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Get close to the heart of God.
Understanding God's heart is the key to understanding life. For, it is his heart that designed redemption through Jesus. From his heart sprang the beauty of world, the wonder of the universe, the creativity of all humankind, and a specific love for you. His heart is the blueprint of all human hearts, and knowing his heart reveals the origin of ...
Get close to the heart of God.
Understanding God's heart is the key to understanding life. For, it is his heart that designed redemption through Jesus. From his heart sprang the beauty of world, the wonder of the universe, the creativity of all humankind, and a specific love for you. His heart is the blueprint of all human hearts, and knowing his heart reveals the origin of goodness and bounty he endowed to us.
In Knowing the Heart of God, 365 entries will take you closer to our vastly amazing and tenderly intimate God. You will encounter a daily installment of encouragement and insight, guidance and wisdom to:
God longs for you to know his heart, to tap into his love and plans for you. He designed you to long for the same. Knowing the Heart of God will satisfy your hardwired need to know him and will take you day by day closer and closer to the God who loves you.
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. —Jeremiah 6:16
One of the most haunting experiences I have ever had took place on an early summer day in Alaska. After a twenty minute walk through a spruce forest, we were led into a broad, open meadow about four hundred yards across. "They're sleeping now, but they'll be back tonight," our guide said. "C'mere—I want to show you something." We followed him to a trail of massive footprints, with a stride of about two feet between them, pressed down into the bog and making a path through it. "It's a marked trail," he said. A path created by the footprints of the bears. "This one is probably centuries old. For as long as the bears have been on this island, they've taken this path. The cubs follow their elders, putting their feet exactly where the older bears walk. That's how they learn to cross this place." I began to walk in the marked trail, stepping into the firm, deep-worn places where bears had walked for centuries.
I'm not sure how to describe the experience, but for some reason the word holy comes to mind. An ancient and fearful path through a wild and untamed place. A proven way. I was haunted by it, could have followed that path for a long, long time. It awakened some deep, ancient yearning in me. There is a path laid down for centuries by men who have gone before us. A marked trail. And there is a Father ready to show us that path and help us follow it.
January 2 A True Father
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! —Matthew 7:11
George MacDonald was so right when he said, "The hardest, gladdest thing in the world is to cry Father! from a full heart ... the refusal to look up to God as our father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair; the inability, the one central misery." The one central misery. That's worth thinking about. I didn't used to believe it, really. You see, this fatherlessness has become so normal—our normal—we don't even think about it much.
That is why Jesus kept coming back to this central issue, over and over, driving at it in his teachings, his parables, his penetrating questions. If you look again, through the lens that most of us feel fundamentally fatherless, I think you'll find it very close indeed to the center of Jesus' mission. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" (Matt. 7:9–10). Well? We rush ahead to the rest of the passage, but I think Jesus is asking us a real question and he wants a real answer. I expect he paused here, his penetrating, compassionate eyes scanning the listeners before him. Well? I hesitate. I guess you're right. I wouldn't, and apart from the exceptionally wicked man, I can't think of any decent father—even if he is self-absorbed—who would do such a thing. Jesus continues, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (v. 11).
Well? January 3
Look at the birds of the air ... Consider the lilies in the field. Are you not much more valuable to your true Father than they? —Matthew 6:26, 28
Look at the birds of the air. Consider the lilies in the field. Are you not much more valuable to your true Father than they? (Matt. 6:26, 28). Hmmm. I'm not sure how to answer. I mean, of course, there's the "right" answer. And then there is the wound in our hearts toward fatherhood, and there is also the way our lives have gone. "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" (Matt. 18:12). Yet another question, pressing into the submerged fears in our hearts, another question wanting another answer. Well? Wouldn't he? "And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost" (vv. 13–14).
Wherever you are in your ability to believe it at this moment in your life, at least you can see what Jesus is driving at. You have a good Father. He is better than you thought. He cares. He really does. He's kind and generous. He's out for your best. This is absolutely central to the teaching of Jesus.
January 4 Figuring Out Life on My Own
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." —Genesis 11:4
I've spent too many years trying to figure out life on my own. Reading books, attending classes, always keeping an eye out for folks who seemed to be getting the hang of things. I'd notice that the neighbors' kids seemed to be doing well, and I'd think to myself, What do they do that I'm not doing? I'd walk away from a conversation with someone who seemed to be on top of the world, and afterward I'd think, She seems so well read. I should read more. I'd hear that a colleague was doing well financially, and quickly I'd jump to, He spends time managing his money. I ought to do that. We do this all the time, all of us, this monitoring and assessing and observing and adjusting, trying to find the keys to make life work.
We end up with quite a list. But the only lasting fruit it seems to bear is that it ties us up in knots. Am I supposed to be reading now or exercising or monitoring my fat intake or creating a teachable moment with my son?
The good news is you can't figure out life like that. You can't possibly master enough principles and disciplines to ensure that your life works out. You weren't meant to, and God won't let you. For he knows that if we succeed without him, we will be infinitely farther from him. That whole approach to life smacks more of the infamous folks who raised the tower of Babel than it does of those who walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day.
In the end, I'd much rather have God.
Life Is a Story January 5
I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables through them. —Hosea 12:10
Life, you'll notice, is a story. Life doesn't come to us like a math problem. It comes to us the way that a story does, scene by scene. You wake up. What will happen next? You don't get to know—you have to enter in, take the journey as it comes. The sun might be shining. There might be a tornado outside. Your friends might call and invite you to go sailing. You might lose your job.
Life unfolds like a drama. When it comes to figuring out this life you're living, you'd do well to know the rest of the story.
You come home one night to find that your car has been totaled. Now, all you know is that you loaned it for a couple of hours to your teenage daughter, and now here it is, all smashed up. Isn't the first thing out of your mouth, "What happened?"
In other words, "Tell me the story."
Somebody has some explaining to do, and that can be done only in hearing the tale they have to tell. Careful now—you might jump to the wrong conclusion. Doesn't it make a difference to know that she wasn't speeding, that in fact the other car ran a red light? It changes the way you feel about the whole thing. Thank God, she's all right.
Truth be told, you need to know the rest of the story if you want to understand just about anything in life. Love affairs, layoffs, the collapse of empires, your child's day at school—none of it makes sense without a story.
January 6 Our Lives Are Stories
But Moses said to God. "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" —Exodus 3:11
If you want to get to know someone, you need to know their story. Their life is a story. It, too, has a past and a future. It, too, unfolds in a series of scenes over the course of time. Why is Grandfather so silent? Why does he drink too much? Well, let me tell you. There was a terrible battle in World War II, in the South Pacific, on an island called Okinawa. Tens of thousands of American men died or were wounded there; some of them were your grandfather's best friends. He was there, too, and saw things he has never been able to forget.
"But in order to make you understand," explained novelist Virginia Woolf, "to give you my life, I must tell you a story."
I expect all of us, at one time or another, in an attempt to understand our lives or to discover what we ought to do, have gone to someone else with our stories. This is not merely the province of psychotherapists and priests, but of any good friend. "Tell me what happened. Tell me your story, and I'll try to help you make some sense of it."
We humans share these lingering questions: "Who am I really? Why am I here? Where will I find life? What does God want of me?" The answers to these questions seem to come only when we know the rest of the story.
If life is a story, what is the plot? What is your role to play? It would be good to know that, wouldn't it? What is this all about?
A Passionate Voice Within January 7
The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, be will be found by you. —2 Chronicles 15:2
Some years into our spiritual journey, after the waves of anticipation that mark the beginning of any pilgrimage have begun to ebb, after we have entered life's middle years of service and busyness, a voice speaks to us in the midst of all we are doing. There is something missing in all of this, it suggests. There is something more.
The voice often comes in the middle of the night or in the early hours of morning, when our hearts are most vulnerable and our thoughts unedited. At first, we mistake the source of this voice and assume it is just our imagination. We fluff up our pillow, roll over, and go back to sleep. Days, weeks, even months go by and the voice speaks again: Aren't you thirsty? Listen to your heart. There is something missing.
We listen and we are aware of ... a sigh. And under the sigh is something dangerous, something that feels adulterous and disloyal to the religion we are serving. We sense a passion deep within; it feels reckless, wild.
We tell ourselves that this small, passionate voice is an intruder who has gained entry because we have not been diligent enough in practicing our religion. We tell ourselves that the malaise of spirit we feel even as we step up our religious activity is a sign of spiritual immaturity and we scold our heart for its lack of fervor.
Sometime later, the voice in our heart dares to speak again. Listen to me—there is something missing in all this. You long to be in a love affair, an adventure. You were made for something more. You know it.
January 8 A Distant Whisper
Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. —1 Samuel 3:9
When the young prophet Samuel heard the voice of God calling to him in the night, his priestly mentor, Eli, told him how to respond. Samuel discovered that it was God calling. Rather than ignoring the voice, or rebuking it, Samuel learned to listen.
In our modern, pragmatic world we often have no such mentor, so we do not understand it is God speaking to us in our heart. Having so long been out of touch with our deepest longing, we fail to recognize the voice and the One who is calling to us through it. Frustrated by our heart's continuing sabotage of a dutiful Christian life, some of us silence the voice by locking our heart away in the attic, feeding it only the bread and water of duty and obligation until it is almost dead, the voice now small and weak. We make sure to maintain enough distance between ourselves and others, and even between ourselves and our own heart, to keep hidden the practical agnosticism we are living now that our inner life has been divorced from our outer life. Having thus appeased our heart, we nonetheless are forced to give up our spiritual journey because our heart will no longer come with us. But sometimes in the night, when our defenses are down, we still hear it call to us, oh so faintly—a distant whisper. Come morning, the new day's activities scream for our attention, the sound of the cry is gone, and we congratulate ourselves on finally overcoming the flesh.
We Have Lost Our Story January 9
He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. —Psalm 103:4–5
For most of us, life feels like a movie we've arrived at forty-five minutes late. Something important seems to be going on ... maybe. I mean, good things do happen, sometimes beautiful things. You meet someone, fall in love. You find work that is yours to fulfill. But tragic things happen too. You fall out of love, or the other person falls out of love with you. Work becomes punishment. Everything starts to feel like an endless routine.
If there is meaning to this life, then why do our days seem so random? What is this drama we've been dropped into the middle of? If there is a God, what sort of story is he telling here? At some point, we begin to wonder if Macbeth wasn't right after all: Is life a tale "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"?
No wonder we keep losing heart.
We find ourselves in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, often a confusing mixture of both, and we haven't a clue how to make sense of it all. It's like we're holding in our hands some pages torn out of a book. These pages are the days of our lives. Fragments of a story. They seem important, or at least we long to know they are, but what does it all mean? If only we could find the book that contains the rest of the story.
G.K. Chesterton had it right when he said, "With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand."
January 10 The Heart Is Central
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. —2 Chronicles 16:9
The heart is central. That I would even need to remind you of this only shows how far we have fallen from the life we were meant to live—or how powerful the spell has been. The subject of the heart is addressed in the Bible more than any other topic—more than "works" or "serve," more than "believe" or "obey," more than money and even more than worship. Maybe God knows something we've forgotten. But of course—all those other things are matters of the heart. Consider but a few passages:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut. 6:5) (Jesus called this the greatest of all the commandments—and notice that the heart comes first.) Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7) Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5) Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. (Ps. 119:11 nasb) These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (Matt 15:8)
A Subtle Erosion January 11
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. —Matthew 5:8
There are few things more crucial to us than our own lives. And there are few things we are less clear about.
This journey we are taking is hardly down the yellow brick road. Then again, that's not a bad analogy at all. We may set out in the light, with hope and joy, but eventually, our path always seems to lead us through dark woods, shrouded with a low-lying mist. Where is this abundant life that Christ supposedly promised? Where is God when we need him most? What is to become of us?
The cumulative effect of days upon years that we do not really understand is a subtle erosion. We come to doubt our place, we come to question God's intentions toward us, and we lose track of the most important things in life.
We're not fully convinced that God's offer to us is life. We have forgotten that the heart is central. And we had no idea that we were born into a world at war.
January 12 In the End
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Luke 12:34
In the end, it doesn't matter how well we have performed or what we have accomplished—a life without heart is not worth living. For out of this wellspring of our soul flow all true caring and all meaningful work, all real worship and all sacrifice. Our faith, hope, and love issue from this fount as well. It is in our heart that we first hear the voice of God and it is in the heart that we come to know him and learn to live in his love.
To lose heart is to lose everything. And a "loss of heart" best describes most men and women in our day. It isn't just the addictions and affairs and depression and heartaches, though, God knows, there are enough of these to cause even the best of us to lose heart. But there is the busyness, the drivenness, the fact that most of us are living merely to survive.
Indeed, the many forces driving modern life have not only assaulted the life of our hearts, they have also dismantled the hearts' habitat—that geography of mystery and transcendence we knew so well as children.
All of us have had, at one time or another, the sense that something important, perhaps the only important thing, had been explained away or tarnished and lost to us forever. Sometimes little by little, sometimes in large chunks, life has appropriated the terrain meant to sustain and nourish the wilder life of the heart, forcing it to retreat as an endangered species into smaller, more secluded, and often darker geographies for its survival. As this happens, something is lost, something vital.
Excerpted from Knowing the Heart of God by John Eldredge Copyright © 2009 by John Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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