Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God's favor & human perspective

Psalm 5:12 "For it is You who blesses the righteous person, O Lord, You surround them with favor as with a shield."
I have a dear friend, who is a Christian. However, she really struggles with how God could love her. When she hears verses like, For God so loved the world..." she believes that it is true, except He doesn't love her. She feels unlovable.
One reason for this is because she had been praying for God to bring her a guy who she could love and be loved by. Soon afterward, it seemed that God brought a guy into her life (maybe He did, I dunno). Anyhow, things got a bit...let's say outside God's best for an unmarried couple, so they eventually broke up. Although she loved & had affection for him, she still felt a bit dirty for what she had done. Which helped her to eventually convince herself that she was dirty, and that God couldn't love her. Because she had violated the very thing He said not to do & because she had also violated herself.
Now she is growing in bitterness in God because God took the guy (like Jonah & the plant), and she is mad that God doesn't love her (which God never said, but she believes non-the-less).

Let me offer a different angle on this whole thing, in light of this verse I did for devotions this morning-"For it is You who blesses the righteous person, O Lord, You surround them with favor as with a shield."
I believe that God loves & is affectionate toward this friend, because she is a Christian and she has not yet hardened her heart toward God. I believe that God broke them up because they were unable to have an honorable relationship, so God was SHIELDING her (and probably him) from more trouble. He did that BECAUSE He loves her. I wish that she was able to understand this, but at this point she will not listen to anyone, and is not able to hear. Plus, I am afraid to pry.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who does God hate? And a practical rabbit trail on Shepherding

Psalm 5:5- "You hate all who do iniquity, You destroy those who speak falsehood; You abhor the man of bloodshed & deceit."

Hate- could it be that hate is the opposite of God's favor or willingness to help? To be against, to oppose, to find aweful?
Then I see a verse like Romans 5:8- while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. His enemies, those who oppose Him.

In thinking about this & about people, I have to say that not all people are belligerent to God. Some are clueless, ignorant, lost. Which then takes me to Jesus' teaching on the heart soils. Here is a description of the 4:

1. Belligerent- hard, stubborn, on purpose against, obstinate, like a rock or beaten down path. These are the types that often killed the prophets. There are many I know like this. They, like Pharaoh, have hardened their hearts against God.
2. Shallow- tend to be emotion or fear driven. Emotions & thoughts are very powerful to them, and often they are carried away. They are kind of like boats in waves, or trees in wind. They get excited about God for a bit & at times, but then blow the other direction as the waves & ever changing winds of life carry them. It is hard for this type of heart/person to get footing & sometimes they are prone to follow emotional-driven cults or ideals.
3. Weedy soil- burdened & choked, worried, need-driven, their minds are always troubled by fears & problems. Occasionally they feel free to live & to follow God, but the load or overwhelmingness of life chokes out their progress & "sends them back to Go". Just when they think they are doing well, something else comes along and hamstrings them once more. Sadly, sometimes they give up hope.
4. Good soil- I can't judge why it is good except, that I don't believe any soil is good without God's hand on it. It is pliable, top soil who accepts the teachings of Jesus & wants to know & eager to grow crops.

#1 soil people grieve me. I think this is the type of person God speaks of here in Psalm 5:5. They are Psalm 2:1-3 types.

So, as a shepherd, or small group leader, or teacher, how do we:
1. Identify people's hearts? Or do we?
2. Care for people at each type? Or do we make a distinction?

I believe the Lord has called us to both broadcast seed (throw seed) and to plant seed.
Examples- if we are speaking to a crowd we throw seed. If we do more intimate teaching times we can plant seed and better cultivate the soil.

Judging a heart's health among individuals in your flock is hard & needs to be done with great care (need to read 1 Samuel 16:7, 2 Corinthians 5:16).
1. I know a teen who most would say is a #1 soil type, I would say (after spending a couple of years weekly with him) that he is a #2/3 type.
2, I know another teen who most would say is a #3,4 type. However, caring about this person & through years together I am very fearful that she is or is dangerously close to becoming a #1 heart type, who is good at acting like a #4.
3. I know two guys who people say have #4 hearts ("good hearts") but I know them well & fully believe that they are #1s all the way. However, some people are idealistic in this area and would probably even say that Satan had a "good heart" deep down inside. While I would like to believe this, sadly it is not reality.

So how do you serve & help people with each heart type?
1. You invite all, and pray for the hearts of all, that they would love Jesus and love others.
#1 soils- I THINK you pray for them, and be open to caring for them. They will not respond well to you or to God, because they are set against you and against God. God would really have to show them severe mercy. Sadly, it usually takes something very drastic in order to till up their soil.
#2 soils- I love to use the "Train" teaching (fact-faith-feeling), to help them set their cars in order. They need help with their thinking process, order, and logic. They need to learn that life is deeper than emotional truth. I need to think through this some more.
#3 soils- Need to iron out what is a normal load that everyone has to carry through life & what is a burden in which they need help...I know this sounds harsh. They will often need someone to enter their mess & walk with them through problems. They need a lot of care & a lot of time. I need to think through this some more to develop it.
#4 soils- Need to be given direction & then need someone to mentor them.

I believe these types can be lumped into 3 major types
1. Hard soil (#1)
2. Mixed soil (#2 #3)
3. Cultivated soil (#4)

I also believe that they can be lumped into 2 super types
1. Impermeable soil (#1) is not redeemed-because they are closed to God
2. Penetrable soil (#2,3,4) may or may not be redeemed-depends if Christ is in the soil. At times, the soil is recognized by the yield.

One note on this super types- note that yield only comes through faith. Taking Jesus as savior and lord is what redeems us, a redeemed person then should produce good works in joining with Jesus' mission of reaching others (read Ephesians 2:8-10).

Anyhow, these are my thoughts on this. May our hearts be top soil hearts! Always open to Jesus and desiring to produce a yield of good works.