Today’s post caps off our series, HEART MATTERS. We’ve been digging deep, inviting God to move a few things around in the place where it matters most. Our Hearts. Jesus said, “From the outflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”. You don’t even have to follow Jesus to appreciate that statement, it simply rings true in any arena. Of course, I follow him and want others to, which makes these words even more important for us.
What this tells us is that what is inside will be evident as it flows out of me.
It’s easy to know what’s in people’s hearts – WATCH & LISTEN. Ok, not super easy, but not as hard as we think. Poke someone a little and you’ll see that what is inside will leak out. We have friends that love different things, that won’t shut up about what they’re passionate about. Sports, Money, Work, Power, etc. Of course we’d like them to more in love with family, community, and things like generosity and justice. The point is, we wear our hearts on our sleeves without even realizing it.
How do we begin to love something or have a heart for something? By intentionally or unintentionally, letting that thing or person in. I remember the first golf club I bought…it began a new life long passion. Who knew I’d be that hooked.
More importantly…I remember the first time I met Janet, my wife, and every key moment after that. She slowly got a hold of my heart…I fell for her, hooked, line and sinker.
But what about the things we don’t want in our heart? I could name them…but you probably have a few things rolling through your mind. The things we wished we did better at guarding against?
I guess the question we wanna get to today is this: How can we form our hearts so that our lives are reoriented towards the values of God’s Kingdom and not the many broken values that fill up our space and culture?
It all depends on what we use as our main liturgy? Liturgy? What does liturgy have to do with this?
We might think that liturgy is only found in the church – a formula or method used for public worship. Good guess. But anything can be our liturgy, with or without knowing it? Anything we find ourselves going back to, that forms our hearts with the intention of affecting our lives – that can be our liturgy.
This is in fact why the church has traditionally used liturgy (TRADITIONAL & non-traditional).
We are what we worship.
Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.”
Essentially – we are what we worship because we worship what we love. And because we worship what we love, we are what we worship.
Worship isn’t optional. John Calvin (I disagree with him on other things) refers to our heart as an idol factory. Which means that the only choice we get is not ‘if’ we worship, but ‘what’ we worship.
Now, back to LITURGY…
What liturgy do we use to worship what we love? What liturgies are we allowing to form our hearts and in turn affect what our lives look like? Maybe a better question is, what heart & life do we long for?
Think about Paul’s words from Colossians 3:1, “Set your hearts on things above”. Is your heart set on Sports, on money, on politics, on consumerism, on fitting in, on success, on ________?
James K Smith says, “It’s not if you long for some version of the kingdom, but which version you long for”
There’s a good chance that your liturgy of choice is shaping you?
LITURGY…of all kinds…
Baseball has a liturgy (summer days, crowds, daily rhythm, relax, take it in, stats)
Football (strategy, military, weekly rhythm (like church), advance the ball at all costs)
Hockey Night in Canada (Apparently observing this holy Saturday night makes you authentically Canadian. Check out Ron Maclean’s commercial)
Netflix as liturgy (choice, my time, pay per watch, binge, escapism, stories, comfort viewing)
Politics (your agenda, opposite of opponents, most votes = success, false claims, win at all costs)
Second Cup Men’s Washroom Sign…
The MALL (my favourite example)
sales, options, desire, walking in circles, glamorous lifestyle, quantity, style, attention, promotion, advertisement…
“Consumerism is the worship of the god of quantity, advertising is its liturgy.” John O’Donohue
I shop because I am broken
I shop with others
I shop therefore I am
Don’t ask/Don’t tell/Just consume
We need to take a liturgical audit of our life. Liturgy forms us. If that’s true, what kind do we allow in.
Not all things we do are decisions – some just happen. Because with or without knowing it, our hearts have been formed in a certain way. Like driving home and not realizing how you got there. Ever done that? YA.
If am what I love. And I am what I worship. And I am what my heart says I am. Then I can choose what liturgy forms my heart and my life.
LITURGY…that helps us…
Will we choose our most important liturgy, the most important story, to form and shape our heart, to re-orient our heart, to re-arrange and re-furnish our heart? It’s not whether it is formed, but how it is formed.
The practice of Christian worship trains our love – they are practices for the coming kingdom, habitualizing us as citizens of the kingdom of God. We can become lovers of God. But learning to love God takes practice.
Let’s land on Paul’s words in Colossians 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Similar to what Paul says in verse 1 (set your hearts on things above) He continues this theme. Also written like this. “Let the peace of Christ be the decider of all things within your heart” “…let him be the umpire in your heart”
The verb (rule) is borrowed from the athletic arena and is the word for umpire. Umpires settle things, they help decide the play on the field. This way when you’re faced with a feeling or decision that clashes, Christ, the umpire, can decide for you. He can be the arbiter between conflicting emotions in our heart.
Notice where Paul goes from here: Sing Psalms, Hymns, Spiritual Songs. LITURGY!!!
[Pliny, Roman Gov, reporting to the Emperor is quoted saying “They met at dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as Lord”]
From early on, the church recognized that they needed some kind of liturgy to combat the other liturgies coming at them from every side. They used worship to point their hearts toward Jesus.
What will you look to, allow in, and repeat, that forms and re-orients your heart towards Jesus?
According to Paul, your liturgy will impact everything you do: It will help you to…Be Peaceful. Be Thankful. And in whatever you do, do it with Christ in mind.
Be Peaceful in a culture that loves violence.
Be Thankful in a culture that is caught in an insatiable craving for more, a perpetual dissatisfaction of that they think they don’t have.
Be Present in everything they do, in everyplace they find themselves.
What is forming you?
What is your liturgy of choice? The one you allow to shape you?
What’s your strategy to re-orient your heart towards Jesus and his Kingdom and his ways?
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
small(er) group questions:
What were some things that resonated or caused you to question from this week’s conversation?
What do you make of Jesus’ statement, “From the outflow of your heart the mouth speaks”?
What can you identify as a liturgy in your life, that has formed you in some way or has the potential to do so? Name a few others as well? Cultural ones?
Paul encourages the early church to sing Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual songs as a way of forming their hearts to Jesus? How would define this in 2017? Same? Different?
– His hopeful outcomes were Peace, Gratefulness, Living every moment with Christ in mind?
– What do you think? And could you add a few more?
What other things help you reorient your heart towards Jesus? What are some thing’s you may feel challenged you to try? What strategy will you or have you discovered?
What’s one personal take home from this series?
John Mayer has a line in the chorus one of his songs that says, “will it wash out in the water or is it always in the blood”. If you listen to this song you’ll see Mayer asking about change. Acknowledging his families influence on him, he’s leading towards this question: Do I have to stay the way I am or can I carve out a new life for myself some how, some way.
This is really a heart question, isn’t it. In our recent Sunday conversations we’re diving into this. We should all know this: what goes on inside our hearts is bound to come out. That’s why digging deep and seeing what needs to change is so vital. Your heart can change. You can change.
King David would agree here. One of his most profound and sincere prayers was he asked God to ‘create in him a clean heart’. He asked God for a new heart, a fresh heart, a new start really.
A few weeks/posts ago we were reminded that our hearts are worth guarding – they are worth protecting. But what if, the current state of your heart needs work? What if it needs a renovation before you install the alarm system?
I recently gave our laundry room a refresh. Painted all the walls, the cabinets, the counter. I removed the ugly yellows and peaches (from the previous owner) and added greys and whites. MUCH BETTER 🙂 If you’re like me, you wanna just get started on a reno job. If you couldyou’d start painting and fixing instantly. There’s one problem, you have to clear out your junk first. Our lundry room is also a bud room, a storage room, a ‘people are arriving in 10 minutes’ room, so needless to say, it was messy in there. I had no choice but to remove everything, clear it out, clean it, empty it. Only then was I able to start renovating.
Any kind of renovation job requires a cleaning job first. Same goes for our hearts. If we want to reorient our hearts in a different direction, we must first make the time to take inventory of what’s already there, what’s taking up space, what has been there too long, what is making a mess, what’s become garbage, get rid of it, and begin the transformation.
Here’s the thing, if your heart is worth guarding, it’s worth clearing.
(CLEAN my heart)
David penned these words that are known as Psalm 139. They are renovation words, restoration words, reclamation words – repenting and redemptive words.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
That was David’s intro, but the end of this piece is where we hear, not just David’s acknowledgment of relationship and intimacy, but his prayer for change…in him.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
He’s asking God to discern his motives and his actions. David asks God to check his heart, his thoughts.
We all need a heart check from time to time, don’t we? A life altering one and a regular check-in & check-up as well. The BIG life altering one is transformative…some of us can attest to this and have a story to share. However, the regular check-ins can be just as transformative.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases this well: Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about (where my heart is at).
In David’s other heart/soul searching psalm (51) we see him asking God to clear out the sin that’s developed in there. Create in me. Re-create in me. God, make a fresh start in me…a genesis…a new beginning.
Here’s what David admits: If you’re going to renovate my heart, then you might as well start from scratch. Take away all the unnecessary things that have been stored up, my ill-motives, my man-made idols, my false loves, my perverse thoughts…take it all away. Start again God.
Remember, this is David’s post adultery prayer. We’re talking about some serious mistakes, sexual sin, murder, build up and then of course, consequences. David’s admission is clear: I’ve allowed some grey matter to enter in. God, only you can remove it and make my heart new again.
So…as much as guarding your heart is essential, let’s take some inventory of what we’re guarding. Invite God to do his work, and then begin your protective measures to ensure that nothing you don’t want in there, gets in.
(FILL my heart)
If your heart is worth guarding, it’s worth clearing. If it’s worth clearing out, it’s also worth filling.
Are you just going to leave your heart empty, or will you allow God to fill it with his values, his ways, his love, his grace.
What’s this reno job going to look like once God is done with it?
Augustine said (famously) ‘our hearts are restless, until they find rest in you’. He believed fully that our hearts were made to follow God and be filled by God.
Let’s go back to Proverbs 4. Last time we focused on verse 23 (guarding). Look at what Solomon precedes those words with…
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Before he gets to the guarding, he stresses that there is something that needs to get into our hearts that is worth guarding. Wisdom. What is the main thrust, the message of wisdom that we gain from reading the scriptures? JESUS.
With that in mind, lets land on Jesus words in Luke 12 & Paul’s words Colossians 3.
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Jesus)
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. (Paul)
Brian Walsh (from UofT) says that ‘setting our hearts above is to allow your imagination to be liberated to comprehend Christ’s legitimate rule’. ‘This allows your vision of life, your world view, your most basic life orientation, to be directed by Christ’s heavenly rule.’ William Barclay, an old commentator said, “Because you are raised with Christ, your old self has died, like baptism, you emerge a new person. Your heart is oriented in a different direction, being filled with new life and new values. Giving above getting, Serving above ruling, Forgiving above avenging.”
We fill our hearts with God’s ways for a reason – a purpose – to live a new life, a Jesus oriented life, a love & mercy driven life.
Because you have to bet your life on something. We all wager, we all bet our life on something. David, Solomon, Paul, all say, bet on God…and more importantly, Jesus says, bet on me – wager on me – put all your chips on me – throw your heart on the table too. I want it all. Risk it all.
God is saying…Clear your heart, Fill your heart, Guard your heart, and find out where we can go together.
We’re all going somewhere, it’s just a matter of what direction we’ve chosen.
Proverbs 4 says, your heart is the well spring of your life – everything you do flows from it. It’s your compass. If the compass is off, even a little bit, there’s a really good chance that a crash is in your future.
So…you think you’re heart is in good shape? Maybe it is. I Hope so. However, a prayer you will never say in vain is the same one King David prayed.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
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small(er) group discussion questions:
What was your last reno job (DIY)? How did it go? What is your most favourite and least favourite part of working on project? How do those experiences compare to the work that’s going on inside our hearts?
Read Psalm 139:16, 23-24. What is encouraging about the first 6 verses? What is difficult, yet important about verses 23-24?
What’s the difference between a life altering heart check/transformation and a regular or routine heart check up? (Big change and incremental change)
David prays, ‘Create in me a clean heart’. Would you describe those words as scary, loving, authentic or helpful? What would lead you to pray those same words?
Why is it important to differentiate the work of clearing your heart verses the next step of filling or reorienting your heart? How do Jesus’ words in Luke 12 and Paul’s words in Colossians 3 help us understand this?
Wanna take two minutes in silence before your group closes in prayer to invite to cross examen your heart?
Keep on going. It’s worth the adventure, the struggle, the pain, and the arrival to the other side.
Below are some questions Christa left us with in regards to our conversation on Sunday. Dig in.
1. What feels like a place you are stuck or burdened, weighed down?
2. (Philippians 4:4-8) Seek the Sweet: Do you have a practice of solitude and/or gratitude in your life? If so, what is it and how has it impacted you? If not, what might be your first step towards it?
3. (Romans15) Embrace your Pace: What are the weaknesses/vulnerabilities that you feel insecure about and self-judge yourself about? What does God have to say about you amidst these “frailties”? How can you bring some peace to these parts of yourself?
4. (Romans 12) Lean on others: Who are the fellow pilgrims you have in your life right now? (can include books, songs, others resources/things). Who needs you to take special notice and encourage them today?
5. (Hebrews 11,12) Keep the long view:
What images, messages can you lean on to get a new perspective on your circumstance so you can “keep going”?
(just a few summarized thoughts from Brad Clarke’s talk this past weekend)
We go to great lengths to protect the things we value. We protect our phones, we protect our cars and homes (via alarms and insurance), we protect our computers and tablets, we protect our eyes (sun glasses), our skin (sun screen), etc. In sports we use some handy pieces of equipment to protect certain parts of our body: shoulder pads, knee pads, helmets, chest protectors, and the all important jock strap.
There is one very important part of our body the scriptures urge us to protect – our heart. As important as our physical heart is, it’s our metaphorical heart (inner most being) that Solomon is talking about. The part of us that reflects who we are and what drives the things we do.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Eugene Peterson paraphrases it like this, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.”
I guess we might say that life begins and ends with and in your heart. Anything good we do, anything bad we do, comes from our heart. It starts there and moves outward. It was Jesus who said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)
So when Solomon says ‘Guard your Heart’ it’s because he knows how essential our heart is to determining who we are. The Bible is full of failed examples when it comes to this. Adam, Eve, Moses, David, Solomon himself, and others. When they let their guard down, things went down hill. Jesus, our best example, set up boundaries around his heart, which, along with other factors, led to his impact and influence. In the wilderness, Satan tried to get to him, to distract him, to knock him off course – Jesus didn’t budge. He stayed the course, protected his own heart, his own mission, his own purpose, and went on to accomplish what he came to do.
You have only one heart. That’s it. And it’s that heart which defines the course for your life. Ensure its safety, its purity, its wholeness, its strength. Don’t just give it away to anyone or anything. Well, you can give it to God. He’s been known to take hearts of stone and turn them into hearts of flesh. But he does ask us to guard it so that he can work in it and through it.
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small(er) group questions:
– Just for fun. What do you love? What do you value? Give the tip of your tongue answer and then the more profound answer. How do you protect it in some way shape or form?
– Read Proverbs 4:20-27
together. What are some initial take a ways? What jumps out at you?
– What makes our heart vulnerable to intrusion? To pain? To failure? To attacks?
– How do Jesus’ words in Luke 6 ring true? Out of the heart the mouth speaks.
– What are some steps we can take to guard our hearts? Some practical, some spiritual?
– Any final thoughts on this? Anything to pray for in light of this?