Your Heart: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

People say. “be true to your heart.” But what if your heart has a problem? Hank Williams knew that people could lie, cheat, and keep secrets. But, he also knew that eventually what was in your heart would come out. His hit song from 1953 ( https://genius.com/Hank-williams-your-cheatin-heart-lyrics ) described the progression: “Your cheatin’ heart will pine some day, and crave the love you threw away. The time will come when you’ll be blue. Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.” According to Hank, your heart can get you into trouble. The Bible talks about the same thing, but puts it this way: Keep your heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ASV)

A Common Refrain

The Hebrew people had a highly developed view of the heart, and believed it to be central to intellect, emotion, and will. They recognized that we have a spiritual imperative inside of us which separates us from all other animals, and that the heart is not just a blood-pumping organ– it is the center of a person’s body and soul.

Samuel told Jesse that the Lord chose David to be king (instead of his older, seemingly more attractive brothers) using a different criteria than we use. Even though men could be swayed by outward appearance, the Lord could see David’s inner desires, thoughts and motives. He made his selection based on what was INSIDE David’s heart, not what was on the outside… (1 Samuel 16:7)

Outside/Inside

Jesus certainly viewed the heart as the place where man’s moral compass resides, and he warned that external actions were not as dangerous as internal motives: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:19-20, NIV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

inside heart

The reason that men don’t demonstrate greater nobility or higher values is that we are more naturally inclined to be selfish and deceitful than to be godly. If you don’t believe that, just drive in traffic or watch the local news… The selfish, carnal heart must be awakened by the Spirit of God to rise above its basest desires; and the undeveloped heart will only produce what it is equipped to produce. I’ve often thought that the mere existence of lofty ideals regarding wisdom, purity, and love are the best indicators of who God is, and of the fact that we are spiritually made in His image. We are certainly able to be creatures of mere appetite, following primal instincts without regard to decency or even kindness. But, something calls our hearts to a higher plane. We can follow that call, or not.

Maintenance Matters

The fact that we need to keep our hearts diligently also implies that they may be unkempt. And the Bible says unattended hearts are proud, deceitful, vengeful. Human hearts are full of bitter schemes and vulgar language just waiting to be unleashed. Cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain might just be colorful vocabulary, but a potty mouth can also reflect that there’s a sewage backup problem further inside. Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

inside matters

How is your heart? Are you diligent in keeping it secure and strong? Is it, as the Bible characterizes well-tended hearts, humble, loving, full and glad? If you wonder, then do a quick inventory of what you say, and how you spend your time and money: “for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ASV)

Treasure

Keep your heart with diligence; it governs what you say,
And from it come the actions you engage in every day.
Our human inclinations tend to lead us far astray,
Surrendering to tempting things that often come our way.
Jeremiah said from common folks to lofty kings,
The heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things.
Jesus warned that we are not defiled by Satan’s darts,
But by the wickedness we carry in our selfish hearts.
As you take inventory of your heart, remember this:
Whatever most your heart desires is where your treasure is…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Inside Stuff: It’s What’s Inside that COUNTS!

The old saying is, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That’s because you have to look inside of it to see what it really says. Solomon understood that: “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.” (Proverbs 5:21, NIV) On one hand, Solomon is stating the obvious: an omniscient, all-seeing God is aware of everything a man does, whether inside or out.

Nice House..

This verse reinforces the lesson Samuel learned when he was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the future king of Israel. He watched pass in review, and had some good first impressions based on their appearance. Samuel thought Eliab looked noble and therefore worthy, but the Lord had other counsel for him. In spite of Eliab’s kingly countenance, God essentially told Samuel, “It’s a nice house, but there ain’t much furniture”.

It was perhaps the Biblical equivalent of “All hat, no horse” when the Lord said THIS: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV)

inside matters

Not only does God see our outward appearance, but He alone also discerns our thoughts and motives; He watches all our paths. The obvious question here is, when the Lord looks at your heart, what does He see? What are the thoughts and intents of your heart?

Seeing the Whole Picture

Certainly He knew that David had not only greatness in him, but sin and heartache as well—and yet He still called David to be king. So it is with each of us: even though the Lord knows what we are capable of, even though He sees every hateful thought, lustful desire and selfish motive, he still says this: “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5, NKJV) He still calls us as the Church to be his Bride…

inside bride

We are shallow creatures who are drawn to external things and temporary baubles. Some wedding participants can be more wrapped up in how the flowers look or what people wear than what is truly important. An earthly bride wants to look perfect; but like David it’s not how she looks outside that really matters! Beauty is only skin deep, but the the love inside her will be the foundation of their marriage. That also applies to the groom. He’s got to bring more to the wedding than a tux! It’s what they are INSIDE that will determine their relationship.

Someday, we will be a Bride standing at the altar, purified from all of our hidden transgressions, looking into the eyes of God’s everlasting love… And He says He will be REJOICING over us! At the wedding feast of the Lamb, it’s not going to be about how you look; it’s going to be more about WHO you are looking at. Know this: the Groom will be looking at you and rejoicing! If you give the Lord permission to take care of the INSIDE, the outside will be just fine.

Inside Out

You’re looking good: your hair is dyed,
Your makeup has been well applied.
But even with your catwalk stride,
You can run, but you can’t hide!
The Lord sees who you are, inside;
He knows your sinful, selfish pride,
The hidden hate, the times you lied!
And yet He set your sin aside,
Taking you to be his bride,
Offering love that cannot be denied.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

There’s No Caste System in THIS Kingdom: Meet The REAL Equalizer

There are many caste systems in our world, and if the Bible is correct, none of them will matter in the end. It reminds us: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:4-5 NIV)

Celebrate or Separate?

We make many distinctions in this world. A diverse Creator gave us many differences to celebrate, but our selfish, carnal nature has tended towards self-glorification and separation rather than mutual celebration. We place greater value on some people, places, or things, often because they have external qualities that attract us or catch our eye.

In the 90’s Billy Joel sang, “Don’t you know about the new fashion, honey? All you need are looks and a whole lotta money”, but it’s always been true. As consumers, we pay more for certain brands. Tabloids celebrate people because they have looks or money. We don’t really mix with people who are different than we are, and tend to avoid people we deem unsavory or “beneath us”.

There is a subtle caste system starting in high school (or earlier) that operates in society and culture, and elevates some people even as it marginalizes others. You know that system, with kids grouped together subtly as jocks or stoners, debaters or skaters, glee club or nerds. Hollywood has made movies for the last 30+ years that capitalized on those distinctions and perpetuated them. Why? Because almost everyone can relate to being defined in the high school caste system…

caste high school

A Different Caste

We judge/evaluate people with a quick glance and a set of assumptions. We categorize them based on how they look, where they live, or what they do. Some call it profiling, but everybody does it in some form or another. In Acts 10:34 when Peter realized that the gospel had come to Gentiles, he said “I see now that God is no respecter of persons”. He meant that in the Lord’s eyes, there is no external value or social caste system that matters. As the Lord’s creation, we are only evaluated by HIS standards, not ours.

Jesus certainly emphasized this in his ministry by reaching out intentionally to the marginalized people in his world– to tax collectors and sinners, to the Samaritans, to women… He seemed to have a totally different standard of acceptance and therefore a totally different caste system than the Pharisees or Romans did.

When John the Baptist quoted Isaiah in Luke 3:4-5, he was referring to society and culture more than topography and travel. He said, “as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him. Every valley shall be filled in, and every mountain and hill made low. The crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth. And all humanity will see God’s salvation.’ ”

We look at outward appearance, but the Lord, Samuel told Jesse, “looks on the heart.” Our heavenly Father doesn’t judge on physique or fashion. Rich or poor, handsome/pretty or not, great or small, we are all the same in God’s eyes. For His children, mountains will be made low and all roads made straight. The good news is, our Creator will evaluate us not on looks but on love. The bad news: if you are depending on something external to be acceptable to God, you might find yourself at a rocky roadblock on a mountain you can’t climb.

A Different Level

Don’t slump too low in your valley;
don’t sit too high on your throne;
When the scrolls are unsealed and the Lord is revealed
We will all stand before Him, alone
His judgment’s impartial and perfect,
and will be — like His glory — eternal.
Our status or caste are the things that won’t last,
Since they’re always and only external.

Be careful what you call important,
and of what you rank high on the chart:
‘Cause it’s not how you look and it’s not how you cook,
Or if you wrote a book, or the money you took,
Or your rep on the streets, or in how many tweets,
Even if you were known, on a throne, or alone…
What God sees from the start is your innermost part,
It’s the motives and thoughts and intents of your heart! It isn’t your cash, or how pretty your face is,
But knowing what heart-felt confession and Grace is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

You Like Outward Appearances? It’s What’s Inside that Counts

We live in the age of outward appearance, as consumers who hear the message others want us to hear and see the images they want us to see about products, news, celebrities, and politics. One series of commercials claims to use only “Real People. Not Actors”, although even a little research reveals that it did indeed use actors in some of the segments. (To their credit, they did always use real people–as opposed to fake people, I guess…)

Our thoughts and opinions are constantly being influenced by people we don’t know, telling us things we can’t validate. We are perhaps the shallowest culture in history, celebrating people not for who they really are, but for who they appear to be. We live in a world of seemingly happy selfie-takers who are going to counselling at astounding rates. What we see outwardly doesn’t always tell us what is happening beneath the surface. The Bible’s message is this: Don’t be Fooled by the outward appearance: It’s What’s Inside that Counts.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover….

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7, NIV) Samuel, a prophet of God, was called upon to select Israel’s next king from among Jesse’s sons. He watched them parade before him one by one, and his first impression was that Eliab certainly looked like the one. He was big, strong and nice looking.

outward

Limited Sightlines

Samuel’s first reaction was to evaluate the young men based on how strong or kingly they looked, but the Lord told him that appearances can be deceiving. That’s so true, isn’t it? We often hear about situations with a celebrity that end badly, or see something on the news about a heinous crime committed by a seemingly ordinary person and think, “No way!” It’s hard for us to accept that a funny person was actually struggling with depression, or a pretty young wife and mom was killed by her husband (who is smiling beside her in all of the pictures), but it’s often the sad case.

As shallow human beings, we tend to look on the outward appearance, when the truth is on the inside… We can’t truly evaluate people based on what they look like publicly because that can be contrived. It doesn’t show the whole picture, does it? Think about it: have you ever smiled and said something nice to somebody while you hid your dislike, or arrogance, or impatience? Was your outward appearance different than your inner motive? What we see in this world is limited; what God sees is not.

There’s Your Problem, Right There

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” It is in the heart that motives arise, and the way people look on the outside isn’t always the way they really are (think: Hollywood or American politics, sigh…). Old sayings exist for a reason,  and we’ve all heard that beauty is only skin deep. So is public image. In an age where we are bombarded with half-truths and insinuations, it’s very difficult to gain true understanding from shallow information.

Obviously, there are two ways for this to go: first, don’t be too quick to judge or evaluate others based on mere outward appearances. Who they seem to be may not be who they actually are. And second, remember that who YOU seem to be on the outside is not necessarily who you really are.

Jesus challenged his followers to beware of what came out of the abundance of their hearts, and to be brutally honest with the Father. It’s logical to do business with God without any smokescreens, because He knows your heart anyway. Keep it real. Confess truthfully. Repent passionately. And follow the advice of Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.”

Public Appearances

Look at a celebrity: you’ve probably seen them on TV,
Chased by paparazzi, fans, or sailing on their yacht.
Even if you’re not the type to fall for shallow marketing hype,
You cannot help but think perhaps they’re something that you’re not.
But although fame and money hide the truth of who they are, inside,
Divorces, drugs and suicide contaminate the dream:

If you are tempted to bow down to cultural icons of renown,
Consider that these people may just not be who they seem.
So when we stand before the throne to face our God all on our own,
We can’t rely on the money we made, or if we played a part.
We cannot take assurance from our external appearance,
For the Lord looks not on outward things; He looks upon our heart.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread