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Sermon illustrations

The Heart

Forgive

“What happens here may be expressed by the quite simple and yet unfathomable word, ‘forgive.’ What occurs when I forgive another person?  It does not mean . . .  that I can ‘forget’ what he did to me.  It just can’t do that.  No, when I forgive another, I myself step into the breach and say to myself, ‘The same thing that made the other person mean, hateful, and guilty toward me is in my heart as well.  Ultimately we are two of a kind.’

If I tell my neighbor, ‘I forgive you,’ and I say it from the bottom of my heart, then, in a manner of speaking, I take over the burden of his guilt and place it on my own heart just as though it were mine. . . .  I say, ‘Yes, what you did to me was very wrong; it was even shocking.  But I know from looking at myself how fickle and wicked the human heart is.  Therefore I could do exactly what you did.  It’s coiled up in me too.  So I’ll suffer through it with you.  I’ll put myself in your place.  I’ll share your burden.’  When I forgive another person, I share the burden of his guilt.  I become his brother and his sister, a burden-bearer at his side.” 

Helmut Thielicke.  I Believe:  The Christian’s Creed, trans. by John W. Doberstein and H. George Anderson.  Phil.:  Fortress Press, 1968, p. 116).   

The Human Heart Bends…

The human heart bends toward what the eye sees. Today’s image makers fling into the world digital spectacles of sex, wealth, power, and popularity. Those images get inside us, shape us, and form our lives in ways that compete with God’s design for our focus and worship.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p.118. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Listening to Heartbeats

In the forward to the excellent book, Subversive Sabbath, physician and author of 24/6, Matthew Sleeth describes the process of listening to hearts as part of his medical practice. While speaking specifically to the need for rest in a over-worked, over-tired culture, the metaphor could be extended to a variety of areas, including our longings, our desires:

As a physician, I’ve listened to thousands of hearts. During prenatal exams, I’ve heard the rapid swish-swishing of babies still in the womb. Often, moms and dads burst into tears when they hear their child’s heart for the first time. I’ve smiled at the strange murmur those thumb-sized hearts make when they are born into the great big world, fetal shunts closing of their own accord as the baby breathes independently for the first time.

I’ve listened to the chests of three-year-old children as they inhale deeply—and then wonder whether the man in the white coat can hear their thoughts through those tubes attached to his ears. I’ve listened to athletes’ strong, slow hearts. I’ve heard asthmatic hearts pounding away in fear and the muffled sounds of failing hearts.

I’ve listened to the hearts of saints and of murderers. I’m in the first generation of physicians to ever listen to the heart of one person after it has been transplanted into the body of another. Doctors and nurses listen to patients’ hearts using a stethoscope.

Although this is convenient, it’s not necessary. In fact, the stethoscope wasn’t invented until a generation after our country became a nation. For thousands of years, physicians listened to heart sounds without the aid of a stethoscope. They simply laid their ear on the chest of their patients. Now it is only children who lay their heads on the chest of their parents to listen to beating hearts.

Taken from Matthew Sleeth in A. J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Kindle Location 76-83.

The Pursuit of a Well-Ordered Heart

But there is a pursuit that is worthy of our devotion. There is a goal that is achievable even in the most desperate of situations.  It will produce good far beyond our own little sphere of influence.  It is something that our souls long for: the life we’ve always wanted.

It is the quest for what might be called a well-ordered heart. … What does it mean to have a well-ordered heart?  Augustine suggested that to have a well-ordered heart is to love the right thing to the right degree in the right way with the right kind of love.

John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, expanded edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002).

Where is Your Heart? According to Neuroscience

Now, what is the heart? Neurologically speaking the “heart” is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the part of the brain right between your eyes and slightly back from your forehead. It is in this brain region where we experience empathy, compassion and love, and where we choose the right from the wrong…

God’s methods of love and truth strengthen the ACC and calm the fear circuits. This means that the more clearly we embrace love-based God-concepts and act altruistically, the healthier our brains become; and on the other hand, the more fear-inducing our God- concept is, the more selfish our actions and the more damage occurs. Because the fear circuits of the brain produce powerful emotions and can lead to impulsive decision making, our emotions are not designed to be in charge of our actions.

Taken from The God-Shaped Brain by Timothy R. Jennings. ©2017 by Timothy R. Jennings.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com.

The Heart in Scripture

The heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.”

J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, Moody, 1986, p. 13.

Putting Ourselves in the Way of Sick and Needy Sinners

Here is the first step of prayer in a universe where God has put on flesh to be with us: we must put ourselves in the way of his friendship to sick and needy sinners. The heart naturally resists this posture and disposition. If we see ourselves as healthy and self-sufficient, invulnerable and spiritually impressive, we will miss Jesus’ healing and friendship. “Go and learn what this means,” he says. It takes time and honest observation of our hearts.

Taken from The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World by John Starke Copyright (c) 2020 by John Starke. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Spiritual Seeing

In her engaging work, Teach us to Want, Jen Pollock Michel describes both the beauty and pain of seeing our own sinful nature:

It is often true that once we are made to see, we don’t like what we apprehend. Spiritually seeing, we learn who we are. We recognize our heart’s attachments. We see into our own heart of darkness. It should be of no surprise that when Jesus teaches about corollary health of eye and body, he does so in the context of teaching about money.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (v. 24). Spiritual sight gives us the frightening capacity for recognizing what we have loved and desired more than God.

Taken from Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel Copyright (c) 2014 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Tara Storch experiences a heart transplant

In the spring of 2010 a skiing accident took the life of her (Tara Storch) thirteen-year-old daughter, Taylor. What followed for Tara and her husband, Todd, was every parent’s worst nightmare: a funeral, a burial, a flood of questions and tears. They decided to donate their daughter’s organs to needy patients. Few people needed a heart more than Patricia Winters. Her heart had begun to fail five years earlier, leaving her too weak to do much more than sleep.

Taylor’s heart gave Patricia a fresh start on life. Tara had only one request: she wanted to hear the heart of her daughter. She and Todd flew from Dallas to Phoenix and went to Patricia’s home to listen to Taylor’s heart. The two mothers embraced for a long time. Then Patricia offered Tara and Todd a stethoscope. When they listened to the healthy rhythm, whose heart did they hear? Did they not hear the still-beating heart of their daughter/ It indwells a different body, but the heart is the heart of their child.

Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, Thomas Nelson.

See also Illustrations on DesireNeeds

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on the Heart. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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