Guarding Your Heart

Prov 4 23

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

 Proverbs 4:23-27 NIV

     “Above all else, guard your heart”.  At first glance we may look at this statement and think it refers to relationships.  But on further inspection I think we can see more.  In Hebrew thinking, the heart is the center of everything, kind of like our minds to us.  This is reinforced by the second half of the sentence “for everything you do flows from it”.  Meaning, who we are as people, has a direct correlation to where our hearts are.  How we think, speak and act.  How we respond to criticism, how we react to negativity, anything you can think of in relation to yourself, is a reflection of our hearts.  This is why it is so important to continually evaluate ourselves.

     In order to change our hearts for the better we’re instructed to look at 3 things. Our mouths, eyes, and legs.  With our mouths we speak.  It is so easy to say things we know we shouldn’t.  Sometimes they even make us feel better for a while, or help us “win” an argument.  In the long run though, it is way better for the heart, if the mouth speaks truthfully, lovingly, and in an uplifting manner.  Trying to follow those will have a major impact on our hearts.

With our eyes, we fill ourselves to our “hearts” desire.  In our culture, we are constantly being stimulated visually.  Some of it is good, some is ok, and some just plain terrible.  But for sure it is too much!  Unless we decide to take control of what we see and how much, there is no way for us to fully guard our heart.  We have to make conscious choices on what and how much we watch or stream.  There are visual traps all around us every day, we have to choose not to look.

Lastly, is our legs.  This is as much about which way you are headed as where you are right at this moment.  Do you have healthy boundaries of places you know you shouldn’t be?  Have you already given careful thought to your future, both long term and immediate?  If you just go with the flow, you’ll most likely end up asking yourself, How did I ever end up here?  Too many people have to ask themselves that before they begin to guard their hearts above all else.  If you are already asking yourself that then now is the time to begin.

Start with these basic things, and you’ll be amazed at what God can change in you, in your heart, and then in your life.

-Jerry Briggs

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God of Hope

Romans 15 13

One of my favorite sounds in life is that of rain. I love sitting under a metal roof or outside under a covering and just sit and listen to each individual raindrop. It brings a sense of peace to my mind. With this said I would like to say that God works in mysterious ways. I have been in situations where I was feeling stressed out and needed to calm down, but then all of the sudden it would start to rain. It was as if God was patting me on the back saying its okay, just calm down.

God will often intervene in our lives whether we see it or not. (Haha just caught myself making a pun on accident.) Romans 15:13 says that God fills us with joy and peace so we will hope. He knows we need him to fully be at peace regardless of our current situation. Good, bad or ugly, He is there for us trying to wave and say it’s going to be okay.

Look around in your everyday life for little things that seem to happen on accident, and you might find that God is right there with you. Have you ever seen God work in your life through something like the rain?

-Jesse Allen

You Need a Person

They Need One Too.

Phil 2 3,4
I often found myself quiet and alone in class during grade school. I always wanted to talk to people and fit in but never quite knew how. I hoped that one day maybe someone would just start being my friend and start talking to me. Well, it happened in 7th grade. All because of one kid who sat next to me in my fourth-hour history class. His name was Joel and till this day we are best friends. I had always been shy and didn’t talk much before I started to hang out with him. He started to show me how to be more confident and assertive. He even showed me how to have fun in school. I would have never made it through school if he hadn’t been there.
Philippians 2:3-4 says that we should count others more significant than ourselves. And often times that can be difficult especially when we don’t feel very appreciated. But let me tell you there is someone out there that needs you to reach out to them just like my friend Joel did for me. They need a person in their life to show them who Christ is through action. Are you willing to be who they need?
Who is the person God is calling you to reach out to?
-Jesse Allen

Begging for Help

Acts 3 1,2

Happy late Thanksgiving everyone! #thankgivingisthebestholiday Although the day of turkey has passed I hope we can all be thankful for what we have considering many do not have anything at all. Recently in Saint Louis, I encountered a man named Ron who was homeless and had nothing to his name except his torn up bag and the clothes on his back. Ron, like many you may encounter in your lives, asked me for money. There are at least two easy ways to handle this situation. First, we could give them the money they were asking us about. Or second, we lie and walk away feeling like we did that person well by not giving them money that could possibly enable their bad habits.

I would say Peter and John have a more effective way of serving these people. In Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John encounter a man who can’t walk and is begging for money in front of the temple gates (a common practice in that day, which could be compared to those at the stoplights we see). Instead of giving him money, they give him prayer and healing. Something we all can afford and is always at the ready. Next time you encounter someone like this it might be appropriate to pray with them about their situation and see if something big happens.

-Jesse Allen

You Died

Col 3 3

Colossians 3:1-3

3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I wonder how those believers in Jesus understood those words when Paul first penned that letter to them. “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. He told them that they died. What would it have meant to them to hear that they had died? Obviously they were still physically alive and breathing. They were not zombies or vampires or other popular dead, but not fully dead creatures. What part of them was dead.

Sometimes today we speak metaphorically about death. “I’m brain dead” means that I did something without thinking it through, it was silly or stupid. “I’m dead tired” means that I need some sleep.

I think that Paul was telling the believers in Christ at Colossi that when they were baptized into Jesus Christ, that part of their nature that was under the control of “the flesh” or their brokenness and alienation from God had died. Apart from Christ, that which drives us or controls us is sin living within us. When we come to Christ, that part that controls us is put to death. Our focus is no longer to satisfy our sinful desires. We live by the spirit of God, our life is now found in God. It has not yet been fully revealed. We are still living under the influence of sin, and the new nature has not yet been fully realized in our daily living. That process, known as sanctification, is ongoing. It requires, as Paul goes on to say, a daily putting to death of things like “immorality, evil desires, greed, rage, malice, slander”.

We’re baptized into Christ, then you died, and rose again. Your new nature has not yet been fully revealed and won’t be until the coming of Jesus, but as you live as a follower of Jesus in this present age, you die to your old self a little more each day as you live by the spirit of God in practical ways.

-Jeff Fletcher

Labor Pains

1 Thess 5 3 (1)

I Thessalonians 5:1-3

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

While I’ve never been a pregnant woman, I’ve been married to one who gave birth eleven times… so I’m pretty well acquainted with the whole “sudden labor pains” phenomena. Fun fact… my youngest son, James, came so quickly that I acted as his midwife. We were at home… no midwife in sight…. And she said “I need to push”…and I tried to persuade her to wait. (Don’t ever tell a woman in labor about to push a baby out to wait, if you know what’s good for you). She did NOT wait. She had reached the point of no return.

Paul uses this analogy to help us understand both the suddenness and inevitability of the return of Jesus. His return will happen suddenly.

It’s been a nearly 2000 year long labor… but it’s getting close. Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready?

-Jeff Fletcher

God’s Party

Luke 15 32

Thursday, November 22, 2018  Thanksgiving USA

Luke 15:32

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Some people envision God to be somber or angry and punishing. I love this story Jesus told. We often refer to it as the Prodigal Son, with the focus on the bad boy who turned his life around. But I think it has more to do with showing us how much our Father Loves us, and how much joy it brings to him to be in relationship with us. Jesus came to show those whose view of God was somber and dutiful that God is first and foremost about relationship.

God throws a party when we respond to his offer of relationship. Shouldn’t we?

-Jeff Fletcher