Category Archives: Encouragement

“Follow Your Heart” is Bad Advice

I have been doing my study/meditation this week in the book of Judges.  This morning, I was nearing the end when I get to the story of Micah, the Levites, the Danites, and then a different Levite and the Benjaminites.  As I read, I found myself going from bewildered to disgusted to angry.  What’s wrong with these people!?  I was praying about this text and seeking God’s purpose in giving these accounts.  I am not blind to the fact that there are places that say, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever they wanted,” (Judges 17:6, HCSB [and elsewhere]), but it never hit me until I just sat and thought over these accounts how much those words (everyone did whatever they wanted) accounted for the evil that occurred.

If you haven’t read Judges 17-21 before, or it has been a while, here’s a recap.  It starts in the middle of Micah’s story.  His mom apparently has lost a lot of money and cursed whoever stole it.  Turns out it was Micah who fessed up, and his mom then blessed him, consecrating to the LORD the silver by making and idol!  Micah sets up an entire shrine and hires his own son to be a priest, but later finds and hires a Levite instead.

People from the tribe of Dan are wanting some land so they’re going to scout out some places to siege, and find a peaceful community of Sidonians.  They had come into contact with Micah’s Levite and so when they came back to take the land from the Sidonians with their army, they stole Micah’s gods and convinced the Levite to join their tribe.  When Micah pursued them, I found a comical exchange between the two parties.  Dan asked “What’s the matter with you?”  Micah responded, “You took the gods I had made and the priest, and went away.  What do I have left?  How can you say to me, ‘What’s the matter with you,” (Judges 19:24, HCSB)?  Dan threatens to kill Micah and his family if he doesn’t leave.  So he leaves.  Dan proceeds to slaughter the peaceful town because they wanted more land.  Then they set up their gods and worshipped them.

That’s where the other Levite comes in.  He had a concubine, and four months after she left him, he went to get her.  They were heading back home when they stopped for the night in Gibeah (of Benjamin).  The men wanted to “know” him (in the biblical sense of course), but instead he gave them his concubine, and they gang-raped her all night long.  When he left in the morning, she was dead.  He cut her up into twelve pieces and spread her body, a piece in every Israelite tribe.  The people came together, warred against Benjamin since they would not hand over Gibeah, and Benjamin nearly became extinct.

In these few chapters, you pretty much have everyone “following their hearts.”  Without thinking the mother cursed, but when it was her son, she blessed.  She consecrated the silver to God by making an idol.  Micah hires his son, then a Levite.  Dan wants land and slaughters a peaceful people.  They steal Micah’s gods and priest, and threaten the lives of Micah and his family.  The Levite takes a concubine (not a wife).  The men want sex with him, but instead rape a woman.  The Levite gave her to them to do this!  Rather than burying her and mourning, he cut her up and sent her to the tribes.  What is wrong with these people!?  They’re following their hearts, their passions, their desires.

They have been given the law of God.  The author of Judges wrote that these things happened while Phinehas, Eleazar’s son,  was the high priest (20:28).  That’s Aaron’s grandson!  These things happened within just a few years of entering into the promised land.  But when you follow your heart, it will quickly lead to abominable places.  Things escalate quickly.  This is why Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it,” (17:9, HCSB).  This is why the psalmist wrote, “I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You,” (119.11, HCSB).  The heart leads us astray without God’s Word being treasured and hidden.

The problem that we have is one of treasure.  We treasure the heart, not the Word.  We treasure the passions, not the Scriptures.  The Scripture is there, “inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete equipped for every good work,” (2 Tim 3:16-17, HCSB).  God gave it to us to curb our natural inclinations away from sin and to good works.

Following the heart is nothing new.  You’d think that after millenia of mess ups and failures and pains that we’d learn that the heart cannot be trusted, and yet we keep telling our children and friends, “follow your heart; pursue your dreams; do what makes you happy; you can be whatever you want to be.”  That’s a set up for failure, sin, and heartache that doesn’t simply affect the person following the heart/passion, but as we saw with the book of Judges (or David, Bathsheba, and Uriah, Cain and Abel, Judas, Simon Magus, etc), people who are around him/her will be broken as well.  Instead, let’s call people to follow God’s Word, treasuring it in their heart more than their passions/dreams.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things,” (Phil 4:8, HCSB).

When we fail at “Quiet Time” 

Ever struggle with quiet time and need some encouragement?  I am no Barnabas, but I will give it a shot.

First, we all have those seasons in life.

Second, our failures tend to make us feel guilty which leads to more failures because we are too ashamed/guilty to go before our Father, confess it, repent, and get back on the wagon.

Third, this is a tool of the devil. Devil means deceiver and he loves to deceive us into unnecessary guilt to keep us down. He is Satan, the accuser. He has no standing in heaven to accuse us to the Father so he will accuse us to others or accuse us to ourselves. “Such a pathetic loser; are you even saved; do you think God could love a failure like you?” Those kinds of things. 

Fourth, Jesus loves us all more than we can love him. He said he would never leave us nor forsake us, not the other way around. We leave and forsake regularly. (Not that it is a good thing, but it is true).

Fifth, there is healing in confession. Confess your sins one to another, and ask, plead if necessary, for them to pray for you, and healing (spiritual healing counts) will come.

Sixth, make a plan. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Do you need daily accountability for a while? Get someone who can do that. Do you need a suggestion on what to study? Ask your pastor; I’m sure he will have lots. Plan it out. What time are you going to set aside as “unto the Lord”? Consider it a meeting with the Boss that you can’t double book. Or a more Christian way of saying it, consider it sacred time that you don’t want to miss.

Seventh, sometimes (many times?) it may not be as good as you’d like it. That’s ok. Not every conversation with the wife is as exciting as Avengers, but that’s ok. Don’t let a few, “I’m not getting anything out of this” days keep you from persevering. The question is, do you want it bad enough? God may be testing you to see if you do.

Eighth, journal, blog, write a note when something does strike you. When there are those “ah ha” moments stop and ponder, meditate, and write out your thoughts. It’s easy to pass by those moments and then at the end think you got nothing out of it. Write them down to remind yourself that you did get something out of it. Then keep that with you and skim it/meditate on it for the rest of the day.

Just some thoughts.  Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things, (Phil 4:8, HCSB)