Tag Archives: Treasure

The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

6 Feb

biggerYou can listen to the actual message here.

Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We saw where wickedness starts and that’s in the soul of humanity as we are born into sin through one man’s disobedience. Wicked people do wicked things because they don’t know any other way. Righteous people look at pleasing God rather than any short-term gain from wickedness. Don’t shut your ear to the cry of the poor, but make the Gospel an intentional aspect of any acts of mercy you engage in. We looked briefly at gift giving, exercising justice, and staying on the path of righteousness. Don’t love pleasure so much that you forsake God. We looked at the results of Achan’s sin and finished by looking at the vexing woman and hopefully we now have a better understanding of the depth of wickedness in man. This morning, we’ll look at laziness, righteousness, and happiness.

Take the time to read our passage for today found in Pro. 21:20-28.

We start off with some financial talk. “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” Believe it or not, this is a verse to support budgeting. Wise people are wise across the board while foolish people are foolish across the board. Remember the idle man from 19:15 suffers hunger and the sluggard from 20:4 doesn’t prepare his crops so he has nothing to harvest. Wisdom dictates you don’t spend what you don’t have. Foolishness dictates spend what you have and don’t worry about tomorrow. If you’ve got money in your pocket, spend it. That’s why there’s, “precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise.” Oil was an important commodity in Bible days. It could be used for a number of things. It was used for cooking, as fuel for lamps, it was part of grain offerings, was used for anointing, was used for sanctifying the priests in the temple, and was a symbol of wealth. The fool is foolish in all his activities. His desires are ungodly and unfruitful which leads right into the next verse. There is a misguided notion in America that everyone has the right to be happy. There is no such right afforded by the U.S. Constitution and no guarantee of happiness afforded by the Bible. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right granted by the Creator as recorded in the Declaration of Independence. I submit to you that when you pursue God, you will find what you are looking for.

Solomon tells us, “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.” I love the two verbs in this verse – pursue and find. Pursue means follow after or chase. When you chase righteousness – the character or quality of what is right in God’s eyes – you will find, “life, righteousness and honor.” It’s a trifecta of godly qualities. Life refers to the eternal life in God through Jesus Christ. In Matt. 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” If you want satisfaction, chase Christ. I think happiness is a quality that can be achieved when you have the mind of Christ and see things through the eyes of God. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances, but when you have in your mind that God is in control, it allows you to focus on what is important and that is living a life of total and complete obedience to the King of eternity.

There’s no easy transition to the next verse. Solomon says, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” As we have seen before, wisdom trumps strength every time. When WWII ended and the United States entered the cold war, military strategy had to change to keep pace with the extraordinarily strong USSR. President Eisenhower instituted the 41 for Freedom missile submarine. Then in 1980, Ronald Reagan used the phrase, “Peace through Strength” during the campaign that would see him elected president. Mighty people think their city will protect them. When Joshua led the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Jericho thought their walls would protect them, but when God is on your side, it’s doesn’t matter how strong the walls are. Throughout history, we’ve seen the mighty defeated by the wise. Build walls around the city and wise people developed the catapult. Line up your troops for battle and the wise people used guerrilla warfare. If you can grasp this concept and submit to a wise and good man, the strongest of the strong will be defeated.

And now the power of restraint. This is a principle we’ve seen six times before in Proverbs. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Guard means keep watch over. Think about keeping watch over your kids. You’ve got a protective eye on them to ensure no harm comes to them and to make sure no one takes them. Don’t let your mouth get you into trouble. Don’t let your words take you to places you don’t want to go. No, you don’t have to say anything and once the words leave your mouth, there is no turning back. Lots of damage can be caused by what you say. If your first instinct is to say something, hold off for a second let your mind catch up. When you think about this in a relational sense, more hurt and harm have been done by words than anything else. The next verse says, “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.” This goes hand in hand with the spoken word. Insolent means rude or disrespectful. It’s really hard to demonstrate these qualities without using words. These terms are not used in a favorable light. We could avoid all kinds of trouble if we’d just learn to keep our mouth shut.

Next, Solomon revisits the sluggard. “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.” This is a really stark contrast. We have the poverty of the lazy versus the generosity of the righteous. Think back to 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Righteous people work diligently and give without holding back. The sluggard doesn’t want to work and that leads to death. It’s a theme presented over and over again. Sometimes we have a tendency to think that people who work hard want to keep everything for themselves. Solomon says not true. Sometimes people work hard so they are in a position to give back. Sometimes even when people aren’t in a position to give back, they give back anyway. The sluggard craves all day what he is not willing to work for and his craving will be unfulfilled.

I am certain you have encountered this next principle time and time again. You can’t fool God. People approach God the way they want to instead of how God has prescribed. You’ve likely heard people say that as long as they’re sincere, God will accept them. You’ve heard that a relationship with God is a personal issue. Solomon puts that to rest when he says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent!” Let’s break this down. In Jewish culture, sacrifices were an important part of their lives. When they were offered by faith in repentance, God was greatly honored and pleased. When they were offered with impure motives, God detests that. Is. 1:11-17 says,

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

Did you catch the severity in there? God has had enough. He takes no pleasure in their sacrifices and calls them worthless and an abomination. The God of eternal patience cannot, “Endure iniquity.” When they pray, God will hide His eyes even though they repeat their prayers over and over. Stop doing evil, start doing good. Don’t tell me you have an understanding with God, don’t tell me you and Him are good, don’t tell me the work you have done for Him. You will be evaluated just like the Chaldean king Belshazzar in Dan. 5 when Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall and concluded, “you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.” No matter how holy you think your sacrifice is, God will not accept it and He really won’t accept it when brought with evil intent.

One last one for today. A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.” We’ve seen this before in 6:19, 19:5, and 19:9. Don’t lie.

We began this morning talking about budgeting – don’t spend what you don’t have. The foolish man doesn’t think about tomorrow and what might be needed, he spends all he has. Righteous people pursue God and find life. Wisdom is the conqueror over strength. Be careful what you say and sometimes not saying anything is the best. Don’t be foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter how you approach a holy and perfect God. He will not accept the sacrifices offered with evil intent.

Thank You Father, May I Have Another?

12 Oct

KidYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some tried and true principles that I called MVPs. The Bible is filled with them. Make sure your speech is edifying. Use your words to provide what people need to live victoriously for Jesus. Satan is the biggest pervertor of things that are godly and holy and righteous.  Don’t be fooled by his twistilations. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth.

Our passage comes from Pro. 15:5-7 that says, A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible. Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, but trouble is in the income of the wicked. The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.

Solomon gets right to it. Having a child that is foolish might be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. If you think your kids are not foolish, think again. Remember a biblical fool is one that has the right answer or the right thing to do presented to them and chooses not to do it. Biblical fools can’t recognize wisdom even when it slaps them in the face because they are unregenerate sinners. Each of us can be foolish at times, but that’s not how we should be characterized. In 13:24 Solomon talked about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. In 13:1 Solomon said, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline.” Here he says, “A fool rejects his father’s discipline.” Reject is better translated despise. This shows you how deep in the heart foolishness resides. Discipline is also translated correction. This can be applied in a wide variety of ways. There is a typically a period of time in most kid’s lives where nobody knows as much as they do. It generally starts about middle school and continues into the teenage years. In many cases it lasts well into high school and college. Part of this is a desire to be independent and out from under the blanket of authority and safety provided by parents. The foolish kid rejects correction from his father. It is despised for any number of reasons. Perhaps because of the dreaded “h” word – hypocrisy. Dad says don’t smoke while puffing away. Dad says finish school and get a good job while he sits at home not working and not looking. Dad says do your chores and does nothing around the house.

“But he who regards reproof is sensible.” Solomon’s assumption is that the correction comes from a godly, loving father. I know this isn’t always the case, but since we’re using the Bible as our guide and we’re in church, this is the direction that I am coming from. Kids ought to listen to their fathers. They have experienced more than you. They have had failures and made poor decisions. Learn from them so that you do not repeat their mistakes. These are things the sensible kid does. There most likely will come a time when a kid realizes that dad was right. For some, the realization comes too late. You might remember lessons your dad taught you while you were a child and now that you’re all grown up, you’ve come to understand the wisdom that he had.

Don’t misinterpret this next one. “Great wealth is in the house of the righteous.” If you’re thinking, we don’t have great wealth at our house you have to follow that up with the question, “Are we righteous?” If you immediately think of money, think again. We have Americanized this verse and equate it with material wealth. That interpretation only works in first world countries. We typically assume that first world country means countries like us. We’ve heard of third world countries, but have you ever wondered about second world countries? Those terms come from a model developed after World War II and generally refer to geopolitical positions. Countries that allied themselves with the United States were termed first world. These countries are generally capitalistic, developed, and industrialized. These are countries in western Europe like Belgium, France, Spain and also the land down under – Australia. It also includes other countries like Israel, Japan, and South Korea. Second world countries were typically communist or socialist that allied themselves with the mighty USSR that today include countries in northern and eastern Europe like Russia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and my beloved Romania. A third world country doesn’t fit into either category and include capitalist countries like Venezuela and communist countries like North Korea. We often use this term to describe developing and undeveloped nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Included in this third world are very rich countries like Saudi Arabia and very poor countries like Mali.

Of the roughly 7 billion people living on planet earth, only about 15% live in first world countries. It hardly makes sense that the wealth Solomon refers to would mean dollars. This is yet another example of why we need to study the Scriptures for ourselves. There is a whole segment of the church that wants to equate material wealth with God’s blessing. The wealth – or better translated treasure – that Solomon refers to is something far better than silver or gold. What price do you put on grace? Or forgiveness? Or mercy? Or hope? Or patience? Those gifts of God are priceless and are a result of righteousness. That doesn’t mean there won’t be material wealth, but even when there isn’t money in the account, the treasures of God are in the storehouses of the righteous.

“But trouble is in the income of the wicked.” You can read that as actual income or what comes into the home. There is guilt and shame; pride and passion. There is envy and strife. Maybe you know someone or a family that could be classified as wicked and maybe they seem to be prospering by every definition of the word. Remember 14:32: “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” God will mete out perfect justice at some point that will bring greatest glory to Himself. You focus on doing what you ought to do and let God handle what He ought to do.

Here’s another variation of an MVP. “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.” We just heard this in verse 2. This demonstrates just how much a blessing that wise person is and how burdensome a fool is. This verse also alludes to the idea that we need to be teaching others. Spread means to open out as to increase in surface area. Your knowledge, which leads to wisdom, should be scattered for all to pick up. Keep in mind what Solomon said about wisdom resting in the heart. There is a balance between telling everyone everything you know and using your knowledge and wisdom in appropriate settings. I believe that God will provide opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge and wisdom. I think all too often we’re looking for those life changing, global moments that for most of us will never come. What we fail to see is that God provides huge, eternity impacting opportunities each and every day. For most of us, living a life of authenticity is the best opportunity for others watching us to know that something is different. Knowledge is spread when you open your mouth and share the truth of God. Your knowledge of God is transformed into wisdom because the Holy Spirit gives you exactly what you need when you need it.

So there are ministry opportunities God provides, but another area is personal teaching. It presents itself in the area of discipleship. Who are you investing in? The people you hang out with, are you seeking to disciple them? As a church, our primary mission is to, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) The emphasis is on make disciples. Jesus said we do this in two ways. If you’re hanging out with people and Jesus is not part of those interactions, then something is dreadfully wrong. “But the hearts of fools are not so.” The fool has no desire to spread the truth of God because he doesn’t know it. Fool and knowledge don’t belong in the same sentence. If you have the knowledge of God and do not use it to further the Kingdom of God, don’t use it to share the good news of salvation, don’t use it to strengthen other’s walk with Christ, then you are a fool.

Nobody likes to get spanked, and nobody likes to do the spanking. Discipline helps us get back on the correct path. Fools reject that correction. When you’re being corrected, regardless of your age, look for God in that correction. The treasures of God don’t always equate to money so don’t be fooled into thinking wealth equals righteousness. Finally, use the opportunities God provides to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. Take the time to disciple those in your sphere of influence. That will be the greatest legacy we can leave.

The Heart of the Matter

5 May

TreasureYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the rich young ruler. He went to Jesus seeking eternal life, but his riches got in the way of an authentic relationship with Christ as a true disciple. This morning we’ll ask the question, “What do you value most in life?” When you look at where you spend the majority of your time, energy, and money, you get a true measure of your heart.

In Matt. 6:19-21 Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Here’s the heart of the matter. Jesus has just spoken to the disciples about giving, praying, and fasting and now for something completely different. He turns His attention to the issue of treasures. Treasures and giving are two different things. He issues the command in v. 19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Treasure comes from the word that means precious metals, gems, or other valuable objects. Wealth in the old days often consisted of precious metals just like today. They also valued cloth and clothing. Remember Lydia, a seller of purple in Acts 16:14. The Prov. 31 woman is clothed in fine linen and purple and her whole house is clothed in scarlet. Samson killed 30 men in Jud. 14:19 and took their clothing to pay off a debt. An Israelite who takes his neighbor’s garment in a pledge must return it before sundown, “For that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?” (Ex. 22:27) Clothing was quite the hot commodity in Bible days and was considered a treasure.

That’s why Jesus said what He said in v. 19 and it is in the present tense. He is saying stop storing up these earthly treasures. This is a practical instruction applicable to all of us. Metal rusts, even precious metal. Ja. 5:3, “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” Moths eat cloth and clothing and they didn’t have moth balls. Another danger of storing your treasure on earth is that thieves steal your stuff. A burglary takes place about every 13 seconds in the U.S. 33% of burglars enter through the front door and head right to the master bedroom. Jesus offers the contrast in v. 20, But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.Treasure stored in heaven is safe. It won’t rust, moths won’t eat it, and nobody can steal what you put there. Matt. 16:26-27, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

So you might be asking, “How can I get treasure to store in heaven?” Great question.

Matt. 5:46, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Loving others unconditionally.
Matt. 6:6, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Prayer.
Matt. 10:42, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matt. 25:40, “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Serving others brings eternal reward. Why all these verses from Matthew?  He was a tax collector. It is not wrong to consider the reward for our actions.

Jesus is commanding us to store up treasure in heaven. We should consider how our actions impact eternity. Col. 1:10,  “So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”   1 Tim 6:18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” Eph. 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” One of our purposes as Christians is to do good works as evidence of our transformational relationship with Christ. It is not to achieve salvation, but as a demonstration of that salvation. Rev. 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

Jesus concludes by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If your treasure is here on earth, Jesus is saying that is where your passion will be, that’s where your thoughts will reside, and that’s where the focus of your life will be. Instead of trying to get all you can here, we should focus on spiritual riches. That sounds kind of corny in a culture that claims whoever has the most toys wins and success is based on your title, position, portfolio, or bank account, but it’s true.

If you work to have stuff, you’re missing the mark of a life changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When you consider the responsibility of stewardship, an examination of the priorities of our possessions must be completed. The winner in the Christian life is not the one with the most toys. Luke 12:21, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

A Time to Remember

20 Jan

RememberYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude spoke of the self centeredness of the creepers. They were only concerned about themselves and they grumbled, blamed others, and followed after their own lusts. In vs. 5-16 Jude has described in detail the reasons why the creepers should be judged. They’re given no benefit of the doubt and no mercy. If that seems harsh, the actions of these people and people like them were predicted years earlier. This morning, Jude shifts from the criticism of the creepers to the encouragement of his readers – us.

Jude 17-18 says, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”

Jude now shifts back to the church. It’s obvious that Jude starts a new section by his use of, “But you beloved.” He’s showing his deep love for them, it’s a term of endearment. We know that Jude has been very critical of the creepers. There is just cause for that since they willingly and knowingly snuck into the church and taught things that were contrary to the fundamental tenants of the faith. He’s talked about the creepers and flips it around by using the word but. There’s the contrast. His readers, “Ought to remember the words that were spoken of beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ought to remember here means duty. Jude’s readers are supposed to remember the words spoken by the apostles of Christ.

Mal. 4:4, “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.”

Eph. 2:20, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”

2 Pet. 3:2, “That you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”

This is not just being able to recite Scripture from memory. The meaning is much deeper. When Scripture tells us to remember, it means take to heart so that it is imprinted on our lives. David said, Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. (Ps. 119:11) Do you treasure Scripture? Do you hold Scripture as dearly as you do your child or grandchild? That’s the meaning David is conveying. God’s Word is so valuable and precious , but we seem to have cheapened it because it’s so accessible. What if your Bible was taken away? Would you notice or would you grieve over the loss? We do not worship God’s Word, but through Scripture, we get to know the One and only true God which should move us to continual worship of the One who is the Word. I wonder if Jude’s readers had held up the words of the apostles, would they have immediately recognized these men? Jude is specifically referring to the warnings regarding false teachers, but the application is much broader. We ought to remember because the Holy Spirit of God inspired His apostles to write down what we needed to know and understand.

So what did the apostles say? The warning was simple and to the point. “In the last time there will be mockers.” Are we in the last time? The writer of Hebrews thought so when he said, “In these last days.” (Heb. 1:2) Not maybe or likely, but there will be people who mock. 2 Pet. 3:3: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” Mock means to make fun of in a cruel manner. The intention is to cause harm. The last days will bring all sorts of criticism and harm to people that express and live by a code of Christian faith. Sadly this mocking can come from within the walls of the church. It can be as subtle as, “You don’t really believe that do you?”  Introducing a bit of doubt can shake the foundations of faith. It can be a bit more obvious such as the issue surrounding gay marriage. I saw a report a couple of months ago where a minister had gone against his denomination’s stance on this and officiated the same sex marriage of his son. He did it in secret and when his congregation found out about it, they reported him to denominational authorities. In a TV interview I saw he said, “Society is changing so fast that the church cannot keep up with it.” How can a mainstream minister say something like that? Well, in a Nov. 19, 2013 Washington Post article, a 30 year assistant choir director at that particular church is quoted as saying, “There was a drift from the Scripture.” When you morph Scripture to the needs of society, you fall into that trap we saw last week when Paul warned Timothy that, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (1 Tim. 4:3-4) These mockers Jude refers to follow, “after their own ungodly lusts.” They are driven by passion and desire. It’s not bad to be driven by passion and desire when they are godly. That’s not the case with these guys.

In the closing verses of Hebrews, the writer reminds us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb.13:8) Our methods change, but the Gospel does not. Society should have little influence on the church, but the church should have great influence on society.

The Road Less Traveled

17 Dec

Less TraveledYou can catch the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the perfect gift of Jesus. When we help those in need, we’re helping Jesus. That’s the paradigm shift we need to rethink Christmas. This week, we’ll finish our series by examining the road we are all called to travel, but few actually go down it.

Matt. 2:11-12 says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.”

My how time flies. It’s only Dec. 16th and most of the stores have put all their Christmas decorations on sale. There are still parties to go to, tests to take, gifts to buy, and food to cook. Some of us have been listening to Christmas music since Nov. 1st. We’re all caught up in the excitement of the season. On Dec. 26th, all the excitement passes, we don’t want to hear another Christmas song, smell gingerbread, of have leftover turkey and ham. After Christmas, we’re left exhausted from the shopping, the parties, the cooking, the cleaning, and the relatives. We start off the New Year with the depressing thoughts of returning to work and school in clothes that are too tight and bills that are stacked too high. Immanuel – God with us has been lost into the frantic pace of Christmas, BUT, it doesn’t have to be this way. Jan. 6th brings us to an event that few Christians observe, and even fewer know about. This is the day we celebrate the Epiphany. The day we celebrate the arrival of the magi. These wise men were experts in astronomy, astrology, and natural science. According to Western church tradition these wise men were Balthasar – often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.

As in many case, tradition has trumped the truth. The truth is, the wise men were nowhere near the manger looking down at baby Jesus. By the time they arrived, Jesus had been circumcised in the Temple on the 8th day. Joseph and Mary had found a more permanent dwelling because Matt. 2:11 says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother.” We’re not certain that Joseph was there in the house with them. When we look at the truth, we see that when they got there, “They fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” That is the only response possible when you are in front of the King of Kings. That is what you do when you go before Immanuel, before the One that created the heavens and the earth. Based on Matthew’s account, it would have been some time before they arrived. It is true they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but that doesn’t mean there were three wise men. They brought these gifts – Matthew calls them treasures – with them; they didn’t fall out of the sky. The magi presented the Christ child with gifts befitting a King. The story of the wise men ends with Matthew saying, “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.” (Matt. 2:12)

There is a new road. I think this is a really neat verse because I think it captures the essence of our walk of faith. The wise men went another way. Herod represents danger. Verse 16 tells us, “Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under.” I can’t help thinking when God warns us of danger, do we turn and go the other way in obedience, or do we want to sneak a peek at the danger; maybe get just close enough to touch it. God’s Word is consistently warning us of danger if we’ll just read and respond to its message. For many people, January and the New Year represent a new beginning. Resolutions are made. We’ll lose weight, exercise, quit smoking. Pray, read the Bible, be more faithful in church, begin serving, begin giving to the work of ministry. We make a commitment to go down a road less traveled and this year will be different.

The wise men brought gifts to Jesus. It’s difficult to place a value on the gifts they brought. To give you an idea of their value, here it is in today’s money. Gold: $1700 per ounce. Frankincense: $31.25 per ounce. Myrrh: $250 per ounce. Some experts put the total value of the gifts well over a million dollars. When you add the value of the gifts to the cost of traveling for two years, you can see the money invested to find the King. There is that dreaded word – money. Do you think it’s any coincidence that there is treasure included in Matthew’s account? Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Our monthly bank statement may reveal more about our true character than anything else. We’ve become members of the church of the monetarily selfish. Mark 10 tells us of a man that was seeking the road less traveled and asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life. He said he had kept the 10 Commandments ever since he was a boy.

Mark 10:21-23 says,“Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” Jesus knew that money would challenge His people. He knew the difficulties that money brings. That’s why He said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24) Our modern retailers tell you differently. You must have a bigger house, better car, bigger TV, the latest technology. In an article called, “McMansion Economics” the LA Times reported that the average American family shrunk over the last 30 years, but our houses got 42% bigger. If we shifted to the average size of a home 30 years ago, we would save an average of $80,000 per home. We now have days of the year dedicated to fulfill every materialistic desire. Black Friday and Saturday. Cyber Monday. When we’re feeling blue, we participate in retail therapy. We have forgotten that we cannot find true happiness in stuff. When we use God to get what we want instead of God using us to get what He wants, we miss Immanuel. I wonder if Jesus is in heaven singing, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes.” Paul warned Timothy that even a desire to live godly would bring persecution. (2 Tim. 3:12) Let the angel’s words to Mary be applied to you, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” (Lu. 1:30)

Is there a better road to travel? Don’t fear falling off the fiscal cliff. Jesus said it best, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25) The answer is yes, there is more to life than life here. Our lives should be a contradiction to the world’s; should be in harmony with Scripture; should be an example of hope and determination, and perseverance, and trust. Jesus answers the dilemmas of life by offering a contrast in Matt. 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” What will be added? Everything you need to live for God. It’s a contrast to the Gentile way of life. First seek God’s Kingdom. This is the place where God reigns. This is the place where He is in charge and we willingly submit to His authority. It’s a place where God’s people provide vibrant demonstration of an authentic relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We’re also to seek His righteousness. We need to be right acting. It is the character or quality of doing right. This righteousness should be prevalent in all that we do: relationships, business, taxes, finances, parenting, and friendships. We are to act morally and ethically. And we’re supposed to share this with others. The only way we can have the quality of righteousness is to be a child of the King. “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (1 Jo. 2:29)

This Christmas, remember it’s not about you or your children. It’s not your birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday.

Stewardship . . . Matters (Part 6)

27 Jun

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we looked at the rich young ruler. He went to Jesus seeking eternal life, but his riches got in the way of an authentic relationship with Christ as a true disciple. This morning we’ll ask the question, “What do you value most in life?” When you look at where you spend the majority of your time, energy, and money, you get a true measure of your heart.

Take a look at Matt. 6:19-21.

We need to get to the heart of the matter. Jesus has just spoken to the disciples about giving, praying, and fasting and now for something completely different. Jesus turns His attention to the issue of treasures. Treasures and giving are two different things. He issues the command in v. 19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”Treasure comes from the word that means precious metals, gems, or other valuable objects. Wealth in the old days often consisted of precious metals just like today. They also valued cloth and clothing. Remember Lydia, a seller of purple in Acts 16:14. The Prov. 31 woman is clothed in fine linen and purple and her whole house is clothed in scarlet. Samson killed 30 men in Jud. 14:19 and took their clothing to pay off a debt. An Israelite who takes his neighbor’s garment in a pledge must return it before sundown, “For that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?” (Ex. 22:27) Clothing was quite the hot commodity in Bible days and was considered a treasure. That’s why Jesus said what He said in v. 19 and it is in the present tense. He is saying stop storing up these earthly treasures. This is a practical instruction applicable to all of us.

Metal rusts, even precious metal. Ja. 5:3, “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” Moths eat cloth and clothing and they didn’t have moth balls. Another danger of storing your treasure on earth is that thieves steal your stuff. A burglary takes place about every 8 seconds in the U.S. 34% of burglars enter through the front door and head right to the master bedroom.

Jesus offers the contrast in v. 20, But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.Treasure stored in heaven is safe. It won’t rust, moths won’t eat it, and nobody can steal what you put there. Matt. 16:26-27, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

So you might be asking, “How can I get treasure to store in heaven?” That is a great question. Matt. 5:46, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Loving others unconditionally. Matt. 6:6, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Prayer. Matt. 10:42, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matt. 25:40, “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Serving others brings eternal reward. Why all these verses from Matthew?  He was a tax collector. Remember to stigma associated with being a tax collector? They were the scum of the earth, they were thieves, they were dishonest. Now by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit of God, we have a tax collector that’s telling us to take a different look at reward.

It is not wrong to consider the reward for our actions. Jesus is commanding us to store up treasure in heaven. We should consider how our actions impact eternity. Col. 1:10,  “So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” 1 Tim 6:18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” Eph. 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”One of our purposes as Christians is to do good works as evidence of our transformational relationship with Christ. It is not to achieve salvation, but as a demonstration of that salvation. Rev. 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

Jesus concludes by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If your treasure is here on earth, Jesus is saying that is where your passion will be, that’s where your thoughts will reside, that’s where the emphasis of your life will be. Instead of trying to get all you can here, we should focus on spiritual riches. That sounds kind of corny in a culture that claims whoever has the most toys wins and success is based on your title, position, portfolio, or bank account, but it’s true.

If you work to have stuff, you’re missing the mark of a life changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When you consider the responsibility of stewardship, an examination of the priorities of our possessions must be completed. The winner in the Christian life is not the one with the most toys. Luke 12:21, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”