Tender Hearts Toward the Gospel

“Tender Hearts Toward The Gospel”
--from April 7th  --
Day 1-2 written by Pat and Liz Neuschwanger

Day 1

Read Jeremiah 17:5-10
I love plants and love to see them flourish.  I, however, have been unsuccessful in making them thrive.  They don’t thrive, not only because I don’t have a green thumb; the truth is they don’t thrive because I don’t put the time into them to be successful.   This reflects how I sometimes feel about my walk with God.  There are often days when I lean on my own strength and wisdom.  Plants can’t do that, or they will wilt and die (P.S. no plants were harmed during the writing of this devotion…).  They have to rely on something greater.  We can learn from that.  But it is easy to fall victim to human nature…. For example, there are numerous incidents where I look at external circumstances and feel discouraged by what someone said or more importantly what I’ve said to someone as a reaction to a situation.  Similar to the flower analogy above, our words and works can make others flourish or wilt.  Are we using situations to point people to Christ, or point them to something worldly instead?  Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?  But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.  I give all people their due rewards according to what their actions deserve.”  My challenge to you is to examine your heart.  Learn the parts that need to be watered and fertilized.  Take things day by day as tomorrow is not promised.  If you can lift up others with a phone call, text message, mailing a card, etc., I suggest you do so.  Think about others first before thinking of yourself.

Consider making this part of your prayer today.

Day 2

Read Psalm 51 (slowly, and with the understanding that King David KNEW that he had sinned against Almighty God)
Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance.  It is the result of Nathan the prophet’s confrontation of King David after the king had sinned against Bathsheba.
Let’s take a moment to think about the situation that David had created for himself…  What kind of mindset must he have been in that resulted in him writing this prayer of confession?  How deep must his feelings of shame, sorrow, embarrassment, frustration (and the list could go on…) have been?  What a terribly uncomfortable place to be…  But David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14).  It seems to follow then, that there is something about David’s heart.  In other words, before he thought to sit and write this prayer to a loving and forgiving God, he (David) had to KNOW “that forgiveness was available, based on God’s covenant love” (MacArthur Study Bible, pg 788, notes on Ps 51:1).  Keep in mind (and I got this point from the “Took it Home” podcast on Ps 51) that at this time in history, the New Testament did not exist yet.  Jesus had not been born, had not died, and thus, had not risen from the dead.  So there was no basis of faith that Christ had died for all of mankind’s sins.  Yet David knew, based on God’s love for him.  He knew based on God’s tender heart and love for him.
So, for us that DO HAVE the knowledge of the burden that Christ carried on the cross for all of us, why would we not emulate God’s tender heart every day?
Is there someone, or a situation to which this could be applied in your life?  I know that there are multiple instances in my life where it could…
Would you consider making this part of your prayer today?

Day 3

Read Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

I am thankful that I was raised in a home where we were given an incredible opportunity to hear the gospel every week and also grew up around the Bible.  I am certain that attributed to my quick decision to follow Jesus…my heart was tender because of that and many other factors.  It is a lot like Jesus is trying to communicate here, the soil was quite fertile for the gospel to spring up in my life.  That is not always an age thing, but so many other things as well. Take some time to think through each of these types of hearts that Jesus is illustrating here and think about people that you have known or do know that these represent. 

Now think through the strategy of how to reach each one of these types of people as you are sharing the gospel.  Would your approach and strategy be different in each one?

How does this inform your prayers for today?

Day 4

Read Hebrews 3:7-19

I have known this passage for a really long time.  When I was reading it this morning, it struck me that the passage starts by saying this is what the Holy Spirit says.  I don’t know of another passage, off the top of my head, that is presented like this.  Most of the time we think of the Holy Spirit as a feeling or a moving inside of us, rarely ever is He given a voice in our concepts.  I am not saying that He is never presented like this, I am just speaking of how we often perceive things. 

This “evil and unbelieving” heart that could show up is not something that is presented as an uninvited guest that comes in and takes squatters rights in our lives.  It is combated by “taking care.”  It is known by its evil and unbelief, it is combated by taking care and also exhortation of others that we allow in our lives “every day.”  It is a slow hardening of the heart that we don’t want to fall into that comes from accepting the constant deceit of sin.  Here is what I take away from this: the warning is not for the person that finds themselves there, because then it seems too late to warn them of the deceit they have already experienced, but rather the warning is for those that do not have this issue, but may find themselves slipping in this direction.  So, if you are not there, but see this as the direction your life could be heading, be exhorted to keep your guard up.

What do you think verse 12 is talking about?

What does verse 13 mean? What do you think that would look like?

How does this become part of your prayer today?

Day 5

Read Ezekiel 36:22-32

There are certain ways the human language is so incredible.  There are a few times that we find ourselves unable to “explain” what it is that we are experiencing.  Then there are other times that something is explained and those words help open up so much understanding to where everyone gets it.  It is even more incredible that we are able to see that when the language that is being used is metaphorical, but still universal in its interpretation.  For instance, this heart stuff is so bizarre.  We talk about love being felt in our hearts, but that is so bizarre, because the only thing we truly “feel” in our hearts, is not good and we need to be shocked back to life or operated on to fix the issue.  But yet the language makes so much sense to everyone and when you talk about your “heart of hearts” everyone gets what you are talking about. 

This passage is a famous one for that reason alone.  A stony heart is something that none of us have literally experienced, because that would clearly mean death, but metaphorically, we are all on the same page with what that means.  The removal of the stony heart is replaced by the work of the Holy Spirit inside of us.  God in us.  And that is His desire.  He is the Great heart surgeon that not only wants to operate on us and give us a new heart, but then lives inside of us to maintain and keep up that work.  What rich metaphors those all are!

Explain in your own words what you think this passage is saying.

How have you experienced the removal of a heart of stone and the gift of a heart of flesh?

What do you feel the work of the Holy Spirit is in this area of your life right now?

How does this become part of your prayers today?

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