Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
The Power of Words

Heart Exam

“…What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45)

Let’s imagine for a minute that some guy carries around a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola™. Hydration is important, right? Somehow, some dirty little rocks got into the bottle. Pretty gross, but to look at it from the outside, it looks like perfectly delicious Coke. And, most of the time, when the guy pours something out of the bottle, it’s just Coke and it tastes delightful.

Most of the time. But once in a while, something unexpected flows out of that bottle. The guy opens it, takes a swig, and ends up with a yucky little rock in his mouth. He’s shocked, and wonders, “Where did THAT come from?”

The simple answer is that it came from inside the bottle. What is inside the bottle eventually flows out of the bottle.

The same principle applies to our heart and our words. Sometimes something comes out of our mouths, and we’re shocked. We wonder where that horrible thing we said came from. The answer is simple—it came from what is in our hearts. What is inside our heart eventually flows out our mouth.

Here’s a real-life example. Once there was a lady who loved Jesus and tried to follow him. This lady came across a stunning cubic zirconium necklace. To her, it looked like a real diamond. She bought it and when she wore it she felt fancy.

But one day, someone asked her if the necklace was a real diamond. To her shock, she heard her mouth open up and say, “Yes.”

Where did that dishonest response come from? It came from a yucky little rock of pride lodged in her heart. Her words flowed from what was in her heart. She had to repent and give the necklace away to keep her heart healthy.

If angry words come out of our mouths, it’s because of a problem in our hearts. If hateful words come out of our mouths, it’s because of a problem in our hearts. Selfishness, unforgiveness, bitterness, unhealed wounds, impatience—all these and more can be lodged in our hearts. From the outside we may look OK, but our words reveal what is really inside our hearts. We can discern the health of our heart by listening to the words we speak.

Second Corinthians 13:5 tells us to examine ourselves. A good place to start is actively, intentionally listening to and examining the words we speak. Are they negative or positive? If our words indicate a heart problem, we must take a step toward fixing that problem. The next step could be awareness and prayer; guidance from a wise, mature Christian; or reaching out for Christian counseling. Whatever the next step is, it’s vitally important to the health of our heart.

It’s not OK to look fine on the outside but have ugliness in our hearts. That ugliness will eventually come out. Thankfully, when our words reveal a sinful heart, we have a Father in heaven who loves us. If we allow it, he will forgive us, heal our hearts, and mold us into his image.

Dear God, examine my heart. Show me anything in my heart that offends you and give me wisdom and strength to change those things. Make me sensitive to the words I speak and enable me to notice when my words indicate something in my heart that needs to change. I want to follow you with my whole heart. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Let’s talk! Have you ever said something you regretted? What did you do about it? Leave a comment in the Reply section below.