Christmas time is here. This is a favorite time of year. There are so many reasons to celebrate from being with family, giving more than we get, and taking advantage of the time off from work or school.

    In the midst of our celebration, we want to make certain we don’t forget God. Ironically, I have discovered during the brisk pace of the holiday season it can be easy to lose our heart for God.

    The purpose of this post is to help us avoid becoming a spiritual Grinch, where we allow our heart to grow small. Remember, the Grinch only changed when his heart grew, so to keep our inner Grinch from rising, we need to keep our heart alive, thriving, and growing.

    Acknowledge and Overcome Spiritual Laziness

    Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life.

    Proverbs 4:23 Voice

    We become spiritually lazy when we choose to ignore our spiritual condition. Ignoring our spiritual condition is the choice to ignore the condition of our heart.

    The easiest way to identify this state of ignorance is by examining our willingness to be emotionally aware, honest, or available.

    We are emotionally aware when we pay attention to our thoughts, actions, and responses. Emotional honesty has to do with telling ourselves the truth about these thoughts, actions, and responses.

    Being emotionally available means we are willing to take the time with God to share our thoughts, examine our actions, and understand our responses.

    Doing this allows us to know the condition of our heart is doing, whether it is happy or sad, encouraged or discouraged, grateful or dissatisfied. Once we know our true heart condition, we can rely on God to overcome the negatives, and keep the positives positive.

    Let Scripture Penetrate Your Heart

    My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. [21] Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, [22] for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.

    Proverbs 4:20-22 NLT

    Daily reading of scripture is essential for anyone who wants to know and grow close to God. Unfortunately, reading the Bible can become a heartless habit, especially during a busy holiday season.

    How do we know if our scripture reading is becoming a heartless habit, where we are counting the number of verses read, watching the clock for how long we have read, or in some other way verifying the quality of our reading mathematically rather than spiritually?

    There are four key questions we can ask based on Proverbs 4:20-22, which will help us turn our Bible reading from a heartless habit into a time that penetrates the heart.

    1. Does God have my attention? If we are thinking about what we need to do, where we are going to go, or what someone other than God might be thinking of us, then God doesn’t have our attention.
    2. Am I listening carefully? When we listen carefully our heart is engaged, which means we slow down, experience emotion, and actually understand and are changed by what we are reading.
    3. Are we allowing God to go deep? God wants to reach deep into our heart and soul. He wants to know us in our most vulnerable, honest, and authentic places. In short, God wants to know the real you, but this can’t happen unless we stop resisting his word. We need to let the word reveal truth, expose sin, lead us toward forgiveness, and give us a vision of who God wants us to be instead of fighting the emotions these experiences of God cause us to feel.
    4. Am I experiencing life and healing? Once we have truly experienced God through reading scripture we will also experience life and healing. The burdens of anxiety, fear, guilt, and the accompanying discouragement will disappear as we experience his mercy, grace, and forgiveness. This happens when we read scripture aware that God is a God of promises more than punishment. He wants to bless us and communicates this in every page of scripture if we are willing to look closely enough, and apply faith to what we read.

    Replace Envy With Gratitude

    Truly God is good to His people, Israel, to those with pure hearts. [2] Though I know this is true, I almost lost my footing; yes, my steps were on slippery ground. [3] You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men and thought, “The wicked look pretty happy to me.”

    Psalm 73:1-3 Voice

    One of the ways our heart can grow small like the Grinch is when we allow envy to become a dominant emotion. This is particularly difficult when somewhere someone just received the gift you were hoping to receive.

    Maybe it is the compliment your parents just gave a sibling you hoped to receive, the trip your friends are taking you had been dreaming about, or the job you wanted that just went to someone else.

    In every case, envy can shrink our heart, making us small, petty, and even critical of others, turning our holiday spirit into a harmful one.

    There are two simple things we can do to overcome envy and replace it with gratitude. The first can be found in Psalm 73:21-22, which helps us identify what is happening to us when we experience envy.

    When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, [22] I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

    Psalm 73:21-22 NIV

    What happens when we experience envy is our heart is letting us know that we are hurt and disappointed. This is what Psalm 73:21 means when it says we are “grieved,” and if we don’t deal with that sense of loss our next step will be to become bitter, which the scriptures teach lead us to act like a “brute beast.”

    This is important, because when we experience envy we focus on what we don’t have or haven’t received, instead of dealing with how this makes us feel, which is grieved.

    The Psalmist in chapter 73 deals with the emotions of envy in an incredibly spiritual manner. He turns his attention away from things and people to God. That’s right, he becomes grateful for God instead of greedy for things or angry at people.

    Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. [24] You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. [25] Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. [26] My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

    Psalm 73:23-26 NIV

    The continual lesson of scripture is that envy misses the point that God loves us, is holding us by the hand, and guiding us into a life that is good and beautiful (Romans 8:26-30 Voice). When we are grateful for this, looking at all he has done for us, then it is easy to let go of what he has done for others, and even be encouraged that they have been blessed.

    This holiday season let’s make certain our inner Grinch doesn’t steal Christmas by being aware of our heart condition, allowing God’s word to penetrate our heart, and replacing a heart of envy with one that is grateful for God.

    For those who want to do further study consider the following studies. Your focus should be to examine your heart in each specific area, then rely on God to free you from these things which allow the Grinch to steal Christmas.

    1. Read 1 John, let go of bitterness and decide to love people
    2. Read Hebrews, accept forgiveness and let go of guilt
    3. Read Psalm 60-69, put your hope in God and reject discouragement

    As the Editor-in-Chief for Deep Spirituality, Russ Ewell writes, teaches, and innovates with his eyes on the future. His teaching is rooted in providing hope for those turned off by tradition, and infused with vision for building the transformative church for which the 21st century hungers. His passion to inspire even the most skeptical to view God through fresh eyes can be found in his book “When God Isn’t Attractive”.

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