Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Simple Goulash------The Heart Position

This is so simple and still yummy. You can definitely spruce it up and make it fancier, but this basic version is great...and fast! If you have the ingredients leftover, you can even make this almost entirely out them.

-1lb Ground Beef
-2 Cups Pasta
-1 Cup Pasta Sauce
-Shredded Cheese
-Onion Powder
-Garlic Powder
-Italian Seasoning

Cooking Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a small casserole dish.
2. Cook the ground beef in a skillet, seasoning with the dry spices listed and any others you want.
3. Boil the pasta until it is just about cooked.
4. Heat the sauce over low in a skillet until slightly bubbly, stirring and seasoning to taste.
    Reheat leftover sauce, ground beef, and pasta.
5. In the casserole dish, combine the pasta, sauce, and meat. Stir in cheese.
6. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese over top.
7. Bake for 15 minutes. 


The Heart Position

I love this term. I have no idea where it came from or who coined it, but it so frequently grips me and challenges me.

The Bible mentions the heart -a ton. It is mentioned all throughout the Old and New Testament, and we are given many commands concerning out hearts.

Commandments like

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it"
-Proverbs 4:23.

Or “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  -Matthew 22:37.

Jesus frequently says to those He interacts with "take heart!"

And yet it isn’t my heart that I consider, or that I am cautious with.

In prayer, it is usually my words I am concerned with. Or how praying works. Or what God hears. Or who I am forgetting to think of. Or whether I really mean what I’m praying. Or if I’m even praying the right thing.

These things have nothing to with the position of my heart.

In gratitude, I think about my desires. I think about which of my desires are being met. Maybe about my needs and what I’ve been provided with. The things that have made me happy. Even the things that I struggle with but recognize I should be grateful for. I look around me at others and think about how much I have been blessed with.

These things, again, have nothing to do with the position of my heart.

In my daily activities, I am so often conscious of whether or not I’m “doing” the “right thing.” Decisions are weighed on how they will make me look –especially how they will make me look as a Christian. Sometimes I think about how my actions will affect others. Or if they stand up for truth. Often I wonder if my actions are truly justified.

Yet these things have nothing to do with the position of my heart.

And I could go on and on about other things in the same line. For a really long time. My senior seminar paper in college was all about intentions and whether or not they ultimately matter.

That is what the heart is, after all –intentions. The “Kardia” in Greek, which is a word frequently translated in English Bibles as “the heart,” is not a vital physical organ. It is the inner self, the will, the intention at the center of a person.

The heart is our “volitional desire” (according to Strong’s Concordance and HELPS-Word Studies.)

And our intentions matter. A lot. In an extreme example: if you kill someone because you feel like it, most people will condemn you. However, if you kill someone because it is the only way to stop them from murdering your child…people tend to be a little more understanding. It’s the “because.”

But, out intentions aren’t always a trump card either. If Billy cut off Mary’s ponytail because he meant well, assuming its length annoyed her too, he is still in trouble. “Meaning well” isn’t sufficient if the actions are wrong.

So then…spiritually, am I “off the hook” because I mean well by being concerned about doing the right thing? Or because at least I bother to pray and to be grateful? What if I do all those things, imperfectly, because my intention is to be a good Christian?

Still on the hook. Hanging there. Dangling. I’ve missed the point.

My heart positions matters only in relation to the Lord. And it is always in relation to the Lord.
Prayer is not for me. Thanks giving is not for me. Right actions are not for my sake. None of my life should occur with my heart in any position –humble, earnest, eager- except for submitted to my master, Jesus Christ the Lord. And that’s because of who He is. Not who I am.

How much easier it is to proclaim that than it is in my heart to actually go before the Lord and kneel, forgetting all else and holding nothing back.

Yet, simply,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” –Romans 10:9-13.

May we, with our whole hearts, remember the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May we trust in the Lord as it is said in Psalm 28. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas-------Being In His Presence

The Food Stuffs:

These enchiladas aren't very spicy, but they have a little bit of kick. You'll need to preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Have a casserole dish on hand, a plate to heat tortillas on, and a skillet for the sauce (assuming your chicken is already cooked). 

-2 Chicken breasts, fully cooked and chopped into nuggets or shredded. 
-1 Can Tomato sauce
-1 Can Diced tomatoes
-1 Green bell pepper
-1 Jalapeno or Chile (choose your own heat!)
-Taco Sauce (again with the heat)
-A pinch of sugar
-Chili Powder
-12 Corn Tortillas

Cooking Instructions:
1. Heat tomato sauce in a skillet on low. Finely chop peppers meanwhile.
2. Add only about a tablespoon of taco sauce to the skillet, stirring it in.
3. When the sauces have combined, add the peppers and diced tomatoes.
4. Simmer for about ten minutes. Add spices to taste. If the sauce is too thick, gradually add water, stirring, until desired thickness is achieved.
5. Season cooked chicken with salt and pepper.
6. Heat tortillas in the microwave or stove to soften them.
7. Grease your casserole dish.
8. Lay a tortilla in the dish and then add chicken and sauce.
9. Roll the tortilla and repeat step 8 until all of the tortillas are filled and rolled in the dish. Arrange as the tortillas best fit.
10. Pour remaining sauce over the filled tortillas.
11. Sprinkle with cheese to your taste. 

12. Bake at 350 for about ten minutes.


Thoughts on Being In His Presence

Some things sound so simple and silly when you recognize what they are really about. Like when you sort of avoid spending time alone in the Lord's presence. Just you and Him. And it seems like there must be some complex reason why.

You love spending time in fellowship. Prayer happens. Still reading His word. Talking about Him. It's not like He has gone anywhere...you just can't feel Him there.

...The reason must be that something is blocking you. Someone is stopping you. If you love the Lord, why would you avoid Him? Especially if you've been seeking to know His will. Waiting on Him. Thanking Him...

And then, you determine that you're just going to do it. You're just going to pray and ask Him to stop whatever the issue is, and let you near. A step closer and BAM! Blinded. You realize it's you. The classic "it's not you, it's me."

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” -Ephesians 5:13

Yes, you have avoided being quite that close to the Lord. Because something happens when we recognize His intimate presence that isn't always pleasant. He exposes all darkness to light. It is uncomfortable to get close enough to the Lord that His light reveals even the tiniest crevasses of darkness in us. Some sins...sure. They are hard. But we can handle them. Expose away, Lord.

But those sins we hide even from ourselves? Christ will find them if we get close to Him. And He won't take turning a blind eye as a response.

“For the word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword; it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being: it examines the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart. No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to deal.” -Hebrews 12:13-14

To be in the Lord's presence causes us to recognize all that He is. His grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, purity, majesty...it's a little frightening. Christ is the Lord of the universe. And He calls us friends and offers Himself up for us. We don't even deserve it -we can't.

Sometimes I think, at least for me, it is easy to confront apparent sins. There are some wrongs that I accept about myself and have little trouble turning over to the Lord. Great, good, right? Except, sometimes I feel like when I confess those things, then I deserve the grace He shows me just a little bit. Almost as though we have a private, sweet little mutual agreement. I admit that I'm wrong on these particular things, and it's a little bit difficult, and He forgives me and then it's all right again. A nice little exchange.

Unfortunately (fortunately), we cannot, in anyway, deserve His grace. And salvation is no transaction. There is nothing that we have to offer that Christ lacks and is wanting for. Surely He desires our whole hearts, but we cannot hold them ransom. That is anything but submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

But it's hard to let Him peer into the hidden places of hearts, the nooks we don't even like to look in. It's harder still when His light overwhelms those secretive sins, and they begin to burn up inside of us.

Christ's grace and mercy extend to us even when we recognize that our own secretive sins have kept us from being entirely close to Him. In His presence, we are required to see who we truly are. And as we submit to the Lord, confessing, we are then to seek Him, to live as those whose sins are forgiven and covered by Christ.

How many verses there are about this! In Ephesians 5, In 2 Corinthians 4, 1 Thessalonians 5, Romans 13, and through many other books and chapters (including in the New Testament).

I love how concisely the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" says it though:

"When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine. (Stanza 5)

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (Stanza 7)."