Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Week Forty-Four - My Achy-Breaky Heart

Beside the Well
            When you have a doctor friend, and a spouse experiencing medical issues, you learn all kinds of neat stuff.  My husband has A-fibrillation of the heart, which is controlled by medication.  My doctor friend sent us a YouTube video explaining the workings of the heart with the intention of teaching us more about it, but of course, we stumbled onto something oddly interesting.
            Every heart has a thing called a Funny Current.  It is the part of the heart responsible for the heartbeat and controlling the heart rate.  It is called funny because it has a very unusual and unpredictable current.  While the remainder of the heart can be calculated according to polarization and depolarization with little bits opening and closing to a precise flow, the funny current has a mind of its own.
            We also learned that the brain controls every part of the body, but much of the heart has a mind of its own.  That is why, when a heart is removed from the body, it continues to beat. The funny current is the heart’s independent initiator and regulator.  It was the discovery of this funny current in 1979 by Dr. Dario DiFrancesco that developed into the introduction of pacemakers to regulate heartbeat.     
           No wonder God has so much to say about the heart.  As we pondered and discussed the funny current, we began falling back on Scripture.  Is that why God says, “Give me thine heart?”  Because our hearts are independent?  Is that why He says our hearts are desperately wicked?  Because they want to regulate themselves?  Is that why He says no man can know their heart? Because its ways are not searchable?  Is that why He says to love the Lord with all your heart?  Because He knows there is a little place of rebellion in all of us? Probably all of that is true.  God knows our hearts because He made them!
            We even began looking at the funny current, which has a lifespan of less than a second, as the source of our ever changing will and emotions.  The heart is the seat of emotion, the Bible teaches.  It has the power to create choice and determine will.
            My doctor friend said: “
Our emotional pull toward God is independent from our cognitive or logical conclusions - much like the organ of the heart itself is independent from the brain’s control. The heart muscle is made from specialised cells called myocytes. Normal muscles are controlled by voluntary or involuntary messages conveyed through the nervous system from the brain and spinal cord, but the heart generates its own action potentials – it contracts independently from the brain’s control. The brain can influence it by speeding up or slowing down the rate, but it can’t initiate the beat itself. If you put the heart in a dish it will contract autonomously. This is a wonderful picture of our emotional response to God. Swayed by our logic but independent from it.” (Dr. R Owen Bsc, MBChB)
            I don’t have all of the answers to this physical phenomenon.  I won’t even pretend to understand it fully, and if you are medically trained, please forgive my infantile description, but take time today to look deep into your own heart.  I know I was humbled as I thought of this tiny spot in my life that has a mind of its own.  My meditations brought me to Romans 7 where Paul’s quandary about the desire to do right and the inevitability of doing wrong brings him to this conclusion: “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”  I wonder if this war is the funny current?
            My mind tells me what is right.  It knows laws are there for my good.  But my heart wants to do its own thing!  Lord, I need a spiritual pacemaker!  And the Lord has provided it – “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.”
            Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, right down to our achy-breaky little hearts! – The Funny Thing About Ivabradine and Heart Failure,  By Mzoler, September 3, 2010.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Week Forty-Three - Scorners

Beside the Well
            What?  A Christian scorner?  Sadly, I have heard too much of this recently.  The conversation usually pivots around one person sharing something about the Lord with a fellow Christian, and then loads of doubt, rejection, and ridicule pour from their friend.  The attitude is usually one of supposed superiority leaving the other person feeling foolish for having shared their opinion.  Scorning is also speaking against people behind their back, laughing at the preacher, mocking Bible truth or treating God’s word with contempt, and is akin to gossiping and causing division.
            Let’s look at what the English dictionary says, “To look down on something or someone, to consider a person or object despicable or inferior, to speak with contempt (an attitude of disgust or hatred), to consider or treat as contemptible or unworthy, to reject or refuse.”     
            The International Standard Bible Encyclopediadelves deeper into the definition saying the word comes from a Danish word meaning dirt or mud. Scorning is a reaction that occurs when one is confronted with a person or a proposition that evokes a sense of superiority awakening mingled resentments.  Scorn, then, is a hot, fierce emotion connected with an arrogant sense of self-esteem.
            The Bible meaning, from Strong’s Concordance, defines it as, “to laugh at, to despise or ridicule, to mock, the hostile speech of rebellious fools.”
            And where did this happen in the Bible?  Sanballat and Tobiah scorned Nehemiah as he began to build the wall (Nehemiah 2:19). Job’s friends scorned him and mocked his plight (Job 12:4, 16:20, 22:19).  It is prophesied in Psalm 22:7 that our Lord would be scorned. The surrounding nations scorned Israel (Psalm 44:13).  The people scorned as Jesus arrived to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:53).
            What is the Bible’s opinion on scorning? Let’s divide this by questions.
            First, what is the attitude of a scorner?  They love to scorn. Proverbs 1:22, “…and the scorners delight in their scorning.”  They are characterized by pride, arrogance, and anger. “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath” (Proverbs 21:24).  They do not like instruction or correction.  “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee” (Proverbs 9:8).  Matter of fact, they will choose not hear you.  “…but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1).  And they will not appreciate you.  “A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise”(Proverbs 15:12).  They are wise in their own conceits!
            How are we to deal with scorners?  Carefully.  “He that reproveth and scorner getteth to himself shame” (Proverbs 9:7).  But purposefully.  “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease”(Proverbs 22:10).  Because dealing with them helps others to avoid the same. “When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise”(Proverbs 21:11) “Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware”(Proverbs 19:25).  Probably best not to have scorners as close friends then, huh?
            What will happen to scorners?  They may act and think they know it all, but God says, “A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not”(Proverbs 14:6). They bear their own shame.  “but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it”(Proverbs 9:12).  They will be judged.  “Judgments are prepared for scorners”(Proverbs 19:29). Men will withdraw their friendship. “the scorner is an abomination to men”(Proverbs 24:9).
            What are God’s attitude and instruction?  He is less than impressed with the pride and snootiness of the scorner. “Surely he scorneth the scorners, but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34).  And he warns his children to stay away.  “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”(Psalm 1:1).
            With that bit of Bible word study, I think we can all agree that scorning is not an appropriate attitude for a Christian.  We are to be characterized by humility instead of pride, by uplifting others instead of tearing them down, and by obedient faith as opposed to self-righteous debating.
            Are you a Christian who scorns? I hope not.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Week Forty-Two - Old Wives Tales

Beside The Well
Jeremiah 20:12  “But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart.”
            I’ve been doing a powerful lot of reading lately and learning some astounding new stuff that I hope to include in the future, but God’s word continues to be the most enlightening source of joy.  As I read Jeremiah 20:12, I began meditating about the truth that God knows and tries our hearts; right down to the thoughts and intents according to Hebrews 4:12.
            Jeremiah 23:16 opened a further train of thought for me by saying, “Hearken not unto the words of the prophets(the false prophets) that prophesy unto you: they make you vain (empty, void of knowledge): they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.”  It reminds me of what we see in the media today. Society is successfully following a vision of their own heart and sculpting a culture void of richness and contrary to God’s design.
            Verse 17 goes on to say, “They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.”
            What?  Do we not read things like this all the time and hear it in music lyrics and through TV programs and movies?  Be yourself. Do what makes you happy.  Follow your heart. That old wives tales of the judgment of God is outdated.  Nothing terrible will happen to you.
            Verse 36 finds men saying, “The burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more (stop telling me what the Bible says): for every man’s word shall be his burden(every man did that which was right in his own eyes).  And the result—perversion, twisting and slanting of the truth. “For ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God.”            
            We needn’t think God doesn’t know or see.  Verses 23, 24, “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?  Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the Lord.  Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”
            I wonder how many of us have swallowed the preaching of the world? (Oprah, Joel Olsten, etc.) How many of us live as if God will never judge or that He is far away and uninvolved? Do we follow our heart’s desires with no thought of truth or consequence?
            It behooves us to try the spirits and search our hearts.  We are explicitly warned in Proverbs 28:26, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.”

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Week Forty-One - Brain Engaged

Beside the Well

            The ugliness and corruption of politics seem to be the main diet of media.  Their agenda is apparent – to sway the masses to their opinion.  It can be hard for us to find the truth of a matter.  How can we know which flag to wave, which cause to support, which candidate to vote for?
            One of the most beautiful things afforded a Christian is wisdom. Proverbs tells us many times that it is rooted in the fear of God.  This submission to divine authority and sovereignty forms a basis for understanding that supersedes all other.  I’ve been reading several books lately, and I am seeing how we Christians have begun shifting our roots and clinging to non-truths that sound good but lead to adverse outcomes.
            One reading was an article about the changes in evangelism in the past 60-70 years.  Where once preachers preached repentance with great fervor, things shifted and led us down a path of easy-believe-ism (just pray the prayer and you’ll be okay) until now we do not understand the depth of true repentance and see fewer people coming down the aisle under conviction of their sin.  With the doctrine of salvation weakened, we now have churches that are seeker friendly, trying to usher people to the throne with as little discomfort as possible.
            What were we thinking?  That the Rich Young Ruler needn’t have gone away sorrowful?  That Judas should have been better understood?  That Peter’s prejudice action didn’t warrant Paul confronting him so directly?
            Rev Martin wrote: “To desire to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, to pray for it, and to open the heart to the manifestations of God’s will is, without doubt, without doubt, to be ultimately filled with such knowledge. Ask and wait, wait and watch, and you shall not be left without guidance.”  But we didn’t want the waiting, seeking, and asking.  We wanted it now, and we are paying later.
            But let me come back to the politics where I started.  Here too, it is so very vital that we think!  Sort what we see and hear with wisdom and inquiry. Don’t believe everything you read! Christianity is the wisest of all religions (if you will allow me to call it a religion) because its source is the Almighty.  And, as His children, we have His power and wisdom available to us.  We needn’t allow every diverse political opinion to sway us. Our opinion should be His opinion.
            Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “God help us not only to stand for the truth, but to obey it scrupulously that we may not lose the power to think as Christians.”
            Lord, help us to live life in gear and not just coast through in neutral. Teach us to remember that there is no wisdom, nor counsel, nor understanding that can outstrip you. Cause us to examine our choices long enough to determine the outcomes and consequences instead of just going along with the crowd like a lamb to the slaughter.  Give us vibrancy and strong faith with our brains engaged!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Week Forty - Get Your Vowels in Order

Beside the Well

            The English alphabet has five basic vowels, a, e, i, o, and u.  Bet you already knew that, didn’t you!  So did I, but as I read One with A Shepherd by Mary Somerville I began noticing vowels everywhere!
            One with “A” shepherd.  A – meaning a particular one.  We have a Shepherd; one particular Shepherd—The Lord Jesus Christ.
            E – Example.  The example of our Shepherd is written for us to follow.  His example is one of submission to the Father.
            I – but I get in the way.  I struggle with obedience.  I demand my own way—independence.  She quotes John Piper, “Independence from God is rebellion against God.  At root, our sinful condition is the commitment to be our own god.  I will be the final authority in my life.  I will decide what is right and wrong for me; and what is good and bad; and what is true and false for me.  My desires express my sovereignty, my autonomy, and though we don’t usually say it—my presumed deity.” (p 101-102)
            This is not a new problem!  Look at Isaiah 47:8, “…that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me…” Such is the attitude of being focused on I.
            O – Oh, what sinful and stubborn people we are.  Open to every temptation. Overly sensitive; but spiritually, only vaguely sensitive.  Overtly willful, and determined to have our way.
            U – without consideration for U.  You, who are our loved ones and friends.  We fail to put you first; to consider how our choices will impact you as we steadily move to keep the 
focus on I.
            Look at this quote:  “In marriage we give up our Independence and our Autonomy.  We walk together as One.” (p 102)  More vowels!  And the key to marital success!
            The subtitle to Mary Somerville’s book is The Tears and Triumphs of a Ministry Marriage.  Her advice is biblical, practical, and personal and not limited to ministry marriages, but all marriages and relationships. But back to the vowels:

            Acknowledge Almighty Authority.
            Examine and Embrace the Example of the Shepherd
            Identify where I lives.  Hint: prIde.  Insubordination.  Independence.
            Obey the orders of Our Lord. (Submitting yourselves one to another—remember that verse?)
            Understand you do not live or die to yourself. Consider others.

            It all might seem like just a bit of fun with wordplay, but vowels form the basis of our written language.  Similarly, the basis of our Christian life is found in God’s written word. If we are missing integral parts, or getting things in a distorted manner, we will be a muddled mess! 
            Are your vowels in order?