Does Your Heart Need Cleansing?

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me”–Psalm 51:12 (NIV).

Spending several hours on my knees removing dead leaves from my flowerbeds reveals the perennial flowers starting to push up through the earth. Part of preparing my flowerbeds for spring planting also includes breaking or cutting off the dead portion of this new growth. For me, it is also a time of reflection.

347After experiencing a long, cold winter, I love the continual warm days at the end of March allowing me the opportunity to stick my hands in the dirt as I clean out the accumulated debris. Uncovering the new growth beneath it brings hope for a bounty of colorful flowers this spring and summer.

In one of my many flowerbeds is ivy planted several years ago. I don’t recall the type but it’s an evergreen able to withstand the harsh winters. As I worked to clean out this flowerbed, I noticed the ivy was beginning to take over, choking out some of my perennials. As I began trimming the ivy and carefully removing it from its death hold on my other plants, I started thinking about spiritual growth.

Although the ivy is not a weed, it had taken over my flowerbed. I think of the ivy as some of the good things in our lives, commitments we make and the things we choose that draw us away from quiet time with the Lord. In our society, when someone asks how we are, we often reply with the words, “I’ve been busy.” I’m guilty too. We wear that phrase like a badge of honor.

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Has Your Life Been Changed?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”— 2 Corinthians 5:17(NIV).

Jeff Bauman knows exactly when his life changed. It was 2:48 p.m. on April 15, 2013. Bauman was standing on the sidelines watching the Boston Marathon when he looked into the face of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. A half a block from the finish line in a crowd of half a million, Bauman thought it strange that the suspect was wearing a hooded jacket on the mild day. However, Tsarnaev’s demeanor struck him as odd. While everyone else was cheering, clapping and laughing, Tsarnaev “was all business.”

Immediately after Bauman’s assessment of the bombing suspect, the first of two bombs exploded at the 28-year-old’s feet. Looking down, he realized he had no legs. After multiple surgeries and rehabilitation, Bauman reflected on his new reality: “I was lucky. That’s how I tried to look at it. I was standing next to a bomb, and I survived.” His life has been changed forever.

jesusIn Acts, we learn about another life changed forever. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was on the road to Damascus when he had an encounter with Jesus. In Saul’s own words, he admits to being a persecutor “of the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison.”

One day, as Saul neared Damascus, a bright light from Heaven flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice say, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?”

Hearing the voice, Saul inquired. “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

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Have You Had an AHA Moment?

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped”— Isaiah 35:5 (NIV).

No other Old Testament prophet vividly pictures God’s plan to redeem His people or describes precisely the coming Savior than Isaiah. However, throughout the Old and New Testaments, the people ignored repeated warnings to repent from their sins and turn to God. During Isaiah’s time, the spiritual condition of Israel had declined so much the people were offering child sacrifices. While the people claimed to be religious, their hearts were corrupt and they engaged in idolatry.

golden calfWhen we think of worshipping idols, we often recall the golden calf built by the Israelites while Moses was up on the mountain talking to God—and this was after God had performed a series of incredible miracles, including parting the Red Sea so they could escape Pharaoh’s army. Their memories were obviously short.

If you’re a Christian, at some time in your life, you have professed your faith in Him. However, if you haven’t had a true AHA moment, you’re missing out on God’s best.

In Kyle Idleman’s book, “AHA: The God Moment that Changes Everything,” he lists three ingredients necessary for a true AHA experience: A sudden awakening, brutal honesty and immediate action. Condensed, AHA means awakening, honesty and action. All three must happen if you are to experience your AHA moment.

An AHA example in the Bible is in Luke 15 when the Prodigal Son demands his father give him his inheritance. His father did and the prodigal squandered the money on partying, leaving him broke and reduced to taking care of a farmer’s hogs. He was so hungry, he longed for the slop the pigs were eating. Then, he came to his senses—his sudden awakening. Brutal honesty occurred when he admitted even his father’s servants were well fed. Immediately, he got up and returned to his father—that’s action.

We can attend church every Sunday, put money in the collection plate and then walk out the door without another thought of what it truly means to be a Christian. During this Lent season, I challenge you to do some soul-searching. My pastor gave us the following list to consider. How would you answer the following questions?

  • Where is God on my priority list?
  • Do I act the same way when I’m at church as when I’m with other friends or with family?
  • Am I willing to make sacrifices in order to grow in my relationship with God?
  • Do I talk to God as much as I talk on my cell phone?
  • If someone had observed me throughout the day, would he know I was a Christian without having to ask me?
  • Is my walk with the Lord all it should be or could be?
  • Is anyone or anything getting in the way of my becoming the person I know God wants me to be?

Spend time in contemplation. Ask God to open your eyes and unstop your ears so you can experience your AHA moment.

I love hearing from my readers. Have you had an AHA moment? If so, share with me by clicking on the comment link below.
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Which Way Are You Living?

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted”—Job 5:9 (NIV).

For one dollar, I couldn’t resist the small blue book titled “The Gift of Miracles: Inspiring Modern Day and Biblical Wonders.” It was on the bargain shelf at one of my favorite Christian bookstores where I purchased several other books at that low price.

miracleThe 155-page book contains stories of miraculous healings, divine guidance, divine protection divine provision, divine deliverance, divine intervention and divine transformations. Packed in this small volume are stories written by ordinary human beings who have experienced an extraordinary Creator God—a God who loves His people so much that He still intervenes on their behalf today.

Many people don’t believe miracles still occur today, explaining them away as coincidences. In the past, I did the same. Then, when I began to recognize God’s fingerprints on my life, I remembered past trials, including a serious illness that sent me to the hospital when I was only 17.  It wasn’t until 10 years later, after another surgery, that a different doctor told me I was lucky to be alive. Lucky? I don’t think so. Blessed? Yes, that’s more like it. A miracle? You bet!

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the primary definition of a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” Synonyms for miracle are marvel, phenomenon, revelation, surprise and wonder.

R. R. Niebuhr, a Harvard Divinity School professor, said, “It’s not that modern man cannot believe in miracles; it’s just that he needs to be shown how.”

While we may expect a glorious parting of the Red Sea to qualify as a miracle, we need to live with the understanding that life in itself is a miracle. We expect miracles to make a grand entrance like a burning bush while God expects us to see and appreciate the miracles all around us—the miracle of changing seasons, the miracle of our complex bodies with all parts working together to keep us alive and the miracle of each breath we take. The list could go on.

In an article titled, “Can You Recognize a Miracle?” Dr. John Chirban of Harvard Medical School said, “The person who is spiritually attuned knows God.  Soren Kierkegaard wrote, ‘Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.’  The natural (human) cannot know the supernatural (God), but prayer is the supernatural medium by which humans can make contact with God—and be transformed.  What do the spiritually attuned accomplish?  They exercise their capacity, their potential to know God, which is the transforming miracle of their life.”

Maybe we’re too consumed with worry, responsibilities and the distractions of life to recognize the miracles. Maybe we take for granted the life we have been given. But, we haven’t earned life. We have been given life through a marvelous miracle, a gift from our Creator God.

Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Which way are you living?

Have you ever experienced a miracle? Share it with me by clicking on the link to leave a comment below.
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How Are You Preparing for Easter?

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity”— 1 Chronicles 29:17 (NIV).

LentEven more than Christmas, I love this time of year, especially the traditions we observe in my church. On March 5, we recognized the beginning of the Lent season on Ash Wednesday. Lent, while not observed by all denominations, is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.

Observing Ash Wednesday at a special evening service in our church includes an invitation by our ministers to come forward and receive ashes made from palm leaves, which had been part of our Palm Sunday celebration the previous year when children carried them into the service. Our ministers make a sign of the cross on our forehead to symbolize purification and sorrow for our sins.

Several weeks before Ash Wednesday, I was experiencing a spiritual dryness. I hadn’t given up on my spiritual disciplines. I was still reading and studying my Bible each morning, praying and writing in my prayer journal and spending time listening for that still, small voice. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t hearing as clearly from the Lord. The weekend before Ash Wednesday, as I was reading the last few chapters of Chronicles, I came across Chapter 29:17. “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”

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If You Own a Can Opener, You’re Rich

homeless-penny-or-a-smile“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”—Matthew 25:40 (NIV).

 If you own a can opener, you’re rich—at least materially. I never considered myself rich, according to man’s definition, until I came to know a man who didn’t own a can opener. I met Calvin at our church several years ago. Some avoided him. He didn’t quite fit in. Until I began working with Calvin in our church pantry and got to know him, I confess I was one of those.

Calvin volunteered at church and was always willing to help at a moment’s notice. He never refused when someone needed his assistance. He had one condition though—since he didn’t own an automobile, he requested a ride to the church.

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Are you leaning on the ONE who cares?

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”– 1 Peter 5:6-7

When I was younger, I relied on my parents. Later on in life, I relied on others until they proved untrustworthy. For too many years, I relied on myself. Then, God showed me I could always depend on Him. I like this acronym:

frogF  ully

R  ely

O  n

G  od

Is it hard for you to rely on others? What about God? Do you have a hard time relying on Him? Why or why not?

Begin Day 2 of your journaling journey with the following prayer starter:

Dear Abba Father,

I want to completely trust and rely on You for everything in my life. I know you care for me. I am counting on You to show me how to rely on you fully.

Faith Step: Whom have you relied on in the past? Other people? Yourself? Consider what steps of faith God is asking you to take today to learn how to rely on Him fully. Read and memorize Proverbs 3:5-6. Write it down on several index cards and post them around your house.

 

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