A Matter of the Heart
Our Hearts Need Rhythm
Day 1: Read Mark 12:28-31. Loving God with our whole being is at the core of what it means to be a Christ follower. Ok, so we’re supposed to love God with everything we are and with everything we have, but how do we do that? Can we just decide one day to love God and try really hard to care about Him? The problem is that loving relationships don’t really work that way. Whether it is a parent, a child, a spouse, or a friend, loving relationships take time and effort. Furthermore, a healthy relationship is marked with two-way communication, two-way affection, quality time, and serving one another. We don’t love God because we have to, but because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) The creator of the universe loves you. The God who made the stars in the sky loved you so much that He became a man to die for you in your place. (Romans 5:8) As a result, we spend our lives loving Him in return. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is who we are to be. How and when have you experienced love from God?
Day 2: Maintaining a loving relationship for a lifetime takes discipline and effort. With familiarity, our hearts are prone to wander. Our love can lose focus and grow cold. Life’s distractions can overwhelm us and get in the way. Yet, no matter how far away from God we get, Jesus still invites us to walk beside Him, to live life together, and to work alongside one another. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Just as two oxen would be yoked together to work in a field, so we too are yoked with Jesus. We learn His rhythms. We learn to pull life’s heavy load with Jesus. We are not alone. You see, our hearts need rhythms, regular patterns and habits that will keep us connected with Jesus. What regular rhythms, patterns, or habits exist in your spiritual life? How do you acknowledge God and spend time with Him throughout your week? Take some time to write down your thoughts. If you struggle in this area, the book, Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas could be a good resource.
Day 3: Read John 15:1-17. How do we remain or abide in God? What daily rhythms exist in your life that help you abide? Perhaps it is daily hearing from God’s word by meditating on scripture, or perhaps you’ve built time into your day to talk with God in prayer. How else can we build rhythms into our day that will help us to remain in God? There are many ways. Here are examples taken from the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas: being outside in nature, going for long walks, looking at the stars, hunting or fishing are ways that we can marvel at God’s creations and give Him worship; looking at a beautiful piece of art, listening to music, or watching a skilled performance can move our hearts to acknowledge God; finding a quiet solitary place to retreat to can be the key to connecting with God; or choosing to fast as a way to make God a priority. Others use structured prayers, rituals, and Christian symbols that have been part of church history for over a thousand years. Recall the rhythms that have been significant in Pastor Cory’s life or in the lives of the people who shared on Sunday. A new rhythm may help you remain in God in a fresh way. Pick something and try it.
Day 4: Read John 15:12-17. Spiritual rhythms, ones that keep us abiding in God, will result in overflowing love for others. The greatest commandment is to love God AND to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-31) Loving others will always be the fruit of a growing relationship with God. Spend a few minutes to consider a verse Pastor Doug shared in a recent message – Proverbs 23:26. As we practice walking alongside Jesus, our hearts will gradually be transformed into loving hearts. What rhythms exist in your life that create opportunities for you to love other people? What does loving people look like for you? Who are the people in your life right now you can love and how do you love them? What about your hobbies/passions - can you love people through that? Do you just attend Sunday services or do you help make services welcoming and inviting? What rhythms exist (or could you add in your life) that will help you love others as you abide in Christ?
Day 5: Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27. If you want to win a race, you have to train for it. In the same way, our hearts need training. The rhythms, habits, and spiritual disciplines that we place in our lives are crucial for heart transformation. God uses these practices to train us, shape us, and to prepare us to be able to do His work. It’s not about reading your Bible and having a quiet time every day because that’s what you’re supposed to do. No, it is that the quiet time or other habit allows us to understand who Jesus is, who we are, and how we can live more like Him. If we truly intentionally pursue Him, together the church, the body of Christ, is able to combat the brokenness of this world (in such places like Honduras where Audrey & Esther serve) with such a powerful love that even the gates of hell will not be able to withstand it. (Matthew 16:18) This devotional is not just a list of things for us to do. Instead, I pray that God would stir inside each of our hearts with a longing desire to find ways to spend more time with Him, and that as a result of abiding in God, our family, co-workers, classmates and neighbors would see God’s love though us. That is the life God dreams for us to live.