Tag Archive: heart


What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Philippians 3.8

What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.

Known then as Saul, he was zealous for the Jewish law. Born straight from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin, and circumcised at eight days old, he counted himself as righteous because he obeyed the law without fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And then…Saul met Jesus and his life was changed forever. He realized his value for upholding every aspect of the Jewish law paled in comparison to knowing Christ as his personal Savior.

Knowing Jesus changed him, and in turn, his values (and his name) changed.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

That’s what Christ does—He transforms us.

As our faith grows, our values change…because knowing Jesus changes us—from the inside out.

Walking with Jesus changes our hearts. It changes what we see as important. And it changes what we don’t want to live without.

How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Waiting on God

Jer 33.14-15

Have you ever noticed that waiting on someone else is so much more annoying than when someone is waiting on you?

When someone is waiting on me, I have control. I know I’ll deliver on what I said I would do. But when I’m waiting on someone else, I can’t be sure of the outcome. Best case scenario, I wait and the other person comes through, even if it’s a little late. Worst case scenario, the other person doesn’t follow though and I’m left waiting with something left undone.

When I’m waiting on God, it feels like I have no control.

I can’t control when He’ll fix a situation or a person.

I can’t control when God’s right time will be.

I can’t control when or where I’ll hear from Him or how He’ll call me.

And it’s annoying because from what I can see if I’m asking, then it must be the right time!

But when I’m not in the midst of turmoil and can take a step back, I see differently. My time is based on my emotions—emotions that feel out of control to me, but are just a minor storm to God.

I see only what’s around me, but God sees the big picture. He sees the storms raging and His people crying out. God sees it all, including our hearts, our needs, and our deepest desires.

My time of frustration and despair may not be the right time in God’s plan, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

God promised to never leave us and God always keeps His promises.

We can’t control God’s timing, but we can control what we do while we wait.

While we wait on God…we keep praying.

We keep walking close to Him.

And we keep trusting Him.

Because no matter how much of the picture we can see, God sees it all.

And His time is always the right time.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Emotional Meltdowns

The Land Between…life has been interrupted. What was normal is gone, and the future is unclear. Even in our grief, we must adjust to a time of transition and uncertainty.

We grieve over death, but we also experience sorrow and regret when there is a loss of a relationship (breakup or divorce), an unwanted change in lifestyle (loss of finances or home), or a change in family structure (child grows up and moves away).

Even when we know the change is coming, we grieve for the past. But there can also be regret over what might never be.

We may feel sadness or anger when what we hoped for in life doesn’t appear to be in God’s plans, and our dreams go unfulfilled…especially if we thought the dream was God’s plan.

Frustrated, discouraged, maybe even feeling lost in life, we have complaints and questions for God.

God, I thought this was Your plan for my life. Now what?!?

Really, God? One more thing?!? I can’t take any it more!

I’m barely staying afloat here, God. Where are You?!?

I miss ______. Why did You have to take ______ (him/her/it) away?

After a while, we are emotionally drained with nothing left to give.

Emotional meltdowns are not new to God. He knows there is only so much we can deal with—especially if we’re trying to cope all on our own.

Moses had reached his limit with leading the Israelites and listening to them complain against God over the manna He had provided.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6

With nothing of himself left to give, Moses cried out to God.

He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” Numbers 11:11-15

Don’t miss the difference in their complaints. The Israelites complained against God, discontent over what He had provided for them. While Moses, in distress, bared his heart and complained to God, in need of His comfort and help.

There is also a big difference in how God responded. The Israelites continued to make God angry with their complaints. But, for Moses, God responded by helping him.

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone. Numbers 11:16-17

God knew what Moses was capable of and how much he could handle. He didn’t get angry because Moses was worn out and emotionally exhausted. He had mercy on Moses and lifted a share of the burden.

He wants to do this for us, as well. He invites us to let the walls down and come to Him—with open, honest hearts and emotional meltdowns—where He will lift us up and give us rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

The invitation has been extended. How will you respond?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Our Land Between

This is the Land Between—where life is not as it once was, where the future is in question. – Jeff Manion, The Land Between

We, as Gloria Dei, find ourselves in the Land Between…a time of transition between senior pastors. It’s not a desolate land, but an uncomfortable one…a time of change and wondering what the future will look like.

Maybe you’ve experienced your own personal Land Between…or maybe you’re in one now.

Whether it’s sudden, or you knew it was coming, life is not as it once was, and the future is in question.

“We’re moving.”

“Honey, I lost my job.”

“Mom, I’m in trouble.”

“I want a divorce.”

“The cancer has spread.”

Life has been interrupted. And, for a brief time, or maybe forever, what was normal is now gone.

The Land Between is unfamiliar, unwelcome, and unpleasant.

And…

It’s a time for growth—a time for God to work in our hearts.

You see, God has a purpose in the Land Between. It is a time for us to see Him more clearly through His provision and protection. It’s an opportunity for our faith to grow in ways that can only happen through times of trials and transition.

The Land Between isn’t time we would ask for, but when we look back, we can see God’s work.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert.By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:17-18, 20-21

If I’d been an Israelite escaping from Egypt, my vote would have been for the shortest and fastest route possible! But God had a reason for not using the shortest road—and it was for their own good.

I wonder how many times I’ve missed seeing God’s hand at work in my life because I was too focused on looking for a quicker way through the transition—a direct way to the end result.

On a shorter route, the Israelites probably wouldn’t have needed the Lord to guide them. But going the longer way, they saw God lead them—night and day. In other words, God stayed with the Israelites 24/7. He went before them and walked beside them, guiding and protecting.

Where is God in our Land Between?

He is right here—with our congregation and with each of us individually. He is going before us, guiding us and preparing the way. He’s walking beside us, ready to listen, and to comfort us when we’re hurting and in distress. And He is with us providing and protecting.

I wouldn’t ask for our Land Between, but I know God has a purpose for it. He has a plan for you, for me, and for our congregation.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Putting God to the Test

06-elijah-and-the-prophets-of-baal

“Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.  Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God. Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” 1 Kings 18:23-24

I have always loved the story of Elijah and the Baal priests at Mt Carmel. It reminds me that God is bigger than any man-made story or false religion. I am also very comforted knowing that when it comes down to a fight that the true God is always going to show himself to be more powerful. This is all good stuff but…

As I was reading chapter 15 of “The Story” I stopped and paused after the Elijah story. The same story was present but I read it completely different. Was Elijah putting God to the test? God never told him to put on a battle of the gods showdown. If God wanted it to go down it would have been a pay-per-view event of the decade. But there is no indication in Scripture that this was God’s idea at all. So, if this wasn’t God’s idea then was Elijah putting God to the test? Was he tempting God to perform a magic trick before the eyes of the people?

I am a little conflicted because Jesus was tempted by the Devil when he said throw yourself down, God will save you. Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord to the test.” But God says through the prophet Malachi,

“…test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

So what are we to do…test God or not test God?

There is a difference between the way that we test. I think it goes back to the motives in which we are asking. Do we test God so that we can prove to be right in front of someone else? Do we seek to test God so that we can get something we want from him? There are a lot of impure motives that we can attempt to test God but I think God says with pure motives he wants us to test him, to see that he will fulfill his promise. To be clear, praying for God to act is not putting him to the test.

Elijah was facing an epic battle, the likes of which no one had ever witnessed. He was the only prophet left of God in all the land. People were being enticed away from the true God to one of evil. Elijah trusted God and simply asked him to fulfill a promise. He knew that God would honor his promise with right motives and a right heart.

Would God still be God if he wouldn’t have listened to Elijah? Yes. God chooses to break into our world so that his plan and purpose is fulfilled. It gives us a glimpse of a now and not yet reality. We know that God is all-powerful we see glimpses of it now but will see it fully when Jesus returns.

God wants you to know that he is faithful and true to his promises. Put God to the test and see that he will be faithful.

What have you been holding back from God because you were afraid to put him to the test? How do we judge whether our motives are right? What would be a good thing to test God in? What would be a bad example to test God with? What has God promised to do that you have seen him fulfill?

Trojan Horse of the Heart

“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All of these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” Mark 7:21-23

This is part two to the previous post from the Gospel of Mark, in which I talked about, how “Matters of the heart” can be difficult. We do the hard work of understanding our motives and intent in all acts of our lives; especially when it come to the worship of God.

For this post I wanted to spend some more time on the above verse which talks about the origin of evil; the hearts of people. In Scripture there are many places that talk about guarding your heart. When you guard your heart you don’t allow anything to penetrate it. So you build up the walls around your heart and let nothing in. The evil, the world and our sinful desires is often the things we are guarding our hearts from allowing to get in. But is that the source of the real problem?

Jesus says that from within the hearts of man come evil thoughts, desires, etc. We build up the walls around our hearts so that nothing can get in. But, is it all in vain if the problem really is our heart in the first place?

It reminds me of the Trojan War when the Greeks were trying bring down Troy. Major cities in that day and age were identified by their use of walls to secure their people. The bigger the city, the bigger the walls. The walls kept the enemy out and all the good in. The Greeks approached Troy and knew that it was going to be near impossible to bring the city down by attacking the outside. After unsuccessfully trying to attack from the outside, they devised a plan to get inside. They built a huge wooden horse (like the one in the picture above) and gave it to Troy as a present. The city of Troy took that wooden horse into their city where it sat for the night. Unsuspectingly, the Greeks had hidden inside the horse and got out late at night and started the war from within the walls. The Greeks won the battle and it was not fought from outside but inside the city. “Trojan Horse” has come to mean any trick that causes a target to invite an enemy into a securely protected space, where it will be defeated.

Our hearts should be on guard from all evil that attempts to attack from the outside. But it is much more commonplace that evil is birthed right from the place that we have built the walls. Listen to what James has to say in this matter:

“But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15

The heart contains all kinds of evil. The evil desires start in the heart, once they ‘give birth’ it becomes sin, sin then snowballs to an all-consuming death. Where does that all start? From the heart! We can build the walls up around our hearts believing they will protect out hearts. But listen to Jesus again “All of these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” Destruction often comes by our own hand. We rely on our heart to make decisions…we trust our heart to find love. Our hearts justify our sin, instead of dirt and filth we see roses and cleanliness. All because of our heart.

So what can we do to make sure that our hearts are clean and pure, so that nothing evil comes from it? Absolutely Nothing! Which leads to the story of the Gospel. Every human heart is far from God because sin has separated us. Left to our own devices we choose sin and evil because that is the way our hearts are inclined. This is the Great News…God loved us even when we were sinners. He made a way when it looked as if there was none. Jesus came with his mission always before him. His life, death and resurrection made a way for us to stand perfectly in the presence of God, free from evil.

What can we do a part from God to cleanse an evil heart? Nothing. But with God our hearts are cleansed and the decisions we make are not our own but guided by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. We don’t have to fight our own battles but with God on our side, no enemy stands a chance, outside the walls or inside our hearts.

What are some helpful ways that you have fended off the evil in your heart? What weapon has God equipped you with to defend from evil within and without?

Leave your comments below or on our Facebook page so that we can stand together and not fight alone!

Matters of the Heart

We continue this week with our look at the Gospel of Mark. Last week we covered chapters 4-6 as we looked at the pattern of Jesus’ teaching. This week we are in chapter 7 and once again we see the Pharisees and their blatant disrespect of Jesus and his ministry. And once again Jesus doesn’t sit back and take it or change his message to fit their rebuke.

Jesus turns it back on the Pharisees by looking at the heart of the issue.

Jesus says, “These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.” Mark 7:6-8 (MSG)

Jesus wants them to know that it is about their heart and intent in worship. He moves from rebuke of the Pharisees to a moment of teaching for all the people present. He drops a bombshell when he tells them the parable about what pollutes the human body; it is not what you put in but what comes out. At that time there was a list of things you could and couldn’t eat. What you put in your body does not go to your heart but to the stomach and then out again, that can’t make him unclean. But, what comes out of a man is what makes him unclean.

The Pharisees were hypocrites because they made an outward profession of worshiping God but gave Him no genuine worship from their hearts. They were teaching the rules of men as authoritative or directly from God. The Pharisees looked at tradition as “the fence of the Law.” It was not the Law that protected the tradition, but the tradition that protected the Law! There is no tradition or habit in the church that can or should dominate the Word of God. We do not exist to elevate our own name or pious acts. Instead we want to make much of Jesus and the cross of salvation.

Jesus is most interested in our heart or our motives. Do we serve and obey God out of blind obedience or out of love and devotion? It is the difference between religion and relationship. God has never looked for blind obedience, but He has always looked for a relationship. We can find ourselves day-by-day going through the motions out of habit alone (we are creatures of habit). But, may we notice and identify when these habits creep into our worship life. We don’t want to treat it like everything else, because God is concerned about our worship. Matters of the heart aren’t always easy to deal with, but it is a good thing that the Holy Spirit is in the Heart business.

What areas of your life do you struggle to put your heart in to it? What areas of your worship do you do out of blind obedience? Have you ever asked yourself why you do what you do? Are these things according to God or are they man-made rules?

Please leave your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Total Body Stewardship: Core Training

I still remember when I first went back to the gym after probably ten years of absence. I felt awkward and exposed in an unfamiliar place. I had no clue as to what I should do first. The treadmill looked simple enough so I jumped on and hit start. It has not been an easy road to travel and there is no way I could have done it on my own. I met with a trainer who mapped out a plan for me. We talked about goals and a vision for what I wanted to see when I looked at myself in the mirror. There have been times when it has been painful and there are times when I just didn’t go even when I needed to, but that is all a part of the journey. It is a journey of taking control of my health because it is important.

After a solid year has passed of going to the gym on a frequent basis, I now notice the same kind of people coming to the gym with that familiar terrified look in their eyes. I want to run and tell them that it is crucial not to get overwhelmed by the people they see. I know they all look so fit and trim. It is easy to ask questions like: Where are the other people who look like me? Did the others give up? Should I be here?   

It is a little funny to look around at the gym and see a bunch of fit men and women and wonder, “Are they keeping the out of shape people in the back room so no one will see them.” But I believe with all my heart that, “You have to start somewhere!” I started somewhere and so will every person that walks into the gym. I can’t expect to be chiseled and fit in one visit, even though it would be nice. This is not about a single goal, but a lifestyle change.

As I thought about fitness and my reintroduction to the world of fitness, I started to draw a lot of parallels to this current series of messages on Stewardship. People would like to believe that we are born with an innate sense of stewardship. From birth we know that we don’t own anything but it is all a trust from God. It is true that we don’t own anything but it’s not true that people are born believing that. New Christians that step in the church may believe that everyone sitting the pew has things all together. The actual truth is that there are some people who look like everything is fine but are actually falling apart, physically and emotionally. There are others who have a good handle on things, but the journey is different for all people.

Stewardship can look scary because we all want to believe that the stuff that we have is ours because we worked hard for it. It is difficult to give up that illusion but once we do we can become better managers of everything that God has given us.

We have to start somewhere! It’s easy to become overwhelmed by what we should be doing. It gets worse when we see others who are fit and in shape, but just like the fitness story…We have to start somewhere! It may not be where you would like it to be or where it should be, but you can start somewhere! If you are saying to yourself, “I don’t have a clue where to start or how to do this.” It’s okay because there are other people in your church or in your community that have a great handle on good stewardship principles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help…you can’t be expected to do it all on your own.  We are not shooting for a single goal of being a tither or any other one area goal…this is a lifestyle change. God calls for us to be good stewards, but how will we respond?

Stewardship is heart work. Ask God to point out the areas that you should be concerned with the most. Then ask him to help and guide you in your pursuit.

In the area of stewardship, what do you struggle with the most? Please leave your comments and questions below or on our Facebook page.

 

 

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