Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"The New Heart: My heart story" Section 3: Bad news - Good news

The previous 2 posts  have  been sections of   a sermon presented     Sunday morning November 17 2013 at  the Pinehill church Sault Ste Marie Ontario titled "The New Heart: My heart story"

Section 1 was titled "God's "heart" story"  and  Section 2 was titled "Comparing  My "physical"  story with God's "Spiritual  Story"

Today I'll post the 3rd  section of the  sermon which  describes how  hearing "bad news"  is necessary  before we  can recognize (and take advantage of) Good news

Last section ended with the  statement
"In both cases (my heart problem and for those who reject God) ignorance is NOT bliss."
Continuing on ...

3rd  comparison: But knowledge may not be the answer. I was very aware of the potential for heart problems.  
Heart disease (either over time or suddenly)  had caused  (what I thought was more than my share of) the “painful loss” of those  I cared deeply about  (and I know that pain was experienced even more directly by several here today)    ...  
(For  readers not present - this  turned out to be a very  emotional, tearful moment in the lesson as  I looked at the faces of those who I knew had  experienced these losses -- especially the wife of my friend and fellow elder who had died suddenly in August 2012 and  of my sister-in-law who lost her husband (my brother) in August 2011 after a lengthy period of heart disease and the reality of that pain of loss swept over me.  It was good to know that God through Jesus and His Spirit was there with us - standing by us - weeping with us and giving comfort as only He can )

Heart disease  had caused  the “painful loss” of  many   I cared deeply about  ...

and yet I had  (arrogantly) rejected the possibility that it could happen to me.  

There are many who have done the same with God, they have heard His story, and they have rejected it.  Hearing about “heart disease:” again was not going to make me seek treatment. And hearing the “gospel” over and over again is unlikely to cause this “non-believer” to turn to God. 

How do we come from denial to acceptance?  For illnesses, sometimes we find out suddenly (e.g. a heart attack), sometimes through gradual awareness that something may be wrong, sometimes because of serious symptoms, sometimes because of routine testing. 

For those with “broken spirits” awareness of their state may also come in various ways and how we “teach” them will differ dependent on the situation

What changed me was a “significant event” (although it didn’t seem significant at the time)  -- I had gone to the ER because of a persistent cough and,  as an afterthought,  told a nurse-practitioner about a mild burning sensation in my chest.  (and let met tell you mentioning chest pain in an ER is like yelling “Fire” in a crowded room J)

People who observe and study these things say that,  if anything will—it takes a significant event to cause a “wilful non-believer” to turn to God (or Jesus) (cf. Saul on the road to Damascus). 
May God give us the ears to hear and the heart to serve that lets us be there for people in those moments when they become vulnerable and are open to the possibility that they may need help. (Reference at lecture series by Dr.  Garry Bailey on shame, vulnerability and reconciliation held 2 weeks prior to my lesson - I hope  in the coming days to write more about that and how it all fit's into my journey)

4th comparison: When I  accepted the fact that there was a problem, I wondered  if it was my “fault”- could I have prevented it – could I have exercised more; had a better diet – I felt guilt and even shame because maybe I had let people down.   Or maybe it was genetic – it was my parents “fault” – there was nothing I could have done – it wasn’t my fault.  And those  “blame and shame" thoughts  flowed  through my mind  endlessly for a while – haunting my nights and crippling my days.  
However, in the end, I came to accept that the truth was ““Why”? didn’t  matter - “It was what it was”  - there was "bad news" and I needed to do something about it.

The same thing can happen when we realize that  there may be something wrong with our “God heart” –and  we need to come to the same point  of accepting  that   there is "bad news" - denial - blaming and all that stuff  doesn't change the fact  that “I am responsible for my situation”   - it is up to me to do something about it.

And there is good news --  For our physical problem there are medical treatments and cures – in my case the “broken valve” could be replaced. For the  “spiritually broken (dead) hearts”  God has  promised a “new heart

and that is GOOD NEWS

Well when I  started preparing this sermon I thought it would be one sermon – but the time is up and the story is not completed – so  we end on the fact that there is GOOD NEWS and will  wait for “Next time” for “the rest of the story"
God Bless

Monday, November 25, 2013

The New Heart: My heart story: Section 2: Comparing My "physical" story with God's "Spiritual Story

Last time I  posted  section 1 of  a  Sermon  presented  Sunday morning November 17 2013 at  the Pinehill church Sault Ste Marie Ontario titled "The New Heart: My heart story".

 Section 1 told   God's "heart" story -- the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

The sermon was  prompted by  Bible verses describing  how God  "strengthens" and "cleans (makes new) our heart.

Psalm 73:26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,  and renew a right spirit within me.

This post is the continuation of that sermon.

I love explaining things using analogies and metaphors. I think they are a good way of using familiar things to help  us  understand unfamiliar things (Jesus did this with parables).  There are 2 dangers with this approach.

1) the point (or meaning) you are intending to make may not be understood (as was often the case with Jesus parables)  and

2) we may “reverse” the process and use something that is true about the “analog”  to show that the same thing must be true about the “real thing”  - and that isn’t always the case
In this sermon  lesson I am  using  something that happened to me in the “physical” world to  draw spiritual lessons – and, it is possible I may not  have  gotten it completely right.
I pray like the Bereans, you will search the scriptures to see that these things are so.

So here are some things I observed during  this "physical" journey that led to spiritual lessons.

1st comparison: No matter how healthy I was a year ago, 10 years ago or even at the moment of my birth – my body is subject to the ravages of time.
The fact is “I will  die sometime”.  (Hebrews 9:27 “appointed for man to die once”) , or   in words attributed to Benjamin Franklin “nothing in life  is certain but death and taxes”.
The same is true of our “spiritual heart” – as innocent and pure as we are when we are born – we all (eventually) die spiritually  –  “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).   

In the case of our physical health there are things we can do (or refrain from doing) which tend to keep us healthy longer or tend to speed up the “decay”.  In fact, Linda has and continues to be “my conscience’ in that area - watching my diet and encouraging me to exercise and chiding me when I spend too much of my time “hunched over the computer”. But in the end  we all die.

Equally it is true the spiritual world;  nothing I can do will affect the process  of "dying" - it isn’t up to me.  In a very real sense, without Jesus, I am (already) dead - no matter how innocent I am, or how hard I try to be or do good.

2nd comparison: A year ago I didn’t know there was anything wrong.  I was blithely unaware of the problem – but that didn’t mean the problem wasn’t there.  (as an aside – Linda is more “intuitive” about these things and she sensed there was something wrong – but she thought it was just that I had been too tied up in teaching and  had gotten “out of shape” and her answer was to wait until January when I was done and march me off to the gym J) 

How many people in the world have “broken spirits” and don’t know it?  What of those who totally reject God?  -- they are dead – and don’t know it. Their lack of knowledge doesn’t change their situation.  They may have “no clue” or they may, as  Linda did, sense “something isn’t right” but  really not know what it is. 

I hope  there are none here today in this position but if you haven’t received a “new heart” from God  – please   let’s talk more..

In both cases (my heart problem and for those who reject God) ignorance is NOT bliss.
.. to be continued

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The New Heart: My heart story: Section 1 - God's "heart" story

Sermon - Sunday morning November 17 2013 at  the Pinehill church Sault Ste Marie Ontario

Good morning: Last time I stood here to give a lesson was almost a year ago. (I believe it was December 9 2012)

A lot has happened since then – as a family of God’s people we have experienced to full cycle of life.

We have rejoiced at new births (both  “physical” and even more importantly  “spiritual births” ), we have mourned the loss of loved ones,  we have experienced weddings and other joyful events and we have experienced illness and other challenges in our lives.

(As most of you know) the reason I have NOT preached a sermon for over a year is because I too have been  a part of that story of the “beginnings and endings” of life.

A year ago I thought I was as “healthy as  a horse” (sure I had a few aches and pains that seem to come as our bodies get older but  I (thought I)  was in very good health.  I was able to get the “A” rating for health insurance when we travelled.  I was blessed with good health and I have to confess I was (maybe more than) a little proud of that.

I should have heeded Solomon’s’ advise  (Proverbs 16:18)   

 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Within a month my “winning streak” had ended. I discovered that I had a serious problem and on February 14, I had open heart surgery to replace a “broken” aortic valve. It was the beginning of a new phase of living with a “new heart”. I praise God for the wonders of modern health care that I am well on the way to be able to say once again “I’m healthy as a horse” (and pray I’ll never say it again with ‘arrogance’)

Of course,  the “clinical” facts about my illness and the medical steps taken to “fix” my heart are  NOT the real story – the real story is the emotional and spiritual response to this “wild ride”  and  the life lessons learned.  And it’s not just about me – it’s about Linda, my earthly family and  very much about you -  my church family.

Over the past year I have had a lot of time to reflect on how  my “heart” story  could be used  as a means of thinking about and illustrating  God’s story of  healing ”broken spirits (hearts).   The following verses in particular came to my mind.

 Psalm 73:26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,  and renew a right spirit within me.

Ezekiel 11:19  And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

Ezekiel 18:31   Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit

Ezekiel 36:26."A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."—

The rest of the lesson makes comparisons between my “heart” story and God’s “heart” story.

First some context - a summary of the  great account of God’s love as revealed to us in the Bible. (likely a review of something all of you  already know)

1.      God in his divine love created humans as perfect beings (in his image)  but they “fell down” (sinned, became wicked in the sight of God)  when they disobeyed God’s single command  in the garden (Genesis 1-3)

2.     From that point forward, we all “fall down” – we all “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). And are in the position that we deserve to suffer the consequences of God’s justice (we deserve punishment)(Genesis 4 and following).

3.     God went to work immediately on His plan  -  teaching, training and sometimes punishing  - so that  we -  his “fallen” humans would allow him to “pick us up” and “bring us home” so  we could abide in his love and receive protection from his justified anger at unjust and unrighteous people” ( see Genesis, Exodus, Judges  and the summary in Hebrews 11 for some of the  “chapters” in this story that show God working to renew  relationships with  fallen and broken  humans) .  (and  despite those efforts  we  humans”  had “ no hope and (were)  without God” (Eph. 2:12)

4.     As the climax of that plan he sent Jesus – His son (see John 3:16) to make available a “new heart” .  Through   Jesus and the power of God's  Spirit we are being “remade” into “perfect health” and (ultimately) will experience eternal life in the new heavens and new earth .  What a Wonderful thing!  To  “broken, sick, and sinful humans,   he sent  the “Great Physician”.

5.     We are now living out the concluding chapters of this story –  not yet written  -- until  the “new creation” is fully visible to us in that great day when Jesus returns (Revelation gives us this  picture of that  final chapter

Revelation 20: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; …. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

... to be continued
God Bless

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Retuning to a "new" normal

It has (again) been  quite a while since I ventured into "blogland".  As mentioned in my "Beginnings and Endings"  series in January and February   (see  January 23 post)

I started this year by discovering that I needed "open heart" surgery.  At the same time I was dealing with the deaths of a number of people  close to me  continuing a " series of losses dating back to 2010.   One of the  series was titled  Every ending is a beginning.

After my  major surgery in February 2013, I was beginning a new phase of life of "learning to live with a "new" (repaired) heart. and it took until well into August before I was  "back to normal" (actually it's more like learning to live in the "new" normal" )  and it was my intent to do continue writing about that "new life" --

Well - intentions are just that and the doing doesn't always follow and I have NOT resumed my blogging (even though I made one  "false start"  in late June (see "Bouncing back (Slowly)"

 I can make the excuse that it took me until well into August  before I was able to take on the level of activity that I had previously  into  a "new" normal.

I also - because I was unable to get medical coverage to travel "out of country" - had to give up plans to travel to Ireland this fall so I took on a contract to teach a course in Systems Analysis  at Algoma University which has kept me fairly busy this fall.

I do want to get back to this. It helps me keep focused on "what's important" and not get to wrapped up in all the "busy work" that so easily fills my days.

I'm reminded of 2 verses as I write this

Ecclesiastes 12:13  ... Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 (Figuring out what this means to me and living it  - That's what is important)

Hebrews 12:1 . ...    let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(taking this out of context , I'm using it as an encouragement to "stick to it" and  continue  a regular posting discipline)

I took my turn at preaching a sermon this past Sunday - first time since December 9 2012    and I plan Lord willing to  post  this sermon "My "heart" story" vs. God's Heart story over the next  few days. We'll see were it goes from there.

God Bless