February is Heart Month and during this month the Heart and Stroke Foundation will be encouraging Canadians to take better care of their hearts. The Foundation’s website states, “Today, heart disease and stroke take one life every 7 minutes and 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor.” As someone with heart disease in my family, I am mindful of how devastating this disease can be and how important it is to take proper care of one’s heart.
In the Bible, the heart is considered the centre of who you are as a person. This is where your physical life and your spiritual life come together, with the emphasis on reason rather than on emotion, as it is today. So biblically speaking, how is your heart doing these days?
Three thousand years ago, one of the smartest people who ever lived, Solomon, wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). The warning is both needed and fitting for our time too. The human heart is easily susceptible to many diseases such as greed, hatred, pride, laziness, and dishonesty. Our hearts can easily become enslaved by addictions to money, possessions, shopping, pornography or pleasure. 100% of Canadians have at least one risk factor and, if it isn’t cured, spiritual heart disease will kill us forever.
Dealing with spiritual heart disease is not a matter of doing the right thing, getting involved in a church and rising up through the various positions in the organization. Church people in Jesus’ time did that and he said this to them,“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt. 15:8). This kind of heart disease requires a heart transplant. God says to us through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:25-27). Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt. 11:28-29). Because of his loving and humble heart, Jesus died on the cross and rose again for us. Sprinkled by the cleansing waters of Holy Baptism, Jesus cuts out our old diseased heart and gives us a new one that beats only for him.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we turn away from the entrapments and temptations of this world to follow Jesus wherever he leads. It is when we are closest to him that our hearts stay healthy.
In Christ’s love, Pastor James
(This devotion was originally written for the February 2013 newsletter of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC.)