Friday, July 23, 2010

Where's Your Treasure?

Having money is great! About a month ago I bought a new pair of shoes. Twenty-dollar Starters from Wal-Mart. Running shoes. And to tell you the truth, they’re one of the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever worn. I’d bought a higher-priced pair of Skechers a couple of weeks before that, but after wearing them just a few times I couldn’t stand them. I loved the style, but for some reason (probably my flat feet, which I didn’t realize I had until recently) the left shoe was painfully uncomfortable. I had to take them back. Of course they felt great in the store when I was trying them on. Don’t they, though?

Anyway, having money is great! Having stuff makes us feel good. We take pride in owning the latest gadgets and gizmos. Though I’ll admit I look at a Best Buy ad in the newspaper and don’t even know what most of the stuff is. Some people need that new big screen TV. Some have to have a new outfit to wear each week. For some it’s a new car or a bigger house or better furniture or another whatever to add to their collection.

But having money isn’t always so great. There’s a real danger in wealth and having lots of stuff. Riches are very deceptive. And lest you think I’m only talking about the Bill Gates’ and Donald Trumps of the world, I’m talking about you and me! The vast majority of the world would look at us and say we’re rich. They’d be right.

The problem is that our wealth tends to make us think that we are self-sufficient. We tend to think that if we’ve got lots of stuff then we’ve got it made. We tend to think that living the American Dream lifestyle is what it’s all about. And in our wealth, as we accumulate possessions and provide for all our wants and needs, we also tend to dismiss our need for God.

Jesus said in Matthew 19:23, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” See, there was this young man who had many possessions and he came to Jesus wanting to know what he had to do to have eternal life. Maybe he thought Jesus would say to him, “Son, you have nothing to worry about. Look at your life! God has blessed you with many things. Surely you are highly favored in His eyes! And you’re a good man, Charlie Brown. You’ve kept the commandments. Congratulations! What more could God want from you?”

But that’s not what he heard. Instead Jesus told him: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19:21). Sadly, the man went away grieving, because he had many possessions. He loved his stuff more than he loved Christ. He clung to his possessions rather than clinging to the only One who could give him the eternal life for which he sought. For him the treasures of earth were more important than the treasures of heaven.

This man came to Jesus because he knew that something was missing in his life. Most wealthy people who recognize such a void try to fill it with more and more material things. But he missed out on the infinitely greater blessings that could have been his if only he would have been willing to abandon them for the sake of Christ. If only he would have recognized that he really needed a Savior rather than relying upon himself.

Wealth and morality are a dangerous combination. Those who think they’re good and those who think they’ve got it all often think they don’t need God. That’s why it’s so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever wants anything more than they want Christ, forfeit Christ and the eternal life that only He can give. Whoever fails to recognize his sin and come humbly to Jesus for His mercy and forgiveness will never find eternal life in his own morality.

What about you? Are you willing to leave all your earthly treasures and follow Jesus as your supreme Treasure? Can I tell you this: No one who follows Christ will ever be sorry. You might be giving up things that seem precious to you now, but what you gain will be so much greater than anything you’ve ever known – both in this present life and in the life to come. Nothing can compare with the blessings of God’s grace poured out upon those who forsake the world and follow Jesus. They will never lack for anything good, for He will open up His hand and satisfy every longing of their heart. He’s done it for me. He can do it for you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Honoring the Sanctity of Marriage

Here’s to my youngest brother getting married last weekend. Congratulations, Tim! God has given you a beautiful bride, and I hope you rejoice in her and are ever captivated by her love.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately in our world many have done all they can do to try to undermine and redefine the sanctity of marriage. And sadly many couples who entered into marriage with honest intentions have bailed out when the going got tough, or ended up divorcing when one or both partners wanted to explore other options and broke the vows of love and faithfulness promised during the wedding ceremony.

For the record, marriage was established by God’s design from the very beginning. Jesus taught about God’s plan for marriage in Matthew 19, answering His critics by saying, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (v. 4). It doesn’t matter what the courts or popular opinions of our day say, marriage has always been and always will be a sacred institution of one man and one woman designed to last a lifetime. God created it that way from the start.

Jesus noted this aspect of God’s design for marriage as the reason, He says, that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife…” (v. 5a). It’s the leave and cleave code. It means that when a couple enters into a marriage relationship, their primary responsibility and first priority and main loyalty and love should now be for their spouse, and not toward their parents. Marriage involves a total commitment and consecration of a husband and wife toward one another.

Then, Jesus added, “and the two shall become one flesh” (v. 5b). This means they are now inseparable in union. Only by death should the marriage relationship end. It’s like taking Gorilla Glue and fastening two things together until they cannot be torn apart. It’s meant to be unbreakable. Physically, the one flesh factor in marriage is God’s gracious gift to men and women designed to be experienced only within the bounds of the marriage relationship.

Jesus went on from there to declare, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (v. 6b). He’s saying that God places His divine seal of approval upon the marriage relationship. When a man and a woman come together before God and the witnesses of their friends and family, it is a sacred joining by God meant to be inseparable.

Divorce is never desirable. God’s intention has always been and always will be that one man and one woman be joined together as one by God in an unbreakable bond of faithfulness and love. See, marriage also serves as a picture of the gospel, in the way that Christ loves His bride, the church, and remains forever faithful to her.

If you have been divorced or remarried outside of God’s will, I don’t mean to make you feel bad or leave you wondering if God will be angry with you forever. In fact I truly feel for those who have gone through the pain and hurt of a broken marriage. Perhaps you did everything in your power to hold things together, yet your spouse was unwilling. Maybe you loved and forgave beyond human abilities, and still your partner left.

I want you to know that for whatever reasons, or whatever’s happened, God is a gracious and compassionate God. He is full of mercy, rich in kindness and abounding in love. Unbiblical divorce or unbiblical remarriage are not unforgivable sins. He is able to take hurts and pains and wrongs, and remake them all into something good. He is able to restore those who come humbly before Him, seeking His face and devoting themselves to following in His ways.

So here’s to Tim and Tara, and to all married couples – may your God-joined marriage fill you with happiness and love all the days of your life and put the gospel of Christ Jesus on display for the world to see.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Saddlin' Up for VBS

Yes, it’s almost here. Vacation Bible School. And this year we’re saddled up for a great adventure through the wide-open spaces of Big Sky Country at Saddle Ridge Ranch.

Parents, we thank you for the trust you’ve placed in us to care for your children and teach them the ways of the Lord according to His Word. Our sincere desire is for each child to come to know Jesus – the greatest thing anyone of any age could do. For Christ is our all in all, our everything, our hope, our joy, our peace and our life. Without Him we’d be hopelessly and helplessly lost.

That’s why we put so much preparation and effort into this week of VBS, so that our love for the Lord and our heart for glorifying His name will be evidenced in our love for your children and in teaching them to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.

We also know that kids have many questions, and sometimes they ask very profound questions that leave us as parents (and grandparents) struggling to come up with answers. Discussing things like God and creation, heaven and hell, and salvation and eternity can be daunting tasks!

Here’s a little sneak peek at some of the questions we’ll try to answer next week for your children. Who am I? Does God care about me? What is God’s plan for me? How can I be like Jesus? What do I do now?

And we’ll go to the one sure source of authority to find the answers: the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation to man. There He reveals Himself, His purposes and His ways. There He reveals to us our sin and our need for a Savior. And there He reveals to us His Son Jesus Christ, to whom the whole of Scripture testifies as the very nature of Almighty God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the true essence of love, the source of perfect peace, the hope of nations and the author of salvation.

We make no apologies for our firm commitment to the truth of Scripture and our complete reliance upon the Word of God. For we know that the Bible is “able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

So that’s what you’ll get. And we’ll use some energetic and fun music to reinforce these truths. We’ll do some terrific craft projects to help your children learn hands-on. We’ll respond to the Lord in worship, prayer, giving and serving. And we’ll do our best to model a genuine walk of trust in the Lord and obedience to His ways in every thought and attitude and in every word and deed.

God has called His church to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). I am so thankful and thrilled to be a part of what God is doing in this community and throughout the world through His people.

Friend, if you’re not a part of the greatest enterprise this world has ever known – the advance of the kingdom of heaven led by our risen, conquering King Jesus Christ – then why not turn your life over to the Lord right now? Don’t miss out on the imperishable treasures of everlasting life for the fleeting and fading treasures of earth. Don’t spend eternity in hell regretting what you need to do now – and that’s repenting of your sins and believing wholeheartedly in Jesus for salvation.

Call upon His name this moment in a simple prayer, pleading for His mercy, receiving His forgiveness and grace and trusting Him to lead and guide you from this day forward. That’s a life-long choice you’ll never, ever regret.

This Sunday, July 11, I want to invite you to worship with us, and feel free to wear your Western wear. Also, let me give a special invitation to bring your children, grandchildren, neighborhood children or any other children you can round up on Sunday morning at 10:40 a.m. for a worship experience of blessing for our young ones. Then Saddle Ridge Ranch begins Sunday night with a light dinner at 5:30, and the VBS goes from 6-8. Ya’ll come!