Guarding The Castle
It really is an amazing thing to watch grown men on vacation working like they weren’t. I’ve watched several dads setting up and draggin’ all the necessary beach paraphernalia for the family, but also pulling out a full-sized, Home Depot fresh shovel for themselves. Apparently these are working vacations I’m seeing unfold. Work is exactly what these dads did in building impressively detailed sand castles. It was like the beach was dotted with competitive fathers doing their kids science projects, and each were made of sand.
Once a castle (or shark, snowman or mermaid carving) is completed, proud fathers retreat to their folding chairs to watch all those tourists covered in oil snap digital photos of these monuments of glory. From a distance, each dad watches other people admire their work. Is there really anything like a vacation to take you away from the stresses of… uh, work?
On an evening stroll, we saw a young mom and her boisterous son explore one of these labor intensive sand castles with their feet. They climbed on top, and the construction fell apart. From a secure distance I heard, “Hey, get off that! That is just not right. JERK!” Apparently the creator was still guarding the castle, but the proximity was to aloof for any kind of real damage control. We Scotts were literally caught in the middle of this enlightening exchange. The mother and son saluted and quickly walked away. The castle’s creator seemed to be gathering quick public opinion and forming a very weak counter attack of additionally anemic curse words. My kids were wide-eyed and hoping this would become an even greater sermon illustration, but the whole thing just fizzled and washed away in the high tide.
Unmistakably, God was whispering to me this morning to guard my heart, for it is my castle — the wellspring of life. A teacher, I was reminded through the book of James, will be held accountable to higher standards. At the center of those holy standards are words, language, and speech. Some pastors lull people to sleep with apathetic words. Other leaders rob churches of hearing God’s Word because they use stolen, plagiarized words. Teachers can be enemies of grace with legalistic words, and leadership explodes when God gives pastors visionary words.
What will come out of my mouth is a direct overflow from my heart. And by nature of what I do, there are a lot of words that come flying out of my mouth one way or the other. The Bible says when words are many, sin is not a absent. Yikes, I’d better guard my castle.
I need to guard my heart. Back in early May I took in a one-day conference. The underlying theme of the day was “guard your heart.” Michael Hyatt promptly reminded leaders: 1) Your heart is your authentic self; 2) Your heart is the most valuable leadership tool you have; 3) Your heart directly impacts your influence; 4) Your heart is either healthy or unhealthy; 5) Your heart is under constant attack.
My early morning walk with Lucy was good for my heart. Our conversation got so cranked up, we walked past her condo and had to cycle back. My ipod worship time enlarged my heart. “Revolution Song” is even more powerful when cranked to “11” and oceanside. My study of James was personal and took me to several other passages throughout the Bible. Like David Platt’s “Secret Church”, I began thinking about a six-hour crash course through James called “Hungry.” Would anyone come?
After breakfast I set up for a day of reading Timothy Keller’s “The Reason For God.” I picked this book as a personal soul builder tool. I was anxious to see how this would help me guard my heart. I just about closed up shop on Keller within the first 10 pages. This is a theology book. THEEEEOLOGY ya’ll. I was hoping for something a little more warm and fuzzy along the lines of a Chris Tomlin ipod serenade. Nope. This was straight up apologetics and theology. This was turning into more of a working vacation than I intended. I began digging with my shovel, and quickly looked to the last page of Keller’s supposed New York Times Bestseller. 310 was the glaring number stamped on the last page. It’s never a good sign when you count the pages before you start. I counted again once I was 10 pages in. If I subtracted the index and end notes, I was down to 254. However, the introduction I tediously read was 16 pages long, and weren’t counted as actual pages. Ugh.
I like to read one book every two days on study break. That’s a good pace for my processing. “The Reason For God” will take me three days even without the index and end notes. It’s a slower, more methodical read. It’s theology, ya’ll.
It is a very good book. There are some great points of theology and extremely practical apologetics that Keller makes relevant to our culture. As I was underlining and marking, I was reminded how theology is an attempt at understanding God. That’s good for my heart. Studying gives me credentials as a pastor and workman of God. That’s a really good heart thing. Renewal and freshness of my thinking keeps my heart transformed and protected from some ugly patterns of the world (did you hear the one about a political Weiner?).
I reluctantly put down Keller, and went for a walk. God had spoken, and there was some guarding of my castle going on. I was processing one true religion, a good God allowing suffering, Christianity as a straitjacket, the church being responsible for injustice, and a loving God attached to hell. My heart and not just my head was full. It was a Spirit AND truth thing in the way true worship is supposed to unfold. In the end… I HAD guarded my heart by challenging my head with theology. Theology has a way of guarding and enriching our hearts from a very close proximity. Absolute truth practically applied is a great guardian of the heart. The lack thereof allows for castles to be overthrown with only an unheard curse word to respond.