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Just as the engine must be cared for if a car is going to function well over the long haul, the heart must be cared for if we are going to flourish over the long haul. And just as the engine powers the vehicle, so the heart drives all that we do. The heart is the motivation headquarters, the central animating core of all our longings, fears, and actions.
Our fallen condition makes us perversely try to secure flourishing through the state of our circumstances rather than the state of our soul. But the wisest Christians know that the secret to a happy Christian life is cultivating and protecting the heart, whatever is happening all around us.
Puritan - John - Flavel - Treatise - Heart
To that end the Puritan John Flavel (1627–1691) wrote his famous little treatise, Keeping the Heart (original title: A Saint Indeed; or, The Great Work of a Christian in Keeping the Heart in the Several Conditions of Life). It’s available in various editions, of which perhaps the most beautiful is produced by Christian Heritage, with a short introduction by J. I. Packer.
The lodestar text launching the book is Proverbs 4:23:
Heart - Vigilance - Springs - Life
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Christian Heritage (2012). 128 pp. $9.99.
Obey - Proverbs
How does one obey Proverbs 4:23?
Flavel’s answer has never been bested in psychological penetration and biblical profundity. Flavel understands how our fallen hearts work, and his book is like a wise father putting his arm around us and gently helping us toward spiritual sanity.
Importance - Heart - Vitality - Flavel - Backbone
After pressing home the all-controlling importance of the heart in spiritual vitality, Flavel wades into the backbone of the book: pastoral reflection on 12 different seasons of life in which we particularly need to “keep our hearts.”
As an example of Flavel’s pastoral sensitivity and wisdom, consider how he handles the fourth season: times of danger....
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"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." - Alexander Hamilton