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Can You Trust Your Heart?

What does the Bible say about the heart?

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully. With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors, but in their hearts they set traps for them. Jeremiah 9:8

Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will demolish their altars and destroy their sacred stones. Hosea 10:2

You may say that those are Old Testament verses that don’t apply today.  So let us look at the New Testament.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

What is a pure heart? A pure heart is one that is free from sin.  At the time we accept Christ as our savior, our hearts are pure. It is what we do to the pure heart that changes the purity. If God gives us a pure heart, how can we let it become sinful?  In other words, it is sinful because we allow it to become sinful. Consider these verses.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. Matthew  13:19

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ Matthew 15:8-9  (Quoting Isaiah 29:13)

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:44-45  

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. Luke 21:34

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Acts 8:10-13

 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:21-32

How is your heart? Can you trust it?

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[e]12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.

How is Religion Like Wood?

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:26-27 (NIV)

Several years ago, I was trained to work with wood and  even taught woodworking classes in public school. At the time of my training, the wood that we used was what we called ‘solid wood’. Solid wood was wood that came from trees that had been cut and dried. In rare incidents, we would use plywood rather than gluing several narrow pieces together to get one large surface.

Plywood was made by taking thin layers of solid wood and gluing them together in such a way that the grain of the wood ran perpendicular to the layer being glued on either side of any given layer. This process allowed a person to use inexpensive solid wood and cover it with a very thin layer of expensive wood, giving the plywood that ‘expensive look’ without spending a lot of money.

Plywood had some advantages in that they were much larger pieces that could be used for those large surfaces. In most cases, plywood came in 4 feet by 8 feet sheets with thicknesses ranging between ¼ inch to 1 inch. Plywood could be used for large flat surfaces, without having to glue several narrow pieces together to make one large surface.

Second, the plywood was less apt to warp than solid wood. The fibers, or grain in each layer of the plywood ran in different directions giving the plywood strength. When one layer wanted to warp one way and the next layer wanted to warp in a different direction but together they stayed flat.

The problem with plywood was the glue that held it together. As long as the glue held, the plywood was strong. But If the glue got wet, the layers of plywood would begin to separate. They no longer had the support of the other layers in the plywood so each layer would go its own direction. Once this happens, the wood is no longer attractive or usable.

Over the years, as wood got more expensive, man tried to make cheap wood that still looked good on the surface. This new wood was called particle board. Particle board used scrap pieces of wood that had been ground into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces were mixed with glue and pressed together to make large flat surfaces. After the glue had dried, a thin layer of solid wood, called veneer was glued to the surface of the particle board. Looking at the surface of the veneered particle board, it would look exactly like a piece of plywood.

Although the particle board was beautiful when it was new, there was one problem. The particle board didn’t have any fiber to provide strength. The only strength it had was the glue that held it together. When it got damp, the little particles of wood in the particle board would expand causing the glue to lose its grip on the adjoining particles of wood. The particle board would begin to warp and it eventually disintegrated into piles of sawdust.

What does wood have to do with religion?

The religion that God wants is like the solid wood. It withstand the pressures put against it without getting all bent out of shape. This is why God gave the Children of Israel the law. The Law allowed the people to know when they were doing something that God disapproved of, in other words they were ‘getting bent out of shape’

At this time, the people would offer sacrifices as a way of showing God that they repented of their sin and that they wanted to be bent back into shape. Because of God’s grace, He had a better plan. He offered his son, Jesus to be our sacrifice die for our sin once for all sin, so that we can be the person we should be. Jesus didn’t stay dead but was raised again.

When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to die, he promised that he would send a Comforter who would guide them just as Jesus guided his disciples. The Comforter is the Holy Spirit.

You see, religion is like wood. God is the fiber of the solid wood. Different religions may see God from a different perspective, but they still see him as God. These differences in our belief in God helps make strong just like the fiber in plywood makes the plywood strong. Our beliefs are different, but we still believe in God. Just like the glue holds the layers of wood together to form plywood, so the Holy Spirit hold our lives together to form His Church.

When you have God for the fiber and Holy Spirit holding the fiber  together, you are strong and when you are tested and tried you remain unchanged.

On the other hand, if you are like particle board, you grind God up and only use the parts you want, then glue the parts back together to our liking and with our own selfish desires. To the world, we look good on the surface for a while. But when we are tested, we become like saw dust. Or like Isaiah writes in Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf,  and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

NOTE: All scripture referenced above was copied from:  http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV

Walk by Faith.

VNbunker

Walk by Faith

On June 10, 1969, I began my two-year term of duty to my country.  It was during the Vietnam Conflict and I had little idea of what God would do for me.  In November 1969, I went to Viet Nam. I remember the first night in Viet Nam, as I heard the gun fire of a war zone. I remember praying that God would protect me and let me return home upon completion of my assignment.

Little did I know what blessings God had for me! He protected me and blessed me in ways I didn’t expect or deserve, but He loved me! He allowed me to change my primary MOS from Infantry to Clerk Typist MOS; then followed it with a memo from the General stating that an Infantry MOS had to stay the primary MOS. He promoted me from E1 to E5 in less than 13 months; then followed it with a memo form the General stating that a person had to serve in the military for 3 years before they could be promoted to E5. He gave me two Letters of Commendation for doing the work he had for me to do. He got me out of the army early to go to back to school; something that had not happened at that military base for months!

God answered my prayer! He protected me in a war zone. He is still protecting me in a spiritual war zone.  By faith, my eternal  reward is in heaven. Where is your eternal reward? Are you walking by faith?

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10 (NIV)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%2011&version=NIV

 

Why is Trusting God so Difficult?

            In 1 Kings 17 the writer tells about Elijah. Now if anyone had reason to not believe God, it would be Elijah. Every time Elijah did something, it seemed to have a very negative effect. God told him to tell King Ahab that it was not going to rain for several years. So he obeyed and told the King.

Then God says “go hide”.  God told him to go live by a brook and a raven would feed him. Now if it isn’t going to rain, how long will a brook have water?

Well the brook dried up. So God tells him to go to a country several days away and live with a widow! How would he be fed while he was walking? Also in those days, Widows were usually very poor people.  They had difficulty in taking care of their own children, much less a stranger!

Well he gets to the town. He finds the widow and guess what! She only had enough food for one meal for her and her son, then they were going to die! I can imagine him saying something like, “See God I told you she couldn’t take care of me.”

Then after he lives with the widow a while, her son dies! Now what?

During this whole time, God never stopped caring for Elijah.  God had the raven bring him food. He caused the widows food supply to last until it rained again. And when the boy died, God heard Elijah’s prayer and the boy came back to life.

Sometimes in our lives, every time we do something for God, it seems like it backfires or gets a different result than we wanted it to have. We do something for God and something bad happens to us or one of our loved ones. So we say: “See if I do what God wants again?” But the truth is that God is still taking care of us. The result is still in His hands.

If you continue reading about Elijah, you will learn that God not only took care of him, but God took him directly to heaven. This is what it says in  2 Kings 2:1-14 NIV.

            When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

            But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel…

                4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

            And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho…

                6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

                11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.                                                                              http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2 Kings+2&version=NIV

You see, we need to trust God in everything. He doesn’t want us to pick and choose when we trust Him, he wants us to put our complete trust in Him.

What is the requirement for salvation?

What is the requirement for salvation?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%202&version=NIV)

What is the requirement for salvation?

This has been disputed for many years. A few years after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, Paul and Barnabas were faced with the same question in Acts 15:1-21. There were certain people who were teaching the believers that a gentile believer had to be ‘circumcised’ if he was to become a Christian.

While Jesus was on earth, he often confronted the Pharisees because they were so concerned about performing what the law required, they forgot the real reason of the requirement. So when a person is raised as a Pharisee, it is difficult to stop performing and begin believing.

Peter and James were in Jerusalem at the same meeting as Paul.  And Peter had this to say:

After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Acts 15:7-11 NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2015&version=NIV)

Peter also spoke up and reminded the audience that God talked about this very situation in the book of Amos.

When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

“‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’[b] 18     things known from long ago.[c]

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” Acts 15:13-21 NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2015&version=NIV)

In our society today, we tend to be like the Pharisees. We become judges and try to determine who is a ‘Christian’ by what they do. We allow certain people to join our organizations based on what they do just like the first Christian leaders were doing in Acts 15.

People are no different today. Being a Christian is not performing to a certain standard. It is not about a warm fuzzy feeling. It is about God and his love for us. It is about being saved by faith that we accept God’s grace and not by anything we can do.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  John 3:16-18 NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%203&version=NIV)