I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekial 36:26
Last Saturday, I was feeling a little down.Perhaps it was a poor night’s sleep or something else, but something was disheartening to me. The week leading up was a productive and fulfilling one. I had spent quality time in my worlds of “law and grace” doing legal and ministry work in typical fashion. Nothing especially troublesome or negative had happened. Nothing too stressful. All in all, it was a really fulfilling week which is why thinking the way I did confused me. Have you ever had a down day like that without a reason you can put your finger on?
The best part of my week was digging into God’s word and other resources to prepare a lesson on the heart for an Aspen Ridge Connect small group on Sunday. According to John Eldredge “The subject of the heart is addressed in the Bible more than any other topic—more than works or service, more than belief or obedience, more than money, and even more than worship.” (Waking the Dead, Eldredge, page 41). A quick search on blueletterbible.org sure seems to confirm this point. In the ESV translation of the Bible, the word heart occurs 763 times in 707 verses! God must really care about our hearts.
The heart in scripture is not the physical heart that courses blood throughout the human body within weeks after conception to the day you die, but the very center of who you are as a person. “The innermost part of the human personality” said James Houston “the center of those qualities that make us human” or as Oswald Chamber’s defined it: “The use of the Bible term heart is best understood by simply saying ‘me.’” (Waking the Dead, Eldredge, page 52). Jesus ministered to my heart as I studied the heart in scripture and read verses about it. As I spoke to him, listened and studied, my heart became full of his love and grace throughout the week. So why did I feel discouraged today? Why the disheartening?
One surefire cure to minor discouragement for me is to get out in God’s great creation. With only about 45 minutes of daylight though, I didn’t have much time. I wasn’t digging a night hike. “Connor, you want to go to the creek?” I said to my youngest son. At the bottom of our yard is Cub Creek—a refuge of babbling water trying to escape the increasingly militant ice encroachment this time of year. “Sure!” he said. Gracie, our dog, said the same thing with a quick jump up, perked ears, and tail in full “Don’t forget me, don’t forget me” wag.
We got to the creek to discover the water was winning the fall battle with ice this year—so far at least—meandering along underneath ice and snow that was thick enough to hold human weight in places yet thin enough to break ranks when Connor dropped large rock bombs with the force of a liberating army crashing through to the babbling water below. That’s right. We were taking the water’s side in this battle. If only because we knew, in the end—in the dead of winter—ice would prevail in this tiny creek.
I stood at the creek like a satisfied Commander-in-Chief watching the battle to free the water as Corporal Connor dropped rock bombs while General Gracie dug and pounced. I laughed out loud as I watched their “ice war” unfold around me. Taking a break from the battle, I walked upstream, breathed deeply, and listened to the sound of the water babbling, bumbling, and springing up through the ice. Nature is healing and rejuvenating. God used it to restore my soul and heal my heart in those moments.
Lord, thank you for healing my heart today, for my family, and for my dog! Thank you for the beauty I see in your creation right here, right now. It is a reflection of you!
“Dad!” Connor enthusiastically yelled from 30 yards downstream. “Come here, look!” I hiked downstream as quickly as I could to see what all the excitement was about.
“Look, it’s a heart!” And there it was. A two-by-two-foot hole in the ice of the creek in the shape of a heart! The picture he took of it is above. As if refreshing my heart wasn’t enough, God provided a powerful visual reminder of what he just did. Wow!
Connor had no idea of my heartache and discouragement that day. But God did. He used the antics of play and the beauty of his creation to take it away. It was as if God was saying through that heart shaped hole in the ice “I love you! Your heart matters to me, in the big things and small. Tell others about my heart for them.” So here I write: Jesus loves you and wants to rescue your heart! Rescue, restore, and rejuvenate. Will you invite him to do that?
The next day we had an excellent discussion on “the heart” during small group. We are only three weeks into getting to know each other in this group, however, I know God is powerfully moving in the group because we are already comfortable enough to laugh heartily and share tears together. God’s heart among his people! Oh, how I love this group!
I have no idea why I was disheartened last Saturday. It could have been a bad night of sleep or indigestion. It could also have been a minor spiritual battle from the one who hates my heart and yours. Perhaps hoping I wouldn’t have the heart to teach about the heart and listen to other hearts in small group.
It is true—our spiritual adversary comes to steal, kill, and destroy you and your heart (John 10:10). Allow me an illustration using the heart we saw at the creek last Saturday. Look again at the picture of the heart we saw above. I believe it is a small picture of the current hearts of those who follow Christ in this world. Surrounded by cold and evil powers intent on freezing over hearts to stop love and the living water beneath. While in this icy and cruel world, we battle against this, like how Connor and Gracie broke the ice—with fierce joy. We have an ally in the Lord of Angel Armies who fights beside us against the evil winter we currently face. He will eventually bring new life—the renewal of all things—spring and summer to this cold, cold world. The final end of all evil and lawlessness. Now look closer. There is living water flowing within the heart downstream. That is the promise of Jesus—while we wait for him—we will never freeze over and die with him as the living water in our heart. The ice will not prevail in this battle. Jesus said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38, ESV).
I pray this little story is a powerful reminder to you about how much God loves you and your heart. He promises to give us a heart of flesh beating for him when we come to him in faith through Jesus. He ministers to our hearts through his word. He heals our hearts in many ways through his creation. Including unexpectedly beautiful ways as I found out at the creek last Saturday. He speaks to our hearts intimately, often like the living water of a babbling brook or rushing stream—with beauty and grace. And he loves to encourage and strengthen our hearts through fellowship with others in small groups. It is out of this overflow of our hearts that we fight the good fight as well as serving and loving the people around us.
How will you water your heart today and this week? Better yet, will you invite Jesus—the living water—to quench the spiritual thirst of your heart? It is the only way to ensure your heart will not be frozen for eternity or partially frozen now. Who will you tell about God’s heart for them (John 3:16)?
Director of Small Groups