Hard-hearted or Kind-hearted?

Get and keep the kind of heart God has for you.

“One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room, leaving a space between each name.

“Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, but each one handed in the papers.

“That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about them.

“On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Soon the entire class was smiling. ‘Really?’ she heard whispered. ‘I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!’ and, ‘I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were the frequent comments.

“No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another.

“Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and this teacher attended the funeral.  Afterward, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

“’We want to show you something,’ his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. ‘They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.’

“Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“’Thank you so much for doing that,’ Mark’s mother said. ‘As you can see, Mark treasured it.’

“All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled and said, ‘I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.’

“’I have mine,’ Marilyn said. ‘It’s in my diary.’

“Vicki said, ‘I think we all saved our lists.’

“That’s when the teacher sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.”

<Retrieved from http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/kind-words on 3/3/17.>

I did a little research and found out this story is true. The teacher was Sister Helen Mrosla, a Franciscan nun, who submitted the story entitled “All the Good Things” for publication in 1991.  It has been republished twice and has appeared in countless emails as a “glurge.”

The deceased soldier was Mark Eklund, a student in her third-grade classroom at St. Mary’s School in Morris, Minnesota, in 1959 and again in 1965. In August 1971 Sister Mrosla learned of Mark’s death from her parents and attended his funeral.

<Retrieved from http://www.snopes.com/glurge/allgood.asp on 3/3/17.>

This simple act wrought a lifetime of good will and illustrates the much greater power of kindness.  No one would have kept a critical note that long, no matter how well deserved.  We can accomplish so much more with kindness, it’s no wonder God  wants to do renewal on our hearts and make us kinder people.

  1. Don’t be hard-hearted. (Please read Hebrews 3:7-19)

Hard-heartedness is a resistance to relationships.  Its hardness repels love, keeping other people and God at a distance.

The writer of Hebrews is concerned about his reader’s self-hardening hearts becoming a wall between them and God.  In verse twelve the writer identifies a hard heart as SINFUL and UNBELIEVING.  In verse thirteen he identifies the petrifying factor as SIN’S DECEITFULNESS.

The fact that the writer makes this warning to church people and uses the nation of Israel as an example tells us that God-resistant hearts are not found outside the walls of a church only, but inside as well.  Hard-heartedness is a cause of hypocrisy where a person lip-syncs the words of faith but has a concealed resistance to the truths behind those words.

The ANCESTORS referred to in this passage were the people of God.  They are the generation whom God led out of Egypt to the border of the Promised Land.

There they stopped, rebelled, and refused to go in.

The price of their rebellion was 40 years of wandering around the wilderness until the rebellious generation died off.  According to verse nineteen, their UNBELIEF kept them from enjoying God’s REST in the land He had promised them.  God was not unfaithful, they were.

These people were not pagans.  They were not the second generation, who knew of God’s miracles only by reputation.  They were the people who had seen the pillar of cloud and fire, the very ones who had walked on dry ground in the middle of the walled-up waters of the Red Sea.

Know that we are not concerned about individual acts as we are the general trend of a person’s life, the accumulation of decisions made to be unloving and disobey God.  (In a cave, a stalactite or stalagmite is not formed by a single drip, but is formed and hardened by countless drips over innumerable years.)

There are at least three kinds of hard-heartedness.

#1 = An angry heart is formed by disappointment, bitterness, impatience, are some of the experiences and choices that petrify a person’s heart, hardening it into stone.  While anger itself is not a sin, the Bible makes it clear that it can easily lead to sin, especially if a person holds a grudge, keeping anger alive by unforgiveness.

#2 = A legalistic heart is a kind of a hardened heart that leads to a lot of talk about rules, very little talk about grace.  Even then, the emphasis can be self-serving; people can go on and on about rules that apply to others then demand grace when the rules are contrary to what they want.  What’s more common is people who avoid the obvious sins (like murder, theft, adultery) but are guilty of the more hidden ones (grudge-holding, gossip, lust).

There must be a reasonable but gracious balance between the law and grace, between the rules and the exceptions.  Christ is made known where toughness and tenderness exist side-by-side, where both are exercised, depending on what the individual needs at the moment.   Love is always the deciding factor, the first and most important rule.  It is applied on a case-by-case basis, by use of principles, not inflexible legalisms.

#3 is a self-sufficient heart.  Self-sufficiency is the most subtle and most devastating enemy of true faith.  I’m speaking here about not “needing” God, about thinking of ourselves as providing our own daily bread instead of recognizing it is God who enlivens and empowers us.   The truth is we do not have any existence apart from God and the sooner we can get over ourselves the sooner we can get about the business of maturing in faith and becoming like Jesus, a homeless man who lived for three years on the kindness of others.

Pride that keeps us from God is deadly.  We all have a problem called sin and we are incapable of solving that problem.  God’s solution is Jesus Christ and it is the only solution that works.  We are, instead, to be GOD-centered, finding HIM sufficient, not relying on our own meager powers of strength & intelligence.

  1. Let the Lord give you a kind heart. (Please read Ezekiel 36:26.)

This verse is the centerpiece of several promises.  Just before the vision of the valley of dry bones, the Lord makes some uplifting promises that answer in advance the question asked in 37:3, “CAN THESE BONES LIVE?”  I believe that vision is an elaboration on the HEART OF FLESH promise made in 36:26.

The pattern of the promise in this passage is typical to many Old Testament promises:

a) Restoration to the land.

b) Cleansing from sin.

c) Empowering from the Spirit.

d) Prosperity in the land.

This passage promises a new heart.  The old heart was a heart of stone (hard).  The new heart is a heart of flesh (kind).  Why do we need a new heart?  Based on what we learned from Hebrews, the answer is obvious; we need a NEW HEART because the old stony one is resistant to love.  It divides us from God and from one another.

This passage promises a new spirit.  The fact that both a NEW HEART and SPIRIT are promised demonstrates that God promises to improve our inner life in this world AND eternal life after death.   Thus empowered, the stipulations of the Law would be kept by spiritual power more than force of will.  A kind heart is neither weakness nor disorder, which is how hard-hearted people may see it.

It puzzles me why people would resist or reject God’s offer of a NEW HEART and a NEW SPIRIT.

Reason #1 = because it requires change and change is difficult.  Pride lies to us and tells us we’re doing just fine.  Our hard-heart has enabled us to cope, to survive.  It causes us to make an idol of our brains or will and rely on them.  Fear lies to us and tells us there is an unknown on the other side of change.  Even though there is a promise of improved life, fear convinces us the devil we know is better.  Guilt lies to us and tells us we don’t deserve to be loved or that we’re somehow inadequate and can’t be loved.  Laziness lies to us and tells us that it’s just too much trouble.  Why sacrifice our routine and the familiarity of our old ways when we’re not sure the new life God offers will be better?

Reason #2 = because of unbelief, the Enemy has so clouded their mind and reason that they are not only unwilling but are incapable of accepting God’s offer of change for the better.

Whatever the reason, the bones can live, but they must want to badly enough to risk change.

 

“Every employee deserves to know they are unique and valuable to their boss.

“That’s the message of Tim Sanders, leadership coach and former Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo! Sanders advocates leading through loving in his book Love Is the Killer App, and from the platform of multiple leadership conferences. He often tells the story of a young manager named Steve, who was challenged by one of Sanders’s radio interviews.

“Steve resolved to visit each of his employees, all six of whom he had not seen face to face in over six months even though they worked in the same building and on the same floor. Steve wanted to tell each of them how much he appreciated them, and name one thing they did excellently.

“After the visit from Steve, one of his software engineers, Lenny, presented him with an Xbox gaming console. Steve was taken aback, as he knew Lenny had taken pay cuts over the last year. But he was more surprised to learn that the money had come from the sale of a nine-millimeter pistol—a pistol Lenny had bought months earlier with the intention of killing himself. Lenny told him of his mother’s death the previous year, and of his ensuing loneliness and depression: ‘I started a routine every night after work: eating a bowl of Ramen, listening to Nirvana, and getting the gun out. It took almost a month to get the courage to put the bullets in the gun. It took another couple of months to get used to the feeling of the barrel of the gun on the top of my teeth. For the last few weeks, I was putting ever so slight pressure on the trigger, and I was getting so close, Steve—so close.

“’Last week, you freaked me out. You came into my cubicle, put your arm around me, and told me you appreciated me because I turn in all my projects early, and that helps you sleep at night. You also said that I have a great sense of humor over e-mail and that you are glad I came into your life.

“’That night I went home, ate Ramen, and listened to Nirvana—and when I got the gun out, it scared me silly for the first time. All I could think about was what you said—that you were glad I came into your life.

“’The next day I went back to the pawnshop and sold the gun. I remembered that you had said you wanted the Xbox more than anything, but with a new baby at home could not afford it. So, for my life, you get this game. Thanks, boss.’

“’Sometimes people just need people,’ Sanders writes. ‘They need encouragement. You have no idea how lonely and sad some people might be. Love them everywhere—not just at home, but at work, or wherever you find them.’”

From an e-mail newsletter by Tim Sanders; submitted by Rich Tatum, Romeoville, Illinois

A kind heart is a happier heart.  Life is better, more satisfying, and easier when you have a kind heart.

What we all want, down to our bones, is a place where we can go to find kindness.  There are critics aplenty in the world outside and no shortage of people who want to manipulate us.  In our homes and here in our church home, kindness must rule.  Such a situation exists only where kindness rules in each heart first.

Be kind-hearted as Christ is toward you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s