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Feb 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 17, 2012 – Deuteronomy 8

A Spiritual Mentor would encourage a heart examination

You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8 (2)

INTRO: Deuteronomy was Moses’ final gift to Israel

In it, he summarizes their forty years in the desert and all that God revealed to them
– chapter 8 answers the question, “Why were we in desert so long?”
– in his answer, Moses repeats several important words, using them strategically

  • Remember – begins and ends this message – it’s the central theme of the chapter
    – in 2, it’s “the journey” they were to remember
    – in v. 18, it is “Yahweh your God” whom they were to remember
    • not merely recall, but constantly be conscious of the LORD
    • remembering the spiritual journey leads to remembering the LORD
  • Know (occurs 6 times) – they received an education in the wilderness
  • Forget – “Don’t” (11), why they would (14), consequences of (19)
  • Heart – there are four concerns in the chapter regarding their hearts
    – let’s take a close look at these
  1. v. 2, To find out what was in their hearts
    – if from within they were willing to say yes to God, or if they were saying no
    – their unwillingness made their journey unnecessarily difficult
  2. v. 5, What needs to be in their hearts
    – a right understanding of God and what he does — that he treats them like a father
    • dad’s don’t plan everything that happens to their children
    • but they teach their children how to respond and help them
  3. v. 14, The heart will forget God
    – especially in prosperity
    • we assume the opposite–for example, “If I were a rich man”
    • but the rich man in Jesus’ parable was too busy with his wealth to have time for God (Lk. 12:16-21)
  4. v. 17, The heart can be deceived by its own delusions

Why are we here in Deuteronomy today?

I asked you to submit questions you might ask a spiritual mentor if you had one
– here is one of the responses I received and, again, we’re going to eavesdrop

Mentor: What shall we discuss this week?
Disciple: I’ve been wrestling with a frustration for awhile. It’s beginning to feel like I am really connecting with God as I silently seek him and wait for him, and also when I sit in silent prayer with others. But as soon as I’m on the road headed for work, it’s like I forget God or I forget how to reach him or rest in his presence.
Mentor: Okay, let me guess. What you want is Mary’s total devotion to Jesus with Martha’s schedule. Mary was the quiet one who sat at Jesus’ feet soaking in every word. Martha was the busy one who was distracted from Jesus because she was so worried and bothered about all the things she was doing for him.
Disciple: Yes, that’s it exactly. Only none of the stuff I do during the day relates directly to Jesus.
Mentor: Well, to him it does.
Disciple: How can I keep that focus? How can I carry the peace I enjoy in his presence into my workplace?
Mentor: Let’s talk about that.
Disciple: Alright. But I have another question that relates to the same concern. How can I maintain a strong connection with God when stressed-out, or when something goes wrong, or something bad happens, or during hardship?
Mentor: These are good questions, and I believe they get to the heart of our spiritual journey. I’m sorry to say, there isn’t any course we can take to learn this instantly. It takes a lifetime. Furthermore, our total lives’ experience is the classroom where God teaches us each new lesson as we are ready to learn it.

We’re done eavesdropping – you should be able to see the problem
– Deuteronomy 8 provides a piece of the puzzle

Here’s our theme:

A spiritual mentor would encourage us to look into our hearts

The passage is clear, God wants us to look with him at what’s in our hearts
– it’s like looking at x-rays with your cardiologist
– you will find this happens frequently in silent prayer
• a thought or feeling comes up and won’t go away
• so we sit with it, and as we do, we discover something about ourselves
○ “to know what was in your heart,” Moses said, was a purpose of their journey

There are three things I want to say about looking into your heart with God:

  1. Ask God for his help – he wants to help us with everything
    I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their Go, for they will return to Me with their whole heart (Jer. 24:7)
  2. Let the Spirit take you there – don’t be afraid
    – accept whatever he wants to show you
    • the good, the bad; the healthy, the broken; what works, what isn’t working
    – don’t condemn or shame yourself – despair takes us further down
    • present whatever comes up to God
    • connect it with the name of Jesus so he can bring redemption to it
  3. Cultivate your heart
    Break up your fallow ground,
    And do not sow among thorns
    (Jer. 4:3)
    – our hearts need to be weeded and watered
    – if we don’t cultivate our hearts, who will?

We can discipline ourselves to become aware of our reactions

Everything that happens brings something out of us, revealing what is in our hearts
– eventually we’ll not only see where it is wrong, but where it starts to go wrong
– ask, “What am I missing? What am I not seeing?”
Fr. Romuald, “Pay attention to what you’re doing every moment, because the divine could break in at any moment. God truly does not care at what point he enters or what you’re doing at the time”
– of course “every moment” may be too big a place to begin
• so do one thing every day fully present
• practice gets us somewhere, even when we don’t feel it
○ if you don’t use a muscle, you lose it

We do not have to draw God into our environment, circumstances, or activities
– he’s already present

“Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD,
And not a God far off?
Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the LORD.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD
(Jer. 23:23)

– if we know how God is using everything, we can look for him in everything

We can use triggers to remind ourselves to observe our hearts

In Deuteronomy 6:6, God told Israel, “These words . . . shall be on your heart”
– then he explains how
• they were to “teach” them to their children and “talk” about them when sitting, walking, lying down, and rising
• tie a string around your finger, he tells them, carve them in door jam and on your gates

Other triggers include:

  • Any surprise – anything unexpected or sudden
  • Any encounter with nature – even if it’s finding a spider in the house
    – two of the important theological words that are used to describe Jesus:
    • Incarnation – God working through the natural world
    • Emmanuel – “God is with us”
  • Crisis, stress, worry
    – anything can become a conduit of God’s grace, even pain
    • it isn’t a mistake, it’s an invitation to experience brokenness
    • an opening where God’s life can enter
    – we can remind ourselves, “Everything is a gift” (Ro. 8:28, “God causes..”)

We can sensitize our hearts

  • Through scripture
  • Observe our environment differently, looking for other than meets the eye–the transcendent, mystery
    – we’ll begin to notice the sacredness of the ordinary
  • Recollection – that is, drawing all our attention back to God
    – when come home from market, ask, “Was I there?”
    • “Did I see anything or anyone through God’s eyes?”

CONC: This is way too much to remember – but there’s a short-cut we can take

Make a habit of entering prayer with two slow, deep breaths
– once we condition ourselves to do this when entering God’s presence, it becomes an effective way of returning instantly to his peace
• but we have to do this frequently for it to become ingrained

The result of bringing our attention back to God’s immediate presence in there here and now,
is that we will fiind a connection with Him that is substantial and not superficial

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