Month: February 2012

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“You have broken down the walls protecting him and ruined every fort defending him.”. Psalm 89:40

Indifference

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:16

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” Elie Wiesel

We are on the threshold of a new era in America, it is our generation that is ushering in the post Christian era. When historians look back at the waning years of the Christian era in America, what will the legacy of this slowly vanishing generation be? How will we be remembered? More importantly how will God look upon us, those who profess to be Christians, as we one by one come to kneel in His presence? Surely we will be judged, and judged severely, both by historians and God. Our sins have cast a long dark shadow over the church and humanity: divorce for any cause, church sanctioned remarriages for the guilty, adultery, gay marriages, child neglect and abuse, corporate and individual greed, starvation on a scale unimaginable, countless civil wars, bloodbaths in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, and Mexico, and on the streets of America. So much evil, so much indifference.

What is indifference? Webster’s dictionary defines it as lack of difference or distinction between two or more things and absence of compulsion to or toward one thing or another. A unnatural and ungodly state in which we blur the lines between light and darkness, crime and punishment, truth and lies, cruelty and compassion, good and evil

Indifference is a philosophy that we have embraced, one that has it s inescapable consequences. As a society and as individuals we have come to view indifference as a virtue, it is what we chose to practice to live a normal life, to watch a new television show, to enjoy a nice glass of wine, to sing in the church choir, as those around us experience harrowing upheavals?

The sin of Indifference can be tempting — more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from the victims. It is so much easier to avoid rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes, our desires. It is, after all, difficult, trying, and troublesome, to get involved in another person’s pain and despair. For the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor, friends and family of are of no consequence; their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible turmoil is meaningless, for the indifferent person sees no personal benefit in getting involved. Indifference reduces all others to an abstraction.

What happened? I don’t understand. Why the indifference, on the highest level, to the suffering of the victims? Indifference to your spouse, your child, your promises, your community, your friends, to God s commands. Why is there just a remnant of ‘Christians’ who remain willing to subject themselves to God s will at the expense of their own, to save the honor of our faith. Why are they so few? Why is there a greater effort to ignore repentance and forgive the sinner, then there is to care for the victims. How is one to explain our indifference?

Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. As discussed on previous blogs, Anger can at times be creative. A person can direct their anger to writing a great poem, an inspiring piece of music, anger at the injustice that one witnesses can compel one to do something special for the sake of humanity. But indifference is never creative, indifference simply exists. Even hatred at times may elicit a positive response. The righteous chose to denounce it, disarm it, the righteous chose to fight it. Indifference is not a response to anything, even sin.

Indifference is not the beginning, it is the end; indifference is a favorite weapon of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The deserted wife, the abandoned child, The political prisoner in his cell, a hungry widow, the homeless. We see their faces, their eyes. Do we hear their pleas? Do we feel their pain, their agony? When we Christians fail to respond to their plight, to step into the gap to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from humanity; and in denying their humanity we betray our own.

Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment. While man can live far from God, he cannot live outside God. God is wherever we are. Even in suffering. As we chose to treat those around us, and those who share this earth with indifference, why do we believe God will treat us an differently?

Our society is composed of three simple categories: the takers, the victims, and the bystanders. We all know the takers, they are the thieves, the adulterer, the drug dealer, those who divorce their spouse, the shoplifter, the gossiper, the dictators, all those who seek their own gain at the expense of others; we all know the victims, their faces are all around us. Then there are the bystanders the witnesses, those that this blog addresses, what kind of witness are you? Try gratitude, see how it changes your perspective and your life.

Prayer and Fasting (The “Skinny” on The Real Power of Fasting)

Fasting and prayer is one of the most powerful spiritual combinations on earth. True fasting brings humility and alignment with God. It breaks the power of flesh and demons. It kills unbelief and brings answers to prayer when nothing else works.

It has been well said that prayer is not preparation for the battle – prayer IS the battle. And of all the things we can do to enhance the power and focus of prayer, fasting is doubtless the most potent.

This is where the power is at, because fasting puts us in harmony with an All Powerful God who demands humility from those who wish to be close to Him. Fasting humbles the flesh. When it is done for that purpose, it pleases the Spirit of God.

You can go a certain distance in God, and experience many things, without fasting much, but the highest, richest and most powerful blessings always go to those who together with other disciplines, fast much unto God. The most significant Biblical characters, with the possible exception of Abraham, were all men of fasting and prayer. Jesus, the Son of God, was a man of fasting and prayer (Matthew 4:2). So was the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:27). Moses fasted 80 days. Elijah fasted 40 days. The early church fasted before starting any major work. The greatest spiritual leaders of the 20th century who are making an impact are all men of fasting of prayer to my knowledge. Anyone who started a significant spiritual movement in Christianity was, to the best of my knowledge – Luther, Wesley, Finney, Booth were all men of fasting. In our day, Cho, Bonnke, Osborn, Annacondia are all men of much fasting. If done right, fasting counts a lot with God.

Fasting is not magic, nor does it twist the arm of God. God wants to do many amazing things, but He looks for those willing to urgently make the corrections needed to come into line with him.God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Successful fasting is also the fastest way to learn patience. It takes patience and endurance to fast for more than a day. Many of God’s tests come quicker to us when we fast, and we have a better opportunity to pass them. If we want to go far with God we would have to face these tests anyway, but much later, and in a more time-consuming and difficult way. We need to “bite the bullet” and embrace the correction God wants to apply to our souls.

Fasting gives you God’s focus for your life. It is a major key to hearing God’s voice (the other is true worship – the two are related). We need focus from God more than anything. The world we live in is working overtime to distract us, to entice us, to win our hearts and minds, our focus, and to determine our vision. Fasting cuts out the world so we can tune into God. If we are obedient to God fasting will make us catalysts for revival and awakening.

Examples of Fasting and Prayer and the Purpose God Had in It

Ezra the priest fasted for God’s protection while carrying valuable things for God’s temple. We too can fast for God’s protection. (Ezra 8:21-23)

Daniel the prophet fasted for the fulfilment of God’s promises, and received mighty revelations from God. (Daniel 10:3).

Jesus fasted and spoke the Word of God to overcome Satan (See Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13).

Jesus fasted to begin his public ministry, and have the power of God and the anointing. (Luke 4:14).

Elijah needed to fast 40 days before he heard God’s voice again. (1 Kings 19:8)

Moses fasted to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law of God, and to see God’s glory and goodness.

The elders, prophets and teachers in Antioch fasted and ministered to God, which resulted in the launching of Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2,3). Likewise we should fast and pray before getting involved in full-time ministry and mission work.

Jesus says to us in Matthew 6:16, “When you fast…” not “If you fast”. A true disciple of the Lord will fast at times.

God made it clear through the prophet Joel that the last days outpouring of the Spirit will be in proportion to our fasting and crying out to God in humility, hunger and repentance. (Joel 1:5; Joel 2:12).

Even wicked King Ahab’s fast moved God so that he did not bring full judgment down on him in his own lifetime (1 Kings 21:27).

The Pain of Fasting

Fasting is not easy. There are degrees of fasting, of course. The pain of fasting is twofold. The physical pain is due to the detoxification of our bodies. All the accumulate poison and garbage starts to come into our blood and we feel dreadful. This can be alleviated by fasting on juice. With juice fasting you have some control on the speed of your body’s detoxification.

The soulish pain is due to the conflict in the spiritual realm between your flesh and the Spirit of God. This goes behind the natural desire to eat. There is soulish pain because:

1. Most times our bodies are demanding food 3 times a day and complain that food is needed when they are denied. A little training in fasting soon clears up this misconception.

2. You cannot use food as an emotional crutch to give pleasure, drowsiness, satisfaction and escape. Instead you must depend on God for comfort.

3. You are brought face to face with other painful issues in your life. God reveals the need for you to forgive others, to repent of your wicked ways, to stop running from Him and start trusting Him. There is thus also a spiritual and soulish detoxification which happens when we fast.

4. You will be attacked by demonic forces seeking to induce you to give up the fast. Jesus experienced this in the wilderness with Satan (Matthew 4:1-10). Great spiritual victories are won or lost on our willingness to endure spiritual hardship and temptation out of love and faithfulness to the Lord.

5. You will experience weakness at times, and we like to feel strong and in control. Fasting teaches us dependence upon God.

Prayer and Fasting Testimonies

A number of people ask what you may or may not have during fasting. This depends of what God called you to do. It is normal to drink water during fasting. Never go without water more than three days. An easier fast which is more suitable for those who have other responsibilities which require energy is to drink only juice and water. Another way to fast is just to eat one meal per day for a number of days. All these fasts can have value. God will lead you.

You can get more information on the technical aspects of fasting at www.fasting.ws. Suffice for now to say that you SHOULD drink water and plenty of it when you fast. If you are working and unable to fast fully on water, you can drink juice or even have one meal a day, and these partial fasts do also have some value in subduing the flesh and bringing you closer to God.

I want to make more information available on this subject as time goes on. Please join me in seeking God and we can pray for each other that God will strengthen us in our resolve to let Him teach us to wait upon Him with fasting, prayer and the Word.

Keep Pressing On and Pressing In

 

The Christian life is an uphill battle; if we stop climbing or keep looking back down at our past, it will cause us to slip up and backslide.   We must press on!

The Christian life does not plateau out.   There is no point in your Christian life where you stop advancing in your walk with Christ and take a “spiritual break.” If you advance up till a level, and then decide to take it easy, beware. Once you start taking ease, you will look at the world or at other Christians more carnal than yourself, and start liking their lifestyle.   You will tire of your uphill walk with Christ and desire to join them.   A “spiritual break” is the beginning of a backslide!   If you are not front-climbing, you will soon be backsliding.   If you are not continually seeking to grow in your walk with the Lord, you will soon be backsliding.

When you are fighting a spiritual warfare, and the battle starts to really heat up, and Satan and his devils are attacking as fiercely as they can, that IS NOT the time to take a break from the front lines of the battle.   If you retreat from where the battle is greatest, what reason will you have not to retreat from where the battle is lessor?   Once you’ve taken a rest from the heat of the battle, you will want more ease, and withdraw to where the battle is even lessor.   Before you know, you will be FLEEING from the scene of the battle!   Oh how strange for a soldier of the victorious army to flee from the battle!

NO, do not rest.   Keep fighting the good fight.   Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called…. 1 Tim 6:12. Charge the adversary, wearing the full armor of God, and drive him backwards!   Let him know that Jesus Christ is the victor!   When you flee the battle, you are telling the devil that Jesus has failed!!   NO, keep fighting on!

1 Tim 2:3-4

3   Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4   No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

We are suppose to resist UNTO BLOOD when striving against sin.   The battle is NOT supposed to look pleasant.   It is a bloody fight between good and evil, holiness and wickedness, righteousness and sinfulness.
Ye have NOT yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.   Heb 12:4

Therefore, continuing to strive for that higher calling. Seek a closer relationship with Christ.   Grow in your faith. Fight the good fight.

If you walk with Christ while looking backwards at your past, you will stumble.   It is much harder to climb a hill looking backwards than forwards.   I like to go hiking.   Often, I will walk up a hill backwards to exercise a different muscle group.   If you try this, you will quickly notice that it’s much harder to do than walking forward.   Walking backwards is hard enough, yet along uphill!   Yet many Christians try to do this in their lives; they try to go forward and upward, but they are looking backwards.   Just as walking up a hill backwards is hard, and you tend to want to quit, so is living the Christian life “in the past,” always reminding yourself of your past.   If you keep looking backwards, you will never see to look forwards.   How can you see where you are going if you keep looking behind?   You’re going to end up tripping and falling on that “narrow way” that leadeth to life.   The reason that many Christians are discouraged is because they keep looking behind, to their old sinful past.

Phil 3:13-14

13   Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14   I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul was not looking back, he was looking ahead, to the top of the hill, looking for the prize of the high calling of God.   He wanted that high calling.   You should want it, too. But in order to get the high calling, you must go up.   You can’t be looking backwards, down the hill at your past.   You must look up the hill, pressing on toward the prize.   And it is much, much easier to press toward the prize when you are looking forward.   How can you see the prize ahead when you are walking backwards.   How can you find the prize, when you cannot see where you are going?   Forget those things which are behind, and look forward, toward the prize.

Therefore, strive to be holy, strive to live the Christian life.   Repent and FORSAKE any sin that you may know of, and ask the Lord to reveal all your sins.   Look toward your future with Christ, not your past with sin.   Fight the good fight!   Remember that Jesus is the victor; He will give you victory.   Continue pressing onward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!

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“7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” 1John 4: 7- 13

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. He that does not love the image of God in his people, has no saving knowledge of God. For it is God’s nature to be kind, and to give happiness. The law of God is love; and all would have been perfectly happy, had all obeyed it. The provision of the gospel, for the forgiveness of sin, and the salvation of sinners, consistently with God’s glory and justice, shows that God is love. Mystery and darkness rest upon many things yet. God has so shown himself to be love, that we cannot come short of eternal happiness, unless through unbelief and impenitence, although strict justice would condemn us to hopeless misery, because we break our Creator’s laws. None of our words or thoughts can do justice to the free, astonishing love of a holy God towards sinners, who could not profit or harm him, whom he might justly crush in a moment, and whose deserving of his vengeance was shown in the method by which they were saved, though he could by his almighty Word have created other worlds, with more perfect beings, if he had seen fit. Search we the whole universe for love in its most glorious displays? It is to be found in the person and the cross of Christ. Does love exist between God and sinners? Here was the origin, not that we loved God, but that he freely loved us. His love could not be designed to be fruitless upon us, and when its proper end and issue are gained and produced, it may be said to be perfected. So faith is perfected by its works. Thus it will appear that God dwells in us by his new-creating Spirit. A loving Christian is a perfect Christian; set him to any good duty, and he is perfect to it, he is expert at it. Love oils the wheels of his affections, and sets him on that which is helpful to his brethren. A man that goes about a business with ill will, always does it badly. That God dwells in us and we in him, were words too high for mortals to use, had not God put them before us. But how may it be known whether the testimony to this does proceed from the Holy Ghost? Those who are truly persuaded that they are the sons of God, cannot but call him Abba, Father. From love to him, they hate sin, and whatever disagrees with his will, and they have a sound and hearty desire to do his will. Such testimony is the testimony of the Holy Ghost.

He Who Has Begun A Good Work In You (Part 2)

 

God who has begun a good work in you will complete it

The following passages are taken from Charles R Swindoll’s book “Laugh Again–Experience Outrageous Joy,” published in 1992.

 What was it about those folks in Philippi that brought Paul so much joy?

First, he had happy memories of the people.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3—5 NASB)

His memory of them made him smile. Meaning what? What were Paul’s happy memories? He had no regrets, he nursed no ill feelings, he struggled through no unresolved conflicts. When he looked back over a full decade and thought of the Philippians, he laughed!

I wonder how many pastors can say that about former churches they have served? Could you say that about former friends you have had? Or places where you have worked? Are yours happy memories? Unfortunately, the memory of certain people makes us chum. When we call them to mind, they bring sad or disappointing mental images. Paul knew no such memories from his days in Philippi.Amazingly, he could not remember one whom he would accuse or feel ill toward, not even those who threw him in prison or those who stood in a courtroom and made accusations against him. He entertained only good memories of Philippi. Positive memories make life so much lighter.

Another reason he was joyful? He had firm confidence in God.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. (Philippians 1:6—7)

Paul’s confidence in God was a settled fact. He knew that God was at work and in control. He was confident that God was bringing about whatever was happening for His greater glory. When we possess that kind of confidence, we have a solid platform built within us—–a solid platform upon which joy can rest.

Look back at the words began and perfect. They represent opposite ends or, if you will, the bookends of life. The One who started (began) a good work in your life will complete (perfect) it.

The work You have in me begun

Will by Your grace be fully done.

That’s what gives us confidence. That’s what helps us laugh again.

Focus on the word ‘perfect’. I doubt that we have imagined the true meaning of it. Travel back in your mind to the cross where Christ was crucified. See the Savior lifted up, paying for the sins of the world. Listen to His words. There were seven sayings that Christ uttered from the cross, commonly called the seven last words of Christ. One of them our Lord cried out was a single word, Tetelestai! Translated, it means, “It is finished!” Telos is the root Greek term, the same root of the word translated perfect. Paul was saying, “He who began a good work in you when you were converted ten years ago, Philippians, will bring it to completion. It will be finished! Jesus will see to it. And that gives me joy.”

You want a fresh burst of encouragement? You may have a good friend who is not walking as close to the Lord as he or she once was. Here is fresh hope. Rest in the confidence that God has neither lost interest nor lost control. The Lord has not folded His arms and looked the other way. That person you are concerned about may be your son or daughter. Find encouragement in this firm confidence: The One who began a good work in your boy or in your girl will bring it to completion; He will finish the task. I repeat, that firm confidence in God’s finishing what He started will bring back your joy.

I have mentioned joy stealers several times already. Perhaps this is a good place for me to identify three of these most notorious thieves at work today. All three, by the way, can be resisted by firm confidence, the kind of confidence we’ve been thinking about.

The first joy stealer is worry. The second is stress. And the third is fear. They may seem alike, but there is a distinct difference.

Worry is an inordinate anxiety about something that may or may not occur. It has been my observation that what is being worried about usually does not occur. But worry eats away at joy like slow-working acid while we are waiting for the outcome. I’ll say much more about this thief in chapter 12.

Stress is a little more acute than worry. Stress is intense strain over a situation we cannot change or control—–something out of our control. (Occasionally the safest place for something to be is out of our control.) And instead of releasing it to God, we churn over it. It is in that restless churning stage that our stress is intensified. Usually the thing that plagues us is not as severe as we make it out to be.

Fear, on the other hand, is different from worry and stressIt is dreadful uneasiness over the presence of danger, evil, or pain. As with the other two, however, fear usually makes things appear worse than they really are.

How do we live with worry and stress and fear? How do we with stand these joy stealers? Go back to Paul’s words:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Let me be downright practical and tell you what I do. First I remind myself early in the morning and on several occasions during the day, “God, You are at work, and You are in control. And, Lord God, You know this is happening. You were there at the beginning, and You will bring everything that occurs to a conclusion that results in Your greater glory in the end.” And then? Then (and only then!) I relax. From that point on, it really doesn’t matter all that much what happens. It is in God’s hands.

I love the story of the man who had fretted for fifteen years over his work. He had built his business from nothing into a rather sizable operation. In fact, he had a large plant that covered several acres. With growth and success, however, came ever-increasing demands. Each new day brought a whole new list of responsibilities. Weary of the worry, the stress, and the fear, he finally decided to give it all over to God. With a smile of quiet contentment, he prayed, “Lord God, the business is Yours. All the worry, the stress, and the fears I release to You and Your sovereign will. From this day forward, Lord, You own this business.” That night he went to bed earlier than he had since he started the business. Finally. . . peace.

In the middle of the night the shrill ring of the phone awoke the man. The caller, in a panicked voice, yelled, “Fire! The entire place is going up in smoke!” The man calmly dressed, got into his car and drove to the plant. With his hands in his pockets he stood there and watched, smiling slightly. One of his employees hurried to his side and said, “What in the world are you smiling about? How can you be so calm? Everything’s on fire!” The man answered, “Yesterday afternoon I gave this business to God. I told Him it was His. If He wants to burn it up, that’s His business.”

Some of you read that and think, That’s insane! No, that is one of the greatest pieces of sound theology you can embrace. Firm confidence in God means that it is in His hands. He who started something will bear the pressure of it and will bring the results exactly as He planned for His greater glory. How could a business burned to the ground be of glory to God? you may ask. Well, sometimes the loss of something very significant—–perhaps something we are a slave to—–is the only way God can get our attention and bring us back to full sanity. The happiest people I know are the ones who have learned how to hold everything loosely and have given the worrisome, stress-filled, fearful details of their lives into God’s keeping.

We have seen that Paul remained joyful because he had great memories and because he lived with firm confidence.

Third, he felt a warm affection toward his fellow believers.

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:7—8)

The term Paul uses for affection is, literally, the Greek word for “bowels.” In the first century it was believed that the intestines, the stomach, the liver, even the lungs, held the most tender parts of human emotions. That explains why this joyful man would use “bowels” in reference to “affection.” He says, in effect, “As I share with you my feelings, I open my whole inner being to you and tell you that the level of my affection is deep and tender.” Too many people live with the inaccurate impression that Paul was somewhat cold and uncaring. Not according to this statement; in fact, quite the contrary! When he was with those he loved, Paul went to the warmest depths in conversation and affection.

What Makes The Christian Walk Such A Struggle?

 

Throughout Scripture, beginning in Genesis, our relationship with God is described as a walk. Jesus invites us to follow Him, to walk in His footsteps. We are implored to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called” (Eph. 4:1, NASB). Walking requires us to put one foot in front of another and progress forward.

However, for some, the Christian walk seems to be more like one step forward, two steps back . . . a real struggle.

This particularly seems to happen when the focus is more on external conformity than giving attention to one’s heart condition. Though walking is an activity, walking the walk is as much a matter of the heart as it is what we do. In 1 Kings 8:58 Solomon said “May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways.”

An undivided heart is essential to a steady walk with Him.

Teach me Your way, O LORD, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. (Ps. 86:11)

We cannot walk in sin or the ways of the world and be in fellowship with God.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 Jn. 1:5-7)

If you aren’t convinced struggles in our Christian walk are usually heart issues, consider these thoughts from God’s Word:

  • For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matt.15:19)
  • The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Lk. 6:45)

If the struggle to walk the walk truly is a heart issue, then the exhortation in Proverbs 4:23 provides the solution: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.