How can I develop a heart for God?

Soon we will leave this world and enter the presence of God. Do you look forward to being with God? Will it be for you a continuation of the fellowship and joy you find with God in this life?

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Thirsty

Passion for God is like thirst for water.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Do you long for God this way? Do you thirst for God? Do you love being in His presence? In another place, the psalmist prayed,

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

Fellowship with God is as necessary and satisfying as water to those who are thirsty. As thirst is ongoing, so passion for God is unquenchable. When I find joy in God’s presence, I am satisfied with an unsatisfied satisfaction. When I taste and see that the Lord is good (psalm 34:8), I realize…

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The Bible – an amazing book about life

Are there some strange things in the Bible? Yes. Yet so much of what we find in the Bible corresponds closely with my reality and fills gaps of knowledge on sources behind these realities.

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“The Bible is not first of all a book of moral truth. I would call it instead a book of truth about the way life is. Those strange old scriptures present life as having been ordered in a certain way, with certain laws as inextricably built into it as the law of gravity is built into the physical universe.”

“When Jesus says that whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it, surely he is not making a statement about how, morally speaking, life ought to be. Rather, he is making a statement about how life is” (Frederick Buechner).

Some people stumble over the Bible because of some of the strange things in it. But while there are some strange things, Scripture corresponds with reality in so many important areas of life.

The first chapter fits well with reality. I read of a…

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Humility: A foretaste of the Kingdom

Jesus is establishing humility (and unconcern for social status) not only as the psychological structure of the kingdom but also as a basis for entrance into it.

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Humility.jpg Humility image by gcelliot

Matthew 18:1-4:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Introduction:

It’s a natural human desire to be recognized and valued. As parents, it’s our responsibility to let our children know that they are valued and significant. If we parent with love, we raise our children to know that they are treasured for who they are.

But somewhere along the way, the pursuit of significance and recognition can become a very damaging and dangerous thing. And this is especially the case when we pursue significance based on competitive pride.

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Competitive pride

Those who…

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Divine concession and the Bible

Do we need some uncomfortable terms for understanding how a perfectly pure and holy God could be in a relationship with sinful beings like ourselves? See: Divine concession and the Bible

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A great prayer (with a great song)

Teach me to know that grace precedes, accompanies, and follows my salvation; that it sustains the redeemed soul, that not one link of its chain can ever break.

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All Your lovingkindness to me is in Your Son,
I bring Him to You by faith,
I honor His saving Name as the One who died for me.
I plead His blood to pay my debts of wrong.

I accept

    His worthiness for my unworthiness,
    His sinlessness for my transgressions,
    His purity for my uncleanness,
    His sincerity for my guile,
    His truth for my deceits,
    His meekness for my pride,
    His constancy for my backslidings,
    His love for my enmity,
    His fullness for my emptiness,
    His faithfulness for my treachery,
    His obedience for my lawlessness,
    His glory for my shame,
    His devotedness for my waywardness,
    His holy life for my unholy ways,
    His righteousness for my dead works,
    His death for my life.

O Lord God,

Teach me to know that grace precedes, accompanies, 

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Seven purposes for pain

“God frequently utilizes and blesses small acts of faithfulness in the context of deep misery to bring forth blessing we could not possibly have asked for but would have been happy to suffer for” (D.A. Carson)

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1. Pain captures our attention – “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis).

2. Pain corrects our sense of independence – “it is good for us to be cured of the illusion of ‘independence’” (Collected Letters, Vol. III, C. S. Lewis).

3. Pain crushes our pride – “Man has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses” (A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis). (see: II Corinthians 12:7-10; #’s 2 & 3)

4. Pain creates opportunities for our sanctification – “the redemptive effect of suffering lies chiefly in its tendency to reduce the rebel will” (The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis).

5. Pain confirms our faith – “You never know how much you really believe anything…

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Blessed are the sorrowful?

Although the gospels never record the laughter of Jesus, they do record his anguish and tears ( Mt. 26:34-38; Jn. 10:35; Heb. 5:7-9). The prophet Isaiah identified the coming messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who would bear our grief and carry our sorrows” (Isaiah 53).

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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Beatitudes #2) by loswlAs quietness came over the crowd, with anticipation they awaited Jesus’ words. But who would have expected his first words to be a blessing on the poor in spirit? Like the opening of the Psalms, Jesus started with a declaration: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” (Matt. 5:3). Is Jesus serious? The poor in spirit are blessed? This is not what anyone would have expected!

As usual, Jesus spoke counter-cultural truth. He challenged the assumptions people held about what it means to be blessed. We think of the poor in spirit as broken, crushed and contrite — not blessed. They’re the ones who know they have nothing to commend themselves to God. They have no claim upon God beyond his mercy. They are bankrupt in spirit. 

Jesus draws his audience immediately to the grace of God. Heaven is reserved for those who know they don’t qualify. The blessed (those who have God’s…

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When counseling others…

Consider four keys to influence. Counsel the whole person. Follow seven guidelines

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Care-Ministry-Logo-FOR-WEBMeaningful relationships will involve opportunities to encourage and counsel others. Consider some practical guidelines for being an effective friend when giving counsel to others.

1. Slow down and listen

  • Proverbs 18:13 – “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
  • James 1:19 – “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
  • Proverbs 18:17 – “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”
  • Proverbs 20:5 – “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”

2. Counsel the whole person (avoid the trap of being one-dimensional)

Three dimensions of life

  1. Physical beings with bodily needs
  2. Social beings with relationship needs
  3. Spiritual beings with spiritual needs

Three dimensions of personhood

  1. Intellect (mind, thoughts, imagination)
  2. Will (volition, decision-making)
  3. Emotions (affections, feelings)

3. Consider four keys to influence

  1. Develop a relationship of trust and respect
  2. Know…

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Out of the heart …. the mouth speaks

There are some very clear areas where our faith forbids and requires certain ways of speaking.

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What kind of claim does Christ make on our speech? Should being a Christian affect the way you talk? How important are words? Do they matter to God? What does our way of speaking say about us?

Let me clarify that I am not concerned with ways of talking related to geography. When your with people from New Jersey or New York or my home town of Philadelphia, you can tell by their accent. The same is true regarding ethnicity. My wonderful Italian friends from South Philadelphia had a specific way of talking that distinguished them.  My English friends speak with a refinement unlike my friends from Jersey. I don’t believe that being a Christian requires uniformity of style and tone.

But there are some very clear areas where our faith forbids and requires certain ways of speaking.

Forbidden speech:

  1. Lying (Ephesians 4:25; I Peter 3:10; Psalm 34:13)
  2. Slander…

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Are you a wise and discerning person?

I was unaware that gaining wisdom required…

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a931d-tears4“To be wise is to know reality, to discern it. A discerning person notices things, attends to things, picks up on things. He notices the difference between tolerance and forgiveness, pleasure and joy, sentimentality and compassion.”

“Discernment shows a kind of attentive respect for reality. The discerning person notices not only the differences between things, but also the connections between them.”

“The really discerning person, the one whose discernment marks genuine wisdom, does not merely inspect reality, or analyze it: the one who discerns also loves.”

“To discern realities at their deeper levels, we have to become engaged in them, to bring both empathy and care to what we know. Discernment of the hopes and fears of other persons, for example, depends on compassion for them: knowledge of these persons comes in to us only if our hearts go out to them” (Cornelius Planinga Jr., “Not The Way It’s Suppose…

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