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.

The Dahlia- More Blessings From God

Giant Dahlia

It’s hard to tell from the picture just how big the dahlia flower is, but it’s almost a foot across. This is the first year we’ve tried dahlias and they have been a great success. Sharon made it official today and told me to put them on the list to plant next year.

I took the picture last week. Since then, the flower has faded and been clipped off. But it was a beautiful blessing while it lasted! Several places in Scripture describe our lives like flowers or grass that come and fade away. But, during that time we are given countless blessings by our Heavenly Father. And, we should have an eternal view – thinking of being with  our merciful and gracious God forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!” Psalms 103:10-20 ESV

If you would like more blessings, read all of Psalm 103, and consider all that God has done for us.

Lover’s Leap for Joy?

Lover's Leap

Lovers' Leap Image by aeu04117 via Flickr

In this country’s mountainous regions there are many locations dubbed “Lovers’ Leap”. They all have associated legends, many involving Native Americans, and with variations on the “Romeo and Juliet” theme. (Perhaps there is a Lovers’ Leap legend in Great Britain and that’s where Shakespeare got the idea.) One legend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has a white settler and the Chief’s daughter falling in love. After much scorn and exclusion from both families, the couple embraced and plummeted to their death to be together forever. Another location has a closer sequence to “Romeo and Juliet” – the two lovers were from different tribes, and members of the maiden’s tribe attacked the brave and left him for dead at the top of a cliff. The maiden found him, and thinking he was dead, she jumped off. When he awoke and discovered what had happened, he threw himself over to be with her.

Jesus’ refers to a different type of Lover’s Leap in the sixth chapter of the Book of Luke:

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23 ESV.

The reactions Jesus describes are also those associated with the Lovers’ Leap legends: scorn, exclusion, and hatred. The legends end in tragedy, yet Jesus tells us instead of jumping off a cliff, we should respond with a leap for joy.

That is humanly hard to grasp. We can understand the leap for joy made by those who had been physically crippled their whole life and were miraculously healed by Jesus (and Peter and Paul). However, in this passage, Jesus says we are blessed if we’re treated like the ill-fated lovers of the legends. That doesn’t sound like a miracle – or does it?

The critical phrase in Jesus’ statement is the requirement that our suffering be “on account of the Son of Man”. As the Apostle Peter wrote, “what glory is it” if we’re hated and scorned because we’re hateful and scornful ourselves? No, our enduring this type of suffering is “acceptable to God” and we can leap for joy only because of whom we love: Jesus Christ.

And what’s the miracle behind this lover’s leap for joy?

We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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This post is part of the Christian Writers blog chain. Our theme for this month is “Leap”. Please see the list to the right and visit my friends’ blogs to see what they have to say about this topic.

As Charlene Darling Said, Songs Can Make Us Cry

English: it is picture of the sheet of the son...

Image via Wikipedia

Many years ago, I attempted song writing. None was worthy of publishing and most have mercifully faded from memory. However, there are two I remember (at least the titles). One was a soulful ballad about commitment, titled: “If I Don’t Leave, Then I Guess I’ll Stay”. The other was a heart-tugging song about unrequited love: “I Did a Belly-Buster in the Swimming Pool of Love”. (Charlene Darling of the old “Andy Griffith Show” would have certainly lamented “Don’t play that one, Pa, it always makes me cry!”)

Several years after those, when our son, Daniel, was still a baby, I made this one up to sing as I tried to get him to sleep (sung to any baby melody you choose):

“All the little gophers in gopher town, they all get together when the sun goes down.

They build a little fire, and dance round and round, all the little gophers in go..pher..town!”

Still probably not worthy of publishing, but I was pleased with the imagery, and Daniel seemed to enjoy it.

It’s difficult to write a good song, especially considering you need to have lyrics and an appropriate melody to go with them. It seems impossible to write a great one. That is one of the reasons so many hymns, old and new, are amazing. The words touch our hearts with their praise for our great and gracious God, pictures of unshakeable faith, and prayers for God’s continuing help. Their accompanying music, whether soaring and broad or simple and quiet, fits perfectly to complement the message.

The background of some of these songs makes them even more amazing: From the well known story of H. G. Spafford writing “It Is Well” on an ocean liner after it passed the spot where his four daughters had recently drowned, to the lesser known circumstances behind Thomas A. Dorsey writing “Precious Lord” after hearing his wife had died in childbirth and the baby had not survived, or “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” being written by Louisa Stead after her husband drowned trying to save a young boy.

These stories reveal the unshakeable faith of the composers. However, above that, especially when considered with the lyrics of the songs themselves, they reveal the love, mercy, and grace of our God.

All the little gophers in gopher town don’t really get together and dance around the fire after sundown (at least I don’t think they do). But, the Lord’s love, mercy and grace is real. It’s shown clearly when we hear that whether we’re in peace like a river, or in sorrows like a stormy sea, God makes us able to say: “It is well with my soul”; or, we cry out to the Lord to take our hand because we’re tired, weary and worn; or we affirm that it truly is sweet to trust in Jesus and know He is with us to the end. And, when God takes the song and reinforces that reality in our heart at just the right moment and for just the right reason, it can make us cry.

Comfort Food & God’s Love – Hot Stuff in Bowls

It was near freezing outside and there was a drizzling rain that made the cold seep into your bones. It was a good day to eat hot stuff in bowls, which is just what I was blessed to do! Breakfast was old fashioned oatmeal (with brown sugar and cinnamon, and actually cooked, not flakes mixed with boiling water); homemade chicken ala king at lunch (not always served in a bowl, but this was, which made it even better); and oyster stew for supper (if that one’s not to your liking, substitute your favorite chili in your thoughts).

The list of “hot stuff in a bowl” goes beyond what I enjoyed that day. How about homemade vegetable soup made with ingredients fresh from the garden, or gumbo (seafood or chicken or whatever else you like in it), or beef stew? Just thinking about those can make your tummy warm up! No wonder they call it comfort food.

Comfort food tastes good but also brings a sense of well-being. Many thousands (millions?) of bowls of hot soup (chicken and otherwise) have been served by mothers and grandmothers when their children and grandchildren had a cold. The soup itself has no healing power (I realize there will be debate on that). The taste is pleasing and the heat can clear your head and warm you from the inside, so you do feel better – thus it is a comfort. But the real sense of well-being comes from the fact that the one giving you the soup loves you. They want to take care of you…to help you feel better…to comfort you.

The Apostle Paul wrote a wonderful blessing to encourage and comfort the Thessalonians:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” 2nd Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV

Our overriding comfort is an eternal one that has been given to us already – Jesus paid the price for that. Notice the focus Paul prays for in the present – he prays that God will comfort their hearts. The heart is where true comfort resides – from there our hearts can be established by God for good works and words.

Hot stuff in bowls is good on cold days. The taste and warmth make it comforting, but it only becomes true comfort food when our heart is affected by the love of others (like I was that day when my wife, Sharon, prepared it for me). However, our true comfort only comes when our heart is affected by the love of God.