Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts….”Hebrews 3:15 (NLT)
We all know about heart disease. Exercise and healthy eating is what keeps our heart and arteries from getting hard and crusted over until the blood can’t flow freely through our bodies. When we are motionless and continually take in unhealthy things, the opposite occurs occurs. Our arteries harden, blood can’t flow properly, and we eventually die when the heart can’t operate.
So it is with our spiritual hearts. When we remain spiritually sedate and feed our souls on selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, gluttony, gossip, and the like, then God’s life giving Spirit gets choked out and can’t flow. There is a build up of muck in our soul and our heart eventually becomes spiritually hard, constricting the ability to feel and hear God’s Spirit within us. When God tries to call to us, we are deaf to His still, small voice.
Today, I’m not only thinking about my physical health, but my spiritual health as well. I want my heart, both physically and spiritually, to be healthy. I want to feel Life flowing strong and free within my veins and my spirit.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Hebrews 2:14 (NLT)
I do a lot of public speaking. I’ve done a lot of it in my career and in my personal life. Conferences, lectures, workshops, training sessions, and even sermons. When speaking in front of a group for the first (and perhaps only) time, the host always wants a bio to read in introducing me. For the record: I hate writing my bio. I hate updating my bio. I hate listening to my bio read.
Writing a bio is basically making a public claim about yourself. It feels like you’re trying to impress people with your education or your accomplishments or whatever. It always feels like I’m trying to justify why people should listen to me. As soon as you lift yourself up there are those will start tearing you down. So, my preference is just to leave off the introduction and the bio. Just let me say what I have to say and make a judgment about me based on my message, not on my resume.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus was quick not to make public claims about Himself. He actively told people not to tell others who He was. Nevertheless, when pressed He did make a claim. He made the most audacious claim that one could make. Jesus claimed to be God in human flesh, born to live among us, to die as a sacrifice for all of our wrong doings, and to be raised back to life to make a way for the rest of us to experience Life.
C.S. Lewis famously pointed out that we all have to make our own decision about the claim that Jesus made about Himself. Lewis reasoned that we have one of three choices:
Jesus knew He was not God and, therefore, lied to us all.
Jesus was not God, but honestly thought and claimed that He was, which means that He was a lunatic, because claiming to be God is the act of a delusional person.
Jesus was exactly who He said He was. In which case, I must take seriously what I’m going to do in response to what He said and asks of those who follow.
Today, I’m thinking about the person of Jesus. I’m new and afresh thinking about who He claimed to be and my choice to accept His claim. I’m reviewing my own choice to follow, however feebly, the path He laid out for those who would take up their own cross and follow.
So the other night at rehearsal my friend Doug told me about an iPhone app called Action Movie FX that allows you to make movies with your phone and insert Hollywood special effects into them. In the show we’re in, I play a gangster and the woman I love is being charged with murder. Doug is the prosecutor trying to put her away, so I only thought it natural that I would call in a “hit” on him. Enjoy 🙂
Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation. Hebrews 1:14 (NLT)
Walking the journey each day, slogging through the task list and managing life’s daily routine, it is easy to forget that there is another dimension, a spiritual dimension, that exists simultaneously with our own. Because it cannot be seen with our natural eyes does not make it less real. In fact, after thirty years of studying God’s Message, I’ve come to believe that in the context of eternity the spiritual realm is indeed more “real” than the physical dimension in which we exist.
During his three-years of public teaching Jesus intersected and engaged in the spiritual realm all the time. Reading the first hand accounts of those who walked with him tell of Jesus speaking to spirits, casting them out of their human host, being guided by Holy Spirit, being visited by angels, being transfigured into the spiritual and speaking with the prophets. He made it clear that there is more to this journey than our eyes can see and our fingers can touch.
Today I am reminded that all around me is a spiritual dimension of God’s grand design. I purpose today to set my mind on spiritual things and not just earthly things.
Thanks to Lynn Seeling for this great addition to the discussion:
Great post! Here’s my story. I attended a small college in rural MN, one of only five declared tech majors and the only female. I specialized in stage management and props. I spent years “apologizing” to short-sighted (or small minded) employers for my “useless” degree. Then I came up with a way to frame it for myself:
* I know the meaning of a deadline. When the curtain goes up, you better be ready!
* I know the meaning of hard work and long hours. I can commit to a project and work round the clock to see it thru.
* I’m a project manager. I can take a nebulous idea like “I want this set to look like Spring smells!” and figure out how much lumber, how many nails, how big a crew and what kind of schedule will be needed to pull that off.
* I have a solid background in history, the great philosophers and and finest literature. I know the English language; can write and speak “the speech clearly”. I know group dynamics, can read body language, subtext and nuance.
* I can develop and manage a budget, create a marketing campaign, promote, advertise and sell a product, run a box office and record a voice-over.
* I know how to take a risk, attempting something I’ve never done before. I can imagine; I can design; I can research and execute. I can turn a doughnut into a Baroque carving, make a toilet float into a brass lamp – some 2×4, paper towels and little Elmer’s Glue into a 18th century table.
* I can lead a team and be a team player. I know diplomacy and tact. I’ve counseled and cajoled; I’ve coached and curried favors. I’ve dealt with prima donnas and wallflowers, temper tantrums and tornados.
* I’m Radar O’Reilly. I’m the Artful Dodger. I’m a Jack of all trades. I can swing a hammer, wield a paint brush, wire a spotlight, tape a sound track. I can stand in for the dance captain, turn pages in the orchestra pit, pull lines on the fly rail, call cues from the booth. I’ve carried “The Book”.
* I’m a quick study. I can think on my feet and prioritize on the fly. I can tamp down my fears and perform under pressure.
* I know how to take a bow.
I say “Theatre majors unite and stand up against the tyranny of the business major!”
Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. Jonah 4:10 (NLT)
When I was a kid, I remember that talking to God generally consisted of begging for things I desperately wanted and making all sorts of bargains with God about what I would do if he delivered on my selfish pleas. Some of my most fervent begging came when my Minnesota Vikings were playing in the Super Bowl. I retreated from the family room into the adjacent furance room during commercial breaks (not sure why I did that, but I always went into the furnace room to talk to God) to beg God on the purple people eaters‘ behalf. We all know how that worked out.
Girls, sports, and toys I wanted; When I was a child I prayed like a child, and my heart and brain held self-centric focus on childish things. Jesus said that it is out of the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks. Even my conversation with God reveals a lot about what is important to me. In today’s chapter, Jonah’s angry rant to God revealed that he was more concerned about his personal comfort and the silly plant which provided him shade than he was with the lives of the men, women, and children in Nineveh.
Today, I’m taking a little introspective inventory of my conversations with God. What do they reveal about what is important to me? When I was a child I thought, spoke and prayed like a child. I hope that at this point in my journey I’ve put away childish things.
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. Jonah 3:5 (NLT)
Wendy’s brothers have all served in the military. Her youngest brother just went through the rigor of basic training a year or so ago. Since my side of the family has, for the most part, never been big on military service I have found it interesting to observe. I’ve been knocked out by the transformation in Wendy’s young sibling. The methodical process of discipline and denial has had visible benefits that go beyond the mere physical.
It is, perhaps, a bit of synchronicity that today’s chapter comes on the day after Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Lent is the season of “preparation” before the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection which lasts for 40 days. The number 40 is not insignificant. The number appears throughout God’s Message and history:
40 days of rain in the flood
40 days Moses was on the mountain before God gave him the law
40 years of wandering in the wilderness for Moses and his followers
40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness
40 days after the resurrection Jesus was seen publicly before his ascension
These are just a few of the examples, along with the example in today’s chapter in which the people of Nineveh fasted and repented for 40 days to seek God’s mercy.
There is no magic in “fasting” or the act of denying yourself of something, but there is a process of spiritual formation that takes place. When, for a period of time, we deny ourselves and focus our hearts and minds on the things of God it becomes like spring training for our souls. It is spiritual boot camp and, like Wendy’s brother, you never emerge from boot camp unchanged in some way.