Guard Your Heart

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

If you haven’t already done so, memorize this verse, meditate on it, get it deep within your very being. When you wake in the morning, recite it because you’ll need it. When you go to bed at night, dwell on it. Think about its meaning.

Why do I think this verse is so important? Think about it for a minute. We are inundated with negativity all day, every day. We can become bitter and angry just reading the daily news. But we don’t have to let it control us. Guard what goes into it. Guard what you think about.

And we can become bitter against God. Let’s face it, we don’t understand everything that God does. The world would have us hate God. But we know God. We know that He is in control and does what he wills without our permission and completely without our control. Why the nerve of it! So in those times when it looks like God should have done something a little differently than we would have liked, we have to trust that God had the highest of intentions and knows what He is doing.

Above all else, guard your heart.

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Troublesome Passage

“But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:44

This is a troublesome passage. It’s troublesome because I don’t always love those who persecute me and my fellow Believers. I want revenge. I find it hard to love my enemies too. I’m not talking about that vast group of people who hate us on the other side of the world; I’m talking about my neighbor. I’m talking about my co-worker. I’m talking about my former friend.

So what exactly is loving your enemies? First of all, we need to ask God to help us to love our enemies because without that, it’s difficult and often impossible.  Then we need to find ways to reach out, just as Christ would reach out. Jesus goes even one step further. Pray for them. Wow! Even then you might need to ask Him how you can pray for them because in your own strength, it’s extremely difficult.

Like I said, it’s a troublesome passage.

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The Sabbath

…and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Matthew 12: 8-10

The Sabbath.

We Christians do not take the Sabbath as seriously as the Jews did, even though it is one of the Ten Commandments. Our Sabbaths are as busy as the rest of the week for the most part. We shop. We play. We take a drive. We work. We watch sports. We don’t really rest. I’m the first to admit my guilt on this.

My Jewish friends take the Sabbath very seriously. From sundown on Friday night until sundown on Saturday night they do no work. They don’t even cook or turn on the oven. They walk to Synagogue. They don’t shop. Essentially, they rest on the Sabbath.

What would our lives look like if we obeyed The Fifth Commandment as stringent as we obey the “don’t steal,” “don’t murder” or “don’t commit adultery” commandments?

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The Mind

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

The mind is a terrible thing to waste,” so the commercial goes. But what are we putting into our minds is my question?

  • What are our minds feeding on?
  • What kinds of things are we absorbing day in and day out? Are they wholesome? If not, why not?
  • What are we obsessing about?
  • How are we renewing our minds daily?
  • What are we thinking about?
  • What do we spend our spare time thinking about?
  • What are we telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God?
  • What are we meditating on?
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The Main Thing

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11

It’s been interesting to watch the Olympics in Beijing this last week. These athletes are focused. They know what their goal is: a medal, and preferably a gold one. They train for hours, days, weeks, and even years to fine tune their focus and their skill. They desperately want to win and many will stop at nothing to win.

Isn’t that a vivid picture of how we’re to live our lives as Christians? One goal. Focused. Targeted. An undivided heart.

Many things can detract us, can’t they? Jobs, family, money, homes, the good life.

An old preacher used to say (and it was quoted by Steven Covey), “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Think about it. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. So perhaps a different question should be asked, “what is the main thing?” It will be different to different people, even to other Believers. So…

What is the main thing to you?

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They Laughed

When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. …he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. Matthew 9:23-25

The mourners and musicians were already to bury the girl because, after all, she had stopped breathing. I’d like to say that I wouldn’t have been one of the laughers in the crowd. Those would be the naysayers. “That’s not possible; it’s never been done before,” so the excuse goes. Something tells me, though, that I would have been out in front laughing at this man.

Truth is, though, people still laugh at Jesus. Sometimes they do it in response to something we do. They know we’re Christians, but by our actions we certainly don’t show it. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t have any symbol or sticker on my car that singles me out as being a Christian. The first guy I happen to cut off will see it and think, “Yep, he’s really no different.”)

Are people laughing (or mocking or worse) at Jesus because of me? I have to examine every action and word I speak. And the tip I give (or don’t give) in the restaurant. And the unkind word I speak to a clerk or teller or fast food cashier or co-worker.

Yeah, it all matters.

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What Kind of Man is This?

“What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him.” Matthew 8:27

What kind of a man is this?

  • To transform the heart of a troubled and weary soul.
  • To create the entire universe and be concerned enough about me.
  • To cause the sun to rise every morning and to set every evening, often in spectacular fashion.
  • To take the form of a man and to experience what we experienced.
  • To have patience with an increasingly wicked world.
  • To be pleased with his children.
  • To comfort his children when they hurt and when they want to blame Him for it.
  • To lead us each day if we ask Him.
  • To willingly sacrifice his life so that we can know his forgiveness.

Yes, what kind of man is this?

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Hating Evil

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9

A story is told of a Queen who was interviewing Royal coach drivers. She asked, “how close to the edge of a cliff do you think you can safely drive?” After several confident and bold drivers gave measurements in the inches, one driver responded, “Your highness, I will make it a point to drive as far away from the edge as I can.”

I think we are very similar to the other drivers. We sometimes ask, “how close can I get to a sin without actually sinning?” when the question we need to be asking is, “how far away from sin can I stay?

Hating evil and the consequences of sin is a big step in the right direction.

Perhaps we need to ask God to help us hate, abhor, and detest sin and evil.

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What Comes Out

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of the mouth, that is what makes him unclean.” Matthew 15:10-11

The tongue. James talks about “taming the tongue.” I think you can tell a lot about a person by listening to that person speak. And even more so when the pressure is on in any given situation. We often say things we wish we could take back in the passion of an argument or heated discussion. All of us are guilty of it.

But here’s something to keep in mind: the world is watching. They are listening to every single foul word or unkind word or damaging word we say. And they are also listening to how we react.

Back in the day before I became a Believer, I heard someone rattle off a string of profanity followed by every blasphemous word you could think of. Another bystander simply asked the person, “Do you kiss your mother with those lips?” It was a fitting rebuke, and the person apologized.

Jesus even cut to the matter quicker: it’s what’s inside that matters.

So, here’s the question we need to ask ourselves regularly: what’s in my heart that would make me cuss like a sailor?

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