The Heartbeat of God
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 9, 2007

 

Main Passage: 1 Kings 19:3-12 (NLT)


Listen…

[Play sound of baby’s heartbeat]

That sound that you hear is the sound of our unborn baby’s heartbeat. Shera and I were in to see the doctor this past Tuesday and we heard it for the very first time.

Oh, we were in a few weeks ago, too. And the doctor tried to find it then. In fact, she took several minutes to try to find it. But it was still too early and she couldn’t find it at that time. But this Tuesday when we were there, she slapped the jelly on, pulled out the fetal Doppler probe, and found the heartbeat in no time. In fact, she thought she found two! So for a while this week it looked like we might actually be having twins. But it turns out there was and is only one.

[Play heartbeat again]

You know, the sound of that heartbeat stuck with me for the next few days. Wherever I was, whatever I was doing, all I had to do was think about it and the sound of that heartbeat would resonate within me.

It was pretty exciting. The sound of that life brought me to life. And all of you parents know what I’m talking about here.

When I heard that heartbeat, that’s when this whole pregnancy thing became “real” to me. Before then, it basically meant that Shera’s wardrobe was expanding (and expanding).

Oh, I knew we were having a baby, and I was excited about it and looking forward to it. But hearing that heartbeat kicked it into a brand new gear. Suddenly it wasn’t some abstract event we were preparing for five months down the road. No, once we heard that heartbeat, it brought the reality home that there is a new life and a body being formed even as we speak.

Hearing that heartbeat changed everything.

And as I thought about that, I got to wondering: Is that what it’s like for us as believers?

I mean, is it possible for us to be believers and go through all the motions of a Christian and spend time praying and reading the Bible and all that stuff, but for there to be no real change in us or in our lives? Is it possible that our entire Christian experience might be based on the fact that someday we’ll be united with God in Heaven where we’ll spend eternity? Is that all there is for us? Something to look forward to?

Or is there something more immediate than that? Something more intimate than that? Is it possible that eternal life isn’t something that we’re going to experience later on, but that it’s something that’s already begun now? Can we experience the joy and the excitement and the passion and the reality of it now?

Is it possible for us to hear the heartbeat of God through the Holy Spirit living within us? And if we could, what difference would it make?

Well, I believe it would make all the difference.

Let me ask you: Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions? Do you ever pray and wonder, what’s the point? Do you ever hear people talk about having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and wonder what on earth they’re talking about?

Well, they’re talking about being in rhythm with the heartbeat of God. They’re talking about having a life of prayer that goes beyond the “Help me” “protect me” “give me” kind of prayers. They’re talking about having a heart that resonates with the heart of God so that His desires become your desires, His passions become your passions, His priorities become your priorities.

“One of the most important things about prayer is that we are transformed through the experience. We draw close to the heart of God. We hear the heartbeat of God, the things that God is after, the rhythm of God. We learn how God works.”
~ Richard Foster
http://www.ptm.org/98PT/SepOct/Heartbeat.htm

Is that something that sounds good to you? Because there’s so much more than just all that surface stuff. And it’s all there for you to experience now.

But how? How do you hear the heartbeat of God? How do you get in rhythm with it? How does your heart begin to mirror His heart?

This morning what I want to do is this: I want to use my experience at the doctor’s office this week to illustrate for you how to get tuned in to the heartbeat of God. Okay? And then over the next couple of weeks, we’ll build on this and talk about how to move into a deeper sense of communion with God by discovering what prayer is all about and how we should pray. Okay?


How Do I Connect to the Heartbeat of God?

1.    Go where you can hear it.

We had to go to the doctor’s office and go into a quiet room before we could hear the heartbeat of our baby. We couldn’t hear the heartbeat while shopping at Wal*Mart or meeting with a client at work or sitting home watching TV. We had to physically go someplace before we could hear the heartbeat.

And when you want to connect with the heartbeat of God, that may be exactly what you need to do. You can’t hear His heartbeat amidst the chaos of everyday life. You can’t hear His heartbeat when you’re distracted by everything under the sun.

Oh, you can still pray then. But those are just the quick “dealing with life” kinds of prayers. You know, “God, help me with this right now.” Or “God, protect me while I travel.” Or, “God, thanks for this food.” Or, “Give me the words to say.” Those are just the “dealing with life” prayers. And they’re important. You need those kinds of prayer. But prayer is so much more than just “help me, give me, protect me.” Prayer is meant to be an intimate encounter with God.

And to get to that intimate kind of prayer, you really need to remove yourself from the busyness of life. Hey, that’s what Jesus Himself did…

Mark 1:35-36 (NLT)
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him.

You think you’re too busy to take time out of your day for this? Well, Jesus was busy, too. In fact, he constantly had people crowding around Him pressuring Him to teach them, heal them, inspire them, bless them. Yet even with all the demands on His time, He made the time to get alone to pray.

So where can you go? Where can you go so you can remove yourself from all the chaos and distraction of life? Is there a park near your home? Is there a room in your home that you can designate as a sacred place for you to meet with God? Can you take a long drive through the countryside with your radio off?

And maybe you can’t do this everyday. That’s fine. Don’t treat it as a legalistic ritual that you have to fulfill or God’s going to zap you. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just talking about building a relationship with God. And any relationship that breaks through the surface and goes deep does so because you set aside time to go deep.

So where can you go so you can hear the heartbeat of God?


2.    Listen for it.

If you want to hear the heartbeat of God, you’ve got to be listening for it.

You know, when we were in the doctor’s office, it was amazing how quiet the room got once Doctor Conners started looking for the heartbeat. I looked at Shera; she was listening intently. She looked at me; I was listening intently. We wanted to hear that heartbeat. At that moment, it was all that mattered.

If you want to hear the heartbeat of God, you’ve got to be listening for it.

True confession time. There are times when I’m at home working on something, I’m focused, I’m determined… and I can block out all the distractions and keep working on it. But once in a while, in the midst of this, Shera will come into the room and will have something important to talk about or inform me of, or maybe she just has a question. And so she rattles off whatever she has to say… and it’s at that moment I realize I haven’t heard a thing she said. I was too immersed in what I was doing to pay any attention to her. So I have to apologize to her and ask her to tell me again what she had said.

Getting close to God is like that. If you want to hear the heartbeat of God, you’ve got to be listening.

Proverbs 1:23-24 (NLT)
“Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.”

So pay attention. Listen. God wants to share His heartbeat with you, but it’s easy to miss if you’re not listening for it.


3.    Use tools that will help you hear.

[Image – Fetal Doppler Baby Heart Monitor]

This is a Fetal Doppler Baby Heart Monitor. For those of you who have never been through this experience, this is what they use to detect the heartbeat of an unborn baby. They slap some jelly on the belly – I’m not sure why, maybe they just like the rhyme of jelly and belly – then they take the handheld probe and start moving it across the belly until it picks up the heartbeat.

And at this stage of our pregnancy, we wouldn’t be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat without using that tool.

And there are tools that can help you, too, when you endeavor to hear the heartbeat of God.

Of course, the best tool is the Bible. The heartbeat of God is evident on every page. As you read through the Bible, you quickly detect God’s heart of compassion for the lost, the least, and the lonely. You discover His passion for having a personal relationship with you. You realize that His heart beats with forgiveness and hope and peace and joy and purpose and life. That’s His heartbeat.

And you can read other writings, too – what are called devotional books – written by other people to express their experience of the heartbeat of God. There are classic authors – saints from the past. And there are modern writers, too.

Or how about worship? Worship is a great tool to help you get connected to God’s heart. Maybe you have a CD you can listen to and sing along with that can help you get started.

And there are other tools that can help – habits that can prepare you to hear the heartbeat of God. Habits like Fasting, Scripture meditation, Service, Confession… We’re going to be talking about several of these habits over the next few months.

But what tools or habits are there which can help you hear the heartbeat of God?


4.    Be prepared to wait.

I mentioned that we first tried to hear the heartbeat a few weeks ago. Back then, the doctor tried for several minutes to detect it, but to no avail. We just weren’t able to hear it that day. And so we had to wait.

But this week, it took no time at all. As soon as the Doppler probe made contact, we heard the heartbeat.

Earlier this morning we read some verses from the Old Testament book of 1 Kings chapter 19. Let me see if I can set this up for you…

In the previous chapter, Elijah (a prophet of God) had experienced one of the greatest days of his life. He had challenged King Ahab and the 450 prophets of the false god Baal to a duel, and he won. Each side had set up an altar on top of Mount Carmel (Mmm, Carmel)… they each sacrificed a bull on top of their altar as an offering to their God. And then they prayed for their God to respond by sending a fire to consume the sacrifice.

Well, the prophets of Baal went first. And they danced, they shouted, they cheered, they slashed themselves with knives… all in the attempt to get the attention of their god. But there was no response. And this went on for hours, all afternoon right on into the evening. But no response.

Finally, it was Elijah’s turn. And just to make sure the odds were really stacked against him, he instructed the onlookers to fill 12 jars full of water and pour it over the top of the altar. And they did, completely soaking the animal sacrifice, the wood, and the entire altar until the water was overflowing and running down the hill.

And then Elijah started to pray. Let me read what happened next…

1 Kings 18:38-39 (NLT)
Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

That’s a pretty decisive victory. Don’t you think Elijah would be thrilled with that? But do you know what happened next? Elijah was scared for his life. He knew that King Ahab and the nasty ol’ Queen Jezebel were not so happy about what had happened, and he knew they’d be out to kill him now. So he ran. He ran for his life.

Perhaps the greatest day of his life, but yet he was afraid, he was depressed, he was exhausted, he was alone. He had been serving God, but he had lost touch with the heartbeat of God. So he ran, and he ran all the way to Mount Sinai.

Then we get to the passage that Chris read earlier.

While Elijah was there at Mount Sinai, he heard the voice of God ask him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And Elijah responded, “I’ve had it! I’ve served You, I’ve sacrificed for You, I’ve been faithful to You. But nobody’s listening to me, I’m all alone, and now they’re trying to kill me. I’ve had enough.”

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)
And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain… but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

So God told Elijah to go and stand on the mountain. And Elijah did it, and he waited there for God. And while he was there, there was a mighty windstorm. But God wasn’t in the wind. And that was followed by an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the quake. Then there was a fire, but God wasn’t in the fire. And then, after all of that, Elijah heard the gentle whisper of God. And Elijah was encouraged, he was strengthened, he was refreshed, he realized he wasn’t alone, and most importantly he was back in touch with the heartbeat of God and how it beat for the children of Israel.

But the point is, Elijah had to wait. He had gone to a secluded place, he had listened for God, but he still had to wait. Through a hurricane, through an earthquake, through a fire, he had to wait.

Psalm 37:7 (NLT)
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

You may not be able to detect the heartbeat of God the first time you try. Maybe you will, but maybe not. Maybe you’ll have to wait. Maybe it’ll take days or weeks or months… but be patient. Don’t be discouraged. You will hear it.


5.    When you hear it let it resonate within you.

Let it reverberate in your spirit as you go through life.

This Tuesday when I heard that heartbeat, it stuck with me. And long after the Doppler was turned off and we had left the doctor’s office, it was as if I could still hear it. It stuck with me. In fact, it stuck with me for days.

Of course, the fact that I recorded the sound helps, too. Whenever I want to hear the baby’s heartbeat again, all I have to do is play the file. And then it will all come back to me.

So let me encourage you, when you encounter the heartbeat of God… when you see things the way He sees them, when you love people the way He loves them… when that happens and you encounter His heartbeat in your time together, don’t just leave it there. Take it with you.

Let His heartbeat resonate within you as you go through life. Don’t let it be a one time thing… let it be an ongoing experience.

Maybe even write down what God is teaching you and how you’re growing. Record it. And then every once in a while when the heartbeat’s growing faint, go back and remind yourself. Let it be fresh for you again. Let the heartbeat of God… let the love of God… flow through everything you do.

In the book of Revelation, this is what God had to say to the believers in the church in the city of Ephesus…

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT)
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people… You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

In other words, He says, “You’ve lost touch with my heartbeat. You’re just going through the motions now. You’re doing good things, but your heart is all wrong. Everything you do needs to flow out of a love for me and a love for others. Your heartbeat must resonate with mine.” That’s what God says.



So let me ask you: How would your life be different if everything you did was a response to the heartbeat of God? If everything you did flowed out of a love for God and for others? What if your prayers went beyond just, “Give me, help me, protect me” and became something much more intimate, much more meaningful, much more fulfilling, much more powerful?

How would your life be different? How would your family be different? How would our church be different? How would our passion and compassion for others be different?

I think being in rhythm with the heartbeat of God would make all the difference. It would bring everything into focus. We would discover real meaning and purpose in life. And we would be intimately connected with our Creator. Can you think of anything better than that?



Next week, we’re going to talk more getting close to God through prayer and how to make the most of your prayer time.

 

 

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