Heart and Growth http://www.heartandgrowth.com Christianity for Warriors Sun, 26 Nov 2017 21:37:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Of forgiving your brother and releasing your enemy http://www.heartandgrowth.com/of-forgiving-your-brother-and-releasing-your-enemy/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/of-forgiving-your-brother-and-releasing-your-enemy/#respond Thu, 23 Nov 2017 16:00:00 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1663 Words filled with hatred and fueled with anger. They are like a ball of fire, destroying everything around it. They rip through the structures of trust and burn through the delicate threads that knit our souls together. No artist will ever be able to restore them. The fire’s touch will be visible forever. The flaming […]

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Of forgiving your brother and releasing your enemy

Words filled with hatred and fueled with anger. They are like a ball of fire, destroying everything around it. They rip through the structures of trust and burn through the delicate threads that knit our souls together. No artist will ever be able to restore them. The fire’s touch will be visible forever. The flaming arrows hit their goal and it burns so brightly because the heart was so open.

After everything is consumed that lay so open, the flame goes out and coldness starts to overlay the heart. Deepest trust turned into deepest pain and hatred. Unyielding silence, the black in their eyes and the choosing of their weapons. Brothers become enemies and love turns to hate. What once was so precious is now lost and the ashes of this miracle are now filling hearts with bitterness.

A war between confidants never yields a winner. Both have lost more than they can ever win back. Their hearts are now removed from each other and some parts will now remain locked forever.

Bowing our head

At times, this can be an opportunity for the friendship. Adversaries overcome can strengthen the bond immensely. Humility paired with boldness can save two destinies. Stepping up without our armor might yield unexpected gain. It might bring back what we have lost, a true reconciliation.

Don’t let too much time pass as hope will die and high walls and fortresses will be built. Reconcile as soon as your heart is ready and extend grace in private first. Never turn your apology into an accusation.

Facing the unknown

We have to be bold because they might say no. The beauty of relationships is that they are freely chosen. We are appreciated for who we are and others choose to be with us without any outside force. What makes it so great is also what makes it risky. They might tell you to get lost. They might need time to let your words sink in, they might need time to accept your sincerity. They might even be justified in cutting you off as some betrayal eradicates any chance of future trust.

Whatever the outcome might be, you have to take the risk of trying. It’s what you owe to the brotherhood. If you messed up, it’s on you to overcome your pride and humble yourself before your brother. You have to own it as a sign of guilt, an admittance of failure and wrongdoing. In acknowledging sin we testify to our need to be forgiven.

Forgiveness will heal you

Even if your call is not answered, you always have to forgive. It’s a fundamental cornerstone of our faith and something we teach our children from a young age. Both the Old and the New Testament are filled with quotes, examples, and testimonies of forgiveness.

If we don’t release the people who mistreated us, we will carry the main burden. The people we hate might not remember what they did but their sin stays with us. We feel justified to hate and cook in our disrespect for them. It not only impacts how we feel towards them. It colors all our interactions. Holding on to mistrust reminds us of what might happen to us if we trust someone too much.

The pain we hold hostage in our chest develops into a mass that defines our lives and impacts our every move and thought. The hostage we didn’t want to release has become us. Our unforgiveness feeds the cancer in our hearts and extended its reach to all we love and do.

Forgiveness will set us free, no matter if the relationship is restored or not. It will allow us to move forward and kill bitterness before it can lift its ugly head. We can move on freely and recognize the blessing in our lives. We will not be held back from our destiny by crippling agony but we are free tun run the race towards our calling. We are free to be like Him.

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How to stop evil thoughts http://www.heartandgrowth.com/how-to-stop-evil-thoughts/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/how-to-stop-evil-thoughts/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:00:00 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1674 “No, I’m a man of God!” That’s how battled evil thoughts for years. It was my remedy for my people I didn’t like, folks who intimidated me or with people that just ticked me off for some reason. Right away, my mind was in attack mode. Dude looks like a sponge on wheels, why does […]

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How to stop evil thoughts

“No, I’m a man of God!”

That’s how battled evil thoughts for years. It was my remedy for my people I didn’t like, folks who intimidated me or with people that just ticked me off for some reason. Right away, my mind was in attack mode. Dude looks like a sponge on wheels, why does he stand in my way?. Immediately after that, I corrected myself with “No, I’m a man of God”. I felt guilty and tried to disregard those thoughts right away.

You see, this has been a pattern for many years. It’s a behavior I couldn’t seem to shake. It kept coming back up, no matter how much I despised it. I tried a few things to get rid of it but nothing really helped. I asked around to see if there are answers but usually, people would tell me something like “Just trust in the Lord for His grace is sufficient”.

It’s a convenient filler that’ll work as an answer for every problem you can think of. You look like you got it all together and you feel like a guy who just ate two lbs of wisdom for lunch. But it made me feel even worse. It’s almost like they told me to stop making up problems. How can a guy have problems if he walks with the Lord? Just buckle up and trust him. Things will work themselves out eventually.

Can’t argue with the Bible

The thing is, there is some truth to it. His grace is sufficient in many areas. Paul had to rely on God’s grace when he asked him to “remove the thorn from his flesh” (2 Corinthians 12: 6-9). Joshua and Moses had to rely on it just as much as Churchill and Lincoln. We need his grace when we go through the desert of life, when we are faced with trials and we have to overcome hardship, his grace will be enough.

But if everything is so simple, why then is the Bible so thick? There are many nuances between black and white and we can’t settle for the extreme in every situation. Pushing through hard times is a good advice but it’s not a rule that fixes all our issues.

Evil thoughts

The struggles of our minds are real and they can taint every waking moment. If we don’t understand what’s happening, we will run in circles for the rest of our lives, condemning our thoughts and cursing our minds for their immaturity. We will use the same tools to fix our thoughts but we will never arrive at our destiny because we are tackling the wrong issues. It’s like digging a tunnel with a fork: painful and without progress.

We all believe in the love of God. That’s what got us saved in the first place. His willingness to die for the people of this earth is a fundamental Christian concept and yet, we don’t believe that he loves us. We have the verses down and we teach it to our children but there are very few who actually believe it.

Unshakable

I know because I struggle with that myself. I am concerned with how my life looks on the outside, even the thoughts in my head that only God can see. I believe in the theory of God’s acceptance but my thoughts keep on accusing me. I put people down, to make me feel better about myself. It’s a coping mechanism to numb my own pain.

Of course, I realize that this is not the Christian way. The Bible calls this out among the things God despises (Proverbs 6:16-19). It’s a good reason to stop but my strategy failed miserably. I want to stop and so I yell at myself to stop. But it’s like plugging the leaves off a plant you want to kill. Unless you go for the root, the plant will live on and the leaves will come back each season.

Core beliefs

Our thoughts are an expression of our inner lives. In my case, I believed that I’m not worthy of God’s love. I had to find some ledge I could put my feet on, some assurance that I have, despite all the lies I believed that pounded the opposite into my heart. The only proof of worth I could find was in putting others down to feel better about myself.

We can now see why my strategy was so fruitless. I was plucking the leaves of a giant tree that grew in my heart, a tree of self-doubt and searching for meaning. I need to focus on the huge tree in the center of my garden, not the rotten apples that are falling down from it.

The core issue is not my hate of others but my inability to trust in the love of God. So instead of trying to stop my bad thoughts, I had to focus on the truth of God’s word. Instead of pushing away the thoughts, I started saying “Michael, you are loved by God”.

Now I was putting the ax to the root. I needed to understand his love where it mattered, in the places unhealed and the places still raw. Deception and pain corrupt our true identity and they will do so until we address them. We need to stop memorizing verses and instead start applying them to the gaping wounds in our hearts.

Knowing about God’s love is not enough. We need to experience it. Once we do, those thoughts will disappear on their own. The root will die and the truth will set us free.

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His goal is our holiness not our comfort http://www.heartandgrowth.com/his-goal-is-our-holiness-not-our-comfort/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/his-goal-is-our-holiness-not-our-comfort/#comments Wed, 25 Oct 2017 16:00:59 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1654 I look back at my life three or four years ago, and I see a different man. I look back even further and I fall on my knees and worship to give glory to him who left heaven behind to enter my world of filth and darkness. He knew the man who lived inside, broken […]

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His goal is our holiness not our comfort

I look back at my life three or four years ago, and I see a different man. I look back even further and I fall on my knees and worship to give glory to him who left heaven behind to enter my world of filth and darkness. He knew the man who lived inside, broken and bound by the sins of my youth, tied up by evil and pain surging through my soul.

My Lord looked down from heaven and I returned his gaze. There were stars all around me when I first got saved. Had you looked close enough, you would have probably seen them. Like Paul, preaching Jesus in the synagogues only a few days after his salvation, I couldn’t contain my joy. I told my drinking buddies all about my new faith, reached out to everyone I knew and eventually became a missionary to places far away.

Back home in Berlin, I hung out with drug dealers in the park and junkies at Teen Challenge. I preached with my buddies in trains and prayed in a distance while my wife ministered to hookers and transvestites. We saw salvations and the budding fruit of destiny. We saw us reaching the nations, planning crusades and slaying devils far away.

Turning point

But instead, we ran out of money and our ministry came to a screeching halt. I started selling charity memberships to pedestrians on the streets. I faked a huge smile each time I approached someone and a great mood while burning on the inside. I couldn’t understand why this is happening. We had so much going for us and we thought we’d be in ministry from now on for the rest of our lives. We thought we are coming into what God had prepared for us. Isn’t he JHWH-Yireh, the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14)? It was an inglorious death of a dream, falling into obscurity faster than the two guys who sang Macarena.

About a year went by and we found ourselves floating around, not knowing which way to go. After many twists and turns, we ended up in the US where my wife was originally from. The application process and the future unknown took my mind off my frustrations. We focused on a new life and tried to figure out how to make ends meet.

Preparation

Unfortunately, problems don’t go away by changing locations. We went from a buzzing city of over 3 million people to a small town on the other side of the world. I don’t know jack about Football and I’m illiterate about hunting, farming, and fishing. I entered my desert like Paul entered Arabia. I came back to face old issues like Paul when he came back to Tarsus. I had have to work on core issues like relationships, friendships, and commitment. I have to learn how to be content in every situation.

It’s a weird process, one of core issues yet mingled with profound breakthroughs. The lessons I am learning today will prepare me for the tasks ahead of me. God is refining my character and ironing out my habitual sins that are hidden from my sight. New revelations about the sin patterns in my life hit me on a regular basis. My sins keep me in the desert but the desert is my training ground. I can’t live the dreams God dreams without being able to handle their weight and responsibility. I know I’m not yet at the point where I can take on the responsibility God is calling out over my destiny. I’m not yet strong enough and I don’t yet love enough.

The desert life

Moses spent 40 years tending flocks in the desert. We know the end of the story but Moses didn’t. He was only sitting with his sheep, thinking of where he ended up with and maybe even regretting the choices he made. When we are caught up in the moment, walking out our destiny through trials and challenges, it is difficult to see the purpose behind it all.

Even if we are in the will of God, we don’t know when our time of preparation will be over. It could be tomorrow or it could be in, well, 40 years. During this time we learn to trust the Lord and rely on him to help us form our core beliefs and clean up our character. The desert is a gift, a jewel treasured when walking in our destiny. It’s the foundation of a refined character and the work no one sees except the one who called you to it.

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Psalm 139: The weird parts http://www.heartandgrowth.com/psalm-139-the-weird-parts/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/psalm-139-the-weird-parts/#comments Thu, 12 Oct 2017 19:42:56 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1625 We like to read Psalm 139 as a reminder of how God feels towards us. This famous passage talks about God’s heart for us. It paints a picture that brings theology alive and has been comforting to shamed souls for centuries. It is a beautiful piece of writing that is marked in our Bibles and […]

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Psalm 139: The weird parts

We like to read Psalm 139 as a reminder of how God feels towards us. This famous passage talks about God’s heart for us. It paints a picture that brings theology alive and has been comforting to shamed souls for centuries. It is a beautiful piece of writing that is marked in our Bibles and quoted heavily in church literature and sermons alike.

But there is more to this Psalms then we like to admit. I bet you marker skipped over a few verses at the end, probably starting at verse 19 all the way to verse 22. It goes something like this:

God, and the men of blood would go away from me
For they speak against You in sin. Those who hate You use Your name in a wrong way.
And do I not hate those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the strongest hate. They have become men who hate me.

This doesn’t sound very Christian, don’t you think? It goes against everything we learn in church today and if we talk theology, we better skip this part. Killing our enemies is not on most churches agendas.

And yet it’s in the Bible. And it’s not hidden away in some of the minor prophets but it’s right under our favorite and most-quoted Psalm. It’s hard to ignore and a good reason to take a close look at why it’s there in the first place.

The Old Testament

We like to think of this passage as a remnant of the old covenant. David wrote it before the curtain of the ripped in half upon the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:51) and we entered a new covenant. We are now told to love our enemies instead of hating them, to embrace the Gentiles (which is most of us, I guess) and understand that our sins are taken care off on the cross.

This is a valid point. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). But since the Bible is an integrated narrative, we now interpret the Old Testament through the eyes of the new covenant. We take the warfare strategies from the Old Testament and use them in the spirit (re: prayer). So when we look at hating our enemies, we have to understand who our enemies are. So in the world unseen, who would that be?

The devil has brought immense destruction to this earth. We see human trafficking, slavery, war and murder all across the globe; abhorrent sins that threaten the image of God in humanity. The works of darkness have messed up many parts of this world and left them unrecognizable from their purpose. Satan is our enemy and he does everything to not only get us down but sent us to a violent death.

Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?

My wife started to pursue her hate for the devil with the same passion she pursued the Lord for many years. It was her who first got this revelation from the Lord and it is her who drills it into our kids.

Who do we love?
Jesus!
Who do we hate?
The devil! 

Just like our children, we need an outlet to passionately hate the enemy. He is the one we are fighting against and most of our prayers are directed to stop something he put into motion. We call him the enemy but we don’t treat him as such. He’s just the red dude hanging out in the background, serving as some mythological reminder that evil is not a concept.

But he is as real as the suffering he is responsible for. We say God lets evil happen but is it not the devil who planned it? It is him who celebrates when humanity takes a hit. We have to hate the devil to make sense of our Christian worldview. Only when we hate evil can we love what’s good.

And only if love what’s good can we bring the kingdom to this world.

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Forged by fire for your holy destiny http://www.heartandgrowth.com/forged-by-fire-for-your-holy-destiny/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/forged-by-fire-for-your-holy-destiny/#comments Thu, 28 Sep 2017 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1582 We all know difficult times. We somehow slip into them just to get stuck. Flaming arrows surge from all directions and our body threatens to collapse. Old wounds get ripped open and forgotten pain comes back full force. We scream and wrestle but there is no way out. It’s like being trapped in a pit […]

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Forged by fire for your holy destiny

We all know difficult times. We somehow slip into them just to get stuck. Flaming arrows surge from all directions and our body threatens to collapse. Old wounds get ripped open and forgotten pain comes back full force. We scream and wrestle but there is no way out. It’s like being trapped in a pit where we can see the light. We know peace is out there but have no way of getting it.

Hell is all around us and the flames inch their way towards us. They dance above our heads just before they take their leap. We can feel the heat on our skin and we know what’s coming.
We know we can’t fight the flames. No matter how hard we hit, no matter how strong we are, there is nothing we can do. Fire has no fear and it treats us all the same. It’s hungry and it’s never satisfied.

Growing through hard times

Fire hurts but fire also makes us strong. With each stand, the heat burns off impurities that threaten our core’s integrity. Sins hidden from consciousness, entangled with our thinking and hiding beneath our ambitions. It’s lies long believed and convictions held without a cause.

The fire of life is the grace of God to reveal our darkness. The opportunity to kill the foxes (Song of Solomon 2:15) in the field only shows itself if we confront what is hidden. We will never tackle something that we don’t know about. Those things only come to light under under pressure. It’s then we show who we really are.

We must go through many flames to be able to carry the calling on our life. How we deal with our circumstances will define our future. God wants us to reach our highest potential and fulfill the purpose we were created for. But he has to be able to trust us with the gospel in the heat of battle.

This is why we have the Psalm. We read cries from the heart by the some of the mightiest men of God who ever walked this earth struggling with the same questions we ask ourselves in dark times. Where are you, God? Why is all this stuff happening to me?

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
Prayer of unknown Confederate soldier

His character doesn’t change

The suffering is real and even though our character is formed, we don’t walk away unchanged. The upheaval of our foundations is the very reason we grow stronger. As we read the Psalms, the cries of David, we need to hold on to God with all that we got. When we run to other things to deal with the pain, when sin all of a sudden seems so tempting, that’s the time we need God the most. It’s the time we sometimes feel we don’t want anything to do with him because “he let that happen”.

In these times, we have to remember that God is good. He is on our side and he loves us. Like Brennan Manning we have to pray over and over again: Abba, I belong to you. We have to ingrain it into our mind and make it the foundation of our every thought that springs from our being. Pray this short prayer over and over again. Pray it before, during and after your suffering. Pray it continuously.

It will heal the scorched areas of your heart and help you face the next wave. It will hoist the theoretical love of God into a concrete reality. In suffering our hearts are receptive to set the foundations we believe. That’s why you have to invite him continuously when your heart is soft.

We’ll have to be proactive in our fight otherwise our heart will take over and bitterness will patch the crying wounds.

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Of dreaming and dying in a fallen world http://www.heartandgrowth.com/of-dreaming-and-dying-in-a-fallen-world/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/of-dreaming-and-dying-in-a-fallen-world/#comments Thu, 07 Sep 2017 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1322 In our early twenties, the world is wide and free. It’s full of opportunity and hope. Our ideals trump our experience and we join our heroes in the fight for a better world. Our lives will be great for we’ve seen the future in our dreams. But our fathers only smile and shake their heads. […]

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Of dreaming and dying in a fallen world

In our early twenties, the world is wide and free. It’s full of opportunity and hope. Our ideals trump our experience and we join our heroes in the fight for a better world. Our lives will be great for we’ve seen the future in our dreams.

But our fathers only smile and shake their heads. They once had dreams as well, you know. Plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future. They read it in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11) and believed it. It’s the same faith they had when they were young but today they call it foolishness.

Pain awareness

The bitterness of shredded hope despises big dreams. It knows that our ambitions will soon yield to the tears of reality. What the older folks have learned is that life doesn’t play out as we plan. The mind is free but we still need food and a place to stay.

The reality was too much and they gave up. Let the dreams escape my hearts! For if I don’t dream, I will not be crushed. They put down their weapons and raised the white flag. In the beginning, it helps to tune out the pain of shattered goals. But their dreams will not stop calling their names until they drown them in bitterness.

But when they hear the dreams of the youth and hear the vigor and passion in their voice, they get reminded of what matters to them. They tell them it’s all useless because it justifies why they never lived their dreams.

Facing the truth

We dream dreams for a reason. They are the expression of our purpose on this earth. What we want to see in this world to happen is what God planted in our hearts (Psalm 139:13). The only way we can do this is by living out what we were created to be.

As mature Christians, we need the zeal of our youth and the wisdom of age. We have to dream our dreams while staying grounded in reality. This requires grit and tenacity. We have to believe in the things God planted in our hearts.

And that’s not all, my friend. We have to walk it out as well. Faith without action is dead (James 2:14-26).

This can be a scary process. Potential failure, facing flack and unknown ground are good reasons to give up. But a warrior will face his fears and move towards it. He will accept the challenge to live for a price. He will fight for the crown of glory and run the race until he sees God’s dreams manifesting through him.

Rewards and legacies

There once was a man who tried a career in business and failed miserably. He applied for law school and was laughed out of consideration. Soon after that, he started another business with the money he borrowed from a friend.

That business tanked as well. He spent the next 17 years paying off his debt. His fiancee died soon after their engagement. Soon after that, he suffered a nervous breakdown. It took him six months to recover.

He ran for different public offices many times in his career. He lost almost all of them.

But in 1860, the tables turned in an instance. He was elected to become president and lead the United States through the most devastating war in its history.

Abraham Lincoln’s legacy surpasses most presidents that came after him. He couldn’t have made the impact he did had he not pursued his dreams through his countless failures and setbacks.

Patience and endurance seem obsolete in a time of instant access to entertainment and information. But there is no way around them. Overcoming and accepting failure is part of our success. The adversary is what makes our victories great.

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Oh God, why don’t you let me kill my enemies? http://www.heartandgrowth.com/oh-god-why-dont-you-let-me-kill-my-enemies/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/oh-god-why-dont-you-let-me-kill-my-enemies/#comments Thu, 24 Aug 2017 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1362 I sometimes feel I should have been born in the times of the Old Testament, warring with a battle ax against the forces of darkness and the heathens of the world. I would have joined David and his mighty men fighting injustice and unholiness with the sword. We would have annihilated evil from society and […]

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Oh God, why don’t you let me kill my enemies?

I sometimes feel I should have been born in the times of the Old Testament, warring with a battle ax against the forces of darkness and the heathens of the world. I would have joined David and his mighty men fighting injustice and unholiness with the sword. We would have annihilated evil from society and collected the foreskins of thousands of unbelievers for the glory of our king (1 Samuel 18:27).

It is a lot easier to grasp the concept of friend and enemy. Holy prophets killed the evil ones (1 Kings 18) and holy men didn’t sleep until they blotted out all evil (2 Kings 9). We either win or die fighting. Both fit in our box, both have a beginning and an end.

But we don’t live in times long gone and we don’t wield the sword at the unbeliever. Our war is not fought in the realm of the physical but in the realm of dreams and ideas. We fight with the mind and the spirit and we fight in a reality unseen, the foundation of what our eyes can see and the end of what our minds can perceive.

Longing for the past?

When we look at the Old Testament today we are faced with strong conflicts. We approach the verses with the mindset of the watered-down morality of the 21st century. We want his grace but ignore his holiness. We see Christianity as a happy getting-along philosophy rather than a surrender of mind and will to a fierce and holy warrior God.

Comfort and riches have numbed our society to the dangers of sin. Our silence in defending godliness has given rise to voices welcoming every philosophy and religion with wide and open arms.

On our watch, Planned Parenthood dismembers children in the womb. They cut the spine of developed Babies inside their own mothers. But that’s only if the injection of poison into the baby’s head fails. In either way, no matter if dead or alive, the doctors rip the little one apart and pulls out the pieces one by one.

I want to blame these atrocities on ignorance but I don’t have it in me. What they do is beyond murder. It’s slaughtering innocence and a betrayal to the core of who we are as human beings. It’s my own children who could have been raised in those wombs, cut apart into pieces by self-righteous sons of evil.

Deliverance of complacency

Sin didn’t change. Its severity is still the same as it was when it first entered this world. The difference though between today and the time of Joshua and David is that Christ paid the price for it. He took away the consequences of sin and carried them himself. That’s why we can approach the throne boldly and call God our father.

But through a culture of relativity and a land filled with riches, the influence that sin has on our lives has been pushed to the sidelines. Our view of sin adapts to our surroundings if we are not grounded in the reality of sin’s severity. And since we don’t understand how sin is wrecking the world, we don’t understand the urgency to purge it.

Jesus, we need you

Our only chance to win is to win is to cry out for our savior. We need his mind and heart to represent him well on this earth. We need him to live a life devoted to him, worthy of the sacrifice he made for us. We need his strength to fight for righteousness in this world and bring his kingdom to the earth. Only his grace can sustain a fight that will require everything.

Our commitment to him can only be as strong as our revelation of his character and his love for us. The more we know him, the more we want to live for him. The more we love him, the more we are committed to his cause and his mind becomes ours.

That’s when we can fight. Blows will hurt and bones will break but our commitment will stand. We have Christ and we have each other. We are the church.

And we fight for one.

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Your life’s best chapter is yet to come http://www.heartandgrowth.com/your-lifes-best-chapter-is-yet-to-come/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/your-lifes-best-chapter-is-yet-to-come/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1338 Our life has a beginning and an end. Like the cover of a book, they are the absolute boundaries of our earthly existence. We can’t impact them nor can we change them. We have no control over the culture we were born to nor our upbringing and the values that build our identity. Up to […]

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Your life’s best chapter is yet to come

Our life has a beginning and an end. Like the cover of a book, they are the absolute boundaries of our earthly existence. We can’t impact them nor can we change them. We have no control over the culture we were born to nor our upbringing and the values that build our identity.

Up to this day, our own book of life was written with indelible ink that has integrated with the pages. Our past is unmovable but our future is magic. Empty pages about to be filled with deep falls and tremendous heroism. Great testimonies and sobbing with the Psalms. All will be written down to be remembered forever.

Chapters will be written that will enchant the reader and take him into a world filled with wars and fears. He will hear of our inner fights and listen to the voices in our heads. Our thoughts will become real to him and he will suffer with us through the longing for meaning in a world of cheap promises.

Unknown dimensions

Our books will be written as things truly are. As we will read it one day, our eyes will be opened to a new realm that surpasses what we know and see today. We will see the chains we were bound with and God’s angels released over our lives. It’s a battle of souls, fought with demons and dragons and the prayers of the saints.

We have to stand in the times of war to enjoy times of peace. Hollywood copied a warrior’s dream but since so many die unnoticed, we call it a fairytale. Our realm of influence is ours to guard. No one will take our responsibility but us. We win our victories not only for ourselves but for our ours as well. We win for a destiny and legacy, we fight for those we love and those we leave behind.

We have to make memories in the darkness to keep us humble when things are great. How we behave when times are good is the evidence of a lesson learned or squandered. Can we handle his blessings or will we forget about God as soon as the sun is rising?

No perfect heroes

We are all open books and those around us don’t need ink and paper to read us. Our impression on people is the collection of inner struggles and resolutions, worked through and buried. People around us read us like those who parse through the lines of our lives in the heavenly.

Everything is 20/20 in hindsight but we have something today that we will not have then. While we live in the unknown, with wet ink drying as we live our life, we have the advantage of the moment. We have control over the next pages. We are the hero of this ship, we are the authors of our books.

We can’t impact everything but we can start with changing what will be written from today on. Great testimonies always include adversary. Even Jesus won the victory not despite the darkness but through the darkness.

Every good book has a conflict. It would be boring otherwise. We love to read about struggles because we all can connect to them. They are as real as life itself. The journey is what makes the hero because no one is born perfect. He struggles, reaches for the hand of God and overcomes.

So don’t worry about your own book’s hero’s flaws. Let the reader connect to them and experience who the hero truly is. Let the reader’s lives be changed by your story before the last sentence is written and the book is closed.

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Never enough: Why we always want more http://www.heartandgrowth.com/never-enough-why-we-always-want-more/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/never-enough-why-we-always-want-more/#comments Thu, 27 Jul 2017 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1326 During our honeymoon, my wife and I took a road trip to Niagra Falls. We ate out almost every meal. It was a dream at first. We would stop wherever we felt like it, feasted, and moved on. But over time, something very interesting happened. Eating out became normal. I still remember the place it […]

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Never enough: Why we always want more

During our honeymoon, my wife and I took a road trip to Niagra Falls. We ate out almost every meal. It was a dream at first. We would stop wherever we felt like it, feasted, and moved on.

But over time, something very interesting happened.

Eating out became normal. I still remember the place it hit me for the first time. I got bored with the food choices, annoyed with the taste and tired of à la carte. I didn’t want to believe it at first and chucked it off as a weird mood. But it kept on happening for the rest of our trip.

The next big thing

Like my food experience, everything we long for in this world will get stale if we get too much of it. The excitement wears off and the novelty changes into a familiar routine. While there is satisfaction in the constant, it can’t give the edge we longed for in the first place. It’s exciting in our heads but our imagined experiences always turn out to be a lot better than reality.

The ecstasy we experience from novelty comes from the unknown. The push-and-pull between uncertainty and promise is responsible for our rush. Our brain is drenched in a cocktail of endorphins drugged up to believe it’s experiencing the ultimate.

But once the danger is gone and we know it’s safe, the thrill takes a hike. Soon, we’ll start to long for something new again, whether that’s doing 90 on the freeway or sipping that barrel-aged lager next to the fire pit behind our house.

Experiencing salvation

Meeting Christ for the first time gives us a rush we never had before. We see the world through new eyes and want to learn everything we can about Christ and his people. We hang out in church on Sundays, go to Bible study on Wednesdays and even make the prayer meeting on Fridays. We’re so pumped that we can’t wait to get to the next meeting or put our nose back into the good book.

But eventually, we start to miss the meetings. We burnt through the novelty like paper in a fire pit. All of a sudden, we go to church only once a month. We stare at the ashes of our passion and we ask ourselves what happened. Weren’t we on fire for the gospel?

Don’t worry if that’s you. In fact, it’s all of us. This pattern is so common because it’s human. There is a whole interpretation of the Song of Songs that depicts our initial rise and fall quite well. It’s often dismissed as a preacher’s way to avoid talking about explicit sex scenes from the pulpit. Even though there is truth in it, the allegorical interpretation gives us a lot of hope in acknowledging that humans are not perfect.

Solomon’s beat

The Shulamite stands for each member in the body of Christ. We tell Jesus about our great love but bail out on him when push comes to shove. Jesus calls us to trust him, to follow to through rough terrain. But we tell him to go alone (SONG 2:8-17). But even though we let him down, he continues to affirm us, be our strength and encourage us to move forward (SONG 4:1-8). He knows we see only the beginning of the story.

What matter now is if we can keep the fire alive. Can we get the logs to burn long and deep, work through our issues and let the consistency of his word change us? Like a fire that burns for many hours, a deep change takes time and a heart that says yes.

Christianity is more than just a habit or a tradition. It’s more than the logical conclusion of the existence of a creator. It even goes beyond escaping hell and entering heaven. Christianity is God’s offer of friendship.

And friendship takes time.

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Facing our fears or dying on the church pew – What will you choose? http://www.heartandgrowth.com/facing-fears-dying-church-pew-will-choose/ http://www.heartandgrowth.com/facing-fears-dying-church-pew-will-choose/#comments Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1309 We have reached the point of stories becoming tales. The dust keeps forming on the eyes of our souls as we go through the verses we read 100 times before. We hear the story of Pentecost for the 100th time, read about the miracle of Christmas and fight through the sermon on the mount. The […]

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Facing our fears or dying on the church pew – What will you choose?

We have reached the point of stories becoming tales.

The dust keeps forming on the eyes of our souls as we go through the verses we read 100 times before. We hear the story of Pentecost for the 100th time, read about the miracle of Christmas and fight through the sermon on the mount.

The passion fades with years of grinding. We found the treasure chest a long time ago but it seems that we can’t find the key to crack it open. Promises of abundance and satisfaction dissolve as the week hits us strong on Monday.

We get trapped in the mundane, the saving grace we once felt is but a glimpse we catch once in awhile. We die inside just a little bit with each passing week that builds up the molasses on our eyes. But over time, many small deaths start to add up.

And our faith begins to slip.

Modern education

Many church experiences on Sunday mornings are similar to our school years.

Most of the time, we just listen, take notes and pass a test if all goes well. Our head is stuffed with knowledge but for how long?

Studies have shown that we forget around 50% of what someone taught us within one hour. After 24 hours, it’s 70%. Within a week, about 90% vanishes from the average person’s mind. Without application, ideas and concepts have no opportunity to become real and grounded in experience.

Education is a preparation for real life. We go to school to be able to offer a skill to someone who needs to get a job done. We don’t go to school for school’s sake but to be prepared for real life.

Application

So what are we getting ready for in church if all we do is to wait for the next sermon? The church is a sleeping giant that will change the world if it wakes up. And in order to wake up, we need to act upon the words we hear on Sundays.

Going forward with the teachings of Christ seems scary at first. Insane, maybe. Especially in a world that thinks very little of Christians. Leaning into feeling stupid and the experiencing the discomfort of mockery is difficult.

But we all do it anyway. Maybe not in our faith, but for sure at our workplace. Didn’t it seem scary in the beginning? Especially on our first job or even when we switch jobs, showing up the first few times is difficult.

We meet new people and experience a new way of doing things. We’re not sure of what to do and how to act. We get an intense course in real life application sprinkled with a good portion of company culture.We get to swim without floaties, testing theory against reality and fighting fears of failure.

But we do it, don’t we? We battle through it, find some ground on the open sea and start to expand. We start to feel comfortable and things are humming along smoothly. Our stress level goes back to normal and we’re able to handle new challenges. After a few years, a crisis is nothing but a problem in a different color.

Our concepts became realities because we lived through them. They get anchored in our minds through context and walking the talk.

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Mix in life

The Bible unfolds on a new level once we mix in experience. Only Jesus has the word of life and his voice convicted all of us at one point to step into a life of faith.

We know the stories but we don’t have the experiences. We are afraid of praying for healing. We are afraid of the supernatural. Heaven and hell became concepts and sin a theory.

Is it a surprise the churches are empty?

It is time to be obedient to what the Lord told us. Go out into the world and make disciples of all the nations. Heal the sick, cast out demons.

Who is the king

We have the authority in Christ. Remember, he’s the one who laughs at the foolishness of men, the one who spoke the universe into existence. He declared that his followers would do the things he did “and even greater things than these”.

And what do we do? We like Jesus on Facebook and put a fish on our car.

There is so much more. I’m sick and tired of our lethargy. I want my stories. And I want them fresh.

I want to walk on the water like Peter. He tried it out, he put himself on the line… and sank.

Failing is part of the package. But who was there to save Peter? Jesus reached out for him and Peter had a story.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

As God told Joshua about 3400 years ago, he is telling us today. As the disciples stepped out and failed, so shall we. It’s not about the mistakes we make today but about the stories we can tell tomorrow.

Remember Peter’s shadow?

I want that.

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