Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guard Your Heart

Sometimes we forget what is best for our heart.  How many of you have experienced heart break at some point?  We gave too much of ourselves away to what we thought was that special someone, only to have our hearts shattered like a broken mirror.  Or what about giving our heart away to the sin that plagues our thoughts? 

Like Solomon, the Lord has told us to observe what he has commanded, to not turn our hearts away from Him.  'Observe' in the Hebrew is shamar, meaning "to keep, guard, observe, give heed" (Strong's H8104).  We are to guard His commandment to not turn our hearts away, we are to guard our hearts!

1 Kings 11:1-4, 9-10 - 1 Not King Solomon loved many foreign women... 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods."  Solomon held fast to these in love.  3 He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.  4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been... 9 Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded.

In those 6 verses, "heart" is mentioned 6 times!  I truly believe that the overall message to be conveyed is to guard your heart.

First, we are to guard our heart in regards to marriage.  In verse 2, you see what the Lord told all of Israel, including King Solomon.  Just because he is king does NOT mean he is exempt from the commands of the Lord.  He did not want them to associate (let alone marry) foreign women who worshipped other gods for they would turn their hearts away from the Lord.  Likewise, we are told in 2 Corinthians 6:14 - Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

I always refer back to an illustration I read when I was much younger - Sunday Sally represents a believer.  Foolish Freddy represents an unbeliever.  Sally stands on a chair while Freddy stands beside her on the ground.  She cannot pull him up to stand next to her, no matter how hard she tries.  But the minute Freddy tries to pull Sally down next to him, she falls right off the chair.  It is much easier to pull someone down than it is to pull someone up.  God knows that.  He has made that perfectly clear in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  While we may not have to deal with other "gods," unbelievers today can still certainly turn our hearts away from the Lord.  Therefore, guard your heart.  Know your morals, your standards, and don't settle for anything less!

Next, we are to guard our hearts for the sake of others.  Solomon should not have had that many wives, princesses, or concubines to begin with.  Deuteronomy 17:17 says - He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away...  Yes, Solomon sinned in marrying foreign women (multitudes of them) but he also sinned when he began "multiplying wives."  'Multiply' comes from the Hebrew word rabah meaning "be or become great, be or become many, be or become much, be or become numerous" (Strong's H7235).  Who's to say when a number becomes 'great' or 'much' or 'many,'  but I think it is safe to say that 1,000 qualifies.  But where did Solomon get this idea for multiple wives?  David set this example.  Which may have caused Solomon to believe that it was okay, you see, "One bad act of a good man may be of more [harmful] consequence to others that 20 of a wicked man" (WesleyHenry).  David was, overall, a very good man.  So it would make sense for Solomon to look to him for guidance.  His thought process might have gone something like this, "If it was okay for David, whom God loved, to have multiple wives, than it should be okay for me right?"  

We have to remember, when we are believers, when we are leaders, when we are good friends...that people are watching us.  One tiny sin of mine could be a major fall for someone I know.  We must guard our hearts against sin for the sake of others.  I do not want to be responsible for the fall of my brother or sister in Christ.

And last, but certainly not least, we must guard our hearts against the sins of the world.  That sounds like an obvious one doesn't it?  But sometimes, we need to be reminded of the obvious things.  It is easy to justify homosexuality these days since it is "the new normal."  But just because something is 'normal' according to societies standards, does not make it right.  Solomon could have easily justified his multiple wives because of the world around him.  But it still didn't make it right.  Also, it should be pointed out that, "Solomon deserved more punishment for his worship of Ashtaroth than any of the Sidonians did, though they performed precisely the same acts.  The Sidonians had never known the true God; Solomon had been fully acquainted with Him" (Clarke).  

Sin is "a willful transgression against the known law of God" (I believe that is Wesley...but I'm not sure.  I had to memorize that definition for school).  If someone does not know God and His law, they cannot be held accountable for the wrong they do.  But we do know God and because we know God we are supposed to know His law.  Therefore, our sin is sin.  No questions asked. 

I challenge you today to guard your heart in this fallen world.  It isn't easy, but it is essential.  Keep God and His word close - it is a matter of life and death.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For the Whole of Time

Known fact: Mom's have eyes in the back of their head.  And not just when your little.  Recently my mom was whipping up some of our family recipe "Christmas Salad":  Cool Whip, Pudding Mix, and Mandarin Orange goodness.  As she went to the cupboard to get a container for the finished product, back turn towards me, I stuck my finger in the mix for a tiny taste.  Without missing a beat or turning around, "Brianna, get out of the Christmas salad!"  The only possible explanation: those mysterious hidden eyes in the back of her head.  She is always watching me.  hehe.

But even more than that, she is always caring for me.  Even when I lived over 1200 miles away, her affection was apparent.  From the numerous phone calls to the nice care packages to the surprise visits.  She was always thinking of me, caring for me, loving me.

1 Kings 9:3 - The Lord said to him, "I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually."

Solomon had just finished the dedication of his infamous temple.  This was God's response.  Isn't it wonderful? 

Thanks to some wonderful commentaries, I was able to see how drastically this applies to you and I.  Today, we don't have a dwelling place for God.  The church is simply a building for our community to come together as one body in order to worship the one true God.  Today, God dwells within us, we are God's living temple: 

1 Corinthians 3:16 - Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19 - Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 

Just as the temple was consecrated, so we have been consecrated)  If we "apply [this verse] to persons, the living temples...have His eye, His heart, His love and care...perpetually" (Henry).  As His temple, we have His eyes, "[His] watchful and gracious providence" and His heart, "[His] tender affection" or love and care as Henry puts it (Wesley).  And all of this we have forever and always!  'Perpetually' is actually translated from two separate Hebrew words, kol, meaning "the whole" and yowm, meaning "time" (Strong's H3605Strong's H3117).  So we have God's watchful and gracious providence as well as His tender love and care for the whole of time.  Neat to think about isn't it?

I challenge you today to rest in the beauty of this truth.  Whatever baggage you are carrying whatever mountain you are climbing, lay it at His feet and rest in His presence.  We don't do that often enough.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Plague of the Heart

The Black Plague, otherwise known as the Bubonic Plague, is something that everyone has at least heard about.  Why?  Because it was a significant historical event.  In 1347 the Plague killed one-third of the human population!  Talk about deadly!  It is even believed that this was a significant turning point for European economic development because such a large number of the working class was lost (Wikipedia). 

A plague is "a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly" and "causes high mortality" (  From chills and fevers to swelling and seizures, a plague is not something you want to "catch" - it affects your entire body and could possibly result in death.

1 Kings 8:38-39 - 38 ...whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; 39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men... 

The condition of your heart matters.

Take a look at the word "affliction" in verse 38.  Nega' is the Hebrew word used here, meaning "stroke, plague, disease, mark, plague spot" (Strong's H5061).  So really this is saying that each man knows the plague of his own heart.  Many versions even refer to it this way, including the King James (Parallel Bible).  We can assume that sins are the "plague of the heart, because that is both the principle seat of sin, and the fountain from whence all actual sins flow" (Wesley).  Now go back to our discussion of a plague - it spreads quickly, affects the entire body, makes you feel absolutely miserable, and could result in death - it is even contagious.  That is sin!  Sin starts at the center of your being, your heart, and spreads quickly throughout your entire being.  It makes you miserable emotionally, spiritually, and yes, sometimes even physically.  Sin can be very contagious at times.  And if not treated, it will most definitely end in death.  Sin, like the plague, has quite a high mortality rate.

But this plague, these sins - "Every Israelite indeed endeavors to know these, the he may mortify them and watch against the risings of them...These drive him to his knees, drive him to the sanctuary.  Lamenting these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer" (Henry).  When we notice the beginnings of these sins, this plague, we need to come before God with a sincere prayer.  Sincerity is expressed in these verses through the expression of "spreading his hands toward the house."  This would put their faces toward God, in a manner of speaking.  It made them vulnerable and open to Him.  We have to be sincere in our prayers if we want the Lord to hear us, as Solomon is asking here. 
But even without spreading their hands toward His house, God knows their hearts.  He knows our hearts.  He knows not only the plagues but the wants and burdens, the sincerity or the hypocrisy.  He knows what the condition of our heart is and He will only listen if we are truly sincere.  

The condition of your heart matters!

I challenge you today to examine your heart.  Is it plagued by sin?  Take a piece of paper and write down all that you need to ask forgiveness for.  Is your heart sincere when you approach the Father?  Take the time today to put everything else aside, clear your thoughts, and show the Lord your heart, stretch your arms toward His house - be open, honest, and sincere.  

He will hear and He will forgive.