A Matter Of The Heart

It’s a trait of human nature to compare ourselves with others.  Disappointingly, there are those who feel themselves superior, perhaps because of wealth or business prowess, or skill.  Sadly, there are those who feel themselves as insignificant.  They look at others around them, see that some have money, others have great talent, and many come from what appears to be a perfect family.  They shrink away feeling they don’t measure up.

Comparing ourselves to others is never a good idea.  We are warned of this in II Corinthians 10:12, “…when one compares his or herself to another, using another as their standard of measurement, is not wise.”  Our very best example to follow is the example of Jesus Christ and in those we see living like Him.

Do you realise that God Himself wants you to be the very best you, in Him, that you can be?  He doesn’t want you to be the best copy of your neighbor.  You can be encouraged by your neighbor, but the best one to imitate is Jesus Himself.

Perhaps our arch enemy, Satan, whispers the lie, “you have nothing worthwhile to give.” What a terrible deception that too many have believed through the ages.  You have something most valuable indeed to give; you have you.  I love the practical illustrations of this that we find in God’s Word.  Remember the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes?  The story is recorded in John 6.  There is a young boy with five bread rolls and two pieces of fish.  He could only feed himself with that size of lunch, but He gave that lunch to Jesus.  He gave everything he had to give.  We know what Jesus did; He performed a miracle, feeding thousands with that meager offering, touching many lives as a result.

There is another story of a poor widow.  It’s recorded in Mark 12.  Jesus was sitting in the Temple near the collection box.  He watched many wealthy people put in large amounts. Then He watched as a poor widow dropped in two coins.  He called His disciples and said that she had given more than anyone because she had given all she had.

Remember, it’s never the greatness of skill that you have, or wealth that you possess, or a charismatic personality.  It’s the attitude of your heart.  It’s the idea that everything I have belongs to Jesus; therefore, I will give it all, little or much, and watch what He will do with it.  Everyday I will awake with the attitude, “I give you all of me, Father.  What will you do?”

When one possesses that attitude, stand tall and watch, because God has a plan and it’s always a good one.  There is nothing in this world that can bring joy, equal to the delight, that comes from total giving oneself to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

“Above all things, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”  Proverbs 4:23

Who we are, what we become, is always a matter of the heart and to whom we give it.

 

The Gatekeeper

Not long ago a friend said she wanted to show me a beautiful lake.  As we walked along we passed by a  children’s fun park.  We could see over the walls that there was a maze, a petting zoo, and stalls for winning prizes.  There was one entrance which was guarded by the gatekeeper.  This gatekeeper would take money for the entrance fee and also be aware of anyone trying to sneak past the gate or climb over the wall without his knowledge.

That’s when I thought of the temple in the Old Testament.  There were four gates, each located at the east, west, north, and south.  Gatekeepers were assigned duties to guard illegal access from enemies of God who would seek to steal, kill, or destroy.  As the notion formed in my mind I felt myself shudder with the thought, that’s exactly what Satan, the enemy of God, still does today!  Jesus said in John 10:9-10, “I am the gate.  Those who come in through me will be saved.  Wherever they go, they will find green pastures.  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.”  Isn’t that amazing, although not surprising, that the tactics of the enemy has not changed?

Today, there is no temple made with human hands as there was in the Old Testament.  Today, all those who have the Holy Spirit residing within them become the living temple of God.  Therefore, we must take caution.  We must be always on the ready to guard the gates!  How do we do that?  Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”  Isn’t that an extraordinary statement?  Whatever enters the gates of our heart affects everything we do.

Our best weapon against the thief gaining illegal access to our minds is prayer.  Some may consider prayer to be such an easy thing that it can’t be that effective.  Oh, no!  It’s not to be regarded as some simple pastime; it’s to be held in high esteem for its  power!  Why do you think we can be so easily distracted, putting off talking to God and listening to Him?  Because the thief understands the power of prayer.  He slips by the gate to our mind and climbs over the wall of our heart, whispering his lies that prayer is ineffective, so why bother?  Heeding his advice from his illegal entrance, our minds are immediately affected.  We lose peace and joy.  We become afraid and despondent.  All that negativity because we became negligent gatekeepers.  The enemy’s entire mission is to kill and steal and destroy.  Why let him in?

 

Do You Want To?

Have you ever thought about why God gave us the ten commandments?  I mean, surely He knew that no one could ever keep them all.  “Thou shalt not covet,” or “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” or “Thou shalt remember the sabbath and keep it holy.” “Thou shalt not steal,” or “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  Who has kept all of the above, and that’s not even the  complete list.

The Bible tells us that God knows we are weak; He knows our frailties.  Why then give us such commandments when He knew all along that we could not keep them?  The answer?  Because He knew we could not keep them!   By attempting to keep the law, only to fail in the attempt, was designed to make us realize that we can’t do it on our own; we need someone who can do it for us.  Jesus is that someone.

To have relationship with Holy God, we must be cleansed of every sin.  Holy and sin do not go together.  Therefore, we are doomed to die in our sin, but here’s the wonderful thing: Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for sin.  Isn’t that the most wonderful news?  If we accept His penalty as His gift of freedom to us, then, as Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus is the truth; the only truth.  There is no other way to have sin paid for in full and to walk away free.

So, how does a person come to Jesus?  Is it by learning more about Him?  No, education does not make one worthy of freedom from such a penalty.  Is it something emotional?  If I feel guilty and cry, does that make me ready to come to Jesus?  No, emotions change like the wind.  Then, what brings me to Jesus?  What sets me free?  The Bible tell us in Romans 10:13, “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It’s not education or our emotions; it is a matter of our will — whosoever will.  In other words, whoever wants to, can come to Jesus.  Tell Him you believe He paid your penalty.  Tell Him you are thankful and that you want to receive His forgiveness.  That’s it.

The only question to be asked is: do you want to?   Do you want a new life?  Do you want forgiveness for all the wrong thoughts and actions you have committed?  Do you want to be made into someone brand new?  Do you want to start over with a clean slate that stays cleansed eternally?  If you want all of that, then just call out to Him and tell Him.  He’s always listening.  He never sleeps.  He’s waiting.  He won’t force a decision.    It’s up to you.

Do you want to?

This question also applies to those who already know Jesus; who already have Him in their lives.  As a child of God we have available to us everything we need to get through anything at all.  Why then do so many  Christians walk through life in a continual weakened state when God’s own power is available to them?  Answer?  They fail to guard their heart.

The heart is the place where we number our priorities.  It’s easy to let the visible cares of this world crowd out the unseen power of God.  We can see what worries us in the situations connected with our lives, so we focus on the worry.  We can’t see the courage and wisdom that God has available for us, so we don’t focus on His provisions.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to, “Guard your heart above all things because it affects everything you do.”  Yes.  The focus of our hearts determines whether we flounder around in our circumstances or walk through them with the strength of God.  To flounder or to walk through. It’s really a matter of habit.  We can develop a habit to daily talk to Him, listen to Him, and take the wisdom He longs to whisper into our hearts.  The question is:

Do you want to?

When Your World Gets Noisy

Doesn’t the world get noisy at times, loudly shouting out that — burdens are heavy, situations are out of our control, people are demanding what we cannot give, work grows more stressful. Our once peaceful world suddenly spins uncontrollably, and in our heart of hearts, we fear we may fall into the abyss of emotional turmoil where peace will never be found again. Such realizations of our personal worlds crashing in on us can cause sleepless nights, short tempers, feelings of despondency, and self loathing for our weakness in it all. How do we crawl out of this melancholy quicksand of gloom and despair?

God gives us a wonderful gem of help in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” The dictionary definition of guard is: to watch over in order to protect. It stands to reason then, that if our hearts affect everything we do, then, of course, we must watch over it and protect it.

How do we do such a thing? When we guard something, we pay attention to it. Therefore, we must take great care what we put into our hearts. What goes into our hearts, affecting our daily course in life, comes in through the eyes and the ears. We must take care what we let our eyes watch. We must take care what we let our ears hear. In other words, we must pay attention to our habits. For example, if our habit is to feast our eyes upon ungodliness, then our hearts will be filled with everything that is not of God; therefore, everything that is unkind, unlovely, selfish, loathing of others and of ourselves. Despondency is most certain to take control when we leave our hearts unprotected against such darkness.

Equally, in contrast, if our habit is to feast our eyes upon things that are counted as holy, then our hearts are filled with everything that is of God; therefore, everything that is kind, lovely and loving, generous, honoring of others and of ourselves. God’s own inner joy and peace is most certain to take control when we protect our hearts, pouring in the very light of God’s truth.

The attitudes that claim our hearts are results of what we feed it. Remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan himself for forty days in the wilderness? Jesus was tempted with power and riches that all came from the darkness of this world. What did Jesus do? He guarded His heart, knowing better than any of us, that He must protect it in order to stay in the light of His Father’s joy and truth. The story is told in Matthew 4. There, Jesus gives us two instructions on how to guard and protect our hearts. He said in verse 4 that, “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every Word of God.” Then He said in verse 10, “You must worship the Lord your God; serve only Him.”

What happened when Jesus followed those two instructions? The answer is found in verse 11 where we read, “Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus.” The results of guarding and protecting our hearts will be the same for you and for me. The force of evil will have to flee. Oh, that evil will come back another time, trying again to plunge us into the despair of darkness, but the attempt will fail every time, if we follow the instruction to guard our hearts, knowing of a certainty that it affects everything we do.

Yes, the condition of our hearts affects everything we do, everything we say, everything we feel. Let us determine, with God’s own help, to guard our hearts. Let us take careful notice — everyday — upon what we focus, for God’s own Word also says in Philippians 4:7, “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” May Jesus be our everything. Such a focus, coupled with feasting on God’s own Words, and worshipping Him above all else, will guard and protect our hearts.