Where’s your heart? That probably sounds like a silly question. It’s right where it’s always been, in my chest. We talk of giving our heart to someone, or having a heart, but it’s still right there pumping away and it hasn’t moved an inch. “Well that’s different,” we say. In that case we are speaking metaphorically, it’s our love that we are giving or our feelings that are hurting. The ancient Greeks spoke of splagchna when they talked of such things. The King James Bible translates this word as “bowels” as in tender bowels of mercy. I think they were getting closer to the truth. When we hurt over someone or pine for someone we feel it in the pit of our stomach, in our splagchna.
Ultimately such feelings come from our mind, having the attitude or an emotion of love and compassion. Paul asked the Philippian church if there was any tenderness from being united with Christ (Philippians 2:1, and actually he says a lot more well worth reading.) As Christians we need to feel what God feels. We need to love what God loves and to feel anger over what angers God. To have a heart for God like King David did requires for us to actually have the mind of Christ. When we see things from God’s perspective, we understand how he sees the world and how he sees us, we will then begin to feel as God feels.
If our heart is set on our own thoughts, worries and ideas we will not have the heart of God. If the source of knowledge that feeds our heart is only from the world around us, we will not have the heart of God. If our heart is shaped by the media, culture or traditions that we are raised with we will not have the heart of God. We must let him renew our minds, we must let him give us new eyes to see with and yes we need a new heart, God’s.
We all have a story to tell. Some are more exciting than others, some seem to always go wrong while others seem to continually land on their proverbial feet. One question we have to answer is “Who is the author of our story?” Most of the time we would consider that we are the author. We are writing our story through the decisions we make. Yet there are also times when we realize someone else may be behind it all. Our name may be on the cover but another’s hand is pushing the pen.
Abraham certainly made a lot of decisions about his life. He left Ur of the Chaldeans, traveled to Haran and then to Canaan, the Promised land. Yet he left Ur because his father said so. His father Terah had a mind to move to Canaan but once he got to Haran he seemed content to stop. We know one of Abraham’s brothers died in Ur before they left. Was his father too sad about the loss of his son to stay there? Was his father more of a businessman looking for new opportunities? We don’t know but we do know that each of those choices brought Abraham closer to the plan that God had for him. In the case of leaving Haran we know that God directly said to Abraham he was to go to a place that God would show him.
The question of who is writing our life can begin to seem confusing and a little scary when we think that we really don’t have the control that we thought we had. That is exactly where faith comes in. Paul reminds us in Romans that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham made the choices he did or was led by God to make the choices. In the end it was all the same because Abraham wasn’t living simply for himself but for God.
I’m reminded of what Paul said to the Philippians, “. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6 Ultimately our story is God’s story and even the simplest of lives have meaning and value when lived for him. Have faith and keep moving.
As I write this Jacqueline and I are getting ready to head back to Omaha. The doctors have determined that her brother is declining in spite of the life support and it was time to make a decision. We know that Joel would not want to be kept alive with no hope of improvement.
It has been a long month for him and the whole family. I know we could not have made it through this time without the love, prayers and support of all of you. You are family to us and mean so much. So one more time we call upon your love and prayers to pull us through. Thank you for always being there.
The news from Indonesia has been heartbreaking with the number of people who died. First as an earthquake hit their area and then in the aftermath of the tsunami. It’s like a one-two punch from nature when something bad is followed by something worse. Life can be full of one-two punches, someone gets sick and then their house burns down. In those moments we really get what it was like to be Job, to have your crops burn, your livestock stolen and then news that your children died. And right at first you aren’t allowed to turn to the last page and see how it all works out. These are the times when our faith is really tested. It is also the time when God can shine through the brightest. I may have the best and brightest searchlight ever but on a bright sunny day it’s of minimal use. In the darkest of nights is when it shines its best and when I need it the most.
You probably haven’t been hit by an earthquake followed by a tsunami, even though you may have been hit by a hurricane followed by days of torrential rain, but maybe lately several days have ganged up on you. We need to remember the words of Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.” In this section of Isaiah the Lord is reassuring his people he is there for them, they don’t need to fear. He will take them by the right hand and lead them. It should be noted Isaiah wrote at a time when God and Judah (the southern Kingdom) were not on good terms and much of what Isaiah has to say is a warning. Yet even in these times God was also telling his people how much he loved them and longed for them. He was still there for them.
Too often when we are going through difficult times we see God as mad at us, mad and punishing. In reality even in these times God is loving and merciful, just when we need that the most. So when you feel like life is giving you a good thrashing, look around to see that searchlight from God. It’s there; you just have to look for it.
I am firmly of the opinion that the character of the person I marry should reflect my relationship in Christ. In II Corinthians 6:14 Paul says that we are not to be yoked together with an unbeliever. Now there are many ways that we yoke our life together with someone, it could be business partners or best friends, but who we marry is certainly at the top of the list that Paul is talking about. So why would God tell you to marry someone who obviously fits into the “don’t be yoked together” category? I guess we just have to ask the prophet Hosea for that is what God did ask of him.
When God began to speak to Hosea the first thing he told him was to go take an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness. God also tells him why. Many of the prophets not only spoke God’s message to the people, they lived it out. For further lessons on this read the prophet Ezekiel. God loved and cared for Israel as a father and husband. When the children of Israel came to occupy the Promised Land, God fought many of the battles for them. Remember Jericho, all they had to do was to march around the city and then blow the trumpets and the walls came tumbling down. Over the years what had been Israel’s response? Time and time again they turned and worshipped other gods, ignoring the covenant and the promises.
The life and marriage of Hosea and Gomer was an object lesson to Israel. God is telling them of his hurt and rejection. But just as he sends Hosea to buy Gomer back from the slave market, so God is telling his people that he longs to have them back and will forgive them if they will turn to him.
It may seem strange to us the way God sent his message to Israel and what the cost of that message was for Hosea, but God is speaking all the time to us. Certainly we have His Word, the Bible to turn to but he also speaks to us through the experiences we have and the experiences of others. God is willing to use any means necessary to get our attention. Some folks have found God at the end of a divorce, others through bankruptcy. Some find him at the end of their rope or the bottom of a bottle, but make no mistake, God is talking, God is reaching, God is loving us all the time, and we need to listen.
This question gets presented to us in a variety of ways: “What’s your opinion on this topic?” “How did you like your experience at our shop?” “Do you agree or disagree with a certain story or news source?” We are bombarded not only by people asking us this question, but people telling us their positions and attitudes. Now this isn’t a bad thing, it is us communicating with each other, expressing ourselves and at times trying to win others over to our position. Usually the topics are ones that we feel passionate about and want to share with others.
The one position that we should be ready to share, and to have a concern for where others are at, is our position before Christ. Where I stand with Him? What do I believe about Him? Who is He in my life? These questions should be in the forefront of our lives. In l Corinthians 9:19 – 23 Paul stresses that in Christ he is free, but in order to share Christ with as many as possible he made himself a slave to all men. When evangelizing the Jews, he lived under the Law. He didn’t do this for salvation, but to have the chance to talk with them and share Christ. When reaching out to those who didn’t live under the Law, us Gentiles, he lived as a Gentile even though he was under the law of Christ. He said that he became all things to all men that he might have the opportunity to save some.
Are we willing today to put aside personal positions and attitudes so that they don’t get in the way of reaching out to a group of people for Christ? We aren’t required to do this. Paul said he didn’t have to do it but voluntarily did it to win some to Christ. This goes beyond just political views, but encompasses all things. In Romans 14 Paul talks about how we should treat the ones we consider “weaker brothers”. If I use my freedom to run over them, am I being Christ to them? Of course the answer is “No”. He knew that meat offered to another god wasn’t really offered to a god since there is only one true God. But the other person, still growing in their faith, believed that meat to belong to Zeus and if anyone ate it that means they were honoring Zeus. In that case Paul says don’t eat, because it makes my brother to stumble. One brother believes one day is more holy than the others and must worship on that day, another believes all days are God’s. One Christian believes only one version of the Bible is blessed of God and another enjoys looking over different versions. One Christian may believe it is un-American to buy a certain brand of car and by extension it is un-Christian. Another may feel that has nothing to do with his relationship with Christ and just wants to find a good deal. Should they argue over that or should they question each other’s faith?
The point is my views and attitudes on issues outside of Christ should be of secondary importance when it comes to living in such a way that Christ is first and foremost what people see in my life (that even includes the Cowboys). That’s not to say we don’t have positions (Go Cowboys) but these should never be stumbling blocks in presenting Christ to the world (even Eagles’ fans need Jesus). All these things will pass with usage, but the Word of God is eternal. Live in such a way that your position on Christ is evident to all, but is always presented in love and concern for the other.
In the Princess Bride, as Inigo Montoya is about to avenge his father’s death by killing Count Rugen in a dual, he first says, “Offer me anything, all that I ask for.” The Count agrees to this and even more. Then Montoya delivers this line, “I want my father back.” Most of us have not lost our fathers to an evil Count, but if we have lost a father we understand the hurt and loss. If the loss happened when we were young we may imagine the activities and talks that we missed out on. As our memories become more faded we hang onto them more tightly. Even later in life we feel the loss of someone who was so instrumental in shaping who we are today.
Father’s Day allows us a time to remember and reflect. We remember the times with our fathers and if you still have your father look forward to building even more times together. We reflect on the lessons we were taught, some to hang onto, some to learn from and move on. As I sit here at my desk I have two pictures of my dad near me. One is at his high school graduation. He is dressed in a suit, his dark hair combed just so and a handkerchief in his coat pocket. We don’t always think that at one time our parents were also young, full of dreams and hopes for the future. In the second picture he is standing with my mother. It was taken not long before he was diagnosed with cancer. The face is more wrinkled and weathered, but the look in the eyes and the set of the chin are still the same. I learned so much about life from him in too brief a time. I was just short of my 23rd birthday and less than two months away from the birth of our first daughter when he passed away Thanksgiving Day, 1979.
Holding someone in our heart of course means that we think about them, we recall times together, the conversations shared. We smile, we laugh, we sigh and we cry. And just like Montoya we want our fathers back. Jesus reminds us that we have a father in heaven who also wants to share our lives, to shape us and guide us. He has so many life lessons to share with us, so much wisdom on how to live to bring to us. This Father’s Day make room in your heart to spend some time not only with your earthly father but with your heavenly father as well.
Have you ever stopped to consider what a mother is worth? First of all that whole giving birth to you is, well, Priceless. But beyond that, just the daily things such as fixing you three meals a day. At the very least that has to be worth $10 - $20 a day, even on the economy plan. For the sake of argument we’ll say $100 a week (that’s eating part of the time from McDonald’s dollar menu). So in eighteen years that’s around $93,600. What does a maid cost, a full-time 7 days a week kind of maid? We’ll leave that one for later. Now what about as a chauffeur? And then there’s tutor, counselor, ER doctor and the list goes on. So what would it take to make her happy? Moms are definitely on the easy payment plan, a thank you now and then, going to CHURCH with her on Mother’s Day, a phone call now and then (OK at least once a week). For all they do you will never find a bargain greater, better or sweeter than your mom. So let her know May 13th.