Tag Archives: Jesus

Getting the head and the heart together

When learning how to share the gospel, I remember being taught to ask people to “give their heart to Jesus.” In college, my professor Dr. Henry Krabbendam once said, “Don’t tell people to give their heart to Jesus! It’s diseased and dead. Instead, tell them to ask Jesus to give them his heart! It is holy, perfect, wonderful, and full of life.”

I’ve also heard people say, “They missed knowing Jesus by 18 inches.” What they mean is that a person knew about Jesus, but didn’t know Jesus. It is true that a person must know Jesus personally. Being a follower of Jesus is both a head thing and a heart thing.

Why is the head important?

What we know (or think we know) informs our heart what to feel and believe. Scripture teaches the importance of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. For example, we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7) and wise men store up knowledge (Prov. 10:14). We are told to acquire wisdom and understanding (Prov. 4:5) and to ask for it if we lack it (James 1:5). And, we are told to incline our hearts to understanding (Prov. 2:2). It is through understanding of the scripture that we begin to gain wisdom and through the gaining of wisdom that we truly begin to fear the Lord and start to come to know about him. And, it is in that knowledge about him that we find the desire either to know him personally or to reject him. That is when the heart comes into play.

Why is the heart important?

Scripture talks a lot about the heart. The heart, in our culture, is the seat of our emotional being. Of course, I’m not talking about our physical heart. As Mark Lowry points out, have you ever thought about how weird it is to say to a person, “I love you with all of my heart?” What you’re saying in a physical sense is, “I love you…with all of my blood pumping muscle.” The Hebrews considered the bowels to be the heart of the emotions. Lowry says, “When they said, “I love you. They said, ‘Oh baby, you make my liver quiver.’”

When we talk about the heart, we’re talking about something else. The heart, as our emotional seat, functions in three ways. It determines how we think, how we feel, and what we will. For example, if we are passion in how we feel about something, it is something that we think about often. We spend much time researching it and considering it. When it comes time to act on our passion, our will to act on it is determined by how our heart feels about it. If we love it, we fight for it. If we hate it, we fight against it.

Our heart also determines both the moral and social dimensions of our lives. The way we think, feel, and our will has a direct impact on what we believe morally and how we interact socially. If we believe, for example, that there is a God who is ultimately good and that he embodies the absolute truth, then we will live in a way that acknowledges what he declares to be morally good and we will treat others in the way that he treats us. If we believe that there is no God and that truth is relative each to his or her own, then we may live morally ambiguous lives and our social conduct is determined more by how each of us feels than a set standard for what is right and wrong.

We are created in the image of God. Whether we believe in him or not, that image exists within us. How that image plays out is determined by what we think, feel, and will. It is impacted by our moral and social understanding. That image within us is a creative image and it is what drives us. It is the impetus for our actions and speech. We can be creatively good or creatively evil. In my private prayers, I’ve often prayed, “Lead me away from temptation, because I can certainly find enough left on my own.” That image of God in us leads us to want to create, to do, to be, and to say. And, the heart determines what those creations, actions, being, and sayings will be.

HEART -> THINK, WILL, FEEL -> MORAL & SOCIAL UNDERSTANDING -> CREATIVE DRIVE -> ACTIONS & SPEECH

So, God aims for the heart. In 1 Sam 16:7, we are told that God doesn’t look to our appearance, but to our heart. Psalms tells us that God knows the secrets of the heart (44:21), creates a clean heart in us (51:10), that we are to approach him with a broken and contrite heart (51:17). The heart without God, we are told in Jeremiah 17:9-10 is, “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” and that God “searches the heart and examines the mind.” Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure of heart” (Matt 5:8) and Paul teaches, “With the heart a man believes and is justified” (Rom 10:10). In Philippians 4:7, Paul warns us to guard our hearts and minds and the writer of Hebrews says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

God wants us to know about him and to know him. He gives us his scripture and teaching so that we can know about him and he aims his message at our heart so that we will desire a relationship with him. If we are to be good witnesses for him, then we must know about him and we must know him. We must be driven by a passion for him that is deeper than that for anything else in our lives. It should be the basis for what we think, feel, and will. It must be the foundation for our moral and social interaction. We should be driven to speak and act in a way that shows our faith and belief in Jesus! So, be careful in how you think and guard your heart; so protected then make sure you act and speak in a way that brings honor and glory to our Father!

We must shine!

It may seem to you that our country is coming apart at the seams. Violence has been on the rise. Bigotry is once again raising its ugly head. Our police, those men and women who stand in the gap for us, are coming under fire both literally and in the media. The leadership in our country is severely divided. Our economy has muddled along without any real growth as the industry in our country continues to suffer. There seems to be no hope, right? Wrong.

While all of these things are serious, there is nothing new. In Ecclesiastes 1, Solomon speaks of how things come and go, but nothing is new. Even with all of the seasons of change, there really is nothing new that we face. Sometimes it helps to step back and look at the long history of God’s creation. Since Adam and Eve fell in the garden, humanity has been at odds with God. Because of our separation from God and our focus on self, we have also been at odds with each other. As soon as Adam and Eve’s first two children reached maturity, strife, greed, jealousy, and anger raised their head. Hatred, conceived in the heart of Cain gave birth to murder. Adam and Eve knew the grief of losing a child, Cain knew the shame, horror, and guilt of an act that could never be fixed.

Since that time, humanity has striven against itself. Governments have risen and fallen. Wars were fought. Economies grew and economies imploded. Bigotry has raged against people because of their religion, the color of their skin, the place of their birth, their education level, their economic position, their ideology, and gender. What we are facing today is the same old thing coming back again and again. Sin, humanity’s desire to serve self rather than God, is the root of the problem. As long as there is sin, there will be strife. So, what is our response? How should we live in times like these?

First, we need to repent. Repentance is an admission of our guilt and a turning back to God. Wait a minute, you might say. I’m not the one causing these problems. I didn’t shoot police officers.  I’m not bigoted. I just want to be able to raise my family, go to work, and live my life in peace. Why do I need to repent? I can answer that! It’s biblical.

During the Babylonian captivity, Daniel was studying God’s word. To be specific, he was studying Jeremiah’s prophecies. He realized that the time of the Babylonian captivity was coming to an end and he turns to God to pray for himself and Israel. His prayer is one of repentance. This godly man approaches God and begins, “…confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill…” (Daniel 9:20). His prayer is so serious that he, “…turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Starting in verse 4, Daniel prays and confesses. He acknowledges that God is righteous while he and his people are covered in shame. He admits that his people and the leadership of his country turned away from God and his laws. He remembers the way that God delivered his people. Then, in verses 18-19, he says, “…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Like Daniel, as Christians, we need to acknowledge our own personal sin as well as our sin as a people and nation.

Second, we need to unify. The call of the book of Philippians is one of unity. While reminding us of the humility of Christ in which he gave his life for us, Paul calls us to “…work out our faith with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…” (Phil 2:12-15). The world may be filled with strife, anger, distrust, gossip, and discord, but the church should not be. We’re different. We have experienced the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit lives within us, he changes us, and he makes it possible for us to be obedient to him. The salvation that Jesus secured for us and the change he works in us is so amazing that our response should be living faith with fear and trembling? Why? Because we are so awed at what our God has done. Our awe of him and our desire to be like him should drive us to live and serve together in a way that pleases him! Remember, there is one thing that unites us all. Paul says in Galatians 3:26-28, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” What does that mean for us today? In Christ, there is no division based on nationality, occupation, gender, or skin color. In Christ, all believers stand united!

The people of our world live in darkness. It is darkness so severe that nothing of the world can penetrate it. It leaves people helpless, hopeless, and lost.  John tells us that in Jesus is the life and that life is the light of men.  He is the light that shines in the darkness. Paul tells us that living in Jesus makes us, “shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16). So, we need to shine. More than ever, we need to shine.

The light we reflect is beautiful, brilliant, and attractive. We reflect it, not just by being followers of Jesus, but by sharing God’s word. It is both a part of us and an action taken by us. Notice that Paul does not stop at saying that we are to shine like the stars in the universe. He says that we are to shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life!

If we are to shine, then we must engage. Our churches and our people need to leave their sanctuaries and hit the streets. We need to make friends with people who are not like us, to build relationships with people who do not know, and to share our lives, our faith, and God’s Word with others. We need to be a presence at rallies and events, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and jobs, and in our homes. We need to stand united, not for or against political parties, but as members of a kingdom that transcends any of our earthly governments. And, we need to do so humbly and repentantly so that people see and experience the grace and mercy of our God.

This is our calling. This is the command that Jesus has given us. This is our response to the troubles of these time!

It’s Ok To Be Religious

A friend of mine recently shared an article on Facebook. The article gave reasons why the author hated religion. The author of the article was a Christian, so it wasn’t an argument against Christianity. Rather, it was an argument against religion that chokes out faith. I’ve heard these statements many times over the years. In fact, I can remember saying, “I’m not religious, I’m a Christian.”

I understand the heart behind the statement, but I find the statement itself at fault. The believer who says this is usually reacting to the world’s understanding of what religion is. To the world, religion, and especially organized religion or church, is just a list of rules that you have to keep or things you have to do in order to be a good person and get to go to heaven or paradise and receive whatever reward is coming to you. That’s why there are so many memes out on the internet about how a person can be a good person without ever going to a church. I read one recently that said, “You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong, you lack empathy, not religion.” If we allow the world’s definition of religion, then we are constantly on the defensive or may even find ourselves embarrassed to admit that we are a Christian.

Christians who make the statement that they’re not religious are usually trying to say that they’re not legalistic. The bible speaks clearly in both the Old Testament and the New Testament about how a believer is supposed to live. There are clearly things that believers should do and things that they should avoid. That is not legalism. Legalism is when the rules become the object of our zeal and worship rather than the God who authored those rules.

Christians, can we say that we’re religious without being embarrassed or afraid that we’ll offend someone? Yes! We can!  Jesus challenged the prevailing thought on religion by describing what a life defined by religion really is. Instead of telling people that they had to eat certain foods, worship on certain days, wear clothing that looked a certain way and was made from a certain material, Jesus defined true religion by the outward living of the inward change that takes place in a man or woman who truly believes. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus was born Jewish. He went to temple. He honored the Sabbath. In fact, Jesus calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus lived the rules laid out in scripture. But, he didn’t do them out of worship for the rules. He lived the rules to the glory of his father.

So, what does religion look like in the Bible? James tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)” Paul tells us, “ Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21) In Matthew 5-7, Jesus taught a sermon that would forever change the world. In it, he shows what a life changed by grace received through faith in Him looks like. This is true religion.

So, let’s not think about religion or being religious as the world does. It is not a set of rules that teach a moral standard or make a person good. It is not a set of rules that you follow to earn your way to heaven or into God’s good graces. Instead, it is a lifestyle marked by faith and lived in thankfulness to the God whose grace saved us while we were yet sinners, set us free from slavery to sin, and gives us new life, new hope, and a new record.

Let us love

As February comes upon us, we are reminded that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a time when we’re supposed to be focus on love. For stores, it’s the time when we focus on buying something for that special someone we love. I remember as a kid getting the packs of Valentine’s Day cards and picking which ones were going to go to which friends at school. It was always fun. Some people treasure Valentine’s Day and for others it is a painful reminder of love lost or love ones lost.

As we approach this holiday, I encourage you to think on what it means to love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 teaches us about love. This isn’t something that we do once or twice a year, but should be the mark of our daily lives. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, he shared a meal with his friends. He took this final time before the coming trial to share some important lessons with them. As he tells them of what is about to happen, he gives them this command for when he is gone from them. He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus’ love for his friends and followers was profound. It was different than any they’d experienced and they’d find out in just a few hours’ time just how deep that love is.

I encourage you in this. If you have a brother or a sister who has hurt your feelings, made you angry, or you just plain don’t like, make sure that you show them love. There are those who look in and want to see that we’re different. They want to see that what we believe really does make a change in us. They want to see Jesus Christ acting in the lives of his believers. So, what does this type of love look like?

We are to be patient with one another. Even when the well of patience seems to run dry, the Holy Spirit makes living water well up within us. That living water helps grow us so we produce the Fruit of the Spirit part of which is patience.

We are to be kind. Kindness and gentleness go hand in hand. We are often taught to treat others as we want to be treated. We want to be respected. We want to be understood. And, when we do something wrong, we want to be forgiven. Kindness enables us to do that. Kindness is love in action.

We are to avoid pride in all of its forms. Envy, boasting, dishonoring others so that we appear better or to try to get revenge for a hurt, all of these focus us inward rather than outward. How can we truly show love to others if we are focused only on ourselves? Jesus did not seek his own glory, but rather the glory of his father. So we should also see God’s glory rather than our own.

We should avoid showing love with the purpose of receiving love or thanks in return. Love is a gift and it is an act. It is not something done to receive payment whether through money, deeds, or gratitude. It is done because through loving others, we glorify God and reflect the love he gives us.

We should avoid being easily angered and we should not keep a record of wrongs done to us. Anger is a valid emotion, although it can be a dangerous one. That’s why we’re told to not let the sun go down on our anger. Anger nursed and nourished leads to a vast range of sins. We should be careful of those things which anger us. We should make sure that, if we do become angry, it is for a just reason. When anger arises, we should start moving toward forgiveness. Most of all, we should allow patience, kindness, and gentleness temper our anger. Anger should be slow coming and quick leaving. And, we should not keep a record of the wrongs done us. When God forgives us, he removes our sin from us permanently. He does not keep a record of it. When we keep that list of wrongs others have done, we are dishonoring our master who forgave us our own debt. It is much like the story of the servant who was forgiven a debt and immediately went out and demanded others to pay theirs. He had learned nothing of the love and forgiveness offered by the master. Let us show our understanding of that love!

We should rejoice with the truth and never delight in evil. The truth protects us, it leads us to righteousness, and away from evil. As we mature in Christ, we should be moving away from the things that dishonor him and toward those things that are revealed as good and righteous in him.

And, we should remember that in our love, we are to protect, trust, hope, and persevere. Love, when built in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, never fails!

So, as our country celebrates a day of love, let us shine the example of lives of love. Let us love one another as Christ loved us and let us show that love to a world that is desperately in need of love.