Sometimes you have to get to the heart of a matter
before you really understand it. Like the pastor who was
frustrated because he couldn't locate a file in the
drawer. "I can never find what I want in these files!"
he said to his secretary in exasperation. "What system
do you use?" "Well, Pastor," she said, "this IS a church
office after all, so I use the Biblical system." "The
Biblical system? What's that?" the pastor asked, to
which she replied, "Seek and ye shall find!"
Today's Scripture readings all talk about the heart of the
matter. Heart and soul-the heart and the totality. God has a
particular message for us all today. God expects us to turn to the
Lord with all our heart and all our soul. I love what it says in
the Deuteronomy lesson. "Surely this commandment that I am
commanding you today is not too hard for you…" I love it because
it sounds like a bit of sarcasm that a parent would use with a
child or youth who is making excuses but can't see how lame the
excuses are. "Surely," a father says to his son who has been
driving for 3 months and the car breaks down because the boy has
not followed directions, "Surely it's not too hard to follow my
directions to put oil in the car or water in a radiator?" The
point I'm making is that it wasn't too hard for the youth to
follow directions; he was just too lazy or distracted or didn't
really think through the consequences. We are like that with
regard to instructions God gives us so that we won't break down in
our heart or soul. We don't follow the instructions, even as easy
as they are. And if we do follow them, we so often only do it
Not only do we have an instruction book to use, the Bible, but
God has also planted instructions in our minds and hearts so that
the instructions are in our mouths ready to be spoken. But we fail
ourselves and our children, all children, because we don't always
or often use the instruction book nor do we always follow what God
has planted in our hearts and souls and minds.
There are lots of lame excuses for not using the Bible, the
instruction book. Excuses like, "it's too hard to understand,"
"it's boring to read," "the language is too strange," "it all
happened a long time ago across the sea in another land and
doesn't relate to me" and "it seems like God is far away,
somewhere up there in heaven, wherever that is."
But God says, "No," that's not true. "No, the word is very near
to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe."
It is so important for the Christian to be observant. Not in a
casual way, but with all one's heart and all one's soul. If you
were on guard duty in the army, you would be alert to anything and
everything that seemed out of the ordinary. You would listen and
recognize the familiar sounds and know when you heard an
unfamiliar one. Someone who was trying to approach would have to
use the right words, words you'd recognize and know were true, in
order to get by.
A parent listens carefully to the sounds a child makes because
it can determine if the child is ill or coming down with
something. A parent listens carefully to the words of their
children because it can help them determine if the youth is
troubled or in trouble. You listen for the familiar in your
children. It's written in your heart and mind and you know when
something is not right.
Life is not something to just deal with. Life is something to
explore. It's full of challenges. There's a difference between
dealing with the challenges, and exploring the challenges and
growing through them.
Martin Luther believed it was the duty and responsibility of
every Christian to keep learning as much as one could about the
Word of God. In today's Psalm the Psalmist says, "Show me your
ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and
teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I
trusted all the day long." In Proverbs it says, "Trust in the Lord
with all your heart; do not lean on your own understanding. In all
your ways acknowledge God and God will direct your paths."
(Proverbs 3:5, 6)
Luther says that our very existence, our "very survival depends
upon recognizing the voice of Christ among the competing voices
all around us."
In one of Luther's sermons, one on "The Good Shepherd," he
says, "Here is a key to Christian faith. In this life everyone is
troubled by doubts. Every Christian will at some time or another
experience a feeling of having been rejected or abandoned by God.
Of course, Satan is always happy to encourage such thoughts and
feelings….But the meaning of faith, says Luther, is that we
nevertheless hold on to the promises of God's Word; we refuse to
call God a liar. God has promised that the Shepherd knows His
And we his sheep must learn to recognize the Shepherd's voice.
Luther says, "That's exactly how it is with a little sheep; its
very life depends upon hearing. If it doesn't hear the shepherd's
voice, the wolves will soon be there. Without the Shepherd's
voice, all joy and assurance vanish and only fear and trembling
remain. That's how it is also with a Christian: if he loses the
Word, all comfort is gone; as long as he is faithful to the Word,
he will behold Christ, his shepherd, and therewith everything
Christ has earned and promised him…."
But we have to be alert, be aware. We have to know how to
recognize the Shepherd's voice amongst all the other voices
competing for our attention. And we can only be certain if we are
alert with all our heart and soul. If you can't "get into" reading
the Bible, then get a translation that you CAN get into. I've told
you many times about "The Message." It's not a study Bible because
it isn't a word for word translation, but it's accurate and reads
in up to date language. It's SO readable and understandable. It's
now out in both the Old and New Testaments. It's truly refreshing,
We have to care, folks. We have to. You have to care not only
for the sake of your OWN soul, but for the sake of your children,
any children; you have to care for the sake of the soul of so many
who don't know the love of Christ. But you can't do it
half-heartedly. You can't do it without purpose and intent. That's
what it means to do it with all your heart and with all your
soul-to have a purpose and be intentional. There are always
There's a really great poem that speaks of one particular
choice, but it speaks to all sorts of choices, and it shows us,
and each one of us will hear it differently, how we often make the
choice that won't help us in our purpose and intent to know the
voice of God better. Now in this poem, it relates to the TV. If
you don't watch TV at all, or very little, then just think of what
it is that catches your attention. The poem is entitled,
"The Bible And The T.V."
On the table side by side: the Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
One is well worn but cherished with pride
(not the Bible, but the TV Guide).
One is used daily to help folks decide;
No, it isn't the Bible; it's the TV Guide.
As pages are turned, what shall they see?
Oh what does it matter! Turn on the TV.
So they open the book in which they confide
(no, not the Bible; the TV Guide).
The Word of God is seldom read;
Maybe a verse e'er they fall into bed,
Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be.
Not from reading the Bible; from watching TV.
So then back to the table side by side,
Is the Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
No time for prayer, no time for the Word.
The plan of salvation is seldom heard.
Forgiveness of sins so full and free
Is found in the Bible, not on TV.
If we're going to win the battle against Satan directing our
lives and the lives our children, we're going to have to get
serious about the Word. We're going to have to approach it with
all our heart and all our soul. That is, you're going to have to
ask, like the Psalmist, "show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me
your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me…" You're going to
have to, with purpose and intent, learn more about the Word of
God. It won't only come to you through the words of the Bible, but
as you study God's Word, your heart is opened to all that God has
already planted there and you are drawn even and ever closer in
relationship with God.
I know that summer is not the time to start Bible study. We're
geared toward "September starts." But I'm going to start
Wednesday, August 4th after the 7pm worship, from 7:30-8:30 the
first 3 Wednesdays of every month, a Bible study. I expect that
the class will have at least 35 people in it each week if this
congregation is going to get serious about its vision and mission.
I will take one or two verses each week, verses that are usually
known as hard to understand or are often misinterpreted, or often
ignored or overlooked. Throughout, you can submit verses that you,
yourself have difficulty with. You will be expected to bring your
own Bible each time to Bible study.
If there's enough interest to have a lunch time study on
Wednesdays, I will teach the same Bible study on Wednesdays from
noon to 1pm as in the evenings. You can bring a sandwich and drink
or snack or whatever you want at 11:30 and eat lunch first before
the Bible Study. In September and October we will see about
starting some other classes.
Yes, of course there are "Sign-Up Sheets." By signing you are
making a commitment to some regular study. It doesn't mean you
have to be present every week, but you're making a commitment to
regular study. You're approaching learning about God's Word in the
tradition of Martin Luther who said it is the responsibility of
every Christian to learn, and to keep learning as much as possible
about the Word of God.
Heart and Soul. Purpose and intent. Not then and there, but
here and now.