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Proverbs 4:23   Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 27:19   As in water face reflects face, So a man's heart reveals the man.

Flaming Heart

Introduction

 

Prepared Heart Illustration

 

 

In order to introduce the illustration that is contained in this article, I want to share a poem I believe the Lord quickened to me because it birthed some of the understandings that follow.  It was referring to my own individual preparation then.  Those experiences caused me to reflect on the principles that are more common to man, and then to apply those to the work of hearts being prepared in the church.  When the Lord launches something, it often leads to rather extensive implications that continue to radiate out until they meet with His much more sizeable project level, and we see how what He is saying to us individually intersects with what He is doing more widely.  So, first the poem.

 

Prepared Heart

Lu. 1:17

 

When your heart is out here, walking with Me,

I will be content.

From there flow riches in sharing

All the ventures I direct.

You will see and believe the intent of My heart,

And have My boldness to say;

You will stand on My word, not settle for less;

You will encourage and bless My own.

I will send you, draw you, connect each thread,

Give you eyes to see.

Every word I have sent will manifest, child,

Keep walking, what I have chosen will be.

 

Suzan Jerome

December 18, 2001

 

The reason the poem begins this article is because in the first line the goal of preparation is revealed.  It says:  “When your heart is out here, walking with Me….”  Where is our heart if it is not out here with the Lord?  That’s the question. 

 

Acceptable Functioning

 

There is a part of our heart that is “out here.”  We could call it the Acceptable Functioning part.  That is, nothing that could get us in trouble or hurt is visible.  Only what we are willing to have others see is evident.  That, of course, is not our whole heart. 

 

Clearing the Debris

 

Buried underneath that is an invisible lid covering the rest of our heart.  Underneath the lid, unless it has been lifted and some extensive clearing done, are various emotions and beliefs:  hurt and the anger it causes, whatever confusion remains from unresolved events in life, a certain amount of conflict about our image of ourselves and of God, mistrust in proportion to the hurt and brokenness we have suffered, fear of intimacy that is the consequence of broken trust, needing to be in control, certain beliefs, conclusions and expectations based on repeated patterns in our lives that formed those conclusions.  These can all work as barriers to hearing and responding to God.

 

Retrieving the Created Treasures

 

Underneath the debris are characteristics of heart that God created.  Some of those qualities are:  tenderness, innocence, spontaneity, trust, joy, need and desire for God, vulnerability, ease in depending on One who loves us, and the freedom to receive and return His love, excitement about life, release of our faith and zeal for God, the energy to “go for it.”  These are the qualities that work to connect us to God.  They enable us to hear the Lord and develop our relationship with Him.  These qualities are under the others because things have been piled on top of them, and they may or may not have been able to emerge.  This lights up why many people struggle to experience a sense of connection with the Lord—the qualities they need to participate in their half of the connection are buried under quite a bit of debris.  When this is a mystery to us, we conclude that it is God who does not want to be near us.  The reality is that even if the environment in which our heart was attempting to live was conducive to life, we still have an issue of hiding our hearts.  The roots of this hiding go all the way back to the fall of man.  They work to separate us from God in the same way they did then.  The true guilt we have in relationship to God causes us to hide away inside, thus separating our heart from Him, out of shame and fear.  We need to get to the place where it causes us to approach, confess, discuss, receive His cleansing exchange, which works the healing and restoration that is His heart toward us.  This second option generally requires some initial clearing and cleansing of heart debris so the new perspective can emerge, be tolerated, and finally embraced.

 

I want to present what I just said in illustration form.  It may help to have more of a picture of it.


Prepared Heart Illustration

Acceptable Functioning

Behaviors and choices that won’t get us into too much trouble

 


Debris

Underneath the lid are our emotions and beliefs:
Hurt, and the anger it causes
Confusion remaining from unresolved events
Conflict in our image of ourselves and of God
Mistrust in proportion to the hurt and brokenness suffered
Fear of intimacy, causing inappropriate, controlling behaviors
Conclusions, beliefs, and expectation levels based on old patterns
These produce barriers to hearing and responding to God

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Created Characteristics

Underneath the debris are created qualities:
Tenderness, innocence, spontaneity, trust, joy, childlikeness
Need and desire for God, vulnerability,
Being free to receive and return His love
Ease in depending on the One who loves us
Excitement about life, faith and zeal for God, energy to "go for it"
These qualities connect us to God
He retrieves them so they can be all the way "out here" with Him!

 

 

 

Copyright 2005
Connecting Hearts to God


Lifting the Lid

 

Preparing our heart begins with the Lord meeting us in the heart debris, whatever it looks like.  His comfort can heal the hurt and dispel the anger. His light can replace the confusion with truth and open the door to sharing of His perspective.  Seeing with Him lifts the conflict and replaces it with simplicity and clarity on which to proceed.  He is the solid foundation on which all the layers of debris can be dispelled.  Because taking the lid off our hearts bumps into and must pass through the painful elements, we are reluctant to lift it.  Most people have ceased to believe, or do not know, that there are treasures underneath that are well worth retrieving.  The “treasure” truth may never have been imparted to them.  They see their worth more in terms of how they were treated, than in what the Lord says about His creation.  If you think that all that is under there is pain and upheaval, why take the lid off?

 

The goal is not just healing the pain.  Preparing our hearts includes retrieving the characteristics He created and getting them “out here” with Him, free to be used for His purposes.  We will not be able to function wholly, testify freely, believe and be empowered by Him without restoration of heart.  I would go so far as to say that without the work of preparing our hearts we will not be able to be a healthy person, let alone a leader who handles authority appropriately.  Therefore the work of getting our whole heart healed and out here with Him is central to both wholeness and kingdom living.

 

“Whole” Heart

 

What is the Scripture saying when it refers to our “whole” heart, which it frequently does (Ps. 111:1 praise the Lord with my whole heart; Ps. 119:2 Seek Him with the whole heart; Ps. 119:34 observe it (the law) with my whole heart; Jer. 24:7 return to Me with their whole heart; Jer. 29:13 search for Me with all your heart; Mt. 22:37 love the Lord your God with all your heart)?  Each time the Scripture refers to “whole” heart it is emphasizing what heart means and the fact that there are several layers to our heart.  They are defined as:  mind (intellect, thoughts), emotion (feelings), and will (choices, determining to act).  We have a tendency to want to satisfy the “whole” heart directive from the top level:  mind, intellect, thought.  But unless all three levels are united, we will experience neither the connected fellowship with the Lord we desire, nor the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) to act freely and boldly at His prompting.  People think they are just not called in that way, while others are.  That is not the best explanation of why those outcomes are not happening.  It is much more likely that only the first third of our heart has been united with Him.  So we “know about” things but do not yet experience them personally.  The other two thirds will need to be accessed, cleared up and reconciled to Him if our spirit is going to be freed to flow with the Spirit of God.  It means there is work to do that has not been perceived or understood, not:  “I am not one of the chosen.”  It has nothing to with God having favorites; it has everything to do with preparing our hearts to be part of His purposes with Him.

 

Some of the most successful kings in the Bible were successful because of their heart condition toward the Lord.

 

2 Chron. 31:20,21 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the Lord His God.  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart.  So he prospered.

 

2 Kings 22:18,19  “But as for the king of Judah (Josiah), who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him. ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel:  “Concerning the words which you have heard—because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord.

 

Even kings cannot prosper without a prepared heart before the Lord!

 

The Scripture refers to all of this with the simple directive:  circumcise your heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6).  Circumcise means to cut off the covering.  Ouch!  The good news is that it refers to doing that with the Lord first.  We focus on our whole heart uniting with Him and living in the security of His love, before we address the challenges of being that visible with others and all the risks and trials that can bring.  There is a great strengthening of heart in the Lord that needs to precede visibility with man, so we can stay in His approval and not be dashed to pieces by the lack of theirs.  That security in the Lord is essential to effective ministry, healthy parenting, rewarding friendships, and emotional and spiritual intimacy in marriage.  The goal is a place where our whole heart can be out here with the Lord, actively participating with Him in all the promise and challenge of life.

 

Impact on the Church

 

At present we have a high percentage of people “knowing about” the Lord but not receiving from Him regularly, still mired down in the debris and experiencing more the blocking quality it has than fellowship and interaction with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ.  The tendency to go about it from the mind and think that we should ignore how we feel actually ends up derailing progress toward fellowship.  The argument about ignoring our feelings is due to the fear that they will otherwise run things, and that they are not as trustworthy as our mind.  Honestly, neither one (mind or emotion) are trustworthy without reconciling them to the Lord.  Both need to be considered more of a starting point to be checked out for their truth and accuracy with the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.  Until that happens, we cannot be sure that our “take” on things, the exercise of our mental faculties is at all complete or representative of the Lord’s perspective.  Moreover, the bond that needs to operate with the Lord, the love that causes us to embrace and follow Him in His purposes is partly emotional, involving our affection, and is priority-related.  If we do not start with where we actually are in terms of feelings, then we will not be able to end up with our whole heart united.  What we see is people exercising the right thoughts, not having dealt with the emotions, and so impaired in exercising their will to reflect consistently the purposes of God or the freedom to respond to His calling.  In other words, we say one thing, but do and look another way, which makes for a confusing witness to those who are watching the church, and often a lot of personal condemnation for not getting it right.

 

We will have to look again at the teaching that says we are to ignore our feelings, and search the Scriptures for what we are directed to do with them.  It is more productive to take the lid off of them, and pour them out to the Lord, letting Him sort through them with us, than to hide them away, believing that in hiding they don’t affect things.  They do have continuing effect in many ways, but it is just somewhat mysterious how the effect works because we are not willing to look and see where the influence is coming from and why.  For example, someone who has prayed and prayed for the Lord to help her with painful events in life, gotten no response in terms of comfort or lifting of the pain, concludes that He does not care, or she is just not one of the ones He wants to assist.  In such situations, when I have helped the person get in touch with how they feel about the Lord coming to comfort and join them, when we can get in touch with that level and reality of heart, what we often find there is fear, reluctance to trust, expectation of judgment and blame, or a near certainty that they will be rejected.  So head and heart (feelings) are not close to being in agreement, and the hidden feelings are having profound influence.  They are blocking the very outcome that mind is seeking and thinks there is willingness to receive—only at one level of the heart is that perhaps true.  In this case, how will ignoring those feelings produce any fruitful outcome.  That is the very area of heart where the “God of all comfort” needs to minister, but He cannot be let in yet.  Then that is the meaningful starting point.  It has to be discovered and provided for if the process of restoration and consecration is to continue. 

 

But if you teach this person that they are to ignore their feelings, that they will somehow magically conform to right thinking, how long can they spend trying to connect with the Lord by that means and not have it happen?  There is bondage in what is believed emotionally, and it will have to be examined, worked with, and exchanged for the truth about the mercy and love of Jesus.  How can that happen if one cannot acess and talk to that part of their heart?  The Scripture does not say that we should ignore our hearts; it says that we should commune with our heart and let the Lord search it.  .

 

Ps. 4:3,4  But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself:  the Lord will hear when I call unto him.  Stand in awe, and sin not:  commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.  Selah. (KJV)

 

Ps. 139:23,24  Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.

 

David discovered that he had to examine and work with his whole heart if he was going to be united with the Lord and able to hear and respond to Him freely.  He was humbled and knew that he could be kidding himself with his defenses and protections and that they would have to come down.  Are we teaching people this reality about their relationship with the Lord; are we teaching them to uncover and examine their emotions as well as their right thoughts?  I have not noticed that this is something most people know how to do, so they conclude things based on the assumption that if they are thinking the right thing all the work is done.  That is only one third of the work to be accomplished, so it accomplishes only one third of the outcome.

 

Well, that is simple:  we just change some of the teaching to include the ability to examine our emotional condition as well.  Practically, that would be a good start, but it is not quite that simple because the reason we do not uncover that part of our heart is not just a lack of understanding about the need.  The real reason is that we are afraid to; it is very uncomfortable and feels out of control compared to the seeming stability of thoughts.  It is deeply resisted and avoided as long as possible.  That is more the reality, and it means that getting this element to change is actually quite formidable, because it is a primary form of protection for most people.  If that were not the case, we would have long ago heard all the things the Scripture says about this and be pursuing them.

 

The hardest part of all is that this message of ignoring our hearts, and the outcome of preventing us from starting with an honest reality, permeates the whole church structure.  It is taught to the pastoral leadership in Bible college and seminary, as well as from the pulpit as a result of that teaching.  So where is the authority, and permission, and provision to come from for clearing the heart debris?  Honestly, the reality probably is that this prevalent bondage will not be very easily freed throughout the body until the shepherds are going first and witnessing to this part of the reconciling process with God.  At present they are very effectively taught not to do so, and their own heart protections, like ours, prevent them from wanting to go there or from seeing the need.  So we are all stuck together.  Fortunately, the Lord sees it clearly, has written about it and been contending with us for generations and will prevail—generally not until the pain of hiding exceeds the pain of coming out, which He is very able to arrange.  It will be easier and shorter, when we can learn by word, rather than difficult, disappointing and confusing circumstances that break through and reveal how insufficient are our own means.

 

The second huge part is on the retrieving side.  If we are to retrieve such qualities as tenderness, innocence, spontaneity, trust, joy, childlikeness, vulnerability, and think of employing them in the church, will the church have to be a safer place for such emotional visibility?  You see the dilemma.  Even if someone does find their way through all the obstacles, some of them taught by the church itself, what kind of security and strength does it take in the Lord to risk having those qualities met with judgment or rejection.  That is the other half of the dilemma.  If we are going to restore hearts completely and get people through to being able to risk boldly with God, what kind of responsibility does the church have for being a safe (accepting) place where those risks can be taken?  This has been a difficult thing for me for many years.  I am involved in assisting people to retrieve their whole heart and in helping them become strong enough in the Lord to use it out there in the midst.  When they attempt to, almost inevitably there will be wounding and challenges that hinder their progress.  The person will have to wrestle through the conflict of tolerating all the challenges and letting the Lord turn them to strength, or losing their freedom and voice again.  The church needs to be a place where that process is assisted, not challenged in such a confusing way because authority is frequently misused in relation to how we recover and reconcile the emotional part of our hearts.

 

All of these things are not to say that the church is the culprit.  It really says that we are all in the same bondage, the nature of it is difficult to see, and it is part of our nature to avoid and stay in control.  We are all there and can only assist each other meaningfully as we get out ourselves.  BUT, having observed that reality, there is still the fact that the shepherds have to come to terms with going first in these areas, and risking the very difficult business of being a model for how it proceeds, if the whole church is to have a highway through.  That is what I see as the compelling reality and great difficulty.  I mention it as clearly as I can because if we don’t identify it and begin to make our way through, these elements of bondage will stay in effect generation after generation, and the enemy of our soul will be only too happy to assist in maintaining that condition.

 

In all fairness to the difficulty this presents to pastoral leadership, we have to take a look at the step that needs to precede their being clear models for whole heart preparation.  That step would best occur in the Bible colleges and seminaries where they are trained.  The essential place of a prepared heart and ability to interact with the Lord needs to be raised to the level of a primary credential for successful ministry.  All of the other information is part of a storehouse, but it is best selected from and employed by the Lord, not the person thinking they know.  At present one can master a body of knowledge, give all the right theological answers, get a degree, be ordained on the strength of it, and appointed to pastoral leadership in the church, whether or not one’s whole heart has been brought to union with the Lord, or at least the dynamics of being constantly in that process are mastered.  This is as unfair to prospective pastors as it is to the flock they will oversee.  The scenario from such training is that they go out all excited about what they have learned.  Their flock may or may not be excited about those more academic expressions of faith.  They may spend a time pouring out their learning, impressing and being admired by their flock for it.  But once it has accomplished uniting the only heart level it addresses—mind, intellect—then what happens?  People want more; they are looking for connection with God, for empowering, for clarity of calling and purpose, for opportunity to discover their gifts and grow in them, etc.  Then, if the pastor does not move into those other two levels of heart preparation and model them for the congregation, he begins to be the problem, not the hero.  The once approving congregation becomes disgruntled, grows disillusioned.  Often that continues and continues until people get frustrated and leave, wounding and disillusioning the pastor, who cannot understand what happened.  They go to another church and ultimately find the same dynamics at work, because indeed we are all in it together.  If we do not learn to be effectively in it together, we will most likely repeat this scenario many times in our lives, losing passion and hope with each round.  Of course, the other scenario is that the pastor does go first, and his flock refuses to follow, clinging to comfort and control instead, and leaving rather than give them up. 

 

If we do not provide whole heart preparation for our pastoral leadership, we are actually sending them out to be killed.  Without it they cannot dig deeper and deeper with the Lord over all the challenges they face, letting Him strengthen and refine them still further in their love and patience and commitment to the flock.

 

Ex. 17:4-7  So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people?  They are almost ready to stone me!”  And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel.  Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go.  Behold I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”  And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

 

The alternative to this kind of dependence on the Lord is hurt, anger, protection, isolation, and when those prove insufficient, leaving the ministry.  That is a scenario we see repeated over and over.  As uncomfortable as it is to let God prepare our whole heart; it is not nearly as uncomfortable or costly as these outcomes, which end up crushing the spirit of those who started out on fire for the Lord.

 

Letting one’s life and heart be visible is a very difficult point of accountability to put on someone, and say, “It’s your job to go first.”  True; it is demanding, risky, often thankless, will meet with mixed success or acceptance, since some people WILL NOT give up their protections no matter how visible or caring the model is that goes before them.  If Jesus found that to be so, we certainly will.  The only reward that matches the cost is the place of security in the Lord one has to be in to set aside defenses as Jesus did.  It is the sweetness of that fellowship that makes it worth the difficulty.  That is the testimony of the most successful preacher known to the church, a place to which he and his coworkers came:

 

1 Thessalonians 2:4-8  But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.  For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness---God is witness.  Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.  But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.  So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

    Copyright 2006
    Suzan Jerome