Six Signs of a Spiritually Divided Heart

**Originally Published on Encourage 365, October 1st, 2012**

A cursory glance through Psalm 119 reveals the heart of an author wholly enveloped in the words of God. It is blatantly obvious the Psalmist not only read the word of God on a regular basis, but lived its truth in his every-day life. Psalm 119 provides all the answers we could ever hope for in regards to approaching the Bible with an undivided heart.

So how do I know if I’m seeking God with all my heart? How do I know if I love God with all my heart? How do I know if I believe God with all my heart? How do I determine if my heart is divided or united to fear God’s name in truth (Psalm 86:11)?

1. A spiritually divided heart is emotionally unstable.

“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2) The Hebrew word for “blessed” in this passage is ‘esher (eh’-sher) which translates “happy”. Blessed does not mean wealthy, successful, powerful, popular, or prominent though it may certainly be a blessing to have those statuses. A divided heart is revealed in a saddened or discouraged countenance. Is my life characterized by happiness and peace or worry and confusion? Am I tossed into the depths of despair through every undesirable circumstance or have I entrusted my innermost source of happiness to God’s word? The only way I can have lasting happiness is to walk by and believe God’s word of truth.

2. A spiritually divided heart is wandering.

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:10) God’s word is not a list of rules keeping me boxed in under the heavy thumb of dictatorship. God’s word was inspired and written for my greatest good. The Bible clearly outlines and defines what path to travel, what attitude is appropriate, and what ministries to pursue. When I start to rely on my own reasoning, logic, and understanding, I stray from God’s perfect knowledge of His creation—me.  My heart is divided when I fight against the truth of God’s revealed word and willfully or ignorantly choose my own path.

3. A spiritually divided heart is selfish.

“Turn my heart towards your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (Psalm 119:36-37) Left to my own devices I am bent towards selfishness. When I argue with my spouse over where to eat dinner I put my needs in front of his. When I am offended by the opinions of others, threatened by the status of a peer, or hesitant to give of my abundance to someone in need, I am selfish. I have strayed from God’s word and will and allowed my flesh to take over. My heart has been divided. I have failed to esteem others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3).

4.  A spiritually divided heart is inconsistent.

“This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” (Psalm 119:56) Can I truthfully proclaim that I obey God’s word without falter every second of every day? Not a chance. However, the undivided heart, or the heart walking through life believing God’s word, will be swayed towards obedience. Willful rebellion will be the exception, not the rule. When my daily practice is devoted to knowing and following God’s word, my heart is united in truth.

5. A spiritually divided heart is malnourished.

“How sweet are your words to my taste; sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) When I am hurt, angry, confused, or otherwise afflicted, where do I turn for guidance and comfort? Do I seek the opinions of friends, family, pastors, and teachers first or do I seek the counsel of God? The more of his words I consume, the more nourished I will be. When I neglect his guidance and first seek help from human sources I am left hungry and malnourished. If I don’t know the word of God, how will I know if the advice I’m given is biblical? Like the prophet Isaiah so eloquently stated: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:2)

6. A spiritually divided heart is fearful.

“I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.” (Psalm 119:46-47) If my Monday through Saturday life does not line up with my Sunday life, I should be afraid to speak of my faith. Without a living, active gospel displayed through my life, I will be put to shame when I witness to others. How can I preach to someone when my life is the opposite of my message? When I hear of terminally-ill loved ones, if unsure about their eternal destiny, I am motivated to witness to them before it’s too late. But was I motivated to witness before I knew they were sick? Shouldn’t every day be an opportunity to love God, live God, and display God in everything I do?  If I am not displaying the love of God by witnessing to my lost friends and neighbors, I am living in fear. I want my life to always back up my message and never distract from the wonderful, freeing truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Every time I read Psalm 119 I am reminded to check my heart-status. Am I whole-heartedly seeking God and his word or am I offering up only the pieces I prefer? Can I stand beside the Psalmist and before God, unashamed and fully exposed and still declare, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. Your statutes are my delight and I have chosen the way of truth.” (Psalm 119:20, 24, 30) That is my desire; to live with an undivided heart wholly united with God’s word.

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A Jesus Diet?

I didn’t grow up in a “fasting” household. I knew about fasting, but had never seen anyone practice it, much less preach about it. As an adult I’ve only been led to fast a handful of times, once for 3 days, and all the other times for only a day. A few days ago a friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page to this site: www.40daystosaveamerica.com and I clicked on it. Immediately God impressed upon me the desire to do a 40 day fast while not only praying for our nation before the elections, but seeking a personal spirit of revival and repentance.

No matter what comes of the elections, or what side of the street we stand on concerning politics, I think we can all agree that the world needs revival—Christians need revival. This is something we can all be praying for in our own hearts and the hearts of our brothers and sisters.

Not everyone will be called to do a 40 day fast, and many will feel led to give up something other than food. I know some who are doing a Facebook fast, a coffee fast, or giving up other things and exchanging those wants for prayer. Fasting or not, earnest, sincere prayer is essential for the Christian.

And just in case I was feeling like maybe I heard God’s voice wrong (or even hoping I heard wrong!), I received the following devotional in my email this morning, which happens to be day #1 of my fast. It spoke directly to me, and I know you’ll be blessed by it as well. No matter what you choose to do for the next 40 days, I hope you will dive deeper into prayer for whatever God lays on your heart. This time will certainly not be wasted, as we know He saves every prayer for a future sacrifice of worship (see Every Prayer Uttered).

Blessings, my friends!

~Rebecca

 

A Diet in Jesus’ Name?
By Skip Heitzig

We focus a lot on food. Eating is one of our favorite pastimes, and we talk a lot about food. There are even place names that are foods. There’s Two Egg, Florida… Bacon, Delaware… Pancake, Texas… Hot Coffee, Mississippi.

One thing you don’t hear a lot about today is fasting. But did you know the Bible mentions fasting more times (nearly 60!) than even the “important” subjects like baptism?

Fasting is not a “diet in Jesus’ name.” It’s not a way to lose weight and be blessed. Fasting is done for spiritual motives.

In the Bible, fasting was done in times of danger, like when Esther was preparing to approach the king of Persia (see Esther 4). It’s a part of repentance: Both Daniel and Ezra fasted in response to the sins of the people, and the king of Nineveh ordered a fast when that city repented (see Jonah 3). Fasting was done in preparation for an important task or ministry. Jesus fasted 40 days and nights before He began His preaching ministry, and the apostles fasted before they sent Paul and Barnabas out (see Acts 13).

Fasting is a time when we take the focus off of ourselves, and put it on God and His will. (And that’s hard, in a culture where we worship self-reliance, self-determination, and self-worth!) Fasting reminds us that we belong to Him and that He owns us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.). It’s a time when we discipline the body, and make our appetite our slave rather than our master.

In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus speaks of hypocritical motives for fasting. Note that he says “when you fast,” not “if.” Fasting is not to be for some group in a monastery; it’s to be the norm!

Jesus’ point was that God never fails to notice fasting that is heartfelt and genuine, and that He will reward it. (Note: We don’t fast to gain God’s favor or “twist His arm” so He will do something!) But how would God reward a fasting saint? Through deeper intimacy with Him. By letting us know His will. By giving us clarity of understanding in a difficult situation, or a new strategy for ministry.

There are benefits to fasting (and here I’m going from less to more spiritual):

Fasting is good for our health. During a prolonged fast, the body lives on surplus fat. It renews the body and the mind. It helps the body control weight and dispose of wastes.

It teaches us self-discipline. Many of us are slaves to habits, but fasting makes desire our slave rather than being our master. It reminds us we can live without a lot of things. The prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” will be more meaningful.

It helps us appreciate God’s gifts more. Fasting helps us feel our dependence upon God in this affluent, self-sufficient society.

It helps us see the needs of others: Going without food gets us in touch with people who live that way every day. That will make our prayer life more effective as well as activate us to help.

Fasting is always accompanied with prayer, and it will boost your prayer life. It’ll sharpen our praying—it changes the way we pray…and perhaps the results.

The pleasures of eating are fleeting, but the pleasures of fasting are lasting!

Copyright © 2012 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

 

Have You Seen ME?

Suggested Reading: Job 42:1-7

Thought for the Day: “I have seen you, and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5

 

I admit it; sometimes I don’t approach the throne of God with fear. Sometimes I get complacent. Sometimes I get indifferent. Sometimes my prayers begin with a “Hey, God” or “Jesus, I really need you to do…” and it’s not long before I’m getting nothing but silence. My prayers seem to bounce off the rubber ceiling.

Familiarity can produce a casual attitude. I see this in my human relationships. The more comfortable I am with someone, the more likely I am to approach them with a “Hey there” or “Can you do this for me?” But a human relationship is far different then a divine relationship.

As I read through the latter chapters of Job, I am reminded of God’s power, sovereignty, control, and awesomeness in relation to me, the creation. Who am I to approach the throne of God with such callousness? Is God my friend? Yes. Is God my companion? Yes. But he is still God.

When I’m faced with the reality of God versus the reality of myself, I have no choice but to fall on my face, loathe my state of sin, and repent. It’s so unbelievably tempting to walk through the day with pride. It’s so easy to think I’m doing okay, and God can be proud of me, His good little child. But that is a deception of the highest form.

God is proud of me as his creation, not because of anything I have done.

Job was about as righteous as they come, but after three chapters of verbal chastisement from the Holiest of Holies (see Job 38-41), Job was left on his face in repentance. He had seen God.

Today, I am humbled as God gives me a glimpse of His righteousness. Who am I but a lowly servant of the greatest King! God owes me nothing—I owe Him everything.

“I owe no one anything. Everything under the heaven is Mine.”—God (Job 41:11)

Celebrate Sorrow

Suggested Reading: Nehemiah 8:7-12

“It is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal, and to send presents to those in need; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (The Living Bible)

It was a momentous day for Judah. For the first time in their generation, they read the laws of God as given to Moses. In an instant their spiritual eyes were opened to the truth-and how far they had strayed from it.

They wept incessantly. The Israelites were sorry for their sins and the sins of their ancestors and desperately wanted to make it right. Ezra and Nehemiah reassured the people that while it was ok to be sad over their sin, they shouldn’t live in that state of mind.

The truth of God’s word should bring repentance, but that repentance should give great joy as God’s mercy is celebrated. Celebrating the goodness of God should cause worship, and worship should create an outward focus on the needs of the world.

When I look back on my life, it’s tempting to live in a state of despair and regret. However, God is not glorified in my incessant weeping. Jesus doesn’t tell me to live in sorrow, he tells me to, “Go, and sin no more₁”. Ezra puts it well, “What hope could we have if [God] gave us justice₂?”

I rejoice that I have not been given the justice I deserve. That joy strengthens me to share the redemptive, transforming message of the Gospel with others.  I may weep for a moment but I’ll rejoice for eternity.

  1. John 8:11
  2. Ezra 9:15

Demolished Expectations

I have a nasty habit of having expectations as high as a skyscraper. Usually they crumble with as much force as a scheduled demolition. This time I asked God to lower my expectations, if not demolish them completely.  I wanted to be proactive,”Lord, please help me to have a grateful heart.”

Mother’s day arrived, and I remembered my prayer. Yet I still found myself oddly expectant of something great. Unfortunately for me, God hadn’t forgetten my prayer.  Deep down, despite my prayer, I expected to come home from church to a beautiful bursting bouquet and an expensive electronic device I hinted at wanting the day before.

Near the end of the Sunday class, my phone began to vibrate. I saw my husband calling and had the immediate sense it wasn’t going to be good. He never called me when he knew I was in church. As soon as the class let out I called him back.

“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.

“I’m broken down on the side of the road with a flat tire, and the cheapest one I’ve been able to find is almost $300. Apparently I have a ‘rare’ rim size.”

I felt disappointment drench me like a broken dam.

God allowed me plenty of time throughout the Mother’s Day message to ruminate over my shattered expectations. He reminded me I had asked for divine intervention on this issue. I was beginning to think I should have been more specific. “One dozen roses instead of two, Lord, thanks.” With new resolve, however, I decided to be ok with whatever waited for me, choosing to be thankful for my husbands safety and ability to get what he needed for his truck.

After the service ended, Samantha and I were walking to the car when she erupted in tears. After 30 minutes of hysteria she finally told me what was wrong which further exasperated me. She was mad because there was a toy she didnt get to play with in Sunday School. Really?! By the time I got home, I was nothing short of ticked off. First the flat tire, now this. My pout-fest rivaled that of a 2 year old. When I walked in the door I found 2 roses in a vase and a chocolate cake covered in strawberries.

At first I thought it was sweet my husband spent a couple bucks on flowers despite our recent financial burden, but then I noticed the checkbook. He had obviously found a used tire much cheaper than anticipated. I glanced back at the flowers and felt anger brewing rapidly. What made it even worse was knowing full well (thanks to the Holy Spirit) my attitude was wrong. He had that much money to work with, and I got two little roses! Not to mention the decadent chocolate cake; don’t get me started! He knows my struggles with an eating disorder, yet he still purchases tempting food as a gift! Doesn’t he know me at all?!

He handed me a piece of paper freshly printed. It had pictures of him with Samantha, and some other meaningful memories. It also said something about me being a superwoman. He had made me a card. I was even upset about that.

I sat on the couch and sulked while Samantha continued her cry-fest in her room. Eventually everything calmed down, and, sensing my disappointment, my husband insisted on taking me to a restaurant so I didn’t have to cook. With all the attitude I could muster I agreed.

The meal was one of the best I have ever had. I was immediately pleased. I guess it’s rare that I eat something so delicious I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. This time, though, I know the Holy Spirit was working. I ate my meal in absolute bliss and noticed my husband. It was at that moment God chose to show me my ungrateful, selfish attitude. I apologized to Chris, and expressed my thanks for how hard he tried to make my day special. I admitted I had been a…well, I admitted I was less than a superwoman.

Later that afternoon a migraine set in, capping off the day with an exclamation point. I had completely forgotten about my sensitivity to red wine which I had drank with my dinner. (I might drink a glass of wine once every few months, making the irony even more poignant.) This morning I still have this migraine, but I am oddly aware of God’s presence in the chaos of yesterday.

Everything that happened was a direct result of God answering my prayer to adjust my expectations. He didn’t just adjust them, he annihilated them. Even more ironic, he used me as the tool; revealing heart issues that needed correcting and offering me an opportunity for repentance.

“To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.” Ephesians 3:20