Either Put Up or Shut Up! I’m All in or nothing at all!

The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

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The Jewish leaders struggled over 613 individual moral statutes or commands by which they were to live and conduct themselves.  Sometimes they debated among themselves as to which of these moral statutes were vital and which of them were less vital.  They didn’t want to make the mistake of placing some statues above more important one and vice-versa.  Yet this struggle brought itself right before Jesus.  One of the teachers ventured to ask Him this question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28).  

Jesus laid it all out for those who would hear Him; “The most important one,” Jesus answered, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Now, dear fellow Christ-follower, it is either time for us to put up or shut up.  I don’t mean to be crass here or offend you, but I cannot stress how vital it is for us to love the Lord with every fiber of our being.  Jesus placed this as the #1 priority in the lives of those asking and still today it ought to be #1 in our lives as well.  

Let me illustrate: 

Our homes are powered by electricity (well most of them are anyway).  If we were to bring in a brand new television to watch we first must take it out of the box and connect it to a power source.  Without the power source all of our favorite shows and possibilities are impossible.  We need to plug that television into the power in order for anything to happen, without it nothing works and nothing ever will.

Without first loving God with our EVERYTHING nothing else will work.  Without first loving God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength we are powerless.  It is either all or nothing.  God doesn’t want a partial kind of love.  He isn’t some on again off again God, either get on board with Him and love Him completely or don’t at all.  

Secondly, don’t try and fake out God…He’s not buying the act.  Others might see how good we look dressed up for Church and how we act in front of other Christians but if this isn’t consisted behind the scenes God knows.  This is a tough pill to swallow.  I’m not here to say that I have this all figured out either, because I too struggle at times with a divided heart.  Not intentionally mind you, but at times I catch myself and find that I have to once again realign my relationship and priorities with God.  

How is your heart today?  Do you find that at times you have a divided heart when it comes to your relationship with the Lord?  Perhaps it’s time for a heart realignment so that you can once again get plugged back into the true sources of power and life.  

Scriptures readings:  

Isaiah 29:13, Psalm 86:11, Mark 12:28-34

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Dear Lord, this heart…

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2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

Finding the melodies of life (a metaphor of holiness) – Introduction

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Introduction

“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.”  -Ronald Reagan

 

The band begins to play.  Moments before, the sounds of their tuning and dissonant chords filled the theatre with broken parts, and sour notes as tuning slides, timpani, and valves are oiled and adjusted.  But as the music begins to be played by each musician, the notes that were once discombobulated and disjointed become unified, harmonious and beautiful.  The auditorium is alive.  Music is ignited!  The bandmaster, with baton waving erratically in the air, guides the musicians through the movement reminding them all of accidentals, dynamics, and key changes.  His role is no less important than that of the musicians he stands before.  Slowly and melodically the masterpiece, made up of notes on a page, reaches its climactic ending; and as the last notes are played, held out and released, there is brief moment of silence.  Within that brief moment, resides all of the work, all of the practices, all of the blood sweat and tears, and just as the last notes are released so too is the passion and love that the musicians have contained for so long for this musical composition.  It reaches out from the finale on stage, ever so slightly touching the listener, caressing their hearts and in turn drives them from their seats to their feet in accolades of fervor and joy.  This…is music!

 

Music is like breathing air, one needs to keep breathing in order to survive.  That is what I know about music!  Music is a part of me; it is sewn into the very fabric of who I am.  If one were to take out the stitching of melodies, harmonies, key changes, and accidentals; one would in some way begin to take away a very intrinsic part of who God has made this person to be.  Perhaps music doesn’t resound in all of us in the same way, but let me offer you an experiment in music for just a moment.  Have you ever experienced an epic moment in your life where you heard a composition of music, in any genre, that automatically pulled you back in time to another moment within your history?  One solitary second you are driving down the road listening to the radio, then this very specific song comes on and Bam, you are transported back in time to a point in your life where this very song is tied ever so tightly to an emotional or physical response.  Have you been there?  So have I, and this is how intrinsic music is to our very heart and souls.  It speaks to us beyond our hurts, beyond our joys, and calls us to take notice, to remember and to always embrace the melodies that God has placed inside of us all.  These melodies are so much more than mere songs heard on the radio or in music videos on Television.  They are the melodies we were created to perform in our lives, conjured up in our souls and in the very fabric of our being.  God has called us to sing or play the music of our souls on the stage of this life, not only for our own amusement or enjoyment alone, but because He revels in our creativity, He celebrates with our inquisitive hearts, and He wants us to play the music that we were created to play.  But the question that begs to be answered and hangs in the air like the last resounding notes on a page is this: do we know how to play the music? 

Some say that we can learn as easy as riding a bike, but what if no one ever taught us to ride that bike?  What if that parent wasn’t behind us pushing and cheering us on?  If you have ever wondered what melody God has called you to play, then this book, these prayer thoughts are for you.  If you have not wondered what tune has been placed in your heart, perhaps this is THE moment to begin exploring and plumbing the depths of your heart.  Believe it or not, God has planted that seed in your life to perform the tune of your lifetime for the world to see and hear.   We are called to play the music.  But how do we find our tune?  Do we even know how to play? 

 

This is where it all begins…Music Orientation 101 for the soul:

 

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me
.” -Heni Nouwen

Me, the Prodigal (Poem)

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There are days, dear Lord, when I fear

and I let go of your mighty hand

when all around me danger looms here

I am weak and deaf to your commands.

Yet your loving hand never strays from me

How could I have ever taken my eyes away

from your strength and presence free

while I begin to sink beneath this deadly fray?

It is at my worst that I turn again to You

how could I have let go of your strength and might?

Your love shines and pierces all the way through

my heart and within this sinking darkest of night.

Though I, the fool, am ashamed of my misgivings

You clothe me in riches beyond my deserving

Such love I cannot express to you in serving

all my days, all my efforts will I devote into your keeping.

-Amen.

Home Sweet Home

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It’s interesting when you see these hanging in homes.  For most it’s a sentiment that evokes  love, acceptance, peace, somewhere to not only hang your hat but to rest.  These signs are a dime a dozen in tourist shops and craft stores…trust me I’ve been to many of both.  But the real sentiment which is relayed in these wall hangings can be found within our searching can’t it?  We automatically identify places that are not home to us.  Perhaps its in the decor of a place, or in the beds we sleep in, or in the company we find ourselves in.  But in our searching we can identify where home is and where home isn’t.

Similarly this should be the case in our spiritual relationships.  If we are familiar with our Eternal Father in heaven we can quickly identify where He does not reside.  And if we are tempted and go to these places we will continue to feel ‘away from home’ in them.  Isn’t it interesting that the places we call home don’t just make up things or tangible surrounds?  The reasons we call certain places ‘home’ is because of a heart-attachment.  By that I mean we are emotionally, historically, and internally attached to a certain place because ‘this is where I’m from!’.   Do you see the context here?  It’s not four walls of some building that makes a place home, it’s an attachment to us that goes beyond the physical realms.

Similarly in our searching we find ourselves asking ‘big questions’.  Questions like ‘who made me?‘ or ‘Are we alone in the universe?’, ‘is there a God?‘, ‘Can I really believe what the Bible says?‘.  You see we are all searching in some way, shape, or form for home.  Ever since Adam and Eve initially were expelled from the garden of Eden we have been in search of home.  Something within us is missing.  A crucial life component that makes us whole again.

It’s like working so hard on a thousand piece puzzle and coming to the end of it and discovering you are missing one vital piece of the puzzle.  Without that one piece, the puzzle is incomplete.

Intrinsically we are created in God’s image, yet because of this fall into sin, our image of God in us is severely marred…we are missing a piece from within us.  This is what A.W. Tozer said on this subject:

“Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight.  In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.”  They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him.  In the deep heart of man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come.  Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.  But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.  

Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and the things were allowed to enter.  Within the human heart things have taken over.  Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.  

This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble.”

Do you see now why we are still in search for home?  As Tozer puts it, the sacred shrine within us that housed God has been replaced with the external things of this world.  We have settled for the creation instead of the Creator.  But sin is an utterly poor replacement for God.  It’s like calling a mildewed and molded shack with no roof ‘Home’…and settling for something far below what God could provide us.

Our search for home is probably the most ancient sentiment and emotional attachment to this now vacant shrine within us.  Everyone in all of creation has now been born with this longing to find home once again.  There is a spiritual ache within us.  And in order to be whole again we, like the prodigal son in Christ’s parable, have to come to our senses and return to Him.  He longs for us to choose Him.  When we consider the ‘slop’ we have put into our lives and within our ‘sacred shrines’ we cannot help but feel ashamed.

Yet Christ provides us this missing piece.  Our image, our relationship can be restored…we can find that peace, perfect peace of Home once more?  It can only be found at the foot of the cross.  May we stop seeking and starting looking to the One who desires to make us whole once again!

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  1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
  2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see—
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
  3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
    What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
    Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
    Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
  4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
    Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
    Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
    I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
  5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
    Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Enjoyment or Disappointment (I think It’s time)

We bite our nails

Pluck strands from our crowns

And dream we were someone else

Somewhere else

Anywhere but here

But underneath it all

Under the grit

The grime

The labor, the time

Under our fingernails too short

And the receding of our hair

Is that spark

That vivid hope

That longing to breathe free

Like our lady of liberty with torch

Bearing light to the lingering masses

We live, yet seldom

Live to enjoy it…

We drink in disappointments

Yet seldom stop to bathe

In the ineffable laughters

Of the moment

It all falls down

Below the expectations

Below the frustrations

And then we wake up

With nothing

But our fears

Why?

For what?

Perhaps we shouldn’t

Let moments pass like that

Perhaps we have dined

On the ugly for far too long

Perhaps it’s time

Time to change that

Time to reinvent

Ourselves

Our minds

Our hearts

Time to refrain

And begin again. 

 

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Sometimes (it all comes down)

Sometimes like an avalanche
Sometimes gentle like a
warm summer breeze
Sometimes heavy like
A mourning cry
It all comes down
Like pouring rain…
It all comes down again

Sometimes harder than
It should be
Sometimes easy as
Pie
I don’t know why
But lately I’ve been asking it
Lately I’ve been praying it
I’m not faking it
But it all comes down
Like pouring rain…
It all comes down again.

Sometimes hearts are heavy
Sometimes broken into pieces
Sometimes hearts are full of caring
Sometimes empty as a season
Of regret
I’ve been asking it
I’ve been praying it
I sure ain’t faking it
But it all comes down
It all comes down
Comes pouring down
Again.

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