What Does it Really Mean to “Guard Your Heart”?

It has been a challenging week of just craziness, but I've been digging deep and was reminded of something today. And I want to share it with you guys.. I keep coming back to the same verse: “… and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. There’s so much meat in this verse, but today, I want to talk about a particular piece – “guard your heart”.

It seems to me, the best way to protect ourselves in this world, in relationships, jobs, dreams, whatever, is to keep our expectations in check. We’re told to “guard our hearts”. But are we perceiving this in a scripturally accurate fashion?

There are two verses people often quote with regard to guarding one’s heart. The first is Proverbs 4:23. In the NIV it reads “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”. The King James and the NASB, however, choose a slightly different word than “guard”. NASB says “watch” and KJV says “keep”. And we must remember that in the Hebrew, “heart” actually means far more than the seat of our emotions. It’s our mind, our soul, our inclinations, etc. When we consider this, and look at the verse in context, it’s not telling us to guard, in the sense of how we might use this word in modern English. It’s not to tell us to clamp down, be closed off, walled apart… it’s just telling us to be wise. Solomon is imparting wisdom to his son and is telling him to remember his words, embed them in his heart and try to keep himself from going astray. It means that we should pursue the truth of scripture, such as that God loves us, is trustworthy, and is for our good, so we make wise decisions. I don’t believe it means we’re to tense up in self-protection.

If we only consider this first verse, we may be inclined to actually forget the truth of God’s ways, his sovereignty, and his love, and take too much into our own hands. We’ll try to desperately control our environment, and every thought and emotion, thinking we’re doing the right thing. We are told to take every thought captive, but here’s where that, in excess, falls apart and ceases to be of God… How much angst and stress are you putting into trying to figure out how to guard your heart? How crazy are you making yourself trying to figure out what to do and not do, so that you won’t get disappointed or disappoint someone else? That is not God’s will for you. God wants you to trust him, be in the moment, and seek his wisdom and guidance ALONG the way… not build a fortress around you so you can’t experience anything! Do you realize that if you guard your heart too much… you may actually miss what God has for you? You may entirely sideline his will and plan because you’re too busy protecting yourself. We need to learn to be ok with uncertainty and just go with it, maybe even open our hearts up a little, remembering that God is good no matter which way things go.

This is where we bring in the second verse. Philippians 4:6-7… reads “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” This is a little different than in the first verse and they have to be taken together. Here, it is God’s peace that guards your heart. It is a work of God… not a work of you. God doesn’t want us to live in anxiety and worry. And uncertainty sure causes this, doesn’t it? But instead, God wants us to lay our requests at his feet, thank him for who he is and what he’s already done… and leave it at that, knowing he’ll continue to be good in the future. We don’t pick it up again. We let the peace of laying it down, guard our hearts. This submission is based on that constant insistence that God loves us and is for our good. I’ll say it 1000 times, because it IS the most important thing for us to EVER understand. God loves us with an unmeasurable love. God loves us so much in fact, that we may not get our way, because he knows better. He will do what is for our good. Pray this deeply into your heart. Confess and release all your fears that are keeping you from this truth in the wholeness of your life. That is where you’ll find peace and how your heart will be guarded in a way that you can experience all God has for you, in wisdom, joy, and grace.

You see… the enemy wants us to miss out on all the good things God has by getting us to worry and doubt. Some times we need to sit in uncertainty when we want to RUN!!!! But if we run, we will miss God. We will miss what he wants to show us in the situation, things he wants to teach us, ways he wants to bless us, and ways he wants to use us to bless others. God just wants us to believe him and go with it. He wants us to have the freedom to experience what he has for us without fear. That may mean living in a lot of uncertainty, but don’t wall yourself up to avoid getting hurt. Just be at peace, let God be God, and take it all one day at a time.

Where might you be wrestling with expectations today? Is it a struggle at work? A living situation? A family situation? A relationship that you just don’t know which way it’s going to go? Release it. It’s going to work out exactly as God has planned and it WILL be good, any which way. Just enjoy today. Enjoy God. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the uncertainty with great expectations of what God will do through it. Submit to trusting God, ask him for discernment in wise actions, and leave the rest to him. Remember, his ways our not our ways, so we probably won’t be able to figure it out anyway.

Pray that I just give it all to Him but just don't stop there. Pray for the poor and powerless. The missionaries who are fulfilling his will.

Thank you guys for reading.

faith and not by sight.

I used to think that the most difficult decision I would have to make would be to decide on a college and a major, or perhaps what shoes I would be wearing today (haha), not paying any thought to the black fog that would be mysterious life.
 
Over the past year, my prayer life has strongly revolved around two key points: (1) That God would strategically place me where He wants me to be, especially in terms of school and job(s), and (2) Exodus 33:15, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring [me] up from here.” 
 
A.W. Tozer wrote, “Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want. Inside the will of God, there’s nothing I fear.”  This has been a vital anthem to my spirit in this season of figuring out life as something other than a student.  It has so much to do with trust- trusting that the choices and places God calls me to are for His glory and my good, even when those choices and people and places don’t glitter and glow.  It’s easy to make decisions in our flesh about what choices seem right, seem good, seem logical.  But so often, God calls us to choose paths that are seemingly crazy to the logical mind. Build an ark. Find a way through the sea.  Take two years off. Take the job with the pay cut. Live in this neighborhood, or this city, or this country.
 
Because here’s the thing- at His core, God delights in turning ashes to beauty, turning the Valleys of Achor in our lives into Doors of Hope (read: Hosea 2:15).  He is enamored by opportunities to transform, to make whole, to make new.  How often do we own that same perspective? I know I often struggle to maintain it.  Looking at my piling bills, the traffic, the slow progress, etc- sometimes I forget to see beneath the dirt and malaise of day to day life to see the glimmer of change, the consistent, quiet breath of the Holy Spirit dancing about me, waiting oh so patiently for my attention, my full, undivided attention.
 
I have no clue who I’m writing this for (beyond God, obviously), but I know that I for one have felt the tension lately of the many opportunities and decisions that await at my doorstep, and I’ve felt the stirring of the Spirit over areas and opportunities that seem lackluster to the bare eye. So for those of you feeling like God has for some reason taken you into “boring” territory, or “dry” seasons, this is my battlecry along with you- look again. Look again, with your eyes on Him.  Sing out to the dry bones, to take life and arise. Because the beauty of grace and faith is not merely that we’re forgiven, but that we’re invited to participate in the act of redemption, in stewarding this supernatural gift of making things new, and whole, and full of His glory.
 
Press in for the full measure. And know that, at any moment, you lack NOTHING; the Father of lights gives good gifts, and you have to know and believe that any relationship or resource not currently in your life is for your best. If He is constantly fighting for our wholeness, we have to believe that this alone is His motivation behind His every choice to give and to take away. He’s an amazing Father of unfailing lovingkindness.

"And he said to Him, 'If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?'" Exodus 33:15-16

waiting for a sign.

Numbers 9: 15-23 "whenever the cloud ascended from the tent, the israelites would march. and the Israelites would camp wherever the cloud settled. " - Numbers 9:17

so often, life feels like a little more than a series of decisions: should i stay in school? should i find a job? should i change my major? do i need to find a spouse? so often, we look to God for some kind of clear answer telling us just what to do.

about a year ago i was given the opportunity to go back to haiti for the second time. I struggled with the decision to go because of funds and because of where my heart was.

now, one major thing you need for a mission trip is funds. for this trip i sent out a series of support letters and talked to numerous people to raise funds. eventually after sending x amount of letters funds came in. half was donations and half was what i worked for.

as i counted the funds to see if i had enough for my trip, it reminded me that God will provide and when He does and gives things for a purpose. I reviewed all the pros and cons and finally made a choice. i even left my job at the time because i felt God was leading me very clearly.

while wandering through the wilderness, the people of Israel knew when to move and when to stay put because God gave them a sign: if the cloud that covered the tabernacle stayed put, they were to do likewise; when the cloud moved, they were to move. In my situation I felt that the "cloud" had moved and that I should go to haiti.

but we don't always get a clear sign from God. there have been many times when I have prayed, sought the advice of friends and family, and waited for God to point us in the right direction, only to get ... nothing. for example, when I was trying to decide whether I should quit my job, i agonized for months and days with no sense of what God wanted me to do. where was our sign?

the truth is, God doesnt always move the clouds to show us which way to go. instead, God asks us to be faithful, to make choices with our lives that honor him. He asks us to get our priorities in order, to turn away from worldly standards of success and achievement and to bend our will to that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. and as we follow his example, walking in his ways, we begin to think more like him. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2: " Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

we will make our share of mistakes in life decisions. at times, we will undoubtedly go when we should stay and stay when we should go. but the promise that God gives us is that no matter where we go - to a new state, haiti, to a new job, to a new stage of family life - our God goes with us.

- Simon Souksanh

Real Productivity.

So we live in a world that likes to measure productivity. The only thing that matters in life to people is what you make of yourself, how well you’re doing for yourself, how many degrees you have, how much money you have, how many people you know, how many places you’ve been, and how much you can get done in a single 9-5 work day. Everyone wants to measure your life by their own skewed definition of productivity. I haven’t been real productive lately, by any of the definitions above, which has been a real conversation starter with God and I in the past few weeks.

“God, I just feel so lame, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I feel like I’m not making progress with anything, I feel like days are going by, while my life is at a stand still, and I feel like everyone I know is just doing so much more with their life than I am! I just want to make progress with something and see results! I want to achieve something!”

This monologue was rehearsed daily, until God graciously directed my attention to a different, revised mindset as He usually graciously, and lovingly does lol.

“People will measure your life by anything and everything visible. I measure your life by anything and everything invisible. You could make millions in single work day, you could create the next most innovative piece of technology out there, you could write a book, you could re-do your kitchen, you could help 20 people with all their emotional issues, you could teach a class, you could solve world hunger… But if you and I don’t talk, you didn’t get anywhere that day. I don’t care about how much you get done physically. I care about How much you got done spiritually. Did you learn something new? Did you take on a new characteristic of mine? Did you learn to care about people like I do? Did you learn something new about who I am? Did my example change your attitude about something? Did you decide to trust me more today? Did you decide to stop worrying yet? Have you realized that you’ve been so busy with jobs that you have had no time to work on the only thing I care about… your heart? But of course not, because your mind is on tasks and not on people. Your mind is on measuring productivity with everyone else’s definition and not on mine”.

This checked me… As it should.

…Sad truth- We are very much a thing oriented society, where as we should be a people oriented society. The only thing we have to hold over one another is who has the most toys at the end of his/her life, Who got the farthest, Who became the wealthiest… While people suffer emotionally everyday, because we’re too busy being productive and not caring about what God cares about. When I pick up a bible, I tend to read as much as I can in a single sitting, instead of focusing on a concept, and letting it change me. I think that’s a problem. The bible can’t be life changing if you dont let it change your life. It’s not about what or how much you read, it’s about letting it change you. If we’re not changing from day to day spiritually, for the better, we’re not being very productive.

“Intense love does not measure, it gives”- Mother Theresa

But we cannot give love if we first do not receive it through the time we spend with God. So if you wanna get somewhere today, spend time on your heart, ask God what needs to be fixed and let Him reveal things to you.

Hopefully that hit someone like it hit me.

Well, have a productive day! :)