Getting Lost

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Recently I drove out to my friend’s house in the country. The drive winds through fields of cows and dips along lines of pine trees—it’s beautiful. But it’s unfamiliar to a suburban girl like me. So I plugged my friend’s address into my GPS app and followed Siri’s directions. I had been there once before (following one of her family members), so I thought between my memory and my GPS, I would have no trouble.

Oh, I was wrong.

After twisting and turning down bumpy roads that were looking less and less familiar and taking far longer to reach my destination than I remembered, I figured that I had taken a wrong turn and that Siri would redirect me. So I kept turning where he told me to turn, trusting him to get me there. Finally, I turned down a gravel road and heard Siri announce that I had arrived at my destination. I was in the middle of a field.

I was lost.

I looked at the sun setting over the isolated fields and tried not to panic. I had no idea where I was or where my friend’s house was. I was alone and I had lost my internet connection. So I walked about until I could find a signal and called my friend.

She did not recognize the name of the road I was on, so I retraced my drive as far as I could (which was not far) until I came to a crossroads where, to my relief, a tall white steeple caught my eye. I pulled into the empty, but lit church parking lot and waited for my friend to find that intersection on her map. She figured out where I was, then drove out to find me. I was still lost, but my friend knew exactly where I was. Forty-five minutes later, I was sitting at her house, laughing my fear away with friends.

My experience led me to thinking about the many times I have felt lost in my Christian life. Times when I followed someone’s wrong directions, times when I felt alone and isolated, times when I had no idea where my next destination was or where I was supposed to go to get there.

We get lost often in life. Perhaps you are feeling lost right now. Our immediate response is panic, but it does not have to be, because the way back is simple. All I had to do was turn around and call my friend. All we have to do when we are lost is turn around and call on God.

One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Psalm 139. In verses 9 and 10, the psalmist writes:

“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

I love this verse because it shows me that even when I am lost, I am never truly lost. God is always with me, always leading me, always holding me. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting at home or in the slums, if you are in heaven or hell, if you are in the city or in the middle of the sea, God is always with you.

We are never lost to God. He knows every road, even the gravel side roads, and has an aerial view of our lives. He sees every crossroad and every landmark, and He knows how to lead us back to His destination.

After I called my friend, she figured out exactly where I was—but I still had no clue where I was. So I had to find a safe place to park and wait. When I looked up from that crossroads to find a safe place, I saw that tall white steeple. When you call on God to help you, you still have to wait for Him to come and lead you back. But He has provided you with a safe place to wait for Him—His church. When you are lost and alone, you have a safe place in the body of Christ to wait for help—you have a sanctuary from the dark, cold world. Find a church, find a group of believers, and wait in safety for God to lead you back.

It’s hard to wait. We get impatient. We begin to panic. We start looking to others for direction. We try to find our own way. But if we don’t stay put, we get more lost.

There have been a few occasions in my life when I have parked beneath a white steeple for a season. There is no safer place than the body of Christ when you are lost, when you have been hurt, when you are stuck in between two closed doors and are waiting for the right one to open. I have met some of the most incredible Christians while I was waiting for God to show me where to go next. Take refuge in God’s people.

When God does begin to lead you, follow in faith. When my friend met me at that church and led me to her house, I still had no idea where I was or where I was going. It unnerved me not knowing, but I had no real reason to fear, because I was following someone who did know. When God begins to lead you, you still may have no idea where you destination is or even where you will turn next—but God knows. You simply have to trust and follow Him.

You have a direct line to God. When you are lost and alone in life, you have no reason to fear or panic. If you call on Him, He will lead you back. Call out to Him, look for a steeple, and park and wait for Him to come and find you.

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This is the Will of God

This is the Will of God

We Christians like to talk about God’s will. We know God has a will, a plan, for our lives and most of us want to find and fulfill that will. But while we know He has a will, His will is a mystery to us. God does not audibly tell us all of His plans for our lives, but requires us to walk by faith, to heed the Holy Spirit’s leading, to trust Him to lead us rather than trusting in ourselves. His will is an invisible path we seek to follow but fear we will miss.

There is a part of God’s will we can know without doubt. It isn’t a mystery we can hope to find, but a commandment to obey. It is His will for each one of us to do every day of our lives. God’s will is for us to give thanks in everything.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonions 5:18

God’s will is for us to give thanks in everything. When the sun shines, we should give thanks. When ice storms hit and knock out our electricity, we should give thanks. When we can sit down to sumptuous meals, we should give thanks. When we can’t afford our weekly groceries, we should give thanks. No matter what our circumstances, no matter how desperate our needs or dire our situation, God wants us to give thanks.

This is such a difficult lesson for us to learn. No matter how hard I try, I know that a complaint slips my mouth every day. Things go wrong. People disappoint. I make mistakes. Work gets weary. I get tired. And I forget to be thankful.

But God wants me to give thanks in everything—absolutely everything.

The children of Israel struggled with this same lesson. God delivered them from Egypt, destroyed their enemies, fed them with manna, performed miracles, and led them through the desert with a cloud and pillar of fire. Yet over and over again, they had to be chastised—and even killed—because of their murmuring and complaining. Their awe of God’s goodness had worn off and they lost their thankfulness.

We are no better. I have seen God perform miracles on my behalf. He has met my needs, led me through impossible circumstances, protected me from mistakes and dangers, and blessed me beyond my imagination. But when the dust settles and I slip into the groove of everyday life, my awe wears off and I find myself not only ungrateful, but complaining about my circumstances. I want God’s will for my life, but I am missing His daily will for me.

We ought to give thanks—every day for every thing.

Giving thanks is more than feeling thankful. Giving thanks is expressing our thankfulness to God. We need to express our thanks. We need to praise Him. We need to tell others about Him.

If we don’t give thanks, then we will struggle like the children of Israel struggled. We will be given bitter water to drink, extra years of wandering through the desert, plagues. We may even miss out on God’s promises and blessings entirely. Don’t let your awe of God wear thin. If you want to do God’s will, then remember to thank Him in everything.

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Giving Love

"Giving Love"

Valentine’s Day was exciting in elementary school—we made paper hearts, ate candy, and giggled over the little Valentine cards we exchanged. There were awkward moments too. In my classes, my teachers required us to give a note to every classmate, not just our friends. But there were some boys the girls did not want to give “love” notes to (and vice versa). So we would spend the night before sifting through all of the pre-packaged notes in search of the most generic cards we could find. We did not like those boys, and we did not want anyone to think we did.

As I grew up, I realized how childish such behavior was—and how much it could hurt someone’s feelings. But as an adult I have also come to realize that most of us still act the same.

As Christians we are commanded to love—not just other Christians, but everyone, as Christ loves us. This seems so simple, so easy. But the truth is, most of us are really like those children exchanging Valentine’s cards—we don’t want to give our love to everyone, but to the people we like and to the people we think deserve our love.

But I share the gospel with everyone, you say. That is not enough. Giving the gospel is telling others about God’s love, not necessarily giving others our love. Love does more than witness. It spends time, pays attention, and displays affection. It gives up possessions, says kind words, lets others go first. It sacrifices our wants, forgives our enemies, embraces our outcasts.

But most of us don’t want to give that kind of love to everyone. We want to reserve it for that handful of friends we like. But God, like our elementary teachers, has commanded us to give that love to everyone, no matter how attractive, successful, popular, wealthy, or “holy.”

Don’t reserve your love today. Give it freely to everyone in your acquaintance and in your path. Perhaps there is someone you need to forgive. Perhaps there is someone near you who has a need you can meet. Whatever it is, give it unreservedly and without conditions. God didn’t reserve His love for His favorites. He gave the same unreserved love to all men, equally—His Son. He gave all of His love to you. He wants you to do the same.

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When Work Conflicts with Your Faith

"When Work Conflicts with Your Faith"

Do you ever feel like quitting your job because your work conflicts with your faith? Maybe your coworkers don’t respect your values and intentionally offend you. Maybe your hours keep you from attending the services and Bible studies you would like to attend. Maybe your responsibilities entail violating Biblical commandments you had purposed to keep. Whatever the situation, you face daily spiritual resistance and are growing weary of the temptation and persecution—and you are beginning to wonder whether you should remain where you are or look for a job that is friendly to your faith.

Daniel found himself in the same situation several thousand years ago. He was a Jew who loved the Lord and had purposed to obey all of His commandments. But he lived in a pagan nation, where he studied and worked in the king’s palace. Many times throughout his lifetime his faith was challenged and he had to choose between his God and his position—even his life. His experiences exemplify several principles that can help us know how to live and work in a world that rejects our faith.

Resist the sin, not the situation.

When Daniel and his friends were commanded to eat the king’s meat and violate the Judaic law, Daniel went to Melzar, the prince of the eunuchs, and requested to be excused from this diet. When Melzar hesitated, fearing his own punishment for not enforcing the rules, Daniel offered an alternative, a test of their diet—and God worked out the rest. Daniel did not resist being put into this situation. He did not resist being tempted and tested. He resisted sinning against his God.

Daniel was tempted many times through his life in the palace. Not once did he try to escape the testing. He simply refused to sin, at any cost.

Many of us Christians resist testing. We resist situations that may test our faith and our commitment. We rarely have the chance to resist sin like Daniel did, because we hide ourselves away in temptation-free zones.

That is not what God has called us to do.

Jesus never commanded his disciples to hide from situations where they may be tempted. In fact, He told them many times that they would be tempted and that they would sin. He also warned His disciples of future temptations when they would be persecuted and falsely accused. When He did, He did not tell them to run away. He told them to watch and pray. We do not overcome sin by running from temptation. We overcoming sin by facing the temptations that come and relying on the power of Christ to do what is right.

The Christian life is not supposed to be lived in a safe bubble, away from challenges, away from unbelievers. We are commanded to go into the world, to be a light among men. We should expect persecution, temptation, trials, not run from them.

Christianity is not comfortable. If it is, then you aren’t living like a Christian. If you are experiencing temptations and troubles at work, you should not be surprised or frightened. As Peter wrote in his epistle, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice…if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Peter 4:12-13, 16).

Do not run from persecution. Do not hide from testing. Do not resist when God puts you into difficult situations. Resist the sin, and allow God to use that situation for His glory.

God allowed Daniel to be tested. He put Daniel in the king’s palace. He was not surprised when Daniel was tempted. He allowed those situations so that Daniel could be refined and so that God could demonstrate His power to those people.

God may be allowing you to be tempted so that He may demonstrate His power through you. If you run away, those unbelieving coworkers may never be able to witness the power of God. You may be the only Christian they will ever encounter. Allow God to use your situation and allow Him to work on you.

Resign your fate, not your position.

When Daniel was tempted—when he was supposed to eat the king’s meat and sin—he did not resign his position in the court. He did not ask to be dismissed from his place, his title, his job. He refused to sin and resigned his fate to God.

You see, most of us would resign our position. Christians are the best boy-cotters. When a company takes a stand that opposes our beliefs, we boycott that company. We refuse to go near anything that opposes ourselves. So when our employers or other authority demand us to do something that defies our faith, we don’t simply refuse, we leave. We quit. We think we should not work for anyone who asks us to compromise our faith.

But Daniel did not quit. Daniel was a prince. He was continually promoted to the highest positions of leadership in the nation. When he was tempted, he did not quit his job, he simply refused to sin. He kept working and kept obeying God. He did not quit because God had placed him in that position. Daniel’s promotions were always a result of his obedience to God—every time he was tempted and he obeyed, God gave him favor and promoted him. He was exactly where God wanted him to be. If he had quit, he would have been forsaking God’s will, God’s favor, God’s best.

We Christians love to talk about taking a stand. But our definition of taking a stand often contradicts God’s definition. Quitting is not standing. It’s quitting. Obeying God at the risk of losing one’s life is taking a stand. So is obeying at the risk of losing one’s job. Don’t quit your job just because you are facing spiritual opposition. Quit your job if God is leading you to another position, but do not simply run away.

When Daniel was commanded to eat the king’s meat, he refused at the risk of his job. If the prince of the eunuchs had not allowed Daniel to try a different diet, Daniel still would have refused and would have faced the consequences. But he asked for an exception first. If you find yourself in a position where you have to disobey God or be fired, don’t quit immediately. Pray then ask for an exception first. God may grant you favor and work a miracle. When Daniel obeyed and resigned his fate to God, he was promoted. It may be that God has a promotion waiting for you. Or it may be that you will indeed lose your job and find something better. But let God do the work. Don’t miss God’s best because you quit. Resign your fate, not your position.

Rely on prayer, not petitions.

If we were living in Daniel’s day, we would not have simply refused to eat the king’s meat—we would have drawn up a petition, publicized the violation of our rights, and fought to have the rules changed to be fair for everyone. But Daniel prayed, then went quietly, humbly, and personally to his boss.

There are times to fight and there are times to hold our peace.

Daniel did not try to change his society. He was a captive in a foreign land. He was not in a position to change the society on his own. If he had made a fuss, if he had held conferences, written letters, or used his influence to try to change the laws, he would have lost his head without changing a single thing. It was not his place to change society. It was his place to change himself and let God change his society.

We live in a country with Christianity in its roots. We also live in a country where a single voice can often change public opinion and, through a rippling affect, change laws. But there are times when speaking up and fighting for our rights hurts our situation, rather than helping it. There are times when we, like Daniel, should go peacefully and quietly to our authority and humbly ask for help. There are times when we must silently refuse instead of raising our voices in protest. There are times when we must simply pray.

Our first response to every challenge should be prayer. Before confronting a coworker who has been troubling you, pray. Before talking to your supervisor about a conflict, pray. Before making any decision, pray. Prayer is powerful. Prayer equips us with God’s resources, army, and strength.

Daniel always prayed when temptations came. He asked his friends to pray for him (Daniel 2:17-18). Daniel relied on the power of prayer—and was thrown in the lion’s den for refusing to stop praying. Prayer was a major part of his life and was the source of his wisdom and favor. God blessed Daniel because Daniel sought Him first.

When temptations come at work, rely on prayer. God may lead you to start a “revolution” in your office, but He may lead you to hold your peace. Either way, you need the power of God on your side, which can only be accessed through prayer.

Sometimes our work conflicts with our faith. But that does not mean we are not where God wants us to be. Daniel did not purpose to live in righteous circumstances. He purposed to live righteously—in any circumstance. Whatever your circumstances may be, resist the sin, resign your fate to God, and rely on prayer. God will take care of the rest.

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Embrace It

"Embrace It"

Years ago, my mom, sister, and I were watching a home design show on one of our favorite channels. On this particular episode, a family hired a professional designer to redo their living room. The couple had tried again and again to decorate the room to their liking, but there was one feature of the room that continually ruined their plans. When the designer came into the room for the first time, he immediately recognized the problem—an awkwardly positioned wall stood in the middle of the room. It was not large enough to divide the room into natural sections. It was not centered to create symmetry. It broke the flow, blocked the view, and ruined every conventional design the couple had tried to set up. It was simply an eyesore.

The designer’s first plan of action was to tear the wall down. Then they could design the room exactly as they liked. But when the designer brought in his contractor to start the demolition, the contractor told him it could not be done—the wall was load-bearing. If they removed the wall, the roof would come crashing down. The designer left the couple, frustrated, to take a few days to work on a new design.

When the designer returned days later with his new design, he greeted them with renewed enthusiasm and presented his plan. It was perfect. It was exciting. It was simple.  “We’re going to embrace the wall.” They could not remove the wall nor could they hide it, so instead of fighting it, they were going to “embrace it” and make it the feature of the room.

When the renovation was complete, the room was beautiful. And the best, most dramatic feature of the room was that wall, which the designer had painted a dark accent color, decorated with some of the couples most treasured photos and pieces, and designed to be the focal point around which the rest of the room revolved. Because they had embraced the wall, their biggest eyesore was now their greatest asset.

After watching that show, my mom made “embracing the wall” a common phrase in our household. Anytime we were fighting against something we could not fix, she would laugh and say, “We’re going to embrace it.” Whether it was as simple as embracing our curly hair on a humid summer day or embracing a month of illness as a time to rest and grow closer to the Lord,

we would find that when we stopped fighting the problem and started working with what we had, the problem would cease to be a problem and would become an asset.

We all have walls in our lives that are awkward eyesores. They block our view, break our flow, and ruin our designs. No matter how hard we try, we can’t hide them, change them, or remove them. How do we deal with them? Embrace them.

Sometimes the way to fix the problems in our lives is not to fight them, but to embrace them. We exert so much energy fighting things that are out of our control, when what we ought to do is accept them and make the best of them.

That circumstance that God has placed in your life that you hate but cannot change is there for a reason. You see, that wall was load-bearing. It had to be there. Without it, the entire house would have come crashing down. The architect knew that when he built the house, which is why he put it there. So does God when He builds walls in our lives. He has designed the entire structure of our lives according to His plan and He knows what we need in order for our lives to stand. It may be that the circumstance you are fighting and trying to tear down is a load-bearing wall. It holds the roof above your head and, without it, your entire life would come tumbling down. It frustrates your plans and looks like a giant eyesore, but God put it there for a reason. It’s time to stop fighting, complaining, and trying to change what God has designed, and time to start embracing what God has given you.

How do I embrace the walls? First, accept them. Accept that they are there and that you can’t move them. Accept that God put them there for a reason and that you don’t have to know why. Accept that God is using them for something good, not evil. Then determine to make the best of them. Use them as an opportunity to learn and to grow closer to the Lord. Ask God to show you how to use those circumstances to improve yourself, to build something better, to help another person. God put them there for a reason—so find their purpose for you.

That couple’s living room was transformed when they decided to embrace their problem. Embrace your walls, and God will transform you.

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Overcoming Regret

"Overcoming Regret"

I wish I could go back and change it.

How many times has that thought crossed your mind? If you are like most people, then you probably cannot begin to count how often you have wished you could undo the past. Regret haunts us all, sometimes daily, and keeps us from enjoying our lives as fully as we ought.

I hate regret. But as carefully and wisely as I try to live, I find that life is filled with mistakes and choices I wish I could change, however big or small. A few weeks ago I was driving home from work and found myself thinking about a decision I had recently made that I regretted. As I did, I found myself thinking about what regret is and what role it should play in the Christian’s life. I do not want to live a life of regret, but when I do make mistakes, how do I overcome the regret that follows as I move on with my life? This led me into a study of regret and God’s view of it.

Regret is sorrow—sorrow over something you cannot change. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair.” I regret the past because I do not have the power or control to repair it. I cannot go back and undo it. I cannot change or fix it. Regret is different from remorse. Remorse is sorrow over the mistake itself. Regret is sorrow over the inability to go back and fix that mistake.

Regret often lingers after remorse has passed. As a Christian, when I sin or make a mistake, I know that when I confess it to God, He forgives it. I do not have to live in remorse but can live in forgiveness. Yet I still find myself living with regret. Yes, I sinned and God forgave my sins, but I still sorrow that I cannot go back and undo that sin. I sorrow that I cannot repair or change the past and the consequences that have followed.

But regret does not belong in the Christian life.

Regret is a human emotion, produced by sin. There was no regret in the Garden of Eden. Can you imagine living in paradise, never second-guessing your choices, never wishing you could do it all over again, never sighing over the past? That is how Adam and Eve lived. They had nothing to regret, until they disobeyed God. I cannot begin to imagine the regret Adam and Eve struggled with after the fall—if only I had not listened to the serpent, if only I had obeyed God’s commandment, if only I had said no. They brought sin and death not only upon themselves, but upon all of humanity and creation. And there was nothing they could do to repair it.

But God could. When Adam and Eve sinned, God did not wallow in regret. He did not sorrow over His lack of control to repair what had happened. No, He offered them His solution, His plan of redemption.

There is no regret with God. God does not regret—He does not look on any circumstance with sorrow aroused by His lack of power to repair it. God has control over all things, even your mistakes. There is nothing He cannot change. There is nothing He cannot repair. We do not have the power or control to change our mistakes, so we sorrow over them. But we fail to realize that God has all power and control and can repair every mistake we have made—if we will let Him.

The problem is we have the wrong idea of what it means to repair, to change, our mistakes. We look back on our mistakes with sorrow that we cannot undo them. But God does not. He looks forward and sees how He can use them to change our futures. God can repair every mistake you have made. But He does not do it by turning back the clock and changing your past. He does not allow you to go back and make a different choice. No, He repairs your past by repairing your future.

Adam and Eve had every human reason to live with the deepest regret for the rest of their lives. God offered them a way to set their regrets aside. Adam and Eve could not repair their mistake—but God promised that He would. He did not do it by letting them go back and change the past. He did it by using their past to change their futures. The serpent had deceived Eve—her seed would crush the serpent. Adam brought death into the world—the second Adam would bring eternal life. Sin separated man from God—faith would reunite them. They caused damnation—He promised salvation. He took their mistake and offered to repair it by redeeming it. All they had to do was believe.

Over and over again through Scripture, we see God redeem regrets. One of my favorites is the story of David and Bathsheba. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered her husband, and tried to hide his mistake. When he was confronted with his sin, he could not go back and change his past. When God took his baby boy away from him, David could not bring him back—nor did he try. David did not have the power or control to repair his past—but God did. God took David’s mistake and used it to change his future and redeem his past. He gave David a son—through Bathsheba—named Solomon and, through his line, Jesus, Who would redeem all sin. Had David not made that mistake, Solomon would never have been born, and Christ would have had to come through another line. But God chose to use David and Bathsheba. He used David’s sin to redeem it.

God does not regret your past. He does not sorrow that you cannot go back and change it. He does not wake up every morning wishing you could live it all over again. No, He looks at your past and sees how He can redeem it, how He can piece it all together for your future. He looks at your mistakes and sees how He can take them and shape them into a beautiful testimony of His grace. He looks at what you cannot change and sees how He can use it to change you. You may not have the power to repair your mistakes, but He does. You just have to let Him.

There’s the key—we have to let Him. We have to allow God to repair our mistakes. We have to give God control. Remember, regret is sorrow over our lack of control. Why do we sorrow over our lack of control? Pride. We do not want to give up our power, our control over our lives and circumstances—so we sorrow when we lose that control. Even when we know that we cannot possibly gain that control, we continue to hold on to it through regret. We keep grasping, keep reaching for the power to fix what we have broken. But we will never attain it.

So how do we overcome regret? We overcome our sorrow over our lack of control by giving God the control. It’s time to give it all to God. It’s time to surrender your past, present, and future to the only person who has control over it all. It’s time to stop relying on ourselves and start trusting God to work all things together for good. He has the power to repair your past, if you have the faith to let it go.

You don’t have to live with regret. Whatever you have done in the past, God can repair it. Whatever mistakes you have made, God can fix them. Whatever choices you have made, God can redeem them. Your mind can rest knowing that even though you do not have the power to change your past, God has the power to change your future.

I wish I could go back and change it. May you never let that phrase haunt you again. The next time a past mistake crosses your mind, do not sorrow that you cannot change it. Commit it to God. I do not wish I could go back and change it—I know God will go forward and redeem it.

© Amy Hyles. 2013

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Wash Your Heart

Washing our hands is a ritual in most of our lives. We are taught from early childhood to wash our hands before we eat, after we use the restroom, after we shake hands with people, and countless other times throughout the day. Between our fear of germs and our dislike of the feeling of the daily grime between our fingers, we make many trips to the sink and hand-sanitizer bottle. Why? Because we want to be clean.

After rubbing in some hand sanitizer at work this afternoon, I began to think aboutmedium_4271117207 how many times a day I wash my hands, and I began to realize that I am more mindful to wash my hands than I am to wash my heart. How different might my life be if I were as diligent to keep my heart and mind as clean as I keep my hands?

Jesus had this discussion with the Pharisees. One day, as the disciples were eating bread, the Pharisees questioned Jesus because the disciples had not washed their hands. The Jews had laws—hand-washing rituals—to keep them clean and holy before God. They even had rules about how to wash their dishes and tables. So the Pharisees were disgusted and dismayed to see these men eating with dirty hands. How could Jesus let them defile themselves in such a way?

Jesus’ response was a stern reprimand. Jesus did not care about dirty hands—He cared about dirty hearts. The Pharisees were following these washing rules and rituals that they had added to God’s law, while neglecting to follow the law itself. As Jesus pointed out, they obsessed over how to wash a pot while making exceptions to one of the Ten Commandments to honor father and mother. Outwardly, these men were clean and holy, but inwardly, they were filthy.

How often we do the same. We have our outer “rituals” as Christians that we think keep us clean and holy. We follow our man-made rules, abstain from what we deem to be unclean, and stare in dismay and disgust at any Christian who does not look as “clean” as we do. We follow our additions to God’s commandments while neglecting the commandments themselves. We obsess over the cleanliness of our hands and make exceptions for the cleanliness of our hearts.

We are missing the truth. As Jesus said, it is not what goes into the body that defiles, but what comes out of the heart.

“That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20-23)

My hands are clean, but my heart is dirty. My heart defiles me. My heart makes me sinful. My heart produces filth. It does not matter how many good deeds I do or how many “unclean” things I abstain from. It is my heart that defiles me before God.

We feel disgust when we see someone leave a restroom without washing their hands. But when we think about it, their hands are probably cleaner than our hearts. We, who are so concerned about our outward cleanliness, are neglecting the cleanliness of the most important part of our being. It’s time to shift our focus. Our hearts, minds, and attitudes need daily cleansing—more than our hands do. How do I clean my heart? Through the word. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, then you have already been washed in His blood. But because you still live in your sinful flesh in this world, you need daily cleansing through God’s word. Read it, think on it, apply it—and see God begin to clean your heart and attitude. Examine yourself each day and ask God to clean your heart and transform your mind.

Heart cleansing takes time and commitment. We let bad attitudes, resentment, anger, jealousy, selfishness, and pride build up the longer we neglect them—and it takes time to wash those layers away. Sometimes the process is painful and we feel like a child at bath time, who throws a tantrum and resists with all his might. But if you want to be clean, you have to let God clean you. As you keep going to God for cleansing, you will feel Him washing the filth away and you will feel fresh and renewed.

It’s time to form new daily habits—to examine our hearts as often as we examine our hands. It’s also time to realize that no matter how clean you are on the outside—no matter how many rules and rituals you follow—as long as your heart is dirty, your whole body is dirty. Keep washing your hands, but don’t neglect to wash your heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit with me.” Psalm 51:10

© Amy Hyles. 2013

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He Touched the Leper

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Mark 1:40-41

There are two specific occasions where Jesus healed lepers in the Gospels. In Mark 1:40-41, we see a leper come to Jesus, beseeching him and kneeling at His feet. Jesus, moved with compassion, reaches down, touches him, and heals him. In Luke 17:12-14, as Jesus enters a village, ten lepers call to Him from far off, asking for healing. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priest and, as they walk, they discover they are cleansed. Both stories are miraculous. In both stories, the lepers have faith in Jesus’ healing. In both stories, the lepers are completely cleansed of their leprosy. But the stories differ on one point, one act—touch. Jesus touched the leper in Mark 1, but not the ten lepers in Luke 17. As I compare these stories, I cannot help but wonder, why did Jesus touch him? Why did Jesus, who could heal with the word of His mouth, touch the leper at His feet?

In the Old Testament, when a priest examined a leper to determine whether he was clean or unclean, he would not touch that leper. He could not touch the unclean. Even when the priest determined the leper was indeed clean, the priest would pronounce him clean. He would not touch him.

So why did Jesus touch him? He did not have to—all He had to do was speak and pronounce Him clean. In fact, it was not Jesus’ touch that healed the leper, but His word. Verse 42 says, “And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.” The leprosy was cleansed when He spoke. He didn’t have to touch him.

So why did He touch him? Why, when He was moved with compassion, did He put forth His hand and touch him?

I believe He touched him because the leper needed to be touched. No one else would touchmedium_2507587931 him. Leprosy was a terribly contagious disease transmitted by touch. Even the objects lepers handled were considered unclean and had to be cleansed—or destroyed. No one could touch him. We do not know how many years this man had been afflicted by his leprosy—and had to abstain from all physical contact with others. It may have been decades since this man had felt the warmth and love of another person’s hand. While he suffered in his pain, he could not find relief in the embrace of family. He could not shake the hand of a friend. Everyone fled from his presence. He was unclean. He was untouchable.

It may be that the lack of touch afflicted him more than the pain of his leprosy. How many times a day do you touch another person? How often do you get to embrace someone you love? Imagine never being able to touch any of your friends and loved ones again. Humanity aches for affection—this man was forbidden it.

Then came Jesus. Suddenly there was hope for healing, hope for affection, hope for relationships, hope for touch. And the leper could not contain himself anymore. He didn’t bother to avoid the crowds or shout, “unclean” as he ran through the streets. He ran to Jesus, fell at his feet, and beseeched him, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be thou clean.”

He touched the leper. He touched the untouchable. He reached down and fulfilled his need.

He will touch you. There is no person Jesus will not touch. There is no disease He will avoid, no sin He will hold away from Himself. He touches the untouchable.

Now back to the other ten. Why didn’t Jesus touch the ten lepers? It seems rather obvious when we read the story—because they called to Him from afar off. They didn’t come to Jesus. They didn’t fall at His feet. They believed in Jesus for healing, but they did not come to Him for touch. Why? It could be that they thought they would defile Him—not realizing that nothing could defile Him. It could be that they thought themselves unworthy, because they were unclean. It could be that they wanted a cure, not a relationship. Whatever the reason, they did not come. He would have touched them, but they stood afar off.

How many of us stand afar from Jesus? How many of us call to Him for healing rather than kneel at His feet? How many need the touch of His hand but miss it, because they do not draw near? Jesus is not a God who stands afar off. He is a God who is moved with compassion and reaches out and touches. But we must come.

Jesus does more than heal our afflictions. He touches us with His compassion, fulfilling our need for love, for affection, for the touch of our God. He reaches. He touches. He embraces.

That ache, that emptiness in your heart—Jesus can fill it. That longing for affection and love—He can meet it. That need for compassion, as well as healing—He offers it. All you have to do is come.

Perhaps you have been living as an outcast. Like that leper, you are “unclean” to your friends, your family, your church. You have been living separated from the touch of human love, unable to draw near to others who fear you will defile them. You cannot defile Christ. If He could touch the leper, He can touch anything. We don’t have to call from afar. Come to Him, beseech Him, kneel at His feet. And feel His compassion reach down and touch you as He speaks and makes you whole.

He touched the leper. He will touch you.

© Amy Hyles. 2013

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Be It Unto Me

“And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
Luke 1:36a

The birth of Jesus Christ had been planned before the world was ever created. All of the events from creation through the Old Testament worked together to lead to it. Prophets foretold it; priests looked forward to it; the people prayed for it. Finally, the time had come for the Messiah to arrive. The place was prepared; God was ready; the time had come. But all of it hinged on one last detail—one last step before God the Son could be incarnated—Mary. Mary had to agree.

Before Christ could be born, his mother had to agree to carry him. The salvation of the world depended upon her willingness to accept God’s plan and do as God said. Imagine if she had refused. Certainly God would have chosen another young woman to mother the Savior. But God had chosen Mary—of the house and lineage of David—and His perfect will rested on her shoulders. And how did she respond? Her answer was quite simple, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” She did not refuse. She did not doubt. She did not question God’s plan. She humbly accepted God’s will and offered herself to his service.

Think of what the angel was asking her to do. He wasn’t just asking Mary to be the mother of God’s Son. He was asking a virgin to agree to pregnancy before marriage. He was asking a young woman, a girl, to sacrifice her spotless reputation and endure the gossip of her friends and family—for the rest of her life. He was asking this woman to risk her very life—for Joseph had the right to demand her death for breaking the law. But Mary was willing to endure it all for her God. She wanted to obey and please God more than man.

Did you know that each one of us has to make a choice like Mary? Have you realized that God has been working out the events of history with your life and role in mind? He has seamed together hundreds of events to align your path for His will. And the lives and salvation of others hinge upon your willingness to accept His Word. What will you do when He reveals His plans to you?

You will have a Mary moment—perhaps more than once. At some point in your life, you will find yourself at a major crossroads, where you will feel the leading of God pressing you in one direction and feel your doubt, your will, and the selfishness of your soul pressing you in another. You will have to choose. Will you be willing to accept God’s plan at the sacrifice of your own? Will you say, like Mary, “Be it unto me according to thy word”?

But I’m just a nobody, you may think. So was Mary. Mary was not special in the eyes of her peers. She was insignificant. She was a young woman, most likely a teenager, who had accomplished nothing important in our eyes up to that moment in her life. She was simply the betrothed wife of a humble carpenter. Yet God chose her to be the mother of His Son.

You do not know what plans God has for you. Your life may seem insignificant to yourself and those around you—but nothing is insignificant in God’s eyes. He can use the most insignificant person to change the course of history. He may not call you to mother His Son, but He will call you for His will—and nothing about God’s will is insignificant or unimportant. He has called you for his purpose. He has chosen you for His work. But you must be willing to accept it.

Have you ever wondered why God chose Mary? I have. Certainly she must have been an amazing woman. But why did God choose her? I believe He chose her because He knew she had a willing heart. He knew Mary would agree to His will. He knew she loved her God more than her reputation. He knew her heart—and it pleased Him.

God does not choose us for our resumes. He does not choose us for our age, experience, or accomplishments. He chooses us for our hearts. If your heart is willing, God will use you.

God has a plan for your life—a plan that matters. But you cannot fulfill God’s plan or find your purpose unless you are willing to accept it. When God comes to you and reveals His next step for your life, you have to make a choice. You have to be willing.

I know that I want nothing more than to do the will of my God. I pray your heart longs to serve and please Him more than all else. When the Lord calls you, no matter how difficult the task, may your answer be, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”

© Amy Hyles. 2013

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He Loves Me

He knew me when the earth was void,
When substance had no form.
When darkness draped the deep he joyed
To see my face yet born.

He planned my path before the Day
Was separate from the Night.
Before he spoke the dawn to ray
He called me to his Light.

He bore me in his thoughts divine
Before he shaped one part.
I am the product of his mind
And object of his heart.

He fashioned every bone and vein
And cradled me in time.
And on the day that he ordained
He breathed my soul to life.

But I, in human flesh, was weak
And tempted by my pride.
I could not keep his law or seek
His presence, glorified.

My sin defiled the soul he made
And hid me from his face.
It killed the life he formed; enslaved
The spirit he embraced.

But he, devoted to my soul,
Would not resign my fate.
He bound my life within a hold
That none could separate.

He changed his glory for my flesh,
His heaven for my hell,
Replaced my guilt with righteousness,
And raised the head that fell.

He freed the hands I sold to sin
Revived the soul that died.
Then he, to seal my life to him,
Betrothed me to his side.

His love renewed my faded bloom,
Restored the fount that dried.
He is my promised, faithful groom.
I, his beloved bride.

How soon I fail him, leave him, seek
A lesser love than he.
How soon he calls, he finds, he speaks
His endless grace to me.

His love exceeds his highest laws
And lifts me into grace,
Descends below my deepest flaws
And kneels to take my place.

He loved me first, he’ll love me last.
His love shall be my home.
I was his plan from ages past,
His choice for all to come.

He loves me, oh, he loves me. Burn
My heart within the blaze.
Oh may I learn how to discern
One portion of that phrase.

© Amy Hyles. 2013

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