My morning routine for several years has been relatively unchanging.
Rise. Fall out of bed. Coffee. Time with God.
This time has looked different in scope over the years.
In college, it was more sparing because late-nights were the norm; in Africa, it was usually outside with clucking chickens and moo-ing cows with an early and noisy sun; in my adult working life it has been balanced with walks around the neighborhood before the work grind; this summer it was free-flowing, letting God make it whatever He wanted. The constants are certainly my Bible, pen in hand, and of course, any kind of java.
A unique marker of the way God has moved within my life has been my own personal notations in the Word of God. I am a big fan of marking in my Bible. Highlighted paragraphs. Underlined words with ball point pen (confession, a few coffee stains exist).
As I’ve witnessed God speak to me more directly, I have marked dates and notes on specific situations that God used Scripture to address. He is intentional with His word; He uses it to teach, refine, and show me something frequently. This pattern has allowed a sequencing of grace, insight, and change in my life. Ultimately, this is what leads to even greater transformation.
During my stay in Grand Lake, Colorado this last weekend, I stumbled upon the words of Jesus that reminded me of just how dramatically He changed everything for me:
Again Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen to me, everyone and understand this, nothing outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him. Rather it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.” (Mark 7: 14-15)
My scratchy, small writing underneath the verse reads, “after lunch on 5/27/15…fruit must be evident…not our circumstances, it’s instead the intention of our hearts.”
This was a big day. That day, God answered a prayer many years in the making. In fact, frankly, I started lifting this precise struggle to God even before I really knew what the power of prayer was all about.
Before one walks in freedom, it’s easy to fall, stumble, and stay on the ground when asking, “WHY in the world am I struggling with ?” (fill in the blank, we all have something).
Until I humbled myself on 5/26/15 to ask God for forgiveness and confess to Him my heart (as if He didn’t know it already) He couldn’t release me from myself.
Here, in Mark 7, Jesus made it clear as a summer blue sky day. He had been addressing questions from Pharisees in regards to his disciples not following traditional Jewish law by eating food with ‘unclean hands’. The Scribe and tradition has held firmly and tightly to the understanding that no food should be eaten without first the proper washing of hands. So, these leaders approached Jesus looking for a serious explanation. In His answer, Jesus remains resilient against the overt and self-righteousness of the day; it’s what comes out that matters.
In a practical sense, it’s the intention of our actions that point to cleanliness or uncleanliness.
In the topic and realm of sin, examine yourself. What’s the fruit of what you are doing?
I couldn’t describe the moment with words, but when I read that scripture, on that particular day, after a particular encounter with the Holy Spirit of God, it was like I had my eyes opened for the very first time. It sounds crazy. A relationship with God shouldn’t be easily describable; it’s the most amazing thing in the world! I quickly realized that if you are paying attention, he will answer your heart specifically, with intention, and far more fully than you even ever expected.
Following Him, even in suffering, should not brood a heart of malice, envy, or evil. If it is, you can be encouraged to find the root of the cause – the reason your actions have become unclean. Ask Him.
However, certainly, Jesus is insightful enough to rise above labeling and using the law to categorize life matters as ‘black’ or ‘white’; Jesus, in my life and I know in the lives of others, works directly in the heart. He alone will make your paths straight. If you form a worldview outside of those inner workings you may be vulnerable to legalism, relativism, or long wanderings. I’ve done all. They don’t reap abundant love. What can happen is that in our desperation for an answer, we seek wordly logic and then capture or justify our actions based on what the world labels as “wrong” or “right”. Christians don’t have to be close-minded. But they also don’t have to live in the theology of the world simply because our physical lives are rooted here. Jesus is a lot less judgmental than a lot of people might say; he’s probably more radical than most. You know why?
He loves you anyway. Despite anything you could do. Just love God back.
I’m not a pastor, a Christian theologian, or anything else other than seeking the heart of God.
Ephesians 5:10 exhorts, “find out what pleases the Lord.” That alone will enable an ushering of a new heart. This new heart will not be one of superiority, perfection, or elevation above others. But instead your heart will show promise and deliverance of the very fruit God seeks to bring to His followers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
May His radiance shine on new hearts he brings forth each day. These hidden treasures are a part of our journeys to seek. Bon voyage, my friends. Chase Him, Seek Him, and you will find.