Frostbitten Hearts

“And because of lawlessness the love of many will grow cold”
(Matthew 24:12)

Brace yourselves!  The forecast for this coming weekend in the Sioux Falls area is for bitterly cold temperatures, lows around -20, with highs only at 0.  That’s just cold!  Plus, the wind will no doubt be blowing, expected winds of 22mph, so the wind chill will around -50.  At that temp, its not just the nose hairs you have to worry about.  Prolonged exposure to those temperatures can quickly lead to frostbite and breathing the air at 50 below can do serious damage to your lungs.  I don’t know what the word will be on whether or not we’ll have church Sunday morning, but if you don’t have to go out in that cold, don’t.

I read on the mayo clinic that Frostbite can occur rapidly in these conditions.  The risk of frostbite “increases as air temperature falls below 5 F, even with low wind speeds. In wind chill of minus 16.6 F, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes.”  With the expected wind chill around -50, frostbite can develop after only 5 minutes of exposure.

The danger of frostbite is that you first lose the sensation of feeling before the damage is done.  You don’t know you have it until it is too late.  If not addressed, frostbite can lead to deep tissue damage, changes in the cartilage between the joints (frostbite arthritis), infection, gangrene, which is the decay and death of tissue resulting from an interruption of blood flow to the affected area.  Frostbite can also lead to hypothermia, where the body’s temperature drops to dangerous levels, cause a malfunction of the heart, nervous system and other organs; eventually leading to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.  So for goodness sake, stay inside and stay warm.

But as you are warming yourselves by the fire, bundled under the blankets, stop to consider the warmness of your heart.  We know the dangers of prolonged exposure to the cold and biting wind, but the hazards of a cold and bitter heart are just as deadly.  A cold heart that does not love has many of the same characteristics as frostbitten skin:

  • It is hardened: A cold heart does not move or feel for the needs of others,
  • It is infectious: A cold and unloving heart spreads easily, tearing others down and encouraging the same attitude in others,
  • It is gangrenous: A cold heart destroys relationships, crushes spirits, blocks any healthy growth,
  • It is deadly: When Christians harbor coldness in their hearts, when Churches are cold and unloving, it leads to a complete failure of all the vital ministries. Cold hearts kill churches.

Jesus talked about this when He warned His disciples of the coming persecution, saying that “many will fall away and betray one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12).  In Revelation, this is the charge against the church in Ephesus, “but this I have against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).

A church, a Christian, that does not love does not know love, does not know God (1 John 4:8).  A church, a Christian, whose heart has grown cold and unloving harbors a bitterness and unforgiving attitude that will lead to death.

So what can you do to warm the cold, cold heart?

First, keep close to the source of heat.   Stay in the Word of God.  Look there to read of and know of His great love for you in Jesus Christ.  God’s word is the revelation of His love, and by His Holy Spirit His word brings life, and love, to our hearts.

In the story of the Emmaus Road, the two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus, their hearts heavy and broken because of the death of their savior.  Jesus met them on the road, but they did not recognize Him.  As they walked, He taught them from the scriptures all that was said about the Christ.  After they had broken bread together, and the eyes of the disciples were opened and they saw Jesus, they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us… while he opened to us the Scriptures?  If you want your heart to burn for the Lord once again, turn to His word.

Second, walk in the light of Christ’s presence.  Even when it is bitterly cold outside, the warmth of the sun light pouring into your windows is a source of heat and comfort.  John says,  “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  Closeness with Christ comes through resting in His completed work for us, in daily fellowship with Him, and in submission to His word.

Finally, kindle the love in your heart by turning to your brother and sister in loving service.  The best cure for a cold heart is love – actual, tangible, expressions of love.  1 Peter 1:22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again.”  That word earnestly means “fervently, sincerely, genuinely,” some translations have even said “love each other with a warm heart.”

Expressions of love have a tendency to grow love, to break the cold and unfeeling heart.  What does this look like?  Send someone a card saying that you have been praying for them or thank them for something they’ve done.  If you’re able, shovel someone’s driveway, or take them a batch of warm brownies.  Invite your neighbor into your home for a cup of coffee and catch up on their life.  An expression of love doesn’t have to be a grand costly gift, but it will change your world, and theirs.

Stay warm this week, and warm your hearts with an earnest love for one another.

SDG

Go home, January! No one likes you.

“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light…”
(Matthew 4:16)

You know, back in December, I really didn’t mind the cold and the snow all that much.  The Christmas lights at night made the snow look magical. The love and joy of the season warmed our hearts, and so the wind didn’t bother us as much.  While everyone was hectic, crazy busy, it’s all okay because everyone’s also trying to make sure their getting together with their family, friends, and all the one’s they love.  Just thinking about it now and suddenly I hear Karen Carpenter singing again, which makes me smile. Christmas made December not just tolerable, but something to love and long for.

What’s January got?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Face it, it’s just cold, wet, and windy.  There’s no romance or sentimentality to it – it’s just one big angry polar vortex after another, freezing your nose hairs the instant you step outside.  We’re still busy, but now it just an annoyance to have to go out for one more thing.  There’s still snow on the ground, but all that means is more shoveling, slipping and sliding, and pretty soon it will turn to a brownish muck as it slowly melts away.  There’s no soundtrack to make this month and all its brutal frigidness any better.  Don’t even try. Go home, January, I think we’ve overstayed your welcome.

Am I the only one who feels this way?  Does Christmas really make that much of a difference in the way we handle things?  Well, maybe it does.

Think about it: Christmas, with all of its tinsel and trappings, is the celebration of the incarnate Word of God, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.  At Christmas we are reminded that those who have dwelt in darkness, upon them a light has shined. At Christmas we take the time to focus on the joy that made the angels sing, the grace that came to seek and to save the lost, the love that moved even the stars in the heavens to announce his coming.

But what happened at Christmas doesn’t stay at Christmas. Christ’s coming changes everything.  We know now that sin has been defeated and by faith in Christ we are made new. We know now that there is grace and forgiveness – with God and for one another – so that we may be one body in Christ. We know now that there is good news to proclaim which will warm the hearts of all who hear.

Jesus changes everything.  He takes our burdens, our guilt, our sins, and gives us His yoke to carry and rest for our souls, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). He takes our sorrows and our griefs, and in exchange gives us the joy of a new day (Psalm 30:5). He takes the obstacles and trials that cause us to tremble and says “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I would not want to begin to imagine what life would be like without the knowledge of the love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be worse than a December without Christmas, even worse than January.

Stay warm. Stay faithful.

Sola Deo Gloria!