Should I Follow My Heart? 

Jeremiah 11:8
“Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart…”

It is very common today to hear phrases like, “follow your heart.” This seems to be the most common counsel given as it relates to decision making today. When someone is trying to determine if a relationship is good or not, or whether they should take a job, or change careers, the most common advice seems to be, “follow your heart.” It’s as if the most trustworthy guide for human behavior and decision making is an inner compass called the heart. There are some significant problems with that advice.

First off, when we refer to the heart in this context, we are not speaking of an actual organ or even mechanism, instead we are making reference to what philosophers define as the seat of emotion. Some cultures refer to the bowels, kidneys or stomach to speak of the same thing. What a person is actually saying when they advise you to follow you heart, is to follow your emotions. The question we must ask is, “Are the emotions a trustworthy guide for living?” Have your emotions ever confused you or led you astray? Have you found that your emotions change drastically from day to day or even moment to moment? I think we all would concede that emotions are a poor compass to guide us through life.

Second, the Bible warns us that the heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). That means our heart or emotions will not always guide us toward what is best. There are times when we knowingly do things that are harmful to ourselves, the people we love, and our relationship with the Lord. To allow our heart to be our guide is like using a broken compass or a faulty map. Years ago my wife and a group of ladies from the church traveled to Washington DC. Having downloaded a map offline, they proceeded to drive through the city. They found a large public building had been built where a road was supposed to be. Following the heart is like following a faulty map, you will not get where you desire to go.

Instead of letting emotions be our guide, Jeremiah exhorts us to use the Word of God as the principle force to direct us through the journey of life. Decision making should lead us to the Word, where we will find the things that matter to God. The Word of God will help us determine the best course of action, given the circumstances we are facing.

Let’s allow the Word “to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.” (Psalm 119:105)

Pastor Jim

 

Like Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:18
“I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.’”

Webster’s dictionary defines science as, “the accumulation of knowledge; particularly the knowledge gathered through the scientific method, which involves observation and experimentation.” In that regard, Solomon was a scientist of the highest quality. He spent much of his life in the pursuit of knowledge, through both observation and experimentation. He was a student of many fields of science, but perhaps, more than anything else, he studied human behavior. Watching the way fallen men and women behaved, caused him to come to the conclusion that humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. Solomon’s conclusions were impacted by the lab he used for his experiments. Over and over he used the phrase, “under the sun”, which meant he was looking at things through the eyes of the natural, without any regard to the person, work, or Word, of God.

When we remove God and His ways from the equation, it is probable, we will consider man to be little different from other mammals. Men who give no regard to the ways of God, are driven by their appetites: when hungry they eat, tired they sleep, thirsty they drink, angry they fight, and on and on the list goes. It include any emotional drive that wells up within us. Jesus declared, when a person believes in Him, he becomes born again, and is given an entirely new nature. Instead of being driven by his natural impulses, he can be controlled by the Spirit of God.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, suggested true freedom is found when an individual chooses not to be controlled by his natural impulses, but voluntarily places himself under a system of ethics outside of himself. Without saying it, he was echoing the words of Paul the Apostle, who said, “if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Galatian 5:16

The Bible declares, God created man in His image, but through sin, we have taken a downward fall, resulting in our becoming more and more animalistic in our behaviors. Fortunately, God provides a cure for the fall. When any person trusts Christ for salvation, the Bible declares he is born again, with a brand new nature, which reveals itself by a desire to do that which is pleasing to God.

Pastor Jim

 

It Cannot Be Moved 

Psalm 93:1
“The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.”

It seems to me, if one thing is certain in life, it is that things are constantly moving. We live on a moving planet. At the equator, the Earth is spinning at 1000 miles per hour, moving at 67,000 miles per hour around the Sun, and our entire Galaxy is moving at about 185 miles per second. Since this motion is constant, we cannot feel its effects. However, there is other movement that we do notice. The United States Geological Survey website lists dozens of earthquakes that have happened around the world in the past seven days. Earthquakes happen because the earth’s surface is like a thin crust. This crust is made up of many pieces, like a puzzle, and the pieces keep moving around and bumping into each other. This causes the surface of the earth to move like waves rippling in a pond. Also, about 70% of the earth’s surface is water. That means almost three-quarters of the earth is too unstable to stand upon. As far as I know, Jesus and Peter are the only two people to successfully stand on the surface of the water, and that did not last too long for Pete.

If you have ever spent an extended period of time on the ocean, you know how unstable it is. After living on a boat for a few days, even solid ground feels like it is moving. With that said, I do not think that the earth’s surface, of land or water, is the most unstable thing we experience. While the earth may shake daily, it usually happens pretty far from us; and while the sea may be turbulent we can avoid it. However, we cannot avoid the turmoil caused by the flood of emotions that seem to come against us suddenly. One dictionary defines emotions as “strong feeling accompanied with physiological changes like increased heartbeat and respiration and often overt manifestations of crying and shaking.”

We all know emotions can overtake us suddenly, putting us within their grip, and even crippling us. I was recently at a funeral for a close friend. The moment I began to speak, emotion gripped me and all that I had prepared to say was stifled. I could not get a word to pass my lips. No doubt the Psalmist was not immune to these experiences, yet he declares, “Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.” Because God is seated upon His throne above the earth with all it’s confusion, He is able to give us stability in the midst of an ever-changing world. When we are in emotion’s grip, filled with fear, anxiety, pain or sorrow, we can have our feet land on the solid ground and sure foundation of the our reigning King.

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalms 94:19

The Psalmist goes on to declare the way we will find stability. “Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (Psalms 93:5). It is the unchangeable truth of God that will give stability in life. While the storms rage, the Word of God will give you a sure footing and a quiet resting place. It is not the fluctuating faith that you place in the Scriptures, but the surety of His promises that are an immovable rock, even the floods cannot destroy.

Make His promises your hiding place, and you will discover that even a moving world cannot be shaken.

Pastor Jim

 

What Is Your Heart Saying? 

1 Samuel 27:1
“And David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.’”


It seems that David had reached his breaking point. After years of hiding in caves, and narrowly escaping the hand of Saul, David decides to leave Israel, and dwell among the Philistines. This decision would lead him to live a double life. He still has a heart for the things of God, but is living a lie. As the story continues to unfold, David even reached a point where he attempted to join the Philistines in battle against the people of God. This was no doubt one of the darkest times in the life of David. The root cause is revealed in verse one,

1 Samuel 27:1“And David said in his heart…”

Like all of us, David’s head was filled with a barrage of different messages. In one ear, he heard the voice of God promising him he would one day sit upon the throne in Israel, in the other, his heart spoke. Fear, discomfort, difficulty, and exhaustion, had brought David to the point where his heart began to tell him Saul would defeat him, and the only hope was to run. In a moment of weakness, David listened to his heart and walked out of the plan of God.

This is not an uncommon experience. We all face circumstances that cause us to call into question the promises of God. We, like David, are forced to make a choice. Will we listen to the promises of God or the cries of the heart? This has become so common that we are often encouraged to “Follow our heart” or “Do what our hearts tells us.” That was bad advice when David followed it three thousand years ago, and it remains bad advice today. Instead of listening to our hearts, which is little more than an expression of our ever changing emotions, we should listen to the the unchanging promises found in the pages of God’s Word.

Consider this: who was correct, David’s heart or God’s promises? Did David die by the hand of Saul, or was he crowned Israel’s greatest king? We can, and should, always trust in the promises of God, over the ever changing and unstable cries of our hearts.

Pastor Jim

 

Guilty

1 Samuel 19:9
“Now the distressing spirit from the Lord came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand.”

Like all of us, King Saul struggled with his emotions. When he looked at David, he did not see Israel’s rising star, or a man after God’s heart, but only a man who was a threat to his throne. Saul found himself filled with jealousy, fear, pride, and anger. As the story unfolds, we find these sins ultimately became his downfall. His failure was partly due to the way he dealt with his sin.

We read time and time again of a “distressing spirit from the Lord” that came upon Saul. This spirit was no doubt a strong conviction for the things he was doing wrong. Instead of allowing his conviction to bring him to repentance, Saul tried to drown out the voice of God with music. Lacking a “Walk-Man,” a CD player, or an iTunes playlist, he did the next best thing whenever conviction arose, he brought musicians in to play his favorite songs. While the music may have removed the guilty feelings and calmed the king, it failed to deal with the real issue. What Saul needed was not to feel better, instead he needed to change his behavior.

It is very common today for people to attempt to remove guilty feelings, instead of removing the actions that make them guilty. We might even run from friend to friend, or counselor to counselor, until we find someone who will tell us what we are doing is OK. While their counsel may make us feel better, it will not make us less guilty.

If you are tormented by conviction because you are involved in a lifestyle that God forbids, the answer is not to seek things that will make you feel better, but to seek to change your lifestyle. The Bible gives a clear cut way of dealing with sinful behavior,

1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

If you are misbehaving, take time right now to confess your sins and allow God to forgive you and to set you free.

Pastor Jim

 

Compelled 

1 Samuel 13:12

“Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”


As the second year of king Saul’s reign began to unfold, the nation of Israel was in trouble. The Philistines who occupied the southwest portion of the land were seeking to expand their territories by defeating Israel. When Saul’s army saw the Philistines approaching, they began to hide in caves, and many deserted. It did not take long before his three thousand soldiers were reduced to six hundred men. Understandably, Saul was overcome by emotion.
Unfortunately, he let his emotions make his decisions for him, and these decisions would prove to be very costly.

Saul decided that what he and the people needed to do was to offer a sacrifice to God. While this might sound like a good and even noble idea, it was actually a form of disobedience, since sacrifices could only be offered by the priesthood. Saul was showing his impatience, lack of trust, and his unwillingness to submit to the word of God. The driving force behind this decision was his own emotions.


“Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”


I wonder how many times our emotions have compelled us to do something the Bible forbids? Emotions cannot be the driving force behind our decision making process. Feelings must always be governed by a higher law. When we feel unloved, we must allow the Bible to remind us of the great love God has for us. When we feel tempted, we must allow the word of God to guard us against falling into forbidden actions. When we feel upset at another person, we must let the Scriptures guide our actions and show us the proper way to behave, and to resolve conflict. 


Whatever you might be feeling, keep in mind that feelings come and go, but the principles found in God’s word are unchanging, and will prove to be a reliable roadmap through the journeys of life. 


Pastor Jim 




  

Emotions 

Psalms 4:4 
“Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.”

As A child, I spent a lot of time on the ocean. My dad loved sailing and we would spend time every summer living on the boat. I can remember times when the seas were so rough that we had to put anything breakable on the floor of the cabin, so it would not be knocked down and broken. In seas like that, it became very difficult to walk. I can remember grabbing hold of anything solid to keep me from falling overboard. When we reached the shore, even the solid ground seemed to move under my feet. Emotions are like that. They often seem like a turbulent sea; when we let them control us, we find that life is a pretty unstable place.

In this Psalm, David is facing things that would certainly impact his emotions. While he does not divulge a lot of detail, we know that his life was constantly being threatened. There were people who wanted to kill him, keep him from the throne, or take the throne from him. In the midst of that kind of conflict, David takes a moment to exhort us regarding emotions.

“Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.”

David states we can be angry and not sin. That means at least two things. One, there is an anger that is righteous. There are certain things that, if we are a child of God, must anger us. If we look at the rise of ungodliness around us, and are not effected emotionally, we need to check our spiritual pulse and be sure we truly are born again. But there is a second, more practical truth here. Anger is not sin; anger is an emotion. Like all emotions, when they rise up within us, we have a choice to make. Do we allow our emotions, or a force greater than our emotions, to control us?

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts living in the Spirit with living after the flesh.

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.”

Walking in the Spirit means we are allowing ourselves to be influenced by the Word of God, rather than by our emotions. The Holy Spirit wields the Word of God like a sword, revealing how God would have us react. At that moment, we are left with a choice, will we give in to our emotions and react in a sinful manner, or will we succumb to the work of the Spirit, and react in a godly way? David goes on to give us his secret on how not to give in to the flesh, he says, “Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” In other words, when our emotions begin to rage, whether anger, fear, jealousy, anxiety or any other wave of emotion, we must place our attention upon the Lord. We must seek Him for the strength to behave in a way that is pleasing to Him, and ultimately beneficial to the circumstances. Don’t live after the flesh. Don’t let your emotions be the driving force in your life. Allow the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to direct you, even when your emotions are like a turbulent sea.

Pastor Jim