Sunday, October 04, 2009

Do Not Disturb

I’ve seen people with a lot of different kind of hearts.

Kind hearts. Open hearts. Care-free hearts. Sincere hearts. Broken hearts. Selfish hearts.

And I see hearts that don’t want to be open for business especially business with God. And so what people do is put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door of their heart. It’s designed to keep God from walking in. It’s designed to keep certain others out. Unfortunately, the back door of their heart is often wide open letting all kinds of things both in and out…often things we know God wouldn’t be happy about. So, we deny Him entrance while our heart jumps into trouble, causing greating damage.

When we do this …when we put this big ‘do not disturb sign up’ we end up not valuing our heart, not protecting it, and we let the enemy have access to it. It happens more often than we realize.

We live in a fascinating culture. We want what we want when we want it and we want it fast. We want faith but not too much of it. Writer Wilbur Reese I think captures the dominant religious sentiment of this age. Actually it’s been the dominant religious sentiment always.

I would like to buy three dollars' worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy,
Not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth.
I want about a pound of the eternal
In a paper sack.
I'd like to buy three dollars' worth of God, please.

We want enough God to satisfy some low level spiritual desires but not enough to disturb what he really wants to do with my heart. Enough religion so that we’re in control. Enough to make us feel good. But not enough to transform us. Don’t disturb me God. Don’t alter my plans. At least not long term.

We settle for a little when God wants to give us everything. We want God on our terms not his. God wants to walk into our heart and love on it. He wants to help us clean it up, clear up the cobwebs, help our heart to beat stronger and truer.

And we say ‘don’t disturb my heart like that’. I’m doing fine. And God, because He is gracious and wise, lets us learn from our failures and live with consequences of our actions. But it breaks His heart.

In the gospel of Luke Jesus is asked by the Pharisees. Why do you spend so much time with sinners? What’s that all about? Let me put this in a context we might understand.

Have you ever been around people so religious, so holier than thou, so judgmental that you just can’t win when you’re around them. They’re so tight that they squeak. That’s the Pharisees. And the only place they can find Jesus is at places they detest, with people they want to distance themselves from. And so they find Jesus, let’s say, in the local tavern where there’s drinking, spitting, some cursing and loud music. It's filled with sinful people. And they want to know why Jesus is there. And they ask point blank ..."Why do you do this’? Why are you here with them?"

Jesus responds with three stories. One is about a lost sheep, one is about a lost coin, the third about a lost person.

The story of the lost human is the good news in capsule form. It’s a story of two brothers and a father. The younger son walks away from His father. Walks away from relationship and home. Walks towards a rebellious future. Walk into moral trouble. He is self centered.He thumbs his nose at his family, their people & their traditions.

He put a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on his heart out and walks away, turning his back on everything that is important.

If you’d ask the younger brother I’m sure he’d say “I’m just following my heart.” It’s interesting whenever someone says that you know they’re past the point of listening to reason. It’s their way of saying “I’m going to do it my way”. Don’t try to stop me.

We’ve all done it.

Sometimes ‘following our heart’ is a good thing. I think I’m following my heart by going to work with Breakthrough Ministries. I think it’s a God thing, confirmed by godly people.

But how many times have I followed my heart to something that wasn’t godly, wasn’t good, wasn’t noble, wasn’t uplifting. How many times have I decided to do my own thing. Slapped a do not disturb sign on the door of my heart and went my own way. Probably about as many times as you have.

Basically, what happened is that the younger son finds himself in a boatload of moral, financial, and relational trouble. He comes to a hard conclusion and says … “I’m wrong. I need to go back to Dad.”

When he does that He takes the do not disturb sign off the door of his heart and is willing to have happen what needs to happen. But he's confident that the worse that his dad could offer him was far better than what he was experiencing.

And so he turns his heart towards home. The scripture account is fascinating.

So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

Jesus, in telling this story was looking people straight in the eye and telling them in no uncertain terms. It’s never too late. Someone can turn his heart from God and when He turns back God is there. By the way, the visual of this father hitching up his robes and running to embrace a sinful, disrespectful son was huge for Jesus’ audience. That’s not what a ‘wealthy man’ did …not when his son walked away from the family. It would have been out of place in his cultural framework. But Jesus was making a huge point. Finding what was lost and celebrating his coming home is more important than breaking cultural rules.

Sometimes in the movies you hear that phrase “You are now dead to me. You no longer exist” and the father walks away. That’s what many people probably wished the the father in the story would have done. They'd love it it he turned his back on the prodigal or at the very least ‘let him have it’. And then, in the end, give him not all of his love and affection…only $3 worth of it.

But Jesus was hammering home his ‘big idea’. That’s not what God does. You can’t buy $3 worth of Him. You get it all.

What this younger son did is tear the ‘do not disturb’ sign off the door of the heart and turn it around to say ‘please clean this up’. A selfish heart became a repentant heart and a gracious Father sees him coming, picks up his robe, greets him with a hug and a kiss and immediately makes plans to throw a lavish party.

That’s what our hearts yearn for. To be connected to our Father, to the one who loves us. Who wants our heart to beat strong, to beat long, a heart true and connected to Him.

And so the answer to the Pharisees question "Why do you do the things that you do?“ is an easy one. Jesus says "I’m here for the lost. Nothing can separate them from my love." And the Pharisees never understood it. Never got it. Their hearts were hard. They missed it.

Why? Because they couldn’t put themselves into this story. They couldn’t see their own brokenness, their own selfishness, their own betrayal of God, their own squandering of resources. They couldn’t see themselves in the younger brother. They thought they were good and so couldn’t put themselves into the repentant posture of the prodigal son. They couldn’t see that they too have lost everything and need God’s healing embrace. They just couldn’t understand. Hopefully, we do.

There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, Meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” On Saturday, 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

That’s God. Jesus writes on the newspaper called our heart. Come home. Take the do not disturb sign off you heart.

All is forgiven. I love you. Dad.

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