Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Heart . . . . . Needs A Soul Surgeon


Your heart is an incredible piece of machinery. Sitting just to the left side of your breastbone about 3 to 4 inches beneath the ribs and behind the two lobes of your left lung lies an incredible machine. It is constantly squeezing and releasing in a synchronized cycle day in and day out. It beats somewhere between 60 to 100 times a minute and during sleep can easily drop down into the forties. During times of extreme exertion or fright it can race up to 160 times per minute to help your body respond to the challenge it faces.

Your heart is an incredible piece of machinery. During the time that goes by in a single minute, your heart can pump between 6-8 liters of blood. In an hour it can pump 360 to 480 liters of blood. In twenty-four hours, 8640 liters of blood and in one week, an astounding 60,480 liters of blood (using an average of 6 liters/minute). It never needs a rest and it never needs lubrication. Uniquely enough when God created the body, He designed it in such a way that the heart is the very first organ of the body that receives oxygen-enriched blood.

There are arteries that are wrapped around the heart called coronary arteries. Five of them wrap around your heart much in the same way as if you were to ball up your fist and then take your other hand and wrap your fingers around your closed fist. They are vital to life. If they b
ecome clogged with plaque or with clot then your heart begins to hurt. Generally speaking, the vast majority of patients who begin to suffer the symptoms of a heart attack (myocardial infarction) will feel great pain. It can be described as a sharp excruciating pain. Almost as if a knife has been pushed into the chest. Other patients will describe the pain as pressure, "like an elephant sitting on my chest." Either of these two complaints, along with EKG changes on a heart monitor will get the attention of any Emergency Department physician or RN.

When I was in Houston, working my way through Bible college, I had the opportunity to work in one of the most challenging hospitals in the nation. I worked at the Texas Heart Institute in the CVICU and recovered patients from their open heart surgeries. We did 18 to 30 open hearts every single day. All in all, I enjoyed the environment but there was more than once it did get a little exciting and stressful.

We worked in collaboration with some of the sharpest minds and most talented hands in the country. The CV fellows, residents, RN's, and Respiratory therapists did yeoman's work every single day. Day shifts, night shifts, holidays, weekends, and every other place that time could be squeezed in found this staff constantly seeking ways to improve CV medicine. Most of the RNs would com
monly walk around with two drugs in their scrub pants pockets, atropine and epinephrine. Both of those drugs have an amazing effect on a failing heart. It was crucial that you knew exactly what reason and when to use these meds.

Honestly, I did not realize the reputation of this instution until after I had jumped in the fray. Denton Cooley, MD, was one of the pioneers of open heart surgery, valve replacements, and heart transplants. In fact, he was responsible for one of the very first transplants to occur in the United States. Oddly enough, that transplant more than 35 years ago devastated his relationship with Michael DeBakey, MD, who was actually one of Cooley's mentors. Through that a long-standing feud developed that probably will never go away.

Kathleen Joseph RN, MSN, who was an excellent nurse and preceptor, worked with me for my first month at Texas Heart helping me to get acclimated to all of the equipment and paperwork. Kathleen had graduated from nursing school at Georgetown in D.C. before she arrived in Houston. After spending twenty years in medicine, I would have to say that Kathleen
was among the top five RN's that I ever worked with. She was the one who took me to the "dome" for the first time.

The "dome" was upstairs above the OR where Dr. Cooley and a heart team operated. I would look down and watch his deft fingers move with skill and precision as he would bypass the blockages that were present in the patient's heart. The entire team in the OR would be incredibly focused on what was occurring in their "world." One of the great things also about the "dome" was that you could hear what Dr. Cooley was saying to those on the "heart team." Even though he did more hearts than any other surgeon in Houston, he never appeared to be in a hurry or pressured by the schedule that he knew was awaiting him.

One day, I was in the "dome" and apparently one of the young residents nicked a crucial vessel and immediately the entire cavity of the open chest filled with blood. I can remember Dr. Cooley responding calmly and quickly to this emergency. He told the resident, as he was putting his finger on
the gusher, that the best tool to take care of a bleeder immediately was a finger. Not some fancy gadget or high tech laser but simply a finger would do. He kept his finger on the nick and with his other hand he deftly placed a quick stitch and the problem passed (with no harm to the patient).

Since that time, I have more than once believed that those who preach the Gospel are men who have been taught by God and equipped with the Spirit to accomplish great things. The fact of the matter is that a preacher will always be crucial in what happens in the life of a church. We expect competence out of our surgeons and more often than not we expect very little competence out of our ministers. Man of God, your job is the be a surgeon of the Soul. It is imperative that you not be distracted from this cause. Yet, there is an enemy who is sowing the tares in the field and would love nothing more than to get me distracted from the real purpose of God in my life.

The second temptation of the Lord could very well be the greatest temptation of the minister. To retreat back to Matthew 4, one finds this second temptation occurring when the devil takes the Lord to the pinnacle of the Temple and encourages him to jump. Scholars are a little divided about the exact location of this point but all they agree on one thing, the Lord was being tempted in the precincts of the holy. Imagine with me for moment of how the devil comes to church. He boldly walks into the avenues of the holy, not because he is welcome, but because he desperately desires to take out the "surgeon" in the very place where his focus is needed the most.

Amazingly, over the years, one will find that the most productive places that the devil will work is in local churches. He will walk through district politics and try to gain a foot-hold. He would attempt to divide national organizations into a few camps. He would love nothing more than to get us to hold our points so fiercely that our positions become more crucial than the promotion of the Gospel. If adultery has destroyed its few in ministry, then pride has destroyed it's multitudes. If money has tempted a few, the hunger for pre-eminence has ripped the soul out of the masses.

Few men of God expect this sort of thing, especially to be tempted from the Temple, but it can very easily happen. When we are in the midst of overwhelming revival, a unified front of the saints of God, with prayers are being answered, when everything is "right," this villian sends out the lure.

Evil is not always negative when we are approached with it out “in the field.” The catch of the temptation (or the hook) is that this evil may actually turn out to be good. This is always the great deceit that accompanies temptation. Sometimes the temptations are not punishments but rather they are cloaked as discoveries, or opportunities, or as a vision of greatness. Temptation is a call from a hellish world but it never comes to our ears as a shrieking scream of horrific horror. Rather it is as one man wrote: “I believe the devil’s voice sinks deeper in our ear than any Voice from Heaven, however so sweet and clear.”


For the Lord to leap from the Temple's pinnacle would have been a moment that would have left an indelible mark on Israel. They would have mobbed this King because of the show of power. But the catch is in this: How do you convince people to take up their cross? or how do you encourage them to deny self? or how can you really create a spiritual kingdom in this manner? especially after you have leaped from the Temple. Paul very clearly told us that the Jews were looking for a sign (1 Cor. 1:22) and this would have more than filled the bill.

If the Lord would have jumped, you better believe that there would have been angels to bear Him up. The Psalms prophetically spoke this and had this instance happened, they would have been summoned to immediate, miraculous duty. This whole sensational scene would have immediately played into the hands of the devil. His temptation would have subverted the real plan. From that point on, the Lord's ministry would have been expected to have a greater miracle, a greater show, and a bigger gig than the one the day before.

Be extremely careful when the Lord starts anointing you for greater service. Remember this: that anointing does not belong to you, it has been given to you to facilitate the growth of His Kingdom, not your kingdom. Despite the very, very few who fall to moral failure, doctrinal deviation, or abrupt abandonment, there are hundreds more who fall for this trick in the holy places. Out of control ambition, manipulation of people, the choking hold of materialism, and a thousand other things disarm us for what God really had in store for us. Angels end up catching us on a fairly routine basis. The fall comes at the hands of pride. No need for moral failure, no need for murder, no need for the "big" sins, just a tapping into our desire and hunger for fulfillment and significance.

One man wrote it like this:

C. S. Lewis wrote a little book once entitled The Screwtape Letters. In this little book, an older devil is giving supposed wise advice to his young nephew, Wormwood. In this little book, Lewis tries to lift the veil off the hideous methods of hell:

Doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without mileposts, without signposts. Signed, Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.

That is the trick. To get men of God to waste their lives on the insignificant and unimportant. Pay attention to your practice. There must be a crushing blow that comes to the heart every time that God uses me as a channel to convey some spiritual action that would help His people. So the devil gains a foot with our pride and before long the little foxes of prayerlessness, laziness, loss of vigilance, lack of hunger for revival and the spiritual things, and deserted vision leave us stranded at the point when the patient needed us the most.

J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership
-- “Egotism is one of the repulsive manifestations of pride. It is the practice of thinking and speaking much of oneself, the habit of magnifying one’s attainments or importance. It leads one to consider everything in its relation to himself rather than in relation to God and the welfare of His people.”

The sad thing is:
  • We can be gifted with charisma but not character.
  • We can have poise but no prayer.
  • We can develop messages to preach but not develop our lives.
  • We can learn leadership skills and never master integrity.
  • We can have a crowd but not a church.
  • We can have talent but no discipline.
  • We can have superficial success but an absence of deep consecration.
  • We can have "stage" but no redemption.
One need look no further than the life of William Branham to see this pattern. This man was mightily used of God and when he got out of place with the purpose of God in his life, it destroyed him. Miracles that were accompanied by even greater signs all fell to the wayside when he started getting "revelations" that opposed the Book.

Whenever one is tempted to become self-important and authoritative, the advice that a mother whale gave to her baby will suffice: “When you get to the top and start to ‘blow,’ that’s when you get harpooned.”

Scout out William Branham for yourself and then be very careful when success starts coming your way that you do not plummet from the Pinnacle. We need every man who serves the churches to be a surgeon of the soul. . . .

3 comments:

Chevron1 said...

Very timely, Brother. I needed that today.
Chevron1

Anonymous said...

An awesome article, my brother!! Very well said, may God help us to keep our head as well as our balance.

Bro T said...

Nothing like getting right to the heart of the matter. We tend to stray with the little things till we are so far from the path we find ourselves missing the purpose for which the Lord has called us. Focus is vital to heart surgery both spiritual as well as physical. Great lesson from the operating room of life...