Do You Want (or Need) a Change of Heart? (Advent Week 1)

Our celebration of Advent began last Monday as we read the family devotional for the week from the Village Church’s advent guide.

The devotional focused on the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:1-14.

A father willing to sacrfice his son on an altar – not the easiest action to explain to a 9-year-old and 11-year-old – or anyone!

My goal was for my kiddos to get the heart lesson:  Am I willing to sacrifice ANYTHING for Him?  Anything.  My children.  My husband.  My family.  My home.  My job.  My retirement.  My [insert anything here].

Will I…can I give up whatever He asks me to?   Is Christ centered in my heart so much that sacrifice for His glory is not only doable but an honor?  Ultimately, I say God is ALL I need, but I do deeply believe that?  Does my life demonstrate that?

I so desperately want to answer these questions with an unequivocal yes.  But, when the time comes to sacrifice.  When God calls me to place ______ on the altar, will I follow Him?  Will I do it?

I think I will.  I pray I will.

Abraham planned to.  He would have.

Genesis 22: 9-11 “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Simply, God was Abraham’s greatest treasure.  Above his son, his family, the approval of others, the size of his jeans (or tunic:), his position in life, the size of his bank account, the number of presents he got for Christmas…ok, maybe this is now about me (and maybe you) and not Abraham.  Still, it’s the same.  God must be our greatest treasure.

As we talked about this story and the sacrifices God has called us to and may call us to in the future, Owen asked if sacrificing “anything” included his Wii.  I said, “Yes, Owen, if God asks you to give up your Wii then you should do it – not because Mom said so, but because you love God so much that you’d do anything for Him.”

Owen replied, “Well, I really like playing Wii, and I hope God never calls me to give it up.”  Hannah interjected, “But, if God does, Owen, are you willing?  In your heart, do you love God so much that you’d give it up?”  Owen’s response?  An unconvincing yes:)

Hannah explained to Owen that it’s really about our hearts.  In Abraham’s heart, he knew God’s command was greater than even his love for his son.  Abraham was willing to give up even his son to follow God.  She reminded our family that we have to be willing to give up anything to follow Him, but “that doesn’t mean we WILL have to give it all up, but maybe.”

As I listened to Hannah and watched Owen struggle with this new idea (heck, I was/am struggling too!), I thought, “How, Lord, do I get an Abraham heart?  How can I get a heart that loves You so so much that it trumps all other loves in my life? ”

While I know there’s probably some deep theological responses to these questions, I don’t have them.  For now, my family’s found that a deeper, authentic love for God can be fostered in three ways.

Reading His Word together.  Praying together and making note of both answered and unanswered prayer.  Involving ourselves in each others’ lives and the lives of others (both intentionally and unintentionally) as servants and/or friends.

As we read, pray, and serve, I see all of our hearts changing. I feel changed.

But, it’s the busiest time of the year!! When does one find time to read, pray, serve, and on and on. Really, who has time?

Maybe you can’t do all three everyday.  We don’t.  We ususally plan to, but it never works out that way.  Somedays my time goes to friends and serving more than it goes to reading His Word.  Somedays we don’t serve others, but we pray together and read His Word together.  Somedays we’ve all read our YouVersion separately, we’ve all prayed individually, and we’ve all served, but we’ve done none of these together. Somedays, we do none of them and accept God’s grace:)

Specifically, this week we made  Advent chains to help us focus more on Him.  We take a loop off daily and write something for which we’re grateful.  We’re keeping these loops of gratitude in a Gratitude Bag, so we can dump out a whole lot of “grateful” on December 25:)

There’s no formula.  There’s no right or wrong way to fall in love with God more deeply.  And, if you beat yourself up trying to measure up to any other person or family, God won’t be loved or honored more because HE won’t be your focus. (Yes, I speak from experience on this one:)

Just start somewhere.  Prayers before bed.  Conversations in the car as you travel to and from practice or dance class.  Downloading a YouVersion plan to your smart phone (Me and Hannah) or picking up the Daily Bread (Steve).

Just start  – because if you do – this season will look different.  You’ll be different.  And, above all, God will be loved, honored, and glorified.

 

 

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