A new heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. Ezk 36:26-27(CEB)

After reading yesterday in the Bible how deceitful we all are in our hearts, here is a ray of hope from Ezekiel 36. It tells me that God will give me a new heart! With this new heart I will be able to live the right life that I have tried so hard to do. The verses around these scriptures tell me though that I shall expect a lot of work. God will have to cleanse me of my old ways before I can enter His promises. What is my reward for all the hard work that lies ahead? Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God…The LORD God proclaims: On the day that I cleanse you of all your guilt, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be farmed, and it won’t be like it was when it seemed a wasteland to all who passed by. They will say, “This land, which was a desolation, has become like the garden of Eden.” And the cities that were ruined, ravaged, and razed are now fortified and inhabited. ( 36:28, 33-35)

When I have tried to live life right on my own, it crumbles around me. But God will take the ruins I have created and help me build again. He will plant and water my new life and soon a garden will grow.

Take this heart of mine Lord, shape it and breathe new life into it. Remove all the shards of my self-living, create in me a new heart that beats for You. Amen.

Testing

The most cunning heart— it’s beyond help. Who can figure it out?  I, the LORD, probe the heart and discern hidden motives, to give everyone what they deserve, the consequences of their deeds. ~Jer. 17:9-10 (CEB)

The commentary in my Bible says that these verses are the strongest statement made anywhere in the Bible about the deception and sinfulness of the human heart made be the Lord.

It is hard for us to really know or understand this, but God does. He searches and tests what is in our hearts, and God knows them to be full of selfishness and injustice. It saddens me to think of myself in this way especially when I think how hard I try every day to live right. The good news is that God knows what is in my heart. And He loves me anyway! He also is willing to get down in the trenches and work with me to be more than I am. I don’t want to be deceptive and sinful. May I embrace the Psalmists words in 139:22-23, Examine me, God! Look at my heart! Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts! Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me, then lead me on the eternal path!

Test my heart oh, Lord! Put me to the test! If there be any deception or sinfulness please bring them to my attention so that I may line my will with Yours. Amen.

Treasures

Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Make for yourselves wallets that don’t wear out—a treasure in heaven that never runs out. No thief comes near there, and no moth destroys. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too. ~Luke 12:32-34 (CEB)

“We would be very upset with millionaires who lived in life-robbing poverty because of ignorance or personal choice. We would be very disappointed in someone who had enormous wealth but refused to spend any of it for even the simple resources to sustain life. Why then are we not outraged about Christians by the millions who life as though God were dead and God’s grace were exhausted? Could it be because we live that way so often ourselves?

The good news we share with one another is the gospel’s declaration that no matter where we are in life, we are the recipients of God’s limitless grace. We can have peace, joy, assurance, comfort, hope, tranquility, confidence, and companionship without Creator and beyond that, life eternal. With a life bank full of such gifts we are indeed rich. And yet, so often I permit myself to slip into poverty thinking and poverty living. I feel anxious, alone, fearful, faithless, without joy, and sometimes without hope. I feel this way because I have forgotten and lost grip on the inheritance that God gives me a new every morning.” ~ Rueben P. Job

So often I find myself living in spiritual poverty because I have forgotten who I am and Whose I am. I am a child of God the Creator. Today I remind myself to claim my inheritance and I plan to act as if I am a beloved child of God.

Today Heavenly Father, I find myself needing to claim once again your grace for my life. I claim this day the peace, joy, assurance, comfort, hope, tranquility, confidence, and companionship You have promised me. I Choose to live this day as if I have an eternal inheritance. Amen.

Forgiving the church

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. ~1 Cor 12:26-27 (CEB)

I was once by my perception, hurt deeply by “the church” or rather by the people in the church. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how “Christian people” could act in such a way as they did. I was holding them up to my standard of perfection and not seeing them through God’s eyes… wounded and broken like me.

“When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it.   But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.  When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.  The challenge is to forgive the Church.  This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.  But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

Although I never officially left a church over my wounds I know I was guilty of losing Jesus while I held onto my hurt and anger. Even though I continued to grace the steps of the church that hurt me I was blinded by pain, thus unable to see Jesus and His Grace for me. As always, unforgiveness only injures me. In time I was able to see that we are all human and none of us perfect. Now I see that time period as a necessary part of my journey. Many life lessons were learned as I regained my sight of Jesus through that time of trial. Most important of all was the reminder that Jesus forgives me every day and I need to extend that same grace to others.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the grace you give me every day. Help me to see others as needing your grace too. May I not let my past hurts blind me so deeply as to not feel Your love this day. Amen.

When He came calling

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. I praise the LORD— let the suffering listen and rejoice. Magnify the LORD with me! Together let us lift his name up high! I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. This suffering person cried out: the LORD listened and saved him from every trouble. On every side, the LORD’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! You who are the LORD’s ~Psalm 34:1-8 (CEB)

“You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.” ~From The Confessions by Saint Augustine

Once I began to listen to God calling to me, the more I wanted to hear. A simple taste of God’s word was not enough; it left me hungering for more. To the one who delivers me from all my fears I want even more today. I am never satisfied. As long as I seek refuge in Him I find true and complete happiness.

Heaveny Father, I thank You this day for calling out to me, for searching the dark depths for my lost soul. I thank you for finding me while I was lost, caught up in trying hard to live right. I thank You for the peace that awaits when I rest in Your arms. May I never stray so far to feel darkness’ bleak fear, help me stay in the light of Your love. Amen.

God sings

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.~Zeph 3:14 (CEB)

Reading Zephaniah shows us that God pleads for us to turn to Him. He does not want our destruction. He wants us to come away from our self-willed path and find a road that leads to him.

Have you ever wondered what God is saying to you when you line your steps with his? Zephaniah 3 says this:

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem. The LORD has removed your judgment; he has turned away your enemy. The LORD, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you will no longer fear evil. On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem: Don’t fear, Zion. Don’t let your hands fall. The LORD your God is in your midst— a warrior bringing victory. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing. I will remove from you those worried about the appointed feasts. They have been a burden for her, a reproach. Watch what I am about to do to all your oppressors at that time. I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast. I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth. (Zep 3:14-19)

He sings a song of joy and commands you sing too!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your songs of joy that You plant in our hearts for our day of return. I thank You that You are so willing to turn our ashes to joy, our suffering to purpose, and our pain to victory. Thank You for the calm you promise us if only we will look to You, our Hope and Redeemer. Ever guide my steps this day. Amen.

A God who woos

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. ~Matthew 5:5 (CEB)

My spiritual life is His affair; because, whatever I may think to the contrary, it is really produced by His steady attraction, and my humble and self-forgetful response to it. It is a case of being drawn, in His way and at His speed, to a place that He wants me to be. Not to the place I plan for myself.

When we allow ourselves to be wooed by God we find ourselves going places we never thought about going before. Anchored in him we find ourselves stronger than we ever thought we were, able to withstand the greatest storms. As long as we remember Who gave us this strength, Who called us from the depths, we will find that we are able to do all things…

Heavenly Father, I thank You for calling me, pulling me, steadily and constantly. May I never forget from Where my strength comes from. Amen.

Does God really care?

LORD, how long will I call for help and you not listen? I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t deliver us. Why do you show me injustice and look at anguish so that devastation and violence are before me? There is strife, and conflict abounds. ~Hab 1:2-3 (CEB)

Often I find myself wrestling with questions. In reading the book of Habakkuk I find he is wrestling with some of the same things. His primary question to God is “Why does the Lord permit the righteous to suffer while the wicked prosper?” He has a series of questions and as he continues to raise these questions, the Lord responds. Habakkuk seems to be most concerned with how wicked people can even play a role in God’s work.

The time frame for this book is during the time of Israel’s defeat by the Assyrians and Judah’s oppression of those same Assyrians. The Assyrian rule was being felt greatly. Alliances were being made with other nations instead of turning to God. Habakkuk’s vision declares that this practice of trusting in human power and strength would ultimately lead to defeat. Habakkuk reminds Judah that the righteous live by faith.

In the ensuing conversation that Habakkuk has with God, he learns that the question at stake is not how one is made righteous but rather how the righteous might face evil’s apparent domination. He begins to realize that the question at stake is rather how the righteous might face evils apparent domination. “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” (2:3-4) The prophet’s vision emphasizes trust in God despite circumstances. At an appropriate time, an answer will come; in the meantime, the righteous will continue to trust in God.

From Habakkuk’s honest dialog comes a hope based not on visible circumstances but in God, who ultimately triumphs over evil and all of its manifestations. I too can say despite not knowing what tomorrow holds, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” (3:18-19)

Lord, help me find my security in You, not in my present circumstances. As long as my eyes are on You I have the faith needed to know that You will ultimately triumph over evil. Amen.

Forever

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~Luke 21:33 (CEB)

Today I needed to hear words that would never pass away. We live in a world with constant disappointments. Someone lets us down, someone doesn’t do what they promised. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we planned… or hoped. But Jesus’ words will never change. There is steadiness in what I read in the Bible. I know that I can count on God to be and do what He says he will do. Human beings will disappoint. I know I have disappointed others who counted on me. But it does my heart good this morning to see the words in print telling me… that though it may seem that nothing lasts forever God’s Word remains.

Lord, it can be hard to bounce back from disappointment but I thank You this day that You will never disappoint. I thank You that Your words are true and will last forever. Amen.

Full armor

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate,  and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known. I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say. ~Ephesians 6:10-20 (CEB)

These verses from Ephesians are some of my favorite. As I am looking for strength outside myself, I find that these verses promise me strength through God’s armor. Since I am an active person I like the visual given here of putting on specific things to enable me to stand strong. One point that stands out is in verse 13, a warning is given. We are to pick up the FULL armor of God. We shouldn’t be careless and only put on a few of the items before heading out into the world. We need it all, the belt of truth, the breastplate of justice, shoes to spread the good news of peace, the shield of faith. and the helmet of salvation. Leaving off any one of these items leaves us vulnerable. It is interesting to note that all of these things are defensive items that protect and create a wall of protection for us. The only offense we have is God’s Word.

Heavenly Father, continue to help me stand strong. Remind me to place upon myself the full armor You have provided me for my protection as I seek to be your hands and feet in the world. May I carry Your word deep within me this day so that I always know Your truth. Amen

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