Tag: hard heart

A Heart-Style of Thanksgiving

I love the Thanksgiving holiday, one of my favorite traditions is what my family does after the meal. We go around the table and express what and who we are thankful for.

God in his immeasurable goodness takes thanksgiving to the highest level. It’s not about a meal—it’s about thousands of meals. It’s not about gathering yearly, but gathering daily. Especially, it’s not about telling each other and God how thankful we are once a year, just as we’ve finished an abundant meal. No, life lived in relationship with God is about having a thankful heart—daily—in good times and in bad. Essentially, thanksgiving is a heart-style as well as a lifestyle.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 truthfully tells us,

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? Here’s your answer—give thanks.

Why does God want us to give thanks for everything? Why is this heart-style His will?

One attribute I adore about God is His infinite wisdom. God knows everything beginning to end. The reason He wants us to live a life of gratitude is because He knows and understands what thankfulness accomplishes in our heart and life.

The biggest revelation to me about living a heart-style of thanksgiving is the fact that thankfulness in hard times causes our heart to stay soft towards God. When we are thankful, there is no room to blame God.

A few years back my family, to put it mildly, experienced somewhat of a car crisis. I prayed for a newer car for quite a while—expecting God, my provider, to hear and answer my prayer. The answer was long in coming—really long in coming.

God showed me that I must thank Him for not having a car. Thank Him for the season—thank Him for His grace in this season—thank Him for being good and faithful, no matter what I’m going through or what my life looks like.

Prior to learning thankfulness in that season, I found myself questioning Him, whining, grumbling and yes, complaining about my car situation. He showed me was my heart attitude was one of blame towards Him, not only blame but one of unbelief. Ouch, this grieved me!

You see thankfulness causes our heart to be tender and trusting—of faith. Instead of irritably wondering what’s going on—when will God come through and worse why and how could He do such a thing, or allow such suffering in my life—which would be unbelief.

A heart-style of thanksgiving releases us in to the abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10) Gratitude is in essence putting on rose-colored glasses.

A heart-style of thanksgiving causes praise to abound in and through us, changing our perspective on life. It brings Philippians 4:11-12 to life;

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation

Not only does thanksgiving cause us not to blame God—changing our unbelief to faith, but it releases miracles and brings salvation. Even Jesus Himself gave thanks to God, and every time He did—the miraculous followed. (John 6:11, John11:41, Luke 22:17.19)

The foremost aspect of a heart-style of thanksgiving is the very fact that it brings us into a deeper relationship with God and His Son. In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul says He’s learned the secret of contentment—the secret is not thanksgiving—it’s Jesus. Thanksgiving paves the way to make Jesus what He should be in our lives—the main thing—Lord of all.

Please be encouraged to make thanksgiving your heart-style, therefore causing your heart to overflow with the Love of God—Jesus Himself.

Conviction vs. Condemnation

Godly conviction and all of its potency, has been misconstrued as condemnation.

The Bible says in Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Condemnation is not of God, but is a way for the devil to keep people under his thumb—where they never feel worthy to know and love God, or never feel good enough to be loved by Him.

Conviction by God’s Holy Spirit on the other hand is not only needed but should be welcomed. I love the way Oswald Chambers describes it.

Conviction of sin is best described in the words:
“My sins, my sins, my Savior, How sad on Thee they fall.”
Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight . . .” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy.

Justification happens when we accept Christ as Savior. By the mercy of God, we are free from the penalty of our former sin—justification, by faith in Jesus we are declared righteous. The process/life of a Christian does not stop at justification, but begins there. What follows is sanctification. By the grace of God we become holy and learn to live righteously. The work of sanctification is ongoing victory over sin.

Conviction is part of the Christian life—it’s interlaced in the work of sanctification—it is vital for the transformation process of holiness.

The Bible says “Be holy for I am holy” (1 peter 1:16 and Leviticus 11:44). We won’t be holy as God is holy without the recognition of our un-holiness!

1 John 1:8-10

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

If we were perfect and never crossed the lines of holiness, then we would not need godly conviction.

Where conviction and condemnation get all mixed-up, is when one’s own heart and soul confuse and complicate the two.

Whenever we hear or read, the powerful, Word of God, it should cause us to examine our life and behavior—therefore align ourselves to His Word. The confusion comes when our heart, mind, will and emotions don’t want to get aligned.

A heart that is hard or judgmental will hear God’s Word and feel condemnation. A person who lives with a spirit of offence will be offended at the Word and blame the preacher/messenger for being condemning or too harsh. A prideful rebellious heart will rebel against the Holy Spirit’s conviction and manipulate the words to be condemning. A religious person will turn the prompting of the Holy Spirit into another reason to complain.

The sad thing about this, is that the person with the twisted perception never progresses in their relationship with God. Whereas one whose heart is tender will realize when their life, behavior, heart and soul don’t necessarily line up to God’s Word and will repent. Thus—such humility will lead one into God’s presence, where we can know Him personally.

The Christian life is not about being perfect but about relationship with Christ and if that relationship comes by way of Holy Spirit conviction—urging me to become more like Christ and drawing me closer to Him—then I’m all in!

What about you?

Please be encouraged to soften your heart and embrace godly conviction.

Coming up in the next blog—the counterpart to godly conviction: True Repentance

John 16:8
And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

When Life Rages

Sometimes life just seems to rage and difficult situations arise one right after the other. Do you ever feel as if life is hard? Do you ever wonder if it’ll get easier? I used to have this false belief about life, that at some point you get to the other side of hard times. As time has passed, soberness has sunk in relaying the truth that opposition is part of life.

I have to be honest—my life is far from picture perfect. (Shocker right?) Although wouldn’t it be nice to Photoshop life? Just edit out bits and parts?

It’s a fact, trials happen.

With that in mind, what are we to do? Truthfully, I’ve tried a few options but the one choice that I’ve landed on, is to rely on God’s faithfulness.

Psalm 91:4 says,
Under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler.

  • Worrying doesn’t help—the Bible instructs us not to worry. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • Being fearful is torturous—the Bible says God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • Taking matters into our own hands never ends well—the Bible counsels us not to lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
  • Giving up does no good—the Bible tells us not to harden our heart. (Psalm 95:8)
  • Ignoring problems will not make them go away and only leads to bigger crisis—the Bible admonishes us to be diligent. (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Telling God what I want Him to do about my situation is foolishness, we are not God, we only see in part. We do not know what He should do for us—the Bible is clear—it’s not my will be done but Your [God’s] will be done. (Matthew 6:10)

So you see, when life rages, relying on God’s faithfulness is not only the best option, but the only option.

How do we rely on God’s faithfulness?

Questions such as this one used to overwhelm me. I’m a doer, I like to know how to practically do what God wants me to do. When I get a directive from the Bible or from God Himself I always have to say “Okay, but how?” How do I, in my everyday life actually walk out your directives?

Below are a few ways I have learned to rely on God’s faithfulness.

First things first, we have to stop handling trials in our usual manner. (Such as the list above, that I gave.) One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. At some point we have to realize our ways aren’t God’s ways—then adopt His ways.

Relying on God’s faithfulness is a matter of trusting.

This next part is for those who have a hard time trusting God:
Because of various situations from my past, I used to have a hard time trusting God. Not that He did anything to cause me not to trust Him, but I was stuck in the lie of thinking that God was equal to people. I knew God was able to help me but I didn’t think He was willing. I knew He loved me. I read, prayed and believed scriptures about His faithfulness but still doubted He would help me. I went through healing and deliverance from my past, which helped me tremendously, yet I was terrified of being hurt again so trusting did not come easily.

Finally I realized it was a matter of the will. I had to will myself out of the sin of not believing God and His Word. By God’s grace I made an exchange—my unbelief and untrusting heart for faith in God. I also had to will myself to stop self-protecting my heart and rest in God’s faithfulness.

Once our will is in order—our mind and emotions can be as well. Our heart will follow our soul (mind, will and emotions) that’s why it’s so important to get our soul into submission to God’s Word.

Our heart was created to be God’s home, therefore it is very content to trust and believe in God’s faithfulness. This is one reason why we can’t find peace when our heart and soul are out of alignment.

To stay focused and believing in God’s faithfulness we must:

  • Guard our will from becoming bent the wrong way
  • Protect our heart from becoming hard
  • Remember, our heart is to be God’s home
  • Watch over our mind—keep it from doubt, negativity and from believing the enemy’s accusations against God.
  • Control our emotions instead of them controlling us
  • Read the Bible, pray and worship
  • Be thankful and give God praise
  • Take up a shield of faith
  • Learn from each trial and look at it as another chance to trust God
  • Know that God causes all things to work together for our good

When life rages you do not have to be afraid, but can find your peace, rest and trust in God. Please be encouraged to will yourself to rely on His faithfulness—He will never disappoint you!

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust! For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3

Skillful Living 101—7 The Heart

The issues of life spring forth from the very heart of a person. In Proverbs 7, we are instructed to engrave God’s commands on the tablet of our heart, cherishing every Word; keeping them close so we might not sin against our God.

A comparable bit of history is the Ten Commandments. They were written by the finger of God on stone tablets, so the people might not sin against Him.

How privileged we are to live in such a day in age where God the Son, can have His being in us and personally inscribe His loving commands—His living words, on the tablet of our heart.

Proverbs 7 illustrates four positionsof the heart.

Verse 3 describes a prepared heart; our heart is prepared as God’s presence etches His commands on it. In verses 6-9, we read about a simple-minded person who neglected wisdom; whose heart was unprepared to meet the charms of Satan. Therefore became devoid of understanding. He followed a loud, rebellious, married, imprudent woman—to her home—to her bed—to his death.

Proverbs 7:10, says she was a woman with a crafty heart. She devised evil and pursued the unwise fool who would join her.

Next, Proverbs 7:14-19 speaks of a religious heart, one that makes offerings and vows to God, giving Him lip service from an empty heart that never intends to live righteously or obey His commands.

Proverbs 7 ends with a warned heart, verse 25 warns the young man; “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray onto her paths.”

In this Proverb we are given a treasury of skillful living tools regarding our heart.

In diligence, let’s engrave God’s Word on our heart. Let us invite Him to carve His commands on hearts of stone, causing them to soften as we draw near—drawing so near—our heartbeat becomes one with His. His very presence—is His finger writing living words on our heart. This is the essence of a heart prepared for God.

In the drawn near position we are able to guard our heart from being crafty. Likewise, discernment will dwell in us and we will be vigilant to recognize the snares of those with a crafty heart.

As we are situated in God’s presence, religiousness has a very difficult time taking root in our heart and life.

Lastly, the heart that is filled with God listens intently, pays attention to warnings, heeds correction and is filled with wisdom.

Please be encouraged to read Proverbs 7 and to apply the skillful living tools to your life!

Skillful Living Tools: 

  • Prepare your heart for God’s presence
  • Prepare your heart to meet the charms of Satan
  • Write God’s commands on the tablet of your heart
  • Invite God to engrave His Word on your heart
  • Be vigilant against a crafty heart
  • Guard your heart from religion
  • Offer God heart service, not lip service
  • Pay attention to warnings, heed correction, be filled with wisdom

The  Skillful Living Tool Box at the top of this page, is updated weekly—check it out!

Thanks for reading and share with those you care about!

Skillful Living 101—5 Adultery

In Proverbs 5, we take a sincere look at marriage and the number one ploy of the devil to destroy God’s plan for marriage. In Proverbs 5:1-2, the Word cautions all young men to be wise and refrain from lust and immorality. “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.” Four words in this verse are of the utmost importance for men to consider and to apply to their life; wisdom, understanding, discretion and knowledge. According to the scripture men who grab a hold and own these principles will be able to avoid immoral behavior. Men, young and old, do well to pay attention to Proverbs 5. God’s heart for men is that they would rule and subdue the earth. He desires men to humbly love Him, to find Him as Lord and source of their strength. God offers wisdom, understanding, discretion and knowledge in abundance—it’s for the asking. The righteous man only needs to abandon pride, recognize his weakness and partake in all that God has to offer. God is searching for men who will lead by godly behavior—the church, the world, wives and children long for men who will rise to the occasion abandoning costly, destructive actions. Satan on the other hand, sits and applauds while church going men cower to his plan for marriage. Proverbs 5:3-11, uncovers the truth about the immoral woman. She is bitter, sharp, her feet are attached to death, her steps lead to hell and she is unstable. It warns men to remove their way far from her—do not even go near her house, unless you want to give your years to the cruel one. Basically Satan will own you—you will be his tool, if you visit her home and in indulge in her lies. Verses 12-14, relays the gut wrenching, remorseful words men speak after visiting her bed. “How I have hated instruction and my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!” Verses 15-19, counsels men on the truth of their marriage, telling men “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Asking in verse 20 “Why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?” Adultery—sad to say, is common—even in our churches. Not only does it do the obvious—destroy the covenant of marriage, but destroys God’s plan for the lonely—family. Scripture says God hates divorce but gave it for the hard hearted and only on the grounds of adultery. (Matthew 19:3-9) Satan rejoices when families are devastated by divorce. And that’s not all, Satan is after the strong—the men; he desires to sap away their manhood, steal their faith and lead them to hell. Proverbs 5:21, enlightens us, “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths.” This verse is water to a thirsty soul. It’s refreshing to be reminded that the God who made heaven and earth sees us and ponders our path. Caring God watches over us, yearning for relationship. That’s what these warnings in Proverbs are all about—a loving God mapping out the pitfalls of life. Cautioning the men of God to avoid foolishness and steer clear of Satan’s plan for their life. Proverbs 5 ends with verses 22-23, telling what will happen to those who do not heed instruction. “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.” The Message version of the bible says it this way, “The shadow of your sin will overtake you; you’ll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark. Death is the reward of an undisciplined life; your foolish decisions trap you in a dead-end.” Death is the reward for an undisciplined life—this is true for all of us. I pray our heart would embrace the ways of God. That the men of God would take heed to God’s Word allowing wisdom, understanding, discretion and knowledge to guide them. Most of all I pray that we fall deeper in love with Jesus, craving His presence and living accordingly. Everyone has a relationship with a man, whether it be your husband, son, father, brother or friend. Please be encouraged to cover them in prayer—the enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We must be vigilant. I understand men are not the only ones who commit adultery, women are susceptible as well and many men have been wounded by their wives committing the sin of adultery. Proverbs 5 is for both genders, please apply it accordingly. A note to those who have been devastated by adultery: Lean into to Jesus, He is enough for all your pain and rejection. God will heal you and fill in all your gaps, He will enlarge your heart and help you to find freedom in forgiveness. Skillful Living Tools for Men:

  • Grab a hold and apply wisdom, understanding, discretion and knowledge to your life.
  • Humbly love God, find Him as Lord and source of your strength.
  • Remove your way far from the immoral woman—do not even go near her house.
  • Obey the 7th commandment—Do not commit adultery.
  • Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
  • Abandon pride, recognize your weakness and partake in all that God has for you.
  • Embrace instruction and correction.

Skillful Living Tools for Women:

  • Do not be an immoral woman.
  • Do not associate with immoral women.
  • Pray without ceasing for the men in your life.

Wellspring

Our heart is the wellspring and source of our life, it’s the core and base of a person, a habitat of true worship to guard and set aside for God. Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Wellspring: Defined as the head or source of a spring, stream, river; fountainhead; a source or supply of anything, especially when considered inexhaustible.

If the wellspring of a stream becomes muddy, subsequently the whole stream will grow to be polluted. We have to guard our wellspring/heart from becoming muddied by sin and its effects, so that our whole life is not tainted.

Our heart is a secret treasury to be saturated with tender thoughts of our loving God. It is our innermost being where He can dwell. Ephesians 3:16-17 in the Amplified version beautifully lays out the truth for us—our heart is to be God’s home. “May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts”

In regard to the makeup of our being: heart, soul, spirit, and body; the heart has always baffled me. It seemed emotions came from my heart, because in situations where my heart had been broken, I felt sad or hurt. Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  This scripture gives the impression the heart is evil.

In my inquiries to learn about the heart, I have discovered it is primarily a soul issue. The heart will be led by either the soul or the Spirit. The fruit of a soul that is not submitted can be seen in our heart and thus the scripture in Jeremiah applies. A self-willed, prideful, rebellious, hard heart reflects a soul that is not submitted.

A submitted soul will lead a redeemed heart into a relationship with the Holy Spirit where He can live in us.  A heart that is filled with the Spirit of God, is tender, obedient, accepting and aware of God and His ways.

Since our feelings come from our emotions, the soul determines how offenses of the heart are handled. A soul drenched in self-will, most likely will lead the heart to become angry and hard when broken or offended. While with a submitted heart and soul where Christ is already at home; heart-break causes an immediate reliance and turning to God.

I’ve sought the Lord on the dichotomy of how to keep a tender heart in the midst of heartbreak and rejection. I asked Him how I could avoid pain’s poison from penetrating and polluting my heart. The answer lay in trusting God to heal my broken heart and to fill in the wounds of rejection with His love. Not just His love for me, but love and forgiveness for the person causing the offense as well.

In Ezekiel 36, God speaks of us exchanging our hard heart of solid rock for a soft, delicate, pliable heart of flesh. This alone indicates that our heart is to be kept soft and vulnerable to Him as well as those He puts in our lives.

Think of the heart as a wineskin that has to be kept oiled and supple so as not to crack when the filling comes—whether good or bad.

I once asked God to break my heart for the things that broke His. Instead of pointing me to hungry kids in Africa or the homeless, He turned my heart in the direction of a person who had hurt and rejected me. Those who cause me pain, such as the person He pointed out, make me want to run in the other direction and shut the door behind me. But, God wanted me to love and help restore this person to Him.

My heart sank within me, for the truth was—the love required for this purpose could not be found in me. This is where putting our heart in God’s hands becomes our only reality. Psalm 119:32 promises, if we run the course of His commandments, He will enlarge our heart. Loving those who hurt and betray us is accomplished through a miracle of God Himself; ever so faithfully enlarging and working in our frail human heart.

“I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.”
Psalm 9:1

Our wellspring is to be kept pure—a place where God Himself can live. Be encouraged to guard your heart, making it a home for the love of your life!