Soften your Heart

Ezekiel 11:19 says, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:”

The Lord promises us that he will soften our hearts if we will only let Him.  The problem that many of us have today is that our hearts are hardened to what the Lord is trying to do in us.  We have for one reason or another put ourselves in a situation where we are callous  to any leadership that the Holy Spirit is trying to do in us.

The Lord says that He will turn us over to our evil ways if we continue to reject what He is trying to do in us, and for many of us this means that we have reached a point where we have a hardened heart and have justified ourselves rather than letting the Lord justify us as He promised He would.

Why do we try to go at it alone?  Why do we constantly seek our own glories and our own way when the Lord has promised us that His way is perfect and we will never be left alone?  When we give our lives to God, He puts deep within us a sense of right and wrong that if we rebel against it too much can become hardened and cause us to lose sight of what God is doing for us.

The only way for us to get through this phase is to completely give ourselves over to the call of the Lord in our lives and ask Him to soften our hearts so that we can hear His voice…the still, small voice that speaks to us when we face decisions.

What are you doing today?  Are you seeking your own and searching for happiness in the face of defeat?  Are you seeking victory over the enemy and allowing God to do His work in you?  Or, are you pushing away what He has for you and giving into the fleshly desires that will create in you a heart of stone?

Let today be the day that you ask God to soften your heart.  If you ask Him to soften your heart and are attentive to His voice today you will find that the days will get brighter, the paths will get simpler, and love will not be something you only read and hear about, but something that you put into practice.  Today is the day that you can be free from the bondage of sin and you can find that your heart of stone is now a heart of flesh that can be broken for the Kingdom.

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The One Who Didn’t

Being the father you need to be…

Looking at Scripture we see stories of fathers throughout the pages…stories of men, Men of God who maybe didn’t take the time to fully understand the example they were to set for their children…Three men stick out when you look at these stories – Eli, Samuel and David.  These three men were men of God…men who lived their lives seeking the heart of a God who created them…men who seemed to have it all together.

Look at Eli – a man who ministered to Samuel during his life…a man who sought to find favor with God…but a man who did not discipline his children in the ways that he should have.

12 Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD.”

— 1 Samuel 2:12 (NIV)

If we read on in the text we see that Eli knew of his sons’ wicked ways, but we see that he did nothing to correct them.  Eli was a man of God who did not know how to handle his own children in their times of trouble.  Eli knew of the sin in their lives, but took no steps to correct them in the error of their ways.

God saw this and was displeased with the way that Eli handled his personal life.  We see in the next chapter that God tells Samuel why he had spoken words to Eli about the wickedness of his children.

“13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them.”

— 1 Samuel 3:13 (NIV)

God had laid the law, and God enforced the law…Eli had failed as a father, and God made him pay for his failure.  We see that Eli didn’t provide discipline to his children in the time of need.  We also see the writer of Proverbs discuss this as well – Eli failed to be firm with his children.

15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom,
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

16 When the wicked thrive, so does sin,
but the righteous will see their downfall.

17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace;
he will bring delight to your soul.”

— Proverbs 29:15-17 (NIV)

Failure to supply proper discipline and a failure to be firm can cause disappointment with the One that a father may be trying to please.  God warns Eli of the importance of setting the example at home, as well as when ministering to others…a warning that Eli didn’t heed.

So, with Samuel training under Eli, you would think that Samuel would have gotten the point…that Samuel would have learned from his mentor’s mistakes…

So…enter Samuel…a man who trained under Eli, and seemingly would have learned from the failures of Eli.  Samuel was a man who stood upright in the sight of God…a traveling preacher…a man with a purpose of sharing the kingdom of God with others.  A judge over Israel his entire life, Samuel was an enforcer of the law.

15 Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD.”

— 1 Samuel 7:15-17 (NIV)

He made a trip around the area every year…returning home once or twice during the year, and even building an altar to God there.  Samuel was a man who seemed to do what was right when it came to living a life for God…but we see in this passage that it also seemed that Samuel had no time for family.  Samuel was a judge who traveled…a man who was wrapped up in his work, and didn’t have time to spend with his children…who in turn struggled with their walks as a result.

In the next chapter we see this come to fruition:

1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”

— 1 Samuel 8:1-3 (NIV)

Samuel was an upright man…who put himself out there for the nation of Israel to see.  He lived a life that exemplified God to the world…but his lack of family time caused a rift in the family he had been entrusted to raise…therefore, we see that his sons were unable to keep from perverting justice in a land that was unholy.  Samuel appointed his sons as Judges but because they did not know the example they should set, because they had not seen it…they were unable to be pure and holy as their father was…accepting bribes and causing turmoil to increase.

Samuel let his children down in the same ways that Eli did…the difference…Eli knew what his children were doing and Samuel didn’t – because Samuel wasn’t home, he didn’t know the life that his children had chosen…he didn’t know that they were unjust…because his work had pulled him away from his family.

The third that we see is David…a man after God’s own heart.  Certainly he could not fail as a father…or could he?  David had it all…King of Israel, children whom he loved, and a God who was on his side…what more could he want?  David looked across to a rooftop of a good friend…and saw his friend’s wife…and David had to have the forbidden fruit.  David’s fall was similar to that of Adam and Eve…David knew what was right, but he had to taste.  Not only did he taste…he bit, and then had the entire bowl of fruit.  David fell in love with a married woman, enough so that he made arrangements to have her husband put to the front lines in a battle in which he knew the man would die.  David slipped…and because of the fall of David…cursed his children.

David loved his son Absalom…he, like any father, did not want anything bad to happen to his child…but David had brought a curse from God on his house when his example faltered.  Absalom was killed in battle…he was hung in a tree by his hair…making him fair game for the opposing army…an army that took advantage of David’s misfortune.  How did this realization that his failure as a father had affected his son hit David?

“33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!””

— 2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

David realized his folly…and David mourned the death of a child…a child that he knew did not have to die, but knew he had been a party to the death.  David lost his son the way that he lost his friend – in battle.  It hurt him enough for him to have wished that it was his life that had been taken…David was torn.  David’s example, like our own, was his downfall…he was a man after God’s own heart…but a man who gave in to temptation.

So three lessons from three Godly men for every father who has ever lived…

In Eli we see that true fatherhood demands loving discipline…a father must show their child the love of discipline.  When the child does something that is wrong…it is the father’s responsibility to punish the child accordingly to teach them it is something that they should never repeat…discipline, when done in the proper way can head off wickedness before it has a chance to settle in.

In Samuel we see that our children need our time and attention…how can a father expect his child to know the difference of right and wrong if he is never there to show them.  Samuel wrapped himself up in his work…never making time to spend with his family…and his price was a family who disregarded the morals that their father stood for – morals that they didn’t know, because their father wasn’t there to teach them.  Fathers, don’t disregard your family because you feel that you have to work your life away, it’s up to you to show your children the morals that should be practiced in life; if you’re not at home to teach them…they will never learn.

And finally, in David we see that a father’s example is the strongest influence on a child.  Children learn by example, and if your example to your children is one of immoral choices and continuous failure to do what is right…how can you expect your child to be anything but corrupt?  If a child is to learn what is morally right, they must also have the example in everything they see from their father.

Not all is bad, however, when we look at the example of the Father who gave us all life – we see a love that surpasses all evil.  The example that is set for us in the love of God is an example that every father can apply to his life when it comes to his children.  God has never and will never fail His children.  God has always provided for His children in a way that at times seems inconceivable.  God’s love is unconditional…no matter what a child of God does…He is always there to forgive and forget.  He doesn’t hold anything against a child who realizes the error of their ways and repents.  God has always been there, is always there, and will always be there for His children…anytime they call, he answers.

Fathers, please take to heart the importance of your example to your children – show them the path which is right in the way that you live your life.  If you are faced with a moral decision…think of your child.  A father’s love is the one thing that can truly change the heart of a child…an unconditional love that forgives no matter how hard…forgets, no matter what the situation…and gives generously of his time and efforts to make sure that the child is well taken care of.

The charge is on you…be the dad that you have been called to be, by the Father that has given you the breaks and chances that you didn’t deserve.  One of the best ways that a father can serve God is to show God’s love to his children…don’t let this opportunity pass you by.  The greatest thing a father can give his child is a chance to know his Father in heaven…so what will your example be?  What will your child remember when they have their own children to raise?  What will be your legacy?