Last night, I found myself reading about the Edward Snowden. He is the NSA guy who broke the news that the US Government has been gathering massive amounts of electronic data on US citizens. Snowden has currently found asylum in Russia. I find the unfolding story intriguing. Everything from phone calls and emails to text messages and other forms of private communication have been swept into NSA data bases. Suffice to say, the NSA knows a lot about millions of Americans. It got me to thinking this morning after reading Proverbs 8.
“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings.” (Proverbs 8:18 KJV)
Not only are the actions and deeds of a man (or woman) known by God but, God knows a man’s thoughts and motives. Nothing can be hidden from God.
We are prone to hide anyway. Whether it is the tantalizing lustful fantasy or desire of a sexual nature or pride wrapped in the robes of radiant humility, ALL is known by God.
Perhaps its the good deed done in hopes of recognition by the world? ALL is known by God.
Only the regenerate, reborn, remade, redeemed heart can be pricked by the blade of the Holy Spirit; capturing and dragging the motivation in chains to the cross. This is where Christ puts it to death and renews a man’s spirit with His Grace and love.
The rebellious unregenerate heart will be ruled by passions and motivations.
In the final analysis, a man has a choice. He can remain in bondage to a cycle of base impulses like sex and self. Alternatively, he can capture his thoughts and put them to death and freedom is achieved.
What are the characteristics of the thoughts running through your mind?
The answer will reveal whether you are in bondage or freedom.
While you may be able to hide from the NSA, the ways of man cannot be hidden from God. ALL is known by God.
Darkness is defined as the “absence of light.” Goodness must have good as it’s source. The ancient Hebrews described this as ‘light’. Evil is the absence of good and described as ‘darkness’.
Evil (darkness) is not something. It is the lack of good (light).
The rightness of the moral law reflects the righteous source of the moral law.
“Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules.” (Ps. 119:137)
An intrinsically good source produces goodness. It is reflective of it’s essence. Where there is no good, evil exists. Where there is no light, darkness exists.
“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Ps 119:130)
I hear folks say, “God wants the best for your life” without telling you what ‘the best’ actually means. Many people have come to believe that “God’s best for your life” means material prosperity, happiness and comfort. This is a lie because it is unbiblical. There are a lot of ‘preachers’ who teach prosperity and comfort or if ‘you name it, claim it’. They are teaching rubbish and falsehood.
So what is ‘God’s best for your life’?
God’s sole purpose for your life (and mine) is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Salvation is stepping through the door to relationship and freedom. But, pursuing God with an all-consuming passion is completely different and requires abiding in Him. We must allow our will to be put under the bridle of the Holy Spirit, and we will be guided. We ultimately become more and more like Jesus (conformed to his image).
Ready to be spiritually challenged?
“Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar” (Ps 118:27)
Our relationship with God is rooted not in emotions but at the seat of our will (heart). When we yield our will to that of Jesus Christ, He will bring us through fire. That fire is a part of purification. Purification cannot be manufactured in the Flesh, it is a work of God (Holy Spirit). It is a deeper voyage into sanctification, being crushed and molded into Christlikeness. There is nothing ‘wimpy’ or ‘weak’ about the true Christian life. We are constantly being ‘poured out’ (2 Timothy 4:6).
‘The fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13) is experienced when we have ‘bound’ our will to ‘the altar’ and yield to the Spirit. Only then can we begin to experience the abundant Spiritual Life full of grace and true freedom in Christ. God’s best for your life and mine is the process of becoming more like Jesus.
Are you willing to be bound with cords to the altar and go through the fire?
‘Be filled, abide and walk….’
A few years ago, Kathryn and I owned a beautiful SUV. It was truly a work of precision German engineering. It was the top of the line of ‘top-of-the-line’ SUVs containing all the ‘bells and whistles’ one could possibly imagine in a fine motor car. It was stunning and impressive. The darn thing was expensive. The warranty expired and we learned that maintenance was darn expensive as well. The ‘special’ run-flat tires could not be rotated. They had to be replaced (usually two at a time). The tires alone cost $650 each and had to be replaced about every 10,000-12,000 miles. Do the math. That’s $2600 per year in tires! As a special bonus, we had the privilege of replacing a cracked wheel at the low-low cost of $900. In one year, we spent over $3500 on tires and wheels. Oh yeah, did I tell you that it was beautiful, stunning and impressive? You can learn something from car tires.
Materialism requires maintenance
Here’s the lesson that you should take away from my foolishness. If you place any of your personal self-worth on the stuff you buy, get ready to spin your wheels and work your arse off to maintain it. I don’t care if you have millions or billions, if you place your ANY of your self-worth on the stuff you can accumulate in life, you will live in a cycle of maintenance. Take if from me, I’m a recovering materialist!
Everything we buy ends up in a trash heap somewhere. That expensive SUV we owned will eventually end up a rusted hunk of junk in a junk yard. That expensive home will eventually be torn down. All the stuff that we buy to impress others and/or make us feel better will eventually decay in some hole in the ground.
The material isn’t the problem, ‘Materialism’ is
Owning nice stuff is not the problem. The problem is when we tie our value to the stuff we own. When we love stuff and our capacity to attain more stuff more than we love God and people, we have exchanged that which is priceless for something with a price tag. Stuff can become an idol. Eventually, we run the risk of allowing that idol to rule over us and we eventually end up in bondage. The stuff owns us.
I’ve seen too many people end up with a pile of really expensive junk and massive bank accounts only to spend their last days completely alone in the pit of regret. They don’t even have anyone to share the regret with except those who they hire to maintain their stuff while they die alone.
You don’t have to get caught up in the nasty cycle of Materialism! Ponder this…
- Order you life: Life is about relationships. Who would you trade all your stuff to save their life?
- Motivation of the heart: Have you ever asked yourself ‘why’ before you buy?
- Value: Do you attach personal value on things you buy? A little status, perhaps? Be honest.
- Envy: When someone else buys something you desire to own, does it make you angry or bitter?
- People: Who are the people you spend the most time with? Are they people who work for you?
- Generosity: One cure for materialism is to give stuff away. Give something you love away (rinse and repeat)
- Breaking the grip of Materialism: Read this post..
- Cultivate Relationships: Seek time with God, family and friends. This means reaping and sowing. Do you invest in these three relationships? Are you generous with your time, talent and treasure?
What is true wealth?
“Add up everything you have that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.” -Pastor A. Rogers
Explore these passages.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:10
“Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”” Mark 12:17
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:21-22
We take up our cause because we believe it is right and good. We know that it is good and we are passionate about reaching the good result. Somewhere along the path toward our goal of achieving what is right and good, we can fall into the trap of the wrong way.
Winning at all costs is not winning. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26) If I have not love in my heart as I pursue what is right, I fail. If I love the object of the rightness of my cause and have no love for those on the path, I have created an idol. When my pursuit of what is right destroys fellowship and unity causing division, I have not love in my heart. I have gone the wrong way.
The heart will produce fruit that will manifest in reality. By the fruit, the wise can discern the motivation of the heart. We can attempt to manufacture ‘good fruit’ but eventually the facade will crumble and we will be found on the wrong way.
In the pursuit of doing the right thing, our way must be the way of love. It is a matter of the heart. The heart is the seat of the will. Our motivations are born in the heart.
The right way
A heart that is authentically regenerated and transformed will produce spiritual fruit in one’s life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23).
The wrong way
A heart that is not transformed remains under the authority of darkness and rebellion is completely incapable of producing spiritual fruit in one’s life. The bible calls this state of the heart ‘the flesh.’ “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these…. those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21b)
Doing the right thing the wrong way
There are examples in the Bible of people doing the right thing the wrong way. Cain’s sacrifice was not pleasing to the Lord because of his motivation. Abraham and Sarah’s decision to use Hagar to provide an heir. Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac to attain Esau’s inheritance. Somewhere along the path toward their goal of achieving what is right and good, they fell into the trap of the wrong way.
How do we know we are doing the right thing the RIGHT way?
- Pray it through: Why am I really pursuing this ‘good thing’? Is it to earn points with God or man? What is truly motivating me? What is driving me toward this cause or goal?
- Check your fruit: Keep a journal on your journey and look for fruit.
- Test it with Scripture: Read God’s word and allow it to minister to you. Don’t treat it like a cafeteria where you pick and choose what supports your goal/mission.
- Be Accountable: ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ (Pr. 27:17) Share what you are doing with a brother or sister who will test you and hold you accountable. They must be able to ask the tough questions. Don’t trust yourself because you can deceive yourself. Get a trusted friend to help.
The way of love ties it all together.
“Grace and truth need each other. Grace ceases to be grace if it lacks truth. And truth loses its power if it lacks grace. Grace without truth sanctions and perpetuates unwanted actions…. Truth without grace is harsh, usually self-centered, and un-Christlike. Grace without truth is deceptively permissive, often lazy and equally un-Christlike… Should I show grace or should I tell the truth?’ Both. Love unites grace and truth.” – Bill Robinson
World War I was thought to be the ‘war to end all wars’.
It was a bloody conflict that dragged on for years. Both sides were entrenched in the mud and blood across Central Europe in a stale-mate. Between the trenches lay ‘no man’s land.’ When either side called their boys to charge, it was a death sentence. The charging soldiers who emerged from the safety of their trenches would be mowed down like fresh blades of grass by enemy machine-gun fire. From 1914 to 1918, 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died.
One cold winter’s night early in the war the guns fell silent. In late December 1914, young men emerged from the trenches and greeted each other. The Allies and Germans met in ‘no man’s land’ in an unofficial truce. It was a Christmas ceasefire where men of goodwill but of opposing politics and heritage met in the most dangerous place in the world at the time, ‘no man’s land.’
Over the years, I’ve learned that Christmastime is much like ‘no man’s land’ for many.
Conflicts and turmoil within families have killed any spirit of goodwill or peace among kin. Practically all joy has disappeared as hearts sink and tensions rise among family members. The wounds are so deep that many refuse to leave their trenches. They remain alone on Christmas. Others attempt to endure with family by showing up physically while their hearts remain in the trenches. As bitter winter winds sweep through our towns, bitter spirits chill hearts and the soul shivers from lack of warmth and love.
Having personally come from a complicated and conflicted family, Christmas was a time of the year I wanted to skip usually. Although the situation has been healed and I cherish Christmas today, I understand what many are going through.
In his moving book, ‘Silent Night’, Stanley Weintraub captures the story of the Christmas Truce during WWI. Enemies emerged from the cold, wet trenches to meet in ‘no man’s land’. They erected Christmas trees, played games, exchanged pleasantries and mementos. For a few short hours sworn enemies became men of goodwill.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 began with one man’s courage and goodwill. History does not record this man’s name but his action spread up and down the enemy lines in Europe. One man of goodwill, took one step into ‘no man’s land’ and changed everything.
Perhaps you are dreading the days ahead and coming into contact with family or friends who have become enemies over the years. Maybe the wounds run so deep, you can’t possibly bring yourself to be in the same room. The trenches have been dug and ‘no man’s land’ is so frightening, why even go there?
What would it be like if you stepped out of your trench and into ‘no man’s land’?
What would have to change in your own heart to suspend your thoughts about the enemy and meet him or her as if you did not know them at all? Treat them as if they were a friendly stranger who just wished you a Merry Christmas?
Peace begins in the heart and is acted upon through the will in one person. One person makes one bold move and others respond. It is not about building consensus. It is about having courage. Sowing the seeds of peace will reap a harvest and potentially change the trajectory of a relationship.
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Proverbs 34:14
A Peace Promise with yourself:
An old hymn points out that peace is seated in the will and heart of the individual.
“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow….”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27
In seeking peace with God, there is a blessing. In seeking peace with others there are more blessings.
Do you want to pursue peace?