the OBGYN gave me at a prenatal visit.  Something about “purple crying”.  The narrator explained that sometimes babies cry for no good reason – sometimes A LOT!  If you’ve done everything you know to do, and the baby is still crying, put the baby down in a safe place and walk away for a little while.

So, I lay him in his crib and go outside.  I slowly circle the outside of the house a few times to try and clear my head.

Each time I walk by his window, I hear him.  Still.crying.

That day is tattooed in my memory, but that baby is now in middle school.

EthanNewborn2009
Sleeping like a baby for his newborn picture in the hospital – January 2009

When I think of that day, I laugh.  Usually.  But it wasn’t humorous then.

What I didn’t understand as a new mama is that crying is the only way a baby is able to communicate.  To tell us there’s something wrong.

Why is that the only way, though?

And do they have to be so loud?  How is it that they change so quickly from content, cooing angels with their feet in their hands to irate, screaming banshees with their fists in tight balls?

Is there no other way to signal that they’re hungry or need a diaper change?  Surely God, in His wisdom, would have devised another way if there were one.  But, He didn’t.  So, there must not have been.

I mean, would I have kept the baby on a regular feeding schedule if he simply lay there sleeping peacefully or gazing contently at the ceiling fan?  Sure, I’d probably stare at him a lot, marveling at how cute he was.  But would it occur to me to feed him if he wasn’t causing a scene?  Possibly not.

The baby must do something to get someone’s attention.  To snap a caregiver out of her self-absorbed-ness.  To encourage a parent to…well, parent.

Hear me out…

This scene with my son came to mind recently when I read commentary on 1 Samuel chapters 16 and 17 from the English Standard Version Study Bible.  One sentence got my attention: “God trains David, through suffering, to lead his people”.

My immediate reaction: Wait? What?  Why use suffering?  Wouldn’t something else work?

To suffer is to undergo pain or distress.  To sustain injury.  It might involve anguish.  Suffering is…negative!

How does suffering  – which sounds negative – produce someone who will make a good king, parent, teacher, CEO, writer, leader…

Well, if I didn’t suffer, would I learn as much?  Would I pay attention as closely?  Would I even realize I was supposed to learn something?

If David hadn’t suffered, would he have become a great king?  Would he have been prepared to lead God’s people?

Maybe it is necessary to suffer because it drives us TO God.  As David suffered, he wrote songs that we continue to use to call out to God in our despair or to lift His name in praise.  David’s words have become prayers for millions.

When I struggled as a stay-at-home mom with an infant I couldn’t figure out, I cried.  A LOT.  And in my suffering, I turned back to GodWhom I had been ignoring for nearly a decade.

Would I have done that if everything had been all cute baby giggles?  It’s less likely.  If everything were going well, I wouldn’t have seen a need for God.  I would have thought, “I’m doing awesome at this mother stuff!” and gone about my business.

But people aren’t usually compelled to move or change if life is a bed of roses.

I have found that God uses suffering to move me.  To prompt me.  To inspire me.  To change me.  To point me back to Himself.  To cause me to seek Him.

When I think of it this way, I’m not as bothered by the fact that I will suffer in this life.  If that is the way God, in His sovereignty and providence, has designed life to be, then I will meet it head on and embrace what He teaches me.

*Crossway Books. (2011). Holy Bible: english standard version, study bible. Wheaton, IL.

How to Love God

I love LOVE! There, I said it.

I especially love the idea of romantic love – I have since I can remember. I am a hopeless romantic.

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But, since I surrendered my life to Christ, He has taught me that I don’t know anything about love. I thought it was something I was supposed to feel. An overwhelming, all-consuming emotion. It was supposed to make me happy and giddy and forever excited to see the person who was the object of my love.

While some of that isn’t totally inaccurate, it’s only one side of the story.

I have learned that a Christian’s love should focus on God above anyone or anything else; He is the primary object of our love.

We express our love for Him by being obedient to how He said to live and by demonstrating love to other people.

God is love; therefore, Christians are love.

Many would argue that Christians aren’t love. Some of the people you’ve met proclaiming to be Christians weren’t loving. I can’t and won’t dispute that. I’ve met plenty of people proclaiming to be Christians who didn’t act loving either. Heck! I proclaim to be a Christian but don’t always show love well.

God doesn’t call us to worry about those other people as much as He calls us to do better ourselves.

Loving others is our command, and we have to do better at it.

It seems like it would help if we focus on the right thing first: God.

How do we focus on God? How do we love God?

Scripture says we must be obedient to Him.

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Jesus tells us plainly in scripture that if we love him, we will keep him commandments. (John 14:15).

All.of.them.

Both practically – living them out – and conceptually – keeping our hearts and minds pure, too. (Matthew 5:27-28 gave an example of this).

Obviously, humans cannot do this on our own.

But it’s our purpose in life to keep our focus on God as much as we can. To pray to Him to help us focus on Him and to ask forgiveness when we don’t do it.

Be obedient.

Keep His commandments.

Live like He told us to live.

Pray.

Study the Bible.

Wait for His return.

Love other people.

This is what the Bible says about demonstrating our love for God.

But, exactly how do we do that?

I don’t know. We’ve got to talk to God it.

He’s given us the basics in His Word. He expects us to study it.

Then, we go to Him in prayer for the specifics – for how each individual person is to live out the commands.

It will look different for each person based on where you are in life right now.

He may ask you to be obedient by leaving a job.

by starting a job.

…by moving.

…by starting a ministry.

…by befriending someone.

…by trusting Him with your finances.

…by seeking Him about your relationships.

…by helping someone you don’t know.

by forgiving someone you don’t want to forgive.

by sacrificing your time for someone else.

…by spending more time in prayer and Bible study.

…by taking on a new responsibility at church.

…by stepping out of a responsibility at church.

Only through time in prayer with God can you discover how He has ordained that you should obey Him and show Him love. Spend that time with Him and with His Word and find out what He has for you to do.