Welcome

Welcome to Heartsprings, where I share what springs forth from my heart for God and His people. I pray that what you find here blesses you and draws you nearer to your Heavenly Father who loves you like no other.

In His love,
Brenda :-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

God Is SOOOO Good!

God is SOOOOOO good!! I just want to shout it from the rooftops!! He has done so much IN me, THROUGH me, and FOR me....and my family. I was driving home from church this morning with tears of thankfulness in my eyes for all He's done. My husband and I have gone through some very tough times these past few years, and in the process we've made a mess of some things. A few months ago, we sought to clean up the mess. We repented before God and asked for His help, even though we didn't deserve it. The mess was created in disobedience, so the last we thing we deserved was God's help. I am so thankful that He is a gracious and merciful God. We are about to come out the other end of the tunnel and it's all due to His help. If not for His love and blessing, we'd be in the tunnel cleaning up for years. He has been so awesome!!

Another area in which God has so blessed me personally is with my children. I homeschooled my two youngest for five years, and for their whole lives I have poured myself into them. I believed my first calling was to raise godly men and I took that calling seriously. I did all I knew how to do to raise them up in the way they should go. I went through a season this past year in which I basically had a pity party. I felt as though all my efforts were somewhat meaningless because they didn't seem to mean anything to my boys. They didn't even remember half the things we did together while we were home schooling and that hurt. It mostly hurt because those were some of the best memories of my life with them. I was trying to create great memories for them, and they didn't even remember! It turns out that that's okay. A strong foundation was built in them and that's what's really important. I spent all those years reading Scripture to them, teaching them worship songs, helping them memorize the ten commandments, and praying, praying, praying (we did some reading, writing, and rithmetic too). :-) They're teenagers now and attend public school, and I am so proud of them! They bless my heart every day. Today at church I received a sweet confirmation that what I had done was good, and I reaped some reward. As I knelt at the altar praying and worshipping this morning, my youngest "man of God" came and knelt beside me, put his arms around me and prayed for me in the Spirit. I could hear his sweet prayer language like a beautiful song. What more could a mother's heart possibly ask for? It was one of the sweetest moments of my life and I don't think I'll ever forget it. Something really beautiful about that moment was the fact that this son was the one I had been concerned about when he was younger. I geared up to do double-duty on my knees when he hit puberty, and all glory to God, this one is a man after God's own heart and what a blessing he is!

God's faithfulness to me has never failed. Although there have been times of testing, and times of refining and character building that I did not always enjoy, I have enjoyed the benefits. The time when you are freshly out of the fire and you get to see some of the purpose for the trials is just one of the best times in life....every time it happens. I think if we hang on to the memory of what that is like, we can use it to help us get through the next fire. I say "next" because I believe we will continue to be refined until the day we pass into eternity. From fire to fire, our faith is being perfected, as well as from glory to glory. The fire makes the glory all that much sweeter, as God becomes sweeter the more you know Him, as you draw nearer to Him during the fire. It all works together, and it's a glorious working. Only God could orchestrate such perfection. God is SOOOOO good!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Letting Go

I know you've heard this a thousand times and it may sound like a cliche', but it is just simply the truth. God is amazing! The way He orchestrates things in my life and puts just the right people in my path at just the right time (or leaves me standing alone when I need to just be with Him) is perfect. The Bible tells us that God's ways are not our ways, and that seems to me to be such an understatement. His ways are mind-blowing! My tiny little brain cannot wrap around some of the things He does. For example, four years ago He gave me scripture that He has only recently fully explained to me. Also four years ago, He took me away from things and people that were precious to me, and I began the journey of a lifetime.

I was born in sunny southern California. I consider California my home state...I AM a California girl. I spent a lot of my young adulthood in the sand and surf of Huntington Beach, body surfing with a seashell tied around my ankle with a little strip of leather (an anklet my brother fashioned for me). I worked a job at night and beach bummed during the day. I've spent most of my life living in California except for a few stints in Texas where my dad is from. I met my husband in northern California, my children were all born in California. Mine and my husband's favorite spots were Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Yosemite...some of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion, and they were right in our backyard. Yes, I said "were". My husband and I now reside in central Texas after God relocated us almost exactly four years ago. It was sad. The saddest part of this story though, is how long I've spent mourning the loss of my life there. God told me, before we left California, that He was doing a new thing and would I not see it? I THOUGHT I wanted to see it. It turns out I didn't. He said He wanted to take me to the next level, and I THOUGHT I was ready for it. It turns out I wasn't. It turns out I followed Jesus right into the desert, and I wandered that desert for almost four years. I searched and searched for water, whining and crying the whole time, "Lord, why did you take me away from what I was doing and all my friends and family? I was finally happy, Lord!" Kinda pathetic, huh? I can say that now, but I was too deep in it back then to see anything but my circumstances. Things were not going as I had hoped in any area of my life. I was angry, sad, frustrated, confused, anxious....with spots of forced faith and optimism. I KNEW God had a plan for my life, I just had no idea anymore what that plan was, and I was not happy not knowing. I made half-hearted attempts at friendships and putting down roots, all the while secretly hoping we'd go back to California any day. Every so often, my husband and I would look at each other and one or both of us would say, "Can we go back now?" I was reminded more than once of the Israelites whining to go back to Egypt. I knew I needed to let go of the former things, and press forward, but I just couldn't seem to actually do it for any length of time. I was spiritually dry, emotionally frustrated, and physically depressed. I was in a very sad state. I kept trying to just cling to God, but most of the time it was just a matter of doing what I knew in my head to do and my heart wasn't in it like it had been before. The relocation had thrown me for a loop, totally and completely. I was in a tail spin and didn't know how to stop it.

Then one day I noticed the spinning was starting to slow down a little. God gave me a word through our pastor that opened my eyes, and began to minister to my dry spirit. I realized that God had truly not forgotten me. I realized that He HAD sent me to this desert to die, but to die to myself so that He could take me to the next level. Part of our pastor's message recently was entitled "Booted and Broken". That was us. We had been booted out of California and broken so that we could be revived, restored, and renewed (made even better). The next level is here in Texas and there had to be a breaking down so there could be a rebuilding. I now attend a wonderful church full of wonderful sisters-in-Christ, but I couldn't fully reach out to those women because I was still holding on to California.....until this past weekend.

This weekend I attended my first women's retreat in four years. My last one was in California. It was a very interesting experience, emotionally. When I first arrived I found myself resisting the whole thing. I missed my former pastor's wife and the way she did things....all the retreats I'd been to in the past. I wanted to be with my sisters from New Life. As I sat in the gorgeous living room of the mini mansion where we were to have this retreat, I suddenly wanted to cry and go home. I felt like a big old baby. I didn't want to be a downer to the other women and I knew if I could just get alone for a few minutes I could gather myself. I asked our hostess for a place to be alone and she directed me to one of the bedrooms. As soon as I closed the door behind me I dropped to the floor and sobbed. I'm not sure how long I was there, but after a good deal of praying and crying, I finally felt in control of my emotions. I joined the other ladies who were mingling and getting ready for things to begin. I wasn't out of the bedroom more than five minutes when one of the women asked me if she could pray with me. Apparently, one of the pastors wives had seen me slipping away and asked this sweet sister to go and pray with me. It was the beginning of a weekend full of wonderful works of the Spirit. My presence at this retreat was most assuredly a divine appointment. The first night there, the Lord showed me that I was still resisting fellowship with the women of this church because I was still holding on to California and a warped sense of loyalty to my friends there. Even though I thought I was letting go and reaching out, I really wasn't. Not completely. So all that weekend, the Lord and I worked on letting go of the past and moving forward in His plan for me. We worked on letting go of the need for the approval of man, and embracing the joy of the Lord. He led me to the most uninhibited worship I've ever experienced right where other people could see, and I didn't care! It was awesome; so freeing and so fun! I made some new best friends and heard some great words of teaching. For the first time in four years, I feel truly excited about the future, even if it means the rest of it is going to be here in Texas. I have finally let go of my wonderful life in California, and put both feet on Texas soil. My friends in California will always be my friends, no matter where we are and the Lord has brought me more wonderful, sweet friends here in Texas. He just keeps blessing me and expanding my tent pegs, and I finally see that.

Letting go has not been easy. It's been a process full of pain, heartache, confusion, frustration, anger.....I could go on with the list. I've never been one to turn on a dime. I'm slow at everything, especially when it comes to adjusting to major life changes. That's the way God made me though, and He always sees me through no matter how long it takes. He's patient with me, and I am so thankful for that. Letting go has been a great lesson in trusting God and having faith in what I know He has said regardless of what things look like. The process of letting go has led me to a place of deeper intimacy with God, and a clearer understanding of His joy. Letting go has not been easy, but it has freed my hands to receive the rest of what God has for me. I can now truly say with no hint of sadness, "I eagerly anticipate what You have for me, Father!" Amen!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Judging and Judgment

An interesting issue among Christians is the issue of judging. It's been my experience that there's some confusion there. A matter of semantics, perhaps. The following is my understanding of the subject. Take what you will from it. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will indeed lead us into all truth with clear understanding. Amen!

The first verse that comes to mind when I think of "judging" is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that you be not judged." This is the verse everyone spouts when they don't want to be judged, or they want to make sure YOU are not being judgmental toward someone else. The original Greek word for "judge" in that verse is "krino", and it means "to try, condemn, punish: -avenge, conclude, condemn, damn,......" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). In this sense of the word, it is absolutely correct that you should not be judgmental. It is not our job as Christians to condemn or punish. That is strictly God's domain. Then we look at I Corinthians 2:15 which tells us, "But he who is spiritual judges all things......". The original Greek there is "anakrino", which means to scrutinize, i.e. investigate, interrogate, determine, discern. (Strong's) We make judgments all day long. We judge whether to turn right or left, whether the tuna salad looks good or the pastrami for lunch, whether the actions of a person cause us to trust them or to be uneasy with them. Large, small, and in between - we make judgments every day all day long. As Christians we are to judge the sin among us. I Corinthians 5:11 tells us, "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner - not even to eat with such a person." Galatians 6:1, "Brethren if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." We have to use our God-given ability to judge sin according to His Word. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,"-2 Timothy 3:16

How can we correct our brethren if we do not judge when they're falling into sin? We're not to condemn or punish. Our job is to "scrutinize, determine, discern" that there is sin that needs to be dealt with and deal with it "in a spirit of gentleness". Krino judging is God's job. Akrino judging is our job. Same English word, different biblical (Greek) words/meanings. So, before you recite Matthew 7:1 next time, consider what kind of judging is being exercised. Is the person playing Holy Spirit, or are they doing their duty as a brother or sister-in-Christ in a spirit of gentleness? We are not called to condemn (judge), but we ARE called to discern and determine (judge) sin in our lives as well as the lives of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fervent Love

"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart" - 1 Peter 1:22
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.

According to Strong's concordance of the Bible, "fervently" in the Greek is ektenos which means "earnestly, intensely". It comes from a verb which means to "stretch out the hand, thus it means to be stretched out -- earnest, resolute, tense".

What I take from this verse and the original meaning of the word "fervently" is that the brethren, the body of Christ, is to be stretched out for one another. Our love for each other should be intense and earnest. The brethren should be a priority, even if it stretches us thinner than we already are. We have choices and we need to prioritize. When I think of this I think of the early church and the way they were there for one another at all times. They prayed for each other constantly. When someone was in need, the church reached out to meet that need. They shared everything; "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." -Acts 2:44-45
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.
That is some fervent love, they were all together and had everything in common. If someone was in need they would go so far as to sell their possessions to help. I don't see a lot of that in the church today.

Our society today is a very busy society. In spite of all the modern conveniences that were supposed to save us time and make our lives more leisurely, we are busier than ever. We don't have time in a day to sit down and write a note of encouragement or pick up the phone and call someone just to see how they're doing. Our modes of communication are more impersonal than personal these days. Facebook, MySpace, and instant messaging have replaced face-to-face contact. We talk about getting together; "Let's do lunch" or "We need to have y'all over for supper", "We should get the kids together." Have you ever heard yourself saying these things knowing full well it wouldn't happen any time soon? I have. I have a list of people I intend to invite for dinner, but haven't yet. There are a multitude of reasons why we don't get around to it. Our lives are truly busy. We wake up in the morning, blink a couple of times, and it's bedtime. It's crazy, and we need to stop the madness. Our lives are controlling us rather than the other way around. We are sorely lacking a fervent love for one another because of our busyness and the justification thereof. I wonder if our justifications will fly with God when we stand before Him. "Father, I was just so busy! The kids had soccer practice, the laundry was piled up, my in-laws were coming to visit, I just didn't have time to pray with sister so-and-so when she was sick and next thing I knew I was at her funeral." I wonder what He would say to that. I'm sure He would be gracious and loving, but would He say "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Somehow I doubt it.

I want to run this race He has set before me well. I want to be a good and faithful servant. The whole idea of fervently loving my brothers and sisters in Christ is a burden on my heart. How can I be obedient to this command in my busy life? Well, I actually have a few ideas. When I make an appointment I write it down in my date book, so why not make an appointment on my calendar to write someone a note. Make another appointment to invite someone to lunch, or actually schedule having someone over for dinner. Rather than sending messages on Facebook, why not call one of my Facebook friends and actually hear each others voices? My husband and I have even contemplated turning off the internet altogether. THAT would give me some time to devote to fervent love.

Love is not just a feeling, it is also an action. If we're not taking action to let others know we love them, we're not really loving. We are not only called to love one another, but to do so with fervency; in an intense and earnest fashion. That's serious love, active love, the kind of love God has called us to. So, what's YOUR excuse?

Use It or Lose It

It's interesting how many sayings or catch phrases society thinks it came up with that in reality, have their origins in scripture. "Those who have understanding will be given more. But those who do not have understanding, even what they have will be taken away from them." -Mark 4:25 (Use it or lose it). I could list several others, but that's for another note. :-)

What I want to share here is my reaction to this particular verse. To be quite honest, it scares me. I have understanding of many things, but I don't always put that understanding into practice. I understand that it would be good for my soul to rise up early and spend time in the Word. I understand that it would be good for my body to avoid certain foods and exercise every morning. I mull that understanding around in my brain as I lie in my comfy bed justifiying why I'm still in it. "I'm so tired and my poor old body is sore", I whine to the voice in my head telling me to get up. More times than not I end up falling back asleep and finally getting up an hour later with the sun streaming through my window and kids demanding attention. The opportunity to put my understanding into action passed me by. I allowed the window to close. Not only did I ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I failed to use the knowledge that He's given me. That, my friends, is a pure and simple lack of wisdom. Wisdom is putting your knowledge and understanding into practice. I WANT to do that. I WANT to be wise and follow every leading of the Spirit, I really do. I suffer from a severe case of the age old battle between flesh and spirit, and too many times I allow the flesh to win. I allow my aching joints and arthritic neck and back to determine my level of obedience really. How pathetic is that?! I know in my spirit that as a child of God, I am called to rise above my circumstances and when I do, God is there to help me. I've testified to that before, how God helps me do so many things in a day in spite of physical limitations. When I finally do get moving, He is always faithful to meet me and help me.

So, why is that first step so difficult? Why is getting out of bed in the morning one of the hardest things I do all day? I don't really know yet. :-) What I do know is that I don't want to lose what little understanding and wisdom I have. I need to do what I understand is the thing I should do. I need to be the person He is calling me to be and use the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that He has given me so that He can give me more. I need to use it so I don't lose it, and in Him I know I can. Amen!

Unity

Unity – Ephesians 4:3 (1775) henotes – (S) oneness, i.e. unanimity; -unity. (Z) one, of one. Oneness, unity. Syn.: sundesmos (4886) that which unites, a bond.

“A kingdom that is divided cannot continue, and a family that is divided cannot
continue.” –Mark 3:24-25 (NLT)

The body of Christ is a family, and if we are not united we cannot continue. We cannot perpetuate the gospel, contribute to the kingdom, or in any way attract a lost world to its Heavenly Father. Without unity we are rendered ineffective; impotent; paralyzed; useless. Churches are destroyed by dissension, marriages crumble when there is no unity, without a common bond there is no fellowship.

Unity in the body of Christ is a foundational need. We must learn to agree to disagree when the issue is not a salvational one. To argue every little point of doctrine is simply immature and petty. “Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” –I Corinthians 1:10 (NLT) “United in thought and purpose.” That is what we need to be. We need to keep our focus on the One who unites us, and His plans and purposes for our personal lives, and for the body of Christ as a whole. I do not believe that doctrinal divisions are His will. To me, they are a manifestation of man’s stubbornness and pride. That’s just my opinion, which is of little value really. The point here is that whether we are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Non-Denominational, if Jesus Christ is our foundation – the glue that binds us – we are family. If this family is to continue, we must be in unity. Arguing amongst ourselves, leaving our church family because our pride was wounded, taking on offenses that are rooted in nothing but ego, only serve to divide us and sabotage the work of Christ. I’m not saying you should never leave your church. There are valid reasons for moving on. We need to make sure our reasons are indeed valid, and not simply a matter of pride or bruised ego……or because we didn’t like the color of the church walls. God may have put you in that church to improve the d├ęcor!

When we are in right standing with God, listening to His Holy Spirit, following His guidance and direction, we will be where we are supposed to be. No church is perfect, no person is perfect. There is NO perfection this side of eternity, so stop looking for it. Be where you are supposed to be, set aside pride, and be honestly open to what God wants you to do. Make unity a priority. Take selfish thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, and fervently love your brothers and sisters in Christ, with all their imperfections. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”-I Peter 1:13(NKJ) Don’t put your hope in the worship music, or the amount of charisma the pastor possesses, or the congregation. Place your hope nowhere but in Christ, and He will never steer you wrong. He will keep us in unity. Amen.

Suffering For Satisfaction

"After his soul suffers many things, he will see life and be satisfied." -Isaiah 53:11
This was part of my devotional reading this morning and it really spoke to me. This portion of scripture is referring to Jesus, and I can see how it can relate to us as well. It seems to me that the things I have suffered have contributed to maturity in me. They have caused me to look at life with a new perspective and helped me learn to be content with what I have and where I am. Not overnight, of course, and usually after a time of fit pitching, but in the end I come to some sort of understanding - an enlightening, if you will. If I really stop and think about it, rather than just reacting, I really can rejoice in my suffering because I know it will end in satisfaction, and I know this because God is in control of every situation of my life. Not everyone can say this, unfortunately. Not everyone allows God to be in control of their situations, and their situations can have less desirable outcomes. I so often marvel at the fact that so many people endure this life without Him. I could not imagine it. I truly believe that without Him I would probably have been committed years ago. On my own, I am not very strong - emotionally or physically. I have been able to endure because Christ has strengthened me to do so, and Christ has strengthened me because I acknowledged that I was weak on my own and asked Him to be my strength. I ask Him every day to be my strength.

My physical limitations alone require His strength. He has allowed me to suffer a "thorn" in my flesh (actually in my bones), that causes me to rely on His grace to physically move. To His glory, I not only move, but accomplish many things in a day including carrying around a 23 pound 7-month old, and picking up a 3-year old. Every day I am amazed by His love, grace, and mercy. Because of my "suffering", all of my "sufferings", and the way He carries me through them, I have come to rely greatly on Him and to be thankful for the work He is doing in my life. I truly understand that His grace is sufficient for me, His love for me is unconditional, His mercies are new every morning, and He has a plan and is working all things for good. Because of this understanding, I can be satisfied with where He has me. I am willing to suffer when the suffering leads me to the satisfaction of knowing Him, which when I cling to Him in the midst of it, is exactly what happens. There is no greater satisfaction than that which comes with knowing Him better and loving Him more. To that end, no suffering is unbearable.