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April Newsletter: Living From Our Hearts

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Living from our hearts:

Someone recently asked me my thoughts on the difference in a believer’s expression of ‘living out of our heart’ and contrast that with the more secular expression of ‘following our heart’.  That, folks, cuts to the chase.  That might just be, after coming to the knowledge of Christ, the most important question we’ll ever have to answer.  Everything hangs on the presupposition of ‘living out of our hearts’.  That’s the center of our relationship with Christ.  Our praying, our choice of careers, parenting, health, relationships with people, and a whole lot more, depend on our sensitivity to our hearts.

If I had to use a couple of sentences to express the difference, I’d say it like this:  Living out of your heart is hearing the whisper of God from inside us where the Spirit of God is.  That indwelling was His promise to us and we shouldn’t feel ‘weird’ about believing that.  The more secular expression, following your heart, is more akin to being led by our brain or thinking machine.  As a believer, the word ‘heart’ refers to what’s attributable to what we call the Breath of Life.  It’s what God breathed into Adam that uniquely made Adam, well, Adam.  Our heart is God’s fingerprint on us.  It’s one person’s, and only that person’s, life track, their gift from God.  I think we each have that personal Breath from God.  Finding it in the post-Adam world is the key to experiencing the most of our Christian Life.  Absent that, it’s like a man that walks in darkness.   He stumbles.  He falls.  He struggles through life.  Living out of our hearts is discovering and walking by that eternal part of us, not walking after the momentary whims from our brains.  That stabilizes us.  From a secular point of view, following our heart (our feelings, will, and emotions) bewilders us much of the time.  I might add that what we think isn’t necessarily from our heart.  If living the Christian life was simply a thinking thing The Bible would have been enough for us to follow, no need for the Spirit to come.  We could digest the book, memorize it and boom, we’re done. However, the Christian life’s bigger than that.  We need to add to The Book relationship and trust His Spirit.  Our Christian heart is not simply made up of how we feel, what we think, or our opinions.  Everyone can easily follow those.  Rather, ‘living out of where the Spirit of Christ is present’ is unique to each believer.  In that heart, the Spirit of God’s there to guide, whisper, hold and light our way.  One comes from Christ inside, the other is generally created by the environment we find around us. Actually, the Christian Life may be more of learning that our feelings are not to be trusted, but that He is.

That’s tricky.  The secular can mimic the Spiritual rather easily.  I think everything spiritual has a counterfeit that keeps us from finding the real.  We need a witness, a knowing, that blends with what we are experiencing, seeing, feeling, etc.  What we’re experiencing and what we’re witnessing in our brain, must marry into one unction.  Unction is something that we can’t shake.   Sometimes, people get an idea, even a good idea, and ‘think’ that idea comes from God.  I used to explain to people years ago that WBVN was not a good idea I had.  Actually, the idea was more scary than comforting.  It wasn’t something that I hoped for or something just to go try.  WBVN happened to us out of a strong desire to share a message, an unction to share a message: ‘Dad ain’t mad’.   WBVN came from behind me instead of out in front of me.  It came running up my back; that’s different than having a good idea.  With a good idea you’re looking down the road with expectation, unction rides your heart so much that you just look for relief.  With unction there’s a calm ‘beside the still waters’ place even when in the middle of something uncomfortable.  Jane and I simply stepped into His invitation to follow; I let Him be our Light into our ‘not knowing where that might lead’ place. God doesn’t necessarily tell us the specifics as He embraces us and holds our hand as we move forward.

For the most part, the whole pre-Heaven Gospel’s about following Christ.  It’s not necessarily the result we get that defines obedience; it’s the motion of following Him that defines it.  Perhaps the question for believers is not what do I need to do to be perfect, but rather, how do I get to know Christ?  In some sense, Jane and I risked everything for the simple Joy of following His whisper.  In a way, we’ve all been wired to follow Him, perhaps more that than to celebrate our arrival at any destination.  Abraham was simply told to go!  Like Abraham, we might not know the destination, but following with our hearts no matter where it leads is part of why He sent His Spirit.  God’s job description on our journey can be described as ‘a heart looker on-er’.  I think God has His most pleased smile when we’re on the road between two places, following Him along our way, rather than at the end of our journey.  It’s not about having a map that shows us all the detail as much as having a hint of the direction to go and trust with simply a pillar of smoke by day and a fire by night.  What if the Will of God is about relationship rather than location? What if it’s about the journey, His embrace to trust, rather than a certain end?

God has a pleased nature about Him because of what Christ has done.  Living out of your heart is about God leading us to greener pastures, places of rest and places that will bring our life into His Life.  It’s about places that, to us, might look bleak and barren but that God sees as gardens full of potential to bring Life.  God’s whole purpose of Christ in us is that we might prosper in the Life He, His Son and Spirit have made for us.

Secondarily, in our walk, why is greater than how.  Simplified, heart attitude trumps knowledge.  Why we do something is on God’s radar as much as did we do it perfectly.   If we act on whatever understanding we do have about the Gospel, God seems to see the intentions of our heart as good.  In God’s Gospel economy, it’s not so much what we know, it’s Who we know.   Even when other people don’t perceive our purpose, God knows the why all along.  God knowing our hearts can be a scary thought, but that’s the safe place in all this living from the heart.  Did we abide with Him, did we live in the shadow of the Most High, and did we permit the embrace of His invitation to let Him be our God?  Or, did we shake off that invitation and simply say, ‘I got this’?  Religion is ‘I got this’.  Sometimes we’re better at knowing the Law rather than knowing the Lawgiver.

The first step in living out of your heart is to agree with Jesus.  There really is a place in you that His Spirit occupies.  Because of all of the clutter in our lives, that place may not be obvious.  But because He said it, it’s there in you just the same.  That special place is to be discovered through prayer and relationship.  It’s there and we’re designed to learn to recognize and trust It.  Ours is a God that wants to be called Father.  It’s about a Dad that loves anyway; a God that picks us up rather than knocks us down.

In so many words this Gospel’s about Him rather than us.   Living out of your heart is about trusting more than prophesying.  If we’re following Him we have no need to be fearful.  Even with a wrong turn, we’ll find Him standing at the next crossroad with an open hand.

There’s a very slight separation between our hearts and our thinking.  It’s a choice between what our brains make easy for us to do or what our Spirit filled hearts know will actually bring His Life to our life.  There were two trees in Eden:  one tree of good and evil and the other the Tree of Life.  Our ancestors chose the first tree; they started thinking God was holding out on them, wasn’t interested in their best interest.  That kind of thinking started the problem.  How many of us, if we’re not careful, still get to believing that today?

Secularly, following our hearts can come from that first tree either for good or bad reasons.  Jesus’ purpose for coming into this broken world, suffer its punishment, was to re-establish and  to restore  the Tree removed Eden, the Tree of Life.  He set the Tree of Life back into our gardens (lives) with His death, burial and resurrection.  Our current life is about accessing that second tree.  That Tree is Christ, He is Life.  The ability to access that Life lives inside us.  The Spirit of the Living God has made a home in you.  For Christians, living out of our hearts has an assumption in it.  Our heart is where He is present, not just a place where we’re alone.  I believe there’s only one door into our Christ-filled heart: knowing Him.  Our concept of Who He is can bias our ability to access His Life.  Are we still thinking He’s holding out on us?  The essence of God’s great question to Adam, Abraham and Moses was summed up in His question to Peter: ‘Who do you say I am?’  The answer to that question is the key to hearing what He might have to say inside you.

March Newsletter-Easter

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Easter April 1, 2018: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…’  John 3:16

We need to slow that down a bit.  It’s an amazing statement that I think we can so easily rush through because of its familiarity.  Image the character and heart of God revealed in that statement.  Sometimes I’m not sure that we hear the depth of its implications.  If we’re not careful, we sometimes let our unbridled subconscious talk to us, letting human logic define what happened in the Garden of Eden.  We can come up with the idea that God’s response to Adam and Eve was an angry response rather than the actual response mentioned in that scripture. We can turn that into thinking that God needed to fulfill a heated temperament toward His Creation in order to get even for that little apple dessert those two had enjoyed.  God’s motivation is bigger and better than anger and restitution.  Rather, His fingerprint as a Giver is all over how He responded to that tragic moment.  It helps to remember that Jesus was coming long before Adam; Jesus was not plan B.  Jesus was coming in the heart of God from the very foundation of the world.  (Eph. 1: 4-5)

It’s Easter.  Roughly 2020 years ago a child was born who, while a surprise to Joseph and Mary, had been prophesied to bless the whole world, at least those that would choose to have it so.  Easter focuses us on the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth just as the Christmas story focuses us on His birth.  For sure the Cross is an appropriate place for Christians to annually pause and think about why and even how this Story came about.   It’s a place for us to wonder about, evaluate, and discover what really happened on that Cross which some 2000 years later still repels some and attracts the human heart of others.  No one has all the fullness of that story to tell, and certainly, my letter is only a part of a bigger picture of God’s Creation and the fix required to ‘fine tune’ it.  But, since we’re playing a lot of resurrection music and most of us will be celebrating that Cross this month, let me just pour out a bit of my thinking about this celebration we call Easter.

First of all, why was this Cross necessary?  Why was this Jesus buried and raised from death?  Big questions and probably too big for this letter.  However, let’s touch the surface by starting here: the fall of Adam.  We’ll start there because most everyone starts there. After all it’s the first subject of Genesis, and that’s where our ancestor’s poor decision-making started all this mess.

One of the things that the Gardens of Eden and Gethsemane remind me of is that we have to go back even further than either of those gardens to understand that bigger picture of God the Father, Son and Spirit.  And, because I always seem to get to this point every few letters, let me shorthand the picture of pre-Eden by just saying God; all three manifestations of God if you will, were from the foundation of the Cosmos together and involved in the dream of Creation and the fellowship that was to follow from the first breath of man.  All three buried themselves into the ‘Yes!’ that emphatically proves that Creation (and its humans) is worth everything that has happened in and to that Creation.  All three persons of the Godhead agreed ‘in One’ that any price They needed to pay would be paid to experience the givingness of Life and fellowship of God and His creature: man.  That any price part is to be emphasized here, before the Creator created, Jesus was coming!  Or, more appropriately, Jesus was not just coming but the Father has said over and over again in New Testament scripture:  He was sending Jesus, with a purpose and on purpose.

It’s here that I like to separate my thinking a bit: dividing the Why He came from the How He came.  It’s really one coin with two different sides to it.  But, that difference helps me clarify some the early questions I have had about this whole Story of the Gospel.  Let me say it like this.  Why He came was to build a bridge between His creature and Himself.  How He came (the story of the Cross) was chosen to convince us that something huge had to be done to build that bridge. The how He came was chosen to help us reconcile in our weak and feeble minds to thinking like He thinks.  The only way to do that was to pay a price so big that it would, in context, overwhelm our thinking. How He did that helps us solve the problem we have about how can we ever have a relationship with God again after the horticultural failure of those famous ancestors of ours.   I know there’s too much to say about all this to examine it in full, the Bible uses 39 chapters in the Old Testament and another 26 in the New to try and convince us of both the need and the remedy, this letter won’t be able to by a few lines of writing here.  But, I think it’s something for us to begin to think about during this special holiday.  Why He did it, How He did it, medicates our alienated minds.  Imagine God desiring so deeply to reconcile with us, even to the point of doing that for us.  That’s a profound Truth.  All other gods pretty much leave it up to the other fella to make up the gap, to build the bridge.  Our God came and did the construction project for us.

Simply, Why God created all this was for relationship. It wasn’t because They were bored; not because They needed anything.  They were three in One and that closeness, Their ‘agreementness’ was so beautiful that They could not help but create something outside themselves to share in Their relationship.  God is Love and in His (Their) very nature, God is aggressive to share, to care and to give.  That Love has never had a shadow of turning, never changed and never will.  The fact that Love is what caused Jesus to step into our world, take on the violence from the men of His own Creation, die and be raised is the center of this Celebration we are now expressing.  It’s the same Love that caused God to seek out Adam and Eve rather than destroy Adam and Eve.  It’s that Love for His Creation that, after the Fall said, ‘No, I will not give up on you, I will not abandon you, We will pay the price to redeem, a heavy price to gather you back to Ourselves.’  That’s the Why: to re-embrace humanity and to pick up the pieces of the Garden of Eden.

The how to do that so that it’s manageable for humanity’s wee little brains meant a grand, huge action by God would be required.  So grand as to overcome our knowledge that we are jerks and really don’t have a reasonable way to get back into relationship with God.  Our natural minds are alienated and darkened.  What could we really do to repair this mess?  We’re so aware of our dire predicament that we just can’t reason our way through it.  And, that was exactly the deal, the plan.  God did something so huge, so unreasonable, His remedy left nothing to doubt as to the passion and will of God to redeem His people.  Something that would grant you access to the fellowship of God, that had to be a biggy.  Had to be something so necessary that only a God could do it.  Something that would overpower our intellect and break our hearts.  Now the world’s religions will tell you that you, by yourself, can do that by either hundreds of actions or perhaps thousands of formulas.  In reality, only God could build that bridge back to fellowship.    It’s His remarkable Story that’s declared simply in Habakkuk 2:4, Hebrews 10:38, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11; the just shall live by Faith.  Faith that Christ did what He said He would do, Faith in His bridge back through reconciling our problem by His Life, Death and Resurrection.  God had to do something so obviously astonishing so that we ‘might’ let down our guard, might not run off into the bushes as our ancestors did.  Dying for us was the way He got our attention and hopefully and justifiably our hearts.

The Way, the Truth and the Light of Life came, died on the cross to show us His determination to be with us and convince us of His willingness to make a way for us.  Jesus died on the cross but He did not stop there.  By the Spirit He was raised to a New Life and by that same Spirit raised us with Him.  All barriers have been removed except in our head.  Our awareness of our shortcoming, the alienation in our minds, those kinds of thoughts will have to be taken captive and changed to His thoughts.  It was completely unreasonable for God to do such a thing, actually illogical.  To make us acceptable and worthy through the death of His Son, that’s unimaginable, but it’s true.  That’s exactly how He did it!  Performed a profoundly unreasonable event so that we might come to understand why He did it.

That’s Easter for me.  Yes, it’s about a man on a cross, but it’s also a picture of what Father, Son and Spirit were willing to do, willing to pay to persuade our brains to imagine how determined They were to be with us in this new garden called the Kingdom of His Dear Son.

February Newsletter-Vision

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

When questioned by his mother what he learned in Sunday School, eight-year-old Justin answered, ‘We learned about when God sent Moses behind the enemy lines to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  The teacher said that when they came to the Red Sea, Moses called for the engineers to build a pontoon bridge and they all barely got across it in time, because the Egyptians were right behind them, coming in tanks and Moses radioed headquarters on the walkie-talkie to send bombers to blow up the bridge and they did and all the Egyptians were stuck and that’s how Moses saved the Israelites.’  The mother asked, ‘Justin, is that really the way the teacher told the story?’  Justin confessed, ‘Well, not exactly, but if I told it in her way, you’d never believe it.’

At this time or perhaps for all time, that’s exactly where we are at in this world.  When we tell our Story of Christ, I sometimes think it’s just too much for the world to take in.  Actually, it may be too much for some in the church to absorb as well.  For sure, when pausing to analyze our Story in the big picture, very simply, it can be a wild ride trying to explain His Truths.  But then, that’s exactly the kind of story we have and it’s exactly the Story we must share.  Taking the edges off it a bit like Justin tried to do, sounds like a good idea, but anything short of the full-out Truth only makes our position more unstable.  Ours isn’t a logical Story, not even a believable Story in so many ways; we’re really left with a Faith Story.  A profound Story, a Story with rough edges that can irritate at times and confuses us other times.  It’s a Story that not only ‘puts-off’ much of the world but also has divided its own Church into hundreds of varied denominations.

That said, I’d like to funnel down this month’s letter to the simple conversation of Proverbs 29:18.  It’s often used as an illustration for spiritual gifting, but I’d like to look at the other side of the coin.  It’s a side of that coin that I’ve found to be very important in our Jesus Life experience.  I do believe that all teaching is incomplete.  No one has a corner on everything true about the Gospel.  However, this side of the coin is for sure only part of our Story, but I think an important part, that can be added to other parts of our Story as well.  Any one teaching is always subject to the addition of other concepts to create the ‘whole’.  I’m a firm believer in the wisdom of Isaiah (I’ll paraphrase): the Gospel is line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.

Now, much of the world’s culture is violently opposed to any suggestion that Christ was, well, Christ.  Oh, some of the world culture will permit us to call him a great seer, perhaps a profound teacher or wise philosopher, but when we tell the Story in Jason’s teacher’s way, just like Jason said, most will never believe it.  Being The Way, The Truth and The Life is a bit much for many, and yet our Story must be told in that exact fashion to be real.  Not only told in that profound Truth, but our Story must also have that Proverbs vision of Christ.  Why’s that so important on my important list?  For this: Proverbs 29:18 teaches us that without a vision His people perish.  It’s not simply just a vision for some future career or event, this vision is a ‘Wisdom’ statement by the Spirit of God that holds a much bigger, powerful role.  My concern is not that we lack imagination about our careers or future ministry roles, my concern is that we have a vision of Christ that comes up short on seeing Christ for Who He really is and what He has done.  Sometimes we kind of tell it like Jason did his story.  Only the Spirit of God can turn on the Light to the Truth.  Simply, without that Vision of the hugeness of what Christ did, why He did it and how He did it, people will perish.  In a big picture sense, a lack of that Vision pertains to all people, not just His people, but all people.  If His people perish without this Vision, surely those outside that group face a similar fate.

For sure, in the Proverb, the emphasis on the word ‘without’ is appropriate.  Looking up the meaning of that word in the original text, it could not be more emphatic: no, none, never, neither, nor, not, nothing.  Maybe a good New Testament substitute would be to say ‘guaranteed to fail’.  So in some sense of the text, without a Vision there is a guarantee to perish.  I’m pretty comfortable with that, well not really comfortable because that’s scary stuff, but comfortable in that it pretty well describes the necessity of the whole Story’s Vision of who Christ is, what He has done.

Now let’s take a look at 1Cor. 15:52.  We generally apply that particular scripture to the returning Christ; for in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed.  Now, what’s true about that scripture and His Coming can also, I think, be true about each and every time we see Him for who He really is and each time we see Him in His fullness.  Anytime we add line upon line and see a new Gospel Truth.  That’s the profound nature of what we call the new birth or, for that matter, any manifestation of the Spirit of God.  In those moments we’re left different, we’re not the same, but new, unlike what we were before.  That can happen multiple times in our lives.  When we see Him for who He really is, all that He’s done, it’s a new Vision of the Freedom, Love, Joy Christ’s Life made for us.  Paul and the other New Testament writers were drawing a picture a brush stroke at a time, here a little color and there a little color, ending in a portrait of Christ.  They wrote as a ‘committee’ in order to enable us to see that Vision of Christ.

Without a Vision of the Messiah, the New Testament Christ, and the bigness of what He has done– without that, His people will perish.  That perishing is not a legal sentence placed on us as discipline, it’s a statement of Wisdom placed on us in His Love.  The Spirit alarming and alerting us to ‘see Him’ for all that He is, given so that we might flourish.  Every time we catch a new Vision of Him we step nearer to fullness of our Story.  We need to see a Vision of His Vision, the Vision He had before the foundation of the world.  His Vision of all He has done, His Vision of the cost, His Vision of the finished work of Christ.  How important is that perspective?  Do you remember the conversation between Peter and Christ found in Mark 8?  On the road to Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked, ‘Whom do you say that I am?’  Peter responded that some call you a prophet (Elias), some a revelator (John the Baptist).  Jesus again asked, ‘But! Peter whom do you say I am?’  (I’ll jump into the conversation here enough to interpret it a bit.) I imagine Jesus saying: Never mind what the world says or others around you say!  The significance of my question to you is who YOU say I am.  What was Peter’s vision of Christ.  That’s what empowers and impacts the results of what we experience in the Christian Life.  Something had to be significant and important for Christ to draw that subtle difference in Peter’s answer.

I know it’s a weird thing to say, but let me get away with just a little weirdness.  Jesus came and opened up the heart of the Father and Spirit right in front of our eyes specifically to reveal God, to make an undisputed declaration of Him and expose to people that Vision of Him for all to see.  Christ did that for the exact purpose of showing us, manifesting to us, the God we are to see and know.  Jesus had that final say about God in order that we might be changed in a moment’s time.  His is the final word on the nature and character of his Father through His Vision of His Father.  Those that come to know that will not perish but, according to John 3:16, not only have an eternal life in our future but an everlasting life full of His Spirit from that singular moment of acceptance forward.  And, although a bit unbelievable in its truest form, that’s the amazing Story Justin and we are to tell.  We might even put it like this: no one in their right mind would have made up such a story, would ever have even dreamed of this kind of story.  That God would send a Son, that that Son would live and die as a man, that He would rise from the dead and that the Spirit of God would  move into people’s hearts and lives, walk and talk to them– now some will say that’s a whopper.  But, as hard as it is to believe, that’s our Story to share, and we’re gonna have to stick to it.