Tag Archives: heart

Distracted by a Hard Heart

Acts 7:39[Moses] whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt

 

What has your heart?

 

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately, trying to find God and His peace in the chaos and confusion that is life.  Then I read Acts 7:39 during a morning devotional. 

 

Stephen is preaching to the religious leaders, reminding them of their unfaithfulness throughout the generations despite God’s continued and obvious goodness.  He is talking about the group that came out of Egypt, whose hearts never let go of their slavery.  They never turned to God with their fears and doubts.  They never trusted God with their well-being and daily provision.  They never tuned into God being with them, God being for them, and God being good to them.

 

They “rejected” all of God’s grace. 

They “rejected” all of God’s love.

They “rejected” all of God’s goodness.

 

Because they were “… people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways” (Psalm 95:10).  They did not know God because they refused to know God.  It was a deliberate choice they made every day.

 

And when I consider what is in my heart – what I believe is true, what I want, what I am seeking, what holds my affections – I have to wonder what part of God I am rejecting and which of His ways I am refusing.

 

So I ask some hard questions.

        Am I seeking the Father and His will to find my true self?  Or am I seeking fame and recognition to feel accepted and loved?

        Am I seeking to be generous, looking for ways to give?  Or am I taking what I want and stealing the enthusiasm from the room?

        Am I feeling content with my blessings and His provision, which is more than enough?  Or am I feeling cheated and overlooked because I think I am missing out on something (good)?

        Am I choosing to edify and encourage people, bringing good and positivity into their day?  Or am I complaining and criticizing, hurting hearts and dampening spirits?

 

When I am honest with myself, I am usually not on the God side of myself.  Instead, I am allowing myself to be controlled by my emotions, to be dragged in so many directions that I cannot find a way of release.  And then the devil has me right where he wants me – DISTRACTED.

 

Distracted by a Hard Heart

 

So I am not able to focus on God – His love, His goodness, His grace.

So I am not able to see God – His provision, His strength, His endurance.

So I am not able to adjust my thinking, speaking, and reacting.

So I am not able to concentrate on His guidance, His direction, and His instruction.

 

So I am focused on me and only me.  What will make me happy.  What will make me feel loved and appreciated.  What will make my life better.  And your problems?  I don’t the time or compassion for them.  Because I am distracted by what I want, need, and feel – it’s all about me.

 

Just like Israel.  Despite seeing God protect them from 10 devastating plagues, they refused to trust.  Despite seeing God deliver every one of them alive out of slavery – plus giving them provision to establish their new lives – in one night, they refused to believe.  Despite seeing God deliver them again on the dry land of the Red Sea and destroy the Egyptian army with one big wave, they refused to hope.

 

God was with them.  God was for them.  In so many ways they could see – because He moved in physical ways among them.  Yet seeing never produced trusting.  Seeing never produced hoping for another move or miracle.  Seeing never produced believing all would be well because God was with them.

 

They refused to let go of the slavery they hated and once cried out about.  They refused to let their slavery mindset and attitudes go – so they could embrace God and His possibilities.  They refused to see or embrace God’s goodness and blessings toward them.

 

In their hearts they turned back to Egypt”, choosing to hold onto their struggles – instead of embracing God’s salvation.  Because they had hard hearts.  And those hard hearts led to a hard life where God spent 40 years giving them a chance to change.  And each challenge saw them cry out for Egypt – the same Egypt that spent centuries trying to destroy them – instead of crying out to God – who had protected them through those years from annihilation.

 

It breaks my heart.  I am sad because they never got how good God is or how much He blessed them. 

 

But at the same time, it encourages my heart. 

I am encouraged because God loved them despite their hard hearts. 

Because God kept trying to help them change – and provided for them through their struggles. 

Because God kept giving them another chance to do better.

 

And God does not change.  So that means God loves me despite my stubborn streak and foolish heart.  That means God is with me, giving me the opportunity to change – and the wisdom to know how to do better.  That means God won’t give up on me!

 

We all have an Egypt – that old habit, old attitude, old relationship, old mindset – we turn to when things get tough.  Hoping it will make us feel better, feel able, and feel confident.  Even when we know it is not God’s best for us, we still seek it out.  Needing the comfort we think it gives.

 

What is your Egypt?

Recognize it.

Name it.

Own it.

 

Stop letting it own you.

Stop letting it distract you.

Stop letting it steal your grace.

 

God had so much He gave Israel while they continued to cling to Egypt.  Consider how much more He had waiting to give them if they chose to trust Him!

 

I don’t want to be Israel and miss out on God’s best life. 

Because I am distracted by Egypt. 

Because I am drawn back to Egypt.

Because I am devoted to Egypt.

 

But pursuing God’s best means I have to choose to stop leaning on and looking to my Egypt – and choose to lean into His love and look to His wisdom.

 

Pursuing God’s best means I have to choose to stop turning to my Egypt, expecting comfort it cannot give – and choose to find compassion and strength in God’s care.

 

Pursuing God’s best means I have to choose to stop thinking I know what is best for me – and choose to follow His lead, knowing all His plans lead to good and growth.

 

So again I ask, what is your Egypt?  What has a death grip on your heart?  What is keeping you from having God’s best?

 

It’s time to send your Egypt back to the desert, buried deep in the sand once and for all.  And when you do, your heart will be open and able to experience the Promised Land God has waiting for you.

 

Loving Father,

Thank You for never giving up on us!  No matter what.  Thank You for being for us.  Help us today to be wise enough to call our Egypt by name and then brave enough to let it go.  Help us know what we need to change in order to experience Your best life.  Help us be consistent in chasing You and Your good plans instead of being distracted by the death tolls of our Egypt.  Thank You for the strength to keep going forward and to keep trying, no matter what we face.  Thank You for giving us the hope that You are always with us and for us.  In Jesus’ almighty name.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  6/6/19, 6/7/19

Known Kim or Justified Julia?

I was reading an article about Julia Roberts at lunch today titled “Julia Roberts Gives a Rare Glimpse of Her Growing Kids“.  It made a point of saying that Julia is a private person when it comes to her family, and she rarely gives the world a glimpse into her family life.  She makes a point to keep her family out of Hollywood’s harsh glower, which is admirable since it can’t be easy. Somehow she even manages to keep good name away from scandal and corruption.

Then the crazy thought of “wow, how different she is from Kim Kardashian” popped into my head. And I laughed as I started doing a mental comparison of Julia and Kim. (Let me say here that I don’t understand the celebrity or personality of Kim, and I don’t endorse her in any way, shape, or form writing about her.)

Think about how different these women are!  Kim’s celebrity is a result of social media and the internet (at least in my opinion).  It feels like she maintains her “celebrity” status by doing wild, crazy, and even lewd things to keep her in the public eye.  She takes every available photo op. She maintains a public relationship, including her child. She is a very known presence, constantly reminding us that she is out there and we need to pay attention. The opposite of Julia.

And then God made a crazy connection between these two women.  He’s funny that way. And it was so profound I am writing about it.  These two women are a perfect example of what He talks about in Matthew 6:1-8, a passage about motives.

Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount, and He has just discussed the Beatitudes (how to be blessed), being a good influence, His fulfillment of Moses’ Law, the dangers of anger and lust, the importance of marriage, and being a loving person. Then He segways into actions – why are you doing and how are you praying. And there are two ways to live – our way or His way.

Our Way:

–          Verse 2 – “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

–          Verse 5 – “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

This person is praying and doing works to be known, to get the recognition, acknowledgement, and respect of his community.  He makes a point to be seen doing so it can be credited back to him, so people will pat him on the back, and so people may speak highly of him.  He is certain he is a good and devout follower, a keeper of God’s Law – and part of who he is is being known as such.

But God cautions about being such a person, like Kim. When you make a point to be seen and known, God is not part of the equation. You have tied the hands of the great Rewarder so that you are justified and completed by men – you have limited yourself to whatever temporary blessings and acknowledgements you experience from the praises of men. In order to stay in people’s good graces, you have to keep doing, showing, being, and producing. You have to stay ahead of the curve, current on the trends, and creative in keeping yourself in the public’s eye. You may have to be shameless in your choices, which are usually outrageous and risque.

But Jesus points out there is another way to live, one that doesn’t depend on you and your abilities. He builds on His previous ideas of being a loving and good influence by making it personal – and keeping it private.

God’s way:

–          Verses 3-4 – “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

–          Verses 6-8 – “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

God’s way says be the person who does quietly, behind doors, and is usually unseen. Do to do good and to help, not to be seen. Do not be concerned with or driven by the praises of men.  This person would be one who prays alone at home, just him and God.  Who anonymously leaves a bag of groceries on his neighbor’s doorstep.  Who quietly puts his coins in the offering plate at the temple to respect God with his money.  Who hugs you tightly when you are struggling without giving you a theological lecture or beating you down with the Law.  The intercessor praying for friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the world without their knowledge, because he knows God will be faithful to answer.  He is a good and devout follower, a keeper of God’s Law – and he’s OK with that tidbit not being public knowledge.

Isn’t it obvious, when you think about the two actresses, which one is which?  Kim Kardashian seeks the spotlight and creates opportunities for people to talk about her.  It seems her confidence is in being known.  Julia Roberts avoids the spotlight and keeps her personal life private.  She does not drag her kids into her celebrity to display them to the world, and she tries to stay out of the headlines.  It seems her confidence is in family.

Kim needs to be seen, to be talked about, to be known, to be somewhat glorified.  She has the facade of celebrity to uplift her, but she is constantly having to pull stunts and sell herself to keep her in that spotlight.  Julia, on the other hand, wants to enjoy her family and keeps them away from Hollywood’s vicious spotlights.  She isn’t demanding people take her picture or showing off her children.

Aren’t they a great illustration of this passage? Praise God for simple (yet hilarious) illustrations from modern day.

So next time you read Matthew 6, you can think about Kim and Julia.  And you can let God touch you deeply as you decide who you want to be and how you want to act.

Do you want the glory of the world or the praises of God?

Do you want God to say “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23) or “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)?

Or do you want Him to say “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21,23)?

You can be Kim and do things your way for man’s praises, or you can be Julia and do things God’s (private) way for His blessings. But you can’t be both, as Paul makes clear in Galatians 1:10. It’s a matter of the heart. Do you want to be temporarily loved by people or eternally rewarded by God? The choice is yours.

Let your heart be pure, your motives be selfless, and your eyes be on God:

–          “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

–          “As in water face reflects face, So a man’s heart reveals the man” (Proverbs 27:19).

–          “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

–          “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).

–          “And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

–          “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).

Marie Fremin, 9/1/15

Getting Unstuck

I have been stuck. In the mud. In a rut. Like I’m glued to the floor. And maybe today I finally got a glimpse into why.

I have not been able to break through at work to a better working relationship and a better attitude toward the people who work there. I know I need to own my part and stop thinking I am always the victim. I know I can do better, be better, act better, and think differently. But it’s not always easy, especially when you get to the end of the day and have heard no positive feedback and have been made to feel like a Disney villain. When you realize that asking a questions leads to accusations of being insubordinate. When you know that being silent or speaking up leads to the same conclusion – you’re wrong. So where does that leave you? You feel hopeless. You feel defeated. You wonder if it’s worth showing up tomorrow. Because things don’t change. Because things aren’t getting better. Because there doesn’t seem to be an answer to the problem.

And then I watch a 2014 sermon from Andy Jones at Watermarke Church (http://watermarkechurch.com/messages/purpose/). And as I listen, Andy gives me an important clue to my struggles. He said, “People are to be loved, not problems to be solved.” Light bulb on!

It’s not about solving a problem. It’s not about trying to effect change. It’s not about verbally defending myself or staying silent. I’ve had the wrong mindset all this time. Because it’s an issue of love.

The answer is to love people in a godly way. To reach out to the lost, hopeless, broken, and downtrodden people all around me with the same loving touch and hope-full words and accepting attitude as Jesus. It’s about not turning people away when they reach out or come near. It’s about drawing people in with a grace-full attitude. It’s about allowing God to be on display through all you do (another Andy Jones gem).

So I have to stop and ask myself – “What am I doing?” and “How am I acting?” and “What impact am I having?” I have to evaluate if I am loving people or judging them, if I am accepting people or pushing them away, if I am compromising with people or condemning them. I have to take a hard and meaningful look to see what influence I am having. And it starts with my heart.

Getting Unstuck

It starts with me being honest about being hard-hearted and holding grudges about past wrongs – and using that anger as a weapon to keep people away. It starts with me understanding that I need to be more Jesus-like – to let things go, to forgive, to forget, and to move on.

So tomorrow is a new opportunity for me to try a new approach, to have a new attitude, and perhaps to reach a new altitude. To realize that there is so much more I can do differently – which means my impact will be different too. To know I can be better and react better – which means the reaction I get will be better. To humbly acknowledge that holding onto past wrongs keeps me from being accepting – which effects my reactions and therefore my impact.

If I’m unwilling to change, why do I expect God to effect change around me?

I guess at this point God is reminding me, again, that it doesn’t matter what is done to me. What matters is how I respond to it. Am I justifying my bad reaction? Am I stewing in my silent protests? Am I overwhelmed by angst and anger? Am I constantly reciting my list of shame and blame about that person?

Or am I choosing to forgive? To pause before speaking – and then speaking in a positive and humble way? To tear up my shame list and let go of all the wrongs?

And I realize that it’s all about me – because it’s my choice. I choose what emotions I rest in, I choose what words I reflect on, and I choose what “house” I reside in. I can be joyful or judgmental, positive or punishing, accepting or angry. I can be like Jesus, who throws no stones but gives compassion instead, or I can be like the religious leaders who were ready to throw stones and were comfortable (confident) in their self-righteousness (John 8:1-12).

So what’s my choice? I acknowledge the problem and turn to Jesus for a new attitude.

I am hopeful that Jesus will continue to give me new chances. And He’ll be with me as I’m stuck and as I’m getting unstuck. Because He never forsakes us, even in our darkest times or stubborn moments.

And I am hopeful that tomorrow I’ll make the better choice. That I’ll react differently. That I’ll [start to] get unstuck.

Marie Fremin, 7/26/15