Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

boxes

Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure

 

As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?

 

 

 

 

 

Does God’s Grace Extend to Colin Kaepernick?

grace

Disclaimer:  My thoughts on this post all came from a sermon I heard this past Sunday.  Guess that this post might be considered plagiarism.  Since the minister that spoke is my daughter, hopefully she will forgive me for stealing her thoughts.

She spoke of our need for God’s grace not just at the moment we realize we need a savior but each day as we rely on God’s grace – it is an ongoing way of life.  Knowing we have received grace, we need to pass that grace on to others in our life.

The meaning of grace could call for a deep and long theological dissertation – but I’m not qualified for that.  For my post, I’m just using a simple definition – again not my own but one I have heard hundreds of time when someone tries to define what we mean by grace.

G — God’s

R – riches

A – at

C – Christ’s

E – expense

Some definitions:

God’s favor toward the unworthy

God’s benevolence on the undeserving

Grace is what God is all about.  Because of His grace, we are forgiven – not based on anything we have done, but simply on His love and mercy.  And, because we have received grace, we are to pass that same grace – that same love and mercy – to others.

But here is where I find a big problem among my Christian friends today.  We are living in a very divided country right now.

  • Left vs right
  • liberal vs conservative
  • Democrat vs Republican
  • pro-choice vs pro-life
  • against a wall vs for a wall
  • restriction on gun rights vs gun rights advocates

And the list could go on and on.

As Christians we have every right to speak out on our own opinions, to speak out for truth and against things that are totally outside God’s Word.

BUT….while we can and should speak out for the truth, we need to remember that those we disagree with, those who we strongly feel are wrong, are people who God loves, people that God died for.  People that need to know God’s love and mercy in their own lives.

Remember the verse we all learned early in life:

For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son….

That means God loves:

knee

  • all the NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem, including Colin Kaepernick
  • all the crazy Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi
  • all the pro-choice activists, including Cecile Richards

Do we speak out against their beliefs, their actions?  Certainly we have that right and maybe in some cases even that responsibility.

But when we speak out against them personally, call them names, say we don’t care about them, I think we have crossed the line as Christians.  No longer seeing them as people who need to know God’s love, but as “enemies.”  We dehumanize them.  We refuse to extend love and mercy.

Jesus told us:

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

So, I ask my Christian friends:

When was the last time you prayed for those who you disagree with?

When was the last time you bent your knee and prayed for your enemies?

We hear a lot of calls to pray for President Trump – and we should.  But where are the calls to play for those we disagree with?  Don’t they need God too?

Just as we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, someone you know may not deserve yours. It doesn’t matter: We are still commanded to forgive them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really? Forgive Again?

Anyone who has gone to Sunday School or attended any Bible studies has probably heard how Jesus said we are to forgive someone seventy times seven.

Of course, we know that He did not mean we keep a notebook handy and add up each time we forgive someone until we have forgiven them 490 times.

Okay, that was the 491st time you did that – no more forgiveness.

forgive

 

Clearly He was expressing how we are to have a heart of mercy and forgiveness to others.  He went on to say that He forgave us to the degree we forgive others.

For many of us forgiveness is a tough one to do.  I have found it fairly easy to forgive when someone acknowledges they hurt me and asks for forgiveness.  But when they do not acknowledge they were wrong and I still need to forgive them – that has been hard at times.  However, not forgiving harms me more than the one I do not forgive.

forgive 2

Several years ago I came face-to-face with the reality of how much I needed forgiveness myself – and therefore should forgive others.

A few years after my first husband died, I remarried a wonderful man and inherited a teenage son.  Raising two girls, I did not have a clue how to deal with a son – especially a teenage son.  Today I am thankful to say this young man and I could not be closer.  But those first few years had some rough moments.

He was a good young man, but suddenly having me telling him what to do did not always sit well with him.

Some days I became frustrated with him.  It was not that he was doing terrible things.  It was just things like forgetting to take out the trash or heading out with his friends without helping with the household chores he had been assigned.  When I confronted him he would always say he was sorry.

So — one day I told him:

I have had it with you.  You keep saying you are sorry – but then you do it again.   I’m tired of forgiving you again and again.

After stomping off to my bedroom to cool off, I suddenly felt a reprimand from the Holy Spirit:

So, how many times have I forgiven you for the same thing?  Next time you pray, should I say that I have had it with you?

Ouch!!!!  That hit very close to home.

Needless to say I went back to this young man and told him I forgave him and we would try again.

(I do want to make this disclaimer.  Being physically or mentally abused by someone does not mean we allow that abuse to continue.  While we need to forgive the abuser, there is no way we should ever continue to submit to abuse.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry! Be Happy!

 

Don’t you just hate it when you are going through a time of stress or difficulties that cause you to begin to worry and then some Pollyanna comes along and says:

worry

Recently I have been stressed out.  My husband and I have begun downsizing and making plans to move to a smaller place which will require less work for us “old folks.”  Then the only child that lives close to us moved to another state leaving us without any family close by.

So—-all this began a series of decisions to make.

First, where do we move to?  Which of our children live in an area that will work best for us as we age?  (And the worry that when we decided we might hurt the feelings of our children who we did not move by.  Would they think we like one child better than the other?)  And depending on where we moved, we might be closer to some but be moving even further away from others.

Decision made.  All is well.  Our children are wonderful and totally in agreement with our decision.

So—all this starts another series of decisions to make.

How much should we ask for the sale of our house?  What do we keep and what do we get rid of as we move into a smaller home?  The possessions we are not going to keep – do we sell them, give them to children, take them to Goodwill?

So—how do we find a new place in another state?

New home found.

So—now to do all the things required when you make a move.  Utilities turned off here, turned on there.  Address changes made.  Find new doctors.  (This is very important for us as we both have heart issues and are diabetics.)  Get involved in new church.  Pack up everything carefully for a move of almost 400 miles.  On and on this list goes.

So – I have been worried a lot lately about all these decisions and things to be done.

Then, today I read the words of my precious Savior in the Gospel of Luke.

“That is why I tell you, don’t worry about life, wondering what you are going to eat. And stop bothering about what clothes you will need. Life is much more important than food, and the body more important than clothes. Think of the ravens. They neither sow nor reap, and they have neither store nor barn, but God feeds them. And how much more valuable do you think you are than birds? Can any of you make himself an inch taller however much he worries about it? And if you can’t manage a little thing like this, why do you worry about anything else? Think of the wild flowers, and how they neither work nor weave. Yet I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass, which flowers in the field today and is burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you little-faiths? You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety. The whole heathen world is busy about getting food and drink, and your Father knows well enough that you need such things. No, set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink.”

Jesus is not a Pollyanna, but He clearly reminds us that He knows what we need and He will supply.

So—Don’t worry!  Be Happy!

God is in control!

 

 

How to Obtain Success With God

success

Reading the book of Ezra recently I was struck by the expression found several times in the story of Ezra’s return from captivity to the city of Jerusalem.  Writing about his success in obtaining help from the Persia king to return to his hometown and help rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians years before, over and over he used this phrase to describe that success:

“the gracious hand of the LORD was on him.”

Wondering why the LORD was so gracious to Ezra, I found the answer in chapter seven where the writer of the book declares:

“This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.”

Many televisions evangelists today tell us if we just have enough faith, God will give us great success.  But I think Ezra had the right idea.  It is not in “my” faith that I manipulate God to give what I want.  His blessings come with the three things Ezra practiced.

Study the Word of God

study

Reading the Bible on a consistent basis is a great thing to help a Christian in their daily walk with God.  During those devotional times as we meditate on a portion of Scripture we can gain encouragement and strength to meet whatever the day may bring.

However, if we only read the Bible, we miss the chance to really grow in our knowledge and complete understanding of God’s Word.  Note that in his letter to Timothy Paul said to study not read.  We sometimes resist during that because to really study God’s Word requires time and effort.  But it is in really digging deeper into God’s Word that we not only grow, but we will be protected against the false teaching that is so prevalent today.

Obey the Word of God

obedience

 

It is not enough to study or to hear the Word of God.  The blessing comes when we obey it.  Many times I think we are guilty of just ignoring those scriptures that require something of us we don’t want to give.  My pastor husband used to say:

“Pick and choose, and you will lose.”

Teach the Word of God

teaching

Here’s where I lose some of you.  You think, “I can’t teach God’s Word.  That is for people who have degrees in Biblical Studies or are ordained ministers in their church.”  Granted, many of us are qualified to lead in-depth Bible studies, but we all can share with others what we have learned from our own study.

Whether you realize it or not, you are teaching others.  Your children, your coworkers, your neighbors are often taught about God by the way you live.  As the verse in Colossians indicates, if we let the word of God dwell in us (by studying it and applying it) we will be teaching others.

Study…obey…teach.

This was also the instruction given by God Himself to Joshua when he was appointed to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. 

Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”

 

 

Are You Holy?

Growing up in a Pentecostal background much emphasis was put on the need to be holy.  I was told that God was holy – and I needed to be also.

Well – Scripture does back that up.

In the Old Testament God is called “Qedosh Y’Israel – Holy One of Israel.”

Holy-One-of-Israel-Q_dosh-Yisra_el-150x150

 

Isaiah uses this term multiple times – I counted 29 times.  Perhaps he used this term so much because of his vision of the Holy One.  Jeremiah and Ezekiel also used that term as did the Psalmist.

The New Testament affirms that Jesus is holy.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Gabriel told Mary:

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Evil spirits, when confronted with Jesus recognized His holiness as Mark tells us:

Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

And both the Old Testament and the New Testament called for us to be holy also.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Tell the whole congregation of Israel: Be holy because I, Yahweh your Elohim, am holy.

Peter reiterated this command to be holy as he reminded us what the God had spoken in the Old Testament:

For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

Being holy is an important thing because the writer to Hebrews declared:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

But, what exactly does it mean to be holy?  That has been a subject of debate and study for centuries so I am not going to pretend that I have “the” answer.  But I think for too long we have looked at holiness as something we can obtain by our own efforts.

We see it in every denomination as we all have our lists of “do’s” and “do not’s”.

For me a lot of what it meant was all about outward appearances – and most of that was for the women.

  • Your hair must be long
  • You cannot wear any makeup
  • You cannot wear slacks or pants
  • You cannot wear jewelry

And on and one the list went with what I could not do.  Not much was said about what I should do.

I joke now that if I wanted to know if something was a sin I would just ask myself “Would I have fun if I did this?”  If the answer was “yes” it was probably a sin.  It really was not that bad, but  it always gets a laugh.

The big one for my Catholic girlfriends was

  • You cannot use birth control.

I want to share more in future posts about how I came to realize holiness was more about what was inside of me than outside.  I don’t want to give the impression that being holy does not require an effort on our part but I believe (as I will share more in later posts) that holiness shows up on the outside only when it is rooted on the inside.

For now I would love to hear from some of you on this subject of holiness.

  1. What does holiness mean for you?  How would you describe it to an unbelieving friend?
  2. What were some of the “rules” you grew up with in your church?

 

Those thick-headed disciples!

I love to read the Gospel of Mark.  His story is full of action.  More about what Jesus did rather than what He said.  This week as I read once again how His disciples seemed to simply not “get it” I thought:

What was wrong with them?  How could they be so blind – so stupid?

They saw Jesus take a few fish and a little bread and feed a multitude.  And He did this not first, but twice.

fish

 

So – you think they might get it.

This man, this rabbi they were following was more than a man, more than a great teacher.

Besides the miracles of feeding the crowds that followed Him, He also had calmed the violent storm by merely speaking to it.  He had healed a man who had spent years naked living among the tombs and cutting himself with stones.  He had raised a young woman from the dead.

So – you think they might get it.

Yet as they rowed across the lake once more and Jesus began to try to teach about the hypocrisy of the religious leaders by telling them to beware of the “yeast” of the Pharisees, they immediately thought they were in trouble because they had forgotten to bring any bread with them.

Those thick-headed disciples

Then, I stopped and realized I’m not different.

How many times in my life have I cried out to God and He has answered?

How many times has He healed me?  Comforted me?  Gave me strength when I so desperately needed it?

Yet, what is my tendency when I get sick, when trouble comes, when I feel weak mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually?

Just like the disciples, I often forget what I have seen my God do – and I start to worry, to get all upset at the situation.

I’m so thick-headed too!

I wonder how God must feel sometimes at my inability to “get it.”

When my girls were growing up, I am sure I made mistakes in my parenting.  But even so, I was a good mother.  I saw that they had food to eat, clean clothes to wear, a comfortable bed to sleep in.  I worked hard to provide not only their material needs, but made myself available to listen to their concerns, to play with them, to support them in their efforts in life.

I wonder how I would have felt if I had heard one of them say to a friend:

I really hope I have food to eat tomorrow.  I hope mother doesn’t forget to wash my clothes this week.  I’m really afraid Mom won’t buy me the new shoes I need.

How upset I would have been if I had heard them say that.

How could you say that?  Haven’t I always had good meals on the table every day?  Haven’t I always washed your clothes?  Haven’t I always bought you new shoes and clothes as you needed them?  How could you possible be worrying that I would not provide for you?

Perhaps God is up there saying

Barbara, how can you be worried?  Haven’t I always be faithful to you?

Forgive me Lord.  Help me to “get it.”  To trust in who You are.  The great I AM.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble….Psalm 46:1