Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reforming a heart that values control

This past Sunday, a Pastor at our church gave an excellent sermon on an excerpt of Mark, Chapter 11.  The excerpt was verses 12-26, when Jesus curses a fig tree and clears the temple courts.  For this post, I am going to focus on the section about Jesus clearing the temples (Mark 11:-15-18).  It really spoke to my heart and I want to share.

Jesus Clears the Temple Courts

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,  and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.  And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

The time was passover, when thousands of folks from all around the world traveled to Jerusalem.  Part of passover involved offering a sacrifice.  Since many of the poor folks couldn't afford a cow, lamb etc, to sacrifice, they could sacrifice doves or pigeons.  But, the money changers that were there were charging exorbitant fees for changing currency.  Also, the doves were being sold for far more than market value.  So, the poor folks were being "robbed" when they only desired to participate in passover.  The temple was intended to be a house of prayer, but the court of the Gentiles had been turned into a merchandising mart.   

Jesus was clearly angry, when he saw this.  Jesus' anger points to some of the values of His heart--a sacred heart that values holiness, justice and fairness.  The poor were being treated unfairly and the house of prayer and worship had become desecrated.  I am sure it was so loud in the temple as well, that it would be extremely difficult for anyone to pray inside.  The temple had even become part of a shortcut route through town.  This was all very frustrating to Jesus.

The chief priests, on the other hand, were upset at Jesus for overturning the tables and driving out those who were buying and selling there.  They were also fearful--they feared Jesus and His popularity.  You see, they were looked upon as being almost god-like.  They were the elite.  They wanted to be noticed, so they would wear their fancy robes and such around town for all to see.  They allowed the sacrileges practices inside the temple to occur and even profited from them.  The Chief Priests' anger points to their heart--hearts of pride.

On Sunday, our church's West campus pastor, Matt Blackwell, asked the question, "Whose heart do we fall after--the chief priests or the true priest?"  In order to answer the question, it is important to examine what angers you.  The pastor challenged us to think about the times that we get angry.  For practical purposes, "angers" is defined as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.  He gave some excellent examples, the latter to which I completely related.  His first example involved traffic. The pastor said that he gets so angry when someone squeezes their car into the small gap between his car and another car.  That anger comes from a prideful heart that needs to feel respected.

The second example was the one to which I completely related.   Pastor Matt said, "I used to think I was a pretty good person until about 8 years ago...we had a kid."  He said that before kids, he was holy, kind, gracious, didn't get upset. He went on to say, "All of a sudden this little person (now 3 little people) have their own little sin natures and their sin nature and my sin nature don't seem to mesh when we are trying to get ready for school and there are shoes that are not on."  He says, “we are going to be late” and they don't seem to care.   He continues, "I can't force them to have the same values as I do."  This anger or frustration comes from a heart that likes to be in control.  This is often my heart.  

I don't think anyone would consider me an angry person.  But, at times, my boiling point can be pretty low.  I, like Pastor Matt, felt like I was a pretty good person until the "terrible 2's" came along--and they came along shortly after I gave birth to our second child.  Don't get me wrong--our kids are awesome.  But, there are times when what I want to do and what my now 3 year old wants to do are not the same.  Out of everything that frustrates me, I find situations where I have no control to be the most annoying.  So, when Luke decides not to do what I ask him to do, even though I have attempted to "motivate" him in every way that usually works, the boiling begins.  Then, when I attempt to punish him for not obeying using our first go-to method we have decided to use as parents (timeout after a heart-to-heart discussion), and he decides he doesn't want to go to timeout, boiling continues.  Lately, I have been going to God in prayer right in the middle of these situations.  And I even let Luke see me (and even hear me) pray during these times.  This makes a HUGE difference in the outcome.  Because, if I don't do this, the boiling continues until I become extremely frustrated (and Luke can see my frustration--which I always regret).   This all comes from my heart issue of control. 

My sweet three-year old, who sometimes "tests" my heart in matters of control.  I love him dearly! 
We have to be extremely careful, because sometimes these heart issues actually become "idols."  Tim Keller, author of , Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters, said the following:

One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end! There’s no hope!’
When there is nothing else I can do to help or resolve the situation, the only place to go is to God.  God continues to teach me and mold me through these situations that He allows.  He is molding me through my children.  He is molding me through my cancer (which is also completely out of my control).  Honestly, I have had to let go of control of more in the past 7 months than I have ever had my entire life.  Actually, I let go of the cancer thing at the very beginning of my journey, and I feel so much peace with the situation.  God constantly reminds me of other silly areas that I am trying to control where I need to "give to Him" to control.  He reminds me of this in specific circumstances throughout the day, in His Word, and messages spoken by our church pastors and in prayer.  He reminds me to "not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)  I am telling you from experience--this really works when practiced!  It provides to me nearly instant peace.  I am thankful that our Sovereign God continues to show me that HE is in control and I am not. 

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