Into My Heart

Into My Heart

Into My Heart

Into My Heart

The thought was overwhelming. Although I was driving I took my phone out of my pocket to call my wife who was several counties away for an appointment.  At that very moment I saw she was calling me.  Now I had forgotten to take my phone out of its silent mode and I had not been aware of the incoming call.

Although the call was not an emergency, it was a reminder in a wonderful way of God’s very presence inside me.  “Into my heart, into my heart. Come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in today.  Come in to stay.  Come into my heart Lord Jesus!”  I still remember learning that song as a child. I remember believing it as I asked the Lord Jesus to come in.

It has taken a lifetime from that moment so long ago to appreciate how powerful a change this has made on my life.  God is truly our Great Friend, unlike any other.  He consoles, guides, promises, protects, chides, disciplines, encourages.  He loves!

In my life as this wonderful Friendship has grown I have long lost count of the many ways He has done these things.   I cannot imagine a life without Him!  My greatest concern is displeasing Him.  I know that I am far from perfect and that I do displease Him at times. It is at those times, when I realize I have gone astray in some way that my heart breaks and I run as fast as I can back to Him.  How thankful I am for His many wonderful promises!  “I will never (ever) leave you!”  “Your sins and transgressions I will remember no more” “I will come and I will receive you to myself”  “I am with you always, even to the end of this age.”  And they go on.

As I said, I cannot imagine life without Him.  Into my heart He came.  In my heart He stays.  Have you asked?  Do you believe it?  If you don’t I would love to talk with you and tell you so many, many stories of how good, how faithful, how wonderful is this, the greatest of all Friendships.  It is an offer to everyone no matter who you are or what you have done.

Plastic Bags

Plastic Bagsplastic bags

Walking our dog after the rain had swept through I noticed, caught in the shrubs along the drainage ditch plastic shopping bags caught in their branches.  Looking more closely I realized that most of them had been there for some time, dirty, tattered, deteriorating from sun, mud, wind and rain.  They have no value.

Later in the day after paying for my purchase the sales clerk placed in another plastic bag not unlike those along the ditch back. That bag placed on the seat of my car continued to serve a purpose.  That bag contained something important and was needed until the contents were safely home.

With a new year has come the ever renewed resolution to take better care of our bodies.  In some ways our bodies are like those plastic bags.  Their real value is not in the bag but in what they contain.  Our bodies are NOT us.  Our bodies DO serve the purpose of containing “us”, holding us, keeping us alive in this world and able to do what we were put here to do.

Sooner or later, these bodies fulfill their responsibility and are set aside.  We call this death, passing away, or just “passing”.  We may spend a moment looking at them but then they begin the same journey as those abandoned bags along the bank.

Resolutions to work on our bodies are important.  But infinitely more important is the care of our souls, the contents of “the bag”.  Feed the body.  Feed the soul.

An Old Crumpled Map

An Old Crumpled Map

I remember the ‘good old days’ of crumpled maps and highlighters guiding us along the highway toward our desired destination.
One Sunday morning, my very first Sunday serving a new appointment in a rural church, I found myself lost on my way to my first sermon at the first of three churches and three sermons that day. My confusion arose from the fact that I could not find my current location on the crumpled map in my hands. Though I had been to the church I was following a different route I was assured was faster and better. However, with each passing moment my anxiety grew as the appointed time approached! Joyfully, a member of the church, recalling that their directions were inaccurate and concerned that my following them would never bring me there arrived and led me from there to the church just in time!
Reading Scripture this morning and thinking of the spiritual condition of our modern ailing church I wonder why a similar sense of alarm at being lost does not resound resulting in heartfelt pleas for direction and guidance.
Thinking back to that time of being lost, my anxiety was driven by the fact that I knew what the area around the church should look like and what I was seeing was nothing like it at all!
Rather than take an honest gaze at where we are as a church or as individuals we would rather have a ‘virtual’ picture of our own creation. In this fantasized view of who we are and where we are we are able to add and subtract our own impressions of our spiritual ‘location’ so that we no longer feel ‘lost’? The result of this is that no matter what our actual spiritual ‘location’ is we can feel that we are not lost at all! This is indeed the worst of all positions. Had I not known I was lost, I would have been unwilling to follow someone who understood where we were and where we needed to be. In humility I focused on the back of her car and determined not to turn or stop until she did. The result was that my anxious thoughts were replaced with true joy and peace as I saw the church and knew we had arrived.
Today we have abandoned the ‘roadmap’ of Scripture. Today we have replaced the images of what our spiritual ‘location’ should resemble; the lives of Jesus, the Apostles, intrepid pilgrims before us in favor of more ‘modern’ models. Our current mental portraits of what our spiritual location should look like are shaped by money, things, budgets, popularity, in short… our culture.
Because we are gazing at the wrong picture and we are following the wrong map we no longer feel lost. On that Sunday morning so long ago, no amount of fantasizing or wishing could have changed my lostness. Only with an understanding of the reality of my lostness and humbly following someone who knew more than I would bring me to my desired destination.
Lord help us to become honest. Grant us humility to admit that we are wrong. Grant us a willingness to lay down our crumpled cultural maps and pick up Your Divinely inspired Map. As we read of our lostness grant to us a willing mind and heart to abandon our own misguided sense of direction and follow Your Spirit whom You have sent to safely guide us home from whatever corner of this fallen world we have hung our hope. Amen.

Modern builders still reject the Cornerstone

Sitting, reading, meditating this morning before the beginning of the work day and realizing its great value I think of those I meet in the course of the day.
The world around us is driven by action and by gain. The world we live in grieves because ‘the economy’ is not performing as it should. Even the church grieves the loss of the economic engine which drove its budget.
Yet in the midst of this lost of ‘economic engine’ we have continued to receive the same gift of time, 24 hours in each and every day, to be and to become.
Our loss of this economic engine, or more accurately, its sickness, has arguable given us more of this 24 hours in each day for the pursuit of being and becoming.
Yet instead of using this gift we seem stuck in a mode of lament over our loss of what the activity of this world gives and decline in money. This is the single greatest lament I hear from those in the church.
When I take time for ‘being’ I hear no applause. When I take time for doing, visiting, launching a new program, participating in the performance of music I hear applause of some kind.
Those in the church who reap the greatest accolades are not those who focus on being present for the Lord and abiding in Christ but those who make things look good, sound good and feel good whether they are good or not.
For this reason, increasingly, success in the eyes of God in the church today will look like failure in and to the church. The ones who are praised are the ones who put on the ‘best show’ at any cost. They receive the recognition, the money, and the accolades. They are the ones who are valued, esteemed and prized for their efforts.
Therefore, time and resources are set aside for them. Their praise is upon the lips of those around and their stature grows and becomes, with time, even legendary.
While this is happening, the one who focuses on the Living Christ and takes time, precious time that could be used for doing, is considered of lesser worth and in fact at times even considered a burden or blight to the church! This is a modern fulfillment of Jesus’ experience of rejection by the religious world of His day also in which quoting Psalm 118 He says, “The stone which was rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone’. (Matthew 21:42)