The Heart of the Matter

Most of us want to be truly virtuous, but we struggle with a desire to do sinful things. Why is it so hard to do what’s right when we know exactly what “right” is (Matthew 26:41)? We know gossip is wrong (1 Timothy 3:11), we know we need to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9), we know it’s a sin to lie (Revelation 21:8), and we know we should remain sexually pure (Hebrews 13:4). So if we know the difference between right and wrong, and since the Bible is so clear about the consequences of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), then why do we still have such a difficult time living for Him?

I think the reason is because we allow little things that “aren’t that bad” into our lives all the time. How many times this week have you said, or heard someone else say, “It’s not that bad.” That is the same thing as saying, “It’s not good.” To say it’s not that bad is to minimize the significance and danger of sin. God knows that sin will hurt us, which is why he tells us not to do it! Think of all the ways things that aren’t “that bad” creep into your life. When we watch a TV show or movie that celebrates fornication, we are allowing impurities to enter our hearts, through our eyes and ears. When we bring our boyfriend home to our empty house after school and make out with him on the couch, we are knowingly allowing sexual thoughts to enter our brains. When we read articles in magazines that tell us when it’s okay to tell a little white lie, we are allowing ourselves to think that maybe God’s word, and His commandment to never lie, doesn’t apply to all situations.

Here’s the truth: it matters! Sin, in any form, matters! Satan uses those little white lies, the make out sessions, and the “not that bad” movies to desensitize us to sin. When we begin with one “not that bad” sin, we start a pattern of other “not that bad’s” that generally lead to something very, very bad! Satan knows that, and he will get to us in any way he can. We must also keep in mind that, to God, sin is sin. A small fib is as bad as a huge lie (1 Timothy 4:1-2). If we hate someone, it’s on the same level as murder (1 John 3:15). All sin is equally bad to our Lord.

Our hearts matter!

God looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Is your heart beautiful, or is it ugly and full of sin? It doesn’t matter what the girl in your youth group does. We’re not talking about her. We’re talking about you. What does your heart look like? Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” If we find ourselves gossiping, lying, cursing, or watching inappropriate movies, the main problem is not our actions. The main problem is our impure heart causing us to do the sinful action.

How do we get a pure heart (Psalm 51:10)? We need to stop looking at others around us! We will always be able to find somebody who seems worse, or more sinful, than we are. That makes it so easy to justify what we’re doing. We can’t compare ourselves to other people. If we say, “Well, I do this, but that girl does….” then we’re justifying our sin based on the actions of other people. We need to say, “I did this, but Jesus would have…” Wow. Big difference, huh? The only human being we should compare ourselves to is Jesus. We need to look to Him, strive to live like Him, and not worry about what other people are doing.

The other people will have to answer for themselves (Romans 2:6-7), and while we do need to be a good example, encourage them to do well, and be happy for them when they succeed, we also need to make sure that we ourselves are right with God. Not for anyone else, and not to put on any kind of show, because when our heart is right, our show will naturally become one worth watching and emulating, and one that highlights Jesus.

Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”

Davonne Parks

Davonne Parks

Do You Know?

Do you know. . .

  • the books of the Old and New Testaments by heart?
  • what one must do to be saved, along with the scriptures to support it?
  • the structure of the church?
  • how God wants us to worship Him?
  • the meaning of the parables?

We should want to study the Bible because. . .

  • it is the Word of God
  • it is the only way to salvation
  • it is the only way to prove all things
  • it is the only way to be approved by God
  • it is the only way to detect error
  • it is the only way to know what to teach others
  • it is the best way to gain spiritual knowledge
  • it is the best way to grow spiritually

Studying takes time and dedication to learn what God has told us and persistence to apply it to our lives. The list above is based on the book How to Study the Bible by Kevin W. Rhodes.

The attitude in which we study is also important.

“As the Deer Panteth for the Water” by Martin Nystrom

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longeth after thee:
You alone are my heart’s desire,
And I long to worship thee.

You’re my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other,
So much more than anything.

I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye.

You alone are my strength, my shield,
To you alone may my spirit yield;
You alone are my heart’s desire,
And I long to worship thee.

This is my favorite song, and I think that it gives the attitude that we should have in our lives about God and studying His word.

Let’s make the decision to spend time studying His word each day, starting right now. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

By Megan Skinner

Study Time

With the new school year underway, it is very fitting that our theme this month is “Pierce my heart to study Your word,” and our scripture is Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Regular Bible study is important regardless of where we are in our walk with Christ. Maybe you’ve been coming to church your entire life and know a lot about the Bible; maybe you’ve only been coming for a short while; or maybe you just stumbled across this magazine and haven’t really given God a second thought. It doesn’t matter where you were in your Christian walk yesterday; what matters is that you choose to start today to move forward.

When we become comfortable in where we are, Satan jumps on that opportunity and uses it to try to make us fall (Proverbs 16:18). I’ve been going to church my entire life, so I’ve always thought I know a lot about the Bible, but the more I study His word, the more I realize that I actually know very little! I have so much left to learn that it’s not a matter of knowing everything; it’s a matter of learning everything I can learn so that I can share with others as much as I know.

Those of you that have only recently begun attending church are probably absorbing everything you hear, trying to figure out the Truth. The best way to learn the Truth is to read the Bible! If you don’t have a Bible, you can go to Bible Gateway and read on-line for free, or you could ask the church you’re attending for a Bible––they will surely supply one for free. Visit the Daily Bible Reading section of Pierce My Heart to follow a reading plan.

Maybe you have only been to church a few times in your life, if ever. You might feel totally lost when people talk about the Bible or God or what Jesus has done for us. I encourage you to get a Bible and read it. Ask someone who is a biblicallysound believer to help you with questions you might have. Even though it was written so long ago, the Bible can apply to our lives right now. Pierce My Heart articles give practical suggestions about how to use the Bible to change our lives today.

Now that you’ve hopefully obtained a Bible, where should you begin reading? I suggest Luke. Luke was a physician, and in just 24 chapters he encompasses the life of Christ, from the womb through His death, burial, and resurrection. Luke focuses on the compassion of Christ and portrays Christ as a human who was tempted and tried just as we are today. Luke also focuses on important women such as Jesus’ mother, Mary, His aunt Elizabeth, and the women who were at the tomb after He was raised from the dead. Due to the love and compassion in this book, Luke is often a favorite gospel among girls and women.

Please keep in mind that when you begin reading, the Bible might seem a little boring or outdated, but it’s definitely not! After getting in to it, you’ll find that you will probably get excited to dig into God’s word, and won’t want to wait to read more. Just stick through those first few days; you’ll be glad you did!

Dear God,
Please help my heart to be pierced for You as I study Your word. Help me to see, know, and love the Truth, and please give me boldness to share the Truth with others. Thank You for preserving Your word so that I may have the opportunity to read it. Please help me to be the kind of person that You want me to be so I may be a living example to others.
In Jesus’ name,

Read through Luke in four weeks:

Day 1 (Luke 1:1-38)
Day 2 (Luke 1:39-80)
Day 3 (Luke 2:1-52)
Day 4 (Luke 3:1-38)
Day 5 (Luke 4:1-44)
Day 6 (Luke 5:1-39)
Day 7 (Luke 6:1-49)
Day 8 (Luke 7:1-50)
Day 9 (Luke 8:1-56)
Day 10 (Luke 9:1-36)
Day 11 (Luke 9:37-62)
Day 12 (Luke 10:1-42)
Day 13 (Luke 11:1-54)
Day 14 (Luke 12:1-34)
Day 15 (Luke 12:35-59)
Day 16 (Luke 13:1-35)
Day 17 (Luke 14:1-35)
Day 18 (Luke 15:1-32)
Day 19 (Luke 16:1-31)
Day 20 (Luke 17:1-37)
Day 21 (Luke 18:1-43)
Day 22 (Luke 19:1-48)
Day 23 (Luke 20:1-47)
Day 24 (Luke 21:1-38)
Day 25 (Luke 22:1-38)
Day 26 (Luke 22:39-71)
Day 27 (Luke 23:1-56)
Day 28 (Luke 24:1-53)

By Davonne Parks

A Beautiful Life

Standing out at school can be a simple thing, by dressing differently and avoiding curse words that many speak without thinking. But you can also stand out by helping other people in your school: someone’s backpack has broken and their stuff has spilled out all over the hallway. Do you stop to help them, or do you rush off to class because the teacher will make you write an essay about being on time? Think about the answer while reading through this song, “A Beautiful Life,” by William M. Golden.

Each day I’ll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I’ll do the best I can.

To be a child of God each day,
My light must shine along the way;
I’ll sing His praise while ages roll,
And strive to help some troubled soul.

The only life that will endure,
Is one that’s kind and good and pure;
And so for God I’ll take my stand,
Each day I’ll lend a helping hand.

I’ll help someone in time of need,
And journey on with rapid speed;
I’ll help the sick and poor and weak,
And words of kindness to them speak.

While going down life’s weary road,
I’ll try to lift some trav’ler’s load;
I’ll try to turn the night to day,
Make flowers bloom along the way.

Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go,
To meet the deeds that I have done,
Where there will be no setting sun.

Your actions speak louder than your words.  “If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” Proverbs 24:12

God will know why you did help someone – because they needed help, or because you thought there would be some reward involved – or why you didn’t help. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:5-7).

Your actions will set you apart and make you stand out – but make sure that you are doing these actions for the right reasons, and God will reward you for having a right heart, one that is turned toward Him and His word!

Dear God,
Please help me to have the heart of a true servant, so that Your love may show through me. Please help me to have a pure heart and good intentions when I serve others, and please help open my eyes to acts of service that I am able to do. Help me to love and serve like You do.
In Jesus’ name,

By Megan Skinner

Irreplaceable Chances

The forgotten statement

We’ve all been there. All of us have, at some point, missed an opportunity to share God’s love with others. Some of us haven’t even noticed the missed opportunities, while others deeply feel the pain of a missed chance. I’m one of the latter.

I’m going to share my missed opportunity with you in hopes that you will learn from my mistake and choose to teach everyone you can.

Freshman year and beyond

My freshman year was one of the hardest times in my life. I moved to a different city, away from all of my friends, including my two best friends. I started attending a public high school after being home schooled for two years, and I was having a rough time with other things in my life as well. I made friends, but only two of them really understood my heart. One of them was Seth. Seth was a grade below me and in a different school, but we rode the same bus. He always sat directly behind me and would ask how I was doing. He could tell the minute he walked on the bus if I was having a bad day. He always knew instinctively what would make me feel better, whether it was leaving me alone, telling me jokes until I had to laugh, or listening to me tell him about my bad day.

Seth lived one road over from me, so even though I stopped attending public school after freshman year, we continued to be good friends. He would come over sometimes to help out on our farm, and he always accepted my mom’s gifts of homemade cookies.

My lost opportunity

Seth knew I was a Christian, but I never invited him to go to church with me. I never opened a Bible in his presence, and I never prayed for his soul (1 Timothy 4:12-13).

When I moved out of state, Seth and I lost contact with each other, and even though he entered my mind when I was in town, I never went to visit him.

One day our mutual friend Kelly called me, and I didn’t make it to the phone on time, so she left a message. At 19 years old, Seth had committed suicide. I’d lost my chance.

If I teach a thousand people about God’s word and they all become Christians, I still won’t be able to replace the opportunity I missed with Seth. By not teaching Seth about God, I unknowingly chose to lose my chance. Please don’t choose to lose yours.

See the chances today

There are so many people around us every day who need to know about God. The girl who wears the mini skirts and belly shirts is begging to be loved. She doesn’t know that what she’s missing is God’s love. The guy who makes mean jokes in order to feel superior needs to know the God who is King (Ephesians 3:17-19). Our friends, who we’re with every day, need to know. They deserve that.

The word of God is in your hands, to use or to lose. Choose to share it.

Davonne Parks

Davonne Parks

Freedom in Christ

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirits of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die” (Dwight D. Eisenhower).

I use this quote not only speaking of our freedom as citizens of our countries and people of this world, but to express what must be done to have true freedom in Jesus Christ. Freedom lives because God gave us the opportunity; we are given the right to accept or reject it. If you have chosen to accept God’s freedom from sin and hell then you must live it everyday (John 20:21).

We must remember always what God has done for us and why we have chosen to give our lives to Him. We do not need to remember God just when great or terrible things happen, but daily so that we are always grateful and giving due praises.

When you wake in the morning, thank God for another day of life. Doing this day after day helps refresh your heart and soul of the gift that has been freely given to you. Because of the sacrifice of Christ we are able to be saved, pray, and be forgiven; not one of these things do we deserve. We are no longer captives of the Evil One, no longer controlled by sin and hate (John 8:32-36). Because we are cleansed of our stains we are able to love with all our hearts, and we are able to be sincerely and completely happy in life (Job 5:23-25).

God has great plans for His children, and by taking His offered freedom, we are able to live the life He has designed for us. We can go and teach others knowing that our souls are in His hands (Matt. 6:31-33). Remember everyday the freedom that God has provided for his faithful children!

By Shelby Garrett

Running for Christ

We hear about the marathons for leukemia, breast cancer, or autism on the news or radio. What we never hear about is the marathon for Christ. Training for a marathon takes months of work. You must build up your endurance to the point that you can finish the race. “But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22b). The marathon for Christ lasts a lifetime and encompasses every area of our lives. It includes our spiritual health, physical health, how we talk, what we watch, what we read, how we dress, and so much more. I’ve heard of a quote that I think applies really well here: “If they can’t tell you’re a Christian, you’re not doing it right” (Clyde McCall).

Here in the United States we have a lot of freedoms, including the freedom to be different. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Each of us begins as babes in Christ – and then we grow. And we should continue to grow throughout our lives. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Think about the words of this song – “None of Self and All of Thee,” arranged by Theodore Monod and James McGranahan – and what they mean.

Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow
That a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus,
“All of self, and none of Thee.”
All of self, and none of Thee,
All of self, and none of Thee,
When I proudly said to Jesus,
“All of self, and none of Thee.”

Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on th’ accursed tree,
And my wistful heart said faintly,
“Some of self, and some of Thee.”
Some of self, and some of Thee,
Some of self, and some of Thee,
And my wistful heart said faintly,
“Some of self, and some of Thee.”

Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Brought me lower while I whispered,
“Less of self, and more of Thee.”
Less of self, and more of Thee,
Less of self, and more or Thee,
Brought me lower while I whispered,
“Less of self, and more of Thee.”

Higher than the highest heaven,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered:
“None of self, and all of Thee.”
None of self, and all of Thee,
None of self, and all of Thee,
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered:
“None of self, and all of Thee.”

These words characterize the stages of the marathon for Christ. Each of us starts out taking baby steps, but someday we must run the marathon ourselves and rely on our own faith in God, and not our parents’ or guardians’. When we reach this point in our lives, we are living for Christ and giving our all!

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “After Christ rose into Heaven, many of the Christians of the time were killed for their beliefs, even Christ. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). It took brave men and women to stand up and teach and study God’s word. Today, sadly, even though we are persecuted less severely for our faith in God, we also stand up for Him less. Let’s think less of ourselves and our will, and more of His perfect will.

By Megan Skinner

The Greatest Freedom

Freedom from sin

What does it mean to be free in Christ? Even more, what does it mean to enjoy that freedom? Some people see Christianity as having a bunch of rules to follow, or a list of “thou shall nots.” Christianity is so much more than that! Being a Christian is more than just going to church on Sunday mornings and more than having a list of rules to follow.  Christianity is having a real, growing and thriving relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity is not about being a slave to God; being a Christian means being set free from the heartache of sin, which the following song describes beautifully.

A New Creature
I. O. Sanderson

Buried with Christ, my blessed Redeemer,
Dead to the old life of folly and sin;
Satan may call, the world may entreat me,
There is no voice that answers within.

Dead to the world, to voices that call me,
Living anew, obedient but free;
Dead to the joys that once did enthrall me –
Yet ’tis not I, Christ liveth in me.

Dead unto sin, live thru the spirit,
Risen with Him from the gloom of the grave,
All things are new, and I am rejoicing,
In His great love, His power to save. (chorus)

Sin hath no more its cruel dominion,
Walking “in newness of life,” I am free –
Glorious life of Christ, My Redeemer,
which He so richly shareth with me. (chorus)

It’s so wonderful to not have to worry about bad things that happen as a natural consequence of sin. Living for Christ means having joy because of the freedom He provides from sin, and the consequences that go along with living in sin, as the Bible tells us in Galatians 5:1: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” We will still struggle in different areas, but as Christians we have the privilege of going to God in prayer with all of our struggles and cares. We can take any worries, big or small, straight to the King of Kings.

Freedom as a Nation

One freedom we have, which more easily allows us to enjoy this freedom in Christ, is the freedom of religion. Some countries are not free, and are not allowed to worship freely. Some people have to meet secretly in houses to worship God, and they risk their lives in doing so. We are all so blessed that we had men who desired to form a country based on this freedom. We can go to a church building with other Christians, or we can worship on the beach or in our front yard if we want to. We could even sing worship songs during the Fourth of July fireworks without worrying about having our Bibles taken away or being thrown into jail. As we celebrate our freedom as a nation this Fourth of July, we can all take great joy in expressing and living our ultimate freedom, the freedom only Christ can give. When we know, believe, and live to serve Christ, that’s the greatest freedom of all.

By Davonne Parks

You Never Mentioned Him to Me

I want you to think about the meaning to the words of the following song, by James Rowe and J. W. Gaines, arranged by H. F. M. Something that I do too often is sing a song and not think about the words. It’s something that I’m working on, and on a recent Sunday, this song caught and held my attention.

When in the better land before the bar we stand,
How deeply grieved our souls may be;
If any lost one there should cry in deep despair,
“You never mentioned Him to me.”

O let us spread the word where ‘er it may be heard,
Help groping souls the light to see,
That yonder none may say, “You showed me not the way,”
“You never mentioned Him to me.”

A few sweet words may guide a lost one to His side,
Or turn sad eyes on Calvary;
So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry,
“You never mentioned Him to me.”

“You never mentioned Him to me,
You helped me not the light to see;
You met me day by day and knew I was astray,
Yet never mentioned Him to me.”

Mark 16:15-16 says “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” It’s a hard thing to be the first one to speak out, but sometimes we must be the one who speaks out about Christ to someone for the first time. Other times, someone may be curious about Christianity and start a conversion himself. I always think it’s easier when someone else asks the questions and I can answer. Right now I am involved in a discussion of baptism.

Many of us have friends or family who are not believers, and because they are our friends and family, they are often the hardest to talk to. But remember this important fact: unexpected things happen. If you don’t start a conversion now, you may never get the chance again. A friend of mine recently died unexpectedly, and I am very glad that she was a Christian. Other friends and family may move away. Many of us are afraid of being ridiculed or rejected. But remember, they are not rejecting you, they are rejecting God. This is a concept that took me a long time to understand. Even Jesus was rejected (Luke 4:22,28-30 ):

“So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

Your talents should be used to spread God’s word. Every little bit helps. A story was told to me of a preacher who had a gospel meeting. From that meeting, only one young, teenage girl was baptized. Years later, those women’s sons became elders, deacons, and overseas missionaries. While you can only do a little, God does a lot more, but first you have to do your part. Everybody has talents that they can use to spread God’s word. Whether it’s teaching a group of friends, going out and talking to people, or handing out pamphlets or fliers, everybody can do something.

Matthew 25:15-18: “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.”

Let’s be like the first two servants and use our talents for our Master!

Dear Lord,
Pierce my heart in Your Son that he may grant me the courage to use my talents to spread Your word.
In Jesus Name, Amen

By Megan Skinner

The Beauty of Heaven

Read John 14:1–3

“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:21-22).

I was just a toddler when I remember first hearing about Heaven. The Sunday-school teacher said, ”Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, and He has gone to Heaven to prepare a place for us.” She described the beauty of Heaven, as set forth in Revelation 21:21-22. Then she said, ”If we live for Him, and do His commandments, He will come one day and take us there.”

That lesson had a profound effect on me. From that day until this, seventy-plus years later, my heart’s desire, and my goal, has been to go there. Through the years, Christ has been my Rock, my Defender, and my Comforter. I have, to the best of my ability, followed His commands. That isn’t to say that I haven’t committed sin. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we are all sinful. ”If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (I John 1:10). The good news is that ”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). He has been with us as my husband and I raised a physically and mentally handicapped child, as we gave back to Him three children, as I watched my husband die with of cancer, and as I went through my own very serious illness. Never once has He failed to fill all my needs.

When we obey God’s commands to the best of our ability, and confess our sins, repent of them, and continue faithfully in His way, then we can say, with Paul, at the end of our life here, ”I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love His appearing“ (2 Timothy 4:8-9).

Dear Father,
Please help me to depend on Thee in good times and in bad times. Help me to reach out to others with Thy Word, so that all may hear it, obey Thy commandments, and have that home that Jesus has gone to prepare for us.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

By Bonnie Reaves