Tag Archives: Spiritual Growth

Authenticity = Totally Undisputed Credibility; The Difference Between Character and Reputation

images-4It is fascinating to me in our contemporary culture,  how easy it can be for an individual to foist a reputation that is based on very little true substance.

Our current society feasts on the fluff of evaporating charisma while it starves for the true grit and moral fiber that is needed to shape history.   It has become simpler and simpler to manufacture a reputation with little or no personal foundation to back it up.

At every venue in society–the media, politics and even in church– bigger than life personas grab center stage with very little conscience about their ability to back up their act.  Things that used to matter, like character, authenticity of heart and a call to serve others have fallen by the wayside and are being negligently overlooked.

In short, in my opinion, character is very different than reputation.  Below, in the remainder of this post, I have put together some quotes to stimulate thinking on the subject.  Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts about the differences you observe between character and reputation.

 

Do You Have Character or Reputation?

Reputation is seeming; character is being.

Reputation is manufactured; character is grown.

Reputation is your photograph; character is your face.

Reputation is what men say you are; character is what God knows you are.

Reputation is what you need to get a job; character is what you need to keep it.

Reputation is what comes over you from without; character is what rises up within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to town; character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is what is chiseled on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God.

Quote by Robert Stuart MacArthur, Quick Truths in Quaint Texts

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What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Passing on Wisdom: The Art of Mentoring

 

Throughout history, training in the areas of marital life, childbearing, mothering and homemaking have always been lessons best passed on through one-on-one relationships.  Generation to generation, the most important of life’s skills have been passed on informally in the context of community.  “True wisdom” has continued down a chain linking older to younger and more experienced to less experienced for millennia. The term given to this life-driven kind of guidance is mentoring. 

      

           What is a Mentor?

 

 

The English word “mentor” has ancient origins; it is derived from Homer’s Odyssey.  In this Greek classic, Odysseus goes off to war and turns the guidance of his son, Telemachus, over to his friend, Mentor.  With his father gone, the boy is “mentored” by Mentor in the paths of life.  In the Bible, we see mentoring as the major means of educating women. Naomi takes on the guidance of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Mordecai is a voice into the life of Esther and Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Mary.  The basis of the relationship is that the mentor has authority in the mentee’s life.  Due to this responsibility of speaking into the life of another, a mentor is usually a rare type of person. Mentors are individuals of unimpeachable credibility whose advice rings true. They are people whose past achievements back up their counsel and whose diverse experiences are what qualify them.  The accomplishments of the mentor should correspond with the area that she is mentoring in. For example, if you are a mentor for mothers, it is more important that you have raised a houseful of healthy children than that you possess a college degree. 

 

Why is Experience the key?

 

 

Experience is the key to mentoring because mentors base their life-shaping instructions on their real life experiences rather than the teaching of empirical knowledge.  The mentor imparts what she’s learned through sharing stories, anecdotes and experiences, not through covering materials or working through a curriculum. Mentoring requires an intimate relationship characterized by vulnerability and spontaneity.

During mentoring, training occurs in a free-flowing informal exchange.  Mentoring takes place through conversation and hearty dialogue rather than monologue. A mentor is not a college professor in front of a classroom surrounded by students taking notes. Mentoring is less formal than teaching and more about the individual being mentored than the information that is being exchanged. It is because of this unique characteristic of mentoring that the mentor must check any personal agenda at the door. 

 

 No-Agenda required!

 

 

In short, mentoring is not about one person living their life through another person.  Serving as a mentor is not about creating a mini-you. The mentee is a unique individual with unique talents and abilities who is following their own God-ordained course in life.  An overriding theme inmentoring is the intention to help someone help themselves. Wise mentors recognize that their guidance is most appreciated when it’s specifically asked for.  They offer up plenty of possible suggestions to their mentees without requiring a specific course of action.  They refrain as much as possible from telling their mentee what to do.  It is as if the mentor and mentee are driving down the road of life together.  The mentee is the one in the driver’s seat and the mentor is riding shot gun.  The mentor’s job is to ride along offering up advice and warning the driver about approaching bumps and turns but the mentor never takes the steering wheel and begins driving the car herself.

   

 

What about Trust?

 

 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship is rooted in trust.  Trust has to be established from the beginning of the relationship and must deepen over time.  In a successful mentoring relationship a strong alliance will be built.  The mentee trusts that the mentor is on her side. The overall atmosphere of the relationship should be one of mutual sharing and caring. The mentor must be willing to give the valuable gift of their time to the mentee and it can never be a “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” arrangement.  The mentor makes herself available as needed within reasonable limits.  The best mentoring takes place in ordinary life settings where mentor and mentee have casual and regular exposure to one another.  In these life settings, the mentor can come along side the mentee as she tackles the normal obstacles of life.  

  

          Where do “life’s Obstacles” fit in?  

 

 

Learning how to overcome obstacles is one of the most important lessons mentors can pass on.  Obstacles in life create a learning curve and cause the mentee to be more open to receiving new input.  Obstacles make for teachable moments. The crisis makes any help the mentor is bringing even more meaningful and useful.  Mentors tap into their own experience banks for examples of how they confronted similar obstacles.  Tackling tough situations together is what bonds and cements a solid mentoring relationship.

       

       When is “Real” mentoring taking place?    

 

 

The atmosphere of the mentoring relationship is relaxed and real. An intimate mentor-mentee relationship necessitates genuine sharing of insights, observations and suggestions.  Mentors offer an objective ear but they also offer real accountability.  They are not meant to be syrupy-sweet cheerleaders offering only affirmation, or speaking only what their protégé wants to hear.  Mentors give feedback on performance and offer opinions and confrontation when it is called for.  A good mentor can share hard things with as much openness as easy things.

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Ready for Battle and Dressed to Kill: Ephesians 6:13-20

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The average woman in the U.S today can easily recite some fundamental fashion knowledge. She can probably tell you what colors she looks good in, what styles work for her figure and the foundational must-haves of a wardrobe. Some women might even be able to tell you what it takes to dress for success or how to accessorize effectively. But in today’s world the majority of women are ignorant regarding the most essential fashion basic of all – the spiritual wardrobe – offered to us by God himself. In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul lays out piece by piece what every successful Christian should be wearing: a set of spiritual armor. Paul draws upon the image of the finest of ancient warriors – the Roman soldier – and dials in a picture of a Christian who would be spiritually “dressed to kill.”

 

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – Eph 6:13-18 (NKJV)

 

Paul wrote this passage while he was a prisoner of Rome, chained to a Roman soldier. And although the soldier assigned to him probably was not dressed in full armor Paul knew exactly what that Roman soldier’s war gear entailed. His many imprisonments and multiple excursions in the company of Roman infantrymen had inscribed a mental picture on Paul’s mind. It was not an easily forgotten image and employing the illustration came naturally. Paul refers to our spiritual protection and weaponry as “the whole armor of God.” This simple phrase reinforces two important facts. First, our supernatural set of military hardware comes directly from God. And second, God has provided a complete set of spiritual covering for us, not a partial one. He has given us the “whole” armor of God. The phrase “whole” armor is taken from the word panoplia in the Greek and it pictures a Roman soldier who is fully dressed in his armor from head to toe. Everything the soldier needed to successfully combat his adversary was provided for “Rome’s best.” And God has similarly given us everything we need to successfully combat our opposing spiritual forces. Nothing is lacking. Paul specifically mentions five pieces of spiritual armor and two offensive spiritual weapons that God graciously provides to each Christian soldier so that we can effectively stand against our evil foe.

 

The loin belt or girdle of truth. The Roman soldier wore a loin belt which was also referred to as a girdle. Although it was the least impressive item amongst the soldier’s gear, it was the central piece because it held all the other parts together. The loin belt held the breastplate in place and the shield rested on a clip on one side of the loin belt while on the other side was another clip from which the Roman soldier hung his sword. In the ancient war garment, the girdle about the loins held in place every other part of the uniform. It was an essential. If the girdle was lost, you lost everything. The garments would fly open and the other pieces of weaponry would fall off the soldier and onto the field of battle. This integral piece of armor corresponds in Paul’s spiritual regalia with the belt of truth. Satan is “the father of lies” but the believer whose life is controlled by truth will ultimately defeat him. The loin belt holds the other parts of the armor together, and truth is that integrating force in the life of a Christian. A person who knows the truth and possesses integrity, with a clear conscience, can face the enemy without fear. The belt also held the sword and unless a believer walks in the truth he cannot effectively use the Word of truth. If a believer begins to live a life of hypocrisy – if lies and falsehood begin to permeate the life of a believer – everything begins to fall apart.

 

The breastplace of righteousness. The second piece of armor that every Roman combatant added to his collection was a magnificent breastplate. The breastplate was constructed of two large sheets of metal. One piece covered the front of the soldier and the other piece covered his back, and the two sheets were attached at the top of the shoulders by large brass rings. Frequently these metal plates were comprised of smaller scale-like pieces of metal that, when joined together, comprised a coating that protected the wearer’s torso from his neck to below his waist. This vital piece of armor covered the most vulnerable parts of the body and in Paul’s analogy the breastplate symbolizes the believer’s righteous life in Christ. Only the righteousness of Christ can enable a Christian to stand before God, but a heart that is well-protected is a heart that is not condemning the believer. It is very difficult to have sin in your life while at the same time trying to fight a spiritual battle. According to Ephesians 4:27, we are not to “give place to the devil.” What this refers to is that sin in the life of a Christian gives Satan a place of occupation; a stronghold to use against his foe. Paul instructed the Ephesians, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception and…Put on your new nature, created to be like Godtruly righteous and holy. Eph 4:22-24 (NLT). Satan’s job description is that of the “accuser of the brethren” but he finds it much more difficult to accuse a believer who is living a godly life; one whose breastplate of righteousness is intact.

 

The shoes of the Gospel. The Roman soldier also wore a third piece of gear – a pair of treacherous looking shoes. These shoes were unlike the sandals worn by civilians which were merely flimsy soles held on by pieces of twine wrapped around the heel and the toe. The shoes that the Roman soldier wore were primarily made of metal. The first piece was called a greave. It was a tube-like piece of brass that wrapped around the soldier’s lower leg, beginning at the top of his knee and extending down past the calf, coming to rest on the top of the foot. The greave almost gave the appearance of boots that were made of brass. In addition, the top side of the foot was also encased in a piece of metal and on the bottom, the Roman soldier’s shoes were affixed with a set of spikes. The Roman soldier wore these shoes with soles that were thickly studded to give him better footing for fighting. Paul makes it clear that if we are going to “stand firm” in battle, our feet will need to be shod with the shoes of the Gospel. Shoes are necessary for standing. They speak of the foundation. In hand-to-hand combat soldiers are taught to make sure their feet are anchored. Romans 5:1 tells us, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Because we have the peace with God that comes from the knowledge of the Gospel, we know that God is always on our side and we need not fear Satan’s attack. This assurance is the foundation we stand on.

 

The shield of faith. A fourth important piece of protection, a large, oblong shield which measured about four feet by two feet, was carried by every Roman warrior. The shield was shaped like a door and was made of multiple layers of animal hide tightly woven together. The outside rim of the shield was framed in meta and the shield’s size alone provided good coverage. As the soldier held it in front of him, it protected him from spears, arrows, and “fiery darts.” Faith is a defensive weapon which we can take up as a shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy. The actual “fiery darts” were arrows dipped in pitch and set ablaze. In the spiritual realm Satan gives no mercy as he shoots all types of “fiery darts” at the hearts and minds of Christians. These flaming missiles come in many varieties: blazing lies, profane fixations, hateful combustible thoughts, smoldering doubts, burning passions; the list goes on and on. Satan utilizes all their forms and enjoys pelting us with on-going assaults. Failing to quench these “fiery darts” with the shield of our Christian faith can spell disaster. A blazing arrow – a strategic attack on the mind or heart – can cause a fire which can quickly spread and the internal inferno that results has the power to change a vibrant disciple into a charred and ineffective believer. We never know quite when Satan will shoot a well placed dart at us, so we must walk by faith, holding steadfastly to our beliefs, effectively wielding the shield of faith.

 

The helmet of salvation. Every Roman soldier also wore a helmet. This all important piece of armor protected the soldier from receiving a fatal blow to the head. The helmets of the Roman troops were made of brass and ornately adorned with feathers or animal hair. Satan always wants to target the mind. It was the initial way he defeated humanity as he came to deceive Eve and he has used it ever since. The helmet of salvation refers to the mind protected and controlled by God. It is sad that many Christians believe that having a strong mind and intellect for Christ is unimportant. A keen God-controlled intellect plays a vital role in Christian growth, service, and living. The Christian who studies the Bible and learns the meaning of Bible doctrines is not going to be easily led astray. We are to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The Apostle Paul, when he ministered, always made it a priority to teach new converts the truths of the Word of God regarding their salvation in Jesus Christ. He did this because he knew that this “spiritual” helmet would protect them from Satan’s lies. Likewise we all need the helmet supplied by adequate study of the truths of the Gospel; we should not approach life and the spiritual warfare it brings without protection for our minds.

 

Two offensive weapons: the sword of the Spirit and Spirit-led prayer. In addition to their basic armament all ancient warriors were also equipped with at least one offensive weapon – and the weapon of choice in the first century was a sword. Although there were many kinds of swords, the blade that the Roman soldier most often carried was a very heavy broad sword specifically designed for jabbing and killing. Hebrews 4:12 compares the Word of God to a sword that is sharp and able to pierce the inner man just as a material sword pierces the body, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb 4:12 (NKJV) A material sword pierces the body, but the Word of God pierces the heart. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Christ used the sword of the Spirit and defeated the enemy. Three times Jesus said, “It is written” (Luke 4:1-13) in thwarting the enemy’s attacks. Satan also quoted the Word as he tempted Jesus but he did not quote it completely or use it accurately. Satan tries to use the Word of God to confuse us, so it is important that we familiarize ourselves with the Word of God and that we study it regularly and thoroughly. The better you know the Word of God, the easier it will be for you to detect Satan’s lies and reject his offers—it is your sword of the Spirit.

 

Last but not least, the final piece of spiritual armor and our second weapon of offense that is listed in Ephesians 6 is prayer. Paul tells us “pray at all times in the Spirit.” While no part of the armor is given to correspond as a symbol of prayer, prayer is nonetheless an important part of every Christian soldier’s weaponry. And “praying in the Spirit” – as Paul refers to it – is not just turning in your grocery list to God. Praying in the Spirit underlines the fact that you and I recognize our enemy and that we are seeking to lay hold of God to provide the spiritual resources that He knows we need. Paul was reminding them not to forget to ask God to back them up in their attempts at spiritual combat. As soldiers in God’s army we can never afford to be without the cover of the big artillery that God alone can provide.

 

Finally, as we come to the end of Paul’s listing of our spiritual weaponry, it is important to realize that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is not his only NT reference to the need for spiritual readiness and protection. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he also warns those disciples about their need for spiritual armor. He writes, “It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12 (NKJV). Paul told them, wake up, cast off your sin, and “put on the armor of light.” As believers today we can choose to heed Paul’s cry to arms and put on the armor, or like ostriches we can choose to bury our heads in the sand and deny that there is even a war on. Can you hear the trumpet sounding, calling you to spiritual battle? If you can, be obedient, don’t delay, get up, get off your bed and get dressed. Find that belt and breastplate. Pick up your shield. Put on your helmet and don’t forget your shoes. Grab your sword on your way out and, above all else, don’t forget to pray. You must not remain asleep another minute because the battle is real and you are on the frontlines!

 

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Jesus is all about relationship–Are you willing to go there?

Making contact with God and maintaining a meaningful relationship with Him is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The primary purpose for Jesus’ mission to this planet was to pay the way for reconciliation of relationship between God and humankind.  The capability of people to make unhindered and lasting contact with God was a high ticket item for Jesus—He gave his life for it.

 

When Jesus walked this earth He vehemently condemned the religion without relationship he found amongst the Jews. At every opportunity He openly opposed the empty faith of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees who were the professional religionists of the time were not in the least bit concerned with “How can I seek to know God?” They had long before degenerated to an obsession with “How can I look good for God?” They were preoccupied with image, reputation and prideful practice and Jesus had little patience for their self-focused religion. It is not surprising that God Incarnate could not tolerate their brand of “man-centered worship.” With righteous indignation Jesus took on the Pharisees again and again.  And at every encounter with “all authority” He turned the tables on them. His teachings redefined God the Father and true religion and it upset their status quo.

 

The early church was also infiltrated by “man centered religion.” In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for their self-focused ways, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  He chastised them in the strongest terms to repent and refocus their lives.  In the end, His prescription for this ailing church was short and sweet—make contact with your God again.  Get your focus off yourself and connect with Me.  He unashamedly held out the invitation to relationship… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

As believers we all have the option of distancing ourselves from the God who loves us. It is within our power to rudely keep Jesus on the other side of the door of our heart knocking while we are otherwise occupied.  Many Christians today have become “Neo-Pharisees,” a breed who flock to church to put on a good show.  They dutifully practice the external intellectual elements of bible study, go through the motions of worship and make eloquent prayers.  But just like the Pharisees it is all to be seen by men.  On the inside they are making little real relational contact with the transforming power of the “Living God” and as a result they are actually starving, miserable, and perishing souls. 

 

Why do people who once said “yes” to Jesus, do such things?  Because down deep they want a God of their own making, a God who obeys them, making them look and feel good at all times.  They want a God who gives precedence to their priorities.  The problem is Jesus doesn’t work that way. When Jesus comes into a heart to intimately dine with its owner He requires a few things.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of many wanna-be disciples the requirements he deems necessary are so inconvenient.  Dying to self, dealing with sin, changing attitudes and behaviors and receiving God’s directions for your life can at times be “not fun.”  Uninformed Christians do not always like the initial aftermath that making contact with God brings.  So they pull back, shut the door, and let Jesus keep on knocking.  They are unwilling disciples.  They are followers who have not counted the cost that a vital relationship with the Creator of the Universe rings up.           

 

The problem is many are also guilty of not measuring the benefits that making contact with Jesus can bring.  Jesus promises to come into your soul and dine with you.  He wants to share a feast and He’s bringing the provisions. Come and dine, come and drink, come and rest—are all very familiar invitations that our Savior issues.  He wants to satisfy the true deep needs of our souls.  He is not concerned with the “bling” or the status of this world.  As our maker he wants to meet our real needs and come to us in ways that truly satiate the hunger and thirst of our inner being.  All the great saints of the Bible were accomplished at making contact with God.  Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Mary of Bethany and John to name a few majored in friendship with God.  They recognized the benefits relating on a regular basis with the God of the Universe could bring.

 

If you’re going to be a Christian making contact with God is not optional. It is mandatory.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to open the door of your heart to Jesus on a regular basis.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are ready to deal with the internal issues, the issues of the heart that Jesus deems important.  Realize that He wants to make contact with you and that if you let Him in He will bring His life transforming power to meet the deep needs of your soul.  Realize that by His power He is willing to change you from the inside out.  God has the power to affect your life beyond all your expectations and in ways you could not even dream of. 

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man

 The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1Cor. 2:9

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Please feel free to share any effective tools that you have utilized to help you stay in contact and build relationship with the Lord? How do you remain true to your commitment to make Him number one in your life?

Do you know Christians who are all about religion and yet seem unaware of relationship and intimacy with God?  How does the “pharisee” routine look in 21st century churches.  Share your experiences and please feel free to vent!  

 

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Filed under Character of God, Christian Spiritual Growth and Disciplines, Jesus Christ

Guarding Your Heart–The Secret to Radiant Health

Pay attention, my child, to what I say.

Listen carefully. 

Don’t lose sight of my words.

Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. 

Proverbs 4:20-23 NLT, First Edition

 

This passage from Proverbs begins with one of the strongest admonitions in the entire Bible to listen up and pay attention to what follows.  The exhortation is clear. Listen carefully, don’t forget my words!  Let them penetrate your heart because they have the power of bringing life and radiant health to anyone who understands them. 

 

Wow, what a prize, what a hook!  Is there anything that could be more desirable than the promise of life and radiant health?  These verses promise a type of health that virtually shines out of a person.  And what are the important words we must grasp if we are to receive this kind of health?  The advice is simple: “Guard your heart above anything else you have, because it determines the kind of life you will live.”

 

According to Solomon, the writer of these sayings, the heart is the “master-control” center of life.  In Proverbs, the heart is never actually an allusion to the muscle in our torso that pumps our blood through our body.  Instead the term describes our whole inner being; the heart as the center of our mind, our emotions, and our will. 

 

The key word in Proverbs 4:22 is guard and the Hebrew word translated to “guard” in English is the word nah-tzaar, meaning “to preserve, or to keep.”  The word originally comes from a noun which means “a place of confinement or prison” and in a broader sense it means something that is closely observed, protected, preserved or guarded. 

 

If we are to experience newness of life and radiant health to our whole being, we must appreciate the value and vulnerability of the “master control” center of our lives. It must be protected and surrounded like a treasure kept in maximum security. 

 

The characteristic of the “labe” (the Hebrew word meaning the heart or your inner self),

that makes it so precious is that it is the source and basis of knowing God’s will.  Because

your heart is the place God can speak to you, it is vital that it be kept willing, open, and responsive to receiving input from God.

 

Keeping the heart safe from the contamination of ungodly influences is vital because it is from within your heart that you receive the direction for your entire life. When our heart is infected by the evil influences of this world, or is hardened, bitter, cynical or even overly self-focused the ability to receive guidance from God for life is hampered.

 

Impurities that are allowed in and that penetrate our inner-being keep valuable information from God from being taken in and understood by us.  If we compare the “master control” center of our life to a computer hard-drive, it is as if we have allowed someone to hack in and insert a virus that will not allow God’s instructions to be processed in the way that they should.

 

While our hearts are polluted the righteous commands for living will not compute, because they are being overridden by corrupt information that has infiltrated our soul and now has full access. This is why it is so important to keep your heart open, sensitive, and carefully watched.  If your heart is not right before God and it is left unguarded from the toxins of the world, God is blocked out and communication of divine direction is hindered.  

 

Divine guidance is vital because God has promised a unique design for abundant living for each of us.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The Father has good works for us to walk in, divine appointments for us to keep and purpose-filled lives for us to live and part of being a child of God is to be dependent on regular access to His plan for your life. 

 

Staying in contact with the Almighty however can be complicated.  In modern techno language “unless you have the ability to receive and walk in His will via a virus free master-control center, the aptitude to retrieve input about His divine intentions for you can be obstructed.”

 

In short, if our master-control center has not been adequately protected, misery and ultimate unhappiness have the power to become the “default program” for our lives. While, if our heart is well guarded, the wisdom we take in will have its affect and our lives will be encountered and shaped by the Holy Spirit. As we make our lives wholly available to Him, God has full freedom to “log onto the hard drive” of our inner being and communicate with us successfully and unimpeded whenever necessary. 

 

This does not mean that guarding our hearts guarantees that we will never have misery or pain.  What protecting our “master-control” center does assure however is that when we do encounter the down side of lifeGod’s direction and interpretation of our life is readily accessible to us.  His input is ready to be downloaded and used by us whenever needed.  

 

The book of James communicates God’s willingness to give us input unconditionally, but it also describes the calamity of a mind divided and polluted by the things of this world. 

James 1:5-8 declares, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

This passage, parallels the Proverb in some important ways.  It clarifies that if we are double-minded with our “master-control” center confused by two sources of information—God’s input vs. worldly input—then we have a problem.  We will doubt God’s wisdom and we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 

 

As a result of this type of spiritual split personality, James describes the double-minded as exhibiting instability in all their ways.  Simply stated, with the soul unguarded and divided we are destined to be unstable and unhealthy and in contrast when our hearts are guarded and open to God alone—the opposite is truethe opportunity for internal health and single focus awaits us.

  

In conclusion, this short but well-emphasized bit of God’s wisdom from Proverbs is crystal clear.  It is important that we learn to live according to God’s Word with a well-guarded heart because having a heart that is ever sensitive to His still small voice will lead to life and radiant health. In short, guard your heart, and in return He can direct your path.  And there is also a hidden bonus— if you live this wayothers will see His life and health radiating from you and they will want it too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christian Spiritual Growth and Disciplines