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Holey Pursuits

“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 moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Image result for moths eating linenReturning to the Proverbs, Jesus quotes King Solomon who, in God’s wisdom, warned, Do not wear yourself to out get rich…Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle [Proverbs 23:4a & 5].

Matthew tells us that earthly treasures can be destroyed by moth and rust or stolen by thieves. Luke says that, besides the peril of moths and thieves, our purses can wear out [Luke 12:33]. James warns the rich that the deterioration of their earthly fortunes and fancies, and the judgment of their greed-driven corruption, will bring them great despair [James 5:1-3].

Pharaohs filled their tombs with food, clothing, oils and ointments, games, gold, jewelry, elaborate furniture, chariots, weapons, boats and statues of servants peoples that the dead was supposed to be able to call to life and service in the afterlife. They believed that there was more than just this earthly life, but they believed that they could take this mortal world with them.

Well, there is certainly more. All will go on to eternal life [Matthew 25:46; John 5:29]. But no one will be able to take one thing from this physical earth with them whether they are condemned to hell  or whether they ascend to heaven. Everything in this life will pass away [Matthew 24:35; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17].

So then, how can we store up treasure in heaven?

Jesus said that one ways is to sell our worldly treasures–our possessions–give to the poor and follow Him [Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33 & 18:22]. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have…a God who will never leave us or forsake us [Hebrews 13:5]. Paul says good, be rich–meaning do a lot of–good works, and be generous and ready to share [1 Timothy 6:18].

It’s not about destituting ourselves. It’s about not clinging to and being enslaved by money. It’s about the heart [Luke 12:34; 1 Timothy 6:19].

With money in our hands and pockets, we tend to view ourselves more highly than we ought [Romans 12:3]. We see ourselves as our own provider, without need of God. But our money is worthless in the scheme of eternity. No one can buy their way into heaven. No one can buy their way out of hell.

When we stubbornly hold onto all that our hands have provided, when we are stingy about helping those in need, when we insist on tending to our own earthly securities, we miss out on the blessings of serving God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10]. Any provision we have comes by His goodness and His grace alone. But the enemy comes to steal it all away by the temptations of our own evil desires [James 1:14].

Where is your heart? On money and earthly possessions? Or on economy of heaven?

KCS

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King Herod’s Christmas Tree Life

“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'” Matthew 2:7-8

Image result for Christmas Tree costumeYou have to wonder if the Magi raised their eyebrows at this secret meeting and King Herod’s question. After all, they were diviners, or studied astrologers at the least. And here the so-called actual King of Israel had no idea when or where the baby king of his nation had been born. Surely the wise men found this private interrogation and his request to send word of the baby’s whereabouts odd.

A practicing Jew, but of Edomite descent, King Herod had no genealogical right to Israel’s throne. Still, he’d grown up hearing the stories and observing the traditions of the Old Testament and the God of his Hebrew countrymen. Did he ever stop to wonder if the power of God was real? Was he insecure because he knew he was playing a dangerous game caught between the Almighty God and the rising Roman Empire?

He kept the religious leaders close and the Roman rulers closer still. He lied readily as it suited his ascent to and maintenance of earthly power. And, though he’d heard the prophecies–word from God’s prophets in scriptures–about the coming Messiah, he was willing to have the baby killed for his own personal gain [Matthew 2:13].

Seriously? What does it take to grow up among God’s people, hearing God’s Word and still be, not just willing, but eager to attempt murder on anyone, let along God’s one and only Son?

James [1:22-25] warns against being hearers of the Word only. Herod heard God’s Word, but he didn’t let the truth of it penetrate his life.

Jesus warns that it is possible to do things in name only without ever developing a personal love relationship with God [Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:24-27]. Herod called himself a Jew and practiced the Jewish customs, but he didn’t move past the religious ritual of it all. His actions were like ornaments on a Christmas tree, hung in his life to make him look good to others, rather than fruit growing from sincere faith and pleasing to God.

Paul warns against having a form of godliness but denying its power [2 Timothy 3:1-7]. Herod fits the profile of many of the fruits in this list: lover of self, lover of money–inherent with his position of authority–boastful and proud [as in self-promoting], unholy, unloving, slanderer, without self-control, brutal, traitor, etc. Paul tells us that though such people are always learning they never come to the knowledge of the truth.

What an epitaph! To sit on the throne belonging to God’s Son Jesus, over God’s chosen people, and to do so without ever recognizing who God is.

Do you attend church, read your Bible and pray because it looks or feels good? Is your faith a Christmas ornament on your life? Or do you live out God’s Word out of your loving relationship with Him?

KCS

From Father to Son

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17

hand black and white kid old love young finger father child contrast monochrome together arm holding baby parent son close up dad family hands emotion thumb interaction sense monochrome photography human actionGod is love. He constantly and faithfully wills for our good–good as defined by who He is. And His good and faithful love is eternal, desiring to reconcile–restore right relationship between–all humanity to Himself.

Sin separates us from our holy Creator God [Isaiah 59:2]. But God wants to make us whole in our relationship with Him.

He accomplished this through the person of Jesus Christ.

Having promised redemption–providing a way for us to regain possession of eternal life–from the first [Genesis 3:15], He set apart a holy nation a remnant of people who would acknowledge Him as God, through whom to send His Son Jesus. That people was Israel. He put His word into the mouths of prophets, reminding the world of the redemption to come and so all would recognize when the Redeemer had come.

And many didn’t.

Even today, many fail to recognize the reality of sin, heaven and hell. They fail to understand their need for a Savior or to confess that Jesus alone is that Lord of all. They, therefore, refuse eternal life, because belief on Jesus is all it takes to attain eternity. They choose, instead, the condemnation due their sin.

But Jesus didn’t come so that we would be condemned. He didn’t come carrying a sword to vanquish a human enemy. He came as a tiny baby to love the whole world and to give His life in exchange for the wages of our sin [Romans 6:23]. He is the only way and truth and life [John 14:6]. The Son and the Father are one [John 10:30]. Without faith in Jesus, no one comes to God the Father [Hebrews 11:6-8]. Not coming to faith in Him results in holding on to our sinful condemnation.

Because of this, we must come to know Jesus, the Son of God. We must understand His light in our darkness [John 1:5] and daily allow ourselves to be made more and more in His image [Romans 8:29]. He is the Word of God and God sent His Spirit to teach and remind us about all Jesus speaks to us [John 14:26]. Therefore, we must study the Word to show ourselves approved [2 Timothy 2:15] and to always have an answer for the hope that we have in Christ [1 Peter 3:15].

Do you know your Redeemer? Will you choose to know Him better–to allow His light to penetrate the recesses of heart and soul?

KCS

First Love

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Image result for great loveGod is love. He loved us first. He loves us most. He loves more than we could ever ask or imagine. Constantly. Faithfully. Mercifully. Full of grace, pressed down, shaken together and running over [Luke 6:38].

His love for us is holy. We are set a part as children [1 John 3:1], not the human toys purported by pagan mythologies. We are prepared as His spotless bride [Revelation 19:7-8], not exploited as harlots like in the mythological pantheons.

His love for us is sovereign and transcendent. That’s why His anger stirs when we continually and blatantly sin against one another [Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 6:1; James 2:13]. And when we sit in judgment on other people’s sins while disregarding our own [Matthew 7:2-5; Luke 6:41-42].

His love for us is righteous and good. It wills only for our eternal best. It treats us only with rightness–that which is infinitely and precisely correct according to God’s moral law. Never impatiently or unkindly. Never enviously, boastfully or arrogantly. Never dishonoring us or using us for His own gain. We do not easily trip God’s temper, and our reciprocal love toward God covers over the multitude of our sin. His love does not delight in evil. Period. But it rejoices when a sinner finds the truth, the way and the life. God’s love eternally protects as we trust in Him. His love eternally hopes we will choose to repent, though, He already knows whether or not we will. His love perseveres from the beginning to the end of human history, pursuing our hearts to return to Him–our first love, who first loved us.

In His eternal wisdom, His love will never fail us [1 Corinthians 13].

But our finite human love will fail us every time. Unless we deny our flesh and take up the cross of Christ [Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23], our sin-warped love will fixate on another thing, like money, and become the root of all evil [1 Timothy 6:10]. Or like physical and material desires, temptations that will grow into full blown death [James 1:15]. It will fixate on finite, sinful human beings and fail to meet our self-absorbed, insatiable expectations. Leaving us with the sense of being robbed and cheated rather than whole.

God’s love for us is holy–wholeness itself.

His love for us is just. It respects our freewill even when it hurts God’s heart [Deuteronomy 5:29]. He will give to each as each has chosen–the righteous to everlasting life and the unrighteous to everlasting condemnation [Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:15 & 21:27].

Do you know the depths of the riches of God’s love for you? Do you realize that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:38-39]?

It’s true. The only thing that can separate you from God’s love is you.

KCS

Hallowed, Vain or Profane?

“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.”” Luke 11:2

Image result for clean lipsGod is infinitely holy. That means that everything about Him is also holy. His name alone bears a holiness that could crush or redeem a person.

Jesus instructed his disciples to respect God as their own Father and to revere His name as holy, willing His kingdom’s presence. It seems almost paradoxical to consider God our Father–in light of the casual relationships many of us have with our parents–while at the same time honoring Him with all due reverence.

So it is the third clause that binds the first two together in our understanding. Jesus is reminding us that we are God’s children and, therefore, coheirs of God’s kingdom with Christ [Romans 8:16-17 & 9:8]. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we will reign with Him  [1 Timothy 6:15; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 17:14, 19:16 & 20:4-6].

But claiming to be His children and doing things in His name versus living as His children and giving all glory and honor to Him are two different things [Matthew 7:21-23].

In the second commandment, God instructed us not to use His name in vain–that is in an empty manner [Exodus 20:7]. Remember that rendering something holy means that it is filled with a special purpose. God redeemed us to make us holy–to refill us with the special purpose with which He created each and every one of us.

The devil seeks to empty our lives of all that our good and loving God seeks to give us in more abundance [John 10:10]. Satan wants to use us up in vain–emptiness–and spit us out. God wants to breathe purposeful life into our freewill.

And He rightly expects us to treat Him accordingly. To speak His name with reverent purpose rather than emptily tossing His holiness about like an empty wrapper.

His name fills us with hope, peace and healing. His name is a strong and mighty refuge in our stormy world [Proverbs 18:10]. His name is above all names, a firm foundation and mighty to save [Exodus 18:11; Isaiah 63:1; Zephaniah 3:17]. His name casts out demons–and they shudder in fear [Mark 9:38; James 2:19]. His name causes the nations to tremble [Psalm 99:1]. And at His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He alone is God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

His name is full of life. It is the wholeness that we, as sinners, so desperately need. It is the purpose that fills our lives and makes us holy.

And using it in vain only drains all of the fullness, wellness and purpose out of our lives.

Have you spoken God’s name in emptiness? Have you used it to profane–that is irreverently to disrespect? God will forgive it if you ask, and He will make you wholly holy to His glory and honor–only reverence His name as you wear it before this world.

KCS

Rudimentary Holiness

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13

Image result for potter's handsGod is holy. Therefore His dwelling is holy too, and anyone who would live eternally with Him must also be made holy [Hebrews 2:11, 10:10 & 14].

This is not a work that we ourselves can undertake.

As a result of sin, and the fact that we are not God–despite Satan’s lie [Genesis 3:15]–no one can make themselves holy, just as no cancerous cell can heal itself or multiply into whole cells. Just as no lump of clay can turn itself into a usable pot. And as long as we choose to cling to this world, sinning against God under the influence of the prince of this world [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2], we refuse God’s wholeness–holiness–in our lives.

But it’s our choice. God infinitely loves every human being ever and, in His mercy and grace, made the way to redeem us–that is to regain our heavenly citizenship in exchange for the payment of Jesus’ shed blood.

And it is His strength alone that leads, His wisdom alone that guides, as we walk the straight and narrow way to His holy dwelling [Psalm 15; Matthew 7:13-14]. How can our walk be blameless in God’s sight unless we are instructed by Him and obey? How can we speak the truth from our heart unless we first hide God–who is truth–in our heart? Who of us can perfectly keep our tongues or our actions from hurting others, even inadvertently, at all times? How can we despise the vile while honoring those who fear the Lord if we don’t first know God’s holy law? Why would anyone keep an inexpedient oath if not for God’s moral standard to guide? Is there anyone, besides the Lord, who hasn’t changed their mind–regardless of whether the matter seems great or small? Why would anyone know how to please God with their finances if they’ve never sought His holy counsel?

No, it is only by the grace of God’s strength in our lives that we begin to learn such rudimentary holiness. And again, it is His loving grace in our lives that exchanges our filthy rag righteousness for the spotless robe righteousness of Christ [Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 3:27].

When we repent–rethink ourselves and recognize our own sinfulness in the light of who God is–we are set apart for holy purposes [2 Timothy 2:21]. We then become useful in God’s kingdom. He can work His love and mercy and grace and justice and holiness and wisdom and all that He is through us in the world. He can make us salt and light [Matthew 5:13-16].

Are you a redeemed instrument of God’s character and power in this lost and dying world?

KCS

Mindful of Grace

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do: for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” 1 Peter 1:13-16

Image result for mindfulnessThe idea of mindfulness is trending across our nation today. It can be found in everything from school curriculums, to health ads and articles, to social media and the evening news. From the world’s viewpoint, mindfulness is being fully aware of one’s own thoughts, emotions and circumstances moment by moment. Psychologists suggest that simply being aware of self will bring internal peace because it encourages a person to accept life as it comes, nonjudgmentally–especially where self is concerned.

All truth being God’s truth, there are some facets to this idea of mindfulness that have been usurped from the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Satan, being the prince of this world [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2], has corrupted the heavenly idea of: being mentally prepared–always considering what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praise [Philippians 4:8]; being sober-minded–not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought [Romans 12:3]; and fixing our eyes on eternity [2 Corinthians 4:18], which is that grace freely given us and meant to transform us.

Worldly mindfulness starts with accepting Satan’s lie that we can be our own god and decide for ourselves what is good and bad [Genesis 3:5]. That is why the focus of so-called mindfulness is self.

Biblical mindfulness, on the other hand, is centered on the One True God. It acknowledges that self is sinful. It recognizes God’s grace and repents of said sinfulness. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to bring deeper awareness and thoughtfulness to each moment with the very mind of God [John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:16]. And God, being infinitely wise and knowing, granting us understanding and guidance each moment of our life brings an infinitely greater and truer peace than the calm we can ever hope to conjure in our finite selves.

Don’t be deceived by the feel-good rhetoric of cultural trends. Examine God’s word for yourself and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you into all understanding. Know God’s mind on any matter that the world–or for that matter, the church–presents. Don’t accept good ideas blindly, because many are half-truths that fall short of the glory of God and deny God’s true power [Romans 3:23; 2 Timothy 3:5].

God always intended us to live with eternal awareness–heavenly mindfulness. But the world wants to focus our mind on the temporal. The here and now. The moment by moment cleansing breath, centering the search for peace on self. Instead of the eternally cleansing power of God’s grace through Jesus’ blood shed for our sins.

Will you look to self for inner peace? Or, being mindful of grace, will you be transformed by the renewing of your mind and know all peace [Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:7]?

KCS