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

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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.


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

A Body of Jewels by Edwina Cowgill

This is Edwina’s second devo to make it to my top 20 of 2010. You all loved her first one, and I am certain you will be equally refreshed by today’s. She has a lovely way with words and a tender heart for God.

Edwina’s devo reminds us where our true value and beauty lie. We are valuable because God says we are. He formed us in love, and continues to form us every day. If you are in Christ–if you have confessed your sins and turned from them, believing Jesus is God’s sinless Son who died and rose from the dead–for you, and have committed yourself to following Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life–then you are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.

I’ve heard it said, the closer you grow to Christ, the more you realize your need for Him. This is certainly true in my life. I know rationally that I have grown and changed in positive ways, but my sin is ever before me. Not a day goes by that I don’t do something, think something, say something, that sends me running to my Savior asking for forgiveness. Yet even then, there is a deep peace and comfort knowing He loves me deeply and has washed me clean. That is the profound mystery of the gospel–in Christ, a sinner such as me has been made clean, righteous, fit to stand before a holy God. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what Jesus Christ did for me. And because of the blood that was shed for me, when God the Father looks at me, He sees Christ. Thank you, Lord Jesus, and happy birthday!

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“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46 NIV)

Some time ago, I dreamt about a chest, similar to a pirate’s chest, which was sitting on a table.  The chest was stunning, made of rich mahogany wood and the hinges were shining, pure gold.  Upon opening the chest, I discovered jewels of every kind and color imaginable.  Deep red rubies, sky-blue aquamarines, sparkling diamonds, purple amethysts.  Multi-colored opals, tigers’ eyes, onyx.  Citrines, garnets, pearls and emeralds.  There were rings, necklaces, brooches, earrings, bracelets and loose gems.  The chest was so full that when I opened it, the jewels spilled out, cascading onto the table.  Rays of sunlight splashed onto the jewels, making their colors even richer and sending fragments of rainbow hues over the table. 

I believe this is how God looks at us – as a vessel, a chest, if you will – full of jewels.  He looks at our heart and sees a sparkling blood-red ruby.  Other than the diamond, the ruby is the hardest gem known to man.  Natural rubies have imperfections in them, just like our hearts do.  But when God looks at our heart, He doesn’t see the hardness or imperfections.  He sees the strength of the heart, the power of the beat, both of which come from Him.  He pours His love for us into our ruby hearts. 

God looks at our lungs and because He breathes His life into us, he sees sparkling diamonds that are clear and pure.  When diamonds are moved in the light, they become “alive” as the clarity – the clearness – refracts into multi-facets.  As we breathe and move in Him who is alive within us, our lives should be clear and transparent so others can see Jesus in us. 

When our Father looks into our eyes, He sees jewels of different colors – golden amber, brilliant aquamarine, emerald green, deep dark onyx.  If the eyes are truly the window to our souls, as some say, just imagine the beauty God sees as He looks at our souls through our eyes.

When God looks at you, He sees who He created you to be – not the person you see when you look into the mirror.  He doesn’t see the flaws you see – He sees your ruby heart of gentleness and kindness.  He doesn’t see the lackluster of your diamond lungs – He sees you sharing Him when you gave that homeless man money for a meal.  He doesn’t see the weaknesses in your soul – He sees His strength working in and through you.  He doesn’t remember that sin you confessed because He cast it into the depths of the sea, never to be remembered again.

God sees each of us as a jewel – we are jewels in His eyes.  And He considers us to be the Pearl of Great Price.(see Matt. 13:45-46 KJV)  God gave away His most precious possession, His Son, to purchase us – the Pearls of Great Price. He has placed a high price on you and on me because we are so valuable to Him.  Pearls shine with a luster and glow and our lives, even our countenance shines because of Who lives within us.

So when our Abba Father looks at us, He sees beauty, value and worth. He sees rubies, diamonds, emeralds and onyx.  He sees jewels and the Pearls of Great Price.   Because that is who we are to Him.

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Edwina has written numerous articles. Many have been published on various websites including the Houston Examiner and the Midsouth Diocese of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Her short story, “Katie’s Story: A Story of Redemption and Love” was published in 2009. A second short story, “The Front Porc” has just been published in Skinned Knees and Skate Keys. Edwina updates her blog three times a week.

She is a member of American Christian FictionWriters, Writers of Remarkable Design, and member of the Southside W.O.R.D. She is also a member of Christian Writers United, a writing group within her community.  Visit Monarch Ministries to find out more about Edwina and her heart for God and women.

To repeat my normal, too-oft repeated reminder, if you like this devotion fb share it, “like” it, tweet it or leave a comment. Come the end of the month, I’ll tally everything up and reveal our top three of 2010!