What’s in your heart?

The heart is an important part of life. It’s not only physically important, in that our heart pumps blood through our entire body and without it we cannot live. Any medical problem with the heart is a really big deal. Even more important than the physical heart, though, is the deeper meaning of “heart” we often talk about as an invisible quality someone has. Rocky Balboa had “heart” to stay in the fight and keep going. Physically he should have been done, but he kept going because of a deeper, invisible quality.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. – Matthew 5:8

The heart as we use it here is defined as “the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors.” (https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Matthew+5). That is what the heart is. It’s much deeper than the physical.

Someone pure in heart is “one whose motives are unmixed, whose thoughts are holy, whose conscience is clean.” (William MacDonald, “Matthew” in Believer’s Bible Commentary, 3809).

Pure in heart is more than doing good things or being a good person. This is down to the very core of who I am as an individual, made in the image and likeness of God. There is something more going on beneath the surface of someone pure in heart. It is worked out in the physical realm, we can see it, but it comes from somewhere deeper.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. – Proverbs 4:23 NLT

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. – Luke 6:45 NLT

The pure in heart will see God because they are living faithful lives, following God, and determining in their hearts to live for Him instead of themselves. This is the person who realizes his or her selfish tendencies and lays them at the feet of the cross, looking to Jesus Christ as an example of how to live and trusting in Jesus Christ for eternal life.

 

How can we live consistently pure in heart? I think there are at least 4 things that can be very beneficial, maybe even essential, to living as someone who is pure in heart:

1. Cultivate daily faithfulness.

Living pure in heart is not a one-time decision that can be over and done with one day and forgotten about the next. This must be a daily, moment-by-moment determination that Jesus Christ is Lord of one’s life. It is a daily recognition we are poor in spirit, mourn after our sin, and live in humility. The pure in heart are comforted because they shall see God.

 

2. Live in disciplined pursuit.

This is our “personal growth plan.” It must be something intentional and consistent. There’s that old adage, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” We need to make a plan to succeed and be disciplined to do it.

 

3. Be quick to confess and repent.

The pure in heart are not perfect in heart. Temptation and sin is still an unfortunate present reality while living on this earth, but confession and repentance (a turning away) of sin renews our relationship with God and brings healing and freedom. We should be quick to confess and repent, turning from sin toward God.

 

4. Live in community.

“No man is an island entire of itself” – John Donne.

We need each other. We need to live in intentional community for the help and healing that come through it. A person who is pure in heart is not living it alone, because it is, if not impossible, incredibly difficult to live pure in heart on our own.

 

 

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What would happen if you were intentionally vulnerable?

Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes the outside of something can look really nice, but the inside is disgusting. I actually have a coffee cup like that in the cupboard. The outside of it looks normal and clean, but the inside of it is stained with coffee. Even washing it doesn’t clear up the stains! Maybe it has been used one too many times.

Sometimes as Christians we get really good at “the game.” We can look the part without actually being the part. We can look happy or act like our lives are put together when really everything is falling apart. We can act nice to other people but be a tyrant at home. People see us and ask how we are doing and, maybe to avoid the gossip train or prayer chain, we just respond with “good” or “fine” and don’t tell what is really going on. We don’t always do fellowship and intentional community very well, but we can be really good at talking about surface-level topics.

I think we are sometimes too afraid of being vulnerable and known by others that we keep our mask on. That way we our pride is safe and we can keep going smoothly through life.

The Book of Proverbs is full of wise and applicable sayings for us. Here is one that I think is very timely:

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.” – Proverbs 16:2 ESV

What is the reason behind our lack of vulnerability? Why aren’t we intentional and honest in loving community? Honestly it seems like sometimes the world does a better job at loving others than we do. That’s not how it should be! Jesus says we should be known by our love!

Take the time today to weigh your spirit. What is holding you back from being vulnerable and intentionally honest in loving community? My guess is, if you’re anything like me, there is some sort of fear of being fully known. I want to control my “ways” and how others know and see me so they see the right version of me. That’s not a good thing.

As the Lord weighs your spirit today, allow the Holy Spirit to do a work and convict. Ask God through prayer to bring intentional, loving community into your life and then ask Him to give you the courage to actually be vulnerable and honest.

Honesty and confession bring healing.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

 

An “Aha!” moment

Have you ever had one of these? You’re doing something, trying to fix a problem, trying to figure something out, and all of sudden you have a breakthrough. The lightbulb turns on. You have that longed for “Aha!” moment as now you have the answer to whatever problem, or you have a way to figure out the answer that you didn’t have before.

These are exciting moments…most of the timman-lightbulb-momente! Sometimes, that moment, that realization, can come and it does not bode well for the future. We reach that moment and then it’s like, “Oh man, I wish I hadn’t known that..” The realization can come with a weight, like this picture. It’s not just a small moment, but it has a huge impact on what happens next.

This same thing happened to Gideon, a special guy in the Old Testament of the Bible. He was a warrior. Here’s what Judges 6:22-23 records happening in his life:

“When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he cried out, ‘Oh, Sovereign LORD, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!’ ‘It is all right,’ the LORD replied, ‘Do not be afraid. You will not die.'”

There was something special about this realization. Gideon realized the person that he had been talking to was not just any person, but was in fact the angel of the LORD. He freaked out when he realized this! He basically thought he was going to die because he was not worthy of talking to the angel of the LORD and he knew it.

Gideon’s realization, his “aha!” moment, caused him to run right to God.

Have you ever had an “Aha!” moment? What did you do with it? We can make plans, we can prepare, we can adapt to light bulb moments. But Proverbs 16:9 says this, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Whatever your realization today, or tomorrow, or whenever it comes, make sure to run it to God. What do you do with it? How do you handle it? What path should you take now?

Pray. Ask God. Trust in His understanding and His plan. He will be your guide if you follow Him.

Watch out for that tree!

george-of-the-jungleWhen I was younger, there was a movie (I’m not sure how popular it was?), called “George of the Jungle.” I’ve seen it numerous times, and it really is a silly movie. There is this guy who doesn’t really fit into normal society and normal, person-to-person interactions and relationships because he was basically raised by wild animals.

He is similar to Tarzan, but in the movie he is brought back to civilization by the first girl he sees whom he just happens to fallen in love with (but that’s a different part of the story). When he is in the jungle, he swings from vines but he constantly has this problem of running into trees. Even in the theme song, they warn George multiple times to “Watch out for that tree!”

I was reading Proverbs 29:25 and the comparison to George of the Jungle struck me. Here is the verse:

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”z9141837Q,Fot--Shutterstock

Our “tree” is the fear of man. We fear what people will think of and say about us. We worry about our popularity and about just getting along through life without too much difficulty or push back from the people we go to school with or work with. I think too often we, me included, put more effort into just getting through life without too much difficulty than living for the LORD.

The fear of man lays a snare; it lays a trap. “Watch out for that trap!” Living in fear of people is just slavery to popular opinion. This is far from the abundant life, the joyful, Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered life we are offered through Jesus Christ.

Why is there a lack of Christian leaders? Why do too many Christian leaders and pastors and churches look more like the world than Christ? Why do so many first think of what someone else will think and then think about what God thinks? Why do we live in a rather powerless form of Christianity?

I could be wrong, and I could be oversimplifying the issue, but I think a large part of the problem is that we have fallen into the snare of the fear of man. Here is my challenge: “Watch out for that trap!” Don’t be afraid of people, but trust in the LORD. Put your faith in Jesus Christ. Trust and surrender to Him.

After all, the Bible says in the second half of the verse in Romans 8:31, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?” God is for those who are His. You have an opportunity to become a child of God (John 1:9-13). Why not take Him up on the offer?

Tunnel Vision

tunnel-visionSomething happened. We didn’t expect it. We didn’t plan it. We didn’t prepare for it. But it happened. There is no denying that. But what do we do now? What is our response?

We don’t like it when things come out of the blue and happen without our consent. We don’t like it when things come up that we didn’t budget for or that don’t fit into our life plans for ourselves and our families.

When something like this happens to us, it is way too easy to develop tunnel vision. We can only see the problem. We are too close to the traumatic event. Emotionally and physically we are too close to the situation that it is nearly impossible to keep things in perspective.

This could be a sudden illness or death. It could be a divorce. It could be losing a friend. This could be an injury that keeps us from playing the sport we’ve always loved and won’t have many more chances to play in this context. It could be a criticism or critique that comes unexpectedly when we thought things were going really well. It could be a sudden job loss when we were already hard pressed to make ends meet. It could be a friend or family member walking away from his or her faith.

The “somethings” are endless, aren’t they? But, if we respond with tunnel vision, our response will most likely not be tempered with godly wisdom, discernment, or good attitude. Tunnel vision restricts our ability to put things in perspective, like the Israelites in Exodus 14.

Moses had just brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery and imprisonment, because God was freeing them. As Moses leads the people as God’s representative, the Israelites start freaking out. As soon as they got out of Egypt, the Egyptian army then started coming after them. The army is closing in behind, and there is a huge sea in front of them. They have nowhere to go, and they think how much better it would’ve been to remain a slave than to die her in the desert. They had tunnel vision. All they could see was what was physically in front and behind of them.

Moses had other plans. Moses sought out God’s plans. Moses had confidence in God’s ability, even though on the surface things looked hopeless:

Exodus 14:13 – “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.'”

Maybe you are in a hopeless situation. Maybe you are lost and confused and don’t know where to turn or what to do or what to say or what to think. Maybe you are paralyzed by your situation right now. There is only one place to turn: the feet of Jesus. Turn it over, lay it down, trust in Him.

48347-There-Is-Always-Hope

The situation or circumstance or choice may not immediately go away, but your tunnel vision can. And once your tunnel vision goes away, you can begin seeing things through God’s eyes, God’s purpose, God’s plan. You can begin to see that life with God is better than life without God. He makes all things new. He restores and gives purpose. He redeems and provides freedom and eternal life through faith Jesus Christ.

All of these things are available to you. God transforms tunnel vision into truth vision. You can begin fighting your situation with the Truth of God’s Word, and Truth will always triumph. Don’t give up hope. Give in to God and trust Him. He’s got a better plan than us anyway (Prov. 3:5-6, 16:25).

Getting the most out of life…

Do you want to live a good, full life? I think if we were all honest, we would give a resounding, “Yes!” to this question. Wouldn’t you? I can’t think of anyone I know who wouldn’t want to live a good life or a full life. Living a good and/or full life might mean different things to different people, but for the sake of this post let’s say that a good and full life is living a life surrounded by people you love, doing something you enjoy, being successful at what you do, having a husband or wife and some children, being financially stable, and living long enough to see your children grow up, succeed in life, and have a husband or wife and children of their own. Sounds pretty good and full doesn’t it?

Is this really all it takes to live a good, full life? Is that all there is? For real though, think about it. Is life just about having people around you that you love, working a job you enjoy and being good at it, while marrying and having children and living many years? Is that really it? I think that is good, but I don’t think this is the best or even the fullest we can live life.proverbs

Solomon writes in Proverbs 19:23:

“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”

I think this is the secret to living the fullest and greatest life imaginable: fear the Lord. I’ve written earlier about what this fear of the Lord really means–a reverential awe; understanding and respecting how awesome, loving, powerful, mighty, holy, and righteous God is. We will have the right view toward God when we begin to understand His mighty power, His unrelenting grace, His righteous judgment, His unimaginable imagination, His unconditional love, and His perfect plan. We can never know everything about God, but we will have the right view of Him when we begin to fear and understand how truly awesome and awe-inspiring He is. It is humbling and really puts things in proper perspective when we understand and can echo the Psalmist, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8).

Fear of the Lord brings a good life, a full life, and a life of abiding contentment in who God is and what His plan is. God, out of His unconditional love and unrelenting grace, sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you. Jesus Christ was tortured, crucified, killed, and buried for your sins. He rose from the dead three days later so that you could have a relationship with God. If you haven’t begun a relationship with God, you can start one right now. He is ready and waiting. Just talk to Him. You have nothing to be afraid of, because God loves you and wants to give you a full life (John 10:10) that brings satisfaction beyond what the world can bring or give.

“The fear of the Lord…” (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7, HCSB)

I really enjoy learning. I like reading and studying, but usually only on my own time. When it comes to assigned reading, I am not so excited about it. But, when I get to read on my own time, it is something I really enjoy. It appears that much of life is devoted to the attaining of knowledge and its application.

We pursue degrees, the higher the education the better, and the more prestigious the university the better. We pursue perfection in our jobs–always striving for a better position or promotion and pay raise. Our entire lives are devoted to gaining more knowledge. We have a chance to “learn something new every day.”

The Bible, as it so often does, speaks directly into our pursuits as humans and reveals how in fact we can gain this knowledge and apply it as wisdom. God’s Word does not say that we gain more knowledge by studying harder, going to a better school, or spending more time in the library or out on crazy adventures. God’s prescription for the gaining of knowledge is simply to be in awe of the One who gives wisdom and the One from Whom all knowledge is derived.

Fear of the Lord

Why not be in awe of the Source of all knowledge? The fear of the Lord is a reverential awe and understanding of His sovereignty and power. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever present with each of us. He desires a relationship with us and He wants us to gain knowledge.

Why else would God tell us how to get knowledge and wisdom if He didn’t want us to have it? So apply His strategy for gaining wisdom and put your fear in the right place! Have a healthy fear, awe, respect for Who God is and spend time getting to know Him. I guarantee it’ll positively impact your life and the lives of those who interact with you!