When Faith Came to Our Hearts

heart

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“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” –Jeremiah 31:33-34

“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” –Luke 22:20

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I think it’s difficult for us to comprehend what it would have been like to live in Ancient Israel. God was accessible, but yet separated from His people. Faith was wrapped up in systems and places and laws meant to help them recognize His holiness and their sinfulness. They understood their need for a Savior perhaps more than we do.

I have had times (many times) when I felt like God was distant or that His forgiveness was out of reach. But yet, regardless of my feelings, I have known that God’s presence was in fact near.

The Messiah brought a connection with God not simply through our behaviors but through our hearts.

Jesus changed everything.

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Jesus Messiah, thank you for bringing Your Word to our hearts. Help us recognize You and feel You with us not just at church, but at every moment throughout our weeks. May we seek the miraculous gift of Your forgiveness whenever we need it. Bring Your promise to fruition: that everyone, from the least to the greatest, may know Your presence and Your love. Amen.

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Christmas Changes Everything – Josh Wilson

“Now God has met us where we are A thrill of hope for hopeless hearts…

O Christmas changes everything.”

 


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

Fear and Vulnerability in the Waiting Times

What makes you feel vulnerable? Maybe it’s showing emotion, particularly sadness or tears. Or perhaps it’s going to a conference and trying to network with people in your field. It could be displaying your art for others to see.

Whatever causes it, vulnerability is that feeling of our hearts lying exposed on a table.

It’s uncomfortable.

I’ve had a lot of that feeling lately. Because I've been doing a lot of waiting.

Vulnerability comes on strong in the waiting times of life.

Sending a nerve-wracking email and waiting for a response. Getting together with possible friends and waiting to see if they become deep relationships. Applying for a new job and waiting to see if I get it. Asking questions and waiting for answers.

The longer I wait, the more my heart tries to leap off the table and jump back inside. It just feels so… unprotected. Risky. Helpless.

Naked.

The waiting time turns to a wondering time. Questions circle around and around in my thoughts. Doubts about my identity and worth. How was I perceived? Am I liked? Am I valuable? Do I have a place?

With each question, my hands creep closer to my heart. Wanting to pick it up. Wanting to guard it from being this defenseless again.

That’s what I used to do. I used to keep it locked up in a suitcase. Protected, but stifled.

No. That is no way to live.

Waiting is a necessary part of putting ourselves out there. The only way to avoid the waiting would be to avoid taking the risks. And then, what would happen to our relationships? Our dreams? Our future?

Waiting is difficult, but it is worth it.

I know that is true. I know it. But still, in the midst of the waiting and wondering, I feel shaken and fearful.

The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1

At first, when I read this, I feel frustrated. I berate myself for my lack of faith.

But then I realize how my fear points me to God. And I read the verse again.

Because many days, many many days, I don’t live like God is my stronghold. I live like I am my stronghold. Fully in control. Resolute and tough. Determined in my movements towards my goals.

I live many days as if I don’t need God at all.

But in these days? These days of waiting and wondering and fearing? In these days I have a deep reminder that I cannot actually live this life in my own strength.

I am grateful for the reminder.

And as I reflect on the state of my emotions, it points me towards what I am really waiting for. I am not waiting for answers. I am waiting for God. I am waiting for His transformation of my heart. His redirection of my confidence. His calming of my soul.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:13-14

As I type this, I am still scared. I am still uncomfortable with this vulnerability. But I am confident in God’s goodness.

And that gives me the strength to leave my heart on the table a little longer.

What makes you feel vulnerable? Do you try to protect yourself from that feeling?

outward appearances

Some facts have been on my mind lately.

  • Fact 1= Indiana has a habit of making extra-narrow parking spaces.
  • Fact 2= Indiana residents have a propensity for driving extra-wide vehicles.
  • Fact 3= I am not the world’s-best driver.
  • Facts 1+2+3= I have a difficult time parking in Indiana.

These facts were highlighted for me on a recent trip to the children’s museum. I pulled into a spot with a car on the left and a minivan on the right. I realized as I got out that the back end of my car was a little close to the car on my left. But, with such limited space, I decided it wasn’t worth correcting. I did, though, make sure to open the back door carefully. Everyone got out. No problem.

That is, there wasn’t a problem until we got back to the car after our visit. The neighbor car was gone, but there was something new: a note on my window. The note said, “Thanks SO much for denting my car. Learn how to park!”

I was frustrated. Sure, I could have parked better, but I have seen much worse. Plus, I know for certain that I did not dent their car. I was careful. I wish the driver of the other car would have been there. I wish I had been given the chance to defend myself.

This incident happened two days ago and it is still bothering me. That is the most frustrating part. Why do I care so much about what a stranger thinks about my parking abilities?

The truth is, I waste a lot of mental energy worrying about what others think of me. When I make a driving mistake, I worry that people in other cars will think I am a bad driver. When I get dressed in the morning, I worry that more fashion-forward women will think I am dorky. When I have people over for dinner, I worry that they won’t like my food and will think I am a terrible cook.

These worries reflect my excessive concern with outward appearances.

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7

There are many things the Bible tells me not to be concerned about: appearances, food, and clothing to name a few. But, there is at least one thing the Bible does tell me to be concerned about: my heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

Do I spend as much time thinking about the state of my heart as I spend thinking about the state of my appearance? When I look through catalogs, and long to have more stuff, do I worry that my heart is becoming more materialistic? When I spend a significant amount of my free time focusing on self-improvement, do I worry that my heart is becoming more selfish? When I watch screens instead of read the Word, do I worry that my heart is being guided by the wrong principles?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” –Psalm 139:23-24