May 29, 2007

Surrendering Jealousy

What kind of person am I?  Am I the kind of person who sees how good it seems someone else has it and wants to have all they do?  Or am I content with what God has given me, and earnestly looking for ways to help others? 

If I always think "the grass is greener over there", I show my true colors:  greed, adultery, wickedness, gossip and slander, selfishness, and unjust gain.  My heart is obviously full of envy.  Woe to such a person!  She brings trouble, her bones will rot, and she is cursed.

But if I live God's way, I will be content to focus on His statutes - what He tells me I should do.  I will not be swayed by bribes.  My heart will be full of peace, and my life will be preserved.  That's the kind of life God wants for me, and I certainly prefer that over the alternative.

There are times when, like Martha, I feel like I'm doing all the work while everyone else is doing nothing, or having fun.  Those moments when my husband is browsing the internet, reading a book, or playing the Nintendo DS while I am trying to prepare dinner, quiet two crying babies, occupy my preschooler, keep peace among my older children, juggle the phone, and avoid "losing it".  Sometimes things just don't seem fair!   In those moments, do I cry out to Jesus as Martha did, "Tell him to help me!"?  Or do I ask Him for the strength and wisdom to carry out the job He has given me.  If I look to Jesus for guidance, direction, and help, He will certainly not abandon me.  Perhaps He'll point out to me that I'm crashing and burning because I'm trying to "do it all", and that what I really need to do is turn off the burners and sit and spend time with my children.  On the other hand, he may reveal that the reason I don't have the help I crave from my husband is that I haven't asked him to help. 

There are times when I get "spiritually jealous" of others -- when I think to myself, "Why can he get away without spending the time in Bible study and prayer that I do?"  In moments like these I need to set aside my jealousy and stop trying to compare myself to my fellow Christian.  His life is different than mine, and God is working in Him in a different manner than He is working in me, while bringing both of us into His perfect will.  I should not concern myself with where God is leading my fellow believer, but should focus instead on where He is leading me.

God has given me specific convictions and responsibilities.  He wants me to follow His plan for ME, not His plan for my neighbor.  I need to keep doing what God calls me to do and let go of my desire for exact uniformity among members of the body.

Lord, help me to get rid of jealousy and be content.  I don't want to compare myself with others, but to do what You call ME to do.  Help me to carry my own load, asking for help when I need it, but not expecting everyone else's load to be just like mine.  More than anything, I want to have peace in my heart...a peace which I know only You can give.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:36 AM | Comments (2958)

Handling my angry temper

How should I react when everything around me seems to be out of control?  What do I do when my kids are testing the limits and seem to be provoking me, trying to get me to lose it?  Will I allow anger to sit in my lap just waiting for the opportunity to react?  Will I be quick-tempered, or will I be slow to anger, as God is?  Will I be full of sin and breed dissension, or will I try to understand my children, acting in a loving way?  I want to act wisely, but too often my first inclination is foolishness.  As much as I may want to be patient, I sometimes just feel too tired and worn out.  How do I refrain from lashing out in anger?  How can I get rid of it and avoid sinning?

 Only through prayer.  I need God's help to overcome feelings of anger and to respond to anger in a positive way.  He will give me the power to answer softly and gently, so I do not provoke my children or myself to even greater anger.  He will empower me to overlook the small offenses that matter the least.  With His help, I can avoid being controlled by my sinful nature, which often acts so foolishly.  God will grow the fruit of patience within me....a fruit which completely counteracts the anger of a fiery temper.  And He will show me which people to avoid, which TV shows to stop watching because witnessing a quick temper in other people will certainly make me more apt to display one. 

Lord, help me in moments of anger to look to You for help.  Help me not to rely on my "gut instinct" in responding to my children, but to seek Your best first, and to respond in a gentle, loving and understanding way.  I want to be known for my love and my patience, not a fiery temper.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:05 AM | Comments (4636)

May 22, 2007

My Fiery Temper


I am a redhead, and everyone knows what kind of temper redheads are supposed to have.  To think that I'm in the company of kings and godly men when I lose it with my kids....I admit it doesn't make me feel much better, because while I read about them I realized how irrational and ungodly they were behaving. 

First I read about Moses (Exodus 32:19), the precedent for the block flying out of my hand.  He threw down the stone tablets on which the 10 commandments were written, and of course they smashed to bits.  I'm sure it got everyone's attention - it was effective!  But I am certain that's not what God gave him those tablets for!  As I tell my kids, blocks aren't for throwing either...

Then there was Balaam (Numbers 22:27), whose donkey had a similar fate to the toddler standing on the toy that's not for climbing.  In anger Balaam beat his donkey when it disobeyed him.  How often do I discipline out of anger instead of love?  Lord, help me to not lash out in anger, but to discipline with patience in love when my children disobey.

I checked out David's brother Eliab (1 Samuel 17:28), who hurled false accusations at David when he got angry, calling him conceited and wickedhearted.  I don't often give voice to such accusations, though I often hear them from the mouths of my kids, and I must admit that such thoughts do enter my mind. 

King Saul (1 Samuel 20:30), who was pretty famous for his violent temper, hurled insults at his own son (as well as his wife) when he realized he was befriending David.  He called him the "son of a perverse and rebellious woman".  I've heard insults in our day which make Saul's words almost sound nice.  Thankfully such words rarely, if ever, cross my lips.

Even King David (2 Samuel 12:5) was not immune to having a bad temper.  In burning anger, he promised death to the man Nathan told him had stolen and served for dinner the one precious lamb of another man.  It was a rash and unjust judgment.  The punishment certainly did not fit the crime, and if David had known he was judging against himself, I'm sure he would not have been so harsh.  How ashamed I feel to realize that I am also apt to speak such rash and unjust promises when my kids just being kids.  Kids will run, they will climb, they will make each other cry at times, but a spanking and time in their room does not fit every one of their childish offenses.  Lord, help me to be wise and discerning, understanding how You would have me train and discipline my children.

Yet another king, King Xerxes (Esther 1:12) was furious and burned with anger when his wife refused to do as he commanded.  She was ultimately banished, and a new queen was sought.  How often do my children refuse to do what I ask?  How do I react to them?  Do I banish them, yell at them, or reach out gently and in love to these precious little ones God has blessed me with.  Lord, help me to extend your grace and love to my children and gently guide then in the right way, even when they refuse to listen.

And who could forget Jonah (Jonah 4:9), who was angry about everything after he had preached his doomsday message to Ninevah, but they had repented and the prophesied destruction didn't happen.  God caused a vine to grow overnight and give him shelter as he waited for the "fireworks"...and then He caused that vine to die overnight.  God asks him if he has any right to be angry about the vine.  "I'm angry enough to die!" is Jonah's answer.  Like Jonah I get angry and frustrated about things over which I have no control.  Instead of just trusting God for His best, I start to look for what I think God should do...I expect my kids to be perfect angels overnight, or for them to at least stop running and yelling and climbing all through the house.  Jonah, of course, sat back and did nothing, just simmering in his anger.  He spoke unwisely and selfishly to God. 

Lord, help me to weigh my words carefully and trust You to complete the work You are doing in Your perfect timing.  Teach me what to say and do to help my children along on the right path, instead of swinging from the extreme of yelling, throwing, and hitting to the opposite extreme of just sitting down and waiting it out.  Being a parent is hard, and I need your wisdom and guidance to bring these precious children up in the training and instruction of You, Lord.  Amen. 

Posted by jennbeck at 07:42 AM | Comments (1670)

May 21, 2007

A New Heart

I desperately need a new heart.  My heart is so deceitful, wicked, and full of sin.  I am powerless to change my heart.  It is beyond understanding and beyond cure.  The only way to receive a new heart is to ask God for it, as David did in Psalm 51:10-12.  I also need to eliminate sin from my life (Ezekiel 18:31).  Am I really ready to let go of my old heart and the sin and selfishness that goes with it?  Finally, I need to draw near to God, allowing Him to cleanse me (Hebrews 10:19-24).  He will sprinkle my heart, cleansing me even from my guilty conscience as I trust completely in Him and the hope He promises to me.

God promises a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:24-28), sincere, clean, and free of sin.  All my impurities will be gone.  All the seeking after the things of this world will be gone. But my heart is not perfect -- not yet.  I am in process right now.  One day when I reach heaven and see Him face to face, my heart will be just like His -- completely pure and sinless.  Even though the ultimate new heart awaits in heaven, my heart is renewed even now.  God purifies my existing heart as I trust in Jesus' death and resurrection.  Just as a heart patient allows the doctor to perform any surgery necessary to help his existing heart continue to function while awaiting the new heart he so desperately needs, I need to allow God to work His will in me as I await my new heart.

As I allow God to work in my heart, He changes it.  With a transformed heart I become willing to do what God says.  When the children of Israel were preparing to build the Tent of Meeting in the wilderness, many of them were moved by their hearts to bring offerings to the Lord for the work (Exodus 35:21).  And as Samuel anointed a formerly unwilling Saul to be king of Israel, God changed Saul's heart (1 Samuel 10:9). 

God had called Saul completely out of his comfort zone to lead an entire nation.  Similarly, God has called me out of my comfort zone to lead 5 children, to love and nurture them, to teach and train them, to guide them in God's ways.  If it had been up to me I would never have chosen to have 5 kids...I started out wanting only 1 or 2...then finally said we'd stop at 4.  God knows something I didn't -- he turned #4 into twins, throwing me for a loop and forcing me to rely on Him and His provision because I was unable to do my job as their mother without His help.  He has already used my 5 children to draw me closer to Him, as I have daily recognized my deep need for Him.  I have no idea what other reasons God has for blessing me to be the mother of so many, nor how I will rise to the future challenges, but I know that my willingness to rise to the occasion has come about by God changing my heart.

A changed heart also will help me to seek and serve God wholeheartedly (1 Chronicles 28:9).  Daid encouraged Solomon to seek and find God, to serve Him with all his heart and with a willing mind.  That willing mind is the result of a changed heart.  If my heart is not made new, I will want to serve myself, not God.  Because God purifies my heart, I can let go of myself, my cravings and desires, my sins, and the ways of the world.  And I can reach out and take hold of God's promises, trusting Him completely, and serving Him with all my heart.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:40 AM | Comments (191)

May 19, 2007

What do I trust in?


Having 4 feverish kids can seem overwhelming, especially when 2 are babies who want to be held constantly when they feel icky.  Especially when the croupy cough sets in.  Especially when one of them sounds like Darth Vader when she breathes instead of your sweet baby!  Managing a house and being a good mom is hard, but it seems completely impossible when illness sweeps through.  If I tried to rely on my own understanding, I know I would be completely crushed.  But if I put my complete trust in God (Proverbs 3:5), calling to Him for help, I know He will certainly deliver me and save me.  He will give me the strength and wisdom I need to face any troubles that may come my way, even the ones that break my heart or crush my spirit (Psalm 34:17-18).

Lord, help me not to rely only on my understanding -- on what my 5 senses tell me about the troubles I face.  Help me to put my complete trust in You, looking to You for the wisdom, for the strength, and for the salvation I so desperately need.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:24 AM | Comments (1935)

May 18, 2007

Who am I, really?


The way I look is important in this world.  People will make their first impression of me based on how tall (or short) I am, whether I'm chubby or skinny, what hairstyle I have, the way I dress, or other visible characteristics.  People may refer to me as the petite red-head with all those kids.  But God never looks at the outside to get any kind of impression of who I am.  His "x-ray vision" goes straight to the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  He knows the secrets I harbor and tell no one about (Psalm 44:20-21).  I don't even have to tell Him - He just knows!  He knows if in my heart I truly believe in Him, or if I'm just putting on a great act for my church or my friends.  He can even tell when I fool myself by chasing after things that don't matter.  He sees right through me, straight to the heart.

God searches my heart and examines my mind (Jeremiah 17:10).  As if He couldn't tell what's there at a glance, he takes a serious closer look.  He will make no mistakes.  He will reward me based on what He finds in my mind and in my heart.  Will it be a precious reward I will treasure?  Or a punishment I should fear?

God Himself is not the only judge I must answer to - His Word also judges me (Hebrews 4:12).  It reaches deep, penetrating through my physical being to expose my heart - the thoughts I hide there, the very attitude or purpose contained in it.  Each day as I study the Word, I become more aware of my own heart, how deceitful it is, and how much I need God to purify me from within.

Lord, help me to remember to pay the same attention to my heart as You do.  I don't want to let my physical body define who I am.  As I nurture my body, may I give the same special care (if not more) to my spirit, to my heart, to the very core of my being.  I know that you see right through me, straight to my heart.  Help me not to focus so much on my outward appearance that I am be blind to who I truly am.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:21 AM | Comments (1983)

May 17, 2007

Is My Heart Sick?



What a mess the human heart is.  According to Jeremiah 17:9 the heart is more deceitful than anything and is beyond cure -- I guess that means my heart is sick.  Look at all the things that come out of my heart (Mark 7:20-21): evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.  A couple of those really hit home for me.  I know more than anyone how much I struggle with my thoughts...few people know the evil things that come to my mind - those thoughts about what an "awful mom" I am.  I envy the moms who seem to have it all together.  I foolishly ignore my children's foolishness at times instead of nipping it in the bud.  I have moments of arrogance when I think I can do it all on my own.  Why do I listen to my sick -heart, following it in pursuit of happiness, instead of looking to and obeying the God of wisdom who knows me and my heart and will purify it as I ask Him to?  My parents would have called me "mule-headed", but that's not quite's really being "mule-hearted" (Jeremiah 16:12b)!  In my head I certainly know the right thing to do, the right way to go; but my heart too often stubbornly insists on its own way.

Who can understand my heart?  I certainly can't.  The heart baffles doctors, pastors, policemen, psychiatrists...  Only God can truly know and understand my heart.  He reveals to me how stubborn and foolish my heart is, and that only He can purify it, washing all that other garbage out of my heart.  I need His cleansing hand to work in my heart day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute because even though I am a Christian, my heart is still "exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick!"  (Jer 17:9 Amp)

Lord, thank You for showing me how evil and sick my heart is.  I know it is beyond human understanding or cure, but it is not beyond the reach of Your hand.  I know that cleansing and healing of the heart takes time.  It won't happen overnight.  So God, I ask You to cleanse me from within, help me to have Your wisdom, and guide me in Your perfect path.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:04 AM | Comments (3336)

May 16, 2007

Who do I worship?


So many things around me are beckoning for my time and attention - even for the time that I need to devote to God.  I must be careful, as Deuteronomy 11:16 reminds me, not to set any of these things above my relationship with God.  How tempting it is to veg out in front of the TV or play a video game when I ought to be praying or digging into the Word.  How alluring it is to try to stuff my emotions with food rather than seek comfort from God and rest in His presence.  I find the computer can be so inviting, yet so distracting if I let it draw me away from God's best for me.  I would love to be happy all the time, yet if I pursue it at any cost, without considering God's will, that is idolatry.  So is having the perfect house - whether it means taking all my time in making my own house be in perfect order, or doing whatever it takes to acquire my dream house.  Even people can become idols, if I set the happiness of friends, family, children, or the world above God and His Word.  Who am I bowing down to worship -- the true God, or the things of this world?

Looking at this verse in context, I am reminded of what I need to do to honor God.  I must faithfully obey God's commands -- to love and serve Him wholeheartedly.  Just worshipping Him on Sunday isn't enough.  Even reading His Word daily isn't enough if I only go through the motions and forget what I read as the day progresses.  I need to fix God's Word in my heart and mind, dwelling upon it, meditating upon it.  I need to take it with me wherever I go, just as the Jews bind little boxes of the Scriptures as symbols on their hands and foreheads.  I must teach the Word to my children throughout my day wherever I am, and specifically at bedtime and upon rising in the morning.  If I surround myself with reminders of what God is teaching me it will help me remain focused.  Placing posters of Scripture verses on the wall, Bible verses as screen savers on my computer, or even my own picture I have drawn to illustrate what God is teaching me can all be reminders to honor God instead of the worldly things which surround me. 

If I pursue the things of this world, placing them above God, I will not experience the peace of His presence, but will arouse His anger, bringing on myself a curse which leads to death.  But if I pursue God wholeheartedly, He promises to provide everything I need, bless me with a long life (and eternity in heaven), and give me victory over all of my enemies (physical or spiritual). 

Lord,  help me to remember You throughout my day so I may love and serve You with all of my heart all of the time.  Help me to keep the things of this world in their rightful place, perhaps using them as tools to accomplish Your purpose, but not allowing them to control me.  I want to honor You, but it is so hard to have the right perspective all of the time.  Help me to see with Your eyes and find victory over all the temptations I encounter.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:05 AM | Comments (4442)

May 15, 2007

Teaching and Praising from God's Word


I did not expect to dwell so long on one verse from Proverbs yesterday.  This is the second half of yesterday's picture.  At the center of the picture is God's Word, which I need to take in daily, to have it inside of me, to know it so well it becomes part of me, controlling and directing me in all I do.  God's Word reveals God to me, helping me to learn all I need to know about life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). 

If I do not know what God says, how in the world can I teach and admonish others wisely as Colossians 3:16 says I should?  But if I do spend the time in the Word each day, letting each passage of Scripture flow through me to the core, learning what God's will is and doing it... then I will be qualified to teach others.  Last year I was searching for a devotional book to use with my children because I felt they needed instruction in the Word each morning.  We finished one and started another, but something was missing.  Now I know what...I was not teaching my little ones what I was learning, but what another author had gleaned from her study of the Bible and found important to share with kids.  When I share with my kids what God teaches me, when I share joyously from my heart my daily discoveries, then I am teaching wisely!  It makes so much more sense -- to me and to them.  God wants me to teach my children from the heart the very things that He has put there in the quiet moments I spend with Him studying His Word.

How thankful I am for what God is revealing to me.  This year has been phenomenal as I have studied the Word consistently.  Beginning in September God revealed to me again how wonderfully true the Bible is through a short Bible Study about "God's Amazing Book".  Then I studied Ephesians, which reminded me of the grace God has given to me and my need to arm myself for battle.  In James, God taught me to put His Word into action, and it was then that I began drawing pictures of what He was teaching me.  Through studying Philippians, I learned to have a Christlike attitude of obedience as I press on to become the woman He has called me to be.  1 John shed light on who Jesus is and the love he wants me to show to the world around me to prove I belong to Him.  In studying the first 19 Psalms I learned about myself as a Christian, Spiritual warfare, and the character of God.  How amazingly God has worked in me and taught me in these 9 months.  He has planted His word in me, in my mouth and my heart so I may obey it (Deuteronomy 30:14).

Many mornings as I study God's Word, and often throughout the day, songs of praise pop into my head.  Sometimes a song I haven't heard in years comes to me all at once and I can't help but sing heartily, praising God.  God wants my heart to have a song of praise in it always.  When I praise Him (and my children praise Him) it silences my Enemy (Psalm 8:2).  It lifts my Spirit when I musically acknowledge God and exalt Him in song.  When I praise Him I am more likely to do the right thing and keep my heart pure, avoiding sin.  My songs of praise also become a tool for teaching my children about who God is and how important it is to praise His name. 

Lord, help me to continue to study Your Word and remember what you are teaching me, putting it into action.  Help me to teach my children wisely from Your Word, and continue to fill my heart with songs of praise to You, my great and awesome Savior.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:28 AM | Comments (1350)

May 14, 2007

Handling life's interruptions

I must plan my course but allow God to direct me (Proverbs 16:9).  A student in school may elect to do an "independent study" class, but he always needs a teacher to guide and direct him, making sure he's following an appropriate course of study and making legitimate progress as the term progresses.  A pilot, before taking off, must always submit a flight plan, detailing where he intends to fly, but many things can change that plan - he may have to fly around a storm, a sudden military situation could arise that necessitates a change, or a passenger could become ill or injured and need immediate medical attention.  When the pilot is in his plane, he controls it, but he looks to the air traffic control center for guidance.  They know what other planes are in the air, preparing to take off or land...they can talk to all the other pilots and know what their plans are.  Imagine the chaos that would reign if none of the pilots paid any attention to the people in the control tower.  If I don't listen to the One in the Ultimate Control Tower, who can see and understand me, my children, and others around me, I may be destined to crash and burn.

When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, I am sure he had his own idea of what route to take.  I'll bet he was surprised when God led them on a completely different path that didn't make any human sense at all -- straight to a dead end by the Red Sea!  But he didn't ask someone else for their opinion or direction...and he didn't turn around and try to lead the people by relying on his 5 senses when God was clearly and obviously directing them in His perfect path.  Because he obeyed, God demonstrated His great miraculous power by parting the waters so they could pass through on dry land and destroying the entire Egyptian army when they tried to do the same.  Drawing God as a radiant cloud reminds me of the way God led Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness so long ago...and that He directs me in a similar (though not quite so visible way) even now.

God can see the big picture... I cannot.  I need to make plans and not just wait for life to happen to me.  I must plan how to use my time, what to teach my children, what meals to prepare, how to spend my money... and I should not get frustrated when my plans seem to fall through.  God is the ultimate director who knows the pain my child may be feeling, and that child is far more important than any plans I may have made.  God is giving me an opportunity to touch the life of my precious child, love her with His love, and be bonded together with her, shaping her life as I include her in mine.  Though taking the time for her may appear to interrupt my plans, taking time for others is what God will always direct me to do - it's also what Jesus did.  Even when He was so busy that the disciples turned away the parents who were bringing their children to meet Him, He welcomed them with open arms, remembering that God called Him to demonstrate love to everyone at all times, even little children who may have appeared to be an interruption.

Posted by jennbeck at 06:31 AM | Comments (2901)

May 13, 2007

When life crushes me...

One of the things I like about the Women of Faith Bible study I'm working through is that there is plenty of space to write down my much that I am free to draw a picture to help me see the key point.  On the other hand, I am finding as I go back through the first few questions that the verses surrounding the verse mentioned in each question are very helpful in understanding the point.  When I first went through chapter 1 of the study I didn't "get it".  I thought, "How is this going to help me manage my moods?"  But now that I'm digging into these additional verses, it's all coming together to make a lot more sense to me.

Proverbs 15:13 says that heartache can crush my spirit.  King David's spirit was crushed on numerous occasions.  He described himself as being poor and needy, lonely and afflicted, scorned and accused by his enemies.  When his heart was wounded, broken, blighted or withered like grass, life seemed to stand still for him - he even forgot to eat his food, just as I often stop taking care of myself when life gets me down.  I have felt all these different things at different times. 

There are times when it may seem that I just don't have the things I need;  like David, I am poor and needy. It maybe as simple as not having clean underwear because I forgot to do the laundry - it's not true poverty, but it makes me feel like I don't have what I need.  Or perhaps it's when the air conditioner breaks, and it will cost thousands of dollars to replace it.  Because of good credit, I may not end up feeling truly poor, but spending a few days in an 85 degree house (with 5 kids!) until the new system is installed certainly can bring me down!

At other times, troubles seem to press in around me, afflicting me.  It may seem that no one else has ever experienced what I am going through; that is a very lonely road.  It seemed like that when I experienced a miscarriage during my first pregnancy.  My heart was broken.  It felt like no one could understand my pain and turmoil inside.  This wasn't true, of course -- I was not the only woman ever to lose a child, and Jesus was certainly right there by my side throughout the difficult time.  Friends sought to comfort me, and my husband was as sensitive to my needs as he could be.  God eventually brought me not only healing, but 5 more children, all born alive and still living!

Sometimes Satan, the great accuser, pelts me with accusations, reminds me of past sins that I have forgotten, or makes me feel guilty even for doing the right thing.  In moments when I have to discipline my children for their misbehavior, Satan steps in and plants a thought in my mind:  "I'm such a bad mom!"  I may know in my heart of hearts that's not true, but for that moment I stop and focus only on that one thought, that one accusation, those scornful words that are not of God. 

What should I do when life has dealt me a hand of affliction, scorn, loneliness, and poverty?  The first thing to do is always to pray, just like David did.  Hundreds of his prayers are recorded in the Psalms.  As I pray, I need to confess my sins, because if I cherish sin in my heart, God will not hear my prayer (Psalm 66:18).  I must renew my faith in God, perhaps even asking him to help me believe and trust in Him to work His will in me.  I must not forget to praise my Sovereign Lord for who He is - this will help me to recognize that He truly is in control of my situation, and it will silence the Accuser as well. 

When Paul was touched deeply with heartache and tears caused by hearing about how members of the church in Corinth were behaving, God led him to write them a letter.  I may need to do the same.  Perhaps I need to write to someone who has wronged me, someone who loves me, a child who may be feeling the same way I am, or even just write in a journal, like a letter to God.  Writing can promote healing, not just in me, but also in others who may read it.  For me, writing is a wonderful creative outlet.  It helps me sort out my thoughts.  Sometimes I feel I can express what I want to say so much better with the written word than with the spoken word.  How thankful I am that God gave me the ability to express language in a visual way through writing and drawing pictures. 

When life gets me down, I must remember that Jesus has been where I am - He is the great High Priest who has been tempted in every way just like me, yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:14-15).  He is here with me now to help me through whatever circumstance I may face.  I am certainly not alone. 

Posted by jennbeck at 07:08 AM | Comments (1114)

May 12, 2007

The Heart I Should Have


Yesterday I started working through a Women of Faith Bible study called Managing Your Moods.  I must admit that in working through the first chapter I bit off more than I could chew, but I had fun and found myself drawing pictures for nearly every one of the questions.  I drew so many pictures that I could not process all of it or decide on a picture to post here, so instead I went over what I had done with my 8-year-old daughter, who probably needs this study as much as I do.  I asked her to make sure I had answered the questions correctly as I read her the Scripture verses.  I was glad to find that the study is written on a level my daughter could understand - I have no question that she would be able to do a study like this along with me.  The questions in the study were not as deep as I tend to dig, so today I went back to question 1, which explores 7 verses and what they say about the heart.  My focus is on what kind of heart I should have, even though 2 verses also talked about a faithless or proud heart, which I know I should not have.

In Psalm 112:7 David writes about the steadfast heart.  I had to go all the way back to verse 1 to find out how to get a steadfast heart -- by fearing God and delighting in His commands.  I admit I don't always delight in doing what God tells me to -- I let my old sin nature have its way too often.  Part of me wants to delve into the Word keep on seeking and learning and doing what it says...but life happens - keeping up with 5 kids, the house, the finances, and the food - it saps me of energy and seems to rob me of the time I want to devote to studying and applying God's Word.  I have to find a way to let my whole life be about God and His Word, not forgetting Him, but steadfastly seeking Him.  Then I will not fear any bad news that might come my way because I know God will take care of me and sustain me - His Word promises that!

My heart should tremble at or be in awe of God's Word (Psalm 119:161).  I know I would tremble in awe at meeting a famous person.  I was trembling a few weeks ago when I stood before my Community Bible Study group to share what God has been teaching me this year.  I know I would tremble inwardly, if not outwardly, if I or my child were to receive a huge reward.  My heart should tremble each time I remember God's Word - what He says there is so important;  the commands in it show me how to live, the gospel tells how much God love me, and the end reveals the great reward I will receive for walking in His way.  God love me so much and cares for me so deeply that I need not tremble before my enemies when I face persecution, but only before His Word, which is to be feared, respected, and followed.

I want to have a blameless heart (Psalm 119:80).  I know the only way to have that is to follow God's commands, trusting in Him, and living as Jesus would live.  I was touched by the Nightline face-off between Christians and atheists.  I could tell that the Rational Response Squad considered it a shame that Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort trusted in God though they seemed to care sincerely about them.  But if I follow God's way, I know I will never be put to shame, even though the world around me may consider it shameful that I may be so "misled" as to believe in a God who doesn't exist.  The shame they try to place on me cannot stick because shame is a result of sin, not of trusting God. 

I enjoyed reading Psalm 131, which speaks of having a humble heart before God.  To get that, I need to still and quiet my soul by resting in the presence of God, knowing His power will sustain me, and not worrying about things I can't even control.  I love the result of a humble heart -- peace!  With 5 children, peace comes at a premium, but God promises that peace if I can just rest and trust in Him.  On the other hand, if my heart becomes full of pride, I will be punished (Proverbs 16:5).  When I act like I can do it all on my own, I end up frustrated and worn out.  But God wants me to have His peace.

Many in this world are faithless, walking in the darkness of sin without seeking or trusting God.  According to Proverbs 14:14 they will be repaid.  God wants me to be faithful and good.  He Himself will reward me for faithfully following Him in whatever He leads me to do, or wherever he may lead me to go.

It is hard to have a cheerful heart about everything, but according to Proverbs 17:22 that is the medicine I need to receive healing.  God promises complete joy (sounds a lot like a cheerful heart) when I obey God and remain in His love (John 15:10-11) and ask God for what I need (John 16:24).  Lord, help me to trust in You to give me true joy that can heal my spirit, my soul, and my body.  Amen.

In Luke 8:15 Jesus talks about the noble and good heart.  To get this kind of heart, I need to listen to what God tells me in His Word, remember it, and persevere in doing it.  This will produce a plentiful harvest of fruit in my life. 

Trusting in God, being humble before Him, delighting to do what He tells me to do, and following Him faithfully even when I don't feel like it will certainly help me to be less "me-focused" and more God-focused.  When my eyes are on me, I get caught up in my own troubles, mood swings, and the frustration of everyday life.  When I am centered on God, seeing myself and my world through His eyes, God will help me not to be controlled by my mood, but by His Spirit. 

Posted by jennbeck at 07:04 AM | Comments (2668)

May 10, 2007

God's Wonderful Law


I love Psalm 19.  I memorized it as a child and was glad to study it yesterday...and realize how little I really did not understand about it.  I ran out of time to really delve into the riches of this Psalm and mine them out yester day, so I opted to continue studying it today. 

Verses 1-6 talk about how creation bears witness to God and all He has done.  Scientists still do not understand all the stars and planets or how the whole universe works!  The complexity of outer space (and of the rest of nature as well) is an incredible testimony to the existence of a Creator.  How else could such order exist?  This passage reminded me of Romans 1:20 - "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."  Even in tribes that are unreached by the Bible, creation itself tells of God.  Nature follows natural laws - everything in nature does exactly what God has designed it to do. What if we followed God's laws so exactly, doing exactly what God designed us to do.  That's what David talks about in verses 7-11.

David uses 5 different nouns that refer to the Old Testament, Torah, and/or 10 Commandments.  God's Perfect Law seems to refer to the laws given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.  This law revives the soul because it points the way to Jesus, who truly can revive me and give me life.  On my own, I can't possibly keep this whole law because my sinful nature gets in the way. But Jesus makes me new.  He conquered sin, and when I trust Him instead of my own selfish desires, the impossible becomes possible. 

I experienced this principle yesterday afternoon, and some other afternoons lately.  My tendency for the last couple years has been to take the afternoons to rest, take a nap, have some time to myself.  For the last couple weeks I have been taking about an hour in the afternoon to clean the house while listening to a podcast.  I enjoyed laughing along with FlyLady while I tackled the laundry and the kitchen floor yesterday...then it was a joy to read and devour British history with my 2 oldest children while they built with Legos.  But the best part was the relaxing shower I had time for when all of that was done...all topped up with a not-so-hectic Wednesday night dinner before the race to Awana.  That brought peace to my house...and it all started with surrendering my afternoon nap and trusting God for the energy and strength I needed to move forward.

God has given trustworthy statutes to help me become wise.  The world makes up its own statutes as well.  Many are not good.  Ezekiel 20:18-20 talks about how we need to follow God's statutes instead of those of the world, which may be riddled with idolatry.  If I follow God's statutes, I will know God - that is wisdom!

God's right precepts bring me true joy, when I follow them.  These precepts refer specifically to the 10 commandments, but could apply generally to all of Scripture.  It may make me happy for awhile to do my own thing, but I will soon tire of that, and there will be negative consequences for doing whatever I want to.  But God knows best.  When I do what He asks of me, He fills me with joy that I couldn't receive any other way.  He fills my cup with His living water.

The radiant commands found in Scripture give me light so that I know which way to go.  When I follow God's commands, I walk in the light.  If I step outside of His will and walk on "my own path", I'll be wandering around in the dark again!  So many people in this world are ignorant of God's commands and so are walking in darkness.  God sent Jesus, the true Light, as fulfillment of the Law. 

In the midst of all the talk about commands, precepts, law, statues, and commands, David interrupts to talk about the fear of the Lord.  At first I wondered what the fear of the Lord had to do with any of these.  Then it struck me.  Fear has to do with punishment  If I don't live in God's way, according to His law, I will face the consequences.  If I have "pure fear" I will certainly seek God's will and try to do what is right.  Such pure fear lasts forever.  That sounds a lot like eternal life.

Finally David talks about God's ordinances, which are sure and righteous.  They are more precious than the world's riches, sweeter than anything on earth.  God has given me His Word to warn me of the dangers of going my own way.  If I do my own thing, the results are sin, punishment, depression, chaos, foolishness, shame...  When I follow God's way, He rewards me with peace, joy, more light, faith, wisdom...  Why in the world would I want to do "my own thing" instead of following God's way? 

Lord, like David, I need Your help.  I struggle with sin.  I want to do my own thing even when I know that Your way is best.  I even sin unknowingly at times.  Forgive me for those sins, Lord, and help me not to be a slave to my own sinful desires.  Help me to speak what is right and true, and to keep Your Word in my heart so that I may honor you in every way.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 06:58 AM | Comments (4199)

May 08, 2007

David conquers his enemies

David has come a long way in Psalm 18.  Just a couple days ago, I found him surrounded by enemies on all side, needing God to move heaven and earth to rescue him.  Then yesterday he needed God to rescue him from deep waters.  Today he stands strong in God's strength as he pursues, destroys, and crushes his enemies.  They cry for help - even asking God to help them, but God does not hear because they do not truly seek Him and follow His way.  He knows their hearts, and He knows David's heart.  He is a shield  for David, and gives him His shield of victory.  He taught David everything he knows, and helped him to climb up to a more defensible position on top of a mountain. 

After defeating his enemies, David is feared by all nations, who come and bow at his feet, honoring and obeying him.   David does not take the glory for himself but declares in verse 49:  I will praise You among the nations, O Lord, I will sing praises to Your name.  God has shown Himself to be the Living God, David's rescuer, his Rock, the Exalter of kings, the avenger, and the giver of victory.  He demonstrates unfailing kindness to David and his descendants - those who truly follow God as David did - forever.

Lord, help me to trust you for rescue, but also to be willing to stand and fight at the right time as David did.  May I learn from You how to conquer my enemies and utterly defeat them.  May I remember to give glory to You among the nations when I am victorious!  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 07:12 AM | Comments (3881)

May 07, 2007

Moving forward with God

Today I continued exploring Psalm 18, reading verses 16-29.  God rescued David from deep waters when he was surrounded by strong, crooked enemies, whose eyes were haughty.  God showed Himself shrewd to David's foes, but blameless, pure, and faithful to David. 

God was all the support David needed.  He rewarded him for pursuing righteousness by rescuing him, showing that He delights in those who truly seek Him. 

As I look down the list of qualities that David mentions or demonstrates in this Psalm, it seems like a tall order.  It is hard to stay humble, faithful, pure, sinless, blameless, and righteous when people around me are not.  How tempting to keep to the world's standards instead of God's.  In comparison to the world, my hands may seem clean enough, but God measures us by a different standard, by which my hands may be thoroughly filthy if I don't dig into His Word and seek Him daily, following Him as the Spirit leads me throughout my day.  This truly is a monumental challenge, and is humanly impossible.

I must never forget that my Helper, my Support, is not of this world.  God helps me to conquer the enemies (whether physical or spirtual) who seek to overwhelm and overcome me.  He even helps me to overcome every wall, every obstacle to righteousness.  Paul echoes the words of verse 29 in Philippians 4:13:  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

There are days when even getting out of bed is a challenge...when I'd rather not face my day, or my children.  Caring for them and dealing with their squabbles can be overwhelming at times.  Some days I don't even feel like I have the strength to do it.  But if God can give sufficient strength to advance against an entire enemy troop, what should I fear from my own 5 children?  They are not even the enemy!

Lord, thank You that You are my helper, my strength, my support, and that You delight in me.  Help me to seek You, to live out Your Word, and to trust You to help me overcome any obstacle I face.  Amen.

Posted by jennbeck at 06:54 AM | Comments (3967)

May 06, 2007

A Reason to Draw


Psalm 18 is 50 verses long.  I only got through the first 15 verses today, but they were amazing verses that showed how God rescued David from his enemies, and kept him from certain death when he was surrounded.  First, God sent an earthquake and caused a volcano to erupt.  Then He Himself came to rescue David, mounted on the backs of cherubim and concealed by great stormclouds.  Bolts of lightning served as arrows as His voice thundered and hailstones fell on all of David's enemies, scattering them and saving David. 

This picture may not look like much to a great artist.  But today God helped me realize that He has given me a reason to draw...  If it weren't for God's Word and the images they evoke in my mind, I would not be drawing at all.  It's not my gift, and I have never (before this year) had any interest in pursuing art of any form.  I appreciate great art, of course, but never felt qualified to do more than draw a few stick figures, a sun, a house, a simple tree, etc.  Studying the Bible and seeking to understand what God is teaching me is reason enough to do just about anything, even draw a simple picture.

I love Psalm 18.  It's the passage a woman in my church gave to me and prayed parts of it over me as I prepared to go to San Jose, CA 14 years ago on a summer missions internship.  But the verses I illustrated today - I kind of missed them whenever I read or studied this Psalm before.  But skipping them misses the point of how great God is and how much He cares for me - enough to part the sky, and use every force of nature to rescue me.  How Great is Our God!

Lord, thanks for giving me a reason to draw - to artistically express what You are teaching me through Your Word.  Thank You that You care so deeply for me that You would do whatever it takes to save me...and that You did when You sent Jesus to die on the cross in my place.  You truly are worthy of praise!

Posted by jennbeck at 07:14 AM | Comments (4487)

May 05, 2007

Do I trust God, or trust my gut?

Psalm 17 seemed complex.  It took some time to wrap my brain around the message of this passage.  In it, I found David, who had resolved not to sin with his mouth or follow violent ways, but to stay on God's path.  Even though he was doing the right thing and following God's plan, he was surrounded on all sides by men who were behaving like lions, seeking to do him harm.  David's first instinct is not to run, but to call to God. 

It made me think of how I tend to react to Satan's attacks.  1 Peter 5:8 advises believers: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  How many times does Satan come up and catch me off guard because I've gotten so comfortable in my life?  How many times does he try to lure me off the path I ought to be on, into his lair?  What is my first impulse when I find myself surrounded?  Do I hide out and cry?  Do I turn and run away (possibly off God's perfect path)?  Do I give in to sin? 

I know what I ought to do.  I ought to stand my ground, remembering God's Word, the powerful sword with which I can fight.  I ought to renew my resolution not to sin.  And I ought to pray to God immediately, asking Him to come rescue me. 

Lord, help me to meet troubles head-on with Your wisdom instead of relying on myself and my "gut instinct". 

Posted by jennbeck at 07:21 AM | Comments (2932)

May 04, 2007

On the Path of Life with Jesus


As I got up this morning, the song All We Need was going through my head, reminding me that I have all I need in Jesus.  Psalm 16 seemed to echo the song, as I read the words, "Apart from you, I have no good thing."  I pictured myself standing hand in hand with Jesus on the path of life that leads to heaven.   The Holy Spirit counsels and instructs me always.  Jesus delights in me and promises His protection.  With Him I have incredible peace (Do I always realize that?), so that my body can rest securely.  At times it may be tempting to stray off the path, if I don't keep my eyes on God.  But He has set pleasant boundaries for me that provide protection as I stay within them.  Eventually I will live in God's presence in heaven because He will not abandon me to the grave - He sent Jesus to die in my place because I could never earn entrance into His Kingdom on my own.  But Jesus never saw decay (v. 10).  Death couldn't keep Him down, and He rose from the dead on the 3 day, securing a delightful, joyous inheritance for all who believe in Him.  I can't comprehend what heaven will be like, though David anticipates eternal pleasure at God's right hand. 

Posted by jennbeck at 07:21 AM | Comments (259)

May 03, 2007

How to live with God in Heaven

I needed a short passage this morning.  I was thankful that Psalm 15 was just 5 verses long, and it's message was simple:  If you want to be able to live in God's presence, this is what you have to do!

In most of the Psalms, David tells us something about believers, their enemies, and God.  On the surface this Psalm appears to be different, as it addresses specifically what believers are to do.  However, it is obvious that the enemies of the believer would be doing the opposite things...If believers despise the vile man and honor believers, their enemies will despise believers and honor the vile man.  They go even further and slander and cast slurs on other people!  If believers keep oaths unconditionally, it's clear that their enemies will look for ways out of their oaths, desmonstrating that they cannot be trusted.  If a believer speaks truth from her heart (which is full of truth), it seems obvious that the enemy's heart is full of lies.  Instead of lending freely without interest as a believer does, the enemy demonstrates his greed by being stingy with him money and accepting bribes even against the innocent.  To dwell in God's presence, you must be righteous and blameless - the enemies of God are unrighteous and guilty of sin. 

I mentioned that each Psalm tells something about God - well, in this Psalm all the things that are true of the believer are qualities of God - he honors the righteous but despises the vile, keeps oaths unconditionally, is generous, blameless, righteous.  And He is the Truth (John 14:6).

It struck me upon reading this Psalm that I cannot be completely blameless and righteous on my own.  Without God's help, and especially without Jesus, I fall short.  James 2:10 tells us that whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles on one point is still guilty of breaking all of it.  All it takes is for me to have a greedy moment, and I would be excluded from God's presence, if it weren't for Jesus!  How thankful I am for God's grace.  Because of it, I am able to ascend His holy hill, and live with Him in His sanctuary, never being shaken...rather than dwelling in darkness with Satan and facing eternal destruction.

Posted by jennbeck at 06:44 AM | Comments (1694)

May 02, 2007

The Gospel According to David

Psalm 14 seemed a little confusing to me when I first read it this morning.  I saw that there was no one good, and everyone was foolish and didn't believe in God, and I wanted to cry out, "Hey, what about me?  What about you, David?  We believe in God?"  Then it hit me - He was writing about how we once were, and how the rest of the world now is.  God was (and still is) looking for people who were open to hear His voice, to see and understand who He is.  Those who did believe, He brought into His kingdom, and they became sons of God.  But the other "sons of men" didn't get it.  In their hearts, they're still saying, "There is no God!"

Someday God will completely restore the fortunes of His people.  I assume that means when we go to heaven to live with Him and receive the perfect bodies and minds He intended for us to have from the beginning.  That day fills believers with joy and gladness, but evildoers will be filled with dread, because that will be the beginning of the end for them. 

Am I doing my part?  Am I seeking God's will, and searching out those who are looking for God?  Am I showing them God's salvation, and praying for them to be able to understand who He is? 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

Posted by jennbeck at 07:08 AM | Comments (4511)

May 01, 2007

Trusting God When He Seems Distant

After I read Psalm 13 the song Hold Me, Jesus came to my mind because it also speaks of facing situations that seem way to difficult for me to face.  Life is full of those moments when God just seems so distant. 

Yesterday it was the moment when the outside toys had not found their way into the garage where they belonged, I had a phone call, and my 3-year-old had just bitten the hand of one of my 16-month-olds...all while I was in the midst of serving lunch.  It's enough to bring tears to the eye of any mother and cause her to throw her hands up in despair, and I certainly considered doing that.  But handling things one at a time, and trusting the Lord for strength and wisdom, I moved forward.  The toys somehow got put away, the phone call was over quickly, and my 3-year-old learned (hopefully) that it hurts people when you bite them!

Today's psalm reminded me of what to do when I can't see God's hand and the "evil one" appears to be defeating me.  I first need to remember God and pray for His help - that he will see what I am facing, answer my prayer, and give me the light I need to stay on His path.  I need to trust in Him, because he loves me more than anyone else possibly could, and that love never ever fails.  I need to rejoice in His salvation - for He sent Jesus to die for me, and someday all of these problems will be gone, just like ancient history; this life is temporary, but the perfection I will experience living forever with Him in heaven is permanent!  And I need to sing to Him, remembering the amazing situations He has already brought me through and all the wonderful things He has done.  God has been good to me, and I know He will continue to work in me.  (Philippians 1:6)

Posted by jennbeck at 06:33 AM | Comments (3074)