What Friendliness Looks Like

Warm.  Friendly.  Welcoming.  These are the words we hope visitors can use to describe our church family.  We discuss ways to accomplish this, like stationing greeters at each door or creating a “Welcome Center.”  A few months ago Neal and I moved to a new state to worship with a new congregation full of new faces.  We’ve been welcomed with invitations to lunch and housewarming gifts.  But one young lady really stands out in our minds.  Her name is Sydney Elkin and she has managed to make even the auditorium feel warm.  So here are some things I’ve learned from a 9-year-old on how to be friendly:

Seek Out the New Faces

Not long after we moved, I was sitting in a pew by myself near the front of the auditorium.  A sweet girl walked up to me and smiled.  She looked me in the eyes and said, “I just wanted to come talk to you.”  I couldn’t help but smile back and say, “Oh!  Well, thank you!”  We chatted for a minute or two.  When she left, I kept smiling.

How simple was that? I’ve since learned that Sydney and her family sit in the back half of the auditorium.  She made the decision to walk all the way up to where I was and meet me.  The introvert in me is really impressed with her bravery!  Sydney’s not a “greeter” but she knows how to greet.  I learned from her how impactful it is to go out of your way to talk to someone.  Instead of just saying hello to those we come across as we make our way to our pews, we can take a few minutes to seek out visitors or anyone sitting alone.  They will definitely feel welcomed by someone who walks over to them with a warm smile and a handshake.

Get Other Members Involved

A couple of weeks ago after a worship service I was standing in the aisle chatting with a few people.  Sydney walked up to me with four other young ladies and said, “We just wanted to come talk to you!”  I laughed in delight and said, “You did?”  Sydney led the conversation by asking questions like, “What are your plans for tomorrow?”  I had the sweetest time with those five girls as they stood in a little arch around me for several minutes.  I still felt the warmth as I told Neal about it on the way home.

Aside from the fact that Sydney is obviously a remarkable young lady, what a wonderful thing to do!  All four of those other girls are equally sweet but may not have been comfortable going to talk to someone on their own.  Sydney encouraged them to join her and I benefited from it.  It’s such a good idea.  When we see a visitor, a loner, a shy person, a teen, or a widow, we can round up a couple of folks and say, “Let’s go say ‘hi’!” It will certainly make anyone feel special but it will also help the members being pulled in.  It will gradually create a culture of congregational warmth and friendliness.

Add a Thoughtful Gesture

This past Sunday morning, Sydney walked up to Neal and me and handed us an envelope.  It contained a handwritten note with some sweet compliments.  She also wrote, “I would love to help you with anything I could.”  Have I mentioned she’s NINE years old?  Our hearts melted.

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Sydney knows the meaning of follow-through.  She keeps thinking of ways to engage us and make us feel welcome.  Now we have a colorful note that will make us smile every time we see it.  All it took was a little time from a thoughtful soul.  A local jam or muffins, some wildflowers from your yard, or even a cute sticker (why not?)…there are many creative, tangible ways to bring a smile.  It’s a second-mile gesture that sends a big message:  You’re special.  You’re thought of.  We’re glad you’re here.

I’ve learned a lot about friendliness from Sydney.  Nothing she did felt awkward or scripted or forced.  Her enthusiasm didn’t come across in an overwhelming way.  She just shared her sweet self in a natural way.  It was genuine and just right.  I’ve started praying that I will be more like Sydney.  Thank you, God, for this mighty example from a tender heart!

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Look at that smile!

 

 

 

How Long has it Been?

By Kathy Pollard

What is it about the holidays that feels so bittersweet?  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And yet, if you’ve lived long enough, this time of year can be a little hard on your heart.  If you are missing loved ones, the sentimental tunes on the radio flood you with precious memories.  If you have strained relationships with family members, you’re thinking back to happier times before whatever-it-is happened.  If you’ve experienced a big change in your life, you find yourself longing for the way things used to be.  Whatever it is, sometimes this time of year can give you a bit of the blues.  I know you’re doing your best anyway to make others happy.  That’s the right thing to do, and focusing on others always bring real joy (Phil. 2:1-4).  Keep up the good work!  But here’s a little something for you…a gift from God, if you will, from His heart to yours.

“How long has it been since you talked with the Lord
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed,
How long since you stayed on your knees ’til the light shone through?
How long has it been since your mind felt at ease,
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your Friend, how long has it been
Since you knew that He cares for you?

How long has it been since you knelt by your bed
And prayed to the Lord up in heaven?
How long since you knew that He’d answer you,  and would
Keep you the long night through?
How long has it been since you woke with the dawn
And felt that the day’s worth the living?
Can you call Him your Friend, how long has it been
Since you knew that He cares for you?”

(Mosie Lister)

We sang this in worship last Sunday and the words have been with me all week.  No matter the loss, burden, or regrets, it is enough that He cares.  It is more than enough that He cares!  Think about that when you’re feeling a little lonely.  The One who knows what you’ve been through and what you’re going through is still with you, and that is something that will never change.  How long has it been since you (really) knew that He cares for you?  Let this truth strengthen every smile you offer this season.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us

(1 John 4:16)

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That Perfect Married Couple

By Kathy Pollard

Do you know that perfect married couple?  They look happy together.  They’re always holding hands and seem to have it all figured out.  People look to them for advice.  They’re the hashtag-relationship-goals of social media.  I could name some couples that fall into this category for me.  I’m grateful for their example of marital bliss, and their PDA posts make me smile.

Neal and I are not that perfect married couple.  A superficial glimpse might make it appear that we are.  We do hold hands.  We do say nice things to and about each other on social media.  We’ve been asked to teach the occasional marriage seminar.  And so every now and then someone will remark on our relationship as being “exemplary” or some other thoughtful description.  I thank them because I appreciate their kindness but inwardly I cringe and think, “Far from it.”  We agree to teach about marriage because we can study what God’s Word has to say about it.  After nearly 27 years together, we can share some lessons we’ve learned from experience (some of them the hard way).  But we have had our own struggles and are still learning and growing, one year at a time.  We’ve hurt each other and let each other down.  As a wife, I’ve been guilty of lying, betraying, sulking, and manipulating.  Some of those hurtful things I knew I was doing in the moment.  Some of them I only realized later when I looked back over my behavior.  Our marriage has had rocky times because of the pressures of trials.  And our marriage has had rough patches because of the consequences of our own choices.  We’ve had to practice forgiveness, patience, and grace.  No, we are not that perfect married couple.

But we are a married couple and our God is perfect.

I’ve been reminded of this truth a couple of times this week.  Take a look at these “perfect” couples.

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I met this couple last night.  They got married at ages 15 and 17, and have been married for 55 years.  I asked them separately what has held them together for over half a century, especially since they started out so young.  Without hesitating, each of them said, “God.”  For them, it was as simple as that.  When they were standing together again, I pointed out that they each gave the same one-word answer.  She laughed and said, “Without God, I would’ve kicked him out a long time ago!”  They went on to add other advice, like the importance of giving 100% instead of 50/50 (and making that determination each new day).

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I met this couple two nights ago.  They’ve been married for 67 years!  It didn’t take long to figure out what has held them together.  She told me their first date was at Mammoth Cave.  He nodded and said, “I should’ve left her down there.”  He shared their secret to commitment:  “Divorce never crossed our minds.  Murder did, once or twice, but divorce was never an option.”  We all laughed and they looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes that gave me a glimpse of the young couple they once were.  I loved their sense of humor and strong faith (made obvious by supporting a gospel meeting on a weeknight).  I imagine 67 years has given them a few stories of hardships and struggles but they are still together, still sharing some laughs, and still holding hands.

These are the real, perfect married couples.  I don’t know them well enough to see beyond the superficial.  But I do know that they’ve entrusted their marriages to their perfect God.  How blessed we are to enjoy life together, find reasons to smile, and keep holding hands despite our imperfections!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Eph. 3:20).

Wait for the Lord–a Bible-marking topic

By Kathy Pollard

Waiting is hard.  When you’re diligently praying for something and hoping for a quick answer, a delay can be a difficult and trying time.

-Waiting for test results

-Waiting for a Christian mate

-Waiting for a job change

-Waiting for wrongs to be made right

-Waiting for clarification/ answers/ knowing what to do

-Waiting for a heavy burden to be lifted

The advice given is usually something like:  Be patient.  Don’t run ahead of God.  You can trust Him.  He knows what’s best.  But when it’s been a long wait, you just sigh and say, “I know.”  And tap your foot.

This Bible-marking topic is for those times when you’re tired of waiting, and perhaps beginning to wonder if God even hears your prayers.  Be encouraged, friend.  God anticipated those moments and He has words for your heart.  

As you soak in the following Scriptures, keep in mind what the word “wait” means.  It does mean to be patient.  But it also includes an anticipation, a looking forward to something arriving or occurring.  It means to wait in place with expectation.  So the advice you’ve been given is biblical.  Don’t run ahead of God.  But also, don’t give up hope while you’re waiting.  In the front of your Bible, write:

Wait for the Lord- Psa. 25

None of those who wait for You will be ashamed

Read through the entire psalm.  Circle all three occurrences of “wait for You/ wait” (v. 3,5,21).  Notice what David is asking for while he waits (v. 4-7) and what he is doing while he waits (v. 15).  Now go through and underline the qualities of God.  At the end of the psalm, write 27:14.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

This is another beautiful psalm written by David.  It shows his utter dependence upon God and his refusal to give up (v. 13).  Circle both occurrences of “wait for the Lord.”  Underline “be strong” and “take courage.”  Strengthen your soul with prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship.  God doesn’t want you to be discouraged.  He wants your heart to be filled with courage.  In the margin, write “(see also 31:24).” At the end of the verse, write 33:13-22.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.  For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.

Circle “waits for the Lord” (v.20).  Draw a square around “hope” (v. 18, 22).  “Hope” in these verses means “to wait, to hope for.”  In the margin next to “hope,” write “to wait.” Underline the phrases that show God still sees and cares:  “the Lord looks” (v. 13), “He sees” (v. 13), “He looks” (v. 14), “He who understands” (v. 15), and “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him” (v. 18).  Squiggly underline “our heart rejoices…because we trust” (v. 21).  At the end of the psalm, write 40:1-3.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.

Circle “waited patiently for the Lord” (v. 1).  Underline what God did for David (“He inclined,” “heard my cry,” “brought me up,” etc.).  Squiggly underline “many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”  In the margin next to that, write “Others are watching.”  When we wait patiently for the Lord, we are living out our faith and teaching others to trust in God!  At the end of the verse three, write 62:5-8.

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.

Circle “wait in silence for God.”  Why do we wait for God only?  Draw squares around what He is:  “my hope” (v. 5), “my rock,” “my salvation,” “my stronghold” (v. 6), “my salvation,” “my glory,” “my strength,” “my refuge” (v 7).  Underline all of verse eight.  At the end of the verse, write 130:5.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His Word do I hope.

Circle “wait for the Lord” and “wait.”  Underline “in His Word do I hope.”  What better way to spend waiting time than in drawing hope from the Word?  At the end of the verse, write Prov. 20:22.

Do not say, “I will repay evil;” wait for the Lord, and He will save you.

Circle “wait for the Lord.”  Underline “He will save you.”  Remember, He sees everything and knows all the details.  Don’t take matters into your own hands.  Wait for God to make it all right in the end.  At the end of the verse, write Isa. 40:31.

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Circle “wait for the Lord.”  Underline all the beautiful promises for those who wait:  “gain new strength,” “mount up with wings,” “run and not get tired,” and “walk and not become weary.”  At the end of the verse, write Lam. 3:25.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

Circle “wait for Him.”  Underline “the Lord is good.”  Notice what God wants us to do while we are waiting for Him.  At the end of the verse, write Micah 7:7.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.

Circle “wait for the God.”  Underline “my God will hear me.”  Blessed assurance! At the end of the verse, write Isa. 30:18.

Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.

I know we’re backtracking but I wanted to end on this wonderful thought:  God waits for you, too!  Circle “He waits.”  Draw a square around “longs” and “long” and in the margin next to it write, “literally means ‘waits’.”  God waits for His people to trust in Him so He can bless them.  Remember His grace and compassion.  Remember His desire to take care of you.  

While you’re praying, “Please, God,” keep acting in ways that please God.  May the Lord bless you as you wait for Him. 

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Lessons Learned in the ICU

Disclaimer:  I certainly recognize that many others have gone through more serious, long-term stays in hospitals.  These are just a few thoughts from my own personal experiences this week.  

Our oldest son, Gary, went to the ER with respiratory distress early Monday morning.  He was admitted to the ICU, sedated and paralyzed, and put on a ventilator.  My husband and I hopped on a plane and have been with him ever since.  While I wish Gary and his sweet wife, Chelsea, didn’t have to go through this, there are several reasons I feel blessed to have been here this week:

  • God’s Family has no geographical borders.  Our home is in Colorado.  Our son’s home is in Alabama.  We have been welcomed and helped by Christians here just as if we were one of their own.
  • Christians are second-milers.  Oh man, I don’t have enough word-count to share every kindness that’s been extended to us.  We’ve had visits and messages of encouragement.  We’ve been brought snacks, homemade bread, blankets, parking tokens, meals, a gift certificate to a restaurant that delivers to the hospital, a vehicle to borrow, and magazines.  We’ve only slept in the waiting room one night because of the generosity and thoughtfulness of friends and local churches.  The kindnesses just keep coming!
  • Every prayer matters.  Within a couple of hours of our first morning here, we had four different area preachers come by and pray with us in the ICU.  Through the years Neal and I have circled up with folks for a prayer around a patient’s bed.  I never really knew how courage-bolstering that could be.  So many others have let us know they are praying.  Every single time, we feel comforted and grateful.
  • Things get put into perspective.  The world goes on outside these hospital walls but in here it feels like time stands still.  We are mostly focused on life, faith, and family.    Questions rise to the surface:  Does Gary know how much I love him and how proud  he makes me?  Do our Christian friends know how acutely we feel their concern and how much it means to us?  Through it all, we’ve been praying and contemplating.
  • Love is greater than fear.  It seems like every time my heart begins to worry, some kind gesture or word comes our way.  We are really seeing the Light this week.  Its warmth covers our cares.
  • Inside beauty is invaluable.  Oh, our sweet Chelsea.  She has helped Gary through things that weak stomachs won’t want to read about.  She works long hours and sleeps short nights in a hospital room but has yet to complain about a single thing.  Just now Gary asked her, “How are you holding up?”  She answered, “I’m fine, Hon.  You don’t have to worry about me!”  She is a cutie pie but more than that, her inner beauty has been a blessing to us all.  She is a worthy woman and we thank God for her.
  • Progress is worth celebrating.  Every little step on the road recovery causes rejoicing.  From big things (like coming off the ventilator) to little things (like sitting up for the first time), we smile and hug each other as we witness evidence of improvement.  I was never so excited to walk in and see someone eating applesauce.  When we share these good bits with others and they rejoice with us, it makes us smile all over again.  Consider how much more important spiritual progress is for new babes in Christ or for those making their way back from waywardness.  Every small step is a victory.  If we celebrate with them it can only encourage them to keep trying.
  • God is so good!

I was going to include a point about vanity.  It doesn’t matter that I only had five minutes to pack and left behind hair products and other beauty essentials (um, like tweezers).  Our first visitor was an old college friend we haven’t seen in over 26 years.  We’ve been meeting people for the first time and reuniting with family members this week.  I’m wearing sweats and have my hair pulled back in a ponytail.  I was going to include that point about vanity, but I do care.  I wish I looked better.  Ah well, I haven’t learned everything in the ICU.

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The Romans 12 “Do’s & Don’ts” List for Social Media

Social media is pretty great.  Apparently a lot of people think so since literally billions of people use it.  I love staying connected with long-distance friends and family, seeing what God is doing the world over, and laughing out loud over a hilarious meme.  It’s wonderful being able to post a prayer request or read an encouraging status.

But social media can also be misused.  Wasting time, ranting, sowing discord, getting involved in an ungodly relationship, or promoting self are a few examples of being a poor influence through our activities on social media.  Chris Pirillo said, “Twitter is a great place to tell the world what you’re thinking before you’ve had a chance to think about it.” Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).  Which category will our posts and messages fall into?  Justified or condemned?

The following list is from Romans 12.  It seems perfect for making sure our social media activity stays good and Christlike!

  • Don’t be conformed to this world- v. 2
  • Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought- v. 3
  • Show mercy with cheerfulness- v. 8
  • Be loving- v. 9
  • Avoid all evil and promote good- v. 9
  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love- v. 10
  • Give preference to one another in honor- v. 10
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints- v. 13
  • Bless those who persecute you- v. 14
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep- v. 15
  • Don’t be haughty- v. 16
  • Associate with the lowly- v. 16
  • Don’t be wise in your own estimation- v. 16
  • Never pay back evil for evil- v. 17
  • Respect what is right in the sight of all men- v. 17
  • As much as possible, live at peace with all men- v. 18
  • Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good- v. 21

“Don’t use social media to impress people; use it to impact people” (Dave Willis).

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Image credit: WordStream

 

God Will Be by Your Side, and I’ll Be on Your Other Side

Every now and then I get caught up in the what-if’s.  This afternoon was just such an occasion.  I was worrying about something to the point that Neal asked me what was wrong.  I unloaded my fears.  “What if this happens….what if this doesn’t happen…?” Neal listened and reminded me that God is in control.  I said, “I know but what if…..?”  And I proceeded to try to get him to understand all my reasons for being concerned.  He finally said,

“Even if the very worst scenario happens, God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Okay, that was powerful.  How comforting to know that, no matter what, God will never leave me and neither will my husband.  That truth helped me take a deep breath and let go of the useless worrying.  I thank God for His promise to always be with me (Heb. 13:5).  I thank God for Neal’s wisdom and his commitment to caring for me.  I know that next time my “anxieties multiply within me” (Psa. 94:19), I will recall the peace-giving image of God and Neal flanking either side of me.

I wonder how many others need those words said to them?  I can think of individuals I know who are hurting and could probably use the reminder that they’re not alone.  May I never get so caught up in my own little world that I neglect to comfort those around me.        That’s part of the purpose of the church, right (Heb. 10:24-25)?  I love knowing that I could go to another Christian with my fears or failures and be reminded of God’s faithfulness and their love.  May I ever strive to be that Christian for others, too.  I may not be able to solve problems or make the pain go away, but I can certainly hug more, pray more, and remind more that “God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another…1 Pet. 4:8.

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Heard the Latest about Higher Ground?

For those of you who don’t know, Higher Ground Encampment is a free Bible camp for teen girls in Sedalia, CO.  It began in 2009 and is sponsored by the Bear Valley church of Christ.

For those of you who are already familiar with Higher Ground, I wanted to share a couple of things that are new:

  1.  Higher Ground is under new directorship.  Beginning last year, Christy Swackhamer, mother of three girls and a diligent student of the Word, took over as director.  She did a great job and will continue to do so.  This year, Melody Sawyers, mother of three boys and the most hospitable woman you’ll ever meet, will begin serving as a co-director.  Teri Autrey and I will still be involved.  We are both serving as counselors this year and I will continue to teach Bible-marking.
  2. Higher Ground will be held earlier in the year.  Typically we’ve had camp in late July/ early August.  The dates for this year are June 24th-30th.  We are already accepting applications and Christy tells me they are rolling in!
  3. Higher Ground is at a different location.  A couple of years ago, the facility we’d been using was put on the market.  We had to find other accommodations, which was no easy task since we had to find something reasonable enough for us to continue to offer this camp for free.  We now meet at the Roundup Ranch (located right next to our original location).  Because it is a much smaller facility, Christy said we can only accept a maximum of 50 girls.

For more information about Higher Ground, and for a link to the online application, click here.

Please join me in praying for this effort, for the staff, and for all the girls who will be a part of it this year.  It will be a special week of spiritual growth, fun, and building or renewing friendships.

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Back in the Land of the Bible…but It’s Different

Last July, Neal and I made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel.  We soaked in every minute of it because we knew it was our one shot to experience the very places we read about in the Bible.  Little did we know that eight months later we’d be back.  Thanks to the surprising offer and generosity of someone, here we are soaking it all in again.  Somebody pinch me!

This trip is different, though.  39 of us (mostly from the Bear Valley Bible Institute) are traveling together.  These are the people I work with.  Now I am traipsing around a foreign country with them and that always changes things.  It can either strengthen or strain relationships.  Due to the expert diligence of our leaders, John and Carla Moore, this trip has been stress free.  They’re taking care of all the details, so all we have to worry about is how to capture all these impressions in our hearts.  Without the hassle or confusion that can sometimes happen overseas, no one is wigging out over anything.  We’re all relaxed, happy, and well-cared for.  Therefore, no strained relationships.  Yay!

Experiencing Israel with fellow Christians adds a whole new special layer.  I am loving every minute of it.  We are praying together when touched by a particular location.  We are singing together, and that may end up being my favorite thing about this trip.  We’ve sung in the Nazareth church building, on top of Mt. Carmel, on the bus, on Mt. Precipice, etc.  Singing always gets me, but to sing with dear ones in the land where Jesus walked….oh man.  We’ve had all kinds of conversations together about Bible passages as we pass through the very places where they took place.  We’re using all of our senses; we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and tasting Israel.  We’re experiencing this together, and I know these will be priceless memories that we will forever share.

Yesterday, on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, I looked around at the 38 other Christians who are with me.  I couldn’t help but pray, “God, I love these people.  They are my FAMILY, thanks to the One who walked on this water.”

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Admiring a covered mikveh at Chorazin
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On a boat in the Sea of Galilee
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About to have a devotional on Mt. Precipice
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Admiring the view of the Sea of Galilee from the top of Mt. Arbel
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Exploring Tel Dan

 

The Heart of Stone

Perhaps the choices you made over the past year were hard on your heart.

By Kathy Pollard

I know what a stony heart feels like, don’t you?

  • It’s when I am indifferent to the needs of others.
  • It’s when I am disengaged in worship week after week.
  • It’s when I’ve been involved in sin and my conscience is no longer pricked.
  • It’s when I withhold forgiveness.
  • It’s when I no longer hunger for the Word.
  • It’s when I stop thinking souls.
  • It’s when Calvary doesn’t move me.
  • It’s when my heart has become divided instead of devoted.

It is an unhappy thing when you know your heart has hardened in any of these areas but you lack the desire or discipline to do anything about it.  Perhaps the choices you made over the past year were hard on your heart.  Perhaps you can tell you’ve drifted away from God, or you’ve allowed your connection to your church family to grow cold.  When that happens, it’s easy to become disheartened, discouraged with yourself, or indifferent in your spiritual walk.  Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked, “What’s the matter with me?  How did I get here?”

Listen to what God said to His people.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

God gave this beautiful promise to people who had misrepresented His holy name.  They weren’t acting like people who belonged to Him.  Those who saw them acknowledged their hypocrisy.  In modern terms they said, “They call themselves ‘Christians’ but they don’t act like it” (v. 20).  Yet God still wanted their heart.  He wanted to redeem them and give them His Spirit (v. 27).

This encourages me.  There are times when my heart problem is obvious to others.  But there are times when only I am aware of the hardening while I continue to go through the motions.  Either way, I can know that God still desires to cleanse me and save me (v. 29, 33).  God is willing to act on my behalf for my good (notice all the “I will” statements He makes in v. 23-38).  This may not be pleasant at first.  It may be in the form of exposed sin or an unhappy trial.  But I can see how necessary it is to shake me out of my complacency.  It reminds me of the song, “Break my heart, dear Lord.”  I am thankful for the opportunities God gives me to soften my heart again.