Never Say Never

Never Say Never

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

I don’t remember who spoke these words into my life. Like a challenge issued to every part of my stubbornness, I set out to prove them wrong. Never is a powerful word. It is difficult to enforce. It is final. It means not ever, at no time, not at all, absolutely not, and to no extent. However, who are we as mere human beings to dictate time. Ecclesiastes 3 tell of God’s Outline of life including the relevance of His Timing in that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven” climaxing with the promise that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, and even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Never implies control over God’s Will and Timing that is simply not the case.

When our daughter was very small, she developed rapid onset asthma. Within a matter of weeks, her condition had worsened to the point of daily doctor visits and an extension list of medication to manage her breathing. We had to carry a nebulizer with us everywhere. Her activities were limited in order to prevent a respiratory illness due to the compromised state of her lungs. This would be the beginning of a journey of faith. I had been praying for the Lord to give me faith. I wanted to see the sick healed, the blind see, the deaf hear, and even the dead raised. I wanted to see the signs, wonders and miracles. For weeks, I struggled with the condition of my child. A couple strong in faith mentored us and taught us about the elements of faith. To them I am forever thankful for their teaching and guidance by the Holy Spirit. On the day that the Lord would reach down and touch our daughter, forever removing this dreaded disease in a single instant, I found a truth about the Lord that I will “never” forget. God rules forever. He dictates the boundaries of our life with His Love. When the enemy tries to cross that barrier, the Lord firmly enforces His Position of the Reigning King. When the doctor told us that she would remain the list of medications forever based on a slightly improvement and never be without it. Heaven and earth collided. The room stood still as His Presence filled that place. Our God is the One who has dominion over forever. Neverland is not a real place. God does not ever except never but gives it a time and place.

I have found it to be true that every never I ever have spoken is a line that I have crossed. Never makes us think we have some kind of control over our life including our mind, will and emotions. The moment it is established as some kind of boundary – it seems our flesh takes the challenge. As a young person, there are some things that I said that I would never do based on the mistakes of my parents. Disappointments and doubts that formed a plan for my life with certain boundaries which I am sad to report – I did them all. Giving my heart to Jesus during my teenage years, I accepted a harsh doctrine with many more definitive items on the long list of never. I did them all, too. Every never has become a reality in my life. I wonder if Peter felt the regret of never, the pain in his heart as he discovered that he was all too human by denying Jesus not once, or twice but three documented times. Jesus told him that the enemy wanted to “sift him like wheat.” I am sure it was a painful process but oh so necessary to make the reunion on the beach more wonderful.

Matthew 5:34-37 (NLT) But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

To say, “I will never” is a vow. It is implied control over our present state that is just not the case. We are ruled by a master – be it sin and flesh dictating our attitudes and actions or the Master who gives us the Mind of Christ. The enemy uses the statement that “I will never” to set up false barriers and invisible boundaries in our life so when we cross them we are shackled with guilt, shame or regret. The feeling of failure erodes faith as doubt and fear take over. We cannot ever say that never is possible for us or become insistent in one direction. This life that I live given to Christ is a humble offering. It is to yield my life piece by piece to the Lord. It is to accept His Will giving up my own. Therefore, I cannot say never but remain hopeful that whatever happens in my life that the Lord will keep His Promise. What promise? This one:

Romans 8:28-30 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29 NIV) Predestination – now that is a word that will start a quick theological debate. I am not looking for a discussion or a debate simply to reveal the promise of such a revelation. Predestination means to decide in advance, to foreordain, to predetermine which is exactly is what the Lord did for us. He provided a plan for our life including a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) He recorded every single day before our birth. (Psalm 139:16) He decided to give His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for my life. Not to bring condemnation but grace sufficient to cover ever sin in advance. (John 3:16-18) The Lord has provided everything I need according to His Riches in Glory (Philippians 4:19) and every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) to yield abundance and prosperity in my natural existence on my way to heavenly hope. Jesus even promised that He went to prepare a place for us in eternity and will come back for us one day. (John 14:2-3) We are predestined. Freedom allows us to choose our destination. There are many flights leaving the airport today that will go to a variety of destinations around the world. The people in the airport must choose their destination according to their free will. We do the same. To indicate “never” in our life may be the very dictate issued that limits the rich and satisfying life that Jesus promised us. (John 10:10)

The promise found in predestination is this: “we know that God causes EVERYTHING to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose.” Jesus came to save us and provide the grace needed to return to right-standing with God. Humility is the route to such a destination. It is to release control of our life including mind, will, emotions, body, spirit and soul to live in His Love completely. This eliminates never and impossibility from our life. Faith in Jesus is the requirement which means I give up my way to follow Him beginning with my stubborn heart set on dictating the order of my life and accept His Spirit to lead me into the everlasting.

Ezekiel 11:19 (NLT) And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.

The New International Version translates the same verse as – “And I will give them an undivided heart”. We want Jesus in our life. However, to release perceived power and control contradicts everything the world tells us. We are to protect our heart. Gather all the broken pieces and hold it all together. Hide our insecurities. Build walls between ourselves and fear. Fake it until you make it. God has placed eternity in our heart because that is the part He longs for. To pursue God with our life and keep our heart for ourselves will end in disappointment and frustration. God is love. Love is messy. It requires brokenness and giving up our way to unite with the object of our affection. No marriage can survive two people bent on having their way all the time. There must be giving.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Is the Gospel of my life hidden behind a veil? This veil can be constructed of many things. It represents the veil in the Temple. The one that kept people on the verge of knowing the Lord but dependent on someone else to endure the process. The Spirit of the Lord ripped the veil in half when Jesus died for our sins. There is no longer anything separating us from God and His Heart except those who decide to reconstruct a barrier in our life. The limitation in our life is built by us not the Lord. He made it clear. God wants His Children. His Desire is for us. He longs to live in love with us. He has created a life for us worth having.

We cannot share a love that has not been experienced. If we do not give our heart and all its stubbornness and brokenness and insecurity to the Lord to accept the new heart that He offers then what is the point. I can share the Good News with others but without the Light of His Glory which is His Love shining forth – it’s just another fairytale or feel good story. I can share all the miracles that we have experienced in our life as a result of faith – but without the love found in the careful and constant intervention of Jesus – it is just another coincidence or inexplicable random event – gawked at today and forgotten tomorrow. The Gospel is a farce without the heart of God’s People shining His Love through fragile, clay jars containing grace and mercy for all. We must give our hearts to Jesus. Every part. The broken parts. The hidden parts. The held-on-to parts for safekeeping. Our life is nothing under our own control. We cannot even keep the simple promises and vows made in our life. Jesus makes all things possible. He erases impossibility completely according to His Will and Way. His Goodness can only overflow from a heart freely given and a responsive one accepted in return.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

So we go back to the beginning…God has promised to give us a new heart. He also offers us a new spirit. A tender and responsive heart. What is the never in your life that is holding you back? Or maybe it is the never that you did anyway? You and I are created in the Image of God. Christ is the visible image of God. Before departing this world, He took the Light of God’s Love and placed it in our heart. The cold, stony, and stubborn heart still held on to carries the potential to live a rich and satisfied life not in the choices we make or our ability to “change” our life making better choices or improving habits, but in our acceptance of a tender and responsive heart. We must respond to God’s Promises beginning with accepting the new heart and new spirit that is freely given to us. However, this is a position of trust that believes no matter what happens in our life that His Love is working out everything for our good. Do you believe that today? If so, your love will be made in the image of God. Your giving will be complete as you give your life away in love relinquishing control. God is intent on changing us not the environment that we live in.

The Glory of God shines brightest through the broken. This verse came to me praying for a mighty woman of God with congestive heart failure. A year ago, she testified in church that through many complications she did not have a “zipper” meaning no heart surgery. She gave the Lord glory for her healing and was a source of encouragement to me. She is in the hospital today facing her third heart surgery. Her faith in the Lord is stronger than ever. She still sings louder than everyone else when worshipping Him in the sanctuary. The first to proclaim “Hallelujah” at the mention of His Name. Her testimony is even stronger today than it was a year ago because in the midst of her trial she is still in love with the Lord. Her faith shines through the darkness of a broken body. Her heart for Jesus beats strong though her human heart is struggling. Jesus let that be me today. I give you my broken and beat up heart for a tender responsive one that shares the Light of Your Love consistently in all things, in all ways, from now until You come! I must decrease allowing You to increase Jesus! Like a wineskin bursting with new wine, I give my heart to you again. Make it beat with Yours, Lord. Give me the desires of Your Heart, God. Make me one with You today Jesus!

Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

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A Broken Heart – A Devotion

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

 

As I sit in His Presence desperate for His Touch, I am approximately ten steps from the bed where my son is. The handsome young man who is in a fight for his life as cancer has invaded his body. My heart strings tightly bound around him in faith as I wait and watch for the Lord. But tonight, my heart is also stretched 145 miles across the state to my youngest daughter’s bedside. She is battling a virus of some sort that has left her feeling quite ill. While one may ask, “How can you be torn between two very different situations?” I will confide that I am. I am a mother and my heart is firmly attached to the children I have been given. My love for them is overwhelming. Whether a minor ailment or life-threatening disease, my heart quakes with need to be in two places at once. I am broken hearted that I cannot rub my daughter’s hair from her face and scatter kisses on her forehead. I want to nurse her back to health. Children have taken my once selfish heart that only was able to focus on one thing – me – and has stretched it between five different people. Exercising my love for them over the years has enlarged my heart and made it more flexible where they are concerned. It loves them unconditionally simply because they are my own. I hurt when they hurt. I cry with them. I love them. With motherhood comes a brand new heart that is bigger and more flexible than before. It is giving and yielding with the ability to think outside of itself. However, God desires a bigger and more giving heart than that of a mother. He longs to give us a new heart that is fit for His Spirit to dwell. God wants to take up residency in the hearts of His People. Sadly, few will allow God to break their old stony heart to allow for the new tender, responsive heart that the Lord longs to instill in them. God can give you a new heart, but He must break the old one to make room for His New One. Do you have a broken heart today? Maybe it is the careful manipulation of God who is desperately in love with you and longs to live within you.

 

Matthew 13:14-15 (NLT)

This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

 

The harden hearts of people today is evident in their inability to hear what God is saying. Jesus shared many parables with His Disciples. In the midst of the stories, He shares the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah that predicted the hardened hearts of God’s People the Jews and their inability to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. A hardened heart equals ears that cannot hear and closed eyes. Many people today claim to be Christians but are not practicing believers. Christianity is a title more than a position. It is what we call ourselves while doing something completely contradictory to the definition of a Christian. God wants to open the eyes and ears of His People once again that they may hear the Gospel and be saved. A world that is crying out in agony and anguish that cannot be healed because they cannot hear or see God. Unable to comprehend the Knowledge of God, they have nothing to compare it to with hearts too small and solid for His Spirit to penetrate. God is ready to work in the lives of His People. It will begin with a broken heart. But who will submit their mind, will and emotions to such a test…we love carefully and systematically to insure that no one gets too close. Intimacy is shunned for superficiality and disposable relationships. We do not allow God or anyone else too close to the heart to make sure it stays intact and slowly from the inside out it hardens from lack of use. Your heart was made to love God. It was created to be committed. It was designed to be dedicated. Slowly it is hardening as we accept the world’s definition of love. Cold and hard with no warmth and affection which lead to messiness, well God is going to have to mess you up to release you from the bondage of a stony heart. He must break you to recreate you. Are you ready for real love? It is available to all who make their heart available to God. But a friendly warning, God will stretch and knead your heart until it is useful to Him. It will be a total sacrifice of your mind, will and emotions to expand the walls to encompass the Love of God. Are you ready?

 

Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’

 

We have a personal responsibility in surrendering our heart. The Word of God is the plow that must be applied to the “hard ground” that has made our hearts impenetrable. You cannot plant in hard soil it must be broken and made soft in order for the seeds to sink in. Your heart is the same. This world is notorious for callusing the heart of man. It is a cold, dark and lonely place which is void of real love. God desires to “shower righteousness” on the seed of His Word that you have planted in your heart. But if it is only on the surface, it will be washed away. Only the Word of God pressed deep in the heart has the potential to grow into righteousness and faith. I was given a copy of “God’s Promises for Your Every Need” when I graduated from high school. It had an appealing burgundy leather cover with gold lettering and as I thumbed through the pages, I was excited that I could easily find multiple scriptures pertaining to life’s problems with merely a quick peek at the index. However, when trouble hit my life and I would open the book, I did not find the solace and understanding that I was seeking because my heart was hard. I had not taken the time to cultivate a relationship with the Lord by yielding my heart to Him. My confession was oral with good intentions, of course. But I never had invested time in knowing God more. I expected to dump a few verses on the situation with immediate results. Where was faith? Where was righteousness? Where was God? He was still waiting on the total surrender of my heart.

 

Psalm 34:17-19 (NLT)

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

 

Where is God? He is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those with crushed spirits. Those people who conquer their flesh will connect with God. When the Lord is given proper space in the human heart, He will do miraculous things. But it requires a change that is painful and a process that is life long as we entrust our mind, will and emotions to the Lord. Allowing God to break your heart to make it flexible and strong is well worth the effort for those willing to love and trust God no matter what the circumstances in life. He cares for you like no other. His Love is as dramatic and committed as a mother to her child. He will never let you go. The Lord longs to rescue His Children and heal their broken hearts and lives. “The righteous (right-standing) person faces many troubles.” No surprise there! Jesus said it would be so and it is. “BUT, the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” Open your heart to the Holy Spirit today. Let God replace your stony heart with a brand new softened one. Love will overflow from your new heart never expecting a thing, but satisfied in the overwhelming love of Jesus Christ. You will be satisfied. You will be righteous. You will finally feel whole…with a broken heart!

 

Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT)

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

A Change of Heart – A Devotion

Deuteronomy 30:6 (NKJV)

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live.

Many Christians say that they desire more of God. With the end of 2010 and the arrival of 2011, many Bible reading plans are being dusted off and new commitments being made that will all fail by the end of January. Commitments made with one’s will and emotions cannot make it into the realm of Eternity, yet the Body of Christ continues to look for encounters with God based on emotional experiences that are physically tangible. Setting one’s clock back an hour to meet with the Lord in the morning is an admirable effort. Mapping out the right Bible Study to increase one’s knowledge of God is a good start. Committing to pray every day is certainly a benefit if one follows through but the problem is when we seek God with the same heart that got us where we are today, we are set up for failure. God is looking for a broken man or woman not one bent on self-help and self-motivation. There is nothing we can take to God of use except a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Psalm 51:16-17 (NKJV)

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.

 

Sacrificing one’s time to the Lord is certainly an admirable effort but God clearly has stated it is not your sacrifice that He desires. If our sacrifice was sufficient, then why in the world would He have allowed Jesus to die for our sins? He would not have. But our sacrifice was puny and inadequate so God sent Jesus to present a sacrifice worthy enough to satisfy the huge sin debt created by mankind. To accept your sacrifice of time, resources or energy now would imply that the payment of Jesus Christ was not enough to pay off the debt and more is required which could not be farther from the truth. Therefore all that we have left to bring is a heart that is broken and a spirit that is contrite. What exactly does that mean? It is hard to discern in a world that is filled with carefully constructed facades of confidence and togetherness. God desires a broken hearted people. God is looking for people who understand that they are completely doomed outside of Jesus Christ and who humbly present their hearts to the Master for reconstruction and repair. The word broken obviously means fragmented, ruptured, torn or in need of repair. A heart divided from the world through “circumcision or consecration” is certainly that. It is changing life sources. It means severing our life from all sin including the “little” ones that seem harmless in order to become totally separated from this world and aligned with God’s Kingdom. Another definition of broken is to “change direction abruptly.” God is looking for repentant hearts as well. Hearts that change direction abruptly from the world to live in the Presence of God, it is a radical change that will cause one’s entire life to change course. Your life will become intolerant of sin. It is absolutely essential to please your Father! A contrite spirit is one that desires God’s atonement above all else. Atonement is a longing to be reconciled with God. People who seek atonement long to live in agreement with the Lord. Is your heart broken today? Do you bear a contrite spirit? Both are absolutely necessary to live for God in 2011. Without these qualities, you are simply striving to be successful in self-help. Fasting becomes dieting without the right heart and spirit. Christianity is a façade for those who do not have a change of heart and spirit within the actions of servanthood and lifestyle evangelism simply becomes a routine.

Psalm 19:12-14(NKJV)

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

In the realm of social acceptability, it is difficult to discern sin. Little white lies and hidden sins will decimate your new commitment to the Lord instantly because it has no place in His Presence. God will cleanse you of hidden faults but can only do so when presented with your entire heart. Your mind must decide that outside of Jesus Christ you have no hope. Your will must surrender control to the Will of God completely with no further attachment to your future. Your mind, will and emotions must line up with the Word of God. It is then the richness of God’s Word will take root in your heart and you know God as your strength and redeemer. The power of God will manifest in your life and you will be changed from the inside out.

James 4:7-10 (NKJV)

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

 

If you desire more of God in 2011, you must make room for Him. Take your heart back from the world and place it in the hands of your Father. Such an act will produce weeping and remorse without it you will never see God’s Power manifest in your life. Let God remove the carefully constructed façade of perfect Christian and become a Child of God. Humble all that you are before God. He will change your life. It will become aligned with His Will. You will receive more than you had the ability to hope for in 2011 and the Kingdom of God will expand. It all begins with a change of heart that continues to turn to God throughout the coming year!