Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hard Heart Help

Avoidance, denial, stuff it, ignore it, procrastinate, these are all signs, indicators that there is something we don't want to face. We don't want face the possibility of failure, or face a fear. We don't want to deal with the hardship and hard work required to overcome, change or confront. We don't want to face the shame and guilt of our sin. It remains unmoved till it becomes a calcified callous in our heart. Callouses in our heart hurt. 

The bottom line under all this is a heart of unbelief. If this goes unearthed it becomes a hard heart. This heart of unbelief keeps us from moving forward and finding rest for our soul. We've bought into lies that keep our hearts resistant to transformation. Lies such as, "I can't change," "It's better to hide my sin," "God wont come through for me," "This is too big, even for God," "If people find out I'll lose too much," "God isn't doing anything, so I might as well take matters in my own hands," and "I have the right to be angry and bitter". This heart of unbelief keeps us stuck, disturbed and unforgiven. Men, don't trust your heart. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered" (28:26). "He who hardens his heart will fall into calamity" (28:14b). 

The only way to deal with your unrest is to confess. Expose your heart to yourself, to God, and to others. "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion" (28:13). Don't be like the Israelites who hardened their hearts in the wilderness. God said of them, "For forty years I loathed that generation, and said They are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest" (Psalm 95:10-11).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tethered to God

"Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall" (Proverbs 25:28).

Do you remember playing Tether Ball during school recess? My recollection of the apparatus is that the ball generally hung motionless with children running by, finding enjoyment else where. You rarely find the game in modern day school grounds. I'm sure you are already coming up with many good reasons for this, one of which is the shear frustration caused by the inability to connect with a wildly flung ball on a string. This is the kind of frustration that we often experience when we are trying to maintain self-control; control of our tongue, our actions and our thoughts.

Solomon's wise sayings in Proverbs 25 are full of relational advice, which at times seem like trying to connect with an out of control tether ball. Don't gossip (9), say the right word at the right time (11), listen (12), keep your promises (14), be patient (15), use gentle talk (16), don't wear out your welcome (17), be honest and trustworthy (18-19), sympathize with people (20), be kind to your enemies (21-22), use kind words (23), don't nag (24), be encouraging (25), and don't be needy for praise (27). Solomon then seems to summarize all the previous admonitions with one all encompassing warning, "Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall" (28). You become defenceless, vulnerable and susceptible to hurt and defeat.

At this point you may be feeling the weight of playing the relational tether ball game. Life can be wildly unpredictable, unmanageable and full of right-in-your-face stuff. How do we keep the relational ball under control? Our answer can be found back in chapter one, verse two: "Proverbs will teach you wisdom and self-control..." (CEV).  And wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (9:10). It all starts with our relationship with the Lord. To have self-control our life must be tethered to His control. True self-control comes out of God-control, or what Proverbs refers to as the fear of the Lord. This reverential awe, submissive fear is foundational for all spiritual knowledge and wisdom, out of which flows self-control.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). When He is in control of our life we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:16; refer also Proverbs 3:7; 8:13). When we are tethered to the poll of his control, He will tame our tongue, temper and thoughts. 

The true beauty of all this is that it is no longer self-effort, but God-effort. He is doing the empowering and guiding. Gone is the "tether ball" frustration. No longer do we struggle with the constant swing - miss, swing - miss. Ball in the head. Tired arm. Exhaustion!

Quit trying men! Give up the frustrating play ground attempts. Give in to God. Play on his play ground. You'll have a lot more fun with your play mates and best of all, you're on his team, and he always wins!