Although I only spent two days with him, I consider Armen Gilliam to have been a friend of mine. He graciously composed this beautiful article free of charge for this meager website. Armen played 13 seasons in the NBA. A member of the UNLV Hall of Fame, he also coached on the collegiate level.
Armen died late Tuesday night, July 5 near Pittsburgh just 2 days after writing this article. When I corresponded with him on Sunday afternoon, he told me he was writing part II of this article the next morning, on Monday. It was the last time I would ever hear from him.
He would have been delighted to have known these would be among the last words he ever wrote. -David
Returning to the Heart of God
By Armon Gilliam (July 3, 2011)
“Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, we have waited for You eagerly. Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. At night, my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments, the inhabitants of the world, learn righteousness. Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness; he deals unjustly in the land of the uprightness, and does not perceive the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:8-10, NASV).”
One of my favorite book in the Bible is Isaiah. The reason I have such a fondness for Isaiah is eightfold:
1. It is chocked full of rich nuggets of truth that reveal the nature, character and mind of God.
2. It cuts deep into the very core of the mind and soul of mankind as it forthrightly deals with our proclivity to sin.
3. Isaiah portrays God as a patient, forgiving, compassionate and loving divine being.
4. God is seen operating like a jealous lover who longs to have a deep and intimate relationship with a people that are faithful to Him.
5. It shows God almost pleading with people to obey Him so He can bless them and not have to discipline them for their sinful or rebellious actions.
6. We see God giving people a way to repent of their sins, receive forgiveness and return to Him without being punished for their wayward actions. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah Chapter 53:6 NASV).”
7. We see how God protects His people from their enemies.
8. Isaiah speaks to the kindness and severity of God.
All of the aforesaid things are important to Christians in that they enable us to clearly understanding the type of God we serve and His ways.
But the whole book of Isaiah pivots of the kindness and severity of God: “If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword (Isaiah 1:19-20, NASV).”
Mankind receives kindness from God in the form of blessings, prosperity, protection and godly provisions if they commit to knowing and following His ways.
On the other hand, if man chooses to willfully rebel against God’s ways they will face some form of divine discipline.
The discipline that God administers is not exacted by an angry God that enjoys punishing people. To the contrary, it’s intended to teach people that God’s ways are better than ours, it discourages any further indiscretions and it draws people into the loving arms of God.
”For those who the Lord loves He disciplines (Hebrews 12: 6, NASV).”
This is where the rubber hits the road in the lives of Christians. God gives us a free will which grants us the freedom to make choices. If we make bad choices we have to deal with divine discipline.
But God greatly desires that we make godly choices that are fueled by our love for Him and are in sync with His ways and thoughts so He can show us kindness in the form of many blessings.
The thoughts we choose to ingest and entertain have a bearing on the choices we make.
Many Christians underestimate the power of the thoughts. Yet the thoughts we allow to infiltrate our minds control our emotions, actions, feelings and shape our comprehension of God and His ways.
As such, consistently ingesting and entertaining tainted thoughts pose a real threat to our Christian life.
After all, it can cause us to assimilate falsehoods or partial truths into our thought life. These sorts of thoughts in time build our knowledge base and greatly influence our actions.
As a result, it is possible that we think we truly know God and His ways but actually our understanding of Him is clouded by our distorted knowledge Him.
In this case what you don’t know or misunderstand can mislead and/or hurt you: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 2:6 NASV).”
The nature of thoughts we draw upon from various sources, determine the level of precision we have in truly knowing God and His ways.
At the risk of sounding old fashioned I must say there is a difference between modern day Christians and those of the past.
One major distinction can be made in the way modern Christians consistently allow their minds and hearts to be exposed to a barrage of ungodly thoughts from various sources (Movies, Television, books, music, popular magazines, the Internet and radio programing).
Although the thoughts expressed via these sources are often times insulting to the things of God and/or are clearly in opposition to what Christians believe, many Christian still devote a lot of time drinking in thoughts from these polluted wells.
Once the minds of Christians are saturated with a deluge of ungodly thoughts that are highly suggestive in nature, the said thoughts often spur Christians to engage in ungodly actions.
“For as a man thinks within himself, so he is (Proverbs 23:7 NASV).”
In the past Christians heralded the Bible as the measuring rod that determined what sort of actions and thoughts were acceptable in their lives.
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing that raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10: 5 NASV).”
Many Christians in the past invested a great deal of time in knowing the perceptive will of God as expressed in the Bible. After all, knowing God and His ways is the prerequisite to knowing how to please Him with our actions.
Sadly, this sound approach to Christian living has been eclipsed by a new approach.
The new approach to Christian living allows for gross contradictions to exist between Bible-sanctioned actions and the actions exhibited by a modern day Christian.
The new approach sacrifices (negates or marginalizes) the potency of the Bible and the parameters its sets for appropriate Christian actions and living on the altar of societal norms.
Instead of Christian’s lives being constrained, matured and defined by sound biblical teachings, many modern Christians have capitulated the teachings of their faith and allowed secular influences to invade their thought life and influence their actions.
Things such as: fair sounding secular theories, positive thinking, humor, ungodly life styles, stories from news reports, entertaining ungodly thoughts from various sources, influences of pop culture, relativism, being politically correct, what is taught in public school or colleges and the mixing of alternative religious thoughts with Christianity, have become a cheap substitute that usurps sound biblical teaching.
“Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me? (Isaiah 36: 5 NASV).”
The surrendering of sound biblical teachings and engaging in ungodly actions by many modern day Christians represents a serious breach in honoring the baseline requirements needed to procure a genuine Christian life.
When Christian lives are loosely associated to or devoid of sound biblical underpinnings, you are left with people that practice what I call churchianity and not Christianity.
Churchianity is marked by some or all of the following: a casual attachment to God and the things of God, biblical illiteracy, consistently ingesting and entertaining ungodly thoughts, a distorted understanding of God’s perceptive will, an unholy tolerance for sinful actions without conviction, repentance or accountability, attending church services but not allowing the God of the church to reign over their life and a comfort with indulging in the ungodly actions.
“For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, because their speech and actions are against the Lord, To rebel against His glorious presence (Isaiah chapter 3 verse 8. NASV).”
Churchianity extinguishes the flames of truth that burn bright in the hearts of authentic Christians. It also produces a staleness that nullifies God’s power, authority and productivity in a Christian life.
This state of being is particularly problematic in that its causes marginal Christians to labor under the impression that their casual relationship with God is sufficient to constitute being a bona fide Christian. This notion could not be further from the truth.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot; I wish you were cold or hot. So because you are luke warm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16, NASV).”
As such, authentic Christian living is equated with being passionate/hot about growing in our relationship with God and pleasing Him with our actions.
Being luke warm, casual or a marginal Christian squarely places us in poor standing with God or on the verge of being spit out or having been spit out by God but we do not know it.
This is a sobering reality that should compel us to be more passionate/hot about our relationship with God.
It is important to note that even if we pay lip-service to God and/or call ourselves Christian but our lives are in non compliance to His ways, then we create a separation between us and God.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short, That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2. NASV).”
God is very serious about our commitments to Him and His ways.
As such, we all need to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith. If we are honest with ourselves we will find some areas in of our lives that need to be more Christlike.
Since the goal of Christianity is to be Christlike, we should earnestly endeavor to address these areas so we can overcome our human frailties and become more like our Savior.
God is a loving, forgiving, compassionate and merciful divine being that greatly wants to have a people that have given their whole hearts to live for Him.
It is our Christian duty and privilege to grow and mature in our faith so we know His ways and honor them with our actions.
If we do this God will visit our lives with many blessings.
© Toni Lovejoy Photography