Chapel: Don’t take your heart too lightly
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The weekly Chapel session in Grand Canyon University Arena features all types of speakers. Monday morning, a former standup comic mixed humor with a message that was a real punchline to the gut.
The Chapel crowd probably figured this was going to be something a little different when Ron Merrell of Heights Church in Prescott began his talk by saying, “I’m really weird looking.”
He made fun of his shaved head and used his battle with a severe facial skin problem four years ago — jokingly featuring a photo of Brad Pitt as his “before” look — as a segue to his focus: “A lot of us look a whole lot better on the outside than we do on the inside.”
Rather than our outward appearance, God is focused on our heart, Merrell said. He said the Bible defines “heart” as anything from our will, emotions, intellect, sinful nature, spiritual life and soul.
“Essentially, from a Scriptures perspective, your heart is the inner you. It’s the real you,” he said. “See, this body, this flesh-and-bones thing we’ve got going, this tent that we live in, this is not the thing that lasts on for eternity. It’s your heart, it’s your soul. And that’s why it’s of tremendous value to God. … That’s what God can mold and shape.”
Your heart can be damaged by circumstances outside your control, and Merrell related his own experience as a child: a father who deserted the family when he was 4, a man who was physically abusive to his mother, another who left her at the altar by walking out during the wedding ceremony and then a wonderful stepfather who died of a heart attack at age 48.
“Some of you in this room, you know what I’m talking about, the heart damage that can be done to you,” he said. “And it’s not surface-y, right? I mean, it’s stuff that reaches down in your heart and in your soul, and it’s now affecting an awful lot — about the way that you see that yourself, about the way that you see those around you, about the way that you see your past, about the way that you see your present, about the way that you see your future.
“Your heart is subject to an awful lot. It’s the real you. Some of you have been through way worse than I could possibly imagine. The crux of the issue is, everything that you do flows from your heart.”
Merrell pointed out that Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” and added that it underscores why we need to focus on our own heart and not try to judge someone else’s.
“When the God of the universe, when His spirit gets ahold of your heart, and you allow that all the more on a regular basis, watch out,” Merrell said, enunciating the last two words slowly and emphatically. “Because your heart can make an incredible difference when it is transformed. And when you come into a relationship with Jesus, he actually replaces your old heart with a brand new one — yeah, not the organ that’s pumping blood throughout your body, but he does a heart transplant of sorts. He takes this dead thing and makes it beat again for real. You go from death to life, and he gives you a new heart and reshapes your soul.”
Merrell closed with two poignant stories about his oldest son Braddock, 8. (He and his wife, Anna, also have son Brody, 7, and daughter Leilani, 10 months.) In both cases, Merrell said, Braddock taught him the true meaning of opening your heart to God, and the picture on the video board of Braddock hugging his dad was a real tear-jerker.
In closing, Merrell noted how David said in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” If we allow God to do that, “it will overflow and you won’t be able to contain it,” Merrell said.
It’s no laughing matter.
● For a replay of Merrell’s talk, click here.
● For a slideshow from Monday, click here.
● Next week’s Chapel speaker: Warren Stewart Jr., Church of the Remnant
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.