Monitoring Your Heart

Acts 8: 26-40
JOHN 15: 1-8

April 28, 2024

Yesterday I was talking about being in church today with one of my dearest friends … a few days after my heart procedure on Monday. Last April 2 I never would have dreamed that I would ever need to have heart surgery much less have any heart issues or problems because I was so healthy but here, I am living my new reality a built in defibrillator.

My friend, like so many of you, continues to remind me that I need to be careful … that I need to limit what I do … that I am going to be 31 years old soon … that I can’t even raise my left arm in praise of Jesus for at least 4 to 6 weeks. I was told and heard those words of direction again ‘be sure to monitor your heart and follow what it is telling you.’

Friends, perhaps in the world we live in today … perhaps one of the ongoing challenges we all face is our willingness, our interest, or even our concern for our hearts. After all, our physical hearts keep us alive, as I have been made aware of … all too personally … since last October. I have become the voice for stupid stubborn men because as I have discovered we men are less likely to visit doctors and many men, just like me last year, don’t even have anyone who they call their own personal physician.

So, out of concern for each of you and your hearts … don’t be your own physician. And, if you are experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, or a change in your health don’t GOOGLE HEART CARE … go see a doctor and perhaps you won’t need your chest opened up to gain a life-long internal device that I now have.

And, again, I so appreciate your love and your prayers especially at the end of last Sunday. I have one more health challenge to get through before I just move forward as me but I am confident in my medical team that all will be well.

Getting back to our hearts in literature and life. Our hearts are also the focus of song and poetry throughout the ages. Our hearts since the very beginning of time have been assigned the keepers of our emotional realities that the greats of literature and kids in kindergarten refer to … after all when we send Valentine’s Day cards, we aren’t featuring images of lungs or our intestinal tracts … we showcase hearts. We sketch hearts and some of you can use your fingers to create a heart as a love sign better than I.

After our conversation, that dear dear friend then texted me a lesson from Proverbs, a lesson that reflects Biblically why our hearts matter. “Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART, for it is the spring from which the rest of your life flows.”

So, out of concern for each of you and your spiritual hearts … your souls … I am here today to urge you and plead with you to not limit your relationship with God into a limited personally determined few moments of your life but to instead allow your heart to be strengthened daily because you choose to live as one who believes. That your life’s actions reflect God’s teaching. And yes, that you monitor your heart connection with God on an ongoing basis.

A few weeks ago, as I was moving things around, I again came upon these small books that I treasure. They were my dad’s … my dad kept carried them with him on a variety of island adventures 80 years ago and on the ship that brought him home. Dad carried them as bullets were being fired at him … he carried these books with him as he bandaged the wounded bodies of fellow soldiers and was the human closest to all too many losing their lives on beaches and in jungles. He carried them with him as the one hospital boat he was on was attacked by a kamikaze fighter plane of the enemy causing dad and others to evacuate their ship, but he did not let go of them.

As I went in for my latest procedure, I couldn’t help but think of how the Word of God mattered to my father. There are instructions to those World War 2 soldiers not to write anything in these two books that might identify them to the enemy. But, after the war dad wrote “This was my Bible. I carried through the war. God certainly looked over me. I praise and elevate Him through Jesus. June 1942 to October 1945.”

And, Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vineyard keeper. Remain in me and I will remain in you.”

That’s my starting point today … as we consider who we are and what our faith means to us. Perhaps, if you are like me in these days … you consider and reflect on life’s journey wondering what lies ahead or even how much time is in the future. 2023 definitely added those thoughts to my already overloaded and limited mind.

What is your God connection … right now, in April 2024? Are you carrying God with you as you venture through your days? Are you guarding your heart by ensuring that you have the ultimate internal defibrillator that is God’s Holy Spirit directing your paths and journeys? Are the words out of your mouth and the thoughts that pass through your mind reflective of your remaining in Jesus as Jesus reflected in today’s Gospel lesson?

There is a strong connection between today’s two Scripture lessons. Because Phillip in Luke’s history recorded in the Acts is living out in a real-life scenario what Jesus intended all of us to hear from His message in John’s Gospel.

We don’t know exactly where Jesus was as He taught this lesson, but it was after the Last Supper and before His arrest. In the Upper Room, Jesus had just told them, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I knew I could find Jesus talking directly about heart health care and that it wouldn’t take much work to find what God’s expectations are. Friends, with our faith … when we connect with Jesus … when we follow the teachings of Jesus that are easily accessible in your cell phone’s Bible apps … all of you do have a Bible app on your phones, right? Your kids and grandkids too? DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS … be troubled.

Anyhow, in the process of monitoring our hearts here is the starting point and you can even create an everyday Valentine’s Day card for God as a reminder if you are an artsy crafty type of person … look back on your yesterday’s activities, postings, and interactions with others … compare your life with Jesus’ teaching. We all will fall down but is there a focus on showing love for all? For caring for those who are hurting? Are we avoiding those in the world who endorse injustice and hate? Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART, for it is the spring from which the rest of your life flows. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

It is clear that John was reporting to us those essential last teaching moments of Jesus. John wanted people of faith to understand what Jesus felt were essentials before He went to the cross and then on Easter HE WAS RISEN <<HE WAS RISEN INDEED>> I couldn’t go a Sunday even a Sunday when I can’t raise my left arm without hearing that.

So, Jesus tells his disciples ‘come let us leave’ the Upper Room where He had just established our sacrament of Holy Communion. And, the next thing we hear Jesus say before they cross into the valley to the Garden where He will be arrested is today’s Gospel message. Jesus is the TRUE VINE … clearly a reminder that many people want to grasp onto human heroes and leaders for their inspiration rather than God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus tells his followers that by being with Him they have already been “trimmed” of the world’s branches that don’t produce fruit because of THE WORD that Jesus has spoken but there is a need to produce fruit and that happens when a branch remains in the vine. Which brings this to you, and to me, and to Philip.

The history of the Ethiopian eunuch is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. This African whose name we don’t know was responsible for all of the national wealth in the kingdom of Ethiopia. That eastern African nation was a major power at the time so we know that this man riding in a carriage was a very important man.

We don’t know what business he had transacted in Jerusalem but more than likely it was business with Rome with Jerusalem being a convenient meeting place. We here a name from today’s news, Gaza, in this story because the carriage was on a desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza and what was he reading? The prophet Isaiah.

And, the Holy Spirit nudged Philip … told him to approach this carriage … darn it RUN PHILIP RUN … you need to talk with the guy inside the carriage. And, Philip did. The eunuch needed someone to explain God to him … this powerful African leader desperately curious needed another human to spend the time with him … to get his heart in the right place with God because on his own he was interested but confused.

Friends, Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.”

And, “starting with the passage from Isaiah Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to this powerful wealthy African leader whose carriage he ran up to.” And, the African leader believed and went on his way rejoicing I the Lord!

But it took one person … one individual whose faith and heart were strong in God and in Jesus Christ to produce the fruit that Jesus is talking about. We are called friends … to not only guard our hearts but to do all we can to be difference makers for God and Christ. Rather than to be amongst the branches gathered and burned in the fires. Jesus said … “My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit AND in this way prove you are my disciples.”

Therein lies our challenge … for the sake of our hearts connection with God. Are we ready to allow the Holy Spirit to direct us? Are we ready to share the good news with those desperate to discover God’s truths? Are we standing up for God’s truths and living according to Jesus teaching? Are we even interested in monitoring our hearts for God?

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART!” My dad put God’s Word over his heart … are you? AMEN

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