Playing Off-Fence While Guarding Your Heart
My father was neither a farmer, nor a rancher, but that did not stop my parents from moving out to the country when I was 16. Within a year we had a small-scale cattle operation underway regardless of the fact we knew very little about raising cows. Evidently, there is more to it than just having them delivered to a field where we expected they would graze happily ever after.
The learning curve was harsh. I have many entertaining stories about escapes, chases, and amateur herding, but the point I am trying to make is that we learned very quickly the importance of reinforced fences, electricity, and knowing how to spot vulnerabilities on the perimeter. And most important, we learned this was not a one-time chore, but an ongoing process of regular maintenance.
The split-rail fence makes for a scenic pastoral experience, but those rails regularly find their way out of the post holes after a storm or just by natural decay. Sometimes the cows even have enough brains to maneuver their heads between the rails and knock them loose. (This is when we learned the value of electrifying the fence!) And the posts are not immune to any of these threats either. When a post gets weak, it’s only a matter of time before an entire section of fence is going to come down. That is not a pleasant situation to wake up to after a thunderstorm rolled through the night before and now the cows are missing!
As I’ve told these stories over the decades, it recently occurred to me that my father’s small-time cattle operation serves as a good model for how Christians need to maintain their spiritual investment in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 CSB)
With the same intensity and purpose that my parents put into walking the fence line looking for weaknesses and potential hazards, as believers, we should be examining our hearts regularly for the same.
Any time we allow a root of bitterness because of offense, a couple of our rails have fallen out. When we react poorly to that relationship that triggers our frustrations, our fence posts are starting to weaken. Any ‘secret sins’ we allow to linger are rotting the wood of both rail and post. And then when that storm of life rushes in out of nowhere, our weakened fence is no match for the forces of this world and our enclosure is breached. Our love, joy, peace, and patience has escaped from our heart because we did not maintain (guard) it properly.
The vigilance and intentionality that my folks use in monitoring their cattle fences is a beautiful model for how Christians should go about maintaining the condition of our hearts. When we feel that sting of offense, we need to recognize it and bend down and put those rails back in the post holes (forgive). When we react in sinful ways to relationship triggers, we need to own it and replace that weakened post with a new one (humility). When our struggles with the flesh are overwhelming, we must seek accountability and repentance and root out the rotten areas of our lives just like replacing decaying pieces of a wooded fence. And now when the storms of life come, we can withstand them because we have been maintaining our fence (hearts) along the way. Now in the face of life’s great trials, we will experience what it is to have supernatural love, joy, peace, patience, and all the divine spiritual fruits found in Galatians chapter 5.
Take that walk around the perimeter of your heart today. Look for the fallen rails. Identify the vulnerable posts. Do some maintenance. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you the strength to make the necessary repairs. Even if you are in the midst of a storm, the miraculous power of God is not limited from entering into your situation. Guard your heart with intentionality and on a regular basis. Just like I learned as a teenager out on the ranch, do the work. You’ll be glad you did…and bonus, so will the Father.
My Strength and Defense
By Emma Danzey, crosswalk.com
Surely God Is My Salvation
It is great to be reminded that we have salvation through Jesus. In Isaiah 12, the promised Messiah, Jesus, had not yet come to earth. However, the people of God believed Him at His Word. The Lord used many prophets to speak truth into hard situations and to share about the coming Savior. Isaiah was one of these prophets. In Isaiah 12, Isaiah writes a song of praise after Isaiah 11 just shares about the coming Messiah. The Israelites were well aware that they were sinful and rebellious people. This start to Isaiah 12:2 “Surely” is a confidence that the promised Messiah would be coming and their faith in the Lord who had a redemption plan to cover their sins once and for all.
I Will Trust and Not Be Afraid
The Israelites were a fearful people. Many of them wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt in the difficulty of escape, many of them did not trust in God and took matters into their own hands, and many of them lived out of fear and not faith in the Lord. In this time, Isaiah is reminding the people of their anchor in the Lord. Isaiah encourages us still today to place our trust in the Lord because He is our Peace, and we do not have to be afraid when we are resting in Him.
Our momentary trials and hardships might be extremely painful and difficult, but we can get through knowing that the Lord is with us and we have eternal security in Heaven because of Jesus. We can each declare this in our own lives today, “I will trust and not be afraid.”
The LORD, the LORD Himself Is My Strength and My Defense
When LORD is mentioned in all caps, it is referring to the proper name of God, YHWH. We as believers agree with Isaiah’s statement that God, our God Himself, is our strength and our defense. He helps us to move forward but also protects us from the attacks of the enemy. He is the perfect sacrifice from eternal separation from the Lord. When we undergo spiritual attacks from the enemy, His Spirit within us strengthens and empowers us to stand firm not in our own strength but in leaning on God’s.
In what ways do you need to be reminded that God is your strength and your defense? He is fighting for you, and He is guarding You. I love how we know that it is the Lord who holds the victory, and we are His beloved children. Even when the war seems to tarry, our Savior reminds us of His everlasting presence and His power in the midst of the battle. We can have eternal mindsets with the help of His Spirit.
He Has Become My Salvation
More valuable than a temporary victory is the fact that when we place our faith in Jesus, He has become our salvation. This is eternal security. This is forever hope and confidence of life with Him in heaven. I love how Isaiah begins and ends this verse with this truth. He is reminding us twice that our story, our lives, begin and end with God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Human Suffering – Streams in the Desert – September 8
- 20228 Sep
“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1).
This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.
And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature. The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience. The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.
My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings — wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain.
If Joseph had not been Egypt’s prisoner, he had never been Egypt’s governor. The iron chain about his feet ushered in the golden chain about his neck.