Friday, August 12, 2011

When the love of many waxes cold

I wrote this on a Facebook NOTE this morning but for some reason it has been blocked so no one can see it but me. Must be something worth reading.

I was arrested by the words quoted by Messianic Evan Thomas this week in his prayer perspective from Netanya, Israel.

Referencing the current Israeli housing demonstrations, Etgar Keret, one of Israel's leading journalists recently wrote in HaAretz,

"The fight will be 100-percent Israeli, blue and white. And it, as many of the signs at the demonstration noted, is the battle over the home – not just in the sense of the mortgages and housing prices, but also in the deeper sense of the word, "home," as the place where you feel wanted and valued and to which you feel connected. Our country has long since lost all sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility, replacing them with the only common denominator that remains – the primordial fear of all that is different, the other. And each time a few lazy days of steamy summer go by without missiles, flotillas and any other existential angst-provoking events, we are forced to look at each other and rediscover that we forgot long ago what it is to be one people."

Kachol lavan - blue and white.

I just learned that Israeli motto-to-live-by recently, although I have seen the effects of it in operation for many years. Kachol lavan means Jews depending upon themselves alone. As one author explained it, it was a lesson learned from the Holocaust when the world stood by and saw Jews marched into the fire and did nothing. So instead of ever trusting anyone again to help them, many Israelis operate under the "kachol lavan" way of thinking: Israel can depend on no one to help but Israelis.

It is not so different from the thinking of any other person that has been abused in life. The capacity to love and trust others shrinks more and more as the years go by hardening into bitterness and unfulfilled revenge. No one - no matter how they might try to help is allowed to penetrate the hard shell that forms the encased heart of a wounded soul.

That is one reason that circumcision is a sign of the covenant - not just the circumcision of the foreskin, but the circumcision of the heart which is a sign of our spiritual covenant. In order to become a spiritual people of God, we have to allow the circumcision of our hearts. It is a process where the old, hardened encasing that we have wrongly believed will protect us from further hurts and wounds, is cut away so we can become human beings again - created in the image and likeness of God.

Most of the world is in a state of uncircumcised heart, and most of us who believe have parts of our hearts that still are in need of the hardness being cut away. Where there is no circumcised heart, there are people full of wounds and bitterness who believe they can't trust anyone to look out for them and it's every man for himself. Dog eat dog.

This is the lawlessness of the streets - and I don't condone it in the least, but I am saying that if we could allow a little compassion to creep into what we are seeing in the world today, as spiritual people we could begin to speak to those hardened hearts with new hope. They need salvation. They need Yeshua and the promise of a new heart whereby we are transformed from glory to glory.

I began this note talking about how Evan Thomas' prayer perspective this week was like a critical piece of a puzzle that was working in my spirit already. What Thomas saw in the journalist's statement he deeply identified with. As he wrote to me in a follow up, the journalist "had 'captured' something very important if we want to truly be able to intercede for this nation's peoples right now. I actually believe that there is something very similar going on in the hearts of people all over the Middle East at the moment." Evan was urging us in our intercession over Israel to consider how in the terrible rioting of the Arab nations surrounding Israel, many people are suffering greatly. He wrote:

"The third area of national focus of course is steadily rising tensions leading up to the unilateral declaration in the United Nations General Assembly of an independent Palestinian State. This is supposedly about to take place next month in September. The implications of this of course are huge. The nation is divided in its political position as is the Body of Messiah. ...
"Many voices in the Messianic Jewish community are deeply concerned about the theological implications of dividing the Land. Notwithstanding, Evan is concerned about the social implications of an independent State. Is it economically sustainable? What will it look like? Will it have its own armed security forces and will they represent a realistic threat to Israel's security? Will the Fatah party be strong enough to maintain a political balance or will the new State move towards radical Islam and Sh'ria law?

"How then shall we pray? Firstly, of course, as the Spirit of God leads. Nevertheless, please take into account that amongst our neighbors in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt there are many people suffering extreme hardship. Pray for the children, grieving the loss of fathers (and all-too-often mothers). Pray for families that have lost homes and fields and are struggling to put food on their tables. Pray for the general populations of these countries who are suffering from the sense of betrayal from their own governments.

"Remember that what happens across our borders affects Israel also. Destabilization can quickly lead to rapidly spreading conflict and in the Middle East we are all highly militarized nations with very little love for one another."

Whether we are speaking of embattled nations or spiritually embattled individuals, it is true that so much of the anger manifesting itself around us is simply because people are hopeless and without a saviour. They have given up on love in a very real sense and decided that whatever they get in this world they are going to have to take it for themselves. No one else can be counted on.

What the Israeli journalist Keret wrote about the Israeli housing demonstrations is as true applied to the chaotic streets of Arab nations and London even as it is also true of a troubled young relative of mine locked up in a hardness of heart from the wounds of a lifetime. Not that a lot of bad personal choices haven't been made along the way contributing to the state of such a person, but sometimes in order to catch a glimmer of compassion for those who are creating chaos, we need to consider those much closer to our hearts. We need to think in terms of someone we love who is also fighting futilely to depend only on themselves to survive in a harsh world.

Yeshua made it clear that He did not come into the world to save only the good, whole and righteous people who 'deserved' the blessings of His salvation. He said He came for the distressed, the abused, those whose hearts were sick with the hardness of life's wounds. Doesn't that sound like anyone you know, or maybe have read about or heard about in news reports?

One of the In Christ's Image Training teachings of Francis Frangipane is an interpretation of Matthew 24:12, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." His reading of the verse is that it is possible for Christians to allow their hearts to grow cold because of exposure to so much wickedness and iniquity in the world. Isn't it so? Can't you think of several people in your life that you feel cold toward? Be honest with yourself.

We are certainly living in days where love has waxed cold in our world. This is cause and effect of iniquity, or lawlessness, that is abounding. It is a viscous circle. Not only does the abused become an abuser, but as people of God just being exposed to so much rampant lawlessness is able to rob us of our greatest defense - a warm, open and loving heart.

We have to guard our spiritually circumcised hearts from growing cold in love. How does a heart grow cold? It begins to harden. It may not harden against everyone, but begins to shut down warmth toward others. It begins to qualify who deserves our warm heart and who deserves only a serving of icy coldness. To keep our hearts circumcised with warm, living love these days, we have to have Yeshua's vision of people, not our own.

I am not saying we are suckers and that we do not take a realistic view of people. I'm not proposing that we excuse lawlessness, or the abused one that is abusing - but spiritually, we have to find the compassion to appeal to Heaven on their account. We have to become the good Samaritan who cannot just walk around the wretched, beaten up lives we encounter on the road.

I will also confess that I am saying this every bit as much to myself as I am to anyone who reads this note. The truth is that we are all being battered by the harshness of life. If it is not touching you, then it is likely touching someone that at one time you had a very warm heart for. The continual 'seduction' of harsh living conditions is the temptation to harden our hearts is always there.

The seduction is that when we harden our hearts toward someone that it will protect us from further receiving any further hurt from them. That's not the way it really works, but in fact that is the simple process of how an abused person becomes an abuser. Little by little the whole heart is taken over by hardness and the lack of love, that it morphs the person from being a victim into being a predator.

What is the answer then? Only Yeshua, only Jesus can cut away the hardness of our hearts, giving us a new heart. This was a major theme of the prophet Ezekiel:

Eze 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Eze 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

If Yeshua's mission is our mission, then we too are in the world to seek that which is lost - that which is beaten down, hard-hearted and helpless to change anything in their rotten lives. Clearly our spiritual challenge is to make sure that we have not allowed hard heartedness to creep back in. Talk is cheap. It is easy to repeat all the Christianese love mottos; it is another thing to guard your heart with all diligence to keep a vision for the salvation of the world.

It is like the Ha'Aretz reporter said, "the battle over the home – not just in the sense of the mortgages and housing prices, but also in the deeper sense of the word, "home," as the place where you feel wanted and valued and to which you feel connected."That's the yearning every every human heart - whether they find it or not - to feel wanted and valued and connected in love.

One final thing keeps springing to memory in relation to these things and I think it is an great example of how we can let our hearts grow cold again even after Yeshua has given us a new heart.

Several years ago a prophecy was circulated that made its way to me. It was more pathetic than prophetic, but the prophet had many who defended this word.

The 'prophecy' was based on the biblical story of Abigail who was at first married to the rogue Nabal, who was struck down with a heart turned to stone. Abigail was then legally free of him and then married to David who was to become King. (1 Samuel 25) The prophecy was a word to encourage many women (and some men) that God was about to answer their desire for a godly spouse by striking down their own Nabal - a name that means "fool" or "folly" - so they could move on to a godly spouse worthy of them.

It is such a perfect example of cold love in a believer to me. Good grief - just get a divorce already! Do you honestly think that God is any more pleased with you sitting around fantasizing that your spouse is going to die so you can move on to a worthy, godly mate? That is a heaping helping of cold love - and the people who defended the prophecy could not discern the cold heartedness of it. I'm sure you can think of examples from your own experience. We know what cold love is, even though we don't want to recognize it in ourselves. It is much safer for us to get real about the cold love we still harbor in our heats because cold love is a real enemy to us in these days. Let's keep it real, but let's keep our hearts warm, too.

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