Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 42: “Wide and Narrow Gates” 10.09.2018

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Hardly a day goes by without seeing an ad for the treatment of spinal stenosis. One would think that affliction was a national epidemic. Perhaps it is. Stenosis can also develop in the wrist and other places in the body and often accompanies old age. Why mention this as we consider today’s topic? Because the word “stenosis” is also found in our text and with very good reason. The word describing the narrow gate is “stenos” meaning narrow. Stenosis of the spine is understood as a narrowing of the spaces around the spinal cord rendering movement somewhat inhibited. So, in speaking of the narrow gate or the “straight gate” the Lord Jesus Christ is giving us a word picture of a narrow path that is only found by a few. It is not obvious and easy to find. Navigating it will require some searching and deliberate care and caution getting all the way through.

In contrast, Jesus said “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Here we have the Greek word “platos” from which we get the English “plateau.” In other words, the road to destruction is like a great open plateau spreading out with dramatic flatness and easy to cross. Like walking from one side of a huge desert to the other side with no barriers. Many people go that way. Now, Jesus is moving towards closure of the Sermon on the Mount. Why might he have given this rather unhappy warning to us as we sit on the mountainside? Let’s consider …
First, we need to relate this passage to John Chapter Fourteen. We read:

John 14:6 (NIV) “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

This was and is a very exclusive statement. It is not “inclusive” and since the idea of “inclusion” is particularly prominent today, we should not be surprised when it is offensive to the “many.” There was an attitude in the first century that, in a sense, is very like the one we experience in our time. It was perfectly acceptable then to say, “I believe in Jesus.” What was not acceptable was this statement: “I believe in only Jesus.” We hear the same thing. In modern society saying “only Jesus” is where the offense begins and ends. Why? Because the implication is so dreadfully serious.

I once had a Jewish friend who did not believe in his Messiah Jesus. He said to me: “If what you are saying is true, that would imply that my father and all of those I love who have already passed … are eternally lost! No … I just cannot accept this statement that it is “only Jesus” who can bring us to God.” I understood. Actually, he was quite correct. The best thing to do at that moment was to encourage him to think of his own salvation since he cannot do anything about the eternal state of anyone else. But it is so much easier for the lost to take the broad path. The other gate and the other path, to salvation, is a narrow one that requires perseverance. It means that the disciples as described in all our previous studies will find themselves walking carefully and DIFFERENTLY than those who do not care about the Kingdom.

It is interesting to look at the treatment of this teaching as found in the Gospel of Luke. In it, we notice some additional aspects that are very dramatic. We read:

Luke 13:22-25 (NIV) “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, the spiritual capital of the world. The center on Earth of the Kingdom of God. Thus, it was no accident that this exchange came up. Someone asked if only a few people will be saved. We also ask that question when we see how much more “attractive” worldliness is to the lost. It leaves us wondering if most people will not find their way into the Kingdom of God . Most people, we sense, will not inherit eternal life. We do not rejoice over this but we simply have to acknowledge it. So, someone asked Jesus about it.

Notice our Lord’s reply. He reminds them that THEY must be careful to pursue the narrow path. Once called to the journey, we must stay focused and deliberate. Then our Lord gives this very ominous warning to all who may be listening:

“I tell you, many will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”

There will be no second chances as some theologians suggest. Simply stated, this is it! Here and now, every person must make a decision about the Lord Jesus Christ and his claims.

NEXT: “I Never Knew You!”

Peace. Pastor Alberta

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 41: “Ask, Seek … Knock” 10.05.2018

Matthew 7:7-12 (NIV) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

The movie “A Few Good Men” is the story of two Marines tried for murder. It is a vulgar and emotionally brutal film clearly not for the faint of spirit. I cannot recommend it to my sensitive friends but there are few good lessons in it. Beyond that, there is one scene that stood out to me. Navy lawyers visit the commandant of the Marine base at Guantanamo seeking certain documents pertaining to the case. The colonel in charge simply stares at them and says (my paraphrase) “Sure. I’m willing to give you the documents in question. But you have to ask me nicely and with respect.” The two lawyers are somewhat taken aback but they make their request politely and respectfully. The colonel gives them what they want. Now, it’s not easy to apply this word picture to our wholly Holy God but we can do so to this extent: He wants to be asked politely and with respect!

As our Lord’s teaching on the mountainside is almost complete, it seems appropriate for him to instruct us in the matter of prayer. To remind us that we are children in the presence of God our Father and we should understand that He loves us and wants to give us good things. Yet, this teaching is more about understanding God and His Grace more than about “how to get what we want in prayer from God.” Let’s look closely …

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God wants to be asked. God wants us to seek Him. God wants to hear a knock on His door. Then He promises to respond to those who ask and seek and knock. What does this mean? That we can ask God for whatever we want? That God would make us billionaires? That God would cause our political opponents to fail in their candidacy? That God would free us of all stress? Would our list of requests ever end if God was required to grant us everything we ask of Him? Thus, there must be boundaries to all of this.

When considering how God responds to our prayers, we must remember how WE respond to requests brought by our children. If a ten-year-old petitions and seeks and knocks and asks with great sincerity to use the family car to take his friends for a ride, we will not even consider the request. It might be sincere and even tearfully presented but it would still be unthinkable. HERE IS THE KEY: As parents, we want our children to mature to the point where they are asking for those things that we want them to ask for and have! Thus, we quickly realize that these words from our Lord are not guarantees that He loves us so much that we will always “get” whatever we desire from Him.

How shall we respond to this principle? By searching further in the Word of God. Here we find:

1 John 5:13-15 (NIV) “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.”

John is saying that as believers, our greatest joy is in having eternal life! Even before we ask for anything in prayer, the backdrop should be that we are secure and mightily blessed. This instruction is written to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God…” eternal people who have a place secured in Heaven. But we must ask “according to His will!” This means that before we pray, we must seek to understand His will. But sometimes we cannot do that until we ask and watch what happens. We must understand that we will “receive” but not necessarily get what we ask for. Thus, when our Lord himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, wanting with all of his human and sinless heart to be delivered from the coming Crucifixion, we read how he prayed:

Matthew 26:42 (NIV) “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

Almost all of us who walk with the Lord can recall a time or two when God answered our prayer with a “No.” Then later, we saw how things worked out and understood that God had other things in mind and it was best that He had not granted the request. So, in the end, the first heart attitude must be to seek God’s will and remember that He is a gracious and kind Father who, in any case, would never give us something bad. Perhaps we are simply left with the reminder that “Father knows best!”

Next: “The Narrow and Wide Gates”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 40: “Judging Others” 10.04.2018

Matthew 7:1-6 (NIV) 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

In almost four decades of church work, I heard this comment many times: “I need to find a church that is not judgmental!” It’s a common thought these days in our post-modern world. Many people argue that there are no fixed moral standards. They say nothing is right or wrong … that all things are relative. Thus, it’s very popular to say that “Judging is bad and, since there are very few permanent truths in our universe, who are we to judge anyway? Even Jesus said do not judge …  right?” Well … not really. One hardly knows where to begin with all of this. It sounds nice and generous to be non-judgmental, but can we really live that way? Of course not. If we do not judge, then how do we decide whom to vote for? How do we decide which car to buy and which school to go to? We use judgement all the time. And yes, we do judge other people. Are they honest? Trustworthy? Someone with whom we would want a friendship? So, what was Jesus driving at in this statement? Consider these simple words:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Here is the sentence in literal form and in several other translations: “Judge not that you not be judged” … judge meaning “decide” “assess” “condemn” “esteem” “determine” … thus we see a whole range of meanings for these words. In the NLT, it says: Matthew 7:1 (NLT2) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” I think that misses the point. In the ESV, it says: Matthew 7:1 (ESV) “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The problem is in reading just that verse. In order to see what Jesus was saying, we clearly need what follows:

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Our Lord is telling us we must remember to judge ourselves by the same standards as we judge others. If we see the sin of gossip in others, do we gossip? If we see the sin of impurity in others, are we impure? What Jesus is really driving at for his true disciples, in my opinion, is again, the need for humility. Examine self first! Thus, he goes on to say:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It is so much easier for me to see your faults than to see my own. Actually, Jesus tells us that we CAN help one another with faults but only after we have dealt with our own shortcomings. And when we judge, we should be careful that our faults are not far worse than those of other people. In other words, before I am a spec inspector I must be a board inspector.

Just to develop this point a little further, Jesus then gives a very practical teaching about the real need to judge and discern. It seems that he added in a portion that did not quite follow, but it does. Here it is:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

This is not about dogs. It is a word picture of untrustworthy people. We would need to judge them that way from observation. Let’s think about it. If you bend down towards a pig, with something in your hand, that pig will expect food. A handful of grain or something. And when you give them uneatable pearls (very valuable … notice the reference to the Gospel) what will be their response? Fury and rage! They wanted food! Then they will, in their fury, attack you and try to kill you!

In summary: as Christians we must use our judgement and discernment. Before we do so, we must double check to see if we are guilty of the same error or sin. We must be careful with other people because very often they will not appreciate our thoughts and may even attack us. This is particularly true when we try to share the Gospel with those who hate it. All of this amounts to: “Be careful when you judge. Judge yourself first. Then be thoughtful about what that other person may be willing to hear from you.”

One last thought. When King David sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, a Godly man, who had no such sin in his life, came to see him. His name was Nathan and he told David the whole story of his sin. And David replied: “I have sinned against the Lord…” 2 Samuel 12:13. (Also see Psalm 51). God sent a man of sound judgment and moral uprightness to speak to David. It was just and right and for David’s own good. No doubt, Nathan prayed for himself and about himself before he went to David. “Do not judge unless you are prepared to be judged by the same standards!”

Next: “Asking, Seeking and Knocking”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 39: “Worry” Part Two 10.03.2018

Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

“Never worry about anything that you can’t do anything about! – Anonymous

“Why do you worry…?” –Jesus

Why do we worry? Do we somehow think that if we do not worry something might go wrong? As if, by worrying, we can control things beyond our control? I’ve been careful in these posts not to go too far into the psychological issues. But just a thought here … a good psychologist might invite the worrier into a season of cognitive therapy. That is, learning to think differently to reduce one’s internal stress and anxiety. That can be very helpful. And that therapist might encourage the patient to examine the things they might do to reduce their concerns. Financial decisions and career choices. We DO have a lot of responsibility for the situations we get ourselves into … thus, we worry.

But let’s suppose that we do all of those things. Let’s suppose we have acted as responsibly as we can and yet, we are still prone to worry. What might we do from this point? I suggest that Jesus himself was the great psychologist as well as the Savior. And his cognitive therapeutic techniques were spiritual in nature. That is, Jesus was teaching that ultimately worry, for his disciples, is a matter of not understanding God and not trusting God. So, what things might we hold onto in our determination to put worry to rest?

FIRST, WE ARE VALUABLE TO GOD OUR FATHER! This sentence is very easy to overlook: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” God created the birds that we see. He loves them. He finds them delightful. In fact, Jesus said the Father is aware of every single bird and that He must “sign off” even on their deaths. We read:

Matthew 10:29 (NIV) “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”

Some time ago, I found a little starling lying lifelessly on our front porch. Weighing only a few ounces , there it was having somehow flown into the doorway falling to the ground. I gently scooped it up and disposed of it, but I stopped to ponder. With all that is going on in the world among nations and people groups … with all that is constantly in motion throughout he universe from molecules to planets … God the Maker of Heaven and Earth watched this tiny bird flying about our yard and then permitted it to fall. He personally allowed/approved of its falling! One little bird!

Jesus said we are “much more valuable” than any bird. The words he used might be translated saying we are “worth much more” than any bird. We are of greater “value.” And what do we do with things that are very valuable? We keep track of them and care for them. Leading us to a second point that suggests worry is unnecessary.

SECOND, GOD KNOWS OUR SITUATION! Sometimes we quietly ask (We would never admit to this ) “God does know what is going on … right? I mean, He is still keeping an eye on me, isn’t He?” When this happens, we do well to ponder Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:1-5 (NIV) “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”

Consider those words. Suppose you were someone of great wealth and could hire a personal assistant to stay by your side. A person with miraculous powers who never needed to sleep. And his assignment was to watch over everything you do and keep you safe and meet all of your needs and never take his eyes off of you. All of the money in the world could not locate such an assistant. But, for the true disciples, the child of God through Jesus Christ, this is the promise! He knows your situation and He is on the job! One more thought on worry …

THIRD: WORRY, FOR THE CHRISTIAN, IS A SIN. This is not a statement of condemnation but simply a reminder that we hurt the heart of God when we sin and worry … not trusting God … is a sin. Recall how puzzled Jesus was in the boat in the storm. We read:
Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV) “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’”

Jesus asked, “Why are you so afraid?” Notice that he, Jesus, was so unconcerned about what was worrying them that he was asleep! But they did not need to awaken him because he was on the job! Sometimes we feel as if God is asleep and we need to wake Him up. We do not. As my little old Italian Grandma would say “Dia-He knows!”

Psalm 121:1-4 (NIV) “I lift my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Peace. Next: Judging Others.

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 38: “Worry” Part One 10.02.2018

Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Among the many Mark Twain quotes, this might be my favorite: “My life has been filled with endless catastrophes, most of which never happened!” We can spend many days fretting about what might happen and could happen. Troubled by what might be our undoing. Jesus said “Don’t!” But let’s be truthful: this is a difficult statement from our Lord. We DO have to think ahead. We do have to save for the future and be careful with the present. Common sense tells us to live with care and planning. But is Jesus saying “Oh, don’t worry about the future. Relax! The Father in Heaven has you covered!” Of course, he is not saying quite that. So, what are we to make of this teaching from our Lord? I have a few ideas …

Most of us have had periods of worry. Me included. In fact, if you are a major league worrier, you might wake up thinking “What should I be worried about? There must be something that needs to be considered! I need to do some fretting!” But Jesus just said “Do not worry about your life…” He meant by that the essentials in life such as food, clothing etc. should not be our main focus. This follows perfectly on the previous admonition:

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) “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.”

We spoke earlier about the 48,000 plus storage units in America. About how we have become a nation of hoarders and buyers. But what would it mean to “worry” about clothing and food? The actual word in the text for worry is rooted in a word for “division” causing anxiety. In other words, worry divides the mind and heart. But this is really about PRIORITIES. Jesus seems to be saying that we must not use our assets and energies to constantly seek after more of everything. He clearly is not saying that we need not work or plan ahead. Again:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

The assumption of Jesus is that his disciples will be people who do not consider material possessions to be their highest priority. He asks: “Is life not more important than…?” Then he references birds of the air. Notice that the Father feeds them but how? By programming them to gather seeds and food that He provides but they still must do the gathering! So, to worry or be divided is to fail to trust God to provide the means.

Over the years, I’ve spoken with lots of men and women whose finances had hit some potholes or speed bumps and they were worried. I would never pray with them that money would fall from Heaven like manna. Rather, I encouraged them to pray for a work opportunity. Simply put, God knows of our needs. He can provide. He cares about our needs just as he cares about dressing the flowers that are tossed away pretty quickly.

Jesus made a very clear promise later in the text. The key seems to be tending to our part in the Kingdom of God first. If we are going to use up mental energy … fine. First, use it for the Kingdom. He said:

Matthew6:32-33 (NIV) “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Excessive worry and striving after the things of the world is something that the pagans do. Remember, a pagan was and is someone who denies the Christian faith and/or worships false gods or nothing at all. Of course, paganism existed before Jesus said these words. A heathen is someone who has not heard the Gospel. In our age, a pagan might be someone who has heard the Gospel and rejected it for a number of religions including any of the cults or consumerism or other worldly things. These are people who do not seek after God. Interesting that our Lord Jesus Christ ended his comments with this key phrase:

Matthew 6:32-33 (NIV) “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus did NOT just say “If you’re a worrier you are no better than a pagan!” He said “Don’t be worrisome. Just be sure to seek the Kingdom of God first then plan your life!” If we seek the Kingdom of God, we will be careful with planning spending and acquiring. Most of our worrying comes from neglect of that principle.

One other thought. Here is where the New Living Translation is very helpful in its treatment of verse 33:

Matthew 6:33 (NLT2) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Worriers struggle, me among them, to break the worry habit. But if we seek God, it is never too late to change our patterns of life and learn to trust Him. Even if we have been unwise or foolish, if we are saved … we are safe! I highly recommend Psalm 73. The writer had nearly turned into a beast with anger and worry. I do hope we will all read it soon. Even memorize it! Noticed the promise that God makes:

Psalm 73:23-26 (NIV) “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. YOU GUIDE ME WITH YOUR COUNSEL, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

God be praised! Blessings! Pastor Alberta

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“It’s Official. We Are Defiled as a Nation.”

This last week of September 2018, we saw what would have been unthinkable say … fifty years ago. Maybe less? Every night talk show hosts and their guests speak openly in the most vulgar terms about politicians and other leaders including clergy and business people and entertainers. Anything goes. Any kind of words may be used. Anything for a laugh or a burst of indecency. It’s “entertaining.”

I thought we might have reached a nadir when we went to a debate among the Republican presidential candidates in Detroit in the fall of 2016. Mr. Trump, now President Trump, won the earthy and vulgar award with comments about his own sexual prowess. We thought of simply walking out. Our national conversation had obviously been lowered into the dialog sewer. Every bit as coarse as any of the talk shows that specialize in shocking rhetoric. I was wrong. It could get worse.

We watched as United States Senators heard the testimony, in vivid and sordid details, of a woman claiming to have been sexually assaulted by a candidate for our Supreme Court. That was just the warm up. Then we had to listen to educated and accomplished men introduce a discussion about body parts and physiological phenomenon. Thirty-five-year-old year book entries with sensual high school-type entries. Beer drinking and sexual behaviors. As if these things had anything to do with the issue at hand. Namely, can proof be found for a charge of sexual abuse? Why not turn the whole matter into an orgy of dirty word pictures? The candidate, at one point, asked “Is this what we want to talk about in a Supreme Court examination?” (my paraphrase.) In short, some Senators asked questions about things that ladies and gentlemen do not raise “in polite company.” I wondered if this q & a could not have taken place off camera? Was showboating for political gain worth the cost in dignity? It was just as bad, maybe worse than Mr. Trump’s comments two years ago.

We must pray for our nation. God is showing us something. Jesus told us this:

Matthew 15:10-11 (ESV) “And he called the people to him and said to them, Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

When the heart is defiled, it remains a hidden defilement. But when the words come forth and reveal that heart, everyone sees that defilement. Our words reveal our hearts. When our elected representatives defile themselves with their words, when our entertainers defile themselves with their words, when we defile ourselves with our words … are we not obnoxious to Heaven? Prayer is needed for our country and ourselves. Perhaps more than ever. Troubling.

Pastor Alberta

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 37: “Treasures in Heaven” 09.28.2018

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) “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.”

According to a commercial real estate journal, in 2014 there were 48,500 self-storage facilities in the United States. That is nearly one thousand per state. That’s not the number of individual units but rather locations with multiple, sometimes hundreds of units. Many, many millions of square feet of storage. Clearly, we have a lot of stuff! An article in the Huffington Post, April 22, 2015, claims there are more of these facilities in America than there are McDonald’s Restaurants. They observe rightly: “Apparently, we are all hoarders!”

“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…”

We have to wonder what Jesus would say if he rode around any modern American community and saw all of the storage units. And we have to wonder if any of us, you or me, have very full storage units in Heaven? So … we come to this challenging teaching. Put another way, as Christians we must wrestle with “how much is enough?” An old adage says, “Just a little more!” Consider …

Actually, this statement of the Lord Jesus Christ is all the more astounding when we remember that he made it to a modest community living in primitive homes in a non-manufacturing and non-consumer-oriented society. Their ability to accrue possessions was simply miniscule compared to how we live today. How much more would his teaching make sense in our affluent and “stuff driven” society?

I have a confession. I do not have much “stuff guilt.” I have a little because I have purchased more golf clubs and cars that I should have over the years. But, at the same time, my wife and I have been good givers. We’ve had years of living right on the edge and years of abundance. But both experiences were of the Lord. We can relate to the Apostle Paul saying:

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV) “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

So, since most of us, me included, are not about to take a vow of poverty, where does this leave us? A few thoughts. It is important to read the whole passage at this point.

“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.”

Let’s ask exactly WHY Jesus warned us about treasures on earth? Possessions. “Stuff.” It is not because God is keeping an accounting record of all of our assets. As if on judgment Day He might say “Well! Your net worth exceeded a million dollars and I notice that you had three flat screen televisions! That was truly excessive!” It’s not as if there is some Divine formula per se as to what we may own or buy. The only thing required of us is to not let it steal away our hearts. Are we ready, if necessary, to give everything up? If God places us in modest circumstances, can we handle it? The Apostle Paul also said:

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NIV) “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Jesus said exactly the same thing. The key point is what are “your life” and “my life” about? One day when two men were arguing about family assets, they approached Jesus. We read:

Luke 12:15 (NIV) “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”

Jesus did not say to be on guard for your neighbor, but for yourself. One day a man saw me arrive in our ten-year-old Mustang convertible. In my view, it is a modest pleasure that is not unreasonable. But the brother said, “You know Pastor, you could sell that nice car and give the money to missions!” Hmmm….. was it his place to say that? I think not. He has no idea what we have given to missions or to the Kingdom of God. I was not at all convicted by what he said because I think, within reason, our Lord is happy to have us enjoy some things.

Eventually, he apologized. He’s a good man but I prayed that he would see that each believer must have his or her own wrestling match with God as Jacob did. And no one asked this man to be my self-appointed spiritual wrestling coach. Anyway, perhaps the real question is not “How much stuff do you have?” Again, we read:

Matthew 6:24 (NIV) “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Possessions cost money and an addiction to possessions requires an addiction to money. So, it seems that the real concern is “Where is my heart? Where is your heart?”

Next (these things may be related) …. WORRY?!

Peace. Pastor Alberta

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized