I’m a dad of 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. I’ve made some great parenting decisions over the last 14 years. I’ve also made some less than stellar ones. It seems what gets me in trouble is when I make head decisions in circumstances where heart decisions are required. The truth is, I’m all about the facts man! If this, then that. The problem is, sometimes it isn’t that simple. The facts may be the facts on the outside, but there might be much more happening on the inside. While I tend to think in terms of head, sometimes it’s a matter of heart.
Exodus 28:29-30 29 “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. 30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.
Here in Exodus 28, God gives specific instructions about garments the priests were going to be wearing. One of those garments was a breastplate. God called it the breastplate of decision. And God wanted that decision to be over Aaron’s heart. It seems as though He wanted decisions to be made not just with head, but with heart. He wanted Aaron to remember the sons of Israel. To remember that heritage, legacy, and relationship matters.
What a sweet reminder to me today. Heart over head. Relationship over being right. Love over selfishness.
Now before we all get carried away with this heart stuff, let’s be clear. Heart over head doesn’t mean emotionalism over facts. It simply means to put relationship first. It means we consider that the decisions we are making involve people and hearts. Let us consider the heart before we go rushing in. Let us hold our tongues until we consider the impact of those words on hearts. And let us hold our decisions over our hearts so that we may examine our motives. If we do that, we may find that our decisions lead to healing and resolution and hope.
2 Timothy 1:5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
If conclusion jumping was an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist. You know what I’m talking about: someone says something vague to you and you immediately began a thorough investigation into what made them say that. “Why are they telling me what to do? Maybe they don’t like me. They obviously think I’m a terrible person.” You’ve probably had thoughts like these go through your head. Like me, you’ve made some impression jumps to conclusions. You could win a medal for it. Here’s the problem: conclusion jumping isn’t a sport that we ought to be participating in.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives an instruction. Then he immediately follows up the instruction with this statement: “I am saying this out of love and my heart is pure in it.” Why would Paul need to say that? Well, maybe there was a chance people thought he was just being a bossy jerk. I mean, have you read any of his other letters? He was man who was large and in charge. But here, he reveals his heart – because hearts can’t be read. They can’t be seen. They don’t always come through well with words or tone. And so they get misinterpreted and misunderstood.
The lesson here is that we can’t just make assumptions about Paul’s tone and then transfer those assumptions to intention of his heart. And if we shouldn’t make those assumptions about the Apostle Paul, then we shouldn’t make them about each other. If we truly love one another, qualifying statements shouldn’t be necessary. There’s only one true reader of hearts, and it isn’t you or me. So let’s get out of the conclusion jumping competition and start assuming the best in one another. If we do, we may discover a heart of gold in the most unexpected places.
1 John 5:21 Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.
We’ve all seen the commercials. You’ve got someone like Betty White out there playing football just stinking it up. Then the teammates tell her to eat a Snickers Bar and when she does, she turns back into the dude playing some fierce ball. The point is, that you need a Snickers to fuel you. The truth is, a Snickers probably isn’t the best thing to fuel you. It isn’t a meal, it isn’t lean protein, it’s a candy bar. It is covered in caramel and chocolate. Don’t get me wrong – it tastes good. But it’s really just a sugary replacement for the real thing that is needed.
John tells the church in 1 John 5, to keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. I can’t help think about the Snickers Bar. It might taste good, but it isn’t what your body really needs. And like that candy, we fill our hearts with all kinds of sweet substitutes that fade away as fast as we ingest them. They aim to dull the aches in our hearts and to heal the pain from our past. They try to fill the cravings of our emptiness. But nothing can replace God in our hearts.
Here’s the truth: you need God, not a Snickers. He’s the real deal. He is the full meal that will satisfy and nourish. He will bring health to your heart in a way that the candy substitute cannot. Will you join me today and take heed in John’s words? Keep away from the empty things that might take God’s place. Don’t let your eyes, your mind, your heart wander to places of temporary satisfaction. But delight in the Lord and in all that He is!
*Where in your life are you inviting the cheap substitutes into your heart?
Zechariah 7:5 Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?”
Can you do something without doing something? That’s the question I am pondering today. Can you walk across the street without walking across the street? No. Can you go skydiving without jumping out of a plane and using a parachute? I hope not. Can you cook dinner without actually cooking dinner? Maybe if it’s a Costco lasagna. Can you go to work but not actually go to work? Now we’re getting warmer. I guess you could show up physically but not be there mentally. Can you do Christian things without really living like a Christian? Yes.
In Zechariah 7:5, God wants to know – “when you fasted, were you really fasting?” Let’s just assume that God actually knew the answer to this question. And with that, I can assume that the answer was no. So what did He mean by that? Here’s what I think: Just because they didn’t eat, doesn’t mean that they had the attitude of fasting. The attitude of fasting is to deprive your fleshly desires in order to draw you close to God. It is about creating a setting in which you become hungry for Him and are drawn closer in your relationship. That’s fasting. Skipping a meal doesn’t count.
You see, it is the heart of the matter God was getting at. He asked Israel to fast in order that they would be drawn back to Him. But all they did was not eat. I think we do some of the same things today. We read our Bible because we are supposed to, but miss what it is saying to us. We tithe because we were told we have to, but aren’t actually putting God first in our lives (which is the point.) We pray our list like we are praying to Santa rather than truly connecting to our Father. We go to church because that’s what Christians do, but don’t strive to be the Body of Christ.
It’s the heart that counts. That’s what the Lord was saying through Zechariah. He asks us to do these things because they are what transform us. Following Jesus is not a list of rules; it is a life set free to pursue our Savior!
*You really can do something without doing something. Do you have anything in your life that fits that description?
Zechariah 5:1-2 I looked again—and there before me was a flying scroll! He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.’”
Some things are a little more complex than they seem at first glance. It’s like holding up a picture and asking someone what they see: “I see a picture.” Okay there smartypants, what do you see… IN the picture? This happened to Zechariah and I wonder if he felt a little silly. He sees a scroll and when asked, he says: “I see a scroll.” Ya, duh. I imagine the angel thinking – alright buddy, stick with me here. There’s more to what you see.
Isn’t that how life goes? We see things with our eyes and make assumptions or remedial judgements about the situation. But do we ever consider that there is more to it than what we see? You know that jerk that cut you off in traffic? I wonder what is going on in his life. I wonder what causes him to be rude. Or maybe he isn’t rude. Maybe he is lost and didn’t know that he was supposed to take that exit. Maybe he is taking a phone call from his good friend who is going through a life tragedy, which caused him to not pay attention. And maybe still, he is just a hot rod in a hurry who could care less about the other cars on the road. My point is: we often default our thinking to that last sentence. The truth is, we don’t really know.
It would do us good to consider what is beneath the surface of the things we see. We see a teen girl dressing like she shouldn’t be. I wonder if her dad abandoned her and she is looking for male attention. We see a grumpy old man, but I wonder if he is coping with losing his wife. When will we realize that the actions of humans are the result of what is inside? Zechariah saw a scroll, that’s all – a scroll. And it took the angel to help him understand the deeper meaning behind it. He needed help to know what was really going on, to understand the things of God that his eyes didn’t catch. Like Zechariah, we need help, too. We need the Holy Spirit to show us the hearts of people so that we can truly love them like Jesus does.
*Are you stuck on what you see on the surface? Ask God for a deeper look.
Luke 24:32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
You know that feeling. It’s the one you felt many years ago. It was sometime in middle school, probably. She walked in the room and your heart started leaping. He passed by you brushing your arm and you about fainted. These are the emotional highs of puppy love. You feel like your heart is on fire and don’t know how to contain it.
The disciples had a feeling, too. They had been walking and talking with Jesus, but didn’t know it was him. But their hearts knew it. Their hearts were burning as they were in his presence. It wasn’t puppy love; it was the feeling of his presence. It was the feeling of excitement mixed with peace. It was the feeling of anticipation and wonder. It was the feeling of being with Jesus.
Do you know what it feels like to be in his presence? Does your heart remember the last time it burned for him? Because spending time with him is an experience like no other. And I don’t ever want to get to a place where my heart doesn’t burn for his presence. Yes… Jesus gives me heartburn. And I don’t want a prescription, I want more of it. Yet I go so many minutes, hours, and days just living life. I take for granted his presence and don’t pursue it. So my prayer today is for my heart to burn. My prayer is that I will take time to walk with him along the road and experience the wonder of who he is.
Luke 6:43-45 43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Holy smokes! Luke is applying it’s foot with force to my hindquarters. I can’t seem to get past Luke 6 today. I had like 5 things to write about Luke 5 and there are probably 6 I want to write about Luke 6. In this chapter, Jesus talks about loving my enemies, calling Him Lord and not meaning it, and judging others. How do you just pick one thing that stood out? I think if I ever decide to preach through the book of Luke, it would probably take at least a year.
So to verse 43 – no good tree grows bad fruit and no bad tree grows good fruit. It’s an interesting picture, really. Jesus was taking a picture out of every day life to make His point. A tree isn’t just about fruit. The internal health of the tree is critical. It needs a good root system. It needs water, food, and sun. If it is dead inside, it will not produce good fruit. But you can’t see the inside; so fruit becomes an indicator of the actual health of the tree.
A bad tree can’t fake it and neither can a good one. It simply produces fruit based on the its health. Such is the case for the believer, Jesus says. It is the internal state that affects the external production. What’s inside comes out. So what’s coming out of my life? If I am an angry person, where inside is that coming from? If I talk harshly to others rather than building them up, what does my heart look like? We get so hung up on fruit, but Jesus pointed us to the health of the tree. If you’ve got some rotten fruit coming out of your life, you can’t just fix the fruit. You need to get the tree healthy.