Cultivating My Heart

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By Martin Schlomer

God has challenged me over the past few weeks! As I’ve prepared to preach Jesus’ parable of the four soils in Mark 4, God has challenged me. Mediocrity easily slips into select areas of my life, and I don’t always see it until it begins to bear its fruit and rob my passion. If this problem is not caught early, my heart can become like concrete! We all share this vulnerability.

The writer of Hebrews warns us, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts …” Why does he give such a sober warning? The hardening process can happen very quickly and it can be devastating! This begs the question, is it possible to consistently cultivate the soil of our lives throughout the day so that we do not harden our hearts? Absolutely!

A few weeks ago, I was at the District Leadership Conference for our region. Matt Hannan, longtime pastor at New Heights Church in Vancouver, WA, spoke on transformational leadership. Bottom line: church health and transformation begins with the pastor humbling himself before the Lord. At one point, Matt shared a prayer that he daily prays throughout the day that keeps him in a posture of humility. This is his prayer, and it is one I’m adopting as my own: “Lord, I want You to do in me all that You need to do so that You can do through me all that You want to do.” This is one potent prayer!

There is no way one can develop a hard heart if this is a consistent posture before our God. I’m seeking to make it my posture and I want to encourage all of Elim to do the same. While God is doing many great things throughout this Body, I sense we are in need of revival! My sense is that there are too many people, especially men, whose hearts have grown (or are growing) hard! This is never one’s intention; it just happens through neglect. We make the wrong things, or even good things, the main thing in our lives. Before we know it, our hearts are desensitized to the voice of God. While God may be speaking, we aren’t hearing.

Will you make this prayer your daily, hourly prayer? “Lord, I want You to do in me all that You need to do so that You can do through me all that You want to do.” God’s passion is to do great things in us so that He can do great things through us in our families as well as in this city! Let’s take this challenge together!

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Pride in the Face of Insecurity

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By Beau Leaman

How do you define pride in both its literal meaning and in the way it plays out in your life? If we’re honest, I’m sure we have all been guilty of watering down the effects and severity of pride in our lives. I know I have, plenty of times. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” I know this verse, but do I truly believe it? If I were honest, I would say I believe it when it is convenient for me. For me, pride creeps up when I don’t look to Christ as my security. When I believe the world offers something better, and Christ’s all-powerful mercy is not grounded, I become a ship tossed by the waves. As I’m being tossed, I still want to think of myself as good, and I try to find Christ on my own terms. Through this insecurity I begin to develop pride because I no longer see myself as sanctified and righteous. Pride and insecurity go hand in hand. The foundation is insecurity, and the result is pride.

How important is the issue of pride in our lives? More importantly, what value is this topic of pride to Jesus? Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In the first pronouncement of the Beatitudes, Jesus calls us to be poor in spirit and assures us that the kingdom of heaven will then be our own. Why did Jesus mention this one first? In my opinion, it’s because it is a posture of helplessness. It is the foundation of our need for God’s help. The kingdom of heaven is for those who confess their spiritual bankruptcy. Proverbs 16:19 says, “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Also, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In the earlier passage Paul was speaking of a thorn in his flesh. Although Paul was going through many things we have not gone through, there is truth in that God is glorified and made strong in our confession of weakness and heart posture of lowliness.

At my workplace, my coworkers and I are often praised when we voice confidence in our own leadership, communication, and knowledge. Upper management would think that if you cannot speak about yourself highly by putting yourself on an alter, then you cannot be considered a leader. Do you wrestle with similar things? Whether it’s in our neighborhoods, our marriage, our school, or at our workplace, I think our society wants us to praise ourselves and exalt ourselves into a form of God. If any of us are searching for “our best life now,” this should sound familiar.

Is there such a thing as a righteous pride? Is it wrong to have confidence in something? Is boasting the end result of confidence? I want to leave you with these questions, as I myself have wrestled through them in many seasons of life. Galatians 6:14 says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” May God grant us the wisdom to discern righteousness and understand the rich value in being poor in spirit.

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What Do I Value?

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By Brian Sharpe

I was sitting in a coffee shop talking with a mentor of mine about how I was doing with taking personal retreat days.  A personal retreat day is a day of planning for the month ahead and spending some focused time with God.  This is a once-a-month, planned day.  He and I talked about how I had not had a personal retreat day in a while.

My mentor looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t think you believe in them.”

I got really defensive.  I tried to explain how I believed in them and had used them in the past.

Then he looked at me again and said, “You don’t believe in them because, if you did, then you would make time for them.”

This exchange happened several years ago, and it was brought to my memory this past weekend.  I was at a Pacific Northwest Leadership conference for the EFCA, and at this conference a speaker talked about how belief and value are tied to actions.  I know this doesn’t sound spiritual, but it does have spiritual implications.  He said that when we believe something and value it, it will be part of our actions.  I see this applying in just about every area of our lives.  If we believe we need to diet but don’t value it, most likely we will try and diet but it will not last.

This made me think of my time with God.  I love spending time with God.  There are times when I read my Bible and it seems I have drunk a refreshing drink.  There are time I walk away saying, “I’m not sure I learned anything new, but I spent some time with God.” There are times in prayer I sense a connection with God and times when I don’t sense anything.  How do belief, value, and action come into play here? Most of us would say we want to spend time with God every day.  We believe prayer is important.  We believe sharing our faith is important, but is this something we value? We may believe it, but until we value it, will it be part of our life? Why do I not run to prayer at times of need and in times of plenty?  Why don’t I spend time with God?  I am convicted by this, and challenged with it, but again, both of those feelings may not lead to lasting action.

What do my actions communicate that I value? This is probably a question I don’t want to ask because I may not like the answer.  These are questions I am pondering now, and will be for a while as I consider how to seek God first and give Him the place of prominence in my life.

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Resting in God

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By Jim DeAngelo

Are we resting in God’s presence?

When we were in Southern California hiking in the desert, our destination was a palm oasis. When we arrived, it was a cool and lush area. It relieved the heat and refreshed us from the surrounding arid, dry, parched land; prickly plants; and heat. It reminded us of the palm oasis mentioned in Exodus 15:27, when God gave Israel rest at Elim.

Jim DeWe are busy; our thoughts can become occupied by the next task and driven by our schedules. We worry and fret about tomorrow and the difficulty of getting it all done. Do we have the resources, the money, time, and energy, to meet the daily grind?  Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The challenge is, are we taking time to rest and rejuvenate in His presence?

When I dedicate time to spend with Jesus in reading Scripture, praying, and meditating on Him, I become refreshed, and daily challenges and problems come into proper perspective. The day isn’t so overwhelming. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes in the morning; when I can, it’s much longer. It centers my life and gives me a changed purpose. It’s not to get through the day, but to live the day through Him.

Are you overwhelmed? Are you fretting about tomorrow, finances, family issues? Are you spending time with Him? Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” I found that daily time spent with Him significantly changed my life. He is faithful; praise God for His provisions.

 

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