Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Life is 100% about the Heart

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This past year or so, God has been trying to get my attention. Big time. He completely interrupted my entire life in order to get my attention.  To stop me dead in my tracks so I’d finally listen.

What has He been trying to tell me?

Well, He’s been trying to tell me that life is all about the heart. It’s not just partially about the heart, but 100% about the heart. And He cares about the heart. He cares about my heart. He cares for me.

In the Scriptures, it speaks of God’s priority of the heart:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height… the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks 100% at the heart. He doesn’t just look partially at the heart. The heart is the whole point. It’s us human beings that tend to mix up the percentages. In the back of our “mind”, we think that surely God must look “partly at the appearance and outward fruit” and then “partly at the heart and what’s going on internally” (because this tends to be how WE look at people, if I’m to be quite honest!) But God seems to be saying that that is a human thing to do, but the way He does it is to look only at the heart. And that’s a paradigm shift for us humans!

According to God, everywhere I have gone in this world, everything that I have ever done, and anyone I have ever come in connection with, has always been and only ever been about the heart. If our hearts are disconnected, stranded, orphaned, independent or starving for the oxygen of God (His love) then we have nothing to give, nothing to live on, and certainly no good fruit to bear.

It’s hard for us to accept that if something was not done from a “right heart”, that the entire fruit of the action is rotten. We try and salvage every last drop of our “human effort” and call it worthwhile, yet God will say that something is rotten if done with the “wrong heart”. I will state it again: this is a paradigm shift! It requires repentance which is simply a change of mind, a change of perspective!

If I could sum up what I have learned in the last year or so of changes and struggles of the heart, I would say with all seriousness:

“Take care of your heart!”

The foundation of this statement is that God Himself has a heart and therefore He cares for your heart! He made your heart, so He is the only one who knows how to make your heart truly flourish and thrive. So, let God take care of your heart! Let Him interrupt your life in any and every way possible, if it means He’ll finally be able to get a hold of your heart, breathe life back into it and do wonderful and glorious things with it.

It says in Proverbs 4:23,

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (NIV)

Another version sheds more light on it,

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (KJV)

I know we’ve heard this verse used so often in the context of relationships… and people have used it more as a warning and a caution in not pursuing intimate relationships.

I’m coming to learn that it isn’t about putting a wall around your heart and refraining from intimate relationships. Nor is it saying, ‘Don’t you dare let any one (especially someone of the opposite sex) get access to your heart!’

No, it’s more about coming to understand that your entire life depends upon the health of your heart! The state of your heart matters! It really matters!

The health of your heart is a life and death thing!

God would send His only Son to earth to walk with mankind to show us just how important He values the heart, and how the heart is central to all matters of humanity.

The Law that God gave to Israel was never meant to be a pathway to life, but more of a way to expose the state of our hearts apart from Him and how much we are desperately in need of a Savior to transform our heart and bring it back to life! The Law exposed the heart. And everything Jesus did exposed the state of the human heart. This was His supreme intention!

God so values the state of the human heart! He cares for your heart!

So, when the Scriptures say to “guard your heart” or “keep your heart”, it’s said more as a charge to us to remember to let as much oxygen (God’s love) into your heart as you possibly can, because your heart will die (and your life–YOU—will die) without it, without Him.

So, Proverbs 4:23 is saying something more like,

“PRIORITIZE YOUR HEART OVER ALL THINGS IN THIS LIFE, because your whole life is an overflow of the health and wholeness of your heart!”

Or put another way,

“THE TOP PRIORITY OF YOUR LIFE IS TO OPEN YOUR HEART TO THE LOVE OF GOD and then, out of the overflow of His love in your heart, you must open your heart to others! Your life depends on it! You were meant to receive love and then give love out!”

It does your heart NO GOOD to shut it off, wall it up and guard itself from love. That’s insane! Your heart was made for love! It was made to be full of love. It was made to have an overflow of love to give to others!

Love is the currency of your heart and you are bankrupt without it.

To guard the heart is not to wall it up. Actually, it is the opposite. It is to let your heart be free to love and to tend to the fullness and flourishing of your heart.

So, go ahead and guard your heart: guard it from death! Guard it from losing the ability to feel, to love and to give! Guard your heart from heartless, numb living. Guard your heart from hard-heartedness, cynicism, jadedness, skepticism, bitterness, unforgiveness and apathy and all the life-killing poisons that threaten to block it up and shut your heart down.

I charge you to take care of your heart!

You were made to have a soft heart. A tender heart. A forgiving and gracious heart. A believing and hopeful heart. A heart full of life! Full of love!

God really cares for your heart. Boy, have I ever learned this. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way (or the real way, let’s say), but I’m so grateful and I wouldn’t take it back for the world. Yes, God would interrupt my entire life, to show me all the ways that I was ignoring the health of my heart. The life of my heart. The well-being of my heart. He would divert me onto a whole new path, in order to show me how much He cares for me, how much He cares for my very own heart.

God is not a God who kills the heart. He is a God of life! A God of the heart! He brings the heart to life! And I can see that what He is doing in my life right now is orchestrating all the circumstances and relationships in my life to bring my own heart back to life, and to bring it into the fullness of my heart’s destiny! A heart that looks and beats and loves just like His! A heart made in His image! And God has a heart that is fully alive!

This is good news. Such good news.

Even though it hurts, and even though pain is involved in the transformation (whoever said heart surgery was a pleasure?!) it is bringing about something good and beautiful.

Our Creator adores and cherishes and honours and tenderly cares for the human heart. He cares!

I pray for your heart right now. I pray that you would allow God to take you through the process of softening and tenderizing your heart.  I pray that you would take your sticky hands off your own heart and let Him hold your heart. Let Him open up those areas that have become calloused and hardened and dead.

Trust Him with your heart. He’s the best one to tend to it!

The Holy Spirit Himself will be the walls of your heart. You don’t have to put walls up. You don’t have to be the guard over your own heart. He will spread His wings around your heart and He will guard you.

You are then free to simply love, which is what you were made for.

I pray blessings over you as you take steps forward into living 100% from the heart.

 


[Photo Credit: © CreationSwap/Marian Trinidad]


Blog, God + Spirituality, Relationships

“Psst Psst!” Two secrets Jesus wants to tell you…

I wrote this back in February during my stay in Kansas City at the International House of Prayer. I had an amazing time and Jesus was speaking loud and clear to me. This article came out of one of those hang out times with this Man!


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Jesus and I hung out today and He said some things. He said,

“Psst! Psst! I’ve got a couple secrets of the Kingdom I want to share with you. Could you share them with others?”

I responded,

“Yes, Jesus, tell me your secrets and I’ll pass them on!”

So, people of the Kingdom, I think the King of the Kingdom has something to tell you. Something pretty simple, yet really profound.

 

Secret #1 of Jesus:

Picture Jesus at the creation of the world. Picture Jesus in His life on earth. Picture Jesus on the Throne in Heaven right now.

Got a picture? See Him?

Okay, now Jesus wants you to know that when He lived and walked on earth, He looked people in the eye. He made eye contact with the human race. He made eye contact with every living person He interacted with.

Jesus did not look away. Whether they spit at Him in the face, or came running up to Him and affectionately poured their oil of love on Him, or whether they covered their face and cowered in the corner, He looked at them in the eye, and He kept looking. He did not look away.

The Great Eyes of Heaven looked us in the eye — and He still does.

And He still wants to.

As God’s image-bearers on earth, Jesus wants us to look people in the eye. It’s not even that this is a command that He has to force us to do. We have His heart in us. We want to. We enjoy doing it. It is our greatest delight to lock eyes with people. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, so we can’t help but look people in the eye.

Jesus wants to look at people on earth, through your eyes. Through you.

How else will people know that Jesus wants to make eye contact with them unless you first show them this first by you personally making eye contact with them?

Look at people in the eye. They are beautiful. You’ll be blessed. You’ll see Jesus’ face. And people who see Jesus, shine. It’s so worth it.

Okay, that was the first secret Jesus kept talking to me about today.

 

Secret #2 from Jesus:

Jesus smiled. Jesus smiles. He’s smiling in Heaven. And He still wants to smile on earth.

You are a little Christ on earth. You become like Christ every time you smile at someone. Jesus wants to smile at someone through you. Through your smile. Whether you have perfect teeth or not. Whether your smile is crooked and lopsided or not. Even if it wrinkles up your face and you think you look dorky.

Jesus loves to smile and He loves smiling through you.

You re-present the ways and hobbies of Christ on earth. And one of His favourite hobbies is smiling! He loves doing it! A lot. It’s a top priority of His.

Jesus is asking you right now,

“I want to smile at people. Would you smile at people for Me?”

His request is full of affection and holds no accusation or condemnation toward you. If you looked up at Him right now as He requests this of you, you’d find Him smiling back at you.

News flash!

In the standard of the world, Jesus didn’t even have the ‘perfect’ smile. His teeth were yellowed and a little crooked. He had a few scars and a few wrinkles. Yet, His smile was and still is the most beautiful thing the world has ever seen. It has power to transform nations, transform families and transform every person that experiences it.

Jesus’ smile is contagious and wonderful. Simply perfect in the eyes of Heaven.

So, Jesus is looking at you right now in the eye, smiling at you, and asking again,

“Will you smile at people for Me?”

 

Don’t be a weird Christian.

In the Heavenly Kingdom in eternity, everyone will look at each other in the eye. Don’t be weird on earth and avoid each other.

If someone smiles at you, smile back. Don’t be weird.

We Christians can be so weird. Someone looks at us in the eye, and we are so prone to instantly look away. We are so prone not to smile back.

I dare you not to look away. I dare you to keep the eye contact. You may just experience the presence of Jesus. You may just see His face!

I dare you, even, to go a step further. Flash someone a great big smile. It’s really fun!

I guess I could sum this up by saying that Jesus wants us to know that the Kingdom of Heaven is smiles and eye contact.

So, I dare ya!

 

[Top Photo: Alison Lam, 2007, Uganda]

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Rethinking Relationship [Guest Post]

I’m super stoked to introduce my friend, Tyler Cox, to all of you! Tyler and his lovely wife, Heather, co-lead the church plant, Legacy Life Centre, that I am a part of. I’ve been bugging him to write for me for a while now because he has such depth of wisdom and humility (a great combo) and, most of all, he loves people well. I think you’ll see what I mean as he shares his heart on the topic of relationships here…


I think if you were to ask most people what the most important thing in life is, the thing at the end of life they would want to have experienced, their answer would have a lot to do with their relationships. Most people, when they breathe their last breath would wish to be surrounded by their closest family; they would want to laugh and cry and share a few more moments of intimacy before they leave.

If you think about the most significant things in your life, they are more than likely attached to your relationships. This is what we were created for, every one of us: close, intimate relationships, full of unconditional love. When we don’t have these relationships, things can go really wrong. We can miss God’s purpose for our life.

Our purpose always runs through a person, or better, through a people. God has a home for every one of us, a place where our roots go deep and where we grow big, strong and healthy. These are the places where we find our destiny. If it is through relationship, both with God and others, that we find and fulfill our destiny, then in a lot of ways we need to redefine the way we think about relationships. The people we are close with aren’t a means to an end or a ticket to success; they aren’t just there for a season and then gone for the next. They are the people God wants us to do life with, the people we are called to. Psalm 92:12-14 says,

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green.”

Being planted means we are established as part of a local church. It means we are steadfast, faithful and immovable. God loves when our roots grow deep because we stay fresh, we don’t lose our vigour and we always produce fruit for His kingdom.

Think about it.

Have you ever seen a tree just pick up and move, dragging its roots along with it? It doesn’t happen because the tree would die if it uprooted itself.

In many ways, when we are constantly on the move, hopping from church to church or refusing to settle down, we stop producing fruit. We can grow tired and disillusioned and, at worst, we become a poor representation of our King and His kingdom.

The beautiful thing is God is always wooing us to become a part of something more than ourselves; He will always give you an opportunity to partake in the sweetness of fellowship. (Psalm 55:14)

Here are some good examples of what I am talking about:

Joshua was strong because he refused to leave Moses. He found his destiny because he submitted his heart to the mission of his spiritual father.

Ruth became Jesus’ ancestral grandmother because she found a home with Naomi.

Elisha was used as a powerful vessel for God’s kingdom because he stuck by Elijah, even when Elijah told him to beat it!

Jesus was at home in his earthly father’s house, working as a carpenter until the age of 30, and we all know what happened after.

Paul and Timothy, David and Jonathan, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Bible is full of the kind of relationships that are grounded in faithfulness and steadfastness.

God Himself is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in complete undisrupted unity for all time. Unified relationship is the model of heaven. We always pray for heaven to come to earth; I don’t think it has to look very complicated. It looks like people who love each other, who stick by each other through thick and thin and who pull the Kingdom of Heaven to earth together. We can do good things alone — we can do great things together.

Perhaps the reason the entire world has not yet seen the full power of the kingdom of God is because His sons and daughters are not acting like sons and daughters.

Our roots are shallow because we skip to one place and hop to the next, trying to catch the next ‘wave of the spirit’ or the next great move of God. Sometimes we act like Holy Spirit chasers instead of recognizing the gift of God and the power at hand right in front of us.

We lack the intimacy (into-me-see) sons and daughters know. Intimacy heals us and when we don’t have it we can never truly be made whole. We are hurt in relationship, but when we are in the right ones, we are restored and made whole.

I think the world is waiting for a generation of Ruth’s who will rise up and say to each other,

“Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay.”

If there is one thing the people of the kingdom of God need to manifest now more than ever it is a love for each other so deep the world can’t help but take notice. The world is starved for authentic, pure love; for a long time, kingdom people have been starving for the same thing. God is putting an end to independent ways of living and thinking. And that’s really good news for us.

 

[Featured Photo: Creative Commons, WackyBadger]


About the Author:

Pic_Tyler_Heather My name is Tyler Cox. My wife Heather and I, along with a bunch of other awesome people, started a church in Huntsville, Ontario in October 2012. We live in Huntsville with our 6-month old son. Our heart is to see the earth look like heaven and to see His kingdom come through fathers, mothers, sons and daughters walking together in oneness. (Facebook, Twitter)

 

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Discipleship: Who has God given you? [Guest Post]

Tucked away in a little corner of Northern Ontario is a God-loving community of young adults with huge hearts and huge vision. One of the leaders is my friend, Peter Zantingh, who I’m stoked to have as a guest writer on the blog today. He’s radical in his love for God yet down to earth; he faithfully lives out the message that he’ll be sharing with us here. You’ll be challenged personally to evaluate how you live your life and how you approach your whole concept of ‘ministry and missions’. I know I have been…


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It was four years ago that I heard a message from the well-known Christian artist Jason Upton. I have heard many messages and rarely do I remember who, where, and even what was said. Yet, I took a nugget from Upton that day and have not forgotten this simple yet significant statement,

“Just look at the people around you and love them. Ask yourself, ‘Who are the people God has given you?’

Upton was speaking about community and relationship. He spoke about not having to look far to make a difference and to begin to be intentional about the relationships around us. The people around us are the ones with whom we regularly make contact with in our everyday lives. These people range from our close family, church family, work peers, cashiers, etc. These are exactly the ones that God has called us to. We can then seek to love, grow together and simply just ‘do life with’. It is in our local communities and spheres that we can begin to ask God who he has given to us.

Jason Upton spoke from the context of John 17. In this chapter we read about Jesus reciting his famous prayer. First, Jesus prays for his disciples. Then he prays for the ones that will believe. When we read the prayer closely we find what Upton and I believe to be a simple key to discipleship and modeling Jesus. In verse 6 it reads,

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept my word.”

God had specifically given Jesus his disciples. Jesus had just spent nearly 3 years pouring his life out and giving his heart intentionally to twelve men. Here in this culminating prayer, Jesus says in verse 4,

“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

peter_nephews_bwJesus’ accomplishment came when he successfully loved and manifested Father God to the disciples God had given him. This prayer preceded the cross and the resurrection, so Jesus could not have been talking about accomplishing all that he was sent to do, but Jesus was speaking of his accomplishment in successfully raising his disciples.

In verse 18-20 we read that just as God sent Jesus into the world, Jesus now sends his disciples into the world. Jesus then prays for the ones that will believe in him through their words. Thus begins the discipleship cycle. Jesus reproduced in his disciples and then they were released to reproduce.

I believe God has called us to make disciples and he has specific people that he has given us just as he had given Jesus. Just look in your community. There are numerous people around you. I believe, maybe, just maybe, God has simply called us not to go anywhere without first loving those around us.

Jesus is the Messiah; he came to redeem the world, yet in his ministry he is not seen frantically running around trying to convert as many people as he possibly can while he is on earth. He is not seen jumping onto a camel’s back riding to China or Africa to go preach the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus is not seen sailing over to Rome to have a huge crusade in the coliseum. Jesus, for the most part, was a local man and stayed quite local.

When he is in Jerusalem it seems he doesn’t favour the large crowds. He is definitely not advertising to draw as many people as he can. He seems content just being with his disciples before a large crowd gathered and he gave the famous Sermon on the Mount. Afterward, he requests to be taken to the other side of the lake to escape and have a nap in a boat being tossed in a storm.

It seems to me that the most defined purpose to Jesus’ ministry was simply being with those God had given him. He was very intentional about pouring his life out and giving his heart to the ones that were to carry his ministry once He left. Jesus was investing in order to leave a legacy. Jesus knew that if he just passed the baton on, and his disciples would do the same, the gospel of the kingdom would reach every nation. God’s mission for Jesus did not die when he ascended, but it continued on in his disciples.

So, what we can take from this is that the very people we are in contact with everyday are the ones that we are called to. We need to focus our lives on loving those close to upeter_youth_bws, growing together and seeking to disciple those around us. When we ask God, he will give us disciples and people who we are called to ‘do life with’.

Personally, I have had the joy of leading some young kids to the Lord and later baptizing them. On the day I baptized them it felt as if I had begotten them through the gospel, just as Paul had written about Timothy. The day I baptized these kids I was completely filled with joy. At the same time it was sobering because I could not escape the new responsibility to raise these young kids up in the kingdom.

That is what I believe God is desiring for us, to have deep relationships with people we will spend our whole lives pouring into. That is the only way we can leave a legacy and a spiritual inheritance. It is not very hard to find someone in your local community who is ripe for harvest and discipleship. The problem is that we are not looking. We are waiting for the next spiritual high for ourselves. We are hoping for some amazing encounter with God. If we want an amazing encounter with God, we just need to encounter discipleship; it will cause you to live outside of yourself.

Let us follow Jesus’ model to reproduce and multiply. We don’t need to start with 12 as he did, but start with one, just one. Go for it. The Kingdom of God, summed up in one word, is ‘family’, and it is expressed in two words ‘fathers’ and ‘sons’.


 About the Author

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My name is Peter Zantingh. I live in a house. I am 25 years young. I am a youth leader and a church plant leader with Legacy Life Centre. I am not lazy. I love discipleship, nations and the Father heart of God. You can find me on Twitter.