Investing God’s Way

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by Larry Short

I really enjoyed what Dan had to share during his sermon on August 28 about making a “see change” (clever!) in our hearts. Matthew 6:19-24 is packed full of amazing truths, and I had always wondered in particular about the meaning of Christ’s words, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

Dan brought great clarity to my thinking when he revealed that this passage is really all about our focus. Having a clear (healthy) eye is having the ability to focus on the right priorities, the ones God desires us to focus on, and seeing clearly the grace He has given us, which we did nothing to earn. This focus on grace, Dan said, has the potential to change everything in our lives.

Larry Last Word

This spoke to me because clear eyesight has always been an issue for me. Many of you know that I am legally blind without my contact lenses—I am so nearsighted that I walk into trees! If I have to get up at night to put the cat out of the room, without my contact lenses she might end up spending the night in a closet. I once went to kiss my wife only to discover I was embracing her pillow – the real Darlene had gotten up to use the restroom!

So, I certainly realize how important clear eyesight is.

In light of this “focus” on seeing grace clearly, I’ve also been thinking a lot this week about a particular part of the passage he shared that God has used in my life to speak important truth. After Christ encourages us to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven” rather than on earth, verse 21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This verse captures an incredibly important truth about us as fallible human beings, and that truth is this: Whatever (or whomever) we invest in (invest our time, our money, our energy, our longings and desires, etc.), that is the thing (or person) that (or who) will end up capturing our heart.

And we all know, of course, that Christ uses the word “heart” throughout Scripture to refer to our souls, that innermost, eternal part of us that makes choices about how we will live our lives, Whom we will follow, Whom we will worship. God’s Word reveals that if we invest faithfully in heavenly things (or perhaps more clearly, if we invest in Jesus’s priorities rather than our own), then our hearts will follow that investment and will be entrenched deeply, immovably in God’s Kingdom and in the things of God!

There are so many important applications to this principle. If we invest our time and energy in frivolous entertainment; in watching movies, TV shows or videos that mock God; in reading books that don’t edify; or in listening to music that blasphemes, rather than investing our time in soaking up God’s truth and sharing His love with people, where will our heart end up going? If we invest our money in toys that just please us and feed our envy of others, rather than investing in furthering God’s kingdom through our church and other worthwhile ministries, what will our investment gain us? Jesus said investments in “earthly things” are all wood, hay, and stubble that will burn under the brilliant focus of God’s final judgment, rather than gold that will be refined and last eternally for His glory and our pleasure.

So many times I hear brothers and sisters complain, “Please pray that I will have a heart to read Scripture. I just can’t get into it.” Well yes, I will pray, but I also want to shout at them: You dummy (yes, you’ve guessed it, I don’t have a lot of tact sometimes) this isn’t just something that you need “prayer” for! It’s something that you just need to start doing! (Like Martin says, “Stop it! Just stop it!” Only this would be, “Just start!”)

Carve out the time, and make it a priority, even if you don’t yet “feel like it.” And I say “yet” because Matt. 6:21 implies that if we invest in God’s Word, if we devote our time and our energy to reading it, meditating on it, praying through it, even if we don’t yet “feel” like it, eventually our hearts will follow along behind our investment.

And it’s a glorious thing when we discover that we suddenly have a heart to dig into God’s Word, and to spend time with Him in prayer, and in serving others—when what was previously a duty becomes a delight! Now there’s the kind of joy that Jesus was talking about in John 17:13.

How’s your eye? Can you see clearly? Are you focusing on the grace of our Savior? Are you investing treasure in the things of the Kingdom? Are you experiencing the “see change” that God desires to see happen in your heart?

P.S.: Do you realize how blessed we are, in addition to having staff like Martin, Brian, and Nate whose teaching blesses us nearly every week, to also have lay teachers such as Dan, Jeff, Tom, and Jim and others who are gifted to deliver God’s Word and can fill in from time to time? I don’t think you could find too many churches where this is the case. Many thanks to all who have taken a turn at the pulpit!

Please join Larry as he reflects about personal transformation on his new blog, ShortChanged.

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Muddy Water

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By Martin Schlomer

Kim and I love to hike. When we come to a lake we enjoy sitting beside it and gazing into it. We can see the fish and all of the underwater beauty. However, there are seasons when that beauty is lost because of muddy water.

Following Jesus is a beautiful pursuit. It’s filled with challenge, depth, and increasing beauty. However, there are times when its beauty and depth are lost in the muddy water of life’s questions and complexities.

Last Sunday, a person texted this question in response to the message: “What is the by-product of a passionate follower (disciple) of Christ?” I’ve thought A LOT about this. Left to my own thoughts, I can muddy the waters with many, many, many, many good thoughts. Since I wish to avoid muddy water, I will keep my thoughts brief and focused.

The first by-product is a growing awareness that Jesus loves you A LOT! Many people know this, but the growing awareness is a bit vague. This awareness is anchored in our identity in Him. If God was to write you a letter expressing how He sees and feels about you right this moment, what would He write? While we may all believe we are sons or daughters of God, on our insides, many feel like orphans. This sabotages this growing awareness. This is why Paul prays so fervently, “And I pray that you, being [having been and continuing to be] rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ … that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). As this develops, then, as the hymn states, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Second, out of this growing awareness emerges a growing hunger to learn and follow the ways of Jesus (Matthew 28:20). His ways are beautiful and life-giving. They are not burdensome and life depleting. I’ve never heard a person say his or her life has been diminished because of following Jesus as prescribed by Jesus.

Third, out of this awareness and hunger we embrace community. I believe this is the most challenging outcome of being a passionate disciple of Jesus. The image of community we long for is seldom one we can walk into. It must be formed through the crucible of time, trial, and personal change. Peter Scazzero said it best: “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”[1] This is why we must be “taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). However, it is an outcome of following Christ, nonetheless. Jesus refused to relent on this one (John 13:34-35).

At Elim, these by-products (or outcomes) are core to understanding God’s work in this community and family. They require our surrender, focus, and intentionality. However, more importantly, they require the work of the Holy Spirit.

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

[1] Scazzero, Peter (2006-07-01). Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ (p. 175). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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