Hello my friends! This week’s message is UP!
Here are the links —
Here are the scriptures we will read:
Psalm 139: 23-24
Below are the show notes.
So. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40 day season where Christians fast and reflect in preparation for the Easter holiday when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised to new life.
I talk about this every year because 1) it’s important and 2) I know many of you are more open during this time to listening for God’s voice because you are fasting from whatever it is that keeps you distracted. Maybe it’s chocolate, social media, Netflix; whatever it is you’ve committed to not engaging in that over the next 40 days.
So, I commend you for your willingness to put God first for a little while and put down the distractions. If you struggle with connecting to God, reading the Word during this time will help you identify his voice. So embrace this season of Lent.
What I want to do is to meet you in that place of openness and help you really look at the posture of your heart.
And what a perfect time, right after Valentine’s Day.
You may wonder what I mean by the posture of your heart?
It’s like – what is your heart focused on. Let me give you an example from Scripture. Let’s look at Matthew Chapter 6: 19-21.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust CANNOT destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. WHEREVER YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART WILL BE.”
Now. This passage really speaks to the desire for material things and how they are earthy things that won’t be with you in heaven. There is a lot of that today. People want money, power, vain glory and think they can mess with the things only God can. They have so much money they don’t know what to do, so they think they control the things of the world only God can. But God sees. He knows. It’s scary stuff.
But here’s the thing – these people doing this gives us a great example of how not to set our hearts.
Colossians 3:2 tells us, “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”
You can also see this kind of heart posture in the way some people are speaking today. You can see the evil in the words they use.
If you look at Matthew 15:18-20 it talks about what defiles a person. If you don’t know what defile means, Webster calls it – to make unclean or impure, to corrupt. Now let’s just read it.
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
This is happening people all over the world. You may not see it yet and if you don’t, I pray your eyes are opened.
James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
He’s calling out the double-mindedness here! When you change the posture of your heart to be directed towards Christ, you sow seeds into eternity.
Now let me just go a little deeper into that “purify your hearts” concept of what comes out of your heart because a lot of people don’t know what the heart is really made of. You just hear the message from the world — “follow your heart.” But you’ve got to get clear in your mind that this is not necessarily a good thing.
S0 – Your heart is made up of three things: YOUR MIND, WILL and EMOTIONS.
Now, like I just shared – that’s a whole lot of stuff that can get us pretty mixed up in life right there.
In fact, let’s look at Jeremiah 17:9 for a second. It says,
“The human heart is THE most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
There is a reason people say the enemy’s favorite place to hang out is in our minds, because he can take our thoughts and keep them from focusing on the truth.
There is a reason when our emotions are our of whack, we “feel” all over the place. And funny how much does the world send the message, “Do what you feel!” It’s not beneficial because then we’re letting our feelings run our life and they aren’t consistent!
And our minds. That’s a whole big ball of wax. There are many reasons mental illness is rampant throughout our society and often untreated, because people don’t want to see it or they are afraid to address it! This is a battleground for the enemy people! Don’t miss it! Don’t try to go it alone!
Now – let’s look at your “will.”
God gave us the gift of self-will so that we can make our own choices. Webster defines the verb “will” as, “To cause or change by an act of will,” like “I believe he could will himself to succeed.”
Our self-will gives us our drive in life and our desires. But we also have to recognize that our will isn’t the be-all-end-all. That’s not easy to see when you are “following your heart.”
The only way you get there is by seeing things happen in your life that are completely out of control and realizing you are absolutely NOT in control. BUT there is one in Control – and He is God. So when we get to that point, we can PRAY for God’s will – because we know our will isn’t above all!
So as wonderful as our mind, will and emotions are and so much a part of WHO we are – we need help with them. Thank GOD we don’t have to go it alone!
Jeremiah 17:10 says,
“But I, the Lord, search ALL hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
He ALREADY knows the posture of our hearts.
We tend to THINK that God only sees what we’re doing, as if he’s some performance-based God. So be careful when you give up that thing for lent. Be careful of thinking he’s looking at it for your performance. God isn’t looking for you to be “good”. He’s looking at your heart. Why? Because he wants you to desire a relationship with Him so he can give you everything your heart desires!
I share this scripture often but you HAVE to remember it.
1st Samuel 16:7,
“…The Lord DOES NOT LOOK AT THE THIGNS PEOPLE LOOK AT. People look at the outward appearance, but THE LORD LOOKS AT THE HEART.”
So where is your heart right now? What are you focusing on? What is you heart’s posture?
Are you preparing for this 40 day season of Lent? Are you opening up the door in your heart for the Lord to enter in?
Now, the following scripture is used OFTEN during Lent and it’s actually one of two I’m going to share with you. So maybe post it somewhere so that you have that reflective focus on opening your heart.
But they are both in the Psalms. The first is from Psalm 51. I’m only going to read verse 10 but I highly suggest you go and read the whole thing because it speaks to this heart of repentance,
“Create in me a clean heart, Oh God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.”
And the second one is from Psalm 139 verses 23 and 24:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me the offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
God is a jealous God. He gets jealous of those things we put on a pedestal above him, that we make false gods. He wants us BACK when we are bowing down to these things because he is our FATHER, and he LOVES US!
So what are those things in your heart you are making false gods or putting on a pedestal?
– Do you have a resentment? Are you holding someone hostage in your heart? Do you realize you are only hurting yourself? This is something God wants you to give to him so he can help you work through it and be at peace!
– Do you envy someone? Focusing on someone else who has what you think you might want only keeps you from focusing on what God has for you. Believe me, I’ve been there. It gets you nowhere but stuck. God wants you to be you!
– Are you angry? There are a lot of angry people in the world right now, many of whom I believe are directing their anger at people who have the opposite views in the political climate, but it’s not really those people they’re angry at, but someone who hurt them some time ago. Have you been angry about the state of the world? Do you recognize that maybe something happened in your life planted the seed of this anger and it might be better to deal with that?
– Are you putting your hope in political leaders rather than the Lord?
– Is there something that happened in the past that you don’t want to move on from? You feel better with justified anger. You think God can’t forgive you. That’s not true. He’s a loving and forgiving God. Wouldn’t it feel better to bring it to the father and release it?
– Are you angry at yourself? Beating yourself up when you need to learn to forgive yourself for maybe something that’s happened that you can’t change or someone you’ve tried to change and you can’t? I get that one!
– Is there a behavior or an addiction that is your idol? I get this one too! It can seem innocent, but there are things we put on a pedestal above God. We have to call them out for the devotion stealers they are and bring them to the Father. He wants to give you more power in your life than that addiction ever could!
– Is it insecurity? So many of us struggle with this, and God knows that. We have to look at what we may be running away from maybe literally or figuratively that we don’t want to deal with. We have to look at a fear or a pain that prevents us from being fully present. God can’t take it.
Whatever it is, God isn’t judging you if you want to return to Him. He’s got the door open, waiting for you to come and sit by his side.
I kept thinking of a song called “Run to the Father” as I was preparing this. It’s by Cody Carnes. You need to go listen to it when we’re done because it just sets a beautiful intention for this lenten season.
The chorus goes like this:
I run to the Father
I fall into grace
I’m done with the hiding
No reason to wait
My heart needs a surgeon
My soul needs a friend
So I’ll run to the Father
Again and again
And again and again
This isn’t just for people that are knee deep in sin. This is for every one of us because there isn’t one of us that isn’t a sinner. But we GET to run to the father and fall into his grace. We don’t have to hide.
But first we have to repent. I heard someone say last week, “You know you could give a sermon that would be one line, “Repent,” and drop the mic.”
I thought that was clever because it really is just that simple. It doesn’t matter the complicated mess you’ve gotten yourself into or how bad off you’ve been or what you’ve done that you think God won’t forgive. It’s simple. Repent. Return to Jesus. HE can heal your heart.
Ezekiel chapter 36 in the Bible talks about the restoration of Israel and God’s promise to his people who return to Him. I suggest you read the whole chapter because I’m only going to read verse 26:
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your STONY, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
He will take out our STONY, STUBBORN heart and give us a new one – a TENDER, RESPONSIVE heart. A Heart that is OPEN to grace and love and forgiveness. We can’t get there when we’re stuck in our resentments or focused on something we can’t change. We have to be WILLING and OPEN for God to come in and transform it in the way only He can do.
So during this lenten season I challenge you to just be OPEN in your heart to what the Lord wants to speak to you. Try not to focus simply on how well you are doing with whatever you are fasting and focus on Him. Pray that God would remove whatever it is that is stuck in your heart, that is effecting the posture of your heart towards God, and pray for Him to search your heart, give you renewed life.
I just want to end with a scripture that is well-known but will be helpful during this season and always! It’s from Phillipians Chapter 4:4-9.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I pray you keep your heart open to God’s voice in this season of Lent.