Monday, March 25, 2013

A Spiritual Safari



                “There is iphone, and then there is everything else.” –That seems to be the understanding that people at Apple want you to believe. Even looking through the Apple website, one gets the feeling that those who own an iphone are the kings and queens of the world. If you don’t own one, all it takes is for you to buy one and you will become the best of the best.
            It seems that the goal is to make phones nowadays as thin as a communion wafer, with a screen surface as wide and long as a book cover, having the brilliance of something more sparkly than a tactical flashlight shining through the Hope Diamond. Better resolution is always a good thing, but it seems that the thinner they get, the more fragile they get. Other companies have the same idea, which is why they make a protective case called the Otter Box, or a company called Lifeproof, which even makes a case that allows a phone to float. These cases definitely make cell phones considerably thicker, and it seems that most people put at least some kind of case on them.
            I suppose it makes sense to put protective cases around things we cherish or for things which we paid tons of money. Protection is something that people consider a high priority, pretty much about everything. Our houses and cars have locks on them, people have leashes on their dogs (and some have them on their kids), we have airbags, life vests, safety harnesses, hardhats, reflective jogging vests, Kevlar motorcycle helmets, seat belts, life rafts, and I’m positive that you could think of several more on your own.
            All of this protection is good, but, what about protection for our hearts? Sure, we have the rib cage which is a strong structure that protects not only our heart, but nearly all of our other organs as well. We also have an epidermis (skin), which protects our hearts. I guess if you really wanted to, you could argue that the diaphragm somehow protects the heart, but this isn’t what I mean. I’m talking about protecting the core of your being. Your heart!
            Proverbs 4:23 tells us that above all else, we should protect our hearts because they are the wellsprings of life; the sources of life. The heart reflects our words and actions. In other words, we are living day to day the way we do, because of what is in our core. Our values influence our everyday activities. Jesus says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (NIV Luke 6:45). It is clear that the heart was something spoken of metaphorically for several millennia. The books of Psalms and Proverbs often speak of the heart in this context (see Psalm 62:4; Psalm 28:3; Proverbs 15:7; Proverbs 23:7; Proverbs 16:1; and an exhaustive amount of others).
            The question is, how are we to protect our hearts, and what are we protecting them from? What influences our hearts? I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out.” As silly as it may seem, there is great truth to it. Psychologically speaking, throughout all our lives, we have learned from modeling. If you have ever worked with or have or had young children, you know that you can do something silly and they will do the same thing. How can we possibly believe that we lose this mimicking characteristic as we get older? The thing is, we can’t. Modeling is everywhere, especially in media. How do fashionable fads exist? These fads are modeled. It seems that once a cell phone decided to go thin, they all did. One advantage (though it is often a disadvantage) we have as adults over children is that we can choose who or what influences us.
            We absolutely cannot underestimate the power of influence. What we allow ourselves to soak up through the five senses has powerful influence over our lives. 1 Peter 1:14-16 commands us “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Therefore, we ought to constantly work toward holiness,
“making every effort to add to [our] faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV 2 Peter 1:5-8).
            To protect our hearts is to not allow things to penetrate them that will cause us to become further away from God. Sometimes it is obvious, the things that hinder our growth in the Lord. I’m not sure if there is a show that exists on MTV which is actually beneficial to the psyche of any human being. It seems that movie producers think they have to put large amounts of sex or violence in them in order to make big money. Through the internet, one has access to absolutely anything and everything. These examples are clearly extreme, but what about the things that aren’t so obvious or extreme? Just because it might not be sinful, doesn’t mean it is not a hindrance. Several commercials on television would definitely cause our forefathers to roll over in their graves. Sometimes we get caught up in videogames or certain television shows that make our minds wonder to places they shouldn’t (Philippians 4:8). Sometimes even something as simple as hanging out with the wrong crowd can get us into trouble.
            The first Psalm speaks of the power of influence. It explains that the person who doesn’t let themselves be influenced by evil, but instead meditates on the Word and Law of God is blessed (some translations use the word happy): “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night” (NIV Psalm 1:1-2). In other words, a person cannot wrongfully influence their heart (which influences outward action) by reading the Bible, but one can only positively influence his or her heart by reading and meditating on God's Word.
            Even though we are free to say and do anything we want (though not always completely without consequences), it doesn’t mean it is beneficial to us (1 Cor. 6:12). We must guard our hearts and protect them. Since it appears that we constantly become more desensitized on a daily basis because we are consistently attacked with things that have the ability to penetrate our hearts in a spiritually unhealthy manner, we must remember that our hearts and what we allow into them is in view of God (Psalm 139), who is never desensitized (Romans 2:5).
            Not only should we protect our hearts, but we should protect the hearts of others: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (NIV Mark 9:42). As harsh as that sounds, Jesus clearly wanted to get the point across that He despises this unloving and careless act.
                In any event, emphasis is placed on what a priceless object the heart is not only to us, but also to God. Therefore, let us wrap our hearts with goodness, godliness and with a God-glorifying attitude that shines so bright, we influence others in a spiritually healthy manner to seek the protection for their hearts needed to also draw closer in a relationship with God (James 4:7-10).

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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” (NIV Romans 12:1-2).

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus


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