Well of the Heart

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them…So when you spread out your hands in prayer,I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen.” (Isaiah 1:11)

During my counseling days I did a great deal of marital counseling with Christian couples. In the beginning of the counseling process each person would tell in great detail what they thought was wrong with the marriage. After a few minutes of listening to their complaints, you could tell they thought if their mate could change their behavior then the marriage problems would be solved.

Bad behavior and wrong attitudes need to be addressed, but if there is going to be lasting resolution the root cause of the bad behavior had to be dealt with first. That’s because wrong behavior and attitudes are usually connected to a belief system that is part of a much deeper problem.

For example, if someone is angry all the time and they suddenly change their behavior of anger outburst, it’s not going to bring long lasting change. While they are controlling outbursts of anger by self-discipline, inside there is a volcano of anger waiting to erupt. Without first discovering and dealing with why they are always angry, the greater anger building up inside is just waiting to explode.

Couples were often surprised that I seemingly ignored the wrong behavior and started addressing their individual spiritual relationship with God instead. I encouraged them to trust me that their problem was really a symptom and until they dealt with the core spiritual issue there would never be lasting resolution.

After several sessions, they began to see that the root problem of their marriage was not the behavior but a lack of intimacy and meaningful fellowship with God. When there is a lack of ongoing transparency, humility and deep repentance with God, there will be behavior issues that will cause self-centeredness, selfishness, self-destruction, and a general overall dissatisfaction with life.

As followers of Christ, when we are out of fellowship with God then our behavior is most often driven by our flesh. But when we start focusing on building our intimacy with God, repentance of our wrong behavior will soon follow. More often than not, the quality of your relationship with your spouse, friends or family is directly related to the quality and depth of the relationship you have with the Lord.

That’s the message that Isaiah is conveying from God to the tribe of Judah. God is telling his people, I am not interested in all your sacrifices, prayers and songs of praise until you show true repentance by start doing what is right. A right relationship with God always yields repentance from sinful behavior, attitudes and habits.

Bottom Line

When you became a follower of Jesus, you became someone your have never been before, a child of God. By a divine act of the Holy Spirit you were born into the family of God. You have a new nature, you are now in Christ. This nature is driven and directed by the Holy Spirit. We no longer have to “do life” on our own.

Because we have this new nature that is to be directed and driven by the Holy Spirit, all that we are, all that we do, and all that we aspire to be should spring forth from our fellowship with the Father. The quality of our relationships is directly proportionate to the quality of our regular fellowship with God.

When I was a kid there was a well known Bible teacher named Dr. J. Vernon McGee that had a daily radio teaching broadcast. My mom would listen to him every day. He would often quote Matthew 12:34. “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” He would usually follow that quote with his own practical translation of the verse. It went something like this; “Out of the well of the heart the bucket of the mouth spills forth.“

What comes out of your mouth is a reflection of what is in your heart. Are you living out of your identity “in Christ”, or are you living out of “being led by the flesh”? The bucket of your mouth will surely reveal which one.

The Need for Awakening

I get a lot of email traffic from different Christian writers. I love to read how God is impacting the body of Christ in all areas of the church. I’ve been reading about the condition of the church. Any committed follower of Jesus would quickly agree, that overall, the Western church is not doing well in impacting our world.

We have the largest number of men quitting the ministry than ever before. I am not sure of all the reasons why, but my hunch is the church is ceasing to be a supernatural demonstration of the power of God. Very little changed lives but a lot of activity.

I don’t know about you, but my heart yearns for an outpouring of the power of God among the church, a real spiritual awakening like this continent has never experienced. It has been well over a hundred years since we have had a national spiritual awakening.

I often pray for the Lord to allow me to experience a great spiritual awakening during my lifetime. Not for the sake of being part of history, but for the sake of a world who has, like Israel of the Old Testament, forgotten God.

Regarding awakening, I recently read an article from a Bible College professor named Dr. David Riser. He related an event in a class that greatly affected his life. As I read the event and heard the student’s question and comment, it also got me to thinking.

So for today’s posting I want to share an excerpt from that article as food for thought regarding the need for a major spiritual awakening. I would love to hear your heart regarding the matter of spiritual awakening.

“I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this: Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise.

I clarified it by adding, “An enterprise. That’s a business.” After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory, and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha’s raised hand, “Yes, Martha.” She asked such a simple question, “A business? But isn’t it supposed to be a body?” I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, “Yes.” Then she asked “When a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?”

The room went dead silent. For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on holy ground. All I could think in those sacred moments was, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that.” I didn’t dare express that thought aloud. God had taken over the class.

Martha’s question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. “When a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?” There is only one answer to her question. The answer is “yes”. The American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don’t even know Him; and I mean really know Him.”

Bottom Line
The above story is certainly food for thought. Is this weakening of the church a sign of end times, or is it the circle of apostasy cycle that we have seen for centuries? (Circle of apostasy is plenty, backsliding, idolatry, permissiveness, catastrophe/bondage, repentance).

Regardless of why the church has almost no influence on our society, we are in need of a visitation of the Holy Spirit’s power and cleansing. Will you join me in searching your heart and as David said, “search me oh God and see if there be any wicked way in me?”

Repeating the Cycle

I have been reading through the Bible books of Kings and Chronicles. I must admit, at times the reading became quite laborious. In these books are hundreds of names I can’t pronounce, and genealogies I can’t follow. I was reading it by faith, trusting that somewhere in all these names was something that God wanted to show me. Then, just like everything God does or touches, He reveals an obvious truth.

I learned that one of His reasons for listing the history of the multiple failures of the Jewish Kings was to show us what happens to those who stop following the Lord. I also saw that when the leaders followed the Lord, the country prospered and even their enemies feared them.

God told David if he and all the ancestral Kings would follow the Lord and obey his statues, then God would prosper and bless His people. “If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” (1 Kings 2:4 NASB)

Of all the leaders listed in the long history of Israel, most of them did not follow the Lord. The result was financial ruin, bondage to foreign Kings and servitude. We see a universal spiritual principle at work here. ”When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn”. (Proverbs 29:2 KJV)

There is also another principle at work. It is a basic principle of leadership which states, “Everything rises and falls on leadership. As the leaders go, so goes the people.” We see this principle at work throughout the Scripture and in present history.

Every time I read through these books of the Bible I come to the same conclusion – what is wrong with these people? Can’t they see the pattern? Didn’t the priest and prophets teach and warn them that they were repeating the same sin patterns as their forefathers? Talking about dumb like a sheep?

However, it didn’t take long to see a similar pattern in our own country. We are also dumb like sheep. The Scriptures reveal that we are no different than the Israelite’s. We follow that same circle of apostasy. (We are prosperous then we enter into Backsliding, Idolatry, Permissiveness, Catastrophe, Bondage, and Repentance.) It is as the unbelieving philosopher Hegel proclaimed, “The experience and history teach us that people and governments never have learned anything from history.”

The Bottom Line
The story of the Kings in the Bible shows the cruel, bloody and brutal reality of turning away from the Lord and going our own way. I am reminded of how subtle and gradual “turning away from God” occurs. It’s never sudden, but done in small gradual compromises, until one day we wake up and our worldview has become secular and our belief system is tainted by the world system. We wonder where did our passion for God go? Or, why am I so cold toward the things of God?

If there was ever a time for God’s people to do a Spiritual inventory, it’s today. If we are not intentional about our daily quest to “abide in Christ”, then we are destined to repeat the sins of the past.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.(Acts 17:27)