Saturday, August 25, 2018

Circumcised Heart?

Leviticus 26:41 is but the first of many references to the concept of the circumcised heart in scripture. However, the reference in Deuteronomy 30:6 is better for the sake of explanation.

The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Well what in world does this mean? A literal circumcision was an external sign that you agreed to be in a covenant type relationship with God. Yet, if the history of Israel teaches us anything, it's that this one time external action did not help one to live up to that covenant. I liken it to a virtual signature, or a letter intent if you will. As we all know, there is often a huge disconnect between intent, and what actually happens in any agreement; even when we enter it with sincerity.

This is where the heart comes in. As we have mentioned in past posts, the heart is our spiritual center Biblically speaking. Everything we do, weather it is good, bad, or indifferent is a reflection upon where our heart is at. So if we have a hard time living up to our side of the covenant, and live a holy life, it's a sign of a heart problem. So when God says he aims to circumcise our heart, it means he wants to transform our heart so that we can love him better via holiness. We will not be able to live a truly righteous life without a "circumcised" heart.

If our heart is God's focus, then it needs to be ours as well. Otherwise, we are just addressing the symptom, and not the illness. Which can be sort of like painting over rust. It looks great for awhile, but it always bleeds through in time. Just as it does when we focus only on behavior and ignore the root cause, which is the heart.

I dare say that is just what many of us are doing, focusing on the surface, keeping us perpetually immature in the spirit. So we keep having to address the same issues repeatedly, just as the ancient Hebrews did.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. -Luke 6:45

someone fixing their heart
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Saturday, August 18, 2018

A heart for decision

For part two of my exploration of what the Bible reveals about the human heart we will be looking at Exodus 28. This passage takes place just after God's covenant with The Israelites is confirmed, and an order and means of worship were being established, including the priestly garments that Aaron and his sons would wear. There is definitely something worth noting when we get to the breast-piece of decisions. Two very specific things went over the heart of the priest when making choices.

The first thing was the names of the twelve sons of Israel, AKA Jacob. (Verse 29) The twelve tribes of the nation of Israel were named after Jacob's sons. So it was not just a nod to where they came from, but who they were as a people.

The second thing was the Urim and the Thummim. (Verse 30) Which were objects used in casting lots. A systematic practice used to discern the will of God.

So what is the takeaway from all this? What significance can we glean from what the priests were meant to keep near their hearts.

  • Where our heart is at is important in making Godly decisions.
  • Choices are for the benefit of all the community of believers, not just self. Those whose hearts are inclined to evil will surely be tempted to be more focused on self than community. A Godly heart is interested in the common good. Nor does it assume that what is good for self is by default good for everyone; unlike the self-centered.
  • The practice of casting lots would eliminate emotions, and self out of their decisions. Re-enforcing the idea that our western notions about the heart are not 100% accurate. (Remember last time we established that the Hebrew word for heart was not associated with emotions as it is the English word.)

You've probably heard the phrase "think with your heart" while there may be some truth in the sentiment; unfortunately, it has become a truth distorted in western culture. All because we assume that means we should  let our emotions decide for us. Let's face it, emotionally charged decisions can often be very bad and misguided choices. They are often motivated by self and pay little regard for others, which has a habit of coming back to haunt us. A very unchristian way of approaching life that hinders our path to holiness, and discipleship greatly. So clearly we need to rethink our relationship with our emotions.

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? -Mark 2:8

Ecclesiastes 3:11
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Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Human Heart?

If you watch the show American Pickers or Pawn Stars, you will see people buying and selling unique, historic, and valuable items. Sometimes they can make a deal, sometimes not. Usually, when they can't it's because the seller "feels" it's worth more than it really is. It doesn't usually matter what kind of experts are brought in, or what kind of facts they present them with. If they "feel" it is worth so much, then that is the reality they insist upon, despite the truth.

However, we see this dynamic on more than just cable reality shows; people are prone to treat their emotions as truth in every aspect of their lives. Emotions are not necessarily truth though, for the simple fact that we are just as prone to react emotionally to inaccurate information as fact. Plus, past traumas can cause us to react in exaggerated ways.

It was this very concept that inspired me to do a sermon on the subject. Yet, my initial research came up with some rather surprising findings. The first thing I did was to do a keyword search of the word emotion, and surprisingly there was nothing. The word emotion never appears once in the New International Version, King James Version, or the New American Standard Bible, the three most influential English translations ever. So I tried the words feel, and feelings. While there were a few instances there, none of them really defined or explained what our relationship to our emotions should be generally speaking. So I figured I could use the word heart, I knew there was hundreds of references to that word, which I thought should offer some insight into feelings. Instead of assume though, I looked up the Biblical words for heart to make sure this was an accurate way to address emotions from a scriptural stand point, and this is what I found.

In the Bible, the word heart usually designates the whole personality, instead of emotions. Scripturally speaking the heart is the center of the human person, in which the physical and spiritual life is concentrated.

Definitely not what I was expecting to find, yet in a way it was exactly the answer I was seeking. If we recognize the heart as the core of self, yet wrongfully believe that manifests through emotion alone, one will naturally assume their feelings are truth. Plus it also explains why the Bible offers no blanket insights into emotions, but addresses each one individually. If they were inherently lies or truth, it would surely say so. Yet, neither of these common extremist views hold any water Biblically speaking.

In that moment, I realized my intended message was far too big a subject to be able to tackle in a week, and do it justice. However, my research did shed light on a misperception I believe needs to be addressed. So my plan is to look up every single reference to the word heart in the Bible to see what I can glean from it. A path I plan on taking my readers on by sharing the highlights.

The natural place to start is the very first mention of the human heart in scripture. Which can be found in Genesis 6:5-8, but I suggest you also read Genesis 8:20-21 as well. Since chapter 8 concludes the narrative that began in chapter 6.

What these references reveal:
  • The heart is tied to thought. We do not often associate the heart with thought, however scripture is rather consistent in equating the heart with thought and reflection. Even Jesus made this correlation multiple times.
  • The human heart can incline towards evil. Yet another Old Testament concept confirmed by Jesus. Chapter 8 also adds that this inclination begins in childhood. But remember, this tendency is not necessarily an emotional one.
  • The human heart is a source of great concern for God. Which reminds me of the words of John Eldredge “I find it hard to believe a case must be made that the heart is. . . well, at the heart of it all. Of life. Of each person. Of God. And of Christianity.”

Indeed, the heart is a very important subject, a subject mentioned in the Bible more often than service, obedience, and even worship; probably because all these other subjects are dependent upon the state of our hearts. Hence, the heart being of great concern to God. All the more reason to seek better understanding of it, instead of rely on the casual abstract notion we all possess.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
-Matthew 15:19-20

a person examining their heart under an x-ray
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