Healing Hearts

HEALING HEARTS - TOUGH PROMISES


By Leon Barnes
May 18, 2016


                                   Promises are easy to make, and often extremely difficult to keep.  Think of how easy it is to make a commitment to pay several thousand dollars for a car that you are going to finance over the next five to seven years.  In a few minutes you can sign all the paperwork and drive off in the car.  But six months or twenty-six months down the way, keeping the promise becomes very difficult.  What do you do then?  Do you declare, “I made the commitment and I will keep my word?”  What if the car is now broken down and not worth half what you still owe on it?  It isn’t the fault of the bank or finance company that the car is broken down.  Plus, I did make a promise.


                  Think about a deeper promise.  Consider the covenant a person makes when they get married.  I doubt that many of us thought a whole lot about the commitments we were making when some judge or preacher asked us if we took this man or woman to be our wife or husband in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, in good times and bad, for better or worse, till death parts us.  We were in love and ready to make whatever commitment to be husband and wife.  Then one day when things have settled down and you are trying to build that marriage, it begins to dawn on you what you have promised.  Suddenly the spotlight is off and you aren’t all dreamy eyed anymore and fulfilling your promise doesn’t seem all that great.  Too often we begin then to look for a way out. 


                  Certainly it should alert us to the reality that promises are much harder to keep than to make.  It should cause us to stop and think a thing through several times before making another promise to do something that takes a long time to fulfill and may not make sense a few years down the line.  But, it should also dawn on me that it is easy to develop a pattern very early in life of breaking promises.  It is very disturbing to me to see a teenager or even younger person who constantly tells you they are going to do something that never seems to happen the way they promised.  It concerns me deeply when I see that person that never seems to become part of anything that demands effort from them that they don’t quit or walk away from.  If I build the habit of quitting the job, walking away from the team, not paying the bill I made or not being there at the time and place that I promised to someone else, it becomes a way of life.  Then to break our marriage covenant or to break a promise to God just doesn’t seem like that big a deal to us anymore.


                  But, Leon, aren’t there times when you have made a commitment to do something or joined some organization only to realize later that it was much more demanding than you had thought and that you can’t fulfill that commitment?  Certainly that has been the case.  Here is the key question.  Is that the norm for me?  Paul told the church in Corinth he was coming for a visit and things happened that kept him from being able to get there so some of the brethren spread the rumor that you couldn’t trust Paul.  He made promises he didn’t fulfill.  He explained the problem to them and that circumstances had changed but he was a man of his word.  I wonder even then how many of them believed him.  Some things we may walk away from that don’t really hurt anyone else.  Most of the time when I make a commitment and then walk away, it isn’t just me that gets hurt.  If I don’t repay the loan I made and promised to pay, it isn’t just me that is hurt but the ones who made the loan. 


                  Years ago, I was in a situation that put me into a huge bind.  I had made a loan in a business situation based on a promise from a brother in Christ of something that was supposed to be a sure thing.  It wasn’t.  He ended up spending some time in prison over false promises.  But I had borrowed money to invest in the new deal based on the promises he made.  Now the investment was shot and worthless.  But the loan was still there and the payments still due each month.  I remember a friend telling me that he had been in a similar situation and had filed for bankruptcy and taken care of the whole thing.  He asked, “Why don’t you do that?”  As I drove home from our meeting, I thought of what he said, but I kept thinking of the people who loaned me the money. They didn’t do so based on what the other man said, but on their trust for me.  Now if I walked away from the loan, I would be doing to them the same as the other brother did to me.  It took several years but I paid the loan off and the people who loaned the money never knew of the struggle I had in paying it back.  I made a promise and fulfilled it. 


                  Today, think of the promises you have made.  It may be hard to fulfill them.  But the dividends of being one who can be trusted when you make a promise are worth the effort it takes to get there.  “Till death separates us” can be long and challenging.  But walking away is no piece of cake either.


 


Leon Barnes, see Leon’s blog at “Leoninlittlerock.com”

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HEALING HEARTS - TAMING JESUS


By Leon Barnes
May 11, 2016


Is it just me or do you some times think when you are reading one of the gospel accounts of Jesus work on earth that we have tamed him for our comfort?  When you read the gospels it seems that every way you turn Jesus is breaking the rules of the religious folk around him.  They said you couldn’t heal the sick on the Sabbath because that is work; Jesus healed people on the Sabbath regularly.  He said, “The Sabbath was make for man, not man for the Sabbath and the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.”  They said it was necessary to have set times for fasting.  Jesus and the twelve didn’t have time for the fasting in such fashion and he compared it to trying to fast during preparation for a wedding when you are the bridegroom.  They said you couldn’t pull grain from the stalk and eat it on the Sabbath, he and the disciples pulled the grain off and ate because they were hungry and Jesus told them they needed to think of how they were setting aside the law of God to keep their traditions.  They declared that he shouldn’t keep company with immoral or godless people like tax collectors or prostitutes who would come to him and wash his feet with their tears.  But he was the friend of tax collectors and sinners. 


It makes me wonder, if Jesus came back in the flesh today and visited us on a Sunday, how many of the things we’ve said you couldn’t do and be right with God he would do and say we had missed the point completely.  Since the church is the body of Christ and is to walk in his footsteps, shouldn’t we be untamable like him?  I fear we may have tamed Jesus down to make him fit our time and what we want to do, so that he is kept from working among us and in us as he desires.  When was the last time anyone questioned you about some of the people you were spending time with?  When was the last time you did anything that really disturbed the folks who are guarding the sanctuary to make certain nothing is done that violates our sensitivity?  When was the last time the church where you worship did anything that was out of the ordinary that might challenge the structures and walls that others wish to build around us to keep us tame.


If you think about it, God seems to have called pretty wild people down through the centuries to represent him and his will.  Imagine dealing with Elijah the Tishbite today.  His camelhair garments and leather belt might fit, but I don’t think it was one he picked up at Dillard’s.  What about Isaiah whom God sent around the city naked as a jaybird for a lengthy period of time to demonstrate how naked they were before the Lord?  How would it work today if the preacher came in wearing nothing but a smile to make some point?  What about Jonah the rebel and runaway who preached destruction and turned a whole city around?  I suspect if we had lived in the judgeship of either Deborah or Samson we would have considered them a little out of step with God.  Do you suppose anyone said to Deborah that she was supposed to be at home taking care of the family, when she was judging the nation or challenge them to war? 


Look back even on the twelve men Jesus chose to be his apostles.  Peter suffered from foot in mouth disease.  James and John were called “Sons of thunder” because of their temper.  Simon was a Zealot that would be like belonging to the Klan.  Matthew was a tax collector.  Judas was a moneyman and a traitor.  Even the one chosen late, Paul, was a blasphemer, persecutor and injurious to the cause of Christ before his being called by the Lord.


How have we allowed the body of Jesus Christ to become such a tame outfit?  If we really look like our Lord and Savior we need to make some commotion by being different from the religious elite around us.  If we just fit in and look a whole lot like every other religious teacher or group how will anyone know that we are really following Jesus?  Try something for yourself and me.  Try going back and reading anyone of the gospel accounts and asks, how much am I like Him?  I’m not talking about the miracles.  I’m talking about breaking their human, manmade rules or religion that had built high walls around the faithful so that it was near impossible for them to see God beyond those walls.  Don’t try to tame Jesus?  Instead lets untame the church.


 


Leon Barnes, see Leon’s blog at “leoninlittlerock.com”

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HEALING HEARTS - MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE


By Leon Barnes
May 04, 2016


 Let’s get personal for a little while today.  How do you think people who know you feel about your faith?  If we were somehow able to get people to look right past us to see Jesus, it would be obvious that faith is real and that people need to come to him for life.  Jesus’ words were powerful because his actions and daily life matched his words completely.  John called Jesus “The Word” and said the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  So, Jesus was really preaching the gospel even when he wasn’t saying a word.  His life was a message from God.  When he reached out to touch the leper, to drink from the Samaritan woman’s bucket, to hold the little children and to lay his hand on the casket to bring a young man back to life, or when he blessed the woman who was unclean from bleeding but made her way through the crowd to touch his garment, he preached the love of God powerfully.

So, what are we preaching when we aren’t talking?  More than that what does our life say about what our words may be saying?  In Titus 2 Paul went down the list of people to tell everyone they had an important work to fulfill in the work of Christ.  He spoke to the older women, the younger women, the older men and younger men; he then spoke to Titus as the evangelist about his life.  Finally, in verses 9-10 he spoke to slaves.  “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”  Slaves were at the very bottom of those who were influential in the world.  I don’t think Paul was promoting slavery or saying it was right.  He recognized the situation as it was and knew that many who were converted to Christ were slaves.  He wanted them to know that no matter how unimportant they might feel in the world, their lives mattered deeply to God and their influence mattered deeply to the cause of Christ.

The Old King James Version translated this phrase to “Adorn the doctrine of God.”  To adorn is to arrange a thing in proper order so as to look it’s best.  So Paul’s plea is that the slaves are to be taught that they by being honest, hard workers who could be depended on would make the teachings of God more attractive to the world. 

We sometimes see the signs today that declare, “Black lives matter.”  Certainly they do, as well as all other lives.  No matter who we are or what race, sex or background our lives matter.  No matter how young or old, whether born or still in the womb, all lives matter.  Whether we are in our middle years of life or old and feeble, our lives still matter.  To count anyone as disposable is to abuse one made in the very image and likeness of God Almighty.  But let me explain that as a Christian our lives matter because the way we live each day in the world is either making the teachings of God more attractive or they are dulling, if not making the teaching just plain ugly. 

When we think of the ISIS fighters today in Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa, they are making the teachings of Islam seem ugly and unattractive with every car bomb or every attack on someone who doesn’t agree with them.  But when we meet a Muslim that is kind, considerate and helpful, they make that same teaching seem attractive.  Your life matters to the cause of Jesus Christ.  How you conduct yourself in school, in Starbucks, in the grocery store or Wal-Mart or on the children’s playground is either making the teachings of Christ more attractive or less so, every day?  People who know you and your faith are making judgments about the things you believe to be true based on what they observe in your life every day.  You may think, “I don’t want them to do that.”  Regardless of what we want, it is what happens all the time.  It is the way you make judgments of other people’s faith so why wouldn’t we realize they do the same to us.

So, the message is, “YOUR LIFE MATTERS.”  Live today in a way that makes your faith attractive and draws those who know you best, closer to God all the time.  Be a magnet for Christ today.

 

Leon Barnes, see Leon’s blog at “leoninlittlerock.com 


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HEALING HEARTS - WHY DO I ALWAYS FAIL


By Leon Barnes
April 27, 2016


Do you ever have those feelings that every time I try to do something that is really good and would in the long run bless my life I seem to fail?  In one of those very personal times in Paul’s writing, in Romans 7 he describes this feeling of futility. ”I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I Know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”

Think of all the times in your life you determined to change some habit you had developed that you knew was not good for you.  It may have been when the doctor said; “You must quit smoking if you want to live long.”  One friend said he had no problem quitting smoking; he had quit a thousand times already.  It was the staying quit that was the challenge.  What about the number of diet’s you’ve started but never completed?  Perhaps it is a much more positive thing, that we make up our mind we will spend at least 30 minutes a day reading our Bible and praying.  Perhaps we even purchase one of those devotional books or the one-year Bible to help us read through the whole Bible.  But 200 days in the challenge becomes much more difficult to stay with.  What happens when something comes up that causes you to miss a day or two?  Do you catch up or start again where you were or do you give up?

Why is it so hard to do right on a consistent basis?  The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t simply about our reforming our life so that we become a better person in the world.  The truth is there are all kinds of things that may lead to a person reforming their life that has nothing to do with God.  I’ve seen tons of people reform their life because they were attracted to a lady that demanded a better life.  Surely, you’ve known someone who was considering running for some political office and reformed their life to be able to get a few more votes.  But there is not any way I can reform my life enough to suddenly be pleasing to God and for him to say to me, “You are doing so well, you deserve to go to heaven.” 

The good news of the gospel is that even though we have all failed God continually through sin and continue to do so all along, God loves us and willingly had Jesus to come into this world as one of us, to suffer our temptations and to live a holy, righteous and godly life as a man, then to die for our sins so we can be forgiven of all sins and live a new life in him.  We are saved by God’s overwhelming love and grace toward us that not only offers us salvation from sin, but a changed life, a new person and the gift of the Holy Spirit of God to dwell within us and help us live the life God calls us to live.  On our own, by our own power, even after being forgiven, we will fall right back into sinful behavior.  It is when we are saved and commit our lives to Christ as the Lord of our lives; with the help of the Holy Spirit that we walk with God and change our whole lives.

There is an amazing contrast between Romans 7 and Romans 8.  In Romans 8 as he described our life in Christ and the help of the Spirit that leads us we live a triumphant life for God.  We have hope in him.  We have both Christ and the Holy Spirit to intercede for us with the Father.  We can trust that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  In this situation all kinds of trials may come on us but we are more than conquerors through him who loved us and gave himself up for us.  Nothing in life or beyond can separate us from the love of Christ.

On my own power and goodness, I totally fail.  All of my righteousness is as filthy rags before God.  Saved by grace through faith and led by the Spirit of God, I can walk with Christ and grow closer to him every day.  The real question is will I trust my own power or will I trust in the power that is so far beyond anything I can do on my own?

 

Leon Barnes, see Leon’s blog at “leoninlittlerock.com


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