Sunday, April 27, 2014

Forgiveness and the Heart

Jesus told a story about a king who ordered a general audit of all his finances. They found that one of the servants had stolen\wasted billions. They were about to haul him off, when he threw himself on his face, and begged for mercy. And the king forgave him.

(Imagine someone stealing $5000 from you. Imagine it was someone you trusted. Now, because he asks you, you forgive him. You give up your rights to that $5000!)

Now the servant went off and found another servant, who owed him a much, much smaller sum. And when the second servant begged for forgiveness, the first servant refused and had the second servant thrown into prison.

The king heard about this, and he summoned the first servant. Since, the king forgave the first servant, he should have forgiven his fellow-servant. And the king imprisoned the servant and gave him over to torture.

Jesus finishes with a warning. Unless we forgive from our hearts, we will receive similar torment.

Most people who read this story interpret Jesus' warning as a statement about a person's eternal destiny. I have recently read a story, where there writer interprets Jesus' story differently.

(NOTE: I am writing here primarily to think through his rationale about this passage.)

The writer shares his story. He tells about his father, who was harsh, condemning and belittling. There was no physical abuse, but he grew with no sense of love, closeness or approval from his father. Eventually, as we all would probably, he closed his heart to his father.

He describes the effects of a closed heart, which we won't go into, but weren't good.

Then, he goes through a process of discovery about his father. He learned about his upbringing, the low opinion his family had, and his experience during WWII. He realized his father had no love to give him, because his father had never been loved!

It was recognizing his father's barrenness of life, to see with his father's eyes, that enabled him to forgive his father from the heart. And forgiveness released the hold his pain had on his heart.

When we live in unforgiveness, we have our hearts focused on the ones who offend us. We are, in reality, connected to the ones who sinned against us, and those sins. We were designed to be connected to our heavenly Father. If our heart is focused on our Father, we are filled with grace, love and healing. Unforgiveness blocks and disrupts the flow. So, we are cut off from our source of love, joy and peace.

The torment we will experience is not the torment of hell, but the torment of separation from the Father. We will live a barren existence, just like that man's father. We know the answer. We need to work our way through to the answer: see their hearts, forgive, renew a heart focus and connection to the Father, and receive his love.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Heart - V

God loves people. As people turn to God, they focus their hearts toward him. God focuses his heart back to people, and he fills their hearts with love, grace and healing.

As our hearts are changed, our lives are changed. We have new values, new priorities, new goals, and new patterns. There is an overflow into the lives of people around.

But there are barriers. Our flesh is naturally antagonistic because of the original man and woman's choice to sin. (A deliberate move of heart focus.) The enemy knows of this linkage between heart focus and grace. His desire to bring misery to everyone will motivate him to disrupt our heart focus any way he can. Barriers can also be built from within.

Our heart is built by all the ideas we ever had, all the words we ever heard or spoke, and all the experiences we have ever gone through. Experiences can cause us to make promises to ourselves. For example, many people grow up with cruel, abusive fathers. Because of wrong treatment by their fathers, they conclude that "father-ness" is bad. They conclude that if a person connects to "father-ness" in anyway, bad things will happen. So, they make a promise to themselves to have nothing to do with "father-ness" in any form ... including their infitiely loving, heavenly Father. This promise becomes a barrier to their heart focus. Which, in turn, blocks the flow of love and grace to them. Which stops the healing of their hearts, and the fruit that results.

There are, of course, numerous barriers. And, because of God's goals and purposes for our lives, he spends significant time and energy trying to get us to see and address these barriers. And other forces work to cover our eyes, and to strengthen these barriers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Heart - IV

Someone referred me to a passage of Scripture recently, that speaks to the heart and heart focus. The passage says those who live by the flesh focus their hearts on the things of the flesh, and those who live by the Spirit focus their hearts on the things of the Spirit. The flesh brings death, and the Spirit brings life.

Normally, when I had considered this passage in the past, I thought that someone focused his heart on the flesh in order to gratify it. But what about focusing our hearts on the flesh so we can tame it?

That is what a lot of us do. Focus our hearts on avoiding sin, resisting temptation, presenting a positive image of God, and living victoriously. But are we still focusing our hearts on the flesh? Is this what “walking in our own strength” really means?

If our hearts are focused on “doing stuff”, then we are not abiding. Our hearts are not focused on Jesus, the Father and the Spirit. We are not drawing on his grace, we are drawing on our strength. And our strength is based on the flesh, a person’s nature that is not controlled by Christ, or, or one person defines it, “the techniques we use to try and meet our needs, independent of Jesus Christ.”

Focusing our hearts on “doing stuff” – whether it is being victorious, living in abundance, or being fruitful – we will never succeed in the long run. We may succeed in the short term, but we will eventually fail. Then, we may find ourselves in the yo-yo existence of: fail, repent, resolve to try harder, succeed for a while, and fail again.

We are never going to be 100% perfect in this life. But Jesus died, and sent his Spirit into our hearts to create us new – to re-program our spiritual DNA – so we live new. The re-programming is already done. The goal now is to practice what God has put into existence.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Heart - III

There are two principles at work in the world. One is the principle of the law. Scripture says God gave the law, but it wasn't intended that we should live by it. We cannot live by the law. We are not able to keep it.

God created the world perfect. But sin entered and contaminated the world; it broke our hearts. When we were born, our hearts existed in a condition that was against God. Our hearts were filled by sinful desires. And the law actually encouraged those desire. So, we sinned.

If we live with the focus to obey God's law, we will fail. This is why God insituted the second principle.

The second is the principle of the Spirit. We give allegiance to Jesus, and God sends his Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit begins to create our hearts anew. The Spirit makes our motivations and want-to's brand new.

Living by want-to has a greater and different power than living by have-to. Which is why God works in our hearts, changing our want-to's.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Heart - II

We always act from the abundance of our hearts. If we respond to any situation with anger, it is what fills our hearts. If we respond with lust, it is what fills our hearts.

We can through all sorts of behavior modification, and it won't do any good, because in times of stress, we will revert to the overflow of our hearts.

I don't think it affects our eternal standing with God. Our standing is based on God's promise. We give him our allegiance, and he gives us sonship and citizenship. When he admits us into his family, he chooses to renovate our heart and rebuild his image in us. But the prime focus is not our attitudes and behavior. It is our hearts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Restored Father\Son Relationship

God seeks to re-connect to us as his child. The primary reason for that is because God loves us. His original design for the world was for there to be one giant family for himself. Sin broke people, and their ability to be that family. Now, God seeks to restore that relationship. He seeks to be the Father to us the he intended to be. 

When God created the world, he intended, he designed people to be like Jesus. (Part of me says we would not have produced the works of power like he did. If the world was like God designed, there would be no reason for healings.) Each person would have Jesus' character. 

(One way to think about this, heaven is the fulfillment of God's original design. Heaven is what the world would have been like, if there had been no sin.) 

So, God is now in the process of redemption and restoration. He seeks to imprint us again with the character of Jesus. 

When we think about this process of transformation, there are a lot of tools that come to mind: his Word, his Spirit, other people, his discipline and grace. There are some tools we don't think about. When we choose to give our allegiance to Jesus, he gives us his Spirit, and his Spirit gives us a special ability. Whenever we practice this ability, there is a transforming effect, because the Spirit flows through us. Just like flowing water has a cleansing effect, the flowing Spirit has a cleansing effect. 

One tool of transformation that gets very little thought is the restoration of the father-son relationship. Like Jesus' story of the son who turns his back on his family, but realizes he made a mistake, and returns to his family. When he gets home, his father welcomes him. The son was restored back to who he was, and who he was intended to be. He ws put back where he was originally designed to be. 

The father-son relationship is a tool of transformation, because it speaks to and molds the heart. It is our hearts that have first importance. It is the core that produces all thoughts, all words, and all deeds. It is there that God does his deepest works. It is there he speaks the greats truths. It is there he is trying to communicate his love and acceptance. 

Many people work long and hard to earn God's love and acceptance. They try to earn his love before they are saved. Scripture says loud and clear, people cannot earn the grace that leads to salvation. Many finally hear that message. But then they try to glorify his name, and impact the world for him. And, then, they fail. 

I think people spend way too much time worrying about their sin. Does God want people to sin? Goodness no. Does God want obedience? Oh, yes. Does God want righteousness to reign in people's hearts? Oh, double-yes. 

Does God want people to flagellate themselves for days when they fail? Does God want re-dedication after re-dedication? 

It was God's grace that saved us when we were helpless, enemies of God. What makes us think that we don't need God's grace to totally disassemble and reassemble our spiritual DNA? Can any of us reach into our hearts and change our motivations and our want-to's?

Only God is stronger than our hearts. He can reach into our hearts. He can alter our DNA. 

I am beginning to think that God's message to us, intended to bring about our transformation is not "Your life needs to glorify me. You need to live in a way that portrays me in a positive manner. You need to get you act together." I think the message might be "You are my child. I love you. I accept you. And I want what's best for you."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Salt - IV

In the last post, we talked about a certain group of people, regarding their "saltiness."
If "salt" is a metaphor of what attracts people to Jesus, part of that "salt" is Jesus' love. And one of the traits of love is not focusing on faults and failures.

There is an aspect of confronting failure, but the motivation the confronter should have is healing. Removing a blockage between the Father and his children. Removing an impedance towards redemption and restoration. Toward living out God's original design.

I can look at these people and find many practices that many people outside of God's family find offensive. But I can't see the heart\motivation of these people. Because of the definitions of success, efficiency and effectiveness that many people have, some of these may honestly and genuinely believe that their goals and tactics are God's best.

There are some practices that I am offended by. There are some just consider un-wise and ineffective. But, unlike the Father, I don't know hearts. And I am to walk in love like Jesus. That's my salt.

There is a strong tension between being loving and being discerning, between acting with grace and acting with wisdom. And God wants us to act with all of these. And it would be a lot easier if the world weren't broke.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Salt - III

I tend to look at salt as a metaphor for the attractive qualities of Jesus and his family. The things that make people want to be with Jesus. The things that make people to chose Jesus as their first allegiance and follow him.

Several of us got together for a birthday celebration this past week. As always, conversations spanned a large spectrum of subjects: sports, politics, family, etc.

A few of us got talking about different "things" involving people who chose to follow Jesus, but have gone onto build big "things" for Jesus. Big churches. Big organizations. Big budgets. Big programs.

Often, when people describe what is bad about Christianity, people like this are mentioned. They are:
  • Judgmental.
  • Intolerant.
  • Only interested in money.
  • Only interested in themselves. 
If it is "salt" that makes us want to be with Jesus, many would consider that these people seem to have lost theirs. They do seem to like large crowds. But the crowds are not like Jesus' crowds. The rejects of society are not sitting in the front row. Moreover, Jesus did not seem to need crowds.

So, have these lost their "salt", because they chose to not follow Jesus? Or have they lost their "salt", because of contaminants? Maybe ideas about success\failure, what is valuable, what is important that are not Jesus' ideas about these things have gotten planted (to do a quick switch in metaphors) and the fruit is an urgent need to maintain their status, and not an urgent need to be truly "salt."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Salt - II

So, what is "saltiness" or "flavor"? The word for "loses its flavor" in the original language means "to become foolish." If you are like me, your first reation to that is "huh?" Is Jesus saying tht losing flavor is becoming foolish, or going through a process of making wrong decisions? Or, in other words, being salty is growing in wisdom, or going through a process of making wise decisions?


Growing in wisdom is learning how to make right decisions. One might say that decisions that are profitable, minimize failure, and enhance relationships are wise.
Decisions are the buildings blocks of charactor. Old decisions provide the basis for new decisions. They are drawn from our values and priorities. Successful decisions confirm those values and priorities. Thus, making it more likely that we will make similar decisions in similar circumstances in the future. Unsuccessful decisions send us back to the drwing board.

Scripture throws one huge wrinkle into the mix. It takes into consideration a fundamental decision that becomes the bedrock for all other decisions. What do you do with God?

Scripture says that the most important, most fundamental decision is to choose allegiance with the Creator of All. When that decision is made, a group of values and priorities are introduced into the person's life, and in a progressive fashion, introduced into his contexts and environments.

And, as the person lives in agreement and congruence with these values and priorities, he impacts the enivronment and the people in the environment.

Saltiness is the effect of living a life that is based on its relationship with God, living in agreement with God's original design for people, and its redemptive, restorative impact. Such a life loses its "saltiness" when the person does not take this first relationship into account, or makes decisions without the influences of this relationship.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


There is a passage of Scripture where Jesus compares his disciples to salt. Salt was very valuable in the middle east in Jesus' day. It was used both as a condiment ans as a preservative. But Jesus says specifically in the pasage that if salt loses its taste\flavor, it is worthless. It only makes sense to toss it out.

As I understand chemistry, this is virtually impossible. Salt (NaCl) is a very stable compound. It cannot really lose its saltiness. But Jesus definitely said it would lose its taste.

Salt was "harvested" from a few sources. It was dug out of mines. It was processed from water containing salt. In both cases, it was possible to gather contaminents\impurites with the salt. So, it was possible to get something that looked like salt, but would not taste like salt. Also, because salt (NaCl) is very water soluable, and the impurities were less water soluable,  we could lose the salt if it was exposed to water.

People could go through their lives and have the "saltiness" washed out of their lives, or the "non-saltiness" added to their lives to the point where it overwhelms the "saltiness."

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Heart

The Bible says that people live from their hearts. What fills a person's heart automatically flows out into his life.

Jesus called the results that flowed out of a person's heart "fruit." Water and nutrients flow into an apple tree, and apples grow as a natural result of the "input." If the input is pure and good, then the apples are firm, sweet and healthy. If the "input" is bad, then the apples are rotten.

People are the same way. Pour into their hearts the right words and the right ideas, then goodness flows from them. Pour into their hearts bad words and bad ideas, then bad things flow from their lives.

People are a little different than apple trees. If a toxin is poured into the ground water, trees will absorb the toxin along with the water. People can examine words and ideas. People can reflect on rightness and wrongness. People can construct a conceptual framework and decide how ideas fit or don't fit into the framework.

The most important part of this framework is the nature of God. God created the world to be distinct from him, but also to be a reflection of his character. What we understand of God impacts our values, our view of truth, our view of good and evil, and what we consider our purpose in the world.

The second most important part of this framework is the nature of men, particularly yourself. This understanding defines human worth, human potential, success and failure. (And it defines our personal worth, potential, success and failure.)

Because Jesus says love is the first command, I believe this is the most important thing to reflect on, to understand, and to practice. If God, through Jesus, says love is the most important, than it is the most important for God too. It is what he practices first. He already understands it.

It was God's love that motivated him to send Jesus. It was Jesus' love that motivated him to go to the cross. It was God's love shown in forgiveness, justification and redemption that motivated us to give Jesus our allegiance. And now that we have given him our allegiance, we have to claw, fight and scratch our way through life to maintain our relationship and to continue in God's love??

We were God's enemies and helpless to save ourselves. Now, that we are saved, we are totally able to reach down into our spiritual DNA and manipulate the "molecules" so that we become perfect??

That's what many people believe and, therefore, that's how they live. They began by grace; they finish by human discipline and diligence.

If you are a true follower of Jesus, you have many resources to enable and empower you to live like a true follower of Jesus. There is: God's word, God's Spirit, God's promises and grace. And there is a process of redemption and restoration going on. The Spirit does reach into our spiritual DNA and correct how the "molecules" are connected, and how they reproduce. But this process won't be complete when we reach the end of this life. We will continue to fail. We will fail in the same areas again and again. Sometimes, we will even deliberately choose sin.

Does God get grumpy, lose patience and give up on us? If we have made a genuine choice to give him our allegiance, does he ever decide we are not worth it, and give us back to Satan?

If he is the God of infinite love, then he is the God of infinite patience and infinite perseverance. And, as he is totally present with everyone, he can give his total attention to each person.

It is people who give up. There are many reason why. Some reasons people give are:
  • They feel helpless to meet God's expectations. 
  • They feel God has given up on them.
  • They feel their circumstances:
    • are too tough.
    • show God's lack of concern.
    • interfere with their relationship.
In my view, in all of these reasons, there is a basic flaw in how they understand God, understand people (including themselves) and understand how God designed the world, but how it currently is, due to sin.