Posts Tagged ‘heart’

There Between Passion and Prejudice Lies Jesus

December 6, 2016

Human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet. And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger he must be laid – and they will be the first to fall on their knees before him. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simple poverty, self-abandoned to God. — Evelyn Underhill

I love this picture. It captures our inner condition and ties it to the Christmas theme.

Making the mistake of scanning news this morning, I saw yet another example of Christians proudly wearing their prejudices. Why do we make everything political? Even theology?

I figure that to follow Jesus I must study Jesus. How do I know if I am doing what he wants and being the kind of person he wants me to be unless I study?

So I study.

And nowhere do I find Jesus telling me to do or say the things that millions of people who call themselves followers do and say.

Noel Paul Stookey, the “Paul” of folk singing Peter, Paul, and Mary, wrote a song with the title “Hymn.” He talks about a person who shows up at church occasionally and finds things sterile and political. He says about when they passed the collection plate, “I just had time to write a note, and all I said was ‘I believe in you’.”

It is the simple things that are so hard. What inhabits your stable?

What You Say Reveals Your Heart

October 31, 2016

Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. James

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Jesus

A theme underlying the popularity of one of our candidates for President seems to be recovering the ability to say whatever you think. No filter between emotions and mouth. No more watching what you say for fear of offending someone (political correctness).

There is a segment of society–mostly men from what little I can gather–that feel bridled. They can’t tell racist jokes. They can’t call women fat. They can’t call groups of people by slur words.

Interesting that James some 2,100 years ago identified that same problem. But he didn’t sympathize. He identified the unbridled tongue as a wild fire.

Saying whatever comes to mind from whatever source leads to many things, and none of them good. James observes based on a long tradition in Jewish thought (and most likely from other sources as well) that the tongue guides the body. An unbridled tongue has the same effect on our bodies as the actions of a horse without a bridle.

The unbridled tongue has started riots, caused people to be killed, injured family members causing disruption of relationships.

Jesus takes it a step further.

What you say is a reflection of what is in our hearts.

When we think it is our right to speak whatever we want, that could be true. But is it wise?

As we learn to set our hearts on the better things, we will find ourselves less and less apologizing for speaking unwisely.

Can we say along with a keynote speaker I heard last week, “You could mic me on a five day fishing trip to Montana with my buddies. When you play back the recording, it would not make my daughter blush.”

You Are Who You Are

August 22, 2016

“You are who you are.”

Weird phrase. Sounds like a truism.

Psalm 139 opens with, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” Later it says, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Paul writing to the Ephesians tells us to be worthy of our calling.

So, I was thinking about these weird little phrases, such as “you are who you are.”

Few things are sadder when someone tries to be what they are not. A short kid thinks he’s an NBA star. A tone-deaf person thinks she’s a great singer. A person short on vision and unable to connect with people thinks he’s a leader.

Maybe we dream of being a great speaker and in reality our calling and gifts point toward teaching and mentoring.

Worse still, are the hypocrites. Jesus once said (I bet in reality he said it a lot), “Woe to you hypocrites.”

Hypocrites means someone who wears a mask. They present a persona to the world that is not even close to what they are.

They pretend to be godly.

They pretend to be wealthy.

They pretend to pray.

They pretend they are compassionate.

Yet, their hearts are hardened. They are actually insecure, or angry, or greedy, or self-absorbed, and so on.

Paul prays that we are not like that. That we truly are filled with the spirit of God. That we find our true calling in life and live it out.

The psalmist concludes 139 with, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Those are challenging words. They might make us change direction.

Spiritual Discipline of Humility

July 7, 2016

Jesus makes it impossible to think you’re righteous because of what you do.

After Matthew introduces who Jesus is in his book, he dives right in to report Jesus’ teaching. I say report because much of chapters 5-7 are quotes.

I have been returning to Matthew this year and also Mark to search out just Jesus’ words. Not the stories or drama. Or to pick on poor Peter. I thought that this year I’d throw out the theologies and commentaries and just focus on his words.

You can read these chapters as a set of instructions. Remembering that the Pharisees also had a set of instructions. Or they called them “Laws.” It was like a checklist of things to do today. Except that for the Pharisees it was a checklist of about 630 items. Imagine trying to check those off every day!

So, looking at Jesus’ words. His checklist in Matthew is smaller. But then stop and contemplate what he’s saying:

  • If you’re angry at someone, it’s the same thing as murder
  • If you obtain an easy divorce, not only you commit adultery, you force your spouse to do so as well
  • If you hate your enemy, so what, that’s easy; love your enemy
  • If someone forces you to carry their packs (think Roman soldiers) for a mile, carry it two
  • If someone asks for a small thing, give them a big thing
  • And there is more…

When you look at Jesus’ checklist, it’s impossible to do on your own. Even more impossible than that of the Pharisees.

This is all leading up to a conclusion–it’s all about the status of your heart. Is your heart cold and methodical? Just intent in checking off the list so that God will think you’re great? Or is your heart focused on God?

You cannot checklist your way to righteousness (being right with God). That means you cannot compare yourself to others, saying ‘I’m better than those sinners.’ No, you cannot do that.

Changing your heart’s focus from self (ego) toward God with the outlook of helping others–that is called humility and that is the path to righteousness.

Listening Builds Trust

June 21, 2016

Whoever answers before listening is both foolish and shameful. –Solomon, Proverbs 18

Have you ever been in a group when someone has something important to share, but the leader cuts her off and moves on? It could be business where a great idea for moving the company forward was just lost. Or maybe a small group of friends where someone was hurting or puzzled and now will not get solace or an answer.

Sometimes you are in a situation where the speaker is so full of himself or herself that listening is not required. Probably happens way too often.

But perhaps you are in a situation where you ask for help from someone who has been there before and has developed wisdom. And you don’t listen. You actually want to tell them.

“I will rarely invest [time or money] in or with someone who doesn’t listen.” Henry Cloud

Listening is not an “ear” thing; listening is a “heart” thing.

Your ears pick up sounds. Your brain translates the sounds. But your heart ponders and digest and relates. Listening with only your brain only generates responses with what is on your mind. Listening with the heart is relationship. It shows caring, trust, empathy.

So many people seem to hear only for words they can agree or disagree with. Then they pounce like a cat on a mouse.

Listening with the heart takes time. Therefore it builds a relationship with the other.

I work mornings in a coffee shop. If I’m home, it’s High Grounds. If I’m on the road, it’s a local shop if I can find one or it’s a chain. I don’t make coffee, I read and write. I observe–always an observer. Friends come to have a coffee and a conversation. You can tell the extent of the relationship by the energy and body language.

Some appear somewhat distant. Others make eye contact. The lean slightly forward. They affirm they are listening. You can tell. I’m sure the other person can tell (unless they are so narcissistic that they don’t need reassurance, but that’s another post).

On the foundation of such heart listening are trusting relationships built. As Henry Cloud described in The Power of the Other, the qualities that lead to great performance are enhanced by great relationships. You help each other on many levels just by beginning with listening with the heart.

Theology is Nice, But How Do You Live

May 3, 2016

The small group was reading in Romans. More reading than studying.  Many just hit a verse and say they’ve underlined it many years ago.

Inevitably, someone starts in on “theology lite.” She/he begins to expound on some theology from a thinker they’ve probably never actually read. Happens all the time.

I intercede (interrupt?). That’s one of my weaknesses–speaking up.

Let’s look at the simplicity and beauty of the letter, I suggest. Paul says we all start life as sinners. We may have the “Law” or may not, but it doesn’t matter. We’re all the same. Given the era Paul wrote in and his audience, he tries to explain the whole Jew/Greek thing. Same conclusion.

By the way, as an aside, some people stop here. We’re all sinners, they proclaim darkly. But that’s not the end of the story.

By chapter 6, Paul starts to hint that there’s a better life ahead. Chapter 8 he hits us full on with grace. We can dwell in sin, or we can live freely in grace. Chapter 10 reinforces the thought.

Paul concludes the letter with how we actually live under grace.

Sinners–>Grace–>Belief–>New Life (beginning Now)

Theology is nice. It’s an intellectual exercise. Makes for heated arguments. Humans have done it for thousands of years.

But, does it help you when you walk through the door into the world?

When you boil it down, almost everything Jesus taught, almost everything Paul taught, what James taught, what Peter taught–how we live beginning right now, this moment. Are we harboring evil thoughts toward another? We just committed murder in our hearts. Watch someone with lust in our hearts? We just committed adultery.


  • We saw someone in need and helped them (not preached at, gave them a meal)
  • We saw someone mourning and we wept with them
  • We saw someone rejoicing and rejoiced with them
  • We saw someone lost and showed them the way to life through discipleship

We can think all we want. It’s our response to living with God that counts.

Treating Other People Well

April 14, 2016

Jesus left us with clear teaching about how we are to live in society. Unambiguous. Straight forward. Challenging.

Try–and the second is like the first to love your neighbor as yourself. Whereupon he proceeded to give his listeners an expanded definition of neighbor.

Try–and they will know my followers by their love.

I just saw someone on Facebook (I slipped and actually read through my newsfeed this morning) ranting about discrimination laws.

I thought, why do we have such laws? Well, it must be because we as a society discriminate against other people or groups of people.

Why do we, in a Christian nation (as my friends like to say), discriminate against people or groups of people when the founder and author of our faith says to love our neighbor?

Will laws change our hearts?

Well, laws can change habits (maybe), and a habit repeated can change our heart. And Jesus was concerned with the heart.

But, Jesus’ main opponents, the Pharisees, tried that law path themselves. We’ll make them behave, they thought, by laying out a law governing every aspect of the peoples’ lives.

Hmmm. Didn’t work out for them, did it? Grace won.

So, why do we have laws about discrimination?

Sounds like a vicious circle. We don’t live out our life as Christ-followers, so some bright people say “we ought to pass a law”, and people resent being told to be nice. So we gotta pass another law.

Better to determine, where is our heart.

Maybe a bumper sticker, “Jesus is my cardiologist.” Nah. Bumper sticker theology is so lame.

Maybe I’ll just go out today and love my neighbor.

They Made Their Own Rules

August 11, 2015

Ever play games with children?

They are always making up rules. Often they change the rules arbitrarily. They change the rules to put themselves at an advantage.

Thoughts of this behaviour came to mind as I was meditating on Romans 10. “For being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.”

At the time Paul wrote this, Jewish religious leaders and teachers had managed to take ten commandments of God and turn them into an incredibly complex set of rules designed to put them at an advantage. They could then condemn others for not following all the rules.

Jesus blasted that idea. He taught that what is most important is what’s in your heart. If your heart is in a right relationship with God, you’ll do what’s right. Trying to live by following a rigid set of rules leads to a life of slavery or hopelessness. It also leads to a life of comparison. It breeds the “I’m better than you, and you’re going to hell” <snicker>. 

Andy Stanley’s current Your Move series is titled Christian. The premise is that since “Christian” is not defined in the Bible, you can make it whatever you wish. But the word Jesus used, disciple, is a word easily defined.

Beyond that, Stanley has been asking, “Do you know any angry, judgemental Christians who seem to derive pleasure by thinking you’re going to hell”?

Of course, the answer is Yes.

The Roman Catholic church has tons of rules. Each protestant denomination seems to have its own set of rules different, of course, from anyone else’s set of rules. Everyone make up rules.

Even today.

Even while saying they are following the guy who said to worry about the condition of your heart first.

Back to Paul. They made their own set of rules, just like children do. And they lost.

It’s not rules, it’s relationship.

Making Decisions With The Heart

January 13, 2015

Emotional thinking. Make the big decisions with your heart, the small ones with your head. The electromagnetic frequency of the heart is ten thousand times stronger than that of the brain. The brain takes its orders from the heart.

Looking for practices to cultivate during the coming year, I ran across this thought from the head of an ad agency. I’m still pondering all the meaning of this statement.

Good salespeople know that we make decisions with our heart–or at least with our emotions. Logic and rationality come later to justify the decision.

Brain physiology has discovered that the links between emotion and brain are much more complex and deeper than we might have suspected.

All this flies in the face of 20th Century economic models that are built on the idea of an “economic man.” This hypothetical person makes only rational economic decisions. This person is fiction.

Do you know someone who makes, or tries to make, all decisions rationally? Do you know a person who can’t make decisions? Same guy. I’ve had clients who overanalyze, over think, worry, ask for more data, and never get around to making important decisions. I know many people, usually called engineers, with this disease.

With a heart

I’d like to play with the word heart that was used in the quote. Rather than use it in the sense of pure emotion, let’s take another look.

Jesus said that where we spend money reflects where our heart is. Jesus may have been the first cardiologist–he was most concerned with the status of our hearts. And what he meant wasn’t purely emotional. What he meant was the center of our life.

Where is our life centered? Is it on God? Is it on our own well being? Is it directed toward others? Is it on selfishness and greed?

Don’t take those questions lightly. After years of “heart” work, I still struggle at times with the condition of my heart. And just like I exercise, am careful what I eat, and take my meds to care for my physical heart, I also meditate, study, worship, serve to develop my spiritual heart.

I’m not sure what was meant in the quote, but as I develop the thought, there is a lot of truth. Develop your heart and let it be your guide in decision making.

Be Careful What We Say

December 5, 2014

“Out of the overflow of our hearts, the mouth speaks.”
Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 11

December in the US, and I would imagine in many other countries, is a time of stress, worry, impatience, overwork. We must buy just the right present for everyone on the list. We must prepare tasty dishes for Christmas or holiday gatherings. We must navigate through family feelings for visits and gatherings.

What is the status of our hearts?

Out of worry, fear, insecurity, impatience, stress in our hearts things we say to others or write on Facebook may not be what we wish we would have said during calmer times.

In fact, when I look at Facebook posts from self-professed Christians, I wonder if Jesus would be honored by what is said or implied.

During Advent, let’s try to simplify things.

Stopping every morning before the day begins to have a cup of coffee or tea, read, meditate, pray, these all help us check the status of our hearts, slow us down, focus us on the important things.

Good ideas come when we slow down and focus.

We can defeat the negative emotions that can distract us just by getting our hearts right intentionally every morning.

Then, we don’t have that other worry of reading our Facebook posts and wondering just what we were thinking!