Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Atherosclerosis suddenly popped up on an X-ray that was taken for an entirely different condition. The radiologist's report said “Calcification of the aorta.”
Apparently that means plaque accumulation in the arteries from the heart. In my grandparents' day before the invention of X-rays and other means of peering inside the body, even then they used to call it “hardening of the arteries.”

Some spiritual points are to be gleaned from what causes that “hardening” in our spiritual hearts and what it means. The Scriptures have much to say about the heart but not in the literal physical sense of the organ that beats in our chests. In the Bible what is referred to as the “heart” is the invisible place within us of our will, our emotions, where we make our decisions, our innermost being.

A most interesting point is that the heart seems to be wired to the ear! “Today, if you would hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7b and 8a; Hebrews 3:7,8 and 15). If I have a hard heart, I have a deaf ear!

If it doesn't seem that God is talking to me, the problem might be that I have spiritual calcification of the aorta, the hardening of my heart. It isn't that God is not talking; I am not hearing because something is blocking my heart. Just in the process of living, silently and slowly plaque builds up that prevents me from hearing the sound of His still, small voice. God doesn't shout. He waits for us to quiet down and listen to His unmistakable whisper. Plaque might accumulate with material things, by sin, or through indulgence in things of this world that attach themselves to me.

In the medical world, this calcification is said to be age related and inevitable. In the course of time our physical hearts become hardened because of poor diets, lack of certain nutrients and supplements, bad lifestyle habits, and long time stress. Spiritually, the older I become, the more clutter has amassed in my life obscuring the voice of God when He speaks to me. Aging simply means that this hardening becomes more common, not that it is normal and should be excused.

Medically speaking, often this hardening plaque must be removed by medical or surgical means or by a sort of “rotor-rooter” which clears the arteries. David prayed in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” In our bodies we may need a “stent” to support the blood vessels affected by the condition and permit the free flow of blood. Spiritually, maintaining a close walk with God and a “first love” ( Revelation 2:4) relationship with Jesus is God's stent to keep the hardening of our hearts at bay and clearing our ears to hear God's voice.

If I need hearing aids, I should not hesitate in getting them. Actually, I already have the best; the Holy Spirit is my Divine Hearing Aid. His prescription is drastic: surgical removal of the disordered heart and a heart transplant! “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” (Ezekiel 36:26). With that tender, malleable heart of flesh I can hear the voice of God clearly and recognize it to be His. Jesus told us that His sheep hear His voice and distinguish it from all other voices. (John 10).

Jesus encountered hardened hearts constantly in His disciples because they were slow to understand and dull of spiritual perception. Even after seeing firsthand and being involved in His miracle of multiplying the loaves and fishes, they were worried about having taken only one loaf of bread with them for a day at sea. Jesus questioned, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see and understand? Do you have a hardened heart?” After watching Jesus walk on the water, Mark recorded in his gospel, “They were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (6:52).

During a certain era of the prophets in the Old Testament when it was written that “a word from the Lord was rare in those days,” [no one was hearing the voice of the Lord] young Samuel, who was in training with the elderly prophet Eli, repeatedly heard a voice at night which he mistook for Eli calling him. Eli finally understood that God was speaking to the boy and instructed him to answer, “Speak, for Thy servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). I need to get into the habit of letting God know that I'm listening for His voice and I'm working on maintaining a heart of flesh. I need practice in keeping my spiritual arteries open so I can be certain that I'm hearing God's voice and not that of someone else.

Any good news? Yes! Both heart plaque and spiritual atherosclerosis is not only treatable but preventable! With aggressive treatment: medication, surgery, better nutrition and lifestyle changes the physical problem has hope.

Likewise we can do something about spiritual atherosclerosis! “You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God” (Hebrews 3:13NLT) Treatment protocol? Restore a first-love relationship with Jesus that we might have silently and slowly lost, giving our spiritual heart to Him without reserve.

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