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Treasure that Matters

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Have you ever had something cross your path in life that you just had to have and you would do ANYTHING to get it? You constantly daydream about it. It consumes your mind at work and while lying in bed at night. It may have been a car, a house, clothing, or some “treasure” that you just can’t forget about. Maybe it was a relationship with someone that you wanted so badly that it consumed your thoughts and dreams. At some point in our lives, it would be safe to say that the majority of us have had that “treasure” that was just too irresistible to let slip out of our hands. In an illustration known as a parable that Jesus was sharing with His followers, He uses the concept of “irresistible treasure” to explain salvation. This is what He says:

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. The in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. –Matthew 13:44 ESV           

In this parable, Jesus tells of a man that finds treasure that is so valuable to him that he immediately covers it back up for safekeeping. This may sound crazy, but in a time in history in which banks and safety deposit boxes were nonexistent, this makes perfect sense! This treasure is extremely important to him, and he wants it secure. For us, this would be the equivalent of our “irresistible thing” that keeps us awake at night. Once we get our hands on that prize, we are going to do everything we can to safeguard it! Now, this is where things get crazy! The man is so overjoyed that he has found this treasure that, not only does he hide it for safekeeping, but he goes and sells all his possessions to buy the field that the treasure is hidden in. This is where things get crazy, because, there may be things in life that we want, but there aren’t too many things, if anything at all, that we would be willing to give up all our possessions to get. However, this man is willing to give up ALL to gain this treasure. No questions asked! The question is: What would be so wonderful that it would warrant giving up everything to gain? The answer is simple and Jesus gives it right at the beginning: The kingdom of heaven. In modern language: Salvation.

What is Jesus saying in this parable? He is saying that there is a treasure that is worth sacrificing every worldly possession that we could ever own to gain and that is the salvation that He gives. Why is salvation that valuable? What is it about salvation that makes it more precious than anything we could ever own? First, salvation reaches beyond the time restraints of this life and goes with us into eternity. Jim Elliott, the great missionary and martyr, said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

See, your cars, your money, your gold, and your fame cannot go with you into eternity. Once this life ends, your possessions end with it. However, salvation is the one thing that matters after this life ends. It is the ONLY thing that matters! When we stand before God, we will not be able to buy our way into heaven, but we will be able to enter based on faith in Jesus Christ. That will be the only currency that matters. Second, salvation is beyond the value of any other treasure because of the relationship with Christ that comes with it. Jesus said in John 17:3 ESV, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal and meaningful life is not found in the treasures of this world, but it is found in the relationship that we have with God through Jesus Christ His Son. In that relationship is an abundance of peace and joy. That treasure is worth giving up everything we could ever consider valuable here on earth to gain. That is treasure that matters!


Cultural Impact: Beauty and the Beast

g_beautyandthebeast2017_08_78bde778If you have a young daughter at home, then you have probably been asked, “Can I go see Beauty and the Beast?” I know that my 8-year-old daughter has been asking my wife and I this question since the day that she discovered Disney was sending this childhood movie remake to theatres! Starring such huge names as Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGregor, Beauty and the Beast is scheduled to come out in theatres on March 17th. The movie is set to be a Box Office hit and will undoubtedly have numbers of parents standing in line with their daughters. However, my wife and I will not be parents standing in that line. Why, you ask? Is it because we are trying to deprive our little girl from the joys of childhood? Are we just simply anti-Disney? The answer to both of those questions is NO! So, what is the big deal?

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2017,  Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post wrote an article entitled, “Beauty and the Beast to Have Disney’s First-Ever Exclusively Gay Moment” (Izadi, 2017). Yes, you read that right! As if our children have not been confused by our sex-crazed culture enough, Disney has decided to take the long-anticipated opportunity to create its first openly gay scene in one of the most anticipated children’s movies of the year. According to Izadi, the scene involves one of the movie’s openly gay characters named LeFou and another male character name Gaston as LeFou begins to discover that he has “feelings” for Gaston that go beyond friendship. The director of the movie, Bill Condon, states, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston…. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie” (Izadi, 2017). With that simple statement, Mr. Condon treats the scene as a “nice and delicious” moment that should be anticipated with excitement by all. It should be a moment that gives us all hope and promise, right? The problem is, through incorporating this character and scene into The Beauty and the Beast, Disney has not brought hope or promise at all. Instead, Disney has shown to us the depraved spiritual and sexual condition of a culture that has turned away from the God in whose image we are made. This is the same condition that the Apostle Paul described in Romans 1:26 when he wrote, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were confused with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

This will not be “politically correct”, but Scripture is clear in its condemnation of the practice of homosexuality. Paul clearly said that homosexuality is dishonorable and contrary to nature. Not only in Romans, but 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are additional examples. Now, I do want to address this very important point that we as Christians so often get wrong: Homosexuality is sin just as lust is sin and just as greed is sin. We so often put homosexuality in a category all its own and we act as if those that struggle with it are irreparably condemned. This is not the case! God is more than willing to forgive all sin when we come to him in true repentance (1 John 1:9). We are to love those that struggle with homosexuality as we would love anyone else with struggles of the flesh and we are to lead them to repentance. At the same time, saying that homosexuality is an innate form of love that should be accepted by all is completely against the Truth of Scripture. But that is where we are in our world today. We live in an era in which the lines are so blurred that everything we believe is relative and there really is no moral truth. That is why it is so vital that we as Christians take a stand and say, “I will not be forced to accept what I know is against Scripture!” Be prepared! We will be called intolerant, judgmental, intellectually primitive, and more. But didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” When we stand up for the Truth, we are going to be ridiculed and rejected but that should not detour us. If we don’t teach our children to take a stance that aligns with Scripture, then we will find them taking a stance that aligns with the world.

Works Cited

Izadi, Elahe. “Beauty and the Beast to Have Disney’s First-Ever Exclusively Gay Moment”. (1 March 2017) The Washington Post. Web. Accessed on 6 March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/03/01/beauty-and-the-beast-to-have-disneys-first-ever-exclusively-gay-moment/?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.df6b0d13060a


Should I Worry?

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Have you ever found yourself lying in bed, watching the hours roll by because you are overwhelmed with worry? Then, you wake up the next morning, exhausted, and the worry game starts all over again. The American Psychological Association survey states that the top three stressors in our lives are finances, work, and family responsibilities respectively (APA, 2017). Many of us are living testaments to the truth of this survey. It was once said that ulcers are not caused so much by what you eat but by what is eating you! The question that we as Christians need to be asking ourselves is: Should I worry?

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-26 ESV, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” These words are some of the clearest of any words throughout Scripture on the topic of worry. What was Jesus saying? First, we need to understand what Jesus was not saying. Jesus was not saying that we can go through our lives without planning. Second, despite what many prosperity preachers say today, Jesus was not saying that if we trust God enough our lives will be problem free. The hard lives of so many faithful men and women in Scripture put a huge hole in prosperity gospel theology. So, again, what was Jesus saying?

Jesus was telling us in these verses that before we waste the hours of our lives with worry, we need to understand the power of His provision. We need to understand as children of God that He is more than willing and able to provide the necessities of our lives. The comparison that Jesus makes between you and the birds and the lilies of the field could not be more of an exaggerated comparison. The reason Jesus did this was to show that, if He cares and provides for something so insignificant as the lilies of the field, then we can be assured that He will care for us. See, the birds and the lilies are here today and gone tomorrow. Yet, they are provided for by God’s hand. You and I have so much more than the birds and the lilies could ever have. God has given us supreme dominion in His creation, the promise of everlasting life, the status of adopted sons and daughters, and the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If we have been given so much more, will we not be provided for? In Matthew 6:31 and 33, Jesus makes the most important statement of all, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’….But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

This is the central message: We are to plan, work hard, and be good stewards of what God has given to us. We are to refuse to waste away our lives worrying about what tomorrow might hold. We are to refuse to live materialistic lives in which our desires are always for more. Instead, we are to focus our eyes upon the salvation of the Lord and realize that He is our Provider. He is the perfect Father that never fails to care for His own. Take your focus off your worries, and focus your eyes upon the salvation of God.

 

Works Cited

“2015 Stress in America” (2017) American Psychological Association. Web. Retrieved 27 Feb 2017 from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot.aspx


The Incarnation: The Difference of Christmas!

What is it about Christmas that sets it apart from other holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Veterans Day? Perhaps the better question to ask in order to answer the first is what is it about Christianity that sets it apart from the other religions of the world? To many people around the world Christianity is simply thrown into the pile of “religion” and is viewed in the same light as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. However, the beauty of Christmas reveals to us an incredibly unique Truth that is central to Christianity. So……

What is it about Christianity that sets it apart from all other religions of the world?

The answer can be found in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. This chapter begins in John 1:1-3 ESV with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In reading those words alone a person would possibly reason that Christianity carries no distinction from other belief systems of the world. The fact is, pretty much any religion that you can find has an eternal “being” that has existed from the beginning of time and is responsible for the plight of humanity and its creation. However, one only needs to read the Word of God down to verse 14 to understand that Christianity reveals a very incredible and distinct Truth from all other religions of the world. To explain, John 1:14 ESV says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What an incredible declaration! The fact is…..

It is the Truth of the statement, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” that the hope of all humanity hinges upon!

Take a minute and allow the implications of this Truth to penetrate your mind. The eternal Word that spoke the world into existence; the One that was before time began through which all life had its origin took on humanity and became flesh! In fact, John gives testimony that he and the other disciples had seen His glory! How? Because the Word that was from the beginning had now come to earth and in accordance with the declaration of the angel of the LORD to Joseph He would be called Jesus! It would be Jesus that would reveal Himself to the disciples as the Messiah. It would be Jesus that would perform miracles that only God Himself could perform. It would be Jesus that would humbly submit His life to be sacrificially given on a Roman cross for the sins of men. It would be Jesus that would not allow the grave to hold Him but would conquer death and rule as LORD today. How is all of this possible? Because God took on flesh. This statement is huge for a world that cant save itself! If not for God becoming flesh and living the life of sinless perfection we could never live we would all be hopelessly dependent upon ourselves for salvation. But God Himself provided the solution to the problem of sin by taking on humanity! Romans 8:3-4 ESV says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” God did the work that man could never do. This separates Christianity from all other religions. For example:

  • Buddhists believe that to reach Nirvana, a transcendental state of bliss, a person must follow the Noble Eightfold Path. This process of personal effort and discipline will end suffering for the individual.
  • Hindus believe that one reaches Moksha—freedom from this world and the cycle of death and reincarnation—by practicing self-sacrifice, meditation, and certain levels of self-realization.
  • Muslims believe that Allah grants Paradise to those who live a life of moral uprightness, using the Five Pillars as basic guidelines.

All of these beliefs point to a method of works salvation. However, the incarnation of Jesus reminds us that we are saved by the work of God alone. That is the difference of Christmas!


Prayer: It’s Ok to Be Bold!! Luke 11:5-10 ESV

How do you pray? Hopefully that question has you replaying your times alone with God in an honest, introspective way. The ability to pray is one of the most valuable gifts that God has given to His people. It is no coincidence that one of the first lessons that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 ESV). The disciples had the Creator of the universe at their side and could have asked any question but they asked for Him to teach them to pray. Undoubtedly they had seen Jesus spending hours alone with the Father as they had seen Him separate Himself from the crowds in order to go pray. How did Jesus respond to their requests? He responded by giving them an example prayer. Now, while so much can be pulled out of the entire example, I want to zero in on one particular aspect of what He taught them that is found in Luke 11:5-10. As we look at this, ask yourself this question:

Does my prayer life resemble a weak, dead, dried up ritual that is fit into my life for convenience?

Honestly, so many Christians today are able to identify with this type of prayer life and they find themselves spiritually drained because of it. One of the biggest reasons that our prayer lives are ineffective is because we come before Him as the hypocrites and Gentiles did as described in Matthew 6:5-8 ESV.  The hypocrites were guilty of only praying in order to receive self-glorification. Their prayers were in public in order for them to be seen being “religious” by the people passing by. The Gentiles were guilty of offering up long, ritualistic, empty prayers that were believed to be formulas to unlock the power of God. The fact is, so many Christians today find themselves having seemingly powerful spiritual lives on Sunday but empty prayer closets through the week! Also, so many Christians find themselves offering up prayers that are empty and recited in order to check off the box for the day! If these things are evident in our prayer lives we cant hope to have flourishing spiritual lives. So, the question remains, how should we pray?

Prayer should be characterized by a dependence upon God that is made known by the boldness and urgency by which we come before His throne!

In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus teaches the disciples of a man that has a friend come to him at midnight. The man was unprepared for his arrival and has no bread to set before him. To not have bread for a visitor in ancient Jewish culture was unacceptable and was considered an offense! So, the man goes to another friends house and says, “Friend, lend me three loaves.” Understandably, the friend is irritated and tells the man to go away because his children are with him in bed. I can understand this man because with four children of my own the prospect of waking them up and hearing them cry in the middle of the night is not very appealing! What amazes me is what Jesus then says about the situation to the disciples. In vs. 8-10 He says, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Why would Jesus respond this way?

Because the man in need of the bread never quit knocking!

Now, in no way is this to be interpreted as a health, wealth, and prosperity example given by Jesus. In no way do we have a ticket to get whatever we want from God whenever we want it. Instead, it should be interpreted as an exhortation to follow the example of the man and seek God with the same kind of boldness and persistence! Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock. These are not examples of different ways to seek God at different times but it is how we should seek God at all times! Our prayer lives should be so desperate for the will of God for our lives that we find ourselves refusing to stop at simply asking and seeking but we are actually boldly knocking on the doors of Heaven! This is exactly what is seen in the Psalms over and over! David cried out in Psalm 5, “Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.” What boldness! David boldly asked God to listen to his cry and give ear to his words. Do we find ourselves seeking God in that way? Do we find ourselves praying for the revealing of the glory of God around us in that way?

Refuse to allow your prayer life to be another ritual. Refuse to allow your day and its busyness to take precedence over your time alone with God. Instead, treat prayer as the powerful source of spiritual life that it truly is!


Will the TRUE Church Please Stand Up?!

Is it just me or is the “modern day church” a scary sight to see? I understand that this will be controversial and prone to criticism but the mainstream American church is going so far off track in the name of “reaching the culture” that it is sickening! Now, let me get one thing straight.

I AM NOT SAYING THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE WILLING TO CHANGE TO REACH OUR CULTURE!

I believe that there are many churches today that are so unwilling to make necessary changes in the way that they attempt to reach the world that they find themselves ineffective and misunderstood. For example, so many churches refuse to be open to changes in style of music, order of worship, and style of preaching/teaching that are completely necessary for our world today and most importantly are Biblically sound!

However, what I believe that is not seen in the Church today is an unwavering compliance and submission to the authority of the Word of God!

So many “churches” today are going so far to apparently “reach” the culture that in many ways they are compromising Scripture. For example, pastors found in the “modern-day church” base their sermons upon what the congregation wants to hear instead of what God’s Word has to say to them! Ask any pastor why and they will tell you that it is because of fear of losing their jobs and their congregations! Not only do we find this being true but it is also clear that the “modern-day church” is so afraid to offend someone that they share of the love and forgiveness of God but they fail to tell the world why forgiveness is even necessary! The fact is that the “modern-day church” is creating a following by teaching people that Christ is the next great “Xanax” for the world instead of teaching them that He is the Savior necessary for their sins.

It seems to be the desire of the modern-day church to please the culture and be accepted by the culture instead of seeking to shape the culture. That is dangerous business! Why? Because this is exactly what Paul warned Timothy of in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV which says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” This is undoubtedly the overall mindset of church culture today.

The fact is, the TRUE Church is needed to stand up and unashamedly declare the Truth of the Word of God! Paul told Timothy earlier in the above passage, “Preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” The Word and all of its Truth is to be expressed whether popular or unpopular because it is all necessary and beneficial to feed the sheep of the Church.


Christmas: “The Revealing of the Glory of God” Isaiah 40:3-5

The idea of “Christmas” typically conjures up thoughts of little feet running down the hall to the present-packed tree, laughter-filled dinners with family, and replays of Jimmy Stewart screaming, “Merry Christmas!” in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. The time-span from Black Friday to Christmas is a rat-race of gift-shopping and event-filled evenings that find us relieved when Christmas morning finally arrives. The question is, “Why do we limit the impact of the season on our lives in such a materialistic and powerless way?”

The answer: We have been taught and have allowed the busyness of the season to put a stranglehold on our hearts and minds.

How do we overcome this? By submitting our hearts and minds to the real and primary purpose of Christmas: The revealing of God’s glory in His Son Jesus Christ. I use the word “submit” because we must submit our hearts in order to find that we are then overwhelmed by the beauty of the birth of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:2 ESV, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. As we submit to Scripture our hearts and minds are renewed apart from the culture’s influence.

With that being said, turn your mind to Isaiah 40:5 ESV. God’s Word says, “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” This verse is the climax of the first 5 verses of this Messianic prophecy that begins with vs. 3-4 describing the future role of John the Baptist in preparing for and removing all obstacles in the way of the coming of Jesus. This verse is the reason for the hope, comfort, and joy that is to be found in remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. Why?

The answer: Because the radiance of the glory of God has been revealed to mankind in the coming of His Son.

From the time of Moses the revealing of the glory of God has been sought after by man. Moses requested to see the glory of God in Exodus 33 but God would only allow Him to see what was left after He passed by and He hid Moses in the cleft of a rock. To see the full manifestation of the glory of God would be to die! Hebrews 1 tells us that times of old only presented the revelation of God through His prophets in a limited way. However, the chapter goes on to say that He has now spoken to us by His Son who is the “radiance of the glory of God”. What does that mean? That means that before Christ came we could not look at the full light of the glory of God without being blinded and killed so His glory was limited. But now that Christ has come he is the fullness of God’s glory! How? Through the gift of salvation. And this gift has been revealed to all flesh! Whether Jew or Gentile, salvation has no barrier! Its as if God placed His glory into the world in a way that brings life instead of death!

What an incredible Truth to take into our hearts and minds this Christmas! When overwhelmed with the distractions of the season, take a moment to pause and be overwhelmed by the glory of God!