Christ Posts

Watch Over Your Heart: A Closer Look at Proverbs 4

What does it mean to watch over your heart? Proverbs 4:23 tells the reader to do just that:

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
– Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)

The heart is the root of emotion. It is the seat of desires. It is the place where passion is born and where every action finds its origin – thus the admonition to watch over your heart.

Your heart is influenced by input. The things you watch, listen to and interact with directly influence the state of your heart. From a spiritual standpoint, what’s going on at the heart level will eventually show in life. It cannot be hidden or covered. It will eventually come out.

If your heart is full of the things of God, that cannot be hidden either. If your input is godly and your heart is full of the Lord, then your life will reflect that.

As in water face reflects face,
So the heart of man reflects man.
– Proverbs 27:19 (NASB)

However, our steps are not guaranteed to be honoring to the Lord. Obedience is still a choice and the outworking of the heart is often full of challenges.

Proverbs 4 continues, challenging us to be diligent to watch over our hearts, but then to also watch over the outworking of the heart in life. And from this guarding of the heart, three cautions arise:

  1. Watch what you say.
  2. Watch what you see.
  3. Watch what you do.[1]

Not only do these reflect the state of your heart, they also serve as potential inputs. If you want your life to reflect Christ, being mindful of these three potential inputs is a great place to start. They serve as indicators and warning signs. If what you say, see and do are honoring to the Lord, it indicates a right heart. However, if what you say, see or do is dishonoring to the Lord, it reveals a heart in need of the transforming power of the gospel.

The truth is this is a fluid process. You will have your victories and defeats, but the end goal is a greater awareness of what God is doing in your heart and how that is being played out in the world around you.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is the status of your heart? Have you thought about that lately? If not, take a few moments and dig a bit. What do you sense on the inside? Is there an abiding peace with the Lord or are you in disarray on the inside? If you find yourself struggling, turn to the Lord and invite him into the chaos. Remember, Jesus is Lord of creation and has the ability to calm the storms of life – even the ones in your own heart.
  • What do you say? What do your language, tone and content of speech say about your heart? We are called to show love for one another and to speak in a way that builds others up. How are you doing in the battle with your tongue?
  • What do you see? Are the things you are watching honoring to the Lord? It’s worth exploring the very root of desire that causes you to “want” to look at the things that have your attention. What is driving the desire to see what you are seeing? Is it to honor the Lord or are you driven by the flesh? If what you are looking at, or the very desire to look is not brought into submission to the Lord, you are fighting a losing battle. Invite the Lord into your temptation and see if He will help move your desires to other things.
  • What do you do? Actions and environments speak volumes of the state of the heart. What do you find yourself doing and where do you find yourself going? If the places you invest your time are not influencing you toward Christ, why are you there? If the circumstances in which you find yourself are not moving you to Jesus, find other environments to invest in. If bad company corrupts good character,[2] find people and places that fill your heart with godliness.

[1] Proverbs 4:24-27
[2]1 Corinthians 15:33

 

Born to Die

As you read through the pages of the New Testament it becomes very clear very quickly that Jesus was indeed born to die. The cross was not an oops. He didn’t just get sold out by the priests of His day. He was not ambushed by the Romans. His entire time on earth was about living a perfect life, a sinless life, so that when the day came, as painful as it was, He could provide for us the greatest gift we’d ever be offered, and that is eternal life through Him.

He didn’t want it, by the way. When you look at Jesus in Gethsemane the night He was betrayed, He prays and He says, God, if there is any other way, I am totally down for that. If there’s any other way, let me know. But, not my will but yours be done (Mark 14:35-36).

And so the plan of redemption from the very beginning was faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel is actually not very complicated, but it’s incredibly powerful. It forces us to recognize we are sinners and we cannot do what we need to do to please God. There’s nothing good in us. Even our good deeds are like filthy rags to God. And it takes humility to recognize the depth of our own depravity. It takes a certain honesty to recognize we are dirtbags, and without Jesus, we are a mess.

Without Jesus, we have no hope in and of ourselves. By ourselves, we are doomed to go to hell. There are no good works in us, not even one. There’s nothing we can contribute. And when we finally come to the realization that we’re idiots and can do nothing to please God, and confess that we need Him in our life, then. Then Christ is appropriated in our life. That’s the beauty of the gift of Christ.

I remember sitting at a banquet where I came to faith in Christ. I went for free food and left with eternal life. It was the consummate Christian bait and switch. They didn’t tell me there was going to be a speaker there who was going to talk about the Bible a little bit, but the food was pretty good so I put up with it. And a guy talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it meant to follow Him, and I remember coming to faith in Christ that night. But I was looking around going, if these people knew about me what God must know about me, they’d throw me out of this place.

And I’d say, friend, it’s in those moments that you understand the gospel. Because when Jesus says He came to seek and save the lost, He’s talking about us, the least of these, the most messed up, jacked up people in all the world.

But thanks be to God that who we were is not who we are in Christ. Anything good in us is Christ. Anything of redeeming value, of beauty, of noble purpose is Christ. Anything honoring is Christ. Anything we have that is endearing at all is Christ – because we’ve accepted the free gift He offers. Born in a manger. Born to die. That’s what Christmas is about.

I’m thankful that in Christ there’s newness. In Christ there’s refreshment, hope, peace, purpose, beauty and honor. As you consider the gift of Jesus, may you just sink deeply into Him who humbly became one of us, lived among us, died and rose from the dead for us. And as we celebrate Christmas, may we celebrate Him.

Reaching the Next Generation

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Hezekiah is a fascinating example of a guy who’s not willing to enter into the mess of the younger generation in hopes of developing, training or discipling them. Because of his pride of showing off all of his treasuries and his kingdom and his storehouse, he is told that his sons will be taken captive. Yet his response is, indeed, the word from the Lord is good. At least there will be peace in my time (2 Kings 20:13-19).

What I never noticed before is what happens after that. Hezekiah dies and his son Manasseh takes over. And when you read 2 Kings 21, you see all of the junk that Manasseh led the nation into. It’s an incredible wickedness that had not been seen in Judah to that scale previously. It had in Israel but never in Judah. Because of Hezekiah’s arrogance and selfishness of not wanting to enter into the next generation, he forsook the next generation, and the next generation took the excesses that were common in the culture and multiplied them.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, regardless of which one you’re in, the next one will always be perceived to be not as good as yours. They will always be perceived to be not as committed, not as faithful, not as biblical, etc. And yet the irony is that’s not necessarily the case. As we look at this current generation that’s now coming up, we’re really dealing with a group of people who, as we’re finding, are deeply committed to the things of God and open to the things of God. They’re just not committed to our systems or structures that people have found so much comfort in religiously.

If we’re going to reach the next generation, there has to be a sense where we recognize, yeah, I know the dude’s growing a beard, I know he’s rocking a beanie and it’s 100 degrees outside, he’s got skinny jeans and the whole hipster vibe going, okay, cool. But what’s at the heart? And if we can enter into the diversity a little bit, enter into the distinctions even of style and music and language, and recognize that this next generation is going to carry and steward the gospel moving forward, we can understand their world enough that we can get to the heart of the next generation and begin to disciple them.

We don’t have the option of pulling away and saying, “at least there will be peace in my time,” because what happened in Hezekiah’s day will happen in our day. If we are so uncomfortable or stubborn that we fail to enter in with the next generation, we fail to sit with them and disciple them and hear them and get to the heart of what God is doing in their lives, then the same type of excesses we saw in Hezekiah’s day with his son Manasseh, we’ll see today.

I would challenge any of you who might look down your nose a little bit at the next generation, as if somehow you’re better than them, to recognize that your calling is to serve them and disciple them and mentor them and train them and enter into their world enough that they recognize you care about them. Only then, when you’re telling them about Jesus, will they understand it’s coming from a heart of love and a heart of discipleship and a desire that, regardless of what generation we call our own, there could be a shared sense of the foundation of the gospel and of what Jesus is doing in our lives.

The One Word I Want to Define My Life

The One Word

I had been coming home a little on edge. I was not necessarily fun to be around, from my wife’s perspective. And I was missing my kids’ soccer practices since I was so busy. So they weren’t happy with me. I was cranking, working hard, giving a lot, and under a ton of stress. I was handling things outside of my comfort zone, so I didn’t feel competent, making decisions that have huge implications on people’s lives, and I didn’t feel with certainty it was the right call. And I had to teach, and honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was teach. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

I prepped. And I studied. And I taught. And it felt like flesh. It felt like me. It felt like the message was a giant run-on sentence, one ginormous blah, blah, blah, blah. I finished the message, went home, and of course, I couldn’t sleep, beating myself up: You shouldn’t have said that, you should have said that, you missed that, you misquoted that, you said um 150 times. What the heck is wrong with you?

Some assume it happens over decades. I love Jesus, then not as much the next year, and then not as much the next year, and the next year not as much. But it can happen in a moment. Literally, overnight.

I go to bed and realize I have to get back with the Lord. He hasn’t gone anywhere. The problem is not the Lord; the problem is me. I’m trying to do this in my own strength, I’m trying to wrestle my life to the ground on my own – and it’s too much.

I began to look at my spiritual life. What does my time in the word look like? What does my time in prayer look like? And I realize it’s scarce, if not non-existent. So I spend good time with the Lord, and good time in prayer and good time in my Bible – and the funny thing is, my wife likes me more, and it’s fascinating how my kids want to snuggle with me now, and I actually have the time. When my life gets crazy, I get very selfish. I need this. I need that. When my life is about other people, that’s where I find joy.

I walked into OSH, and I saw this guy with his wife sitting on patio furniture. I was feeling full, so I said, “Oh dude, you have got to have it.”

“Yeah, it’s like three grand,” he said.

“Well, happy wife, happy life.”

“If I buy this, you have to come party with us later.”

“If you need a truck, let me know.” And I walked away.

Five minutes later, this guy walked up and asks, “Were you serious?”

“That’s why I bought a truck, so I could help people. Do you need it?”

“I do.”

I loaded his furniture into my truck – and while he didn’t live right down the street, but way down the street, I left with joy. And that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I love. If I’m in myself, if I’m in the flesh, if I’m being selfish, I’m not going to offer that guy anything. I don’t have time for that guy.

Don’t forget your first love. Recognize from where you have fallen, repent, and do the deeds that you did at first (see Revelation 2:4-5). 

The challenge is to check our hearts day by day, moment by moment, and process what it means to stay connected to Him.

If there is stress, frustration, fruitlessness, then you are not abiding. You are not being filled by Him and His strength.

If there’s a word that I would like to define my life, it’s abide. Because when I abide in Him and He abides in me – and literally, abide means to sink deeply into, to remain in – when I remain in Him, and He remains in me, and when I sink deeply into Him, and He sinks deeply into me, I bear much fruit. But apart from Him, I can do nothing. Not that I can’t do some things or I’m not as effective. No. You can’t do jack without Him (see John 15:5).

Bullet Points:

  • Slow down
  • Pray
  • Go for a walk
  • Enjoy the breeze
  • Read your Bible – not for the mind, for the heart
  • And make sure what you’re doing, you’re doing out of an abiding, connective relationship with Him

A Bonus Easter Message From The Holy Land

Israel Easter Message from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

Here’s a bonus Easter message we recorded on our last trip to Israel. The stories in our Bible are not fictional stories. They took place in a real place, at a real time. And the story continues. Christ will come back and He’s coming back to a specific place, at a time yet to be revealed.