Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our Catalyst For Change

Are there areas in your life where you know you need change?  Aren't we all interested in finding the catalyst for change?

In an article entitled "Why Emotion, Not Knowledge, is the Catalyst for Change", Dan Health and Chip Heath state: "It takes emotion to bring knowledge to a boil."  They illustrated their point with the following:

Urologist Leon Bender became frustrated when he took a South Seas cruise and observed that the crew was more diligent about hand-washing than the staff at his own hospital.  Frequent hand-washing by doctors and nurses is one of the best ways to prevent patient infections, and studies estimate that thousands of patients dies every year from preventable bacterial infections.

Bender and his colleagues tried a variety of techniques to encourage hand-washing, but the staff's compliance with regulations was stuck around 80%.  Medical standards required a minimum of 90% and Cedars-Sinai was due for an inspection from the accrediting board.  They had to do better.

One day, a committee of 20 doctors and administrators were taken by surprise when, after lunch, the hospital's epidemiologist asked them to press their hands into an agar plate, a sterile petri dish containing a growth medium.  The agar plates were sent to the lab to be cultured and photographed.

The photos revealed that wasn't visible to the naked eye: The doctor's hands were covered with gobs of bacteria.  Imagine being one of those doctors and realizing that your own hands – the same hands that would examine a patient later in the day, not to mention the same hands that you just used to eat a turkey wrap – were harboring an army of microorganisms.  It was revolting.  One of the filthiest images in the portfolio was made into a screen saver for the hospital's network of computers ensuring that everyone on staff could share in the horror.

Suddenly, hand-hygiene compliance grew to nearly 100% and stayed there.

Someone might ask: Wouldn't it be great if there were something that could take a picture of what's going on inside our soul?

Well my friend – there is.  It's the Bible – God's Word.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13)

Pastor/author Paul Tripp commented:

"The Bible is God's great scalpel.  It is able to cut through all the layers of who I am and what I'm doing to expose my heart…The Bible by its very nature is heart-revealing.  For that reason, Scripture must be our central tool in personal growth and ministry."

So thank God, there is something that can accurately reveal the gobs of sin hiding in the recesses of our heart.  Not only does God's Word expose the invisible grime of our soul, God's Word also washes us:

"…as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…" (Eph 5:25-26)

Someone might say: "Then why don't we see more change?"  The answer is most likely a potential problem that we are warned of by the author of the book of Hebrews just a few verses before he writes about the exposing power of God's Word:

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Heb 4:7)

To harden the heart is to make up one's mind what you're going to do, and be unwilling to show any flexibility in your thinking when confronted by God. 

Change is hard, it's needed, and it's possible – and our catalyst for change is God's Word.  But if we are to ever be changed we must not harden our heart when God speaks.

Pastor Van




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fear Not - Someone is Praying for You

This is what we know: Jared Loughner, 22, a community college dropout, has been charged with five federal felonies, including the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a mass shooting that left six people dead and 14 wounded.  Court documents allege that Loughner had actually targeted the congresswoman.

This horrible tragedy has left many lawmakers on edge.  While many take pride in meeting their constituents without any armed protection, the events in Arizona have left some having second thoughts.  Some are ratcheting up their security while others who have conceal-and-carry permits are planning on carrying their guns with them more frequently.

How does a person deal with the awareness that a ruthless, determined, unseen enemy is bent on doing them harm?

There was an occasion in which Jesus warned his disciple, Peter, about such an enemy that had targeted him.

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)

Jesus speaks Peter's name twice, stressing the seriousness of the matter.  Satan, the enemy of Peter and all those who will trust in the Savior, demands a shot at Peter (look at Job 1).  Satan wants to "sift" Peter; he wants to pick Peter to pieces; take him apart; resulting in Peter's faith being drained away to nothing.

Satan wants to bring Peter to ruin.  This is Satan's desire for every Christian - total ruin.  This is a serious matter and we live with this reality every day.  This disguised "angel of light" lurks and roams about "like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (this is how Peter would later describe his stalking enemy).

How can we face the day with any degree of confidence when we know there's a lion on the loose; one that's stalking us?

"...but I [Jesus] have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."

Notice that Jesus doesn't say, "I've prayed for you and Satan will never mess with you."  No, Satan is allowed to deal a blow.  Peter will ultimately deny Jesus.  But Peter's failure is a failure of nerve, not a heart denial of Jesus.  This is because Jesus has prayed (interceded) for Peter that his faith would not be drained away to nothing.  Peter will turn again to a better faithfulness.  Satan fails to destroy Peter because Jesus had interceded for him.

I think is completely reasonable for believers today to expect such intercession:

Consequently, he[Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)

Knowing Peter's upcoming failure, still, Jesus interceded for Peter.  And praise be to God, because Jesus lives to make intercession for us, we can face tomorrow – in spite of a roaring lion who stalks us.

Pastor Van