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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Beauty" Swan among reeds on farm pond
This white swan, Beauty, lives on Gene and Doris Wenger's farm pond here in Lancaster County, PA.

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"Open Hearts"

"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (Acts 16:14).

We're praying for a man who is preparing to undergo open heart surgery in about a week.  He's dealing with some of those troubling issues such as blocked arteries that are all too common to those in their 50's and above.  We recall sitting at the bedside of our daughter, Ester, through her five open heart surgeries due to her congenital heart defect. These surgeries took place before she was four years of age. Now at the age of twenty, through much prayer and with the help of a pacemaker and heart medications, her health has stabilized in recent years. Last week she got a glowing report from her heart doctor that her echocardiogram revealed that she continues to do well. Our ardent prayers continue for her that her spiritual heart be open, soft, and receptive!

The daily text records the story of a woman in Philippi named Lydia responding to the message of salvation.  She was a "worshiper of God."  This may mean she was a devout Jew or perhaps she was in a group of monotheistic Gentiles in the ancient world who worshiped the God of the Old Testament, similar to Cornelius prior to his conversion to Christ.

"The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (the Gospel).  The phrase, "the Lord opened her heart", has often intrigued me.  It reminds me of the sovereign role of God in the salvation of individuals.  We should pray in our evangelism endeavors that God will open the hearts of those to whom we share His message.  As important as our obedience and preparations are we must consider the sovereign work of God in the salvation of souls.  The word "respond" translates the Greek word "prosecho" which conveys the sense "to hold the mind towards, i.e. pay attention to".  Isn't that what we want among those we witness to!

We live in a world where most pay little or no attention to God and are careening toward a most certain judgment.  We desire that they would stop and pay attention to God's message.  What about the loved ones for whom you've been praying for many years?  They just won't take you seriously.  They may be like Lot's foolish sons-in-law who thought he was joking when he warned of the impending destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:14).  Or they may just evade the issue.  As you pray remember to ask that the Lord to open their hearts so that they respond to your witness for Christ.

There is another great spiritual truth when I consider this. We need to pray not only for others, but for ourselves also, that we will have open, soft and receptive hearts. I will admit that my heart is not always receptive. Sometimes hardness will come over me; certainly not hardness toward salvation at this point, but a hardness that blocks spiritual receptivity to the things the Spirit of God is wanting to do in my life. He may be wanting to purge the impurities that clog my heart or He may be challenging me to a new level of spiritual growth. Perhaps He wants to develop a new gift unnatural to the inborn talents I was born with and this requires an extra measure of trust.

Sometimes there can be "scar tissue" from past hurts, disappointments, failures and even deep-seated bitterness that contribute to this struggle. Of course most illustrations have a breakdown point and we know that God can heal broken-hearts or renew our hearts as we pursue Christ.

But I also pray that God will keep our hearts open and receptive to His Spirit all through life as believers.  May God keep our hearts open, soft and receptive today!

Soften my heart, Lord, soften my heart.
From all indifference set me apart;
To feel Your compassion, to weep with Your tears;
Come soften my heart, Oh Lord, soften my heart.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we pray that You would make us pliable and yielding to Your touch which can happen only as we open our hearts to You.  We want to be like clay in the hand of the Potter and receptive to the Spirit's working.  The process can be painful as impurities are removed and reshaping goes against the grain of our sin nature.  But the end result makes us a vessel fitting for Your honor and useful for Your kingdom.  We desire to glorify You today as our hearts are open, soft and receptive to Your Spirit.  Amen.

Night harvest
Last night the farmer harvested the corn in the large field across from our church, while we were having a small group Bible Study. I suspect, based on how much he had done when we left around 9:00PM, that he worked through a long part of the night. Much of the corn in our area has not yet been harvested and now the farmers are busy day and night getting the harvest in.  They need to wait till the corn is at a certain degree of dryness before harvesting for the grain. Last night it was clear, crisp and cool and we have a beautiful day early this morning!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Praises/Soften My Heart"  Video  Maranatha Worship Singers   We used to sing this version of "Soften My Heart" as a worship chorus and a call to consecration many years ago.  It begins at the 2:50 point in the video.

"Refiner's Fire" ("Purify My Heart")  Video  Brian Doerksen

"Open The Eyes Of My Heart"  Video  Oslo Gospel Choir

"Ancient Words" (Video) Last night on the way to our small group Bible Study we heard this song on the radio and not only is it musically beautful but it has such rich spiritual meaning.

Ancient words, ever true
Changing me, changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart.

"Soften My Heart"  A thoughtful blog post on this topic for further study.

Ester's testimony  

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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