Treasures in Heaven
What is valuable to you?
We often lead busy lives in pursuit of storing up material things on earth. Sometimes we worry about the future and we’re just looking for some security that comes with a little additional wealth. Other times we’re driven by the latest fad, newest technology, or the constant commercial marketing to store up material things. While these are common human impulses, the Bible teaches us to watch carefully how we spend our time and money.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That is, how we spend our time and money reflects our values. In addition, if we spend our time and money gathering up material things our heart will actually follow those tendencies.
This should give us some pause about how we spend our time and money. If we were to audit our checkbooks, what would it say about our values? What if we audit how we spend our time?
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus reminds us that we “…cannot serve both God and money.” We will hate one and love the other. Therefore, we have to make choices everyday about where we are storing our treasure. We can make choices in our lives to focus on building our relationship with God and building loving relationships with those around us. When we’re tempted to worry about the future or about material things, we need to reorient ourselves to ask “How do I spend more time and effort to serve God or to build loving relationships with those around me?” Maybe that is something as simple as talking with a friend or neighbor in need.
Each of us can make a big difference in our own spiritual lives and the lives of others if we spend more time on our relationship with God and with those around us. Something that might help us is making a spiritual list of gratitude similar to the shopping lists that we create. This may remind us that in the endless list of wants that we have there are also many signs of God’s grace and provision in our lives.
Read Matthew 6:19-24 and let us know what you think. What are some ways we can live out the command from Jesus to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth?
Once again we hear of a mass shooting where innocent people are killed. Once again we try to understand why. And this time it seems closer to home. Twenty six people killed while they are praying at church.
How many more times will we mourn the loss of infants, children, mothers fathers, grand mothers and loved ones? The evil forces of this world would have us believe that there is nothing we can do about this. The adversary whispers in our ear, “You are powerless, give up, give in. Despair.”
There are those who claim that our prayers are meaningless gestures that prevent us from action. They are wrong. Our God gives us power against evil and over death.
So first we pray. We pray to express our grief. We pray to express our love. We pray to acknowledge that this world is filled with sin. And we pray to declare death is not the end. And then we pray so that we are empowered to act according to God’s will.
There are actions we can take. We can address the issue of domestic violence. While few who commit acts of domestic violence become killers, according to the FBI, 54% of those who committed mass killings had a history of domestic violence. How long will the church remain quiet about domestic violence?
Why is it that we need a license and insurance e to own and operate a car, yet not an assault rifle? Surely there are some sensible gun laws we can agree on as a nation. This is a complex problem that will require a complex answer. But to decide that because it is complex, we cannot address it ignores the complex issues we have addressed, illnesses we have cured, challenges we have faced.
Perhaps it is time that we look at the security of our churches. My former church in downtown Los Angeles had a guard in the parking lot. He did not have a weapon, but he did have a uniform. Other churches have talked about metal detectors, evacuation plans, and workshops on how to spot potential problems.
What we cannot do is what the Attorney General of Texas suggested. He has said that churches will need to start being armed to prevent such attacks. Our answer to this must be NO. While I appreciate the value of police and others who protect the innocent, I do not believe that arming our church members is consistent with the teachings of Jesus.
When Jesus was arrested in the garden, some of his followers wanted to take up arms to protect him. And he did not allow them to resist. He even healed the ear of a servant of the high priest that was cut off in resisting his arrest. .
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)
Jesus intentionally reached out to reconcile and heal those who had tortured and oppressed his people. The stories told in the gospels were told in a time when cruelty and slaughter were fresh in the listeners minds. And yet his message was not to passively submit to their oppressors, but to aggressively love them.
This is not easy to do now, or nor was it then. So when we speak of radical hospitality, it does not just mean greeting the stranger after service with a cup of coffee and a donut. It means opening our doors to those who would denigrate us, harm us or even kill us. It means trusting not in side arms but in God’s everlasting arms. Because we need never fear the powers of this world. We serve the Lord who has the power over life and death, who is the resurrection and the life.
We lift our hearts and hopes to the Holy
May we have the courage to stand against the forces of this world bent on tearing us apart. Let us link arms in solidarity and rise above the strident voices of today’s news.
May We stand for justice, We stand for freedom, We stand for love, We stand for tolerance
We stand for our children , our families, our loved ones, our neighbors, no matter their race or creed , who they love or where they come from.
For those who wonder when or from where their next meal may come And those who feast in abundance
For those who are secure in their position in society and For those who question their neighbor’s stare and fear a knock on the door.
For firemen and rescue workers and those who patrol our streets
And for those who sleep under them
For those who wear a Hijab and those who wear a ball cap
For those who wear a kippah and those who don a Stetson
Whether we Pray on mats, or with beads, in pews, beside our beds or in the city square
We lift our voices in song for those who can only whisper
For those who seek jobs and those who seek justice
and on this day we stand with Charlottesville, with the family of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke M. M.
For those who march for Black Lives Matter, environmental rights, for justice and for peace and
For all who stand against any who would tear us apart with calls to racism, white supremacy, white nationalism, neo-nazi fear or hate.
May from this moment on, we unite to insure that those in need find help, that the hungry find food, that refugees find shelter; and in standing together, no one feels that they must stand alone.
Epiphanies in August
After slicing my index finger Sunday I realized that Twitter is popular because it is difficult to write tomes with your thumbs.
The sign for life is two thumbs up
A church member asked me on Sunday what is on my life bucket list. I realized I am doing what I'm meant to be doing right now. And that surprised me because lately I have been grieving about the future of our church.
Scripture this morning from Mat. 13:31-35. Parables of mustard seeds and yeast. We are placed where we make the greatest difference. If seeds or yeast remain in their packaging, with others of their own kind, are they as effective as when they are tossed into the larger world, where against the odds they make the greater impact. We as Christians can remain surrounded by others who believe as we do- and that's fulfilling for a while. But our call, our commission, is to be seeds of truth in a barren world, and be yeast to change it, where we are planted. 👍👍
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” - John 13:14-17
Tonight our Cluster churches met at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church for a joint Holy Thursday service. Those who felt led to do so participated in washing each other’s feet during part of the service. This year several children participated. It is truly humbling both to wash someone else’s feet and to have your feet washed. Jesus washed his disciple’s feet as an example of how the roles of master and student, servant and host, are reversed. We are told to do the same to show the world God’s love. This might be difficult and embarrassing for us, but not for these kids. They washed and received washing with abandon, joyfully following the model before them. Isn’t this the way Jesus wants us to follow his examples and his teaching? Shouldn’t we too, be full of joy? Shouldn’t modeling Christ be one that bursts forth in delight and laughter, not grumbles and resentment. Let us model Christ, as little children. Let us serve God and one another with gladness. Let us model Jesus.
Giving to God
Last Sunday we talked about tithing - the responsibility of every Christian to give a tenth of their income to God. Our text was a hard one: Malachi 3:6-12.
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty." (NIV)
It's a tough thing to give a tenth to God - everyone struggles with money, and to give such a big amount to God seems like a big load. But the verse comes with a promise, as God always does -- He won't leave us alone. This isn't a time to struggle and add pain to pain. Instead, when we're faithful to God, He'll be faithful to us, and much more.
As the saying goes: when you give to God, you always get more in return!
This is all theology though, and most of it is from the Old Testament. What about now? Does God still require a tithe from us? And will He really hold us up when times are hard? Does He reward our faithfulness?
The answer is a resounding yes! We had several members of the congregation come forward and share about a time when things were really hard, but they clung to God - and God blessed them beyond imagining. With financial help, with helping their children, or their health, or their struggles with addiction - God has no limits!
And God is always faithful. The only question is - are we?
Join the Dinner Party
Last night at our vespers service the group examined The Parable of the Dinner Party coupled with the The Great Commission. These two biblical passages focus on the idea of invitations. In the parable Jesus sets the scene by referencing the opportunity to eat with God in his Kingdom. Comparing it with a man who threw a dinner party and had his servant go and get the invited guest only to have his invitation rejected by those invited for various reasons. The man then instructs his servant to go and find anyone in the city and bring them to the party. Having additional space at the party he sends the servant to the outer fringes (the countryside) to get others to attend the dinner party. The man wanted his house full and he wanted those in attendance to be in need of a square meal, to be hungry. Last, the man states that none of the original invitees will get anything to eat at his dinner party.
The great commission which is Jesus' final instruction to his disciples, is about the invitation to go and train everyone you meet in this way of life i.e. making disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father, the son, and the holy spirit. Teaching them in all the things Jesus exampled and commanded.
The concept of inviting others into the fellowship, the Gospel, the salvation, the grace that comes with a personal relationship with Jesus was articulated in various ways by numerous members in the group. One of the things I took away from the evenings sharing was how different each of us perceives what the Dinner Party symbolizes and means.
One perception was that the original invitees were so close to the man that a dinner party had become common place and they were okay with not accepting because another invite would be forthcoming. And that those that were hungry for more intimacy with the man, starving for his food so to speak would not miss the opportunity. A desire of proximity to the man and his dinner party was desirable. Others needed more time to process the depth of the parable and its meaning for them. The group then was asked to answer the question of grading themselves on their individual responses to the great commission. How well we were going out and training everyone we meet in the ways of our lord and savior Jesus the Christ.
Most gave themselves failing grades, though a member who thought she struggled at going out was uplifted as to how her teaching the children in our Sunday school program was planting seeds in the children that were attending. In fact, several of our teachers are inviting children to know Jesus on a deeper level then they previously had known. Another shared how just earlier in the day she had an opportunity to speak with a member who had been away from the fellowship for a long period of time, but because she had taken time out to listen to this person and invite her back into the fold, she believed the person may be ready to return. Listening and being there and giving a personal invitation to the Dinner Party might restore hope. We ended with a time of prayer where each person shared a personal prayer concern with another and then that other person then prayed aloud for their concerns right then and there with the group also praying along in silence. An excercise in uplifting and caring for each other by communing with God in intercessory prayer.
Of course the fire pit was also enjoyable. There is something really spiritually powerful for me to be outdoors in fellowship with Gods creation of people and environment. Its very nomadic to be sitting around a fire in the dark of night praying and sharing our thoughts and beliefs with one another.
We know that we can't save ourselves by doing good things. Ultimately, no matter how hard we try, we'll never be perfect, and we can't earn our way into Heaven. It's just like Earthly law - if you get got caught stealing, you go to jail, no matter how many times you didn't steal that car! So it is with God.
But last night we talked about the other side of the coin. As Christians, it's not enough to just rest on our Savior, lay back, and wait for Heaven to come to us. We have responsibilities! And as James said, if you have real, living faith, it will propel you to good deeds. But what does that look like?
We got some powerful answers. Of course, Jesus's Golden Rule: "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you." If I was hungry or cold or afraid, I would want you to help me, even if I didn't really know you. If I'm really in need, I don't have the luxury of being picky about who I ask. So when we turn it around, we see that whenever we see need, Jesus commands us to help -- no matter who is the one who needs us.
There were others, too. After Peter getting out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus, someone said "A good deed coming from faith is when you step out to do something you know is impossible, but you feel God telling you to do it anyway." What is God calling you to do that you know you absolutely cannot do?
And most humbling to me was the story of Moses leading Israel through the desert. His journey started so well: the amazing display of force and glory in Egypt and leading an entire nation of slaves into freedom. They walked across the Red Sea on dry land, received divine law in the Ten Commandments at Sinai. But for forty years after all that, they wandered through the desert. The glow wore off and the people complained. They were hungry, they were thirsty, they were tired. They were sick of walking and sick of the desert, to the point where many wanted to go back to the "good old days" of brutal slavery!
But for forty years, Moses faithfully led them, corralled them, managed them, all with God's help, so that they could enter the Promised Land. And at the end of that time, he didn't even get to go in. He gave his whole life, laboring for people who resented him, trying to prepare them for this grand gift God would give them, and he never even got to see it. He did this on faith, because he loved God.
What is God calling you to work for? How will you serve?
The Problem with Two Masters
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24 CEB)
Abraham Lincoln was quoting Jesus when he said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. As we examine where our treasure lies (our money, time, and energy), we must look at our hearts. Do we have undivided hearts, or are we torn apart by too many obligations and masters? We are first called to love God with our whole heart, mind, and strength; then, when God is in the proper place in our hearts, the other things in our lives fall into place. God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14) who wants not just a piece of our hearts but all of us.
As a student working full-time to earn a graduate degree and raising a family, I struggled to find time to devote to God. I would sometimes feel resentment towards school or my job for not allowing me to do the things that I felt God wanted me to do with the church. I would even feel torn between my family and my other commitments. Looking back, I now realize that I failed to recognize that God had put these other commitments in my life so that He could use me to do His will. In other words, God really wanted me to concentrate on being the best student, statistician, father, and husband that I possibly could. It was in His plan for my life. God's grace has provided me with a degree and an occupation that now enables me to give back to the church and others to build His kingdom.
Learn from my mistake. You don't have to feel torn between God and the many obligations in your life. It is not a sin to have other obligations or use your time on things that are not obviously related to God. I don't even think that Jesus is saying that it is a sin to have wealth in this scriptural passage from Matthew 6:24. However, we do have to make sure that we are serving God as the master of our lives. That is, we have to make sure that we use our time, energy, and wealth according to how God wants us to use these precious and limited resources.
We learn God's will for our life through prayer and Bible study. It is also vitally important for those who long to be disciples Christ to be actively engaged in a faith community. These faith communities are where Christians encourage and support each other in the process of becoming stronger disciples of Christ. I'm thankful for the strong faith community at College Park United Methodist Church!
Where is your treasure?
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) What do these words from Jesus mean to you?
Martin Luther once said, "...whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God." We like to think our treasure is where our heart is, but often our treasure gets spent on things that are not truly important to us. Our treasure consists of our money, but also our time and energy. We all want our lives to matter.
We want to invest in the things that are important to us. But sometimes we are afraid and lack trust to invest in the really important things in life like our relationship with God. We often feel as if we have to do everything, but this spreads our hearts too thin! We are challenged this week to think about what we want to invest in, versus what we actually are investing in. If there is a disconnect between the two, how can we work toward getting our treasure and our hear in line?