Tuesday, January 1, 2013

There Will Your Heart Be

Matthew 6:21 (KJV)  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Last time, we mentioned a number of events of 2012.  But there are a few more.  There is still an ongoing war in Syria, there was the destruction in Benghazi, and, of course, super storm/hurricane Sandy.  Each of those, in its own way, illustrates the verse above.  And points to how we can have a better 2013.

When Sandy blew through, there was huge devastation.  That was months ago and there are still thousands without a permanent home.  As with many natural disasters, homes and possessions were destroyed.  If you pay attention to the newscasts, everyone is looking for what can be saved.  But most focus even more on pictures and things that hold memories.  They’re looking for tangible connections to what once was.  For some it’s something connected to God and church as they knew it.  For others, it’s connections to family and the way of life they had before Sandy.

President Assad apparently sees his treasure as being the riches and power that come with being in Syria’s presidential palace.  To maintain that, he’s willing to annihilate most of the cities and population of the country he rules.

The terrorists seem to consider their treasure as any radical muslim environment, where they can live in anger at anything else.

That and other things that seem to be carrying over from 2012 don’t make 2013 sound too promising.  But that could quickly change.  Will there be more shootings? Probably.  Will there be more wars, including civil unrest in some places.  That hasn’t seemed to diminish.  We could go on.  But the answers don’t lie in dwelling on the problems.  We need to start looking at the solution.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  Until we started removing prayer and other Christian influences from schools and other areas of public life, society had its faults but crime, killing, terrorism, drugs, bullying, etc. were nowhere near the levels they are now.  Even with everyone (including Christians) having full freedom to believe (or not) and communicate as they saw fit, the greater prevalence of Christianity impacted society’s tolerance for wrong behavior.  That influence needs to return.

The argument for a lot that’s changed in what’s allowed and what’s not in society seems to be based on the idea that having standards will offend someone.  When I was growing up, we had a variety of races, religions, and beliefs in my school.  Those who weren’t Christian weren’t forced to pray.  If they felt uncomfortable leaving the room or not being in a physical position of prayer, they could act like they were, but either not praying to our God or praying to whomever they worshipped.  No one was offended.  No one was insecure about what they did or didn’t believe.

Very much like the problem with guns and mass shootings, doing things or eliminating things to not offend someone ignores a basic reality.  My pastor used an illustration in last night’s New Years service that I want to expand on to make what I’m saying clearer.  Removing guns or modifying behavior assumes that those things will change core values.  It doesn’t.  We need to recognize that, no matter what external factors we change, we’re all still capable of some level of dastardly deeds internally.  And we'll always find the tools to do them.  Which is where the illustration comes in.

Think of that capacity to do wrong, be offensive, act evilly as a ball of poison.  If you eliminate some way of getting the tools for evil or modify outward behavior, it’s like covering that ball with rich chocolate.  No matter how much flavoring you add to the ball or how much chocolate you pour on, the core is still a ball of poison.  If things get too hot, the chocolate melts away and we’re left with nothing but the ball of poison.  And the nature of the ball of poison is essentially unchanged because nothing has been added to neutralize its poisonous nature.

Yes, I believe that having a relationship with Jesus Christ is essential.  But, right now, I’m talking about the influence of Christianity.  Our founding fathers included Christians, theists, and atheists.  They agreed that the Bible was a good standard on which to base the laws of our country.  To change that spits on them and the Constitution they wrote.

Here’s another thought.  Stephen Hawking went from fundamentalist to atheist.  And now, he’s being called an atheistic fundamentalist by others, including some of his fellow atheists.  Which seems to be an indication that there is atheistic denominationalism.  So, atheism appears to be as much a religion as Islam, Judaism, or Christianity.  It would seem that supporting atheistic beliefs at the expense of Christianity is very much hindering freedom of religion.

All that I’ve said, so far, comes back to the need to bring back Biblical influence in our society.  My suggestion for atheists is to get a thicker skin.  If they are so certain of their beliefs, then Christian symbols should be nothing more than allowing others to be blessed by what they believe and should be, as such, desired.  And a fellowship of mutual dialogue ought to be considered a good thing.  Both Islamic and Judaic literature have references to the reality and importance of both Moses and Jesus.  Both of those should be happy about possibilities of open dialogue.  And legalistic Christians ought to be overjoyed at the possibility of getting rid of the lifestyle that requires believers to live in their own righteousness, a righteousness that Isaiah clearly described as unclean and Jesus clearly said was insufficient.  There’s more to the Bible than Old Testament law.

I’ve spent a lot of time on foundation.  Before we need to push this to a three part series, let’s get to what will make 2013 better than any year before it.  If none of the previous paragraph occurs, those who believe in the Bible can still bring its influence to bear.  Which gives a good starting foundation to make 2013 better.  But there’s more for those of us who are Christ followers.

I mentioned, last time, that I had some interesting experiences in my life.  Like going through school as what might be considered “the class gimp”.  Left out of some things, but never bullied.  And sometimes protected by some who might be considered bullies.  There were varying health issues.  But none of that impressed me spiritually until midlife and, especially, 2012.  Suddenly, there were financial and health issues happening at the same time.  I had no control over either.  And I also suddenly discovered a calm and a lack of fear that made no sense if we look only at the circumstances.  But there’s now an ever expanding relationship with God to be reckoned in.

We read in Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”.  The He is Jesus.  When we start to fully believe it instead of just mouthing words we think we should believe, the calm becomes a reality.  We trust that He’ll be with us in the valleys just as much as we think He is in the mountaintop experiences.  The fact that He doesn’t ditch me when I blow it is part of my core, not just wishful thinking based on how good I am.  Because I’m not. 

That reality frees me to do what He tells me to do in the Word.  It frees me to accept His love, whether I think I’m deserving or not.  It frees me to love others as He does, not some surface attempt based on how I want my limited love to look like.  It allows me to accept deliverance while still in circumstances I’d rather be away from.  It frees me to trust God for everything.  That’s possible for every believer.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know Matthew 6:33 is my favorite verse.  It says we’re to seek out His kingdom and His righteousness.  It goes on to say that the result are benefits for us.  God tells us to do it because He planned out a positive result.  As with all the things He tells us to do, He still leaves the choice to us.  If we mess up, He doesn’t disappear on us.  He’s still there to guide us back to the direction we ought to take.

The health thing has slowly but surely changed some of how I minister and eliminated some of it, over the last few years.  That sudden realization, lately, of how close God and I really are has spurred me on to plan new endeavors.  And those bits of ministry that I eliminated?  I’m now believing God for healing and new creative ways to make those happen again, too.  I’m the vessel that God pours out from.  Which means I just need to be available.  God’s responsible for the results.  Since that’s an open invitation from God, not limited to one person, all that I’ve described is there for whoever is willing to join the fun.  And that makes for a dynamite 2013.  Come grab your blessings by having your heart focused on the real treasure!

3 comments:

  1. Nice blog Bill. You mentioned in your last paragraph that you are a "vessel that God pours out from." Absolutely that is true. I think that is the exact reason we need to give God the time to fill our vessel. Too many people today are caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and therefore, even if they are believers, their vessel runs dry and they begin to function on the fuel of "self" instead of the strength of God. Their light goes out as more and more of their words, their actions, and their thoughts come from emptiness. As you so clearly stated in your blog, we are shells without life when we live without the filling of God. In 2 Cor. 4:6-7 it says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of God's glory displayed it the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

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  2. Amen. Great comments and insight. The woman had a jug that held water. I want to always be a jar for Living Water. And, if that ever stops or hesitates, a good swift kick might be appropriate.

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