A soft heart

Would we like a soft heart?

The world was stunned when the first heart transplant took place in the late 1960s. How could the heart of one human being be placed in another? Yet a far greater miracle occurs whenever a spiritual heart that has been hardened by sin and resentment is replaced by one filled with love and forgiveness.

According to Scripture, God is in the business of performing such heart transplants. Ezekiel says God will remove our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. How can God perform this miracle? First, we must ask Him to do a thorough inner heart exam. We must confess every area of sin He exposes in our heart. Then we must invite His Holy Spirit to fill our heart with the love of Jesus. The result will be a new heart with all the vital signs of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Bob Moeller and Cheryl Moeller, One-Minute Devotions for Couples (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2013).


Any old bush will do

A friend recently encouraged me to pick up a copy of The Saving Life of Christ by the late Major Ian Thomas.

I have found it to be stacked with such deep, profound spiritual truths, that I am finding myself reading slow to take it all in.

In one chapter, Major Thomas writes about Moses and the access the believer has to all God wants to give us:

“Poor Moses – soldier, scholar, and statesman! Born to be a leader, caring for a handful of sheep, his wife’s husband, with a job on her father’s farm! Hope must have seemed to wither at the roots, when “the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).

When Moses saw that bush, he was amazed! It was a phenomenon – something that immediately attracted his attention. Here was a bush that burned and burned and burned, and went on burning. As far as he could see, it could burn on for eternity, and he could not help but compare himself with that bush! In his heart he must have said something like this: “I have never seen a bush like that before. I’m not like that bush! Forty years ago I burned myself out in twenty four hours, and I have been a heap of ashes for forty years since. There must be something very unusual about that bush, something very unique! It must be a very wonderful bush!” “And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt” (Exodus 3:3). Aroused within his heart there was a holy curiousity, and he did a very wise thing – he made intelligent inquiry and, in consequence, he made a very wonderful discovery!

So often there is aroused within us a holy curiosity, but it is unmatched by intelligent inquiry, and that is why we do not make the same wonderful discovery!

We are tutored in these days to hero worship. In every walk of life we become “fans,” and that is not less true in the area of Christian activity. There are those in whose lives there is manifestly evident the might unction and power of God. They are transparently genuine. The hand of God is upon them. They speak with an authority that God honors. Lives are transformed. Those spiritually dead are raised to life again. Defeated, helpless, useless, barren Christians are transformed into useful vehicles of divine life. Wherever they go it seems that there is a touch of glory about their path, and we admire them and applaud – but we stand back as though this were to be the monopoly of the few, as though they have a special call upon the grace of God, and as though this were something not for the common run of men. We say in our hearts, “There is a bush that burns! I would like to be a bush like that, but I am just a heap of ashes!” And that is as far as it gets.

You discuss the burning bush with others! You admit that it is an amazing thing, and maybe you invite others to come and look at the phenomenon, but you have resigned yourself to be nothing more than what you are – a heap of ashes! It has never dawned on you that you could be anything different, so you have to make the best of a bad job in your own little desert! You resign yourself to sit on the balcony among the spectators, just to be average, a spiritual nonentity!

This is the attitude that Paul sought above everything else to avoid in those of whom it had been his privilege to lead to the Lord.

To the Philippians, who were tempted to lean upon Paul as their spiritual crutch, as though God had a particular interest in Paul that He did not have in them, Paul said, in so many words, “All that God has given to me, He has given to you! The Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in my humanity is the same Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in your humanity.  What I have, you have! What I can be by the grace of God, you can be by the grace of God! Recognize that the illimitable resources that God has vested in me in the person of His own dear Son are the same illimiable resources that He has vested in you!

This is the message of the Bible, that God has chosen the weak and the things that are not to confound the things that are. All that God demands of a man is his availability. What you are is totally irrelevant – nationality-wise, money-wise, education-wise, personality-wise, and any other wise, if only you will recognize the principle that it is God that works in you, to will and to do of His good pleasure.

You read of the lives of men like Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, Dwight L. Moody – men whose lives have made spiritual history. They were simply men who had qulified in the school of failure and despair. They were men who came to the end of themselves and discovered that what they were apart from God was nothing. It is in the school of destitution – the bitter school of self discovery – that you finally graduate into usefulness, when at last you discover the total bankruptcy of what you are apart from what God is!

Judged by purely human standards, you may be highly qualified for Christian service, and yet you go out into the oblivion of spiritual uselessness. It is tragically possible for you to go down in the annals of spiritual history as one of those who did not count either for God or man – and do you know why? Because you never took time to find out the reason why God uses men!

God had something to say to Moses, and I think that it must have been something like this: Do you see that bush over there? That scruffy, scraggy looking thing – that bush would have done! Do you see this beautiful looking bush, so shapely and fine – this bush would have done! For you see, Moses, any old bush will do – any old bush – if only God is in the bush! The trouble with you, Moses, is this: forty years ago, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, might in word and deed, you admired your own foliage! You thought you were some bush! But you burned yourself out in twenty-four hours, and you have been a heap of ashes for forty years! If this bush that you have admired were depending upon its own substance to sustain the flame, it too would burn itself out in twenty-four hours; it too would be a heap of ashes like you. But it is not the bush that sustains the flame, it is God in the bush; and any old bush will do.

If you are born again, all you need is what you have, and what you have is what He is! He does not [just] give you strength – He is your strength! (pp. 65-70).

You can get a copy of Major Ian Thomas’s book The Saving Life of Christ here.


Think this; don’t think that

48bookA HEALTHY BODY produces energy. Likewise, a healthy mind produces joy. This is not an accident. If you want to experience vibrant health and abundant energy, it is essential that you consume certain foods and drinks and refrain from consuming others. The same is true if you want to lose weight or put more muscle on your frame. You have to say yes to the foods that lead you toward your goal and no to those that lead you away. Very simply, you need to eat this, not that. And while, for the most part, this is now considered common sense, it is not always common practice for those desiring to reshape their physical bodies or increase their energy levels.

Progress toward joy begins the same way, with a firm decision to cut back on joy-reducing thoughts and increase joy-producing thoughts. In short, you have to change your mental diet. You have to think this, not that. After all, joy is the sum and substance of emotional health.

Many well-meaning individuals desire to be leaner or more energetic but then continue to indulge in a diet and lifestyle that takes them in the opposite direction. Consequently, they do not reach their goal. Many with the goal of increased joy run into the same predicament: they keep consuming a mental diet mismatched with their goal. In both instances, there is a major disconnect between desired objectives and daily behavior.

Joy is a state of mind that must be purposely cultivated if you are to live and love and influence others as God intended. Fortunately, joy does not depend on the outer conditions of your material life, but rather on the inner condition of your mental life. Joy is the result of something strikingly simple, though not necessarily easy: consistently thinking joy-producing thoughts.

Is this within your grasp? Is it even possible for anyone to accomplish? Before you answer, let me remind you that few endeavors worth pursuing come easily to anyone, and the attainment of a joy-filled spirit is no exception. There are risks in shooting for this gold standard of faith in action. There is a high price to be paid, and it must be paid in advance. Certain comfort thoughts will need to be relinquished. Counterproductive habits will need to be abandoned. Tenured excuses must be surrendered.

Since you are free to choose what you think about, and you have billions of options, what specific thoughts should you increase to become joy filled? What specific thoughts should you decrease? What kinds of thoughts will distress your soul? What types of thoughts will nourish and hydrate your soul?

At any given moment we can consciously choose to

• think excellent thoughts, not mediocre thoughts;

• think focused thoughts, not scattered thoughts;

• think fresh, exciting thoughts, not stale, boring thoughts;

• think compassionate thoughts, not harsh thoughts;

• think innovative thoughts, not common thoughts;

• think loving thoughts, not indifferent thoughts;

• think energetic thoughts, not exhausted thoughts;

• think constructive thoughts, not destructive thoughts;

• think helpful thoughts, not hurtful thoughts;

• think successful thoughts, not failure thoughts;

• think faith thoughts, not fear thoughts;

• think fit thoughts, not fat thoughts;

• think bold thoughts, not comfort thoughts;

• think opportunity thoughts, not security thoughts;

• think giving thoughts, not getting thoughts;

• think serving thoughts, not self-centered thoughts;

• think grateful thoughts, not entitled thoughts;

• think abundant thoughts, not lacking thoughts;

• think responsible thoughts, not irresponsible thoughts;

• think reconciliation thoughts, not retaliation thoughts;

• think principled thoughts, not popular thoughts;

• think positive thoughts, not negative thoughts;

• think thoughts of victory, not thoughts of defeat; or

• think about the promises of God, not the problems of this world.

Think about what you want, not what you don’t want. Why is this required for joy-filled living? Very simply stated, we tend to bring about what we think about. As King Solomon counseled, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV).

Building on Solomon’s wisdom, James Allen wrote that “the outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors which make for the ultimate good of the individual. As the reaper of his own harvest, man learns both by suffering and bliss.”

It is my intention that during this forty-day regimen, you will start experiencing more of the bliss that is called joy-filled living. Starting today, release the need to hang on to thoughts that haven’t worked well for you.

It is true that we can think this, not that!

Tommy Newberry, 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2012).