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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's all about Heart

There is an old buddy of mine I am remembering today on Valentines Day. He was a guy who probably didn't feel very comfortable in the pews of a church on Sunday. I don’t think he felt real good about his occasional back row seat. I think he came primarily to appease his wife.

He was a little, maybe a lot, rough around the edges. He was a hockey coach and I am sure felt more at home in the grit and grind of this kind of competition. It was raw out on the ice and one could not be a poser for too long with out getting his face smashed against the glass. He was somewhat famous for his antics on the ice. To call him demonstrative in the face of a bad call would be an understatement.

There was a particular game I attended with my children, who were young back then, where he became animated to the point of being expelled from the game. (Not easy to do in a hockey match) From center ice, as he threw his clipboard into the air, I, along with the rest of the crowd, screamed our applause and the referee motioned for him to exit the building. This enthused the crowd even more.

As he exited the arena in the midst of the noise and chaos, he walked past my seat. Yes, I was front row on the ice where none of the action was to be missed. As he passed by me he paused and said, "Hey Dave, when are you preaching again?" I yelled back, "This Sunday coach." "OK", he said, “I'll be there.” Then he stopped and yelled at me again, "Do you know why! Do you know why I'll come?" The crowd thinking he was yelling at me roared even louder. I shook my head no. I had no idea why he would want to come other than to appease his wife and I figured he could do that on any Sunday.

He kept yelling as he poked his finger in my chest, "because you got heart, that's why, you got heart!" He may have even added an explicative or two that should not be utilized in this blog but I knew what he was talking about. It was maybe the greatest compliment I have ever received as a preacher. A moment I will hang on to for the rest of life I would imagine.

I think that's why I always liked the coach. Even though we probably didn't agree on every jot and tittle of theology, I liked him because he had heart. He was never shy to go to battle and when he did he gave one hundred and ten percent. The kind of guy who liked to cut through the "crapola" and get right down to the heart of a matter. It's interesting to me that a guy like this didn't feel like he fit so well in church. I suppose I am not so sure he did either. I've been thinking the last couple of days that this is antithetical to scripture.

I came across this passage in the Old Testament. "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. This sounds more like the coach than it does some believers but it's a biblical statement on how God views things. A religious spirit from the pulpit might use this to engender condemnation and a successful alter call. This Spirit may even want to remind us that "the heart is deceitful above all things." Today on Valentines day I think I want to challenge some of that and suggest that these passages be put in context so that the truth can be celebrated and even lived out.

There was a great Old Testament Prophet who foresaw a time when things would be different; a time when Messiah would come and call a people of heart to Himself as a kingdom was being ushered in. Speaking for God he says, "I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And, I will give you a new heart.” Those of us who would count ourselves as citizens in the kingdom should be on this Valentines Day celebrating the new heart we have received and allowing life to flow out of it as we reject the lies the enemy would spin into our conscience that keep us bound to a mediocre existence.

Thanks coach for the compliment and for the valuable lesson.

Happy Valentines Day, enjoy your new heart!

David Fuller

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

So Lord, We Wait

As Jesus walked the earth He gave us insight as to what our experiential understanding of the kingdom will be. Later, the Apostle Paul gives a sort-of-state-of- the-union address to the citizenry of His kingdom, He says in Romans the kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace and joy...” Well now, there is a good word. Who wouldn't want some of that action. A couple questions can linger in our minds over all this. Is this true for all people at all times?

It seems so. Paul writes of a peace that passes understanding. He writes this during the course of some days that would appear less than peaceful. The one I like best is John. As he writes what is to be his last treatise to the churches in Asia minor he begins his writing by saying, "I am writing that you may have joy..." Now this blows me away, particularly because he writes from imposed seclusion on a not so pretty Greek island. As he is left to die, his mind must have remembered all of his loved ones who were now dead because of their status as citizens in this Kingdom Jesus brought to earth, threatening the nucleus of power in Rome. He was likely dirty and hungry. With seemingly no hope and no future you can almost feel the kindness in his voice as he says to the spiritual children he loves so much, “I am writing in the midst of the persecution you face to remind you of the great joy you have in Christ.”

I was remembering all of this during my recent trip to India. India in my mind is a land of chaos. The chaos of India confronts you as soon as you deplane. Even as I rode from the airport to our first hotel the sounds, smells, and visions of chaos brought a heaviness to my spirit. I now understand, much better than I did in my youth, the blessing of a God who is a God of order. In my immaturity I believed order to be stifling and constrictive. I now recognize it as the atmosphere of freedom. Since order is not to be equated with control I prayed for the establishment of order in India. Godly order in the midst of a polytheistic chaos rooted in the turmoil of what really amounts to Demonic worship.

Our destination was to a group of believers who have suffered under the impact of this chaos. Their family members have been killed and justice is yet to manifest. Their children remain hungry and relief has become a distant dream. Even three years after their homes were destroyed many remain homeless as hope has been deferred and the world has yet to see.

So what about this truth that Jesus relates to his followers? What does righteousness look like in the midst of chaos? Is there a peace that passes understanding and a joy that exists outside of circumstance? The truth is that if not then this Kingdom we proclaim is of little value and our labor, in the devastation and aftermath of the persecution in this southern Indian region, is futile.

To my brothers and sisters in Orissa, India I say gently but also with great conviction:

"Those who sew in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sewing
shall come home with shouts of joy

bringing his sheaves with him."

In this psalm there is a here and now reality as well as a future reality. I have seen this here and now reality in the jubilant and joyful worship of a people who make clear distinctions between two kingdoms and who have no ambivalence with respect to their understanding of which they belong. This reality exists in the peace that the construction of a chicken house brings as the promise of daily eggs becomes a reality. The Kingdom comes in ways we don't expect. That's part of what makes it so cool! We, at times, even get to be a part of ushering it in and that is pretty cool too.

There is a future reality involved here also. The psalmist promises that they "shall come home with shouts of joy." I am reminded that this dear people, like me, are not yet home. Larry Norman used to sing, "this world is not my home; I'm just passing through." This instills a hope that can not be thwarted.

So Lord, we wait.