Follow Your Heart

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Follow your heart is a familiar phrase, but exactly what does it mean or imply? On the surface it seems mundane or just a familiar way to express the pursuit of one’s dreams. We hear such statements at college graduations or when advice is sought from loving and concerned family members to children or grand-children. We hear it when advice is sought in dating or marriage, and what college to attend or career to pursue. But the question is just what does this organ, our heart, have to do with our thoughts or decisions anyway? After all, we all know that simple phrases such as “follow your heart” are simply ways to acknowledge that our decisions that we deem as good are good. We also imply that all choices are completely our own and no one has a right to impede on them. There is also the philosophy that one person’s choices are equal to everyone else’s and are to be respected as much. But let’s slow down a bit. This last sentence changes the implication of the statement ‘follow your heart”.

Let’s look first at what it means to follow your heart.
First let me state the obvious. It is not speaking about the organ but about the core or spirit of man; the inner man is to be trusted. We teach our children. We love our children. We embrace our children, thus how can someone whom we love with such affection be anything but pure at heart. No parent ever dreams that their son or daughter would be a murderer. Nor would anyone we’ve loved steal from us or embezzle thousands, even millions, from innocent hard working families. The idea is that even politicians, at their heart, truly mean good. No school teacher would genuinely determine to do harm or be vindictive toward a student. They all at their heart want the best for others. Hospitals and doctors would never recommend unnecessary procedures or surgeries for their own gain, after all, we like, we trust our doctors because at their heart, they all want the best for us.

Now let’s look at man’s heart itself.
Many would say that with such a sarcastic, untrusting view I must live a horribly miserable life or that I don’t trust anyone. And I would say quite the opposite. When I hear the phrase trust or follow your heart, I don’t consider others first; I look at my own heart and say it is deceived. I have come to believe that there is no good in me, and I am untrustworthy for I am a man that came from men who have proven from generation to generation that the scripture is true.
Jeremiah17:9 states, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Then in Jeremiah 17:5 it reads, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.’”

Finally we need to ask, “What or who is to be trusted?”
If words matter and truth is a reality, then we must be forced to change the statement “Follow Your Heart” to something that will not lead us astray. Romans 3:10-12 shows us that man is not trustworthy. “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.’” So man’s only hope is not to follow his own heart, but to follow the heart of the One who proved He is trustworthy. Let’s conclude this thought with Proverbs 3:5-8, and may we consider how we inspire others.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

Pastor John R. Smith

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My Eyes Are Dry

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Sometimes an honest look inside is needed to get us back where we should be.  For quite a while I have felt dry, barren, empty.  Very much like parched earth in desperate need of water.  Good deeds will not soften a heart in this condition nor will church attendance nor bible reading.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

The remedy for a dry soul can only be found in Jesus Christ.  We cannot fix ourselves or rehydrate our spirits.  Every attempt will only leave us in worse condition than before.  Keith Green was one of the most annointed song writers I have heard in my life.  His words penetrate into the depths of my soul to bring rejoicing and repentance.  The song “My Eyes Are Dry” is the cry of my heart today.

My eyes are dry, my faith is old
My heart is hard, my prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

Oh what can be done for an old heart like mine
Soften it up with oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew in the wine of Your Blood

Nothing Says America Like Jesus and a Bouncy House

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The lights dimmed over the congregation, spotlights flooded the stage, smoke began to rise and the musicians  beat an almost hypnotic rhythm.  The audience quickly fell in with the beat, their bodies swaying with hands stretched to the sky.  The worship service had begun.

By the way, this photo is of a rock concert, but it could easily have been a modern worship service.

By the way, this photo is of a rock concert, but it could easily have been a modern worship service.

Before I begin, let me say that I am not opposed to good music, or lights, or swaying, or…you name it.  What I am wrestling with is the question, “What have we turned Jesus into?”  What started me on this journey (again) was seeing church signs posted at the corners of every town advertising their services and inviting people to come.  Our own church is currently designing signage.  My question is, “Why?”  Is that what the church should be about?  Are we merely there to attract bodies into a building so we can do a head count each week and boast about the numbers? (Sounds like a sin David committed!)

The great commission in Matthew 28 specifically says, “Go”, “Baptize”, “Teach”.  It says nothing about gathering in order to save the lost.  The gathering was specifically for the body to come together and encourage/strengthen one another to then “Go” once more.  Yet, in our modern view of church, we seem to have gotten our commands mixed up.  Instead of going out to reach the lost, we expect them to come to us.  And with that mindset we make our services as attractive as possible, even mimicking the world at times.  After all, we want the non-believer to feel comfortable.

Signage is not the only advertising that has my ire up.  Recently I witnessed an event that made me ashamed to be associated with the churched.  In order to raise attendance at a youth gathering, the director basically bribed people to come.  Youth were offered $200 CASH to the person who brought the most new kids, along with games, free pizza, and $20 gift card prizes.  The youth director also promised to get a mohawk if a certain number of people showed up.  Oh…that wasn’t all.  Someone would win a new SAMSUNG GALAXY TABLET 2!   Well, people did show up.  And the numbers were high.  After the event, all involved praised God for how He had moved in their midst and brought souls into their flock.  0_o

Ok, what was obvious to me MAY NOT have been obvious to them.  Somehow I doubt it.

Does the church today look like the church in the New Testament?  Is the church today functioning in the manner that Christ intended it to? Or have we sold out for cheap grace?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer worded it best when he defined cheap grace and costly grace.  “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son”

I fear that the church today has indeed sold out to cheap grace.  Congregants want certain styles of music, preaching that doesn’t offend, but always encourages and programs for every member of their family.  We seem to be a group that is more interested in having our ears tickled than in being on the highways and byways compelling men and women to enter the kingdom.  Serving Christ is not glamorous nor entertaining.  It is hard work, dirty work.  And that is why it is offensive to so many believers.  We live in a culture of instant everything.  We want our wants met before our needs.  We want people to flock to us on our schedule so that we may enjoy the rest of the week doing our own thing.

The end result of this is not that we cease holding worship  services.  It is merely that we take a good, honest look at why we do the things that we do.  Who are we doing it for?  Are we going about it in a manner that would please Christ?  Do we mirror the early church or the American culture?  Is it possible to preach the word without a gimmick?