What Are You Looking For?

33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matt 6:33 nlt) 

 

I like the strange stories that pop up in the newspaper every now and then. I don’t want  a steady diet of them, after all the news, and what is going on in the world is important.  As a Christian its important for us to  be informed on what is going on in the world.  But lets face it, we can only take so much of the hard news before we begin to get overwhelmed ,maybe a bit depressed.

So it’s with some relief that  I find one of those odd stories.  My favorite over the past week was one that came out of New Jersey about a woman who climbed a tree and realized that once she got up there she had no idea how to get down.  Of course, this is something most children figure out  the very first time they climb a tree, going up is easier than getting out.

But lest you think I am making fun of a grown woman getting stuck in a tree, it’s not the getting stuck that had me shaking my head. It was the reason she climbed the tree in the first place.  She was playing Pokemon Go and had climbed the tree, I suppose, to get a better perspective on where Pokemon might be hiding or “stops” that she might want to get to.

If you are unfamiliar with Pokemon Go, it’s basically the old Gameboy Pokmeon game that’s laid over a GPS system of the community you are in.  It essentially, by using your smart phone allows you to virtually be in the game as you walk around your community, One can find the characters over laid on different places, usually public spaces. You can play, catch, train your characters.

It’s become an incredible phenomena over the past few months. I know in our community it is quite commonplace to see thirty or forty people walking around playing the game over a few hours. Until I had heard about the game, I admit, it was a bit disturbing to see cars roll up late at night in front of the church and just sit there with their car running and their lights on. Once I knew our church was a “stop” for the game it made sense. People seem to play 24/7.  Knowing that church’s are often used as a part of the game, many churches are using it  as a way to be hospitable and welcoming  their neighbors.

Of course, like any craze  it’ll die down soon enough. But let’s get back to our lady up in the tree. She admitted that she was very embarrassed to call the police to help her get down and having to explain why she was in the tree in the first place.  But the urge to play the game just got the better of her.

What are you looking for with an unabashed passion and zeal  in your life? Are you searching for something with more substance in life than Pokemon with an urgency that matches these gamers? No, this isn’t going to be one of those rants against playing games and taking life more seriously. As  I have said before, I find myself falling more in the camp of C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton that Christians ought to have more fun in life, not less and that enjoying life is a way we reflect the joy of Jesus to a dark world. So go ahead and play if you enjoy it.  I will say this, if you can afford a smart phone and you have enough leisure time to play Pokemon Go please don’t complain about your life. It’s better than 90 percent of the rest of the world.

I’m not asking you to look down on the game, I’m simply asking is there anything you have in life that you seek after with the same urgency and fervor? Our Scripture at the top of the blog suggests that what we seek after makes a difference in how we deal with the world.

This will be a familiar text for many of you. But I want to call attention to the context of this verse in what Jesus is saying.  Jesus is talking about how we deal with worry and anxiety in life. Meeting daily needs, the normal  day in and day out priorities we have.  Jesus says, in essence, don’t let anxiety and worry paralyze your life and take all the joy out of it. God loves you and will take care of you. Jesus isn’t saying don’t plan or don’t have concerns. He is saying don’t let worry overwhelm your life.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. But Jesus tells the people seek first the kingdom of God and He will give you everything you need.  Did you catch the formula there/ Seek first His Kingdom. Run after Jesus with a vengeance. Long for Him with a fervor.  Let there be an urgency in how you do ministry or serve someone. If you run after His kingdom with this type of passion, Your worries and anxieties about life dissipate  and you find in the end God has met all your needs. Maybe not how you would expect Him to,and nto lays with great financial gain, but with a satisfaction you ever dreamed of.

SO get out there run after Jesus. Seek His Kingdom. Catch all the blessings He has planned for you.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

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What We Wear

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14 NIV)

There are some days it just doesn’t pay to see what the world is up too. BUt like a car wreck, even though you know you shouldn’t, you just can’t help peeking.  This past Saturday Morning I opened up the newspaper to see  an article about  a big prostitution sting in Columbus. As a long time advocate of Gracehaven, a ministry in Columbus dedicated to getting women out of the a life of prostitution and slavery, I was  glad to see this.  Unfortunately, my gladness turned quickly to dismay when I saw this picture on the front page of one of the men getting arrested for solicitation.

 

Yep, there on the front page was the symbol of our United Methodist Church proudly emblazoned on the back of someone being arrested.  My first thought was,” you know if he was going to do something this awful, which is bad enough, didnt’ he have any other t-shirt to wear?” Didn’t this guy have an old Black Sabbath or Pantera shirt somewhere?

Of course we don’t know this guy’s story. It may be he got the shirt at a free store or a clothing bank. The UMC symbol may have meant nothing to him. Or he could be a life long member of the UMC, did in fact participate in disaster relief and still struggle with the demons of sin in his life.  We’ll probably never know.

But what caught my eye was the simple dichotomy of someone wearing a t-shirt announcing the good work of our church while being arrested for a crime, especially this crime.  It’s painfully obvious that what he is wearing does not represent his heart.

But really, other than the fact he got caught, he isn’t so far from the rest of us is he? I mean, if we were to be completely honest a lot of us live our lives the same way. We do a pretty good job of playing Christian dress up. We put on the vestments of our faith as if that truly represents our faith. But often what we wear, the “Us” we present to the world, does not reflect the true us underneath.  There is a dichotomy between who we say we are and who we truly are underneath the clothing.

It’s easy to put on faith to dress up nice for the church directory culture. It’s another to allow Jesus to truly change who we are underneath. Why? Because we have become comfortable with our routine. It doesn’t demand a lot from us. Look one way, be another. We don’t like change and naturally dig our heels in when it occurs. We sense that there might be a sacrifice involved. maybe even some pain as Jesus sets about the serious work of transformation.

Maybe it’s time we have someone stand up and shout, if not “The Emperor has no clothes” than certainly “the clothes and the heart don’t match.” We need to stop accepting that this is an appropriate way to live. As if God is somehow pleased with  us putting on clean clothes over a stained spirit. We need to be changed.

This is why Paul encourages us to “put on Jesus Christ” The theme of our clothing ourselves with Jesus runs throughout Paul’s writings. It occurs several times.  I can understand why Paul loved this imagery. Paul calls us to wrap ourselves up  in Jesus. To allow Jesus to drape himself over everything that we are. That’s different than clothing oneself with religion. It means to clothe yourself in a relationship with Jesus. to allow that relationship to permeate everything that we are.

Maybe its time we take Paul’s words to heart. Let’s stop playing games.  Let’s clothe ourselves with Jesus and be changed so that what we wear and our heart finally match.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

Toxic

“but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:2 NIV)

 

The other day I caught a report concerning excess of nitrates in the water in one of the communities in which our family once lived.  having gone through this before in that neighborhood, I said a quick prayer for all of our friends who live and work there.  The excess is, for most, simply an inconvenience. You need to be careful, drink bottled water etc., until the nitrates have been flushed out of the water supply.

One sip of nitrate infused water wouldn’t cause much if nay harm. But a steady supply of it could slowly but surly cause some severe physical issues.  The anger is that you don’t notice the effects right away. The toxins have to build up in your system.

Reading that reminded me of an incident I read about years ago where a woman systematically murdered two husbands by slowly poisoning them. She gave them such small doses that  they never noticed.  But over the time the toxins began to build up and eventually killed them. So ingenious was she that she might never have been caught if she hadn’t tried the same thing on a third husband. He became ill, grew suspicious and his Doctor ran a battery of tests looking for poisons in his body.

Hopefully we have he good sense to listen to health reports in our communities. And I most certainly hope that none of  us ever has to face someone trying to poison us.  It doesn’t mean though, that we are not at risk to long-term exposure to toxins that can be every bit as deadly to us.

One of the things we fail to participate, as Christians, is that our souls are as susceptible to toxins as are our bodies.  Our souls can, when exposed to things that are toxic over a long period of time, eventually become poisoned.

There are all sorts of things that can poison our souls. Long term exposure to sin will certainly do that. If we feed our souls the wrong thing, if we feast on the wrong things in life, not only will our souls become malnourished, but in time they can be poisoned.

It can happen so slowly we may not even notice it. Last week we experienced loss of life and tragedy in our country. Enough has been written about those situations, and by better writers than I, so I will not address that there. But over the next few days I saw so much anger and hatred on many sides, spew out on social media.  I found myself getting caught up in it.  I found myself wanting to respond, often in the same vein as those who wrote. It was as if their anger spurred my own.  Thankfully the Holy Spirit caught me short and I thought to myself, “This has become toxic to my soul.” The constant feeding on anger was beginning to poison my own spirit. So I had to draw away from it for  a few days.

Please hear me. I am not saying the church  should not engage in these issues. Of course we should. As the church we are the only ones who can point to the true answer in Jesus.  But we cannot  do it when our Spirits have become poisoned themselves. We can’t feed on toxicity all the time and assume we can avoid a build up of poison.

I found myself needing to draw away and spend more time in the presence of the Lord. I need to detox, if you will. I think that’s at the heart of what David is saying in this first Psalm. We are blessed when we meditate on the word of God day and night. David wasn’t advising us to go off and become monks somewhere cut off from life.  No, he was asking us to take care about where we feed our souls. He was advocating a lifestyle where we take the time to feed on God’s word and be filled with his presence less the toxic nature of this world get the better of us.

Sometimes drawing away, feding on the presence of the Lord and His word before we react can be the best things we can do. It allows us to be more Christ like, be more loving and walk more humbly. It also allows us to become sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spriit.

So be careful; what feeds your spirit. Learn the delight of enjoying the presence of the Lord.

 

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

Freedom

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law,weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)

I received this picture from a cousin a few weeks ago.

This is my uncle, my Father’s older brother.  When I look at this picture, I can see my Father in his face and eyes.  I never knew my Uncle.  He enlisted in the Army at the breakout of World War 2 and never returned to the hills of Kentucky where he grew up. He lost his life during the Invasion of Normandy.  I thought about his sacrifice, as well as the millions of others who paid the ultimate price for our Freedom.

Freedom is a funny thing. It’s supposed to be free, yet it’s only achieved at a great cost. And the moment we forget the cost, in some ways we stop being free. We become enslaved to privilege and entitlement. We all to willingly give up our freedoms.

Freedom comes at a cost. The other day I was reading an article on what happened to the original signers of the Declaration of Independence.  While much of what happened to them has been exaggerated or at least embellished over the years, there can be no doubt that they, along with many in the colonies suffered for the ideal of freedom. At least one lost a child during a battle. Some of the signers were agreed as traitors. Others wounded in battle.  Almost all of them endured a loss of both prosperity as well as property. One wonders if they contemplated what they, along with so many others, would give up in order to be free. I’d like to think they did and were ready to pay the price for freedom.

Freedom has always come at a great price. It strikes at the very bedrock of our faith.  In Romans, Paul notes that our freedom came at the ultimate sacrifice as Jesus, True God of True God, died on a cross for you and I. The death and resurrection of Jesus set us free. Free from death and free from the tyranny of sin.  Those whom Christ has set free, are free indeed. (John 8:36)

It seems though that today, the church has misinterpreted what freedom in Christ  means. We seem to live as if freedom means having the ability to do whatever you want, to believe whatever you want.  After all didn’t Jesus say something that we shouldn’t judge? (Editorial comment: No He didn’t. Jesus does talk about not being hypocritical in our judgment which is an entirely different thing). As Long as I’m not hurting anybody who is so say what I do is wrong? What is truth anyway? Your truth may not be the same as my truth so who is to say who is wrong or right

Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean having the ability to do what you want. Actually the opposite.  At the end of Romans 7, Paul depicts a person who lives with this type of freedom and discovers he is truly enslaved. He doesn’t do what he should and does what he doesn’t want to do. The freedom we experience in Christ is the freedom to not do whatever we want. It comes with the realization that when we do what we want we inevitably enslave ourselves to sin, or our whims or heaven help us the ever-changing “truth” of a constantly shifting culture.  The freedom we experience in Christ is the freedom to live a certain way, to experience holiness and right living as instructed in the Scriptures.  I know me. And the worst thing I could do is to do whatever I want. I want to do whatever Jesus wants. That’s true freedom.

The freedom in Christ extends itself to others. We se that the idea, “as long as we don’t hurt others” is a lie. There is so activity in which we can partake that doesn’t affect someone else. We are  a part of the Body of Christ, not separate members.  We even have the freedom to not do what might even be permissible if it would hurt the faith of a more immature Christian.

The freedom we have in Christ is freedom, not seek out own truth, but to acknowledge and live by the ultimate truth of Christ. I’ve always loved that line of reasoning “You’re turth might not be the same as my truth”  I would have loved to have been able to use that in Algebra back in High School. I would have gotten much better grades.  Rather the freedom we have in Christ allows us to see there is absolute truth. And it may not agree with our current culture. But we have the freedom to live by it anyway because it is truth.

Freedom always comes at a great cost. When we forget the cost we often lose our freedom. May you experience and live by the freedom given to you in Christ.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><