A changed heart comes from God

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to stick to a resolution? Or maybe you don’t struggle with that. Most people I know have a difficult time with resolutions, though. Oh, they’re easy enough to make, but keeping them is another story.

Is there a reason for it? Well, there’s a reason for most everything that happens in our lives, and it isn’t always that we’re not trying hard enough or that we’re not sincere. I can tell you that I’ve made some very sincere resolutions before that have fallen through. And I’ve worked my tail off to keep a resolution before too, but that hasn’t always made a difference.

So what is it that makes the difference between keeping a resolution and falling off the wagon?

love-heart-hand-romanticToday’s verses are Romans 2:28-29.

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

The people I know who keep their resolutions or achieve their goals most frequently have a mindset that is in line with their resolutions. Their heart is aligned with what they want to accomplish.

Maybe this is a bad example, but you can’t lose weight if you aren’t dedicated to the process of losing weight. Being healthy and living healthy takes time and effort and hard work, and if you’re doing it right, you won’t see results overnight. You have to stick to it. You have to keep going, even on the days when you don’t feel like it. And if your heart isn’t in it, you’ll eventually fail.

What about not being late? That’s a good resolution. Say you resolve that you won’t be late to meetings anymore. That’s great! But being on time for a meeting means you have to get organized. You have to get things done, which means you can’t dawdle or daydream or waste time. You have to prioritize, and prioritizing takes hard work and sacrifice. You have to be willing to let some things slip in order to achieve the things you want to achieve.

If you want to keep your resolutions, you have to have a heart that lines up with what you’re trying to accomplish. Your heart has to change before your behavior can change. Many times our culture gets that messed up. We try to change our behavior in hopes that our attitudes will improve, but it doesn’t work that way. The attitude comes first, and then the behavior will straighten out.

The fact remains that God is the only one capable of changing the human heart. He can give us new dreams and healthy desires, but we have to put Him first in our lives. That’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.

So how’s your attitude today? Is it sour? Bitter? Resentful? Jealous? It might be angry or frustrated. It might be hurt or bruised. It might be self-focused and petty. We’ve all been there, friend, but none of us have to stay there.

Spend some time getting to know the Lord. Read the Bible, and talk to God about what’s bothering you. Take steps to put Him first in your life and see what happens. You’ll find that when your only concern is pleasing Him, the rest of your priorities will fall neatly into place. No, that doesn’t mean life will be easy, but it will get a lot clearer. And that’s more than half the battle as far as I’m concerned.

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Dreams are impossible until God gets His hands on them

One of the biggest blessings we have as Americans is the ability to be able to chase our dreams. You realize that, right? If you have a dream, you can pursue it. You’re free to do it.

Sure, it may cost you some money. It may take a lot of time. It will certainly take a lot of effort. But you are free to chase whatever dream is building at the back of your brain without the interference of government (for the most part). No one in this country is going to tell you that you can’t do it because you’re a certain race or a certain status. Well, maybe some will, but generally speaking they don’t know what they’re talking about anyway. And in my experience, the more unlikely a success you are, the more your real friends will support you in your decision to chase your dream.

I’m living a dream right now. Working from home. Supporting myself through writing. Crafting novels. It’s a dream come true. It’s a dream I’ve had my whole life.

But there is one important thing to remember about chasing a dream. If you want to be successful–which to my mind means lasting success–you need to first make sure that your dream is the life God wants for you. Otherwise, you’re just chasing the wind. You’ll never catch it, and all you’ll do is wear yourself out.

6940-balloon_edited_630w_tnToday’s verses are Psalm 37:4-7.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him.

God gives everyone a dream or a goal or a purpose for their lives. I do believe that. It’s just that some of God’s more practical children don’t get caught up in dreaming, so it’s hard for them to call what God’s given them a dream. For them, they have a goal or a purpose for their life. Either way, that reason for being or living or achieving comes from God.

At least, it should. And surely for Christ-followers, it should. But are the dreams we’re chasing really from God? Are our ambitions really from God? Does that goal or that achievement you’re working so hard for really come from Him? And how do you know if it does or doesn’t?

Dreams are dangerous. Goals are dangerous. People will risk everything to achieve them, and that’s why it’s so important to make sure you’ve got permission to chase that dream or goal before you set a single foot on that path.

One thing I’ve learned about chasing your dreams is that God won’t allow you to succeed if the path you’re following will take you away from Him. It won’t work. You can try your hardest. You can work through the night. But if you’re chasing a dream without God’s permission, you’re going to fail. Maybe not right away. Maybe you’ll bleed out slowly. But at the end of your finances and your resources and your relationships, you’ll be just as far away from achieving your dream as you were when you started.

God will never give you permission to pursue a dream if it means going against what He says is a healthy life. He will never tell you to put your ambitions higher than your relationship with Him. He will never tell you to prioritize your dreams higher than your family.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you want your dreams to come true so badly. I remember the day vividly in 2006 when I had to go back to work, the first time I tried freelance writing.

Or did you think this was the first time I’d tried this ridiculous idea? Oh, no. I’ve been here before. And I failed. Sure, God used it. I learned a lot. But mostly I learned that it wasn’t time for me to be chasing my dream yet.

When I had to go back to work again, I can’t even tell you how crushed I was. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. It felt like giving up. And it felt like I wasn’t even worthy of pursuing my dream because I would never succeed. All I would do is fail.

And I was right. Because what Christ-followers need to understand about pursuing a dream is that they’re not our dreams. Those ambitions or purposes or goals or dreams or whatever you want to call them–if they’re in your heart, God put them there. He designed those desires for a reason, and you shouldn’t ignore them. But you also shouldn’t go chasing them half-cocked because without God’s help, you’ll never achieve them.

Dreams are impossible. Until God gets His hands on them. But that means you have to let them go first.

If dreams were achievable on our own strength, we wouldn’t have to trust the Lord. We wouldn’t have to commit our ways to Him. We wouldn’t have to wait patiently. But that’s the first step to achieving your dream: Recognize who gave it to you and give it back to Him.

Trust God with your dream. It’s hard to let it go. Believe me, it’s like ripping your heart out. But once you give it to Him and you walk away from it, He’ll give it back. And it will be bigger and better than you ever imagined.