Category Archives: Humility

Loving our Neighbors

“I will come to judge you. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, lying witnesses, and those who cheat workers out of their wages and oppress widows and orphans. I will also testify against those who deprive foreigners of their rights. None of them fear me,” says the LORD of Armies.  Mal 3:5

It’s  scary to think of being on trial before the Almighty God.  At this trial, God himself testifies against people. Yikes!  And he does it without delay, without continuances, like we can push for in the court system today.

What does God bear witness against?  Largely against mistreating others.

And while none of us may have stuck it to a widow or an immigrant lately, this verse makes it apparent that how we treat one another is uber serious to God.

Because what God is looking for is those who revere him enough to see that they have an obligation towards their fellow man.  As God is committed to us, he wants us to be committed to one another.

Here is how Biblical scholars define righteousness:  “God’s righteousness can be understood as God’s faithfulness to his people, where he fulfills his obligations to them. . . righteousness is also understood as God’s faithfulness to fulfill His obligations to human beings and His creation because as creator He has a relationship with them.”  (Rupen Das)

God sees himself as having a responsibility towards people.  As children of this same God, surely we should see that we also have a responsibility to our fellow human beings.

Look how God spelled this out from olden times:

 ”When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

Leviticus 19 goes on to relate a whole slew of things not to do.  I’m abridging the passage here:

DO NOT: steal, lie, deceive one another, defraud or rob your neighbor, hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight,  curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, pervert justice, show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, go about spreading slander among your people, do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life, hate a fellow Israelite in your heart, seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the bottom line.  It always has been.

“But who is my neighbor?” we want to ask, just as the experts in the law inquired of Jesus in Luke 10.  We’re surrounded and overwhelmed by more needs than we could ever address.

Ken and I watched a movie over the weekend, “Of Mind and Music.”  It was about a neurologist in New Orleans who took some time off to grieve the loss of his mother.  As he walked through the city, he came across a female street musician/singer who was starting to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s.  The neurologist ended up taking this woman in his own house to care for her, and then finding an assisted living placement for her.  When someone asked him why he was doing this for a random person on the streets, he answered, “Because I can.”

Instead of being overwhelmed, let’s ask, who CAN we help?  Who is in our path at this moment?

Ken and I went to a funeral on Sunday for the great aunt of our daughter in law.  We heard different people share about this special woman.  One was her neighbor, who talked about how much their relationship had meant to her over the years.  They were like family.  The neighbor’s children were always over at the woman’s house, and always came home with cookies or pieces of cornbread.  As the neighbor sat at her friend’s deathbed, she told her over and over again how grateful she was for her.

All of us have people “next door.”  They’re not all going to become our best buds, but some of them could become a blessing to us. And we could become a blessing to them.  I know this has been true for me.  My Latin neighbor down the street, Dee, is a great example.  We get together for coffee, visit when we’re outside, and chat on the phone.  Several times she’s brought her husband over to help with issues with our house.  I had a yard sale, and she came and sat next to me and supported me.  She has told me several times that she is thankful for our friendship.

But even though I know this, I still I get tired and busy, and I stop reaching out.

One thing that has helped me as I’ve been thinking about this is to remember that I have the Spirit, an actual piece of God, in me as I walk around.  It was incredible that God became flesh.  It’s just as incredible that God dwells in us.  When I interact with people, I bring God in contact with others.  The Spirit wants to talk with people.  The Spirit wants to love them through me.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:12

The other thing I am learning is the importance of humility.  I really think one of the things that separates us as human beings is our pride.  We can’t help thinking we are more important than that other person.  We don’t realize that we all exist by God’s mercy.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

I think the story of the unmerciful servant reflects the way God has always thought:

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’”  Matt 18:32-33.

God’s given us mercy.  That’s why we treat others well.

I have so much growing yet to do in this.  One recommendation I want to make, is that you listen to super convicting lesson by Chuck Pike on helping the poor.  It has really stirred up my thinking.  He says the biggest obstacle to helping the poor isn’t the lack of resources, it’s the lack of motivation.  We’re too tied up in our love of money, pleasure, and self.

We need to look at the scriptures anew, and take a hard look at ourselves.  Because it’s just as true for us as it was at the time of Malachi.  We will be judged by how we treat others.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  Matt 25:41-43

You know, Mother’s Day is coming up.  I’ve been asked to share something a little something at church.  I’ve been thinking about my mother, and the good things she taught me.  One thing my mother really believed, and lived by, is that people are important.  She genuinely cared about people, that was very evident in the way she gave her whole focus to someone when she was with them, and how they were on her heart when she wasn’t with them.

My mom loved deeply, and was always videoing the people she loved.

My mom loved deeply, and was always videoing people.

In the end, that’s what God wants from us as well, for people to be important to us.

And I’m finding that it’s easy to say, “Yeah, let’s care about people more,” but really hard to put into practice.  Because it’s heart growth that needs to happen, and heart growth takes time.

So let’s seek to grow in this.  Let’s take a fresh look at the scriptures.  Let’s look at examples of giving we admire, and seek to imitate that.  And let’s pray.  We can’t help with every need, but we can wake up every morning and pray, “Who is my neighbor today, Lord?  Please show me, and help me to love them as I would want to be loved.”

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? I John 3:17

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;  Deut 15:7

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Filed under Humility, Love, Malachi

Being Refined

But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.  Mal 3:2

Malachi prophesied that the coming of the Messiah would not be the wonderful feel good experience the Jews were expecting to have.

It would be tough and scary — a time of refining.

This past week I went out sharing with a sister who had never invited strangers to church before.  “It comes so naturally to you,” she said as she watched me.  I had to laugh.  I told her how hard it was for me when we moved to Atlanta to join a new church.  The church was running this “Just Do It” campaign where everyone was challenged to invite two people a day to church.

Whoa.  I thought I wanted to be a part of this fellowship.  It sounded great to be around people who were joyfully sold out for Christ.  But then we got down to the brass tacks.  It meant that I would have to give up my complacency and do things that were very uncomfortable for me.  I remember looking around at the church service, and thinking, “What have I done?”  I wasn’t sure I wanted to join after all.

We think following Christ is going to be all warm and fuzzy.  But when we actually have to do more of the things that Jesus did, it tests our hearts.

And this is what God intended, that with the coming of John the Baptist and Christ hearts would be tested.  The status quo would be challenged.

You see, the Jews kept going along, thinking everything was hunky dory between them and God.  When Jesus came, he made it very plain that they needed to be purified from the inside out:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

And Jesus especially attacked the religious leaders:  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”  Matt23:15

Jesus came to refine hard hearts.  He came to challenge all of those who thought they were clean with the truth that they were dirty on the inside.  As Malachi 3:2 said, they needed strong soap.

A few days ago, my friend Markeya and I had lunch with a friend who’s studying the Bible.   We sat at a table in the bright spring sun, and ate crepes and stuffed squash, and bonded.  We opened up about the hurts we’d gone through in the past.  We talked about how we’d all hardened our hearts as a result of these pains and shut ourselves off so we couldn’t be hurt again.

We read Luke 7:36-50 about the sinful woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet, wet them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  We discussed how amazing it was that this woman could have a soft heart.  Sin and pain hadn’t hardened her, as it had us.  And we prayed that we would all be more like this woman, able to let down the walls, able to come to Jesus in tears, admitting our sin and our need for his forgiveness.

This is what God is looking for.  This is the goal of refining:  a tender heart that reaches out in humility.

A heart that can see and admit sin.

I read a great passage in The Guilty Soul’s Guide to Grace by David Laing about what our attitude should be towards sin.  Laing writes that in Ps 51 David was essentially saying, “God, I have sinned.  But I want to see it like you do.  I want more than head knowledge.  I want heart knowledge.  I want you to remove all my rationalizations and excuses and show me my sin and myself in all their ugliness.”

The Jews didn’t have heart knowledge.

I’ve been praying lately that I would see my sin as God sees it, that the grime which clouds my vision — guilt, people pleasing and perfection seeking — would be removed.

Create in me a pure heart, O God!  (Ps 51:10)

Jesus came to create pure hearts.  And the process of creating them is intense, it’s a fiery furnace that exposes the truth in our inmost parts and brings to light those weaknesses we’d rather keep hidden.  It shows us the things we need to change.

And we want to run away.  We rationalize and fling out excuses.  We hold tightly to our complacency.

Until finally, we fall to our knees, and understand.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

We need God like the air we breathe.  We can’t do it on our own.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.  II Chron 7:14

We need to be God sufficient, not self sufficient.

That is what Jesus came to teach us, that it’s not the religiously accomplished who are the heroes, or the wealthy or successful, but the widow who gives her last penny, the tax collector who prays for mercy, the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her hair.

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.  James 4:10

The end of the story of me seeking to join the church in Atlanta is that I pushed through.  I found out I could do it, I could share with strangers.  And when I did, I was energized!  That pattern has continued over the years.  Things get hard.  I don’t know how I’m going to continue.  But I persevere, I rely on the Source, and I end up overflowing with joy.

God tests us, but we can put our hand in his and get through to the place on the other side.  And in the process our hearts are strengthened.

This past Sunday we had an AWESOME service.  Our little church of 50 people had 200 in attendance.  We commemorated all God has done for us over the years.  We’ve been through so much, but God brought us through!  We celebrated and praised him with all our hearts!

group

Yes, Jesus came to refine us.  Yes, it will be tough and scary.  But it is so worth it.

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Humility, Malachi

Teaching My Heart…

spring

I haven’t posted for awhile.  I have been going through some intense self searching.  I have been struggling with something that bothers me.  I have been on the mood roller coaster that is menopause.  So in all of this I have had some great insights and times with God.  But I haven’t felt compelled to write like I usually do.  I haven’t felt ready to share.  My head hasn’t felt clear enough.

But today I am feeling some clarity and inspiration.  I woke up at 4:45 this morning, feeling grumpy about some things that had happened.  So I prayed and talked to God about them.  It is amazing to me how He gave me wisdom and provided an almost miraculous change of mind state for me.

Here is some of what I was thinking.

I thought about the book of Job.  I’ve been listening to Job in the car lately.  I always try to have some Bible CDs to fill the space while I’m driving.  I’ve been working my way through the Old Testament.  And now I’m at Job.

I have to confess that I really didn’t want to listen to Job.  I like the first and last part of the book, but, to me, the middle is so long and boring!   But that is why I listen in the car, so I can expose myself to things that I might be tempted to skip over if I was actually sitting down and reading.

The thing is, as I listened to Job, and took in the repetitious pontificating of Job and his friends, the endless justification, the whining, the sanctimonious advising, it occurred to me that that is what we sound like to God.  We carry on in our self important bombastic way, totally caught up in our conceit.  We whine and complain, so affronted.  We go on and on, we can’t let it go.

I think God doesn’t like to hear all of this any more than I do when I listen to Job.

And I think about how it is said that Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible.  It is one of the first communications, in a sense, from God to man. And what does God want to say?  That we go on and on talking about ourselves, all puffed up in our opinions, all indignant about our situations.  That we are so blinded by our conceit that we can’t respect to Him as the Almighty and All Knowing, who knows so much better than we do the ways things ought to go.

It hit me yet again how His thoughts are not my thoughts, that way that seems so clear to me as how things should happen, may not be the way God is going.   I can’t get indignant when what God does seems counterintuitive.

Instead, I need to be much more like David when He wrote Ps 131:

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.

As I was thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that, left to ourselves, we are terrible disciplers.  Just like Job’s friends, by nature, we have a pretty poor idea of how to help one another.  And  just like Job, we are even worse at trying to reason things out and help ourselves.

And I started to be especially thankful that we have the Spirit.  While I was lying in bed, talking to God, I realized that I could let the Spirit disciple me.  The Spirit was right there, waiting to be called upon, waiting to be the voice of hope, whispering to me that God is good, that He will work out everything for the good.

It really is true that Jesus came to give us living waters.  “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  (John 7:38)  Fresh pure goodness and hope is there, bubbling up inside of us, when everything in us wants to rant at God over and over again.

So I wasn’t crazy about being up at 4:45 this morning.  But I needed to work it out, so I wouldn’t be stewing all day.  I brought my impossible situation to God, and he turned it around.

All I can do is thank God as in Ps 16:7 —

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

 

 

 

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Filed under Humility, Things I Am Learning

A Cure for “Can’t”

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10:46-52

In this passage, Jesus encounters a man who has an impossible problem.  He’s blind.  He CAN’T see, and hasn’t had any hope of being able to do so.

Until Jesus walks across his path.

And then he realizes there is ONE THING that CAN change his situation.  He has ONE HOPE.  Jesus, Son of David.

So what does he do next?  He doesn’t fumble about in uncertainty.  He shouts out.  He goes for it.

I can relate to the hopelessness of CAN’T.  In fact, I have come to the conclusion that living like Jesus is pretty much impossible.  It intimidates me.  And how about the apostles in the book of Acts?  They seem super human, traveling everywhere, making disciples everywhere, going through persecutions?  How can I be like that?

And then I realized that the apostles were normal people, just like I am, and the only way they did what they did is through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was fully human.  The only way he did what he did was with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The same is true for us.  The Spirit every day will give us THE STRENGTH TO DO MORE than we think we can do.

… the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.  I John 4:4

But every day we will have to intentionally GIVE UP OUR OWN power.  We will have to shout out our need to God, not waffle about in insecurity.

“But wait,” I say.   “I’ve tried to do that, and so many times I’ve still failed.  On top of that, over the years, all kinds of wacko things have gone wrong in my life.  Things are too messed up.  I’m too messed up.”

I love this passage from “Healing for Damaged Emotions” by David Seamands —

“God is the great Alchemist who, if you will let Him, will turn all into spiritual gold.  He is the master Weaver who can take every damage, every hurt, every crippling infirmity and weave them all into His design — yes, even though their threads were spun by evil, ignorant and foolish hands!”

Even through failure, even through apparent chaos, God works His good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2)

It’s like this puzzle my daughter gave me.  There’s a way to put all the pieces together to make something beautiful.

Putting together the puzzle vase

Putting together the puzzle vase

Completed puzzle vase

Completed puzzle vase

God knows how to make something beautiful with our lives.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.  . . For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.  Romans 8:28

We are being pieced together into something holy,

And God isn’t fazed by our failures.  He who can transform the dead can certainly take the garbage of our lives and make it into something good.

So here is the thing.  Today, we CAN.  And in the times we can’t, God CAN.

Our part is to admit our need, remember our ONE HOPE and GO FOR IT!

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Rev 3:17-18

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Humility, Mark

Glory Hungry or Grace Hungry?

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”  Mark 10:35-37

Following Jesus is not for personal gain. Sure, this seems obvious.  On a deeper level, though, it’s a good reminder for me.

Because I have to admit that I want to look good, and Christian stuff — doing things for others, being loving and loving, etc — these all make me look good.  I can be wise.  I can have the answers.  I can be respected.

Ugh!  How ugly it is that I would want glory for MYSELF through following Christ!  I relate to Simon the sorcerer only too well.  “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability. . . “  (Acts 8:18-19a)  He too wanted to follow Jesus for personal gain.

I have to learn to be okay with messing up, to accept that I am just a fallible person, so I’m not needy for glory.

A couple of weeks ago Ken and I got with a young married couple.  They shared about an incident, a series of mistakes they made in how they treated one another at a party.  As they told the story, they started laughing at how foolish they’d been.  That led Ken to share a similar story about us.  Did I laugh at my foolishness as he related what happened?  No, I got hurt and mad.

Can I learn to laugh at myself more, laugh at my failures?

Can I be more like Paul in II Cor 12:10?   “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Can I actually delight in weaknesses, even thank God for them?

Jesus said in this II Cor. passage,  “My grace is all you need.”  I’ve got to get this through my head!  God’s grace is THE ONLY THING I NEED.  I don’t need to get my security from looking good.  I need to get it from him.

Going on with today’s reading from Mark 10 —

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 

God’s not interested in giving me personal glory I crave.  Nope, instead, he gives me the cup of trials.

And what have I been in my trials?  A ball of irritability, thinking grumpy negative thoughts, wanting to smash something.

So it was perfectly appropriate that Carol shared with me last night this passage from “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young —

“THANK ME for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time. Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart.”

I not only need to “find pleasure” in my weaknesses, I need to thank God and find joy in my trials.

Fooey!  I don’t like to remember James 1 —

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

You know, in church for the past few weeks, we’ve been studying out discipling relationships.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that we are to help Christ to be formed in one another.  (Gal 4:19, Matt 28:18-20)

And I am realizing more and more that the only way Christ will be formed is through humility.

I humble myself.  I admit I’m weak.  I admit I don’t know how to do it.

He lifts me up and makes me what I need to be.

I don’t, I CAN’T, seek glory for myself.

Only He can give it to me.

Then it’s all grace.  And that grace meets my every need.

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Filed under Grace, Gratitude, Humility, Mark, Things I Am Learning

The Blessings in Finishing Last

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.  Mark 10:31

I so badly want to be first.  I want to be the Super Me, good at everything.

I realized this especially as I went on a short vacation this past weekend and spent time with family.

I wanted so much to serve everyone, say meaningful things to them, let them know how special they are.

I wanted so much to transform each moment into something golden, to savor the time.

But the reality was that I had several physical challenges.  I was tired.  I had a sore throat.  Some of the time my IBS was acting up.

How could I be Super Me when I was just trying to stay engaged, when the zing of energy and inspiration wasn’t there?

So I stayed in constant interaction with God.  Hour by hour, situation by situation, I laid my requests before God and responded to His promptings.  And He gave me direction.  He helped me to play with my granddaughter even when I longed to veg on the couch. He helped me to get out of bed and pray in the morning before everyone got up, to give and help when I was tired, to take the initiative, to say encouraging words.

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I guess I wasn’t Super Me at all.  I was Christ living through me.

And now I realize something really cool.  My plan is to do all kinds of awesome things for God and become an increasingly spiritual great person.

God’s plan is that I go through challenges that make me feel weak, even to the point where I can’t do the things I want to do, and I rely on Him more.

So at some point I will cross the finish line and receive eternal life.  But I’m not going to sprint all the way there with my wonderful deeds.

Nope.  I’m going to wallow towards the goal through the swamp of my challenges, pulling one foot out of the mud, and then another.

feet in mud

Not first, but last.

How do I make peace with being in the swamp when everything in me screams that I’m failing if I’m not running full tilt?

How do I like myself when I don’t even FEEL like running?

Because it isn’t that I don’t like being stuck in the swamp, it’s that I don’t like the version of me who gets stuck in the swamp.

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  Romans 12:3

I need to be honest with myself.   I’m not Super Me.  I’m just a regular person with strengths and weaknesses.

And I don’t like the weaknesses.  I don’t like feeling useless and unproductive.

Coming home from vacation, I realized that I wanted it to be a succession of perfect memories

Instead I captured only glimpses, the peace on the beach with the wind blowing and the waves breaking cool against my legs, the beauty of sunflowers in the field, the laughter in my heart as my granddaughter tells me she’s having the time of her life.

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Maybe I am the same way.  I only experience  glimpses of the Super Me in my ordinary human life.

And that has to be enough.

Even before I went on vacation, I wasn’t feeling good.  I was super tired and foggy headed.  My IBS acted up.   Each day was one long series of pushing through.

And then, late in a listless afternoon, I listened to beautiful music.

It was amazing.  I had a deep sense of meaning and connection.  My heart felt restored.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,”  Isa 30:15

I remembered that quietness can be just as meaningful as activity.

You know, it occurs to me that when Jesus said the first would be last, that didn’t mean that the people who are last won’t receive as many blessings as those who are first.  They ALL receive 100 fold, now and in the life to come!

I think if I’m not running on all cylinders, it’s a sign that I’m not doing things right, that I’m not in sync with God.

But I’m realizing that I can find God just as much in being last, as I can in being first.

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Filed under Diary, Humility, Mark, Peace, Self Worth

Transforming the Heart

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ”  “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Mark 10:17-22

It is amazing here that Jesus won’t let anyone call him good.  He was without sin, we know he WAS good,

But it is also comforting in a way to know that no one is good.  We all sin.  We’re like Romans 7 — “I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do.”

This really seems true to me lately.  I have come face to face with things in my character that cause me to struggle.  And no matter how much I wrestle with them, I am still struggling.  I tell myself not to let my mind go there, and a minute later, the same thing is going round and round in my head again!

But there’s hope!  There is hope because God gave us what we need to TRANSFORM!

I love that word: “transform.”  It’s one of those metamorphosis words.  It means we can ACTUALLY CHANGE on the inside.

I’ve been reading “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster.  It’s an old school book, but it has some good stuff in it.

“Willpower . . . is incapable of bringing about the necessary transformation of the spirit. . . .  The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.  The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside.  . .  The Disciplines [of meditation, prayer, fasting and study]  allow us to place ourselves before God so He can transform us.”

We can’t change just by wanting to.  All the grunting and sweating of self effort won’t alter our inner selves.  I know.  I’ve tried it many a time.  I’ve come up with all kinds of programs that I’ve attempted by my own wisdom and strength.  Yeah, they’re helpful.  But I still come back to the same place, the same weaknesses.

That’s why it’s so encouraging that God knows how to change our heart.  He’s given us the resources to employ that allow HIM to work within us.  When we pray, meditate, study the Bible, and so on, it gives the Spirit ways to tinker with our inner workings.  And the Spirit is the MASTER workman extraordinaire!  It KNOWS JUST HOW to fix hearts!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

So that encourages me to spend more time in the “Disciplines,” to listen to my audio Bible in the car or while I’m cooking, to have more one on one time with God, to be quiet before Him.

Because sooner or later, we’re going to have a rich young ruler encounter, this time when God asks us to give up that one thing we don’t want to give up. Our hearts will be tested.

Boy is that true of me!  I am being asked to trust God in ways that are SO HARD for me.  I cry out to God.  “It’s too hard,” I say.  “Don’t ask me to give that up.”

And God replies “But I need to be #1.”

Exodus 20:23 says, “Do not make any gods to be alongside me.”  God doesn’t want anything in his presence that even hints of being as important as He is.

I love the illustration Kyle Idleman uses in his book, “Gods at War” —

“God declines to sit atop an organizational flowchart.  He is the organization.  He is not interested in being chairman of the board.  He is the board.  And life doesn’t work unless everyone sitting around the table in the boardroom of your heart is fired.”

God is GOD.  He needs to be the be all and end all.  Life doesn’t work otherwise.

So with the rich young ruler, Jesus wasn’t trying to say that everyone has to give up all their stash.

He was saying that the ruler could have no other gods.

He wasn’t saying this to make the ruler a miserable pauper.  He was saying it to take away the things that gave false joy and replace them with the thing that will give real joy.  And, of course, the ultimate joy will be in heaven.

You know, the ruler asked Jesus a question.  But he really didn’t want to hear the answer.

And that is my challenge lately.  To hear.  To ask God, “What are you trying to teach me today,” and be attentive for His answer.  And then, of course, act on what I hear.

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.  Isa 50:4b

I need to listen so I can be transformed, so I won’t be that wretched person who’s always trying, but never changing.

I need to listen because I am not good.  I need to entrust myself to God’s goodness, bask in His goodness– the Word, His presence.

Why did the rich young ruler go away sad?  We usually say it’s because he was not ready to give up what he loved.

But maybe it’s also that he was afraid.  He was sure that the cost was worse than the cure.

And we know the cost is not worse than the cure.  It’s totally worth it.

Don’t you want to go up to that ruler and get in his face and plead with him? “Don’t leave!  Don’t give into your fears. Good things are coming!”

Let’s plead that with ourselves.  Plead it with our friends.  Wrestle to believe that whatever we give up, it’s totally worth it.

And submit ourselves to God with a listening ear, immerse ourselves in Him, so he can shape in us a heart that craves no other gods but Him.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Humility, Mark