Above All Else

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 NLT

Today’s verse comes from chapter 4 of the book of Proverbs. This chapter is “A Father’s Wise Advice”, so it seems quite fitting to be mentioned after having just celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend.

I want to focus this morning on the phrase “above all else”.

It seems that when giving or receiving advice that we should pay most attention to the phrase “above all else”. As long as it isn’t over used (there should really only be one “above all else” if used properly) it should be effective in highlighting THE most important thing, ONE most important thing, a SINGLE most important thing.

And here, we see what that is — our heart, that we should guard it “above all else”.

It is our heart that is either surrendered to God in trust and in gratitude and respect (and yes, even in “Godly fear” like we studied yesterday) — our that is hardened to only be led by our own feelings and desires. When surrendered, we can stand firm and walk straight ahead, because there is One Way along the narrow path that leads us through an abundant life of purpose. But when we are blown back and forth by temptations, circumstances, and our own personal feelings and desires, we will waste so much effort and lose so much progress.

I read recently that with runners, swimmers, and other athletes, that any energy spent moving outside the plane of their intended travel is completely wasted and steals from their capability (for example, arms flailing out to the sides while running instead of pulling efficiently back and forth in the direction of travel). In sports science for professional athletes, they will even take videos of the athletes in action in order to identify the motions that are counterproductive towards improving their progress. Athletes must be single minded with a singular purpose and put all effort in that direction in order to reach their full capabilities and continue to break their own personal best records.

And this is so true of our lives, my friends. We must guard our hearts because this is the engine that will drive our everything today.

Do we not fully believe and trust in God and the fatherly wisdom that He has provided in The Word? Then we should decide today fully whether or not we will run this rave, whether or not we will follow in The Way. Because we are heading somewhere with our choices, decisions, words, and actions today — and it will influence and impact more than just ourselves. It matters.

Lord, help us today to be mindful of the critical importance of guarding our hearts, of choosing to believe and trust you, because it determines not only our day, but the direction of our lives. In Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

 See No Evil

“​I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.  A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” – Psalms 101:3‭-‬4 ESV

We live in a world where dishonesty, perversion, cursing, vulgarity and all kinds of godlessness is not just tolerated but is celebrated. 

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15‭-‬17 ESV

Yes, as we learn more of the ways of God, it seems like the world and sin has been allowed to take so much of a hold on the things around us. We can find ourselves consuming TV and radio programs that glorify violence, where immoral people demonstrate life examples of indecency and drunkenness and selfishness, where swearing and using the Lord’s name in vain is considered common place, where adultery and deceit and sexual immorality is glorified. And when this is what we choose to consume, it will impact our minds and our lives. 

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. – 1 Corinthians 15:33‭-‬34 ESV

“Do not be deceived.” 

“Do not go on sinning.”

“For some have no knowledge of God.”

“I say this to your shame.”

Do we live in a time where even those who call themselves “Christians” fear guilt and shame and separation from the ways of the world they love — more than they have any fear or love for God?

Are we careful about what we let our eyes see on television and Internet and books and the company that we keep? 

Some will hear this message and refuse to let it fall upon their hearts. They will say that I am lifting up heavy burdens because they see godliness as a thing to be despised – they see it as a heavy burden because they have no love for God and His ways. Their only strength is in self and their slavery is to the heavy chains of sin that bind them. 

I am telling you that the sin is the burden – it is the poison that is leaving you weak and dying and with a cold and hardened heart. But we can repent,  we can confess or sin and be forgiven,  we can believe in His promises and walk free, empowered by the Holy Spirit given to those who believe, to those who are reborn as a new creation in Christ.

What needs to be laid down today? 

What influences do you need to begin refusing in our lives today? 

How can we fill our lives with more of His guidance and instruction and direction and presence?

Pray – heartfelt, humble, contrite prayer surrendering, dying to self and dedicating ourselves to discipleship, sanctification, holiness, godliness, obedience, forgiving others, being a living example of godly love. Turn off the distractions of the world and talk to God, listening for His still, quiet voice. 

Read – get into the Word of God, and when conviction comes, decide that you will choose to not just hear the instruction but to obey. Decide to follow, to put your hand to the plow and to not turn back. Turn off the worldly TV programs and Internet and consume the Bread of Life,  the Word of God.

Listen – listen to some praise music or hymns or sermons that are about glorifying God. Switch the dial on the radio away from those other influences to one that reminds you of who you are in Christ.

Praise – thank Him for your mammy blessings, sing a song to Him,  let your heart be filled with gratitude for His love and for the price paid at Calvary.  Switch your mind off from anxiety and worry too trust that He has the best in store for those who love Him

Worship – I’m not talking about a Sunday gathering – I’m talking about a life lived in love, providing for the needy, bringing hope to the imprisoned, isolated and afflicted, sharing the testimony of your life lived out day by day, moment by moment as a testimony and add our reasonable service

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. – Colossians 3:2 NKJV