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Just dropping by ... Turning hearts

Yevet Tenney Published on 06 May 2014

On two occasions in the Bible, the Lord tells us that He will send a prophet before He comes again to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

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And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

—Malachi 4:5-6

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

—Luke 1:17

A few years ago, those scriptures might have been puzzling. Why would the Lord need to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and vice versa, and smite the earth with some kind of disaster if the hearts did not turn? Today in our upside-down world, the answer is clear.

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Many parents have abdicated the role of parent to society, the media, the school system – even to foster care. Many children have become disobedient and disrespectful to parents and other figures of authority. Both parents and children have become entitlement-mongers. “What’s in it for me?” is the mainstay question on the lips of both parties.

There has never been a greater need for parents’ hearts to turn to their children and the children’s hearts to turn to their parents. If there is need, then surely the rest of the scripture has merit. What kind of a curse is waiting for those who do not turn their hearts?

I don’t think our God is the kind that is waiting with bated breath to send down fire and brimstone upon His children. I think He is more of a loving patient father who allows natural consequences to take their course. The natural consequence of selfishness and lack of compassion is the gradual deadening of the heart.

With a hard heart, it is difficult to be aware of the needs and feelings of others. If your heart is hard, you feel you deserve everything without thinking of the consequences or effect on others. Despicable things can be done in the name of “entitlement.”

Violence and lawlessness can become the norm. If not checked, after a while, a society destroys itself from within or becomes prey to conniving men who employ greed to bring others into bondage. What kind of a curse is that? Certainly a devastating one – and God doesn’t even have to do the smiting.

How do we turn hearts? Is it already too late? The world has gone pretty far down the road. Have we reached the point of no return?

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With God, it is never too late to turn around until our lives are frozen in the grip of “I don’t want to change and I refuse to do it.”

God’s love is infinite and forgiving, but we must do our part. We must overcome the inertia of habit to become new creatures “born again.” We must want what God wants instead of what we want.

We must become charitable and learn to treat others as we would want to be treated. In other words, we must overcome selfishness, the disease that deadens hearts. That sounds like easy but not very doable advice. If you are like me, you need a plan.

The first step is a heaping dose of “want to.” We will never make changes in ourselves, let alone the world, unless we want to. We need to desire with our whole soul to turn our hearts. If we don’t have desire, we go to Plan B. Plan B is simple. Get on your knees and ask God to give you the desire. He will do it in His own way.

The second step is to add a few basketfuls of charity and sprinkle it into your life. Look for ways to serve others. Notice how it makes people feel; notice their struggles and really listen and respond to their needs. There is no better way to soften your heart than to get outside yourself and be sensitive to those around you.

Suddenly, your problems fade into the background and you realize how blessed you are. I think Mother Theresa was one of the happiest people in the world. She spent her life serving others, but you don’t have to go to another country or another state to be of service and feel charity toward others.

There are times in every family situation where charity is needed and would be appreciated. Make someone else’s bed. Pick up his (or her) clothes from the floor without a thought of “He is such a slob! I wish he would grow up and learn to be responsible.”

Instead, consider why he might be leaving clothes on the floor. Try to understand life from his point of view. Be compassionate when he gives excuses. After all, he is probably using the same excuses we are, and we certainly have compassion for ourselves when it comes to excuses.

Another simple way to turn hearts is to be filled with gratitude. It is so easy to be blind to the wonderful blessings we receive daily from God and from those around us. We are busy. We have a to-do list that goes far beyond the daylight hours we have to complete it in.

We don’t have time to stop and make a list of blessings or to write a thank-you letter – or even say a heartfelt prayer. We rush on through life saying, “I must ... I can’t ... I don’t have ... or when I get ... I will ...” Notice every one of those excuses start with “I.”

Maybe we need to check our list the Santa Claus way. You know the song; “Making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty and nice.” We need to find out what is really worthwhile and what is just selfish stuff-getting and keeping.

If we don’t acknowledge the blessings we receive, our hearts become increasingly cold and hard, and we find ourselves in the mode of “Give me more. I want this ... and I want that ...” Then it turns to “I deserve ...” Then the entitlement attitude takes over, and the disease of dead hearts begins.

When I was growing up, I loved to listen to the family stories my mother would tell about my grandparents. As she spoke of the people I had never met, I felt like I knew them. I understood their struggles and joys.

I could see clearly how their lives had affected mine. There was a bond and connection to my parents and grandparents. Today, we don’t take time to tell stories. It is a tradition that has been replaced by the media and other time-takers.

If we want to turn our hearts we must turn off, unplug and really share. That means listening and telling. It must be face-to-face, eye-contact conversation – not a finger-sliding-on-the-device 46-way conversation keeping in contact with friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

It needs to be a one-to-one, I-care-about-you conversation. Those kinds of conversations turn hearts as well as minds. Children need to know their progenitors and the history of their people. They will not know them if we don’t take time to get to know them ourselves. We can’t teach what we don’t know.

If we want our children to turn their hearts to us and our parents, we must turn our hearts to them and show them how. We must make our relationship with our children a walk together in the garden of life.

We must teach them to “smell the roses” and avoid the thorns. We must help them see their vital link in the human family chain of ancestors and descendants, and that human chain must continue or the earth will truly be “smitten with a curse.”

God will not need to send down fire and brimstone for this kind of desolation. The consequences will follow as night follows day. If our children are lost in the fog of changing family traditions, values and practices, the next generation will follow. No telling where they will end up.

The Lord was not kidding when He commanded us to turn our hearts. He knows that happiness is only found in family relationships where love abounds and hearts are knit together in bonds of charity from one generation to another. PD

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