Heart Condition

Our polarized society seems to operate in clusters where people only consider the voices which match their own lifestyle and opinions. 2 Timothy 3:2 warned of a time where “… people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.” We seem to exist in such times.

Yet, Mark 12:30-31 states that we are to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” God commands us to love. But what does this love mean? Society at large uses the word love all the time, usually relating to possessions, destinations, or activities. We seem to apply energy in selfish, futile directions, then wonder why we feel so frustrated and discouraged.

Whenever we feel troubled in our minds, we must examine the condition of our heart. The mind is the powerful battlefield that controls the filter through which we view the world. Sometimes circumstances can skew our filter. The heart is our innermost being. The soul is our eternal spiritual being. We often feel troubled when our mind, heart, and soul is in conflict. Our mind thinks something different than what our heart feels. Our soul is saddened by something which seems like a logical decision. The core of the issue is a heart condition. Since He created us, the Lord knows all about us – mind, body, heart, and soul. Psalm 139:13-14 says For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” We can often give others the impression that all is well, but the Lord knows our motives. 1 Samuel 16:7b reminds us that “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 

Praying to ask for God’s forgiveness as well as godly wisdom, healing, restoration, unity, love, faith, hope, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are the best cures of any heart condition.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Galatians 5:22-23

Beware of Blind Spots!

Navigating traffic requires a high level of focus. When you are about to change lanes, the place you plan to occupy may look clear and available, but as you begin to make your move, you might quickly learn that you missed something and the space is not available after all. It can be frustrating and discouraging, not to mention dangerous, as you try to regroup and revise your plan.

It is the same with us spiritually. We can become so preoccupied with our next move that we only view our situation from one angle. As a result, we may miss something critical that nearly bowls us over.

The most dangerous driver is the one who assumes they drive perfectly. Similarly, the most dangerous Christian is the one who assumes they are completely righteous and have no areas to learn, grow, or mature. Pride is a major spiritual blind spot that the enemy often attempts to use against us.  Psalm 10:4 says In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” It is contrary to our human nature, but we must confess our need for God. Proverbs 28:13 says “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

To avoid painful collisions on the road of life, we must ask our omnipresent (all-seeing), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) Creator to check the blind spots of our lives. Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” We must trust God to help us navigate through bumps, unexpected slowdowns, and dangerous blind spots. If we seek His guidance ahead of making a move, we are guaranteed to not only make it to our destination but to enjoy the journey along the way.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

May God’s power continue to work through you!

Don’t Be Shy!

It’s interesting how society favors the extrovert – the brash, outgoing, overtly expressive person. We are often encouraged to be bold in our public lives. Then somehow, when we step into our prayer space, we become timid, shy and reserved. We limit our petitions, we lower our expectations, then wonder why we feel spiritually dissatisfied.

God calls us to be humble, but not shy nor reserved with Him. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” My spiritual antenna goes up every time I see the word “all” in the Bible. Cast ALL my anxiety on you – really Lord? There are so many situations with myself and the world that burden my heart. Faith is believing that our heavenly Father is powerful enough to handle them all. Humility is recognizing our dependence on God – that we do not have to carry burdens, find our own solutions, or forge outcomes for ourselves. When we admit our limits and weaknesses, it releases that burden and serves as an open invitation for God to address whatever concerns us.

We are often plagued by fear, doubt, or shame. Those are tools of the enemy designed to hinder our prayer lives. Think about it: we have a relationship with God that the enemy can never have again. The devil is not after us per se, but after that rich, abundant relationship we can cultivate with our Creator.  When our spiritual self-esteem is low, we struggle to believe that God even cares about us or our situation. God absolutely cares! As the Negro Spiritual song says “King Jesus is a’listening when you pray.” 1 John 5:14-15 says This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

If you find yourself experiencing fear, doubt, guilt, or shame, ask God to remove those hindrances and just as it says in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Then, proceed to pray boldly! Tell Him what upsets you, what troubles you, what scares you and invite Him to move in every situation that concerns you. I promise God is up for the challenge. He hears you, will never leave you and will answer when you call. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. “
-Ephesians 6:10-18

God’s Got This!

Three simple but powerful words. Sometimes in the storms of life, we get distracted, overwhelmed, discouraged, or scared. Our problems seem insurmountable. It is in the depths of our despair that we need to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness. No matter how difficult the situation, we serve a “greater than” God who is able as Ephesians 3:20-21 says to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever...”

We need never carry any burden alone. Nor do we need to analyze the size of our issue to evaluate whether it’s worthy of God’s attention. Psalm 68:19 says “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” God is omnipotent, meaning He is all-powerful. Nothing is too hard for Him! There are no limits to His power. God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere at the same time. His presence and attention to your issue do not reduce His availability anywhere else. God is omniscient, meaning He is all-knowing. Nothing takes God by surprise. Revelation 22:13 says God is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” He knows the end from the beginning, so it stands to reason that He knows everything in between.

Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” The next time you feel anxiety rising, remind yourself that you are connected to the one who holds all power. Remind yourself that God’s GOT this!

Acknowledging Gifts

For some people, gift-giving is a task. For others, it is a joy. Major gift-giving often accompanies important milestone celebrations such as a wedding, birthday, or anniversary. By contrast, small gifts simply reflect appreciation. A small token can brighten someone’s day and remind them that they are loved. However, gifts require a measure of graciousness by the giver as well as the recipient. If you received a gift and didn’t express appreciation to the giver, what is the likelihood of receiving another gift from that person? Similarly, if someone gave you a gift and repeatedly boasted to others about what they did for you, would you want to receive another gift from them?

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something nice for someone and they never thanked you? It’s frustrating to behave in a thoughtful manner which is not acknowledged. Can you imagine how our Heavenly Father could feel?

Thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways. Every day, we receive multiple gifts from the Lord – life, health, strength, wisdom, favor, peace, protection, provision, grace, mercy, and the list goes on. We often take these gifts for granted and barely acknowledge them. Yet the following day, by His grace, we are gifted with similar blessings all over again. We rarely express any measure of gratitude for receiving these gifts, only frustration and disappointment when the flow of gifts seems to dry up. The Lord blesses us with magnificent and common, regular and extraordinary gifts that are designed just for us. He winks at us, taking note of our obedience, being in touch with our innermost needs, then orchestrating events across the expanse of the universe that minister to us, even addressing needs which we don’t realize we have. God encourages us in our growth and extends mercy where we fall short. Psalm 145:9 says “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Adopting an attitude of gratitude is essential to cultivating a vigorous and fulfilling prayer life. Reflecting on God’s goodness means changing your prayer priorities. Spiritually shifting focus from what you want to who God is cultivates a grateful and humble heart. The more you take an inventory of blessings, the more you recognize God constantly at work in your life, the better you’ll feel about every situation that concerns you. Acknowledging who God is and what He does sets the stage for an extraordinary life of gratitude.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

 

 

Shifting to Neutral

Society teaches us that the more driven and ambitious we are, the more successful we’ll be. Although it’s important to be accountable and responsible, navigating the world as a Believer inherently means releasing a false perception of control. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Every day, we base decisions on our limited view and understanding. Then find ourselves frustrated when we learn the situation does not match our initial perception. This fallacy can also endanger our prayer lives. Just like driving a vehicle, we think we are in “Drive” and moving forward, in control. Then later down life’s road, we realize that we were actually in “Reverse” entrenched in a situation that eventually causes a setback. We may find ourselves in “Park” trying to figure out exactly what is happening. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

The good news is that we can always shift to neutral and ask Jesus to take the wheel. Instead of praying OUR will – for the outcome that we prefer or desire, we need to pray GOD’S will – trusting that He will move in situations for our ultimate good.  Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Even when the immediate outcome is painful or disheartening, we can trust in God’s faithfulness to keep us, even through difficult situations. We find ourselves spiritually content in every circumstance, not because of who we are, but because of who God is. He is the one who changes our mental and emotional outlook. Romans 12:2 says “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” He alone is the one who can open doors, fill any void, and meet every need, serving as the source of our joy, love, hope, peace, faith, and strength.

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, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
-Phillipians 4:12-13

 

The Art of Letting Go

A beloved hymn begins this way:

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

We are often guilty of clinging tightly to what is familiar, even when it is not healthy or beneficial for us. Fear of the unknown, repeating past mistakes, and other emotional considerations can weigh heavily on our hearts and minds.

In those instances, we must pray and ask God to grant us whatever we need – wisdom, strength, courage, and peace – to let go. The more a situation bothers us, the more important it is to attempt the deep spiritual work of confessing our limitations and our desire to release such situations to God.

We must remind ourselves that our every issue that concerns us is the perfect size for God to address. Every issue of our lives is God-sized. No matter how overwhelming or insignificant our problem seems to us, it is always the perfect size for God to intervene as only He can – with truth, wisdom, sovereignty, power, and love.  Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” No matter the history or extent, at best we only have a limited view where God has an eternal view. Isaiah 40:28 says “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Do you want to release some problems to God, but aren’t sure where to begin? Try this “prayer starter” to release a situation that troubles you:

Wise and loving God, I acknowledge that you are an all-seeing and all-knowing God. Forgive me for clinging so tightly to my issue(s) of ________. According to your word in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I seek freedom God and release this/these issue(s) to you in the name of Jesus. Grant me wisdom and courage to trust you more…