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Category Archives: The Heart

Aside

My sister wrote a wonderful piece on SisterBlog that fits here: A little glimpse into the differences in worship between the typical American experience and those living and serving in other countries. Here is an excerpt:

Being with these women was inspiring to me on so many levels, so many more than I have time to delve into here. I think the most inspiring part was in the stark contrast between their hunger for the experiencing of worship together as sisters in Christ, and our North American complacency at times. In my world (and as is the case with most who live in America), you can find a place to worship corporately at any given hour of any given day. Homes, churches, Bible studies, colleges, youth groups, worship concerts, retreats…the list is endless. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of corporate worship–available any time, anywhere. This is not so for these precious friends of mine in eastern Europe. They gather together once, maybe twice each year, with other missionaries serving Josiah Venture in various countries throughout the eastern block. And when they do gather, time is at a premium. They know the days and hours are limited, and it’s obvious they don’t intend to waste a moment of it.

Read the post here: http://sisterblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/heart-of-worship/

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Heart of Worship

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Posted by on June 30, 2013 in The Heart, Worship

 

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God Speaks

I just returned from a week in Europe, the longest and best portion spent in Austria with an amazing group of women serving as missionaries in surrounding countries (Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Latvia). They were there to meet God.

I was there because my sister invited me. My sister was there because she was invited back to lead worship for the women’s retreat. I ended up with the wonderful task of running sound and media at the back of the room during worship and meeting times as well as taking photos throughout the three days, so I had the unique view of seeing God move in hearts and watch the women respond. I noticed several things. 

1. Worship was immediate and deep. Before three words were sung the entire room of 40 women were singing—loudly, boldly, and urgently. There was no “easing into it,” no “waiting for the mood to strike.” It was as if moments like this were rare and precious and they were determined not to miss a minute of it. Each time they gathered together this intensified. There was no mistaking their love for God and desire to meet with Him and it was evident that He honored that.

2. Worship was nearly as unique as each woman. There was no set pattern, no pretense, no expectations. There were raised arms, bent bodies, tears, smiles, the works. Response to what the Spirit of God was doing in each heart and mind was evident.

3. Worship didn’t stop with the music. Attitude of prayer and worship continued throughout the day — and this doesn’t mean these folks walked around like monks with a vow of silence, just that it was clear that gratitude and communion with the most Important Person in their lives was constant.

4. Identification and confession of sin was common — a habit that seemed as normal as breathing. I found the contrast here to be striking: The typical American pew sitter probably has more sin to unload than all 40 of these women put together, yet these women were quick to respond to the Spirit’s revelation and repent, confessing to God and one another — then moved forward in happy freedom. We can learn a huge lesson here…

5. God is Everything. Not just for Sunday. Not just for a few minutes each morning. He is Everything, all the time. He is food and water and breath and life. He is not compartmentalized, minimized, or any other kind of ized.

Granted, I was seeing these women at a retreat — where we expect to meet God and experience life change. But hearing their stories over meals and watching them in all kinds of settings, I could tell their dependence and reliance on God was greater than the typical American Christian. And I’ve been to dozens of retreats over the course of my life, and this was not typical in my experience.

I have been challenged over the last several months to not be a Babylonian even though I live in Babylon. I could tell these women were doing a masterful job at just that. And because of that, God spoke. In different ways to different hearts, but He responds to those hearts that worship freely, that depend on Him, that despise any sin that has crept in, that want badly to shine a bright Light in the dark places, and to glorify Him above all else.

God speaks to the listening heart.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Prayer, The Heart, Worship

 

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OMG: What’s With All the Blasphemy?

I have friends who speak the name of Jesus more than I do. But they aren’t talking to Him or about Him. When the name of Jesus Christ is spit out of someone’s mouth as a curse word, we universally recognize this as blasphemy. Christ-followers have no problem refraining from this horrible disrespect and it grieves us when we hear it from others. Yet how often do you hear “OH MY GOD!” in a conversation or see “OMG!!!” posted on FaceBook by devoted Christians?

Are we thinking clearly about what we’re saying? Listen to R.C. Sproul:

We need to define blasphemy, and this verse from Luke [12:10] gives us a clue as to what it is. The two phrases “who speaks a word against” and “who blasphemes” are parallel. Blasphemy, then, involves speaking a word against God. It is a verbal sin, one that is committed with the mouth or the pen. It is desecration of the holy character of God. It can involve insulting Him, mocking Him, or dishonoring Him. In a sense, it is the opposite of praise. Even casually using the name of God by saying, “Oh, my God,” as so many do, constitutes blasphemy.

What’s in a name?

More than any of us can imagine! The name of Jesus “is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The name of the LORD is more than a name. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” When we see the name LORD in all caps in the Old Testament, that is the Hebrew name YHWH (what we now say as “Yahweh”) — it was a name God’s people wouldn’t even pronounce or speak out loud. What do we think we’re doing treating the holy names of the Creator of the Universe and the One who gives us our very next breath as if they are common exclamations?

A challenge for us: Do a word study on the names of God to restore the respect, awe and honor it deserves in our minds and hearts. Here are some online options:

BibleStudyGuide.org

JesusWalk.com

BlueLetterBible.org

Bible.org

AgapeBibleStudy.com

Michal Hunt says it well at the end of the last link above:

Whatever word you use when you call upon the name of God, remember to call in reverence and in love for the word that expresses the essence of God in His most intimate relationship with you is LOVE, for God is love.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in God's Word, Jesus, The Heart

 

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Sin? What Sin?

In the American church there is a practice commanded of us that people rarely obey. We are to confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed. I think there are many who walk around dealing with physical and spiritual illnesses unnecessarily simply because we refuse to acknowledge, let alone confess, our sins.

This morning I read John Fischer’s blog, The Catch, in which he discusses this. He concludes, “It is far worse, and does greater damage to others and the truth to hide your sin than to bring it out into the open.” Here is a link to the full post:

Claim and Shame

I believe real healing will come to believers who start to sincerely confess their sins to one another, and that revival would break out in any church that started acting like one, especially in this area. And if many churches started acting like they were part of The Church, there were most certainly be a sea change in our Western culture. I would seriously like to be part of that.

Would you?

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in God's Word, Sin, The Church, The Heart

 

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The Greatest Show on Earth

No, it’s not the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, though that’s a good one. I am thinking of the modern American Christian Church. Ours is going through Chuck Colson‘s “The Faith: Given Once for All” and in the first chapter he cites a few George polls (both Gallup and Barna). The stats are really crazy:

  • 65% of American’s call themselves Christians. YET:
  • The majority of evangelicals do not believe in absolute truth.
  • 60% of American’s cannot name five of the 10 commandments.
  • 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
  • I could go on: Bottom line — not a lot of “real” here.
During this study, I also read “not a fan.” by Kyle Idleman. (The premise of this book is that the majority of American Christians are “fans” of Jesus, maybe even raving fans like those in the Black Hole section at a Raiders game at the Oakland Coliseum, but not many are followers.) There are stats in that book, too, but also some very hard-hitting truths, like “The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.”  And, “One of the reasons our churches can become fan factories is that we have separated the message of ‘believe’ from the message ‘follow’.”

 

And here’s where I’m getting to: “…Some fans can be almost impossible to identify because they deliver Oscar-worthy performances as they play the role of a follower.” Kyle says this as “a recovering hypocrite.” So do I. The scary thing, though, is that Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23 that on the judgement day He will tell even people who performed miracles and other great works in His name to depart from Him because they did not follow Him — He says, “I never knew you: Get away from me.” That’s harsh. But it’s not unfair.

 

This makes sense in light of the admonishment, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Our Pastor talked about this in his message yesterday morning, agreeing with both Colson and Idleman and, of course, most importantly the Word of God: Believing is just the first step. Following is the second, and it’s not an option. “There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”

 

If, like me, you grew up believing that raising your hand and repeating a prayer after the pastor, going to church on Sunday, and maybe reading your Bible once in awhile was all it takes to “get into heaven” — you might rethink your relationship with Christ. I highly recommend both books from which I’ve quoted — both will give you plenty of opportunities to search God’s word for yourself:

 

 

 

God bless on your journey as a follower. Not a fan.
 
 

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I See That Hand

How does the typical American Christian “get saved”?

My first encounter with God was at the age of seven. Angela, my best friend from elementary school invited me to Vacation Bible School that summer. During the week the Pastor came into our little class and told us about Jesus. I was riveted. He asked if any of us would like to invite Jesus into our hearts. Even at that young age I was absolutely convinced Jesus was Someone I was drastically in need of. I raised my hand.

We went to the Pastor’s office and he told us about the decision we were about to make. Then we prayed a little prayer, repeating after him, and at that moment I became a member of the family of God.

Or did I?

Some would say it takes more than a simple prayer to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They cite scriptures like, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” “The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls,” “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter,” and “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

But there is plenty of evidence for the simple act of humbling ourselves, confessing that we’re totally missing the mark and in need of a Savior, and acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved,” and “All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.”

I believe there is the moment of stark realization of our state of affairs, our separation from God and heart-desperation for Jesus’s grace and mercy. I also believe that the act believing and confessing is just the beginning: “Faith without works is dead.” “You will know them by their fruit.” Only God knows the heart, but I question whether repeating a prayer after someone, raising your hand or walking the aisle of the church, then walking out the door to the same old life results in salvation. Do we see this practice modeled in the Bible? Do we see this modeled anywhere else on earth but “developed Christian nations”? Isn’t it rather about transformation?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not dissing the invitation to seekers in a church service — not at all! — I am asking if the American church has invented a short-cut to salvation. Do we “count the cost”? Do we talk about dying to self? Do we take up our cross and follow Him?

Here is the truth, Christ’s words from John chapter 15: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. …. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. …. Apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. …. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

I am convinced I received salvation that summer day as a young child. I haven’t always produced fruit, I have been pruned, and at times I may have even been in danger of being severed from the vine. Even now I question my effectiveness for the kingdom of God. But the sustaining theme and refrain of my life has been the enduring conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He alone holds the keys to redemption.

Yet, as an American Christian I have to ask myself: Am I slow to produce fruit or quick today to obey His words? What about you?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Belief, God's Word, Jesus, Salvation, The Heart

 

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Which Road?

 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

My life is relatively easy. My husband and I both have good jobs. We live in a wonderful community in a beautiful area of California. I have a wonderfully diverse set of friends whom I love, a great and growing church, and the ability to travel. I am not persecuted for my faith nor do I suffer to any great extent. Am I on the narrow road?

Compare my life to those who sleep in a rat-infested cell, tortured for their faith; those who pray, read and meet in secret lest they be killed; those who lose their job, family, and possibly their life when they choose to follow Christ. They are on the narrow road. On which road am I?

I’ve been wondering, if the gate to destruction is wide and the road there very easy, and the way to life is very narrow, and the road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it, how many American Christians are on the narrow road?

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he warns him not to be naïve about the end times and people who love only themselves and their money. They are boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They consider nothing sacred. They’re unloving and unforgiving; they slander others and have no self-control. They are cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, are reckless, be puffed up with pride, and they love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but it’s just a show.

Wow. Sounds like California. Or Washington DC. Do I know anyone like this? Do I live among them? Do I hang out with them? Paul warns, “Stay away from people like that!” Perhaps that is the narrow road. Perhaps the narrow road curves right through the wide one, going the opposite direction. Perhaps An American Christian needs to learn to swim upstream; Avoid the obstacles; Recognize the toxic waste slowly creeping in the heart and mind; Run away and not ignore the things that can tempt and taint; and stand firm in spite of the desire to sit tight.

I’ve changed the focus of this blog (see About). I think I’ll start of list of obstacles God says to watch out for. An American Christian may have a harder challenge with a heart of complacency than persecution for the faith. What will we do about it?

 

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