Tag Archives: love

A Change of Heart

San Antonio Riverwalk
San Antonio Riverwalk

Recently, the Lord has been working on something in my heart that surprises me. He does that from time to time—pointing out a problem or needed change of which I was previously unaware. One such experience has been weighing on me lately.

When I was about nine years old I went to the local theater where a new movie was playing—a kid could wander off to the theater alone in those days and no one batted an eye. I sat there in the dark watching Grizzly Adams. I was smitten with the mountains and forests. From that day forward I wanted to live at least near mountains, if not right in them.

The Lord allowed me to live in the Bighorns, the Rockies, and the Cascade mountains. I truly loved the mountains, When I came to San Antonio, I was sure God was calling me to the church here. However, I assumed by the situation and my heart that God was likely only going to have me stay here temporarily, and before long he would send me back to my beloved mountains. Now, years later I am feeling convicted of a terrible thing.

Over this last eight years, I fell in love with the people here. What I did not fall in love with was the city itself. Be honest! San Antonio is a huge, highly-populated area. Traffic is horrible. It is almost impossible to go anywhere without a crowd and even more difficult to find a place where one neither smells exhaust nor hears traffic. These have made it quite hard for me.

Yesterday, I shared with my church something of which the Lord has convicted me. I have made myself loathe this city itself—once again, not meaning the people. I find myself thinking negatively about the city and life here. I find myself distracted by thoughts of returning to a small town somewhere in the mountains. The problem is that I know he has called me here—and that he is not done with me here.

What I have done is similar to a spouse who despises his wife, not because she is a bad wife, but because he has fed his mind with negative thoughts about her. I have allowed myself to fixate on the negatives about life in San Antonio—traffic, crowds, etc. In that way, I have kept seeing myself as here only temporarily. God has me here. He wants me here. He is not done with me here. I need to come to terms with that and work on my attitude about living here.

Don’t get me wrong. Staying with this church has mostly been pretty easy because I love the people so much—that love has only grown since the beginning. It is love for the city that I need to develop.

I have been praying for the Lord to take care of my attitude and give me a heart for this city. As part of that, I have committed myself to a frame of thought and a practice. If a man came to me filled with bad thoughts about his wife, I would counsel him to find one good thing about his wife each day for the next thirty days and then come back to me. I have decided I need to do that myself about this city.

To do this, I will post one “thing I love about living in San Antonio” on social media, each day for the next month. Part of the exercise is not to qualify it, but to simply express my love for it. This morning I posted that I love the Riverwalk. I do this because the calling is God’s part; the attitude is impacted by him but is mostly my own part.

I want to love San Antonio—not only the people but the city itself. I am committed to spending the rest of my life in this city if that is God’s will. Now I need to seek the contentment to stay here the rest of my days.

Please pray for this transformation.

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Building the Kingdom with Kingdom Tools

Isaiah 30:1-2 (ESV):

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We as a church want to reach our community. We want to draw people in and disciple them to be followers of Jesus who truly live like him, demonstrating his character in our community. Only in this way will we transform our community and bring peace to those around us suffering under the weight of sin. However, this passage reminds me of an error that is far too easy to fall into. It’s easy to default to the ways and methods of the world and overlook reliance upon the Spirit of God.

In the geopolitical setting of Isaiah, it was natural when threatened by one country to approach another country for protection. If a small weak people could find protection in stronger people most would see this as common sense. God is warning his people about seeking security using the ways of the world. They should turn to him for protection. They should repent of their sins and trust in his Spirit. Instead they found it easier to trust in Pharaoh.

The reason this so struck me is the knowledge that we as a church can easily be tempted to neglect prayer and dependence upon God by replacing these with the world’s tools. Marketing and branding are a part of our world today. They are also important considerations for the church. In a way they are just secular terms for essential spiritual practices. We want a positive name and testimony so the world thinks of us positively. This, the world calls ‘branding.’ We also want the community to know we exist, where to find us and what we have to offer. This, the world calls ‘marketing.’

Such terms are not evil. Neither are the methods they describe—so long as they are honest, giving an accurate portrayal of Christ. What is wrong is leaning upon these worldly tools while neglecting the spiritual tools: prayer, witnessing, loving. We can create radio and print ads, for example. Yes, they are outreach tools and can draw in people. Some will be believers seeking a church home; others will be nonbelievers, giving us a chance to reach them. However, we must remember limits of these. They must be kept in their proper place.

We do this through prayer. Everything we do as a church must be bathed in personal and corporate prayer. Prayer can give power and impetus to the tools we use, even those of the world. However, if the tools of the world replace prayer we should expect the world’s results—and the world can deliver no one from sin.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Prayer is only part of our communication with God. We must expect God to answer. His way of answering is to speak to us through his Word. We must be a people who seek God’s direction coming to him in prayer and then digging into his Word expecting him to speak to us. Both sides of the equation are necessary.

By keeping both in our focus we communicate with God, seeking his will and receiving guidance.

We also must keep the tools we use in their proper place. We must remember the world’s efforts are meant to undergird not replace the more spiritual methods. Personal friendship evangelism is still the best tool for reaching the world. The best evangelist to reach a person is one who already loves them—one approaching without judgment, simply desiring to spend eternity with them. Personal sacrificial service is still the life which we are to model. Nothing touches the heart more than another human giving of themselves without expecting anything in return. No ad; no website; no social media post can replace this.

As we move forward, let’s remember to rely on God’s tools—without throwing away any worldly tools that can be effective. We must market and brand the church—these are important. However, we must first of all be a praying people. Second we must be people of the Word. Third, we must be a loving reaching people serving the hurting and seeking the lost. Finally, we must live out our testimony so the world sees an accurate image of Christ. When they see us, they must see Christ. It is only if built upon this foundation that the world’s methods will be of any use. Better to lay them aside than to build only upon them. But even better is to use whatever works to reach the lost and love them into the kingdom.

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God’s Pleasure

We talk a great deal about God’s forgiveness. But I wonder what image many of us have about it. It is quite true that we can only be forgiven because God gave his son to die for our sins. Unfortunately, we can often find ourselves thinking in a surprisingly negative way. It is too easy, and I have seen it too often, that we imagine going to God with our sins and him saying, “Well, a deal is a deal. I agreed to forgive you because of Jesus’ death and will have to abide by that agreement.” Fortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. This morning I was reading Micah 7:18 which, in the ESV, reads:

“Who is steadfast like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”

God doesn’t forgive because of a bargain struck and sealed in the blood of Christ (though it is only through this blood that forgiveness is available). This sacrifice makes it possible for us to be forgiven, but as Romans 5:8 tells us this sacrifice was done because of God’s love. You see, God does not forgive because he is bound to by a bargain or contract. God forgives us because he loves us and (hear me on this next part) because he delights in forgiving your sins. Imagine that for a moment! God of heaven, maker of heaven and earth, omnipotent, omniscient, holy, and just judge of the universe takes pleasure in forgiving your sins.

Don’t go to him sheepishly racked with guilt. Go to him quickly, boldly, happily saying, “Father I have sinned. Please forgive me.” He takes pleasure in forgiving your sins, so be quick to please your Lord. You do this by taking your sins to him, turning from them and seeking his face.

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