Tuesday, December 24, 2013

with all my heart

I first read this 7 hours ago and it impacted me so deeply that I'm still thinking about it.

With All Your Heart  (excerpted from Waking the Dead by John Eldredge)
          The heart is the connecting point, the meeting place between any two persons. The kind of deep soul intimacy we crave with God and with others can be experienced only from the heart. I know a man who took his daughter to dinner; she was surprised, delighted. For years she had been hoping he would pursue her. When they had been seated, he pulled out his Day Timer and began to review the goals he had set for her that year. "I wanted to burst into tears and run out of the restaurant," she said. We don't want to be someone's project; we want to be the desire of their heart. Gerald May laments, "By worshiping efficiency, the human race has achieved the highest level of efficiency in history, but how much have we grown in love?"
          We've done the same to our relationship with God. Christians have spent their whole lives mastering all sorts of principles, done their duty, carried on the programs of their church . . . and never known God intimately, heart to heart. The point is not an efficient life of activity—the point is intimacy with God. "You will find me," God says, "when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). As Oswald Chambers said, "So that is what faith is—God perceived by the heart."
          What more can be said, what greater case could be made than this: to find God, you must look with all your heart. To remain present to God, you must remain present to your heart. To hear his voice, you must listen with your heart. To love him, you must love with all your heart. You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart.

Sometimes I skip right to the action points because I've automatically assumed that my motivation is from the overflow of love in my heart... but if I don't check my heart first... I can so easily find myself motivated by "love of self" or "love for others" and then end up drained or frustrated or annoyed at things or people... and that is not a love that comes from God.

I'm also guilty of asking others... how they've been doing... how have their quiet times been... have they been reading the Bible... going to church... and while it's not bad, in and of itself, to ask about those things... what I really care about is how they're doing with God.  But... I realized... that I didn't exactly ask that.  It'd be like asking my friend how she's doing with her boyfriend... but only asking about how many times they went to dinner this week or how many times they saw each other.  It's quantifiable but not exactly asking about the quality.  I should just ask how people are doing... how are they feeling... how their relationship with God is right now... and get at the heart of what I want to know as opposed to skirting around the issue or making it seem like I equate spiritual disciplines with a relationship with God when it may or may not necessarily be the case.  I apologize, dear friends... if I ever made you feel like I cared more about what you do than who you are.  I've apologized to the people that came to mind but I've probably missed some.

In a season where I'm doing some heavy duty evaluating of myself, my situation... what has happened in 2013 and what I would like to happen in 2014... I came up with quite a list of things to work on next year.  Some are quantifiable and easily attainable... some other ones... not so much.   I realized after reading this excerpt that... the person I am isn't directly correlated with my academic achievements or how many personal goals I've met... or how many professional benchmarks I surpass.  The sum of those things doesn't make me a better person... neither does the collective sum of my "failures" detract from my worth or value this year.

The best version of myself... is the version of me that God created and that He intended for me to be... is not the one that makes great New Year's resolutions and keeps them.  The best version of me is the one that is most reliant on Him and least reliant on myself... the one that lays down my flesh and my own ways and my thinking... and takes up His ways... His thinking... His commandments... His wisdom.  The sin and selfishness in my own heart take me further and further away from the best version of myself.  It is the pursuit of holiness that brings me closer to Christ-likeness... and all that comes with it... joy, fulfillment, peace... love... kindness, goodness, self-control.

You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart.

I've been studying Philippians for the past few weeks.  I'm preparing myself to lead a study on chapter 1 at my life group in January and I'm thankful for the month or so that I've had to prepare.  Philippians was one of my favorite books of the Bible when I was younger... I can't even remember why because if you'd asked me what I liked about it, I might not have been able to give you a specific or definitive response.  I just liked it.  It was encouraging to me... and probably always has been and always will be.

I... don't know if I want to give a complete spoiler to any of my small group members but... I can just give an overview of my process and my findings. Chances are we won't have time to get through everything I want to so maybe I'll just do it on here just so I don't feel like all my prep time was "wasted"... not that any time communing with God is ever wasted.

Something a good friend said to me last week about Philippians was that his overarching take home message was something along the lines of...

My level of contentment is in direct proportion to my level of faith - Ted Kau, paraphrased

I've also been thinking about this repeatedly since I heard it.  When I said it to my other friend, she said that she swears I've said something like that before in the past... but I can't remember if I ever said it... it seemed new and fresh to me when I heard it possibly "again".  Anyway... I've been thinking about it and that statement really does sum up a lot of the main points of Philippians... how Paul has learned to be OK in plenty or in want... how he can say that being imprisoned has actually served to further the gospel of Christ... how even when people intend to harm him... that he doesn't care why... but that if the gospel is preached, then he's happy.  Paul's contentment and peace is... baffling really.  We might know in our heads that Paul was imprisoned and he was singing praise songs while down there... but how many of us would be doing what he did... and taking EVERY opportunity in EVERY situation... to further the gospel of Christ?  Can I be content in every circumstance...?  Knowing in my heart with full confidence that He has my good and the good of others orchestrated perfectly?  How seamlessly does my faith flow into my thoughts... my actions... my contentment... my joy?

As I was reading and re-reading and re-re-reading... I kept gathering more and more things that I wanted to share with my life group.  I felt like a hoarder... with my arms full and not wanting to let go or put down ANYTHING that I collected.  It got to the point where I was starting to get upset that I only had ONE DAY... and in actuality... only maybe 1-1.5 hours to get through one chapter and I kinda got bratty and was crying out in my head... "no fair!  I don't have enough time!!!" ... and then I realized how ridiculous I was being and decided to go back and review everything once again and pull out a few main points to focus on.  I read the chapter one more time and what popped out to me was Paul's overwhelming joy... his conviction... his passion.  And then I thought about... where this passion comes from... and it comes from Christ... and more specifically... from the greatest act of love on the history of the planet... His death and resurrection... a sacrifice of unfathomable proportion... to achieve a reconciliation only attainable by God himself... fueled by His great love for us.  The gospel.

So what is the point of going through this study... if we are not all on the same page re: the gospel?  It's so huge.  So often overlooked in day to day life... and yet... it is the reason for everything.  Aye... so deep... I can't even do it justice.

And then I thought again about how I organize life... the Christian life... priorities... and it is in these 3 points...

1.  God loves me.
2.  I love God.
3.  I love others.

Taken in this order... everything falls into place.

Point 1... the gospel falls into there.  I KNOW He loves me and He loved me first... by taking extravagant measures to show me His love... without any guarantee that I would love Him back.  He knew me... and knew my deepest needs... and He took care of them for me... and leaves me signs and love notes all around me so that I would realize and recognize His love... He pursues me with a passion and fervor unlike any in this world... and waits for my response.

Point 2...  the natural response after realizing how much Someone has loved me FIRST... would be to love Him back.  It's so many things wrapped into one... it's gratitude... it's amazement... it's awe... it's that feeling that I am special... I am set apart... I'm valued and I am seen... I am deeply and completely known and loved anyway... faults and all... and it's like falling, without fear or reservation, into the arms of my one true Love.  It's freeing.  It's comforting.

I also can't remember if I've posted this quote before...
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” - Tim Keller
So how do I show God I love Him?  How do I show that I love anything?  I go all out and immerse myself in it... with all my heart.  I learn everything I can about Him.  I spend time with Him... to know Him back.  I learn about His character... His goodness... His perfection... His wisdom... His holiness... His righteousness... His fairness... and not only learn it... but DO it.  I dwell in His brilliance and while I don't fully understand His ways... if I do what He says... I benefit from His wisdom and I show Him that I trust His ways more than I trust my own.  I learn what He loves and I love what He loves by proxy.  And if you know ANYTHING at all about what God loves... you hafta know that He loves people.  I don't choose between loving God and loving people... not mutually exclusive... they go together in perfect harmony.  I love God and love people the way God does... and the way God loves people is far better and far more perfect than any way I could imagine.

Point 3... I love people.  Philippians 1:22-25... to live in the flesh... means fruitful labor... for other people's progress and joy in the faith.  Paul talks about how he yearns for the Philippians with the affection of Jesus Christ... he thanks God in all his remembrance of them... always praying for them in joy... holding them in his heart... hoping the best for them.

He hopes that (v.9-11):

  • their love may abound more and more 
  • they grow in love with knowledge and discernment
  • they approve what is excellent
  • they be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
  • they be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ
  • all of this happens for the glory and praise of God.
Phil. 1:27... let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ... so that I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

If my manner of life results in... my reputation... and if someone were to hear of me... what would I want to be known for?  What would I want my life group to be known for... my church community to be known for...? 

I would want to be known as... having led a life that is worthy of the gospel of Christ... that serves to back up the claim that life in Christ leads to an abundant life... to have perfect peace and a steadfast mind... for all the things Paul hopes for the Philippians in verses 9-11... for all the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in my life... that I am an excellent worker... a faithful friend... and that whether it be by words or actions... that everywhere I go and to every person I meet... I brought the light of Christ to illuminate the dark... 

... and also that I can parallel park the way it's supposed to be done (and not the 7+ point turn it requires me nowadays), lose 5+ lbs of fat, finish my dissertation and pass boards, do at least one wide grip pull-up from a dead hang, be a better listener, and hone/refine/discover/utilize my spiritual giftings to bless and encourage everyone around me... and probably more stuff as I think of it... in 2014 and beyond... until I'm no longer on this earth.  

It's been a great year, my friends... and I'm pretty sure 2014 will be another exceptional one.  

Aaaaand I didn't even write about the 4 other discussion topics + 3-4 questions I wrote for each topic... so... I'm pretty sure we'll still have plenty to talk about even if members of my life group read this post beforehand.  And another thing I also love about the group... is that even when something is planned out and prepared for... sometimes bringing together everyone and how we all respond to one another's sharing and perspectives... organically creates something totally new and different that the discussion leader never intended.  I think it's happened a few times... so things might not even come out the way I planned or prepared for it to go... but it doesn't mean that I shouldn't put in an effort that I know God would be pleased with.  We'll see how it goes.  I still have a few more weeks to work on it.  It might morph into a completely different study by then.  


Merry Christmas, dear friends.
much much love,

P.S. pray for me... I really need to finish my dissertation thingee soon.  It's dragging.  I want to defend before my birthday at the end of January.  Hopefully earlier.  Get 'er done, Tiff... get 'er done... 

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