Friday, August 7, 2015

Changing Your Heart

by Donna L. Watkins

Somebody suggested I read through the book of Proverbs focusing on every Scripture that had the word fool in it ... or foolish, foolishness, etc. What a revelation that was as I looked up the meaning of the word fool in Hebrew and pondered each verse that I found, taking notes as to how God was saying it applied to me.

Take the challenge ... it will be a wonderful journey. Don't rush through it as a project. Reading the Bible through in a year may get you a gold star, but if you are not a different person at the end of that year, you've not applied it to your mind or heart.

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"Just when the caterpillar thought the world 
was coming to an end, it became a butterfly."
Lewis-Ginter Botanical Garden Photo Album
When I accepted Jesus as Savior I wasn't discipled which is what Jesus indicated was the priority for believers. And as we became discipled we were to disciple others. The church I entered into used the salvation altar call as more of a way to get your ticket to Heaven and then sell more tickets to others around you by knocking on doors to ask people if they died that night, would they go to Heaven. We won't get into some of the laws and doctrines of the church, but suffice it to say, my heart and mind were not filled with the grace message that Jesus came to give us.

So as I began to learn truth it was easy to blame the church for making my heart so messed up, but in reality God would've always been gently calling me unto Himself for relationship. He created us for relationship. He wanted to have a family of adopted children. He is always speaking to us, but we get our minds so filled with information that we can't hear His still small voice.

Even memorized Scripture can be a block to our maturing in Christ if it's used simply as reciting it like a poem. God gave us His Word to hide within our heart. To ponder it, to chew on it, to ask Him how each verse applies to me, as I did when going through Proverbs on the subject of fools.

The church was not the problem. I wasn't listening to the Spirit within me. My pride and opinions of truth held me where I was. All of my righteous works to earn God's favor were truly as filthy rags. It's only when we get to a place we can't fix everything, or learn to live with it, that we realize that in ourselves we can do nothing at all. That brings you to the end of your rope as they say, but the patterns that I had been living by were deeply ingrained. In reality we are dead in Christ, but like a horror movie, I sat up in the coffin far too often and declared life again in ME (usually when I thought I had found another way that I might get the problem solved).

When I truly die and let Christ be my Lord, grace empowers me to keep my tongue planted in honey and it changes things. God showed me how much I used to argue and have to be "right" with my husband and son. Those were the days of "rush-rush" with too many tasks for a day's time, although looking back on that ... not all of those tasks should've been a priority in my life. Many were opportunities the devil gave me to choose life or death and I chose death.

As I changed and began to choose life, I saw that peace reigned more and more. Relying on God's grace to do this through me, has brought me a long way recently. It's in HIS strength that I can do it, not my own, which is a paradigm shift.  It can be a long road.  As they say, "It took a lot of years for you to get here, it will take some time to get out."

I had formed a pattern of believing what was spoken to me without taking the responsibility to prove it out from the Bible myself. With all the online tools, it's easy to use concordances and get Hebrew and Greek words translated into true meanings. I already believed that the Bible was the written Word of God, so that wasn't a hurdle I had to climb.

It has totally floored me to realize how many people don't think the Bible is relevant for today. Like God's words to us are too old-fashioned and outdated? If we can't believe that the Bible is true and has everything we could ever need in it for life and godliness, we are truly hanging out on a limb.  How can we believe in the God who inspired men to write it? 

That reminds me of a little story that tells of a man that falls off a cliff and is hanging from a branch that he caught hold of on the way down. He screams for help again and again and suddenly hears a voice telling him that He is God, so he again asks for help and the voice says, "Let go." He is stunned and after a few moments begins to yell for help again, "Is anybody else up there?" We'd like to have things line up with our own way of thinking and much too often that doesn't match the Bible.

There is much that I still don't fully understand, but I read of an example of a man who had been saved out of drugs, alcohol and a very sin-filled life. He didn't feel he had anything to offer to God, but He told Him if He wanted him, He could have what was left of his life.  He had some weird relatives that claimed to be Christians with some really weird beliefs and thoughts about God, so he never wanted any part of it. So he told God that he wanted to know Him through His Word and if it wasn't in there, he would not believe it.

He began reading the Bible asking for revelation of how to apply it to his life. Many times, he would get down on his knees and say, “God, I really do not know what this means, but You say to believe it and I will believe it. You will have to help me understand what it means.” That is repentance! The definition of repentance is "to change your mind." We change our mind, our opinion, our point of view.

That is so simple, yet so profound. It takes the responsibility off of us where it will never work since our own works are worthless ... and puts it on God who through grace changes our hearts as we choose to renew our minds ... but it's through HIM that we do this. Most of us have lived our lives so dependent on our own wits and opinions. What a time it has and is taking to break that habit.

For me it's been over three years since I got a true understanding of the grace message that Jesus brought to us. Looking back God's been faithful to guide as I yielded to him without any opinions or judgments of my own. I stopped having to be right.

It's so incredible to me how God has led me through everything I needed step-by-step as I listened and obeyed. From one teacher to the next teacher. At first I thought it was all about information ... and we do need to have the correct knowledge about God ... but it's what we EXPERIENCE that changes our heart and that's the ONLY WAY to do it.

Our heart get filled with beliefs from the time we're born. When you combine some kind of information with emotion, it lays a footprint on the table of your heart and if it's not Truth, we will respond to life through false knowledge. As small children we don't have reasoning to even process our circumstances soundly, but we certainly gather a lot of information and many times with much emotion attached to it.

We have to take it to another level than just understanding and knowing about something. I've wanted to ask God why it took so long to begin this renewal, but I already know the answer which I mentioned above. My heart was not ready to receive it. "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart" (Ephesians 4:18 ).

God knows our frame and fits our plan and purpose into it. I am just so blessed and thrilled that He continues to take and keep me on this road. What other choice is there when you know you can have all the promises of God and live in His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven? How can you give up and dry up? It's like a slow suicide if you do.

This is what Jesus told his disciples when asked why He spoke in parables: "Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them’" (Matthew 13:14-15).

They obviously heard with their physical ears and eyes. He was talking about seeing and hearing from the heart. Which I also think is what we're supposed to do when we get offended by what somebody says or does "to" us. If we look at people as God sees them in love ... from our hearts ... we can see that they are acting from an area of hurt/pain in their lives ... just as we are when we react. But in Christ we have the power to be different if we choose.

When we speak only blessings or keep our mouth shut and don't use facial expressions when thoughts are not edifying ... we can begin to see things turn around in relationships.  I've had the joy of seeing this come to pass.  I had so many years of speaking evil about people in simple ways, but when you boldly ask yourself whether what you said would be a blessing or curse ... it leaves no room for a slow response. This is often the weakness of parents who have wayward children doing things that don't fit "the way we raised them."  Instead of speaking God's blessings over them to change their life, we speak what we see and continue to reinforce it with our thoughts and imaginations.

Oh! how good and gracious and merciful our God is. I love it when we speak life and then see it coming back as life to our own lives. I just don't want to participate in the devil's kingdom any more. Christ is so powerful and we access that power when we stay IN CHRIST and live through grace and when we sin, we quickly confess it to the Lord and remember the forgiveness provided by Christ and move on.

Don't be a fool ... it's definitely not cool! Consider what's at stake. Do you want life to continue the same way ... or are you up for a change? If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll get the same results. How about asking God where to begin to change your heart?

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