It was John Wesley who initially described his feelings as “my heart was strangely warmed” when he trusted in Christ alone for his salvation. He was confidently assured that his sins had been forgiven as he placed his heart into God’s hands. Subsequently, Wesley began a movement known as the Methodists as he traveled thousands of miles each year preaching and teaching others to submit their lives to Christ. Many hearts were “strangely warmed” as a result of his testimony, teaching, and discipleship.
I felt my heart “strangely warmed” this past weekend as I had the privilege of serving among a group of Salvation Army officers and corps members in Northern California. We experienced a refreshing and renewing time of worship, teaching, and fellowship. We put our lives back into the hands of Christ as we consecrated ourselves to God’s goodness and grace. It was a sweet time. Our hearts were strangely warmed.
When is the last time you felt your heart “strangely warmed” by the empowering presence of God? Can you recall that sense of joy or blessing or contentment in Christ?
Unfortunately, my observation today is that too many hearts are cold and hardened by the situations and circumstances of life. Each day we encounter hearts that are harsh, crusty, angry, or brittle. Tired out by the stresses and strains of daily life, many are letting their hearts flounder from God’s loving intentions. How does this happen? Well, we become impatient, indifferent, or impulsive in our responses to our external and internal worlds, and we lose perspective for the way forward.
The recipe for softening our hearts and making them more pliable to the fresh move to of God’s Spirit? Here are a few suggestions…
Listen prayerfully: notice the state of your own soul as well as the soul of others around you. Choose a listening posture as you interact with others, free of correction, competition, or comparison. What this world needs today: lots of listening.
Choose grace: instead of jumping to conclusions or casting judgment, withhold your opinions and prayerfully offer words of grace, mercy, and love. Let your countenance be transformed by the grace God has extended to you, and then freely offer it to others.
Practice forgiveness: ask God to give you the patience to forgive as your first response, rather than your last. Prayerfully forgive and forget, as much as possible. A posture of forgiveness will soften your heart toward all who have offended you. Seek help if necessary.
Love with your whole heart: the greatest response of all is to love. Yes, with your whole heart. First to God, then to others, but also to yourself. Seek God’s heart for those around you, especially those who are difficult to love. Out love one another. It’s always the better way. Always.
When you find your heart “strangely warmed” once again, be sure to offer God your thanks and praise. And, warm-heartedly influence others. It’s very good for your soul.