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Heart Doctor

I have been in a couple of conversations this weekend about relationships that are strained or individuals who are struggling. My impulse, and the course of these conversations, is to play private detective with a determination to “solve” the problem and provide a solution. Depressed? How about taking some medicine, thinking less of yourself and more about others, getting some exercise or talking to someone about it? Angry? Let’s just name what you’re angry about and deal rationally with the options available. Weary? Get some sleep, reduce your committments, go see a movie and have a glass of wine. Overweight? Stop eating so much and exercise more. And the pithy advice just keeps flowing.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ” Matt. 15:16-20

My tendency to prescribe behavioral changes, attitude changes or introduce new information or thinking as a hope for solving the problems of those around me and those evident in my own life completely omits Jesus. It isn’t just a problem of leaving Him out, as if His feelings will be hurt. I too quickly forget that no fundamental change is possible without the work He alone can effect in my heart. My harsh words, bad eating habits, inability to connect deeply in relationships, cynicism, fear, doubt, anger, depression, and whatever is stealing life from me may be abated by external changes, attitude changes or clever quotes, but never radically or permanently transformed. My thoughts, attitudes, words and actions come from a heart with it’s own motivations, desires, demands and agenda. Until these are acknowledged, new rules and regulations placed on my problem of talking too much, for example, will at best keep me constrained for a short period but at worst take me one step closer to exploding under the weight of the constraint. Yet, this is all I offer as solutions for others in conflict or suffering.

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. Ezek. 36:26

This is his, her and my hope of change! The motives, desires and demands of my heart are behind all of his, her and my words, actions, attitudes and behaviors. Our motives, desires and demands are not always pure and righteous, and most often they have to do with the assumption that our will should be done and we should be honored, praised and served. I am not capable of transforming my self-serving inclinations into authentically pure, selfless and biblically loving motives. When I start to see this deep need for what only Jesus can do, my hope is refocused to Him and His transforming power and away from my getting what I demand or simply from other people conforming to an outcome I’d like to see from them. Suddenly, my need to pray, and the reality of my dependence upon the person and work of Jesus where my person and work are totally insufficient, become more than just information but the catalyst to maturing my faith.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Col. 1:9-14

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