Getting Results Without Sacrifice and Effort

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So many of us hear people talking about having a deep relationship with God, one so close you can nearly hear the heartbeat of God. We long deeply for that kind of an intimate relationship, but our lives are tangled – tangled in the crazy, busy, rush of life. We live in a culture that is always on the go, a culture that is always talking but never listening. Publishing companies get rich on devotional materials that promise us that we can “have a deep relationship with God in only 10 minutes a day”, because that is what we long for, but our lives are crammed so full. It seems we never have enough time to actually develop a deep, personal relationship. Or maybe some of us did have time and had a very close walk with God in the past, but growing up and living a busy life has slowly started to choke it out.
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I’ve been reading through Chronicles in my personal devotions, and lately certain verses have been popping out at me. Verses about why different kings did or didn’t follow the Lord. The first verse that particularly got me thinking was a verse about king Rehoboam. 2 Chronicles 12:14 says, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” I find it very sobering that God chose to put that verse in his word for us. Rehoboam did evil, not because God hardened his heart, not because he had a rebellious heart, or because he fell into some great sin, no, king Rehoboam lived an evil life because he didn’t prepare his heart to seek the Lord. The word ‘prepare’ is a verb. It means “to put in proper condition or readiness”. It’s not something we just are, or suddenly have dropped in our lap, it’s a constant action.
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Imagine with me for a moment that every morning, at 7am, you bring your dog out of the house so it can run around the yard for a few minutes and do it’s business. Each morning as you head out, your overly happy and energetic neighbor also bounces out his door with a mile-long smile on his face, donning his shorts and running shoes. He shoots you an enthusiastic wave and proceeds to sprint down the road for about 5 minutes. Right as he almost disappears out of sight, he turns around and sprints the 5 minutes back and disappears into his house with kiddish, giddy excitement.  You watch this happen, morning after morning with great curiosity. Finally one afternoon you see him out working in his yard and your curiosity gets the better of you. You walk over there and say, “Hi Mr. Thomas, I hope you’re having a good day. I have a question for you: every single morning I see you out here, running for just a few minutes out and back. What exactly do you do it for?” He flashes you one of his happy smiles and says, “Oh! I’m running a marathon next month so I run every morning for 10 minutes. I know it isn’t much, but I’m just too busy to practice for more than that.” You politely tell him you wish him the best at his marathon, but go away thinking your neighbor must be totally crazy to think he’s going to run a marathon after only training for 10 minutes every morning.
We would think Mr. Thomas had extremely unreasonable ideas, but really, isn’t that how a lot of us seem to treat our relationships with the Lord? We want the result without the sacrifice and effort. The truth is, you will never develop a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord by speed reading a few verses and hurriedly praying a few quick prayers for Aunt Mildred’s sore arm before you throw yourself back into the chaos of life. Your relationship with God, just like anything else in life, will take time and effort. It is not an exception.
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to truly develop a deep relationship with God in a crazy, busy world, full of crazy, busy people (me) that seem to never have time. I’m not writing this because I’ve somehow achieved it. No, I’m writing this because I’ve failed over and over in this area and God has had to pick me up off the ground with skinned up knees and bandage my wounds and say, “Go and prepare your heart to truly seek me; go and truly put your relationship with me as your greatest priority.” 2 Chronicles 20:2-3 says: “Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea…and Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” Every single moment of everyday there are things coming against us. Our response should be to set ourselves to seek the Lord and prepare our hearts.
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Will you join me in taking time to really examine our lives and see if we have, and are, preparing our hearts to seek God? Are we living it out as a verb in our lives everyday? If busyness is holding you back, then you need to sit down and figure out what has to go.  Because as a wise friend of mine once told me, “If you’re too busy for a deep relationship with God, you’re too busy!” Great relationships never just happen, we have to be intentional about them. For me, it is was giving up Instagram (my favorite social media) for a few weeks to spend that extra time focusing on my relationship with God and where he wants me to be.
We’re fighting a battle; we’re running a marathon. It is real and the most important thing in our lives. May we truly prepare our hearts and give God time. Let’s quit our few minute sprints every morning and let God stretch us and challenge us a little more each day ’til the thing we hear clearest in our lives is the heartbeat of our Savior! Only then will we truly be equipped to run this marathon of life as He calls us too!

Everyone Is Talking, No one is Listening!

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Around a table meant to seat 7 people, we squished 9, discussing a topic everyone had a strong opinion on – multiple people stating theirs at the same time. It’s nothing new to me since I grew up in a house with a dozen people and we often had very loud and busy conversations. I opened my mouth to release my paragraphed sized opinion on the matter when I stopped myself and firmly closed my half open mouth. I suddenly realized that everyone was talking but no one is listening.
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 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak,   
~ James 1:19
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We all desperately long to feel our voice is heard, we all crave to know that someone understands our heart. Even as children we long for someone to value our ideas enough to take the time and listen. Maybe we talk their ear off about the dream tree house we want to build someday, the spy equipment we are going to invent someday, or the rocket that will drop us wherever we want to go that day. But once again, everyone is talking, but seemingly no one is listening.  Maybe we have forgotten how to listen, how to truly hear someone else’s heart. Maybe we are so self focused that all we want is for our opinion to be heard/followed.
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“He that hath an ear, let him hear.”
~Matthew 11:5
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Countless times in the Bible, Jesus says “Hear O Isreal” or “Hearken unto me”. Do you think that when God had phrases like that written over and over again it was because He knew our selfish sinful hearts would always long for everything to be about us, so he put warnings in the Bible to take heed and listen?
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There are billions of hurting people, longing for someone to hear their heart, to listen to their pain, their hopes, their dreams! For some people, maybe they have never had the privilege of someone truly listening – not just listening and waiting for their chance to get to talk, but someone who hears every word they say, and hold it, carefully reflecting on the words of their heart and treasuring it as something special, something to be protected, and not to be dropped easily and trampled on.
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“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”  ~Proverbs 21:23
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Don’t get me wrong in thinking I believe we should all sit around quietly never talking so we can all listen. I’m a very outgoing person, and love to talk to people, and if you’re a fellow extravert – don’t get me wrong – I think talkative people are totally awesome, but introverted or extraverted, we need to look for chances where we can listen to someone’s heart. In our conversations we need to be thinking about the other person, and not just about what we want to say or what our needs are.
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The conversations at the jam packed table continued, and I purposed to truly listen to each person and their thoughts. It amazed me how, in truly listening to each person’s thoughts and opinions, I could learn so much about that person, what they thought about things, what was meaningful to them, and what was unique about each of them.
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Will you join me this summer in begging God to give us His listening ear? Will you join me in asking Him to make us outward focused rather than inward focused, to make our churches filled with ears ready to listen to peoples hearts, and be kind people instead of selfish people longing to have our own opinions exalted and never truly listening. Let us ask the greatest Listener there ever has been and ever will be to make us more like Himself everyday.