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Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Most of Hebrews 11 is a cursory overview of some of the great men and women of faith who acted with determination and courage. Their faith was their talisman for relationship with God. And for me?

Hebrews 11:4, 5a, 6a
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. . . . By faith Enoch . . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists. . .

Abel’s stories is one of the first. It’s so interesting that Adam and Eve are bypassed here, more than likely because their faith was wanting. Out of their union, two men were born whose stories have survived through the ages. One son was driven by a pure motive of faith in God and possibly driven by a desire to return their lives to the original purpose and intent of “Eden.” The other son, Cain, seemed to live on the other side of that coin: being more self-sufficient and clearly, my the story’s end, self-absorbed because he couldn’t bear to have his brother’s offering accepted while his was not. I have always believed that motive drove their differences.

In the second story of this chapter, we are given only the second reference to Enoch (now, I am not speaking of the controversial Book of Enoch – which I would like to read one day soon), first in Genesis 5:24 and then again, here in Hebrews 11. And although much is not said of Enoch, there seems to have been knowledge of this one as a prophet, some seven generations before Abraham. The first key for me, based solely on these brief references, is trust. Enoch believed and trusted that God was God and, as a result, anything was possible. Apparently, he transcended the norm, by disappearing without a trace. Although modern times may find this easily explained, there was no need back then for the FBI, pictures on milk cartons, or APB’s. People knew each other and their whereabouts. It was still a small world. His disappearance was supernatural and it occurred out of his faith.

So, what do these stories tell me today? Faith begins out of a decision to believe in the face of all circumstances. Faith begins each day. Faith is rewarded in order to build more faith. Faith is available.

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A Pure Heart painted by Jan Oliver

Is it true? Do the pure of heart recognize pure motives in another person? Or, even more mysterious, can the pure find something pure in anyone? Is it another way of thinking about the “sacred other?” How sorrowful, then, to dwell in the opposite world, a type of hell surely, where nothing is pure.

Titus 1:15
To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

I was quite moved today while listening to the audio book of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese when a minor character, Deepak, a 5th year resident doctor who has been close to completing his residency many times but has, time after time, been cut out by the system, speaks to his young intern, Marion. Finally, circumstances take a turn for Deepak, his first real hope in ten years that things will work out. He shares his long-standing belief that good does triumph over evil, that hard work and honesty and integrity do prevail along with patience and long suffering. He is so clearly a good man, a humble man who loves his work and believes in this “power of good.” He is of the pure heart variety, and I found him remarkably drawn, this character in the book felt real and knowable.

The pure of heart do suffer because of those who do not recognize them. Those pure-hearted ones are taken advantage of; they are often swept aside; they are maligned in their silence.

In our small town, it is a political season in which a mayor will be elected (or re-elected) and a city council re-populated with new or old faces. The rhetoric is flying and I wonder, are there pure hearts among them? Can I still my own heart long enough to recognize them? Can I get past my own judgmentalism and pre-conceived notions? Can I tap into my small spot of purity where the Holy Spirit dwells within and where truth can be uncovered?

I am also in the vortex of another political storm, where integrities are coming into question, where truths are unclear, where memories have become short-sighted. And today, I realized, sorrowfully, that my friends may continue to be maligned because corrupted hearts may not recognize them. And despite the purity I can see; it does not give revelation to others. At least, for now. But like my sweet doctor Deepak, a time will come when purity of heart and motive will emerge. I must believe that too.

Just yesterday, I discussed with new friends how we cannot know the ways of God’s hand. What may appear as defeat on the outside, may be victory within. What plays out in sorrow now, may reveal a greater glory later. I must hold to this understanding.

After all, Jesus modeled this same scenario. He was betrayed, wrongly sentenced, and crucified. Most of his followers were broken and dismayed. Their cause for good appeared broken. They looked at the circumstances in 3-D only, not knowing that other dimensions were turning upside down. They allowed the corrupt to veil their hope.

We must stand fast. The pure of heart must hold to this: Sunday’s coming.

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I do it all the time. I start a diet, lose weight, and then go back to my old eating habits. I order my space and vow to keep it that way, and before I know it, it’s trashed. I judge someone, ask for forgiveness, and judge again. Am I so weak? I am.

Galatians 4:9
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

What is the draw of the old way? I guess if I were an alcoholic or drug addict, I would be drinking and shooting up again. It’s destructive behavior and yet it’s familiar. It’s crazy-making [Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.] It’s the path of least resistance.

I am the Israelites in the desert who complained about the new way and wanted to go back to Egypt and slavery: they thought that would be better than their current struggle in the present time [Exodus 16:1-3].

Is it forgetfulness or is it mindlessness? Or both? When God brings change into my life, I am so happy and full of energy. I am clear headed and I see the big picture. I am focused. I am motivated. But once I reach a certain plateau in the process, it’s like hitting a wall. There is no movement forward. I lose track of those initial feelings and strength. Oh, I might try to climb the wall for a bit, I might even try to walk around it. But my drive to persevere is sucked away and I am left with my old self for company.

I say mindlessness because it feels like the opposite of mindfulness. It takes mindfulness to stay aware of the Christ Spirit within and without. It takes effort. It is a special type of wakefulness.

When I was in acting school I learned how to walk a tightrope in our circus class. The clue to tightrope walking is maintaining a focus on the end of the rope, the junction point. As soon as I would take my eyes off that point, I would lose my balance. As I tried to do more complicated maneuvers, it became harder and harder to maintain that focus. My little life is not much different.

Put me back on the tightrope today, with Christ ahead, my focal point.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me. (St. Patrick)

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I learned the enduring power of the sowing and reaping principle through Elijah House. But now I see there is an added piece to it: motive. Why I sow “whatever” makes a difference in the yield.

II Corinthians 9:6-7
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man [or woman] should give what he [she] has decided in his [her] heart to give not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [sower].

Sowing is everywhere. It’s in the money I give, it’s in the words I say, it’s in the quality of my touch, it’s in my work and more. Reaping comes automatically, in one form or another and on its own timetable. And, significantly, reaping comes in multiples of a third, two-thirds or even 100% more than the original sowing [Mark 4:20]. Could it be that these multiples are determined by motive? How did I sow?

I think too many people think that “following the rules” is enough. And to some degree that is true. The doing of good works is good. But is it enough to do if it’s with an attitude of bitterness or unbelief? I am encouraged to give of our family’s plenty and tithe, let’s say, but if I give with a hard heart, I now think it nullifies the true effect of the gift. The return is stunted.

A dear friend told me this principle applies in the smallest of gestures, even cooking. She said I should never cook a meal in anger or resentment, for the meal itself will lose its flavor. It will still be food and nourish the body but it will not reap any other blessings.

This is the main reason Christ tells us to do everything in love. It is love that provides the “salt” to every gesture, to every word, to every intent.

Teach me to plant today with the humus of love.

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After the sermon on Sunday about godliness and altar call, my overwhelming impulse was to leap to the altar. It was not that I felt all of my motivations have been false or that I was under deep conviction, or worse, condemnation (which I have, historically, battled).

No, this time, I knew, I just wanted to make a covenant with God to allow Him to do daily sweep through my heart so that impure motives would not gain root. If we come to Him often and ask for this “examination of the heart,” it is so much easier to confess, accept His forgiveness, and move on.

This step in the plan from II Peter 1:3-11, is a spot check. We’ve been moving along with all these other steps and now the Lord is saying, “Stop a moment, let’s check your heart.”

When I had my little cardiac scare two weeks ago, the hospital staff take seriously even the smallest warning signs. They have a routine to confirm whether it is indeed a matter of the heart, from EKG’s to nitro-glycerin, to blood work, and stress tests. We should be equally introspective in spiritual terms. Don’t wait.

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