A New Heart – Life, Freedom, and a New Name

These are notes & scripture from a lesson I’m leading tonight with my church youth group. I put them here for later and whoever else might get something from them

I. Sing

II. Prayer Requests

III. Ice Breaker

IV. Review

a. Father / son relationship on earth

b. Father / child relationship with God

i. John 3:16

1. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

ii. Romans 8:15-17:

1. You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,”

iii. Galatians 4:4-6:

1. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

V. Let’s start off with some introductory questions.

a. When does eternal life begin?

b. Are you living an eternal life right now? Is that silly to think about?

c. Is Christianity just something about the future? About dying and going to heaven?

d. Or is there something for us, right here, right now?

VI. The offer is…

a. FREEDOM

b. LIFE

c. A NEW HEART

d. A NEW NAME

VII. Freedom

a. What does freedom mean to you?

b. Think about how life was designed to be. Were Adam and Eve “free?”

c. Were they designed to be free?

d. What did that mean?

e. Are you designed to be free?

i. Yes, you are.

ii. Are you?

iii. Why or why not?

f. We live in bondage.

i. To ourselves.

ii. To others.

1. Expectations

2. Disappointments

iii. To sin

1. Habits

2. Desires

3. Flesh / World / Satan

g. Galatians 5:1,13

i. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

h. 1 Peter 2:16

i. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

VIII. LIFE

a. John 10:7-11

i. “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them 9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture 10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

b. Why did Christ come?

i. That they might have life.

c. How did he accomplish this?

i. By laying down his life for us.

d. Why was this necessary?

e. How bad does God want you back?

IX. A NEW HEART

a. Do you feel like you have a naturally clean heart? Are you pure?

i. No, we are not

ii. Jeremiah 17:9

1. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Je 17:9). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

iii. Jeremiah 32:37-40

1. 37 “Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. 38 “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. 40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Je 32:37-40). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

b. CAN your heart be clean?

i. Psalm 51:10

1. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 51:10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

ii. Matthew 5:8

1. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Mt 5:8). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

c. HOW can we get a clean heart?

i. Ezek 11:19

1. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

ii. Ezek 36:26-28

1. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 “You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.

iii. Hebrews 8:8-10

1. 8 But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 9 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt.They did not remain faithful to my covenant,so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.10 But this is the new covenant I will makewith the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:I will put my laws in their minds,and I will write them on their hearts.I will be their God,and they will be my people. Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. “Text edition”–Spine. (2nd ed.) (Heb 8:8-10). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

iv. Hebrews 10:15-18

1. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” He then says, 17 “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Heb 10:15-18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

v. Hebrews 10:22

1. let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Heb 10:22). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

X. A NEW NAME

a. Isaiah 62:2-4

i. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the Lord will designate. 3 You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; For the Lord delights in you, And to Him your land will be married.

b. Gen 35:10

i. God said to him,

ii. “Your name is Jacob;

iii. You shall no longer be called Jacob,

iv. But Israel shall be your name.”

v. Thus He called him Israel.

vi. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ge 35:10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

c. Rev 2:17

i. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

ii. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Re 2:17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

d. Rev 3:12

i. ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

ii. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Re 3:12). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

XI. Watch Video

a. Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

i. Elrond (Elf)

ii. Arwen (Love)

iii. Aragorn (Ranger / King)

b. Chapter 22 (1:14:40 – )

c. Pause after “I take my leave”

d. Background on this guy…

e. Continue

f. Quote:

i. “It is time to put down the ranger and become who you were born to be”

ii. Who have you been told that you should be?

1. A good boy?

2. A young woman?

3. A nice Christian?

4. Someone who avoids this and does that.

iii. What were you born to be?

1. Me? I have a story. It’s a story that only makes sense to me. I’ll share it if you want, though.

2. All of us have been told who we should be and a lot of us have accepted lesser roles than God intended. Aragorn was the KING, but other things kept him from accepting.

iv. What is your role in the Kingdom? You may not know yet. That is fine. That is normal. But let me tell you, the lives you live RIGHT NOW are affecting that. I can speak from my life. I’m not who I thought I would be 10-15 years ago when I was your age, but the things on my heart back then, the things I really, deeply, cared about… they still affect me.

g. Now… what brought Aragorn to recognize who he was?

i. Recognition?

ii. The swoard?

1. They will answer to the king of Gondor.

h. 1:18:55 – put aside the ranger, become who you were born to be.

i. Stop at 1:19:21

j. John 10:10-11

i. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

Tonight I Wake Up

I didn’t camp tonight… and I am good with that. I spent the last 3 hours out in my barn and walking along a dark road, though.

I walked with God. I really think I did.

First there was the fire. I didn’t have the right stuff to get it started, and my firewood was wet. So I decided to get out one of my books inside the barn and read. As I thought about which one, as I had brought two, I kept coming back to this word: STOP. One of my books is about maximizing energy, getting focus, that kind of stuff… there are some things I am working on in it and need some time, but I just sensed that I needed to stop tonight – read the other book: Waking the Dead. This is a much easier read – not so much inspirational and inspiring, but maybe eye opening?

I had my journal beside me, and one thing I wrote that I remember vividly was this:

Tonight, I wake up. I open my eyes to my true identity, and accept my destiny.

As I wrote that I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but I needed to write it down. Maybe for later? I was having a hard time focusing. As I continued on, I got more and more drawn into the reading, into this whole concept of walking with God, truly knowing him (not just about him), and living life day by day like that.

Another question from my journal…

OK, who am I? What is my true identity? What is my new name?

That question has been on my mind for a while. A lot of things I’ve read talk about a new name, who we are in Christ, the unique thing he will use us for as we step into his will.

I wasn’t tired, but after about 30 – 40 pages I sensed it was time to stop. And go for a walk. Don’t know why, really, that was just the next thing to do. So I did it, set out west on the state road in front of my house.

And that’s when I ran into it. Or at least that’s how I feel right now. And that’s why I’m writing this down. I don’t know where this will go, what about it will change, if it’s accurate, or if it’s just daydreaming. But I believe it is real. As I turned onto that road, my eyes opened up to the sky, and it was simply full of stars. And there, right in front of me, right above the horizon, was Orion. Good old Orion and his belt. And his sword. The “Hunter.”

Is that me? Is that my name?

Strange stuff. I don’t normally think this way. But so much stuff came together. I have been catching glimpses of Orion lately – I like looking for the seven sisters at night – and they’re off to the north of him, so I see this other constellation a lot, too.

But now thoughts are bubbling in my heart, and it’s asking, Is this it?

Am I hunting hearts?
Am I battling the bull?
What in the world?

I don’t know. And I don’t care if I don’t know. But I’m not just going to call all this mindplay, either. I can’t. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a year now, and tonight, a night originally planned to be sitting in the woods, in a tent, or around a campfire, where the stars wouldn’t be so visible, was changed to a night where I was walking down a dark, dark road, right into my new identity. Not just the constellation, but that idea of accepting who I am, a child of God, a demonstration of His glory, the masterpiece of His creation.

That’s me!

That is each of us.

This changes some things. I don’t know how yet, but it’s like a moment in time I won’t have again. I don’t know. And that’s why I write this down, here and now…

…more to come, I am sure!

A Blossoming Idea

This is an idea that is blossoming in my heart. It has been developing for quite a while, but is beginning to turn into concrete concepts. I wonder where this will go.

The idea is simply to get some kids – youth – boys, probably – and get away. Not just to talk about God but to learn about trust, to learn about confidence, to learn about adventure. That’s been the idea for a while, but now it’s getting a little more clear where it might fit in my life.

3-4 teen boys
2-3 adult men
1 pickup truck
1 horse trailer
2-3 horses
1 primitive campground

start by prepping, cleaning, and loading up everything. Do some hard work. Then hit the road as a group, a pickup full of guys, pulling a 10,000 # trailer with live animals. Stop somewhere for dinner, stretch and feed the horses, get back on the road. Get to the campground just before dusk. Lock up the cell phones and ipods. Make a fire. Unload the horses. Get them fed and tied up and secured. And then…. relax. Sit around the fire and relax. Watch the stars. Listen to the fire crackle. Tell jokes. Talk about God. Talk about heart. Talk about whatever. Stay up late. Go do bed eventually… under the stars, or in a tent if necessary. Get up in the morning, cook breakfast on the fire. Get kids used to horses, do some ground work, do some saddle work, then go on some 20-30 minute rides with each kid. Get them to do something that takes confidence, requires them to let go, to try hard. Do some trust games with those back at the camp. Play a practical joke. Do something fun. Fish. At the end of the day, load everything up. Head back, grab dinner on the way back again. Unload at the farm, take kids home.

Ok, wow, if that’s not concrete, well then… wow, this is starting to become less of a concept and more of a real idea… even a plan….

wow.

Well, what’s next? Today’s word was persistence, and I am seeing my persistent request for God to develop this idea start to really come together. This is real.

A talk with my dad

I have been making myself too busy lately to stop and write, to stop and think. I think I’ve almost been avoiding coming here because I know there are some things I need to jot down, a story I need to tell, and a real-life issue I need to walk through.

So here I am.

I called my dad on Thanksgiving day morning. It’s the first time I’ve out of the blue called him since November 1, 2006, the day I left a message on his voice mail telling him I have decided to forgive him. The call went good; mainly just some chit chat, but maybe that’s what I’m needing from a parent figure instead of something deep right now. I suppose we can deal with the broken relationship later, or maybe talking has a way of doing that naturally. I don’t really know, I guess. More on that in a bit, with the other thing I want to write about.

I had asked for prayer for this conversation, and went into it and through it knowing some good friends had my back. Oh that is good to know. Friends here locally, and friends across the USA.

As we were talking, and getting near the end, I suppose, my Father stopped me dead in my tracks with a word from my dad. We were talking about church and what I’m doing there, he asked me if I was still a deacon, like I was when he left. I told him no, I’m helping lead our Sunday School ministry now, and it’s a much better fit. “Do you do a lot of teaching, then?” he asked. No not really. Well yes, but not consistently with the same group of people.

“Oh, ok,” he says, “because I think you would do a great job teaching teens.”

What the hell!???!?!?!??!?

Hope that language is not too offensive, but it was my gut reaction at that moment. Where did THAT come from? How does he know that’s such a big thing on my heart right now? And not only that, this is affirmation coming from a man of whom I remember most belittling comments, guilt-driving speach, and a hard, obstinate heart.

I don’t think he had any idea how what he’s just said pricked my heart, my very soul. The conversation ended shortly after that, and I talked to my wife a little bit about it. Where did he come up with that? Is he reading my blog? Is he talking with someone about me (who that would be a certainly haven’t a clue)?

Or was that my big F Father talking at that moment? I think it had to be. The Bible tells me time and time again that God uses people (even animals) unknowningly to communicate His message. But what would God be trying to tell me through this?

Perhaps it was a word of strength, an affirmation that I was walking the right path by making the decision to make that call. Perhaps it was a sign that my dad does have some sense left in him, and that forgiveness means admitting that, even when you still don’t have an explanation as to the big “why?” question your heart has been asking for years. Perhaps it was just… just… just me?

God, thank you for that moment. Your name is wonderful counselor, prince of peace, almighty God. You teach me things through the strangest circumstances, you awaken my soul in the darkest of nights, you restore me in the wildest of ways. Take this dialog I had with my earthly father, the man you put here to raise me, and use it somehow. Use it me to learn more about forgiveness, patience, and love. Use it in him to learn more about being forgiven, accepting reality, and being used by you.

So that’s that. I needed to recap that call, to take a few minutes to regroup, to think it through, and to really let it sink in. I found myself denying the message because of the messenger, but getting past that is so freeing.

Father, I love you. I need you. Take me, lead me, let me chase you.

Heading back to school

Going back to my high school’s FCA meeting this morning. The last time I went I think the message I got was, “You can do this.” I didn’t do anything special. I didn’t say anything in front of everybody. I didn’t lead anything. I didn’t get introduced. I just said “hi” to some people I knew (a teacher and a couple kids from church) and sat there and watched.

But I was there. Conquering that nervous feeling of going somewhere new, where you don’t know what to expect, has been a big barrier for me. When I did this a couple weeks ago I found myself sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes, not really trying to think of a way out, but just… I don’t know… delaying? I don’t know if that’s the right word or not.

So today I’m going in with eyes wide open. I don’t know what’s going on this week, if it’ll be the same type of crowd or something a little different. And I guess…. now I can say that I don’t care.

For my own retrospecting, I’m gonna list a few fears I dealt with last time that, as I think about them today, are being wiped out of my head, both for this event and who knows, things to come.

    I will see some people I know and not know what to say when they ask my why I’m here…. who cares? There was one girl from my church there, I think she’s a senior, and she spotted me from across the room and mouthed to me what I think was “what are you doing here?” with that big question look on her face… I don’t remember what I mouthed back, probably something dumb, because the answer is still, “I really don’t know.”

    I will be the only non-teacher or non-student in the building… who cares?

    I will not find where I’m supposed to go and will have to ask for help… who cares?

    I will see a teacher from 12 years ago and not know what to say… (this happened, and I really stumbled through it)… but now, I don’t care…

That is very weird. There are some things not on that list of fears that I am thinking of right now that I can’t figure out why I’m not afraid of. Well, maybe I can, but it’s not natural, I know that.

OH well… I must be off because it’s cold out and I’ll have to warm the car up before I get going.

Squirming

“When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood,
I said to you while you were in your blood,

‘Live!’

I said to you while you were in your blood,

‘Live!'”

Ezekiel 16

I have never read this chapter before. I mean really read. The first 14 verses speak of the condition God found us in – “squirming in our blood,” “thrown out into the open field,” and so on. God then speaks of what He did when He found us in this condition. He covered us. bathed us. He washed us. He anointed us. He clothes us. He wrapped us. He adorned us.

He made us HIS. He made us beautiful.


But alas, there’s a “big but” again in verse 15: “But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame.” We took all that God had given us, all that He had done for us out of mercy and grace, and turned it into something ugly, selfish, and pungent.

This is not just the story of Israel. This is the story of every human being who has ever walked this earth. You can go all the way back to Adam and Eve. And you can go all the way forward to me. There was a day when I was “squirming in my blood,” naked, cold, and empty. And God has made me beautiful. He has restored me. He made me His Child.

So the question is, what will I do with that beauty? I can tell you what I did with it. I did just what Israel did back thousands of years ago. I abused my gift. I abused the beauty God gave me and turned it into something for my own benefit, for my own pleasure, for my own gain.

Oh, how I love God’s word. In the midst of a moment of reflecting where we’ve come from, how rebellious we are on our own, even in the midst of God’s blessings… Soon after I read these verses in Ezekiel, I read Psalm 106. I love verse 44:

Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress
When He heard their cry;
And He remembered His covenant for their sake
and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.
He also made them objects of compassion
In the presense of all their captors.

How far we have fallen as a people. How far I have fallen as an individual. And yet God is there, ready and waiting to restore me, standing on His toes, to personify it, almost anxiously waiting to hear me cry, “Help!” Help! What lovingkindness, what mercy, what grace. To receive what we least deserve from the One we have hurt the most. To receive restoration, clothing, and food from the One we have abhorred, betrayed, and denied.

The psalm sums up my response today.

Save us, O LORD our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
To give thanks to Thy holy name,
And glory in Thy praise.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.
And let all the people say, “Amen.”

Praise the LORD!

This is the message I long to share. To help others realize it’s not just our minds, our actions, that God is after. He is after our HEARTS. He wants us back! He wants to restore us, to lift us up, to exalt us, all for His glory. He wants to make us beautiful, full of worth, and useful on this earth. In fact, He already has. The potential in any one of us is tremendous, but again, the question is, what am I going to do with it? Am I going to use it for my own glory, for my own benefit, to meet the passions of my own self, or will I turn every blessing back to God, and say “Thanks be to HIM!” “Praise HIM!” “Exalt HIM!”

I stop now, Lord, and praise you. I worship you. I thank you. You are my Lord, my Savior, my God, and my Father. You love me, cherish me, and adore me. And I thank you. I give you this day, I give you my life. Take it, mold it, use it, for your glory.

Amen.

En-Couraged

I can’t remember if I typed this out or not yet, but I’ve decided I’m going to take up the invitation given to me by my old math teacher and visit the FCA meeting at PHS this Thursday morning. I don’t know what will come of it, but as I look back to how God led me to this point of making a decision, I truly believe He’s leading me down this path.

As I have mentioned this to a few people I have been encouraged by their excitement. Not about their promise to pray for me; that really doesn’t do it for me, but to actually see someone’s eyes light up with excitement when you tell them, out of the blue, about something you’re going to do that connects to something you just heard them praying about… WOW. That is encouraging.

That word – encouraging – has come to mean a lot more to me in recent months. Obviously it’s two words smashed together – “en” and “courage,” and I remember my Greek right, “en” has something to do with “being with”. So basically, the meaning I now take from this word is someone who comes along side me and imparts courage to me. They share their strength with me. It’s so much more than just putting a smile on your face and hoping it helps. It’s being part of someone else’s journey, partnering up with them and even buying in to the journey they are taking. It’s following up, listening, responding, and getting involved.

I am going to need courage for this thing on Thursday. This is something I’ve never done. This is something I don’t know the outcome of. This is something that thrills my soul … I don’t know why, it just does! Maybe it’s the adventure of something unknown. Maybe it’s the chance that this will grow into something else. Or maybe it’s “just” God living through me, and me finally being willing to Let Him.

This is the day that the LORD has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I will rejoice and be courageous in it. I will rejoice and encourage others in it.