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Step 11, Bible Studies
How do you get vegetables out of your garden? By planting vegetables, of course. This is a fact almost too obvious to mention, except for the fact that most people seem to have forgotten that you reap what you sow and you harvest what you plant,
for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7)
Now if a man simply kept weeding a garden patch without ever planting it to vegetables, we would certainly have a right to call him at least a fool if he expected weeding to give him vegetables. We should, in fact, question his sanity.
But this foolishness is exactly what millions of "good Americans" are dedicated to: they do nothing but pull up weeds, and they expect to harvest vegetables. How? They are always fighting the weeds which crop up in the life of America, in the churches, schools, and organizations, and this is all that millions of them do-pull weeds.
Meanwhile, the country and everything in it goes downhill.
Make no mistake about it, the weeds of communism, atheism, and permissiveness must be uprooted, but what good will all this weeding do if no sound seeds are sown? The net result is simply a better patch for new weeds to sprout in. Jesus said of the man who rid himself of an unclean spirit without submitting himself to God and bearing fruit to God that such a man becomes then a dwelling place for eight unclean spirits, "and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
"Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:45) When people are simply interested in getting rid of their weeds, their problems, and have no desire for planting seeds, for moral and spiritual regeneration, then they are only the worse off for their efforts.
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he... Proverbs 23:7
Senator Cory Booker, on an appearance of "The Daily Show," recently shared a powerful lesson with the audience:
"My father told me there are two ways to go through life: as a thermometer or as a thermostat. A thermometer: whatever someone says about you, you go up or down. A thermostat: you set the temperature."
Both the thermometer and the thermostat reflect life and its issues, including our stance on addiction and recovery.
And our choice has significant ramifications concerning health, well-being and prosperity. Each option offers its inevitable results.
So, it might be worth our while to ponder what those very results may mean for us.
First, the thermometer: its appeal is that self-gratifying moment. It doesn't require much work. You just let your feelings rip.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
It's important that, as wise scholars, we not apply every analogy in the Bible literally (as would be unwise), but that we do ferret out the truth that we might apply it to our lives.
Paul says: "one receives the prize." We know that there will be more than one Christian, so this isn't a matter of competing against each other in order to gain heaven. Thankfully, the Lord hasn't created such a system, but rather offers salvation to any and all who will receive Him, who will believe on His name.
What then is the kernel of truth that we should grasp from this passage? "Run in such a way that you may obtain it (the prize)." The point is that there are those who run but don't obtain the prize, those who will live as Christians, but won't persevere to finally end seeing the face of Jesus as Savior (though all will see the face of Jesus as Lord).
So how should one "run," how should one live her life? What does it take to gain the prize?
Give me understanding according to Your word. Psalm 119:169
When the psalmist prayed, "Give me understanding according to Your word," he obviously knew something that we too often forget: True wisdom and understanding are found ONLY through the eternal perspective of the holy Scriptures.
Trying to achieve true wisdom any other way is
"...and that's when I became a warrior!"
I recently caught this statement trending on social media. It's no surprise why it has caught on. With so much suffering in the world, taking on a fighting perspective can be empowering.
No matter what we've experienced in our lives, God has placed within each of us a warrior spirit. He knows full well of our challenges, setbacks, relapses, pain and loss. He also knows of our mighty purpose as well.
And it is precisely that reason why the warrior emerges. I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It's that kind of thing which attaches itself to our every breath. It's that thing which does not give up, no matter how many times we feel we cannot go on.
Whatever you have survived in your life - loss, trauma, addiction, abuse, extraordinary pain- God wants you to do something with it, in spite of it.
Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
He wants to turn those ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3).
But He doesn't stop there. He doesn't just want you to fight for fighting's sake. He wants to give you the Victory as well!
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
God wants you to experience overcoming that enemy. He didn't say it would be easy, instant or painless. But He has assured us that Victory is ours.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4
And that is often what awakens the warrior within us, often, without our own awareness. Some call it "instinct." But again, it's "that thing" which keeps going when everything and everyone else tells us to give up. It's God given.
And because it is God given,
In Haggai 2:12-19, God drives home a very telling point to the prophet. If we place an unclean thing together with a clean one, the cleanness of the latter will not rub off onto the former. If I rub my dirty and ink-stained hands on a clean towel, the cleanness of the towel will not rub off onto my hands: rather it is dirt that is transferred, and the towel becomes dirty.
By this means the Lord made clear to Haggai and Judah that sin is contagious, but righteousness is not. We are not Christians simply because we belong to a good church, a good family, or a fine community. Moreover, a good profession of faith does not make us holy or godly.
God has been teaching me His way concerning heart health. The condition of my physical heart mirrored the state of my spiritual heart. Through a physical and spiritual heart catheterization He exposed blockages, which left untreated, would be my certain physical and spiritual demise. He exposed areas of my heart that were still wounded and thus divided. I suspect I am not alone in this process.
According to the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches that It is from our hearts that we gain all spiritual guidance and understanding.
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" Luke 8:15 NIV.
"All valid spiritual direction comes to us through our heart-the seat of true knowing and our "eyes and ears" in the spirit. If we discern the "will of God" it is through our heart. Knowing our true identity and destiny is achieved through our hearts as well." "Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You", pg.67, published by Shepherd's House, Inc. revised version 2000.
As a direct result of these remaining heart blockages, I was no longer able to fully hear, retain, or re-produce a good crop from the word that had been so wonderfully planted in my heart for decades. The ability to correctly discern, know and understand Papa's will or my true identity and destiny as Papa's beloved son were being robbed from me. In this state, my capacity for joy was weakened. Of course my loved ones were profoundly affected by my heart disease as well (which of course there has been profound mercy and the amazing grace of forgiveness).
When your heart has blockages, your core identity becomes at best skewed and can even lose touch with reality. You are less able to live from the new heart Jesus gave you as your birthright. You even can end up not behaving or acting like who you truly are-an adopted child of God. Probably the most devastating part of this condition is being blocked from enjoying Christ in your heart. He-of course, will never leave us or forsake us-but our intimacy with Him can be diminished.
I am being so transparent about this in hopes to impart the courage for you to ask Papa to search your heart and know truth in your inner most parts, as King David did. This is why he was "called a man after God's own heart."
The single goal of heart healing is to
This maybe one of our most daunting challenges; to daily apprehend through faith, the gospel of grace for yourself and others aggressively.
"Aggressively" literally means it will be marked by obtrusive energy and will be strong in effect and intention. Wow! Too daily apprehend through faith, grace strongly and intentionally toward ourselves and others.
Instead, most are passive about their daily faith in the gospel of grace. Whatever will be will be? No! May it never be!
Your salvation is not a reward for good behavior! It was a grace thing from start to finish; you had no hand in it. Even the gift to believe simply reflects His faith! Ephesians 2:8 (Mirror)
You did not invent faith; it was God's faith to begin with!
It is from faith to faith. Romans 1:17 (Mirror)
He is both the source and conclusion of faith. Hebrews 12:2 (Mirror)
This aggressive grace journey progresses in/by a "mind shift" away from re-penance (faith in the law) to (faith in grace).
"The word 'repentance' is a fabricated word from the Latin, penance, and to even give it more 'religious' mileage, the English rendering became re-penance!" ~Francois du Toit
That is not what the Greek word means at all! The true word that sets the journey of grace, by faith in motion is "Metanoia." This comes from (meta) - meaning together with, and (nous) - meaning to mind together with God's mind; continuously perpetuated by a "radical mind-shift."
So I got up, went out and roved the city, hunting through streets and down Alleys. I wanted my lover in the worst way! I looked high and low, and didn't find him. And then the night watchmen found me as they patrolled the darkened city. "Have you seen my dear lost love?" I asked. No sooner had I left them than I found Him, found my dear lost love. I threw my arms around Him and held Him tight, wouldn't let Him go until I had Him home again, safe at home beside the fire. Song of Songs 3:2-4, (The Message)
There is always a passionate pursuit in our relationship with Jesus. It begins with Jesus wooing our hearts-without time constraint or performance clauses. It continues by our daily searching and seeking for He who is constantly romancing our heart. The word picture King Solomon portrays in this passage depicts the wholehearted devotion that must accompany authentic relationship with Jesus. Nothing less will do.
The biggest mistake of my life is when I fall away from first-love devotional desire for Jesus. It is the mistake that gives rise to any and all others. Insidious and slowly, it happens almost undetectable over a period of years. I replace my love affair with Jesus with a professional relationship with Him. How does this happen?
Proverbs 18:13 NRSV
If one gives answer before hearing,
it is folly and shame.
I don't know whether or not I'm a baby boomer, but I do know that I've grown up in the era of psychology. Everything is about learning how to relate to others, learning how to know one's self, figuring out why we are dysfunctional.
One of the psychological "skills" that has been taught a lot is active listening. Wikipedia gives a great definition:
"When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next, (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Suspending one's own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to fully attend to the speaker." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening).
It's interesting to me that the Bible was talking about active listening long before we even had psychologists. "If one gives answer before hearing . . ." Even if we hear the sounds that doesn't mean that we are hearing the content. The reality is that if we are thinking about how to respond rather than truly listening, we are focusing (again) on ourselves rather than the other person. We are working on a "defense" for our own position, rather than really caring about how that other person feels (and thinks). We are concerned about protecting ourselves rather than trusting God to protect us.