Heart and Growth https://www.heartandgrowth.com Christianity for Warriors Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:41:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Why our young warriors fight for different causes https://www.heartandgrowth.com/why-our-young-warriors-fight-for-different-causes/ https://www.heartandgrowth.com/why-our-young-warriors-fight-for-different-causes/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:00:51 +0000 https://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1727 In a 2017 Lifeway Research study the authors determined the factors that kept young people at church. Reading the Bible as a kid made first place but close behind that were prayer, church attendance, and serving in the church. All these are part of an active Christian lifestyle, modeled by the parents and resurfacing in […]

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Why our young warriors fight for different causes

In a 2017 Lifeway Research study the authors determined the factors that kept young people at church. Reading the Bible as a kid made first place but close behind that were prayer, church attendance, and serving in the church. All these are part of an active Christian lifestyle, modeled by the parents and resurfacing in their children.

So what about the numbers of young people leaving churches? The same article quotes that half of the kids growing up in Protestant households lost their faith somewhere along the way. So that means that if we read our Bible and say our prayers, my child will stay a believer as they grow up?

What we teach them

I don’t think so. The research is missing the mark in telling us what they did and not how they grew up. Forcing a set of behaviors down the throat of my kids to create a facade is not a Christian upbringing. But picture-perfect little angels without any issues fit great into the all-American suburban neighborhood. Raising those kids to act in a certain way has nothing to do with the reality of a messy gospel, His saving grace and the reality that we all need him.

The American gospel is a forefront, used to fit in with friends and family and depicting but an expectation of those around us. It teaches us to hide behind morals and act as we are supposed to act. Growing up with a different faith would have actually helped some of us because we would be open to Christ once we encounter the real thing. Truth-seeker of today look everywhere but in the remains of their childhood ruins. They experienced that to be the epitome of hypocrisy and hatred.

You ought to be a Christian

We can’t expect the young and wild to follow a dead track. They are growing up in exciting times, filled with opportunity and knowledge. They have access to every belief system in the world and have a history of disappointment with their own. How can we blame them if they run away from the church as far as they can? They have good reasons.

I’m the father of three young children. As many of us dads do, I strive to become a man of integrity not only in the world around me but especially with my children. I am not only representing Christianity to them but also Christ himself. They judge the legitimacy of the Gospel through my character.

Teaching them about the gospel is important but backing up my words with my actions is essential. I teach them repentance but where do they see it in my life?

Sin in every context

All yelling is nothing more then my desperate attempt to control my kids through fear. Since they are free are to pick their own choice (with the appropriate consequences for their choices), I should not have to control them in any way. My attempt to control them is a sin in itself but the yelling teaches them that daddy is a hypocrite.

And I would be a hypocrite if I claimed to be perfect. But I’m a sinner representing Christ and my kids need to know that. Their dad is not perfect and in yelling at them he sinned against them and against God himself.

So I established a routine in my house to apologize not only to my kids after I mess up, but also ask God for forgiveness in front of them. My goal is to ingrain into their thinking that my sin is not connected to the God I’m professing. I’m a sinner and I need God’s forgiveness the same way that I tell them we all do. I’m not exempt and they are worthy enough to hear it from my mouth.

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Showing teeth: How to turn the church into a lion once again https://www.heartandgrowth.com/showing-teeth-how-to-turn-the-church-into-a-lion-once-again/ https://www.heartandgrowth.com/showing-teeth-how-to-turn-the-church-into-a-lion-once-again/#comments Thu, 08 Feb 2018 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1680 Going to church can be sacrifice and time-strapped modern men have tons of options. Getting dressed and running out the door competes with sleeping in and breakfast in bed. It’s not a good deal if you have to feel awkward for two hours and hope that things are over soon. Most of the time it’s […]

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Showing teeth: How to turn the church into a lion once again

Going to church can be sacrifice and time-strapped modern men have tons of options. Getting dressed and running out the door competes with sleeping in and breakfast in bed. It’s not a good deal if you have to feel awkward for two hours and hope that things are over soon.

Most of the time it’s not even the theology we have a problem with. It’s the word we signed up for in the first place. We love God and want to see his kingdom come. But as the new mainstream hit the church, ushered in by Hillsong and those alike, church association shifted from Abe Lincoln toughness to a Jane Austen book club. Today, the church is all about emotions and expressions. It’s about serving cookies with tea instead of conquering sin and holy living.

Holding hands and rejoicing

While servanthood and grace are part of a healthy church, we ignore the part where Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers (John 2:15). He used a whip, not a pretty smile. He was not afraid to do what’s necessary. He confronts evil and shut up the Pharisees with brilliant rhetoric.

Unfortunately, a lovey-dovey pumpkin church of hugging and kumbaya will not produce the same devotion and songs about the sweet face of Jesus won’t foster ground takers and wall breakers. A devoted Christian life, modeled after the Bible, is tough.

Doing what is necessary

A sissy would never opt-out for a life as a missionary 150 years ago. But James Gilmour, a Scottish missionary to Mongolia, was a tough dude who wouldn’t compromise his mission even after 13 of his fellow missionaries were massacred only one month after his arrival in China. “Our death might further the cause of Christ more than our life could do.” What can a man be afraid of if he’s not afraid of death?

The guy was like a bull terrier, fighting for the kingdom no matter what stands in his way. After four years after working with violent alcoholics, James didn’t see a single convert. But he didn’t give up. So much greater was his success when he made his first brother in a smoke-filled hud somewhere in the middle of Mongolia.

“The place was beautiful to me as the gate of heaven, and the words of the confession of Christ from out the cloud of smoke were as inspiring to me as if they had been spoken by an angel from out the cloud of glory.”

Satisfaction hit this lion-heart’s soul as a confirmation for his holy calling. That’s the essence of endurance and the role model we need in our churches today. Real men with real grit who give it all for the glory of Christ.

True sons of God

We need to sing songs like this and we need our pastors and preachers to be like this. Because that’s who Christ is. We have seen some if his characters displayed in the church but there is more to him then compassion and serving the poor. We need to add to the good we already have and build a culture where men feel welcomed and needed. We need to build the brotherhood.

Once we have that, once the warriors govern the church, we can bring back the cookies.

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Intimidation: How the devil brings us down https://www.heartandgrowth.com/intimidation-how-the-devil-brings-us-down/ https://www.heartandgrowth.com/intimidation-how-the-devil-brings-us-down/#comments Thu, 04 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1659 Combat has fascinated men for centuries. In former years, it was about conquering and ruling, survival and breaking the yoke. It was a way of life men were born into, in a culture where strength and honor were valued and men could live out what the builder baked into their foundation. The longing for strength […]

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Intimidation: How the devil brings us down

Combat has fascinated men for centuries. In former years, it was about conquering and ruling, survival and breaking the yoke. It was a way of life men were born into, in a culture where strength and honor were valued and men could live out what the builder baked into their foundation.

The longing for strength trickles through the barrier of modern life in the form of ESPN, boxing and, rising fast in reach and value, the UFC. When boxing was first organized in the early nineteenth century, there were no standard weight classes. 230 lbs machines would fight little guys who’d weigh in at 150 lbs soaking wet. Those fights usually didn’t last very long and the outcome was easy to predict.

Mass and muscles of the big guy can be a huge advantage but only if both opponents have a decent technique to go with. Since boxers should know how to box, weight classes were a logical conclusion to tackle this problem.

Outside of professional fighting, however, judging a person’s ability to fight based on their size can be very dangerous. A big guy without technique will look like the clear favorite against a little guy. He will flex and roar, puff himself up and do everything to get into his opponent’s head. He wants to break the little guy’s confidence before even the first fist is thrown.

Psychological warfare

The devil’s strategy is very similar to that (1 Peter 5:8). He marches around like a roaring lion but it comes down to it, the devil knows that he has already been defeated. If he can strike fear into our hearts and distract us from who we are, we lose.

He’s like the backyard bully, the loud kid who doesn’t know when to stop. He uses intimidation to strike us with fear. It works a lot of times and we give up without a fight. He looks big and powerful and like the Israelites faced with the giants in the promised land, we think we are weak without receiving a single bruise.

Our reality is what we believe
When they entered the promised land, the spies who were sent to scour out the land reported it was occupied by the Nephelines. ”We seemed like Grasshoppers in our own eyes”, they said. “And we look the same to them.” Those guys were afraid to even though they knew God was on their side.

They have seen the parting of the sea, they were witnesses of God’s great miracles in Egypt. After all of this, they were afraid and spread their opinion throughout the whole camp. As a result, none of the Israelites were able to enter into the calling God had for them. (Numbers 32:11) Except for Caleb and Joshua, every adult of that first generation died off.

So why did Caleb enter? It was because of his faith. He believed in his God and he was not afraid to share it with the rest of Israel:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

And of course, we know the story of Caleb claiming his mountain. He was 85 years old when Joshua blessed him to go and fight the “great fortified cities of Anakim”. He knew that his God would be with him and as the story goes, the mountains fell.

Who is by our side?

No matter the size of our enemy, we can send him to sleep because Christ is in us. We have the promises of Jesus and we have John’s revelation of the end. We are urged to have faith like Abraham (Hebrews 11) because our destiny hangs on our trust in God.

Faith is a mindset that will stir our lives through difficulty and mold our character into the image of Christ. As we see his faithfulness when we step out, our faith will grow and our confidence in his power will increase.

So will we have faith like Caleb and enter into our destiny? Will we take risks and trust our God? Or will we perish like the spies whose names will forever be forgotten?

Our destiny begins with a choice.

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Warfare prayer to remember the truth https://www.heartandgrowth.com/warfare-prayer-to-remember-the-truth/ https://www.heartandgrowth.com/warfare-prayer-to-remember-the-truth/#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 16:00:00 +0000 http://www.heartandgrowth.com/?p=1671 I had a situation at work the other day that was getting the best of me. Emotions were running wild and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It seemed like I was powerless, unableto pray and forced to accept the situation as it is. The Bible tells me that I’m not facing my […]

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Warfare prayer to remember the truth

I had a situation at work the other day that was getting the best of me. Emotions were running wild and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It seemed like I was powerless, unableto pray and forced to accept the situation as it is. The Bible tells me that I’m not facing my problems alone but I couldn’t feel the truth in my heart. My thoughts of faith didn’t cut it anymore and I had speak it out, over and over again. With every breath, I became louder and louder and after a few seconds, I was yelling at the top of my lungs.

“I have God by my side. You can’t stop me! I’m a warrior”.

Old ladies looked worried and young kids were staring at me. They didn’t know I was preparing to represent Christ to this world without caving. I was bringing back to my heart what my mind was pushing out of existence. Problems and rampage made me forget that Christ “will never leave me nor forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5). Screaming the truth into the steering wheel of my car was the only way for me to remember the truth. It was the only way to silence the lies in my head.

This is Sparta

Remembering His goodness is spiritual warfare. Thoughts of insignificance don’t appear out of nowhere. There is a psychological element that we can’t forget but desperation that comes out of nowhere is a sign that there is more involved than just your head. Why else would Paul write about the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20)? Prayer is warfare and a church who doesn’t pray is like an army who doesn’t fight.

Without prayer, your mind will be overrun with lies and you will end up like the Czech Republic during World War 2. They had a well-oiled war-machine and a modern army of twenty-five divisions but they decided to surrender to the Nazis without a fight. Now it’s true their allies stabbed them in the back but had they decided to fight, France and Russia would have had their back.

Make a choice or make excuses

The Czechs had everything they needed yet they didn’t take action. They gave into their fear and the enemy took advantage of it. Once the Nazis occupied their territory, all the Czech’s resources and aspirations were taken from them.

A life without prayer will have the same effect on us. We will forget who we are and we will buy into interpreting the circumstances as all there is. Dismay and apathy will break into our lives and our love for Christ will grow colder with each day. Reading the word is not enough to keep us afloat in this world. A warrior needs to use his sword in battle like a mechanic uses his tools and a doctor uses his instruments.

Lies and bullets

Take the authority God has given you in this world. You are in a war, whether you stand up and fight or like the Czech government, surrender and hope for the best. It’s vital to remember that this life is more than meets the eyes. As Christians, we have a responsibility to use the tools God has given us. Prayer is part of our toolbox and we have to master it to make an impact.

The enemy targets the dangerous so if you don’t experience any attacks, you are not a thread.

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Of forgiving your brother and releasing your enemy https://www.heartandgrowth.com/of-forgiving-your-brother-and-releasing-your-enemy/ https://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 https://www.heartandgrowth.com/how-to-stop-evil-thoughts/ https://www.heartandgrowth.com/how-to-stop-evil-thoughts/#comments 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 https://www.heartandgrowth.com/his-goal-is-our-holiness-not-our-comfort/ https://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 https://www.heartandgrowth.com/psalm-139-the-weird-parts/ https://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 https://www.heartandgrowth.com/forged-by-fire-for-your-holy-destiny/ https://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 pressure. It’s then we show who we really are.

We must fight 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 Psalms. 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 https://www.heartandgrowth.com/of-dreaming-and-dying-in-a-fallen-world/ https://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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