“You Get A Fresh Start”!

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Rejoice my friends! Christ has come and died for our sins. We are made new and clean through the shedding of his blood! Through the process of sanctification, we become holy and cast off our old sins! Shout out this psalm with me:

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be —
you get a fresh start,
your slat’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky —
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans

The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;
I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.’

Suddenly the  pressure was gone —
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

‘Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track’

God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.
Sing together — everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!”
–Psalm 32, MSG

For those of you how like the FaceBook page, I quoted v. 5 this morning. I think this psalm is a good celebration for today! So let’s rejoice because we have been made clean!

And here’s something you can “raise the roof” to

Are You Keeping Focus?

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I started a book a couple weeks ago called The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. I’m a little embarrassed it has taken me so long to read it, since it is only 70 pages long! But I started it back up yesterday (after having had to take a break from reading since I’m so busy). The chapter I read yesterday was entitled “The Gaze of the Soul”. In it, Tozer is making the argument for what faith is. We can read in Hebrews 11, what faith does.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” –Hebrews 11:1-6, NASB

Tozer isn’t satisfied with this being what faith is. Instead he states that faith is the soul looking towards God. I feel that this is very important in our lives and our worship. We must keep our gaze upon God and none others. But how can we do this? It is by placing our eyes on the prize every day.

Paul often refers to his life as running a race. He says, “do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB). I used to run Cross Country in high school, and if there is one thing I learned it is that distance running is difficult! The thing that helps you get through that, and keep up a pace that you may win with is keeping your eyes on the prize and setting goals. Paul did this in his own life as well, “I press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14, NASB).

In light of my post yesterday, I realized that my eyes had started to drift way from the prize. My focus had started to fail, and I need to refocus. So I began to wonder how can I regain my focus on God. And yet again I was led to Hebrews.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB

So what is the author saying? He is calling us to come out of everything that holds us back from God. It’s the things that push us down, rather than lifting us up; which is something God wants to do (i.e. Philippians 3:14). I’ll finish this post by first encouraging you to keep looking towards God. He is how we gain our focus, and what draws us in for a better life. And secondly, by quoting from Tozer’s book:

“When the habit of inwardly gazing Godward become fixed within us we shall be ushered onto a new level of spiritual life more in keeping with the promises of God and the mood of the New Testament.” –A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Praying For A Change of Heart

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Over the weekend, my wife and I were having a conversation with my sister. I caught myself saying something that is embarrassingly true, “I have the tendency to act like a Pharisee and not apply Scripture to life. Rather I use it to read and understand, but I have a hard time living it.”

I believe that this stands to be true for far too many people. We all have our moments where we say, “The Bible says…” but we are just as quick to do the opposite. My biggest concern is for those people we can affectionately call “Bible Thumpers”. These are the people who take the Bible and use it as Law, especially against those sinners. I try my hardest not to do this because I view the Bible to be our guide through life. It is what shows us how to live a Godly, holy life. The issue here is that you have to choose this life. No one can make you live this life, and if someone is, I’d say they have become a lot like the Pharisees.

This is a hard life, being a Christian. It’s not something we are born into. It’s not something we receive from our ancestors. It’s not based on our own abilities. It is solely based on God’s love for us, that we can even be forgiven of our sins.

I read a passage today that got me thinking about my life. Jesus says “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matthew 15:17-18, NASB).

Am I showing Jesus with my actions and speech? Jesus is telling the Pharisees, and us, that when we speak (or do anything really) we are showing what is within us. If we have the Spirit within us, we can’t help but show Christ to everyone. This will keep us from acting like that Pharisees and Bible Thumpers, and bring the love of God to our friends, family, and others.

I pray for myself and for you that we can all learn to have a heart like Jesus. If you have a hard time with this, like me, please join me in this prayer.

Heavenly Father. Help me to be more like Your Son. Soften my heart to Your Word, and allow it to fill me up so that I may show the love of Christ to others. This Christian lifestyle is difficult and requires me to do things I don’t really want to do. It’s when I go into it dragging my feet that I shut myself off from You, and whatever opportunities you have for me today. Help me to change my heart to what is good and holy. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” In Your Son’s holy name I pray. Amen.

What Type of Soil Are You?

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday, but my daughter was sick. So Daddy had to stay home and take care of her, which made me very busy.

Jesus once told a story, “A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a [road], and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:3-8 NLT).

What is Jesus saying to us through this story. Yea, you could read onward and hear Jesus’ explanation (v. 18-23). But instead of quoting Scripture, I’d rather talk about it.

Each one of these types of soil relates to someones relationship with God, and the seed represents the message of Jesus. The first type of soil is the road. As we heard, once the seed was spread, the birds came and took it away. This person would be an unbeliever, especially someone who is very against the church. They just let God/Jesus bounce right off of them, just like they don’t matter. We all no people like this (maybe you’re one of them), but it is still our duty as the Church to spread Jesus’ message everywhere. Even to the people we know will not receive the message.

The second type of soil is the gravel. This type of person are the people who get hyped up about the cause of the Church. These Christians get super excited about their faith at the beginning, but then the inevitable happens. Life gets tough (and if you don’t believe me you should probably re-check your theology), and they go through some troubled times. The issue that arises in this situation is that they lose their faith, and there is no hope of gaining it back. We all have had a season of doubt at some point in our lives. But the people who are the gravel we’re never really interested in Christ, they were just focused on what His church was doing (or even what it was doing for them).

The third type of soil is with weeds. These Christians hear the message and accept it, but never really venture forward in their belief. These people believe when Paul writes, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT), but they don’t live this way. They allow their old ways to continue. They live with their boyfriend/girlfriend, have premarital sex, get drunk every weekend (or during the week too), do drugs. They also don’t always engage in Christian behaviors like praying, reading Scripture, and studying the Bible.

The last type of soil is the good soil. These are the Christians that walk with Jesus. They are the ones that let the message of Christ sink into their lives and change them. They become a “new creation”. They take to heart the words Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace my increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4, NASB).

So where are you? Which type of soil to find yourself in? Don’t feel bad or discouraged if you find yourself somewhere you didn’t expect. I have personally ventured through all 4 types of soil, and I still believe I’m not going to stay where I am. I think we go through periods where, for instance, we maybe good soil, but then some weeds appear. We just have to remember to work through these troubles to our faith. Just as God is a good gardener (John 15), I believe he can till our soil to make us better. So stay strong in your faith and work to God to make yourself a better Christian. If you find yourself in the “good soil” category, then pray that God helps you stay there. Just remember that we must first become good soil if we are ever going to further the Gospel, which is the very command Jesus gave to us (his disciples) before leaving us until his second coming (Matthew 28:16-20).

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Waiting Here For You

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I know that I posted something similar to this post recently, but God has really placed this song and the feeling of waiting on Him on my heart. I love the beginning of this song, “If faith can move the mountain, then let the mountains. We come with expectation, we’re waiting here for you.”

This song references Hebrews 9:28 which says, “so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (NLT). It calls for us to wait in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming to this world. This song is a call for us to worship Him as we wait.

I also feel that this song fits in a time of waiting in your life. As we celebrate Advent, we aren’t simply celebrating the birth of Christ, but we are also anticipating His return. So as the song says “We’re waiting here for you with our hands lifted high in praise.”

I thought I would post two versions of this song. Take time an listen and spend sometime worshiping and anticipating Christ’s return for us.

Martin Smith’s version

Christy Nockels’ version

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His Name is Immanuel

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Before I even get started with today’s post, I would like to say that today is a special day for The Heart Man. Today is the 100th blog post!!!!!!!!!!! Woot Woot!!!!!!!!!!!!

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In this time of year, lots of people talk about Jesus’ birth, and pretty much read Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2:20. Instead I thought I would go a little farther back, about 700 years before the birth of Christ!

Judah is under the threat of war. Both kings from Ephraim (Israel) and Aram are rising up against King Ahaz and Judah. The prophet Isaiah came to the king and told him not to worry. God did not want the these other nations to succeed. He even mentions that Ephraim only has 65 years left. So God told Ahaz to ask for a sign of God’s promise, but he did not wish to do so. The Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NASB).

I remember the first time I read that verse. I grabbed the closest writing utensil next to me, a red pencil, and drew an arrow and wrote “JESUS!” in my Bible (at this point I would refuse to write in my Bible, so yea, I got pretty excited).

But there is something here that is not so easy to see. God told Ahaz to pick anything. It could be as extravagant as he wanted. He could have requested that the stars be realigned to say “God will protect you!” and God would have done it. When Ahaz refused to pick a sign, God offers a child born of a virgin. That alone is pretty miraculous! However, God took it one step farther. The child’s name is Immanuel (or Emmanuel if you prefer). But do you know what his name means? Immanuel means “God with us”.

Essentially God told Ahaz, “If you won’t pick a sign, then I am coming to you in human form.” Jesus is just that. He is God among man. God shed Himself of His glory and humbled Himself to become man. He did this to defeat the enemies (sin) that rise up against us. Our God is a god that fulfills His promises. Even if that means He has to become a man in order to complete them.

Take a moment today, and all throughout the season of Advent to revel in the fact that God was with us, in a little baby called Immanuel.

Are You a Fan or Follower?

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This morning, I was reading in Matthew’s gospel and came across a story that just floored me. If you look at Matthew 9:10-13, Jesus says something remarkable that I don’t think many Christians think about anymore. Jesus is sitting with tax collectors and sinners for dinner, when Pharisees and Sadducees saw what was going on and said to themselves “What is this man doing eating with those people?” (Matthew 9:11, paraphrase). Jesus comes back at them and quotes Hosea to pass on a message that I believe we all need to hear. “I’m after mercy; not religion.'” (Matthew 9:13, MSG).

Do you hear that friends. He’s more concerned that you live and walk a Christian lifestyle, over the fact that you go to church and say you are a Christian! Just let that sink in before we move on.

 

 

 

We all know somebody that fits into this latter category of Christian (the ones who say it but don’t do it). It’s unfortunate that they don’t comprehend how this is bad. Being a true follower of Christ changes you. There’s a reason Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB). I’m not the same man I was before I met Jesus, and neither are you (if you have truly met him).

This group thinks that it is sufficient to simply claim Christ. While this is true (if we mean it, i.e. Luke 23:39-43) it can’t be all there is. James writes in his letter, “What us is it, my bretheren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and on of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what us is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:14-17, NASB).

So clearly it is important to do more than simply profess the faith. While it is most important to take Jesus as your Lord and Savior, truly meeting him changes you into a new creation. I encourage you to spend some time in worship and prayer today. Thank Him for all He has done, and ask for Him to meet you where you are. There’s a song that has a great lyric for this. The chorus of the song goes “If there were a thousand steps between you and God/And you can see no way across the great divide/ Just take one step towards his loving arms/ And He’ll take nine hundred and ninety-nine”. So take that one step, and he will come running to you!

PS I recently read a great book that talks about this very subject. If you are interested in reading it, you can get it here.