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.

The Shepherd and I

The LORD is my shepherd. – Psalm 23 NIV 

When my youngest son first got his Australian Shepherd puppy, I had to chuckle. Did David have any clue how much time and effort it would take to train him?

The things this bundle of unbridled energy chewed up when I doggie-sat him! I seriously considered sending David an itemized bill for what I had to replace. Like my bird book. Like the spout from my stainless steel water bottle. Like a throw rug. Like the charging cord for my cell phone.

We’d call, “Tucker! Come!” But he ran the other way.

That was then.

Now Tucker is nearly two, and the time David has put into training him is obvious. While Tucker is still a bundle of energy, he’s obedient and tries hard to please. And he comes when he is called.

Just as it was important for Tucker to learn to submit to his master’s commands, it was also imperative for David to know Tucker, his Australian Shepherd traits and his unique personality.

When I think of Tucker, I think of Psalm 23.

Over the centuries, this beloved psalm has brought comfort, peace, and contentment in times of grief, sadness, and doubt. As we read the words the psalmist David penned – probably while he was on a hillside tending his father’s sheep – they resonate deep within our hearts and souls, and we sense an unnamed longing within filled.

We imagine ourselves relaxing in a verdant meadow, beside a lazy brook whose waters gurgle placidly downstream. Our souls are refreshed and restored.

But our relationship with this Shepherd who leads us to this quiet place, who makes us lie down (when we’d rather be hurtling full steam ahead), who leads us, not away from, but through the deep, dark valleys in our lives, is one of trust.

We must trust the Shepherd.

This, then, is a psalm of trust – something that seems to be in short supply these days. We seem to want to trust only ourselves to provide for our needs. We think we know what we want, what we need. And so, we, like sheep, run away from our Shepherd (Isaiah 53:6), each our own way.

But our Shepherd knows us better than we know ourselves. You see, He is more than our Shepherd. He is our Creator, the One who formed each one of us when we were still in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139)

As our Creator-Master-Shepherd trains us, we learn He wants only what He knows is best for each of us. We learn He acts out of love. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11 NLT)

When He formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life in him, did God have any clue how much time and effort it would take to train this species? Yes. But He did it anyway because in His eyes we are worth it.

You see, we are more than sheep in His pasture (Psalm 100:3). We are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), His crowning glory (Psalm 8:5).

Don’t you think it’s time we acted like it?

Thank you, Lord, for being my Shepherd. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 23.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.