Posts Tagged With: heart

1 Timothy 4: Overemphasizing the External

It is really easy to turn the way of Christ into a series of rules about external behavior.  That is not to say that the way of Christ is only internal — one does need to give attention to how one acts in this world — but there is something missing from a person’s Christianity if it entirely revolves around laws that dictate what a person does and does not do with their bodies.

We learn today that this was certainly happening in Ephesus:

They [the false teachers] will forbid marriage, and teach people to abstain from foods which God intended to be received with thanksgiving by people who believe and know the truth. (4:3)

Sometimes we do the same, especially when talking to younger Christians.  We make it seem like the task of following Jesus is all about not getting drunk, not smoking weed, and not sleeping around.  Then as people get older we talk about staying away from pornography, not speeding, and not missing church.  Of course, I am not suggesting that any of these are wholesome or appropriate; I simply beg us to remember there is more to the way of Christ than external rules, and limiting Christianity to external rules is action akin to the false teachers of Ephesus.

Like Paul was calling the Ephesian church to (1:5-7), like he was calling Timothy to (4:12), the way of Christ is all about “faith, love, and holiness” — all of which have external manifestations but all of which start as attitudes and desires of the heart first and foremost.  According to Paul today, to forget this is the beginning of false teaching.

What do you think?

Categories: 1 Timothy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

2 Corinthians 6: Ministering with a Wide-Open Heart

We have been wide open in our speaking to you, my dear Corinthians!  Our heart has been opened wide!  There are no restrictions at our end; the only restrictions are in our affections!  I am speaking as to children: you should open your hearts wide as well in return.  That’s fair enough, isn’t it? (6:11-13)

No one should accuse Paul of holding back from the people he ministered to.  Paul opened his heart wide to the people he reached out to.  This was risky.  He opened himself to hurt, betrayal, and disappointment — the kind of things he mentioned in verses 4-10.   But in so doing, he also opened himself to great love from the Corinthians and meaningful change in their lives.  Paul knew we can’t expect from others what we aren’t willing to give to others ourselves.  We will only receive as much love, transparency, and vulnerability as we are willing to give to others.

We hear a lot of talk these days of boundaries and leaving the job at the office.  Ministers are warned not to get too close lest they get burned.  We are taught to create professional distance.  There is certainly a lot of wisdom in this advice.  Appropriateness, emotional maturity, and protection from lawsuit are all valuable considerations.  However, I have to wonder if the Paul who is talking in this passage, the Paul who gave all he was to his children in the faith, the Paul who knew that effective ministry required deep emotional investment would have agreed completely with conventional wisdom.  I wonder if he would have said as Parker Palmer did: “to know” those we minister to we must allow ourselves “to be known” just as deeply as we are expecting.  Maybe the better question is how to best be professional and yet truly available.

Fortunately I feel I only have to look at the “wide-open hearts” of those I teach with to see what Paul is talking about.  They are experts in their subjects but they also allow their lives to be a text in the class.  They share their own stories, their own successes and failures with students trying to navigate similar decisions.  They are not afraid to compliment, high-five, and hug.  They know how to laugh with a kid and chide him for poor thinking.  They are tired at the end of week from pouring out their very selves to their students, but they also they celebrate with their whole hearts at games, concerts, art shows, and homecoming activities.  They express their love and pride freely at the end of the year and they feel an honest loss when students graduate and leave.  They cry when discipline is necessary and love enough to bring it.

This is ministry, and it takes a wide-open heart to do it well.

What did you notice in this chapter?

Categories: 2 Corinthians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Luke 21: Watch Out!

This chapter and its parallel in Matthew 24 are just flat complicated passages.  I remember as a high school senior sitting in Bible class with a very insightful and even-keeled teacher trying to sort out the exact ins and outs of this passage.  We were not very successful.  What pertains to the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple to Rome in AD 70?  What is talking about the return of Jesus sometime in the future?  Did they think both would happen simultaneously?  Was Jesus using the same techniques the Old Testament prophets like Daniel did in which they conflated several events together that though spaced out over hundreds of years would end up being fulfilled in very similar ways?  And none of these questions get into the millennial madness the “Left Behind” folks can do with a passage like this.

I had more questions that answers back then.  I have reread this passage many times since then, and I still have more questions than answers.

But here is what I know.  The most important part of the chapter is not the identification and timing of the events mentioned in this chapter.  What is most imperative to hear and understand is the way Jesus ends this teaching:

So watch out for yourselves that your hearts may not grow heavy with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life, so that that day comes upon you suddenly, like a trap.  It will come, you see, on everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Keep awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the son of man. (21:34-36)

Jesus is coming again.  The Kingdom will come in fulness.  There is judgment ahead.  There are bleak days ahead too, this passage seems to imply (though, lest we blindly adopt some tribulation concept, when has that not been true?)  Our job in the midst of all of this is to watch our hearts and make our hearts ready, much more than it is to watch the news headlines for clues of the second coming (besides Jack Van Impe has that one covered!)  More tragic than blind eyes that cannot read the “sign of the times” is a calloused, worldly heart that is not ready for the real life that is to come.

Jesus mentions three stumbling blocks to watchfulness in this passage:

Dissipation: According to the World English Dictionary, one “dissipates” by living a life of excessive indulgence in physical pleasures, especially things that are expensive, wasteful, and distracting.  Maybe that vacation we couldn’t really afford because we just had to “get away from it all?”  But is this also the mind candy of the multi-billion dollar entertainment and celebrity industry so that our hearts long to be like them, look like them, and live like them?  Dissipation makes the heart less sensitive.

Drunkenness: Literally, this means to be of altered mind because of alcohol.  But why do people drink?  Lots of reasons.  Beyond the pressure-driven binge drinking of adolescence, maybe the most common reason to drink is to anesthetize the pain of an unpleasant life.  The truth is we can achieve that same numbness with any numbers of “drugs.”  Some of us use food.  Others shopping.  Still others the distraction of television.  Drunkenness impairs our vision.

The Cares of This Life: What a shame to spend a life building and rebuilding barns when they are lost in the end?  We certainly need to be responsible with the roles we have to play in life, but these too can become all-consuming.  For some of us this is our career.  I wonder if my yard is really as important as I some times make it.  Or the car.  Why do we run around so frantically trying to be sure everyone likes us, when there is divine approval that is even more important?  The cares of this life busy our hands and waste our energy.

Instead, Jesus talks about a heart anchored in the age to come, eyes fixed on the goal ahead of us, and hands that pray.  Watch out!

What did you learn from this reading today?  

Categories: Luke | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Matthew 12: It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts

The Pharisees confront Jesus in today’s chapter:

Look here!  Your disciples are doing something that’s not permitted on the sabbath!” (12:2)

How dare they pluck corn and eat it!  That’s work!

So Jesus chastises the Pharisees on how completely they have missed the point.  Then he heals the withered hand of a man standing in the crowd.  Oh-oh!  More work on the Sabbath.  How dare Jesus disregard the Law!  So,

The Pharisees went off and plotted against him, with the intention of doing away with him.” (12:14)

I have never noticed this last verse in this way before.  The Pharisees are incensed that Jesus would disregard the Jewish laws and customs concerning the Sabbath, all the while they are making plans to murder Jesus.  

Yes, it seems they have missed the point.

Today’s chapter really drives home the saying “it’s what’s in the heart that counts,” not the rituals of our hands.

  • Our mouth speaks from the heart (12:34)
  • The fruit/deeds of our life come from the quality of our tree/heart (12:33)
  • A demon can be removed but it will only be worse later on if we don’t fill up our hearts with something good (12:45)
  • Family is defined more by faith than blood (12:50)
  • Repentance of the heart is better than experiencing miraculous signs (12:41)
  • Saving a life and restoring health is far better than getting caught up in law keeping (12:12)
  • Mercy is better than sacrifice (12:7)

What stood out to you in this chapter?

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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