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~Alice F.; Arizona

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Prone To Wander Myth

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 What if your heart is no longer 'prone to wander?'  What if God is more interested in releasing a noble goodness He's already placed within you, rather than pressuring you to be more 'holy?'  Discover the book by Jim Robbins.

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Monday
May022011

The irrational hope of suffering

Many of my friends, and even my own family, are going through exceptionally hard times these days.  We're wondering why God seems to be indifferent, almost callous.  God seems to treat us in a way we'd never treat our own friends and family.  My wife and I are questioning every major decision we've made in the last 2 years, wondering if God's promise was a joke.

Would you allow your son to feel abandoned?  You're daughter to experience unrelieved pain?

I'm pretty good at trusting God when I know what he's asking me to risk.  If I'm unmistakeably hearing his counsel, I know he intends on rescue in one way or another.  But when I can't hear a thing - no direction, no counsel, no One ... It is then that trust is forced into a deeper place:

Will you trust me when you hear nothing -- when the knock on the door isn't answered.  When the storehouse is barren.  When the promise feels like a slap across the face?

I'm learning that the only way to move from a theology of hope and trust, to a quake-proof, threat-defying confidence is to let it play out.  Remember:  things are not always what they appear to be.  Our assumptions about what is going on may be inaccurate.  We need to let this play out so that the confidence Jesus had in the bow of the boat being bullied by wave and wind becomes ours.  We need this trial so that the goodness of God's heart - deeply for us -  can be exposed:

There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home.  - John Stuart Mill

This isn't a stone-hearted dismissal of loss and pain, the kind of unaffected counsel Job's friends offered him.   Rather, know that I'm heart-sick at the level of suffering some of my dear friends and those closest to me are experiencing.  My own family feels tossed about like a dog's chew toy --  Daily rage against unanswered prayer, tears wept as I stand behind my house hunched over in abandonment.  

Then there are the fleeting moments of ever-increasing strength.  A growing noble courage I don't think I've ever felt before. 

My hope is being coaxed, hardened and honed because of the suffering, and not in spite of it.  I don't want to cower before every threatening cloud.  I don't want to be tossed about by every wind:  but I will be unless I allow this chapter in the story to summon a strength that is becoming indominable, not fooled by circumstance and reason.

Share your story.

 

Monday
Apr252011

Indulge Your New Nature

A friend of mine told me that because of the message he was hearing in church each week, he expected to sin.  He didn't expect to love well, follow in Christ's footsteps, or live in the strength of the Holy Spirit.  He expected to sin.

His Christian leaders taught him to expect that.

And this is the message being offered most Christians on any given week.

It's like a Christian suffering with an addiction,  confirming the worst [and least important] thing about him at the weekly meeting:

"Hi.  My name is _______, and I'm an alcoholic."

Stop right there:  Your behavior and struggle is no longer a reliable indicator of your identity.  No matter how it feels to you, you are under a different, more powerful influence. 

The problem with the expectation to sin is that it contradicts the already-remarkable work of Jesus in the Christian.  Rather than fearing we'll indulge dangerous desires, seductive temptations, or selfish ambitions, we ought to think about indulging our new nature. 

  • Bing on our new goodness.

  • Dote on our new, God-given passions and desires.

  • Cater to our circumcized hearts.

  • Nourish our new purity.

  • Pander to our new heart's super-natural potency.

By the way, this is exactly what the Holy Spirit is up to in you:  he is releasing the new and noble goodness he's birthed in your new heart.  He's inviting you to the bash he's throwing there and waiting to see what kinds of unadulterated love gets stirred up in you, spilling and splashing onto those who need your life.  Your new heart is a wellspring of life cascading out and advancing into barren places.  Indulge your new goodness and let it come out and play.


Thursday
Apr142011

Packhorse Christians

Lithograph image, courtesy Degrazia.orgWhen I was serving in the organized Church - first as a pastor, then as a contemporary worship director, it didn't take long for me to notice that utility replaced desire as an indicator of calling.  In other words, "You are here to do whatever needs to be done."  If there's a need, you will fill it.  If the leadership has told you to do it, you will, or risk being downsized.

Usefulness, replaced desire.  It didn't matter that you were endowed with unique desires that indicated a unique calling.  What mattered was that you filled a need - any need - that came across your path. 

I call this the "packhorse" model of ministry: 

"Just carry whatever load you are asked to, whether or not it has anything to do with your particular gifts, dreams, or desires."  All that matters is that the ministry machinery is kept going.

In the packhorse model, people get used.  You're a burro, a donkey for the organization.  It depreciates people who could be making a far greater impact doing what they were designed to do, and turns them into beasts of burden.  A tragic misuse and misplacement of divine giftings and desires.

The horse wants to run, but the organization wants to keep it tethered:  Mustangs don't belong in the corral where the spirit is broken and the steed is altered to become a drafthorse. 

We need permission.  This doesn't mean that we act alone, ignorant of the common good - It means we aren't simply a part of the machinery.  Your calling isn't about becoming more and more domesticated so that you can please the higher-ups. 

You will find your calling through your heart's deepest desires:  Pay attention to them, for in them God has tied ribbons to trees to mark the way back to the wild purpose of your life.



Friday
Apr082011

We've been taught to mistrust our desires.

We've been taught to mistrust something God himself has given us:  desire.  All desire.

 

Here are some common assumptions Christians have often made about their desires and passions, and those assumptions have actually prevented Christians from discovering God's will:

  1. Your desires will get you into trouble.
  2. Your desires are inherently selfish.
  3. Your desires are naturally in opposition to God's will.

We love to quote James 1:14

...but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

No where in this passage does Scripture say that all desire is bad.  In fact, in other places, God actually endorses our desires:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed...May the Lord grant all your requests.  - Psalm 20:4

You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips.  - Psalm 21:2

In fact, Jesus' work in the blind beggar's life  started with, "What do you want me to do for you?"  - Matt. 20:32

Let's be clear:  There are desires of the flesh that can lead us into trouble; and there are whispers from the dark that can entice us.  But the desires of our new heart are good and noble.  As God redeemed our heart, so did he redeem the deep desires of our heart.

Try this:  Allow Jesus to ask you, "What do you want me to do for you?"  What if Jesus is trying to "entice" you with a brand new set of appetites and desires he's already placed within your heart?


 

Friday
Apr012011

New video: "THE LONG DESIRE"

What have you done with your desires?  Can God be trusted with your deepest longings?  Can a Christian trust the desires of their heart?  Yes!

New video from THE GOOD AND NOBLE HEART MEDIA:

Podcast:  "THE LONG DESIRE:"
The podcast is paired with the video and is for those hungering to learn more about desire and their good and noble hearts.  God has given us permission to desire.  Our heart's longings matter to him.  Can we trust him with our heart's longings even amidst setbacks? Can obedience and desire co-exist?

This audio is excerpted from Chapter Nine of my audio book, Recover Your Good Heart



 

Monday
Mar282011

Podcast: Permission to Desire

Podcast: "THE LONG DESIRE:"  What have you done with your desires?  Do our heart's deepest longings really matter to God?  Can obedience make room for desire?  Yes!

The following podcast is excerpted from Chapter 9 of my audiobook, Recover Your Good Heart.

 

As many of you know, my creative side also shows up through music.  I've been a professional musician for many years and recently wrote a video music score for an upcoming video, "The Long Desire."  You can hear the music for that video here.



 

Tuesday
Mar222011

What is your war-craft?

I wear a ring on which is carved the Roman numerals CXLIV.  It stands for 144 ... Psalm 144.

Psalm 144, verse 1:
Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.

What I do - my mission, my artistry, my craft is my war-craft.  Through the music or videos I create, the intended effect is to disarm darkness through beauty and art; joining God in restoring the life that has been lost.  Art, done in partnership with God, is an act of redemption.

Through the pen and written word, my intent is to expose beliefs that keep people in the dark, bound like Lazarus in his grave clothes. 

What you do, both on and off the 'job' is your war-craft:  You may be a receptionist, an engineer, a web-developer, a poet, or a parent.  Your craft is dangerous...for good.

Your art is an act of war.  When God created you, he was declaring war because you are his redemptive act...his redemptive art.

Your craft and calling matter because they are opposed. 

So the question is,

"In what way is your calling, "artistry" or craft waging war against the dark? Who is it rescuing?"

 

 

Friday
Mar182011

Review: SEARCH AND RESCUE

Here's my review of the new book, SEARCH AND RESCUE, by Michael Thompson:

Disorientation is rampant among contemporary Christians [and it’s not their fault.]  Our attempts to become biblically-centered, faithful students of Scripture who can drill down deep, exegete, analyze and dissect, have often left us with a hodge-podge of beliefs, sermon sound-bytes, and scriptural fragments—much like dissected and disembodied specimens in a biology lab that clutter the work bench, but no longer form a body that’s whole. 

We've lost the story-line.

We need a Story to help us make sense of the scriptural shards and spiritual sound-bytes. What we have now is a random page torn from its context:  What we need is the whole story.   We are bloated with information but starving for an interpretation that binds the random scraps together.

A loss of situational awareness can get a hiker killed:  Like Christopher McCandless [Into the Wild] venturing with youthful hubris and naivete’ into the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness, we’re woefully unprepared for this journey.  The unprepared quickly become the unconscious.  [McCandless’ body was finally found inside an abandoned school bus deep in the Alaskan wilderness.  He died alone, stranded in a wilderness he underestimated.] 

If you know the Story you’ve been dropped into, certain things will become clear to you.  The Story gives you your bearings and restores a significant degree of situational awareness.  Certain things can’t be revealed on this side of the Story, but if you know where the narrative has been and is going, you need not live at the whim of randomness.  Randomness will kill your heart.  The opposite of randomness is Story.  What we need to see is a glimpse of what the Director sees.  Pan back; see what we’re up against. 

Search and Rescue gets beyond the canned religious formulas, bullet-points and “should’s” [be a more faithful church attender, get more serious about spiritual growth, or fad programs] to offer a seasoned perspective you’ll seldom hear in church.  Michael Thompson is a trail guide who knows the terrain and how to help others use a truer map and a more accurate compass.

Search and Rescue, the inaugural book from Heart and Life Publishers, will serve as a refreshing introduction to the Story we’ve been missing, yet find ourselves faced with at every turn.  It exposes the real world we can't see, and desperately need to.   ~ Jim Robbins



Monday
Mar142011

Thin places: Where have you found them?

The ancient Celts believed in “thin places” – certain places in the natural world where the veil between heaven and earth was so thin that it allowed heaven to seep through, whereby the individual could touch another world while still standing in this one --  on a lonely mountain top, a hidden field, a remote island.  These places were portals to the Other World.

This shouldn’t surprise us.  There’s plenty of biblical precedence for this: 

  • The Mount of Transfiguration where the ancient ones meet with the everlasting One.

  • The Jabbok River where Jacob wrestled with a "man" through the night.

  • The Island of Patmos, where the island becomes a staging area for a breathtaking revelation, and John receives instruction for the seven churches from the Living One himself.

  • The warrior-poet, David, is instructed to wait until he hears the "marching in the balsams" before striking out in battle against the Philistine army.  That "marching in the balsams" was the heavenly war host advancing like ghosts through the trees.

As occupants of the near- and- now Kingdom Jesus spoke of, we are literally walking through heaven. Heaven is a kingdom that saturates the air around us as Dallas Willard reminds us: "But it is precisely from the space immediately around us that God watches and God acts."[i]

When he comes to deliver us, he doesn't journey to us from far off, or take the red eye, or fly in from space—he comes from out of the air next to us.

One of the worst ironies in modern Christianity is that we’ve lost a supernatural view of reality.  The God and the Kingdom we speak so fondly of remains hog-tied by our cerebral rationalism, put there by those of us who are comfortable with a predictable “reality.”  "The Kingdom of God" isn't a metaphor – or helpful  idea about 'heaven:'  It as a mysterious and disruptive presence.  It is the "real world."

Where are the thin places where you live?


[i]Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Tuesday
Mar082011

Revealing another side of spiritual abuse...

What is spiritual abuse?
To label something as “abuse” is a tricky thing. What constitutes abuse for one person may not for another. However, I’m going to use a definition of abuse that I think fits with our understanding of the good and noble heart.  It comes from The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by Johnson and VanVonderan:

Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.

The authors go further:

Spiritual abuse can also occur when spirituality is used to make others live up to a ‘spiritual standard.’ This promotes external ‘spiritual performance,’ …or is used as a means of ‘proving’ a person’s spirituality.


This abuse may not even be intentional, but kills the heart, nonetheless.  And we often don't consider spiritual abuse's impact on our heart and our attempts to live from our new nature.

Here's how I define what spiritual abuse does to our new hearts:

Spiritual abuse:
Demanding that a person live like Jesus, while denying the new heart [and its supernatural resources] that makes living like Jesus possible. Shame and spiritual defeat are the inevitable result.

*This was excerpted from my free e-book called, Enough Is Never Enough.
FREE E-book - "ENOUGH IS NEVER ENOUGH - How spiritual abuse sabotages the heart" - by Jim Robbins

Tuesday
Mar012011

Parts of the Old Testament no longer apply to you.

Some ways of describing a God-follower in the Old Testament no longer apply to Christians.  Many Christ-followers read the the Old Testament today as if Jesus hasn't come. 

We can't simply apply certain passages to ourselves without thinking.  These passages were written to God's people prior to the Cross and the radical change of heart that comes with Christ's indwelling.  

Some ways of describing a God-follower in the Old Covenant are no longer true of you - now that Christ has rescued you. 

1.  For example:  Jeremiah 17:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Salvation is a rescue of the heart [ -our core self, or nature and tendencies of a person].  Jesus cures the problem of a deceitful and wandering heart by giving us a new, pure, and blameless heart - his own heart/spirit/will embedded in our bodies.  [See Ezekiel 36:26; I Cor. 6:11; Heb. 10:10.]   This new heart, given to us at conversion, was the missing link in our Story.  We needed it in order to reconnect with him:

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

2.  Praise songs that sing, "Create in me a clean heart..." are no longer necessary.  David's cry [which is everyone's cry] for a good and noble heart has been answered.  So what would David sing now?

 

3.  The Ten Commandments are no longer a necessary yardstick for the Christian.  This may be surprising for some.  Why?  Because the law has been "written on our hearts."  By living from the Spirit, our new hearts naturally want to do what the law commanded.  External constraints are needed no longer because the internal power and desire to live out the spirit of the law are now active in our deepest selves [our new hearts]. A person who is living from their new heart no longer wants to murder, covet, or make an idol of anything.

As Martin Luther declared:  the "Spirit doth make us new hearts, doth exhilarate us, doth excite and enflame our heart, that it may do those things willingly which the law of love commandeth.”  You now want God's will, despite your flesh's attempts to deny that.

It's like a parent removing the training wheels from a child's bike:  the child no longer needs them because the ability to ride the bike is now within her.

Thursday
Feb242011

Most Christians have a lousy view of "sanctification."

Many Christians have a great view of justification [how their journey with Christ begins] but a lousy view of "sanctification"  [how their journey and Christian maturity continues].  This is because we don't get across the dividing line of the Cross completely:  We're straddling the Old and the New, and it's killing our hearts.  It's almost irrational:  like a dying cardiac patient being offered a heart transplant, but wanting to keep the old one in, just in case.

Here's a helpful video on this from Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel:

Monday
Feb212011

Is your message just a matter of semantics?

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (Romans 10:10)

I recently spoke at a mens' event in which one of the participants asked me if having a good and noble heart was just a matter of semantics.  [In other words, does it really matter?] 

His view was that we should simply count on the Spirit's ongoing work within us to make an errant heart good over time.  In other words, Why can't he make a diseased heart good... in time?  What did it matter that you start the journey with Christ equipped with a brand new heart?

My response was:

  • It's hard to ignore Scripture's indication that Jesus replaced our 'heart of stone' with a new heart. [He didn't merely try and clean it up - but replaced it.]  [Ezek. 36:26]  When you said 'yes' to Christ, he removed the heart that would have been a hinderance to the 'in-Christ' life; and gave you a heart saturated with his own goodness, spiritual health and vitality. 

    Romans
    10:10 points out that it is "with your heart that you believe and are justified."  Just as a sick and dying body can't reproduce life on its own, so a heart that's debilitated, self-righteous and wandering  won't trust God's offer of life, nor have the ability to successfuly abide in that life in the long run.  That would be asking it to do something that's against it's nature:  like asking spotted and rotted fruit to provide the body with nourishment.
  • Second, the people of Israel's primary problem was a wayward heart -- forever wandering and fauning after lesser 'gods.'  So God solves the root problem, promising: “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jer. 24: 7).  You can't "return to God with all your heart" if your heart is 'prone to wander' and waffle.  That's why your new life in Christ begins with a new heart that can receive him, that desires his will, and can love as Jesus loves.

If we start the journey with a thoroughly-new, supernaturally radiant and good heart, then this is the way we continue the journey: We cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he releases the goodness he's already birthed within us.  

Simply relying on Jesus to be good for you underestimates his restoring work in us:  Jesus is not going to be good "on your behalf."  [This is the fallacy of "imputed righteousness."]  This would be short-changing his surprising work in you. Rather, he's made you good by giving you his own goodness; and will continue to nourish, celebrate and release "the work he began in you" -- the work that started with your heart.  We mature as we allow him to engage this new goodness he's already given us.

 

Thursday
Feb172011

What, actually, is "new" about you?

How many times have we heard that we are “a new creation” in Christ and yet felt a vague sense of confusion? Perhaps even disqualification?

“I know I’m supposed to be a new creation but I really don’t feel any different. There must be something wrong with me.

If we're honest, many of us think that "new creation" means God will change us...at some point in the future.  What if that "new creation" change has already taken place to a large degree?

So what exactly changed when we came to Christ? What became "new?" Is this just a quaint metaphor for 'new life' or has something actually happened in us, something worth talking about?

For centuries, theologians have rightly upheld the idea of “regeneration,” or the drastic transformation of heart Christ brings about. Sometimes, this is called the “new birth,” a spiritual re-creation of our deepest self. It therefore includes a re-creation of the heart. This restored heart is exactly what Paul means when he says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) We should “put off the old self … and put on the new self.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

That ‘new self’ is a new heart given to us at conversion. Our radical goodness is an already-established fact, a gift given when we trusted Jesus. The new heart is the fulfillment of God’s promise to us in Ezekiel 36:26 and Jeremiah 31: 31-34.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you …” (Ezekiel 36:26)

You now have a supernaturally-good and noble heart. 

Wednesday
Feb092011

Why your good and noble heart is a big deal.

A friend of mine, who received the audio book of my book, "Recover Your Good Heart" sent me this response to the message.  I share it because it exposes why it is so hard for us to see the message for what it is:  startling. 

The message of your good and noble heart is not a footnote:  It's a HEADLINE.  It is not a theological nuance, nor a cute metaphor to describe our new life in Christ.  As one attendee said after I had spoken to his group:  "I don't know yet whether I believe what you're saying:  But if it's true, it changes everything."

 

Brent's response to "Recover Your Good Heart:"

Hi Jim,

I wanted to write to you and tell you how your book is having an impact in my life.

To be honest, when I first heard you describe your thesis, I thought, "That's nice. But what difference would it make?" In essence, I was asking rhetorically, "What difference would it make if I really believed that?" The key thing to notice, is that I didn't really think it was true. I thought it was just a nice metaphor, like a lot of other nice metaphors in the Bible.

Somewhere along the way, as I was listening to your book, the thought occurred to me that it might really be true. Factually. My heart(?) fluttered a little at the possibility.

I sort of began to accept the premise that it was true: That this fundamental change actually happened. But I still found myself wondering, "So what? What difference will it make if it was always true all along?"

I've found that it HAS made a difference. And the difference is a matter of faith. I find myself approaching problems, situations and life in general from the faith standpoint that I don't need something in addition to what God has already given me. I just need to live from my truest self, the new self that genuinely wants to please God. Needless to say, I was surprised by the difference.

As I've thought more and more about it, I really look forward to sharing the Gospel with people again. How many times have these conversations turned into "well, I know I sin, but I'm not that bad" discussions. I SO look forward to being able to say, "Hey, let's agree not to focus on behaviors...Jesus never said 'I have come that you might behave'...God wants to give you a new heart." What a great message, made greater by the fact that it's the truth.

Anyway, thanks.

b 

Friday
Feb042011

'Side-effects' of the false gospel

What side-effects does a person living under the false 'gospel' experience?  Religious duty and the constant pressure to be more spiritual and sin less comes with long-term adverse consequences.    [By the way, a Christian doesn't sin less by becoming obsessed with sinning less.]

SIDE EFFECTS:

  • Spiritual pressure to measure up to expectations.
  • ,
  • Spiritual heaviness.
  • ,
  • You suspect God, is in fact, not really pleased with you.

  • You're constantly being asked by leadership to be more committed.

  • Every message is about getting you to do something, or to stop doing something.

  • The leadership is more concerned with managing people's sin than releasing a new life that is now within them.

  • No one ever talks about the heart, and when they do, it is with suspicion -- even in the case of the believer.

What have you experienced when you've encountered a substitute "gospel?"


Friday
Jan212011

Is the message of the 'good and noble heart' a new teaching?

The idea that we have a good and noble heart now because of Christ's work in us comes from the classic Christian doctrine called, "regeneration."  It was even forecast in the Old Testament when God declared:

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you."  [Ezekiel 36:26]

This is not a new teaching; but rather, one we've largely ignored in contemporary Christianity.

J.I. Packer, whom Time magazine listed as one of the top 25 most influential evangelicals in America, describes our regeneration as, “the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature.”

He goes on to say that, “The regenerate man has forever ceased to be the man he was; his old life is over and a new life has begun; he is a new creature in Christ, buried with him out of reach of condemnation and raised with him into a new life of righteousness.” (See Rom. 6:3-11; II Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:9-11)

[In my book, Recover Your Good Heart, you can read quotes from preachers of old such as Jonathan Edwards, Andrew Murray and Martin Luther who also confirm the supernatural goodness of our new nature.]

Wednesday
Jan122011

False humility doesn't do God ... or you any good.

Once again, I ran across the phrase, "More of you, less of me" in another popular Christian artist's worship song.  The sentiment is noble, but misguided, and it denies the true nobility of our new nature.  But didn't John the Baptizer say just the same thing: "He must become greater; I must become less.” ? [John 3:30]

Context would be helpful -- it always is:  some Jews were questioning John the Baptizer as to why Jesus and his disciples seem to be attracting converts away from John.  ["...here he (Jesus) is baptizing, and all are going to him."]  In other words, "Aren't you worried, John, that this other guy is stealing your followers?"

But John isn't rattled by this at all, for he knows what his role in the Story is:  "This is the assigned moment for him [Jesus] to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines."  -- from The Message

John's humility is not a devaluation or deflation of his worth:  It's a realization that his role in the mission is coming to an end, or at least taking a different shape.

So when worship leaders, song writers, or Christian pundists claim, "I must decrease, for he must increase" we need to ask:  "Decrease in what?  Grow less ... in what?" 

God is not asking you to get out of his way.  He's not going to walk around you so that he can go where he really wants to do, without you being in the way.  He's not asking you to recoil and retreat from your true, good and noble heart.   You are not a hinderance to him.

If anything, he may ask you to retreat from pride [ yet he recognizes that pride is no longer in your heart anyway.  It may be lodged in your 'flesh' but not in your new heart].  Remember, it's not in our nature to be prone to wander or selfish any longer -- even Paul declares this:  "It is not I, but sin living in me."   [If you came down with a horrible virus, you wouldn't think you were the virus, or that the virus now defined you.]

True humility comes only when you are content with your new God-given noblility.  Denying your God-crafted brilliance and splendor would be like the night's canopy of stars asking their Maker, "Please dull our light -- we would prefer to be dirtied, dingy and grey."   Or a swan asking God to break its wing for fear of being too beautiful.

You can't "reflect the Lord's likeness with ever-increasing drabness."  The proper thing is to shimmer.

Monday
Jan102011

"I have come that you might behave?"

We were handed the wrong lens:
You will read Scripture through whatever lens you’ve been given. For decades, I mis-read the Scriptures as a way to behave better so that I could act like a good Christian. Others I know have been mislead as well. In fact, one man I know told me, “The four Gospels are about how we behave.”

Is that what Jesus came for? —“I have come that you might behave.”?

The commands of Jesus as well as Paul’s strong guidance to young churches felt heavy and wearisome to me. The commands became admonitions to avoid certain behaviors and take on other ones, lest God be displeased.

I was never told Jesus had given me a new and pure heart or the supernatural power for good that comes with it. I was left reading the New Covenant through an Old Covenant mentality [ a distorted lens]. After a while, one begins to resent God and despise the Christian life for requiring something, without providing the power to carry it out.

And that's the point:  the new heart Jesus gave you, tended by the Holy Spirit, gives you the power to change, to live well and to relate well.   As long as you believe your heart remains 'wicked' and 'prone to wander,' your healing will be sabotaged and the work of Jesus will be short-circuited.

[Excerpted from Jim's book, Recover Your Good Heart - Living free from religious guilt and the shame of not good-enough]

I will give you a new heart.  - Ezekiel 36:26

Monday
Jan032011

Too much of the Church's message is about sin.

History has brought us to the point where the Christian message is is thought to be essentially concerned only with how to deal with sin:  with wrong-doing or wrong-being and its effects.  Life, our actual existence, is not included in what is now presented as the heart of the Christian message, or it is included only marginally.  -- Dallas Willard, 'The Divine Conspiracy'

The Gospel is not primarily about rescue from sin. It is a rescue from death:

  • Rescued from deadness of heart [spirit/will],
  • Rescued from deadness of disconnection,
  • Rescued from deadness of disorientation,
  • Rescued from deadly and demeaning desires that are less than us.

The Gospel is about a life-giving-life:

  • A life-giving heart,
  • A life-giving connection with God and others,
  • A life-giving re-orientation around the Incarnate Life himself
  • A new set of life-giving desires.


Jesus' primary offer is not forgiveness of sins [although he does forgive our sins]. Rather, his offer is a great restoration: returning to us the things that Death has stolen from us.

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