Spiritual Balance

On Tuesday night I had a chance to be with some inmates at our city jail. I spoke to them about the ideas presented in my last post. During the last 15 minutes of my talk I invited feedback and one of the guys said something like this:
I read the bible for a long time and it helped me very little.. but when I began to experience God everything changed.
One of the other guys responded by talking about how spiritual experiences are often trivialized by both fundamentalists and liberals alike. It got me to thinking about how the bible can be very dry if you don't have accompanying experience. I guess the challenge we face is to keep a healthy balance of spiritual knowledge and experience.. if it is all about knowledge then things tend to become merely intellectual.. if it is all about experience then things can be become merely emotional. That is about all I had on this. I would be interested in your thoughts on the topic.

The Knowing Heart

I woke up this morning thinking about what it is to live out of my heart. This scripture immediately came to me:
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
The word that stood out to me is "knows". I think that when we live from our heart we live out a deep knowing.. a knowing that doesn't rely on our fleshly senses but one that comes from our heart. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus seemed to get down to this level. He said things like:
"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
It was like Jesus was saying, yes I know that you are not sinning with your flesh but don't you understand that the real issue is not your flesh but your heart. Your heart is the place where sin is conceived.. it is the place where you know that it is wrong.. it is not simply because the law says it is wrong.. it is because the deepest part of you knows it is wrong. Here is the way John puts it:
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. (1 John 3:21-22)
Here again the scripture seems to be speaking of a heart that knows.. a heart that can evaluate and discern right and wrong. Paul writing to the Romans puts it this way:
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)
He speaks of a law written on their hearts and he says that their conscience bear witness to their heart. Interesting that he speaks of conscience. I like this definition:
conscience: the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action
This sounds exactly like what the scripture is saying about the heart. The heart knows and we can trust our knowing heart. I think that we become hypocrites when we disobey our knowing heart. Consider this:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
This verse speak of hypocrites having their conscience seared. I think that this is one scary verse because it speaks of a life in which we continually reject the counsel of our heart.. a life where we continually live from our heads and not our hearts. Don't you find it interesting that Jesus' main human adversaries were the religious leaders of His day? Don't you know that the hearts of these men knew who Jesus was? It is sad but, in a sense, hypocritical and seared hearts sent Jesus to the cross.

I guess what I am trying to emphasize is that living from the heart is not just an alternate way of living.. it is the only way to live a spiritual life.. any other way of living is fleshly. The more we depend on our brainy flesh to live.. the more that we suppress our knowing heart.. the more we venture down a dangerous path.. dangerous because it leads us away from God. Proverbs says it best when it says:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Trusting our heart.. that place where God lives.. and trusting our own understanding stand in diametric opposition.. you simply cannot do both.. trust your knowing heart.. you will be glad you did.

No Limits

As we worshipped this morning, singing this song, an awesome picture/vision flooded my mind.. here it is as I remember it:
The first image was of a soccer field as seen from the clouds.. as I looked at the field all of the lines began to disappear into the green turf.. I countinued to look and I saw the bleacher-like stands on either side of the field seamlessly descend like an elevator into the grass.. the next scene took my breath away as I saw everyone rush onto the field.
Here is what the vision communicated to me:
  1. There are no boundaries in Heaven.. no artificial human limits.. limits created by others or by we ourselves are no obstacle to God.. He will qualify those who He calls.
  2. Christ has leveled the playing field.. no man-made delineation between professional and amateur ministry.. He can use anyone.
  3. Everyone can play.. and we all want to play.. no one really enjoys watching.. we are all needed.. there are no bench warmers on God's team.

I shared a bit of this with our church this morning. Afterwards one of the guys came up to me and told me that God was speaking the same thing.. a message of no limits.. to him a few weeks ago. Here's wishing you a year of no limits and unlimited blessings as you follow Jesus.