Today began early so I’m starting the writing of today’s page late this afternoon with the hope that I will not be awake too late tonight. With a long day of mowing on Friday, I put off some of the building cleaning until this morning. That really served two purposes; it kept Friday from being a very long workday and it made it so the building was fresh for Sunday morning without my work being undone before the church service gathering.
After cleaning and taking out trash, I made my way home to pick up my family and head to Michigan where I preached at the North Wayne Mennonite Church this morning. The sermon continued a series I’ve been doing on living as the Lord’s servant. As I chose the Bible characters for this series some time ago, I looked for individuals who not only lived as the Lords’ servant but are specifically described as such in the Bible. Out of all the people I considered, today’s character probably had more references to being identified as the Lord’s servant than anyone else in Scripture . . . except maybe Jesus. The person we looked at today was David and through his character considered how a servant of the Lord needed to live with a guarded heart.
As with most of my sermons, I once again used a word from the title as an acrostic outline of five things we must guard as we guard our heart. Here are the highlights from those five points:
- Guard your Head: As we live with a guarded heart, it is important to realize just how much our mind influences our emotions. Pride has a way of knocking a hole in our armor that we build around our self. There are times we become so invested in an idea simply because we thought it up. We my even share the idea with people and they think it is such a great plan that it simply must be done. There is a big problem with that, and the problem is it tends to leave God out of the picture. Then when He puts a stop to our plan for reasons that are greater than our own, an unguarded head gets bent out of shape because our pride is damaged. David got it into his head that he ought to build a temple to house the ark of God as he didn’t think it was right that his own dwelling was nicer than the tent the ark was kept in. In fact, it was such a great idea in his mind that he ran it by Nathan, the prophet of God, and Nathan agreed with him and told him to go ahead and do it. But there was a problem. Neither Nathan or David appeared to have gotten God’s input on this brilliant idea. When God said David wasn’t the person to do this task, his guarded head allowed him to accept the word of God and continue to serve God in the role he was designed to have. Too often, a “no” from God to something we consider a great idea results in us not only giving up on what we ought to give up, but also giving up on doing what God says “yes” to. That is the response of an unguarded head that results in not living with a guarded heart.
- Guard your Eyes: Just as our head leads our heart into paths it should take, our eyes must be carefully guarded or they also will lead us into trouble. David had a number of problems with his eyes, but the most famous is the sin of lust that came from unguarded eyes. But it is not just sexual images that we must carefully guard our eyes from is we are going to serve the Lord with a guarded heart. Greed and lust, and envy all have seeds in the things the eye sees and then wants. Even seeing the social media posts and news that are filled with hateful, vulgar, or controversial words can cause our hearts to be filled with anger, bitterness, or a hate of our own. At some point in David’s life, he understood the importance of guarding his eyes as he penned Psalm 101:3, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” As we guard our heart, we would do well to put that verse into practice on a daily basis.
- Guard your Actions: As we guard our heart, it is also imperative that we guard our actions. While Jesus taught that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks, I think the same can be said about our actions. David lived a life of contrasts just as you and I do. He didn’t always guard his actions as he should have . . . but I know I don’t either and I’m guessing neither do you. Yet when confronted with the knowledge of unguarded actions, David was always eager to agree with God about his sin and turn from it regardless of the consequences. But David also knew about guarding his actions even when others encouraged him not to. While Saul was still king of Israel and doing his best to hunt David down and kill him, David had different opportunities to do harm to Saul. Even when those with David encouraged him to take Saul’s life while he had the chance, David chose to guard his actions and not harm Saul who was king at the anointing of God. Whenever we think we have the right to do something that will harm another person, we would do well to guard our hearts by guarding our actions.
- Guard your Responses: As with all of the aspects of living with a guarded heart, guarding our responses is easier for some people than others. Yet there probably isn’t any one of us that haven’t shot off an unguarded response at some time that we later wished we hadn’t. It seems that especially in this era of social media, it is so easy to feel compelled to respond to things in a manner that would not be appropriate for a servant of the Lord. A guarded response to the people around us means that we give careful thought to whether the words we are using will be beneficial to them, or destructive. When God used Nathan to confront David about his sin, an unguarded response would have been to get very defensive and make excuses for why David did what he did. Yet David guards his response both to Nathan and to God. A guarded response means that we give a reply that is honest and useful, not only to the person we are responding to, but to us as well. Proverbs 15:23 says, “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply.” I think for a long time I thought the joy was in receiving a fitting reply, yet God says the joy is in giving one.
- Guard your Time: As I put this sermon together with the final point being about guarding your time, my first thought was about how we ought to use our time doing what is appropriate. The introduction to David’s sin with Bathsheba begins by describing it as a “time when kings went off to war.” Yet instead of guarding his time and doing what he should have been doing, David stayed home in his palace and sent others off to do what he should have been doing. While that is an important aspect of guarding your time, I found an element of it in David’s life that I think is even more specific. In 1 Kings, we read of David’s actions when he knew the time was drawing near for him to die. He called his son, Solomon, to himself and charged him with the task of remaining faithful to God. We guard our time not only by doing what we ought to be doing with it, but by using it to prepare those who will come after us to follow God as well.
After the church service, we had lunch as a family and the rest of the day has been spent relaxing . . . and writing, which is also relaxing for me. Today’s photo is of some of the roses that my father-in-law tends to. Roses are beautiful flowers that can bring joy to those who grow them or receive them. But they also have thorns which require an element of being careful, or guarded, to fully enjoy their beauty.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Not everyone does everything in the exact same way . . . and for many things, that is okay.
- Preparing to preach continues to be like nothing else I have ever done. I suspect if the process ever becomes like anything else, I ought to quit doing it or draw back into the spirit of listening.
- Worship is a natural expression of a heart that has been surrendered back to God.
- God has given us everything we need to live with a heart that is guarded against the attacks of the enemy.
- Satan is very deceptive so vigilance is key in making sure we leave no aspect of our heart unguarded.
- We are able to more fully enjoy the beauty of this world and of the people around us when we are aware of the thorns of life that we must guard ourselves against.