Friday, May 22, 2009

Heart Perspective

"Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life. In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them" (Proverbs 22:4-5).

Humility and the fear of the Lord give us a proper perspective. We see ourselves for who we truly are - sinners, deserving of the wrath of God. We see God for who he is - holy, deserving of our worship. This perspective changes our life. It's what leads us down the path of wisdom. It's the path that brings "wealth and honor and life" (4). It's the path that guards our soul from wickedness and from the thorns and snares that come with wickedness (5).

How do you see yourself? Maybe that's all you see is yourself. Maybe you see things from an external perspective. This is how the Pharisees and the teachers of the law saw things when they saw the disciples eating food with hands that weren't washed (Mark 7:1-5). It was all about the outward stuff. Our good works become blinders to the realities in our heart. We are self deceived by thinking, "I pay my bills; provide for my family. I'm a nice guy. People like me. I go to church faithfully. I'm in a small group. I even read my Bible and pray every day", so my heart must be alright.

Jesus' response, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men" (Mark 7:6-7).  There is that word again, "heart", that we've seen in abundance in Proverbs. They didn't fear the Lord and worship him. Their hearts were distant. They didn't enjoy and experience the presence of the Lord (see Phil. 4:4-9). They were doing the right stuff but there was no heart relationship with God.

Jesus addressed their problem by pointing to the heart. He taught that "it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.' " (Mark 7:15). "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'" (Mark 7:21-23). 

It's there men. Don't be deceived. There are impurities in our hearts. We must humbly and deeply look at our hearts on a daily basis. Acknowledge what is there. Be vigilant. Guard our souls (Proverbs 22:5).  Sin is there, but so is the Lord. Acknowledge His presence. Fear Him (22:4). Worship Him. Bow at his feet in humble confession and repentance. Embrace his forgiveness, grace and mercy.

What comes out of your heart will be the true test of where you are at with Him. Are you headed down the path of wisdom? Take a look around, what do you see? Do you see a humble heart that acknowledges sin? Do you see Him walking by your side, ready to make you holy and take you down paths of righteousness? 

G.E.T.* the right heart perspective.  Humble yourself. Fear the Lord.

*G.E.T. see May 21

Thursday, May 21, 2009

G.E.T. a Heart of Wisdom

Proverbs 4:23; 20:5, 9, 27

Man has had a heart problem since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Their heart disease literally spread to the entire human race.  The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). This continues to be the condition of man’s heart.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"? (Proverbs 20:9). But, in God’s grace and mercy, he provided a way to redeem the heart of man through the redemption of Christ. Ezekiel prophesied concerning this heart transformation, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). The New Testament repeatedly proclaims this truth, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Does this mean that the heart of the Christian is completely sanctified? No! “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).


In practical terms, “How do we develop a pure heart?” Wisdom is found in Proverbs to answer this question. There are three concepts which I have put in the acrostic G.E.T. to make it memorable.

G: Guard your heart from impurities “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Life flows out of our heart. What is in our heart is what we think. What are we gazing on? What are we dwelling and thinking about most often? Our behavior is directed by our thoughts, not our environment, genetics, or anything else outside ourselves. What are we allowing to come into our minds? Is our mind full of lies? Our attitude and behavior is a barometer of what is in our heart. Anxiety, fear, anger, bitterness, irritability, impatience, apathy are all symptomatic of faulty thinking. Out of our thoughts come sinful behavior.

E: Examine your heart – The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). “The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the innermost parts of his being” (Proverbs 20:27).  This admonition to examine our hearts is given repeatedly in the New Testament. Look for the plank in your own eye before you point out the speck of dust in someone else’s eye (Matt. 7:5). “Each one should test his own actions” (Gal. 6:1-5). If you are having problems seeing the dirt in your life, just ask your wife, or a good friend. Better yet, ask God. "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind...” (Jeremiah 17:10).  The New International Version gives this rendering of Proverbs 20:27, “The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being”.

It is so easy to just read scripture and feel like we have done our part. We are now going to automatically grow spiritually. It is important that we take the time to listen and look. Listen to what God is saying to you personally. Before moving on, ask him to reveal what is in your heart and what he wants you to learn for that day. Then write it down. This begins to cement it in your heart and mind.  Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips” (Proverbs 22:17-18).   

Train your heart with Truth  – The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19:8). To see true, lasting transformation in our life we must repeatedly apply the truth. Truth changes the heart. Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge” (Proverbs 23:12). The Word must break the hard ground in our hearts.  Sinful thoughts and habits don’t die easily. It will take the power of the Word and the Spirit as it is applied to our life. "‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’” (Jeremiah 23:29). 

When God speaks to you each day, write it down, take that thought with you and share it with others. Ask others to hold you accountable. Memorize the truth. Study it. Meditate on it. The Hammer of Truth will chip away until an image starts to immerge, the image of Christ.

This is truth training, training in righteousness. You are training your heart by applying the truth to your heart. GET wisdom!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Keep Pursuing Knowledge

Proverbs 19:2, 20, 27

The older you get the more wisdom, knowledge and understanding a person should have. Unfortunately this isn't always the case. I turned fifty this year. By today's standard that is not old. At least I would like to think so. But as I do age I've noticed a trend, a tendency, a pull to slow down, lose some eagerness and drive. We tend to think we are on the "down side", the "final stretch", "over the hill". 

This slowing down is not always bad. After all we are told a man of knowledge and understanding shows restraint and is even tempered (17:27). With age we do learn when to act and when to be patient. This is not the kind of "slow down" I've noticed. There seems to be a trend, especially among men, to think we've arrived, or at least we have enough knowledge and experience to complete the journey and be successful. There is a subtle attitude of pride, self sufficiency and perhaps laziness that sets in. We don't have the energy we once had and we are quick to use the excuse that we don't have as many brain cells as a twenty year old. The outcome is that we stop growing, learning and listening. We don't seek advice and counsel. We cease pressing for new knowledge, insight and understanding. Read a book...unnecessary, too busy. Memorize, study, think...too much work.

Wisdom is coupled with understanding and knowledge. Seek one and you get the others. Leave one out and you will have none. "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (19:20). "Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge" (19:27).

Maybe you still have spunk and energy as you've aged. You are busy, busy, busy. Doing, working, striving. You've accomplished a lot. You know a lot. Beware, don't get self reliant. Don't think that you've arrived. We are warned, "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor be hasty and miss the way" (19:2).

Keep pursuing knowledge no matter where you are at in life. "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning" (9:9). Do you want to learn more? Look up, study and apply the truths about knowledge in these verses (1:7-8; 2:1-6; 8:12; 9:8-11; 10:14; 15:7; 18:27). "Wise men store up knowledge" (10:14). Keep learning!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stop the Talk, Don't Do Anything

Proverbs 17
  • Cover an offense (9)
  • Drop a quarrel (14)
  • Use words with restraint (27)
  • Hold your tongue (28)
Sometimes the best course of action is no action. To do this requires a great deal of faith in God and the reality of His principles. To restrain from words and actions is to say, "There is nothing you can say or do that will thwart God's plan. Good will prevail." To let someone else have the last word seems, on the surface, to surrender victory. It seems to admit defeat or fault. But in reality, there is a greater plan at work. You may have lost the skermish, but in the end you have won the war. You know how the battle ends, and you know which general comes out on top. You know.

Self control, restraint, holding your tongue, comes out of knowledge and understanding (27), wisdom and discernment (28). You know that God vindicates the righteous. You understand God's justice, grace and mercy. You know that love triumphs (9). You understand that forgiveness brings about reconciliation of relationships. You know that paying back evil for evil doesn't pay off.

Wisdom triumphs, even at the times when it does nothing and says nothing. Get wisdom! Stop the talk! Drop the quarrel! Cover the offense!