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Archive for March, 2013

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV).

We live in a culture of instant gratification, and much of what we do is driven by our desire to enjoy things NOW! This drive for immediate satisfaction is one reason most Americans are in debt. According to statistics collected by the U. S. Census Bureau (2012 Estimate), “Americans owed a hefty $850.9 billion in credit card debt, or $6,920 per household. They owed $1.944 trillion in school, auto and furniture loans, or $15,800 per household. Combined, households owed a record $2.795 trillion in consumer debt, surpassing the total debt burden held before the recession. On average, Americans now owe $22,720 per household. This does not include mortgages.”

What these statistics actually may reveal is not so much a debt problem but a heart problem, a skewed perspective. In others words, these statistics may, in fact, betray the reality that a majority of Americans believe they can find satisfaction by stockpiling treasures here on earth. As followers of Christ, we must be willing to ask, “Are we living for the here and now or are we living with eternity in mind?” In order to answer that question, we have to consider how we handle money and material possessions.

The way we view and handle money and material possessions says much about both our personal character and our spiritual condition; the Bible makes that connection clear (see Luke 18:18-27; 19:1-9)! For wherever your treasure is that is where your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21). If you treasure the things of this world, then you will seek satisfaction in the here and now. If you treasure the things of God, then you will seek satisfaction in God and His eternal kingdom.

You don’t have to continue as a slave to debt and possessions. Jesus calls us to reorient our hearts away from this world and toward heaven – “STOP stockpiling your treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19)! On Sunday I argued that in order to fight the fight of faith against covetousness and materialism, we must first stop believing the lie that there is real and lasting value (satisfaction) in worldly wealth and possessions. Secondly, we must embrace the truth that heavenly riches are of surpassing, eternal value. Only as we grow in our understanding of the reward of heaven, namely that we get God, will we be able to hold on loosely to the things of this world.

If you want a helpful and quick read on obtaining an eternal perspective on money, possessions and eternity, I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle. It’s a little book, and it will be the best $10.00 investment you ever make. If you want to pursue this matter more deeply, then read Alcorn’s Money, Possessions and Eternity. It is a more comprehensive study on the dangers of materialism and what the Bible says about money and possessions. May we continue to grow as faithful stewards of all God has given us, and may God richly bless us in order that we would bless the nations (Psalm 67).

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And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18)

Last week I argued that Fasting is NOT merely abstaining from something, good or bad.  Fasting is abstaining from one thing, even a good thing, in order to feast on something greater, namely, God Himself.  For HE is our REWARD!  The treasure of the kingdom is God Himself-we get God!  And when God is our reward, we hold on loosely to this world.  But questions remain about fasting, so I wanted to address some of those questions.

What is a fast?

Fasting is merely abstaining from food/drink or some other designated thing, so that you can turn your complete focus to seeking the heart of God.

Why fast?

Fasting is a way of breaking away from those things of the flesh (appetites) that control us so that we can hunger more for the things of God.  Fasting is not so much doing without food as much as it is feasting on the things of God.

How often should I fast?

The Bible is silent on how often one should fast; however, Jesus was clear to say “when” you fast and not “if” you fast, so it is something Jesus expected of his followers.

What do I do during a fast?

Take time that you would normally use for eating or watching tv or whatever you’re fasting from and spend that time seeking the heart of God in prayer, confession and the Word of God.  Fasting should be accompanied with other disciplines, primarily prayer and Bible intake (reading, studying, meditating, memorizing) so that your hunger for this world is lessened and your hunger for God is increased.

Do I refrain from every kind of intake?

You will want to keep your fluids up with water.  (If you have medical concerns, please check with your doctor before fasting.)

How long do I fast?

Again, the Bible does not explicitly suggest how long we should fast.  There are various kinds of fasts for differing reasons.  Perhaps, you may want to begin fasting one meal a week.  If possible, you may want to attempt a 24-hour fast.  You can go from sundown to sundown or from awaking one day to awaking the next.  

Should I tell others that I am fasting?

Fasting is an act between you and God.  If others ask you, you may share with them, but there is humility in this act of obedience.

What might occur spiritually during a fast?

As you fight to deny the fleshly appetites, ask for God to strengthen you and drive you by His grace and His Spirit to be satisfied in God alone.  Ask God to break the bondage the appetites of this world have on you.

Ask that as you grow in being satisfied by God and His Word that you may grow in your desire for the kingdom and the righteousness of the kingdom now.  But also ask that you may grow in longing for the kingdom to come because the coming of the kingdom represents the arrival of the king once and for all and the time when fasting will give way to feasting in the presence of God.

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Cultivating a Culture of Peace

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“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
(James 3:17-18, ESV)

             The gospel is a gospel of peace.  It declares that since the time of Adam’s sin we have been born into this world as God’s enemy: hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21) against God (Romans 8:7).  The most holy God had every right to declare the differences between Him and us irreconcilable.  Yet, in His wisdom and love God chose to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).  By judging our sin at the cross of Christ, Holy God is able to reconcile to Himself us who receive Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by faith.

Through Christ, we who have been reconciled to God have also been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  As ministers of reconciliation, we proclaim this gospel of reconciliation to the world in order that all peoples may be reconciled to God through the death of Christ.  But our ministry of reconciliation does not end there, for we must continue living in the light of the reconciling work of Christ.  Consequently, we must live our lives reconciled to one another.

Even though we Christians have been reconciled to God through Christ, far too many professing Christians still live in conflict with others.  Such conflict is manifested in marriages, homes, workplaces, even church relationships.  Unfortunately, many of us address such conflicts according to worldly wisdom rather than heavenly wisdom.  This is why Christians have as many divorces as non-Christians, why they stop talking to fellow Christians, why they leave churches over conflict, and why churches even split over conflict.

What kind of Christian testimony do we offer this world if we are reconciled to God through Christ but fail to be reconciled to one another?  One of the most powerful witnesses we can provide our community is the witness of reconciled relationships that flow from being reconciled to God.  If we are to live in such an atmosphere, then we must cultivate a culture of peace.  According to Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, a culture of peace is a culture where “people are eager and able to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships in a way that clearly reflects the love and power of Jesus Christ” (291).  If we are to cultivate such a culture of peace, then we must have a biblical strategy for resolving conflict.  Sande offers the following counsel (the four “G’s”):

Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Our entire lives must be motivated by a desire to glorify God.  Get the log out of your eye (Matthew 7:5).  We must first look at our own hearts in order to discern our contributions to conflicts.  Gently restore (Galatians 6:1).  The Bible gives us clear instruction in approaching those with whom we have conflict.  Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24).  Once we have addressed conflict, we must be willing to restore relationships.

Let us cultivate a culture of peace in our home and in our church.  May we be about God’s glory, and address conflict biblically by first looking at our own hearts, then approaching one another with the goal of reconciled relationships that give evidence to the fact that we are a people reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

Listen to Sunday’s Sermon on Forgiveness:
Forgiving as the Father Has Forgiven Us
Matthew 6:14-15

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