For the Foolish People (like me)

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The more I read the Bible the more I am amazed at God’s goodness to fulfill His plan even in the midst of our foolishness. Sarah schemed to give Abraham an heir to fulfill God’s promise. The mess she made of it all is still felt in the world today. Yet, God didn’t abandon His plan in retaliation. He still allowed the foolish Sarah to bear a son – the child of the promise. When Isaac married and his wife finally conceived, God told Rebekah that her younger son would rule over his older brother, but she still schemed to make sure Jacob – the younger son and her favorite – got his father’s blessing. Then he had to run to his uncle far away to protect himself from his brother’s wrath. While there he married two sisters and started a family with them and their maids (and people say the Bible is boring). Out of all this deception, manipulation, and foolishness, God still gave twelve sons to Jacob – sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel and eventually a nation that could not be counted, just as He promised Abraham.

That gives me hope because I have made some major messes in my life, done some foolish and, yes, sinful things.  I have heard God say, “turn to the right,” and I ran instead to the left because the grass looked greener there. It was just an illusion. I have made choices because I thought I knew better than God what would make me happy and only found sorrow and struggle. I have reaped the whirlwind of my stupidity many times. Yet God has never given up on me. He has never turned His back on me in disgust or frustration. He has never left me to rot in the pit of my choosing.  And He has never failed to turn it all around and still fulfill His good, pleasing, and perfect will. Beloved, I know He will be faithful to do the same for you. He is a good and gracious God – even when we mess it all up.

Choosing Jesus

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The Lord said: “These people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service–yet their hearts are far from Me.” Isaiah 29:13

When the Columbine massacre happened in 1999, the story was told of a young woman who died because she affirmed her faith in God. I remember a friend insisting, “I would have said ‘Yes!’ too – I would take a bullet for God!” Yet I saw her daily life, and it denied her profession. I think for so many Christians in America, we believe that “making the choice” for Christ means one day standing before a firing squad and saying, “I believe in Jesus!” then bracing ourselves for the gunfire. We don’t realize that the choice is made every day in a thousand small ways.

In choosing time with God over an extra hour of sleep. In choosing to turn off worldly programming. In choosing to speak gently in the face of insult. In choosing to have our kids in Sunday School rather than on the ballfield. In choosing to love and care for our lost neighbors rather than avoiding them. In choosing to put down the cellphone and talk to our children about our faith. In choosing to run away from pornography. In choosing to worship God rather than a politician. In choosing humility over anger. In choosing surrender and submission to Christ over national rights and privileges.

The thing is, if we’re not making these lesser choices every day, we’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re going to make them when it’s a matter of life and death. The proof of our relationship with Christ is not in a sensational act of courage, its in the quiet moment-by-moment choices we make day-after-day.

Beloved, are you choosing Christ?

Closed Heart Surgery

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26

My brother-in-law recently underwent heart by-pass surgery.  He had for several months been experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, lack of energy and eventually, chest pain. Tests revealed blockages in several of the vessels of his heart, blockages that had slowly and quietly built up over years.  The symptoms were minimal at first, easily dismissed in the middle of his busy days. But they became more and more severe until he could not ignore them any longer.  He wisely sought medical help and found himself lying on a table counting backwards from 100…99…98…97… .  .   .    .     .

The symptoms my brother-in-law encountered are similar to those you and I experience when we encounter spiritual heart problems. We find ourselves short of spiritual breath, our spiritual energy begins to wane and eventually, we suffer the pain of a hardened heart. Hardened hearts also happen slowly, and over time, can lead to a very serious problem.  My brother-in-law’s condition has a fancy medical name, but I remember it being called “hardening of the arteries.” God calls our heart condition “a heart of stone.”  A heart of stone is unhealthy and resistant to God.  This kind of heart is closed to God’s love and in desperate need of surgery.

How does our heart get so hard?  Almost always, a hard heart happens with small steps away from God, seemingly insignificant things that, one by one, don’t seem to be that threatening.  It is the simple choices we make each day. Like hitting the snooze button and sleeping through our morning quiet time, once, then another morning and another morning, until we’ve just reset the alarm altogether and forgotten all about morning devotionals.  It happens when we spend so much time reading our email that there is no time to read the Bible.  Our prayer life suffers as we look to the world for advice, rather than seeking God’s counsel for our needs. When the our kid’s sports games take us away from worship with our church family on Sunday morning, and when we skip Bible Study class for our favorite TV show, our hearts are becoming hardened to the things of God.  The choices we make in entertainment, online usage, conversations and relationships can cause us to become numb to sin and push us into the danger zone.

Hard hearts also happen when we experience hurts and struggles and do not allow God to bring us His healing and restoration.  When unforgiveness, bitterness, disappointment and envy fester, one more brick is added to the wall that has encased our hearts.   This is not God’s desire for you and me.

Ezekiel was a prophet and priest to the nation of Judah, a people with a serious heart condition.  They had allowed their hearts to become hardened by sin and now they faced God’s discipline for their rebellion. They were being taken captive by the Babylonians, taken far from their beloved homeland.  The nation of Israel had been chosen and set apart by God, called to be His people, for His glory.  But they had drifted away from Him, one decision, one compromise, one person at a time.  Soon the entire nation had turned cold and hard toward God; and they fell into captivity.

But the story of Israel doesn’t end in captivity, and our story doesn’t end with hard, cold hearts.  Our key verse from Ezekiel 36:26 is a beautiful promise from God – His promise to perform the kind of heart surgery that only He can do.  He will take away our heart of stone and in its place give us a heart of flesh.  I love that He doesn’t just say he will remake our hearts, but that he will do a complete “heart transplant.”  God gives us a heart that is tender to His Spirit and moldable in His hands-as He says in the very next verse-“I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees” (Ezekiel 36:27)

What do you see when you look honestly at your heart?  Has your heart become hard? Have you become bitter and cold toward God?  It does not have to be so.  If you are in need of “heart surgery” remember that God is the Master Cardiologist, and is always willing to do a “heart transplant,” if we surrender our heart into His hands.  There really is no better place for our heart to be.

God of my heart, life is filled with struggles and challenges that have caused my heart to become hard and cold.  Please take my heart of stone away and give me a heart of flesh – a heart like Yours.  Amen