Friday, August 21, 2015

Matters of the Heart

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" -Jeremiah 17:9


The other day, I picked up my little devotional book as I met with the Lord. It was fairly new and I had thoughts of passing it on to a struggling friend because the daily insights were so focused on Christ...but then...there it was. The glaring lie that we have all been fed, "Just follow your heart." I have to tell you, I forced myself to read the entire devotional, hoping that the point would be that where I feel the Holy Spirit directing me, I should follow. But unfortunately, no, that was not the message. It was an "if it feels right, do it" mentality, just "go ahead and follow your heart." I sat the book down, disappointed and frustrated. I wondered how many of my sisters in the faith have picked up this little book and read it. How many have been misled?

And you may be sitting right there, reading this, wondering, "What is the big deal? I follow my heart all the time. I do what I think is right and..."

Here is the real problem:
If I believe the Word of God to be true, and I do, then this little phrase screams at me from the very beginning that it is wrong. My heart, just like every heart except the heart of Jesus, is darkened with sin. My heart, apart from the light of Christ, is dark and troubled, selfish and blind. My heart calls good evil and evil good. The only hope that MY heart has is this promise in the Word of God, that He will give me a NEW heart...and I am not going to lie...I desperately need it! Once His Spirit is alive in me and I have a new heart...I can trust HIM! (2 Cor. 5:17, Ezekiel 36:26, Psalm 51:10)

Too often, I get confused when that sinful heart that has been thrown down and defeated tries to lead me astray, tries to make me feel overlooked or tries to tell me that my selfish thoughts are right, tries to whisper lies, promising I won't get caught, that it will be worth it in the end, asks "but did God really say?", groans that I deserve this thing the Lord has withheld. The truth is, sin is sin. Once I know the truth of the Word of God, then I know anything in my heart or mind that calls me to something different, something that is contrary to His Word, is not from God, is not from the new heart He has placed in me. It is that old heart...just trying to reclaim its hold on me, trying to resurrect itself. There is good news for us Jesus-followers! The good news that the old heart is POWERLESS against Christ, powerless unless I choose to follow it. Dangerous words, these "just follow your heart" ones. These ones that claim my heart, apart from Christ, has anything good to offer.

So, when I feel that old heart of mine tugging, crying, lying, trying to make me turn away...what do I do?? Where do I turn? I turn to God in prayer and the trustworthy heart of God found in Scripture (Romans 12:2). I use it as the plumb line and pray the Lord will help me bring my feelings, actions and thoughts in to line with His Word. Pray that I will have ears to hear and a heart to believe His Word over the crying of that old heart. And then I act on the Truth found in Scripture...not the feelings of my heart.

In the news a day later, a well-known proponent of Christian values is named as a man who has been caught on an adult website seeking opportunities to cheat on his wife. Was I surprised? Not really. I believe this little verse in Jeremiah. I believe, that if left to our own hearts...we would end up right where this man is...right in the midst of sin. It is daily, hourly, moment by moment, relying on the God who removed our hearts of stone to give us a heart of flesh that keeps me - keeps you - from stumbling. Jesus Christ, alive in me, is the only difference between this man and me. Jesus is my only hope and promise. And I, a believer, may stumble and fall...but only when I turn away for even the briefest moment from the face of my Savior - like Peter, when he walked on water. He walked until that moment he gave in to his fears, took his eyes off of the Christ and let his eyes focus on the waves crashing around him. (See Matt. 14:25-43)

Oh, sweet sister, may you and I be different. By God's grace may we cling to His Word, the only real Truth that exists. When temptations come and that old familiar voice weaves lies in order to draw us back to sin, when fears call our name, may we run to the only One able to win the battle of our hearts! May we seek Jesus and find His grace sufficient to carry us through the storm. And, as His Beloved, may we not be fooled in to thinking that anything good lives in our old hearts. Instead, may we confidently claim the new heart He has put within us and may we trust His leading through His Word.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wedding Vow Renewal (January 10, 2014)

Dearest Todd,
I never cease to be amazed by the man of God you are, the kind and loving heart and the tender, thoughtful spirit. I can think of no better words to express my deep love for you, commitment to you and gratitude to God for the gift of you, than by revisiting the vows I spoke not quite two years ago...during that dark time when the migraine stole my memory! Ever grateful to God for you as we celebrate our twenty-second anniversary.

"Over twenty years ago, we vowed to remain husband and wife in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death. Today, I neither remember that day nor the speaking of those vows, but as I look back over our life together, I see your life consistently whispering the words lovingly to me. When I have been sick, you have remained steadfastly by my side. When God closed the womb, you held me close through our tears and sought out God. When God opened the closed, you held me through the joy and turned our praise to God. When jobs were lost and bills piled, you have been a constant companion, reminding me always of God’s unfailing love and provision, ever grateful to Him for His many gifts. When the times were plenty, you have held my hand and led our family in thanks and giving. When I have been poor in spirit, beaten down by the world and overwhelmed, you have pointed my eyes to Christ, reminding me of who I am in Him. When I have forgotten, you have been my memory. For this, your love, today and every day, I give thanks, humbly to my Father in Heaven.

Today, by God’s grace and according to His power, I reaffirm this covenant with you. I, leaning into His strength and trusting in His enabling, affirm to you that I am committed to be your helpmeet, to stand faithfully by your side as your wife, your friend, your encourager, through all of life’s circumstances, to demonstrate His grace and love to you, to honor and respect you through the aging and graying, the falling and the standing, the sorrows and the joys, the times of enough and the times of need, through health and through sickness, the forgetting and the remembering, through the making of mistakes and the getting it right. I speak these words today, praying that the Lord enables my life to whisper them to you every moment, as your life has whispered them to me. My life, made one with yours through the mystery and power of Christ, until that day when one of us parts to meet Christ in our heavenly home.

Today, I thank God for you, your love, for His strength and grace, carrying us through every circumstance over the years. I love you and am trusting the God who brought us together to continue to pour His abundant grace out on us, enabling me to keep this covenant with you, to serve faithfully by your side and to be your helpmeet."

Lovingly,
Shelly