Saturday, February 01, 2014

God Can Transform My Troubled Heart

Lightning, from my porch.

If you are interested in prayer and spiritual formation I strongly recommend Richard Foster's Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. Over the years God has used Richard's work and life to deeply influence me. 

In was the fall of 1977 I was teaching a course on prayer in the M.Div. program at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was using some of Richard's material, and thought I'd love to have him come as a guest teacher if he was ever in the Chicago area. I contacted him and talked to his secretary. She told me: "Richard is not taking speaking engagements for a year for the purpose of spending more time in prayer and God-seeking."

I knew then why God was using Richard in my life, and why I would have loved to have him teach my class for a day. I need to hear from people who have time to pray and know God! In a world where so much that is written is shallow and microwaved for publication, it is rare to find a depth that arises from a life of actually praying.

So, with that little introduction, Richard writes:

"As we consider the transformation of the human heart, we need to keep two central realities clearly in mind."

#1 - "To begin with, we simply cannot program our own heart. We cannot program anyone else's heart... I will just state it in this flatfooted manner: You are not in charge of the transformation of your heart. Neither am I. This is God's domain, and you and I are utterly dependent on God to accomplish the work of heart transformation. We can want heart transformation and seek after heart transformation. Those certainly are good things to do. But the truth is we do not make transformation happen. God does."

#2-  "Second, the human heart itself is part of our problem. We are, each and every one of us, a tangled mass of motives: hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honesty and falsity, openness and guile. God knows our heart in ways we can never know. Supernatural abilities are needed to untangle the mess. God is the only one who can separate the true from the false. Only God can purify the motives of the heart." (Kindle Locations 167-174)

We cannot change ourselves. God once told me, many years ago, "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change your own self?"

But God can change me.

Therefore, I will choose to dwell in His presence.