THE HOLY HEART ASSOCIATION – DIRECTION
June 9, 2019
Whenever we hear of the term “heart”, we probably think of that physiological muscle the size of a fist in the center of our chest. It’s the main cog in our body’s circulatory system, keeping us alive by pumping oxygen-filled blood throughout our bodies.
Over these Sundays of late spring and early summer, we are focusing on the heart from a different perspective. We are looking at the heart from a biblical viewpoint – as the source and center of virtue.
In that vein, we often hear the advice, “Just follow your heart!” And someone once added, “But be sure to take your brain with you!”
Perhaps that’s what the prophet Jeremiah was hinting at when he spoke this word from the Lord about finding direction for one’s life:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
TIME FOR A CHANGE IN COVENANT…
Yes, we hear Jeremiah proclaiming God says it’s high time for a change in covenant.
A covenant, in its basic form, is a binding agreement. You’ve witnessed covenants in various forms over the years:
A young couple stands in front of an adoring crowd, blubbering and blundering these vows over each other:
I, Biff take you Buffy,
to have and to hold, from this day forward,
for better for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
till death us do part…
That’s a covenant.
And when you bought your home in a particular neighborhood you probably signed an agreement stating you wouldn’t be parking a Randy Quaid National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation RV in the front yard nor would you be grazing a herd of alpacas in the back yard…that’s a covenant.
Centuries prior, God had made a covenant, an agreement, with his people on Mt. Sinai. Moses brought down from that mountain tablets with commandments inscribed upon them, commandments that provided guardrails for God’s people to live by. This Law was the Old Covenant, the set of external rules that would set the People of God apart. God will lead them, support them, sustain them as long as they choose to live within the guardrails. They agree to be God’s chosen and unique children to bear his influence to the world.
But again and again, God’s people would become a recurring frozen, pixilated screen of rebellion. The covenant is broken, time and time again.
Fast-forward several hundred years to the sixth century B. C., to the prophet Jeremiah. He is a prophet to the nation of Judah, which was the remaining remnant of God’s covenant people. The people, even several hundred years later, are doing what they’ve always done. They are forsaking God. They are living in idolatry, greed and pride, and are neglecting the poor and widows among them.
God sends Jeremiah as a prophet, giving dire warning to the people of Judah. Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet – proclaiming God’s impending judgment. Jeremiah sheds many tears over his beloved nation’s hypocrisy and corruption. He has the unenviable task of calling the nation back to God.
The people will not heed the message. They ridicule Jeremiah. They taunt him. They beat him to within an inch of his life. Finally God has enough. God looks the other way as the marauding Babylonian army defeats and destroys Judah. Its inhabitants are deported from their homeland for a generation, to live in exile in a foreign land.
Jeremiah grieves. And God grieves.
What is it about external rules that incites our rebellion? Someone once said, “Opportunity knocks but once, but temptation bangs on the door every day.” In every generation we answer that door…and our disobedience greases the skids down that slippery slope to destruction.
And yet, God loves us and remains faithful to us.
A NEW COVENANT WILL BE ESTABLISHED IN CHRIST…
I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.
Yes, God will be about RENEWING CONNECTION with his people. For there is a new day coming when God will so love the world that he will give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God will not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
This, my friends, is the new covenant not outlined on stone cold tablets but embodied in a living, breathing human being. It renews connection In Jesus, we see the true heart of God revealed…a God who desires above all else to be in relationship with you and me, unconditionally.
We consider ourselves to be unworthy, undeserving, unprepared, unnoticed, undone, unthankful, unjust, unfair, uneasy and unaccepted. We have been unknown, unapologetic, unhinged, unraveled, undesirable, unbearable, unclean, unethical, underhanded, uninterested, unkind and untouchable. We have felt unwanted, unlucky, unnerved, unpopular, unpredictable, unqualified and unstable.
But understand this… we have never been UNLOVED! We have a connection with a loving Creator whose love never lets us go, and he has given his only Son as the guarantee and proof of this! The new covenant established in Christ renews this connection!
And not only that, this new covenant established in Christ reveals CONCILIATION.
Our God promises, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
John Gray was a man tall in stature as well as heart. He was a pillar of Verona UMC as well as the greater Verona community for several years. His business, Gray’s Supermarket, was a hub of grocery shopping. He had given many young folk their first job, and along with that first job had imparted life lessons of integrity and hard work.
By the late 90’s the proliferation of supermarket chains had made it impossible for John to stay in business, so he made the decision to close the store and retire. I remember stopping by to visit with him at the store during the final week it was open. He was sitting in his tiny, windowless, cubicle of an office near the cash registers.
I remember seeing some boxes of old framed photos, paperweights and other memorable items he had packed up to take home. And then I noticed in the trash can this huge cigar box overflowing with scraps of paper, with a faded inscription marked on the lid – IOU’S.
John was widely known throughout the community as a generous man. He never turned anyone away in need of food.
I pointed to that box and said to him, “You know, John, if you had collected those debts you might still be in business!” He laughed and replied in that elderly, wise voice, “There are some things in life you just need to forgive and forget!”
In and on the cross of Christ, God chose to forgive our iniquity, our sins, our IOU’s, and remember them no more. That’s conciliation. We were given the opportunity to make a new beginning, the debt deleted, the slate wiped clean.
The new covenant established in Christ renews connection with God and reveals God’s conciliation with you and me, and this new covenant
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts,” says the Lord.
Yes, God’s Spirit will dwell within us. We will not grit our teeth, living our legalisms. Our hearts will be tattooed with an eternal prodding to avoid wrong and a compulsion to do right, and the wisdom to know the difference.
And what is the right thing to do in all times and in all places? Love God with mind heart, soul and strength…and love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s always the default page in every day and every situation. Love, not rebellion, not fear, becomes our second nature. It is what directs our conscience to act with conviction.
Love is what guided the conscience of one faithful Christian gentleman late last Friday afternoon as a disgruntled, evil Virginia Beach city employee perpetrated mass killing in a government building.
Tara McGee and her coworkers had just settled in for their “Power Hour” — that final 60-minute push of the workday — when someone shouted the words McGee never thought she’d hear: “Live shooter!”
She dropped the phone, grabbed her purse and ran, her footsteps clattering with those of the other panicked employees. Account clerk Ryan Keith Cox, 50, took the reins of the confused and frightened group, leading them away from the sounds of gunfire.
Thinking quickly, he directed them into a small office. “It was actually a cubicle,” says McGee, “basically, a room that was nothing but a frame and carpet.”
“‘Okay, push the door shut,’” he commanded. We were calling, ‘Keith, Keith, come on!’” says McGee, 50, of Virginia Beach.
But he wouldn’t. He told the seven women to secure the entrance to the cubicle, turn off the lights, and push a file cabinet against the interior door. They protested, begging him to join them.
“But no,” says McGee. “Keith being Keith, he’s looking after everyone else, as he always does. He was going to make sure everyone was safe.”
McGee knew Cox’s attributes well. He wasn’t just a coworker, he was a cherished friend — “such a good man, so encouraging and positive,” she says. They often spent their breaks together, chatting about weekend plans, cooking, or music, her college-age daughters and his family. They frequently talked about church and God, subjects that McGee (an elder and minister at Faith World Ministries in Norfolk) and Cox (a devout Christian and son of a pastor) both knew well.
“Whenever he’d pass me in the morning he’d say, ‘Preacher, what’s the word for the day?’ And I would reply, ‘God loves you’ and he would say, ‘God loves you too.”
But on this day, Cox remained outside the room where the seven women huddled on the floor beneath two desks, many with eyes closed, holding hands, quietly texting loved ones. “I just prayed over all of us, whispering,” McGee says. “I said, “Lord, send us an angel of protection.”
There were gunshots; lots of them. “I could tell the difference between the shooter’s versus the police,” McGee says.
One of the women connected with a 911 dispatcher, who via silent texts apprised the group of the gunman’s actions. “All of a sudden she said he was back on the second floor, where we were.”
Two bullets were fired into the cubicle door, stopped by the file cabinet. Then it went silent.
“And then we heard a shot, right on the other side of the cubicle door,” McGee says. There were no voices, no talking.
“I knew that a person had just been shot right then, right there,” says McGee. “I sat up and a tear rolled down my face.”
A massive amount of gunfire followed, and then the 911 operator texted that it was over.
When the cops came to lead the women from the cubicle, they instructed everyone to look to the left. “Do not look to the right,” they said.
“But I did look to the right,” says McGee, “and there was Keith, lying still on the floor. I’d asked God to send an angel of protection and he had. He chose Keith.” https://people.com/crime/friend-ryan-keith-cox-angel-of-protection/
God’s law, God’s love, was indeed written on the heart of Ryan Keith Cox.
Are you seeking direction for your life? Hear and believe the words spoken by God thru his prophet Jeremiah:
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
God wants to renew his connection with you. God loves you.
God wants to reveal his conciliation to you, forgiving you of all that is sin-filled in your past, remembering it no more, giving you a new beginning.
And God wants to refine your conscience within you, writing his life-giving law of love upon your heart, that you might be empowered to do the right thing, the kind thing, the loving thing, in all times and in all situations.
Praise be to God! Amen!
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