The Guarded Heart

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Our heart – an organ that pumps out blood and sustains our lives, yet we ascribe to the heart the ability to feel or to choose righteousness.  The word, “libbecha” (Hebrew for heart) in the Scripture above is translated as pertaining to that “inner man, mind, will or heart” (Strong’s).  Our soul cannot be found on any anatomical chart, though it is evident in our mind. Much like the phrase, “the very heart of a matter”, refers to the main point of something, so the very heart of a person is the inner core of that individual.  What defines the person is based on their actions or decisions which are in accordance with their convictions.

So what does it mean to guard our heart?  Ironically, guarding our heart, which is the embodiment of our emotions, includes taking captive emotions that are not biblical.  Protecting oneself from sinful tendencies or temptations is another practical application, but what is interesting to me is that what flows from the heart – issues of life.  What are these issues?

Jealousy, the poison of bitterness, hurt, pain, feelings of abandonment, insecurity, betrayal, and the list goes on and on. Drama is a fact of life, but guarding our heart is applying God’s word when drama happens.  Our feelings cannot go unchecked – even if they feel so authentic and accurate.  We cannot perfectly judge another person’s heart, either.  Actions can be an indicator, but people can also respond out of their hurt and we can presume falsely.

Recently, the LORD showed me another application of this verse.  Sometimes when we have been so wounded by others, we can shut down and build walls.  We just don’t want to be hurt again.  We can hide under the Scripture that says we are to guard our hearts, but ultimately this hiding is not safety at all when we use it to shut people out.  Locked up in our hurt, we begin to lose the capacity to show our feelings and emotions.

So how do we handle people who have harmed us?  Common sense wisdom dictates that some people have to have limited access or no access to you, but faith in the living God sets us free to trust Him that He will enable us to overcome any hurt that lies down the road.  Guarding our hearts does not have to equate to keeping our love from others. Boundaries can be applied in faith, and free us to reach out and love others with the love of Christ.  He’s got our back.

Lord, help us to guard our hearts from ungodly influences but to love the ungodly and recognize our need of You, too.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Sweet Surprise of God’s Boundaries

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Psalm 119: 1-16

1 How blessed are those whose actions are blameless, who obey the law of the Lord.  2 How blessed are those who observe his rules, and seek him with all their heart, 3 who, moreover, do no wrong, but follow in his footsteps. 4 You demand that your precepts be carefully kept. 5 If only I were predisposed to keep your statutes! 6 Then I would not be ashamed, if I were focused on all your commands.  7 I will give you sincere thanks, when I learn your just regulations. 8 I will keep your statutes.  Do not completely abandon me!  9 How can a young person maintain a pure life?  By guarding it according to your instructions! 10 With all my heart I seek you.  Do not allow me to stray from your commands!  11 In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you. 12 You deserve praise, O Lord!  Teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I proclaim all the regulations you have revealed. 14 I rejoice in the lifestyle prescribed by your rules as if they were riches of all kinds. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and focus on your behavior. 16 I find delight in your statutes; I do not forget your instructions.

One person looks at rules and boundaries as an outdated suggestion.  Another sees them as something to aspire to, but impossible.  Yet another recognizes the wisdom in restraining oneself and the ironic pleasure self-denial brings.  It is possible to walk with God with the boundaries He has set – He would not command it if it were not so.  The decision to set boundaries in our lives does not just happen, however – it is purposefully planned and carefully carried out.

I was saved at the age of nineteen when the LORD placed on my heart to stop dating.  Peers thought I was crazy and labeled me everything from “miss purity” to a “lesbian” to being worldly.  Wow – I could not be all three things at the same time – what was I?  I was a new believer who recognized the present world system of dating was not godly.  I waited on the LORD and trusted Him for a mate.  I learned what it meant to place boundaries in my life and made mistakes but gratefully waited until my wedding to consummate that covenant.

Since then, I have experienced betrayal and now wear the scarlet letter “D” – something I never thought I would wear.  Yet walking through those dark waters has taught me more than my former skepticism of those who have also tasted of the scorn that divorce brings.  Despite following the path God set, I could not control the other person’s decisions or actions.  Forgiveness came but so did consequences.  Since that time, I have gone through the process of courting again and remarrying.  Boundaries that I had when I was younger were once again in place, only this time it was more difficult.  It was easy to maintain those boundaries while married, but when single again I had to learn all over again what that should look like.  Finding anyone who had waited until their wedding was seemingly impossible and excuses are readily available for failure – we are only human, after all.  Rationalization is an easy find, too.  It is a natural behavior to deem a standard too difficult and try to make an easier solution – that is our flesh.  But God’s Word gives a prescription and method that is altogether beautiful and truly freedom.

Excuses, rationalization and an ungodly culture make it difficult to obey boundaries set by God, but there is a treasure in this passage which shows us the path to victory – guarding purity with God’s instructions.  Time and culture changing do not affect God’s standard.  Instead of resenting the limitations, the Psalmist actually delights in the “lifestyle prescribed by Your rules as if they were riches…”.  Wow – what a perspective.  Satan loves to deceive us and trick us into thinking we are missing out – well, we do miss out on sin and its vicious consequences when we elect to live our lives God’s way.  The Psalmist cherishes the boundaries and keeps them with several means: he meditates, focuses on, delights in and does not forget God’s instructions.  I have to admit the forgetting part is more difficult as I have gotten older, but makes me appreciate why the Israelites had to repeatedly remind themselves to obey – our natural disposition is to disobey.

Now I have teens and young adults in my home going through the process of establishing boundaries and walking in purity.  It is a delight to walk beside them and counsel them and they benefit from my obedience and mistakes, too.  Despite the natural degradation that occurs from generation to generation, I have heard an admirable goal of a parent is to have the next generation be even more righteous than the one that went before it.  May it be so.

Maybe you have not ever had boundaries and it is scary to contemplate beginning a disciplined life.  Maybe you have failed and don’t want to have boundaries for fear of failure again.  Even though the Psalmist himself (a man after God’s own hear) knew what it was to fail, too, he recognized his folly and chose to redirect his life toward God’s boundaries.  He did not seek popular opinion or look to his own thoughts to form his standards.  He put forth God’s standard of holiness, knowing he himself could not maintain or attain to it, save the grace of God.  But he did not stop there – he set boundaries in his life and adhered to them tenaciously.  He began anew.  So can we.

Lord, help us to walk in the liberty that boundaries bring.  May we walk in integrity and not make provision for the flesh, nor excuse our sin.  You made us and know the best way.  May Your Name be praised forever and ever.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Real Golden Rule

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Psalm 111:7-10 His acts are characterized by faithfulness and justice; all his precepts are reliable.  8 they are forever firm, and should be faithfully and properly carried out.  9 He delivered His people; He ordained that His covenant be observed forever.  His name is Holy and Awesome.  10 To obey the LORD is the fundamental principle for wise living; all who carry out His precepts acquire good moral insight.  He will receive praise forever.

Our society has many anecdotes for how we ought to live.  We are told that the golden rule –  treating another person as you want him to treat you – is the main principle to live by.  This is a biblical principle – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” But here in the Psalms we see a very simple rule, given by God: obey Him! So simple, and yet difficult to carry out.

The constant battle with the flesh can make us want to give up, to become deceived that this principle of always walking in wisdom is impossible.  It is in the obedience of God’s precepts, however, that our eyes become opened and we can see.  Herein is the mystery: we cannot gain this insight by just merely assenting or believing in God’s precepts – we understand by doing it.

And what are we choosing to obey?  Not principles or fads that change depending on what we feel, or upon humanistic ideals, no – it is on the reliable precepts of God Almighty.  It is based upon the One Who has never failed – never sinned – the Perfect One, Who truly knows the best path we should take. He is trustworthy and faithful and His principles last forever.  We can know this by His past deeds, by His Word and His promises for the future! Go with God today.  Go with His revealed Word and obey what He has revealed to you.  Continue to seek Him and discover what other principles He has set for His people – not to confine you – but to establish healthy boundaries that will set you free and be a blessing to you.  Walking in wisdom with our God is truly the most joyful life one can have.

Lord, I love You!  How wise and Holy and awesome You are!  Your precepts are life and I thank You for them!  Help us to live for You and to walk in wisdom to bring You glory and to reach this lost world!