Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Burning Heart

If you have been on a mission trip or a short-term outreach you most likely know what it means to have had a "mountain top" experience.  Beyond the cliche`, there are those times that stand out and make an indelible impression on the deepest parts of our lives.  We want that "feeling" to be with us and drive us on, always.

I was read again yesterday in My Utmost for His Highest.  Oswald Chambers was referring to Luke 24:32.  It talks about the a couple of disciples as they were walking on the road to Emmaus after having been in the presence of the resurrected Jesus.  They were reminiscing "Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"  Here was a clear opportunity these guys had to be in God's presence, see Him at work, have scripture revealed to them.  Chambers puts it this way:
     "Much of the distress we experience as Christians comes not as the result of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature.  For instance, the only test we should use to determine whether or not to allow a particular emotion to run its course in our lives is to examine what the final outcome of that emotion will be.  Think it through to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something that God would condemn, put a stop to it immediately.  But if it is an emotion that has been kindled by the Spirit of God and you don't allow it to have its way in your life, it will cause a reaction on a lower level than God intended."
By not allowing ourselves the opportunity to allow God's Spirit to work fully in our hearts and minds and souls, we can limit what God wants us to experience or even what it is that He wants to do through us.

Much like Abraham and his choice to obey God and sacrifice his only son Issac, we are presented with choices and directions from God at times.  It is not and will not be a multiple choice question.  There will be those times in our lives when we will have one choice or another, and our entire lives may hang in the balance of how we choose.  As we put ourselves out there and participate on short-term outreaches, a sense of God speaking to us is very common.  We don't want to waste those or simply let them pass by us if God is speaking something to us that could alter the rest of our lives.  It can be something where we are simply called to be more sensitive to other cultures and have a renewed sense of prayer for other people groups and difficulties that they have that are so uncommon to so many in this country.  It could be a literal call to a radical change in our lives where we move into an different culture on the other side of the world.  It could be anything in between those things.  But we must act.

Chamber's admonition to us is that we cannot live on that mountain top, but we must obey the light that we received, and we must act on it.  We must not let the "reality" of our day-to-day lives back home erode the emotions that were stirred up in our experience.  We must not at the same time rationalize and dismiss the experience as simply and "emotional" high, and mentally move back into the daily rut that we often find ourselves in.

I was stirred in my love for God and appreciation of how a chosen culture has influenced me over the centuries when I had the opportunity to visit Israel in 1990 with my father.  I have now had two opportunities to visit Tanzania, once for two weeks with our team in 2008, and once by myself for three weeks last Nov.-Dec.

The two trips to East Africa, were life changing to say the least, but they were two very different experiences in and of themselves.  All three have been life altering, emotional highs, and spiritual awakenings for me personally. There is something truly life changing, altering, if I may use those phrases again.  For me I find myself in a continual process of how my life is being changed, especially from my previous trips to Africa and in anticipation of my third trip in less than 3 months.  I am sensing a shift in my perspective of other cultures and peoples.  I have been undone in my very soul of a racism that went far deeper than just the color of someone's skin.

I am being challenged and encouraged to share what I have learned and am learning as I explore opportunities to encourage others to step out of their comfort zones and see another culture 1st hand and gain the opportunity to see beyond themselves and discover ways to make this a better world for everyone by improving cultures at grassroots level, one life at a time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Could This Be True of Me?

As I read "My Utmost for His Highest" again this morning, I was reminded that the longer I walk through life in my relationship with the Jesus Christ of the Bible, complacency and being "familiar" with God is my biggest stumbling block.

The challenge is to ask myself each day what I value most, what is it that grips my heart and pushes me to stay "Focused" on what is most important.  Sure there are fires along the way every day that I have to put out.  There are stresses every day that seem overwhelming that weight down on me.  But if I am not focused on what I am on this earth for, everything begins to blur.  When that happens, I tend to go into "Autofocus" if you will, and common sense takes over and drives my actions.  In Church-ease we say it is my "calling" in life, my purpose.  If I don't live on purpose, then life drives my purpose.

Chambers asks the question, "What do I really count dear?"  If I have not been gripped by Jesus Christ on a daily basis, Chambers reminds me that not only will I count my life dear to myself, but my service, and even my time given to God as dear, and not my personal relationship with Him.  If I am not focused on that relationship, then all other relationships and "things" in my life, and the things that I do lose their significance in what is really important in my day.

This may seem a little out there and even a little extreme for some.  Some say I am just simply thinking too hard. But if I can keep my relationship with Jesus as my focal point, everything else becomes clearer as I prioritize my day.  The entire image of my life becomes so much easier to sort through and compose.  If I don't do this, my common sense familiarity with God takes over and I tend to lean on my own understanding, and the Bible is very clear that that will get me no where fast.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Focus & HNL

I periodically sit and ask myself questions.  They are not always the same questions, but more often than not they bring me around to the same results.
One of the common questions goes something like, "Why am I doing what I am doing?  As I was "catching up" this morning in the devotional book I read, yes, I have fallen behind in my quiet time, again; I was reminded, again, how overwhelming life has been these last 6-12 months.  Am I doing everything out of relationship with Jesus or is it based on a "duty" to my family, to our associates at work, to my ego, to God?  Is all I do, period; is it divided into segments?  I must admit that in the busyness of my life these last few months, in the overwhelming stress, I have divided my work, my family, and my "service" to God into segments.  It seems at times to all be out of focus.  It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is in our day in and day out world we forget God's encouragement to do EVERYTHING as if we are doing it for Him.  When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we are given a new focus on life.  It is a focus of a love relationship with the God of the Universe, based on His unconditional Love to me.  As my segments have gotten more divided so has my focus.
When I take pictures, Focus, is critical.  It determines a bad image from a good image, a good image from a great image.  Focus can even change and/or alter the great image to shift attention within the image.  The overriding importance is my attention to the focusing.  In everything that I look at through the viewfinder I must, above everything else pay attention to the focus.  If I don't have an overriding purpose in my focus everything competes for that focus, for my attention; it all gets blurred.
As I read through my devotional book I was brought back to the verse that I wrote inside the front flyleaf of the book.  It has become my life verse, my Focus, if you will.  My focus must be about relationship; my relationship with Jesus Christ, and how that relationship influences all others.  Everything I say and do must be focused through that relationship.  If not, it becomes just another duty, responsibility, or simply drudgery.
That verse comes from the Amplified version of The Bible and is found in Philippians chapter 3 and verse 10:
"For my determined purpose is to Know Him -- that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in that same way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection which it exerts over believers; and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness, even to His death."
When my life is focused, it all makes more sense, it is much less segmented.  When I am focused on my relationship with Jesus, my mind is focused on what is most important and is not so distracted.  All the segmented burdens and stresses that come with everyday "life" and press down on my heart, come into sharper focus, and a clearer sense of priority is brought to bear.  It adds a renewed level of Hope to life and I am energized to take relationships and life in general to a HNL (Ho Nutha Level)!!!