Walking In His Will

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:1-5.

If I had a five-dollar bill for every time I’ve been asked, “What’s God’s will for my life,” I would be a wealthy man. The frequency with which this question comes up provides some keen insight into just how important it is to many people. It should be important. We all want to know, “Why am I here and what should I be doing?”

The will of God for our lives is not some high-sounding theory; it is reality. Over the next few days we will look at this subject in more detail. The bottom line is that we have to live out His will in the real world.

Knowing God’s will requires patience, and for many of us that is not our strong suit. We want to know all of God’s will at once, but that’s not how God usually works. He reveals His will and His plan to us a step at a time—each move a step of faith—in an effort to grow our trust in Him. Here’s what we need to remember. While we wait for further direction, we need to be busy doing the good that we know to do. James 4:17 tells us: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

In business and in life we know all the specifics: How many credit hours I need to get my degree. How long it takes to drive to the school, what our spouse expects of us, etc. Often, we want God to give us the specifics—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, what car to buy, etc. Free will is in play here. God allows us to make choices, but if we are yielded to Him, He has ways of preventing wrong choices. “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to…” (Acts 16:6–7).

The better we get to know a person, the more acquainted we become with his or her desires. For example, a child may instinctively want to run across a street to chase an errant ball, but doesn’t because he or she remembers the words of caution from their dad. The child will grow, and over time will not need to ask a parent for advice on every situation – they now know their parents thinking because they know their parents very well. The same is true in our relationship to God. As we walk with the Lord, obeying His Word and relying on His Spirit, we find that we are given the mind of Christ. “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16). We know Him, and that helps us to know His will. We find God’s guidance readily available. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.” (Proverbs 11:5).

Doing God’s will demands a decision. And that decision requires faith and action. You can’t see the end, so you have to trust Him in faith and then step out. You have to act. Faith and obedience naturally go together.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does what I am doing or planning to do conflict with scripture? With the counsel of others? With my life experiences?
  2. Would you consider yourself a proactive or reactive person in seeking the will of God? Which would you prefer?
  3. How does having the mind of Christ help us discover God’s will for our lives? We have the mind of Christ by remembering what Christ did for us. What steps can you take to stop and reflect and rest in this reality more often?
  4. Read John 14:26 and John 15:26: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in having the mind of Christ?
  5. Pray that God will open your eyes daily to His will in your life.

You Asked For It

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C.S. Lewis

  • What does it mean to be in Christ?
  • What is the Christian life supposed to be like?
  • How can we recognize the voice of God?
  • What is Christian discipleship?
  • How can I know when God is telling me to do something?
  • How can I overcome sin in my Christian life?
  • What is true worship? How can I worship the Lord in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)?
  • How can believers be in the world, but not of the world?
  • What is spiritual growth?
  • Why does God allow us to go through trials and tribulations?
  • How are we to submit to God?
  • How do I get a passion for Jesus and keep that passion burning?
  • How can I experience joy in my Christian life?

I believe C.S Lewis is exactly right. If you want to be comfortable, then Christianity may not be your thing. Once you have asked all your questions, weighed all the evidence, and tested all the arguments, and accepted Jesus as your personal savior, you have embarked on a journey of living as a child of God. This will involve a growing in maturity, sometimes slowly, as we grow in our love, knowledge and service of God. Having said this, there is also the reality of living in our broken world, with the bombardments of that world coming at us from every angle. We will have additional questions. Nearly everyone does–believers and unbelievers alike. Have you ever wished for a concise, understandable response that will satisfy both the mind and the heart?

It is amazing how many times people ask questions that they think no one else has asked and certainly no one has ever answered. During the month of July we will look at some of the questions you have based on a survey we did. The series, You Asked For It, started this week with the question – “how can I know God’s will for my life?”  I will address the question of knowing God’s will over the next few days, but in this devotional I want to give you my thoughts on some very basic questions.

First, why am I a Christian? Ultimately, because Jesus Christ showed and persuaded me that what He did on the cross perfectly met my need before God as a sinner. Jesus showed me that His resurrection from the dead meant that he could supply me with all the power I’d need to be his follower. And that means through thick and thin, through the trials and joys of this life. Jesus showed me that I could trust his promise that, in spite of all that’s wrong in my heart and life, He would keep loving and forgiving me and bring me safely through this life.

Second, why am I still a Christian? As you heard me say many times, a life with Jesus is so much better than a life without Him. He helped me to grow. I’m not what I ought to be – but I know that I’m not what I was. I know that there’s nobody else like Jesus. Why would I not want to be a Christian? Where else would I go, either now for a relationship with the living God, or in eternity?
We are continually faced with questions that challenge our belief systems. This isn’t a bad thing, and much of Jesus’s ministry revolved around asking questions. In the end, thoughtfully examining our faith promotes a spirituality that is healthy, honest, genuine, and mature.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have questions? Where do you go for the answers? Did you get your questions answered?
  2. How would you answer the question, “why am I a Christian?”
  3. How would you answer the question “why am I still a Christian?”

It’s All About Jesus

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” – Hebrews 3:1-6.

Do you ever wonder why God called you to do something for Him? There are many reasons why God shouldn’t have called you, or me, or anyone else for that matter, but God doesn’t wait until we are perfect to call us. Think of all the unlikely people God used. You’re in good company if you think you aren’t ready for God to use.

Some of the Bible’s most popular characters include Abraham, David, Solomon and Moses. Over the last four weeks we have looked at those four men in the Hall of Faith series at Northstar. They weren’t perfect and as a result each one provides us with great lessons in character. Abraham, the forefather of faith, let other men walk off with his wife on two different occasions. He lied. and his Sarah laughed at God’s promises. David, the friend of God, concealed his adultery with a murder. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, let some of his wives turn him away from God. Moses had a very serious problem with his temper. He had a short fuse. He stuttered and he too was a murderer.

The question is what do we do with the information. Should we all just throw up our hands, conceding that people are typically a mess? Of course not. This four men can be characterized as righteous—or at least people of faith as we see in Hebrews 11. Sin does indeed have consequences. But if for no other reason, we should at least avoid it to escape the incredible pain that accompanies it. (Galatians 6:7) We will all face issues in our lives as these four men did. It’s how we handle our issues. And just as importantly how we grow and move forward from the experiences.

In Psalm 127: 1-2 we read: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain…”

What the Psalmist is really saying is – that we need to make Jesus the center of our lives, and we have to move out of the way. Why do we think that we can do a better job than God can in our lives? Everything we have comes from the Lord. We read in James 1:17 that “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” It’s all about Jesus.

What we learned about Abraham, David, Solomon and Moses is that their past or their weaknesses did not define them.  It does not define us. It is our current attitude and availability toward God that determines our future.

I hope you have been encouraged by this series. God knows your abilities and your weaknesses. God doesn’t look at financial gain or loss. He’s not prejudiced or partial, nor deaf to our cry. He’s not blind to our faults. We look back and see our mistakes, but God looks back and sees the Cross. He’ll take you to places you never dreamed of in a journey that will take a lifetime. We just need to make ourselves available and then have the faith to follow the plan that God provides us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. A person of faith is not some superman or superwoman with a myriad of talents and abilities. It is an individual who is willing to take God at His word, commit to God’s will, and devote themselves to His work.  Agree or disagree?
  2. If you wanted to make Jesus the foundation of your life, how would you do it? What would you need to change short-term? Changing lives is a result of faith transformed into action. Agree or disagree?
  3. What is your takeaway from the Hall of Faith series?

Moses and Anger

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” – Numbers 20:9-11.

One of the first people you think about in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses is mentioned 772 times in 710 verses in the Old Testament. And he is mentioned in 79 verses in the New Testament. Those numbers are second only to David. Moses is revered in the Bible. He had a front row seat to the signs and wonders God performed against Pharaoh, including the parting of the Red Sea. He received the 10 commandments from God on Mt Sinai. Moses protected, guided, taught, encouraged, rebuked, prayed for and was responsible for an entire nation through the good times, bad times and all the times in between.

So why didn’t Moses get to enter into the promised land? In chapter 20 of Numbers, Moses is attempting to lead the people of Israel through a desert, there is little to no water to drink and the people and the animals are all very thirsty. Moses goes to God and asks for help and God responds with a specific set of instructions with a limited number of steps: Take your rod; get your brother Aaron; gather the people before the rock, speak to the rock, give everyone a drink.

In Numbers 20 Moses lost his temper and struck the rock twice even though God had told him to simply speak to the rock. That act of anger cost Moses dearly. Numbers 20:12 says, “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” When you know the story behind all of that it’s pretty hard to blame Moses for getting upset. These people had murmured and complained the whole time. Nothing could please them. Miracle after miracle was not enough and Moses had been extremely patient with them. So he reached his breaking point and flew off the handle.

Rather than fully trusting God to handle the situation, Moses took matters into his own hands. When we try to fix situations ourselves rather than trust God to fix them we are prone to become frustrated and angry. It was not just the immediate frustration that got to Moses. It was the continual dripping of their complaining.

We all get angry. It’s unavoidable. There’s really no way to not get angry. Anger doesn’t want you to pause, it demands a reaction. It wants you to throw caution to the wind; say what you want to say and do what you feel like doing. The key is to deal with your anger…appropriately. When you detect anger in yourself, slow down, step back, zip up the lips and take control of your mind. Take some time to think about where your anger is coming from. What is causing anger in you? What started it? Also reflect on the consequences of your anger. What damage will you do to yourself and others if you let it go unchecked.

Then turn your disappointments, offenses, frustrations and hurts and the anger they cause over to God. Determine that you will do whatever is necessary to make sure that anger doesn’t control you. Forgive people. Accept disappointments and delays patiently, trusting God’s plan and timing. Try to let it go.

“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper – it only leads to harm.” – Psalm 37:8.” (NLT)

Discussion Question:

  1. Despite his years of service, Moses’ disobedience and anger kept him from entering the promised land. Do you agree with the punishment? What does this teach you about God’s expectations for leadership?
  2. How do you deal with anger? What is the typical outcome of your anger?
  3. What is the difference between anger and aggression in your mind?
  4. Proverbs 14:29 says: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” What does that verse mean to you?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you control your anger.

Could I Be Excused?

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11

It was George Washington that said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” We have become pretty good at making excuses. We make excuses not to hurt other people’s feelings or to avoid responsibility for our actions. We make excuses for things we did wrong, times we failed, things we don’t want to do, situations we don’t want to be in. The subject of this week’s Hall of Faith message, Moses, made his fair share of excuses.

Moses’ first excuse was that he was not qualified for what God was calling him to do. God gave instructions to Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses response to his calling was to say, “Who am I?” He questions his qualifications to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The next excuse was he lacked the power to fulfill the task that God had given him to do. Moses did not believe he could persuade the Israelites that God had actually appeared to him. Exodus 4:1 says, “Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” In Exodus 4:10 Moses gives his next excuse that his speaking and leadership abilities were lacking: “But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

Another excuse is found in Exodus 4:13 which says: “But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Moses basically asked God if someone else could fulfill the calling that God had given to him. Moses gives God some pretty weak excuses.  Yet God in His wisdom, and not willing to take “no” for an answer from those whom He calls, comes back with an irrefutable response every time. It is not in the Bible, but I can’t help but wondering if it finally dawned on Moses that you can’t argue with God and the final conversation went something like this:

Moses: “I’m here, Lord,” looking at the ground.
God: “Anything else, Moses?”
Moses: “No, Lord. I guess not.” Sigh.
God: “Good.”

Before we judge Moses, we each need to look inward and ask ourselves how many excuses we have given God the last few days, weeks, months, or years. Are we making some of the same choices that Moses made? Are we making excuses so we don’t have to do what you know God wants us to do? Are you making excuses for why we will not trust Him?

Here’s the bottom line: If we want to be greatly used of God, you must be willing to follow wherever He leads us. And that means that we need to stop hiding behind the excuses, stop resisting and start following. Because even if we can’t do something, He can.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which times in your life do you find yourself making excuses?
  2. Have you ever sensed God calling you to a task and found an excuse not to respond?
  3. Which one of Moses’ four excuses can you relate to most? (1) “I’m not qualified” (or I’ve disqualified myself) (2) “I don’t have all the answers, or the power…” (3) “I’m not gifted in speech or tongue…” or (4) “I really don’t want to…”
  4. Is there something God has called you to do that you are intentionally not doing?
  5. Does the thought of obeying God frighten you or cause you discomfort?
  6. Pray and ask God to help you put away any excuses and trust Him.

Show Me Your Glory

“Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” – Exodus 33:18-23.

Every Christian will face some difficult times in their lives. None of us is exempt from seasons of hardship, and the pain and discouragement that can accompany those seasons. Many people believe these seasons help us grow spiritually because it is God’s way of stretching us or bringing us back to Him. Moses is an example.

Most of us know the story of how God had brought His people out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert. God had proven His sufficiency. He had provided them water in the desert and food in the form of the manna they collected each morning. He had protected them from hostile enemies. But as we read in Numbers 11:1 that “…the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes.” At the foot of Mt. Sinai, they had seen an overwhelming display of the divine majesty and power as God appeared in the fire, smoke, thunder and lightning, and earthquake, and spoke to the nation.

While Moses was on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, however, the Israelites complained, so Aaron made a golden calf to represent the God who brought them out of Egypt. The people offered sacrifices to it. At this point, God told Moses to go back down to the camp, which he did; and seeing the disgraceful display of idolatry, he smashed the tablets, burned and then ground the golden calf into powder. It was one of the worst days of Moses’ life. Devastated, he poured out his heart to God on behalf of the nation, frustrated with the people. He asked for someone to go with him as he led them. The Lord responded in Exodus 33:14: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” But that wasn’t enough for Moses. Above all, He pleaded, “Please show me your glory!” (Exodus 33:18).

I hope you noticed the impact this crisis had on Moses. He saw his own limitations. He asked God to give him help in His assigned task, and God responded with the promise of His presence. While that would have been sufficient for most of us, Moses wanted more. He wanted a glimpse of God’s glory.

This a textbook example of how to handle the bumps in the road in our lives. It doesn’t take long before we realize there are issues and problems that we simply can’t handle on our own. Some situations simply overwhelm us—serious or terminal illness, severe financial problems, strained relationships to name a few. We need help. The Lord wants us to find that help in Him. He wants us to seek His presence, for He has promised that He will never desert us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Sometimes, however, even that doesn’t satisfy us. Like Moses, we want more. We want to know God with a deeper and more satisfying intimacy; we hunger to glimpse His glory. And the reality is that were it not for the hardship, we would not be driven to seek the Lord and to know Him better.

So when faced with difficulty, try not to get stressed or depressed. Use the difficulty to learn more of God’s ways, and to know Him as you have not known Him before. Learn to see His Glory.

Discussion Question:

  1. In what ways do you work at your relationship with God? If “work” doesn’t describe your efforts, what word does? Why?
  2. What types of uncertainty do you have in your life? What does it look like to have confidence in uncertainty? How do you trust God in times of uncertainty?
  3. Read Joshua 1:5-6, 9. What types of things do you fear? Why do you fear them? How can you respond with faith when fear rises up inside of you?
  4. How does God’s presence with the Christian create strength and courage in the Christian? What effect does knowing God is with you have on you?
  5. Pray and seek God’s presence this week.

Making Yourself Available

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

Moses is one of the most prominent figures in the Old Testament. Moses was the man chosen to bring redemption to His people. God specifically chose Moses to lead the Israelites from captivity in Egypt to salvation in the Promised Land. Moses is also recognized as the giver of the Law. Finally, Moses is the principal author of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the foundational books of the entire Bible. His life is definitely worth examining.

When you study the story of Moses you have to ask yourself a question: How did this man become one of the greatest leaders in history? Moses was raised in the Pharaoh’s household, but refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter after learning of his rightful heritage. Hebrews 11:24 says, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”

As Moses grows into adulthood, he begins to empathize with the plight of his people, and upon witnessing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, Moses intervenes and kills the Egyptian. In another incident, Moses attempts to intervene in a dispute between two Hebrews, but one of the Hebrews rebukes Moses and sarcastically comments, “Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14). Realizing that his criminal act was made known, Moses flees to the land of Midian where he again plays the hero—this time to the daughters of Jethro by rescuing them from some bandits. In gratitude, Jethro grants the hand of his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then he returns to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let his people go.

Moses became what he did, not because of his ability but by his availability and by the hand of God. Moses did not want the job that he was given, and it was a rough one, but God had prepared him out on the backside of the desert. God was not only delivering a people but investing in the man who would lead them. Don’t ever think that what you are going through is not in preparation for much greater service in the future. God is always working things together for your good.

God has always looked for people who would be faithful to Him. People that would walk with God, listen to His voice, obey His Word and carry out His plan in the earth. If God could find people who would be loyal to Him and be willing to act on His Word regardless of how impossible, unreasonable and difficult it may seem, God’s power and ability could flow through them and impact the world with God’s message.

God is much more interested in your availability than He is your ability. Make yourself available. He will begin to manifest His character, His nature, His glory and His Spirit in you. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 says, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

You and I have been designed by God to know Him, fellowship with Him, walk with Him, be a habitation of His Spirit, and to be a holy vessel to not only contain the presence and power of God, but also a vessel through which He can show Himself to the world. Like Moses, we may have some insecurity, some concerns, we may even have some issues we are dealing with. But like Moses, God can and will use us if we make ourselves available.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Moses’ life experiences prepare him for God’s call? What life experience could God use to minister to others through you?
  2. Moses lacks confidence. Is a lack a confidence the reason you are not taking some steps you need to?
  3. What do you think makes Moses a good leader?
  4. Moses is described as a “very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3) What examples from his life illustrate this? How would you rate your humility level?

Ulterior Motives

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” – Proverbs 16:2

In yesterday’s devotional we talked about Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This verse is so powerful because it shows us that when we have issues, there is a great chance we have a heart problem. There are so many times in our lives when we are quick to pass the blame for our issues off on some external force, or person, and here the Bible is telling us to look inward and not allow the wrong people access to our lives.

In today’s devotional I want to talk about motives. Or in other words, why do we do what we are doing? Motives are key elements to our decision making and they play a role in keeping us in or getting us out of God’s will for our life. Proverbs 21:2 says, “We can justify our every deed, but God looks at our motives.” (TLB) And Psalm 7:9 says, “End the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous. For you look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God.”?

Remember the story of mother who went to ask Jesus for an eternal place for her sons at His right and left hands? (Matthew 20:20-28) First she kneeled and then got around to what she really wanted. “And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But this is not about intentions and motives. Nor is it about the sons of Zebedee and it is not about us. It is all about Jesus. It’s about helping the whole world find and follow Jesus. When His heartbeat and motives become what drives us, there is no limit to what He will do in our lives.

But sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that God does not look at our motives. The fact is, nothing is hidden from God about us. God knows not only our actions, thoughts and words, but He also knows the motives behind them all. Imagine, God knows the raw motives behind everything we do or think. We have no “private” thoughts before God.

Now, this can be scary or freeing, comforting or terrifying, depending on how we understand the gospel. Remember, the gospel changes everything. The gospel says that Jesus came to die for those sinful motives and bring us back into a right relationship with God. The gospel says that through Christ, God has forgiven us of our sinful heart motives. The gospel says that God is working in our heart to change our raw motives and turn them into pure, God-glorifying motives. The gospel is not just to convert us, but to change us daily, from the inside out, from the heart to the hands, every moment of every day.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do you question other people’s motives? How often do you question your own motives?
  2. Read 1 Chronicles 28:9: What advice is given to Solomon and to us?
  3. Your heart can’t be trusted. The truth is, if you let it, your heart will direct you down a path that leads to the very spot you most want to avoid. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  4. How do our motives and intentions determine our direction? We typically don’t drift in good directions. What does it take to get where we want to go?
  5. Read 2 Corinthians 10:3–5: The apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive, so that it conforms to the will of God. What steps can we take to move in that direction?

Above All Else, Guard Your Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

As your heart goes, so goes your life.

Ever since you were born your heart has been in the process of being shaped. Family, friends, teachers, media, music, and so many other things have all influenced who you have become. How you respond to circumstances and how you view life, has been greatly impacted by these influences. Whether you realize it or not, you are always being shaped by something. Even now, as you read this devotional, your brain is making a decision on whether it will be influenced by what you are reading.

Enter Solomon. King Solomon possessed the wisdom to govern all Israel. But King Solomon lacked the will to govern his own heart. His many wives introduced many gods to Israel – and influenced the beginnings of compromise that ultimately led to harsh consequences.

It makes you wonder how such an intelligent person could manage to get their lives in such a mess. But as we found out in previous weeks with the life of Abraham and David, they all payed a high price for their obsessions and an unguarded heart.

Scripture tells us to guard our heart, because it is the source of our life. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people. Out of the heart come all our motives, desires and motivations. We are to barricade our heart against anything or anyone else that seek to claim it because our heart belongs to God. Only God can have the permission to lead, guide and instruct our heart. That is why we must safeguard it. We must diligently and consciously protect it from invasions other than God.

It naturally asks the question of what are you allowing to shape it? There are no shortage of people, or things that want to lay claim to our heart. But they can only possess it with our permission. If something or someone has taken hold of it, it is because we have let down our guard and let it or him/her/it in. As Christ followers we must become intentional in guarding our heart from anything that is contrary to scripture. Rather, we must focus on what enables us to be more like Jesus.

In Proverbs, Solomon reveals the outcome of pathways chosen. Many of the verses in Proverbs offers us hope as it looks to the desired end of our lives and challenges us to think backward along its logical course. How do we want our lives to end? In what areas do we really want to succeed at all costs? The path we take today will lead us there. It attempts to provide us some perspective. And when you have that perspective, and when your eyes are fixed on the prize, you will better guard your heart.

Guard your heart with things like prayer, solitude, fasting, scripture memorization, and learning to sharpen your ability to draw closer to God. These will help you guard your heart because you will be spending your energy on Him. Remember, as goes your heart, goes your life.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is it so important to guard your heart? Why is it important that we address any issues at the source rather than downstream?
  2. Read Matthew 22:37-38: What is the first and greatest commandment concerning the heart?
  3. According to Luke 6:45, how does our heart affect our actions?
  4. Read Luke 21:34 and Deuteronomy 11:16: What are at least two dangers of concerning our hearts?
  5. Pray and give God complete access to your heart.

God's Wisdom. Our Relationships.

“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” – 1 Kings 11:4

Solomon ruled over a great number of happy people: “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy.” Provisions were plentiful. The Israelites were at peace, but also had “40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen” (1 Kings 4:26) if needed.

And of course he had wisdom. My attention is drawn to Psalm 72, a psalm either written by David to (or on behalf of) Solomon, or written by Solomon himself: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (Psalm 72:1-4)

But for all of his talents and his wide range of experience, he was no marriage expert. There is no getting around the fact that monogamy was not one of Solomon’s strong points. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. Whoa. There isn’t a consultant or expert that could help you effectively manage that situation. Do you think he knew all of their names? Or remembered all of their birthdays and anniversaries? Or knew whether he spent some quality time with each of them several times each year?

Proverbs offers men much wisdom related to avoiding the trap of immoral relationships with women. However, Solomon’s greatest personal weakness was with women. Solomon knew what was right. Yet, he didn’t follow his own advice concerning women? One reason sometimes noted for Solomon failing to follow his own advice is that there is a difference between having knowledge and applying knowledge. Solomon knew it was wrong to obtain many wives—in fact, it was against the Mosaic Law. “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) God had warned Solomon specifically against marrying foreign women and, in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

The thought of such a wise man ignoring a warning from God seems hard to understand. But throughout scripture, we see a definite pattern of God using ordinary, sinful individuals to teach us lessons about how we are to act. In the past few weeks we have learned great lessons from King David, who was an adulterer and murderer. We learned about Abraham and his half-truths. We would also be well served to model parts of our lives after all of these men, despite the fact that each of them had obvious areas of sin in their lives.

We need to remember that Solomon also wrote the Song Of Solomon. This book is a frank discussion of love between a married couple. While The Song of Solomon’s willingness to discuss the topic of physical love within marriage can make people uncomfortable, it is a testament to the beauty of the marriage relationship in its fullness.

When we read the Song of Solomon, we can pause and conclude that yes, Solomon had a lot of wives and made some mistakes. And yes, there were a lot of consequences for his sinful actions. He wasn’t perfect, but in the relationship described in detail in Song of Solomon, he finally got it right. This is how it is supposed to be. This is what marriage should be.

We too will make mistakes. But we too can get it right if we guard our hearts and trust completely on God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did God allow Solomon to have 1,000 wives and concubines?
  2. Solomon began building the temple with the aim to draw all the pagan peoples of the world to the one true God, but after time he began to draw the Israelites to false, pagan gods. How do you see that happening?
  3. Why is it difficult sometimes to follow our own advice?
  4. Why does the Scripture put such an emphasis on the heart? Humility is God’s prescription for nearly every condition that ails human hearts and relationships. Why do you think this is the case?
  5. Pray and ask God for wisdom in all your relationships.