Rend Your Heart

Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
    “Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
    an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
    they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
    they have turned aside and gone away.
They do not say to themselves,
    ‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives autumn and spring rains in season,
    who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’
Your wrongdoings have kept these away;
    your sins have deprived you of good.
– Jeremiah 5:22-25

In September, the piercing truth of those verses above were devastating to my soul.  All of the first 20 or so chapters of Jeremiah were that way for me.  The back and forth between the Lord and Israel, and the prayers and pleas of Jeremiah were intense and raw.  The reality and how close these situations hit home in my heart was overwhelming.  Yet there was so much truth in this book of Jeremiah that I continued reading chapter upon chapter non-stop for a few days while the Lord deeply rebuked, convicted and comforted me during that time.

My emotions have been all over the place since then.  I would have periods of dropping into the depths of shame and despair, end up wailing on the floor and in my spirit with major outward expressions of grief and repentance, only to have the Lord lift me up and cradle me in His arms in greater comfort and peace.  We would wrestle for a while many times before I would ultimately accept what He was pouring out over me.  His incessant amazing love continues to prevail – far beyond my finite understanding… and I am so thankful!

In a way, back in September was probably one of the first real times that I began to actively “fear God” and those deep seeds were beginning to be sown into my spirit.  The first part of a prayer from Jeremiah in chapter 10 was something I felt very strongly connected to and it became a prayer of my own:

I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own;
it is not for man to direct his steps.
Correct me, Lord, but only with justice—
not in your anger,
lest you reduce me to nothing.
– Jeremiah 10:23-24

If there is one thing that I now can comprehend more deeply than I have previously… it is that the Lord is still and always faithful.  He answered my prayer and has not corrected me in His anger, but with justice… He has not reduced me to nothing, though the correction and discipline is still very painful.

I’ve been in a season of rending since September.  It’s also a time of correction and discipline from my Father, but rending has been my response to it (that is, after the initial stubborn resistance).  I couldn’t fully describe what kind of season it’s been until last week when I read the book of Joel.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever paid attention to the word “rend” before – but I immediately noticed and began to digest it.

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
– Joel 2:12-13

To me, this goes along with Jeremiah and all that the Lord has been bringing me through.  It is only by His grace that He’s brought me to this place and it’s incredible!  This is definitely not a place I would ever be able to conjure up for myself.

When I was in rebellion, not truly fearing Him but had elevated MAN and people above Him by literally fearing THEM and letting others’ dictate my life instead of His Kingship… I was bitter, resentful, and in constant chaos.  Yet those were just the effects of my disobedience – the deeper sin and issue.  I was blinded by so many things though, and in the Lord’s faithfulness, He opened my heart and eyes to more of His truth.

Rend means to “tear”.

I’ve used the term “fillet” in regards to the heart before, and it’s along those same lines… filleting the heart open before the Lord is necessary for the relationship.  But I’m really liking the “rending” term too!  Filleting is a cutting process that often uses a sharp utensil of some kind.  So in a sense it’s a more sophisticated method… while tearing is using your hands and a much more crude method.  It’s using what you already have access to – something raw and natural.  The process is unrefined and desperate… more human.  Maybe that doesn’t really make sense and I’m putting more thoughtfulness into that than is necessary.  But I tend to observe things that way though and process more allegorically so it feels important to me.

From my limited understanding, the culture of the Jewish people and many other Eastern cultures of Biblical times was to tear their garments when upset or in mourning.  Just remembering from off the top of my head (I’d have to do further investigating to be totally sure), I believe plenty of prophets and other people mentioned in the Bible tore their clothes when hearing devastating or upsetting news or in repentance of their sins, etc.  This was a surface expression of how upset they were – an outward show of their deeper emotions.

Anyone can tear their garments and put on an outward show though, even without the deeper things going on… if you pay closer attention the verse in Joel, it is so clear in requesting a rending (tearing) of the heart and NOT the garments.  In other words and how I take that, tear things deeper and not just superficially or on the surface.

Each of us has the capacity to deceive ourselves… we can go about our lives with an outward superficial show of repentance or appear as if we are fearing the Lord, when in reality and in the deeper parts of our souls – we are not.  When we’re being disobedient or deceptive in the deeper parts of our hearts, we might can successfully fool everyone around us, but we can’t fool the One who created us and who has everything laid out wide open before Him.  That’s why we have to trust God, and not our own selves.

We all need a time of heart rending before the Lord… if we’re opposed to it and satisfied to just carry on with our superficial lives, not trembling in His presence, being stubborn and rebellious, not returning to Him with our whole hearts… we will bring the Lord and ourselves more grief.  The Lord knows what is best and good for us… that’s why He’s gracious and compassionate, abounding in love and slow to anger!  But He is also JUST and that’s why correction and rebuke is necessary and good.

We each need to wake up and be sensitive to pay attention to His heart, because it’s typically after a good rebuking and responsive rending that our hearts can be changed since we’ve become open, broken, and soft enough to listen to Him… I feel like the Lord begins to reveal Himself more clearly in that time and it’s all in preparation for the Day of His return.  A great, dreadful, amazing day that will be!  We need to be ready for it and not grow cold, weary, or lose heart.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
– Malachi 4:1-2

I don’t know about you but I want to fear God, take His correction, be obedient and rend my heart… returning to the Lord, revering His name, so I can be with Him in eternity and see that amazing day of Jesus’ return.  I don’t want anything of this world, my flesh and sin nature, Satan’s schemes or whatever to detour me from obtaining the prize of Jesus and being with Him forever.  Holy Spirit, start revival!

Staying on Track

 You will show me the path of life.”    Ps. 16:11

I have learned over the past 50 years that staying on track takes self-control and discipline.  Self-control is actually planted in you by the Holy Spirit and is growing inside of you as a fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22

Self- control and self -discipline develop, as you are obedient to the “Still Small Voice of the Lord” on a daily basis.   Set the boundaries that He says to set.  The little things count!  Obedience to the little things is how we learn to be led by God’s Holy Spirit.  What He says no to, do not touch!   He will guide us and give us His counsel.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me. Psalm 16:7

You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures For with You is the fountain of life.   Psalm    36:9

We drink from the fountain when we are in the presence of God, and this fountain will sustain you in seasons of trouble and drought.  You see now why you must stay close to Him as you are traveling along the Path of Life.  It is not an easy road or a scenic road!  It is narrow and can be very steep and dangerous, so we must not go too close to the edge. That is why we need hind’s feet for the climb.  We need to be living in truth, speaking truth, walking in the way of truth to be safe.

Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Mathew 7:14

Since the way is narrow, we must look to God’s Word and gain wisdom on how to set boundaries in our life and safe guards to keep us on the path. We need to listen because sometimes we need guidance, but other times we need warnings, and correction. We actually gain wisdom from mistakes so we will not repeat them. I know where I can’t go.  I have learned where my boundaries are for my safety.

He who keeps instruction is in the way of life.  But he who refuses correction goes astray.  Proverbs 10:17

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.  Proverbs 11:30

In the way of righteousness is life.  Proverbs 12:28

Listen to the Holy Spirit

Today, the Holy Spirit says, “Harden not your heart” (Hebrews 3:7-8).

Today, is a new day; a day that will be filled with many opportunities. The choices you make today can change your life from living in frustration, to living in a place of peace with God. The Holy Spirit is giving us a powerful key that will open the door and lead us into the life in the Spirit.  If you listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as you read Hebrews 3:8, you will enter in. Use the key; it will work even during the most painful situations. If you resist the temptation to harden your heart when you are hurt by the actions of others, you will enter into the peace of the Lord; the resting place for your soul.
Our human nature works to automatically block out pain when someone’s actions are hurtful. We harden our hearts so we won’t feel the pain of their hurtful actions, words, or gestures. Even though this is a natural form of self-protection, God says don’t do it.
“Today, if you will hear My voice, harden not your heart.” At the moment of impact, when someone’s words hurt you, don’t give in and take up an offense. If their actions are unbelievably hurtful, don’t waver and give in; it’s a trap of the enemy.  Don’t step in the trap, watch and listen to the Lord. That’s when you need to hear His voice and know what He is saying. Listen closely, and don’t give in to your feelings.
When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, He didn’t retaliate, He forgave. At that point He was in His earthly body and felt every bit of the pain we feel but He didn’t give in to the feelings. He responded by the Spirit and He was taken up into the presence of God. The moment you respond God’s way you will notice a wave of peace. This wave of peace comes and actually lifts you up when you do the right thing. You will be ushered into the presence of the Lord, resting and comforted in His presence. Yes, that person’s words or actions will hurt, but the God of all comfort will always lift you up.