Saturday, September 29, 2018

The heart of a leader

While going through the book of First Samuel one theme in particular stood out, as far as the heart is concerned. That theme being leadership. It seems the heart of a leader is particularly important to God. In this case I think it’s best to just let the scripture speak for itself.

Stated to the high priest Eli who displeased the Lord, and right before Samuel was called to be a prophet.
I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.
-1 Samuel 2:35

Saul was just looking for his Donkeys; Samuel was looking for the future king of Israel.
“I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart.
-1 Samuel 9:19

What we see after Saul was anointed king.
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.
-1 Samuel 10:9

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched.  But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.
-1 Samuel 10:26-27

What Saul was told when he lost favor in the eyes of God.
But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
-1 Samuel 13:14

Samuel was told this when looking for Saul’s replacement. 
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
-1 Samuel 16:7

Although David was chosen by God to be a man after his own heart, his own brothers could not see what God saw. Consider that when judging your leaders.
When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
-1 Samuel 17:28

a man before a double edged sword of authority within a stone shaped like a heart
click to enlarge

Friday, September 21, 2018

Melting Hearts

I started this series on the human heart because I found out the word heart in the Bible’s original languages of Hebrew, and Greek did not have the same connection to emotions as our English word does. However, we should not assume that the opposite extreme is true, that the heart has absolutely nothing to do with emotions at all. In my pursuit to look up every reference to heart in the Bible, I have found a few emotions applied to the word heart. However, so far every instance the emotion mentioned is always the result of an outside influence, a response to a situation, the emotion does not originate within the heart. Also, every instance so far has been very negative. When emotion is interjected into our hearts, it's typically a bad sign. Until I find an example of a positive emotion being interjected into the heart, I cannot comment on the possibility of a positive counterpoint.

For now let's look closer at the heart being adversely effected by emotion, specifically fear. In Deuteronomy 1:28, it points out that fear overtaking the hearts of the people kept the Israelites from entering the promised land. In Joshua 2:11 and 5:1 we see that fear has flip-flopped to the native people living in the promised land, as the Israelites again enter the land after forty years of transformation. It uses the same phrase I might add. We see the same phrase again in Joshua 7:5, and the wording and context on this one caught my eye and inspired me to write about it today. The context being that the Israelites have fallen into sin again, and for that reason have lost the Lord's favor; therefore, they lose a battle in taking the promised land.

. . . At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water. -Joshua 7:5 b 

There are two prominent implications with this verse. 

1.The state of their heart was like ice, implying that it was sin that made their heart grow cold. 

2. Since the Bible word for heart is mostly indicative of personality, being afraid causes it to dissipate like melting ice. Giving into fear effectively causes us to lose ourselves.

Now let’s build upon this idea by looking at Joshua 14:8-9, where Joshua himself is talking about the past.

but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ -Joshua 14:8-9

Which drives the concept further by indicating that fear keeps us from doing anything wholeheartedly. No wonder the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear. (Romans 8:15) It robs us of all our strength and passion to commit to God, and his mission for us. 

Is your church only going through the motions half heartedly? Then maybe sin has caused their hearts to grow cold. Maybe that coldness has made them susceptible to the spirit of fear, and has melted their passion away, making your church as solid as water. Valid questions we should all ask ourselves not just as individuals, but collectively as a church as well. Do you have a melting heart?

a warm-hearted person among the cold-hearted.
click to enlarge

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Heart of Obedience

Recently, I had a discussion with someone who was switching churches, and he alluded that the reason was that he was hungry for "black and white" teaching. He's hardly the first, or only person I've come across like this. The problem I have with such an attitude is that I can't fit things like salvation, forgiveness, or grace into a strictly black and white model, since nobody could be saved that way. Either the gospel would be so permissive that it would not actually be "set apart" from this broken world. Or it would be so strict that we would all be condemned.

These days you often see “black and white” Christians accusing other ministries for preaching an incomplete gospel. The irony of this is that these accusers are typically devoid of love. They are impatient, unkind, rude, and critical of those who don’t live up to their standards. Which leaves out a very critical part of Jesus’ gospel. Which is why they discourage more than they inspire.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34-35

Such people are all about definitions. Live up to that definition or lose their approval, and be subject to their forced submission via criticism. Being all about definitions they get fixated on behavior, and obedience; even if it's just whitewash. Never the heart of the issues at hand; and the sinner’s heart is often broken by this fallen world. Something a loving disciple who can see past their own nose should address when reaching out.

Consider the book of Deuteronomy. It's about God's relationship with mankind through worship and obedience. Yet it's more poetic than systematic, and it mentions the heart thirty times. There are only four other books of the Bible that mentions the heart more often. So obviously the heart is critical in producing obedience. Definitions by themselves are inadequate to produce genuine transformation. Definitions are a start, but unless we live them from the heart our holiness will be merely surface, insincere, and far from complete.

My challenge to you this week is to examine your heart, and consider why it struggles with obedience. So you may address the root, not just condemn the action.

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. -Deuteronomy 4:29

then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. -Deuteronomy 8:14

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. -Deuteronomy 15:10

a person with a frozen heart, unable to take action
click to enlarge

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Reminders for the heart

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’”-Numbers 15:37-41 

Our hearts often want what the eyes crave, if they are not absolutely right with God yet. Which has a way of leading us astray. Yet, no matter how often our hearts get us into trouble, it doesn't always stop us from following it blindly. Hence, the need for a reminder, so we can remember to make deliberate, righteous, and reasonable choices from the heart. Instead of rash, and hasty decisions from our emotions, which we are prone to do if we assume feelings are truth.

What kind of reminders to examine your heart before acting do you implement? Or maybe you should start implementing a reminder of some sort, if you've wasted far too much time following your lustful heart blindly to disastrous results.

“Our longing for life keeps confusing us about the purpose of life.“-John Eldredge, Moving Mountains

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. -Deuteronomy 6:4-9

a person following their flying heart right over a cliff.
click to enlarge

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fat Heart?

Doing this series on understanding the human heart, I could not help thinking back to a post I did a little over a year ago on Matthew 13:15. In it I pointed out that a literal translation from the Greek would have referred to the heart as "fat." However, most translations take a more functionally equivalent approach and substitute fat with words like calloused, hard, dull, or gross. Even very literal word for word translations like King James, and New American Standard have a hard time staying absolutely literal with this verse. All because culturally it just does not translate well. However in retrospect, I'm starting to wonder if the real problem isn't this misunderstanding of the word heart that I have been highlighting.

For example, if I used the phrase 'fat and lazy emotions' as we often apply to the word heart, it doesn't make much sense.

Yet, if we apply it as we should define the word heart, with phrases like 'fat and lethargic spirit' or 'fat and apathetic personality' it works much better.

Which begs the question, is this what Jesus was really trying to say? That some people are morbidly obese in personality and spirit, which leads to an inactive and sedentary faith. It works in context, with Jesus referring to people who were unwilling to look beyond their own nose to discern the truth in his words.

Considering how so many in the church are exuding such passivity these days. With so many Christians bypassing the complexities of the heart and only demanding intellectual explanations much like the Pharisees did two-thousand years ago. With so many so called Disciples offering only legalistic and insincere application of said explanations. Suddenly the verse, and the concept of a fat heart becomes far more relevant to me. What does it stir in you?

It was difficult finding an absolutely literal translation here, but I did find a couple. This one sounded the least wooden.

The people’s hearts have turned to flab; their ears are clogged; their eyes are shut. They will try to see, but they will not see; they will try to hear, but they will not hear; they will try to understand, but they will not comprehend. If they, with their blindness and deafness, so choose, then I will heal them.
-Matthew 13:15 VOICE

An adult wanting to be spoon fed.
click to enlarge