Friday, December 7, 2012

Can you change your heart?

I rarely “hear from God.” And when I do it’s not a thundering voice from the sky, but a nudge that I know is His. Skeptics are welcome to say that it’s my own “internal dialog” and that it just happens to randomly poke me in some incredibly relevant way. That’s fine, but I know in my heart that it’s God.

And speaking of hearts, that’s what my last “personal nudge” was. I’m really reluctant to share it here because it’s in a personal context that makes sense to me but means it doesn’t stand alone very well. In fact, taken alone it would form a dangerously incomplete theology that would drive us to become watchful Puritans trying to clean up our lives so we “appear good” without a true change of heart. (Someone really important said something about “whitewashed tombs,” I think…?)

But, I know of at least one person who needs to hear this, so I might as well put it out for the world rather than just privately messaging him.

All that said, I believe God told me:

You’re not in charge of your heart; you’re in charge of your actions. You focus on changing your actions, and I’ll focus on changing your heart.


Because, let’s be honest: Sometimes, I don’t “feel” like “being good” or “doing the right thing” or whatever. Maybe you always, always, always do… and if so, I want to know who you are and how you got there. For me and the rest of us out here, there are times when I get annoyed with my kids for being kids. Or get short with my wife. Or frustrated with the client who didn’t read simple instructions. Or downright angry with the friends who are divorcing. Or exasperated with a church that doesn’t communicate well to its congregation. Or whatever.

And then I think, “Oh, I shouldn’t feel that way. I should be more loving toward them. Why don’t I feel loving toward them? Woe is me! There must be something wrong with my heart. Where is Jesus in my life? Is He even close to me right now?” etc. etc. etc.

And then God tells me (and only me – not necessarily you)…

You’re not in charge of your heart; you’re in charge of your actions. You focus on changing your actions, and I’ll focus on changing your heart.

So, I’m working on setting bad/negative/disengaged feelings aside and doing the right thing. Not as an attempt to be actively hypocritical and “look good” while wallowing in a terrible attitude. But, instead, I'm deciding to consciously choose to take action on something I know to be right, regardless of how I feel about it, and trusting that God will change my heart accordingly, as He sees fit.

Let’s see how that goes…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is God where you think He is?

Luke 24:5b-6a NIV (

???Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!"

The moment a friend shared this with me, a literal chill went down my back.

I don't know what kind of conclusion I'm supposed to draw from it -- plenty I ones could jump to, and they might not be correct -- but it's been a very good reminder to be cautious of "seeking God" in pet theologies or worship experiences or catchy books or well-designed teaching programs or...?

Friday, November 2, 2012

On volatile topics...

Lots of interesting dialog in and around "Christians can vote ???No???, too. ??? Guest Post by Rev. Ryan Bauers"

Note that I'm not even mentioning the topic since I don't want Google to see I'm touching this debate with a 10 foot pole. Not even touching on "the stuff that contradicts the other stuff," as Ned Flanders would say...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why the Cross?

John Eldredge in a recent podcast laid out a contrast I'd never heard before: the Cross as atonement vs. the Cross as identifying with humanity's suffering. There's a ton of theology packed in there; "Jesus died for our sin" can be understood correctly... or not.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"God cannot..."?

Sometimes a statement strikes you as unusual enough that you do a mental double-take and have to dig in to figure out what's really going on. So when I encountered "F.B. Meyer Devotional - Our Daily Homily - Devotional for June 11" ( I had to stop and think at this one:

"God cannot deliver us from besetting sin unless we yield ourselves to Him entirely."

I agree that deliverance from "besetting sin" requires that we yield ourselves to God entirely. That's good advice in general. But any time I see the phrase "God cannot" I get worried. "God does not" wouldn't bother me a bit. But, proponent of free will though I am, I'm reluctant to say that something is impossible for God unless it contradicts his very character (e.g. it's not a limitation on God's omnipotence to say that He cannot be evil because, by definition, he isn't).

To say that God is incapable of delivering someone who is only partially yielded to Him seems... Wrong?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What is a Christian message?

While doing a bit of quick "what does the InterWebz think of Alcoholics Anonymous" research, I came across a great quotation:

"When a person is not clear about the Gospel, who Jesus is and what He did to save sinners, he is not presenting a Christian message."

True. AA, at least, doesn't present a confused message claiming it to be a Christian one; they leave room for members to find Jesus as who He said he really was. A real danger in our Christianity is that we take our own non-Biblical (or extra-Biblical or, worst of all, un-Biblical) opinions and present them as if they were the words of Christ. No matter how sincere we might be, that's still wrong and dangerous.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Did Jesus really mean that?

Okay, this isn’t a theological crisis… but I’ve got an interesting question to throw out to my theological circle.

In Mark 8:38, Jesus (in the context of explaining his pending suffering and death and rebuking Peter’s rejection of these facts) says:

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

I don’t think you can get more clear than that.  Jesus says other “not so fluffy” things (the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” comes to mind) but this one seems to connect the dots as unavoidably clearly as possible.

Fair enough?

So, a couple clarifying questions:

  1. What did Peter do when Jesus was arrested?
  2. What was Jesus’ reaction to him?
  3. What was Peter’s future in ministry?

And once you answer those for yourself, tell me this:

If Jesus said he would be ashamed of someone like Peter yet accepted and forgave him for doing exactly what he warned against, what do we make of all the other Biblical admonitions that warn of hell, caution against particular sins, etc.?  Do any of them remain in force today?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What does Matthew 20 mean?

Remind me to re-listen to this one (or perhaps the following week when Micah moved on to Part 2... But I think it was this one...)


Micah Witham


Description:Week 1 of a series called Glimpse where we explore parables of Jesus. This week we unearth the context of Matthew 20 and seek to gain a better understanding of what Jesus was actually saying.

Monday, February 6, 2012

So, what is "Dispensationalism"?

Over on one of my other blogs I have a page that jokingly but honestly lists the things I don't care about -- sports, cars, etc. Maybe I need a page like that here, because when a friend mentioned Dispensationalism in passing I realized that (despite brief study of it in a class one summer) it really wasn't "on my radar" as a topic of interest.

Maybe I can start with:

The interesting thing to me is that, unlike the topic of cars or sports, the topic of "God's nature and character" is one that we ought to pursue. Not to the exclusion of other ministries and not as a point of division, but I think one of the spiritual disciplines is a growing interest in and pursuit of God and what He has revealed to us.

So, maybe I should study up on Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology vs. whatever else is out there...?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

AG planting structure?

I wonder what the story is behind Deep Springs Church being planted next to Stone Church?

Sure, there's more than enough of God to go around, but given that (as I understand it) the AG has some sort of planned distribution of who-has-what-church-where, this must be intentional... Yet they're not sharing the same AG building that Stone Church meets in?

Anyone know the scoop?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Structure of mind/will/etc.

I was struggling and struggling to remember where I had heard this and I finally found it!!! Thanks to Google (for prompting the right connections deep in my mind that could be pried out otherwise):

That'll take you to the right page in Greg Boyd's book with a better pair of graphics than I can represent here.

I think there's a lot of truth in this model; gotta ponder it some more???

It was referenced by Rob Ketterling last Saturday in the "re[think]" series at River Valley Church (January 15): (starts at 6:50 into the video)


God's Original Design (top-down):

Lord /
Spirit /
Mind /
Body /
World /

Satan's Design (bottom-up):


Friday, January 13, 2012

The problem with Calvinism

Every so often over the years I encounter extreme Five-Point Calvinists who aren't content to leave the topic at "polite conversation about a centuries-old debate." I don't think that the nuances of our theologies about an infinite God reflect on our salvation... but I do think that our attitudes about those theologies might be cause for concern.

Put bluntly: If you're convinced that you have God's mind all figured out, that's a frighteningly clear sign that you don't.

Roger Thompson (of Berean Baptist Church), when speaking on Galatians, happened to perfectly sum up why I get concerned about people who brag about their Calvinism:

"A small inaccuracy about the gospel is a lie about God and it steals your oxygen of Grace."

He goes on to explain the reasoning behind our shunning of grace:

"And we desert Grace for one simple reason: We want to improve God's idea. We believe it's inadequate. It's too simple, it's too open, it's too relational."

I don't pretend to understand why Calvinists reject the blatantly-Biblical notion of "God's free gift to all that some choose to reject" ...but the idea that such a Truth is too simple, open or relational (especially since salvation is freely extended toward "people who aren't like me") seems like a good candidate for an explanation.

Extreme Calvinists, of course, would challenge that they're "improving" anything and claim that they're attempting to clarify and profess the "true" gospel.

The problem is that their view contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture. Suddenly, God didn't love the world that He gave His Son -- He loves only the elect. Christ died, not for all, but for the elect. When Jesus is longing over Jerusalem, He really wasn't longing for them because he actually chose for them to not return to Him. When He wept for Lazarus it was a form of crocodile tears because the entry of sin and death into the world was part of His plan.

Throwing up your hands and declaring "It's a mystery!" doesn't work when you've already made an un-Biblical assertion about God and his relationship to human persons.

Yes, there's a mystery as to how and why people can freely reject a sovereign God. Let's not trash God's character and make Him out to be a liar by packing that rejection into His will.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Daily Bible by eye and ear

It's been a few years since I've read through the Bible cover-to-cover and I think it's time to do it again. I used to subscribe to the Daily Audio Bible and didn't realize how much I missed Brian Hardin's voice and personality.

So, I'm going to try for both; let's see if I can form a habit. Kicking off this year:

Podcast Title: 1 Year Daily Audio Bible
Episode: DAB January 1 - 2012
Media URL:

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Podcast feed URL: