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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The Downside’s Upside

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By Jeff Foerster

Trouble in the news. Trouble in relationships. Trouble with work. Trouble with finances.  Trouble with bodies. Trouble with motivation. Trouble with the past. Trouble with the future. Trouble with ignorance. Trouble with vision. Trouble with planning. Trouble with sin. Trouble with a side order of trouble.

Looking left and looking right, there seems to be no end to the variety of troubles, nor to the manner in which they enter our lives. Truth be told, I could identify a number of these examples myself as unwelcome strays which linger near my door because I have fed them in the (sometimes recent) past.

Trouble, however, is not all bad news. Sure, it can cloud my mind and my vision. It can speak to me things untrue and, if allowed, manipulate my understanding of reality. It can make my present circumstances seem more important or overwhelming than they need be.

Yet there is no better place than down, no better position than low from which to gaze upward.  Upward is where a heart once emptied can be filled to the full. Upward is where hope pierces the veil of cloud to reveal starry night. Upward is where my life takes meaning and the mundane task bears significance. Upward is praying for those in positions of authority. Upward is submission. Upward is fighting for those without voice or power. Upward is a kind word to someone I don’t particularly like. Upward is giving when receiving seems a better idea. Upward is taking one step not knowing where the next footfall will land. Upward is repentance. Upward is forgiveness — both outward and inward. Upward is knowledge of God. Upward is seeing Jesus seated in Heaven. Upward is victory already won.

Looking around we will surely find trouble. Looking upward we will surely find Jesus. Fix your eyes upon the One who loves you with a love never known before and still not fully understood. Fix your heart on the hope that headlines can’t write. (Colossians 3)

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