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The Strength Of My Heart

**At Cross Point, we just started a new series called “Be Rich” and Pete Wilson’s message yesterday, “Who’s Rich”, really struck a chord with me, convicted me on several levels and brought to mind this blog I wrote over 3 months ago when I first started blogging again.  So, for all you Cross Pointer’s, this may be especially timely. For everyone else, I’m sure there’s something here for you too.
“I’ve got faith in the bank and money in my heart” (Derek Webb, lyrics from “I Want A Broken Heart”)

This particular season of my life I’m walking through has been full of all kinds of challenges and opportunities to choose to walk by faith, not by what I see.  One such opportunity is in the area of finances.

The details aren’t important, but suffice it to say that this has been a real stretching period for me.  Recently, I received a couple checks that I was not expecting at that time.  It was a huge blessing, to say the least.  The money came just in time and I was able to take care of some things that I needed to.  I was able to briefly exhale a little bit, and it felt good.

Later that same day, it dawned on me that not only was I feeling pretty good about receiving this money, but I was actually feeling a bit too good about it.  In fact, it occurred to me that getting this money had actually affected my heart response to this season I’m walking through. Yes, I was thankful to God for providing what I needed, but I quickly realized that the response in my emotions was not because I knew Christ was the unequivocal anchoring hope for my heart, but it was because of this little bit of money.

In a flash, I had allowed my heart to find strength in a few dollars. I felt so convicted. This ‘idol heart’ thing is no joke.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire beside you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:25-26

I have been working on being very intentional about focusing on Psalm 73:25-26 and reminding myself that God is the strength of my heart, not any amount of money.  It is dangerous to lean into anything other than Christ for any degree of hope, security or identity.

I’ve been meditating on God being more than just Jehovah-Jireh my provider, but Jesus the Christ, my provision.  He is more than my rent-payer, my grocery-buyer or the solution to any problem that can be solved with a Paypal transaction.  He is the ultimate, eternal provision for a debt that no American Express Black card could pay… a life separated from Him by sin.  More than I need my electric bill paid, I need a savior, a redeemer for my soul.  If He alone does not anchor my heart, I’m in trouble.

My soul finds rest in God alone: my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock…I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1

Anything else that my heart finds hope or strength in is an impostor, a counterfeit god that needs to be evicted.  God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Truth is, I can get, earn, save, and invest all I want, but I’ll never squeeze an ounce of peace out of it. (totally swiped that from Pete’s blog)

In his message yesterday, Pete Wilson asked us to consider this question:

“Which of these statements creates the most anxiety for you: There is no God or there is no money in the bank?

Wow. Selah.

Have you caught yourself finding more hope and strength in what God gives rather than who God actually is?



 

What I Thought I Wanted, What I Got Instead

After walking away from my career and spending months trying to figure out what was happening in my life, I finally got hired and started a new job 7 weeks ago.  I’m thankful to have this job, but I applied and interviewed for jobs that made MUCH more sense to me, but I did not get them.  What I have now is NOT the job I hoped for, but it is the job that hired me.  It was NOT what I wanted, but it is what I got instead.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

The past 7 weeks have been a bit of a blur and a series of one hard lesson after another.  On almost a daily basis I come face to face with the deep-seeded entitlement that has been wedged in my heart for years.

Entitlement… It’s “what I deserve”.

Lately I’ve been trying to dig deeper into why my heart has struggled so much through all this.  The truth is, I know exactly why: deep in my heart I think I’m better, think I deserve better and think I’ve earned the right to not have to work this kind of job at this point in my life. I’ve “been there” and “done that”.  How’s that for honesty?

The idolatry of what we think we deserve is a thief, robbing us of perspective and truth in the moments God uses to deepen our lives.

There have been moments over the past few weeks when I’ve had brief glimpses of revelation and lucidity (bonus points for use of “lucidity”), but for the most part I remain clueless about where my life is headed right now.  Some days I find myself being able to embrace the uncertainty of this season better than others, and some days my heart feels like it is in an absolute free fall. There are days when my heart is full of fear, simply because it is more prone to reach for ANYTHING other than God as an anchor and source of hope and security.

The other day I was hanging out with my friend Wes, who has quickly become a close friend of mine.  I was sharing (er, venting) with him about how I felt about what all is happening right now, and I said (in frustration), “THIS just isn’t where my life is right now!” As if to say, “at THIS point in my life I should have THIS job with THIS income, THIS life…”  Wes’ reply? “But Grant, this IS where your life is right now.”

……….

@#$%@*!

Reality check.

He was right. Regardless of how I feel about where I should or shouldn’t be at this point in my life, and regardless of the expectations I have formed in my own heart about where I feel I’m entitled to be at this point, you know what?  This is exactly where my life is right now, and being frustrated, stubborn and ungrateful isn’t going to change that.

I am learning that my entitlement makes me a slave to the expectations that exist only in my heart.

Sara Groves has a song called “What I Thought I Wanted” that beautifully underscores the heart of Proverbs 19:21.

Sara Groves - What I Thought I Wanted

I love the lyric where she says:

When I get to heaven I’m gonna go find Job
I want to ask a few hard questions, I want to know what he knows
About what it is he wanted and what he got instead
How to be broken and faithful

I am learning A LOT about my heart right now. I am learning things about myself that I don’t know if I would have ever learned had the bottom not fallen out.

I thought I wanted a job… but instead I am getting character
I thought I wanted a check… but instead I am getting change
I thought I wanted my story… but instead I am getting His

I often wonder if I would have had the opportunity to see this deeply into my heart had I gotten what I wanted.  But I didn’t, and here we are. It is painful, but it is purposeful. Though the bleeding persists, I am grateful for the wound.

So, what I thought I wanted, and what I got instead leaves me broken and grateful.

Are you grateful for what you got “instead”?


 

Value In The Crushing

I wasn’t there, but I’ve been hearing some amazing things about the message Chuck Swindoll brought at Catalyst 2009.  My friend Justin Davis blogged about the message and his application of it in his post “Benefits Of Brokenness part 2.” which is where I first heard about it.  Swindoll says,

“When God has an impossible task to accomplish, he finds and impossible person and crushes them. So leave room in your life for the crushing. Leave room for the crushing. In every great work of God, brokenness and failure are necessary.”

It’s quite interesting to me that for all the talk about wanting to “be like Jesus” that goes on in most church and “christian” circles these days, nobody wants to suffer.  We all say we want God’s will for our lives, but have somehow become entitled and convinced that surely said “will of God” for us individually is chock full of blessing, favor, increase, promotion and all those other christianese buzz words we love to throw around.  If anything looks as if it will challenge “our rights” to the aforementioned blessing, favor, increase or promotion, then it must be “the devil.” It seems that in our feverish pursuit of the “favor”-laden “will of God” for our lives we have somehow forgotten that the will of God for Jesus was the cross.

I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion by a preacher that while Jesus certainly died on the cross physically, it was actually in the Garden of Gethsemane where he died to his will, where he was crushed, which paved the way to the cross.  In Luke 2:42 we even see Jesus at great odds with what his flesh wanted and his destiny, ultimately choosing to surrender his will and embrace the will of the Father.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Out of curiosity, because I like to cook and I’m a geek like that, I’ve been doing some research on how olive oil is made.  It’s quite an interesting and involved process.  What intrigued me to the point of this research was the price of olive oil at the store.  I didn’t understand how olives could be so relatively cheap, but even a medium sized bottle of quality olive oil is actually quite costly.

In my research, I have found that there are many uses, even apart from cooking, for olive oil.  Olives themselves have a lot of culinary uses, but it is the oil that is most valuable.  Even for as many uses as the olive has, it is actually more valuable after having been crushed, processed and reduced to an oil.

Cost and value are two very different things. In fact, what something “cost” me versus the “value” of that thing can often differ greatly.  Cost versus value will be perceived differently based on which side of the process I am standing on.  I cannot escape the spiritual application of that fact, and it has been ringing in my heart loudly.

So, what is the cost of olive oil?  Who are you asking?  It may cost me $12.99, but ask the olive.  It cost the olive everything.

There is a value produced by the crushing of the olive that would have never been realized if left in it’s initial state.  If the olive were able to feel and speak, I am sure it would testify that the crushing is extremely painful… being torn apart, gutted, dying to what it used to be, letting go of what people expect it to look like, releasing the real value on the inside. I wonder if the olive would confess to feeling like perhaps it had failed as an olive, being broken and not knowing why, not yet understanding that what was happening was necessary in order to get the greater purpose out of its existence.

And so it is with your life.  There is a such a significant value produced by the crushing of your life that would never have been realized it is were left in it’s original inflated state.  And yes, it is painful… dying to your former self, letting go of what you used to be, rebuilding, embracing the greater purpose in your existence, but knowing that it comes only through brokenness and what will likely feel like failure.

God loves your “olive”, but he wants your “oil.”

You want the will of God for your life? Leave room for the crushing.

Are you leaving room in your life for the crushing?


 

Eye Check

It’s quite obvious that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. I honestly hate it, but with the recent life changes I’ve had, I’m struggling to find a new rhythm with everything. I think it’s getting better, and I can certainly see my heart changing about a lot of stuff.  I’ve been learning a LOT and have much I want to blog about, and I will… soon. In the meantime, today’s post is very short, but it’s something that I haven’t been able to escape lately.

Last Saturday, Cross Point once again organized over a thousand volunteers and mobilized them to hit the flooded communities of Nashville to serve and be the hands of feet of Christ in our city.  The pic above was taken by my friend Kenny in the Ashland City area, which was terribly devastated by the flooding.  I haven’t been able to get this image out of my head all week, along with 2 Corinthians 4:18…

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

The Message translation says: There’s far more here than meets the eye.

Not only is this a timely reminder in the context of the flooding here in Nashville, as the temptation to focus on the loss of material things is so great, but also in each of our lives in general.  I know I can often be guilty of becoming so fixated on what I can see that I sometimes miss the greater story and the invisible, often intangible work God is doing. It’s easier to look at what’s in front of me than trust in what God is doing inside me.

The great paradoxical challenge of the faith life is this: keep your eyes on what you can’t see.

So… Eye Check. What is your vision fixed on?


 

You Make Beautiful Things

Last Saturday, Cross Point Church organized and mobilized 1,600+ volunteers into flood-ravaged Nashville communities to serve and help families affected by the flood begin the clean-up process.  Yesterday I shared one of my take-aways from that day, and today I want to share another.

All during last week immediately following the flood, my heart was so heavy for what was happening in my city.  As such, I fully expected to be an emotional wreck last Saturday as I got the opportunity to help hands-on and be in the middle of so much of the destruction.  The first few sights I saw were overwhelming, as huge piles of debris lined the sidewalks in front of every single home.  Once we got to the neighborhood our team was assigned, we got into groups and dispersed to serve.

With each home, homeowner and volunteer we encountered, I could not escape the overwhelming sense of hope that was everywhere.  Sure there was a lot of loss, and there were plenty of questions, but there was also community and humanity.  Sprouts of hope were pressing their way through the soil of confusion that otherwise blanketed entire communities. You couldn’t necessarily see it with your eyes, you had to see it with your heart.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

Throughout much of the day last Saturday, Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” song was running through my head. The song paints a perfect picture of the collision of loss and hope that so many are experiencing in the wake of the flood, and that I saw first-hand last week.  So, imagine my surprise (and explosion of emotions) when the worship team at Cross Point sang “Beautiful Things” the very next morning (which had been planned for WEEKS)!

Below is a video with images of Cross Point volunteers serving the flooded communities of Nashville, set to Gungor’s “Beautiful Things.” It’s a powerful video and depiction of hope in the midst of loss, hurt and confusion.

This Saturday, Cross Point is partnering with WAY-FM to once again dispatch volunteers out to serve flooded communities of our city.  If you’re interested in joining us, you can meet everyone Saturday morning at the Cross Point Bellevue campus at 9am (more information here). We’d love to have groups from your church, your office, your neighborhood, etc, come join us in being the hands and feet of Christ and serving our city.   If you can’t go, you can still give.

You make me new, You are making me new…


 
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