June 28, 2012

Moving Forward In Life

What do you want your life to look like, and what will it take to get there?
These are two appropriate questions I pose to people that want to make sure they don't miss their destiny.

Many Christian believers agree with a world view that God's will for every follower of Jesus is the same.  It is a world view that discounts personal dreams and visions and restricts each person's future to evangelism.  It is a standard that places guilt on those that share Jesus outside of the religious lines of conformity.  World views are composed of our basic beliefs about God, relationships, professional pursuits, self-care and influences our approach to life.

Although I agree that life with God should include introducing others to Jesus and telling them that He is the only way into the Kingdom, I believe that God has designed each person with unique gifts and skills for the purpose of sharing Jesus in a way that does not compromise who He created them to be.  I believe that God cares about the desires of our heart and our dreams for the future (Psalm 20:4, Psalm 37:4) and delights in our individual expression.

Assuming that you are committed to Jesus let's return to one of our original questions, "What do you want your life to look like?"  The first step in defining your future is to connect or reconnect with the desires of your heart.  Dreams are often lost when painful experiences are not properly dealt with.  Unresolved issues rob our ability to remain fixed on the passions that God placed in our hearts.  Unhealed emotional pain hinders everyone's ability to live from the fullness of who they are.  A dysfunctional, unrealistic world view also defines our self-perception.

Identity and dreams cannot be separated.  People that know who they are often know what they want and how to get there.  However those who don't know the truth about their identity are frequently crippled in their ability to move forward in life. They often loose hope in the future.  They don't realize that God has a plan to release them to a promising future (Jeremiah 29:11).

I suggest that people who feel disconnected from their destiny begin by asking Jesus to tell them the truth about who they are and remind them of their forgotten dreams.  Once connected to your passion you can ask God to order your steps and begin to move toward your destiny (Proverbs 16:9).
 "In all your ways acknowledge him and He will direct your paths" ( Proverbs 3:6).

People frequently tell me that it is encouraging to know that God is willing to help them move forward.  They feel comforted knowing that He is the answer to their internal confusion concerning their future.  It is exciting to discover that embracing your dreams is actually partnering with the Lord's vision for your life.
"The steps of a man are established by the Lord; And He delights in his way"  (Psalm 37:23).

June 20, 2012

Insight Into Your Behavior

Have you ever considered why you act the way you do?
People have always attempted to embrace, defend and explain human behavior.  Health conscious individuals believe that we are what we eat.  Intellectuals promote that we are what we know. Behaviorists defend that behaviors are a result of a person's response to stimuli and discount inward experiences or cognition.

I want to suggest that our behavior is a manifestation of what we believe--we act the way we think, therefore we are what we think (Proverbs 23:7).  If our thoughts and beliefs are true we possess the ability to live in truth and reality.  However if our thoughts and beliefs are rooted in lies and deception we are likely to act in unhealthy, unholy ways.  We cannot separate what we think from how we act.
If we want to act like Jesus, we need to think like Jesus.

Our life experiences cannot be discounted as we attempt to change the way we think.  Painful life experiences often lead to lies, lies often create dysfunctional beliefs and dysfunctional beliefs promote unhealthy, unholy behaviors.  God's truth and wisdom is the answer to a person that desires to be transformed.  When we seek truth and wisdom it leads to understanding (Proverbs 23:23).

Last week our family experienced a tragedy.  My 31 year old niece Sarah was murdered. This life experience is an example of how a painful event could give opportunity for me to believe lies, harden my heart and eventually begin to relate to God and other people based on the meaning I assigned to the tragedy.  I want to act like Jesus as I process this tragedy.  I don't want the pain in my heart to affect my future in a negative manner.  Nor do I want to get stuck in the pain and allow it to define me in any way.  I need God's wisdom to process this tragedy.  I need His truth to interpret this event because I do not want my future compromised by lies. I choose to seek His wisdom for my heart.
"Know that wisdom is thus for your soul; if you find it, then there will be a future.  And your hope will not be cut off."  Proverbs 24:14

If you want to know the truth about your behavior, ask God to reveal your beliefs. We are what we think!  

June 7, 2012

Insight Into Your Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart because they will see God (Matthew 5:8).  Defining a pure heart is often related to abstaining from a list of behaviors deemed off limits to those that love God. To some extent this is true, however I want to suggest that a pure heart is a heart that practices forgiveness.

Abuse survivors as well as people that have been emotionally wounded often ask me why they should forgive since they are the victims.  My answer is always the same, "Because Jesus forgives us and we are trying to be like Him." (Matthew 5:44-45; Mark 11:25-26).  I frequently remind people that Jesus forgives us every time we ask and that the degree of our misconduct does not affect His willingness to erase our sin.  Many often object because they believe that forgiving the person that has violated or offended them means excusing the abuse.  They believe that unforgiveness gives them control.  In reality unforgiveness gives abusers control over us.  I want to suggest that developing a lifestyle of forgiveness is a great way to create a pure heart.

It is common for hurting people to tell me that they don't 'feel' like forgiving those that have hurt them.   Forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a decision.  God will honor a person's choice, and their choice is the key that opens their heart to God's healing work.  Many people misunderstand forgiveness and believe that genuine forgiveness means establishing a relationship with the person that abused them.  Forgiving someone that has violated you does not mean that you have to meet them for coffee.  It does require that you release offenses, judgement and vengeance to the Lord.

Forgiveness is a life force that transforms a hardened heart into a pure heart.  The process of forgiveness begins with acknowledgement of our need to forgive.  Jesus said that if we confess (acknowledge) our sin (unforgiveness) that He will not only forgive us but that He will cleanse our heart (1 John 1:9).  In this context 'confess' is defined as 'to speak agreeable with the truth'.  When we choose to forgive someone that has wounded us we are choosing to embrace God's truth.  God's ways are always the path that enables us to create a pure heart.

I want to suggest that when we pray and ask God to create a clean heart in us (Psalm 51:10) that we understand that a pure heart cannot be separated from a forgiving heart.  Our ability to forgive or not forgive is valuable insight into the condition of our heart.