A Matter of the Heart
Day 1: Read Galatians 5:1, 22-26. As we heard on Sunday the greeting, “Happy New Year” raises a question. Will next year be a NEW year or will it just be another year like all the years before? This can be a haunting question especially the older we get. Years pass by faster with age. Yet, we are all capable of and at risk of finishing next year as we did this year. Where have you changed for the better? Another way to ask is where is the fruit? (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self-control.) Maybe even consider the last 3, 5, 10 years. As we close 2018, consider these questions: What were the major activities or issues that kept you from growing in your life and your relationships? How are you treating others? Are you more generous, compassionate, forgiving, graceful, merciful, or a serving person than you were at the close of 2017? Conversely, where did we see change, transformation, love, obedience, and more dependence on Jesus? What do you see coming out of your heart through your attitudes, patterns of thoughts you are locked into, and behaviors that flow from these attitudes and patterns even in within the last couple of weeks?
Day 2: Read Psalms 123 and Matthew 13:21. We all have some bad habits, and habits are difficult to break. Is there a habit you do over and over year after year? Though you really don’t want to, you find yourself having the same attitudes. Maybe they are relational problems. Are you having the same unhealthy conversations with your spouse, parent or child? Maybe they are internal issues. Are there patterns of insecurities, failures, fears, addictions or self-centeredness? Ever say, “I can’t keep living this way!”? Yet deep in your heart you don’t believe you can really change. It may feel hopeless. Can I challenge you? This actually may be a heart problem or a faith problem. God will meet us where we are, but it means us surrendering our plans, our attempts. What do you need to surrender today? What obstacles did you recognize or remember as you read yesterday’s devotional reading?
Day 3: Read 2 Corinthians 3:18, 5:17, Zechariah 7:11-13. Let’s talk about our need for a new heart. Why do we still need a new heart if old things are passed away and all things become new? Because this transformation of actually becoming like Jesus is not just a one-time event but a lifetime process. We are given a new heart. A heart that is soft instead of hard. Flesh instead of stone. Pliable instead of stubborn. One that desires to please God instead of self. The direction of our heart has turned around (repented). Instead of being inward on “me”, we look upward on God and outward on others. Yet our heart is not fully like His yet. Set in the right direction we want to please Him and in the process of being changed, yet we all know even of instances today when this does not describe our heart. What caused your heart to be hard or stubborn this week? What hurts your heart? Ask God to touch those areas of your life. Come to Him with hope.
Day 4: Read Ecclesiastes 11:5 and Romans 12: 2-3 The Apostle Peter was all over the board in his spiritual journey of change and transformation. Peter was a fisherman and decided to stop fishing to hang out with Jesus for three years. Peter saw, experienced, and heard all that Jesus said and did. He understood his sin in the presence of Jesus; he had a great revelation of who Jesus is; he rebuked the idea of Jesus’ suffering and death and boasted that he will never deny the Lord. After his death and resurrection, Jesus restores and shows Peter mercy and gives him another chance while on the beach. Then, Peter starts believing in faith and stepping into the calling Jesus had for him. Eventually, Peter authors three books of the Bible and becomes one of the most significant leaders of the early church. This is a great snapshot of a journey or life of following and becoming more like Jesus. Though Peter matured he never fully arrived; we say and do stupid or shameful things, but we can continue taking steps by daily choosing to hang out with Jesus, submit to His will and ways. In doing so, we learn to care what He cares about. Proverbs 23:26 challenges us to let our eyes delight in his ways and change our hearts. What about you, where are you in your journey? Have you resolved to address a habit, attitude or relationship? Are you going to surrender to him in the hopes of starting a new year?
Day 5: Read I John 1:5-9 God is light, and we experience him when we walk in the light. Yet we all know darkness. A sinful nature still resides in us. Even though this process of change is different for each of us, there is one ingredient that is the same for all. Transformation involves failure, repeated failure. It involves learning from our failures. Trust God with your failure. Lean into Him and give your failure over to Him. Repent and forgive yourself and others if needed. Step back into the light as quickly as you can. As you set out to be renewed this year and resolve yourself to be different or rid yourself of a harmful habit or attitude, lean into God. You will receive deep fullness of his presence and miraculous transformation of your character. Walk boldly in the light today.