Guarding Our Treasure

Today’s reading: Proverbs 4

Today’s focal verse:

Proverbs 4:23—Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (KJV)

Today’s Focus: Guarding our hearts

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

About six months ago, during a particularly stressful time, I got into a disagreement with someone and, in a moment of unchecked anger, sent an email I regretted. Although I immediately apologized, this individual shared the email with a large number of people, leaving me feeling exposed. (What’s that verse about sin being exposed? lol). (You can read about this here.) That night, as I fumed over this, God used the opportunity to slice straight to my core, showing me my un-Christlike reaction came from a dirty heart. I’d allowed angry and bitter thoughts unrelated to the event fester and those negative thoughts were beginning to affect my actions and reactions. Today’s post, written by multi-published author Delia Latham encourages us to guard our heart, because, as today’s focal verse reminds us, it truly does determine the course of our life.

The Treasure Inside
Delia Latham

Delia3 - web 

Proverbs 4:23—Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (KJV)

As parents, most of us would give our own lives to protect our children. We do all we can to guard them against any kind of harm. They are treasures.

Any true treasure deserves special care and protection. It merits a bit of extra safekeeping. Its value makes it worth the excessive guard measures.

We put our money in banks for safekeeping. Those fortunate enough to own valuable diamonds and jewels keep then locked away in safes. We use security systems in our homes to safeguard against intruders. Even the information in our computers is protected with a password.

Why is it, then, that we are so careless with the greatest treasure we will ever possess?

Come with me, if you will, for a little stroll through a short Proverbs verse that holds wisdom enough to change the world, if enough people heed its message.

Let’s take a look at Proverbs 4:23 through several different “lenses.” Choose the one that speaks to your heart most clearly. Memorize it. Tape it to your bathroom mirror. Frame it and keep it on your desk. Paint the words onto the walls in your home if necessary.

In short, do whatever it takes to remember what it says.

Proverbs 4:23—Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (KJV)

Proverbs 4:23— More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it. (CEB)

Proverbs 4:23— Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. (NCV)

What a beautiful verbal kaleidoscope!

But when the flashy show of vocabulary fizzles into silence, and the last letter tumbles atop the mountain of others to lie in wait of the next shake-up, that final twist of the refractor reveals them all as delivering the same message. Each of the “lenses” shines a light on the infinite value of the heart and mind…the treasure inside.

The physical heart is absolutely vital to the body. When it stops, everything stops. In a very real sense, life flows from it. Protecting the physical heart is crucial if one wishes to live…at all, not just a “long, healthy life.” Without a heartbeat, there is no life.

The spiritual heart pumps lifeblood to our eternal souls. Surely such a treasure is worthy of the ultimate guard measures. But…what is it? And how should we go about protecting it?

“It” is the mind. We protect it by refusing to expose it to anything that’s not like God. I love the New Living Translation of Proverbs 4:23: “Guard your heart ABOVE ALL ELSE, for it determines the course of your life.” One of the other versions reads, “More than anything you guard, PROTECT YOUR MIND, for life flows from it.”

How?

We protect the innocent minds of our children against anything we think is too mature, too violent, too sexual, too…anything that might confuse or damage their young psyches. And yet we balk at doing the same thing for our spiritual minds…our “hearts.” The truth is, if we really set out to protect our heart as this scripture indicates, we must treat it in the same manner. We must refuse to expose it to anything that doesn’t edify, strengthen, encourage or uplift.

That might mean anything from being choosy about which television shows we watch and which books we read, to the company we keep, the places we go, the things we set before our vision. Becoming an “adult” does not grant anyone a magical ability to play with fire and not get burned. Every choice we make affects our spiritual lifeblood.

Feeling a little confused about what things to allow into your life? No need for confusion…the Bible spells out exactly what can be safely allowed into our hearts (minds), and it’s all neatly packaged in a single verse of scripture:

Philippians 4:8:  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)

If ever there’s a question as to the right or wrong of a thing, this verse provides a failsafe test. Holding any question up to the magnifying glass of this single scripture will provide an answer, if we’re honest about what we see beneath that spiritual magnification. Whether it be a movie, reading material, our choice of friends, an environment…whatever–does it fall into one of the categories mentioned in Philippians 4:8? Is it true? Honorable? Right, pure, lovely and admirable?

No? Then…chances are it is one or all of the following: dangerous, detrimental or destructive.

Are words popping out of your mouth, or into your mind that shock you? Things that don’t sound like you, and certainly don’t sound like God? Then chances are your heart has been tainted by exposure to impure elements.

God’s grace is amazing, and we are blessed that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentation 3:22-23). But it is our responsibility as Christians to make every effort to live in a way that glorifies our Father. To put our hearts under spiritual lock and key, and guard them every bit as fiercely as we protect the earthly possessions that are most important to us.

Let’s do it together. Every moment of every day from this point forward, let’s make a conscious, single-minded effort to guard the treasure inside…above all else, and at any cost.

Father, thank You for creating a clean heart within me. Please help me to guard that treasure above all else, to keep it pure and right, a place You’ll be pleased to dwell within…for You, Lord,  are my Rock, my Shield, my Fortress, my Resting Place. I truly want everything I do, every word I say, every thought I think to reflect and glorify You. I ask that You make it so, in Your precious name. Amen

Delia’s latest release, Jewels for the Kingdom:

perf5.500x8.500.inddPia Peretti’s past could destroy her future. Thanks to her pre-Christian lifestyle, she can’t marry a believer, and she won’t marry a non-believer. Minister David Myers wants to help Pia release her guilt and trust that God has forgiven her…but the young minister is working through his own trial of faith.

After a failed counseling session with a wounded soul, David’s confidence is shaken. He accepts a new pastorate, and moves to Angel Falls to find a haven for his wounded heart.

Is it possible these two hurting hearts are meant to mend each other’s brokenness with some divine intervention?

Delia was born and raised in a place called Weedpatch, Delia Latham moved from California to Oklahoma in 2008, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her simple country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. The author enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her through her website or send an e-mail to delia AT delialatham DOT net.

Find out more about this author at www.delialatham.net.

Blog:  www.my-book-bag.blogspot.com

Newsletter:  www.bookshelfnewsletter.blogspot.com

***

I wish we had more time to camp out in chapter four as it’s filled with so many great truths and thought-provoking verses!

Here are some questions to ponder and discuss. A few of you involved in our Yahoo study group have mentioned the benefits of storing God’s Word in your hearts. Some have talked about how God uses the verse throughout the day to bring new truths and understanding to mind. Others have mentioned how God has used your focal verse to show you areas you may have strayed or times when your thinking hasn’t quite lined up. A few days ago, Beth talked about centering our hearts and minds on God’s promises right before we go to sleep so that our sleep can be peaceful and restful.

But all of these things seem to point back to our hearts.

In today’s devotion, Delia talked about guarding our heart from sinful influences. What other things do you think we must guard our heart from?

I’ll share my areas of weakness. For me, my biggest heart-tarnishers aren’t obvious sins like infidelity or thievery. Most often, my heart becomes polluted slowly, almost unknowingly, by things such as pride and selfish ambition. But the end results are the same–a slow but steady detour off of God’s good path and a decreased ability to hear His voice.

What are some ways we can guard our hearts?

Similarly, what are some ways we can strengthen our hearts?

Pause for a moment and pray, asking God to reveal to you the depths of your heart. Are there things you are clinging to or allowing in that hinder your growth? Your service?

Pause to consider verses 10-11 in light of Delia’s devotion and what we’ve already discussed regarding wisdom.

Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
    when you run, you will not stumble.

I love the image this provides. Today’s focal verse and verses 11-12 seem to tie up a great deal of what we’ve learned so far. Pause to consider these verses in light of what we’ve already read and discussed. When we are centered in Christ, focused on His wisdom, and allow that wisdom to penetrate deep into our core, we have no fear and can move forward with boldness, knowing He will guard our paths, grant us common sense, while protecting and shielding us from the sins of others and our own sinful nature. There’s no need for insecurity or indecision, for, when our hearts are committed to following God and our minds are filled with His truth, He will lead us along straight paths and will keep us from stumbling. 🙂

Let’s talk about this! What thoughts came to mind as you read today’s chapter and/or Delia’s devotion? Consider your life, your day. Do you feel as if your steps are unhampered? If not, what’s slowing you down, and what promises/truths might help you move forward with courage and peace?

You can join the conversation by leaving comments below or by joining our Yahoo study group.


Click to join ProverbsStudy

And if you have a few moments, I encourage you to prayerfully listen to the following song, making the words your plea.

Win a copy of Jewels for the Kingdom

I’m excited to announce, Delia Latham, my guest yesterday and author of nine wonderful books, is giving away a copy of her latest release, Jewels Delia3 - webfor the Kingdom. To be entered in the drawing, simply leave a comment on yesterday or today’s post.

Jewels for the Kingdomis the first of four separately authored Heart’s Haven e-Books:

Pia Peretti’s past could destroy her future. Thanks to her pre-Christian lifestyle, she can’t marry a believer, and she won’t marry a non-believer. Minister David Myers wants to help Pia release perf5.500x8.500.inddher guilt and trust that God has forgiven her…but the young minister is working through his own trial of faith.

After a failed counseling session with a wounded soul, David’s confidence is shaken. He accepts a new pastorate, and moves to Angel Falls to find a haven for his wounded heart.

Is it possible these two hurting hearts are meant to mend each other’s brokenness with some divine intervention?

This novel may be downloaded directly to your reading device through White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Book Group, or through AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Christian Book Distributors. Find information on all four Heart’s Haven novellas atwww.delialatham.net.

Get to know Delia Latham: 

Born and raised in Weedpatch, California, Delia Latham moved to Oklahoma in ’08, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings. She loves Dr. Pepper and hearing from her readers. Contact her through her website (www.delialatham.net), blog, or Facebook author page.

 

Beyond the Familiar

Delia3 - webToday my sweet friend, Delia Latham, author of nine books, including the acclaimed Solomon’s Gate series, encourages us to look, with faith-filled eyes, past what we see, beyond the familiar to the angelic.

Beyond the Familiar by Delia Latham

Psalm 91:11 – For he shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

 

My guess is that not one reader will find this verse of scripture unfamiliar. It’s often quoted in sermons, used as memory verse material, and is a favorite to print on plaques and other decorative items. While not everyone will be able to say where the verse is located, most folks will know it’s from the Bible, and can pretty much quote it word for word.

That’s good. Or is it?

An old saying suggests that with familiarity comes contempt…or disregard. For example, consider the items hanging on your walls, or the scenery outside your home. Chances are, they’re so much a part of your life that they’ve become invisible. If asked to do so, you could describe them right down to the last detail. But when you walk through the rooms in your house, how often do you actually see the items you’ve so carefully collected and gathered around you? Someone recently asked me if I still owned a certain picture that has hung in my home for years. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s hanging in my—” At this point, I stopped, because I couldn’t remember. I hadn’t noticed it in a long time.

I closed my eyes, deliberately envisioned my home, room to room and wall to wall, and finally located that framed print. In my living room, where I see it every day. Or rather, where I don’t see it every day.

Unfortunately, I fear that’s what happens to us in regard to God’s Word, as well. Take that verse of scripture from Psalms…

Angels keep showing up in my novels. This is not a direction I ever planned to take with my writing, but it seems God had other ideas. My latest novella, Jewels for the Kingdom, is based around a cottage-rental complex in a fictional Texas town. Heart’s Haven is rumored to be a favorite hangout for a number of God’s special messengers, and the old guy who owns the place is suspected of having conversations with them on a regular basis.

A lot of people would have a problem with that idea. But why is it so unbelievable? The Holy Bible clearly states that God places His emissaries around us. If we truly, without a doubt, unequivocally believe God’s Word means exactly what it says…why is the idea of angels actually appearing to and speaking with human beings so hard to swallow?

Once I stopped tussling with God about inserting angels into my books, I found myself learning to look beyond the familiar to the fullness of the very personal promise in Psalm 91:11. God has given His angels charge over me (and you), to keep me (and you) in ALL my (our) ways.

The word “all” covers a tremendous amount of territory. Job. Family. Friends. Home. Bills. Hobbies. Relationships. The little things and the big things, the important ones and the trivial.

Now look beyond the word “all” to WHO is keeping us in all your ways. Angels.

They’re out there. God’s Word isn’t a fairy tale. Every word is a fact, including the word “angels,” and the promise that they are with us.

Sometimes they’re not visible to our human vision. Sometimes, I believe they are, but our pitiful human minds refuse to connect the dots. Consider Hebrews 13:2, with its unapologetic directive: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Who’s to say the homeless man on the corner, the one who gives you a gap-toothed smile each day as you pass by, is not one of your angels? And what about the quiet woman who always seems to be at the next table in your favorite local café? Remember the stranger who chased you down with your purse when you left it behind…in a busy mall…during the Christmas season?

Is it possible? Yes. It is.

God’s special messengers, His angels, have charge over you. They’re with you every step you take, every decision you make. When you think you’re alone…you’re not. The things you fear, you shouldn’t, because angels have your back. Even when we don’t feel them, when we don’t see them, when we forget their existence…they are there. Guarding, protecting, guiding and teaching.

Keeping. Keeping us in all our ways.

Isn’t that just like God? Using the hosts of Heaven to take care of us, His earthly children.

That’s a promise to cherish. All of it. Every word.

Precious Father, I thank You for being so concerned with my well-being that You would  assign your holy angels to light my path and guide my steps, to keep me in every way. Help me to look beyond the familiar, to the fullness of all that You’ve promised me. Open my eyes to see the possibilities in every person that I come in contact with. Above all, create in me a clean heart and a right spirit, so when someone looks at me, they see a reflection of You. I ask these things in Your precious, holy name. Amen.

####

perf5.500x8.500.inddJewels for the Kingdom is the first of four separately authored Heart’s Haven e-Books:

Pia Peretti’s past could destroy her future. Thanks to her pre-Christian lifestyle, she can’t marry a believer, and she won’t marry a non-believer. Minister David Myers wants to help Pia release her guilt and trust that God has forgiven her…but the young minister is working through his own trial of faith.

After a failed counseling session with a wounded soul, David’s confidence is shaken. He accepts a new pastorate, and moves to Angel Falls to find a haven for his wounded heart.

Is it possible these two hurting hearts are meant to mend each other’s brokenness with some divine intervention?

This novel may be downloaded directly to your reading device through White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Book Group, or through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Christian Book Distributors. Find information on all four Heart’s Haven novellas at www.delialatham.net.

Get to know Delia Latham: 

Born and raised in Weedpatch, California, Delia Latham moved to Oklahoma in ’08, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings. She loves Dr. Pepper and hearing from her readers. Contact her through her website (www.delialatham.net), blog, or Facebook author page.

Let’s talk about this. When you think of angels, what images come to mind? What Bible stories? How do you feel knowing God is watching over you, right now?

Join me at Living by Grace as we talk about God’s messengers, angels.