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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Rocks reflected in rippling waters at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Changing the way others see you

I used to work in library, and one of the most embarrassing things that can happen while you’re working in a library is smudging ink on your nose because people will rarely tell you it’s there. It was easy to do too, since we worked around ink all day long, stamping books that were checked out, stamping books that were checked in. Ink, ink everywhere. So it wasn’t unusual to get it on your hands, and all you had to do was scratch your nose. 

It amazed me how nobody would tell you. They’d just let you walk around the department all day, dealing with patrons and other staff people, with a big green splotch of ink on your nose. Even people who would come up to the desk wouldn’t say anything; they’d just look at me funny. 

Isn’t it interesting how people look at you differently when things about you change? If you lose weight, they look at you differently. If you gain weight, they look at you differently. If you curse or if you don’t curse, if you dress modestly or if you don’t, if you talk loudly, if you sing off-key, people look at you differently than they look at other people. I’ve always figured it’s because being different makes you stand out, and once you stand out, it’s hard to fit in again.

I posted yesterday about how drawing closer to God changes us and how we should be looking for our identity in Christ and not in the superficial stereotypes of the world. But I got to thinking that when we choose to follow Christ, our view of ourselves isn’t the only thing that changes. The way other people view us changes too.

Rocks reflected in rippling waters at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rocks reflected in rippling waters at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Genesis 41:45.

Then Pharaoh gave Joseph a new Egyptian name, Zaphenath-paneah. He also gave him a wife, whose name was Asenath. She was the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On. So Joseph took charge of the entire land of Egypt.

If there had ever been a person who deserved a break it was Joseph. Joseph’s story covers a good deal of the last part of Genesis, so if you have a chance to read it, you really should. I guarantee it’s better than the cheap Kindle eBook you just downloaded.

But this passage comes from the later part of Joseph’s experiences in Egypt, after all of the struggles were over and he was finally getting to live in peace. And not just peace but power and recognition and success. This verse comes after Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams and pretty much saved the nation of Egypt, which would pretty much save the entire region during the years of famine.

But what I had to focus on was the fact that when Pharaoh assigned Joseph this powerful governmental leadership role in Egypt, he changed his name. Now, I don’t know what Zaphenath-paneah means; according to the NLT it might mean “God speaks and lives.” What I do know is that when Joseph was brought to Pharaoh, Pharaoh thought he was a dirty prisoner, arrested for rape. But when Joseph was done, Pharaoh understood something–that Joseph knew God. And not one of their fake false Egyptian deities. He knew the real God, talked with the real God, walked with the real God. That made enough of a difference to Pharaoh that he changed his view of who Joseph was.

That’s the kind of life I want to live. I want to walk out my door in the morning and know that every person I meet won’t see me as just me. I want people to see my best friend Jesus through me. I want people to experience what a life can be like when you don’t turn away from God and what God says is right. Our culture has this idea that God is there to squash our fun, and that the Bible is only a rule book to prevent you from actually living. But that’s a lie.

Joseph did it. He lived in a completely pagan culture all alone with no one to be his friend. Abandoned, forgotten, lied about, falsely accused–if anyone had a reason to give up on God, it was Joseph. Because he hadn’t done anything wrong. On the contrary, he’d done everything right. But he never turned away from God, and he kept moving forward because it was the right thing to do. And God honored him for that.

So let’s remember today that when people look at us they aren’t just seeing us. If we’ve chosen to follow Christ, we are His ambassadors to a world that doesn’t want anything to do with Him. And it’s our job to help people see that life without Christ is no life at all. Judge your actions today by that rule. If someone who doesn’t believe is watching your life, what do they see? Do they see a life that’s worth changing their own life for?