Monday, November 8, 2010

Are You Brave Enough to Lead With Your Heart?

Lead With Your Heart!
by Barbara Henderson

Well, I thought he could have won first prize at a nerd of the year contest. On the other hand, his wife thought he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Other than that, she had really good vision, so I always supposed it was some sort of miracle that caused her to see him that way. Anyway, I never told her the truth. I mean, why burst her bubble? Thinking he was cute probably helped her cope with all the stuff that goes along with being a pastor’s wife

Of course, choosing a preacher shouldn’t be about how he looks. It should be about finding a man who knows what the Bible says, believes it with all his heart, and is able to communicate Bible truths effectively to his flock. Evan New was that sort of preacher. Honestly, he was that sort of preacher from the time I first met him when our children were young. Evan and Judy had a little boy and girl. Jerry and I had a little boy and girl. Our kids were about the same age. We were about the same age. It was a match made in heaven. Well, there were some problems associated with youth. No, I don’t mean in our kids. I mean in us. We were young parents trying to raise kids in a rough world. Young people usually have some rough edges that have to sort of be ground off by the years. You just learn better ways to get things done than a full head on attack. Evan was definitely ‘fired up’ for the Lord. He could preach a hell fire sermon with the best of them. He could also be a bit – well - overbearing even. I can say that because I loved him dearly as I love my own three brothers. There was something extra-ordinary about him that made him special, and a cut above many preachers and Christians. In addition too having sound theology and the gift of communications, he had a genuine love for people and lost souls. Ultimately, through some very hard situations, he excelled and grew as a Christian. I think it was because he led with his heart. His love of God, love for his family, love of his flock, and love for lost souls drove him to continue in well doing. His heart was never callused in spite of some terrible disappointments and personal tragedies. It was always tender and ready to reach out to a lost sinner or fellow believer in need. Like many people, he also experienced some triumphs and very great joy. (For instance – he had Jerry and me as members of his flock! Ha – ha – that’s a good one – I just wish Evan was here to read it!) I suppose something that helped Evan keep a tender heart was remembering God’s goodness instead of focusing entirely on the hurts that came into his life.

Evan died of a heart attack four years ago. Putting all the medical reasons aside, it isn’t that surprising. You see, Evan led with his heart. His heart took a constant beating. I think it just eroded away until there wasn’t enough left to sustain earthly life. In spite of many hard things that happened to him and his family, he never built a shell of self protection around himself. He continued to love others as Christ loved them. He continued to preach the Bible. He did not grow weary in well doing. That kept him going even though his body was very weary. So he died, and went home to be with the Lord. Of the four of us, Jerry, Barbara, Judy, and Evan, Evan was the first to see ‘Heaven’s Bright Son’ in person. (see the song at the end of article to clarify allusion to ‘heaven’s bright son’)

It seems that it is not uncommon for effective preachers of the truth to die young. They all face the same dilemma. They start out innocent and zealous. Life throws some brutal punches at them. Then comes the decision. They must answer this question. ‘Will I build a shell of protection around myself; or, will I continue to love one another as Christ loved us?’ If they go on and lead with their heart, then they will continue to grow into a greater preacher and servant of the Lord. If they build a wall around themselves, their effectiveness as a preacher will be diluted.

It is not only preachers who have that decision to make. Every individual Christian must make the same choice. I know of a young man who had that choice to make. I never met him of course, as he died June 6, 1944 on Omaha Beach. It was my husband’s uncle. He did his duty that day. He made it ashore, got his men and equipment to the relatively safety of the cliffs, and then returned to rescue wounded until he was killed. (I personally have spoken to his commanding officer, Franklyn Johnson, who is still living at this time, to validate that story. Franks’ book “One More Hill’ has just been republished )
I am sure he heard the cries for help from the wounded, or saw them struggling to reach safety. His head might have said, ‘Poor guys. Sorry they are stuck out there in the danger zone.’ But his heart was leading his head. He saw the need, set aside personal safety, and set out to save as many as he could. He got himself killed, but he saved some. Leading with your heart is definitely not the easy or safe way to go through life!

Every Christian has that choice to make. Will life’s upsets cause you to build a shell of protection that at least gives the illusion of safety from hurt? Or, will you follow the example of Christ and continue to lead with your heart even when you know you may get hurt again and again?

It is easy to say, ‘Well, I’m going to lead with my heart. I’m going to be Christ like.’ It is much harder to actually do it. After you make that decision, you are still going to face the same crowd at work, the same family members, the same church members, and the same rules and regulations that you find frustrating. The only thing that will be different is you.

Don’t confuse ‘leading with your heart’ with compromise. Christ led with his heart, but He never compromised Truth and right. His mind was on the will of the Father.

To lead with your heart, set your mind on the things of Christ instead of the things on your own mind. Christ came to seek and save the lost. That is our commission. Problems arise when disappointments, hurt feelings, or even just calluses developing over times of repetition. Just as a hand develops a callus from repetitive tasks, our hearts can develop a callus from repeating the same message. We give up on certain people, certain changes, certain blessings just because we ask so many times without receiving the answer we are seeking. Our hearts become callused instead of tender. If a callus on a hand is worn away, the tender skin is exposed and it hurts. When the callus remains, there is no pain, only sweat from labor. That is the way some Christians approach evangelism. They invite the world to come to Christ, but if they refuse the invitation, there is no real pain on the part of the one extending the invitation. There is a callus over their heart.

Leading with your heart is hard. It requires that you turn away from yourself and turn toward Christ. Self denial is never easy. But it may be even worse in this case, because not only are you denying yourself, you are venturing into dangerous territory. You may live a life without persecution for your faith. On the other hand, you may experience persecution that even leads to death. It might not be pretty. It is highly unlikely that you will get off entirely free. It will cost you something to follow Christ with your entire existence. It may be as small as being ostracized from people you used to see socially. It may cost you job promotions. It could cost you your family. It could cost you your life through martyrdom or through heroic actions taken to save or help others.

When Christ was on the cross, He was still leading with His heart. He forgave the penitent thief. He asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him. In the midst of persecution, mild or severe, someone leading with his/her heart will say, ‘Well, this hurts me, but it is worth it because it pleases God.’ (Of course I am not talking about self inflicted suffering. I am speaking of the suffering that may come to you through doing the things Christ leads you to do.)

Self preservation inclines us to allow calluses to grow over our hearts. Charitable love requires that we do not let this happen. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, ‘and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.’ Some translations translate it as faith, hope, and love. I think it means charitable love – a love that is undeserved – but bestowed anyway through charity.

Now, I am speaking/writing expressly to those who already believe, which includes me. Charitable love is what enables us to lead with our hearts. Of course the sinners of the world don’t deserve it. They don’t deserve to be asked into the family of God even once, much less repeatedly. It is only by charity that they are asked in the first place, and only by continued charity that they are asked repeatedly. (We were once in the same boat.) If we allow our hearts to become callused, we can still go through the motions. We can still invite people to come to Christ. We can still live a life that adheres to all the rules set for us through Christ’s example. We can still do a lot of things right. But, our effectiveness is drastically lessened unless we keep our hearts tender. Only tender hearted people can lead with their hearts.

It is a natural process for calluses to form on hands because of hard work. I think it is a natural process for calluses to form over the heart of mankind, including believers. For a callused hand, there are products that can be used to eat away or dissolve calluses. For the callused heart, there is an abrasive product that can be used to wear away the callus and make the heart tender again. It is the world of God. God’s words have a power beyond human language. The words of God proclaim the truth. They proclaim love, hope, joy, peace, contentment and many other things. These good things of God can erode away the calluses over a believer’s heart. Or, the same words, sharper than a two edged sword, can cut away the calluses in one fell swoop. That appears to be what happened to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. There he was, a sinner with as hard a heart as ever was, traveling down the road of self justification. The next minute, there he was, face to face with the Lord! I would rather not find myself in a situation like Paul did. Never the less, I don’t want a callused heart. I want to follow the instructions in Ephesians 4:32 which say, ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted; forgiving oneanother, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’

I have already mentioned that there is a cost to leading with your heart. Count the cost for yourself. We can’t know exactly the price that will be paid by the individual, but we do know that it will be costly. Now, let’s count the cost of NOT leading with our hearts.

Can we effectively deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus with a callused heart?

Can we effectively lay down our own lives to follow Jesus if our hearts are hard?

The cost of hard-heartedness seems to be ineffectiveness. It means our lives will count for nothing. The things of this world are temporary. They will not be going to heaven with us. If we have laid up no treasure in heaven, then we will have lived a life without any lasting effects. By the precious blood of Jesus, we can still enter heaven, but without rewards.

So, I want to ask all of you to hear the cries of the lost like the soldier heard the cry of the wounded on Omaha Beach. He went to their physical rescue. Christians should hear the cries of the lost souls. We should go to their rescue with a heart that is tender.

I have two songs that seem to fit this article.
‘Rescue the Perishing’
‘Be Thou My Vision’

‘Rescue the Perishing’, a song that spurs Christians to tell the lost that Jesus is able to save them.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

Be Thou My Visions – a song that encourages us to keep our eyes on the Lord.
also youtube

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.