Heart Issues

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Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23 NIV

When we had a dog, it was important to give her a medication that guarded her heart against worms. Her health depended on it.

I was reminded of this when I read an article recently about teaching our children to fence in, or guard, their hearts.

As parents, we do our best to train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and teach them which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. With diligent and consistent discipline, we fence in their behavior and in the process teach them to do the same thing. At least we hope so.

But behavior is one thing, heart attitude is another.

While we pray the training we give them and the example we set are automatically going to affect their heart attitudes, I wonder – we may have control over their behavior (to a point), but do we truly have control over their hearts?

Does not behavior result from heart attitude?

We may act a certain way to be accepted, please others, get what we want, but that behavior may not reflect our true heart attitude. Most of us care what others think of us, and we would be aghast if they knew the true condition of our heart – if they caught a glimpse of the ugliness we do our best to hide even from ourselves.

When I gave my heart to Jesus, I gave Him my love, my life, my loyalty, my obedience in exchange for His love in me (Galatians 5:22), His life in me (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:10), His strength in me to be true and submissive (Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9–11).

But my heart is still mine to maintain. I will always have a choice to love Him, obey Him, submit to Him, follow Him.

That’s why it’s important that I guard my heart and keep it pure.

“Above all else,” Scripture tells us, “guard your hearts, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

How do we guard or, in the words of the article writer, fence in our heart?

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6–7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

God’s peace will guard your heart if you (1) pray and leave things in God’s hands, and (2) thank Him even before you see an answer. Let go and let God do His thing.

Another way to guard your heart is to watch what you allow in. Garbage in, garbage out. Build and maintain a fence that will allow only the highest and best in. Again I quote Philippians: “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (4:8). Guard whatever your eyes see and your ears hear, for these are the pathways to the heart.

We’re also to keep our hearts pure. And we can’t do that alone.

Prayer is the key here. Only God can purify my heart and cleanse me on the inside.

And so I pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . Point out anything in me that offends you” (Psalm 139:23, 24). And again: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

How are you guarding your heart?

Be the fence around my heart, O God. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 139:23–24

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

A Blackened Mess

 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. –Proverbs 28:13 NIV

When I bought a self-cleaning range, I thought I’d have a nice, clean oven without all the work. All I had to do was push a few buttons and let the range do the job.

But after 20 years, the self-cleaning feature stopped working. Which meant if I wanted the burned-on remains of spilled lasagna sauce and an upended pizza gone, I’d have to carve out the time and apply the elbow grease myself.

Who has the time for that?

So I let it go, and my once shiny oven became blacker with each use.

Before Thanksgiving I caved in and called the service department where I bought the range. Unfortunately, there was no simple fix. In fact there was no fix at all for a range that old. But an over-the-counter oven cleaner would work just fine, the storeowner told me.

But he hadn’t seen the burned-on, blackened messes.

So I let it go. I just had too much to do to take the time to clean the oven the old-fashioned way. After the holidays I’d tackle the messy job.

Thankfully all the holiday baking and roasting was done when something happened that put the oven out of commission.

Since my youngest son, David, was coming for Christmas Eve with his girlfriend and her parents, and David’s birthday was the day after Christmas, DH baked David a birthday cake. We wanted it to be a surprise, so before we left for church, he hid the cake in the oven. Two number-3 candles rested atop the plastic cover.

After the church service, David and company arrived home before we did. He didn’t know about the hidden cake when he preheated the oven to make something for our meal.

So while he beat out the flames with a metal spatula, Dean and I opened the windows and patio door, and got the fans going to disperse the smoke.

The cake was fine. The cover was a little melted, but still usable. But the candles! Suffice to say we wouldn’t be using the oven until the mother of all oven messes was cleaned up.

Which DH did last Saturday.

I’m like that oven. With use, I, too, become dirty. My “inner person” that is. Even though I received Jesus as my Savior, even though my sins are forgiven and my guilt washed away. Even though the Holy Spirit resides within me, I still fight my human nature. It doesn’t rule me, understand—but I still have the choice to obey or not to obey God.

And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I let my emotions take over and say things I shouldn’t. Or allow my resentment to simmer until it boils over into anger. Or I avoid doing something I know I should.

Although we don’t come with a self-cleaning feature, we do have a simple way to remove the sin that blackens our souls—before it becomes a burned-on, hardened mess. It’s called confession.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

Forgiveness and cleansing—I need these daily. And to get them, all I have to do is ask.

Thank You, Lord, for providing the way for my sins to be forgiven. All I have to do is ask. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 32

Other Scripture to think about:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord“Though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.. – Ps. 103:12

He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:19

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.