Heart Over Head

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 28:2heart-over-head9-30 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.

On punching faces and turning cheeks

punch in faceIf you’ve read your Bible, you probably read Matthew 5, where Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. To paraphrase, “You’ve heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer them your left one also.” Turn the other cheek. It’s the way of love. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s the way of two sore cheeks.

I get that I’m supposed to love my enemies. I get that as a Christian, I am called to be a person of love, not of conflict. Jesus wanted us to love. After all, God is love. So why did Jesus have to correct this whole “eye for an eye” thing? Where did that saying come from? Let’s take a look:

Exodus 21:23-25 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Wow. This is more than just a “you’ve heard it said.” It actually comes straight from God to the Israelite people. So why would God advocate punching your neighbor in the face? And why would Jesus contradict what God had told the Israelites? Good question. I’m glad you asked.

In this passage in Exodus 21, it’s clear to me that God was trying to establish something. No, not face punching. That’s not it at all. He was trying to establish personal accountability. It seems to me that the people were getting away with a bunch of stuff that really offended the heart of God. They were careless in their caring for one another. Some guy’s bull went around goring people to death and he was like “oh well.”  So God needed to give them some basic human principles like, “take responsibility for your actions.”  If you are going to go around being a jerk and knocking people’s teeth out, then I’m gonna make a rule that someone gets to punch you in the face. Sounds fair to me.

Fast forward to the quote by Jesus. Why would He correct God? Well, He didn’t really. He was correcting what people had done with God’s commands. They had taken them into their own hands and used them to justify themselves. For example, “hey man, my cow broke it’s leg on your property, so I went ahead and killed one of your cows… because I can. God said so. Deal with it.” Doesn’t sound very neighborly does it? Definitely not loving. So Jesus came onto the scene and corrected this kind of arrogant brand of justice. That kind of thinking wasn’t what God intended in the first place.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this “eye for an eye” talk? Two things really. 1) Take responsibility for your actions and 2) let the way of love be your way of life. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived that way. The way of love would never punch someone in the face, at least not intentionally. The way of personal accountability would own it’s mistakes and offer to make things right when things go wrong.

My goodness, God really knew what He was talking about. We should try to take His advice!

Clueless

Clueless: having no knowledge, understanding, or ability. Know anyone like that? I must admit that there are several things that I don’t have knowledge of or ability in. For example, gardening. I’m no good at it. My abilities are poor in this area. I have no problem admitting that I am deficient. But I don’t think I’d like to be called clueless. There’s a difference with not having an ability and being called clueless. Clueless is a derogatory term. It says way more than, “this fellow doesn’t seem to possess the clue.”

Dear-God-clueless-peopleClueless. It’s what you mutter under your breath about people who cut you off in traffic. It’s what you say about people who paint their houses hot pink. It’s the word that comes to mind for the customer service technician who continues to ask you the same question over and over again. “Yes, I’m sure it’s plugged in!” “No I couldn’t fill out your web form – I’m calling because my internet ISN’T working!”  Clueless.

For some reason, Moses seemed to think that God was clueless. “God, your plan isn’t working! Don’t you know how bad we’ve got it right now?” To which God responded: “You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.” (Exodus 6:5)

God wasn’t clueless. He knew the plight of His people. He heard their cries for help. He hadn’t forgotten His covenant with them (even though they “forgot” to hold up their end of it several times). He was well aware of their need and well aware of His promise. No, God wasn’t clueless by any stretch of the imagination. And you know what…

God still isn’t clueless. He hasn’t forgotten about you. He hasn’t been too busy to hear your prayers. He is well aware of what is on your heart. My question is this: are you well aware of what is on His? Because I think we tend to be the clueless ones. But God isn’t clueless. In fact, far from it. So if you feel like He isn’t seeing you, isn’t hearing you, isn’t paying attention – take heart today. Don’t give up. God loves you and He has a plan. He is well aware. He is NOT clueless!

From cheater to champion

Genesis 32:27-28 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

dv1644052As we have learned over the past several weeks, Jacob was kind of a scoundrel. He lied, stole, and cheated… yet he got really mad when someone cheated him.  Through it all, however, Jacob started growing up.  He turned to the Lord and asked for favor.  He worked hard and tried to honor God.  Today, Jacob finds himself on a journey to meet up with his older brother who he had not seen since he stole his birthright.  He is kind of hanging around at the back of the pack when he finds himself alone.

Then it happens.  A mysterious man (God) shows up and wrestles with him.  Jacob is tenacious and wrestles all night long with this guy.  Somehow he realizes that this is no ordinary man, but one sent from heaven.  So he is determined to not let go without receiving a blessing.  Can you just see Jacob holding on for his life?  “I won’t let go of you, God! I am about to meet my angry brother. I need your favor and your blessing.”

What takes place next changes Jacob’s life forever.  This “man” asks him what his name is.  He responds with “Jacob.”  And at that moment, God changes his name to Israel.  That may not seem all that significant, but if you take the meaning of these names into account, it really is.

What’s your name?

Heel grabber.  Cheat, Liar, Thief.

That’s not who you are any more.  Your new name is God Prevails. 

God truly did prevail with this heel grabber.  He pursued him and loved him.  In Malachi 1:3, God says “Jacob have I loved.”  Did you catch that? Jacob have I loved.  Not Israel. Jacob.  He loved that heel grabber.  He loved that man who wrestled with men and overcame.  He loved that man who held on to his God all night in desperation.  And he loved him enough to change his future.  That future started with his identity.  He said, “You are no longer a heel grabber, son.  You are a man in whom I will prevail!”   Jacob the cheater became Israel the champion.

*What’s God saying about you?  Are you identifying yourself with the person you used to be? Cling onto Him and begin to discover what God says about you! 

 

 

Hang on!

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

innertubeHas anyone ever said these words to you before? “Hang on!”  You’ve probably heard them as the car goes fast around a corner, the roller coaster is about to start, or you are about to be pulled behind a boat on an innertube .  Yes, you better hang on tight, because things are about to get crazy.  So we hang on.  Our fingers wrap tightly around a handle and our knuckles turn white.  We await impending adrenaline with sheer joy and terror.  No matter what, we will hang on.

Sometimes life in general beckons us to hang on.  We get tired, frazzled, discouraged, and overwhelmed.  Things are thrown our way that are scarier than the wildest roller coaster or bumpier than the most insane innertube ride.  So we must figure out what to do when it all comes our way.  How will we respond? Because it’s not our hands that must take a firm grip, it is our hearts. 

Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians that our hearts need to be directed into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.  If we are going to weather this life, our hearts must hang on to those two things.  Are we securely held by God’s love?  Do we know how deeply He cares for us?  Do we trust that, because of His love, He will carry us through?  He cares for you and he wants you to know the richness of His great love!  And it is that great love the sent Christ to persevere and lay down His life for you.  He hung on that cross and calls out to you to hang on to Him!  He is our rock, our anchor in the storm.  Hang on today, friends!

*What do you need to hang on to God for?

Pass the earplugs

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

ear-plugsHave you ever spent an extended amount of time with people you don’t know all that well?  At first it may be awkward, but as you get to know each other it starts to work.  You are getting along just fine when out of nowhere – it happens.  You start getting annoyed.  That one guy keeps double dipping in the vegetable dip.  That lady’s laugh is starting to drive you crazy.  That mom won’t keep her kids in line.  That dude keeps telling the same story over and over.  You’ve heard it 27 times already!  Can somebody pass the earplugs, please!?

Extended time with people we don’t know that well doesn’t always turn out great. I guess for that matter, neither does time spent with people we do know well.  We are all different.  Our personalities don’t always mesh; our pace of life doesn’t match up.  We have our own needs and others get in the way.  So how is it that the Thessalonians had increasing love for one another?  They weren’t grating on each other’s nerves, they were growing closer in heart.

That’s what happens when the Holy Spirit begins a work on God’s people.  The church is called to be the Body of Christ.  There are many parts and they all have a purpose.  Their purpose is to work together for the cause of Christ.  It is not to serve their own needs.  It is to serve one another so that the Body can be functional.  That’s what I believe the Thessalonians were doing.  As they functioned as the Body of Christ, they began to love one another more and work together with greater effectiveness.  The foot realized it needed the eye and the mouth realized it needed the hand.

This, too, is how we should be today as the church.  We shouldn’t grow weary of one another or make each other crazy.  We should learn to work together for a greater purpose.  If we could figure that out, the gospel of Jesus Christ would take the world by storm!

*Do you need to work on loving others?

Hate evil. Not people.

Amos 5:14-15 

14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.

Be good, drive safe, mind your manners.  We say these kinds of things to people in hopes that they will be good.  God tells us these kinds of things, too.  He wants us to seek good and not evil.  He desires that we fill our thoughts, our lives with good.  And of course the only real things that are good are found in Him.  He wants to be our source of life and the dwelling place of our minds.

In Amos 5, He starts with language that says to seek good, but then goes on to instruct us to love it… even to the point of hating evil.  Now I hate evil as much as the next person, but I think we’ve got a little issue going on with the “hate evil” concept.  For some reason, this idea so often turns us on people.  An example from popular culture: I despise the murder of children.  I really do.  I don’t like it one bit.  In fact, I hate it.  But when Christians take it upon themselves to kill an abortion doctor, they have just crossed a very serious line.  The Bible does not instruct us to hate people, but rather evil.

Some Christians turn their hatred on people whose lifestyles they would consider evil.  God didn’t ever tell us to do that.  In fact, hating people who are in sin is just as despicable as the sin you are hating.  Here’s an idea, start by hating the evil in your own life and do something about it.  Ask God to refine you and to turn your heart toward good and toward love.  Once you have started dealing with yourself, begin to pray against the evil one who is deceiving the world.  Pray for those in bondage and sin.  Contend for those whose lives are contaminated, lost, and hopeless.  Yes, hate that evil!  Fight against it with holy fervor.  Just make sure to love people in the process.