Preparing Our Hearts (Lane)
Preparing Our Hearts
by Lonnie Lane
Did you ever wonder why the armor of God requires that we have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace?” (Eph 6:15) Why our feet? Why the preparation? I believe we must make preparation to be persons of peace no matter what we may walk through. We must whittle out the shape of our character before the Lord on a continual basis so that when we find ourselves faced with what could threaten our spiritual and emotional equilibrium, we’re standing strong and immovable on the Rock of our salvation. We’ve already decided how we’re going to respond. Responding is different than reacting. Responding takes forethought, a choice, whereas reacting is knee-jerk, impulsive, not-thought-out, automatic.
In seeking the Lord for what He might say to the church for 2008 I believe the theme is “Prepare your hearts!” Yikes! What does that mean, Lord? Prepare for what? How do I prepare? I believe He answered that there are changes coming. Well, life is always full of changes, isn’t it? How we respond or react to changes may make a
What needs changing? Well, obviously we do!
big difference in the direction our lives take. Or even how we affect the lives of others. Life is largely about a series of choices. Robert Frost in one of his poems wrote, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Right, but which way shall we choose? How do we decide? When we’re faced with change “in the road,” will we respond or react?
This website is largely concerned with God restoring His people to a “one new man” relationship. There are some God-induced changes this restoration will no doubt require on an ongoing basis. It may mean letting go of something that we’re quite fond of in our individual and church lives in order to embrace what will turn out to be God’s higher will, though it may not look like it at first. Some of us really don’t like change, as in, “We’ve always done it this way,” or, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Others are more willing to take risks if the opportunity for improvement or creativity is likely.
God’s changes, however, can only be for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Rom 8:28). The unfolding “one new man” changes we’re experiencing today are so promising because they mean that Yeshua’s return is rapidly approaching. We know that He is retained in heaven “until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21). We who “love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) say, Bring on the changes, Lord, that You may do the work of restoring all things. Come Lord Yeshua, come! (Rev. 22:17, 20).
The question then arises as to what needs changing? Well, obviously we do. It’s certainly not the Lord. He’s the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Circumstances also change and either we change them or they change us. Could be both. But behind that immediate experience of change, we would do well to become aware of who is behind the changes — God or satan? Having that discernment will make the difference in how we either respond or react. How we label what is taking place is critical. Discernment is a practiced characteristic. John, after years of “practicing” life before the Lord, talked about the “mature who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Sounds like a way to “prepare your heart,” doesn’t it? To discern between good and evil.
I believe we must be careful not to assess too quickly what we think is of God or of the devil. People have been wrong about that before. Israel was wrong about Moses when he was gone for 40 days on the mountain, they were often wrong about prophets, those in the Temple on Pentecost were wrong about the disciples being drunk at 9:00 a.m., the Pharisees were wrong about Yeshua altogether, Paul was wrong in trying to protect Israel from the “error” of the Believers, and the five congregations in Revelations 1-3 were wrong about a number of things. We would do well to suspend judgment until we are sure by the Spirit what is of God and what isn’t.
I received a phone call from someone this week looking for wisdom on a certain issue. She was struggling with whether to do this, or that. But she didn’t know what the Lord would say to her. She was assessing it in her mind and emotions but when she finally went to the Lord and found where His peace was, then she knew what to do. She discerned His will. We must be careful to find out from God what He would want from us in a situation that is unsettling. This might be the place to avoid stoking the fires of discontent by rehearsing the problem with others. Bearing false witness is a sin (Ex 20:16) and opinions aren’t the same as truth.
Before I humbly submit to you further what I feel the Lord might be saying, I just want you to know that I don’t share these words glibly or as one who has already attained to it all. I’m as accountable to these words as anyone else. Maybe more so, as teachers incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1). While we might have heard these words many times before, I for one feel that this may be a time to really take them as a directive to be followed rather than a nice thought to keep in mind or a verse to memorize.
I believe the Lord may be saying that He is beginning to sift out the good from the bad in a time when there is much that we call good that is evil (and things that we call evil, but are good). We will either become more sensitive or less sensitive to the Holy Spirit (lit. Spirit of Holiness), depending on whether we forsake ungodliness or tolerate and compromise on what we know is not His will. He is beginning to shake up what is no longer profitable for His people in order that we are left with what IS profitable. By profitable I believe He means that which will sustain us spiritually, especially in times of difficulty, big or small. We prepare our hearts by hiding His Word in our hearts and praying earnestly for discernment and wisdom, expecting He will answer those prayers.
I believe He is saying that preparing our hearts also means coming to Him and asking for His grace to remove from our lives all that challenges His Word and keeps us from complete and total trust in Him and surrender to Him. Many of us depend too much on the arm of the flesh rather than on the Hand of God. For some of us this is only in a certain area of our lives; for others it’s a way of life. Dependence upon the Lord is what will save us. Independence is of the Fall, and is not a kingdom characteristic.
I believe that He is saying to let His joy and the assurance of our salvation and our oneness with Him occupy our thoughts and bring rest to our hearts. If we have doubted His love for us personally, this is a time to put aside shame or rejection and believe God! He really does love you! He’s also saying, “Do not look at the storms of life and expect to walk on the water. Being fully occupied with Me and what My Word says in times of uncertainty or difficulty will enable you to stand when all else seems to be sinking.” That is not meant to sound like an expectation of calamity, but rather an exhortation to choose the lifestyle of a Kingdom ambassador. Life does, after all, provide us with storms, little ones and not-so-little ones. So why not “practice” on whatever comes to us now so, should something bigger come later, we’re already “prepared” with the gospel of peace. Feet often are associated with sharing the gospel with others in Scripture, so to have our feet shod with the Gospel of peace is to be prepared with such a peace in our own hearts that we are available to export that peace to other hearts around us. As you prepare, share!
Yeshua is about to bring full redemption to His earth! That’s cause for great praise. We could in our lifetime see the end of the Fall when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). If ever there was a reason to be joyful, this is it!
Deception, temptation, lies, subterfuge (pretense), striving, pain, rejection, fear, hate, rebellion, sickness, death… all will flee from us, and exist no longer. We who are His, are privileged far beyond our ability to grasp the magnitude of such a privilege. In the meantime, we are being transformed into the image of God’s beloved Son so that any challenges that we face should be increasingly overcome in the here and now in our lives, so that we respond to challenges with spiritual maturity, and not just react soulishly.
I believe God will give us renewed grace to do away with what keeps us from freedom and peace. Joy is not about circumstances, but about what is eternal. Nevertheless there are things that disturb our peace and freedom in Yeshua. This could apply to outright sin, or to something that seems spiritually benign such as allowing confusion or disorder in our lives somewhere that robs us of peace, or keeps us from being ready to “go” when He may ask us to. I believe He is saying to flee from the things that leave us feeling unclean lest we become unclean by letting them into our minds and lives.
God is beginning to shake and shift where we are dependent on a structure that takes the place of our dependence upon Him or our identity in Him.
When I asked the Lord what kinds of changes He might be talking about, what came to mind was the verse that says, “The mountains may be removed and the hills make shake, but My lovingkindness won’t be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10) Oi vey, I thought. What in the world does that mean? So I asked, “Does this mean spiritually, Lord? Are these spiritual mountains we depend on that will disappear?” (While I was writing this the media reported destructive tornadoes in several states on Super Tuesday, a decisive voting day for many States. Obviously this “shaking” applies to the physical realm as well. Sometimes things in the natural are pictures of things in the spirit realm.)
However, the Lord does seem to be saying that there are mountains of traditions and mountains of organizations (such as denominations), and even ministries that we depend upon, that we look to for spiritual input and strength which keep us from leaning on the arm of our Beloved. We look to them and identify with them more than the Lord, in some instances.
Denominations keep His people apart and are selective in what they believe. Denominations are defined by “we believe this, but not that,” which means separation from fellowship with those who are not in agreement with them. Although in the past decade or two those divisions are beginning to dwindle, thank the Lord. God is beginning to shake and shift where we are dependent on a structure that takes the place of our dependence upon Him or our identity in Him. As a new believer, just fresh into the Christian world, with John 17 as my new expectation of relationships, I was shocked to find out what a mess the Body was in, in terms of unity, and to note that people identified themselves by their denomination rather than as just believers in Jesus. It really baffled me. I remember wondering if the Christians I was meeting had possibly missed reading John 17.
When God begins shaking things, those who cling to that which God is shaking, meaning changing or removing, will find themselves in confusion and in some cases turmoil until they let go and yield to Him. Yeshua’s greatest battle was in Gethsemane where the final battle to choose God’s will took place, and until He got to the “Nevertheless.” It’s in the acceptance and in yielding to the Lord that the obedience takes the place of the struggle.
Often when something happens that we don’t like we think that what needs to change is the situation, when it’s possible that what God wants is our yielded heart in the matter. He’s after something higher than fixing what annoys or frightens us. He’s after our trust in Him in such a way that no matter what happens that threatens our status quo, or however things may be unlike what we want, we are so yielded to Yeshua in our hearts and so trusting in Him, that our peace is not disturbed by circumstances not to our liking. This is very significant and again the difference in outcome will depend on whether we react in the flesh or respond according to His Spirit. He, by His Spirit, may then tell us to do something about a situation, but then we are doing it in obedience and not annoyance, indignation, or even fear.
God is also in the process of removing structures that are keeping us apart from one another, and from what is weighing us down and fatiguing us because He hasn’t asked us to do all we may be involved in. And most importantly, He is in the process of freeing His people from what is keeping us from being all He intends for His bride to be when He returns. I believe He is blowing a shofar in the spirit realm. That’s why we hear so many shofars today, which were not generally heard in the church before Jerusalem was back in Jewish hands. He is calling His people to His side, to rest in Him and to enter the sanctuary of His presence and to drink from the ancient wells of the waters of (complete) salvation. These wells will refresh and satisfy the deepest place in our beings.
This is a new season. We are “being fit together into a holy sanctuary in the Lord, and in Whom you are built together into a habitation of God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:21, 22 PNT) Most translations say we are “growing into a holy temple” but the Greek word is naos which means “sanctuary.” The difference in the two words makes the
God is doing the shaking and the sifting… to free us and to bring us into the joy of His salvation and to complete freedom.
point of this article. The temple has an outer court where sinners, and even heathens, were welcome and an inner court, with the altar where people would deal with their sin. But only a priest could enter the sanctuary. The sanctuary was set apart for the Lord. It consisted of the Holy Place where the priests ministered to the Lord after having been sanctified and cleansed. Any priest who had not already dealt with his sin and entered the sanctuary in a sinful state would have been struck dead immediately at the doorway. The sanctuary also contained the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter on the Day of Atonement to intercede for the nation, asking God to forgive their sins and his own sins. (See the Glossary on “Sanctuary” in Power New Testament for more information.)
So as we see, what we are being built into is a holy sanctuary as priests unto our God, already cleansed of any sin. Under the New Covenant we will not be stuck dead as the sanctuary is a spiritual one, not a physical one, but in order to be included in what God is building, we must be repentant, cleansed of all sin, and committed to “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10).
What we want is His Spirit and His presence! To the extent that we depend upon Him and lovingly trust in Him, His joy will strengthen us regardless of what may come in days or years ahead. God is doing the shaking and the sifting not to punish us or reprimand us, but to free us and to bring us into the joy of His salvation and to the complete freedom that is available to us in humble surrender to Yeshua. Moses was called by God the most humble man on earth. That humble quality is the character of Yeshua. Whatever comes, it is so “that He might humble you and might test you, to do good for you in the end.” (Deut 8:16). It is in humility that we find our greatest rest in God. It is His desire and intention that His highest will would be done in our lives and that our lives would reflect His glory as He fills us with Himself. Let us prepare our hearts before Him and humbly receive all the goodness He wants to heap upon us.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.