Renewing Your Heart: Pull out the Drano

michaela mini series

I have a confession to make. I think I might be slightly addicted to weeding, cleaning out drains, and throwing away everything that doesn’t mean anything. There is just no feeling that compares to the reward of getting rid of extra, whether it be plants, hairballs, or trash.

Lately, I’ve been really striving for getting rid of the junk that so often clutters my heart. I never realized how many things I allow to come in and crowd out a completely radical, deep, consuming relationship with my Creator, Savior, and Lord. I began to notice that sin isn’t the only thing that Satan uses to try to wiggle his way in and steal my joy. There are bad attitudes, melancholy feelings, doubts, distractions constantly trying to drown out the Holy Spirit speaking into my life. Just as weeds crowd out beautiful flowers or extra stuff lying around makes life more complicated, our hearts begin to clog up and we feel stagnant, frustrated and disconnected from our Source of life.

I remember getting so angry when I couldn’t easily sense God’s direction and love and peace and I would frantically confess my pride, bitterness etc… to fix it. But there still wasn’t any room in my heart for the Lord to freely move and work. He wanted me to do the dirty work of figuring out what the clutter was, and then getting rid of it.

I am writing this series as I learn, so I certainly do not have all the answers. But hopefully together we can discover the things that have taken up residence in our hearts that drown out God’s voice, and then remove them bit by bit. I can’t wait to see the freedom and joy the Lord will bring!

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Over the next few weeks look for the rest of Michaela’s mini series!

 

Heart Connections

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Recently, I was talking with some friends over dinner. In Austin, this past weekend was ACL which is a huge music festival so we were on the topic of concerts. One guy was talking about all these concerts he’d been to over the past few years. Someone asked how he managed to get such cheap tickets to so many amazing shows. And his answer was simple: Jesus.

He explained that he connected best with God through live music so he truly believed that God knows that about him and thus makes sure he gets to do that. Isn’t that awesome?

I was reminded of that comment when I was reading a textbook for one of my classes. I’m taking a class on the history of the papacy and the Church in Italy. Many of the popes are known for the vast amount of art they commissioned. It often was for self-aggrandizement however and not for the glory of God. That’s why this one comment stood out to me.

The book read, “To [Nicholas] the arts were neither vain nor frivolous; they too bore witness to the glory of god.”

I love that. I love how that are so many different ways we can connect with God and how He meets with us through the gifts He’s given us.

This week, meet with God through your passions. Search for opportunities to connect. He knows how He created you and He’s longing for you to see Him through your loves.

Your Anchor

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This quote is from Jesus Calling, a devotional from the perspective of Jesus, and I found it so encouraging and convicting!

“Come to me continually. I am meant to be the Center of your consciousness, the Anchor of your soul. Your mind will wander from Me, but the question is how far you allow it to wander. An anchor on a short rope lets a boat drift only slightly before the taut line tugs the boat back toward the center. Similarly, as you drift away from Me, My Spirit within you gives a tug, prompting you to return to Me. As you become increasingly attuned to My Presence, the length of rope on your soul’s Anchor is shortened. You wander only a short distance before feeling that inner tug – telling you to return to your true Center in me.”

How far away have you drifted from your anchor?

I Love Jesus, But…

Sometime last year, I was reading someone’s blog and it was really good. She was an excellent writer and had many funny, insightful posts. I clicked on her “About” page to read her story. Somewhere amidst the names of her children, her favorite food, and when she started blogging was this brief sentence: I love Jesus, but I swear a lot.

And that sentence has remained in my head to this day because something about that sentence drives me crazy. When I read that sentence, I really read this: I will admit I’m a Christian, but please don’t leave my blog! I’m not one of those annoying people who really loves Jesus. See, look, I swear! Just like you.

Whether or not that’s what she meant, that was the message she was sending out. Since then, I’ve read and heard so many other similar statements. They might not word for word match the way she wrote it, but their intent was the same.

I love Jesus, but I drink too much.

I love Jesus, but I don’t think having sex before marriage is wrong.

I love Jesus, but I cheat on quizzes.

I love Jesus, but I will support every movement culture deems acceptable.

What’s wrong with all of these statements? These people are essentially declaring that their love for Jesus is limited by their love for the world. They will follow Him, as long as they can fully participate in the activities of this world.

That’s not what Jesus is about. In Matthew 4, He begins calling his disciples into ministry with Him. His famous words were, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The chapter also records the reactions of the disciples. Verse 22 says, “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” The disciples did not add any conditions to their commitment to Jesus; they just followed Him.

What follows the “but” in your life? Whatever it is, drop it off. “I love Jesus” period sounds a lot better.

Relate [a personal journey through Romans 12] part 1

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Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Read Reading Romans 12 is overwhelming. Each sentence – each word even – overflows with rich truth and insight on relationships. I’ve read over this passage many times, inspired and convicted especially by verses 9-21, “The Marks of the True Christian.” However, I’ve rarely let it stick. I’ve struggled writing this and have started only to click “delete” multiple times. But here I am. And ironically, my struggle to write devotionals based on this passage is the perfect example for the first few verses.

Verse one uses the word “sacrifice.” When I hear that word, my mind is transported to a cold, damp prison cell. It’s pitch black and not even a glimmer of light can penetrate the thick darkness. Above, you can hear the roar of a crowd, laced with moans and screams. Heavy footsteps ring against the stone floor and come to an abrupt stop in front of your cell. It’s time. You swallow hard and follow the guard through an intricate system of tunnels until you arrive before a heavy trap door. It’s pushed open and sunlight blinds you. You’re shoved forward and suddenly you’re standing in the middle of an arena. It overwhelms you. The blood soaked sand fills your nostrils and the cheering of the crowd is deafening. You hear a deep snarl and slowly turn. A lion is calmly walking toward you, its tail swishing back and forth. Time stands still and then it pounces.

That’s what comes to my mind when I hear the word “sacrifice.” I think of the early Christians in Rome who were killed for their faith. Thankfully, in a lot of countries, people are rarely – if ever – killed for being a Christian. So what does it look like to be a living sacrifice in safe countries?

I think it means surrender. Surrendering your desires and fears and dreams to God and trusting Him. It means saying “Your will, not mine.” It means not talking about your friends and teachers behind their back. It means not talking about your enemies behind their back. It means giving up your dream to play professional sports because you don’t have time for God in your busy schedule. It means confessing your sin and changing your habits because it’s what God desires. For me, it was surrendering my writing. It was saying, “Lord, I know my writing might not be the best and I might not know what to say about these verses but I’m going to write and trust that you’ll show up.”

Ponder What in your life do you need to surrender?

Read more about this new devotional series here

Relate [a personal journey through Romans 12] introduction

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Two weeks ago, my church has a senior-led spring retreat. As a senior, I got to organize and plan the entire thing with four other friends. It was stressful, but so much fun! One of my (many) responsibilities was to create a quiet time booklet for all the students attending. Since I love writing and design, it was perfect for me.

The theme of the retreat was “Relate.” We chose this because we think that relationships are the biggest part of most teen’s lives. So we concentrated on the four most important: your relationship with God, yourself, parents, and friends. When writing my devotionals, I really wanted to touch on each of those topics but also have a cohesive feel. I struggled for a while with what to write, but God directed me to Romans 12, the perfect chapter since it deals with all of the relationships I just mentioned. For the months of April and May, I’m sharing my quiet time booklet with you and would like to invite you to join me on a journey through Romans 12.

The first devotional will post tomorrow, but first a note on what a quiet time is:

What is a “Quiet Time?” Having a Quiet Time is simply spending time with God. Since we serve a God that sacrificed His only son for our sake, you would think spending time with Him would come naturally, but, because we are sinful, it doesn’t. In fact, it’s pretty easy to push God to the end of our to-do list and prioritize homework, friends, sports, Facebook, and other activities over Him. That’s why it’s important to have a Quiet Time.

Our schedule should revolve around God not God around our schedule. Recently, a friend compared spending time with God to a date within a marriage. I loved that analogy. Just as dates are an important part of a relationship, we also should set apart specific times to spend with God. However, just as dates do not sustain a marriage, neither does only going to church on Sundays or praying for a few seconds before you fall asleep sustain your relationship with God.

It’s important to maintain connection with God throughout the day by praying and reading His word, but it’s equally important to set aside special times, “Quiet Times,” to single-mindedly pursue Him.

These devotionals are not meant to seem like a chore or something you have to read. It’s simply a way to dig deeper into the Bible. This is a chance for you to more closely examine a Biblical perspective on relationships, determine what needs to change in your current relationships, and decide how to take action. I encourage you to use at least skim each one and spend some time in prayer and thought.

Spending time with God is not a set formula, it’s different for each person. Discover what works best for you to enrich your relationship with God and spend time with Him daily. The patterns you set now will help determine the way you live the rest of your life.

I hope these devotionals are refreshing and encouraging to you. My prayer for you is that you don’t forget what you read here, but it will stay in your heart, forever impacting the way you relate to others.

A Date within a Marriage // March

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Dates for March

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New? Read the story behind setting aside time to go on “dates” with God….

Several months ago, a friend from school started hosting prayer meetings before school on Thursdays. It ended up happening only a few times, but one thing he said has remained in my mind. As he was closing our time with a few words of encouragement, he described our meeting as a “date within a marriage.” I loved that analogy.

Just as dates are an important part of a relationship, we also should set apart specific times to spend with God. However, just as dates do not sustain a marriage, neither does only going to church on Sundays or praying for a few seconds before you fall asleep sustain your relationship with God.

I hope these simple “date” ideas will strengthen your relationship with God.

A Date within a Marriage // February

February Dates

Dates for February

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New? Read the story behind setting aside time to go on “dates” with God….

Several months ago, a friend from school started hosting prayer meetings before school on Thursdays. It ended up happening only a few times, but one thing he said has remained in my mind. As he was closing our time with a few words of encouragement, he described our meeting as a “date within a marriage.” I loved that analogy.

Just as dates are an important part of a relationship, we also should set apart specific times to spend with God. However, just as dates do not sustain a marriage, neither does only going to church on Sundays or praying for a few seconds before you fall asleep sustain your relationship with God.

I hope these simple “date” ideas will strengthen your relationship with God.

Having a Mentor, or Not Having a Mentor. That Is the Question! by Becca M.

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Why in the world would someone need a spiritual mentor? Well, that is a very good question! To answer that question, I would venture to say it’s because we all need a human to lead the way for us and someone to turn to when we face life’s different storms. But what is a mentor exactly? For me, it is someone slightly older (preferably a woman if you are a girl) who has been there and done that! It is also a person who is deeply grounded in their faith and to whom you can turn to for advice when needed. Both parties should have peace about it after spending time in prayer. Finding mine was as clear as deciding to take a breath.

The person you choose for this role should be of deep integrity and have a desire to listen to you and help you through life. I believe that being mentored should be a lifelong commitment if possible. Before you do anything, you should build  a friendship with the person and pray about asking her to be your mentor. You should also be able to share anything – yes anything – with your mentor without being judged. If you make bad choices along the way, your mentor should try to help put you back on track with Christ’s love and forgiveness.

I personally wish I could have had a mentor even earlier than I did, and I think I had mine at 16! It’s never too early to have Godly influences in your life. I have two mentors now; one is French, since I was born and live in France, and my second one is American (being half American, it seemed logical to have one from there too!).

I have shared with these beautiful women of God more than anyone else, even my family. They have helped me through so many difficult times. I have laughed and cried with them and I can recall many deep talks around coffee or tea at my French mentor’s appartment. One of the most beautiful moments with my new American one was praying together on my pastor’s backyard swing last summer. Let me tell you, our prayers flew very high that day!

Now, I see my American mentor about once a year and that is hard, but we keep in touch the best we can! She took time for me even in the middle of her wedding preparations.

I love my mentors so much for so many reasons but the biggest one is they always point me back to our ultimate example to follow: CHRIST.

So if you do decide to look for a good and Godly mentor, I am confident it will bring many blessings your way. BUT always remember the best MENTOR ever is our loving Savior.