Marching On

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.’ (Matthew 6:20 NIV)

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“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around one in a while, you could miss it.”  This little bit of wisdom comes from the mouth of that sage of the ’80s, Ferris Bueller, just before he took his day off. Of course, if you’ve seen the movie you realize, not only is this Ferris’ mantra, but essentially the point of the movie.

How fast does life move?  Try this on for size, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” came out 31 years ago. Which would make Ferris today older than his parents were in the movie.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Of course, Ferris is right, life does move fast. It’s that time of year when I’m reminded of this every time I look at social media or look at our mail. I’ve seen pictures of kids going to prom that I’m sure were only in kindergarten the other day. I’ve seen pictures of graduation ceremonies of people I am sure must be too young to graduate. Why they are only…..Is it possible?

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I look at our own family in this past year. We’ve had graduations, a wedding, a grandchild born, our youngest daughter going to for college.  It just never ends.  What changes have happened in your life in the past year? Good old Ferris was right, life moves pretty fast.

The swiftness of time, and our inability to do anything about it lives at the heart of this passage from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. When I first read this I got the impression what Jesus meant was don’t be greedy and spend all of your time making money here on earth because that all rusts away.

And certainly there is a warning against greed. Greed is never good. Yet, I’m not convinced that’s entirely Jesus’ point. Jesus isn’t saying that money or wealth is necessarily bad.Or that aestheticism is the road to heaven. Thee is nothing necessarily holy about poverty. And while there is no doubt self-denial is a critical part of our spiritual formation, it also lends itself to extremes. Taken too far, we can abuse ourselves, or at the very least find ourselves removed from the joy God wishes to give us.

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The point of this Scripture may not be so much concerned with what we have, but what we hold.  One of the greatest treasures we have is our time. We guard it jealously and allow others to use it begrudgingly. Yet, try as we might, we cannot hold onto it.  As precious  as this moment may be in your life it is fleeting. We can’t hold onto our youth, nor can we stop time. Life moves pretty fast.

But Jesus points us beyond time to eternity.  Maybe we can’t hold onto time here on earth because we were never meant to. Our longing to be able to stop time might very well come from the fact we were created for more than this world.  It comes from our longing  to be united with Christ in eternity. It’s an echo of our being made in the image of an eternal God.  Jesus says don’t try to hold onto time here because you can’t. Yu were never mean to.  Instead let it lead you to the only place where every true desire will be fulfilled.

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The truth is, the more we hold onto the truth of eternity the more we enjoy the fleeting of time on earth. We realize that while we can’t stop time we don’t need to be controlled by it either.  We find that  a better perspective eases our grip on time and allows us to enjoy each day. We realize that while good times may not last, neither will bad days. They too will fade away.  We can’t hold onto the “glory” of our youth, but we also don’t have to be bound by our awkward moments either.

So where will you store up your treasure? By holding desperately to what will fade or to that which will always last? Life moves pretty fast, and that’s Ok.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s On Your Resume?

“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.” (2 Corinthians 11:23)

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It’s that time of year when I begin to get a lot of requests to be a reference for resumes.  Students ocmign home from college looking for summer jobs. Or High schoolers doing the same thing.  I’ve filled out several references for people as they’ve applied to get into some sort of higher education.  Or for those going on mission trips as they have background checks completed.

And I’m almost always happy to do so, as long as I know the person.  It’s nice to be able to share something positive about someone. It’s an honor  to be asked, when you consider all of the people they know. And it’s a good feeling, knowing that what you do may help set the course of someone’s future.

I don’t know that I’ve ever turned down anyone’s request. There are times when I suggest there might be some people who know them better, but if they insist I will always do something to the best of my knowledge and ability.  I always try to be honest and not pad their resume if at all possible.

Recently, I began thinking about our spiritual resume.  If someone asked you to prove your faith in Christ, what would you put down?  What proof do you have that Jesus has  made any difference in your life? Who would be on your reference form?

There are several things we could put down, I suppose. The day we accepted Christ at a youth camp, or in church.  We could point out the regular attendance we have in worship. The Bible studies, or Sunday School classes we attended.  We could point out the percentage of Christian music we listen to against the rest of our favorite music. We might point out the nice collection of devotionals we’ve acquired over the years.   The local and international mission trips. We might note the  lack of dust on our Bibles. The several clever Christian t shirts we have.  The daily meme we put  up on social media that have to do with faith and encouragement. We might even point out that magnetic fish we put on the back of the car, which has witnessed to thousands of  people one road ways. We could point out we’ve never failed to get our minister a nice gift during Clergy appreciation month (It’s October, by the way).

As far as our references go we could list our pastors, Our youth  minister, that dear Saint of a Sunday School teacher we had when we were in fifth grade.  I don’t know about you, but if my fifth grade Sunday School teacher wasn’t qualified for sainthood before, she certainly was by the time I got through her class.  The list goes on and on. What would your resume look like?

In 2 Corinthians, Paul begins to put together his spiritual resume. It seems some people have come to the church in Corinth and are offering a watered down version of the Gospel. Perhaps not even presenting the Gospel at all.  And to counteract this Paul shares his resume and why they should trust him.

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But he doesn’t list all of his accomplishments. He doesn’t mention the many churches he has planted. He doesn’t cite his intellect or his widely acknowledged leadership in the church.  Instead of drawing attention to what he has done, he focuses their attention on what he has experienced. Paul talks about the times he has suffered for the gospel. The times he has been in prison, the times he has been beaten, shipwrecked and bitten by snakes.

As far as his references, we see no mention of Peter, James or John. Instead Paul talks about his enemies, those who wished him harm, who did hurt him.  Paul talks about how he returned love and race to those who harmed him.

When asked to prove his path, Paul says, “You want to know if my faith is real, don’t look at what I’ve done, but look at how Christ has shined through  my life during times of adversity. If you want to know if my faith is real, don’t ask my friends. Ask my enemies if they saw Jesus in me.”

 

Our true witness to the reality of our faitImage result for living out one's faithh never comes out of our accomplishments. The witness to the truth of our faith comes out of our experiences and how we allow Christ to shine through us. Our references to the truth of our faith never come from our friends, but from those who oppose us.  What do they say about us?

Look, “doing” is great. Don’t stop all the things you do to grow in your faith. Just don’t forget that in the end, it’s the life you live that will speak volumes about your faith, but good and bad. Its the people who oppose you who may have the greatest word of truth about who you are when they see Christ in you.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

Fed

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2)

It was supposed to be an easy task. Pull up some old tile flooring in the church so we could install a new multi-use flooring. Not only would it make the room warmer and more inviting but opened it up to be sued in ways we had never dreamed of before. Best of all we had the funding.  It looked to be an easy project.

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Except, of course, when you are dealing with a church, there is never an easy project. There will always be something you hadn’t planned on, hadn’t thought of  that will occur.  It’s much like beginning a project in your home and then realizing there is underlying issues that will cost you both time and money to repair.

In this case someone discovered that the tiles we were pulling up were Asbestos tiles. And because they were made of asbestos, you had to be more careful with the dust that could rise up from pulling them loose. they had to take extra care in how the tiles were removed and did the best they could to contain any dust that might get in the air. And of course they made sure to wear masks the entire time.

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I understood the problem with dealing with asbestos. I’ve had several people in churches who, because of their work, experienced long term exposure to asbestos in the air. This long term exposure lead to some very significant health issues over time. It’s important to note that they didn’t get sick when they first breathed in the asbestos.  Maybe they didn’t even notice it at first. But slowly as they were exposed to it day by day, year after year they were  affected.

Asbestos isn’t the only hazardous material that does this. You may know of someone who was exposed to a hazardous material, a dangerous chemical at work or in their home. And while it didn’t affect them immediately, or at least they gave no signs it was affecting them it was working in them. Often with devestating, sometimes fatal results.

If we are exposed to something for a long time it will eventually affect who we are. Anyone who has been to a dermatologist to have a basal cell looked at due to too much sun over twenty years can attest to this. It’s almost impossible to be exposed to something and not be affected by it.  We should also assume just because we can see no signs at first that something isn’t happening within us.

 

I think in many ways this is also true with the Word of God.  I’ve heard before that the Bible might be the biggest bestseller that no one ever reads.  Now we have apps for our mobile devices that allow us to have a Bible, for free, in hundreds of translations, at our fingertips.  And yet how many of us ever allow ourselves to be exposed to the Scripture on a daily basis?

Yes, I know many of us read great Christian books. We read devotionals, or something by Max Lucado. We might even have a Christian podcast, or two we listen to.  ANd that’s great.  But it’s not really the same as sitting down with the actual Scriptures and allowing ourselves to be exposed to them.

Why is that important? Because long-term exposure changes  us. Teh Scripture at the top of the blog,along with many others tell us that the Word of God nourishes us, feeds our souls.  Yet many of us suffer from malnourishment because of a lack of exposure. The more we expose ourselves to God’s word, reading it daily, the more we will nourished. The more affected for the better we will be.

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Yes, I know the common excuse is we can’t understand the Bible. But it’s just that. An excuse. Ask yourself when was the last time you just read the Bible? Did you understand it? As I mentioned earlier, with so many translations available its easier today to have a readable version of the Bible than ever before.

And maybe we have the wrong focus.  Perhaps understanding the Bible isn’t th end game. What’s important is that you daily set time aside to be with God in His word. It’s the exposure to the presence of the Holy Spirit as we read that matters. When my children were young they don’t always get, or care about the “lesson” I was trying to teach them. They just wanted to spend time with me.  Don’t you think our heavenly father is the same?

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Remember, its about long term exposure.  Maybe you don’t “get anything out of it” the first time you read the Bible. Or the second, or the one hundredth. But over time an exposure to His word and the presence of the Holy Spirit will change us.

I want to encourage you to get in the habit of reading your Bible every day.  Get in the habit, and see what a long-term exposure to the truth and authority of the word of God can do to a person’s heart.

 

In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><