30 Days of Gratitude-Day 21- Changed Heart

Heather Murdock

I’m grateful for God’s power to change my heart.

Several months ago I let frustration and resentment build up in a relationship with someone I care about. And I felt justified. As time went on, I became more resentful, and my heart began to harden against this person. I started to fixate on all the things I didn’t like, all the ways they had hurt me, which prevented me from seeing anything good. One night in an angry vent session to my husband, I stopped short and said “I need to pray right now.” As we prayed, the Holy Spirit reminded me how much God loves this person. I felt a strong conviction and I knew what the Lord wanted from me. My voice cracked as I choked out, “Lord, please help me love them too.”

This was the beginning of a change of heart. Over the next few days, every time I thought of this person, I prayed. I prayed and cried as God softened my heart, making room for love and compassion. I could finally see this person as broken, someone needing my forgiveness. In my brokenness, Jesus has always met me with forgiveness, compassion and mercy. Not only does He call me to respond in the same way, He gives me the power to do it.

In the Bible,  to repent means to change one’s mind. The Bible tells us true repentance will result in a change of action. Imagine yourself walking down a hallway. Now abruptly turn and walk the other way. A 180 degree change in direction. That is true repentance. With repentance comes God’s power. When my thoughts are in alignment with His, then my actions are, too.

I knew in this situation God was calling me to take action. He wanted me to speak the truth to this person, to confront them with a desire for restoration. To speak the truth in love.

But I was nervous.

It takes courage to take a stand, but it takes real courage to put a friendship on the line to speak the truth. And it takes humility to speak that truth in love.

God had been preparing my heart. Gone was the bitterness and resentment; what remained was love and concern for a dear friend.

I’m thrilled to share with you that with prayer and obedience, our conversation was absolutely blessed. In fact, before I could even begin to share my heart, they revealed they had been having revelation about some of their behavior that was hurtful and wrong. They welcomed my feedback and agreed with my concerns. They invited me to continue to speak into their life, to help them with these issues. 

I sat there amazed. Amazed at the power of God. Amazed at the living God who is real and active and who cares so deeply for His people.

As believers, we ache for an experience of God. Some believe experiencing God will result in some sort of supernatural ecstasy that overwhelms and shakes our core. We cry out like Moses did for God to show us His glory. But I believe I experienced God and His glory in this intimate moment of truth with my friend. Exodus 34 tells us that God’s glory is the manifestation and revelation of His love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and justice.

When we repent of our bitterness in relationships, and allow God’s love to flow through us, we experience God’s glory. We experience God.

Who are you holding bitterness and resentment against today?

How is that impacting your life?

He wants to set you free. Those who know and live the truth are free. Free indeed.

I encourage you to pray right now. Pray for your heart to soften and for bitterness to be replaced with forgiveness and openness to possibility.

All things are possible with God.

What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Gratitude Day 20-Am I Enough for You?

“Heather, am I really enough for you?”

This was the question whispered into my heart by the Holy Spirit one recent early morning.

I have to admit, it startled me. Not the question. My answer.

You see, a few months ago I stepped down from a ministry leader position in my church after several years serving on a weekly basis. The ministry I led was fruitful, fit with my spiritual gifts and filled me with passion and purpose. But God revealed to me that it was time for a new season. As I began to pray and obey into this possibility, I began to see what God had in mind. My family needs more of me, as does my growing career. And then there’s the vision; the vision God has stirred in me since I was a little girl. The vision that will realize one of my most cherished prayers; my husband and I in ministry together. It’s time to get serious about building it. More on that later…

But as I sat with Jesus just a few mornings ago and struggled to answer His very direct question, I realized there’s more to the story. It isn’t just about family, career and ministry. It’s about me. Me and God. Nothing is more important to God than each of us in intimate relationship with Him. God wants more of me

I tearfully confessed to a couple of friends at church what the Holy Spirit had asked me and the struggle I had in answering the question. In that simple question, Jesus revealed to me that ministry had become my enough. My identity was getting mixed up in what I DO for Jesus, instead of who I am in Jesus. The fruit of ministry was becoming my personal yardstick, instead of who God says I am. I was beginning to believe God loves me for what I do for Him.

I actually said out loud to my friends, “If I’m not working for God, then what good am I? What value do I hold?”

I know better than that. Yet…

This was quite startling because I preach and teach on identity in Christ. My passion and conviction has always been about intimacy with God. Before I was a believer, I was very performance driven. As I pursued a relationship with Jesus, He really worked on me in those areas. I experienced a lot of victory. This revelation was like living in a house where you know every room only to discover a basement. My friends pointed out that Jesus is calling me to a place I haven’t yet been. A place of deeper healing and calling. A place of deeper intimacy and identity. 

It’s amazing how sly the enemy is. These performance traps aren’t obvious. They are subtly set and disguised as good things. Many times the enemy will use good things to distract us from the best thing; intimacy with our heavenly Father. If we’re not careful, what starts out as loving and serving God can become working FOR God. He doesn’t need us to work for Him. He invites us to work WITH Him. 

I’ve come to believe I’m in a time of rest and preparation. The preparation is in the rest. The preparation is in the letting go and going deeper, getting uncomfortable where all I have to hold onto is my Savior who leads me. He’s inviting me into a deeper place of more abundant fruit. But first I must let go of the things that bring me validation and approval. The things of man.

He must be my ENOUGH.

If He’s calling you out of something and it doesn’t make sense, trust Him. Let your heart surrender. Get uncomfortable, and trust Him.

I’m so grateful for the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that teaches us.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-5

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 19-The Joy of Giving Up My Agenda

writing-in-an-agenda_21174474I’m still working on writing about my 30 Days of Gratitude. I challenged myself to write everyday for 30 days about what I’m grateful for. That started in November! In the midst of family holiday craziness, job promotion, ministry building and just life in general, I quickly discovered that was an impractical challenge. However, I’m committed to completing the challenge, even if it’s revised a bit. I will write about my 30 Days of Gratitude even if it takes the rest of my life lol!

Isn’t that the essence of perseverance? Choosing to never, ever give up.

Today I’m grateful for course correction.

I was thinking the other day about the times that I have given God my agenda. I don’t mean that I surrendered it to Him. I mean I literally gave Him my agenda.

It might look something like this:

Meeting: Meet with Jesus

Time: 5am

Attendees: Heather and Jesus

Who Called Meeting: Heather

Purpose of Meeting: Hear from Jesus so I can become more like Him and help others do the same

  • Pray- 2 minutes
  • Read Bible-15 minutes
  • Pray- 10 minutes
  • Listen-5 minutes
  • Journal-10 minutes

Adjourn

Action Items: Share what I learned on my Social Media, Implement at home, work and throughout my day, Disciple people, Repeat

Follow Up: Heather

Isn’t that hilarious? Here I am meeting with the CEO of the entire universe and I’m dictating the agenda! And it’s more than that. I’m meeting with Him to get something out of Him. I’m meeting with Him to go accomplish something. I’m meeting with Him to move my agenda. 

Yes, Jesus wants to transform me into His image and use me to help others do the same. Yes, He wants to meet with me consistently. Yes, He wants me to implement what He’s teaching me.

That comes out of the overflow of being with Him.

What He really wants is me. He wants my heart. He wants to be together. He wants to be the Lord of my life. God is a relational God and He made us in His image to be relational people with Him and each other. God lives in community within the Trinity and made us to live in the same way. Genesis 2 says the Lord God said it is not good for man to be alone, so he created a helper. He created community because He is about relationships. 

The truth is, everything we seek in our agenda with Jesus comes THROUGH an intimate relationship with Him. The DOING that we’re so prone to jump to, comes from BEING with Jesus. 

That’s hard of us, isn’t it? Just being. Why is it so hard? I think it’s because just being with someone without doing requires us to be vulnerable and bare. It requires us to be transparent and without pretense. It’s much easier to hide behind the doing.

I have experienced the joy of giving up my agenda. And what joy it is! Joy and peace and love and freedom and contentment and wholeness. That’s what being with Jesus is like. I must admit, though, I still sometimes look to find my identity in what I do, but He is faithful to correct my course. He is faithful to remind me that He IS the truth, the way and the life. All truth about who I am comes from Him. He reminds me who I am. I am His. And that is enough.

Lord, you are enough. Help us to learn to just be with you. Help us to let go of our agendas and just be. Help us to believe that our identity is only found in and through You. Help us to open the deepest part of our wounded souls to your Presence. Help us to trust you. Help us to breathe in your grace so that our lives overflow with the power of being with You. In Jesus name amen.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 18-PERSEVERANCE

gratitude-journalPerseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Read that again.

Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success…

How many times have you given up because success didn’t come quickly, or things got too hard?  Too many times, right? I know, me too.

And here you are again at the dawning of a new year, doubting it will be different than any other year, but yearning for it to be a year of resolutions kept.

Wait a minute!

Is it possible that you are setting the wrong goals? What if your goal was to not give upTO PERSEVERE. 

What if that became your commitment, that no matter how long it took, or hard it got, you would persevere. 

In fact, what if we embraced each difficulty, each setback, each obstacle as a way to attain the goal of perseverance? Talk about a shift in mindset!

Instead of giving up, we would give thanks for the defeat that aimed to derail our dreams and vision. We would celebrate the opportunity to exercise perseverance!

Maya Angelou wrote, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

I love this quote because it points us to the very truth in the Bible when James wrote,

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This New Testament book was written to encourage persecuted Christians to endure and live bold Christian lives; lives that pursue perseverance, reflect hope, and demonstrate transformation. We can’t do that without pushing through trials and hardships, failures and setbacks. Jesus said in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome the world!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Wow! It’s through perseverance that we are made complete in our faith and mature in our Christian walk. Not tossed about like a wave on the ocean, but fastened and secured to our Savior. We are made stronger in our weakness through the power of God in us, as long as we do not give up! 

He has given each one of us a purpose and made each of us with a vision. You may not what it is yet, but He is preparing and equipping you for His purpose right now. In order to live out that purpose, we must learn the discipline of perseverance. Chances are very good that God’s purpose for your life is going to be delivered through your greatest trials. If we give up every time it gets hard, we miss out on our destiny. 

We must pursue perseverance! 

Even in my writing, I must pursue perseverance. In November, I felt God leading me to focus on gratitude. I decided I would write every day for thirty days about what I’m grateful for. If you have been following my blog, you know that November turned into Advent and Christmas, and I’m still writing my thirty days of gratitude! But I will not give up, because success may be delayed, but my hope is not deferred! My hope is in Jesus, and through Him I can do all things!

Today I’m grateful for the opportunity to persevere!

What are you grateful for?

What vision is God calling you to for 2016? 

Will you make the commitment to persevere?

I’d love to hear from you!

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 17-God’s Promise

gratitude-journalIn this Season of Advent, I am grateful for the God who fulfills His promises.

A beautiful biblical example of faithfulness is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25

Theirs is a story we can all relate to in some way, because all of us have been in the valley of life. All of us have at one time or another felt abandoned and forgotten. All of us have wondered if maybe we were being punished by God, that we had somehow disappointed Him. All of us have looked to our circumstances, instead of to God and felt the pangs of lack, and doubted the power of God to change our circumstances.

But there is hope, and that hope is real. Our hope is in the God who delivers on His promises.

I have pulled out five key points that I think will encourage you in your life today.

1.  They were faithful despite their circumstances.

Zechariah was a priest, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, were advanced in years, most likely in their late 60’s, and had no children. In the Jewish culture, barrenness was considered not having God’s blessing. Despite their circumstances, and how people must have whispered about their plight, they remained faithful to God.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1 6-7

2.  Their lack was not a punishment from God.

The Scripture says they were righteous in the sight of God. Did that mean they were perfect and never sinned? No. They were human. But their heart was set on loving and obeying the Lord. As you read their story, you can sense their humility. A humble heart greatly blesses God. I like to think that being righteous in the sight of God meant they weren’t trying to be impress people, but were truly living their lives for an audience of One. 

God will send or allow problems into our life to help us grow spiritually. James 1:2-4 says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

But we often will jump to the false conclusion that God is angry or disappointed with us, that He is punishing us, when trials come into our life. The enemy would love for us to wallow in that condemnation, as then we are more prone to try to hide from God. 

3.  They let their circumstances diminish their faith in God’s power.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah at the altar and foretold him that he and Elizabeth would bear a son that would be a prophet of the Lord, that he would make ready a people prepared for the Lord, Zachariah did not respond in faith. 

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

Often we think of the people of the Bible as super-Christians, but they were ordinary people just like you and me. Ordinary people who God did extraordinary things through. They had doubts and uncertainties, struggles and failings. Zechariah looked at the impossibility of their situation, instead of at the God through whom ALL things are possible. 

Garbriel responded to his lack of faith by binding Zechariah’s mouth so that he couldn’t speak until after the baby was born. I think this was a consequence of Zechariah’s fear, but it’s also further proof to Zechariah of God’s ultimate and sovereign power. Even in our consequences, God shows us the power of His grace. 

4.  God removed their shame. 

After all the years of yearning for children, and maybe even giving up hope it would ever happen, Elizabeth became pregnant. The Lord was faithful in His perfect timing. He removed her shame and redeemed it by placing in her the fulfillment of His promise.

Is there something in you that you have been waiting to be birthed? Have you given up hope? God is always at work fulfilling His promises, but in His time and place. His plans are very personal and unique in each one of us, but they are also for His Kingdom and glory. His plans are much bigger than us. Don’t give up hope! Don’t quit before the breakthrough!

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:24-25

5.  God fulfilled His promise.

This little child born to Zechariah and Elizabeth did go on to become John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah, preparing the people through confession, repentance and baptism for the coming of Christ. Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied the future of his young son. The fulfillment of God’s promise to save the world through his Son, Jesus.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:76-79

And He will fulfill his promises to you. The promise of salvation, peace, joy, victory, purpose and so much more, through a personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. He has not forgotten all He has promised. He is for you. Let us cling to that Truth so that we may have hope in the midst of our circumstances.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 16-Waiting

gratitude-journalIt was a cold, clear night and the young sheepherders were standing watch as they did every night. The routine of their work settled into the passing of the hours as their eyes beheld the stretch of pasture before them. It  was a night like any other night. A day like any other day. A day like yours or mine.

A day at the office.

A day of diapers and barely-avoided disasters. 

A day juggling three jobs with no help.

A day filled with the mundane and ordinary. 

A day waiting.

Waiting for something to happen.

Waiting for something to change.

Waiting.

Suddenly!

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:9

“But the angel said to them. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.” Luke 2:10

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you,” Luke 2:11

To you and to me.

He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying.” Luke 2:13

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is well pleased.” Luke 2:14

Our God is a God of suddenly! He is a God who suddenly shows up in the anguish of love, the bitterness of shattered dreams, the tears of the past and in the moments of the mundane. He is a God whom we can suddenly encounter in the silence of prayer and the call of His Word. Or in the kindness of a friend. His presence suddenly changes our fear to joy and our despair to hope.

He is our Savior who rescued us from the bondage and death of sin. The Christ-child born of humility who, by our faith in him, reconciles us to God so that we may live at peace with Him.

God is pleased with you. In you He sees his Son.

After the angel told the sheepherders, they ran off to see for themselves. There was much excitement about this greatest birth in human history. This arrival that had been waited for. This arrival that happened in an ordinary place, on an ordinary night.

The arrival of Hope. 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

I pray you will store up the treasure of Jesus in your heart. I pray you will reflect and pray and listen. I pray you will wait on the God of Suddenly. We are people who have IN us the hope of Christ as our reality, and we wait. We praise Him in gratitude for what He has done for us, and we wait in hope for what He WILL do for us. 

In the waiting, we are being remade. We are learning to trust.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

We dwell in hope, we wait in hope, we are people of Hope. 

Today I’m grateful for waiting.

What are you grateful for today?