Pick Christ’s Heart

English: Fruit on tree; from the Philippines

Fruit on tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We pick a person’s brain to gather knowledge, like picking fruit from a tree or using a pick axe to dig deeper for hidden gold nuggets. It’s helpful to learn others’ thoughts and ideas because their experiences have been different than ours. Their knowledge and perspective may help us better understand a problem or answer a question we’re wrestling with. Picking a person’s brain allows us to discover what they know and it may give a bit of insight into who they are, but to really know them we must pick their heart.

Picking a person’s heart goes beyond gathering facts. It means when they’re speaking we watch their expressions for signs of joy, sadness or pain. We listen to the tone of their voice to notice if it trembles from fear, is clear and direct from focus on a deeply held belief, or bubbles with excitement. We ask questions because we care about the answers. We want to understand their concerns and joys, and share in them. We watch and listen closely to learn what makes them feel loved and to become aware of how they show their love for us.

Relationships grow strong when we reach that level – with our wives or husbands, our family, our Christian brothers and sisters, and others in our life.

In Philippians 3:10 (NIV), the Apostle Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ.” If we have the same desire, we will spend time picking Christ’s heart. We do that by studying the Bible. As we go deeper, more of our questions will be answered and we will better understand Him. We will know that Jesus has clearly shown His love for us by dying on the cross and read that He has told us how to show our love for Him:

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.‘” Matthew 25:37-40 ESV

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 ESV

These two passages point out that we have another responsibility in the process. Once we have picked someone’s heart, we must act on what we have learned for it to truly matter.

The Bible as a Change Agent

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

This is my contribution to the ChristianWriters.com blog chain for September. Our theme for the month is “change”. Check out others on the respective days shown in the right hand column.

Several years ago when our Church was without a Pastor, I had the opportunity (by necessity) to do some lay-speaking. I entitled one message “The Bible as a Change Agent”. When thinking about this month’s theme, it came to mind, so here’s the blog-length gist of that message.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,

12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

The grace of God that brings salvation is alive in Jesus Christ, our Lord. That salvation is the first and most important change in a believer’s life. It occurs when a non-believer is born again by receiving the Holy Spirit and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and is converted.

However, salvation isn’t the final change that should happen in us. In verse 12, we move into everyday life in “the present age”. First, it says we are taught. How are we taught? God has chosen the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word as the principle means we learn by.

What are we taught? The remainder of verse 12 describes the continual change that should be happening within us and in the way we live. It’s talking about the progressive changes that should be happening as we become more obedient to God’s Word, and, as we better understand what is required of us through God’s Word.

Verse 13 speaks of some of our motivation to want to change. We are to look to the return of our Lord and rejoice in the fact that we will be with Him in Heaven.

Verse 14 then speaks of Christ’s motivation and purpose for changing us. He is purifying us into His own special people (the KJV says “peculiar people”, which means different from the world around us). And, He desires that so much that He gave Himself for us.

As God’s children, we have been changed when we were reborn with the Holy Spirit. We were made new creations. And, as we move forward in our Christian walk, we are called to continue to change – as the verse in Titus says – to be purified and be a special/peculiar people. And, the Word of God, thru the working of the Holy Spirit, is the primary instrument that God uses in bringing about that change.

I’d like to challenge us that each time we come into the sanctuary our prayer would be like Paul’s on the road to Damascus – “Lord what would you have me to do?” and also “Lord what would you have me to learn?” – and pray that when we go back out the doors, we would walk out a changed person.

A challenge that every time we go into a Bible Study class that we would ask the same thing of God and desire to walk out of that class a changed person. A challenge that every time we open our Bible – we would ask the same thing of God and desire that when we close it, we would be a changed person.

But, let’s always focus on our reason for that – it’s not to be a “better” person, although that will result from this. Our motivation is that Jesus has given Himself for us – so that we are changed and can stand before God without condemnation, and with the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and God’s Holy Word we can continue to change in this present age, to become more like our Lord Jesus every day.

Celebrate Words – Especially God’s

English: Holy bible, St Mary's Church Located ...

Holy Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the July theme for the ChristianWriters.com blog chain is “celebrate”, it’s appropriate that we celebrate words. While there are some “word” celebrations in place, such as the Celebrating Words Festival in Los Angeles, National Writing Day and I Love to Write Day, this will be a smaller scale of just a few minutes.

Words are fun to play with. Such as seeing a sign that says “Giant Tire Sale” and wondering just how big the tires are. Or, thinking of movie titles like “The Sum of All Fears” and imagining what the plot would be for “The Fear of All Sums”?

My favorite personal example came one day at a produce distribution plant. There were rows and rows of boxes stacked to the ceiling. A label on the side of each box indicated its contents. Most were straightforward (tomatoes, peppers, bananas, etc.), however, one box stood out. It’s label read simply: “Squash, Do Not Crush”. I imagine someone was just having fun with words, and it may even be a standard produce plant gag, but, it sure stayed with me. I suppose I celebrate words each time I think of it.

As Christians, our celebration of words must include God’s Word. There are passages that can be fun (remember short Zaccheus climbing up a tree so he could see Jesus (Luke 19), or Balaam’s donkey talking to him (Numbers 22:28)). But, in our celebration, we can move far beyond fun, and we can consider the joy, thankfulness and humility that Scripture brings us.

One of my favorite verses comes when Nehemiah is encouraging the people in Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city. He in effect told them “Let me tell you the good things God has done to bring me to this point” – and it worked – their response was “Let us rise up and build!”.

Let’s take that verse and celebrate what God has done for us.

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.” Nehemiah 2:18

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalms 23:1

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

But Noah (and we) found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

 “And she shall bring forth a Son and thou shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“.. so He was their Savior.  In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in his pity He redeemed them.” Isaiah 63:8-9

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes..” Romans 1:16

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:6

Those are the true Words we celebrate!

(Read additional blogs this month on the days listed on the right)

Pursue Wisdom

English: The Wisdom of Solomon, by James Jacqu...

The Wisdom of Solomon

This is part of the ChristianWriters.com blog chain, with the June theme of “Pursuit”. Please check out the list to the right for other blogs during the month.

Sharon and I were checking out the furniture before the auction. As we walked through the aisles, she noticed a beautiful oak chest-of-drawers. She called me over to see it and let me know she loved it. Of course, since she loved it, I did too – so, we decided to bid on it and determined what our maximum bid could be.

About an hour into the auction, they took the chest to the front of the room. Sharon squeezed my arm and whispered, “There it is!”

The bidding started and we let a couple of rounds go by before we jumped in. The bids were lower and slower than we expected and were still much below our planned price. I made a bid that was countered by a slightly higher one. We looked at each other, and since we were still well within our limit, I raised the bid.

We waited excitedly as the seconds ticked by with no other response – then, really got excited when we heard “sold”. The chest was ours for half the cost we thought it would be!

We relaxed and settled back triumphantly to watch more of the auction. The helpers at the front picked up a chest and walked away with it. Then, two others picked up “our” chest and moved it to the center. The auctioneer started with “now, we have this beautiful oak chest – what am I bid?”

I stood up and started to shout, “Wait, we just bought that one!”, but quickly deduced the mistake was ours. We had not been paying attention through most of the auction, and now realized “our” oak chest had been in the waiting area where the items coming up next were set.

We hadn’t even noticed the chest that really was now ours. I had to go walk through the aisles of sold stuff and search for our number. I found a plain pine chest of drawers – probably worth what we paid for it, but we had no desire to take it home. We left it there on consignment to be sold at the next auction.

The results of the waylaid process were:

  • The pine chest sold at the next auction, but when they took the seller’s fee out, we lost money.
  • The oak chest sold for about twice what we said we could afford to pay for it, so our plan wasn’t realistic from the beginning.
  • We learned the lesson that we need to be sure what we’re bidding on before we jump in.

Our pursuit of the chest had gone astray, and it was obvious a pursuit of wisdom would have served us better.

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom…” Proverbs 4:7 NKJV

We spend much of our lives pursuing knowledge – through school, workshops, reading, and training at work or elsewhere. That’s not a bad thing, because knowledge is necessary for what we need and want to do.

The Bible has several passages that emphasize the importance of knowledge. But, as critical as it is, knowledge isn’t an end in itself. As the verse above states, we should take knowledge and move beyond it to wisdom – wisdom is to be our principal pursuit.

It takes wisdom to understand that we need knowledge, and to determine what knowledge we need. It takes wisdom to understand how to use knowledge. A great example of that is Ephesians 4:15 where Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth is knowledge. Speaking it in love is wisdom.

It is wise to understand that having more wisdom would be helpful. (As I get older, I am getting wiser, if only because I can see how much more wisdom I need). Like King Solomon, who showed that God had already given him some wisdom – he had enough to know he needed to ask for more.

Where does wisdom come from? God does use situations (like auctions) to help us learn wisdom. But, the principal place for us to pursue wisdom is in God’s Word, for it is wisdom. Getting wisdom, as stated in the Proverbs verse above, is learning, understanding and obeying God’s Word.

The auction experience did make Sharon and me wiser (at a cost of money and embarrassment). But, a better way to pursue wisdom isn’t through experience. King David wrote in Psalm 119:98-100, that God, through His commandments, had made him wiser than his enemies. Meditating on God’s testimonies and obeying God’s precepts gave him more understanding than his teachers or his elders.

Then in that same passage, we are given instructions on how we should be guided, not just in our pursuit of wisdom, but in all our pursuits here on earth:

Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” Psalms 119:105

Pursue wisdom by the light of God’s Word.