A Person After God’s Heart?

“But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22)

What does it mean to be a man or woman after God’s own heart?

God’s too smart to be impressed with outward trappings of success or charming looks and personalities. He isn’t impressed with our accomplishments or credentials. What matters to God is our hearts.

God has the ability to look deep inside us. It’s almost like he has some kind of spiritual X-ray that moves past the surface level and perceives the condition of our hearts. And it’s what he sees in our hearts that pleases or displeases him. According to 2 Chronicles 16:9, God searches the earth continuously to find people whose hearts are completely committed to him. When he sees those hearts, he gives favor and strength to those people.

David is an example of someone whose heart pleased the heart of God. If David can be a man after God’s heart, so can we. What characteristics do we see in David’s life that made God so pleased with him?

    1. He had a heart of faith. Through faith in God, David killed the lions and bears that attacked his father’s sheep, and he killed Goliath, who attacked God’s people. “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine” (1 Samuel 16:37). David knew it wasn’t his own strength or ability that brought victory—it was his absolute, unwavering faith in God. 
    2. He had a heart for God’s word. David wrote in Psalm 119:1-2, “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.” To have a heart after God’s heart means we read and meditate on his word so we can understand his heart. It means that what matters to God matters to us. It means if God says change, we change. It means that what breaks God’s heart breaks our hearts. It means we love who God loves.
    3. He had a repentant heart. Part of what makes David such a compelling character is the ups and downs in his life. He was a man after God’s heart…but he was an adulterer. He was a man after God’s heart…but he was a murderer. In Psalm 51:2-3, we see David’s repentant heart: “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin, for I recognize my rebellion. It haunts me day and night.” We may not commit adultery or murder, but we will mess up. When we mess up, we need to admit it, ask for forgiveness, and repent sincerely from our heart. God forgives and restores us when we come to him with a sincere heart of repentance.

God doesn’t require us to be beautiful to look at, filled with personality, or extraordinarily successful. He also doesn’t require us to be perfect. But he does require us to commit our whole hearts to him, to have faith, to love his word, and to repent when we make a mistake. Have no doubt about it: God notices a person with a heart that is committed to him, and he showers that person with his favor and his strength.

Dear God, I love you. I want to give you my whole heart. Make my faith stronger and deepen my love for your word. Help me love what you love, and cry about what makes you cry. And when I fail, help me to sincerely repent with my whole heart. As your eyes search the world for hearts committed to you, I pray you will see my heart and bless me with your strength. Make me a person after your own heart. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Fear Goggles

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust and faith in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

Fear is an emotion triggered by the perception of danger or misfortune. Unfortunately, it’s an unpleasant emotion all of us experience—no one lives their whole life free of fear. It’s been said that our emotions make a good servant, but a poor master. In other words, our emotions must not be what controls our actions. We must master our emotions rather than allowing our emotions to master us.

The instruction, “fear not,” appears more than 80 times in the Bible. God warns us about the negativity involved in fear, but if we all experience fear from time to time, what are we to do? How do we manage the emotion of fear instead of allowing it to manage us?

In Psalm 56:3, David tells us what he does when he’s afraid. When he feels fear, he intentionally chooses to put his faith in God. Fear is an emotion, but faith is a choice. We can choose faith in spite of our fear.

Our emotions are not in charge of our actions. Our feelings are not in charge of our decisions. God is in charge, and when we choose to act based on our faith in God, we reduce fear and elevate faith.

Remember the 12 spies who were sent to scope out the Promised Land in Numbers, chapter 13? God had promised to give the land to the Israelites, and God’s promises are sure. Yet 10 of the 12 spies reported from a fear-based perspective. They emphasized the danger and seeming impossibility of possessing the land. Their view of the land was skewed by fear goggles.

Joshua and Caleb saw the same powerful inhabitants and the same fortified and strong cities. They very likely felt the same fear as the other 10 spies. But they put their emotion aside and answered out of their faith in God’s word. They encouraged the people to go at once and take the land. They refused to look through fear goggles. They viewed the Promised Land through goggles of faith.

Feeling afraid isn’t a sin. It’s just an emotion. The problem arises when we give in to the emotion and choose our action based on fear rather than faith. We don’t walk through life wearing our fear goggles and being mastered by fear. No, we walk through life wearing goggles of faith and we act based on belief and trust in God’s word and God’s character.

Fear is a terrible master. God is a loving, wise, powerful, and faithful master. When we are afraid, let’s follow David’s example and put our trust and faith in God.

Lord, you see what’s going on in my life right now. You know what’s going on in the world. Sometimes it seems so chaotic that fear almost overwhelms me. In times when I am anxious and afraid, help me choose to act on my faith in you rather than acting on the emotion of fear. I don’t want to be controlled by fear. I want to be led by faith. Lord, I give my entire life to you. Help me walk each day in faith. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Do You Have Spiritual Amnesia?

“After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, ‘Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder…’” (Exodus 17:14)

We humans are a forgetful bunch. We forget our lunch. We forget our keys. We forget what we had for dinner last Christmas. We forget the name of that person we met last week.

And we often forget what God has done for us.

George Mueller didn’t forget. Born in 1805, he founded an orphanage in England that fed, clothed, and educated more than 10,000 children. During that time, he never asked for a donation to support this ministry. Instead, he took the needs of the orphanage to God in prayer.

We know about Mueller’s faithfulness and God’s provision because Mueller kept a journal of every prayer request he took to God and every time that God miraculously provided. Mueller’s journals contained over 50,000 specific answers to prayer. His prayer journals detailed his history with God. Each answered prayer increased his faith.

What is your history with God? Do you remember all he’s done for you?

In Deuteronomy 6:12, God urged the Israelites to remember how they had been delivered. In Matthew 26:26, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a way for us to remember how our salvation was purchased. In Psalm 103:2, we are told not to forget all the good things God does for us. In Joshua 4:6, God directed his people to stack up twelve stones to remind them of how he stopped the Jordan River for them.

God knows we’re prone to spiritual amnesia, so he reminds us to remember.

Remembering our past history with God builds our confidence and faith. It gives us courage and makes us strong in battle. It honors God’s work in our lives, makes us grateful, and encourages others.

How can we better remember God’s work in our lives? We can be like George Mueller and write it down. We can tell it to our children and our grandchildren. We can ask God to remind us of our blessings. And, when we pray, we can remember to thank him for the times he brought us through difficult situations.

Amnesia happens a lot on television, though not so much in everyday life. But spiritual amnesia is widespread and dangerous. What steps will you take to remember God’s faithfulness?

Father God, when I look back over my life, I see your faithfulness. But sometimes I choose to look more at my current struggle than my past victories. Help me remember those times when you brought me through a challenging season. Those times when you made a way for me in a seemingly impossible situation. Those times when I felt your presence and your love. Your love never fails, and your faithfulness never ends. When I face a battle, help me remember that you will never fail me, and that you will always meet my needs. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Controlling Your Thoughts

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

The female brown-headed Cowbird doesn’t lay its eggs in a nest she built. Instead, a Cowbird searches until she finds another female bird–let’s say it’s a cardinal–that built a nest and laid eggs. The Cowbird sneaks into Mama Cardinal’s nest when she is away, removes one of Mama Cardinal’s eggs, and replaces it with an egg of her own.

Instead of kicking the Cowbird egg out of the nest, Mama Cardinal incubates the Cowbird egg along with her own. The baby Cowbird usually hatches first and grows very quickly. Most of the food Mama Cardinal gathers goes to feed Baby Cowbird. Baby Cowbird may even kick Mama Cardinal’s chicks out of the nest. Mama Cardinal’s nest is taken over by an intruder, and her plan to raise her baby birds fails.

Our thoughts can be like a Cowbird in Mama Cardinal’s nest—intrusive and destructive. We must be proactive in monitoring our thoughts and bringing them in line with God’s word. Our warfare is largely influenced by our thoughts. Our thoughts can be our enemy or our victory.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, the apostle Paul gives us instructions on conquering the battlefield in our mind.  He instructs us to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This means we must pay attention to our thoughts, and notice when we have negative or untrue thoughts. When we identify one of these thoughts, we capture it, we grab hold of it, we pray about that thought, and we replace it with a correct thought.

For example, if we find ourselves thinking, “I’m a loser,” we can replace that thought with, “I’m an overcomer.” We could replace, “Nobody cares about me,” with, “God’s love for me is unfailing.”

Eventually, an uncorrected negative or untruthful thought can become a stronghold that must be demolished. Just like the Cowbird egg becomes more and more destructive to the cardinal babies, lies and negative thoughts left to run wild become more and more destructive in our lives.

Our thoughts can propel us to victory or drag us down to defeat. Thoughts must be examined. They must be corrected when they are wrong. It’s like the old saying, “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there.” We may not be able to keep a destructive thought from entering our mind, but, with God’s help, we can make sure it doesn’t make its home there.

Dear God, help me identify thoughts that are negative or are untrue. I want to think positive thoughts and believe truth, not lies. Show me any strongholds in my thoughts and give me power to demolish those strongholds. Show me lies I have accepted as truth and reveal negative thoughts that hinder my walk with you. Lord, I want my thoughts to be my victory, not my enemy. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Armor On!

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

Football is a full-contact sport. To prevent injury, teams provide football players with special equipment. Players are given a helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, cleats, thigh and knee pads, a mouthguard, and other items to protect them during the conflict.

Before every game and before every practice, the player puts on his equipment. It doesn’t just accidently appear on him. The coach doesn’t put it on him. The player is intentional about utilizing all the protective equipment provided for him by his team.

How cool is it that God provides the gear we need for the battles we face? We call it the armor of God. It consists of six pieces, and all six pieces are required every day to equip us for battle. The six pieces of the armor of God are:

    1. Belt of Truth: How do we recognize truth? Ephesians 4:21 tells us that truth comes from Jesus. To put on the belt of truth means to look to Jesus as the arbiter of what is true.
    2. Breastplate of Righteousness:  A breastplate protects the heart. We must guard our heart because everything in our life springs from it.
    3. Shoes of the Gospel of Peace: With a good pair of shoes, we are ready to stand, walk, or run as needed. The good news of God’s peace readies us to respond appropriately in every situation.
    4. Shield of Faith: A shield defends us from attack. The shield of faith protects us from every type of attack the devil may throw at us.
    5. Helmet of Salvation: What goes on in our head—our thoughts—greatly affects our lives. The helmet protects our mind from the negative thoughts the enemy sends to attack us.
    6. Sword of the Spirit – The Word of God. The Bible is our weapon. Every time we read our Bible or meditate on God’s word, we’re sharpening our sword.

Just as a football player intentionally chooses to put on his equipment, we must intentionally choose to clothe ourselves each day in the armor of God. We are told seven times in Ephesians, chapter 6, to “put on,” “hold up,” or “take” the armor of God. Grace is a gift, but the armor requires intentionality. When we wake up each morning, our prayer should include asking for the whole armor of God.

A football player wouldn’t dream of playing without his equipment. A soldier wouldn’t consider going into battle without his helmet, boots, and weapon. And we shouldn’t even consider facing a day without putting on the armor of God.

Ephesians 6:11 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. The armor is so important that verse 13 repeats that instruction again: “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil” (Ephesians 6:13).

The battle requires armor. God provides the equipment we need for victory. It’s up to us to intentionally choose to put it on.

Dear God, I thank you that I never fight alone. I know you are always with me, that you fight with me and for me. Cover me with every piece of your armor, today and every day. Forgive me for the times I’ve tried to battle in my own strength. I know my strength must come from you. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Take the Next Step

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Prayer aligns our will and purpose with the will and purpose of God. Through prayer, we receive direction and we understand what God wants us to do.

Sometimes we get derailed by looking for the entire plan for our life. Often, we want to see the big picture. But God usually gives us just the next step in the plan. Just one step. Then the next one. The big important plan often unfolds one step at a time.

At different points in our lives, we may wonder why God doesn’t just show us all the details of his plan for our lives. We feel we could make plans and better understand our lives if we knew more than one step ahead.

In the military, soldiers often follow orders in a battle without necessarily knowing the overall plan. The battle is won by each soldier following their orders without question or doubt. Disobedience in battle could be the difference between a victory and a defeat. The soldiers must trust their commander.

In the same way, we must trust God’s step-by-step instructions. Even though we may not understand where the next step is leading us or why it is important, we must trust the one who gives us our commands. We know it is through God’s power, God’s direction, and God’s wisdom that we are victorious. Because of our trust in God, we take that next step. Then the next step. Again and again. We walk into our purpose and into our victory one step at a time.

Sometimes we worry about missing God’s will for our lives, but if we sincerely want to follow his will, he will make sure we take the right steps. Psalm 25:8 says, “The Lord is good, and glad to teach the proper path to all who go astray.” We may miss God’s will if we insist on disobeying his direction and following our own path. But if we honestly want to follow God, he will make sure we walk in his will, step by step.

Bob Goff said, “What if we found out that God’s big plan for our lives is that we wouldn’t spend so much of our time trying to figure out a big plan for our lives?” What if we don’t worry so much about the big plan, and instead concentrate on loving God, loving others, and taking the next step when God shows it to us?

We’re in a battle. As we pray, we submit our will to the will of God, and he tells us what our next step should be. In effect, he gives us our next order. Taking that next step obediently keeps us moving in the right direction.

So, don’t worry too much about the big plan. Trust God. Love him, love others, and faithfully take that next step as it is revealed.

Dear God, I want to be in your will. I want to live out the purpose and plan you have for my life. Help me be patient in waiting for the next step in my life. When it comes, help me be obedient to take that step even if I don’t totally understand its importance. Let my trust in you grow so that I become more obedient and more confident in your direction. I love you, Lord. I trust you to direct my steps. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Prayer: Power for Battle

“Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, ‘Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?’ Jesus replied, ‘This kind can be cast out only by prayer.’” (Mark 9:28-29)

Powerful battles require powerful weapons. Spiritual battles require the power of prayer.

In their book, The Battle Plan for Prayer, Stephen and Alex Kendrick talk about how important trenches were in World War I. Trenches offered protection from machine gun fire, but it was almost impossible to attack and defeat the enemy while hunkered down in a foxhole. Trenches provided protection, but they made victory almost impossible.

In World War II, the military of Great Britain attached an armored car to a farm tractor, and the tank was born. The steel of the armored car provided protection from attack, while the traction and mobility of the tractor made it possible to move forward and engage the enemy. Tanks enabled soldiers to move toward victory with power and protection. It was a game changer.

For Christians, prayer is our armored tank. Prayer covers us with God’s protection, and provides the power needed to engage the enemy and win the battle. Prayer is our game changer.

When we pray, it is not as powerless orphans. Rather, we pray as children of Almighty God, who possesses absolute power beyond anything we could imagine. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” He flat-out tells us that his mighty power is available to work through us. And that we should expect more than we can imagine—answers to problems, the destruction of strongholds, victory in battle, and so much more.

Do you want to align your will and purpose with God’s will and purpose? Pray. Do you want to see change in the lives of your family or friends? Pray. Do you want to see the purposes of evil destroyed? Pray. Do you want to see change in your community, your nation, and the world? Yes, you guessed it—PRAY.

Father God, it is such a privilege to talk to you in prayer, and so amazing that you hear me. You are the God of the universe, yet you listen to me and respond to my prayers. Forgive me for the times I neglected to pray or prayed without really expecting you to act. Help me more fully grasp the power and importance of prayer. I want to pray in a way that changes me, changes circumstances, and defeats the enemy. I ask these things in Jesus’s name, amen.

Recognize Your Enemy

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty power in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

There’s a real-life battle being waged in the earth. The battle is invisible, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

So, who is our enemy in this battle? Who are we fighting against? Ephesians 6:12 tells us we are fighting against, “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,” “mighty powers in this dark world,” and “evil spirits in heavenly places.” Our enemy is invisible. Our battle is against spiritual wickedness.

Sometimes we turn our focus to other people and believe they are our enemy, but our battle is not with any person. It’s not with our spouse or our neighbors. It’s not with people who look different than we do or believe different than we do. Our enemy is not any person or group of people. Our enemy springs from evil in the invisible realms of the spirit world.

Darkness and hatred spring from evil. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We battle darkness by spreading light. We battle hatred by spreading love. We do not defeat our enemy by quarreling and fighting with each other. We defeat spiritual evil in the heavenly realm by shining God’s light into the world and showing God’s love to everyone we meet.

Matthew chapter 5 says we are the light of the world and that our good deeds should shine out for all to see. It also says we cannot get by with just loving those who love us but must also love those who treat us badly.

The world has plenty of darkness and plenty of hatred. We can change that by speaking and sharing light, life, and love to those we come in contact with. We share God’s light and love when we are kind and generous with people, even to those who we think may not deserve it. What each of us does to spread light and love helps push back the darkness. It’s how we fight the invisible battle and defeat the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realm.

Dear God, thank you for forgiving my sins and filling my life with your love and your light. Help me spread your light and love to everyone I meet. I know there’s a battle between light and darkness, and between hate and love. Make my light shine out to break through the darkness and let me show your love to break through hatred. Help me remember my battle is not with people, but with spiritual evil in the heavenly realm. Thank you for giving me victory through Jesus Christ. In his name, amen.

Fruit Salad

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life…”

There was a man who made a fruit salad for his family every Christmas. The fruit salad was made of apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, and blueberries. It was something everyone looked forward to at Christmas dinner. Each year, he assembled all the ingredients needed and used them all to make a wonderful Christmas dish.

On occasion, someone might say they didn’t like apples or oranges in the fruit salad. They would ask for the fruit they didn’t like to be left out. But the man replied, “Each fruit has its own job to do. Together, it is crunchy, sweet, soft, tart, and colorful.”

And the man was correct. Each fruit played its own role. Together, it had everything needed for a tasty fruit salad.

In a similar way, the fruits of the Spirit work together to give us everything we need to live a godly life. Each of us needs the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If any fruit is missing, it leaves a gap in our spiritual preparedness, a weak area that can result in difficulties or struggles. But together they fully equip us to live out the purpose and plan God has for our lives.

Ask yourself: How well are the fruits of the Spirit operating in my life? Are you impatient? Do you struggle with self-control? Are you often worried and distressed rather than at peace? None of us are perfect, but all of us can be more fruitful. The Bible says that sometimes the reason we don’t have things is because we don’t ask. So ask. Ask God to produce any missing fruit in your life so your “fruit salad” will be complete. It’s a request he will gladly honor.

Dear Father, I recognize now more than ever the importance of the fruits of the Spirit. I know each of the nine fruits are essential elements that equip me to live a godly life. I ask you now to develop the fruits of the Spirit in my life. Help me abide in your word and your love. Let my life be fruitful and filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Power of Self-Control

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

Think about these statistics:

    • 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
    • 95% of dieters fail to lose weight or gain it back within five years.
    • 63% of gym memberships go completely unused.

The list goes on and on. We humans are a self-indulgent bunch. We know we should eat healthier, but we still have that chocolate doughnut. We know we should exercise, but we can’t resist a Netflix binge. We lose our tempers. We lose our patience. Our flesh cries out for things we know we don’t need. It pushes us to do what we know we shouldn’t do. And often we give into its demands.

It happens in our spiritual life as well. We know we need to spend time in prayer or reading our Bible. We know we should serve at church and share the message of Jesus with others. We know we should be kind, loving, gentle and faithful. But still, we often fail. In the words of Jesus, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The problem is our sinful nature. Romans 7:18-19 says, “And I know nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Because of our sinful nature, we naturally want to do what is wrong and to not do what is right.

Clearly, we need some self-control—some powerful self-control. The kind of self-control that can’t be attained through our own effort. This kind of self-control only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need more willpower; we need more Holy Spirit power.

Here’s the glorious good news: “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit…” (Romans 8:9). If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior,  the Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit changes how we think. If we give the Holy Spirit freedom in our lives, he enables us to live in a way that pleases God. The Spirit transforms our mind and our thoughts. He leads us to spiritual life, peace, and self-control.

If we’re trying to develop self-control on our own, we’re fighting a losing battle. Self-control is a fruit produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit. As we lean into the leading of the Spirit, our self-control grows, and we see our lives become more and more pleasing to God.

Heavenly Father, apart from you there is no goodness in me. My sinful nature continuously draws me toward that which I know I should not do. On my own, I lack the self-control to live a life pleasing to you. Father, help me yield my thoughts and my actions to the Holy Spirit so I develop the kind of self-control you want me to have. I want to do what is right. Help me do what is right by filling me with self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s name, amen.