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A Healthy Heart

There is a lot of talk these days about heart health. I browsed the cereal aisle this week and was amused at the variety of health promises I encountered:
• “Can help lower cholesterol”
• “Helping to support your family’s immunity”
• “Nurturing people, nature and spirit”
• “Fiber has never tasted better”
• “Help Boost Your Body’s Probiotics”
• “Part of a heart healthy diet”
It sparked a question in my mind, “What are the traits of a healthy heart?” I have been aware for years that the bottom line issue of life spiritually, emotionally and socially is the condition of my heart. When my heart is soft and teachable, stress is lower, friendships work better, and my relationship with God is responsive. So, how can I know if my heart is in good shape? I found a couple of clues in Romans 11 this morning.
A soft heart can connect intellectual truth with spiritual commitment. “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (v. 4) This was God’s response to Elijah when he felt like he was the only one left in Israel who truly believed in God. Paul used this example to teach that there is always a remnant of people who remain faithful to truth. Intellectually, the issue was not difficult. Baal was an idol, an inanimate object which had been arbitrarily assigned spiritual powers. It was no more powerful than a chair or a desk. God, on the other hand, is living, powerful, and actively interested in His people. Those whose hearts were soft (7000 plus Elijah) were able to put their conclusions into action. Sadly, most of the people accepted the lie that God had a rival in Baal. There is no way to explain this intellectually because it is nonsense to choose an idol over the living God. It is fully a function of the heart.
A soft heart longs for others to discover the truth. “I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.” (v. 13-4) Paul had a highly effective ministry to the Gentiles of his day. His evangelistic efforts were impressive and he planted churches everywhere he traveled. He could have easily been content with his productivity among non-Jewish people. He could also have easily been critical of his Jewish brothers who were not willing to grasp the simple truth that their Messiah had paid the penalty for their sins and defeated death by rising from the dead. It would not have been healthy for his heart, however, to complain about the people he cared so much about. His heart broke over the fact that his kinsmen could not see what was so clear. He knew he couldn’t argue them into a soft heart or push them into spiritual tenderness and yet he longed for it to be a reality in their lives.
Lord, keep my heart soft before you. Give me grace this week to courageously commit myself to what I know is true and to earnestly pray for the salvation of those I would naturally be critical of.

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