Guarding Your Heart: Do we suffocate it?

This is an open blog post to all that have loved and been hurt, to those that should guard your heart, to those that I have conversed with about guarding your heart: Author Tyler Kenney from Desiring God Ministries just posted a short blog entry called Guard Your Heart, Don’t Suffocate It.

“Guard your heart” is a good command. That’s because it’s biblical:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

In its context, this verse suggests that keeping—or guarding—your heart means to retain wise words and resist wicked desires. But I’m afraid some people—ahem, me, too often—use it to justify being cowardly or cold instead of loving others, because we think that “guard your heart” means “don’t get hurt.”

C. S. Lewis provides the necessary rebuke:

Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. (From The Four Loves, as found in The Inspirational Writings of C.S. Lewis, 278-279.)

This ministers to me, how about you?


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As I write this, I know that I have not posted here in a looong time!  Many things have been going on around The Holland House since mid August, Jake started school, SHSU classes began and the College Ministry is back in full swing, TRUTH on Tuesday’s…. and then a couple of hurricanes impacted our area.  The last one, Ike, came right up through my hometown and the coastal town that I have spent many years going to.  There has been much suffering going at many different levels for a large population.  Suffering is relative of course and depending on the circumstances we can all suffer and think that it is greater than what anyone else is going through.

The question that I have been pondering the last few weeks is why do we suffer, why is it allowed, does God allow suffering in our lives for a reason? I ran across an article about suffering with some very good things to remember as you are in the midst of it.

Five R’s to illustrate the macro purposes of God in our sufferings include:


Suffering is a call for us and others to turn from treasuring anything on earth above God.

Luke 13:4-5 – Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.


Suffering is a call to trust God not the life-sustaining props of the world.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 – For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.


Suffering is the discipline of our loving heavenly Father so that we come to share his holiness.

Hebrews 12:6, 10-11 – The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


Suffering is working for us a great reward in heaven that will make up for every loss here a thousand-fold.

2 Corinthians 4:17 – This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Matthew 5:11-12 – Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.


Suffering reminds us that God sent his Son into the world to suffer so that our suffering would not be God’s condemnation but his purification.

Philippians 3:10 – …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings.

Mark 10:45 – The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

So, as a wrap up, are we suffering as a call for us and others to turn from treasuring anything on earth above God? Are we suffering as a call to trust God and not the life-sustaining props of the world? Are we suffering as we allow the discipline of our loving heavenly Father so that we come to share his holiness? Are we suffering as He is working for us a great reward in heaven that will make up for every loss here a thousand-fold?  Are we suffering to be reminded that God sent his Son into the world to suffer so that our suffering would not be God’s condemnation but his purification?

Let me know how God has revealed Himself to you through suffering in your life!


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Do you believe that You are Watched Over?

As I write this, my heart is heavy for several people that I know are going through some seamlessly hopeless circumstances.  As I pray for these situations I am flooded with the memories of when I was “watched over” during several seamlessly hopeless times in my own life. Psalm 23 teaches us that God is always with us and watches over us through every detail of our lives:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD.

This is a very comforting passage as I read over it again and think of how much I learned, grew and also changed through those times in my life, I am very thankful!

I just ran across Aaron Shust’s new CD called Whispered and Shouted that has a song called “Watch Over Me”. Take the time to visit his sight and listen to this song, very moving and appropriate. Here are the lyrics and the song journal for “Watch Over Me”:


I was lonely
You came waltzing over to me
And Your eyes they saw right through me
And You heard each one of my cries for help
And You came to rescue me
I was broken
Every prayer that I had spoken
Reached Your ears and all my tears weren’t cried in vain
You carried all my pain
And put me back together again
You watch over me in the darkest valleys
You watch over me when the night seems long
You help me to see the way before me
You watch over me; You watch over me
Always faithful
To be leading, at this moment
Interceding for Your children
Though I’ve wandered astray from Your infinite ways
You’ve never left me alone -[to chorus]
Take this frozen heart; awaken me
Never once have You forsaken me
Even though I walk through this shadow of death
You will guide and defend me
You’ll guard and protect me
Even though I walk through this shadow of death
You will lead me home

song journal

I was wondering if the people of Israel felt butterflies of excitement in their stomachs when Moses said something to them like, “Pack your bags quickly, because after 430 years of slavery, I’m here to tell you that God has heard your prayers, and He’s giving us a land of our own. We’re leaving tonight!” God watched over His people as they journeyed through the desert to a place they couldn’t yet see. It’s easy to feel their pain as they hoped to be delivered from slavery in Egypt; while they searched their own hearts to discover if they really believed in this “God of their forefathers,” and whether or not He would truly deliver them. Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So, when your night seems long, when you walk through a dark valley in life, He will show the way before you. He will never leave you alone. He will watch over you. Believe that!

ALBUM: Whispered And Shouted

Are you able to view from a different perspective and know that you are being watched over?  Are you comforted that no matter what the circumstance you are going through that you will be guided through it?  Will you take the opportunity to learn, grow and even make changes in your life to give glory to God?  I pray that I continue to do that, I pray that you will too!



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Resetting My Norms

Mrs Holland and I have been tackling an issue over the last year and have made substantial progress.  The issue is an overarching one that can impact almost every area of our lives, money! To Mrs Holland’s credit, she picked up the book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and began to address one of the sub-issues of money, consumer debt, or, in a term we are more familiar with, credit card debt! I will not go into all of that here, because I wanted to touch on a topic that relates to this.  Resetting My Norms!

I am a regular blog reader and one in particular that is on my feed reader is Get Rich Slowly (click the link to find out what they are all about, many good tips on spending, saving investing and staying out of debt) and this morning there was a post called Dangerous Norms: When a Treat Becomes a Routine Matter and within it was a revelation that speaks volumes and yet is such a simple concept.

I like Starbucks and specifically a Venti 3 pump mocha at 180 degrees with a double cup.  Now, they do not charge me for the double cup, they do, however, charge me well for all of the other stuff, around 4 bucks!  At one time they were a treat, something that I would get maybe once or twice a month.  Then when there was a new Starbucks that opened on the way to work I would have a “Friday treat”.  Then I began to stop by and get one whenever the urge was there… well, you know where this is going.  Something that was once a special treat once a month turned into a norm.  I can probably give you hundreds of examples like this from my daily life for myself, Mrs Holland and the kids.

After reading this blog post, I thought of several pitfalls for the Hollands.

  • One obvious is the money.  One Starbucks a month, around $4… 5, 6, or 7 Starbucks a month… up to $28 a month.  From $48 a year to $336 a year.
  • Lose the luster.  Having a treat once in a while keeps the excitement up.  Having something on a routine looses the luster.
  • Setting expectations.  Once something becomes a norm, well, it is expected that it will happen on that regular basis and when it does not there is disappointment.
  • Creating better norms.  Dangerous Norms take away time, energy and other resources that could be given to Productive Norms.

This cannot only be dangerous for the pocket book, it can also be dangerous with time. For the kids, they like to watch shows that we DVRed during the week.  There would be special times that we would set aside to watch shows, they become more often and before you know it the oldest is turning on the TV, finding the taped show and plopping down on the couch with sister who is excitedly going along with this endeavor.  Or Mr Holland will set aside some computer time to check his feeds, facebook, email etc. and then it turns into wanting an I-Phone and wanting access to it all 24/7 (to Mr Holland’s defense, he does not own an I-Phone).

A quote from the post wrapped it up nicely:

Then, the little things (like eating out or getting a new book) will begin to feel special again — and a lot of fun. You won’t lose the joy of day-to-day life. Instead, you’ll find deep appreciation and happiness in the wonderful little splurges. Even better, you won’t have to worry about making ends meet.

So, as I leave the Dangerous Norms post and finish writing this, I ponder what norms I need to be resetting in my life.  I also think about the spiritual things that need to become norms so that my soul is fresh with things that my Creator wants for my life! I look forward to enjoying the less frequent treats once again and finding satisfaction with the simple things that I have been blessed with!

Which norms will you be resetting?


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Wanting God to Keep Us Informed of All The Details

After a week to recover from my trip to Romania and then another week on vacation with my wonderful family, I think I am ready to get back to blogging.  I will try to put together something about our week of vacation, however, I wanted to share this short article from John Piper about why God does not reveal everything to us (thanks to John’s daughter in law for the find!)

Why God Doesn’t Fully Explain Pain

By: John Piper

One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.

God says things like:

  • These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
  • These happened so that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
  • This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
  • This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?

The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God.

Think of this, you are a blacksmith making horseshoes. You are hammering on a white hot shoe and it ricochets off and hits you in the leg and burns you. In your haste to tend to your leg you let the shoe alone unfinished. You wonder why God let this happen. You were singing a hymn and doing his will.

Your helper, not knowing the horseshoe was unfinished gathered it up and put it with the others.

Later there was an invasion of your country by a hostile army with a powerful cavalry. They came through your town and demanded that you supply them with food and with shoes for their horses. You comply.

Their commander has his horse shoed by his own smith using the stolen horseshoes, and the unfinished shoe with the thin weak spot is put on the commander’s horse.

In the decisive battle against the loyal troops defending your homeland the enemy commander is leading the final charge. The weak shoe snaps and catches on a root and causes his horse to fall. He crashes to the ground and his own soldiers, galloping at full speed, trample him to death.

This causes such a confusion that the defenders are able to rout the enemy and the country is saved.

Now you might say, well, it would sure help me trust God if he informed me of these events so that I would know why the horseshoe ricocheted and burned my leg. Well maybe it would help you. Maybe not.

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain.

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Discernment and Criticism

Discernment reveals things to people about other people.  Sometimes that leads to criticism of what is revealed about that person…

“God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”

Oswald Chambers.

The way I read that quote is that God gives us discernment so that we may intercede on behalf of others to God about what God Himself revealed to us.  I take this as God likes to see His saints in prayer for others ( even though He is all knowing) and to see what our attitude and behavior is like towards those that He has revealed things about.

I pray that I may intercede and not criticize when I discern something about someone else!


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This is something that I think of often, temptation. On my trip it was at the forefront of my mind, being miles away from anyone that could hold me accountable, being in a country that is on a different moral compass and naturaly having a predisposition to not do the right thing.

This morning Tim Challies posted on this subject, the Shape of Temptation is the title of his post and reminds us of tactics that Satan uses to tempt us. Here is the post…

The Shape of Temptation

And so Satan works through questioning, doubt, focusing on what is forbidden and finally on outright denial of the truth. And Eve is only the first to be drawn in and to succumb to the temptation. Every one of us has fallen for the same old trap. If you think of your own life, I’m sure you will think of examples where this pattern was used against you, perhaps just in your own thoughts or perhaps in a book you have read (and there are many books in the bookstores, both Christian and non- where this same pattern is used). Satan’s first tactic worked so well that I don’t think he has ever felt it necessary to modify it too much. The shape of temptation has not changed.

As I continue reading through Waltke’s Old Testament Theology I continue to dig up pure gold. Today I’ll share yet another example.

In one of the earliest chapters Waltke writes about man’s fall into sin and discusses “the shape of temptation.” Here he shows how Satan’s original act of temptation is an archetype or sorts. All of the temptation that would follow through the long line of human experience would mimic this one. Satan tempted the second human being in the same way he tempts the 20 billionth (or whatever I happen to be). As I read this portion of the book and reflected on it, I could see that this really is the model of temptation. It is not just Satan who works in this way, though, but all human beings. We are prone to following Satan in luring others into sin in the same way.

Here are five steps to leading someone into sin.

Be a theologian. There is little doubt that Satan is a theologian, and a skilled and outspoken one at that. He has had a very long time to study God and, as a leader among angels, once enjoyed free access to Him and close communion with Him. Satan knows God and knows about the character of God. But unlike the theologians we seek to be, Satan is a theologian who despises God with every bit of his being. When he turns to Eve and says, “Did God really say…?” he brings Eve into a dialogue that opens her mind to a new realm of possibility, one she would not have thought of on her own. He knows God well enough to know what God has said and done.

But there is more. Satan is not only a student of God but also of men. From the moment God first spoke of man, Satan must have been watching and observing. Knowing that man was the crown of creation, Satan was surely looking for an opening, a way to destroy this jewel. He became a student of the ways of men. As a theologian, a psychologist and an anthropologist, Satan has unique skill at leading men astray.

Turn commands into questions. Satan takes the command of God and rephrases it as a question. “Did God really say?” What was a clear statement suddenly becomes hazy. Posing as a theologian he asks, “Are you sure about this, or is this only Adam’s testimony as to what God said? Are you sure? How do you know? Is this really a command? Can we discuss this a little bit? Is it possible that you misinterpreted what God said? Is it possible that there is some context here we’ve ignored?” Waltke says, “Within the framework of faith, these questions are proper and necessary, but when they are designed to lead us away from the simplicity of childlike obedience, they are wrong.” And so we see Satan raising questions of interpretation and authority necessarily designed to create doubt and confusion and to lead away from the simplicity of a childlike obedience.

Emphasize prohibition over freedom. Satan carefully and deliberately distorts, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” into “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” He overlooks the great freedom God gave Adam and Eve and instead overstates the one prohibition. He gets Eve to focus on the prohibition rather than the gift and the freedom. Instead of focusing on the Tree of Life, from which she was free to eat, and on the millions of other trees available to her, Satan got her to focus her heart on that one tree from which she was not allowed to eat. And Eve began to focus not on what she had been given, but on what had been forbidden. And suddenly nothing but what was forbidden could satisfy her.

Doubt God’s sincerity and motives. Satan casts God’s motives as self-regard rather than love. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He convinces Eve that God is limiting her, that He is not giving her the full measure of humanity. He is holding back, reserving for Himself things that she deserves to know and to experience. As Waltke says, we hear this message all around us today. “Be liberated! Be free! Self-actualize! Unleash your inner potential! The Serpent’s message even echoes in the church. Instead of sanctification, the church seeks self-improvement. Instead of holiness, the church seeks happiness.” When you hear such things, you can rest assured that the Serpent is once again at work seeking to convince you that you need to be something other than what you were created to be.

Deny what God says is true. In the final step, Satan flatly denies what is true. “You will not surely die.” The fruit of all of the doubt and the resentment is unbelief. If God’s words happen to hinder us from becoming what we want to be or from doing what we want to do, Satan convinces us that we can safely ignore them. In the church today many people de-emphasize sin because it may hinder the quest for self-actualization or it may make people feel guilty or damage their self-esteem. “Sadly many evangelical churches are in the process of buying into a guilt-free, pain-free, judgment-free gospel.”

In the face of such temptation, the woman yields to Satan’s denials and half-truths. “Having stripped Eve of her spiritual defenses, Satan’s work is done.” Without God, the decision will be made purely on the basis of pragmatism, of what works best to bring about the desired end, on the basis of aesthetics, of what is beautiful, and on the basis of self-improvement, of what will bring her supposed wisdom. It is only one short step from here to outright disobedience.

And so Satan works through questioning, doubt, focusing on what is forbidden and finally on outright denial of the truth. And Eve is only the first to be drawn in and to succumb to the temptation. Every one of us has fallen for the same old trap. If you think of your own life, I’m sure you will think of examples where this pattern was used against you, perhaps just in your own thoughts or perhaps in a book you have read (and there are many books in the bookstores, both Christian and non- where this same pattern is used). Satan’s first tactic worked so well that I don’t think he has ever felt it necessary to modify it too much. The shape of temptation has not changed.

So, now that we know what tactics Satan uses to tempt us…. what are some of the ways that we can counter these tactics?  This is where this blog will become a two-way street.  Let’s fill up the comment box with your ideas!

It is good to be back home!


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