That part of each man crafted by God
But unseen by mortal observation,
That figurative place of our emotions and thinking
Helping our spiritual station.
A place where we alone can nurture and tend,
To work to better or embitter
That directs our whole body and life on a path
That makes us a winner or quitter.
God put in place ways to help our own heart
Stay in tune to His perfect intentions.
To mold us and make us like Him in our thinking,
To stave off man’s wicked inventions.
The Bible, as His mind, He has given to mankind,
A heart monitor as well as a mirror.
It gauges our true selves and guides our footsteps,
If used it will make His will dearer.
He has given us music, a wide world of nature,
And people as living examples,
So much that exists we can see and by seeing
Can resist Satan’s slick sinful samples.
Yes, true, human hearts can be darkened and hardened,
Becoming a frightful container,
That holds in the worst, the depraved and perverted,
That becomes such a wicked retainer.
But such is the work of neglect and of lust,
A struggle that fights a higher objective,
For when in human hearts there’s willing submission,
They become more spiritually selective.
So spiritual battles are lost or they’re won
In a place where no other can see,
Keep your heart, you alone with heavenly help
Will determine your soul’s eternity.
We often point to the wrong place on our bodies when we refer to the heart. Frequently, when we mean the thoughts, the inner self, or the mind, we gesture toward our chests. The more proper place to point is at our heads. That’s where intentions, desires, and purposes originate.
Scripture sometimes mentions the heart “turning,” whether for good or bad. For example:
Hearts could be turned away from God by human substitutes (Deut. 17:17; cf. 1 Ki. 11:2).
Hearts could be turned back to the world (Acts 7:39).
Hearts can be turned toward sexual immorality through seduction and temptation (Prov. 7:25).
Hearts can be turned back toward righteous conduct (Luke 1:17).
Hearts can be turned toward one another in unity (2 Sam. 19:14).
The Bible says similar things with different language, but the point is dramatic. Hearts can change. Negatively, they can grow dark, callused, hardened, and rebellious. That appears to have happened through various influences in the current culture. The hearts of men embrace and defend what would once have been widely rejected and condemned. Such hearts have no tolerance for what God’s Word says on a variety of eternally important matters—abortion, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, pornography, true worship, the exclusive salvation through Christ, etc. Positively, hearts can be softened, opened, and receptive, too. The gospel is still the power of God (cf. Rom. 1:16). The saving message of the cross still reaches hearts (1 Cor. 1:21). Many hearts may ultimately be unreachable, but our task as Christians is to turn as many hearts to Christ as we can! Hearts won’t be changed without our getting out the message.
All the while, each of us has a stewardship over our own hearts. We cannot allow the darkness of sin to eclipse the Son. We must keep our hearts sensitive and soft to the voice of God through Scripture, dependent on Him through prayer, and trusting in Him as He providentially leads us each day. God through Moses promised blessings if His people were obedient to Him, “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish” (Deut. 30:17-18a). May we take this to heart!
It was such a joy to accompany the BVBII students on campaign to Greensboro, Georgia. Chuck Ramseur, one of our graduates, is doing a great job with Brianna and their four children, and the church was so warm and hospitable. Yet, one of the things I’ll remember the most from this trip was the continual service displayed by Bonnie Saldana. Her husband, Mario, is a freshman and we had the same host family. Throughout the week, Bonnie would jump up and clear the dishes from the table and clean the kitchen. Our hosts, Dean and Karen, would urge her to sit down, but you could tell how much they truly appreciated it. She made no fanfare about it, but quietly and diligently worked.
Mario is a joy to be around, but his wife’s willingness to jump in and get involved will help raise his “stock” when he graduates and looks for a place to preach. Increasingly, I have seen women married to preachers who, in apparent protest at the thought of being part of a “package deal,” do little if anything to be involved (clean up, teach classes, otherwise volunteer, etc.) in the local church. This sends a powerfully clear message to the other ladies (and men) in the congregation. Rather than greatness, it shows gross selfishness.
Jesus proclaimed service as the way heaven esteems greatness (cf. Mat. 20:26-28). I wonder how He feels when He sees those unaware and unwilling to look around and assist where work is to be done. The particulars of the problem are not given at Philippi between the divided women, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2), but an overarching solution to “church trouble” is to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
What is to be eliminated? (1) Selfishness (Louw/Nida—“What they do is just for themselves,” 88.167), (2) Empty conceit (“A state of pride which is without justification,” ibid.), (3) Personal interests (A selfish preoccupation with with one’s own affairs, O’Brien, NIGTC, np). What is encouraged? (1) Humility of mind, (2) Higher regard for others, (3) Looking out for the interests of others. Apply this to cleaning up after fellowship activities, babysitting, helping with workdays, providing transportation, practicing hospitality, listening to others’ ideas and input, doing security, greeting visitors, providing meals for those in need, visiting the hospitals and nursing homes, taking an interest in the youth through the elderly, teaching a class, nurturing a new Christian, and using your training and talents however you can to help the church grow.
There are many Christian women and men out there like Bonnie. May each of us look at examples like these and eagerly imitate them. In noticing them, we are following heaven’s example. In following them, we are following heaven’s advice.
Anna Reid has written a gripping book chronicling one of the least talked about devastations of World War II. From 1941-1944, the Russian city of Leningrad, along with surrounding villages, were besieged by the German army. Leningrad, being encircled, was cut off by land and water from adequate resupply of food. This created a famine that cost hundreds of thousands of Leningraders their lives.
One of the survivors of this prolonged plague was Dmitri Likhachov, a Russian scholar who would live to be almost 93 years old. He chronicled one of the most detailed accounts of the siege, both the heroic and horrible actions of people facing starvation and death. Reid shares one of his quotes:
I think that real life is hunger, and the rest a mirage. In the time of famine people
revealed themselves, stripped themselves, freed themselves of all trumpery.
Some turned out to be marvellous (sic), incomparable heroes, others–scoundrels,
villains, murderers, cannibals. There were no half-measures. Everything was real.
The heavens were unfurled and in them God was seen… (Leningrad, 194).
It is truly hard to imagine the kind of hunger and privation these Russians endured, even reading it in detail. But, what Likhachov says about the extremes of starvation seems to apply to people in times of any tragedy or death. Adversity brings out the best and worst of people, or rather it has a way of “stripping away” the facades people project to reveal what is beneath the surface.
Jesus taught, “And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23). So, while controlling our actions is always a spiritual necessity, Jesus urges us to achieve an inside-out makeover! We may or may not ever endure tragic circumstances in our lifetime, but the Bible tells us a day is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:16). Let us take greatest care of that part of ourselves which, though “stripped” and “freed…of all trumpery” will reveals us to be “marvellous, incomparable heroes” of faith!
An Italian Neuroscientist, Sergio Canavero, announced this week that human head transplants are now possible! I will spare you the gory details except to say it could happen within two years and should involve, in his opinion, someone who has a fully-functioning brain but who suffers from a severe bodily malady like progressive muscular dystrophies or genetic and metabolic disorders (“The Independent,” via Times Of India, 7/3/13).
We could debate the ethics of this, ponder whether Italian neuroscientists just have too much time on their hands, or discuss how realistic the possibility of this is. We might also ask whether or not we should do something just because we have figured out how. While the news out of Italy may seem like science fiction, there is a spiritual need for us to change our “head.”
Too many are riddled with guilt and beset by negative thinking and pessimism. Christians ought not be fatalists. That is a worldly point of view. We have hope (Rom. 5:2) as well as the power of God (cf. Eph. 1:19) to help us cope.
Too many are consumed with lust and fleshly desires. Christians should not be enslaved to such passions. This is deadly and destructive. God can help us, as we will it, to have a clean heart and new spirit within us (Ps. 51:10).
Too many are weighted down with jealousy and envy. They cannot trust, even when they have no reason to suspect and distrust. God can help us cope with these feelings and whatever drives them (cf. Gal. 5:24-26).
Too many are eaten up with anger, hatred, and bitterness. The reverses of life, both real and imagined, can ruin our character. We can feed our grudges until they become a gargantuan monster that turns on us and devours us. God can help us cultivate a forgiving mind, letting go of resentment and allowing Him to transform us (Eph. 4:31-32).
You get the idea. In our own individual ways, we are all “head cases.” We have spiritual struggles in our hearts and minds, things that need changed into the image of Christ. Thank God that He is the Great Physician who has been successfully doing His superior kind of “head transplants” since the beginning of time!
This morning while running indoors with Rob Sinclair and Bob Turner, we happened to notice a news story about a woman who just completed 52 half marathons in 52 weeks. That alone is impressive, but then we learned that Aurora De Lucia had open heart surgery in 2010. She was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White, a rare congenital heart condition. She had an extra pathway to her heart, and several complications that extended halfway through 2011. With her repaired heart, she became determined to complete the incredible fitness goal and she reached her goal (via http://www.laketahoenews.net).
Most of us without the excuse of a serious heart problem will not ever be able to say we ran 52 half marathons in a year, but she did it under such adverse circumstances. What a difference a “new” heart made for Aurora. She proves the power of perseverance and wears the decoration of determination.
The Bible tells us that, spiritually, we can achieve even greater feats with a “new heart.” From the time the exilic prophet Ezekiel foretold a time when Judah would have a “new heart” (36:26), Bible writers spoke of the possibility of a renewed heart and mind. Paul spoke of it to Corinth as the renewed inner man (2 Cor. 4:16) and to Ephesus as being “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23). He tells Colosse that this renewal process is brought about by true knowledge (3:10).
A “new heart” is pure (Mat. 5:8; 2 Tim. 2:22), honest and good (Lk. 8:15), glad and sincere (Ac. 2:46; Eph. 6:5), resolute (Ac. 11:23), open (Ac. 16:14; 2 Cor. 6:11), circumcised (Rom. 2:29), obedient (Rom. 6:17), believing (Rom. 10:9-10), enlightened (Eph. 1:18), compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient (Col. 3:12), loving (1 Pet. 1:22), and assured (1 Jn. 3:19). The old heart is none of these things and described with words like lustful (Mat. 5:28), distant from Christ (Mat. 15:8), defiled (Mat. 15:18), hardened (Mat. 19:8; Eph. 4:18), Satan-filled (Ac. 5:3), uncircumcised (Ac. 7:51), not right (Ac. 8:21), darkened (Rom. 1:21), stubborn and unrepentant (Rom. 2:5), veiled (2 Cor. 3:15), unbelieving (Heb. 3:12), deceived (Js. 1:26), selfishly ambitious (Js. 3:14). and trained in greed (2 Pet. 2:14).
Thankfully, one can have his or her heart transformed from that wretched, latter condition with God’s help. His Word, with its convicting and instructing power, can work on the heart (Heb. 4:12) and renew it! With a “new heart,” we can impact lives and destinies–including our own. At the very end of all things, the Righteous Judge will note such as the greatest accomplishment of all time and eternity! Oh, think what we can do with a new heart!