Monday, November 7, 2011

Truth With Tears

Truth With Tears
A Devotion by Dan Guinn

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 ESV) - Is the shortest verse in the English Bible and yet it is perhaps one of the most profoundly significant in scripture. Lets read of the event in it’s context:

“When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.”

(John 11:31-38 ESV)

“Jesus wept” is profound in several ways.

First, that the creator of the universe has feelings, emotions. He greatly cares and has compassion. We see the compassion of Christ very often in His ministry. Jesus cared for people.

Second, in the context of the passage it says Christ was “deeply moved.” In the King James it uses the language of “growning in himself.” The Greek word here, embrimaomai, actually implies that Jesus literally had “indignant displeasure,” further still, the more literal interpretation of the word seems to imply, “a snorting indignant displeasure” We do not know the multiple emotions that might have passed through His mind, but we can tell that Jesus is compassionate toward Mary and Lazarus in the least, yet we also can tell that He is definitely angry.

Thirdly, Jesus is in control of his anger. Here he stands, the creator of the world and the entire universe, and yet all around him stand doubters saying … “if only He had been here.” He could have said or done many things, but he only said “Where have you laid him?”

- Jesus is able to do this perfectly, where we often fail. How easy it is for us to jump to accusations? How easy it is to react harshly.
- What would you do? If I were in Jesus’ shoes, with my sometimes carnal way of thinking, I might have done something miraculous and dramatic like cause an earthquake. In the very least I would have told them a thing or two.
- It is so strange how that “being right,” can be made to give license to so many ungodly things. It is possible to be completely right, and react in a way that is completely wrong. Here again, is the balance of truth and love. Consider this verse:

“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14 ESV)

We must be filled with “all knowledge” (the truth) and yet be “full of goodness,” which is the demonstration of love.

Fouthly, I also find it very interesting that every time Jesus is described in scripture as weeping, it is always in relation in some way to the results of death and or blindness caused the fall. He did not bring the death caused by the fall, the author of sin did, and it angers Him. We should consider how this both angers Christ and yet also moves Him to tears.

- The writer of Hebrews describes that in Gathsemane, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears.” just before his arrest.
- Likewise, this “King of Salem, King of Peace, our Great High Priest” that is described in Hebrews, weeps over Jerusalem the “City of Peace,” with these words in scripture: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42 ESV)

As we return to the scene of Jesus weeping, we see Jesus reveal the truth to them in the midst of these tears.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:38-44 ESV)

Jesus is not alone in speaking “truth with tears,” we may recall in the Old Testament the prophet Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” or the Apostle Paul who said,

“Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” Acts. 20:31

The word here for admonish, is the word “noutheteo,” from the word, “nous” which means “mind or understanding” and. “tithemi” which means “to put or place.” So Paul is saying that he is correcting their thinking and putting it in it's proper place with tears.

As we look around and see so much error in the world, we should be both moved to stand for truth and yet be moved to humble tears. Will we be discouraged that people aren’t listening? Yes. Will we be moved by what we see? If our hearts are right, yes. Will we be overwhelmed at times? Yes! Consider this quote from Schaeffer:

“It is possible to be faithful to God, and yet to be overwhelmed with discouragement as we face the world. In fact, if we are never overwhelmed, I wonder if we are fighting the battle with compassion and reality, or whether we are jousting with paper swords against paper windmills.” Francis Schaeffer ~ Death In The City

“Indeed, as redeemed people we should know the joy of Christ, but as we look around us in much of the church and in our culture, can we fail to cry tears?” ~ Francis Schaeffer ~ The Church Before The Watching World.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Abstraction Of Truth

A Devotion By Dan Guinn

As we look around, we can see some good in the world. Yet if we are really watching and listening, there is also a whole lot of hurt. People are hurting and we can site anything from problems at home to the economy and much, much worse. Very often people are searching for answers, everyday answers, pragmatic answers, and they often can’t see beyond the boundaries of their latest frustration. So when one talks of “truth,” a topic I write quite often on in my blog post here, people think you are just speaking in the abstract. After all, maybe they can only think about how to get their kid to stop throwing things at the table. How do you bring something which people see as so abstract down to everyday life?

Well, the problem actually starts with our reasoning. We have so alienated the concept of truth from our everyday existence in our culture that we have forgotten how to even consider it. For most, it is like that special box of keep-sakes up in the top of one’s closet that is only brought out for sentimental times. It’s like grandma’s broach, a relic that only looks right when on public display as an antique. We have “abstracted” (removed) truth and made it “abstract” (theoretical).

Is truth really abstract? Consider these definitions of the word “abstract:”

* “Considered apart from concrete existence”
* “Not applied or practical; theoretical”
* “Impersonal, as in attitude or views”

If truth were really abstract, then how can one reason anyway? If truth is abstract, why do we need laws in our society? If truth is abstract, what does the word “good” mean? If we think as though truth is abstract and fail to reason, is it any wonder we are drowning in pragmatic concerns?

Whose Truth?
Well, I know what you are thinking... whose truth? Whose truth do I choose? Now here, if I say “God’s truth,” you will probably accuse me of talking in the abstract again. “Who is God?,” you say. I get that, maybe you don’t know Him, and if you don’t know Him you might think He is also abstract. So are we at an impasse then? Certainly not.

The Truth Life Map
Truth is rooted in real life, it is not some far off concept out of touch with reality. What if truth were a map, to make sense of your terrain, would truth be practical then? For the Christian, the Bible is a life-truth-map, a rule, given to us by God, to guide us in how to glorify (please Him) and enjoy (celebrate Him). Through this process, guess what? Since He made us, through following Him we find out about our purpose... and it’s not some ethereal day dream, He gives us purpose. When we look at it this way, we are in a much different area of discussion.

Maybe you don’t believe in the Christian God, yet how does your belief system answer the questions of life? Are they consistent answers? Let’s face it, if you are reading the wrong map, you are going to be lost in the course of life, what is more, you may end up over a cliff!

Since people are finite, we cannot truly understand truth as God sees it, but we can understand it substantially given what God has explained in the Bible and the truth that is visible in His creation. The Bible answers the questions of life and explains what is revealed in nature about God. Questions like: "Where did I come from? Where am I going? How do I explain man’s dilemma?"

God’s Truth Is Personal
Yet more than this, if God has given truth for life, then maybe He intends well for you, maybe He cares what is going on with mankind. Maybe He is personal and communicates. According to the Bible, God has a purpose in creating us. He also has a plan for each of us and since He made you, He made you personal, so that you could know Him.

Beginning Truthful Communication With God
One need merely start communicating with God by praying to begin truthful communication. Yet God requires something of you, that you accept His Son for your forgiveness. Why would you need forgiveness? We’ve actually been talking about it. Forgiveness for not following the truth about God and what He has made. Many people are confused about truth. On one hand people will say things like, “Man is basically good!,” and that they don't believe we need forgiveness. Yet on the other hand people will object to Christianity because they believe there is too much evil in the world. Saying, “Why would God allow that?” These two thoughts are contradictory.

The fact is, God has provided a solution for evil in the world, and man has proven himself not to be basically good. God decided that He would take care of it in His own way. He would send His Son for us to be a willing sacrifice, and His Son, Jesus, would by this act conquer over death and sin and gain a people for Himself. He would be our King and Redeemer. If you have never prayed, one simply needs to talk and God will hear you. Pray and ask him for forgiveness of abstracting the truth, and tell Him that you accept His Son. Then read the Bible and seek a Christian church that both teaches Biblical truth and practices genuine love.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Becoming A Truth Substantialist

A Devotion By Dan Guinn

Throughout Francis Schaeffer’s works he uses an adjective that has come to be of great value to me. That word is “substantial.” To unpack this we need to understand that Schaeffer was a spiritual realist, in that he placed emphasis on the “reality” of both human pain, dilemma and sin in the world, and the “reality” of the supernatural nature of the universe. He came to this conclusion by simply understanding the creation story.

In Genesis 1:26, it describes mankind as being created in God’s image, after His likeness. Due to this foundational maxim, mankind has dignity, meaning and worth. Yet, in Gen. 3, we know that mankind fell from this place of honor. Due to this, mankind obscures the likeness of God of which we are patterned after in a very real way, we are now trapped in the mire of sin. Yet thankfully, God sent His Son to free us, and return us to our former state, and display the true likeness for which we were intended, the likeness of Christ.

However, the problem for the Christian, in living in the likeness of Christ, is that although we are now free to do so, we still live in a fallen world. We still stand in the mud, so to speak. Moreover, living like Christ and helping others in this mud is a messy business. It is not always clean-cut, or easy. In fact the Christian finds that even our own person is struggling against us (the sin nature within).

So what do we do? How much healing is possible in this life?

There are two very poor roads that are often taken. One is just to accept that we are sinners and just realize that we are going to fall and give into temptation. Second is to get so rigid that we live by a set of list and mechanical rules in hopes of striving for some personal perfection.

Neither of these options are desirable!

If we simply give in, we are saying the Gospel is not true. If we live merely by a set of mechanical rules, we are striving in our own power, and are robbing our self of the joy of the Christian life.

Understanding and Applying Truth Substantially

For Schaeffer, the answer became obvious. If the Christian has the ultimate source of truth, the Bible, then one should be striving to apply it. While absolute victory cannot be achieved in this life until Christ returns and renews all things, there can be real and substantial healing and victory.

This is because the truth that we hold to is truth with a capitol T, or True Truth (the couplet that Schaeffer often used). It is absolute and infinite Truth. While we as finite people cannot understand God’s Truth absolutely, or exhaustively, we can understand it substantially. Likewise, this substantial Truth is practical and makes sense of our reality. It is not abstract, or void of Truth content, but it is real and actual Truth, given to us so that we may understand. Remember, revealed Truth is by God's design.

When Truth is applied to the Christian life, it can thus provide substantial healing. Not perfect, but substantial. It also gives us a glimpse of eternity, when all things will be restored by this Truth, as Scripture tells us that Christ will restore all things.

  • "He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." Acts 3:21 NIV

So finally, to whatever area of life you turn, Christian, apply Truth and see what happens. Find out what God will do within your heart and mind!

Finally, Be Gracious With Truth!

Always, remember that real Truth is “Gracious Truth.” If we practice Truth without love or compassion, we are not being "Truth-ful" at all, but merely applying ugliness. Also, if we practice Love without Truth we are merely applying compromise. Finding the balance is key, and we as Christians need to wake up to the fact that the world is watching. How we demonstrate the Truth and Love of Christ are both cause for substantial victory, and yet the abuse of these are cause for the world around us to judge our Truth as invalid, and our Love as fake.

I urge you, Christian, be a TRUTH Substantialist!

Meditation On Truth
The Heart's Response To Truth

Spirituality Engaging The Heart & Mind

True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer
No Little People by Francis Schaeffer, ch. 5 Walking Through The Mud)
The Mark Of A Christian by Francis Schaeffer

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meditation On Truth

A Devotion By Dan Guinn

As a Christian, one hesitates to even use the word "meditation," as it has a long history of being hijacked to imply so many things contrary to the teachings of scripture. Moreover, in practice the mystic often uses the term to mean a form or religious escapism. They imagine meditation as a tool to escape this reality and enter some dark realm of otherness. In most Eastern religious practice meditation is a clearing of the mind, in order that one supposedly can be open to true realities. Yet the problem with clearing the mind is that once this is done, there is nothing there, or at least usually nothing of substance anyway. It is one thing to seek clarity, it is quite another to seem mental vacancy. This is something that Christ will never ask you to do. You will never be asked to empty your mind of content or escape the reality which He has made.

"Truth is content, truth has something to do with reason. Truth has something to do with the rational creature that God has made us. The dilemma here in the internal world is not just some sort of grey fog, it is in relationship to content" ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 108

"Man[kind] lives in his head; this... is the uniqueness of man[kind]." ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 112

Since mankind lives in his head, he needs real truth content. He needs to dwell on the things of God. Yet in many forms of teaching on meditation the intent is to free one’s mind to a point of openness to the universe. Yet, once the mind is in a state of “openness,” what shall we put in it? The musician Steve Taylor once wrote, in his song Whatcha Gonna Do When You’re Number’s Up, “You say humanist philosophy is what it’s all about? You’re so open minded that your brain leaked out.” Truthfully, the mentality of the world on this is simply insufficient. In many ways, it sees the path to truth as some sort of mental mind trick (not to be confused with a Jedi mind trick, that’s a whole other mistake). Those of you who grew up in the 60’s know that this went even further, based off of the teachings of men link Timothy Leary, a professor at Berkley. He and many other, otherwise brilliant men such as Aldrous Huxley, combined these Eastern mystic teachings with drug use. They advocated the use of LSD and other drugs for the purpose of expanding the mind in meditation. Huxley’s famous book, The Doors of Perception & Heaven & Hell borrowed from a quote from William Blake that says:

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern." William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

This was of course the inspiration for the psychedelic rock band, The Doors, who sought to live out this mode of thinking. Jim Morrison, the leader of the band literally destroyed himself and most every relationship around him with the abuses. This is really where we end up. Through these leaps of faith into a world of nothingness, through this mind tinkering and mental gymnastics in hopes of finding some Utopia, one merely finds tragedy.

“In Eastern mysticism—for which the West is searching so madly now, that it has lost the sense of history, of content, and the truth of Biblical facts—there is always finally a loss of personality" ~ Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg. 54 (1971), pg. 49 (2001)

This is so important to grasp! In this mode of thinking one loses their-self. It is tragic, it is ugly and it should invoke compassion on our part, to see the despair and pain that so many have inflicted on themselves.

As Christians we have answers! We have meaning that makes sense of reality.

"The experiential result [of Christianity] , however is not just an experience of 'bare' supernaturalism, without content, without our being able to describe or communicate with it. It is much more. It is a momemnt-by-moment, increasing, experiential relationship with the whole Trinity. The doors are open now: the intellectual doors, and also the doors to reality." ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 70 (1970), pg. 62 (2001)

"We do not need a dark room; we do not need to be under the influence of a hallucinatory drug; we do not need to be listening to a certain kind of music; we can know the reality of the supernatural here and now." ~ Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg. 54 (1971), pg. 49 (2001)

So Christianity gives a profound approach that is exactly the opposite of these conceptions of meditation. We are to be contemplating, and pondering truth, a truth full of rich content that nourishes our souls. There is no hope in vacant, bankrupt, anemic, starving emptiness where others unfortunately have been seeking.

But why use the word meditation? Surely there are other words we can use? Well, one has to wonder as the world continues to further abuse pretty much everything in it’s grasps, if the Christian will eventually lose his entire vocabulary. That is, if we give up every word that is abused we might one day have nothing to say. In my opinion, there is a need to redeem the word “meditation” from the mystical death claws others have placed on it and put it back in it’s proper Biblical frame. Not out of pride, but for the fact that the concept of meditation was first a Biblical one and it looked nothing like what it has been made to be. The Bible uses the words without restriction, unmindful of it’s current cultural moorings. Truly our culture has been scarred by the false teaching of meditation, yet we need to give and answer back, and we are called to do so. As Paul states in 2 Cor. 10:5, we are to be about...

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5.

Certainly “meditation” as it is defined today, falls into this category as a lofty imagination exalting itself against the knowledge of Christ. We should treat the word meditation in the same way we treat the word worship. Although we know that there are others in the world who worship in false ways and idolatry, this does not prevent right-worship and we have not stopped using the word. The principle is this: “abusus non tollit usum” or “abuse does not prevent right usage.”

Biblical Meditation is brilliant and meaningful. The first accounts of which come to us in the oldest book in scripture, the book of Job, where Eliphaz speaks to Job describing the custom of meditation in his day as the “fear of God” that “teaches the mouth” (Job. 15:5-6). In Gen. 24:63, we find an early account that says “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.” These are the oldest remarks in scripture, yet there are more. In closing I would like to briefly highlight the teachings of scripture on this subject, as it is not silent, and I think they will be edifying to you. I will preface this with Paul’s words on what our thoughts should dwell on, and as you can see there is no room for the distorted form of meditation.

“...the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” ~ Philipians 4:8

Meditation on Truth is Beautiful
  • “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire [literally meditate] in his temple.” ~ Ps. 27:4
Meditation on Truth is Nourishing Component of Prayer & Worship
  • "My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,when I remember you upon my bed,and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help,and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” ~ Ps. 63:5-8
Meditation on Truth is Help In Struggle To Remember God’s Goodness
  • "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:"
  • “"Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes." ~ Ps. 119:23
  • “Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.” Ps. 119:78
Meditation on Truth brings humility and rejoices in God and His Provision and Promises to us.
  • “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord” ~ Ps. 104:3
  • “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” ~ Ps. 19:14
  • “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work,and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy.What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” ~ Ps. 77:11-15

(Note here that the word Selah is literally a meditative prompt in scripture. Selah’s means to “stop and think on this” and the root word [calah] literally means to hang, and implies to measure. One might picture the hanging of a weight on a scale, as in “weigh this in your thoughts”.)

  • "My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise." ~ Ps. 119:148
  • "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands" ~ Ps.143:5
  • "On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate." ~ Ps. 145:5
Meditation on Truth rejoices in God’s laws and the wisdom it brings.
  • “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. “ Joshua 1:8
  • “With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” ~ Ps. 119: 13-16
  • "I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes." Ps. 119:48
  • “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me” ~ Ps. 119:97, 98
Meditation on Truth brings understanding.
  • “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” Ps. 119:99
Meditation on Truth brings wisdom and turns to testimony and evangelism.
  • “My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.” ~ Ps. 49:3

So what can we conclude about meditation in Scripture? or Biblical meditation?

It is important to note that the Biblical description of meditation is not some dimly lit experience of self deprecating ritual. This is not the practice we get from scripture, rather from scripture we can imply that it is a regular, daily, moment-by-moment, practice of dwelling on the things of God and gaining understanding that turns to wisdom, worship, and testimony of God’s goodness. It is a natural component of Christian worship and payer which is the intentional reflection on the hope we have in Christ.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Depression & The Soul's Response to Truth

A Devotion by Dan Guinn

Depression touches so many lives. In 2007 the Archives of General Psychiatry estimated that 10% of Americans (Approximately 27 million people) are on antidepressants. Furthermore, over one million of these people are treated each year with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) or electro-shoch therapy are cases of severe major depression. The problem has reached epidemic proportions.

Depression is not just a gloomy or melancholy feeling but a struggle that incapacitates the person suffering, and I do mean suffering. At many times the Christian church has failed to understand this problem, but we should be clear that from the statistics above we can see that the medical and psychiatry fields have had their own failures and difficulties with diagnosing and treating the problem, as the problem is truly epidemic and has definitely increased from these statistics in 2007.

The very first thing we should understand is that Christians are not immune to depression and that the issue should not be quickly dismissed. It is a real problem, requiring real answers. At different points in my life, myself and those around me have encountered what might be termed as depression. One very close member of my family was completely incapacitated for a good time. I myself, have had periods of deep hurt and incapacitation. I personally struggle with diabetes, which studies has shown can cause physical reasons that make you prone to lapses of depression. Yet those who know me, know that I have learned to constantly rely on my spiritual relationship with God to assist me in overcoming these battles.

Secondly we should understand as Christians that the struggle should not be quickly categorized as distinctly a spiritual issue, and yet it should not be assumed to be merely a physiological or medical issue either. We should remember that our bodies and minds, although physical, touch the spiritual realities as well. They operate in union, they are connected. When we experience physical events in the real world, they do have spiritual impact. Another way to explain this is to contemplate Christ incarnation. Why did Christ come in bodily form to teach us spiritual lessons? Why did Christ communicate to his people in audible language that we as persons can understand? Couldn’t God just speak from all eternity and we all just know all the lessons we need? He could have, but this would not fit His character. God is personal, humble and sacrificial, and He chose to send His Son to physically impart truth to mankind in physical form. Thus, we can see that there is a real body/soul connection that God is using for His purposes to teach us.

Thirdly to this discussion, we must also acknowledge that in fact, some of the most prominent persons in scripture probably suffered with depression. This is something that we should cherish about the Bible. It does not just tell us the soft warm and fuzzy story of God’s people, but instead portrays real people, with real struggles. We see the “Biblical heroes” with all of their warts, and none of it is hidden. No other book does this quite like the Bible!

As you might know, King David, the “man after God’s own heart,” was plagued with this sort of suffering. Here are some quick verses that depict David’s deep laments.

“My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?” Ps. 42:3

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.” Ps. 42:5
(repeated again in 42:11, and 43:5)

There are many more verses that show us this, but we can also look at key points in David’s life, times when he was idle and seemingly paralyzed. Times that caused great destruction in his life due to inactivity. His sin with Bathsheba was facilitated by his not taking his place in war with his armies, instead he was idle at home (2 Sam 11:1). He was idle in responding to Amnon’s rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13), as well as Adonijah’s attempt to usurp his throne (1 Kings 1), late in his life. All these seem to point to symptoms of depression in David’s life, and these are just a few.

However, there is another side to the story, the side of Truth and it’s impact on David’s soul. Listen to his words!

“Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.” Ps. 43: 3-4

It is the light of God’s Truth that overpowers the ailing soul. Even in the midst of physical struggles that are causing depression, the heart can respond to truth and build up a person from the inside out. I tell you this from personal experience (although my experience is not as extreme as some others I know who this has brought healing to), that as I have waited on the Lord to assist me in my state of mental incapacitation on more than one occasion. The answer seems almost too simple, and it is very profound, yet it is the answer none the less. The reading and teaching of the Word of God to one self is a way out of the darkness. It is the pinpoint of light in the distance. As the mind is directed to acknowledge the Truth, the soul is uplifted and the body can respond substantially. As I get to the top of the pit, my feet begin to move, I being to to run! This is what is happening spiritually so to speak, and physically I am working on eating right and being active, consulting the doctor, and providing for the needs of the body that in turn can assist my mind with clarity. Thus with that clarity, I further teach and preach to myself the Word of God all the more until I begin to break free! I am teaching it the Truth, I am teaching it with all of the strength I have at the time as David did, saying to my soul... "Hope In God!"

The Truth says:

  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28.

The Truth says:

  • “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Cor 4:7-10

This is a precious promise! Our sufferings are for His purposes, to make us like Him... and we will not be destroyed! Hereby we preach to ourselves the victory and the soul will in turn respond if we continue to wait, read, teach ourselves and pray! As we find more strength we then respond with our whole body to move forward and break free as much as is possible. Remember what God said to Cain in the garden?

“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted (or in the Hebrew will there not be a lifting up [of your face])? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for [against] you, but you must rule over it.” Gen 4:6-7

Perhaps this is where you are. Perhaps you are in the pit right now looking up. All of the natural things are telling you it’s hopeless. Yet, we all must remember that there is substantial help in this life before Christ returns. God’s Truth is real and His Truth is applied by His Holy Spirit. Pray to Him for assistance, ask Him to work on your behalf like He did for David over and over in his life. Ask and act as He instructs, read and pray, and then you will witness your soul’s response to Truth!

[A special thanks to my pastors Tony and Nathan for their teachings on this subject that have inspired and edified me.]

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Heart's Response To Truth

The Heart's Response To Truth
A Devotion By Dan Guinn

In my last devotion, Spirituality Engaging the Heart & Mind, I discussed the role of the mind in our spiritual life. We learned that the mind is very active in our spirituality. We learned that we do not need just “heart-felt” spirituality, but also “mind-felt” spirituality. Here are a few verses that were used, that will now serve as a base moving forward in an understanding of the heart’s response to truth.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." - Matthew 22:37

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. "

"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." Rom 8:6

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom 12:2

Each of these verses speak of setting our mind on the things of God. We must always remember that it is not only about “thinking," but thinking and pondering truth with a capital T, or as Schaeffer said, “True Truth.” The way this begins always starts with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Remember the promise of the Lord to the disciples.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:12-15

This Holy Spirit is at work to guide us into all Truth! This is cause for rejoicing. We ought to Celebrate! You no longer walk in pitch-black darkness, groping in the night trying to find your way. You no longer stumble in blindness, fending for yourself and falling into continual tragedy. You no longer dwell in confusion, but you have real answers that defy all the obstacles of life before you. There is substantial victory!

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I think sometimes we as Christian’s get used to hearing certain phrases and they no longer hold the strength of meaning that they truly deserve. This is not just some random evangelistic phrase we are hearing from the Lord. He is the light of the world and we will not walk in darkness! This should overwhelm us like the healing hand of Christ’s touch on the blind man. “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25b) We ought to be shouting this from the rooftops! “I now have understanding! Now I am free!”

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

With truth comes substantial freedom, and freedom from bondage is always cause for rejoicing!

The phrase I quoted, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see,” was from the story of the man born blind at birth found in John chapter 9. In this chapter Jesus finds the man and there are questions as to who was responsible for his blindness. Was it the sins of his parents? Jesus indicates that it is not their sin, but that this illness is for God’s purposes, as Jesus says, “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Now what Jesus is saying here is that this message is for the confirmation of His prophetic message as a sign. In just the chapter before the Pharisees were arguing with Jesus about his “witness,” questioning His credibility. Jesus now is solidifying His authenticity by following the will of His father and performing miracles at the appropriate time. This miracle is in fact confirming the actual canon of Scripture and bringing the light of truth to the dark world. Listen to what Jesus said next.

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5

Immediately after this Jesus makes mud with his saliva, and places this on the blind man’s eyes. How weird is that? Well, it has important meaning in the context we are speaking. He purposely is breaking the Pharisee view of the Sabbath. According to them, He just did work, He made mud. Jesus is actively educating by highlighting a gray area of their strict and ungracious view of the Mosiac Law and pushing on it. This action is all about bringing light on their darkness. Yet since He is healing, there is tension between their idea of the Law and their understanding of the witness to His prophetic authority. He is either a law-breaker or a prophet, He cannot be both. A law breaker, by healing on the Sabbath, or a prophet evidenced by his healing the blind man.

So a huge controversy erupted, witnesses where called, the man’s blindness was questioned and verified. Finally, the man is put out of the church. Note that this is no small thing. This is a disciplinary action, he is to be considered an apostate from the Law of Moses. He is being put out of the church, and for what reason?

There seems to me to be at least four reasons, of which are hinged on the man’s newly found understanding and light.

Calling the man who healed him a prophet.

+ Confession of Faith - Consider the impact of this event on the formerly blind man’s life. It was transformational, it was confessional.
+ So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

For blatantly provoking the priest.

# Boldness & Innocence - Now that he had attained sight and understanding, he was willing to risk all to keep it. This made him bold to the point of being willing to even provoke the priest who absurdly where attacking him, yet he was innocent as a dove in this remark.
# Can you image this? You have been blind all of your life and a man heals you and now that you see the priest are badgering you over politics? Seriously?

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him... John 9:26-28a

Calvin says something quite wonderful in his commentary on this passage:

“It is an astonishing display of freedom, when a man of mean and low condition, and especially liable to be reproached on account of his poverty, fearlessly provokes the rage of all the priest against himself. If that which was nothing more than a small preparation for faith gave him so much boldness, when he came to the struggle...This question is likewise ironical; for he means by this that they are prompted by malice, and not by sincere desire for truth, to press him so earnestly to reply to this fact.” John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol XVII, pg 384

Because he now sees

+ Truth to stand on - Consider that the priest did not know where Jesus came from, but the blind man knew He came from God.
+ “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes...” John 9:30b

Because he now worships Jesus

+ Truth that brings one to his knees.
+ Finally, after this trial of sorts is adjourned, Jesus meets the man again after hearing that he had been excommunicated. Jesus ask him right away if he believed, and after explanation the former blind man confesses, “Lord, I believe!” and worships Him in the presence of the all. His expression of joy and thankfulness are no doubt implied.

Ultimately, the heart’s response to Truth in the life of the believer should always be this way. Truth transforms like light into a dark room. When you truly see, you can’t help but respond with confession. You have to tell others. You have to help others see. You have answers for others. You become bold in resting in those answers and the one who gave them because you can truly see like never before! You realize you can stand on it. You realize that it’s real, and that it makes sense. Finally, Truth ultimately brings joy, thankfulness and worship for the one who gave it. Truth ignites passion and sets the heart on fire. It brings about action.

I am reminded of the verse that describes the two disciples that walked with Jesus after His resurrection.

“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Real Truth is in Jesus Christ alone, He is Truth, He should be the passion of our heart.

What is your heart’s response to Truth?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spirituality Engaging The Heart & Mind

A Devotion By Dan Guinn

There is some confusion in our day about spirituality and reason. In our day there is a heavy emphasis on heart-felt spirituality, and while this is a good thing, there is unfortunately often a de-emphasis on the “mind-felt” aspect of our spirituality. You might even question yourself, as to what role the mind even has in our spirituality, as there are some schools of thought that actually teach that mental pursuits and faith are not compatible.

So what role does the mind have to do with our faith?

This is a question that we ought to think about. Notice I said think? We’ll have to think about how to process and discern if these things are spiritual truth. We’ll have to use our mind for spiritual purposes. So just how does that work? To answer this question we will have to hear what God’s word says about the mind.

The Mind is Active In Our Relationship With Christ:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - Matthew 11:29

The Mind is Active In Repentance With The Heart (Seat of Emotions):

1 Kings 8:48 "if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart..."

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

~ 2 Cor. 10:5, KJV

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5, ESV

How We Display Love For God

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." - Matthew 22:37

Jesus emphasizes the whole being, un-separated!

The Mind is to be Set on God:

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. " - Isaiah 26:3

"Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God ” - 1 Chron 22:19 a, b

Our Mind Set on God Corporately (As The Church):

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” Phil 1:27

Note this is not an arrogant use of the mind, but a use of the mind that is a demonstration of love!

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus...” - Phil 2:1-5

If Our Mind is Not Set:

"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." Rom 8:7

"But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." Rom 1:28

Peace or Death (Covenant Blessing or Curse):

"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." Rom 8:6

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom 12:2

God Knows the Mind of the Spirit:
Also, we need to understand that there is something “mental” going on with the Trinity!

“And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Rom 8:27

Isn't this strange? What a strange way to talk about God and the spirit working. What this verse is saying is that God knows what the Spirit is thinking and the Spirit is praying for the saints because He knows the will of God (what the Father is thinking, and what His wishes are).

Let's read on, because these next statements are connected.

So Why Is God Doing This?:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom 8:28

God is thinking about us! He is working His good through us for our ultimate good.

Now we heard about God and the Spirit in the previous passage. But did you notice there is a no mention of the last person of the Trinity yet? Well he's next.

Conformed to the Image of His Son:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Rom 8:29-30:

The real emphasis of the passage here is on Christ, that God planned for us "to be conformed to the image of his Son." It is by a transformation in our mind and our heart that we are being re-created into Christ likeness! With this we can also see that the entire trinity is interacting around, in and through us. God is mindful of us in every way. Moreover, this is exactly as Christ promised!

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:12-15

Removing Spiritual Dualism
We must remember that God uses both natural and super-natural means to do His work. We might equate the heart-felt experience that we feel as Christians to the mystical concept of the “moving of the Holy Spirit,” which is indeed super-natural. Yet likewise in the natural observance of natural things, such as a simple flower growing, there is a natural testimony of the spiritual things of God. God has given us a mind to understand both of these concepts.

Schaeffer taught something very important that might be helpful to this discussion. When describing spirituality once he put forth his hand and said:

"True Spirituality is right here!" ~ Schaeffer.

What Schaeffer meant by this is that if we truly believe scripture and it’s representation of spirituality, the concepts of spirituality are not some far-removed principles, but rather they make sense in real life. God is right here, we can have substantial understanding!

The reality of our faith happens in time and space. At an appointed time, Christ came, at a certain time he died, in history. He did these things in real time. At a certain point in time He worked in your heart and mind and convinced you of himself! Our spirituality is not some aloof mystical concept that has nothing to do with our lives. Unlike all of the other religions of the world, Christianity teaches a faith that makes sense of reality.

Now, if we hope to speak to others of our faith we cannot separate the role of the mind from our spirituality as scripture teaches us to train our minds.

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15

In order to do this we are required to think, to set our hearts as well as our minds on the things of God, to learn His ways. True, it is not the mind alone, as knowledge for knowledge sake gets us nowhere. However, the mind set on the things of God ought to go beyond knowledge to get wisdom and understanding. Consider the words of Christ.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matt. 10:16