A Healthy Heart

January 30, 2011

(Sound file of heart beat)
Your heart, do you ever stop and think about your heart? It’s pretty important. One of the pivotal points when you are expecting is when you can first hear your child’s heartbeat. And in all the murder and mayhem shows on TV what’s the first thing they do when they discover a body? Sure, check to see if there is a pulse, a heartbeat. Except on Bones, because then it’s pretty evident that the person is dead.
And so for many people life begins and ends with their heart. Hardly much bigger than your fist your heart will beat 60 times a minute, 3600 times an hour, 86,400 times a day. And that’s just one day, if you live to be 70 then your heart will have beat 25,550 days, do the math. Every minute of our lives the heart pumps over five litres of blood through our bodies, that’s over 300 litres of blood an hour, 7,200 litres of blood a day through a network of 96,000 km of arteries, veins and capillaries. And again that is just one day.
But if we move away from the physical it was B.C. Forbes who said “The size of your body is of little account; the size of your brain is of much account; the size of your heart is of the most account of all.” And that has nothing to do with the physical size of your heart. When you love someone you love them with all your heart and when they leave they broke your heart. If someone is kind compassionate and loving they have a big heart on the other hand if they are none of those they are heartless.
If you really enjoy the Big Apple you “Heart NY”.
Six verses into the bible when God looked at the world and how it had deviated from his will and his way we read in Genesis 6:5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
And then the very next verse tells us the result, Genesis 6:6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.
This is week four of our health check series and this morning we are looking at “A Healthy Heart.” And this is important. The leading cause of hospitalization in Canada continues to be heart disease and stroke, accounting for 16.9 % of total hospitalizations. Heart disease and stroke costs the Canadian economy more than $22.2 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity. That’s 22.2 Billion with a B.
And Heart disease is the number one killer in Canada, approximately 30% of Canadians who die this year will die from a heart related condition. Every seven minutes someone will die from heart disease or stroke in Canada. From the time our first service began at 9:00 a.m. until our third service will finish at 3:15 this afternoon statically speaking heart disease will have killed over 40 people in Canada.
And there are some frightening statistics that point to the cause of Heart disease, I read this just recently.
The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
So apparently it is speaking English that will kill you!!!
But the reality is that regardless of what language we speak most of us start with a healthy heart. Oh there are a few anomalies and sometimes you will hear of a child who has been born with a heart problem but for the most part we start with a healthy heart that will do what very few if any man made pumps could do and that is pump continually for up to a hundred years or beyond without having parts replaced.
So how does that relate to us individually as Christ Followers and collectively as his church? Well, the bible, the word of God uses the word heart hundreds of times from the first time it is mentioned in the book of Genesis until the last time it is mentioned in the book of Revelation. And very few of those instances refer to the organ that beats in your chest. Instead it refers to our love, our loyalty and our attitudes, both toward God and toward others.
So let’s start with: What Makes a Heart Unhealthy? Most of us have heard of Hardening of the Arteries but there is also a hardening of the heart and it happens as a result of the walls of the heart thickening. Eventually as the cardiac wall becomes thicker the heart muscles in effect become hard and unable to pump blood the way they are supposed to.
In the scriptures we read of people having a hard heart and that means that they are not responsive to God and his will. You might recall way back in the book of Exodus when Moses went to Pharaoh and demanded that the Israelites be set free from the slavery of Egypt that we are told that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he refused. Exodus 7:13 Pharaoh’s heart, however, remained hard. He still refused to listen, just as the LORD had predicted. Actually that is one of the stories that has confused me and I’m sure others have been confused as well because when the story begins God tells Moses Exodus 4:21 And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go.”
And when I first read that, way back when I thought: “That’s not fair, God hardened his heart.” But then I went back further in the story and discovered God didn’t have to do much hardening. Listen to the beginning of the story Exodus 1:8-11 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labour. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
And the story continues in Exodus 1:13-16 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”
Not a nice guy. Augustine wrote “God does not harden men by infusing malice into them, but by not imparting mercy to them.” In other words Pharaoh had done so much wrong for so long and had rejected God for so long that the grace that would have soften his heart was not offered to him, and that is scary. But Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who is referenced as having a hard heart in the Bible.

 When we think of Jesus and attributes used to describe him we think: gentle, caring, forgiving and loving. But very seldom do we think of the term angry, if we do it’s when he cleared out the temple of the money changers. But there is another time as well and that is in Mark 3:5 He (Jesus) looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. And that wasn’t the only case, throughout the gospels Jesus criticized people for having hard hearts.
But what does that mean, having a hard or hardened heart? Paul said this in the letter he wrote to the Ephesians. Ephesians 4:17-19 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles (unbelievers) do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
To have a hard heart means that you have closed yourself off from God, from his teachings, from his guidance, from his correction and ultimately from his Grace.
Jesus warns us about an unhealthy spiritual heart in Matthew 12:35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And broadens that out in Matthew 15:19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
Can it be changed? Yes. In the physical we are told that a change in life style and a change in diet can help restore a diseased heart and it’s just as radical in the spiritual sense. Both Jeremiah and Hosea offer the people of Israel similar advice Hosea 10:12 I (God) said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plough up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ And in order to break though that hard heart it will require a conscious choice and it will require work, it’s not something that comes easy or without effort, if you’ve ever broken hard ground for a garden then you know exactly what I mean.
But often what is defined as heart disease doesn’t have anything to do with the pump itself but with the rest of the mechanism breaks down. Hardened or blocked arteries, clots, and leaky or faulty valves, the plumbing and the electrical.
So if that is what makes a heart unhealthy what is the alternative? What Makes a Heart Healthy? Physically your heart has one job and that is to move blood through your body. And it does that in a spectacular fashion. Your heart pumps on an average 70 times a minute, 4200 times and hour, 108,000 times a day, 36,792,000 times a year. And if you live to be seventy like some of our folks then your heart will have beat some 2,575,440,00 times. And you wonder why you feel tired.
And every time it beats it pumps 2 1/2 ounces of blood through 96,000 kms of arteries, veins and capillaries. And if we were to talk about how much that blood weighed, that is about 9 lbs of blood every minute, almost 550 of blood each hour, 6.5 tons a day, 2333 tons a year, that is 163,278 tons in a seventy year life, or 326,556,160 pounds. And if your heart is able to do its job then it is considered a healthy heart.
Spiritually there are all kinds of scriptures that define what a healthy heart is and does. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. And in his first letter to Timothy Paul defines one of his goals, 1 Timothy 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. And so it would be fair to say that spiritually a healthy heart is a pure heart. Pure in action and pure in motive, that goes back to some of what we talked about in an unhealthy heart. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. And Jesus warns us in Matthew 5:28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. That stuff doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a pure heart, does it. Remember James tells us in his letter that Salt water and fresh water can’t come from the same spring and grapes don’t grow on thorn bushes. Is your heart a pure heart? Not only in action but also in motive?
Solomon tells us in Proverbs 14:30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; . . . so a healthy heart is a peaceful heart, that probably crosses to the physical as well, if your spiritual and emotional heart is at peace it probably puts less strain on you physical heart.
In the book of Leviticus we are told Leviticus 19:17 “Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives.” And in the New Testament John reminds us 1 John 3:15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. Do you have a peaceful heart? It really is a choice, you will forgive or you won’t forgive, you will either harbour resentment in your heart or you will let it go. And those things aren’t feelings, they are actions, things you do.
David writes in Psalm 9:1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvellous things you have done. And in Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. So I think it would be fair to say that a healthy heart is a Praising Heart. It is a heart that gets its focus from praising God and looking outward instead of inward. A healthy heart acknowledges that all we have is from God and gives thanks for that. And we can think to ourselves “Well, really God knows I’m thankful.” But that isn’t the point, there is something about stating your thanks that makes it real, not necessarily to God but to yourselves. It is an acknowledgment in yourself that you are who you are and you have what you have not by chance or by accident but because God provides all things. We are told in Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Do you realize how incredible fortunate you are? And if you can’t think of anything to give thanks for than you definitely have heart problems.
So a healthy heart is a pure heart, a peaceful heart and a praising heart and Jesus sums all of that up in Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” So bottom line is you know your heart is healthy when you Love God and Love others.
So that brings us to the last question which is How Do We Maintain a Healthy Heart? How do we keep our hearts healthy? The two major things are 1) What we consume, too much and the wrong type of food, excess consumption of alcohol and smoking. And 2) What we do and don’t’ do. Bottom line and you don’t want to hear it any more than I do is that we keep our hearts healthy by our diet and exercise.
People talk about a cure for cancer and yet heart disease kills more people than cancer and we have a cure. And sometimes it takes something dramatic to happen, a heart attack will often cause people to change their lifestyle but sometimes not. In the game called life there are no guarantees, skinny physically fit people sometimes die of heart disease but not as often as those on the other end of the scale.
If you want to reduce your chance of heart disease you will quit smoking, get your weight down to a healthy level and start exercising.
And in our spiritual life if we want to have a healthy heart it boils down to the same too things, what we consume and what we do. Pastor Jason spoke on having healthy appetites last week, what are you feeding your soul on? The things of God or the things of the world? Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. If we could do a spiritual echocardiogram on you what would we find hidden in your heart? Because what you feed on will dictate what is in your heart. You want a good spiritual menu? Try this for a suggestion, Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
So if the first step toward having a healthy heart is watching what we consume the second thing is what you do. Jesus talked about this as did the rest of the New Testament writers, your heart is evidenced in your actions. It’s not enough to say you love God and love others if that doesn’t affect how you live. Time and time again we read that a tree will be judged by its fruit and that salt water and fresh water can’t come from the same spring. James reminds his readers in James 2:15-16 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? And then if they didn’t get they didn’t get the point he adds James 2:17-18 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
What are your deeds saying about your love for God and for others? If people were going to judge your Christian heart by your appetites and your actions what conclusions would they reach? And trust me, people will judge your Christian heart by both your appetites and your actions.
The good news for your physical heart and for your spiritual heart is this: In most cases it’s not too late, if you make the decision to do the right things. The question is: Will you?