Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Take Heed to Yourselves


I don’t know about you, but my thoughts can be very unruly.  I have to keep a constant rein on them and watch them all the time, and if I don’t, I end up with a head full of pride, a head full of resentment, a head full of snotty snarkiness, and in short, a head full of thoughts that are not conducive to the presence of the Spirit. 

Sometimes I get really tired of guarding them all the time, making sure the wrong kind stay out and the right kind stay in.  Very exhausting  I want love for my husband here.  [points to a space]  I want patience and kindness right here. [points to another space]  I want interest and respect for all good things right here.  Yes, you.   Right here. 

Sometimes I really wonder why I bother.  I don’t really see anyone else agonizing over how to whip their thoughts into shape.  It’s kind of an interior battle.  I don’t hear very many people talk about how they fight these kinds of battles except when we hear it from the pulpit. 

In the scriptures, it seems that there is a lot of discussion about fighting those inner battles with our thoughts.  But instead of “watch your thoughts”, the phrase that is used is “take heed to thyself” or simply “take heed.”  It is surprising how many warnings there are about different danger zones, but I find these are very helpful because they show me that I’m on the right track to be concerned and watchful of my attitude and my thoughts.  (YAAAAYY!  I’m not crazy!)

Below I will lay out a number of things that the scriptures say we need to take heed to ourselves about.  Some of them I may discuss, some of them I may not. 

Worshipping the Right God and Attitude toward God

Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following [other nations], after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. (Deut. 12:30)

Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God. (Joshua 23:11)

You’d think it would be natural to love God, right?  I’m going to be frank.  I catch myself feeling ambivalent and sometimes even hostile to God on occasion.  This particularly plagues me on Sundays before church, times when I really want to be worshipful. 

These thoughts are hard to throw out, but I know it is possible to do it because I’ve done it.  I have to pray to resist those thoughts.  It takes work to turn my thoughts to how the Lord has been so merciful to me.  I work to remember how the Lord did not cast me off in my most sinful times, and that fills me with gratitude.  I work to remember all the times that I’ve felt the Spirit and have been renewed from taking the sacrament and that gives me the faith to hang in there.

And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts. (Mosiah 5:11, emphasis added)

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Tim 4:16)

This tells us that at we also have to pay close attention to following the doctrine of Christ because those principles will not just lead us to salvation, but lead others there too. 


Belief and Faithfulness

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)

Sometimes I get hit by these skeptical thoughts of, “I don’t believe that really happened” and it is usually from hearing about some miracles that I’ve never personally experienced for myself.  It got really bad before I decided something had to be done.  I worked hard to research belief and faith and this was about when there were a lot of conference talks about belief.  Eventually, I’ve learned to pray to have a believing heart so that I can know of greater things.  I also pray to resist unbelief.  Then I work at casting out those blatant unbelieving thoughts and I refuse to dwell on them.  I look for educated, believing people to interact with because I know that their viewpoints will nourish and edify me.

And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. (Mark 4:24, emphasis added)

This seems to suggest we need to pay attention to the type of things we listen to and believe.  We need to consider the source.  The extent that we hear and obey good things is the same extent to which we will be blessed.  So we have to be careful that our obedience is sincere and whole-hearted.

Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.  (Luke 8:18, emphasis added)

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; (Deut. 4: 9)

I’m observant enough to realize that I forget spiritual experiences too quickly, even if I don’t want to forget them, so I have to take care to find ways of reminding myself.  One way is by writing those experiences in my journal.  Another is by rereading my journal every so often.  Another is by thinking back over the course of my life and remembering the major touchstone spiritual experiences that were instrumental in forming my testimony of the Christ and the gospel.

Sources of guidance

Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matt. 16:6)

It seems that it matters what doctrines we believe and the caliber of the people we hear them from.

Certainty and Strength

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor. 12:10)

Even if we feel we are standing firm, we still have to watch what we are doing because sin can creep in so easily.  In fact, so often it is when we think we are strong that we get complacent.  We begin to think we don’t need to worry and at that point, temptations begin to sneak in, starting with pride.

32 But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God;
33 Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation;
34 Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also. (D&C 20:32-34, emphasis added)

Signs of the Times

Jesus told the apostles to take heed not to be deceived three different times in Mark 13 when He discussed signs of the times.  (This is worth looking at directly.  When you follow the link, the applicable scriptures will be highlighted.)

34 ¶ And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:34-36)

This lets us know that at the time of the Second Coming, many people will completely wrapped up in the cares of this life, in pleasure-seeking, and lulled into passivity or drunkenness.  When everyone else around you doesn’t seem to care about the eternal consequences of their actions, it is really hard to resist absorbing some of that attitude.   I imagine that as time goes on, it will get progressively harder to resist.  This is why Christ Himself tells us to take heed to ourselves, to watch, and pray always.   So when we get thoughts like, “Why am I even trying so hard?” this is what we have to remember.

When I find myself tempted to not care what I do, I try to remember the final judgment and I think about how I want to feel when I stand face to face with God.  That usually helps.

Spousal Relationships

15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.   (Mal. 2:15-16)

I consider this scripture just as binding on women as it is on men.  If we have moments where we wonder what life would be like married to someone else or if we look at someone else and simply wish, we have to confront and cast out those thoughts. 

I am perfectly aware that everyone has their quirks and if my husband has his faults, so too does every other man, and I am not perfect myself.  I also realize that a different man would probably not have the same wonderful virtues that my husband has.  And then I spend some time remembering back when my husband and I were dating and recall what attracted me to him. 

Relationships with Children

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 18:10, emphasis added)

Every once in while (and I’m sure it would be more often if I had children of my own) I find myself having to work with a kid that drives me crazy, and if I have to work with them often, I find myself struggling with feelings of dread about it.  This is when the best thing that helps me is… DENIAL.  (“I’m not REALLY having a problem with this child; I just need to find a way to teach him/her in a way he/she relates to.”)  Then I go pray about it and ask for help specifically with that child. 

Discernment and Judging

Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. (Moroni 7:14)

Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. (Luke 11:35)

The world’s view and the Lord’s view are not the same. (Hel-lo, understatement!)  In fact, on a good many issues, the world’s view and the Lord’s are diametrically opposed.  We want to be on the Lord’s side, but we also have to cope with the world.  In my experience, it is attachment to our favorite or most deeply entrenched sins that tends to bring us to the point of judging evil to be good or good to be evil.  We need to be very careful that we don’t make a virtue out of our failure to keep the commandments. 

Speaking

I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. (Psalms 39:1)

“I can say whatever I want around [insert name] because he/she doesn’t really care anyway.”  We may usually say this to ourselves around non-members or people antagonistic to our faith thinking it will bring us some acceptance.  This can be especially tempting in groups when the conversation is brisk and witty. 

So I say to myself: HOW DO YOU KNOW HE/SHE ISN’T WATCHING YOU?  How do you know they aren’t learning from you?  You need to be a good example!   (This was certainly something that my mom drilled into my head growing up, even if it was only for the sake of my younger siblings.  She reminded me often that I needed to be a good example because they were always watching me.   I still pray often to be a good example to the people around me.)

Being careful what we say (or type on the internet) is important because Christ said that every idle word will be brought into judgment.  Everything counts; everything is “on the record” in heaven.

Causing or Taking Offense

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. (1 Cor. 8:9)

This tells us that it is worth thinking carefully about what we do and say lest anything we do be interpreted wrong and lead someone else into committing sin.

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)

There is a very subtle thing that we have to watch out for here in this verse.  If someone trespasses against us, the natural man will want us to think that we can’t talk to them about it under the assumption that they won’t listen and won’t repent. 
The thing is, to follow Christ’s instructions here, we must make the assumption instead that they will listen and will repent.

So the thing we are to take head to ourselves about is to watch out for and resist the incorrect notion that the people who offended us will not listen to us if we reprove them.  Watching our thoughts this way prevents us from subtly judging and condemning people unjustly, which in turn would prevent interpersonal problems from festering into long grudges.  Watching our thoughts this way might even allow us to share the gospel more freely.

Sabbath Observance

Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; (Jeremiah 17:21)

It sounds like in Jeremiah’s day there was a problem with people being too loose in their Sabbath-day observance.   It looks like the concern was with what people were doing, but fundamentally it is really about what we want the day to be about.

Are we making it about the Lord and what pleases Him, or are we making it about what we want?

As one who has been trying to write a first novel, I find it is hard to turn off those thoughts about my plot and characters just because it is the Sabbath.  I feel that for me to rest and make the Sabbath all about the Lord, I have to put away those thoughts for the whole day. 

I recently had an experience where I felt I was kind of on a roll Saturday night in my writing and I didn’t want to shut it all down Sunday morning.  But I exerted my faith that the rest and the change of focus would ultimately be beneficial to me, and I mentally shut all the fiction stuff down.  I made it about the Lord and I was blessed with spiritual renewal.

Attitude about our Possessions

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:15)

Heavenly Father knows the difference between acquisition for need and acquisition for other reasons.  There are whole books dedicated to debunking some of the materialistic thought errors we get in to that leads to clutter. 

Happily, the principle of sacrifice is a direct antidote to covetousness.

Manifesting Charity

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 6:1)

This tells us we have to be careful that our motives for doing charitable works are right before God..  Heavenly Father knows the difference between a heart longing to be praised of men and a heart full of generosity. 

Leadership Responsibilities

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Wrong thoughts: “It’s not really urgent for me to do my leadership calling; they can take care of themselves; they’re doing fine”
So I say to myself: HOW DO I KNOW?  I don’t.  I need to check to make sure.

Heavenly Father knows the difference between a church leader who is interested in height and visibility and power and praise of their position and how they look to others, versus a church leader who is interested in doing their best to nourish and strengthen the people in their charge.


Conclusion

I think these scriptures are really useful for pointing out to us what thoughts we need to particularly guard against.  I’m grateful for that instruction and validation.
What we think matters because so often it leads to action.