Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Above ALL else, GUARD your heart!

Proverbs 4:23--"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

I've been meditating on Proverbs 4:23 lately because of a discipleship process I've become involved with.

Meditation...ruminating on a verse...letting your soul marinade in the words of a verse...making observations on each and every word and upon their connections with each other...thinking through relevant applications to your daily life...Meditation...a lost art in our day.

As I meditate on Proverbs 4:23, here are some things that come to mind:

"above all else"--there is NOTHING more important than this: that I guard my heart. It is my number one priority as I get out of bed each and every morning. It is my number one task as I live through each and every minute of each and every day!

"guard your heart"--I have to ask: what is my heart? My heart is the totality of my being, the very core of who I am. My heart is my intellect, my emotions, my will, my motivations, my joys, my priorities, the openness of my life to God and His truth and much, much more! I have a lot to guard...

"guard your heart"--hmmm, that must mean my heart is under attack! Constantly! I need to guard my heart from the lies of the enemy. I need to guard my heart from the mentality of the world. I need to guard my heart from the fallen pull of my own flesh. I need to guard my heart from living out of the pain of past woundedness. I need to guard my heart against living out of self-protection, self-preservation or self-indulgence.

"above all else, guard your heart"--sounds like a command, to me. It is a Gospel Responsibility given to ME! It is my highest responsibility to guard my heart; to watch over it; to protect it; to keep it from harm. I must think through ways I am to guard my heart (that's a BLOG for another day!).

"guard your heart for IT is the wellspring of life"--everything in my life, all my words, actions, attitudes...they all flow from my heart. My mission, my love for others, my roles and responsibilities in life...they all flow from what it going on in my heart. My heart is a fountain...if my heart is attacked, unprotected and assaulted, then what flows forth from my life will likely be polluted...and others will be impacted.

"it is the wellspring of life"--I have been created by God and re-created in Christ to be a source, a wellspring, a fountain of life, to all those I come into contact with throughout the day. The life I am able to offer is directly proportional to the life in my own heart...life received from Christ, and His Word and His community. My heart is to be a wellspring of life for others and I need others to refresh my own heart as well.

Meditation...it's hard work...like mining for gold...but well worth the time and effort.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Fresh Look at Faithfulness

I was reading Matthew 25:14-30 this morning...the Parable of the Talents as it is often called. It's ultimately a parable about "faithfulness," right? Just like the Parable of the Prodigal Son is all about a young man who squandered his life in loose living, right?

Well, actually, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is more about a Father's love for younger and older prodigal sons. But I digress...sort of...

The Parable of the Talents...is it REALLY about "faithfulness?" Or, perhaps, is it ultimately about the FOUNDATION or SPRINGBOARD of all faithfulness?...A gracious Father!

The only steward in the story who is "unfaithful" or, more accurately perhaps, "unfruitful," is the one who expressly reveals that he saw his master as a "hard man" (ESV) or, as we read in The Message, a master who makes "no allowances for error." What is revealed in the parable, then, is that people who have a view of God as stern or harsh are often paralyzed by fear. Again, The Message: "I was afraid I might disappoint you."

If we have a view of God as stern or harsh, we will opt for safe, cautious living. Such a view of God leads to risk-averse lives. Such a view of the Father leads people to "play to not lose, rather than aggressively playing to win."

I saw one of the gutsiest coaching calls in years the other night during the Michigan State/Notre Dame football game. It was in OT and Michigan State needed a field goal to tie the game and go into a second overtime period. Amazingly, the coach called a fake field goal and the holder, an ex-quarterback, threw the ball down the field. It was a relatively high-risk pass..it had to be a strike, right on the money. It was. And the Michigan State player caught it for a touchdown...and a win! Wow! What a way to live!

I have no clue about the spiritual state of Coach Dantonio, but he certainly isn't risk-averse! But for believers in Christ, it is those who know God as the Father of love, mercy, goodness, patience, kindness and grace that are most free to "roll the dice," to "go out on a limb," to live lives of "holy recklessness."

Those are sad words for me to write...because I'm so often a man who tends to play it safe...who is fairly risk-averse...a guy who is often quite afraid of making mistakes and of failure. Wonder what that tells me about my view of God?

Hmmm, and I used to think the point of the Parable of the Talents was: "You'd better be faithful!"

Guess I need a fresh look at faithfulness. How about you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Grammar of Classical Christianity

People have asked for some memory verses to keep them focused on the "Grammar of Gospel Christianity" or the TRUE "Basics" of the Christian life. Here's a start:

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Goodness
Ex 33:19
Numbers 10:29
Joshua 23:14
Psalm 16:11
Psalm 34:8-10/1 Pet 2:3
Psalm 107:1-9
Psalm 145:9, 14-20
Nahum 1:7
Romans 2:4
Ro 8:28

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Love
Deut 7:6-8
Jeremiah 31:3
Lam 3:22-23
Zeph 3:17
Rom 5:5
Eph 3:14-20
Jude 20-21
1 Jn 4:8, 16-18

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Justification
Gen 15:6
Is 53:4-6
Is 61:10
Rom 3:28
Rom 4:5
Romans 5:1, 15-21
Romans 8:1, 33
Gal 2:16
Phil 3:7-9

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Adoption
Matt 3:17
John 1:12
John 17:23-24
John 20:17
Ro 8:15
Gal 4:4-7
1 Jn 3:1-2

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Sanctification
Ps 46:10
Isaiah 30:15-21
Ezek 20:12
John 6:28-29
Acts 20:32
Rom 6:1-14
1 Cor 1:30
2 Cor 3:17-18
Gal 3:5
Eph 2:10
1 Thess 5:23-24
2 Thess 2:13
Titus 2:11-12
Heb 13:9
Jude 24-25
1 Pet 1:3-5
2 Pet 1:3-11
1 Jn 1:9

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Know I'll Go Crazy if...

I've been challenged recently to consider the "Voice" of the Father in affirming, encouraging and validating me as a man created in His image and being restored in Christ to all He means for me to become. Deep stuff, I know. But we ALL need encouragement and affirmation.

Think about it: Jesus was the Son of God...God in the flesh; as regards His human nature, sinless. Yet the Father validated, affirmed and encouraged Jesus constantly...

In Matthew 3:17, at His baptism, the Father's Voice spoke over Jesus: "This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased." Think of the encouragement that filled the soul of Jesus as He heard these words of affirmation. By the way, the greek tense of the verb signals that the delight of God in the Son is timeless: The NIV Study Bible notes: "God has always been and always will be "well pleased" with His Son."

Then, later, in Matthew 17:5, while Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father's Voice spoke again: "This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased."

What is amazing is that through faith in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, a believer in Christ is baptized into union with Christ, so that all that is true of Christ becomes true of the believer...so...the Father's validation, affirmation and encouragement spoken over the Son is now spoken over all those whose lives are hidden IN the Son!

We may be terrible at hearing the Father's Voice, but He is constantly speaking over us: "You are My son/daughter! Whom I love! With you I am well pleased!" I know, it seems too good to be true...and all the contrary "voices" seek to drown out the Father's voice...there's so much noise from the crowd, we have a hard time hearing...but listen...listen closely....

"The Lord your God is with you...a Might One to save...He will rejoice over you with gladness...He will quiet you by His love...He will exalt over you with LOUD singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

We need encouragement...life is hard! The Christian life is hard. As Bono of U2 sings in the song, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"..."It's not a hill, it's a mountain as you start out the climb. Do you believe me or are you doubting? We're gonna make it all the way to the Light."

It is God's Voice that encourages us that we are going to make it...but like Bono, we must also learn to speak the "echo" of the Father's encouragement and affirmation TO one another as well.

Listen for the Father's affirming voice...listen for it through the Word, through His Spirit, through His Body, the Community of Faith...and then remember to SPEAK words of affirmation and encouragement to those around you today!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fifteen Influential Albums

A friend inspired me by his own list...so here's mine...probably not a typical list according to many peoples' view of pastors...but then again, those who know me know I'm not the typical pastor! So...here goes...

1. U2--How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (U2 could take up my entire list!)
2. The Beatles--Abbey Road
3. Bob Dylan--Slow Train Coming
4. Switchfoot--The Beautiful Letdown
5. Les Miserables--The Complete Symphonic Recording
6. Steely Dan--Can't Buy a Thrill
7. Jackson Browne--The Pretender
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival--Cosmo's Factory
9. Electric Light Orchestra--Out of the Blue
10. Chicago--Chicago Transit Authority
11. Boston--Boston
12. Cold Play--X&Y
13. Kansas--Leftoverture
14. Barenaked Ladies--Disc One
15. Pink Floyd--Dark Side of the Moon (I know, hard to believe, huh?)