Heart Check: 4 Questions to Gauge the State of Your Heart

Take care, brothers,
lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart,
leading you to fall away from the living God.
Hebrews 3:12

Do I have a hard heart?
For that matter, how do I know whether my heart is hard or tender?

As I study the book of Hebrews, God is teaching me the dangerous nature of a heart hardened with unbelief. Through His Spirit, He’s also revealed hardness in my heart. It is rightly sobering to consider the effects of a heart hardened with unbelief, for without belief we cannot please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

Because of the grave warnings in Hebrews and the Lord’s conviction in my heart, I want to take practical measures to keep my heart tender towards God. One of those steps is the heart check below. As I asked the Lord to soften my heart to His Word and the work He’s doing in my life (as well as in people around me), He brought the questions below to my mind and I scribbled them down on the side of my Bible study book. I’ve prayerfully brought these questions before the Lord and asked Him to give me a heart that is tender to believe.

These 4 questions aren’t intended to be answered quickly or with one-word answers, but require time, prayer, and thought. Join me as I ask the Lord to search my heart, try my thoughts, and reveal the hardness that lies below the surface.


4 Questions to Gauge the State of Your Heart:

 

1. What is my response to God’s Word?

Every time it is proclaimed, whether it’s a speaker I like or not?
Whether it’s texted, spoken, or posted on social media?
Do I run to it and welcome its’ influence in my heart?
Do I stiffen because it wasn’t presented in the way I think it should have been?

 

2. What is my response to correction?

Whether it’s presented in a way I deem appropriate and gracious or not?
Whether it’s true or not?
Do I respond with an immediate defense?
Do I complain about the injustice to those around me?
Do I take it to the Lord and ask Him to search my heart?

 

3. What is my response to my problems?

Do I believe God is at work? Do I believe He’s still on the throne?
Do I panic? Worry? Respond in anger?
Do I trust God to bring resolution?

 

4. What is my response to other people & their problems?

Do I turn my face away?
Do I respond with compassion?
Do I ask questions or assume answers?
Do I pray for them?
Do I stop to consider the needs and how God may want me to meet them?

 


 

There is a host of other questions one could include in this list. But for my purposes, I wanted to zero in on my response to God’s Word, my reaction when corrected, and my thoughts when confronted with problems—whether mine or others’.

I trust these questions will be useful as you pursue a heart that is tender towards God.

“Exhort one another every day,
that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Hebrews 3:13

3 Questions For the New Year (+ my goals for 2018)

Towards the end of 2017, I sat down with a long list of questions to answer. I only ended up getting through 3 of them, but those few questions have been so helpful as I’ve thought about the year ahead. In case you enjoy thinking intentionally about the upcoming months, I thought I’d share these 3 questions with you too:

 

1. What are the big things on my schedule in 2018?

Obviously, I can’t see the future. Many things will happen this year that I don’t yet know about. Vice versa, there may be things on this list that don’t happen. But that’s God’s department, not mine. So I just jot down the things I think will happen in 2018. Here are several things I wrote:

Jonathan’s dissertation due (February)
Speaking obligation for Jonathan and me (March)
Finish homeschooling year (May)
Travel to Kentucky for Jonathan’s graduation (May)
Potential 10th-anniversary trip (June)
Begin homeschooling (August)

 

2. What do I need to get rid of from 2017?

Before thinking about new goals, it’s helpful to think prayerfully about what I need to remove. It could be a good thing I need to let go, or maybe it’s a negative influence or habit. Either way, I want to take out what God reveals before moving on in my thinking and planning.

The biggest thing I wrote in this area was undisciplined habits. Things like sleep schedule (no babies waking up in the night now, so I want to get up earlier!) and how I schedule my time in general.

 

3. What do I want 2018 to look like?

This is when I start getting into the nitty-gritty of thoughts for the new year, as well as specific, achievable goals.
I love to pray through this part instead of just scribbling down goals because:
A) someone else has them, (I love getting ideas from others! But I want to pray about the goal before just slapping it on my “to do” list.)
B) I did them last year, or
C) any other number of less-than-awesome reasons.

I also like to go through this list with my husband. This has a two-fold purpose:

1) I can share my thoughts with him. Since he’s my husband and all. We’re kinda supposed to be on the same page.
2) He can give me input. Sometimes that input might sound like, “That sounds like a lot. Maybe you should focus on ______ instead.” In which case, I put on my boxing gloves and we duke it out. Errr, I mean, I humbly submit like the good wife I am. Orrrr sometimes it’s a mixture of those two responses.
In all honesty, I love talking through my goals with my husband because I genuinely want and need his feedback.

Here are ten goals I have for 2018:

Continue in-depth Bible study (on even days) while also reading through the Bible chronologically (on odd days).
Begin the five-year Christian reading plan from Mark Minnick.
Pursue evangelistic relationships with those God puts in my path.
Regularly memorize Scripture. (currently working through Philippians)
Homeschool my children in love while also challenging them to develop.
Create Richmond books with the kids. (visit 10-15 iconic Richmond places and write about them.)
Diligently and creatively pursue my husband.
– Read his dissertation.
– Plan one date/month.
– Read What Did You Expect?
Develop my writing by reading well-written books, writing regularly, and publishing something at least once a week.
Exercise 3 times per week for 25 minutes per time.
Drink one green smoothie per week and take one sweet-free week per month.

There are several other goals percolating in my head that I’m not sharing either because they’re not fully developed or because they’re too personal to share on the good old internet.

 

My ultimate test for goals?

Walk through a cemetery.

If you can’t do that, spend time thinking about eternity. How do your goals tie into eternity and what Jesus wants you to do with your life?

I spent some time walking through a cemetery last week and asking God to make my life count for Him. It was clarifying. These words were ringing in my head:

“Only one life – ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

God, help us use our lives for you. With who we are and what we have right now. Help us start today.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17

 


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Interview with Melissa Kruger :: Dwelling Richly

The following interview is part of the Dwelling Richly series, an interview series focused on studying the Bible.
To read more interviews from this series and view all contributors, visit the Dwelling Richly page here.

 

“Time with Jesus is simply something I must have . . .  or I will be useless.”

I have been so encouraged by this interview with Melissa Kruger. If you’re a Mama to little ones, I know you’ll get a blessing from reading how and why she made time to spend with God when her children were young. Melissa is a women’s ministry coordinator and writer based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. She has authored two books (you can check out her links at the end!) and writes regularly at Wit’s End.

 

For me, the best way to cultivate a desire to be in the Word is to be in it every day…to read it, meditate on it, be surprised by it, confused by it, comforted by it, amazed by it.

That doesn’t mean that I always leave my time in the Word with some great emotional high or amazing insight. There are many days of ho-hum reading when nothing seems to make an impact. However, the more I read, the more days I find treasure and the more opportunities I have to understand the beautiful way all the stories form one larger story. It’s impossible to experience the wonder, the delight, the joy, the depth without time spent reading the Bible.

 

I always have my journal for prayer and a cup of tea beside me.

 

Kay Arthur’s “Lord” and “Precept” series taught me how to study Scripture. She uses an inductive approach: Observation, Interpretation, Application. All through high school and college I used her studies. Having someone else ask me those type of questions and lead me through a passage taught me how to study God’s Word for myself. It’s why I love writing studies for other women—I want to share with others what someone shared with me.

 

When my children were little, my time with the Lord was like a drink of refreshment in the midst of long days full of constant needs. Since morning times were busy (and little ones seem to wake at different times each day, so it’s hard to get up before them), I used my children’s nap time for studying God’s word and prayer. The hardest part was leaving the mess—the dishes that need to be cleaned, the toys scattered everywhere, the emails that need to be returned—and sitting down with my Bible and journal. Once I made the decision to sit, I was so glad to be there. But, it took effort to make myself be still!

That decision each day was rooted firmly is this belief: the greatest way I love my children is to first love Jesus. That love is fostered by spending time in his Word and in prayer. I never viewed it as “selfish” or “me time”, any more than I view eating or drinking as “me time.” Time with Jesus is simply something I must have (like food and water) or I will be dry and brittle, useless for every role God has called me to. Believing time with the Lord is the most important thing allowed me to carve out space to have that time with him each day.

 

When our children were little, we read them Bible stories each night and used songs to help them memorize Scripture. We wanted God’s Word to be a part of their daily life. As they entered school, we began having family devotions in the morning at breakfast.

However, I believe the most important way we teach our children to love God’s Word is to love it ourselves. My 17-year old daughter just wrote me a long letter (the kind you treasure as a mom) and in it she reflected, “You also are such a fierce and loyal follower of the Lord, which so encourages me in my own faith. Seeing you write in your journal and pray gives me encouragement to be faithful in my walk with Him.”

Her words made me realize how much children learn from our affections and daily habits—these make an impression and teach just as much as our words and advice.

 

What is one Scripture passage the Lord has especially impressed on your heart and why?

Isaiah 55 is a passage that speaks to and directs what I hope my life will always reflect. It begins with an invitation to thirsty: “Come!” and ends with the expectation: “Go!” I hope my life will always be about both about coming to the Lord—finding my satisfaction and purpose in him—and then going out with his Word and sharing it with others. It’s a passage that keeps me grounded in what is most important in the Christian life: knowing God and sharing him with others.

 


 

 

Melissa Kruger serves as women’s ministry coordinator at Uptown Church (PCA) in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World(Christian Focus, 2012) and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015).

Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. She writes at Wits End, hosted by The Gospel Coalition. You can follow her on Twitter.

 

 


For more encouragement from Christian women who prioritize Bible study, check out all the Dwelling Richly interviews!

My 5 Favorite Books of 2017

2017 was a profitable year for reading. I read a bit over 35 books including both fiction and non-fiction works. A person has said that the definition of a good book is one you read when you need to read it. I suppose that could be said about the following five titles.

I chose these books as my favorite because they are Biblically sound, well-written, and God used them to help my thinking become more like His. Perhaps you’ve already read some of them, but maybe there’s a new title or two you’ll want to add to your bookshelf…

 

“While many of us could do to simplify, peace is not about productivity, saying no, or any other external. It’s about saying yes to our dependence on God. This is what Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul is all about.”

God worked on my proud heart many times as I read Humble Roots. I shared one of my favorite quotes from this book on Instagram, but it’s worth another share:

“He delights to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. . . simply to show that He can. If we limit ourselves to work only when the signs are promising, we limit our ability to see God at his best. We are still relying on our ability to make all the right decisions. What if God can bring about good things without us?”

If you’ve ever been confused by an emotional outburst (from yourself or others), this book is incredibly helpful. Written by a mother/daughter team, True Feelings is a book that explores why God gave us emotions, what to do when they seem to make zero sense, and how to glorify God with (not in spite of) our emotions. This book has been immediately applicable in my parenting as I seek to help my children understand how to make sense of their explosive emotions during sibling rivalries. One of my favorite quotes:

“Emotions tell us what is going on inside us. They tell us the truth about who we really are. So emotions that seem unreasonable or irrational are in fact true expressions of an irrational belief or an unreasonable value. We may feel like our emotions are making us crazy, but the real culprits are the beliefs and values from which the emotions spring.”

Good, right? Convicting? I know. Me too. That’s why it went on my favorites list.

 

You already know God’s been working in my heart about friendships from my husband calling me out about my skewed perspective of the topic. So reading this book was just stoking the fires of conviction and change in my soul.

Written by a pastor’s wife, Messy, Beautiful Friendship is a book that encourages women to be like Jesus in their relationships, rather than expecting others to meet all their needs and desires. Hoover doesn’t ignore the desire for solid, close friendships, but she constantly emphasizes God’s call for us to serve others and build relationships with those God has put in our path rather than wishing for an ideal friend. One quote that convicted me the most:

“We must look to serve rather than be served, which means it’s possible that we might not be served in the ways we hope. We must be ever willing to broaden the circle, which means we must have an eye for the outsider, rather than an eye for how we can be insiders, and it’s possible we might be forgotten in the process. We must be willing to address sin and conflict in an appropriate way which means it’s possible we might be rejected. We must be willing to be vulnerable, which means we might be misunderstood and grace might not be extended to us. The focus is on what we give to others, not what they give to us.”

You probably already guessed this book would be on my list, didn’t you? My social media break and the subsequent post about what I learned already gave it away as a favorite.

I think the thing I appreciated the most about 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is that it’s written by someone who uses a smartphone and social media. Tony Reinke is coming from the thoughtful, reasonable place of recognizing both the values and vices of technology, specifically smartphones. He readily acknowledges the dangers of abusing smartphones and technology, but constantly points to the fact that true resolution is found only in a change of heart. It’s a whole lot harder to address a heart problem than it is to tighten up an internet filter. But only when I address the core issues of my heart will I see any real change in my habits, smartphone or otherwise. Two favorite quotes:

“Our battle against the encumbering distractions of this world, especially the unnecessary distractions of our phones, is a heart war we can wage only if our affections are locked firmly on the glory of Christ.”

“The beauty of Christ calms us and roots our deepest longings in eternal hopes, that are far beyond what our smartphones can ever hope to deliver.”

If you have a smartphone, this is a book for you.

 

If you’re anything like me, this book doesn’t appeal to you at. all.

I’ll tell you a story. It’s short, don’t worry:

My friend recommended this book to me. As soon as she mentioned the title, I wasn’t interested anymore. A book about the Trinity? Who reads stuff like that besides boring old seminarians? (No offense to my husband or other such seminarians.) Even the subtitle threw me: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. I’ve been a Christian for a while. I don’t think I need to read an introduction to Christianity.

I realize the above statements are probably an all-out shock to some of you and you’ll immediately begin praying for my sanctification and perhaps salvation. (I welcome all prayers, by the way, considering God has the final say.) But the reason I include them is that if any of you immediately cross this book off your mental list of “Books You Want to Read,” I want you to know that I did too. And I’m so glad I read it anyway. In fact, I just finished reading Delighting in the Trinity on December 29, and it rocketed up to the top of my favorites list for this simple reason: It drastically changed my understanding of God.

I believed in the God of the Bible before I read this book. But since finishing it, I know more about who that God of the Bible really is.
I always believed God was a Trinity. But now I know why that matters and how it affects God’s character as a giving, loving Father.

If you struggle to understand the Trinity or have ever wondered if it’s even important to believe that God is a Trinity, I highly commend this book to you. Three of my favorite quotes:

“This God simply will not fit into the mold of any other. For the Trinity is not some inessential add-on to God, some optional software that can be plugged into him. At bottom this God is different, for at bottom, he is not Creator, Ruler, or even “God” in some abstract sense: he is the Father, loving and giving life to his Son in the fellowship of the Spirit. A God who is in himself love, who before all things could “never be anything but love.” Having such a God happily changes everything.”

“God is simply bursting with warm and life-imparting nourishment, far more willing to give than we are to receive.”

“As the Son brings me before His Father, with their Spirit in me I can boldly cry, “Abba,” for their fellowship I now freely share: the Most High my Father, the Son my great brother, the Spirit no longer Jesus’ Comforter alone, but mine.”

 

 .    .       .  

If you want to know how to read when you don’t have time, here’s what works for me.

And if you want to follow along with my favorite books I read throughout the year, check out the Read. Think. Learn. newsletter. Find out more info and join here!

Chick-fil-a, Conversations, & Christ

Last Friday, my kids and I headed to Chick-fil-a to meet friends for lunch. While we were there, I saw the owner and introduced my kids to the man who had been my very first boss. He kindly offered to get ice cream for the kids. While he was gone, Nate looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, does he know Jesus?” I had talked with the owner during my years of working and knew that he did believe in Christ, so I replied, “Yeah, buddy. He does know Jesus – but you can ask him when he comes back.”

When the owner came back, Nate looked him square in the face and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” He replied that he did, then he and Nate had a good little chat about it. As we were leaving, I said, “Nate I’m so glad you’re concerned about others and whether they believe in Jesus.”
He said, “Well, I knew that you used to work with him and that your parents taught you about God, so I thought you must have told him about Jesus.”

It is right for my children to assume that I talk with other people about Jesus. After all, I’m the one telling them that knowing Jesus is the most important thing in the world. It’s right for them to assume that, but oh man, does it ever put pressure (a good pressure!) on me as their Mama.

Later that afternoon, I read this quotation:

“The motto of all true servants of God must be,
‘We preach Christ, and him crucified.’
No Christ in your sermon, sir?
Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”
– Charles Spurgeon –

 

And I was freshly struck by this truth:

Unless Christ is in all the things I do, they’re not worth doing.

Unless Christ is in my conversations, thoughts, work, parenting, marriage, desires, relationships, and goals, these things are not worth pursuing.

No Christ in my conversations?
Then stop talking until I have someone worth talking about.

No Christ in my goals?
Then stop making lifeless goals that aren’t fueled by a love for Jesus.

No Christ in my parenting?
Then stop parenting until I can lead my children to Him.

The solution is not to hang up my “Mom hat,” stop making goals or quit conversing with others.
The solution is to pursue Christ so intensely that He’s in everything I do, whether it’s my innermost thought known only by God or an action seen by many.

Dear God, help me to pursue you first, pursue you most, and pursue you longest.

 

 

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