The Free Heart

“I had to wonder if the grace I lived in would be sufficient if that was all I had left; if my faith would see me through even the prospect of life in prison.”

 

Dreamscape VIII

 

He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts Mark 3:5

 

 

I want to talk about the heart some more this week, the bible certainly talks a great deal about the heart as the heart is really who we are deep down inside, the us beyond the surface, beyond the mind of reason and function, past the veneer of the flesh that we put out there for the world to see. The heart, as we looked at last week, is the core of our being, the home of our souls and the place the Spirit of the Lord has chosen to dwell. The Lord looks at the heart and knows us even better then we know ourselves. And he loves us because of, and in spite of, what he finds there.

 

But, as evidenced by our opening verse, he doesn’t always like what he sees there, for the heart is also the home of our attitudes and, we have to admit, we are often lacking in the attitude department. A good attitude is an indicator of a healthy joyful, grateful and optimistic heart, a heart that actually trusts the Lord and doesn’t just say it does. While a bad attitude only sees the bad, expects and focuses on the worst in any and all situations and usually wants everyone else to share their point of view. Misery loves companyboy aint that the truth.

 

That miserable attitude is a heart issue that is often the result of a hard heart

Part of the assignment the Lord gave me in pastoring was to make our church a place that would bring healing to wounded hearts. That is a tall order, a very tall order, because I am finding out more and more that a wounded heart is often also a hard heart. Jesus ran into this same issue.

 

His disciples asked him one day why he always taught the people in parables and in response he quoted from Isaiah:

Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;

For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have clos

 

ed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ Mat 13:15

 

I believe Jesus is saying here; ‘if people want to understand they will.’ ‘If their hearts are open to receive truth then they will see with their eyes and hear with their ears and receive the blessing and the healing in my  words.’ ‘But if their attitudes are selfish and they assume they already know everything, they will profit nothing from my teaching and miss the healing their hearts need.’

A person has to want to be healed, has to want to get over and get on—and you might ask, “Why would a person not want to be healed from a wounded heart?” The answer is quite simple; because they are angry and the anger blinds them to the truth—the truth of their hardness. A hard heart does not want to see.

 

A angry heart is an unforgiving heart that cannot receive forgiveness because it cannot give it, an angry heart revels in the anger, seeks only revenge and appeasement, becomes cognizant only of self-preservation, and even seeks the hurt of others, the hurt of those who hurt them or who are perceived as threatening to hurt them—real or imagined.

A hard heart sees ill intent where there is none and throws up barriers between them and any who would try to point out the selfishness and darkness that is threatening, and following, them. A hard heart is nearly impossible to break through because the anger is always justified by pointing back to the hurt. And the hurt will always be there as long as there is justification. A wounded heart becomes a hard heart. A hard heart is a dark heart and is a lonely place to be.

 

God’s biggest challenge in revealing himself to the human heart, is getting past that hardness. Fortunately he never stops trying and can even use our own stupid choices to get us back on track. It sometimes takes extraordinary measures, attention getters that can come in many forms.

 

Jail time

I remember years ago, when I was doing Bible studies in the Yellowstone County jail, talking to a broken young man who was coming truly seeking the Lord. There were always those who came just to make it look good to the court, or seeking an opportunity to play someone. There is no one more clever than someone who has devoted all their time and energy to pulling one over on someone, and in jail all you have is time. And I had been duped a few times.

But this young man came truly seeking. I can still see his face, he looked like he as barely out of his teens, long curly blonde hair, a wisp of a beard, and blue eyes that looked like they had seen hell and escaped only yesterday. Eyes full of pain and sorrow and gratefulness all at once. What he told me has stuck with me ever since. “I thank God every day that I am in jail so that I cannot hurt anyone else.”

 

You have heard the saying that everyone in jail is innocent? That isn’t entirely true, usually it’s just someone else’s fault that they did what they did, so this really struck me. Here was someone taking full responsibility. He confessed to us that he had killed someone who didn’t deserve to die, because of a drug deal gone sour, and he knew that he deserved to be in jail.

He said he was glad he had gotten caught because the Lord had used jail to get his attention, that he had met Jesus, and knew that he was forgiven. But, he said, I thank God that I am here, and will probably be here for a very long time—he was awaiting sentencing.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of 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 keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36

 

There was someone who had a heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh, who had received forgiveness and knew that aside from Jesus, he might fall back into the pit of darkness. His thoughts were no longer for himself but his heart was now seeing the good in others. In his mind, in his newly healed heart, his way of loving others was to protect them from himself. He also said that he felt free for the first time in his life, sitting there in jail, because he had been delivered from darkness and loneliness by Jesus.

heart-fire

I don’t know what transpired in his life to get him to a place of darkness that had so ensnared and hardened

 

him that he would resort to drugs and violence, even murder, to try and appease the pain, but I knew he was now on the right track. Perhaps another reason it struck me so was because I had to wonder if the grace I lived in would be sufficient if that was all I had left; if my faith would see me through even the prospect of life in prison.

Lord, keep in me a heart for you, a heart of love, a heart that both receives and offers healing.

 

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Digitized You?

 

Cyber girl-Creative_Wallpaper_Cyber_girl_041138_

There was a series on TV recently that was supposed to be a look at some unspecified time in the future based on the projected evolution of the technologies we have and are developing. The show started with a couples’ teenage daughter getting injured in a car accident. The parents rush to the scene to find their daughter lying in the road taking her last breathes. Suddenly a drone shows up, does a quick scan of her vitals and declares, “you have 90 seconds to decide if you want to proceed with the cognitive download.”

Then ensues a quick but intense debate, “should we or shouldn’t we?” Is it right, should we just let her go, will it really be her, at the last second they say, “Yes, do it!” The round floating drone thingy then emits a light beam, a MRI looking scanner light that works across and around her skull— proclaims, “Scan complete” and then zips off like a flying car in the Jetsons cartoons.

A few months later the couple is at home in their perfect—carbon free, I’m sure—future house when the door opens up and in walks their daughter, Hi Dad, Hi Mom, just like nothing ever happened and she was just off on a short vacation. The scenario was, that her body was synthetically recreated as an android and all her thoughts and memories, her personality and potential had been uploaded digitally by the drone just before her death and was now downloaded into this android.

Thus their daughter lives on, immortal in the form of a perfect, non-corruptible, human-like android. Not only was it supposedly their daughter in every sense, but she now had access to all the knowledge of the world as her now digitized silicon brain was tapped into the future version of the world wide web. Reminded me of the Borg from Star Trek, she was now part of the collective.

Don’t think we are not headed there. Aside from being made into cyborg drones with digitized brains, they are figuring out ways, even as we speak, to get us all hooked up to the cloud, brain implants, chips or what have you. It’s just the next natural step up from where we are today—having a device in our hands that our eyes are always glued to with access to the whole world 24 7.

You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.” Watch the Next Generation Star Trek movies knowing what you know today, it’ll freak you out.borg

Anyway, back to Cyber Daughter. We haven’t gotten to the disturbing part yet. And that is, they then interviewed neurologists and techno wizards of today who are working to figure out how to do this, download our brains into a computer. They are convinced that they will and that it is not all that far down the road. So, the question of what makes us, us, becomes very relevant. Of course I was thinking the whole time, that’s all sounds very convincing and you all sound very smart, except for one little detail; it’s not going to happen and if it does it will just be a computer program that mimics the thought patterns and retains the memory files of a person who is dead and gone. Gone being the key word here.

These scientists and computer nerds are completely discounting the very heart of the person they purport to be resurrecting by synthetic recreation; they are denying the existence of soul, the soul that is us, that is life, and is a gift from our creator —and is his alone to give or take.

Jesus, while teaching a crowd on a hillside one day said:

“Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.”

An interesting choice of words from the master teacher, Son of God, Son of Man. There was of course a lot of precedence as the Hebrew scriptures had spoken many times about a pure heart. And I don’t know for sure if Jesus is talking about the literal heart or something in the heart of us that we have not perceived, visible or invisible, but it is differentiated here, as it is in many places throughout the Old and New testaments, from the mind.

I believe that he is talking about the literal heart and that the heart is the seat of the soul, it is the consciousness and the you that makes you, you. I know science tells us otherwise but there seems to be a lot of biblical evidence that would confirm that. The heart is mentioned hundreds of times in the bible in regard to the condition of man’s state of being, especially as concerns good or evil.

Yes the thinking, the calculating practical, information storing and retrieving function, no doubt comes from the brain. As does the motor functions, speech and sensory interpretation, all the things that depend on that big ball of nerves and electrical impulses functioning as they do to survive. No doubt all that is centered in that mass of fatty tissue between our ears, and the Bible also tells us about the importance of properly training our brains to dwell on the proper things—to focus on the good—to  set your minds on things above.

 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 1 Cor 3:2

Bottom line is; the thing that makes us unique, the thing that many say is the part of us that is created in the image of God, is the soul. The eternal part of us that is temporarily housed and severely limited in this flesh who cannot perceive beyond what its five senses are telling us, at least that’s what we tell ourselves. If we are listening to our hearts, we know and long for the unseen, we ache in our hearts, not in our heads, to have more; more love, more understanding, more wisdom—relationships, affection, love.

We ache for knowledge of the creator who placed our souls into our hearts, who breathed life into us. And we ache to have the life, the life that was lost when the spirit that was meant to dwell in our hearts, to bring light, life, and completeness, to the soul, to give us direct connection to the God of the universe, to give us perceptions above and beyond the physical realm our minds perceive, died– and now we ache to have that life restored.

It is an ache that can only be satisfied by the Spirit of the living God, the one who created and placed the spirit in us and made us unique and fully aware of what we have, or what we are missing, and what we are missing can only be found in him.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom 5:5

The heart is the seat of the soul and the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Jesus makes our hearts his home, making our bodies a temple of the living God.

You are more than a random collection of carbon based tissue animated by an electrical spark–you are a spiritual being who is unique and loved by your creator.

We don’t need no stinking downloads, we are going to be upgraded beyond imagination…

cross-and-light

Background Noise?

 

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As children of the living God, redeemed and restored to a right relationship to the Father by and through Jesus Christ, we can boldly approach the throne anytime and have our petitions heard, for ourselves and on behalf of others, if we’ll just believe it and do it.

But we all also still need to be heard by those around us, to be known and loved, seen and heard, by the people in our lives that are important to us— by anyone for that matter. And, conversely, the ones who see and hear us, I mean really hear us, are the ones who become important to us.

The Father’s heart breaks for the broken people. Jesus’ heart aches for the lonely people. Jesus knows what it is like, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

What do you see when you look at people, if you even bother to look at them, many people don’t. It’s easier to get caught up in yourself, to ignore the people around you, to not see the people trying to survive another day, to not notice the hurting or destitute, the stressed and the burdened. It’s easier to look ahead, focus on the goal, bury your head in your phone or pretend you didn’t notice someone.

Everything, everyone, becomes background noise. Do you suppose we are background noise to the Father?

Millions and billions of prayers are being said every day, every moment, yet God hears them all. He even hears the things that are not directed to him as a prayer, he hears the anguish, he hears the laughter, he hears the sighs, he hears the groans, he even hears the silence of a vacant, “I just can’t take anymore” stare.

And what do we hear? Noise—‘I just need peace let me be, I can’t deal with your issues, I don’t need this, I have my own problems—noise. That’s the natural response, that’s the survival mode—the flesh needs comfort and seeks a trouble free life, you are trouble so I am gone—selfishness of the flesh mode. And we embrace it, even as a church. “Just come and be taken care of by the professionals and someday when you are healthy and whole we will allow you to help other people.”

I mean, surely Jesus—who experienced the pain of rejection, who knows the anguish of being forsaken, of being unheard in his darkest hours, a man of sorrows and grief—surely Jesus is okay with us just dwelling in our own little comfortable safe space worlds where the blessings flow and my cries for more healing and more breakthroughs are always heard.

No, Jesus is not okay with you withdrawing into your little pity party turned, bless me in this safe space, world. Yes, we need to come to him for healing, yes we need a safe place, that’s why they call the big room in  the church a sanctuary, but the whole point of his healing, the whole point of his hearing your cries, of setting you free and giving you the strength to go on is so that you can be his eyes and ears, his hands and feet, so that you can share what you have received with others, so that you can see people, hear people, even and especially the people you do not want to hear.

Here’s a kingdom dynamic that turns the typical church modus operandi upside down, if you want to get healthy, if you want to grow, if you want to feel the love and joy of a life in Christ, you have to look past yourself and give it all away to others. Remember; God uses the things that are not to nullify the things that are. (1 Cor 1:28) The average church leader would require level of perceived perfection and training before they were encouraged to reach out to others with the Love of Christ but the scriptures make no such demands.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Gal 6:1-3

Bear one another’s burdens. That isn’t a suggestion, that isn’t an option to take or leave or a mandate just for the pastors, that is the law of Christ. I hope that rocks your boat a little; “the law of Christ?” that’s what it says.

We think of Jesus as abolishing the law, that is not the case, Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it—which he did— and he asks us to live in that fulfillment. That law being as he said, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and a new command he added, to love your neighbor as yourself. If you do that, he said, you are keeping all the law. So what is the law of Christ? To love our neighbor, and how do we do that, how do we flesh that out— not just say it but do it? We bear one another’s burdens.

When? When we are worthy, trained and feeling good about where we are in the Lord? No, right now, not when we have deceived ourselves into thinking we are something, but now even while we are weak, while we feel we have no right to judge or look down on anyone so that we can do it in gentleness fully aware of our own weaknesses, causing us to lean on the Lord to deliver us from temptation so that we can lead the way, bringing the hurting and ensnared to freedom. Leading those from the flames even while we still smell like smoke ourselves.

No one is more passionate about helping the hurting than the one who’s tears are still drying from their cheeks.