Are You Even Listening?

A spiritual discipline is an action we do to become more like Christ, that we need God’s help to accomplish. They may start out easy, but like any type of discipline, they will become harder as you mature in their practice. This week we will look at a couple disciplines that probably appear on most (if not all) lists of disciplines that I have seen: prayer and meditation.

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As I promised last week, the “Christian Living” posts are going to be about spiritual disciplines as we make moves to be closer to God in the New Year. You can type “list of spiritual disciplines” into your favorite search engine, and everywhere you look will have a different list; some are the same, some are different. The opinion that I keep is that a spiritual discipline is an action we do to become more like Christ, that we need God’s help to accomplish. They may start out easy, but like any type of discipline, they will become harder as you mature in their practice. This week we will look at a couple disciplines that probably appear on most (if not all) lists that I have seen: prayer and meditation. Continue reading “Are You Even Listening?”

Intro to Spiritual Disciplines

Starting to take a look at spiritual disciplines

In case you have not heard already, last week began a whole new year. Everyone’s calendars (provided you still have one of those things) either turned to the first couple months of a new year or you had to replace it entirely because it is now 2019! Every year the media gets flooded with posts and articles about setting new goals or New Year’s Resolutions. I tried really hard not to add to the myriad of voices discussing this topic, but I just can’t help myself. If you are anything like me, the words “I’m gonna be closer to God this year” have at least crossed your mind in the past week. One good way to do this is through spiritual disciplines. Continue reading “Intro to Spiritual Disciplines”

Why Study the Bible?

Many Christians today have access to a Bible. We live in the great and glorious world of the internet, and there are many version available for free online. There are a great many Christians that own at least one version of the Bible in print, and several that own many copies. Many of us know the books of the Bible, and can even recite a few verses from memory. Many of us know how to read our Bibles, but how many of us actually know how to or what it means to study our Bibles? Continue reading “Why Study the Bible?”

What is a “Life Verse?”

I was recently listening to a pastor speak and he used the phrase “my life verse is…” and it got me thinking, what exactly is a life verse and why does it matter? Admittedly, this is not the first time I have ever heard the concept as I have had one of my own for a few years. Yet the question still bugged me as a Christian peculiarity that I wanted to learn where it came from.

I was recently listening to a pastor speak and he used the phrase “my life verse is…” and it got me thinking, what exactly is a life verse and why does it matter? Admittedly, this is not the first time I have ever heard the concept as I have had one of my own for a few years. Yet the question still bugged me as a Christian peculiarity that I wanted to learn where it came from. Continue reading “What is a “Life Verse?””

What Does it Mean to Live Like a Christian Today?

Here’s a short list of some creative ways to practice your faith. An others?

So this being the first post for Christian living in the new format I thought it would be interesting to try and understand what it means to live as a Christian today. The world has certainly changed over time, which means the way we interact with it is different than Christians before us. It is certainly beneficial for us to study how previous Christians practice their faith, and we might do that sometime. However, today the concern is for us to look at life today as Christians, so I have made a list of some (I think) interesting ways in which you can practice your faith. Continue reading “What Does it Mean to Live Like a Christian Today?”

Are You Too Small?

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Juday,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
–Micah 5:2, NASB

Have you ever thought that you were too small, or too unimportant, for God to care about? This is a thought that has often plagued my own mind. “God, I’m a nobody. What can you do with me?” Yet still, He gives me more to do.

I believe that God often looks for the ones who are overlooked, in order for His glory to shine the most. Jesus spoke on the mountain, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, … God blesses those who are humble” (Matthew 5: 3 & 5, NLT).  It’s the people that the world looks down upon, that God’s power shines through the most.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
–Matthew 5:3, NLT

If you are doubting your worth, or do not understand how God can use you, remember this: God created you. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139: 13, NASB). He cares deeply for you and created you with a purpose. I do not know what that purpose is. I even have a hard time knowing my own purpose. Yet I still trust that God will continue to show me why He put me on this earth. During this Advent season, let us pray for God to help us learn the reason why we are here.

Become More Like Christ for Advent

“Then a shot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
Anad a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteouness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteouness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
–Isaiah 11:1-5, NASB

This is a really big post for this site. This will be the 200th post and the first one I’ve made in over 21 months! As we head into the Advent season this year, I thought it would be a good time to begin using this tool again. I won’t be posting daily like I used to, but I do aim for weekly posts.

This week’s Scripture comes out of Isaiah. Isaiah is writing about a person who will be a descendant of Jesse. This person will be filled with the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable. Israel rightly believed that this is a list of attributes for the Messiah. We know, today, that Jesus fulfills each of these attributes. What can this mean for us today during this season?

As we walk out our faith, there is one thing we should always be doing; we should be becoming more like Christ. That means we should be working to be full of the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable.

When we accept Christ into our lives there is something amazing that happens to us. Paul writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB) Part of this change is that you receive the Holy Spirit live inside of you. Many people to tend to ignore this or just brush it off, but think about it for a moment. Our understanding of God is found in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means for us, there is a piece of the Almighty that lives within you! That’s how Paul can write later in his ministry, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31b, NASB) The Creator lives inside of each and every one of His believers, so there should be no reason that the Church should be afraid.

How can we become wise? This seems like an odd question. Wisdom feels like a thing you are either born with or not. The early church leader, James, writes “But if any of you lacks in wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NASB) We simply have to ask God for more wisdom and He gives it. It’s what we do with that wisdom that really matters. I believe that wisdom is a gift from God to help lead His people. It isn’t for our own benefit, but God’s.

Becoming more knowledgeable seems to have an easy answer, just read/study your Bible more. While this is true, it truly is only part of the entire picture. In order for us to become more knowledgeable, we must filter our entire lives through the lens of Christ. This helps us see how God is moving through the world’s events and through the events/people of our lives.

We should also be reading. Reading what, though? Read your Bible. Read the newspaper. Read blogs. Read books. Read teachings from good teachers. While there are many good reasons to read, Reading gives you new knowledge and exposure to new ideas. You simply cannot grow in knowledge without reading something.

As we begin this Advent season let’s think about how we can become more like Christ, accept the Holy Spirit, gain wisdom, and learn about God.

Don’t be Scared of People

proverbs29251

Alright, let’s all take a second and freak out. Yes! I am posting again.

I came to realize I started this blog, I should probably get back to it. I don’t know if anyone is reading it, but it certainly helps me on my walk with the Lord. The Heart Man has a simple purpose, just look at the tagline, “Discovering how to be a man after God’s own heart.” My life has changed quite a bit over the past year, but one thing has honestly stayed the same, I’m still seeking to be a man after God’s own heart.

Today I was reading my devotion; the passage was on Proverbs 29:25. It reads, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (MSG). This means to us that when we fear what other people’s opinion of us is more than God’s, we are often kept from either doing the right thing or keeping in step with God. How many times do we see someone, whether it’s a complete stranger or someone you know well, and they are struggling with something. We know what their help can be. We know who can best help them, no matter the situation. But how many times do we actually speak with them about Jesus? Instead, we often tell ourselves that they would not be interested in the Gospel or they are already against it so why bother. I think this shows us more of an issue with ourselves than with the person we are not talking to. When we don’t share the gospel, we are either showing we don’t love Jesus as much as others opinions of us, or we don’t love the person as much as we think we do. If God’s opinion of us is what matters most, this entire problem is done away with. You want want to disappoint your God, so you will actively tell people about their Savior.

My hope for you today is that you can turn away from the fear of man. It keeps us from doing the very work that God put us on this earth to do. Instead turn your eyes to the one who loves you most. This will give you the strength to not only do your daily tasks, but you will also be able to win hearts and souls for Christ.

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” — Proverbs 29:25, MSG

“My Religion is Kindness”

my-religion-is-very-simple-my-religion-is-kindness-35

A few weeks ago I had come across a picture on my News Feed on Facebook. I wish I had saved it because now I can only vaguely remember it. What I do remember was that it held commentary about how the Church treats people. Specifically around the subject of homosexuality. Largely it had the notion attached that the Church is an organization that hates people and seeks to turn them all rich WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). All people have to look the same way, behave the same way, and have things that look a certain way. The post then followed up with this quote from the Dali Lama, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Which I must admit is a great sentiment, but it still got me upset!

So I went to the dictionary. Merriam-Websters dictionary defines kindness as “the quality or state of being kind: a kind act”. Thanks Websters, that helped a lot.  So I looked up “kind” which is defined as “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others : wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others”. The way that it would seem is that kindness (when it is the motivation) is a self motivation to do good for others for their sake and, whether intentional or not, to make us look good.

We are called to be kind to one another, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;” (Colossians 3:12, NASB). Clearly we should be kind to each other, and those that we come into contact with. But why, if there are so many commands about kindness, can the Church be seen as an unkind institution.

The answer my friends is love. This is the principle that the Church has been founded on. God loved us, so He sent His Son. Jesus loved us, so he died on a Cross. He commands us to love everyone, including our enemies. The Bible even tells us that God is love! (1 John 4:8). So why is the principle of love taken to be an unkind act?

Again, I went to Webster. Love, once you get away from romance and sex, is defined as “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another”. When you look out for the welfare of others, things can be taken poorly. Now lesson has taught me this greater than being a father. When your child wants to chew on electrical cords, or climb on something unstable, or even play in the street, you know that the situation is dangerous and something will happen to your child if you don’t fix it. So what happens when you take away the cord, pull them off the structure, or pull them out of the road? They cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. So no wonder the Church seems unkind. We tell people their wrong, so they cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. Why? Because we told them that what they are doing is unwise.

If you want to build you beliefs around kindness, go ahead. My God is love and He cares deeply for me. He came and took a terrible punishment so I don’t have to. I’ll take a god who loves me over a god who does kind acts for me any day. Yes, love can be kind. It’s important for love to perform acts of kindness. But kindness cannot be the center of our beliefs. Kindness alone is selfish, while love is selfless.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, endures all things.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB

The Promise of a New Creation (Isaiah 63-66)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry it’s been so long and unpredictable when I’m going to blog. I’ve been going through a pretty rough time in my life. Today I finally feel renewed and feel that it’s time for me to get back into this blog. So hold on tight. We are going to finish the Book of Isaiah today! Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but if we’re all here there will be another post!

As we finish the book of Isaiah, we start with a depiction of God coming in wrath among the nations of the world. He is covered in a red garment. He is asked why, and God explains that it is the blood of those who do not follow Him. Calling forward to the future crucifixion, God is pictured in blood, suffering in order to save His people, and dying for people of all nations. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, …” (63:9, NASB). In verse 16 we see a glimpse at the future struggle of Gentile Christians. “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.” (63:16, NASB).

God’s people, Jews and Gentiles, offer up a prayer of mercy and help. They recognize that God is angry because of their sin. They have all chosen to go against God. Now, they have realized the error in their ways, and are asking Him to give them mercy. “You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a log time; and shall we be saved? (64:5, NASB). They now submit themselves for God to make them as He thinks is right “we are the clay, and You our potter;” (64:8, NASB). They recognize that they need His mercy in order to become the people that He wants them to be. Their heart’s cry is to simply be made new. For God to destroy their old selves, and make them new.

The nation of Israel had long been a people who knew about God. God calls the a rebellious people. They constantly turn away from Him, and do the things He has asked them not to. So God tells His people that He has chosen a new people that will obey Him. He says, “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.” (65:1 & 9, NASB). “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty…” (65:13, NSAB). God is telling the people of Israel that because they are unfaithful, He will take care of those who obey Him before them. They will find themselves in need, and God won’t help them until they seek Him. Then God promises a new creation. He will remake Jerusalem, and the earth, into a place that knows and follows God through the people who obey Him today.

God does make one final warning to His people before the new Creation. It is not simply good enough to say and do the correct things. They have to actually do them and follow God, because they know it is right in their hearts. Hypocrisy has no place in God’s new Creation. God’s new Creation will see an end to all evil, and people who actively work against Him. “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind” (66:24, NASB).

We live in some crazy times. We hear people all the time denouncing God. There are Muslim extremist groups who’s sole purpose is to destroy either the US or Israel. This something easy for us to remember as our nation remembers the events of 13 years ago today. We see and hear about despicable acts towards women and children, simply because its a lucrative business and makes someone lots of money. We live in a world full of evil, but there is hope. We have hope because of Christ. We find our salvation in him, so our souls are good. But what about this world that we all must live in until it is time for us to go home?

God promises a new creation for the people who follow Him. All evil will be eradicated from this world, and God will set a new world with Himself and Christ at the center.  If you’d like to read more about that I’d suggest reading the event in the Book of Revelation.

For us today though, as we live our day in/day out lives, God’s promise is still there for us. God will never leave or forsake you, so long as you believe in His Son. Jesus is the way that we can have hope in a world full of evil. Christ came, and died for our sins so that we can have God’s promises. We just have to make a stand and follow Christ, no matter what the world tells us.

I’ll end here with a verse that has been my prayer today, and I hope it becomes yours.

“Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” –Psalm 119:133, NASB

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 119

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