Monday, November 25, 2013

God's Heart (David)

Throughout the songs of David, he urges God to bring his judgment. There is almost of feeling of excitement and anticipation. Imagine: “Yeah! Bring it, God! Smash the wicked! Restore the righteous!”

The only way David can assert this with such conviction and enthusiasm is that he regards himself as not one of the wicked. But David’s hands are not entirely clean. Adulterer. Murderer. But his is not afraid of God’s judgment. He understands God’s heart toward him. Even in failure, he is a man after God’s heart.

It is in failure that God’s heart (God’s grace) is most proven … most evident. It is in failure that our hearts – toward others, toward ourselves – are most proven and most evident. Some failures are because we are not big enough. Some failures are chosen. And those who choose moral failure need to repent. But there was a way that Jesus behaved with people that gave grace, even when someone had not repented. And we need to learn how to behave that way also.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

God's Presence

When many people speak about being in God's presence, and its effect on people, they point to the Isaiah story.

When he was in the temple one day, he had a vision of God and an army of angels. Isaiah's reaction was fear and dread, because he realized his heart was not right with God. He realized this, because he knew his words were not right. (Since, people live from their hearts, their speech and their actions are indications of what is in their hearts. Everyone's heart is unclean. So, everyone will speak and act wrongly. That's why we need Jesus. And that's why God's Spirit fills out hearts -- to purify our hearts, so we speak and act in love.) It was then that an angel touched his mouth with a burning coal, acting as an instrument of purification, and he received his forgiveness.

People seem to associate God's presence with this holy dread, guilt and fear. People seem to forget about other areas that talk about about God's presence. David says that he is assured of experiencing joy and pleasures in God's presence. It is the presence that produces the joy and pleasure.

Scripture describes the results of God's Spirit moving in and through people's hearts. People "walk out" these results because they are a natural out-flow of God's Spirit in them. This is God's nature, so these are the result of God's nature. The first outflow of God's nature is love. The second outflow is joy.

I am not sure that the natural outcome of being in God's presence is fear, dread and guilt. I don't deny that people feel these things. (Eg. Isaiah.) But I wonder if it is God's intention that people experience joy and peace in his presence. Joy and peace is who he is. Joy and peace is what surrounds him.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Heart Focus - V

As we focus our hearts on God, we begin to see our devotions differently. Devotions meaning our personal time of reading in the Bible, prayer and meditation.

Devotions are a very important method of focusing our heart on the Father’s heart. It is in a number of ways more important than meetings as a family.

First, family meetings happen once or twice a week. Devotions usually happen more often. They should happen every day. They probably do not, but the frequency give God more opportunity to pour his grace and love into our hearts. Human beings improve in anything with greater practice. Only this is not more practice, this is more exposure. Like diamonds, the human heart gleams more when it is exposed to more to the polishing of the jeweler.

Second, devotions allow for more specific targeting. Meetings generally are broadcasts to the whole family. Families need to act and live in a united and coherent manner. Having a united hear-focus builds that unity and one-ness. But it is difficult – difficult, but not impossible – for individuals to receive in an individual way in such a setting. If God is speaking to the whole family about evangelism, but wishes to speak to person A about love, and person B about how to make a wise choice in a particular area, to receive the individual message, the persons need to focus their hearts on God, but in a different way than each other, and in a different way that the whole. Personal devotions are personal. God can deal with the heart of each individual as he sees fit.

(As we set our hearts toward God, there is most likely some way that God deals with our hearts in a non-cognitive way. But, just as likely, God pours into our hearts in a cognitive way. With cognition, we can cooperate and agree with God’s work.)

I have a third point that seems to be related to the second. A person’s devotions are when we invite God to speak to us personally. And people get into the habit of reading the Bible for insight on how the can live better, more fully, more happily, with greater impact, etc.

Now, we have stated here before that people live from their hearts. So, understanding the nature of the heart is important. And if people live from their hearts, and heart-ology is an important area of understanding, how much more important is it to understand God’s heart. So, in our devotions, we should include what people normally focus on reading the Scriptures, but also indicators of what goes on in God’s heart. We will learn how to focus our hearts, what we should expect to receive, and, most importantly, what is God’s heart focus.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Heart Focus - IV

As we focus our hearts on God, we begin to see obedience differently, we begin to see our relationship with God differently, and we begin to see our relationship with people differently.

We have said here that as we set our heart-focus on God, he sets his heart-focus on us. And God's heart flows back into our hearts and into our lives. God changes  our hearts to become like his heart. So, the things that characterize God will characterize us.

What is God's primary character trait? What has he told us is the most important thing? It is love. God's heart overflows with love for people. If God's heart flows into our heart, we will incorporate God's character. Which means we will love like God loves. Love, service and generosity will become part of our nature. We should expect life patterns to change as God changes our hearts.

I can see how there would be a tendency for people to get down on themselves ... or others in Jesus' family. It is easy to see a lack of love in the lives of so many who say they follow Jesus.

We fail. We will continue to fail. Scripture says God gave the Law, not for people to keep -- because that is impossible -- but so our failure would show us our need for Jesus, and drive us to seek him. Our failure to love should reveal our need to keep seeking Jesus.

Sin and failure should always bring us back to Jesus. People always follow their heart-focus. And they always become what their heart is focused on. Transformation will always be the result of failure, if we turn and seek Jesus' face. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Heart Focus - III

If this heart-focus is as important as it seems to be, then a person’s view of how God views them is very important too. (In other words, how does God view each person, especially in failure?)

Many people feel that if they fail, God is angry with them. He seriously considers revoking their salvation and sending them to hell. An individual’s response, if they believe that God feels that way, is: self-condemnation, and often, depressed, small, ineffectual and powerless. The main tendency seems to be hiding from God.

If a heart-focus toward God is (at least, one of) the main methods of receiving grace from God, and therefore, (at least, one of) the main means of promoting growth and transformation, hiding from God is the worst thing a person can do. And God wants our growth. Growth of his children brings him glory. Growth of his children advances his purposes. Growth of his children brings him joy. So, the last thing God wants for his children is to be overwhelmed with shame and hide from him. God wishes to promote a heart-focus toward him.

Jesus died to justify sinners. And when we choose as our first allegiance, he sends his spirit to our hearts to begin the process of restoration and activate the process of relationship. God’s purpose is to reclaim his lost children, restore his kingdom, and demonstrate his glory. One person at a time, he persuades people to come to him. One person at a time, he brings his purposes into reality. (Of course, being infinite, “one person at a time” really has no meaning for him.) To motivate one child to hide from him disrupts his purposes. To motivate his children to seek his face, even when they fail, pushes his purposes to completion.

What does God do to motivate his children to focus their heart toward him, especially at a time when their minds, hearts and spirits scream for them to flee? He affirms his love for them.

It is always his love that draws us to him. It is his love that keeps us there. It is his love that persuades us to follow him, to undergo the process of transformation and to partner with him in fulfilling his purposes.

A major hindrance to God’s kingdom and purposes is our limited and incomplete understanding of God’s heart … and specifically of his love and grace.

NOTE: God is never hindered. But he desires to work out his purposes through his family. That desire will not bear full fruit, as long as we are in the dark about how big his love is.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Heart Focus - II

If this heart focus becomes as important as it sounds, then obedience takes on a new dimension.

Obedience is important, because it pleases God. It is important, because we are living as we were designed to live. And it is important, because obeying God will always demonstrates God’s love to people.

It becomes more important, because failure will stop God’s focus on us and the flow of grace to our hearts. Guilt tends to cause people to move their heart focus away from God and back to themselves. It is the heart focus that initiates the flow of grace, the filling of our hearts, the restoration of our hearts, and an out-flow from our lives. Sin short-circuits this whole process.

We recently discussed sin here, focusing on how we need to respond and how God injects his DNA into our hearts to re-create our hearts and our lives. It is our relationship, our heart focus, that is the catalyst to this restoration. As this restoration is not going to be completed in this life time, our primary concern should be keeping the “reaction” going as continuously as possible. And when we fail, to get it going again as soon as possible.

Maybe our response to sin should not be moans and groans, dust and ashes, and self-flagellation. Maybe it should be worship. Not a celebration of our failure, but a celebration of God’s grace, patience and perseverance in maintaining and deepening our relationship with him and our growth in grace. Worship sets our eyes and our hearts back to where they are supposed to be.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Heart Focus

Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychologist, who was thrown into a Nazi death camp during World War II. During his internment, like everyone else, he spent most of his time trying to stay alive. But, almost on reflex, he observed others captive in that environment and later, used his observations to try and explain people's hearts.

He observed people, who were physically fit and healthy, weaken and die. Or they would commit suicide by throwing themselves on the electrified fence. On the other hand, a puny, sickly person with asthma, anemia, and a heart condition would survive well past the end of the war. Physically, the first person was much more capable of survival than the second. He decided that the reason the first person died, and the second person lived, must lie somewhere in their inner life. So, he investigated. What he discovered was that those who survived had something to focus on in the future after all that they had experienced in the present was over. The survivors set their hearts on seeing family, finishing a project or visiting somewhere. And those who died had nothing to set their hearts on.

There seems to be a law -- almost -- that what a person focuses his heart on is drawn to that person. Those who focused on doing and being in the future, drew it to them. Those who had no focus drew the end to them.

I don't really know if I could explain how this law works fully. There does seem to be people who focus their hearts on gaining money or success, and those things seem drawn to them like a magnet. Of course, the focus compels them to act in a particular way ... and maybe that's the secret. Sitting down, closing your eyes and intoning like a mantra, "Money! Money! Money!" -- all the while visualizing small pictures of Washington, Lincoln and Jackson floating toward you, forming nice neat piles in from of you -- seems like a silly way to provide for your family.

All of this, of course, is an introduction to a passage of Scripture I have been thinking about.

Paul was addressing a group of God's family. He begins by telling them that he is confident that the Holy Spirit is flowing through him into their lives, because he can see the transformation occurring in them. He is confident that God is glorified, not because of his work, but because of the Spirit's work. It demonstrates the superiority of the new covenant of grace over the old covenant of law. The old temporary and it resulted in death; the new is eternal and results in life. In the old, we really could not fully understand God's nature and character, because there was a hindrance in our lives. In the new, we can see him more fully, because the hindrance was removed.

Now, here is the part I am concentrating on. I confess I don't feel like I completely understand ... indeed, I may be totally wrong. I feel like Paul uses more poetic language here, which may be part of the problem. But here is what it seems to me he is saying:

Since, we are not hindered from seeing the nature and character of God more fully. And as we see him, as we focus our hearts on him, we draw the focus of God to us. God reciprocates. So, like the "law" Victor Frankl seemed to propose, we draw God and God's nature to us, as we focus on him. His grace fills our hearts and transforms our hearts, which in turn transforms our thoughts, words and deeds. If I understand this correctly, one tool for transformation is our heart focus, Worship, prayer and meditation become means of growth, not just means of relationship.

Maybe steps of relationship are steps of growth.