The Heart

Out with the Old, in with the New

Maybe it’s time for some changes…

Have you ever had a sofa such a long time that the legs were getting wobbly, the fabric was wearing thin, and the grape juice, ketchup, and gravy stains were painful to see? When we make the decision to buy a new sofa, we shop around and find just the right one. We’re super excited when the delivery truck pulls into our driveway.

Can you imagine anyone having the delivery people put the beautiful new couch on top of the old couch? Just stack it on top of that dirty, worn, broken down couch…said no one, ever! No, we get rid of the old couch and replace it with the new.

But sometimes we’re not as careful with our hearts. We try to put our beautiful God stuff on top of our old, messed-up junk. And that’s a mistake. Our hearts need to be maintained carefully, and that includes getting rid of untruths, bad attitudes, and incorrect thinking.

Jesus didn’t come to tidy us up a little. He came to make us brand new.

“Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This includes our old identity, our old thought patterns, and our old sinful behavior. We aren’t just tweaked a little—we’re made completely new.

There’s danger in allowing the old things back into our hearts. We must be on guard to keep the junk and mess out. Proverbs 4:23 says, “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” If we’re not on guard, if we’re not paying attention, our heart can become cluttered with things that don’t belong there.

To check our hearts, we can ask these questions:

  • How do I spend my time?
  • How do I spend my money?
  • What do I think about?
  • What words are coming out of my mouth?

Our time, money, thoughts, and words are pretty good indicators of the status of our hearts.

Let’s offer it all up to Jesus and ask him to help us get rid of attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that are cluttering up our hearts and our lives. Growth happens when change happens. Maybe it’s time to declutter our hearts. Maybe it’s time to cast aside thoughts and behaviors that are old and need to be replaced. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the old and replace it with the new.

Dear God, I never want to fall back into the person I was before I met you. Help me guard my heart. Reveal to me any junk in my heart that needs to be replaced. I offer all that I am to you. Help me continue to grow in you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Heart

Deal with It

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23-24)

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and seen something appalling? Maybe you haven’t, but I definitely have. Broccoli in my teeth, schmutz on my cheek—the mirror reveals it all.

I’ve never looked in the mirror and said, “oh, no, broccoli in my teeth,” and then went on about my business without getting rid of the broccoli. No, when the mirror reveals the horror of the broccoli, I do something about it. I deal with it.

God doesn’t care about the schmutz on our cheek or the broccoli in our teeth. But he cares deeply about the junk that lodges in our hearts. The Scripture says hearing the Word of God is like looking in a mirror. The Bible has the power to reveal any destructive issues in our hearts. Instead of hearing the Word, seeing the problem, and choosing to ignore it, we must make up our minds to do something about it.

What are some heart problems we need to deal with instead of ignoring? Let’s talk about just two common heart problems.

  • Guilt can sometimes be a good thing. It’s healthy to feel bad if we do something wrong. What isn’t healthy is to let guilt dwell in our hearts year after year. Unresolved guilt is resolved by confession, accepting God’s forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves. It may require humbling ourselves and doing what we can to make things right with the person we wronged. When we take steps to deal with the guilt, we free ourselves from its hold on our heart. (See 1 John 1:19.)
  • Anger lodged in our hearts will spill over onto the people around us. Why continue to give people who hurt us in the past the power to affect our future? For our own good, and because Jesus requires it of us, we must forgive those who hurt us and let go of the anger. They may not deserve to be forgiven, but we deserve to live without anger. (See Ephesians 4:31-32.)

Guilt and anger are just two examples. Jealousy, bitterness, guilt, greed, lust, anxiety…the list goes on and on. So many destructive issues can make their homes in our hearts

A friend of mine developed atrial fibrilation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat. His cardiologist ordered a lot of tests and they all came back normal. There appeared to be nothing wrong with his heart—except AFib. The doctor said he could live a long time with AFib, but if left untreated, it would eventually cause deformities in his heart. So, to keep his heart from damage, he dealt with it.

In the same way, not dealing with spiritual issues eventually causes spiritual deformities. Maybe we can live with our anger, depression, or guilt, but God doesn’t want us to keep living with our heart issues.

God’s Word tells us to deal with our heart issues. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25). Do we want to be blessed in what we do? If so, we must look intently into God’s Word and let it be a mirror to show us what needs changed in our hearts.

What destructive issues are in our hearts right now? Instead of ignoring what we see in the mirror of the Word, let’s do something about it. Let’s deal with it.

Dear God, forgive me for the times I’ve heard your Word and realized I needed to change, but walked away without taking any action. For the sake of my heart and for the sake of my relationship with you, help me to not only hear your Word, but to do it. Give me the courage to acknowledge my heart issues and the resolve to deal with them. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Heart

Four Types of Hearts

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.” (Mark 4:3)

Jesus lived his time on earth in an agrarian society. The people he taught knew a great deal about cultivating crops, sowing seeds, and reaping a harvest. When Jesus wanted to teach them about the condition of their hearts, he told them a story about a farmer.

A farmer went out to sow seeds. As he threw the seed onto the ground, some fell on the pathway and was eaten by hungry birds. Some of the seed fell on stony ground, and it immediately sprang up but when the sun was hot, the plant withered away because it had no roots. Some seed fell among thorns that choked the plant and it didn’t produce a crop. Other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop 30, 60, or even 100 times more than the farmer planted. (Mark 4:15-20)

This parable is extra special because Jesus himself explains the meaning to us. The soil represents the hearts of people. The seed is the word of God. The seed falls onto four different types of soil, representing four types of hearts.

  • The Pathway Heart has been hardened to the message of God. The word of God can’t enter the hard heart, and Satan comes and steals the message of God’s word before it has an opportunity to grow.
  • The Rocky Heart hears the message and receives it with joy but fails to make a commitment to pursuing God. Their faith doesn’t develop deep roots, and when trouble and hardships come, these hearts fall away from God.
  • The Thorny Heart accepts the message of God. The word of God begins to grow in their life, but they become distracted. Worry, anxiety, careers, leisure activities, and other cares of life crowds out the message, and they never yield a harvest.
  • The Good Heart hears the message and accepts it. This heart continues to grow in God’s word and yields a bountiful and valuable crop.

The Lord cares deeply about the condition of our hearts. He doesn’t care about our good looks, fancy clothes, or great hair. God looks right past our appearance and examines our hearts. (See 1 Samuel 16:7.) He sees the thorny, the rocky, and the hard hearts. He sees the good, the bad and the ugly hearts. In fact, his eyes continually roam throughout the earth looking for a heart fully devoted to him, so he can show himself strong on their behalf (2 Chronicles 16:19).

So, when God looks at our hearts—and be assured, he will—what will he find? Have we given our whole heart to God? Do we embrace his word? Are we too distracted by work, school, vacations, or Netflix to pursue our relationship with God? Let God show you the areas in your heart he longs to heal and strengthen.

When our physical hearts aren’t healthy, we need a cardiologist. When our spiritual hearts aren’t healthy, we need a Savior.

Heavenly Father, I bring you my heart. I offer it to you without reservation. Show me the kind of heart I really have. Reveal to me any areas you want to change. I want to have a heart with good soil, that will receive your word and grow an abundant harvest. Take my heart. I give it to you now. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Heart

A Heart for the Nations

“…And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes…then the nations will know that I am the Lord…And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:23-26)

For several years, the Discovery Channel aired a television show called, “Dirty Jobs.” In the show, the host worked in strange or unpleasant jobs. Examples included bat guano gatherer, road kill collector, and chimney sweeper.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God in Old Testament times. He had the messy, unpleasant job of pointing out the sins of God’s people and informing them of God’s anger.

Israel repeatedly sinned against God, ignoring his commandments and worshipping idols. In Ezekiel 2:4, God called Israel, “…a stubborn and hard-hearted people.”

In Ezekiel 36, the Lord says for the sake of his own holy name, he would bring his people back to their promised land. God promised to cleanse them of the sin that had defiled them and to remove their stony, stubborn heart, replacing it with a tender, responsive heart.

Moreover, when God’s people turned their hard hearts over to God, and he changed their hearts, the nations would see that the God of angel armies is the one true God.

When the hearts of God’s people change, nations are changed.

Here in America, we may not agree about everything, but almost all of us would agree we face challenges that can cause frustration, impatience, anger, or fear in our hearts. As God’s people, we must check our hearts and accept responsibility for times we haven’t followed God as we should. Our nation is affected by the attitudes, words, and actions of God’s people—and our attitudes, words, and actions all flow from what’s within our hearts.

We may have heard this verse hundreds of times, until we almost don’t listen to it anymore. Let’s open our hearts and really listen to this verse one more time: “If my people who are called by my name put away their pride and pray, and look for my face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

You know what I read in that verse? I read that fixing my nation starts with asking God to fix my own heart. We must guard our hearts because God uses us—his people—to change families, communities, nations, and the world. How’s your heart?

Dear God, I put away any pride in my heart and ask you to give me a heart that is soft and responsive to you. I repent of any sin in my life and turn my heart toward you. Use me for your purpose. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Heart

Below the Surface

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

On November 27, 2019, a strong storm with high winds and massive waves struck Lake Michigan. The storm uncovered a shipwreck that had been buried for over a hundred years.

A storm has a way of bringing things under the surface out into the open. This isn’t only true in Lake Michigan; it’s also true in our lives. A storm may uncover issues in our hearts that weren’t visible until the storm hits.

In Matthew 14:22-31, Jesus told his disciples to cross the lake without him. While they were sailing, a storm came up, with strong winds and high waves. About 3:00 in the morning, they saw Jesus coming toward their boat, walking on the water.

Peter, impulsive as always, asked Jesus to let him walk on the water, too. Jesus gave Peter the OK, and Peter jumped over the side of the boat. He didn’t sink. Just like Jesus, he walked on the water.

Peter had enough faith to jump off the boat. But when he started noticing the violence of the storm, his faith wavered. The blasting wind and crashing waves were too much for Peter. He doubted, and he began to sink. Jesus said, “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”

Peter had a heart issue that needed attention—faith that wavered during the storm.

Isn’t it that way for all of us from time to time? On the surface, we seem to be doing well. We help little old ladies across the street and are kind to animals. We have a freakishly-upbeat attitude. We blast worship music and sport our Jesus t-shirts.

Until the storm hits. We lose a job. We battle an illness. The mortgage is due, and we have no money to pay it. We find ourselves stressed out, surly, impatient, and afraid. We snap equally at those we love and the slow drivers who annoyingly won’t get out of our way. We let the old ladies cross the road alone and we yell at the dog to get out of our way. We’re OK when we’re safe in the boat, but we’re not OK in the storm.

In the storm, issues of the heart rise to the surface and become visible, both to us and to others. During a storm is the perfect time to examine the condition of our hearts. Is our faith, confidence, joy, and patience strong in the face of the storm? Or does the storm cause fear, anger, bitterness, or resentment in our hearts?

When heart issues come to the surface, we can pray as David prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

God is in the heart business. He creates clean hearts. He renews hearts that have fallen back into old, negative attitudes. We can safely open our hearts to God. When we do, he will lovingly clean and renew our hearts, giving us strength and faith through the bad times as well as the good times.

Lord, help me with my heart. Help me notice when I have an issue with anger, a lack of faith, bitterness, or anything else that keeps my heart from belonging completely to you. Make my heart clean. Renew my spirit. Fill my heart with faith, peace, and joy. In Jesus’s name, amen.