Seeing the Heart

It is amazing the medical technology that is available to medical professionals to help them see what is going on in the human body.  X-rays, sonograms, CT scans, Pet scans and MRIs are some of the tools that can enable doctors to getting a better understanding of a patient’s condition.

I wonder what it would be like is there was a heart scan available so that we could see the condition of a person’s heart – not physically but spiritually. In the bible the heart is used to describe the innermost being of a person, the center for both physical and emotional, intellectual, moral activities.  When asked what was the greatest commandment from the Law Jesus answered,

YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH. (Mark 12;30).

I think our Lord was essentially saying , Love God with everything you have! Who we are as person is really defined by our heart, not by any external measurement. We seem too quick to come to conclusions about people based on what we see – their ethnicity, background, economic and social standing, present life situation or actions. The problem is, we can’t see their heart. But God can and does. The bible says,

God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)

Lord, please help us to see as You see. Help us to see our own hearts as they really are and grant us the vision to not look on the outward  appearance of others, but to see their heart.

Pastor Steve

 

 

An Easter Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a little bunny that lived in a giant shoe with his mean stepmother and two ugly stepsisters.  He lived in the North Pole near some elves, seven dwarfs and eight tiny reindeer.  One day a handsome prince gave a big ball. Anybody who was anyone was invited, but the little bunny was not allowed to go, so the children laughed and call him names.  This made the bunny very sad, but a good fairy appeared and promised him a wish if he could guess the fairy’ name.

“Three chances are all you get,” said the fairy, “but if you fail to say my name, I will turn you into a frog”.  The little bunny decided it was worth a try.

“Is your name Genie?” hoping for the obvious.

“Sorry, strike one!”

“Could it be Rumpelstiltskin?”

“Nice try, wrong story”, said the fairy.  The little bunny thought and thought.  Was the fairy’s name, Alice, or Gretel, or Pinocchio, or perhaps Goldilocks?  The little bunny was worried.  He didn’t want to be turned into a frog.

“Could you give me a hint?”

“Nope, it’s against the rules.  You have one more chance!”  The little bunny was clueless.  Maybe being a frog wouldn’t be too bad after all.

“I have no idea.  What about . . . Bob?”  The good fairy was shocked.  Bob?  Who in the world would name a fairy Bob?  But the fairy was forced to admit,

“I can’t believe it!  You got it right.  No one has ever gotten it right before.  What is your wish”?  The little bunny thought long and hard about how he had been mistreated by his stepmother, stepsisters and just about every one else as well.  A basket full of poison apples crossed his mind.  But little bunnies are cute not scary, so he said,

“I want to do something that makes people happy, especially children”.

“What did you have in mind?” said the fairy.

“How about if I went from house to house and left some presents?”

“Sorry, that’s already been done, you know, big guy red suit.”

“You mean I can’t leave anything, nothing at all?”

“I can give you eggs”, said the fairy thoughtfully. “You can even have colored ones.”

“Eggs – I’m a rabbit not a chicken!  What does a bunny have to do with eggs?”

“Nothing – but there might be some symbolic significance for Easter”.

“Easter, what is Easter?”

“Well, there is a lot of debate, but it has this springtime, fertility theme going on and rabbits have always been associated with that!  But this is getting too historical and theological, and this is a fairy tale”

“Oh . . . . yeah.”

“So, do you want the wish or not”

“I guess so, but when do I start?”

“How about the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox?”

“Huh?”

“Don’t worry; I’ll get your started”.  Just as the good fairy was about to leave, the little bunny had an idea.

“Hey, how about making some of the eggs chocolate?” he asked

“You got it” said the fairy and as he disappeared he said,

“Happy Easter to all and to all a good night”

And how does the story end?  The little bunny lived happily ever after.  What did you expect; it is a fairy tale.  The resurrection of Jesus – well, that it a whole different matter!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – 1 Peter 1:3

Blessings, Pastor Steve

 

 

Some time ago there the How many (insert person or group) does it take to change a light bulb jokes were fairly popular. In my own denominational context one was how may Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?  The answer was CHANGE?

I had a professor who once said, “life is a constant adjustment”. I believe he was right. Change is not always easy, especially if it forces us into new territory, removes us from our comfort zone and threatens our familiarity and security.  Perhaps Mark Twain’s quip the only person who likes change is a wet baby is more true than we might want to admit. Some people may agree with the Duke of Cambridge who in the late 1800’s reportedly  said, any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored. There are others, however who clamor for change, even if they don’t know what they want to change. Change, just for the sake of change, may not be a wise thing at all.

But there is an area of life that change should be continual and that is in our relationship with Jesus. Following Jesus is an ongoing experience and discovery in faith .  We never should just coast in a walk with God.  In his book Crazy Love Francis Chan writes

Change is not only good; it is critical. If you do the same things today that you did five years ago, you need to closely examine your heart.To repent means to change. You discover areas of your life that are not under God’s control, and you repent, you change (p.175)

The Apostle Paul understood that a relationship with Christ was about change.  His testimony in Philippians 3:7-14 was,

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What changes does God want to make in your life and mine?

Pastor Steve

 

 

 

Checkup

I read about a guy who was  getting the results of his annual physical. The doctor said,  “frankly, the best thing you could do would be to stop smoking and drinking, start exercising several time a week, and change your diet to more healthier foods”.  The man thought for a second and replied, “what would be the next best thing I could do”?

A checkup can bring both good and not so good news and can reveal issues and concerns, changes that may need to be made, and courses of actions that need to be adopted. But an honest assessment can help move us on to a clean bill of health both physically and spiritually.

Maybe you get a checkup once a year or perhaps it has been a long time since you had one. At my age the doctor wants to see me every four months (though I can usually stretch it to six).  The psalmist wrote of a check up that every believer should get and probably have every day,

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:23-24)

We should allow God to examine our hearts and assess our spiritual condition daily to determine if we are healthy or if there is something unhealthy in our relationship with Him. If we are not careful wrong attitudes, unforgiveness, and sinful behavior can subtly invade and wreck havoc in our spiritual lives. If God’s assessment reveals some issues we need to accept His prescription for what is best for us.  We should never settle for “what is the next best thing I can do”?

Blessings,
Pastor Steve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Grace

Perhaps one of he most well know Christian hymns is Amazing Grace. The first line is a testimony of John Newton, slave trader turned minister. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…..Though he lived centuries earlier the apostle Paul wrote similar words:

For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

What is it that Paul and Newton mean by grace?  What is God’s grace?  Basically grace describes the attribute of God in which He freely, sovereignly, and unconditionally bestows favor on the undeserving.  From a biblical perspective that is everyone. God gives us what we don’t deserve and what we cannot earn and the ultimate demonstration of His grace is salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In reading through the Gospel of Luke recently I was once again reminded how Jesus gave grace to people, people that few others cared about or for whom was there little, if any compassion.  The bible says of Jesus for the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ (John 1:6).

Grace is one of God’s “communicable” attributes which means that as His children we are to display the same attribute. That means we who are grace receivers are to also be grace givers.  To do so means that when it come to our relationships with others we remember that we too are sinners, saved only by His grace.  Amazing grace how sweet the sound!

Blessings,

Pastor Steve

 

I Have a Dream

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered what has famously come to be known as his I Have a Dream speech in which he calls for an end to racism in the United States and for civil and economic rights.  If you have never read it or heard it I would encourage you to do so.  Some of our younger generation may not readily identify with the Dr. King’s words or understand the cultural unrest at the time, but some of us are old enough not only to remember it, but experienced the racial inequity in our nation that he described.

Perhaps the most famous section of the speech is where Dr. King shares his dream for America.  Since his speech is still under copyright protection I am not going to quote him. However Dr. King does allude to several passages of the bible, one being Isaiah 40:4-5

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together;

Bigotry, racism, and prejudice are the fruit that find fertile soil in the unregenerate human heart and though a nation needs the prophetic voice of Dr. King and others like him, the end of racism and civil injustice cannot come from any outside civil right movement.  Fifty four years since I Have a Dream, our nation still struggles with liberty and justice for all.  The answer to racism is a changed heart and the only One who can give you that is Jesus.  In Galatians 3:28 the apostle Paul wrote,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Steve

Story Time

One of the teaching methods that Jesus often used was to tell stories.  There may be something in how we humans are wired together that resonates with a good story. I love a good story. One of my favorite genres of movies are those that are based on real life stories.

All of us have a story. Our lives are a story and I was reminded recently how relationally strengthening and encouraging it is to listen to one another’s stories, something that seems to be disappearing in a rushed, busy, often hectic culture.  Social media has it’s place, but for me it is more like getting a series of sound bytes, not a story.  It is not a substitute for looking someone in the eyes, listening to their story, and enjoying real live human interaction .

I find it amazing what you can learn about someone over a cup of coffee, across the table at a meal or just sitting down and talking, for even a few minutes. Not only would we personally benefit from taking the time to engage one another but the church would be strengthened as well. In the first few weeks of the New Year why not make a commitment to planning and seeking opportunities through out the year for a story time. The second verse of an old hymn, Tell Me the Old, Old, Story says

Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in –
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often,
For I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning
Has passed away at noon

Blessings,
Pastor Steve