Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Are You Truly Heart Smart?

If you've met me once, you probably know that I'm a health freak. Everything from fitness and nutrition to illness-prevention and medical research is a huge passion of mine. But even if you don't seek out health info like I do, there's no way you can miss the phrase "heart smart" in your normal life. Everything seems to have jumped on the heart smart bandwagon these days - Cheerios, almonds, aspirin, pedometers, treadmills, gym memberships...even WebMD (probably your family doctor's office) encourages your yearly check-ups as being heart smart.

I admit it - heart smart is a catchy phrase. It's only two syllables, it rhymes, it just rolls right off the tongue...but I also can't help but wonder - what does it really mean to be heart smart? Are there things that are heart smarter than others? Are all heart smart items created equal? Can being heart smart be faked?

As far as things of this world go, I'm not about to attempt the answers to those questions. However, my yearly Bible reading plan has had me in Psalms and I Kings this week, and it's had me thinking about the heart...and how God would define being "heart smart."

I Kings begins with the last days of David's life - the one referred to as "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14), which triggered my thought process. In his final charge to his son, Solomon, before his death, he proves this statement true. He challenges his son to show himself a man by keeping God's charge - " walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His act according to your wisdom...and show kindness" (I Kings 2:3;6-7).

Wow. I know carrying on the family business can sometimes be difficult for a son, especially if his father was so gifted at his craft - but can you imagine trying to fill a legacy like that? Plus, this wasn't just any family business. After his father's death, Solomon was now the king...of Israel...God's chosen people. Yikes.
Solomon wasn't incompetant. In fact, when Solomon was proclaimed king, I Kings 1:40 says that "the people were playing their flutes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth shook at their joy." And this was actually before David died. It would have been easy for Solomon to start his reign as king puffed up and full of himself.

But in humility mirroring his fathers, Solomon prayed this prayer:

Now, O Lord my God, You have made your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?

Can you believe that "Wise King Solomon" compares himself to a child who cannot find his way? How incredible is it that the person who has more power than anyone else in the land doesn't refer to the people in his country as his people but as God's people? And what does he ask for of the Lord - more riches? Increased favor? No. He wants an understanding heart, which the Lord grants (I Kings 3:12, 4:29).

Confession time. When I first came to seminary, I didn't know anything. Let me re-phrase that...I thought I knew the Bible. I'd grown up with these stories. I'd been reading it daily since the 7th grade. But in my first few classes, I was introduced to words like hermeneutics, propitiation and disponsational premillenialism. It became obvious quickly that I had a lot to learn.

Over the past three years, I've studied more than I ever have in my life. I've taken classes in church history, interpreting Scripture, preparing Bible studies - and I actually have an opinion now about disponsational premillenialism (which we won't get into).

Most of you are probably thinking, "That's great." On one hand - yes, it is. I am so thankful for the lessons I've learned and the professors who have invested in me. However, there is a danger in "knowing" how to do things now. There have been moments when I've sat down to read the Bible and immediately began reminding myself of what was going on in that time period and who the author of the text is. Almost subconciously, I search the footnotes for commentary and additional background information.

And while there's nothing wrong with any of those things I just mentioned, there's a critical component missing:

I forgot to ask God to speak to me through His Word - to teach me what He wants me to learn.

It seems simple...but how else would we be able to read one book for our entire lives and learn something new each time we open it? Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, trying to understand Scripture out of our human wisdom is pointless...but it's so easy to get caught up in our "knowledge" and forget the heart.

God is powerful enough to impart His wisdom, even if the world doesn't think that we are very smart. Look at the people he chose: Moses - a helpless Israelite baby in a basket; David - a shepherd; the disciples - an assortment of non-religious leaders who help occupations like fishermen and a tax collector; Paul - a persecutor of Christians...the list could go on. Bottom line - If God's in it, anything is possible. If we try to do anything on our own power, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

After Solomon built the temple, I Kings 8:10-11 says, "It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud [God's presence] filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord." God's presense was so strong that the ministers SAT DOWN. They didn't need to do their own ministry thing because God was doing His...and He will do that everytime if we just have tthe humility to get out of the way. Instead of trying to think about what we should do, we just need to follow after His closely and quickly as possible.

No, this doesn't mean that ministers should just sit down in church and wait for God to take and pulpit. But our gifts, abilities and aquired wisdom should be second to following God's heart. We don't read in Scripture about following God's brain. Infact, Scripture is pretty clear that's impossible since His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). But His heart? We can incline our hearts towards His and truly seek to follow Him in all we do (Psalm 119:36).

I love the way Psalm 78:72 summarizes David's life. It says, "So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands." David's wisdom didn't begin with his skills - it began with a heart of integrity to do His Father's business. That phrase has echosed in my brain this week - heart of integrity. Your heart - the center of your body's circulation, where everything must be pumped in and out - should focus on integrity...doing the right thing, even if no one is watching.

Today, I challenge you with the same question I've issued to myself: Am I truly heart smart?

No comments: