All posts tagged Heart

Self-Awareness: A Key Difference between Hypocrisy &a Hard Heart

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between being a hypocrite and having a hard heart?  Maybe I’m the only one. But I think it is a useful thought to explore. Depravity can come in different degrees (i.e., expressions, depths) even if it is “total.”

I believe these considerations will help us guard our own hearts from sin and more skillfully love those caught in their sin. Too often we just call bad, bad and think we have done our job. If we are going to be effective physicians of the soul, we must know the ailments of the soul particularly.

I would propose that one key difference between being a hypocrite and having a hard heart is the level of self-awareness the individual has about his/her sin.

  • A hypocrite is self-aware. He knows that he is not what he claims to be or is not doing what he expects other people to do.
  • A hard-hearted person is not self-aware. He is blind to the wrongness of his actions. His heart has lost the sensitivity to discern good from evil, truth from lie in the area of his particular sin.

Which is worse? I would contend that having a hard heart is worse than being a hypocrite. As a hypocrite, I would still be agreeing with God’s law regarding my sin. I still advocate for others to follow God’s law and feel some form of offense when God’s law is broken. Unfortunately, my self-centeredness would only allow me to detect when the violation of God’s law hampers my preferences.

As a hard-hearted person, I would both defend my sin and advocate for the freedom of others to behave (not that sin should be reduce

d simply to behavior) in a similar manner. I have reached the point that I have renamed bad, “good.” I must not only be given eyes to see my own behavior, but I must (before that) have my conscience enlivened to accept God’s truth.

What are some implications from this consideration?

  1. When we interact with someone who is continuing in a particular sin we should seek to discern if they are under conviction (neither hypocritical nor hard-hearted), self-aware but in denial (being hypocritical), or not acknowledging the truth at all (hard-hearted).
  2. We then respond to this person on the basis of their self-awareness.
    1. For the hard-hearted person we can only pray that God will change their heart and avoid as much personal/relational damage as possible (Matt. 7:6).
    2. For the hypocrite we can appeal to the part of their conscience that is active and seek to help them come under complete conviction.
    3. For the person under conviction (and really for them only is it wise/effective to) we remind them of God’s grace to forgive and the guidance of His Word to restore them.
  3. We recognize that a failure to change is not because we have not shared relevant, biblical information in a clear and compassionate way.

As for our own hearts, this reflection should cause us to be very cautious when we refuse the counsel of fellow believers and should urge us to live more transparently with our fellow believers as a protection of starting the hypocritical to hard-hearted slide.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.

Directions for Running the Human Machine

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. That is why these rules at first seem to be continuously interfering with our natural inclinations (p. 69).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

It is funny how much we go back and forth on this one. Sometimes we desperately plead for an “instruction manual” for life. Other times we chafe at the idea of infringement upon our choices and preferences. This is not a conservative versus liberal distinction or a Christian versus pagan difference. This is a pendulum that swings in every human heart.

Directions for running the human machine would be moral in nature and are only needed if the machine tends to break down. The fact that we would ever ask for these instructions reveals our moral and wisdom inadequacies, but as soon as we catch a little positive (real or perceived) momentum we want to leave them behind.

The final sentence of Lewis’ quote reminds me of trying to teach my 4 year old anything. Our interaction starts innocently enough. I watch him struggle with some toy or game in the floor. His emotions grow down or angry. He looks to me for help. No sooner do I begin to speak than he thinks he has figured it out and says, “No, Papa. I know just what I’m doing” as he turns his shoulder between me and the toy.

On my good days I smile because that is such a picture of me. I ask God for help, but as soon as I think I’ve figured it out, I try to take life back. God’s plan might interfere with what I had in mind. At the very least, it would take away the joy and satisfaction of independence.

We have to begin to ask ourselves, “What is it that we really want?” Do we want simply to live well and experience love, joy, peace, patience, etc…? Or, do we want to conquer life on our own and define love, joy, peace, patience, etc…?

Most of us don’t want to completely rewrite the directions (Bible), we just see a few places where we could improve upon what God had in mind. Our situation is perceived to be the exception to wisdom. If that doesn’t completely blow up in our face, then we get a bit more comfortable in our revisions (being God’s advisor).

Eventually life catches up with us, we find ourselves in a mess, and we cry out for directions to life so that it wouldn’t be as painful. Yet when we hear the directions that would have prevented our pain, we often think they are simplistic and begin to make excuses: “You can be too legalistic about those things… Nobody really lives that way… Where’s the fun in that?”

The irony is that by the time we get into a mess and cry out for directions we are needing straight-forward advice, far from legalistic, and not having any fun. The ping-pong life of the human heart has returned serve. We beg, then we chafe.

In light of this, I would encourage us not to look for better directions but to find out how to become better students of what we have. I would further contend that becoming better students is not primarily a matter of the mind, but the heart. It is not our IQ, but our stubborn will that prevents us from following the simple, life-giving directions of our Creator. Following God’s directions begins with asking for a new heart.

Contentment and the Object of Our Hunger

Often we tend to think of contentment as something that we need to “do better at.”  It goes in that same general category as watching our weight, exercising, keeping a budget, and biting our tongue.  We think I’ll get around to contentment when I get around to working on a few of those other things.

What if contentment were not an activity, but an appetite?  Notice the context in which Jesus speaks of satisfaction (here considered a synonym for contentment), “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).”  I believe he is saying that there is a correlation between what we hunger for and our level of satisfaction/contentment.

I have been told that when soldiers are trained for the possibility of being stranded at sea that the first point of emphasis is, “Commit to not drink the sea water.”  Think about it.  Once you have been in the sun for a few hours (or days) you would be thirsty.  There is water surrounding you.  You take the first salty drink.  The salty drink causes greater thirst.  With each drink you get thirstier and the increased sodium intake kicks dehydration into overdrive.  Death is accelerated and intensified.

Jesus goes on in the Sermon on the Mount to evaluate the “hungers” of many in his day.  Some sought to fill their hunger by having a reputation of giving to the poor (Matt 6:1-4), praying with eloquence (Matt 6:5-6), or fasting severely (Matt 6:16-17).  Really what they wanted was to be noticed.  And Jesus says a strange thing each time, “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward (Matt 6:2, 5, 16).”

Personally, I do not read sarcasm in Jesus’ voice.  They received their reward, but their repetition and grandiosity seems to imply that their reward did not satisfy—produce contentment.  Like our poor soldier above, with each attempt to quench their thirst they became thirstier as futility and despair sat in.

We are no different.  Our hungers maybe different, but our hearts are not.  There are certain things we want (i.e., hunger and thirst for): acceptance, success, significance, money, stuff, freedom, belonging, affection, etc…  These are not bad things, but they are bottomless things.  There is never enough.  Even when we have them, we still wish we could stock pile some for a “rainy day.”  Unfortunately, these items do not have a shelf-life.

This brings us back to the beatitude, ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).”  It is only a hunger and thirst for righteousness that produces satisfaction and then only when we accept the righteousness of Christ on our behalf by faith (2 Cor 5:16-21).  It is only this hunger that does not become a slave to performance, trapped in people-pleasing, or corrupted with pride.  This is the hunger that produces contentment.

And contentment is attractive.  Contentment, like few other character qualities in our day, opens the door for us to be salt and light to our peers (Matt 5:13-16).  A heart that is at rest as it works, serves, and loves is a testimony to the Living Water (John 4:10) and Bread of Life (John 6:35).  At this point we can communicate clearly that what we have found in Jesus is the daily sustenance that allows us to enjoy every other pleasure (list above) without being driven or controlled.

Praise God for Paul’s words in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Communication with Our Desires “On the Table”

Communication is hard, especially “in the moment.”  It is one thing to be convicted by a sermon on the power of the tongue or the way our words reveal our heart.  It is another thing to be “in the moment” with your spouse (child, sibling, parent, friend, co-worker, enemy, etc…) and to have the awareness, self-control, courage, and humility to acknowledge what is ruling your heart and change the direction of the “discussion.”  That is the purpose of this article, to help you “in the moment.”

The battle begins with awareness.  You must be able to answer the question: what is it that consistently rules your heart?  Do not say, “Nothing.”  Whenever we sin, we are loving something more than God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  In addition, we are loving something more than our neighbor—usually self.  It is fair to say that for most people this “something” usually orbits around a particular theme: peace, respect, affirmation, appreciation, fairness, order, predictability, status, power, influence, affection, etc…

If this is a new thought for you, or if you have trouble identifying your “something,” take this opportunity to read Ken Sande’s excellent article “The Heart of Conflict.”

Once you know your heart theme, you are a step closer towards being ready “in the moment.”  The next step is to humbly confess to your spouse that this is the theme of much of your sinful actions during conflict.  If you are unwilling to confess to your spouse when you are calm and “out of the moment,” it is unlikely you will repent and change when this theme has activated your defensiveness and self-justification.  This confession might sound something like this:

“Snoochums [or your preferred pet name], I have recognized that when I sin against you in conflict it is usually because I want appreciation [or your “something”] more than I want to honor you in that moment.  Appreciation is important, but not more important than treating you with love and honor.  When I raise my voice, call you names, give you the silent treatment, distort your words, walk away, change subjects abruptly, make false accusations, and things like that [make statements that reveal your conflict patterns], I am punishing you to try to get appreciation [or your “something”].  That is both wrong and ineffective.  I am committing to trying to see and acknowledge that in the midst of our future disagreements.

Now that you have your “something” (as Ken Sande would say “idol”) identified and acknowledged it to your spouse, you can put your imagination to work.  What object best represents this “something” to you?  There are no right answers here, so long as the object is not offensive or inflammatory.  For our case study moving forward we will say there is a husband (Bill) whose “something is order and is represented by his PDA and a wife (Sue) whose “something” is affection and is represented by a heart-shaped pillow.

Bill and Sue have a conversation that begins to go nowhere fast.  Bill remembers his confession above and asks Sue to sit at the table for the talk.  They acknowledge their thematic idols, commit to honor one another in the conversation, and say a quick prayer for God to give them awareness of their own hearts as they work towards unity and agreement.

Bill goes to get four items to bring to the table: two copies of a picture of them as a couple, his PDA, and a heart-shaped pillow.  Each spouse sits down with a copy of a picture in their hand and their item on the table in front of them.  The rules are simple.  If either begins to communicate with dishonor (raised voice, calling names, silent treatment, distort the other’s words, walking away, changing subjects abruptly, making false accusations, etc…), they must put down the couple picture and pick up their “something.”  This is visualization of their heart at that moment.  In that moment of dishonor, they are discarding the marriage for their desired “something.”

If they pick up their desired object, they are faced with a choice: repent or harden my heart.  Hopefully they will see the sinfulness and foolishness of their choice.  Neither order nor affection will be attained through dishonor.  As they see this, the offending spouse should put down their object, repent to his/her spouse, pick up the picture again, and ask to resume the conversation.

Once the conversation is culminated the couple is ready to see the Gospel in their marriage (Ephesians 5:32).  However, culminated does not mean resolved.  The conversation may have only reached a stopping point or a point of agreed mutual reflection.  But it did so with honor.

Here is the Gospel in this moment:

And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”  (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)

Bill and Sue have denied themselves and been willing to lose their life (or at least that “something” they had centered their life upon).  At this point, Bill can pick up that heart-shaped pillow, hand it to his wife with a hug and a kiss, and affirm to her that he has loved her as himself.  Sue can pick up Bill’s PDA, hand it to her husband, and affirm to her husband that their marriage is moving towards a place of sustainable order.  In their willingness to die to self and lose their life they have saved what is most precious.  In effect, this process of conflict resolution can be as much a picture of the Gospel as baptism or the Lord’s Supper.  We can see the Gospel enacted and participate in the drama (that is what an “ordinance” is) in our homes with each conflict.

This is hard!  But it is worth it!  It is the battle between our flesh and the Spirit (Galatians 5: 19-26).  But this methodology gives us tools to allow biblical insight to bear fruit “in the moment” of conflict.  Acknowledge your heart to your spouse.  Place your heart on the table in the midst of the conflict.  As the conflict unfolds, maintain honor so that the two of you can encourage one another with the Gospel truth “whoever would loses his life for my sake will save it.”

A Collection of Quotes on Addiction

What follows is a collection of quotes on this subject. They are not meant to sequentially walk through the subject or to comprehensively cover the subject. Their purpose is merely to expose you to a variety of thoughts and perspectives by Christian men and women.

“No matter how they start, addictions eventually center in distress and in the self-defeating choice of an agent to relieve the distress. In fact, trying to cure distress with the same thing that causes it is typically the mechanism that closes the trap on an addict—a trap that, as just suggested, might be baited with anything from whiskey to wool (p. 131)… The exposure event is thus a severe mercy, a potent bearer of shame and grace (p. 135)… In important respects, ‘the addiction experience is the human experience,’ since we all ‘have a habit’ where sin is concerned. Addiction shows us how the habit works, where it goes, and why it persists. In fact, we might think of addiction as a lab demonstration of the great law of returns, the law of longing and acting and the forming of habits that lead to renewed longing (p. 147)… When in full cry, addiction is finally about idolatry. At last, the addict will do anything for his idol, including dying for it (p. 148).” Cornelius Plantinga, Jr in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin

“You can control things, but you cannot control God or your relationship to him. Proper worship is not only putting God where he belongs in your life but also surrendering control of your life to him. Impersonal things so easily seduce us because they put us in control, the place where every sinner wants to be. Here is one of idolatry’s great allures, yet it is at once also one of its great dangers. You and I were never meant to be in control, and when we are, we always make a mess out of things… The enslaving, addicting quality of idolatry must not be understated or ignored (p. 100)… Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our greatest problems exist somewhere outside of us (p.113).”Paul David Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God

“Sin is more than conscious choice. Like a cruel taskmaster sin victimizes and controls us (John 8:34). It captures and overtakes (Gal. 6:1 )….  In other words, sin feels exactly like a disease. It feels as if something outside ourselves has taken over. In fact, one of Scripture’s images for sin is disease (e.g., Isa. 1:5-6) (p. 33).” Edward T. Welch, Addictions a Banquet in the Grave

“Who would have thought? The treatment for addiction is to want something better than your addictions (p. 3)… You do your addiction because you like it. Maybe you want to change, but at the same time, you don’t want to change. You are caught between wanting to trust God and wanting to be God. Acknowledge this and you are walking in the right direction (p. 14)… You addiction went from being a friend to a lover to a slave-master (p. 25)… Right now [as you leave your addiction] it feels like you are giving things up. But in reality you are inheriting a new kingdom (p. 28).” Edward T. Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“All sin is ultimately irrational….. Though people persuade themselves that they have good reasons for sinning, when examined in the cold light of truth on the last day, it will be seen in every case that sin ultimately just does not make sense (p. 493)…The Bible’s depiction of the human race is that today it is actually in an abnormal condition….  In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus.  All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity (p. 518)…  Our view of the cause of sin will determine our view of the cure for sin, since the cure for sin will necessarily involve negating the cause (p. 616).” Millard Erickson in Christian Theology

“They become conscious of the fact that they have been merely fighting the symptoms of some deep-seated malady, and that they are confronted, not merely with the problem of sins, that is, of separate sinful deeds, but with the much greater and deeper problem of sin, of an evil that is inherent in human nature (p. 227, emphasis added)… Sin does not reside in any one faculty of the soul, but in the heart, which in Scriptural psychology is the central organ of the soul, out of which are the issues of life.  And from this center its influence and operations spread to the intellect, the will, the affections, in short, to the entire man, including his body (p. 233).” Louis Berkhoff in Systematic Theology

“In fact, the longer we struggle with a problem, the more likely we are to define ourselves by that problem (divorced, addicted, depressed, co-dependent, ADD). We come to believe that our problem is who we are. But while these labels may describe particular ways we struggle as sinners in a fallen world, they are not our identity! If we allow them to define us, we will live trapped within their boundaries. This is no way for a child of God to live (p. 260)!” Paul Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand

“There is a progressive character to this string of words that describes the turning away of the believer. The sinful heart, not wanting to live under the convicting light of truth, lives in the shadows and becomes weak and unbelieving. The unbelieving heart, having lost its confidence in God, has no reason to continue to persevere and begins to turn away. And the heart that has turned away, no longer sensitive to the truth of God, becomes increasingly hardened to the things of the Lord. What the passage [Heb 3:12-15] describes is a subtle acceptance of sin patterns, an acceptance that grows until it becomes a hardened turning away from the living God. What a terrifying warning (p. 144)!” Paul Tripp in War of Words

“Sin is what we do when our heart is not satisfied with God (p. 9).” John Piper in Future Grace

“Sin is not just about willfulness; that is, conscious stepping over God’s boundaries. Sin is also about blindness; that is, not seeing what needs to be seen in order to live as God has called me to live. The sinner is both willfully blind and blindly willful (p. 42).” Paul Tripp in “Strategies for Opening Blind Eyes” Journal of Biblical Counseling

“This is how idolatry grows in our hearts.  We want things and we aren’t sure God will give them to us, so we put our trust in other gods. This is THE problem of the human heart—misplaced trust. We value, love, and trust something in creation more than the Creator, and since there is nothing in creation that is intended to bear the weight of our trust, we are bound to live in fear.  All other loves must be subordinate to your love for Christ (p. 149).” Edward T. Welch in Depression A Stubborn Darkness

Good and Bad Desires Do Not Exist

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses—say mother love or patriotism—are good, and, others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad… Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts; it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts (p.11).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I think we too often treat good and bad as qualities (like hot and cold or sweet and sour) instead of directions (like East and West or high and low). In terms of what Lewis is saying, if good and bad are qualities then particular impulses inherently have a particular quality. For instance, mother love would be good in the same way that a jalapeño is hot. The definition of jalapeño necessarily includes hot.

Yet mother love can be both good and bad. Mother love is at the root of fond childhood memories and the negative cliché’s associated with the title “mother-in-law.” This is where the metaphor of direction (towards or away from God) is helpful. If I am traveling North to New York City and reach Canada, then I have gone too far North. North was originally “good” but the excess now makes South “good” and continuing North “bad.”

The movement of the “direction” is love.  Too often we try to think of sin as hate and holiness as love. But in actuality all sin is love and holiness is also love (just in the opposite direction). Consider the Great Commandment passage:

And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).”

If the command to is to love God first and neighbor second, then I break this command by loving something or someone else first and second.  Therefore, all sin is love (in the wrong direction or order). Hence, Paul would warn Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim. 6:10).”

Hopefully this will help us in our battle with sin. Too often we have turned to God and His Word asking, “Tell me what I should and should not do; should and should not feel; should and should not think.”  This is a request for labels; not direction (or a tune).

Now, as we turn to God and His Word we can ask, “Tell me where my love should go; what should it sound like; what is the outcome I should strive for?” The answer to this question is not primarily rules, but outcomes.

A young pianist memorizes notes (and this is good for the novice). An experienced pianist reads the music, understands how the music is to “move” the audience, and delivers a song. As we read God’s Word and learn to follow it, let us begin with memorizing notes (learning good from bad), but let us not be content until we allow the Word to “move” us in the rhythm and direction of God’s heart.

Parental Discipline Assessment Tool

Do you miss the days of report cards?  For some of us that might be a traumatic question. But there was something nice about always knowing how you were doing. That is part of what can make parenting so scary. It is hard to know how you are doing.

When we do not know how to measure how we are doing, we tend to ride a roller coaster. On bad days we assume we are cosmic parental failures and that our kid’s life hardships will be our fault. On good days we are prepared to tell everyone else what they ought to do with their rotten kids.

Below is a “report card” of sorts to grade your parental discipline.  This tool, among many other things, will be unpacked as part of the “Effectively Using the Bible & Gospel” seminar.

Tuesday Sept 7, 2010
National Hills Baptist Church
2725 Washington Road; Augusta, GA 30909
9:00 am until Noon or 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm
$20.00 per person
Register at:
(706) 364-1270
www.crossroadsaugusta.org

What was the offense?

I. Pre-“Issue” Assessment: Are you and your spouse (if applicable) in agreement on this subject? Are there aspects of this subject you need to further study biblically or otherwise? Do you have insecurities or pet peeves that make it hard for you to be objective on this subject?

 

II. Pre-Discipline Assessment: (Circle One)

1.  Did you remain calm?                                                                                               Yes      No

2.  Did you restrain from making hollow threats of punishment?                Yes      No

3.  Did you restrain from shaming or embarrassing the child?                     Yes      No

4.  Did you restrain from physical aggression?                                                    Yes      No

5.  Did you resist viewing the episode as a power struggle?                           Yes      No

6.  How many times did the action occur before you addressed it?            _________

III. Disciplinary Conversation Assessment: (Circle one)

1.  Before acting did the child know the action was wrong?                           Yes      No

2.  Was the child asked to express what they did wrong?                               Yes      No

3.  Was the child asked to answer a heart question (see below)?                 Yes      No

4.  Was an opportunity for the child to repent provided?                              Yes      No

5.  Was discipline administered within predefined parameters?                 Yes      No

Discipline Administered: ____________________________________________

6.  Did you forgive and re-affirm love for the child?                                         Yes      No

7.  Did you follow through on discipline (if applicable)?                                Yes      No

IV. Post-Discipline Assessment: Heart QuestionsWhat was it that was so important that you were willing to disobey in order to get it?  What were you trying to achieve with this action?  What desire were you obeying when you did this?  How would this action have provided security, identity, or pleasure?  Who were you trying to please or win their approval?  Do you think this was your “right”?

Key Theme of Heart Question: ________________________________________

What elements of this disobedience (activity, patterns, threats, peer presence etc…) have been frequently repeated in past episodes of disobedience? What instruction, discernment, or training is needed in the future to help your child mature? How are you preparing to help your child meet this struggle?

What Would a Truth-Telling Machine Do?

Where would you attach such a device? To someone’s brain, tongue, heart? I am going to contend that you would attach it to someone’s eyes, because a truth-telling machine would have to alter what we see in order to change what we say.

In order to “see” (sorry, couldn’t help myself) where I am going with this, consider 2 Peter 1:9.

“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”

A lack of a growing character results in moral blindness. The best liars have to be convinced of their lies before they can ever be convincing liars. They “see” their world in such a way that makes their deception seem (at least) reasonable.

Ask someone who struggles with substance abuse, “Are you an addict?” and they will say, “No!”

Ask someone who struggles with intense guilt, “Does God accept your repentance?” and they will say, “No!”

Ask someone who works 50 hours a week and spends another 20 hours on hobbies and friends, “Are you a good parent?” and they will say, “Yes!”

Ask someone who cannot explain the Gospel but believes they are a good person, “Are you going to heaven when you die?” and they will say, “Yes!”

In almost every case the person would be speaking a lie, yet a polygraph would not beep and a truth serum would not change their answer. Why? Their answer fits the way they see their world. Until they see their world differently, they would not know they were lying. Yet their sincerity would not make their statement any more valid.

In light of this consider Jeremiah 17:9-10 and Matthew 13:13-17 (quoting Isaiah 6:9-10).

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

I think this should change the way that we pray (for ourselves and others).  We often pray to “know” the truth, as if truth were merely information. We would be better served to pray to “see” the truth, recognizing that truth is the reality in which we live created/designed by God.

I think this could often change the way we minister. Often we assume that people reject Christ because they have the wrong “information” about Jesus. It is more likely that people reject Christ because they do not “see” themselves as needing a Savior.

This is hard, because it makes the Gospel both offensive and relevant. However, when we “see” and admit our constant need for the Gospel, then our lives can be used by the Holy Spirit (the only true “truth-telling machine”) to open blind eyes and free tongues/lives to speak truth.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.

Lightning McQueen, Doc Hudson, & Psalm 119:11

You can guess the age of my children by the title of this post.  You may remember the scene I’m about to paraphrase.  McQueen lost a race (and the chance to get out of town) to the old, run-down Doc Hudson because he kept sliding out of the turn on the small town dirt track.

Later McQueen has enough humility to ask Doc how to make a fast-speed turn on a dirt track.  Doc replies, “Turn right to go left.”  McQueen’s humility gives way to this absurd answer (again I paraphrase), “Oh sure!  Your answer is as backwards as this small town.  I guess this is backwards day.  Turn right to go left.  Say good-bye if you mean hello.  Freeze water to make it boil.  That’s great.  Sorry I asked.  Turn right to go left, Huh?!”

You might be wondering what in the world this could have to do with Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Hopefully it helps us see something significant about the place God calls us to hide His Word – that being our heart.  Too often we reduce the application of this verse to “I should memorize more Scripture.”  And we should.  Personally, I think you ought to know at least one verse for every Bible you own.

McQueen could repeat verbatim what he heard from Doc.  McQueen just didn’t believe a word of it.  It was backwards and absurd, but quoting it was no problem (it made a great punch line for a joke).

A key part of properly applying Psalm 119:11 is to meditate and practice the verse(s) we are memorizing until they become a part of how we understand our world and actually determine the values by which we live our lives.

How easy is it to memorize (and subtly mock, or at least doubt) verses like Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” or Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” or Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” or I Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain,” or insert the verse you know but have the hardest time with.

Our goal in applying Psalm 119:11 is like another scene from the Cars movie. McQueen has escaped Radiator Springs and finally made it to the big Piston Cup race (my apologies to all adults who do not currently have small children).  He is near the end of the race when his nemesis Chick Hicks bumps onto the inner track turf.  McQueen’s tires lose traction and as he skids he remembers “Turn right to go left.”  As a much humbled (and therefore wiser) car, McQueen places his life-and-bumper in reliance upon these wise words.

That is the intent of Psalm 119:11.  Not that we know the words of God’s book. But that we have so been changed by them that we cast our lives entirely upon them to avoid the ways of destruction.  When everything else in our culture would join with us in mocking the absurdity of such archaic phrases, we have forged such a bond of love and trust with their Author that doubt seems more bizarre than faith.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.