Tag Archive for Billy Graham

Do Unto Others: Part 7–Pure

Billy Graham pure hearts quote

God, create a pure heart in me, and renew a right attitude within me.  Do not cast me from your presence; do not take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and let a willing attitude control mePsalm 51:10-12 (ISV)

 

The goal of the Christian life is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better people today than we were yesterday.  When people interact with us, all they see of our lives is a snapshot.  So if they have repeated interactions with us, they expect to see actions that are consistent with what we profess to believe.

 

Of course, being human, we have our bad days, just like anybody else.  So what’s the trick to maintaining consistency?  What can we do to help our spiritual progression stay on track?

 

Luke 6:45 reminds us:

 

Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts.  Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts.  Your words show what is in your heart(CEV)

 

By our words and our actions, we show the world what is really in our hearts.  Therefore, it follows that if our words and actions are causing problems in our relationships, then we need to focus on the internal.

 

The excerpt at the top of this post is from Psalm 51.  King David wrote this after having been busted for committing adultery with Bathsheba.  If you know the rest of that story, there was a lot more than illicit sex going on there.  David actually had her husband KILLED so he could get with her.

 

Chances are good that no one reading this is guilty of a crime that heinous (at least I HOPE not!).  The point, however, is that God allows us to approach Him for forgiveness no matter how dark our sins are.

 

Even more importantly, notice that David is asking God to create a pure heart in him.  This is not something we can do ourselves.  The word “pure” is frequently translated “clean” in this passage.  This is a reference to ceremonial cleanliness according to Jewish law.  They had numerous rituals for making their bodies ceremonially clean, but there is nothing they, or we, could do to clean up a filthy heart.

 

How great is the news, then, that God actually WANTS to clean us up from the inside out, rather than just throw us out with the trash.  He knows that we need pure hearts to make our words and actions pure so that we can be useful to the world in which He has placed us.

 

Those of you that are Truthseekers, do you remember what it felt like when you first reported for duty in God’s work?  Did it feel like you were totally on fire to live out your mission?  Do you still feel that way today?  Maybe, but probably not.

 

Life has a way of dragging us down.  We get distracted and weighed down by the cares of this world, and we lose our single-mindedness of purpose.  If we aren’t careful, we can spiral downward into depression because of our ineffectiveness in bringing change to the world.

 

But we know that there is work that God has planned for us specifically to do.  We also know that we need to finish what we start. What we forget is that God never intended for us to do all these things on our own.

 

IF we remember to ask Him, God will straighten us out, give us the right attitude and give us the strength we need each day for the work ahead of us.  As we train ourselves to rely on God to guide us internally, the world will notice the difference in our words and actions.

 

Doubt: Part 2–Seeing the Wind

hurricane with photoshopped dolphin

The wind is invisible, but you know it is real.  You can feel a spring breeze blowing gently through your hair (or in my case, across my head).  In autumn, you can see tree branches bending and hear the rush and rustle of the leaves.  You can feel the sting of winter snow and sleet on your face as you lean into the driving wind.  In the summer, sometimes you see the damage the wind can leave behind—fallen trees, flattened barns, roofs torn asunder.

 

Nevertheless, you can’t see the wind itself.  So how do you know it’s there?  It leaves evidence of its existence.

 

If we are going to live solely in the realm of fact, we cannot define the wind.  We can measure its speed, we can observe its results, but we can’t catch it in a jar and look at it.  As Jesus told Nicodemus:

 

The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  (John 3:8 NIV)

 

Nevertheless, meteorologists will not tell you that they “believe” in the wind.  They will tell you that they “know” it is there, because they can measure its effects scientifically.

 

 

This is perfectly logical.  However, my question is if it makes sense to call something that can’t be seen or measured in and of itself a scientific fact, why do people not use that same logic with God?

 

God is also invisible.  God also cannot be contained.  With His unseen presence, we feel joy with the spring breeze.  When we see the leaves blowing off of the trees in November, knowing that they will be back in April, we are reminded of the mortality of our bodies and the immortality of our souls.  We feel His comfort and warmth in the bleak winter and His calming presence in the storms of our summers.

 

But the thing is, you have to know about God to really experience these things.  The first time you feel wind on your face or see the tree branches or the green wave of cornfields blowing, someone has to tell you it’s the wind.

 

When a child hears an eerie moaning in the night, and does not know that it’s only the wind, he experiences fear.  Then his parents tell him about the wind, and he believes.  He still does not see the wind, but he believes; therefore, it is real to him.

 

So it is with faith.  Although we are all hard-wired to respond to God, emotionally and spiritually if not intellectually, we still have to be told about Him.  There has to be a mental connection before the feelings become real.

 

Even then, we still don’t see God, but we start to notice the evidence, and things start clicking.

 

(For a personal example of this evidence, and for more weather-related metaphors, come back for Part 3–Cloudy)

 

Doubt: Part 1–Object Permanence

peekaboo

As Christians, we should not be surprised when people doubt God.  There were some who saw the risen Christ with their own eyes and doubted.  I’m not just talking about Thomas; some watched Him go up into heaven and STILL doubted!  As Ron Weasley would have said, “How thick could you get?”

 

There is nothing wrong with doubting in and of itself.  For example, healthy doubt and skepticism can keep us from being victimized by liars.  Nevertheless, what matters more than whether or not you doubt is what you do with your doubt.

 

I’ll believe it when I see it. . .

 

It makes perfect logical sense to doubt the existence of a God you can’t see.  When we walk by sight, that is, if we will “believe it when we see it,” then it follows that we don’t believe in what we cannot see.

 

This goes all the way back to the concept of object permanence that our brains learn when we are infants.  If we can’t see Mommy or Daddy, then they have left us forever, so we cry.  But then Mommy or Daddy always shows up.  Eventually we figure out that Mommy and Daddy are real and permanent (relatively speaking) even when we can’t see them.

 

 

It’s really the same way with God; the only difference is how we go about seeing.  With object permanence, seeing is believing.  However, since God cannot be seen, this concept will not work.  To “see” God, you have to exercise not your eyeballs but your spirit.  This takes some learning.

 

First, you have to be aware that you even have a spirit.  We are all hard-wired to know this, but we still have to be aware of our instincts to act on them.  In other words, faith is useless if you don’t know what it is.  The Amplified Bible gives the best definition I have seen:

 

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality—faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses. (Hebrews 11:1 AMP)

 

Therefore, if walking by sight means you’ll believe it when you see it, then walking by faith means you’ll see it when you believe it.

 

This is foolishness to those folks who consider themselves “fact-based.”  These people will tell you that nothing is real unless they can hold it in their hand and tell you what it looks like.

 

I’ve always liked how Billy Graham answered this contention:

 

Can you see God?  You haven’t seen Him?  I’ve never seen the wind.  I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.

 

(So can you see the wind? Come back for Part 2–Seeing the Wind. That was kind of obvious, wasn’t it?)

 

Us and Them: Part 5–Nineveh

God displays his heart for the people he created very explicitly in the book of Jonah, my personal favorite in the entire Bible.

 

Most people know about Jonah being swallowed by the whale/big fish, but that’s not really the point of the story.

 

Jonah was on that ship in the first place, because he was (futilely) trying to flee from God.  He was fleeing, because God had told him to go and preach in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital.  In that time, the Ninevites were the ultimate “them” to the Israelites.

 

So after his aquatic incident, God gives Jonah a second chance to preach to Nineveh.  He gives the shortest sermon in history, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned (Jonah 3:4 NIV).”

 

But then, a curious thing happens.  The Ninevites listen!  And REPENT!

 

So Jonah goes up to a high place where he will have a most excellent view of God destroying “them” down in Nineveh.  Except it doesn’t happen, because God has heard their prayers and is giving “them” a second chance.  Jonah, being one of “us” (that is, Israel), has issues with this.  But listen to God’s response:

 

“. . .  Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  (Jonah 4:11 NIV)

 

Jonah is the only book in the Bible to end with a question.  So what’s the answer?

 

Did you notice the theme in the book of Jonah?  Both Jonah AND the Ninevites get second chances.  God does not show favoritism.  Because he made all of us, to Him, there is only “us.”

 

But here’s the catch.  We have to affirm that Truth.  God is willing to include anyone as “us,” but WE have to accept the invitation.

 

We become part of “us” by laying down our pride, which is the mother of all sin, and the creator of “them.”  We become part of “us” by trusting God with our hearts, our fears, our anxieties, even our bodies.  By submitting our will to His, he responds by meeting all of our needs.

 

Now at this point, we still have a multitude of bad habits to break (Lord knows I do), but we have an example to follow in Jesus.  His perfect love drives out fear, the constant presence of His holy spirit keeps us safe from harm (if we let Him), and if we follow Him faithfully, the hope for our future will play out in front of our eyes, day by day.

 

The key word there was “faithfully.”  We do have a part to play in this transaction.  If we allow ourselves to be polluted by the world (James 1:27), and look to the things and people of this world to meet the needs that only God can, then we will become the “them” that we had despised.

 

The Bible calls “them” sinners.  Here’s the clincher—if you look at other people and see a “them,” you are one of “them.”

 

However, if you look at other people, no matter how different they are from you, and still see an “us,” or at least a potential “us,” then that is a sign that the Holy Spirit is within you, transforming you into the likeness of the Jesus, who being one with the Father, created us to be “us.”