the weblog of Alan Knox

How far does your heart extend?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in community, discipleship, fellowship | 11 comments

How far does your heart extend?

We all know that God gifts his children differently through the presence and power of his Holy Spirit. We also know that God gives us all different opportunities to increase his kingdom. But, lately, I’ve had a few conversations that have stretched my thinking in other ways as well.

For one thing, several people have commented about or asked something like this: “How far does your heart extend?”

Now, I should define what this questions means, as I’ve come to understand it. And, it helps me to start with what the question doesn’t mean. For one thing, the question is not asking whether or not you love God or others. In fact, for this question, loving God and loving others is assumed. Second, the question does not assume that the farther your heart extends the more you love God or others.

Instead, this question is asking something different: To whom is God directing your love, passions, and concerns? Like with the question of spiritual gifts or opportunities to serve, no answer is better or worse than other answers. However, thinking through this question can help us understand how God wants to use us.

For example, God has given some people a very strong passion and love and concern for the people immediately around them – the people that they see every day. They are content in their spirit serving the people who live near them.

For other people, God has given them a very strong passion and love and concern for people around the world. They are content when they are serving people in a variety of locations.

Finally, I think God gives all of us strong passions and loves and concerns for people somewhere along this spectrum, from the people near us to people across the globe. Again, neither end of the spectrum is better than the other. And, having passions, loves, and concerns at one end of the spectrum does not mean that we should not display love toward others (either near or far).

Instead, if we can honestly answer the question, “How far does your heart extend?” then we may be able to better understand which direction God is leading us. Is he leading us to primarily pour our lives into the people in a certain location, or is he leading us to primarily pour our lives into people in different locations?

Also, answering this question can also help us grow in the other direction. For example, if God has extended our hearts to people around the world, we need to constantly check our attitude and service toward those near us. And, if God has extended our hearts to people nearby, we need to constantly check our love and concern for those around the world.

Finally, asking and answering this question can help us check our attitudes toward people whom God is using in a different way. If we pour our lives into people nearby, do we think less of those who have loves and concerns spread around the world (and, thus, not as “dedicated” to people near us)? Or, if we have passions for people spread around the globe, do we think less of those who spend so much time loving and caring for physical neighbors (instead of shifting their concerns toward “the nations”)?

But, in general, asking and answering that question can help us determine how and where God may be using us: How far does your heart extend?

So, I’ll ask you: How far does your heart extend?


11 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-24-2012

    How far does your heart extend?
    Great Question Alan

    The focus is through the internet, and mainly just blooming wherever I go as I go. Being available to those around, letting conversation strike up as it strikes up. As I go in this world I am just carrying the GOSPEL with me Gospels acronyms:
    G od’s
    O nly
    S ons
    P urpose
    E ternal
    L ife

    Howard

  2. 4-24-2012

    Alan Said,

    If we pour our lives into people nearby, do we think less of those who have loves and concerns spread around the world (and, thus, not as “dedicated” to people near us)? Of, if we have passions for people spread around the globe, do we think less of those who spend so much time loving and caring for physical neighbors (instead of shifting their concerns toward “the nations”)?

    Howard said

    I remember one disciple concerned about another in scripture do not quite remember where at, yet I do remember Jesus saying to the one better to not be concerned of anothers walk. You have yours you do yours and the other will do his. That is what I got out of Jesus saying this. It is not my concern what the other believers are doing or not doing, I am to do as I am led to do by the Holy Ghost, and thank you Alan I also am to continue to check this out and see if when being led if it = LOVE God’s that is
    Howard

  3. 4-24-2012

    Well said Howard. As I was reading this, the following verse came to mind:
    2 Corinthians 10:12
    For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

    Have you ever been around an evangelist who makes you feel bad (not intentionally) for not going around neighborhoods knocking on doors and telling folks about Jesus? Have you ever heard a prophet tell of a vision he has had and come to the conclusion “this guy has all the answers” and something rises up inside you that makes you want to go out and buy all his books and CDs? I have found this behavior to be very prevalent and it is rooted in insecurity. When we are not taking the time to hear from God and develop our relationship with him, we will always have more confidence in someone else’s relationship with God than our own. I have many brothers and sisters whose walk with The Lord I have great admiration for, but I understand that their walk is a result of their personal relationship with The Father and their willingness to follow after the things He puts in their heart. I will never be fulfilled by imitating their walk, I will only be fulfilled by imitating the things they do which has them walking.
    So back to the question. How far does my heart extend? It extends as far out and to the places reflected by how far into my relationship with God I am willing to press.
    There will never be fulfillment by being an extension of the heart of anyone except the heart of our Father.

  4. 4-24-2012

    An interesting example of this is the person who wants to be a missionary but is not already engaging the community nearby. I’ve often heard it said that if they aren’t “missionarying” here, why send them there?

    Their desire to reach into distant places might be genuine and they may do well there. If they come from a traditional church background, they might simply be slipping into the existing patterns of ministry: if you want to be active here, you must go to school and become a pastor. If you want to be active there, you must go to (less lengthy) school, and become a missionary over there.

    Others, responding to the desire for far away, and being a bit more out of the box and wanting to be active here, are often at odds with their local (traditional) church. They want to go to bars, go to the streets, go to prostitutes, go to homosexuals, go to bad neighborhoods, other races, and all manner of levels of society beneath our comfort zones, and they don’t respond well to “oversight” that wants to tell them who they can try to reach and how they can try to reach them. They also find it difficult (met with resistance and rejection) to bring such folks into their local body. So, many don’t do anything–for now–and wait until they can freely reach the needy, the poor, the outcast.

    If we were to be able to consider the “zone of focus” that God gives us, and learn to help each other follow Him in our varieties of giftings, personalities, and zones of interest, etc., we could all learn and grow in our own passions. Many of the one another’s fit well on this theme (bear with one another, accept one another, encourage one another, provoke one another to love and good works, etc.

  5. 4-24-2012

    Howard,

    Thanks for sharing your example of God extending your heart to others through the internet.

    Matt,

    You said, “How far does my heart extend? It extends as far out and to the places reflected by how far into my relationship with God I am willing to press.” So, how far is that currently?

    Art,

    I like the phrases “zones of focus” and “zones of interest.” I definitely agree about the one anothers.

    -Alan

  6. 4-24-2012

    I meant to include the following scripture in my earlier reply. This is something for all of us to consider.
    John 5:30 Amplified Bible (AMP)
    I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord–but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision], and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me.

    Alan, I will answer your question later in the day when I have more time available.

  7. 4-24-2012

    Wow, Matt and that came from your heart, keep discerning brother, you encouraged me
    Howard

  8. 4-24-2012

    Art said
    being a bit more out of the box and wanting to be active here, are often at odds with their local (traditional) church. They want to go to bars, go to the streets, go to prostitutes, go to homosexuals, go to bad neighborhoods, other races, and all manner of levels of society beneath our comfort zones, and they don’t respond well to “oversight” that wants to tell them who they can try to reach and how they can try to reach them. They also find it difficult (met with resistance and rejection) to bring such folks into their local body.

    Wow Art, this is a work of art. Yes one and many are to be equipped to reach those in need, those in need to be accepted, and us to be equipped, to show the doctor in and through us the believer our Savior Jesus Christ. for many of those in the bar are in the bar because they are accepted there by others that accept them. For when they were in the church they were not accepted. Especially if they ever confessed their sin to others looking for help. The religous act as if they themselves have never done what you might have done. They then seperate themselves from you the admitted sinner that needs God, and the Church has no mercy for them. Thus they end up in a bar, drinking themselves to death. Being a prostitute to make money, and feeling bad about it.
    Once I asked a prostitute since you are saying you feel bad about what you are doing, why don’t you go to a church and confess and get help?
    Her answer was I already feel bad about what I am doing and you want me to go to church and feel worse, no thanks. What has happened to Grace, mercy. Have we forgotten all our sins are forgiven, God has had mercy on us. Well all I can say for those that do not have mercy as God has had mercy on them. Then I say god shall revoke the mercy he gave and throw those in jail. Jesus was clear it is the sick that need a doctor, yet he was accussed, thus accursed for hanging out with drunks, gluttons, whores, etc. What has happened you all?
    Howard

  9. 4-24-2012

    Welcome and thank you for having me as a part of this group
    Howard

  10. 4-24-2012

    matt, god has got you were God wants you in his Spirit, thank you for the encouragement to discern all things in the Spirit and so we know his voice as he said, my sheep shall know my voice. Thus we are led as we are led
    Howard

  11. 4-25-2012

    Matt,

    I’m looking forward to your response. I think it’s good to encourage each other to follow God in whatever he’s called us to do.

    -Alan