Saturday, December 11, 2010

Settled Matters of the Heart

As followers of Jesus Christ we are either witnesses or anti witnesses of who He is. Our attitudes and actions display to the world what we believe, whether it means any thing to us seriously. Our anxieties and worries exhibit the level of trust we have in God. We can either draw people to a greater faith and love or repel people from coming to Him thus becoming a hindrance and a stumbling block. Many times we are caught up in the busyness of service. We want to do some thing for God. We may feel that we are sacrificing much for God. Yet deep down we alone know what is driving us. Where ever we may be the question remains,' Are we changing as people to take on the character of Jesus our Lord’?

In His relation to His father, Jesus expressed absolute trust. His commitment to life came out of His willingness to surrender his will to His father's. He did not seek his own wishes. Once this was settled in his heart, many options were automatically out of his mind. He did not waste his time struggling with issues that we worry about. There were many settled matters in his heart already. Some of the issues like getting glory, power and position, greed, lust and jealousy had no place in his heart. He did not seek these. He was committed “Not to sin" and gave no handle to the devil. Instead he focused on God's word and spent time with God wanting to share and know God's desires.

As far as the world around was concerned, he saw people and problems from God's point of view. He was committed to love and showed kindness and compassion to people. He lifted them up. He challenged them to trust God. He forgave and became a friend to all. He corrected and taught truth. He enabled people to understand God's ways, to look into their own hearts and find the source of their motives. He talked about the Kingdom of God. He welcomed all and showed a different picture of God as Father. He could not be touched by racism and prejudice. He was a Man among men. He was aware of the devil's schemes and knew how evil paralyzed people and blinded them through deception and fear. He constantly told the disciples not to be afraid but have faith. Faith has the power to release the will of God on earth. He had the audacity to tell the truth about himself that would ultimately kill him.

The degree to which there are unsettled issues in our hearts to that degree we will be open to compromise and sin. We as God's beloved children need to check “the settled matters of our hearts". The more choices we make towards the path to life, the less it becomes possible to act other wise. The more loving choices we make in life, the more loving people we become. Making a series of covenants with oneself is important to escape the power of the evil one and from our own deceptions. The unsettled heart is like the waves of the sea. Under pressure of unguarded moments we may make sinful choices if we have unsettled heart issues. The Ten Commandments are basically these check lists.                                                                                  

No other gods.
We all want some one to worship, to be accountable, to look up to, to respect and to adore. There may be many people who could be elevated to that level in our mind. There are forces both natural and supernatural that could draw our hearts. Also we could become a god to some one else due to the power, position, money and skills that we acquire or inherit. These can become a source of security and a means to control others- a god like power over people. So I need to settle in my heart early in my walk that I will not allow any other person, power or things to become my god and also I will not become a god to others. I will continue to keep my heart and eyes focused on Jesus who is the exact representation of God who is Love and worship Him alone. I will give my loyalty, my devotion and my love to Him alone.

No graven image
Man made in the image of God tries to make god in his image. The fallen man has distorted this image of god and all his attempts to create such a god will always be untrue to the real one. It will be a lie. God unfolded His character ever since the world began and His full and final revelation is in Jesus. Anything more or less is moving away from who God is. God's holy character, his father - heart, his longing for us to be united with him are all revealed in Jesus. The extent to which this eternal love is willing to go to get us back to his heart is reflected on the cross. The majesty and wonder of God cannot be portrayed through a graven image. His helplessness and humility as a price to redeem us cannot be fathomed in an idol. Jesus is not an invention of man. Such an idea did not originate in the mind of man. So I need to decide in my heart that I will not bring down God to my level of thinking and feeling. God is spirit and he cannot be fashioned by the hands of man and locked up. I need to break all the various idols of my imagination I have of Him and hold only to what Jesus has revealed of this God through His words and person hood. 

Do not take God's name in vain
Names have meaning and it carries the character of the person. A name represents that person. All that is good, perfect, worthy and eternal are in that name 'God'. That name ought to be respected, feared and upheld. It is holy and pure. Now a days people all around take the name of God so cheaply, use it as a shock word or as a curse word with no reverence. They do not even think about what they are saying. I need to settle in my heart that I will show utmost respect to who God is and what He stands for. I will not take His name casually and also help others to think about God, not as a play mate, impersonal force or as a Joke, but as some one to whom all knees will bow one day.

Keep the day of rest
We live in a hurry worry world where every one is on the move. No one has time to sit and share. Being stress- full is the latest fashion. Superficial relationships with no depth seem to be the norm. In spite of all communication devices all around, we still do not understand one another. If there is nothing to occupy us, we become fidgety, irritable and boredom sets in. Internet browsing and chit chats are all symptoms of a basic lack of purpose. The idea of taking time to ponder, to look at nature in wonder and enter the stillness of the heart, makes the present generation shudder. In the midst of the chaos of communication, to take time off to look at what is going on in our hearts and mind is a challenge that we do not want to face. I need to settle in my heart that I will take moments and days to be with myself and with people, with nature and with God. I will give rest to my body and mind and discover the change I need in my soul to be healthy. I will allow negative and unhealthy thoughts to die in God's presence. Taking weekly rest is also a call to work hard on other days. The need to earn ones livelihood and to be part of God's kingdom building requires that we develop a right attitude to all that is around us. Rest-fullness gives that energy to be focused and motivated and to know the mind of God.

Honor parents
We are all cared for by some one. We received so much from the beginning for our physical, emotional and mental needs. What we are today is the result of some one else's love, kindness and labor. As we get older we tend to forget our past. We begin to think and believe that we are 'self made'. We get educated, get jobs, become smart and begin to consider our parents or care- givers as less intelligent and out of touch with reality. We use their resources and but take a superior attitude. Yes, there are parents who manipulate and use force to make their children their clones. There are parents who work hard and accumulate riches by any means to make their children's life secure as if their children have no ability to fend for themselves! There are parents whose lives are in the dark and corrupt world. In-spite of their evil mind set, they desire some thing good for their children and are willing to sacrifice much for their betterment. Parents can be cruel and we have many examples all around. Yet I need to choose what will be my attitude towards them as parents. As an adult I can be critical of their failures yet try to develop a relationship where dialogue is possible and then forgiveness opens the way for acceptance. I need to settle in my heart that I will honor and respect all those who care for me in a big or small way. My way of honoring will include keeping the communication alive and loving. I will pray for God's mercy and protection in their lives and remember them regularly. I will support and take care of them in their times of need and make alternative arrangements in case of my inability to be physically available. I will make all the efforts to discuss various issues and show my concern to ease their worries.

No violence
We are endowed with the ability to procreate life and continue human species. We are called to give life. So any act of violence that destroys and takes away life or shortens life is against the very purpose of creation. God has set parameters for life and we are called to be coworkers with God to create life and all that is needed to sustain and enhance life. So killing or destroying life for what ever reason is against what we are made for. Destroying is in the nature of evil. So taking sides with evil and his nature is opposite of what God intends. God's anger is against all evil and unfortunately fallen man does not understand the mind of God. So in his anger he opposes his brother and destroys him for his own selfish reason. Devil controlled man some times only understands the language of violence. Some times God in his mercy stoops so low to accommodate our violence and allow violence as a means to draw our attention. This is not His heart. All the violence at all times culminates on the cross. It is meaningless, mindless and loveless. This is what evil is all about. Anger and foolish words are at the root of violence. Jesus showed that killing starts at the heart and our very thoughts can be violent and words can hurt.  It can destroy the other and diminish the other and snuff out life. Aborting a fetus is taking life at its start.

 I need to settle in my heart what I will do with my anger and all negative thoughts in my heart that are destructive.  I need to bring these to God in prayer and find relief and cleansing in His presence. I can move from violence to forgiveness and reconciliation by God's grace. When we work towards peace in our relationships, we reflect the heart of God.

No wrong relationships
 We are made for intimacy with God and with one another. The Triune God is the ultimate example of this intimacy called love. Man is also capable of this in a limited way. Being a biological creature, physical, emotional and spiritual togetherness with a chosen opposite sex can lead to intimacy on this side of heaven. In a fallen world this intimacy is distorted and becomes a self seeking project rather than a self giving expression. This love can only be truly experienced by excluding all possible others through a personal choice called marriage. Our heart longs for one true love and we may be tempted to seek 'many' to fulfill our longing and desire to be known and to feel special. So God invented marriage and made a boundary for our own safety. This special relationship calls for transparency, trust and self denial. It is a school where we can learn the language of love and move away from selfishness and blossom as God imitators. Marriage relationship is the ideal environment for children to be born and grown. It reflects the love of God in giving and receiving. Adultery starts in the heart as I become unsatisfied with my choice and desire some one else to replace my choice. The heart can scheme, plan and deceive and devise hundreds of ways to covet. The heart can become addicted to an adulterous life style. This enslaves even though it loses its thrill. It also leads to spiritual adultery, in having more than one God to share our thoughts, desires and passions. So I need to settle in my heart that I will not allow myself to be enticed by another and I will remain true to my own lover. I need constant reminding of the fact that I am the temple of the living God and keep it unpolluted. When I am drawn by some one and tempted to stray, I need to become aware of who I am and restrain my spirit, emotion and body. I will talk to God about it and also with some one else who may understand and help. The fact that jealousy, suspicion and anger do follow when love feels cheated shows that there is an in-built principle to protect monogamy. The pain of divorce or separation is similar to facing death. Adulterous life is a life of lie and pretense and God desires that we walk in the light and embrace His truth. I have to make a daily covenant with myself not to make compromises with this fun filled thriller that destroys my soul and imprisons me in darkness. There is hope at the cross for all those who have betrayed and all those who are trapped by this hideous sin. We do not have to be enslaved all our life. There is a way out. It is a choice, help is needed and it is available. The road to adulterous life is wide open because of technology. Magazines, mobiles and the internet make this temptation hard to resist. Yet the option to delete and switch off is also available. We have the power and freedom to say 'No' to sin and all its manifold vices.

No stealing.
There is a tendency in us not to be faithful and honest. We tend to hide like Adam and Eve. The need to cover up is a byproduct of breaking a law. It is natural to seek darkness when we are in the wrong. To take what does not belong to me whether it is time, money, position power or people, all fall in to the category of dishonesty. The very fact that we can remain honest gives us hope. Fear is the underlying reason for telling a lie. Fear is also the reason for taking short cuts. Fear reveals the demand for justice and punishment. We are law breakers and dread the consequences of our actions. Fallen man is controlled by fear. This fear can become the motivational force for a lot of things we do. We are challenged to do all that we do with all our hearts as unto the Lord. God sees and loves. So as a person seen and loved by God why should I be afraid? I have a desire to get praise from people, to be recognized and applauded by people. God is not the only one from whom I want praise. This desire drives me to 'take' from where ever possible and when ever possible some thing that does not belong to me. I take time from the time given to another in my employment, family and God. I take money that either belongs to God, Government or some one else. I can use unfair means or unjust ways to get more to fulfill all my plans and wants because of my belief that my worth is in my possessions. I can ignore the plight of the poor and needy when it is in my power to help them thus becoming an agent of an oppressive social regime. I can give lip service to God for my success, affluence and status when the truth is that I schemed and planned to make it happen. Stealing is a dark shaded life style that can affect all. One can also steal the hearts of people to exercise power over them and make them puppets. So I need to settle in my heart that I will not take that which does not belong to me in what ever context it may be.  I will give what I owe to all whether it is to God, family, people or society.  I will try not to live beyond my means and plan a healthy lifestyle so as to avoid the trap of dishonesty. I will take to heart what the wisdom book says, 'Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread". If God in His mercy allows material blessings come my way, I will use it to enrich others and for furthering His kingdom. I will seek God as my richest gain.

No false witness.
This is another evil waiting for my cooperation. The need to set standards for others in matters of right and wrong and judge people is a big temptation. We talk half truths about situations and people. We exaggerate events and feelings. We put down others and project ourselves as superiors or we demote ourselves in false humility. It is very difficult to know what our true self is. We make it difficult for others to know what we are and who we really are. We have many faces and moods. We can switch from one to another so fast. We can compartmentalize our days and pretend to be different to different people. We also think that we know why something happens to others or us and know the solutions to all problems. We also believe that we are God's favorites and He closes his eyes and over looks our ugly temperaments. We think we are blessed by Him because we deserve it and we are better than others. We act as if we are God's pets and He takes special care of us!!! So to really know people we need much more information and knowledge. We need to be omniscient like God but we are not. We are finite, fallen, selfish and confused people. We see some thing and give our own meaning to it. We hear some thing and give our interpretation. We sense some thing and color it by our own perception. Who knows all the facts behind any event? How can we know about some one unless that person reveals the truth? We can only deduct some partial truths by putting pieces together and unfortunately we put our own past experiences and prejudices to make the picture complete. So to be a true witness calls for what we actually see, hear and experience. We need to be transparent. There is no place for half truths and assumptions. I need to be aware of the fact that the measure with which I measure will be the measure when it is my turn to be judged. How incomplete we are. We can create sensationalism and headlines but the truth lies hidden elsewhere. I need to settle in my heart that I will not be a vehicle to defame any one or falsify facts to suit me. I stand naked before God and He alone knows the whole truth and I will leave the judgment to Him.  I will be comfortable with his justice and allow grace to work in everyone's life. I will believe in the power of prayer and allow prayer to change me and others. I will desire the well being of others and consider myself fortunate under God's grace. I will not burden others to meet my needs. I will only love and serve others irrespective of any return or reciprocity. I will look at people as those loved by God and worth His forgiveness. I will step out side the desire to decide for them but treat them with respect and gentleness. I will choose servant-hood above master-hood in my relationships.

No coveting.
The desire to possess what one does not have or need is very real. We are bombarded by so much everyday. Our senses are saturated by all the various things and people and it all seems to be with in our reach. We are forced to believe that these will give us success and popularity. It feels good to have those glittering things that promise fullness of life. Yet we all know that these promises do not last. It does not make life easier or add hours and days to our life. The fact is that possessions will posses us and trap us. There is no end to what our mind and body can desire. All that is new promises a better future and draws our hearts and we consciously get deceived. When we have enough resources or a credit card the temptation becomes stronger and eventually it leads to debt and depression and an early death. The time wasted on window shopping and browsing can become a major factor in displacing the passion for God and people. The desire to see and taste becomes the reason for double mindedness. The Lust of the eyes leads to lust of the heart and eventually we sell our soul to buy and pursue that which does not satisfy and it leaves us empty. To stop, think and evaluate what we really need may help us to avoid many trappings of covetousness. If our security and worth is in God, then we do not have to seek it else where. If our priority is God's kingdom then what we really need will be provided. So trusting in God whose promises are real may be the source from where we can draw strength to resist covetousness. I need to settle in my heart that I will postpone all my non essential desires to possess things and people and seek God's mind and what He values. I will respond to the needs of my country and my people and will not abandon them to pursue my own comforts.  I will reject all that is outside His kingdom and develop real trust in an all sufficient God for my earthly life. I will put aside my desire to get what I want "now" and align my desires to His desires. When I see myself acquiring possessions I need to step back and allow God's spirit to convict me of this idol and take concrete steps to divert my attention to that which is life giving. I will live with open hands and heart.

Finally, the Triune God longs for our love. People all around us are also longing for this love. We too long for this Love. If I have settled all these issues in my heart, then I will have time and opportunity to love God and love people in my context. Finding God's will for my life may not be such a difficult task as so many options can be put aside as having no place in the life of a child of God. The Kingdom of God can break through only in settled hearts.

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