Monday, January 09, 2006

New Year, New Day, New Life!

Let my Soul be drawn
by Heaven's Harmony

To the singing of Angels and the Song of the Spirit

Let my eyes be pierced by beauty divine,
My heart corrected as it bathes in Your Truth

Leaving behind darkness forever,
To bask in the warmth of Your Light

What glory that would be!

"Let us all die with Him" they cried out
Yes, for if I die with You, I live

Living under grace brings freedom, spontaneity and creativity

I suppose the best blog posts come from inspiration. And yet, I have set myself to the discipline of posting steadily, not waiting until I'm "inspired" before I sit down to write a post. For me, establishing such regularity has been a good thing. I tend to be perfectionistic, and nowhere more so than in my creative expressions. I want my songs, my blog posts or whatever I'm creating at the time to be the best they can be, to fully capture all the ideas and inspirations that give them birth.

But if I wait until they are absolutely perfect, I will never feel at ease releasing them to the world. So blogging with self-imposed consistency has begun to free me in this regard, because although I still hold myself to high standards in my writing, I recognize not every post will reach the marvelous heights I aspire them to reach.

That is why I even took the chance, above, of spontaneously writing a poem as a preface to this post-- poetry is not my usual creative mode, and perhaps this is not a great poem-- but it expresses something I wanted to say, and I tried not to edit it too much or overthink it before presenting it here.

Of course, sometimes I feel lazy or uninspired, and lack the requisite energy to write something I consider outstanding. That's OK. I have given myself permission to be less than stellar (of course, some readers may think I didn't need to do so). Approaching creativity in this way is part of a broader approach to life I'm learning-- how to live under grace.

You see, many times we may experience the Christian life as impossible, because we are viewing it as trying to live a holy life by one's own efforts. But I have been learning that the amazing grace of God is foundational for Christian living, because it reveals the "Father's heart" towards me, His child-- His loving acceptance of me right now, even with my failures, imperfections and weaknesses. He never condones sinfulness in me, but neither does He condemn me because I am prone to living as merely human, rather than as the supernatural being I really am in Him.

The Spirit's Work inwardly

He knows how often I forget my true identity, and that my soul resides in a body limited by its mortality. For example, if I don't get enough sleep or go without food long enough, I'm so easily prone to becoming irritable, or towards acting like a jerk. I am a "Jeckyl and Hyde"-- at times my actions reveal the kindness and compassion of the God who inhabits my spirit; other times, I squelch the Spirit's movement in me as I give in to my worst impulses. I am also a being in transition-- progressively moving towards the likeness of Christ, and yet, in my body, remnants of the old, sinful me remain. The Spirit of God is the power through whom the changes in me are being propelled, yet I am no passive robot-- I must cooperate with His work, by acting upon the truths I know. I act; the Spirit carries; the Spirit prompts, and I act, in a wonderful cycle. But how easily and how often I have broken that positive cycle, and shut down my progress.

New Year brings new opportunity to live a Lifestyle of Repentance

So as I begin this New Year, I'm writing this post to inspire and encourage myself to get into, and remain in, a positive cycle of interaction with the Spirit. I read something really good tonight* that reminded me of a powerful truth about repentance. Yes, the life we are called to is a lifestyle of repentance- but the dying to self involved in repentance is not an end in itself, but is meant to open us up to the life of Christ within us, so as to allow His life to energize us.

*[A Christian layman, Barry Hall, who himself struggled for years trying to live a successful Christian life, did much study on the topic of repentance, and thereafter applied what he learned to his own life. The result was a great "change in his approach to change", and much better spiritual progress. He has assembled a great teaching site Taste Heaven Now in which he shares his discoveries (and which I found via a "Google" search). I liked what I read at the website, and have purchased the ebook series he has written. I think that the materials contain excellent insights-- and I am still working my way through the four books].

What's in your heart?

It's a New Year, of course-- and if you're like me, the start of the New Year is associated with the idea of opportunity to do things differently than last year. Now that thought could bring discouragement, if I say to myself that it all depends on me, and begin to dwell on the many times in the past I have failed to live up to my resolutions. But this year, 2006, I want to approach things differently-- yes, I still want to set some goals and pursue them. But, I am recognizing that the single greatest driving force in my life is my heart. Where is my heart? Is my heart focused upon Jesus and resting in Him? Or is my life being driven by unfulfilled needs of my soul (mostly emotional), so that I feel compelled to satisfy those needs through earthly resources? Some say that the idea that we have "needs" in this sense is not Scriptural. But I believe that the desires of the human soul can be observed in the Scriptures and from our life experiences as being compellingly real.

The Bread of Life

Resisting the Devil's temptation to turn a stone to bread in order to satisfy intense physical hunger (for He had been fasting 40 days), Jesus, quoting Scripture, said:

"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone' (Luke 4:3-5)"

Later, Jesus would tell those impressed by His miraculous feeding of more than five thousand people, from just five loaves of bread:

"Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal (John 6:27)"

To some who were questioning Him about his authority, Jesus uttered these startling words:

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35)"

We see in these passages that Jesus used the imagery of bread to imply that just as we have physical hunger (definitely a need) that requires food to satisfy it, so also our souls hunger for something that can only be supplied by Jesus Himself. And what does He give us to meet our soul's need? Jesus provides Himself as the essential food for our souls (The Bread of Life). Most of the time my problem in living the Christian life is that I forget just how needy my soul is, and think I can get by with "snacks"-- a sermon here, a Bible reading there, intense but sporadic prayers, relying on Christian principles rather than upon a living connection to Jesus. Snacks will not do when you're hungry, and I have discovered that my soul is a bottomless pit of hunger! And if I am not feeding my soul with what it needs, I will be much more susceptible to the temptation of feeding it from all the wrong sources.

New Year, New Day, New Life!

New Year-- Yes, we really do have opportunity, depending upon the Lord, to change and to do things differently this year.

New Day-- We live our lives as a succession of days and Jesus reminds us that each day bring its own set of concerns-- so live them out one day at a time, without worrying about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). String together a bunch of good days-- days in which you've directed your heart to stay close to God and obeyed the Spirit's promptings-- and soon enough, you'll be living fruitfully (John 15:5-10).

New Life-- Let the new Life that is within you begin to emerge. Cast off the sin and hindrances that are trying to keep that life hidden (Hebrews 12:1). Remember that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation! You are no longer what you once were!(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Personal Goals for the New Year

Here are some of my personal goals for the New Year:

    1. Learn to direct my heart to Christ (I'm reading a series of books that has some practical ideas for how to do this).
    2. Be a better husband -- pray for my wife more consistently and serve her needs better.
    3. Exercise, sleep well and eat nutritiously.
    4. Keep blogging, and keep writing and recording music.
    5. Take my blog up to the next level, perhaps through a professional consultation.
    6. Create a website through which I can host, share and sell my music.
    7. Continue to seek God's direction, and discern more clearly His desires for me concerning my vocational path, as I move forward with developing the talents I'm most motivated to pursue.
    8. Stay connected with the body of Christ through regular fellowship.

All of the above I think are very "do-able", but I expect that I will face spiritual opposition in the form of much temptation to revert to old, unhealthy, sinful patterns. If you remember to, please keep me in your prayers.

Blessings to you!

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