The Matter of the Heart (Part 2 of 4)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

– Proverbs 4:23 NASB

Isn’t it strange that in a society where the heart is to make the rules, we imprison those who do just that?

What’s that line we keep hearing over and over again? “Do whatever feels right to you!” I can only assume that’s what Hitler did. Why are we so hard on him? “Do whatever feels right to you!” Our prisons are filled with people who did just that. Why are we so hard on them? What did they do wrong? They did exactly what they felt was right to them in the moment.

One line I find extremely senseless is, “How can it be so wrong when it feels so right?” My question to this sort of a generation is, how do you know what right feels like? How do you judge between what feels right and what feels wrong? 

The heart clearly cannot be trusted to decide on its own and, as Solomon warns, we ought to watch over it, guard it, because from it flow the springs of life. The way Jesus said it was,

…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

– Matthew 6:21 NASB

In other words, our hearts don’t guide us but, rather, we lead our hearts. What we “feel” so strongly about is what we have already been indulging in. Being the sinful and fallen people that we are, our hearts are set on one thing; sin. What we need is a reconditioning; a rewiring.

The Cure of the Heart is a transformation that can only come from Him who first gave us that heart before we corrupted it.

The Matter of the Heart (Part 1 of 4)

I love musicals. Whether they be in movies or theater, I find myself jotting down names and dates of plays that may be upcoming.
You don’t always agree with what is said or sung, but you enjoy the artwork painted in the choreography, the voices and the story.
A few years ago, I watched a play by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Love Never Dies” and one song stuck with me.
The opening lyrics of that song are,
Love’s a curious thing,
It often comes disguised;
Look at love the wrong way,
It goes un-recognized.
As the song continued, I couldn’t shake one thought out of my mind.
Read the next two verses of the song and I’ll share my thoughts afterwards.
So look with your heart,
And not with your eyes;
A heart understands.
A heart never lies.
Believe what it feels,
And trust what it shows;
Look with your heart,
The heart always knows.
In our modern and so-called evolved society, the words of this song are so fitting. Everything you hear around you seems to echo these very words.
Look with your heart.
A heart never lies.
Believe what [you] feel.
Do what feels right to you.
In the Bible, God gives Jeremiah a warning; one that is in contradistinction to anything we seem to hear chanted from all around us.
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.
– Jeremiah 17:9 NASB
I am often baffled by Christians who encourage others to do what feels right to them or to listen to their heart. How? How can you listen to the very thing that God calls most deceitful and desperately sick?
Emotions lie, feelings lie, the heart ever lies.
In this series, I want to look at just two matters of the heart:
  1. The cure of the heart
  2. The pure in heart
I hope you are blessed through it.

Where is God when you need Him the most?

I’ve been struggling with this question for a few months but not in the sense that you may think. As hardships come and, granted, mine are nothing compared to others, I’ve often wondered what makes people ask this question,

Where is God when you need Him the most?

In my experience, and I’m sure I speak for my family when I say this (meaning my wife as well as my parents and siblings), in time of greatest hardships it was His close presence that gave the hope, the comfort, the strength, and the joy amid the darkness.

God’s whereabouts were never in question. He was right there!

He lifted us up. He carried us through. His arms embraced us. His whispers re-assured us and His love never ever failed us.

So what drives a person to ask such a question? “God, where are you?”

As I bowed my head last week to thank God for the food, I said to the Lord, “Thank you for always being there. Even when we walk away, when we’re too busy, when we forget You … You remain faithful.”

You can probably tell that I’m one of those people who, when praying for the food, mentions everything else except the food.

I posed a challenge for myself: if that question ever crosses my mind, whether in hardship, or pain, or helplessness; if I ever have the audacity to look up to God and say, “Lord, where are You? Where are You when I need You the most?” to stop, think for a moment and ask myself, “Richard, where are you when you need God the most?”

Where is God? He’s in the boat right beside you. Where is God? Carrying you while you think it’s your own footsteps in the sand. Where is God? No, where are you? How far have you drifted? At what point did you decide your life is your own, and want Him to have no part in it at all?

When the Bible Gets it Wrong (Article #2)

Of the many books that have been written and put under the test, none has undergone as much scrutiny as the Bible. For us, who believe strongly in the Bible, this shouldn’t at all concern us. If we believe it to be the truth then this should be a joy for us.

What should, however, raise an alarm is how infrequently we ourselves put the Bible to the test. We won’t find problems in it but, rather, in the way we like to explain things for ourselves.

There is a statement that Solomon makes which seems to cause trouble for some parents. The verse I’m talking about is

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

– Proverbs 22:6 NASB

Has there ever been a child trained up in the right way who has then departed from it? The examples are in the plentiful, right?

What, though, was the explanation or, rather, the assumption made for such cases? We conclude that children who lead a debauched and immoral lifestyle can only be the result of bad parenting. Solomon’s words, as we see them, only seem to reinforce that; but, is that really what is being said? Is Solomon saying that bad children always mean bad parents?

One explanation that some people give is that the Proverbs are not to be taken as strict rules. In other words, there are always extreme cases which a proverb does not cover and that may very well be the case. However, I’d like to posit a different view. 

A reading of the Arabic translation, or even the original Hebrew, seems to hint at something else.

Now, for those who only speak English, this may be a little complicated but I’ll try my best to simplify it.

In many languages of the world, including Hebrew and Arabic but excluding English, nouns are given a gender. Similar to how often the personification of a storm takes on a male character or lust takes on the form of a female in English literature, other languages have strict rules as to what gender each noun is; whether masculine or feminine.

When it comes to this verse, the Hebrew and Arabic write this verse in the following way,

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from him.

There are two male subjects in the verse. For those who speak Hebrew or Arabic, we know that the road is a masculine noun. So, when it says he and him, it can be speaking about the child or the road.

In other words, the verse could very well be saying, if you train up a child in the right way then when he is old, even if the child has walked away from the road, which often does happen, the road will be a constant reminder and will not leave him alone.

This isn’t to say that bad parenting does not exist, simply to take care not to use this verse as proof that rebellious children are always the product of bad parenting.

So, parents, raise your children right. Pray for them, care for them and discipline them as the Bible teaches. If they veer from the path you’ve tried to set them on, don’t waste time in seeing where you went wrong; focus more on praying that the road you set them on never ever departs from them.

Celebrating Humility

On my lunch walk, today, a question came to mind and I pondered on it. When you are appreciated for the good you’ve done, how should you react? Assuming, of course, the good deed is indeed good and not some shady act done for the illegitimate gain of someone.

As an example, let’s say you put your life in danger to save someone’s life.

A possible reaction could be to disregard the gratitude and treat the deed as trivial. However, that runs the risk of belittling the value someone has in what you’ve done. Perhaps you saved the life of a child or a parent; to say, “oh it was nothing” is to say the family member had little to no worth and your deed was from having nothing better to do.

You can’t reject gratitude; but, do you embrace it and revel in it? That, then, puts you in company with the less-than-popular trait of pride. “That’s right, they should thank me because, if it weren’t for me …”

Pride is never the right response, right?

How then is one to accept gratitude, and do so humbly? Smile and keep walking? Hardly a satisfying response to ones who have been given a second chance at life, possibly.

That’s when I found the key to my conundrum. 

Although not every situation may be life threatening and not every deed may be worthy of a medal; nevertheless, two truths remain:

  1. The source of a good deed can only be a good entity
  2. The undoing of a bad situation can only be the result of sovereignty

In other words, only when we realise that good only comes from God and it is His sovereignty that chooses to use me for that good can I celebrate humility. Think of it like this:

God, who is omnipotent (all-powerful) chose to use me (when all sense would have chosen any body else) to carry out an act that a large hoard of angels were willing and more than capable of doing. If that isn’t humbling, I don’t know what is.

I used to picture it with the analogy of a carpenter who built a table and gifted you it. Do you thank him for his work or do you thank the hammer?

Then I realised that this analogy was missing two minor details:

  1. The hammer should be broken yet the carpenter still chooses to use it despite the many other fully intact ones in his toolbox
  2. The table should be a house under which the receiver can take shelter

A hammer can’t even hit a nail on the head without someone using it; how do I dare take credit or even humbly receive gratitude for a deed I didn’t even do? The credit goes to God and my joy and celebration is in the humbling experience that He chose to use me for this overwhelmingly good deed.

In the words of Jesus,

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NASB

When the Bible Gets it Wrong (Article #1)

Whenever we read or hear things from sources we don’t agree with we’re often quite ruthless in the way we react towards them. However, our bias, when it comes to sources we respect, many times jeopardizes our honesty and the authenticity of what we believe.

Today’s article is about the two builders; the wise and the foolish. We read that Jesus says building on sand is a bad idea yet in the Australian building standards, sand is one of the best soils to build on, second only to rock. Was Jesus wrong?

I have no intention of getting too technical with this post but to simply highlight a few points.

Let’s begin by reading the passage:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.

– Matthew 7:24‭-‬27 NASB

1. The comparison that Jesus makes is between two groups of people who hear His words. One group acts on what it heard and the other doesn’t.

2. A lot of buildings in Australia are built on sand. Floods have come and storms have hit; the buildings are still here.

3. A foundation is required to do two things: a) support the structure sitting on it, and b) transfer the load of the structure onto the ground evenly.

4. We have a second account concerning this parable. Luke also mentions it but, in his recollection, what Jesus compares is not rock and sand but building with or without a foundation. (Luke 6:47-49)

If you read both these passages in context, you will realise that Jesus’ message was about faith that is shallow and faith that is deep and well-grounded. Bearing that in mind, it makes perfect sense, then, to see it in Luke’s point of view.

This isn’t to say that Matthew made up his side of the story. It could be a loss in translation or a lack of understanding on Matthew’s part. A third possibility could be that Jesus meant for the parable to be apt mainly for His hearers who did not have a full understanding of proper foundations but I don’t quite think this is the case.

All in all, I find it important that we stress on teaching passages like this correctly. Had both men prepared a good foundation, both houses would have withstood the disastrous weather, regardless of the soil type. Would that have made Jesus’ words void? Not at all; after all, both men resembled those who heard Jesus’ words. The problem was not with what the men did but, rather, what they did not do.

Remember, Jesus was  talking about those who hear His words and act on them in contrast with those who hear His words but do not act on them. So, in this parable, we’re trying to look at what one man did do and what the other did not do. Both men built a house each; nothing lacking. One man built on rock and the other on sand. Still, we have not found anything lacking. One man built with a foundation, the other did not. There it is!

When the Bible Gets it Wrong (Intro)

I’m one of those people who loves learning and can’t take things for granted. It is never enough for me to know that something just works without at least breaking it down for myself to understand it, or otherwise researching it.

A teacher in school used to always say, “Don’t ask Why, just do what you’re told.” I have to respectfully disagree. I love that question. That, along with the question, How.

When it comes to the Bible, we often see things that may not make complete sense. Sometimes, it seems downright wrong. Should we just ignore it and say, “If the Bible says it, it must be right” without understanding it? Worse still, should we explain it away? I think we should put it to the test.

That’s why I thought I’d start an ongoing series that deals with these questions to the best of my knowledge and understanding. The posts in this series will be mainly one post long for each topic and will be posted whenever I come across something new. If you have questions, feel free to share.

To kick things off, the first post will deal with a parable recorded by both Matthew and Luke. The wise man and foolish man. We are told that Jesus says the foolish man built his house on the sand. Is that really a foolish thing to do when it’s one of the most preferable grounds to build on, second only to rock?

Stay tuned.