Sunday, February 28, 2010

Your Heart is a Kingdom


Over the years, a lot of people have told me they like to study people. I guess they sit and watch people, perhaps at a mall or the park, because those people seem interesting and humorous. I don’t know for sure, but I guess most of us study people in some way or another, whether we realize it or not. We can’t help but notice other people’s words and actions, and how they affect us, and we can’t help but think about the consequences of those observations.

I’m intrigued by other people, and I’m often left wondering what they are—or are not—thinking. Sometimes I wonder what internal monologue is occurring in their hearts that causes their external dialogue with the world. I see some people updating their Facebook pages with words of frustration and bittermess, often about trivial things that do not matter in the grand scheme. I feel so sad for their "status updates" but can’t help but question what string of thoughts got them to where they are today.

I almost feel like Anne Shirley, wondering if they have any imagination at all for what other ways life could be, for what other ways they could see and interpret life. I wonder what they think about, and I wonder more importantly what their worldview is like. And I am curious what filter they use to screen what messages are allowed to dig down to their worldview, and how often they ponder their own filter.

A major section of my next book is dedicated to the subject of worldview, so it’s something on my mind nearly every day. Worldview is not what you think about, but simply what you think. It is what happens when the thoughts and intentions of our hearts become so solidified over time that they aren’t even thoughts anymore, but are unconsciously acknowledged assumptions. We usually don’t actively "review" our worldview; it is our worldview which reviews our current experiences.  It is the filter that always trumps surface beliefs.

What we put into our heads and hearts will eventually solidify and become part of us, and develop into the major driver of our character and choices. What you think is what you are and who you will become. Where you start from matters; ideas have consequences; worldview is everything.

We are called to bring every thought captive to Christ. Our goal is to "recapture the imagination," and focus our minds and hearts on eternity … to think God’s thoughts after Him.

We are called to bring ourselves into subjection to the truth, and in that sense, you could say that your heart is a kingdom. You are entrusted by God with its governance, and your call is to rule it well. It’s not something we always manage to do, but it’s something we must do better on today than we did yesterday. As always, it’s not about perfection, but direction.

Ruling our hearts well requires us to dig down to our worldview level to do honest, painful, sometimes messy work, and change. But no other aspect of our calling is worth all that much if we aren’t examining our hearts and replacing error with truth, replacing bad attitudes, mindsets, and mental habits with ones that honor God, so that our motivations are right and our hearts truly reflect God’s heart.

It’s about relinquishing our strategy for how to achieve our dreams and goals, or even our ideas about what our goals should be. It’s about admitting that we have a very limited perspective, even to the point that we all have blinders on in some way. It’s admitting that no matter how strong our faith or worldview, we often have "no scope for the imagination" of what great things God is doing in the world and in our lives. We ask Him for ears to hear and eyes to see, but we constantly admit that we fall short and lose perspective, and ask Him to grant us a fresh perspective every day.

To take our thoughts and imaginations captive, we saturate our minds with the truth. We memorize the Word. We sing of it. And most importantly, we make sure keep our hearts open to the Spirit so that the truth sinks down and changes us for real, from the inside out, on the level of our worldview. Through God’s power we become good stewards, not just of our things or our schedules, but stewards of ourselves, for God's glory.  Your heart is a kingdom; rule it well.
 
God delights to be with His creation. From walking in the Garden with them, to being the Cloud by day and Fire by night, to being the Messiah, to being the future Groom of the Bride, God seeks out an intimate relationship with His creation.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

We fit perfectly into creation.  Apart from sin, it's exactly what we were designed for.  Seeking a heavenly city does not mean the physical world is bad or the problem.  The physical world is God's beautiful creation, and His garden, though fallen.   His creation of the universe was and is good, and His creation of humanity was and is very good.

Friday, February 26, 2010

God delights to do wonders through those who are fully surrendered to Him.  We surrender our treasures and dreams to God.  We let them go.  We open our hands so God can give to us and take from us as He pleases.  Surrender is freedom.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"In order to grow in Christlikeness, we’ve got to intentionally apply the gospel to everything we are and everything we long to do. We’re not to sever our obedience from [Christ's] perfect sinlessness nor disconnect our mortal life from his resurrected life. We’ve got to understand ourselves in the light of our new identity, seeing ourselves as we truly are: sinful and flawed, loved and welcomed. Only these gospel realities have enough power to engender faith, kill idolatry, produce character change, and motivate faithful obedience."


--Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me, pg. 158.
"Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote satisfaction. We are not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes a long time without the experience of heart warming will soon find himself to be tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones … The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of the Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers."

--Maurice Roberts

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reverence for motherhood

"Oh, Mothers of young children, I bow before you in reverence. Your work is most holy. You are fashioning the destinies of immortal souls. The powers folded up in the little ones that you hushed to sleep in your bosoms last night, are powers that shall exist forever. You are preparing them for their immortal destiny and influence. Be faithful. Take up your sacred burden reverently. Be sure that your life is sweet and clean."

--J.R. Miller
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.... Such grace is costly because it call us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost the life of his Son: 'ye were brought with a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Costly Grace.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where you start from matters.  Ideas have consequences.  Worldview is everything.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Godliness


"Godly womanhood ... the very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear about every other type of women: beautiful women, smart women, sophisticated women, career women, talented women, divorced women. But so seldom do we hear of a godly woman—or of a godly man either, for that matter. We believe women come nearer to fulfilling their God given function in the home than anywhere else. It is a much nobler thing to be a good wife, than to be Miss America. It is a greater achievement to establish a Christian home than it is to produce a second-rate novel filled with filth. It is a far, far better thing in the realms of morals to be old-fashioned, than to be ultra modern. The world has enough women who know how to be smart. It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women, and men, too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct."

--Former U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall

Bach cello Suite 3 Courante

You are not accountable to sinners; you are accountable to God.  Whose opinion are you really concerned about?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Our former communion


"Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute ... It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he does not fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Adorable

Expect to meet fools, evildoers, slanderers, and those who want to frustrate, discourage, and hurt you.  Expect to even meet them in the house of God.  Prepare for them and their slander, and prepare to show them grace in return.  Remember what great things God has forgiven you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pray for those who are lost and dying.  Remember that once you were also headed for destruction, and that only by God's mercy and grace were you ever saved, and that God may choose to be gracious to another as well.  Intercede to the Lord for those who do not know God.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Speaking in tongues (sort of)


It used to be that we thought of foreign languages as something we’d use when we went overseas only. These days, people of all nationalities and languages are our neighbors. To be enriched by their cultures and and perspectives would be a blessing, but the language barrier is often in the way.

Over the last few months, I’ve been using my language skills again more than ever. Taking French calls at work. Speaking Spanish with friends, and learning Indian from co-workers. Learning Italian to help the little, old, Italian lady neighbor of mine who apparently has dementia and will ask anyone for a ride to Walmart in broken English. Learning Arabic from a friend from Baghdad. Refreshing myself on Japanese.

Because many people from other cultures don’t have the training to speak English yet, we have a golden opportunity to reach out to them on the most basic levels. When people see that we are trying to communicate in their language, it puts them at ease and encourages them to learn our language, too. We no longer have to go to the mission field—the mission field has come to us. Let’s step up to plate! Go love someone: learn a few words in their heart language!  Even if we stumble in our speech, a smile on our faces and a simple desire to bless them will translate into true care and friendship, and ultimately the love of Christ.

The best foods for our hearts

Always be ready to share with others the reason for the hope you have inside you.  By what power does the dead man rise?  God's sovereign, loving power.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Almost too beautiful to bear

"In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction is was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it."

--C.S. Lewis

Awesome compilation of nature shots

The art of living

""The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both."

--James Michener
Stop the sarcasm.  Embrace life and fill your days with good.  Say nothing evil, hurtful, or discouraging.  Pursue peace and embrace gratitude.  Give no place in your heart for hard thoughts to take hold.  Pursue childlike joy and be a blessing to everyone you meet.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We treat others as equals, no matter what.  No one is subservient to another.  The only King is Christ; everyone else stands on the same level ground before Him.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Remembrance by Jim Brickman

Home, a place to grow

"But the true idea of a home is that it is a place for growth. It is a place for the parents themselves to grow -- to grow into beauty of character, to grow in refinement, in knowledge, in strength, in wisdom, in patience, gentleness, kindliness, and all the Christian graces and virtues. It is a place for children to grow -- to grow into physical vigor and health and to be trained in all that shall make them true and noble men and women.

. . . A true home set up and all its life ordered for the definite purpose of preparing and sending out human lives fashioned into symmetry, filled with lofty impulses and aspirations, governed by principles of rectitude and honor and fitted to enter upon the duties and struggles of life with wisdom and strength."

--J.R. Miller, The Family

The Life we have lost in living

"Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?"

--T.S Eliot, Choruses from the Rock
Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.  Our inner dispositions are a million times more important than the physical shell others see.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The love and romance we seek from life and from others is only to remind us of the greatest love story, that of Christ for His Bride.  Divine love is the focus and theme of human history, and our individual acceptance or rejection of that love is what determines each of our individual life stories.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The body, sexuality, and human desires are good and beautiful, and when understood correctly, drive us straight to God.  Do not let false dichotomies, bad theology, and misunderstandings of modesty diminish your amazement of and delight in the body and sexuality.  View the body, think of it, and study it.  Speak of it, especially in the house of God--after all, we are the only ones who should and can understand the One who designed it, and the real reason for it all.   Only fools would downplay and hide the most glorious testimony of God's character and artistic handiwork.  Rejoice in how God has made you, and glorify Him in and through your body.

Friday, February 12, 2010

We think about and describe God in ways that reflect who He really is and what He has actually gone through.  God is a musician and an artist.  He is a dancer.  He is a dreamer extraordinaire.  He is intelligent and brilliant beyond compare.  His creativity is unimaginable.  He is an erotic God and a true hedonist (obviously: He created human sexuality).  He is an extremely romantic God (Song of Solomon). He is a divorced God (He begged Israel to be His bride, but when she would not come back to Him, He eventually found another bride, the Church).  He is a jealous God (He refuses to share His beloved with another).  He is a brokenhearted God who still loves immensely, who longs for fellowship and intimacy, and who sheds tears over needless and foolish rejection.

We don't anthropomorphize God, but at the same time we do not ignore the truth that humanity at its core is the way it is because we are made in the image of God.  We are not a perfect image, nor do we live out that image as He intended.  But we are based on Him, in some way, so we must see our basic humanity--apart from sin--as pointing to the nature of God.  He is ultimate reality, and we are but a shadow, yet a shadow that points to the substance, the reality, of our Creator.

We revel in how He has revealed Himself, and we connect the dots of how He created us: in His image.  How He created men and women in the Garden was a direct reflection of His own personality.  We are not arbitrary: we are patterned after the Creator God, and in marvelous ways.  Anything good, beautiful, and splendid about our humanness comes because we are children of our Father.  Our bodies, spirits, emotions, dreams, desires, and even our heartaches in some way reflect who God is or help us understand what He sees and feels.

We think about and describe God in the ways that reflect who He really is and what He has actually gone through because we want to truly know the God who is.  Not the God of religion or liturgy or our cultural background, but the true God who is at this very moment filled with longing and desire and hopes and tears.  We are a mere reflection, but a reflection of glory is still in some way glorious, and so we delight in who we are, and we delight in what we are privileged to experience, because in understanding why God designed us the way He did, we understand Him a little better, too.

Being godly--like God--is not just about pursuing righteousness.  God is righteous, but He is also passionate, creative, smart, fun, playful, humorous, erotic, sad, angry, jealous, hopeful, etc.  To be more godly--like God--we must embrace being like Him in all these ways.  Praise God for how He made us!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On who God is and how He made us

We think about and describe God in ways that reflect who He really is and what He has actually gone through. God is a musician and an artist. He is a dancer. He is a dreamer extraordinaire. He is intelligent and brilliant beyond compare. His creativity is unimaginable. He is an erotic God and a true hedonist (obviously: He created human sexuality). He is an extremely romantic God (Song of Solomon). He is a divorced God (He begged Israel to be His bride, but when she would not come back to Him, He eventually found another bride, the Church). He is a jealous God (He refuses to share His beloved with another). He is a brokenhearted God who still loves immensely, who longs for fellowship and intimacy, and who sheds tears over needless and foolish rejection.

We don't anthropomorphize God, but at the same time we do not ignore the truth that humanity at its core is the way it is because we are made in the image of God. We are not a perfect image, nor do we live out that image as He intended. But we are based on Him, in some way, so we must see our basic humanity--apart from sin--as pointing to the nature of God. He is ultimate reality, and we are but a shadow, yet a shadowthat points to the substance, the reality, of our Creator.

We revel in how He has revealed Himself, and we connect the dots of how He created us: in His image. How He created men and women in the Garden was a direct reflection of His own personality. We are not arbitrary: we are patterned after the Creator God, and in marvelous ways. Anything good, beautiful, and splendid about our humanness comes because we are children of our Father. Our bodies, spirits, emotions, dreams, desires, and even our heartaches in some way reflect who God is or help us understand what He sees and feels.

We think about and describe God in the ways that reflect who He really is and what He has actually gone through because we want to truly know the God who is. Not the God of religion or liturgy or our cultural background, but the true God who is at this very moment filled with longing and desire and hopes and tears. We are a mere reflection, but a reflection of glory is still in some way glorious, and so we delight in who we are, and we delight in what we are privileged to experience, because in understanding why God designed us the way He did, we understand Him a little better, too.

Being godly--like God--is not just about pursuing righteousness. God is righteous, but He is also passionate, creative, smart, fun, playful, humorous, erotic, sad, angry, jealous, hopeful, etc. To be more godly--like God--we must embrace being like Him in all these ways. Praise God for how He made us! 

"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."


--CS Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"If we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists."


--Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my heart was e'er aware
From whence these comforts flowed.

Through ev'ry period of my life
Thy goodness I'll pursue,
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.


--Joseph Addison, from When All Thy Mercies, O My God.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan. . . . It is a serious matter to choose wholesome recreations."


--C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, 33-34.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Those whom God does not call are still fully responsible for their sin and their disbelief. God is fully justified in exhibiting righteous anger against those who are hostile to Him. God does not only hate sin; He hates sinners as well, while still providing for a way for them to turn to Him and to end their hostility against Him. Yet, at the same time, the paradox must be maintained that those who reject Christ could not accept Him unless God were drawing them first. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire." The unbeliever, even in the very flames of hell, would not repent and turn to God without God's work to change the stubborn heart. We are fully responsible for our sin, but God is fully glorified for our salvation.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

God's sovereign grace expressed to the elect is the greatest expression of unconditional love. Nothing affects our self-worth more than knowing that the God who created the universe chose to love us before time began, before we ever did anything good or bad. Gpd specifically calls those whom He chose to love, apart from anything they did; nothing merited it in the first place, and nothing can take it away.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I believe in the passionate, brilliant, loving, and sovereign grace of God. I didn't grow up immersed in a deep understanding of it, but I slowly realized that it is what the Bible teaches. It is a "resistless logic," a paradigm that delights in the paradoxes of God's truth, but doesn't try to explain them away. I believe that free will is only the freedom to choose what kind of sin we want, not the freedom to choose God, and that our wills are in utter bondage to sin, so much that God had to reach down to us, even when we were rejecting Him, and draw us to Him. I do not know why God chose to do that to my heart, but I don't argue with Him over it, and I don't reject it because it seems "unfair"; on the contrary, I fall on my knees and thank Him for it. I do not try to explain away the mystery of God's love and grace; instead, I shake my head in wonder that He took me off of the slave block and called me "friend." He is the Creator, He is my King, and He is the Author of my destiny. I owe a debt of gratitude and love to Jesus Christ, which will take a joyfully given lifetime and eternity to thank Him for. "What would you say if you found out that God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath, which were prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory, which is what we are?" (Rom. 9:22-23). The most important question we ask in looking back at the salvation of those who were once truly, utterly unable to respond to God is: by what power does the dead man rise? The answer is obvious: God not only calls the dead to life, but He also gives them the power to respond. To God be all the glory.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Evolution in any sense is philosophically and scientifically absurd. You have to have taken more of a leap of faith and have checked your brain at the door to be an evolutionist than to believe God made it. God designed it and He has a plan which He is bringing to pass, and it does not and could not include anything that looks like evolution. I believe that every single thing in God's creation is somehow designed by God to reflect His character, His plan, His relationship to us, or future glory. There is no such thing as chaos when it comes to God's original design; it is all plan, and it is amazing and beautiful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It is important to let go of the past in the sense of learning to forgive ourselves and others. It is also important to see how God uses the circumstances of our lives to draw us closer to Him, so that we don't become bitter at our wounds but get more focused on the One who is not always safe, but is always good. We view our lives--past, present, and future--through the grid of God's sovereignty and love.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Finding joy everywhere

"There are souls in this world which have the gift of finding joy everywhere and of leaving it behind them when they go."

--Frederick Faber
Love justice and truth, but also believe that mercy should triumph.