Heart Water

When we first believed in Jesus He gave us a new heart in fullfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy:
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Learning to live from that new heart is often a life-long journey. I often ask myself what does it look like when I live from my heart? I thought of this verse today and it became clearer.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Rivers of pure living water flowing from our innermost being - our heart. Interesting that Jesus didn't say that life flowed from God to us but from our hearts. Consider this to be a brief reminder today to live from your heart. Life will flow when you do.

Corrie, Forgiveness and Prayer

Robin at Write Thinking reminded me about someone that I hadn't thought about in a while. The first time I saw Corrie ten Boom was in 1976 on the game show "To Tell the Truth". I remember how the host, Gary Moore, was awestruck by one of the answers to his questions. Corrie passed away in 1983. Following are a few facts about Corrie that I have gleaned from a PBS site.
Corrie was a survivor of Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp. She was arrested by the Nazis along with the rest of her family for hiding Jews in their Haarlem (Holland) home during the Holocaust. She was imprisoned and eventually sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp along with her beloved sister, Betsie, who perished there just days before Corrie's own release on December 31, 1944. Inspired by Betsie's example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel widely as a missionary, preaching God's forgiveness and the need for reconciliation.
Corrie's message of forgiveness was tested when, by chance, she came face to face with one of her former tormentors in 1947. The following description of that experience is excerpted from her 1971 autobiography, The Hiding Place.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. ...

And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. ...

"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me. "I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us." "But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ..." his hand came out, ... "will you forgive me?"

And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." ...

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"

For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.
I saw the movie version of "The Hiding Place" when it was first released to movie theaters about thirty years ago. I rewatched the DVD version this year with my wife and some friends. Corrie's story always reminds me how forgiveness is only a prayer away. When confronted Corrie asked for help to forgive and God was faithful to answer her prayer. I highly recommend "The Hiding Place". I also recommend to you Corrie's example and encourage you to ask God to help you forgive those who have hurt you. It will be good for your soul.

Standing, not Hiding

Ever hide behind the scriptures when you knew that you should be standing on them? It seems that Jesus encountered a situation like this:
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, "Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?" And they could make no reply to this. (Luke 14:1-6)
How easy is it for us, like the Pharisees, to hide behind our own personal "Sabbath" scriptures. It reminds me of something that Jesus told the religious folks of His day:
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:10-13)
I love how Jesus always goes back to mercy. I wonder why the Pharisees were seemingly more concerned about the rules than people? Maybe folks like them (and too often like us) are just uncomfortable dealing with messy people ... people in pain ... people who have made bad decisions ... people with addictions .. people who have broke the law. It seems that sometimes we are like the Pharisees ... hiding behind the scriptures and seemingly more concerned with "the rules" than with hurting people.

I think that when we stand on the scriptures we follow Jesus' call to ministry:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
It is good news when we stand on the scripture. The poor are helped ... prisoners are freed ... the sick are healed ... and justice is released. I guess that is the problem with hiding behind the scriptures - mercy and compassion are not released because there is no anointing.


Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?' He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!' -- Mark 4:38-41 NIV

What do you think of when you think of Jesus? Many think of a loving teacher, some think of a miracle worker and some think of the words 'Son of God'. Do you ever, like the disciples mentioned in this passage, find yourself amazed by a Jesus that you can't figure out? I find it comforting to know that these, who knew Him best, were amazed by Him. The gospels are filled with passages like these:
When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." (Matthew 9:32-33)

Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, "How did the fig tree wither all at once?" (Matthew 21:19-20)

"Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But He detected their trickery and said to them, "Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent. (Luke 20:22-26)

Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. (Luke 2:46-47)

Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, "Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died. He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Child, arise!" And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat. Her parents were amazed; but He instructed them to tell no one what had happened. (Luke 8:52-56)

The dictionary tells us that when we are amazed we are "filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise or shock. I like that definition ... it describes my reaction (years ago) as I watched a young lady in the Philippines healed of deafness in her left ear. It describes the awe that I sense when I read about the women caught in the act of adultery in the 8th chapter of John's gospel. I am amazed and challenged by Jesus' resolve in going to the cross. You know Jesus is still surprising us as He works in the lives of our friends and families. Testimonies of His saving grace and His healing power abound yet today.

So, I have to ask, does Jesus still amaze you? Does He overwhelm you at times? I'd be interested in knowing how he does.

Getting Fixed Broke Everything

My friend Codepoke at Familyhood Church writes about his experiences with reconstructive surgery on his knee. Well worth the read. In it he relates:
It occurs to me we are converted by the Lord, and our spirits are made alive, but they are made alive much like my knee was fixed.

We are given a new spirit, and it's a living spirit, but we need to learn how to live with it, and even how to do those things that we used to take for granted. There was nothing mystically different about straightening my leg after I received my a new ACL, but I was forced to learn to do it all over again.

After receiving this new life in Christ, we need to learn how to be happy again, and how to be sad. We need to learn how to think and plan our lives, and how to be impulsive. We need to learn poetry all over again, and math. We used to be able to do all those things, but now we learn to do them all over again - with Him.
Thanks Codepoke for reminding us that living from our new heart is a life-long learning process.

Ministry Before Theology

Lorna at see-through faith wrote a great post today entitled ministry before theology. I particularly liked this:
You see Jesus always put ministry before theology. He put ministry before the Law and the Pharisees hated Him for it. He healed the sick on the sabbath, and He ate with prostitutes and sinners. And before He died He broke bread and gave it to his disciples knowing that - like us - they didn’t understand.

I want to be more like Him when I grow up, don’t you?

Yes, I do Lorna. Thanks for the encouragement.

Don't Stop Dreaming

Codepoke over at Familyhood Church recently opined about how life is not always as we dreamed it to be. It reminded me about an unimpressive man that I went to church with in the 1980s. I lost track of this man, John, in the 1990s and when I attended his funeral a few years ago I was shocked to learn what this 77 year old man did after he retired. This unimpressive guy:
  • retired at 65 and moved to his dream home in the country,
  • felt a call to the nations at 67 and, with his wife, sold everything they had,
  • moved to Dallas to live in student housing as he,
  • attended bible college in Dallas with his wife,
  • graduated, with his wife, when he was 70 years old (oldest graduate in the college's history),
  • moved to the Philippines and started a school to train pastors.
Hundreds of Filipinos came to Jesus over the next few years and pastors were trained for ministry. Pretty good for this guy who I didn't give a second thought to. Who would have guessed the impact that John would have in the kingdom.

In January of last year I visited over coffee with my good friend Bill. Bill started to ask me about my dreams. I told him about my dream to pastor hurting and brokenhearted people. Bill looked in my eyes and asked me a question that pierced through me. He asked "Bob, Why aren't you doing it?" A God moment for KB. That day I had lunch with my wife and we agreed that I would begin to pursue this dream. A few months later in April, at 55, I resigned my software consulting position and joined the pastoral staff of my church.

You know, living out your dream is an interesting phenomenon. I am sure, like me, John and his wife had some challenging moments ... times when they questioned God's call on their life. For me this past season of dreaming has been one where I have had to deal with many of my fears and insecurities. God's call to "embrace my heart" has been so challenging - it continues to call me into courage and faith. My challenge to you today is to not give up on your dreams. Don't let hardship and difficulty throw water on the fire of your heart. I have found that past hardships have uniquely prepared me to help hurting people. I encourage you to take this scripture to heart ...
'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
... and begin to dream again.

Asking Jesus to Shine

Caught up again in worship in my car today as I sang along to this song penned by Cliff Richard in 1988:
Shine, Jesus, Shine

Lord the light or your love is shining,
In the midst of the darkness shining,
Jesus light of the world shine upon us,
Set us free by the truth you now bring us,
Shine on me. Shine on me.

Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land with the fathers glory
Blaze, spirit blaze,
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord and let there be light.

Lord I come to your awesome presence,
From the shadows into your radiance,
By the blood I may enter your brightness,
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness,
Shine on me. shine on me.

As we gaze on your kindly brightness.
So our faces display your likeness.
Ever changing from glory to glory,
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story.
Shine on me. shine on me.
That is my prayer today, for me, for you and for the nations.

Two Reactions to Grace Incarnate

This story has always amazed me:
Now there was also an inscription above Him, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:38-43)
I wonder what caused one thief to act so differently from the other? I wonder why Jesus didn’t tell them both that they would be with Him in Paradise? Answers to these questions depend on your view of man and your view of grace. Both of these thieves observed Grace Incarnate. Each had an opportunity to bow their hearts to Grace but only one bowed. This begs the question:
Will such a one as the thief that rejected grace accept grace after they die?
The typical arguement, from an Ultimate Grace perspective, is that somehow we become someone different after we die and we then bow to grace. This view tends to paint the problem as one of information - if we have more information we will act differently. No doubt this is a valid arguement in many cases. I guess that I take issue with this because this view affirms the goodness of man and purports that our problem is one of the head (information) and not the heart (humility).

Incarnate Grace confronted both thieves. Each saw Jesus forgive those that hammered the nails yet each had a different reaction to Grace Incarnate. Was it an issue of information or something else? Why do people act differently when they are confronted with Incarnate Grace?


Scot at Jesus Creed posted about Neo-Fundamentalism. Here are a few of his thoughts:

About his past he says:
"I was reared in a Fundamentalist church, and we were incredibly proud of it. We were strident, largely uneducated (even dismissive of education), theologically censorious, separatistic, intolerant, and accusatory of every smidgeon of slight alteration. There were no questions; there were answers — and we had them. We saw our abrasiveness as a sign that the rest of the world couldn’t count the cost; rejection proved we were right. I’m embarrassed today mostly about what we were like as humans - we were ungracious if not unchristian."
I can relate to being arrogantly ignorant and abrasive. I look back and am ashamed of my fundie thinking and behaviors.

Scot critiques the movement and prognosticates by saying:
"There is a conviction among Neo-Fundamentalists that one can’t err if one gets too conservative, but that is the sin of what I called “zealotry.”

What I can’t understand is why people want to go there: its history is predictable. Though I’m no prophet, this is what I think might occur:
  • It will become insular and separatistic,
  • it will become divisive and accusatory from within,
  • it will lack grace,
  • it will create Christians who are not free in the Spirit but who will be rigid and intolerant,
  • it will become socially withdrawn,
  • it will lose a prophetic voice because it will lose contact with culture,
  • it will attract angry, defensive, and mean-spirited individuals… I could go on.
Do what you think is right, but let me say this: Those of us who are 50 and more have seen what Fundamentalism was like; it wasn’t pretty."

As one of those 50+ ex-fundamentalists I have to agree with Scot on each point.

In a follow-up article Scot writes:

"Here’s my thesis: the core driving force of Neo-Fundamentalism (like the old) is a remnant mentality. That is, it believes the following:
  1. That it alone remains true to the fullness of the gospel and the orthodox faith.
  2. That the Church worldwide is hanging on a precipice and will soon, if it doesn’t wake up, fall from the faith.
  3. That the solution to this nearly-apocalyptic church situation is to tighten up theological stands and clarify what is most central and most important for the Church today.
  4. That the major problems are theological drift, church laxity, and evangelical compromise with either modernity and/or postmodernity.
  5. That it is “Neo” because it arises within Evangelicalism today and will either break from it or seek its widespread reform — and therefore its particular characteristics are determined by contemporary Evangelicalism. E.g., it isn’t really concerned about dancing and movies and “mixed bathing.”
I am aware that “Fundamentalism” in and of itself is inflammatory to some — but there are good reasons to use a term like this because not only is it embraced by some but it has a well-known profile that is useful for helping each of us understand the Church today."
The major struggle for me is recognizing the subtle ways that my fundie past resurfaces in my thoughts and attitudes. Reading Scot's posts helps to keep them in check. Check out Scot's blog for more information.