The Heart Condition That Will Set You Free

Standard

by Joyce Meyer

I have a heart condition – and so do you. I’m not talking about my physical heart. I’m talking about my soul, which is my mind, will and emotions. This is the heart of our inner life.

Our inner life is more important than anything else because it is based on our thoughts and attitudes, which determine how we live. Real life is the life that’s in you, not your circumstances, like where you live or what job you have or who you’re in relationship with… Real peace and joy come from God’s Spirit in us, not things or people around us. And when your heart is right with God, it’s amazing how peaceful, content and even happy you can be in the midst of difficult situations and turmoil.

Matthew 5:8 says the pure in heart will see God. And Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to “keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life” (The Amplified Bible).

The scripture in Proverbs makes it clear that it’s our responsibility to guard our heart. And we need to do it often because each day there are countless opportunities for something to creep into our heart that is not pure or pleasing to God.

The Litmus Test of a Pure Heart

Checking your motives is a good way to determine what condition your heart is in. Motives reveal why we do what we do, which is actually more important to God than what we’re doing. If we’re really honest with ourselves, most of us will admit that we want to impress people, and this is what’s causing us to do what we do.

But I’ve learned a powerful secret: When we no longer have to impress people and we are living to please God and do what He wants us to do, we will have real freedom to be who God created us to be and enjoy life.

Think about it. If your schedule is hectic, is it because God is overloading you with responsibility or because you’re striving to do what you feel other people want you to do? Have you ever said, “Well, so-and-so expects me to do this, so that’s why I’m doing it.” Or maybe you were afraid someone would be mad or disappointed with you if you didn’t do what they asked. I’ve done it. And it just made me miserable and even resentful at times.

I also used to do things because I was nosy and just wanted to know what was going on – even at church! I wanted to be involved in some groups because of it. And at one time I even pushed Dave to be an elder so he could go to meetings and then tell me what was going on.

How to Check Your Heart

As I grew in my relationship with God, He showed me what it means to have a heart like Him. He is a God of grace, mercy, truth, compassion and generosity. Whatever He tells us to do, it’s because it’s for our good, not His benefit. He gave His best for us when He gave Jesus, His only Son, to die on our behalf so we could be forgiven of our sin through His shed blood.

No matter what condition your heart is in, if you’ll trust God, He can heal you and make your heart like His.

If you aren’t in the habit of checking your heart and really guarding it, I want to encourage you to spend a few hours alone one day and think about what you do and why. If you’ll be honest with yourself, God can help you see the truth about your condition. And the truth will always make you free!

The Light of Depression

Standard

Twice, I have seen my father cry. The first time, I was 12, and my sister, Jenny, was 14. She was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and needed further testing. When we arrived at the hospital, my dad walked around to her side of the car, gathered her into his arms and held her. None of us understood what was happening to my sister’s body, but when I heard my strong dad’s voice break with tears, I knew we were on a new and unexpected path.

Almost 10 years later, in the fall following my college graduation, I was the one my father gathered into his arms. At 22, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital. At a time in my life when the world was supposed to be opening up to me, I found myself retreating. Apathetic, uncaring, tired, and with no particular vision for any future, I subtly drifted into a world without hope. My family and I knew I needed help.

As a child, I had great passion for life. The simplest of pleasures brought unexplainable joy. I seldom demonstrated a melancholic personality. In fact, my parents learned that birthdays, Christmas and any reason for celebration would find me in a delirium of excitement. I loved life, and I loved being alive. When depression struck, I was dropped into a world where wearing my own skin was foreign and ill-fitting.

My mom says that one of the hardest days of her life was the day I checked into the hospital. My personal belongings were rummaged through, and I headed down the long hallway to doctors and a treatment team that became my “family” for the next month. Her drive home, leaving me behind, was heartbreaking. She was left to wonder and guess at why her daughter was in so much pain and why she couldn’t fix it this time.

I was numb, trying to see through a haze that had settled upon what once was vivid and bright. All color had seeped from a life that used to hold such joy. Some people didn’t understand my depression. They regarded it as a bad case of the Sunday evening blues, believing that if I tried harder and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I would “get better.” But I wasn’t just dealing with apathy toward routine. I couldn’t remedy being sick with a strenuous run, a good movie, or simply the passing of time. Depression transcended my circumstances and invaded my soul. It was more like a day terror — like waking up to a nightmare. Clinical depression painted my world black while screaming quietly that I was worthless.

I remember driving home from work the week before I checked into the hospital. My co-workers hadn’t noticed any difference in my performance or behavior. I was great at keeping up appearances. I was good at performing. But that evening, I recall wishing I weren’t alive, wishing my car would turn down an empty road and I could disappear. Upon arriving home, I headed straight for my room and slipped under my covers, hoping to sleep. I wanted to escape life because it hurt to breathe.

By the end of my first week at the hospital, I had made up my mind to leave. It wasn’t working. I packed my bags, headed to the front desk, and announced that I was calling my parents to come and pick me up. But my treatment team told me I needed to stay. Defeated and scared, I returned to my room, unpacked my bags and cried myself to sleep. It was time to get honest with myself.

I was angry. Me, happy Alice, with so much going for her. Stripped of the world’s accolades, it didn’t matter what school I had attended, where I had vacationed, what awards or pageants I had won. It didn’t matter who I knew, didn’t know, or thought I knew. What mattered to those surrounding me was that I was honest about my feelings. They didn’t have to be pretty. I didn’t have to look good. I could just be — and that was enough.

It was the kindness, compassion, love and truth demonstrated in the hospital that began unlocking my wounds, hurts and distorted thinking. I was learning from the worn lives around me. Lives I would have once felt pity for or wanted to distance myself from. They were the ones who possessed strength and courage. They had suffered abuse, neglect, addiction and illnesses. They felt misplaced and forgotten; they were told they didn’t matter. I came from a family filled with love, but as I and others in my hospital “family” shared our suffering, I found I needed their love.

When I was depressed, I was completely turned inward. I couldn’t see past my own shame. It warmed me, but like a scratchy wool blanket, brought its own discomfort. The irony is, until I recognized my depression for what it was, I wasn’t able to turn outward and accept love and love in return.

Getting help and getting rid of the junk cluttering my mind were part of getting better. Hope came gradually, with small steps that slowly returned feeling and clarity. I was changing. My thinking was being altered. I was given a truer sense of who I was: a young woman who needed to be loved for herself, not for what she could offer — not for how she could make you feel. Being honest in the hidden places of my heart. Taking personal responsibility. And slowly, the desire to live, the courage to want to live, began to return. Once truth reveals deception, the lie can no longer deceive unless we choose to let it.

A year and a half after my release from the hospital, I drove along a country road. The moon was bright. The stars brighter. Snow gave a fresh milky coat to the trees, and the night air was full and dark. I felt so alive. I hadn’t believed there would ever be something good enough or rich enough to make up for the pain and darkness I had known. My pain had been deep. But on this quiet stretch of road, I knew it had all been worth it. I knew that life was different because of my experience. Suffering had painted color into my life, and I could be thankful.

Living What You Read

Standard

You can read you Bible all day long and underline and highlight it until it looks like a coloring book.  But until you actually start living and enjoying what it says, you wont make any difference in your life.  The good news is, in Christ, we have what we need to live the way the Word of God tells us to live.

Second Peter 1:3 tells us, His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that (are requisite and suited) to life and godliness, through the (full personal) knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His won glory and excellence (virtue).

What is excellence?  It simply means to go the extra mile, to exceed the requirements.  It’s always so refreshing to be around someone who’s excellent— they’re constantly surprising you through over-delivering.

You Never Know

Standard

A conversation with a stranger that lasted less than five minutes was the highlight of my week. I was returning a rental car and the sales guy noticed I’d preset the station to a Christian radio station. “My mom listens to that one,” he said.

This 20-something guy then proceeded to open up a bit about how he’d grown up in a faith-filled home, but once college came around, he’d opted more for late Saturday nights with friends than early Sunday mornings at church.

“I guess I just kinda fell away,” he continued. He looked at the ground as he talked, probably waiting for me to offer a cliche or some advice, but instead I said: “You know, that’s my story, too.” He looked up.

I proceeded to share the two-minute version of how my knees hit the dormroom floor around age 22 and I prayed through tears “Lord, I want to come back to You!” and searched out the Christian music helped me reconnect. That was the end of our conversation because another customer was waiting. As I drove away, I thanked God for that five minutes.

Be reminded today: There is always time to share your faith journey. Someone else might say: “Me too.”

Posted on 1/28/2015 10:00:00 AM by Sarah Taylor

No More Groaning

Standard

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:18-27

We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:23

On occasion, I’ll ask a person how they are doing, and they will say, jokingly, “I can’t complain. But, then again, no one would listen anyhow!”

Sometimes, even people who are Christians feel like groaning. We live in a world still broken and corrupted by sin. Lives redeemed by Christ can still feel the effects of sin, death, and decay: marriages struggle, classmates argue, customers complain, friends get injured, communities suffer natural disasters. The creation groans, and we groan too.

Yet the gospel reminds us that our world is not just fallen; it is also being remade. Even in our sufferings God reveals our need for Christ, our need for the Spirit to sustain us. God is teaching us that no matter how much we may feel like groaning, Christ has also given us a new way of speaking. We can see aches and pains as growing pains, transitional discomforts through which God is renewing all things.

Salvation brings the redemption of not only our souls but also our bodies, and of creation as well. The Holy Spirit shapes even everyday challenges in work, school, relationships, and sickness into areas of God’s transforming work in us.

Are you in a complaining way today? Let God’s Spirit take that groaning and turn it into a new word of praise.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, show me how Christ’s life is being revealed in me right now. Hear my complaints, and turn them into praise. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joel Vande Werken

Learning to Forgive Others

Standard

Learning to Forgive Others

By Ed Chinn
Part of the Learning to Forgive Others Series

Learning to Forgive Others
Forgiveness in the Family
Walking in Forgiveness
Far Horizons of Forgiveness

Series About:

Relationship Challenges

When Bridget Driscoll died in London on August 17, 1896, she became one of the first people on earth to be killed by an automobile. The attending coroner said he certainly hoped that “such a thing will never happen again.”1

Despite that coroner’s naive hopes, the realities of math and physics dictate that mixing people and machines makes a certain number of injuries and deaths inevitable. In the same way, human beings cannot occupy the same space – like a home or office – without transgressing and offending others. That is why families, work places, churches, schools and neighborhoods can become hotbeds of human conflict and suffering.

Let’s face it: human beings are messy and hurtful. We don’t mean to be that way. We don’t intend harm. But most of us have caused and received many relational injuries. We have all insulted and injured our parents, siblings, spouses, children and a wide array of other people.

Right there is the point where two worldviews collide.
Utopia

A utopian view insists that humans are born perfect and then corrupted by society. Therefore the perfect society always remains a tantalizing dream. That dream seduces some into an endless chase of the unattainable.

Strangely, the prospect of perfection leads some to reverse the God and human roles. Those who pursue the utopian dream always seem to conclude that God is non-existent, indifferent, weak or vengeful. Conversely, humans are seen to have boundless potential for great nobility, soaring artistic achievement and moral perfection. That illusion claims that if we could only and totally liberate humans, we would finally discover the ideal society.

So, the utopian confusion sees God as weak and miserable and man as transcendent and glowing with goodness.

Ironically, the utopian pattern – which has marched under the banners of socialism, communism, eugenics, hedonism and other philosophies – is a brutal way to live. Like Hitler’s pursuit of “the master race,” utopianism tends to morph into dehumanization and holocausts. It sacrifices human beings on the altar of its own mad idealism.
Redemption

A redemptive view accepts the full scope of sinful human nature; it fully believes that people are going to trample and even kill one another.

That viewpoint knows that “human potential” is an illusion. The only hope for humanity lies in the God Who paid the price of our sinful nature. In other words, redemption assumes that people will be people and that God will be God; the roles cannot be reversed. But, because He chose to freely forgive and to give His Spirit to us, we have become partakers of His nature. Think of it: We are invited to live on the higher ground of His purposes.

A redemptive view releases humans to accept personal responsibility for their own actions. And we will never get very far accepting responsibility without the mysterious role of forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness?

To forgive is to release. Let it go. Freely and wholeheartedly grant freedom and blessing. It has very little to do with feelings or even trust. Forgiveness is simply a decision to let go of our regrets and our own view of justice.

Lily Tomlin captured a wonderful summary of forgiveness: To forgive is to give up all hope for a better past.

I think that is why some people find it almost impossible to apologize. To do so seems to be a subconscious abandonment of the utopian ideal. It is an admission that we didn’t measure up to the possibilities which are implicit in the idea of a perfect society.

Well, yes. To try to live in utopia is to deny the relational nature of life. That illusion says that we are to be perfect — all by ourselves! Not at all true. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When we step into His magnanimity, the matrix of failure, injury, disappointment and forgiveness opens us up to the large panorama of possibilities which mark the Christian life. It is often through heartache and redemption that we discover new reasons and rhythms for life.

Have you ever deflected an apology? How often have you heard (or said), “No apologies are necessary,” or “Oh,don’t worry about it? “Those kinds of responses abort the necessary and healthy process of redemption and renewal.

When we violate another human being, an apology and plea for forgiveness is essential to cleaning the wound and preventing relational infection. Apologies are serious stuff. They should be heartfelt and real.

And, when I extend forgiveness, it has to be real also. I can’t forgive in order to avoid or quickly conclude an uncomfortable moment. The seeking and the granting of forgiveness are profoundly serious acts. They demand full attention and deep sense of reality.

I do not deny the dark possibilities contained in human nature. But, more than that, I want to try to pull back a curtain on the powerful, beautiful and unique role of forgiveness in human relationships.

How does forgiveness actually play out in a family situation? What does it look like in other arenas of life? How do we live out forgiveness toward those whom we do not know? For example, how do we forgive the racists (or racist system) which turned humans into personal property?

Finally, how does forgiveness take hold of the reality of heaven and apply it in the dust of the earth. In short, does forgiveness have a role in seeking the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven?”

Learning to Forgive Others

Standard

By Ed Chinn
Part of the Learning to Forgive Others Series

Learning to Forgive Others
Forgiveness in the Family
Walking in Forgiveness
Far Horizons of Forgiveness

Series About:

Relationship Challenges

When Bridget Driscoll died in London on August 17, 1896, she became one of the first people on earth to be killed by an automobile. The attending coroner said he certainly hoped that “such a thing will never happen again.”1

Despite that coroner’s naive hopes, the realities of math and physics dictate that mixing people and machines makes a certain number of injuries and deaths inevitable. In the same way, human beings cannot occupy the same space – like a home or office – without transgressing and offending others. That is why families, work places, churches, schools and neighborhoods can become hotbeds of human conflict and suffering.

Let’s face it: human beings are messy and hurtful. We don’t mean to be that way. We don’t intend harm. But most of us have caused and received many relational injuries. We have all insulted and injured our parents, siblings, spouses, children and a wide array of other people.

Right there is the point where two worldviews collide.
Utopia

A utopian view insists that humans are born perfect and then corrupted by society. Therefore the perfect society always remains a tantalizing dream. That dream seduces some into an endless chase of the unattainable.

Strangely, the prospect of perfection leads some to reverse the God and human roles. Those who pursue the utopian dream always seem to conclude that God is non-existent, indifferent, weak or vengeful. Conversely, humans are seen to have boundless potential for great nobility, soaring artistic achievement and moral perfection. That illusion claims that if we could only and totally liberate humans, we would finally discover the ideal society.

So, the utopian confusion sees God as weak and miserable and man as transcendent and glowing with goodness.

Ironically, the utopian pattern – which has marched under the banners of socialism, communism, eugenics, hedonism and other philosophies – is a brutal way to live. Like Hitler’s pursuit of “the master race,” utopianism tends to morph into dehumanization and holocausts. It sacrifices human beings on the altar of its own mad idealism.
Redemption

A redemptive view accepts the full scope of sinful human nature; it fully believes that people are going to trample and even kill one another.

That viewpoint knows that “human potential” is an illusion. The only hope for humanity lies in the God Who paid the price of our sinful nature. In other words, redemption assumes that people will be people and that God will be God; the roles cannot be reversed. But, because He chose to freely forgive and to give His Spirit to us, we have become partakers of His nature. Think of it: We are invited to live on the higher ground of His purposes.

A redemptive view releases humans to accept personal responsibility for their own actions. And we will never get very far accepting responsibility without the mysterious role of forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness?

To forgive is to release. Let it go. Freely and wholeheartedly grant freedom and blessing. It has very little to do with feelings or even trust. Forgiveness is simply a decision to let go of our regrets and our own view of justice.

Lily Tomlin captured a wonderful summary of forgiveness: To forgive is to give up all hope for a better past.

I think that is why some people find it almost impossible to apologize. To do so seems to be a subconscious abandonment of the utopian ideal. It is an admission that we didn’t measure up to the possibilities which are implicit in the idea of a perfect society.

Well, yes. To try to live in utopia is to deny the relational nature of life. That illusion says that we are to be perfect — all by ourselves! Not at all true. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When we step into His magnanimity, the matrix of failure, injury, disappointment and forgiveness opens us up to the large panorama of possibilities which mark the Christian life. It is often through heartache and redemption that we discover new reasons and rhythms for life.

Have you ever deflected an apology? How often have you heard (or said), “No apologies are necessary,” or “Oh,don’t worry about it? “Those kinds of responses abort the necessary and healthy process of redemption and renewal.

When we violate another human being, an apology and plea for forgiveness is essential to cleaning the wound and preventing relational infection. Apologies are serious stuff. They should be heartfelt and real.

And, when I extend forgiveness, it has to be real also. I can’t forgive in order to avoid or quickly conclude an uncomfortable moment. The seeking and the granting of forgiveness are profoundly serious acts. They demand full attention and deep sense of reality.

I do not deny the dark possibilities contained in human nature. But, more than that, I want to try to pull back a curtain on the powerful, beautiful and unique role of forgiveness in human relationships.

How does forgiveness actually play out in a family situation? What does it look like in other arenas of life? How do we live out forgiveness toward those whom we do not know? For example, how do we forgive the racists (or racist system) which turned humans into personal property?

Finally, how does forgiveness take hold of the reality of heaven and apply it in the dust of the earth. In short, does forgiveness have a role in seeking the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven?”