Following with your whole heart

From BobHamp.com

Christianity, Life in Christ. Is it an act of man, or is it an act of God? 

If we answer with a Biblical understanding, it is an act of God to which humans surrender.  God, through the cross, accomplished a great exchange, trading our need for His free gift, to which we surrender in faith.

Now try this question: Freedom. Is it an act of man, or is it an act of God?

This is the exact same question.  What God offers us in Jesus Christ is not an exalted man whom we should try to follow as best as we can.  Rather, again, He offers a great exchange where He trades our inability for the free gift of His ability. 

We live in a time in history when western thinkers are re-learning the importance of living from our hearts.  I am concerned, however, that this shift sets up a new form of law.  Now, along with the requirement that we should obey rules, we also receive a new requirement, that we should be passionate followers of Jesus.  

Here is what it sounds like, in sermons and conversations.  

  • “He gave His all, should we do any less?”
  • “You need to decide to follow Jesus with your whole heart”
  • “Will you give God your everything?”
  • “We need to be fully devoted…”

While I may sound a bit heretical for questioning such whole hearted, passionate statements, consider this dilemma.  In those statements, and others like them, do you hear anything that could not be applied to any other human, or organization?  Could you not follow a political figure with your whole heart?  Could you not be fully devoted to an influential poet, or rock band?  You see, at the root of statements like these, is the push toward reliance on our ability, desire, or commitment to dosomething.  An act of man, or an act of God?  These statements push us toward relying on our passion, our devotion, or our whole-heartedness.

This is the very dilemma that the Apostle Paul addressed with the early believers in Galatians Chapter 3.  

Did you start this walk with the Lord by following the works of the law, or by believing (in Him) and receiving (what He did)?”, He asks them.

Then he follows with the crucial second  question, “Then do you now live this new life by the works of the law (your ability to perform), or by believing (in Him) and receiving (what He did)?”

While it is important to love Him with our whole being, would it even be possible for us to love Him if He did not first love us?

While it is important to follow Him with our whole heart, can we manufacture this whole-heartedness without His restoration?  And didn’t He “follow” , or pursue us long before we even knew it was an option to follow Him?

While our passion is a valid response to His offer, it was His Passion that opened the door for our hearts to be rightly directed.  It was His passionate following of us that made it possible for our relationship with Him to be restored.  It was His power in us that made us new creations, and it is His power in us that allows us to live as new creations.  

I am in no way suggesting that we have no role in living an engaged relationship with our saving Father.  I am however urging us to remember He is both the Author and the Finisher of our faith.  Our role is to relax and let Him do His part.  Jesus tells us, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many.”  Here is how we can understand this; Jesus came to do the things for you that are impossible for you to accomplish without Him.  This covers more territory than you think.

Jesus is really really good at Christianity, we should let Him do it.

The Word of the Lord – Hearing God more clearly

There’s a scripture that I often quote from Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I’ve heard a variety of teachings about this verse. One being that our faith grows as we read our Bible, the “word of God”. And while that’s true, this is not what that scripture is talking about.

The first part of this phrase is present tense. “Faith comes by hearing.” It comes by hearing, not having heard. Faith doesn’t come through knowledge. Rather, it’s a moment, an exact experience of tuning into God’s voice and hearing his will for an immediate situation.

It goes like this: You’re in a situation, and you need some God’s guidance, so you pray. As you’re praying, you have this thought. Hmm, that would apply. So, you act upon that thought and it truly was the best solution. That’s hearing God! That’s faith that comes from hearing God’s voice guide you.

The second part of this phrase “hearing by the word of God” is also quite interesting. Way too often we just substitute in our minds “Bible” for the “word of God”. Yet, I don’t think that was the writer’s intention. When the writer of Hebrews wrote this, he didn’t have a Bible. But what about the Old Testament, maybe that was his “word of God”. Back in Genesis 15:1, the “word of the Lord” came to Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Yet, there was no Old Testament or Bible or any written word from God.

The “word of the Lord” is a specific moment of “hearing God”. It’s his voice that often comes to us as a thought, an idea, a memory, maybe even a vision or dream. Sure, the Bible is still essential for us to learn and know what God’s voice sounds like, and everything we “hear” from God needs to be filtered through the Bible. But that should not keep us from “listening” for those specific divine instructions that help us make decisions for our life and for what God has called us to.

The most incredible heavenly power that we can tap into is the voice of God speaking to us. He is constantly wooing and drawing and leading us. When we can “hear” the “word of the Lord” for a certain situation or decision, and we can believe it, then the supernatural power of God is released into our situation. We have agreed with God by believing him. Prayers are answered. Faith is activated. Heaven moves.

This week, I encourage you to really listen. Tune into God through worship, through prayer, through fasting and dedication. Read scripture to help you tune in your spiritual ears. And then listen. Pray a very simple prayer, “Lord, do you have anything to say to me?”

Then, be ready. He’s got a lot to say.

The Ultimate Super Power: God Speaks

From BobHamp.com

When I was a kid, on more than one occasion, I remember sitting around with my friends having serious conversations. You know the kind, which super hero was stronger, what would you do if a wild bear came into the room right now, and, of course, the ongoing debate of all childhood: if you could have any super power, but only one, which one would it be? (You’ve done this, right?) You know… Being invisible had it’s merits, but you could also think of the downside. Super strength was always at the top of the list, and was certainly desirable at times for every young male. Then, of course, the lesser powers like telepathy and teleportation…the definitions and merits of all these were debated endlessly.

I know it sound funny, but I think I finally figured out the ultimate super power; the one that would trump every other one. Even more unusual, I actually know someone who has it. The Bible says that God “gives life to the dead, and calls into existence things that are not…” I’d like to be able to call into existence things that are not. This is the one, the greatest super power imaginable. In fact if you could do this, you could “call into existence” any of the other powers whenever you needed them. The more I think about it, this is what makes God, God. This puts Him in control of everything. In fact it puts Him in control of everything including things that don’t exist yet.

Sometimes, I think, in our humanity we make God too small. Because we’re small, we live on a small planet, and well, honestly, sometimes we just think small. I mean, if this is God, we are talking about He made everything. Everything from the minute intricacies of DNA to the unimaginable star forming Nebulae, HE made it all, it issued forth from Him. He’s big, no He’s not big, He’s huge, well not just huge He’s… well… this is the problem right here: small language can’t describe a Big God. Our small-ness will always keep us from really grasping His enormity.

By necessity we have to use our minds to understand Him. But this is a little like trying to understand the ocean using a microscope. We would see molecules and chemical make-up, but certainly the ocean is much more than the sum of it’s minerals. It’s vast and it’s deep and it is full of life and living systems. In the same way, God is much more than the sum of our understanding, no matter how much we think we understand.
So, God’s problem with communication has nothing to do with His limitations and everything to do with our smallness. Every grouping of words or set of ideas used to describe or explain Him is already much less than the reality being described. Remember this is GOD we’re talking about. Let’s talk about how the One who created everything, and, by the way, is still creating…set about to communicate to us, humans, you and I, what He wants us to know. Of course, He began…In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth…by communicating reality into existence.

I wonder what it sounded like…when He did that? What sound came out, when He spoke and the universe into existence? Did it sound like English? Like Hebrew? Did it even sound like language the way that we think about language. What if the things He said, the sounds that made things come into existence, were written down?

So, God speaks and things become. He expresses Himself and reality happens. He says heavens…and Heavens happen, he says earth and, well, you get the idea. You also see how really super this power is. But it gets better. Once He speaks things into existence, He also speaks them into order. He tells things to line up, and water separates from land, and earth from sky. He gives instructions and the instructions have the power to follow themselves. Don’t you wish He would speak to some things in your life? You see His word doesn’t just create all things, it also holds them in place. In the same way that the expression of what is inside an artist results in a masterpiece; the expression of what is inside God results in the heavens and the earth, living things, eco-systems, and… even your life. Your life and everything in it is not only connected to God, it is a direct result of God speaking.

(By the way this also means, since God’s Words holds everything in place, that anything that gravitates away from God’s Words become increasingly out of place.)

Now think about this…

Have you ever taken a trip, or been on a roller coaster, or had some experience that was so intense, or meaningful or pleasurable that you wanted to tell other people about it? You didn’t just want to tell them about it, you wanted them to feel the things you felt, see the things you saw. You try to use words to get people to feel what you were feeling. You speak, and describe, you gesture and move around, then you finally give up and say, “you just had to have been there.” The words of men fall short of the ability to convey things about reality. To convey actual reality is impossible for us. Just to transmit the inner experiences of life, from one person to another is an amazingly complex process. Just ask any husband and wife.

So the same God who speaks reality into existence with His words wants to communicate to us. The same God whose words result in cosmic creative explosions wants to talk to you about your life and His unfolding plan. How would He go about that? Well, I think He would say the same thing in as many ways as possible. I think He would embed His message in the things He creates, He would say it, and do it and write it and demonstrate it, and so on and so on. I think He would even write the message deep in the hearts of the people to whom He is speaking, and I think He would get the message written down …somehow. I think He would use every channel possible to allow men to get the message. (Has He ever spoken to you?)

So, He’s got this message. He really wants to get it across to us. This thing that is burning in His heart to communicate to the human race, He begins to express it; His love for us, His desires and His plan for us, and maybe most important His provision for us. Like you and I, when we desperately want someone to understand, He begins to tell, only He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t have to settle for the “you had to have been there…” strategy. Remember, this is God, and He calls into existence things.., He speaks and things become, so from deep in His heart He begins to express the Message, the thing He wants all of mankind to get, with all of His Being He speaks and what comes out is…Himself, only packed in skin and resting in the womb of a virgin. And just like a seed contains the whole tree which will unfold, this Baby contains the whole message. And His life and death and His resurrection will unfold it for the whole Human race to observe.

In His creativity and zeal to get His message across to us, and to keep us connected to the voice that holds all things together God gives us multiple channels for the message to be broadcast on. And the most important of these channels are a story a Baby and a Book. The story and the Baby are both written up in the Book. The story, as we can grasp it, begins with “In the beginning…” and ends with a new beginning in a new heaven and a new earth. This story passes through people and generations and nations and wars; it passes through you and I in this present moment and races on ahead to our future. Can you find yourself in the story? …or maybe even find the story in you? The story includes the Baby, and is about the Baby, it is even authored by the Baby. And all of this…the message…the voice and heart of the God with the coolest super power, the story that unfolds the message and all the multi-layered communications of an all powerful God, are contained in this…the Bible, (pick up a Bible…) a book? Well, yeah, but a book only? Hardly. This book seen only as a book…is incomplete. This book as a transmitter for a signal that is all-powerful… as a connection to the very person of God, and as a force which controls all other forces…? Now we are beginning to get it.

God’s creativity in getting the book written, by multiple human authors and editors, has kept any man from claiming authorship. The fact that it is written by many men, but one God, gives it a cohesiveness and unity that is unparalleled. The way God describes Himself, and His relationship to us, and the way He enacts Himself within the book, form an incredible weave of communication which, connected to the author, can tell us about history, our hearts and the nature of reality today, and tomorrow, help us with a specific personal decision. Read like the manifesto of a human dictator it can lead to all manner of death and rigidity, but viewed as the living voice of a living God…it flows with rivers of living water. Let’s take a drink.

Too Heavenly Minded? Impossible

From BobHamp.com

They are just too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.

Have you heard that saying before?  Or do you know someone about whom you have said or thought this?

Never forget this;  Heaven is really good for Earth.  The statement above is a contradiction and shows our misunderstanding of reality as described by the One Person who has resided in both Heaven and Earth.  If we understand what Jesus demonstrates for us regarding the Location and the Atmosphere of Heaven we would recognize that this statement describes an impossibility.

Jesus was clear on every occasion about the location of Heaven.  The Kingdom of Heaven has come near, it is among us now.  Our western idea that Heaven is a cloud filled, future destination is a significant reason why  people think one can be too Heavenly minded.  The implication is that such a person has their mind elsewhere, and is therefore unable to take care of here and now.  No one took better care of here and now than Jesus Himself.  Sick?  He healed right then.  Anxious?  He directed the mind right back to the immediate provision of a loving Father.  Right here right now.  A Heaven which is not yet could be a significant disruption to one’s earthly impact.  The right-here-right-now-ness of Heaven makes it a resource you cannot live without.

The atmosphere of such a realm could only be consistent with the Generator of this realm.  The atmosphere of Heaven is the Nature of God.  He is Love, He is Life (aliveness), He is power for the weak, and He is all-things-restored.  He is Peace, He is Joy, He is Contentment.  Should I go on?

So help me figure out how the Nearness of Love and Life could be of no earthly good?  How being surrounded by palpable Peace could not be of any value?

Jesus said, “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.  Here is how we must come to understand “Think Differently, the Rule of the Atmosphere of God’s Presence is among men again.”  Heaven is really good for Earth.  Think differently, inhale deeply, be restored.  Now exhale, restore those around you.

Can the devil read our mind or hear our thoughts?

Does the devil know our thoughts? Does he know what we think about? Can he know the secrets of our heart?

I don’t believe the enemy can read our mind for a couple reasons.

First, the Bible says that God knows the secrets of our heart (Psalms 44:22), and that he searches our heart (Psalms 139:23). Nowhere in scripture does it say that the enemy searches our heart or knows the secrets of our heart. Only God can do that.

Secondly, only God is omniscient, or all-knowing. Satan is not all knowing. He does not know everything. And, neither do angels. Only God knows everything.

Does that mean the devil doesn’t know what we are thinking? We have to be careful here, because Genesis 3:1 says that the serpent was more cunning and crafty than all the other beasts of the field. He is quite the strategist. He is very subtle and devious in his ways. He has become a master at reading us through our behaviors, actions and micro expressions.

Micro expressions? One of my favorite television shows is “Lie to me”, about this specialist in neuroscience and neuropsychology who has become a master of reading people through slight expressions in the facial muscles or certain movements with their hands or shoulders, what he calls “micro expressions”.

Another show that is similar in concept is “The Mentalist”, about a guy who once used this ability to pretend to be a psychic, but now works for investigators to help solve crimes by reading people.

These are great examples of how I believe the enemy reads us. While he can’t read our thoughts, he can read our behaviors and body language. He knows when we are afraid or concerned or stressed. He often knows what we are thinking about by the way we are responding or acting. Watch somebody long enough, and you’ll be able to read them as well.

Can the devil read our mind or hear our thoughts? No, I don’t believe so. But, does he know what we are thinking at times? Yeah, I believe he is a master of reading our body language and micro expressions.

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