My Heart and My Treasure

Image result for where your treasure is memeJesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I have always used this verse as a test. I look at what my heart yearns for, and I discover what my treasure is. What if it can also be used as a challenge? Move your heart and your treasure will follow!

What do I mean? I mean that although it is true that our hearts follow what we treasure, it is also true that we can train our hearts to treasure new things. We aren’t locked in. In fact, we are encouraged to train our hearts to walk down new paths.

Paul says –


Colossians 3:1-4 ​1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Paul encourages us to set our minds on things above. This means that we are to keep practicing thinking about Jesus, thinking like Jesus, using the standards of Heaven and faith in our thinking, etc. In other words, train ourselves to chase after Jesus by training our minds and hearts to think based upon Him and His truth. Why do we do this? We do this, according to Colossians 3, because Jesus is our life.

Paul acknowledges here that sometimes there is a gap between receiving Christ as our Savior and truly making Him the treasure that our hearts chase after. His solution – set (train through practice) your mind on things above. The reason – our life is hidden with Christ (we are depending upon Him for our forever).

We live in a world that treats people as if they have no choice to change. Sure, motivational speakers sell books and have seminars on changing, but take a look at how we respond to people who say they are trying to change. The world is severely skeptical that anyone can ever really change, isn’t it? Instead of encouraging growth and change, the world gives little room for such change. In fact, it mocks such attempts to change. Sometimes, this skepticism seems to seep into the thinking of God’s people. How hopeless! That is not the experience or the expectation of believers in the Bible. They expected to be different. They expected to change. I want to learn how to have that kind of change. I want my treasure to be Jesus. Paul paves the way – train my mind and heart to think on things above. As I do, what I treasure will change. I will change with it!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Using the Law

Image result for the bible and blind spotsBlind spots. I hate them in my cars. They cause accidents. They scare the livin’ daylights out of my. I hate them even more in my life. The problem of blind spots in life are two-fold – 1) I resist what it takes to remove them because 2) I create them!


Jeremiah 17:9  “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?


No one really likes talking about sin. It makes everyone squirm. As a pastor, I squirm because I really don’t enjoy heaping guilt on others. I also hate feeling like I have put myself above others. It makes the people in the pew squirm. They squirm because they wonder if I am talking about them, or they squirm because they think others will believe I am talking about them. Yet, the Bible reveals that there is an important reason it talks about sin – we are masters of self-justification. God warns in Jeremiah that we have a deep problem with good and evil: our hearts lie to us. In today’s world we call the lying of our heart self-justification.

Do we really practice self-justification? If you (like me) have ever held onto your anger and said that you had a right to be mean to someone because they were mean to you, you have practiced self-justification. Why? That is self-justification because we all would say that if everyone lived like that life would be unbearable. We justify it because we say we are entitled or we say that our anger is not that big of a deal. The problem with that perspective is everyone could justify themselves in the same way. Suddenly, we have everyone holding onto their anger because that is just what we do. Thus, Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” instead of “Do to others before they do to you.”

What does the Bible do for us? The Bible fully applied takes apart our self-justification. It is objective. It doesn’t change. It is honest about who and what we are. When we read Jesus’ application of the Old Testament law, all our justifications of anger, lust, coveting, gossip, and selfishness are challenged. Jesus points out how even sins of our heart destroy what God has designed for us.

So, what should we do? Should we run from the Bible so we can’t see our sin? That sounds like the emperor in the parable The Emperor’s New Clothes. He didn’t want to admit that he couldn’t see the clothes, and so everyone saw his mistake (his nakedness). Should we (as some do) explain away what the Bible says? Well, if the Bible is true it becomes a bit like denying gravity. It doesn’t matter how much you deny it, sin (like gravity) is still there.

No, we shouldn’t avoid what the Bible says. We also shouldn’t try to explain away what the Bible says. Instead we should let the Bible speak to our lives. We should (even when it makes us squirm) let it shine light on our motives and teach us. Then we should look at Jesus to discover who we should be like. Paul says that is what the Old Testament law is for. (See Galatians 3:19-28) It is to show us our need for Jesus. It’s purpose is to point to Jesus as the example and source of righteousness. It urges us to trust Him, follow Him, and embrace His heart as our own. If we ignore it or attempt to talk ourselves out of it, we subvert its purpose.

The next time you and I feel conviction when reading or hearing the Scripture, let’s not run from it. Let’s instead run to the Jesus that it points us to. Let’s accept its evaluation of our attitudes and motives. Then, let’s chase after the Savior’s heart.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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An Unexpected Protection

 

Image result for forgiveness freedom

When I think of my mistakes I have a recurring question: How can I make it right? In my quest to right the wrongs of my own making, I have discovered there is a difference between acknowledging wrongs and constantly living under the crushing weight of guilt. The difference is grace.

Here’s a newsflash (not really) – we are all guilty of sin. Here’s something that’s not a newsflash – you probably already knew that! How do I know that you already know that you sin? I know it because everyone I have ever talked to can tell me a time that they have wronged someone. With the exception of the very arrogant, most people are willing to admit to themselves and others that they have hurt someone in the past. Those that believe in God admit that they have disappointed or disobeyed Him in the past as well.


Paul was a man like that. He admits to Timothy that when he says, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15)


Now, before we all take positions about guilt and deserving punishment, let’s think for a moment about two things: 1) What Paul said about himself, and 2) How that same Paul lived his everyday life (as revealed through his letters).

  1. What did Paul say about himself? Paul declared in this passage that he was the foremost sinner of all. He gives himself no excuses, no reasons. Elsewhere, Paul calls himself one “untimely born.” (1 Corinthians 15:8) This is a self-deprecating comment about his early rejection of Christ and the persecution of the early church. In other words, Paul knew how bad he had wronged both God and others.
  2. Yet, Paul shows a freedom from guilt that is nearly scandalous! He declares himself to be free from the blood that he shed. (Acts 20:26) He also fully expected to receive the rewards of those who are faithful to Jesus. (2 Timothy 4:7-8) He also wrote some of the most celebrative passages in all the New Testament – both about Jesus and about the joy-filled life. (Romans 8, Philippians)

How could Paul escape the crushing weight of guilt? How could he both admit the evil he had done and live rejoicing everyday? Aren’t they mutually exclusive? No. Paul shows us the power of understanding grace. It is the power of release. It is a release from crippling guilt. It is a release of the power of sin and death. It is the release from the pattern of self-hatred and fear of divine retribution.

This is why Paul warned and pleaded with the Galatian church to not go back to trying to please God by using the Law as the gateway. Although the Law tells us of sin, it gives to real release from the power or the guilt of sin. Rules do not make one forgiven. Only grace does that. Good deeds cannot erase sin. Only grace does that.

When grace is received and understood, then comes freedom: freedom from the power of sin, freedom from sin’s crushing weight of guilt, and freedom from guilt’s power to steal our joy and keep us from starting over with God or people.

It is an unexpected protection. We thought that we were just getting Heaven when we heard of God’s gift of grace. He is giving us so much more. He will protect us from the weight of sin. He will lighten our load so we can start again. We won’t have to pretend that we have never sinned. We can have freedom and joy. Will we live in that grace today?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

 

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The Protection of Living by Grace

 

As we have been studying Galatians in worship at church, I have been really wrestling with the
question of living by grace. As a Christian I am very familiar with being saved by grace. The question I often have, though, is, “Do I live by grace?”

 


Paul says, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)


I am saved by grace. But Paul confronts the Galatians church in Galatians 3 with these words: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 1:3) So, there is more to learn here. It isn’t just the beginning of my relationship with God that needs grace. It is my whole relationship with Him that must be based upon grace.

Why is this? It is because of what living by grace protects us from. Consider the following…

1. Living by grace protects me from the temptation to boast about how far I’ve come. It is so easy for us to forget that it is by His power and His working in us that we grow and change. Living by rules props us up on the legs of false success. We think about how much we’ve done instead of how much He is always doing. We get the glory and we sound foolish. Living by grace prevents that.

2. Living by grace protects me from creating artificial rules of conduct that I can then manipulate to make myself feel superior to others. We like rules because we can manipulate them. God consistently invites us to “come up higher.” Think about the 10 commandments. Even they can be manipulated. Jesus met a man who had done just that. The man claimed that he kept the commandments. So, Jesus told him that he just needed to do one thing to get eternal life: sell all that he had and follow Jesus! You would think that a man who had followed the 10 commandments would be ready to follow the Messiah anywhere. He wasn’t. The commandments didn’t get him ready for God’s call. He went away sad because he had much wealth. Following the rules doesn’t guarantee a changed heart!

3. Living by grace protects me from self-condemnation when I struggle or fail. The name ‘Satan’ means accuser or opposer. We see over and over in the Scripture Satan doing just that. He accused Job of being God’s “fair weather” follower. Jesus warned Peter that Satan wanted to “sift him like wheat.” Peter says that Satan “prowls like a ravenous lion seeking someone he can devour.” So, why would we be surprised that Satan would use our failures to make us think that God can’t possibly love or use us when we fail? And he doesn’t have to work very hard to do so because we are willing tools in the accusation. Living by grace reminds us that God isn’t keeping score. He just wants to redeem us. He longs for the prodigal to start again.

4. Living by grace puts the focus and glory right where it should be – on the God who loves me more than I deserve! Living by the law makes the focus on what I do or don’t do. That isn’t where the focus is supposed to be. Grace puts it back on God. Following Him becomes about knowing the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I want to know Him because of how He acts toward me. What a place to be!

Are you living by grace? Don’t settle for less. Live with Jesus by grace. That relationship is worth throwing yourself into!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Ask a good question…

I have noticed that questions are effective tools for getting some
one to talk. Questions (especially open ended ones) invite people to give their opinions or share their experiences. Questions also make people think. When thinking happens amazing things are the result.Image result for question mark


Matthew 16:13 13  Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”


Jesus sat with the disciples and asked them this question. The disciples like this question at first. They like giving the answer based upon what others have said about Jesus. They point out that the crowd is a bit confused about who Jesus is. The speculation is quite fanciful. Some say Jesus is Elijah or another famous prophet or even John the Baptist come back from the dead. However, when Jesus asks them who they say that He is, the speculation and opinions cease. Only one voice is raised in response. It is Peter’s voice. He declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

As faith-filled Peter’s response is, my attention turns to the other disciples. I wonder some things about them. Why no chorus of responses like earlier? Were they nervous? Did they sit there fidgeting like a sixth grade Sunday School class that didn’t want to get the answer wrong? Were they dumbfounded that they had not stopped to consider the question themselves? Did they all nod enthusiastically with Peter’s answer hoping he was right? We don’t know. The text doesn’t say.

What the text does say is Jesus’ question and Peter’s response. When we are asked, are we ready to respond? To you, who is Jesus? Are you itching to jump up like Peter and risk to tell your answer? Are you still mulling it over? Are you a bit embarrassed because you don’t yet have a clear answer to the question? It’s time, isn’t it, for us to have our answer? It’s time for us to step out confidently in our answer.

My answer: Jesus is my Messiah (Savior). I need Him! I will follow Him!

What’s yours?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Why Do I Believe?

This is a repost of some thoughts that I had last year around this time. I really do think that it does us good to be reminded why we first believed in Jesus, or if you don’t believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world why you don’t. We don’t believe or reject Jesus because of the usual suspects: Christians. We believe or reject because of a much more basic reason: Jesus.

pilateandJesusMatthew 27:22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

When Pilate asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus, he was seeking a way out of his responsibility.  He did not realize he was asking THE question.  In our day of blogger philosophy and face-book arguments and twitter one liners we might start believing that all that noise is what it is really about.  All the questions about, “How could God….” and, “Why would a loving God…” seem to be so relevant.  All the criticisms about the failures of believers seem to mean so much. It is easy to get caught up in trying to answer every question. However, when it comes to believing in Jesus, that isn’t the point.

Now, if you and I have a relationship with someone and they have these questions I certainly think that we should work through them.  But, when it comes to trusting in Jesus – answering those questions didn’t make you believe, did they?  It wasn’t some philosophical argument that convinced you.  It wasn’t some pithy answer about suffering or sin that won your over.  What won you over was Jesus. You were won over by His teaching, His love, or maybe His sacrifice.  It was these things that drew you to Him.

I want that to be my message to others. I am so tempted to get pulled into philosophical arguments about Jesus. However, I didn’t believe in Him because of those arguments. I believed because I heard His message. I saw His love through the cross. I heard His invitation to be His child from His own lips. That is why I believed. That is my message.

For those of you who have yet to believe… Don’t you see the same in your life? I know, we blame “Christians” for rejecting Jesus because they aren’t consistent in following Him. But, that’s just it – it’s blame. It’s not the reason. It’s just a convenient excuse, isn’t it? The real reason is you don’t like Jesus. I don’t mean that you have animosity toward Him. I mean that You don’t like what He claims about people or Himself. You don’t like what His death means for you. It is all about Jesus!

So, what have you done with Pilate’s question? What will you do with this One called Christ? What about Jesus makes you not trust Him? If the answer to that question is suffering or sin, then you haven’t really answered the question.  You’ve dodged it.  Let me ask the question again, “What about Jesus makes you not trust Him?  Is it His teaching?  Is it His sacrifice for you?  Is it His love? Which one is detestable in your sight?”

When all is said and done, that is the real question.  Like Pilate of old I asked that question of myself – What will I do with this one called Jesus?  I had to say, “believe in Him.”  What do you say?  Is it because of Him?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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The Preciousness of Jesus

On Sunday, our children’s moment was about jewelry. The question was, “Which type of jewelry do you like – the gold and precious stones type or the homemade type?” The vote was mixed. Some liked the prettiness of the store bought jewelry. Some liked that homemade jewelry always reminded us of the person who gave it.

Then we thought about God’s gift of Jesus. He is both, isn’t He? He is a costly gift because it is His life that was given for us. He is a precious gift because He came due to the great love God has for us.


1 Peter 1:18 — 19 18 You were not  redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.


Peter makes this point about the preciousness of Jesus. He is precious because He is worth so much. He is also precious because He personally came to us. We all know John 3:16. When we think of the precious character of Christ’s gift to us, that verse clarifies just how precious He is. He is a gift of God’s love. It isn’t just that He gave all for us. He gave all because of the love of God!

So, do we treat Him as precious? As we approach Easter Sunday, it bears some deep thinking. Do we treat Jesus as the precious treasure that He is? Do we listen to Him as we would someone precious to us? Do our lives tell everyone around us how precious He is to us? If someone was gossiping about you, would the horrible gossip they had to share was that you always seemed to think that Jesus was so very important?

May we be people who shine for Him. May our understanding of how very precious He is inform our choices and our life. He is precious. Let’s tell the world!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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