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The Heart-Action Cycle

March 2nd, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 12: 20 (NLT)

20 Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
      joy fills hearts that are planning peace!


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

I often write about the actions that result from the motivations of one’s heart . . . how the heart determines what we do and what we say.  Indeed, these truths are found over and over again in scripture, but this particular passage brings up another tidbit of wisdom that fits well with this concept.

The consistency of one’s heart (their internal, spiritual personality; not their blood-pumping muscle) is the hopper of one’s daily life.  What’s in that hopper doesn’t always come out, but you can rest assured that eventually the right trigger is going to be pulled and whatever ammunition of anger, lust, lying . . . or forgiveness, integrity, self-control . . . is going to make its way out through actions and words.  That’s why the Bible is so clear that what we see over time in people’s lives is also true of what we can’t see within them.  Our lives are merely the spouts from which the stuff in our hearts pour out.

In general, you rarely see someone just randomly walk into a Seven Eleven one day and decide to pull out a gun and rob it with no forethought or planning of the event.  I could see it now: “Well, I came in to grab a slushy for my grandson, but what the heck!  Let’s shoot this place up and take some cash and twinkies for the road!”  No, a crime generally stews within someone who has been pondering their desperation, greed, or bitterness.  Besides, pre-actions must be taken before such an action could be executed.  Scoping out the store.  Buying and learning to use a weapon. Preparation begins in the heart long before the action is actually taken.

Likewise, good things don’t just pour out of people randomly either.  To truly walk in self-control or forgiveness, one must fill their hearts with these spiritual truths.  Why?  Because they don’t happen naturally.  The heart cannot pour out what it doesn’t contain.

This passage goes on to complete the circle of this truth: there is a cyclical nature to this whole heart-action thing.  “Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace!”  In other words, when one is pursuing bad things (plotting evil), their heart receives a return: deceit.  When one is pursuing godly things (peace), their heart also receives a return: joy.  You see, though actions originate from within, what we do on the outside sends something back there as well.  

When we question the content of our hearts, the best thing to do is to take action on what we know to be true.  If I’m having trouble with forgiveness yet I really want to forgive, then an action such as prayer for the person or an act of selflessness towards them will seal the deal by returning the sentiment to the heart.    I’m not talking about masks or being fake; I’m talking about letting the truth of this passage take root within us.  

Hearts determine action; but actions also affect hearts.  Wherever we find ourselves in the cycle, we can feel free to take the right action knowing that it will produce positive results in our hearts as well.  

Students and adults often ask me what to do when they know what is right, but they feel like their hearts aren’t in it.  Here’s the answer: it’s always the right thing to do the right thing.  Feelings are as unreliable as meteorologists in Middle Tennessee.  A new front of emotions may blow in unexpected, so we mustn’t wait for just the right feelings within before we do the right actions without.

So when in doubt, take the correct action no matter what you feel.  Actions affect hearts just as hearts affect actions.  Are you dizzy yet?


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