Having A Tender Heart

As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.

After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.

Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.

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Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.

The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.

So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.

The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!

Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.

Just to Clarify

Just to clarify if there are any questions, Defending Contending will NOT endorse any candidate in this election. Both candidates hold positions that defy the laws of God. This is not about the economy, Benghazi, lies, treason, their lack of theology, or anything apart from following the Scriptures when it comes to making decisions that will impact our lives as we stand before God.

 

Dump Them Both

I have lived almost half a century. Being both a US citizen and a British subject, I can say that I have seen my share of politics. I have seen the games, heard the lies, and watched the vitriol fly. This current election in the USA must be the worse I have ever seen. We are a laughingstock among the nations of the world, many of whom have no fear of us as a nation. More importantly, they have no respect for us because our leaders (and potential wanna-be leaders) have no respect for the laws of this land.

America used to be a very great nation. We are the nation that was silent for the first 3 years of The Great War, also known as World War I. Finally joining in, the men of this nation answered the call to arms and routed the enemies of freedom. That was ALL that was fought for.

The same thing occurred in World War II when the greatest generation of Americans who have ever lived rose up and resoundingly thrashed the enemies of freedom on two fronts (Europe and Asia). We asked for nothing, but gave much. After all was said and done, we sent more of men and women to former war fronts and America rebuilt those nations one brick at a time. We even paid for it with grants, many of which have still not been repaid.

The men and women who gave their lives in the theaters of war followed their orders so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.

Sadly, I never thought, and I am sure our Founding Fathers, nor those veterans of war from World War II on, could have thought or imagined that our nation would be allowed to flounder like a fish out of water. To think that the choices for President and Commander-in-Chief is down to the vulgar, trash-talking, debauched candidate on one side and a feminist, God-hating, traitor on the other side is just enough to make anybody with half an ounce of common sense want to vomit – violently!

However, there is something even worse than what we are seeing today. Our nation has become a nation that panders to evil. It calls good to be evil, and evil to be good. Our nation has become a culture that thinks it is entitled. It thinks it is entitled to disrespect the American flag while being paid millions of dollars. Sadly, most of the people who complain about this are the same ones who will still pay hundreds of dollars at sporting events every single week and thus support and endorse what is taking place.

Our society believes that is must speak from the pocketbook because after all, “it’s about the economy, stupid!” When will we ever learn? Obviously, it is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This once great nation is repeating history. History shows that Rome was NOT destroyed by her enemies. She was destroyed from within. Rome thought she was entitled to what she had. Ultimately, she was destroyed because she forgot the reason she existed was because of God and God alone.

Not only is our society at large a problem, but even the evangelical church is a problem. We have people fighting back and forth across the aisles of Facebook, Twitter, and even church itself trying to decide why and which of the lesser of two great, monstrous evils to vote for!

Seriously?? Let’s put this into perspective.

Let’s assume in a few years that the choice is down to a president who promises that he or she will only kill 10 Christians per day versus a president who promises that he or she will only kill just one (1) Christian per day. Are our only choices really to vote for the lesser of these two evils? The cries are growing louder and I can hear some saying, “Oh, that would never happen!”

May I remind you that we can easily substitute the word “Christian” in the above sentence and replace it with “baby” or “infant.” We end up with the same solution. We soothe our conscience by declaring that we are only voting for the president who “promises to only kill just one (1) baby a day” on his watch instead of standing for what is right.

You can argue all you want while using the illustrations of Joseph being second in command in Egypt, and Daniel being third in command in all of Babylon. Those two men were NOT voted in to their office. They were placed strategically, specifically, and sovereignly in those places of power by none other than God for a specific purpose.

The Christians of Rome had no option to “vote” for the lesser of two evil Caesars. They would NEVER have been told by the apostles to “vote your conscience” or “vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best.” Utter ridiculousness! They were commanded to obey the laws of the land, to remember who was in control, to pray for the leaders of the land, to watch for the Lord’s return, and to pray without ceasing.

Today, we have many who are not only self-acclaimed evangelicals, but even claim that they believe in the sovereign hand of God. They then turn around and think that the entire picture puzzle rests upon their feeble shoulders of clay. They declare that God is in control, but refuse to believe Psalm 2 that reminds us that God sits in the heavens and LAUGHS at the wicked. The wicked say, “Let us break their bands asunder” but God holds them in derision.

Today, our churches rarely pray and are certainly not watching and hoping for the return of the Lord. Our churches are more concerned about keeping the peace between rival factions in the congregation instead of saying, “Thus says the Lord…the wicked shall not prosper!”

In the meantime, having cast aside the belief in the sovereignty of God, we have become more and more pragmatic in our belief system. We justify the killing of only one baby a day because “maybe God will take this candidate out of the picture after he becomes president so that we can be blessed with the second person in charge” and America will truly become a Christian nation again. Our pastors and churches have accepted the handouts of the government and thus have been lulled into silence for the sake of a few dollars saved on church supplies at the local office supply store.

I would be a fool to encourage our readers to follow their heart. Your heart and mine cannot be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 makes this very clear, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Both candidates are simply two sides of the same coin. They both endorse the murder of helpless babies and support the abomination of the homosexual movement. Evil is still evil and will always be evil. Please spare me the details of how “a vote thrown away is a vote for ______” or “if you don’t vote, you are not obeying your civic duty and thus in sin!”

No, no, no, and NO!!!!!!

I want to hear more pastors, Bible teachers, and evangelists crying out to God like Nehemiah to forgive their sins, the sins of their homes, and the sins of this nation. I want to hear more who will be willing, even as a top official, to pray for what is right and true, even if it means that you get thrown to the lions. I want to hear more cry for mercy for the tragedy that has befallen this nation, and plead to God asking, “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?”

The truth is that if those who claimed the name of Christ were willing to cease being pragmatic in their approach to life and realize that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), then we would become a voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight your paths for the King is coming.”

With all the arguments that have been bandied about as to who we should or should not vote for, I am truly appalled at the lack of integrity that is seen in every quarter. I am appalled at the emotions that are in play instead of the Scriptures. I am appalled at the reality that many who say they love the Lord and believe He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords live as though the rise and fall of America depends on them casting a vote for the lesser of two evils!

I have no right to tell you to vote for either candidate. Americans, by the law of the land, have been given the liberty and the choice to make as to what they will do in this election and every election after this.

Those who claim the name of Christ though have a much higher calling. We are not called to obey our emotions. We are not called to vote with our pocketbooks. We are called to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, and I have to wonder how many in the world look on us with disdain because we have fallen hard and fast away from the truths we claim to hold dear.

As a true believer in the sovereignty of God and the dictates of Scripture, I personally cannot and will not vote for either candidate. I will not violate my conscience in order to pacify my emotions. Finally, I choose not to vote ultimately because to do so means that I must practice situational ethics in order to justify either choice.

Like Joshua of old said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” We will wake up on November 6th giving thanks that we are one day closer to the return of the Lord. We will be able to sleep well at night knowing that we did not approve of one single candidate who stands daily to mock the Most High God. We will wake up knowing that no matter who will be the next president that our God still reigns and He ALONE puts up one and puts down another.

He alone can make our next Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like a cow until he lifts up his eyes and praises the Most High God, and He alone can choose to feed the next Herod literally to the worms!

In conclusion, our readers have choices to make as well. My prayer is that each of you will pray about how you can make the right decisions that are in line with the Word of God. There should be and can be no other rule by which you decide your paths. Ultimately, we will each give account before God for the decision we choose to make, but we will not have the liberty to say that we loved what God hates because it was the better of all the other options.

5 Indicators of an Evil and Wicked Heart

This blog was posted at Association of Biblical Counselors and was written by Leslie Vernick. I believe the words are very appropriate for what we are seeing, sadly, in many evangelical churches today. While it is important that we call sin what it is, we should be doing so with much love and grace. Ignoring the sin that is present in a congregation and not addressing both forgiving the offender as well as seeking forgiveness when the one offending is a recipe for disaster. The post below is in its entirety as found on the Association of Biblical Counselors website complete with links.

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As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn’t perfect, and full of weakness and sin.

I think one of the reasons we don’t “see” evil is because we find it so difficult to believe that evil individuals actually exist. We can’t imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spinning outrageous fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending he or she is spiritually committed yet has no fear of God before his or her eyes.

The Bible clearly tells us that among God’s people there are wolves that wear sheep’s clothing (Jeremiah 23:14; Titus 1:10; Revelations 2:2). It’s true that every human heart is inclined toward sin (Romans 3:23), and that includes evil (Genesis 8:21; James 1:4). We all miss God’ mark of moral perfection. However, most ordinary sinners do not happily indulge evil urges, nor do we feel good about having them. We feel ashamed and guilty, rightly so (Romans 7:19–21). These things are not true of the evil heart.

Below are five indicators that you may be dealing with an evil heart rather than an ordinary sinful heart.  If so, it requires a radically different treatment approach.

1. Evil hearts are experts at creating confusion and contention.

They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, deny reality, make up stories, and withhold information. (Psalms 5:8; 10:7; 58:3; 109:2–5; 140:2; Proverbs 6:13,14; 6:18,19; 12:13; 16:20; 16:27, 28; 30:14; Job 15:35; Jeremiah 18:18; Nehemiah 6:8; Micah 2:1; Matthew 12:34,35; Acts 6:11–13; 2 Peter 3:16)

2. Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words.

But if you look at the fruit of their lives or the follow through of their words, you will find no real evidence of godly growth or change. It’s all smoke and mirrors. (Psalms 50:19; 52:2,3; 57:4; 59:7; 101:7; Proverbs 12:5; 26:23–26; 26:28; Job 20:12; Jeremiah 12:6; Matthew 26:59; Acts 6:11–13; Romans 16:17,18; 2 Corinthians 11:13,14; 2 Timothy 3:2–5; 3:13; Titus 1:10,16).

3. Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference.

They reject feedback, real accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. They use Scripture to their own advantage but ignore and reject passages that might require self-correction and repentance. (Romans 2:8; Psalms 10; 36:1–4; 50:16–22; 54:5,6; 73:6–9; Proverbs 21:24; Jude 1:8–16).

4. Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card.

They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust. (Proverbs 21:10; 1 Peter 2:16; Jude 1:4).

5. Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse.

They do not struggle against sin or evil—they delight in it—all the while masquerading as someone of noble character. (Proverbs 2:14–15; 10:23; 12:10; 21:27,29; Isaiah 32:6; Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13–15)

If you are working with someone who exhibits these characteristics, it’s important that you confront them head on. You must name evil for what it is. The longer you try to reason with them or show mercy towards them, the more you, as the Christian counselor, will become a pawn in his or her game.

They want you to believe that:

1. Their horrible actions should have no serious or painful consequences.

When they say “I’m sorry,” they look to you as the pastor or Christian counselor to be their advocate for amnesty with the person he or she has harmed. They believe grace means they are immediately granted immunity from the relational fallout of their serious sin. They believe forgiveness entitles them to full reconciliation and will pressure you and their victim to comply.

The Bible warns us saying, “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:10).

The Bible tells us that talking doesn’t wake up evil people, but painful consequences might. Jesus didn’t wake up the Pharisee’s with his talk nor did God’s counsel impact Cain (Genesis 4). In addition, the Bible shows us that when someone is truly sorry for the pain they have caused, he or she is eager to make amends to those they have harmed by their sin (see Zacchaeus’ response when he repented of his greed in Luke 19).

Tim Keller writes, “If you have been the victim of a heinous crime. If you have suffered violence, and the perpetrator (or even the judge) says, ‘Sorry, can’t we just let it go?’ You would say, ‘No, that would be an injustice.’ Your refusal would rightly have nothing to do with bitterness or vengeance. If you have been badly wronged, you know that saying sorry is never enough. Something else is required—some kind of costly payment must be made to put things right.”1

As Biblical counselors let’s not collude with the evil one by turning our attention to the victim, requiring her to forgive, to forget, to trust again when there has been no evidence of inner change. Proverbs says, “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips” (Proverbs. 25:19). It’s foolishness.

The evil person will also try to get you to believe

2. That if I talk like a gospel-believing Christian I am one, even if my actions don’t line up with my talk.

Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). He knows more true doctrine than you or I will ever know, but his heart is wicked. Why? Because although he knows the truth, he does not believe it or live it.

The Bible has some strong words for those whose actions do not match their talk (1 John 3:17,18; Jeremiah 7:8,10; James 1:22, 26). John the Baptist said it best when he admonished the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

If week after week you hear the talk but there is no change in the walk, you have every reason to question someone’s relationship with God.

Part of our maturity as spiritual leaders is that we have been trained to discern between good and evil. Why is that so important? It’s important because evil usually pretends to be good, and without discernment we can be easily fooled (Hebrews 5:14).

When you confront evil, chances are good that the evil heart will stop counseling with you because the darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and the foolish and evil heart reject correction (Proverbs 9:7,8). But that outcome is far better than allowing the evil heart to believe you are on his or her side, or that “he’s not that bad” or “that he’s really sorry” or “that he’s changing” when, in fact, he is not.

Daniel says, “[T]he wicked will continue to be wicked” (Daniel 12:10), which begs the question, do you think an evil person can really change?

 

[1] Tim Keller, Jesus the King, page 172