A Matter of the Heart

January 6, 2019

A Matter of the Heart

Risks

Day 1: Happy New Year! Last week, Pastor Jack spoke to us about the newly arrived 2019. He challenged us to consider, “Will this be a new year for you, or will this just be like last year?” Over the last week, what have you discovered in yourself, and your life, for changes in the new year? Where will you focus to seek a new heart as we jump into another trip around the sun? Read Isaiah 43: 18-19 and Jeremiah 29:11. Pray to the Lord over these passages, and trust that the future is gifted, blessed and protected by the Father. Ask for the openness to travel a path of new discovery - full of love - on our journey to live and become more like Jesus.

Day 2: Pastor Steve continued our discussion of heart this week evaluating our “risk”. The bible states in several passages the pitfalls of our sinful nature.  Read Colossians 3:5-8 and Galatians 5:19-21. Jesus points out to us- to help us quit kidding ourselves- to realize/admit we are the biggest threat to our own hearts, of doing our heart’s damage. Doctors educate us about physical heart disease, and it’s contributing factors. Spiritually speaking, what factors are contributing to your heart disease? Consider your own attitudes, values, motives, behavior, patterns of thought, etc. Are you open to clearly see where your heart might hold Christ-likeness vs. Christ-unlikeness?

Day 3: Luke 15:11 holds the story of the prodigal son. A passage you may have learned from your early Sunday school days. The focus is always on the younger son who returns home, but what about the older son? The older son, although outwardly doing the right things, developed a sense of entitlement that led to pious resentment and contempt inside his heart. Just as the Pharisees outwardly wore adornments and were strict moralists, Jesus assessed them to be whitewashed tombs, dead to God on the inside. They had mastered their scriptures, knew all the right language, but were far from God. “First clean the inside of your cup.”  This is a clear call for each of us to become aware of our individual risks through disciplines, practices and community in our lives to address our interior lives, our hearts.  As children, we are taught the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have done unto you. Matthew 7:12. As adults, we learn the Latin legal term, “Quid pro quo” – a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something. What’s your motivation for your behaviors toward your spouse, coworkers, friends? Examine your heart; are you seeking to be more like Jesus with love/devotion, or seeking a “tit for tat”, self-serving outcome like the older brother in the story?

Day 4: Continue Matthew 7: 13-14. “Narrow Gate vs Wide Gate” Which path will you follow? At first, starting through the narrow gate seems daunting, tight, restrictive. Disciplines, practices, study, self-awareness, and change are difficult to adopt, but as you travel the narrow way, aligned to the kingdom of God, the path widens. You discover the freedom of life to fullest and a grateful heart. The wide gate, although easy at first, leads to a life that destroys us from the inside out. The things along this path that start out as appealing eventually turn on us and begin to own us. Read Ephesians 5:3-6 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Which path are you traveling? The choice for this path comes many times a day, the good news is the narrow path to Jesus Christ is always available! 

Day 5: What are my next steps? What changes can I make in the New Year that lead to living and to becoming more like Jesus?

  • Prayer and worship – To realign my perspective to God’s perspective, rather than vice versa.

  • Bible Study – To help me to better know Jesus.

  • Serve – To shape my heart away from self-absorption.

  • Community – To walk with others, and to have them walk with you; asking and answering the hard questions about our attitudes, thinking and ultimately, our heart. lscckc.org/groups - is a resource for those seeking community and connection.


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December 30, 2018

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.  

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December 23, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: We are weak, but God is strong. When our hearts feel weak, remembering God’s presence with us can give us strength. There are many reasons we can be sure God is with us. Settle in your chair and consider these four: First, God has created the world and the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3). There is not a place we can go that He is not there (Psalm 139). He shows us His beauty and greatness in creation everywhere we look (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). Second, the life of Jesus shows us God is with us as a person. God is not far off and aloof. He came and lived as a man. Weak and suffering, joys and sorrows - He can identify with us in every way (Hebrews 2:9-18, 4:14-5:10). Third, the death and resurrection of Jesus shows us that God wants to be with us and has taken down every barrier that separates us from Him. We can be sure that nothing stands in the way or can take us away from Him (Ephesians 2:11-22, Romans 8:31-39). Fourth, He has given us His Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, as a gift and a promise that He is with us forever (John 14:16-27, Ephesians 1:13-14). Read some of the scripture passages from above and spend a few minutes meditating on the reality of God’s presence with you.  

Day 2: All of us encounter dark, discouraging times simply because in our heart we feel like we have no strength to take the next step and do what our mind knows we need to do. Have you ever felt heart weakness? For me, reoccurring problems at work and not seeing change in areas of my life I really care about lead to weakness in my heart. When does your heart feel weak? Read I Samuel 30:1-6. David was not yet king, living in foreign territory, was sent home from battle, and then arrived home to discover this situation. What does it say David did at the end of verse 6? Have you ever found strength in God in such a dark or confusing time? How did that happen? Solitude? Prayer? Remembering His promises in His Word? Worship music? Talking to a trusted friend? Listening to an encouraging message or reading an encouraging book? Were you at the Christmas Eve service and do you recall the “Bob, I am with you” story? Identify ways you have found strength from God in the past. 

 

Day 3: Jesus felt very weak in his heart in the garden of Gethsemane. Read Mark 14:32-42. When Jesus was troubled in His heart so deeply, He went to a quiet spot with a few of his closest friends, asked them to watch and pray. Then Jesus got away by Himself and prayed repeatedly to His Father about his situation. When our hearts feel weak, removing ourselves from distractions and pouring out our hearts to God the Father while listening to Him can be a powerful experience. We can see from Jesus’ life that he had a pattern of going to a place of solitude early in the morning or late at night to be alone with his Father and pray. Being in a regular pattern of alone time in God’s presence is healthy for the strength of our hearts. At the same time, don’t go it alone. Jesus brought friends with Him, told them what was going on in His heart, and asked them to watch and pray. When your heart is feeling weak, tell friends what is going on in your heart, spend time with them, and ask them to pray for you.  Then take some time to be alone with God, reduce distractions, and pour out your heart to Him.  

Day 4: Sometimes we feel weak because we are weak. There are things we simply cannot make better or make happen. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Does God sometimes leave us in a weak state for a reason? What is that purpose? Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-12. To show our strength or to show God’s strength?  When we are weak, we need to remember that God’s answer is sometimes not to make us strong, but to show His strength in our weakness. When Jesus was crucified, did He look strong? But now we look back and see God’s mighty strength. In the midst of our weakness, let us trust God’s strength to do good. Take an area of your life where you feel weak, where your heart struggles. Like Jesus in the garden, yield it to God by presenting your requests to God for the situation, and then saying with Jesus, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, NIV).  Pray and search for God’s strength in the midst of your weakness.  

 

Day 5: We may not be physically strong or successful in this world but remembering our hope can help our hearts be strong. In Psalm 42, David tells his own heart repeatedly, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? … Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him” (Psalm 42:5). Jesus told His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b). What does Paul say in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18? Keeping perspective and remembering our hope is so key to the strength of our hearts. What are some ways that you can remind yourself of where our hope lies? A verse on a window? A reminder on your phone? A new habit? Build Scripture regarding our hope into your life. When the Holy Spirit reminds you of those truths, take heart and have hope that He is strengthening your heart.  

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December 16, 2018

A Matter Of The Heart

Four Conditions Of The Heart

Day 1: In Matthew 13:3-9, we find Jesus teaching the crowds with parables. As Doug mentioned in his message, the word parable means “to place alongside.” A parable is a story or comparison used alongside a teaching to make it more understandable. This parable teaches about the kingdom of heaven and how the Word is sown and received based upon the condition or “soil” of the heart. Jesus closes the parable by saying, “He who has ears, let him hear.” The phrase “let him hear” carries the idea of paying attention to, understanding and obeying. We will consider the four soils described in this parable over the next few days. But today, simply ask yourself, “Do I have ears to hear when the Bible is preached, such that I’m obeying, or following, what God is saying to me?” Take some time to pray. As you do, consider your process for hearing and allowing life-giving truth to be worked into your life. What have you been working in your life lately? Ask God to help you be a doer of the word and not just a hearer. (James 1: 22-25) 

 

Day 2: Read Matthew 13:18-19. Like a seed, the word of God has life – it’s living and powerful as Hebrews 4:12 teaches...the word is living and active. So it’s not hard to see why Jesus would compare the Word to a seed that fell on four types of soil. Today’s verses refer to the soil beside the road, where the seed fell and was trampled under foot (Luke 8:5). This resulted in the birds eating it up. This soil represents the hardened heart, unreceptive to God’s Word. So Satan snatches away what was sown. We must all consider what things in our lives might contribute to a hardened heart. What contends for your heart’s devotion and causes the most resistance to God?  

 

Day 3: Read Matthew 13:20-21 We’ve all had experiences where something initially grabbed our attention but, in time, we realized we really had no interest in it. The excitement had waned because our devotion to it didn’t go deep. Well, Jesus says this happens to some who initially receive the Word with joy, but they later fall away when the Word brings internal discomfort or conflict. They go from responsive to unresponsive to the truth. This is the “shallow heart”. Does your life reflect an ongoing receptiveness to God’s word despite the costs of obeying Jesus? Or has your faith been shallow? Have you seen your faith become withered by the trials of life? Here is a foundational question Jesus is challenging us to consider. Do you believe trusting in yourself or God will produce a life of purpose and of peace?  

 

Day 4: Read Matthew 13:22 The third soil Jesus presents in this parable represents the anxious heart. This heart is distracted by the cares and desires of this life and this prevents the word of God from bearing fruit in this individual. In Matthew 6:24, while teaching about wealth, Jesus says no one can serve two masters. And in 1 John 2:15 we’re commanded, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Just a few weeks ago, the sermon series “How to Be Rich,” reminded us of the importance of being content. In this parable, we again see the dangers of desiring wealth and worldly things – it chokes the word of God in a person’s life. Take a moment to make a list of concerns you have in life right now. Make a second list of biblical truths you’ve read, discussed in small group or have heard preached recently. Consider how you can actively focus on the truth of God’s Word rather than the concerns that have burdened you. Then a take step to begin memorizing 1-2 truths, so you can turn to them when worry begins to creep into your heart.  

 

Day 5: Read Matthew 13:23 The last soil Jesus presents is the “good soil,” which represents a healthy heart. This heart’s good health is reflected by its fruitfulness. It’s important to see that of all the soils, this one is the only one that bears any fruit. A fruitful life from God’s perspective can only result from one type of heart – a heart that hears the word in a way that results in obedience. As you consider the descriptions of the four hearts, which one describes you this week? Here’s an assignment. Look up these verses regarding the various conditions of the heart and evaluate the condition of your own heart. Job 41:24, Ps 12:2, Ps 61:2, Ps 66:18, Ps 73:21, Ps 78:8, Ps 81:12, Ps 101:4, Ps 101:5, Ps 109:22, Matt 13:15. Now look up the characteristics of a healthy heart. Meditate on these and share your insights and questions in your small group, with your kids or with a friend this week. Deuteronomy 10:16, 1 Chronicles 12:33, Psalms 51:17, Psalms 112:7, Proverbs 15:13, Isaiah 66:1-2, Matt 5:8

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December 9, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1. Read Matthew 23:26-28. Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about the condition of our hearts. As a believer, God promises you that he will “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you...” (Ez. 36:26 NIV). We have also seen the value of our own rhythms of spiritual disciplines in maintaining this new heart. If we want our outward behavior to look like Jesus, then we need to pay very close attention to the inward condition of our hearts. We’ve reflected much during this series on the condition of our heart. What have you learned about your heart recently? Do you see areas of your life where you are like the Pharisees who Jesus is addressing here - appearing clean on the outside but filthy inside? Consider the conversations and behaviors over the last couple of days. Pray the prayer that David penned in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, andlead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Ps. 139:23-24 NLT) 

 

Day 2. Read Luke 20:20-26. Here we find the religious leaders trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would get Him into trouble. Jesus amazed them in His answer, seeing them as duplicitous. We are reminded here again of the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance with no regard for the internal heart – theirs or Jesus’s. As a result, even their acts of surrender and discipline were mixed with false motivesand their hearts were left largely unchanged. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Pr. 11:3 NIV) Ask yourself, Do I have a duplicity within myself which undermines, invalidates, and brings into question my stated desires and objectives? Or do I live as the upright, with integrity and authenticity of heart and motivation? It’s hard to admit, but we all have duplicities in us. Take some time to think that through. Consider your thoughts and behaviors in the different settings in your life. Are you the same person in every setting? How and when are you not? Acknowledge these areas. Confess and ask God to continue His renewing work on your heart. 

 

Day 3. Read 1 Peter 2:11-17. While this passage may seem to contradict what we read earlier this week about the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance, consider what Peter is saying as it relates to your heart. As your heart leads, your life will follow. Jesus emphasized the same things in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” and later in vs 48 He says “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This is impossible to achieve, but if we are following Jesus, our lives will reflect Him. None of us will achieve perfection on Earth, but as we look to Jesus, we can see where we truly align with His perspective and where we need to adjust. Is there a strained relationship or a recent hurtful conversation that you’ve allowed to justify your attitude? Because of it, have you given yourself permission that you don’t have to love? How closely would you say that your life aligns with His right now?  

 

Day 4. Read Titus 2:7-8. This is one of many passages in scripture where we are encouraged to live above reproach. If our hearts are aligned with Christ, we can therefore reflect His light to the world around us. The result will be a good reputation with outsiders and a clear conscience, with others having nothing bad to say about us. Accusations will be silenced because we are living honorably in every way. In this way, we live a life of consistency rather than duplicity. How about your reputation? Would you say that you have a good reputation among others? Sometimes it takes those around us to let us know our duplicities. The writer of Hebrews says “Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” (Heb. 13:18 NIV) Ask your closest friends to be honest with you about your reputation. Then ask them to pray for you, and in the same manner, pray for them. Your community in the local church, those you serve with or are in group with, is vital in encouraging you to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27 NIV)  

 

Day 5. On a personal note, I believe that the best way to live your life is to be yourself. If, in being yourself, you find that you don’t like what you see, you need to work to change those things at the very core of your being, not just try to act better. If you find that you are prideful, focus on humility. If you are angry and bitter, work to forgive those who have wronged you. You are not alone. Paul writes “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Phil. 1:6 NLT) and “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13 NLT) God is the same in all situations and all day long. We can find comfort in God even though we can be a mess. He will always be faithful, always be good, and always be with you. He will not give up on changing your heart. 

 

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December 2, 2018

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.   

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November 25, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: HEART JOURNEY The word journey can be explained as an ongoing trip toward a final destination or goal. Each of us are on a journey. Not just a journey to a location, but a journey of the heart that is moving toward our goal or destination of becoming more like Jesus. Sometimes that journey takes detours and gets off-track. Let’s slow this journey down and take a moment to reflect on what is in our hearts. Is there an attitude or series of choices that are moving you more toward Jesus? What attitudes or values might be keeping you from going directly toward your goal of Christ? Is there something or someone taking you off-track? Is there someone walking alongside you in your journey who you can talk to about these things? Invite them to speak truth and encouragement to you as you reflect on your (and their) current track in this journey of the heart. 

 

Day 2: CLEAN HEART - IDOLS One of the things that gets us off track in our journey is the value we put on other things in our life. We have been blessed with many great things, opportunities and relationships. But when these blessings or desires take up the highest position of adoration or aspiration in our hearts, we have begun to elevate these things as idols. This keeps us from fully following after Jesus. Ask yourself these questions: Am I open to God searching my life/heart, purifying or redirecting my attitudes, thoughts and choices? Where or when do I settle for things as they are and don’t want my things or my life to be different? Another way to ask; Are love, joy, compassion, or patience (see fruit of the Spirit) overflowing in my life? Read Ephesians 4:18-19. Are you willing to let God help you see your heart where you have lost sensitivity? Let’s get honest with God. We aren’t going to surprise Him with our secrets. He knows.  

 

Day 3: HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD Once we have allowed God to illuminate the dark places of our hearts, those things that we had put in higher importance than God himself, we then can begin to realign. Deuteronomy 10:16 says to remove the idols that are giving you identity. By bringing our idols and hardened places to Him, we need to humble ourselves before Him. We do this by admitting we have put other things above Him. We let Him take the highest place in our life, in our minds, in our hearts. We humble ourselves and give Him permission to make the adjustments in our lives needed to soften the hardened places in our hearts. Take time today to humble yourself before God today. A position of kneeling is a position of surrender. Read Psalm 139:23-24. Confess those things that you have let take higher priority in your life than Jesus.  

 

Day 4: RENEW YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS/DEVOTION God’s word says that when we confess our sin, He is just and faithful to forgive. What hope! God WANTS a renewal in our relationship with Him! And He is joyful to take first place in your heart again! So, we can be confident in presenting ourselves to Him as we continue our journey with Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). We can be confident that He will walk with us and keep our hearts soft and sensitive to Him and His ways of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and forgiveness through His Spirit that He puts within us. Our hearts can be DAILY shaped and realigned through His Spirit guiding us in our journey with Jesus. Trust Him and this process. A heart is being formed. His desires are becoming your desires.  

 

Day 5: LOOK AT HEART EXAM again In the October 28 devotional (you can access it online at lscckc.org/devotional or through the LSCC app) we were encouraged to take a Heart Exam. This exam is a way to do a daily ‘checkup’ with Jesus and let His Spirit speak through examining these questions in regard to your heart. Here are a few of those questions (some modified):  

  • How much focus, time and energy did I give to money, a possession, or a potential possession in that last week/month?  

  • Was there ever a time in my life when I thought, “If I were to ever achieve ______, then I would be satisfied/successful?”  

  • Name one or two of the highest values for my life. Does that value line up with a centering on God or does it place God to the side?  

Go back to the devotional on that week to read the full heart exam. Print out these questions so you can read and evaluate them on a regular basis. Add your own questions to that exam that YOU know you need to keep checking up on with God. Place them somewhere that you will see and remind yourself of this matter of the heart. 

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November 18, 2018

A Matter Of The Heart

Day 1: Our hearts need saving! This week Cory focused on Jacob, his deception, his sin, his transformation. Genesis chapters 25-32 give us a glimpse into Jacob’s life. It is a fascinating story. Read Genesis 25:19-34, 27:1-10 and 27:22-35 if you don’t have time to read all eight chapters. Deception is all over the place in these chapters. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We too struggle with our own wayward heart. Just as Jacob fought the battle, we hold onto our own sinful ways. We sometimes sit dormant in our selfishness or brokenness. Think of a newly planted seed. Will we spring forth in life, open to become anew, or stay lifeless and asleep? As we continue in this series, pray today to find openness while looking at your own heart, your own burdens, and your own temptations to avoid God and devise your own plans.

Day 2: Read Genesis 32:22-32. The seed in the ground begins to sprout – a change of heart. In this chapter, Jacob wrestles with a man but somehow he knows there is something special with this man. In some way, that isn’t clearly explained in the text, Jacob knows he has wrestled with God. It says in Genesis 32:38, “… you have struggled with God and with humans and you have overcome.” In this wrestling match, God gives Jacob a new name. Do you know what the name “Jacob” meant? He is a deceiver. Yet in this interaction, God renames Jacob “Israel”. He’s given a new name, a new identity, a new inheritance. He will no longer be identified as a deceiver. Before we can transform our hearts, we must surrender. When was the last time you consciously surrendered to God? Was it today, last week or has it been a while? Write a letter to yourself and God or pray a prayer relinquishing your struggle. And you, as a new sprout, may continue to grow and flourish as God changes your heart.

Day3: Jacob not only received a new name, but a new identity, a new heart and a new inheritance. He sprung forth from the ground- from sprout to a new creation - a living plant. Jesus gives us a new life. Read John 3:2-6. “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT) Isn’t that awesome news? Jesus, thank you for making me new! Thank you for the new life, a new birth. You have given me something that I could never get for myself. I’m made new today!

Day4: Yesterday we embraced forgiveness and grace, a new heart. That is God’s supernatural, life giving part. How do we stay in God’s love? How would we “fertilize” and nurture ourselves to “become more like Jesus”? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” One practical step is to guard your new heart (Proverbs 4:23), and continue to develop your new life – as Jacob embraced his new name/identity, Israel. Ask God to speak to you. Be open to exploring ways to further your relationship. Turn away from isolating yourself seeking to change your heart through your power. Move towards freedom that comes from knowing and becoming more like Jesus. Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and make that your prayer for today.

Day 5: Plants reach a point of bearing fruit and harvest, but without proper care, they wither and die. How will you continue to tend to your own plant - but also, tend the rest of the garden? It is encouraging to hang around people with a new heart. Do you see that in your life? Who feeds you? How can you spend more time with those people? Who do you feed? How about giving of yourself to another? What does that do to your heart? How can you help others in church on Sundays, through a serve position or by some informal way? Through community and serve, you’ll find care, help, and direction. You’ll develop and grow – living a transformed life for yourself, and, also, to “spread the good news” to others. Pray: Dear Father, I want to surrender my heart to you. I trust you. You’ve created for us a new life through your son, Christ Jesus. May I continue to grow, allowing you to change my heart for your great calling.

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November 11, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory mentioned how the authors of scripture used the word heart. They weren’t limiting it to feelings but used it in reference to the center or to the whole of our lives including our thoughts, our emotions, and our will. Take a few minutes to reflect on Sunday’s message and take an inventory of your heart; not just your emotions, but all of you. Make a list of what fills your desires and thinking and decisions. What do you think about? What do you long for? What pressures or stresses you? Consider the motivations for the decisions you make. What actions do you take day to day? Apply these questions to specific parts of life like money or time or relationships to discover more about your heart. Is the Holy Spirit bringing anything to mind? Pray this prayer from Psalm 139:23-34 (The Message): “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me. Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about. See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” Be open to learning about your heart today.

Day 2: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). What priority do you place on guarding your heart? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it was worth it to cut off a hand or gouge out an eye if it would keep one from sinning and from hell. In the same sermon, He also said that things you do in your heart like despising someone or thinking lustfully about them make you guilty even if you haven’t done the action (Matthew 5:21-30). Both of these reference our hearts. Jesus knew the importance of the condition of our hearts, “above all else.” Other verses in the Bible describe that God knows our hearts and will judge what is in them. Do you often consider the state of your heart? Are there things that you know are not good for your heart but that you allow in your life anyways? What has positively affected your heart the most?

Day 3: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). What does guarding our hearts look like? The Proverbs writer give us a few clues in the surrounding verses. Read Proverbs 4:20-27. He encourages us to keep God’s Word in front of us, not talk in a corrupt way, and to carefully do what is right and good. Filling our minds with truth from God’s Word is an important part of guarding our hearts. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). We can also guard our hearts by following the instructions that God gives us for the pathways of our heart: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), “Whatever is true... noble… right… pure… lovely... think about such things” (Philippians 4:8), “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b). Guarding our heart involves taking action. Proactively studying these and other scriptures reveal what encourages or discourages God’s heart and will help us in forming our own heart. Is there an action step in guarding your heart that God has brought to your attention? Do you have a family member or a friend you could talk with to help you in guarding your heart? Set up a time to meet.

Day 4: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Who is responsible for your heart? Can others control your heart? What is the one thing you have control over in any circumstance? The same event can happen to two people, but the heart of each person can go a different direction. When something happens, where do you allow your heart and your thoughts to go? What patterns of thought or attitudes are you building in your life? Recognize the power and the responsibility for what happens in your heart. Ask Jesus to help you guard your heart. Pray and look for ways He wants to work with you to expose or change the thoughts and attitudes that go through your heart or your mind. Be vigilant in guarding your heart. 

Day 5: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). If you are not careful about what is happening inwardly, things may happen outwardly that you do not desire. James says, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). Thought patterns lead to action patterns. Pay attention to what is in your heart. What is happening in your heart shapes who you are becoming. Every thought, decision, and attitude you allow or reject is like a building block of your life, for good or for bad. The heart is the starting point. Consider the weight of this verse. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

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