Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. -Psalm 86:11

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is God more concerned with?

Is God more concerned with the condition of my heart, or with my outward actions? This is a common question, and the answer is...yes.

Psalm 19:14- Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Notice what the verse says. "Let the words of my mouth (the outward actions) and the meditation of my heart (the condition of the heart) be acceptable in thy sight..." God is concerned with both.

Here is the key. When the meditations of my heart are right, then the words of my mouth will be right as well. Again, the focus should be first and foremost on the condition of our hearts before God. This is the foundation upon which the rest of the Christian life is built.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Daniel's Battle for the Heart

He was a young man, probably in his mid to late teens. His parents were most likely slaughtered by the edge of Babylonian swords. His house was most likely pillaged and burned to the ground. His church was invaded and desecrated. He was taken from his homeland, given a new name, forced to learn a new language, and pressured to adopt a new religion. In one day, everything on the outside of Daniel was destroyed. His entire life changed in one awful day. But there was one aspect of Daniel's life that the Babylonians could not change. They could not change what was happening on the inside of Daniel. They could not change his heart. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself... -Daniel 1:9

There will be situations in your life that are totally out of your control. You can't control your parents' divorce situation. You can't control the sickness that may be plaguing one of your family members. You can't change the family into which you were born. Like Daniel, there are many parts of your life that you have absolutely zero control over. And yet, like Daniel, there is one part of your life that you can and must control- your own heart.

Teaching in Long Beach, California, and working with some of the teenagers there in that city, I knew teenagers who came from unspeakable home situations. I knew teenagers who lost parents because of alcohol abuse. My heart broke for teenagers in our Christian school who had serious struggles within their families. Some of these teenagers have chosen to follow God regardless of their circumstances. They realize that if they use their circumstances as an excuse to sin, they will continue the cycle of sin in their family, and their children will one day be forced to endure the same hardships that they have had to endure. Sadly, some have allowed their hearts to become hard, and have gone their own way.

While some choose, like Daniel, to keep their hearts tender before God, and others choose to harden their hearts toward God, there is a common denominator: the choice is up to each individual, and no outside circumstance can make the final decision about the condition of the heart.

If you are going through a struggle that is totally out of your control, remember Daniel, and remember the decision that he made when everything around him was falling apart. He purposed in his heart to honor God.

If you read the rest of the story, Daniel ended up living a pretty amazing life. He would have missed out on many blessings had he hardened his heart; and so will we if we lose the battle for our hearts.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Battle for Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23- Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

We each face different battles in our lives. Some of us have the battle of a desperate home situation. "Why are my parents always fighting?" you might ask. Some of us have the battle of physical illness. Either you or a loved one is battling a serious physical disease. Some of us have the battle of finances. Perhaps your parents have been struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent for the house. These are all serious battles, and I would never belittle them. But there is a battle that all of us face every single day of our lives- the battle for our hearts.

When I say our "heart," I am referring to that innermost part of us- the part where we find our deepest emotions (fear, love, jealousy, anger, sorrow, etc.), and our deepest passions. Your heart is the real you. And the Bible speaks much of the heart. One of the most important verses about the heart that you will find in the Bible is Proverbs 4:23: "Keep (protect) thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." This is a profound verse! This verse is teaching us that every issue of our lives is ultimately determined by the condition of our hearts.

I have seen teenagers that were raised in wonderful, Christian homes completely turn their backs on everything they were taught and walk away from God. I have also seen teenagers who experienced unspeakable trials- abusive homes, alcoholic parents, etc.- and yet they became wonderful, dedicated Christians. What is the difference? The difference is the condition of the heart. Many teenagers blame their circumstances for their sinful lifestyles. But our circumstances alone do not determine who we become in life. Again, the Bible says that out of our hearts come the issues of life, not out of our circumstances.

This may not make much sense right now. Really, this topic is too big to tackle in one short blog post. We will continue to deal with this in the next few days. But for now, let me leave you with this: what is the condition of your heart right now? Are you in love with God, or are you bitter at Him? If your heart is right with God, you can face any adversity and have the confidence that God is working out everything for your good. If your heart is truly tender before God, then you will be in tune with Him, and you will be able to sense His leading in your life. However, if your heart is angry at God, or even unbelieving towards God, then you will not sense His leading, and you will make some horrible decisions- decisions that will cost you.