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Wednesday
Jan252012

It's not about trying to act like a Christian.

If you chase externals, you get either a pharisee or a defeated Christian.

"External manifestation of "Christlikeness" is not, however, the focus of the process [spiritual formation]; and when it is made the main emphasis, the process will certainly be defeated, falling into deadening legalisms and pointless parochialisms ... We know now that peculiar modes of dress, behavior, and organization just are not the point."  - Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart

 

It's not about acting like a Christian, even though loving actions are important.

Willard continues,

"...to strive merely to act in conformity with his [Jesus'] expressions of what living in the kingdom of God from the heart is like is to attempt the impossible."

 

For example many Christians, under a pressure to be holy or under a false sense of conviction from the pulpit, try then to act loving:

"Love, we hear, is patient and kind.  Then we mistakenly try to be loving by acting patiently and kindly - and quickly fail."  - Willard

Willard says that, rather than conjuring love and attempting to act in loving ways, we need to "advance in love itself - the genuine inner readiness and longing to secure the good of others."

My own suggestion is that the way in which that inner readiness is developed is to:

  • Recognize that in your new nature, it's already there.

  • Celebrate with God's Spirit as he nourishes and releases that already-present love.

  • Learn how God uniquely awakens and nourishes your heart:  Music?  Solitude?  Conversational prayer?  Scripture study? Art?  A good hike in the woods?  Meaningful conversation with others?

 

"the letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life."  [2 Corinthians 3:6]

 

Related resources:

  • "And please, try not to sin!"

  • My book, Recover Your Good Heart, goes into much more detail about living from the good and noble heart Jesus has given the Christian; and what the Bible has to say about it.  It debunks many of the myths we've been given about our hearts, so that we can live the life Jesus invites us to.

[Also in Kindle and AudioBook/MP3 formats.]

Monday
Jan162012

How would you answer these questions about your heart?


Here are a couple questions to help you determine if you believe your heart is your ally and not your enemy:

1.  Can you trust the desires of your heart, or do you think those desires will lead you astray?

2.  Do you believe your heart is as pure as Jesus' heart?

3.  When you sin repeatedly, is your first reaction to feel powerless, defeated?

4.  Would you refer to yourself as a "sinner?"

5.  Do you think sanctification [holiness] is something that will happen to you someday, or has already happened?

 

Answers:

1.  Yes, I can trust the desires of my heart.  [Not the desires of my flesh, but the desires of my heart, my new nature.]  The timing for the fulfillment of those desires often requires discernment and long-suffering; but Jesus intends on honoring the noble desires of my new heart.

2.  Yes, my heart [new nature] is as pure as Jesus' heart.  Why?  He gave me his own goodness.  His holines is my new nature.  Otherwise I wouldn't be able to "love others as I have loved you."

3.  No.  I may feel conviction, but not condemnation.  Frustrated, but not powerless.  My sin is no longer who I really am.  Even better, my new heart has the power to overcome sin's allure because it no longer wants what sin promises.

4.  No.  I am a saint, restored to a glory that even unfallen Adam and Eve didn't enjoy.

5.  No.  Jesus has already sanctified my heart, my true nature.  I can still sin, but it's no longer in my heart to do so.  The cause of my sin is no longer my heart, but rather a foreign invader called "sin" cooperating with my flesh. I am no longer striving to be good.  I'm simply trusting the Spirit to release the goodness he's already place within my heart.

 

HOW DID YOU ANSWER?

If you had contrary answers to any of these questions, you may have heard the same message about your heart that I did for many years:  "Your heart is prone to wander."   It's not true.  Not any longer.  Being a "new creation" means that Jesus has removed the ruined heart and replaced it with a noble and radiant heart.  

In Christ, your heart becomes your ally, not your enemy.

 

Related Resources:

 

Friday
Jan062012

Our glorious restoration: Better than what Adam and Eve once had.

The opposite of grace is self-righteousness and self-improvement. 

"Self-righteous" doesn't mean being holier-than-thou or a goodie two-shoes.  It means having to make a flawless case for yourself - to justify everything you've ever done or thought.  Self-righteousness is a declaration that you've never wounded anyone, never withdrawn love, never acted in a way that violates any relationship you've ever had.

It is a claim to moral perfection, or at least superiority; because you can always point to someone who's screwed up more than you. 

Who in the world would want to make that case for themselves?  Self-justification is exhausting and Jesus wants to release us from the terrible burden of self-righteousness and self-improvement.

Christianity is a release from the self-improvement, comparison-based ["I'm not as bad as that guy, but better than this guy"], sliding-scale of "being good."  How do you ever know when you're good enough?  It's an impossible burden.

The only person whose righteousness and goodness is self-authenticating is Jesus.  The rest of us get to borrow his goodness. 

 
I think any time we want to put human goodness [rather than Christ-given goodness, given to those who want to know him] on the scales of justice, we badly misunderstand Adam and Eve.  We assume that because they blew it, they must have been just like usThe were not.  Before their Fall, they had hearts that had never known sin.  Can you image what it must have been like to:

  • Never feel selfish,

  • Never feel doubt,

  • Never feel like God owed you something or was holding out on you,

  • Never have an addiction or lust for an empty substitute? 

  • Never desire anything more than what God has already given?

  • Never withhold love from anyone at any time?

  • Never feeling unloved?

 

The tragedy of ruin:
Our ruin [the Fall that every human since has inherited] was so dramatic because of the heights from which we fell.  We fell from the stars, dropping through cold space, plumetting through mesosphere, stratosphere and bird-winged sky; sinking like a chain-wrapped corpse to the bottom of the deepest ocean trench, a mile below the water's surface where darkness creates blindness. 

Adam and Eve became specters of their former selves.  They let the Thief in through the window.  Put themselves and their children in front of the oncoming bus.  Humanity's inherited ruin is so deep because our former glory was so stunning.  We fell far because we were once so much more.

And that's what is nearly impossible for us to conceive.  That's why we want to cling to our pre-Christ, soiled goodness.

Here's the astounding news.
When God gives you a new heart, his indwelling goodness, he restores you to a glory exceeding what Adam and Eve possessed before the Fall:

“For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo.  Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity.” – C.S. Lewis

Read that again. 

A person who trusts Jesus' rescue and is restored by Jesus' work, has a capacity that Adam and Eve did not -- even in Adam and Eve's pre-Fall, unblemished and shame-less state.  And that person has a more glorious-than-unfallen-nature right now.  Not just in heaven.  Now!

Living in that truth will bring a genuine sense of humility and deep gratitude to the heart.  In Christ, the degree of our restoration has surpassed the degree of our ruin.

 

Friday
Dec302011

You are just as holy as Jesus.

"You, Christian, are just as holy as Jesus." 
This is an audacious claim, isn't it?

In fact, it's so bold as to feel blasphemous, like an insubordinate and arrogant soldier who doesn't know his place.

But it has to be true if you are to be obedient to Jesus, to love as he loves ... "Love others as I have loved you." 

  • You can't love well without his actual goodness having become your actual goodness.

  • You can't love your abuser like Jesus would, if you have even an ounce of self-righteousness in your heart.

  • You can't love your spouse, kids or friends, without any self-interests, without any expectation of benefit to you, without Jesus' stubborn affection for them.

But here's the difference between us and Jesus: 
Though we as "little Christs" now have the same nature [or "heart"] as Jesus, our actions don't always follow.  It takes time to trust your new goodness, to let it come out and play.   It takes time for the body to follow the heart; for the old habits of our former selves to succumb to Christ's death.

But be confident of this:  Those latent and discouraging habits of mind and body represent a person who no longer exists.  The old has gone, the new has come. 

Your new heart is just as holy as Jesus' heart - because he gave you his own heart.  His good nature is now in you, as you.  You, noble friend are the lighthouse.

Wednesday
Dec142011

Your heart is your ally, not your enemy.

Most Christians believe that their heart is an opponent; a cancer to be beat, or an unruly dog to be tamed.


Usually, they've ended up with that belief because, though their beliefs came from the bible, they weren't biblical.  The belief that their heart is still corrupt and wicked even after Jesus has taken up residence there, was often formed, not from a composite and whole picture from Scripture, but from select passages ripped from context.

Until about 8 years ago, I too had developed what I thought was a biblical assumption about my heart and its motives:  concluding that my heart would lead me astray because it was attracted to sin.

Here are some of those select passages and even worship songs upon which many Christ-followers have built a theology that assumes their heart is still wicked:

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me."  [Ps. 51:19] 
[You might remember the Keith Green song here.]

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure."  [Jeremiah 17:9]


"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.  Bind my wandering heart to thee."  [Hymm: "Come Thou Fount']

Cherry-picking selected passages and forming a complete theology would be like eating each ingredient of a cake by itself:  First, eating the raw eggs, then eating the half-cup of salt, then eating the raw flour.  The whole and completed cake tastes nothing like the individual ingredients separated-out.

Your heart is your ally now:  aligned with God's own spirit.  Your heart is your advocate, not your adversary.

Here's a modern translation of what Luther affirmed over 300 years ago:

"For faith in Christ gives us the Holy Spirit, who gives us new hearts, and stirs those hearts so that we may now willingly pursue God's best."   -Martin Luther

Your heart is your ally, not your enemy.

 

Related posts:

Video:  The 'Prone to Wander' Myth

Podcast:  God Without Religion, with guest author, Andrew Farley.

 

 

Wednesday
Nov302011

Video: "THE PRONE TO WANDER MYTH"

I just finished producing this video.  The video exposes one of the most damaging myths in the Church today.

Monday
Nov142011

How we talk to our kids: An alternative to constant evaluation and judgement calls

In order to be responsible parents who want their kids to grow up into caring and responsible adults, many of us, including myself,  tend to sabotage our best efforts by the way we talk to our kids.  Much of our conversation with our kids is laced with appraisal and evaluation:

"Good job! with that art project. [positive evaluation]

"That was an unkind thing to say to your sister!"  [negative evaluation]

Much of our talk is centered around value-judgements.  As Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting asks, Why do we call an art project a "job" in the first place, and why is it necessary for it to be declared "good" or "bad" necessarily?  Is that even helpful for the moral development of a child?

Here's the caution:  Relentlessly attaching a value-judgement to a child's efforts - either in order to offer "encouragement" on the one hand, or to offer criticism - can leave a child with the impression that their efforts are what win your approval. Even positive reinforcement can prove to backfire when attached to specific events or behaviors we want to see more of.  It replaces intrinsic motivation ["I'm doing this because I know it's the right thing"] with extrinsic motivation [I'm only doing this to get more of dad's approval because he seems most happy when I meet his expectations."]  See the difference?

 

Yet, as Kohn suggests,

The happy news is that it's not necessary to evaluate kids in order to encourage them." 

 

It's about heart first.  Then the behavior will tend to take care of itself.
If we are demonstrating our delight in our children on a continual basis [rather than when they meet expectations], regardless of their actions [positive or negative], they will be developing a healthy sense of their value and our unconditional acceptance of them.  However, even offering praise as a means of reinforcing a positive behavior can quickly be interpreted by the child as, "Mom seems most happy with me when I'm behaving well and meeting her expectations."  Here, we end up punishing them with praise, because that praise gets attached to specific behaviors, rather than reinforcing our ongoing, unconditional delight in them.

And if our children feel that nearly every conversation we have with them is a judgement call on how well they're doing, or failing to do, what are they likely to conclude?  "I'm not enough for mom or dad."

What's wrong with evaluation?
What's wrong with evaluation, declaring certain things "right" or "wrong?"  Nothing.  We certainly want our kids to develop strong inner compasses and the strength of heart to act lovingly and respectfully towards others.  But the better question is, "How do we get them there?"

Relentlessly evaluating our child's every act and motive may, in fact, backfire.  It could cause them to become overly obsessed with their effort, with their behavior, and conclude that pleasing us is contingent upon meeting our expectations.

 

Kohn offers two examples as alternatives to evaluation:

{1}  Describe:  Give feedback on what you see.  Rather than, "You're such a great helper!" you can say, "You set the table!  Boy, that makes things a lot easier on me while I'm cooking."

{2}  Ask questions:  Rather than, "Good sharing, Michael" we can ask, "What made you decide to give some of your brownie to Deirdre when you didn't have to?"  Asking questions helps the child self-reflect, which is what we really want.  Conversely, if we simply declare something right or wrong, we shut down that opportunity for the child to reflect on her actions.

 

Tone follows mindset:
But notice that our tone and intent can distort even our best intentions, whether we choose to describe or ask questions.  The important thing is that our mindset changes from, "How can I get my kids to behave?" to "How can I offer them the safety of my unconditional affection for them?"

 

"The fact is, you've had five husbands"
Remember Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman, the serial monogamist?  Notice, in this case, that he doesn't evaluate her behavior.  He tells her what he knows, but, strangely, doesn't condemn it:

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

   Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Jesus could have said, "You're living an immoral life and your promiscuity is displeasing to God."  But he doesn't approach her that way.  His talk is not laced with evalution.  His goal is to offer her life, not condemnation.

Because Jesus offers his insider knowledge of her lifestyle without judgement, she is able to tell the townsfolk, without shame, "Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!"   How would she have felt safe enough to publically declare his knowledge of her promiscuity without first experiencing his non-judging presence?

Remember, the goal is to offer life to our kids, co-workers and spouses.  Connection without condemnation.

Tuesday
Nov082011

How "If____________, then______________" has sabotaged your relationships

Most Christians, most people in fact, live with what one educator calls, ""Compliance Acquiescent Disorder  (CAD)."  An individual with this disorder, "defers to authority,"  "actively obeys rules,"  "fails to argue back,"  "knuckles under instead of mobilizing others in support,"  "stays restrained when outrage is warranted,"  and so on.  Compliance Acquiescent Disorder goes far beyond a proper sense of authority and mutual respect.

I just spoke with a mother today, who told me that her daughter [a responsible kid] was put into time out by her teacher for sharpening her pencil while the teacher was on the phone.  The mother was incensed.

Norm Diamond, who coined the term, Compliance Acquiescent Disorder, was speaking of an educational environment that prizes compliance over almost everything; but C.A.D is an accurate term for what has happened to most of us.  (1)

Most of our relationships: 

  • parent - child,
  • boss - employee,
  • teacher - student,
  • spouse - spouse

operate around an "If __________________, then ___________________" dynamic:

If you behave well, I"ll reward you.  If you misbehave, there will be "consequences."

If you put in over-time at work, you'll receive a bonus.

If you don't complete your homework, you will be penalized."

If you don't meet the expectations I have for marriage, then I'll withdraw as well.

 

At the expense of our hearts
Because we've gone to schools, worked in jobs, and learned parenting habits where compliance ["Just do what we tell you, whether it's reasonable or not"], always operate around "If ___________, then________," we've gotten used to pleasing others even at the expense of our own hearts.

We've caved,  knuckled under, and refused to challenge the reigning assumption that controlling others and being controlled by others is normal.  It is not.

Our jobs have taught us that workers produce more when there are "carrot and stick" incentives for performance, forgetting that most people want to do good and meaningul work, and don't need to be prodded or "managed" in order to do so. (2)

Our schools have taught our children to comply with every expectation of the teacher -- whether reasonable or not, whether actually good for them or not -- even when it is an assault against our child's will and dignity.

Our inherited parenting habits have taught us to shut down anything messy, anything disruptive, loud or unexpected; oftentimes simply because it's inconvenient for us, or we're just plain stressed. 

"If ___________, then _________________" is everywhere, and it's killing our hearts.  Worst of all, law-based distortions of Christianity have taught us that God only blesses people who comply with his will; and that pleasing him is a matter of getting things right.

 

(1) From Feel Bad Education, by Alfie Kohn

(2)From "Drive-The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," by Daniel Pink

 

Friday
Nov042011

It's about connecting, not control.

What if, rather than ask,

"How can I get this person to do what I want them to do," we asked,

"How can I connect with this person?"

Getting people [including our spouse or kids] to comply with our rigid expectations will inevitably lead to controlling them. 

Control always leads to shame. 
Why?

Because the one doing the controlling [expecting compliance] assumes it's their right to do so.  It sets the two parties on unequal footing.  The receiving person's dignity is seen as dispensable.

Are expectations a good thing?  Yes.  To live without them is to live without values and to assume our own dignity is indispensable. 

But demanding compliance at the cost of another person's heart isn't acceptable.  God himself is gracious with latitude:  He allows, even welcomes, self-will - the capacity to make uncoerced choices without the threat of disappointing him.

It's helpful to ask:  "Does the person's heart matter more to me than their behavior?"

 

The controlling dynamic centers around "IF...THEN..."

"If you do this, I'll be happy with you.  If you don't meet my expectations, I'll be disappointed with you."

"If you comply with my expectations, I will reward you.  If not, you'll suffer the consequences."

THIS IS NOT THE GOSPEL.  Instead, God says, "I will bless you on your worst day."

 

A better way

Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great" and other leadership books, offers an alternative:

1.  "Lead with questions, not answers."

2.  "Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion."

3.  "Conduct autopsies, without blame."

 

I would add a couple others:

  • "Give feedback about failed expectations as information, not condemnation."  [remove the emotional sting]

  • "Put the heart of the other person first.  Worry about behavior later."

 

It's about connecting, not compliance.

Wednesday
Oct262011

Podcast: "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION:" PART 3 - author Andrew Farley joins Jim Robbins

This is the final episode, part three, of the podcast mini-series, "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION." 

Drawing from Andrew Farley's new book, God Without Religion,  Drew and I dig deeper into the confusing mess that religious compliance and performance has made of things:

 

  1. Discover why it can't be your old nature that causes you to sin, or that tempts you.

  2. Learn why we often mistake the voice of sin for our own heart's voice, believing our heart is still "prone to wander."

  3. Explore why, even when we sin, as Andrew Farley points out, "There's something in us, that's not us;"  and why relaxing in your new and noble nature will set you free.

 

To learn more about "God Without Religion" visit Andrew's site:  www.andrewfarley.org.

  CLICK TO LISTEN.

 

 

........................................................................................................

To hear Parts 1 & 2 of this podcast series:

To hear Parts One and Two of the "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION" podcast series, go to the podcast page; or download them in iTunes.

 

Friday
Oct212011

Podcast: "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION" - part two: Author Andrew Farley joins Jim Robbins

Podcast:  "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION:  Part 2.  Author Andrew Farley joins Jim.

In part two of our mini-series about Andrew Farley's new book,
God Without Religion
, we'll ask why Christians need to attend their own funeral. 

  • What are the benefits of knowing you're dead already?

  • We'll also talk about the popular myth of "Dying to Self."

  • Learn more about Drew's book at AndrewFarley.org. 

Similar podcasts:

  • Listen to "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION:  Part 1"  here.
Monday
Oct172011

What your enemy's choice of weapons can tell you

  • Serial killer Juan Corona's favorite weapon was a machete', after which he buried the bodies in nearby farmer's orchards. 

  • The F.A.R.C., a Columbian terrorist group operating in Columbia's jungles, uses kidnapping as a weapon of choice. 

  • The Roman Empire's favored impliment of horror was suffocation through crucifixion.

 

Ask "why:"
Have you ever asked why your enemy's chief weapons are deception and accusation?  Why would the devil choose those two means above all others?  Certainly he has other means for harrassing and stealing; yet Scripture's foremost monikers for him are "The Deceiver" and "The Accuser."

 

Look at the fruit:
You can often tell the intended effect by looking at the fruit of something:  In other words, what happens when the victim is being deceived or being accused?  What does a Christian, in particular experience under:

1.  DECEPTION'S FRUIT

The Christian [or anyone, for that matter] is seduced away from reality, from what is true and actual.  In other words, we drink the CoolAid. 

This is why we are given a heads-up that "truth will make you free."  When the victim no longer believes what is true and actual and doesn't experience the world, himself, or God as they really are, they begin to develop false agreements:  They buy the lie: 

"God no longer gives a rip about me because he continues to allow me to experience deep pain." 

"My husband gets angry all the time because he has an anger problem and nothing more."

Deception brings distortion, and leads us to quite damaging conclusions -- like a fighter pilot who believes what his body is telling him, rather than trusting his instrument panel, only to find out that he's actually flying upside-down.  Deception leads to disorientation.


The antidote:  The antidote to deception is reality.  [In other words, confidence in Jesus' perspective.]

 

2.  ACCUSATION'S FRUIT:

Accusation calls something "bad" that God has made good.  It is a form of slander

You have a problem with lust because you are that kind of man and will always be so.

You need to control everything because you refuse to trust God.  [Though there may be some truth to this, a person can also feel the urge to control people and circumstances because of unhealed wounds and the messages those wounds left behind.]

The collateral damage of accusation is fear and impotence

"I am afraid to trust my heart because I've been told it is still 'deceitfully wicked' and selfish."

"I must try hard to avoid God's disappointment because I blow it so often and can no longer believe I'm his delight.  I have to keep trying harder.  [This is a form of impotence because the accused no longer believes his noble heart has the goodness and power to overcome sin.  She doesn't recognize the glorious desires and goodness of her new heart, and therefore, doesn't engage them.  She is left feeling helpless and defeated.]

Cardiotoxin:  The venom of a King Cobra is a cardiotoxin, with devastating effect upon the heart.  There is another Snake, who fell from heaven, who uses accusation as a cardiotoxin.

The antidote:  The antidote to accusation is unwaivering confidence that Jesus gave you a good and noble heart when you said 'yes' to him.  You no longer have a sin-nature, nor is sin something you even want.  [Your 'flesh' or some old programming is still around, but your flesh isn't your true nature.] 

Your heart is now good; and that good and noble heart is your chief weapon against your enemy.  You are a 'person of interest' to the enemy; but "greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world."


Thursday
Oct062011

PODCAST: "GOD WITHOUT RELIGION" ........... part one: Guest Andrew Farley joins Jim Robbins

Podcast:  GOD WITHOUT RELIGION - part one.  Interview with author Andrew Farley

This is part one of a three-part series Drew Farley and I will be doing.  Drew is the author of The Naked Gospel and his new book is called, God Without Religion:  Can It Really Be This Simple.  His writings have been featured in national news and media outlets including PBS, CBS, and FOX.

  • During this interview, Drew and I ask whether or not the Law is still appropriate as a guide for Christian behavior, and examine why it is not.

  • You'll discover that using the Law [including the Ten Commandments] as guidance for godly living will actually cause more sin, not less.

  • We also talk about the troubling passages in The Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus is delivering harsh warnings and unattainable standards for righteousness.  What are we to make of those passages?  Is there a more accurate and hopeful way to read them?

This podcast offers hope and peace for the Christian who is tired of religious self-improvement and pressure to be spiritual.

 

Monday
Oct032011

Parenting where the heart comes first

Here are some ways you can respond to your children out of your good and noble heart...even when your patience is being tested.  The suggestions come from a book called, Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn, a leader in the education and parenting fields:

 

 

 "Be reflective:"  Most of us find ourselves on auto pilot, simply reacting to our children, like firing at the metal parade of ducks at the carnival tent,  squeezing the trigger as each duck comes into our scope:   ping...ping... pang.  We simply fire away rather than first reflecting upon our response.  As Kohn says, "...control tends to be favored over connection."

"Keep your eye on the long-term goals:"  There is a great body of research out there that says that the carrot and stick [reward and punishment] pressure tactics of shaping kids actually backfires in the long run.  Pressuring kids through reward or punishment offers them external incentives only, like  grabbing a young plant by its leaves and pulling upwards forcefully in order to get it to grow, or telling the plant you'll water it only if it meets your expectations.  It doesn't help kids to want to be respectful or kind.  And we want them to want to walk nobly.

"Put the relationship first."  It's too easy for us to sacrifice the relationship for short-term compliance...just getting kids to be obedient little soldiers; or for our own need for peace and quiet.  Are kids really 'better seen and not heard?'

"Attribute to them the best possible motives consistent with the facts."  If little Tommy hauls off and wacks his brother's head with a stone, it's safe to say his motive probably wasn't noble.  But there are many times we assume our kids are just trying to tick us off, that their actions are intentionally rebellious.  When we do this, we often misread their hearts and attribute ill-will where there was none.

"Don't stick your no's in unnecessarily."  Try counting the number of times you tell your child 'no' in any given day.  When it's not a genuine safety issue, we must ask ourselves if we're shutting something down unnecessarily:  "We sometimes refuse to allow a child to do something just because it's inconvenient for us" says Kohn.

"Don't be rigid."   "A foolish consistency is the hallmark of ineffective parenting."  [partially attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson] There are often times when we parents can demonstrate compromise and humility, so that children experience a gracious authority that puts their heart first.

 

As Charles Spurgeon once said,  

“What position is nobler than that of a spiritual father who claims no authority and yet is universally esteemed, whose word is given only as tender advice, but is allowed to operate with the force of law? Consulting the wishes of others he finds that they are glad to defer to him. Lovingly firm and graciously gentle, he is the chief of all because he is the servant of all.”

 

Friday
Sep232011

VideoBlog: "The Monkey Experiment"

A rewards and punishment system will backfire. It did with monkeys and it will with people. Learn about Harlow's monkey experiment and how it can help you understand your new and good heart.

Monday
Sep122011

Grace won't work for just anybody.

Grace won't work for just anybody.  It's only intended for those who've been made new at the core.  It's our newness in Christ working with the freedom of grace that unleashes expressions of God's Spirit.  - Andrew Farley, God Without Religion

 
In other words, NEWNESS + GRACE = FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT


While speaking at a men's event, a guy actually argued with me that God had only made us "positionally" righteous.  In other words, we were righteous 'in heaven,' or 'in the eyes of God' but not actually good and noble...not yet.  Another way to state this guy's claim is that God only imputed [or credited] us with his goodness, but didn't impart [give or infuse] his righteousness within us.

I told the man that kind of only-in-heaven-goodness wouldn't do him any good; that merely getting credited with something is a lousy substitute for actually possessing it.  How do you overcome addictions with only a 'positional' goodness and not actual goodness to overcome it?  [ In other words, with a righteousness that can only be tapped into in heaven, but is of no value to you on earth.]  That's like telling a convict at his review hearing that you've credited him with good behavior and time-served, but you're still going to keep him behind bars.

Grace will do you little good without newness:  What you needed was a restored and alive heart that  possesses the attractive and powerful goodness of Jesus.  If God hasn't given you a new heart, with new appetites and new inclinations, what would his "grace" have to work with?  God can't release a goodness in you if there is no goodness to release.  He can't shape within you a better character if there's no spark of nobility to work with, no well of Christ-like purity to work with.

A potter needs good and clean clay to work with.  Otherwise, his master hands will only be shaping wet gravel.  He has already made you clean, new, noble.  Enjoy it.

NEWNESS + GRACE = FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

 

Related posts:

Enjoy your new nature

Isn't Jesus being good for us all we need?  No.

Thursday
Sep082011

The Ghost Bear

In the movie, The Bear, a small orphaned grizzly cub finds itself lost in the Alaskan wilderness.  While scraping the ground for food, he looks up and sees an adult cougar fixed on him.  The cougar had obviously been stalking him and was sighting him in for the kill -- at only 10 yards away.

The orphaned cub does what it can do, and instinctively stands up on its hind legs to look at big as possible.  In a matter of seconds, the cougar looks startled and bounds off in the opposite direction, frightened by what it's seen. 

What the little cub did not know as it pushed itself up onto its hind legs was that a large male grizzly was standing behind the cub, towering over him; reared up on his massive hindlegs, neck hairs grizzled and bristling.  A protector had moved in behind the cub, with ghost-like stealth.  The cub didn't know what kind of force stood behind him.

But that's what the cougar saw.

 

I often wonder what sort of horrors I've been protected from, unbeknownst to me.  Though it often seems as if we're the abandoned and orphaned cub, it's far more likely that the Ghost Bear has come behind us more than we know.

Tuesday
Aug302011

"I am no longer a good and noble man."

"I am no longer a good and noble man." 

This was the indictment against my heart last week, and my character was on trial.

Why had I come to this aweful conclusion about my heart?  ... My wife exposed my anger.

I'd realized I'd blown it with my wife and kids, and had been blowing it for the last nine months: 

...Chronic impatience and irritability with the kids,

...backing my wife into an ideological corner in order to be "right" and to dominate an argument,

...and treating my family like a dumping ground for all that ailed me.

My anger wasn't explosive or uncontrolled; it was more of a searing, wounded anger.  The kind of anger a man develops when he can't face one more betrayal of friendship, or another day of bleeding alone, or another hour of wondering why his Father has gone off and left him again.

It's the kind of anger a man feels when God is asking him to trust that "there is no shadow of turning" with Him, but the man can't quite believe it yet.

Faced with the knowledge I'd been wounding my dear family for many months, I went to a pretty dark place:  Not a place of simple and honest sorrow, but a destructive form of self-torture.  Indicting yourself is often a cheap substitute for the difficult task of receiving grace.

Here are some thoughts that were going through my head:

I am clearly unworthy of my family and can't be trusted with their well-being.

I am no longer the man I thought I was, and that terrifies me.

I am no longer a man with a good and noble heart.

 

Thank God he rescued me.  Thank God I have a very gracious wife, and understanding children.  I was able to finally come to my right mind -- like the man of the Gadarene tombs who cut himself with sharp stones and razored accusations...until Jesus broke his chains.

Do you see the treachery of the enemy there?  "Take out his heart by convincing him that he and his sin are one and the same.  Get him to identity so strongly with his sin that the restoring work Jesus has already done in him feels like a sham."

Here's where the truth is so practical [as it always is]:  If you don't believe your heart is good and noble, possessed by the very strength of Jesus' own goodness, you will likely get the emotional snot beaten out of you on a regular basis.  You need to believe you have a good and noble heart so that when kicked in the gut, you can still stand up...again, and again.

Dear brother, Jesus has cancelled Adam's legacy of shame against you.  On your worst day, you are deeply pleasing to God.

Dear sister, Jesus has denounced Eve's claim against you.   Despite your deepest fears, He has not turned from you.

Monday
Aug152011

Diagraming my journey: How I got my heart back

I wanted you to see how the journey of getting my heart back unfolded over the years; primarily how I discovered the message of Scripture that the Christian's heart is now good and noble -- ultimately leading me to write RECOVER YOUR GOOD HEART.

Share your diagrammed journey here. 
Email me [jim at thegoodandnobleheart.com]  with a sketch or PowerPoint diagram of your journey of getting your heart back.  Get creative.  Use stick figures - it doesn't matter.  I'll post it.

 

Monday
Aug012011

A new word for pursuing the clarity of your calling...

I'm going to invent a new word:  lucidentity
It's a contraction of "lucid" and "identity." 

I was driving my kids to the pool today when I saw the license plate of the car in front of me:  "LUCID."  Certain words "pop" for me, and "lucid" is one of them: 

lucid:

"Clear understanding and perception."

"Evident, clear, understandable."

"Radiant, luminous."

The title of the new book about calling and identity I'm working on will likely be called, "Shimmer."  This idea of "lucidentity" ... of possessing a clear, top-of-mind, and radiant view of ourselves is second to none for me.  With luminous clarity, I want each of my friends to be able to say, "I know with greater clarity the indispensable role I play in God's Story than I did last year."

Dan Allender, in his book, "To Be Told," offers this intriguing question: 

What about God am I most uniquely suited to reveal to others?

Lucidentity:  In other words, you are awake to the "why."  You may not yet know the "how" but that's God's bailiwick.  Trust him for the "how."  Ask him to give you greater lucidentity as you discover what God is trying to reveal to others through the unique splendor of your life.

 

Similar postings:

Podcast:  Calling Series:  THE GLORY OF YOUR LIFE, with special guest, Gary Barkalow - author of It's Your Call.