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There is so much I want to tell you, and hear from you, but…
I don’t know if I will drive you away, make you mad, make you sad, or be misunderstood. There are those who would tell me that my feelings don’t matter, and that the truth must be told, whatever the cost. Yeah, I understand that…tell that to my heart.
I am telling the truth right now. I worry about you…I wonder about you…I pray for you…I ache for you. Yeah, I do.
There are a thousand million “truths” out there in the world, and I very humbly but very firmly believe I have found “the” truth. I believe in Jesus.
I know that you say you do too, but I wonder if you really do. Who am I to judge, you ask. You can consider me a busy body, a self righteous snob, or a loving friend…that’s up to you. No, I don’t know your heart, but Jesus said that “from the treasures of the heart, the mouth speaks”, and I hear you saying and see you doing things that cause me concern. (Matthew 12:34)
OK…here I go…
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With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly. That is not news to most of us.
On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”. I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader. I’ll leave that statement alone.
I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly. There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts. There is instability from the human perspective. I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.
I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come. I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me. Please don’t feel that you need to respond.
It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.
When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us. They try too hard to fix things. They give off the cuff advice without thinking. They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing. We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.
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Filed under: Blogs
, Fellowship With God
, God's Love
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Promises Of God
, Self Awareness
, Spiritual Joy
John 21:19-22 19This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” 20Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” 22Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
The year was 1984. I had just quit the band Undercover, which at the time, was hugely popular and used by God. I was walking through Knott’s Berry Farm on one of the Christian Music Nights they had once a year. This year, I was not on stage, as I had been previously. I was just a guy in the crowd, wandering around from stage to stage, watching the bands, getting recognized a bit, but feeling quite alone and confused.
I was wondering about what my immediate future held. I was feeling drawn to the pastoral ministry, but still feeling like I had some music left in me: songs to write, concerts to perform etc. I was walking through Knott’s hoping for and looking for some direction.
God spoke clearly to me that night. He didn’t speak to me about the particular direction of what I was supposed to do, but of how I was supposed to live. The reminder that I received was that I needed to not worry about what other people were doing and saying, or what God was doing in and through other people. My responsibility was and still is, to follow Jesus.
Fast forward 27 years. My need to follow Jesus hasn’t changed. The voices of the experts have changed a bit. I am offered much advice from pewsitters and church growth experts about how to serve Jesus. I don’t discount that some of that advice is good, but it never has and never will be better advice than what I receive from Jesus.
I still don’t need to worry about what others are doing and saying. Yes, there are some good thoughts I can learn from. There are examples of outstanding works being done that I can gather from, but the greatest advice and direction I can get needs to come to me from Jesus. He speaks through His Word, and He speaks by His spirit through impressions, thoughts, leanings, and holy hunches.
My life is unique, as is yours. No one knows what you need more than God. Listen for His voice first and foremost. Don’t just agree with me, but do it. Learn the art of quite reflection, prayer, and Bible reading. Until that is done, restrain yourself from other voices.
“You follow Me” is advice I still need to follow.
Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, “…nevertheless, I have this against you…”. (Revelation 2:4)
Any Christian hearing this ought to take notice.
In fact, they ought to have a sick feeling in their stomach.
Are you comfortable with the fact that Jesus might have something against you, or does that possibility cause you to stop and take inventory of your life?
I know that in my Christian life, I have certainly had seasons where these words were appropriate.
I look back with sadness, but I currently stand in grace and look forward in joy.
The church at Ephesus was a busy and biblically literate church.
They hated evil and kept false teachers away, but they left their first love of Jesus.
A Christian doesn’t LOSE their first love with Jesus, they LEAVE it.
You accidentally lose something.
You purposely leave something.
For these Christians, this wasn’t a matter of an accidental departure from closeness with Jesus.
It was a series of decisions to “be Christian” without loving Jesus.
Jesus loved them and told them the remedy.
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…”. (Revelation 2:5)
All they needed to do was to remember how it had been good before, and then turn back to Jesus.
Maybe not easy….but not complicated.
They had some serious decisions to make.
Finally, there was a warning and a promise.
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent”. (Revelation 2:5)
If they didn’t repent, their witness would be extinguished.
The light would go out.
The church would stay open, but Jesus wouldn’t be there.
They would go through the motions of Christianity, but have no illumination going forth from their lives.
They would hold correct doctrine, but enlighten no one.
They would have an appropriate hatred of wicked things, but make no difference in the world.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’ (Revelation 2:7)
If they would listen…
If they would repent…
If they would do the first things…
Then they would overcome.
And then they would be with God.
They had quit listening…
They were doing their own thing…
They had quit doing the first things…
They were on the verge of having their light removed.
They were on a path to not overcoming.
Jesus lovingly invaded their world, commended them for good, addressed what was wrong, warned them of the consequences, show them the path back to right relationship with Him, and made them a conditional promise of Paradise…
If they would repent…
Christians don’t earn their salvation…that’s a gift received by faith. (Romans 6:23)
But we must maintain our salvation, lest our light be removed, and we become useless in this world.
It was said of Jehoshapaht, that he “prepared his heart to seek God”. (1 Chronicles 19:3)
Think about those you admire. Think about those you enjoy watching “do their thing”. They are intentional about what they do, and not just reactive. They are committed. They are passionate. They are disciplined. They see what “can be” when others only see “what is”. They are good at what they do because they are committed to their pursuit. They did not achieve excellence by accident.
When others are playing, the ones we admire are working, reading, practicing, training, studying. They excel because they are intentionally choosing to pursue their goal. They are focused. They are not disciplined because they “have to be”, but because they love that which they pursue, and realize that they were created for such a pursuit.
As Christians, we can expect no less, and do no less. The same principle applies. We can be saved, but be lazy, indifferent, and ineffective. By God’s grace, we will surely go to heaven, but we will make little impact on our world. The great saints of the Bible and throughout church history were those that were passionately intentional about seeking God. They rose up early, they set time aside, they forfeited other opportunities, they didn’t waste time doing things that benefited little.
They weren’t legalistic with themselves, but they realized that not all things are beneficial. They denied their flesh, and discovered the great joy of the disciplined Christian life. What formerly felt “needful to do” eventually became a passion. What previously seemed like a sacrifice now became “obviously unneeded”. Like Jehoshaphat, they “prepared their hearts to seek the Lord”.
“Preparing your heart to seek the Lord” does not require exceptional talent, intelligence, or gifting. It is simply and only a matter of intention. It is not for the purpose of being great in front of others, but of being close to God. “Preparing your heart to seek the Lord” benefits the Christian with personal holiness, greater peace, and more of a sense of what the Spirit is doing in his/her world.
What kind of Christian will you be? One who seeks God only when there is trouble, or one who seeks God that he/she might draw near, be filled and sent out, knowing that there is trouble on every side, and that there are many needs in many lives?
Carve out a time to meet with God. Find your quiet place. Be intentional. Make it a priority. Quit doing something else so that you can do this. Knowledge of doctrine will not settle your heart…but closeness to God will.
Prepare your heart to seek the Lord.
Mine is to seek, obey, believe, follow. Mine is to read, understand, pray, guard my life.
His is to reveal, command, direct, lead. His is to impart, teach, respond, and keep me.
He initiates, and I respond. He initiates more, and I respond more.
My part is to be aggressively passive. His part is to be aggressively active.
I am His son, and He is my Father.
My friend Roby Duke (now with Jesus) once said this to a group of song writers: “Your inspiration is perfect, but your songwriting needs work”.
We can be wonderfully inspired to express ourselves, but not quite have the ability, time, or energy to rightly say what we are trying to say. Perhaps the inspiration is fighting against good common sense that would tell us to slow down and think it through. Now is such a moment for me. The inspiration is perfect. I am rushing ahead. I hope this comes out O.K.
QUESTION: “It is easy to live vicariously through others, but is that really living?”
Let’s start with one of many definitions for the word “vicarious”.
“Felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others”: a vicarious thrill.
There is a place for such experience in moderation, but our world is making it increasingly easy for people to feel emotions that don’t have any corresponding personal experience.
We can dial up, Google, Net Flix, read, browse, or Pay Per View our way to any emotion we want, without ever having to actually “do” something that requires dedication, effort, commitment, or faith.
If there was ever a generation that could become addicted to “feeling without doing”, that generation is now.
One might ask what the danger or problem is with living vicariously through the great accomplishments of others. Some of that might be O.K., in that it might inspire us to aspire to do great things. Plus, it certainly feels good to feel good. So what’s the problem?
The problem is this: That kind of living, if it becomes the habitual lifestyle of a person, does nothing to produce in them the quality traits needed to actually enjoy those emotions from first hand accomplishment.
I understand that some of the things that “thrill” us are only for a few to actually experience. We can’t all go out and win gold medals, climb Mt. Everest, or do world tours singing about changing the world.
But I wonder, if vicarious living comes to satisfy us to the point that we don’t pursue what we COULD BE DOING, then has it gone too far? I say “yes”: then it has gone to far.
So….what is it that you are actually supposed to be doing?
I submit to you that actually desiring, struggling, sacrificing, and dedicating one’s self on a personal level is far more important than taking the vicarious route of simply feeling the goose bumps from someone else’s accomplishment. The satisfaction that comes from personal accomplishment is much more valuable than enjoying someone else’s “bigger than life” accomplishment.
Finally, if you are a follower of Jesus, then He wants to live through you. Your part is to surrender, seek His will, believe His promises, walk in holiness by His power, and take small and big steps of faith in responding to what He wants to do through you.
That process has been the most satisfying part of my life, whenever I have actually gotten out of the way long enough for it to happen. The small victories of having my life so bound up in His life have been the most satisfying experiences of my life. My experiences may not compare to some of the great accomplishments of others, but they don’t need to. They are my experiences with God, and I can have first hand satisfaction from them.
Rich Mullins said it well: “Jesus, write me into Your story…whisper it to me.”
Filed under: Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, Fellowship With God
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Spirit Filled Life
Mark 4:21-25 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? 22For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
In Mark 4, we see Jesus teaching what are known as “The Kingdom Parables”. They were illustrations about different aspects of the Kingdom of God.
In the middle of that section, Jesus instructs His listeners to “listen well”.
Here’s my understanding of what He said to them.
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Mark 2:15-17 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
All men have sinned, and fall short of God’s glory, but not all men recognize that fact.
These Pharisees didn’t realize that they had just as much of a need to sit with Jesus as did the people they despised. The tax collectors and sinners were willing to sit with Jesus, and spend time with Him. The self righteous Pharisees didn’t see their need of sitting with Jesus. Read more »
The Pharisees were some of Jesus’ biggest critics. They were the supposed super elite of the religious community in Israel, and they were sure that Jesus was a blasphemer who was worthy of death. They had personally challenged Jesus, but had been publicly corrected and refuted by Jesus. This only served to further harden their hearts against Jesus, and so they sent their own disciples to question Jesus, hoping to trap Jesus in His words, that they might incriminate Him.
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