All I Have To Do Is…

When I stumble, it is because I chose it. When I lose my temper, get angry, become overwhelmed, get upset, I have chosen to do so.

It isn’t what God wants for me or offers me.

He offers me great peace.

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He offers to make my feet sure.

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Image Credit: Routine Bible

He wants me to rejoice.

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When I don’t live every second of my life according to this promise of peace, it is because I have chosen to look away from Him.

I have chosen to focus on my desires. My problems. My fears.

Instead, He wants me to focus on Him. He has given me His word so I can read and learn how to live the way He directs. He has made it clear and easy to understand what to do.

When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

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This is all I have to do.

My heart, soul, mind, and strength are all of me. They make up everything that I am. If all of me is looking at God, I will not stumble. I won’t get angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, or upset.

I have to pray that God keeps me from stumbling. It is my responsibility to read the Word and treasure it in my heart. It is my privilege to meet with God in prayer so He can write His word on my heart.

If I take advantage of the opportunity for a relationship with God that He has promised, I can begin to focus all that I am on the Lord my God, the one who is my Master and who has authority over my life.

Prayer – Privilege or Chore?

Ask God to settle in your heart what a privilege it is to pray.  Ask Him to move you past the duty (“I have to pray”) to the privilege (“I have the freedom to pray.”)  He is Emanuel, God with us, and He wants to talk with us.

Because He is Emanuel and wants to spend time with His children, our prayer times should be seen as an advantage, a benefit, an opportunity.

We are at liberty to pray to our Creator.  He has given us favor to do so.  Even more, He has assured us that He hears our prayers.  In Jeremiah 29:12-13, for example, the Lord says, “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.”  (MSG)

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Image Credit: Julie K. Gillies

A line in the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” sums up my point: What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

We are afforded the opportunity to talk with God.  To listen to God.  To be close to God.

When we talk to God, we have the privilege of knowing who we are talking with.  We know His name.  We are able to call Him friend.  We are able to call Him Father.

We have the freedom to make requests of Him:  Seek me.  Save me.  Teach me.  Heal me. 

We have the benefit of knowing He is always near, never far.

We have the advantage of time in quiet and stillness with Him.

Honestly, we can talk with Him anytime or anywhere because He is ever-present.

He desires us to talk with Him.  Sit with Him.  Cry to Him.  Lay our cares on Him.  Listen to Him.  Know Him.

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Image Credit: Shelbie-mae.com

Let us come to a place in our lives where we genuinely acknowledge the privilege = we are able to pray to God and have the confidence that He hears us.

Ask God to reveal your heart to you.  Do you see time with Him as a duty?  Something to be accomplished every day?  Checked off your list of tasks?  Is your time with God calculated?  Something you feel you must do to gain a desired outcome or response?

If this is where you are, don’t be discouraged.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

Or maybe you thought you already moved past this point and can’t figure out how you got back here.

Don’t let this get you down.  We go through seasons.  Life circumstances change.

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Image Credit:  Miracle Channel

The important thing to do is to realize when you find yourself in that place so you can pray and ask God for help.

Ask God to move you past the view that you have a duty to fulfill.  Ask Him to show you that you have been given freedom to enjoy something of a higher value: a relationship with God.  This plea for a deeper more genuine relationship is pleasing to God, and He will surely change your heart.

 

 

Help Me Get My Perspective Straight

We had a terrible morning.  Not our worst ever but the worst this school year.

They wouldn’t go upstairs after breakfast to get ready for school.  Then they wouldn’t come downstairs when it was time to go.

I raised my voice.

Alright…I yelled.  I’m not proud, but I  asked multiple times for them to come down, and they did not, so I yelled.

I hate sending them to school after a bad morning.  I rehash my mistakes all day.  And I told them that I felt that way.

But, we’ve been through this time and again – fussing at the to get ready for school each morning.  Sometimes it’s better, but then it cycles back.

So, the whole way home from dropping them off, I asked God what to do about it.  How to make our mornings go better.

When I got home, I quickly peeked at Facebook (so NOT what I should have been doing at that point.  I know.  But my mind needed to escape for a moment).

As soon as I opened the app, I saw a post requesting prayer for a young girl who’d been asked not to wear a cross necklace for her school pictures that day.  She chose to take a stand, so the prayer request was for strength and protection for her.

I thought, ‘How crazy.  Can a school actually ask someone not to wear a necklace with a cross on it?’

Whoever heard of such a thing?

Truthfully, I do not know the whole story.  Surely there are extenuating circumstances.

But I stood in my kitchen thinking about it and began to worry about the world where my children are grown up.

That familiar quiver crept into my chin and bottom lip.  That burn flared in my throat.  Hot tears welled in my eyes.

Here I was, wasting energy and precious time worrying over how I was going to get my kids through the morning routine when there were issues of their souls to consider.

Teaching them to trust God is more important.

Leading them to a life in Christ is more pressing.

Preparing them for persecution from a world that does not know the Savior should be my focus.

I’m concentrating on trivial things.  Things of this world.  I’m allowing Satan to distract me with details while my children’s eternal souls are at stake.

Whoa!  Hold on!  This is getting a little too “out there,” right?  I’m taking it too far.  We’re just talking about two kids who won’t get ready for school in the morning.  (Two kids who are in fifth and first grade, by the way, so we’ve been doing this morning routine thing for long, long time).  No need to bring their souls and their salvation into it, right?

I mean, they have to learn to get ready for school.  A mom’s job is to prepare her kids to live independently – part of that is learning to get ready for the day…so they do need to learn this lesson.

But what’s more important?  What deserves more of my focus?  How do I learn to balance the practical, real life, day-to-day lessons they need to get through life with the eternal lessons that matter for their souls?

I think that’s the real question: how do I balance everything?

How do I keep everything in perspective?

Seriously.  This isn’t a rhetorical question…

Parents who’ve been there and done that –  How do I do this?  How do I balance the everyday and the eternal?

 

 

What’s Your Story?

“…And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel…as it is written, ‘Those who have not been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’.” Romans 15:20-21 ESV

Paul quotes Isaiah here to explain Paul’s own mission to the Roman Church: to evangelize. Paul fulfilled his mission in part by sharing his testimony, and we are called to continue that today.

You may think, I’ve been a Christian since I was little. Nothing exciting has ever happened in my life. I wasn’t saved from drugs or a bad relationship or anything drastic like that. My testimony isn’t terribly interesting.”

While God has given dramatic testimony to some, the stories of others are less so. But those stories are not less valuable. All our stories are given to us by God to be used for His glory. And there is someone somewhere who would benefit from hearing it.

Be thankful for your redemption story. Share it boldly. Ask God to use it for His glory. After all, that’s why He gave it to you.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

I Won’t Go Back

“I won’t go back, I can’t go back

to the way it used to be

before your presence came and changed me.”

I sang these lyrics so many times with the choir at FBCIT! And every time I sang them – and even now – I am compelled to say, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”

I do not want to go back to the way I was before… when I was in darkness. When I turned away from God. When I didn’t believe in Jesus anymore.

No. I want to stay at Jesus’ feet. In the light. In His joy.

I am thankful that Jesus heard me cry for Him. I am thankful that He redeemed me, that He bought me back out of my sin, and that His blood covers me now. And Forever. Amen!

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

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A Giveaway and a Book Review

You definitely need to read Confident Moms Confident Daughters by Maria Furlough if you’re a woman who is influential in the life of a girl: a daughter, niece, granddaughter, student, church youth group member, etc. Maria makes it clear that the answer to the problem of how to be more confident for ourselves and our daughters lies in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  She supports her assertion with biblical scripture and her own life experiences.  She also uses expert testimony from various areas to support what she has to say about different aspects of identity and biblical confidence based on our identity in Christ.

As I read through the book, it felt like Maria and I were sitting across from each other having coffee and talking – the tone was so comfortable and conversational.  She truly shared her passion for God and family as she explored the topics of female body image, insecurity, and modeling godly confidence for the young women in our lives.

The book includes details from Maria’s own life experiences to help the reader see where she is coming from.  In addition, she discusses nutrition and physical activity among other topics related to body image.

I was concerned that the book wouldn’t be relevant for me at this time as my daughter is six.  Each chapter ends with a series of questions, and the readers are encouraged to discuss these with our daughters.  Upon first read-through of the questions for Chapter 1, for example, I felt they were over my daughter’s head – not age-appropriate.  However, I came to realize as I read further that I could adjust the wording of some and talk through a few with her right now.  Others, I can save for later.  Overall, because of my daughter’s young age, I am viewing the book as my preemptive strike!  I may not have these concerns with my daughter at this time, but they are certainly coming soon.  I can learn how to be more confident in my identity in Christ now so that I can begin modeling that for her immediately.  Some of the other information – such as Maria’s list of “Signs Your Daughter is Struggling (or Thinking about It)” – I’ll keep in my back pocket, so to speak, for when the time comes.

I honestly believe that every woman who has an influential relationship with a young woman would read this book.  It is so important to me, that I’m giving you the opportunity to win a FREE copy.

There are two ways to enter the giveaway –

  1. Like this post and leave a comment telling me about the girl or young lady in your life.
  2. Find me on Facebook at Heather Murdock Hooks and find the Facebook live video I posted about the book.  Like and share that post and leave a comment telling me about the girl of young lady in your life.

* Get your “name in the hat” twice if you complete one of the two ways explained above PLUS you subscribe to this blog by leaving me your email address (click on the “Follow” button to the right of this post).

Enter by 9pm Friday, August 30

5 Ways to Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

David and his army of 600 men returned home to find their city burned and their families and the rest of their possessions gone – the result of an Amalekite raid.  (1 Samuel 30:1-5)

David was distressed.  The men were distraught and talked of stoning their leader.

“But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God,” (1 Samuel 30:6b) and called for a prophet to come so David could inquire of the Lord’s will.  Once David heard what God wanted him to do, he and his men followed through and were able to recover their wives, their children, and all the things that had been taken from them.  “Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken.  David brought back all.” (1 Samuel 30:19).

The key here is verse 6b: David strengthened himself in the Lord.  The Hebrew word used here for strenghten is “chazaq” which literally means to tie fast, to bind strongly.  It signifies strong adhesion (Blue Letter Bible app).

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Image Credit: hereadstruth.com

In response to a potentially catastrophic situation – their families might be dead for all they knew, and the men were angry enough to kill David – David caught hold of the Lord tightly.

Can you see David doing that?

He seized hold of the Lord with both hands.

He bound himself to God and asked Him what to do.

The seizing, the binding, the holding tightly…this strengthened David.

The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how David strengthened  himself here…I’m reading into the situation based on the original Hebrew word used.

But, we know from other verses of scripture, there are many instances in Psalms for example, exactly how David strengthened himself in the Lord at other times.  And we can read story after story of how other people in the Bible made themselves strong by turning to God.  So, we can learn from God’s Word and apply this knowledge to our own lives.

5 Ways to Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

  • Pray
  • Read
  • Write
  • Worship
  • Fellowship

PRAY – Time spent in prayer binds you to the Lord

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  

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There is no one, right way to pray.  As the scripture above explains, when we can’t even think what to say in our own prayers, the Holy Spirit will mediate on our behalf.  However, I have heard of an acronym for PRAY to guide you when you go before the Lord.  (I have heard it from several different sources and explained in a variety of ways over the years.  While I cannot give a specific source citation, I can tell you that this isn’t my original material).

P = PRAISE – Begin your time with God by praising Him because He is worthy.  Thank Him for His blessings.  Sing Him a worship song.  Recite Bible verses that show gratitude and thanksgiving.

R = REPENT – Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness.  Ask God to help you truly repent and turn from that sin back to Him.  Ask God to show your sin to you and convict you so you cannot commit that sin again.

A = ASK – Share your prayer requests with God.  Talk to Him about the suffering and needs of others as well as things that are troubling you.  Ask Him to help you make a decision.  Talk to Him about your job, your health, your relationships, your future.

Y = YIELD – Finally, tell God that, above all else, you want His will to be done even if it is different from your desires.

Hint – as you seize the Lord with both hands in prayer, He will change your heart.  He will convict you of things you weren’t even aware were sins.  He will reveal His will and begin to change your heart to reflect His plan.

Make prayer an every-day priority.

Read – Time spent reading the Bible binds you to the Lord

Exodus 24:7 – Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people.  And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.

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Scripture is God’s love letter to us.  It is God’s Word.   His Word teaches us.  It encourages us.  It strengthens us.  It rebukes us.  It points us to God.  The more you read your Bible, the more you understand who God is and how much He cares for you.

Take time to read your Bible each day.

Write – Time spent writing about your faith binds you to the Lord

1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

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Write your prayers.  You’ll have a written record of them and can go back to this when God answers you.

Journal about what you learned in the scripture you read.  Sometimes when I do this, I ask God questions about what I didn’t understand and write out what he teaches me from the story.  Other times I may paraphrase verses or summarize Bible stories, explaining in what happened in my own words.  The exercise of journaling helps me glean more meaning than reading alone.

Write or journal about your faith journey as often as possible.

Worship – Time spent worshiping binds you to the Lord

Luke 4:8 – And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ “

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Image Credit:  journalconnection.com

Sing God a worship song.  Dance to worship music on the radio.  Do you play an instrument?  Learn to play worship music on your instrument.

Prayer is also worship.

Go for a walk and admire the things God created.  Praise him for the warmth of the sun and the singing of the birds.

Serve in a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

Show kindness to a stranger for no reason.

Go cheerfully to your place of employment and do your work to the best of your ability.

Love and care for your family.

Let everything you do worship the Lord.

Fellowship – Time spent in fellowship with other believers binds you to the Lord

Acts 2:42 – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Participate in a church service.  Attend a Sunday school class/life group.

Invite friends to a fellowship meal at your home.  Share a meal with someone in need.

Join a Bible study group.

Focus on Christ-centered conversation with friends.

Find a Christian mentor or become a Christian mentor to someone “younger” in the faith.

The idea here is to be in community with other followers of Christ.  To talk about Him.  To worship together.  To read scripture and study the Bible together.

Participate in Christian fellowship whenever you get the opportunity.

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Image Credit: desiringgod.org

Spending time with God in prayer, reading scripture from His Word, praising Him in Worship, writing to Him or about Him, and joining in Christian fellowship guide you into a deeper relationship with Him.  All these are acts of binding yourself to the Lord your God.  Hold onto Him tightly.  He is your Rock and your Shelter.   Like David, a man after God’s own heart, you, too, can strengthen yourself in the Lord.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

 

 

I am King Saul

Do you know the story?  The people of Israel wanted a king.  They told the prophet Samuel to go to God on their behalf and ask Him to give them a king so they could be like the other nations around them.

Although it wasn’t God’s plan, He listened to the people and chose for them a tall, handsome young man named Saul who looked the part of a king.  (You can read Saul’s story beginning in 1 Samuel 9 – just as I was doing one morning).

My house was quiet – no one else was awake.  Everything was still.  I was sitting at the table with my Bible, my favorite commentary, my journal, my pen…ready to pray, read, and learn…

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Samuel Anoints Saul – Image Credit: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com

According to 1 Samuel, Saul started out well, like many people do, but then the subheadings in the chapters began to hint at a change.  They read, “Saul’s Foolish Order”, “Saul’s Disobedience”, “Samuel Rebukes Saul.”  And as I continued to read through his story, I became irritated with this man.  What in the world was he thinking?  God chose him to be king over an entire nation, yet he was quickly and effectively screwing it up!

I shook my head, disgusted at King Saul for being foolish enough to disobey God after being so richly blessed, and in that moment, God clearly said to me, “You are Saul.”

– Well, that’ll stop you in your tracks.  –

As I read about Saul’s excuses for his disobedience: “I feared the people and listened to their voice” (1 Samuel 15:24), I was convicted by the many times I allow the world’s opinion of me to be the influencing factor in my decision-making rather than what God has told me to do.

During his reign as king over Israel, Saul showed himself to be disobedient, prideful, arrogant, greedy…but I can’t turn my nose up at him without being confronted with myself.  I have been and am all these things.

In the story of King Saul, God wanted his obedience.  The story is the same for me.  It’s the same for you.

My behavior…our behavior as followers of Christ is our worship of God.  It is how we show ourselves to be His children.  We are to follow Him in genuine obedience.  This is to worship Him.

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Image Credit: hiswordmylife.org

This means we obey Him completely, not in part.

This means we obey Him immediately, not when or if we feel like it.

Look, I’m talking to myself here.  It is my lesson to learn, but maybe it’s yours, too.

 

 

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

My mom always told me, “bloom where you’re planted.”  It seems similar to being “willing.”

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Image Credit: LessonsFromHome.co

When you’re willing, you want to.  You’re inclined to.  You’re ready to.  It sounds positive.  Like maybe you’re cheerful about whatever it is you’re willing to do.

To bloom where you’re planted means you’re willing to make the best of a situation – even flourish in that situation.

I think of Esther, a Jewish woman who became a queen of Persia and saved her people from a plot to have them all killed.  She bloomed where she was planted.  She was willing to act on what was right, use the position God placed her in, and save an entire group of people…even if it meant losing her own life.  (Spoiler alert – she lived!  Shew!  Read her story in the Old Testament book of Esther).

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Image Credit: SermonCentral.com

I think of Samuel, a young boy serving in the temple when the Lord came and stood and called out to him.  Samuel was willing to bring a word of prophecy from the Lord, even though the first word pointed to the death of his mentor, Eli, the priest.  Samuel bloomed where he was planted and eventually ushered in the monarchy in Israel when he anointed Saul as king.  Samuel was willing to be an obedient servant of the Lord. (Read this part of Samuel’s story in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 3).

When we find ourselves in situations that aren’t of our choosing – a job, a move, a social situation – it is our Christian responsibility to represent our God and our relationship with Him.  We must be willing to choose Christ-like behaviors, to treat others kindly, to do the best job possible…to make the most or the best of the situation…to bloom where we are planted.

 

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up }

In It, Not Of It

Being a Christian who lives in the world but isn’t conformed to it isn’t the easiest job I’ve ever had.  I’m sad to say that I have conformed to the world and what it says is right.  Thankfully, I turned to God again and let Him and His Word renew my mind.

Satan is crafty, isn’t he?  He knows how to make sin look good.  Fun.  Exciting.  He knows how to twist things aroundHe knows our weaknesses.  He has been allowed some power in the world.  Don’t believe me?  Look around.  Read the newspaper.  Watch the evening news.  Walk through the mall.

But the world can’t have me anymore.  I have made Jesus the Lord of my life.  I have given control to Him.  I see the world through Christ-centered lenses now.

I know that I am not home here, and I won’t be conformed to it or by it anymore.  Not with Jesus in my heart and His Word in my hand.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up }