Where is Your Treasure?

Nana singing to twins

The idea of finding hidden treasure is something that has always captivated the imagination of people. Think of finding a Honus Wagner baseball card in perfect condition in an old cigar box in the attic!

Treasure hunts are exciting. Find a map with an “X” and all you have to do is follow the clues and dig up the treasure. Unless of course the map is a fake or someone else found the treasure before you. Phil and I like yard sales and flea markets. I like to think of these excursions we take as “treasure hunts” although our sons-in-law have discovered the truth – we are Christmas shopping.

Soon after moving into our current home, Phil was repairing a floor in the barn and came across a cardboard box. I got all excited thinking it might be something buried that belonged to someone from the Great Depression Era when they didn’t want to put money or valuables in a bank. It turned out that the box had glass coffee mugs in it. We washed that “treasure” up and use those mugs each time we have company. They probably originally cost about $1.00 each.

At the beach this summer, I drew a map and buried some treasure in the sand on the beach. Our grandsons followed the map and dug up the treasure – packs of gummy bears!

Treasure holds fascination for us no matter what age we are. Jesus used the idea of treasure in several of the parables He taught.

Matthew 13:44-45

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
What is of such great value that these men sold ALL THEY HAD to purchase the treasure or the pearl?

The Kingdom of Heaven.

Knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord, allowing Him to reign in our lives is of immeasurable worth. The Kingdom of Heaven is that place where Jesus rules. That place needs to be our lives.

Our children and grandchildren are fascinated with finding treasure. Are we doing all we can to help them see what REAL treasure is?

Matthew 6:20-22 (NIV)

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Whatever we value most is our treasure. As parents and grandparents we should examine our hearts – ask ourselves – what DO we value most? If we see that we value a house, a career, education, or material things the most, that is our treasure. If so, our treasure is not of eternal value.

We only have to look at where we invest our time and resources – that is the true test of what we value, what we treasure.

I am blessed by the fact that the parts of the Church our daughters fellowship with puts a high priority on ministering to children. Their pastor recently preached “…”imagine the difference we can make in the next genreation if this one class of Confirmands (one of which is our eldest grandaughter) is taught the Bible, the ways of Jesus, and the lessons of faith learned by those who have preceded us.” (Pastor, Bob Thompson)

Another daughter has helped begin a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group where they fellowship. The previous location closed it’s doors to this group of young mothers and children so our daughter’s part of the Church has taken them in. I was so blessed to hear that.

Jesus taught that children are precious in God’s eyes. In fact, we must become like children to enter His kingdom!

So – where is our treasure? Is it our children and grandchildren? Do we value them enough to invest our lives and our resources in their growth as followers of Jesus?

That has eternal value.

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Time for a Tune-Up

The old Echo

The old Echo

We bought a new car and recently took it in for its 5000 mile check up. That may be no big deal to most folks, but I am married to a “do it yourself” kind of guy. It was a momentous occasion!

We bought our first new car after being married over 25 years and never took it in for check-ups. Phil did all the oil changes himself and we drove it until it had 187,000 miles. I would probably still be driving that little car, but I was hit in the school parking lot (by one of my students) and the insurance company determined it was a total loss.

So, why did Phil take this new car in to the dealership for a tune-up? It was FREE! When we bought our new car one selling point was free oil change and service including tune-ups. So, when the light comes on saying “Maintenance Required” – we drive to the dealership!

Our daughters’ Sunday School class is beginning a study on the Holy Spirit and it started me thinking about my spiritual well-being. As a Christian, how do I know when it is time for a tune-up? Am I heeding the “warning light” of the Holy Spirit?
Am I the kind of person who waits until something goes terribly wrong before I do anything about it? Or am I the kind of person who notices a change and checks it out right away before something worse breaks down? Am I the person who does scheduled preventative maintenance BEFORE something goes wrong?

A light doesn’t illuminate my forehead with a warning of an impending breakdown – although my face may show it. Are there warning signs that should be heeded to prevent a complete spiritual breakdown? The following may be possible hints that a spiritual tune-up is needed.

Warning Signs of Potential Spiritual Breakdown
• Do you feel that things are a bit slow spiritually?
• Do you feel that you aren’t finely tuned to hear the Holy Spirit speak like you once were?
• Do you sense a lack of joy?
• Are you lacking patience with your children?
• Are you and your spouse arguing about little things?
• Do you feel run down, like you aren’t fully connected to the Power Source?

These can all be signs that things are out of line. Just as cars don’t run optimally when something is out of whack, we as Christians don’t function well when our thoughts and actions don’t line up with Scripture. In Amos 7: 7-8 God gives a vision to His prophet Amos.

7 Then He showed him another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”
I answered, “A plumb line.”

And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins.”

God uses His Word as a plumb line – a mark by which we can determine if we are living our lives in line with God’s purposes. Just as builders use a plumb line to see if the building is constructed according to specifications, we can use the Bible to ensure that our attitudes and actions line up with Scripture.

So – when it is time for a tune-up spiritually, what should we do?

Go back to the Source of our spiritual strength – the Holy Spirit. Just as cars need oil changes, we need the oil of the Holy Spirit to refresh us. The more we die to our selves, the more the Holy Spirit comes in to fill our lives with Himself.

Let’s not forget to get those spiritual tune-ups. It will not only bless us but our children and families as well!

Be Alert!

Super hero 1

“You be the bad guy and I’ll be the good guy.”

Have you heard your children say this or something similar? It doesn’t take long for very young children to begin to distinguish between good and bad behavior.

This is not a current phenomena. In fact, in the very the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, mankind made a choice that determined that every human since faces a choice. Each of us must choose to behave in a way that pleases our Heavenly Father, or make the choice to go our own way.

Every era and culture in recorded history has it’s heroes. As one who teaches art, I’ve taught about many of these heroes from the past immortalized in great works of art. The Sphinx, the Greek sculpture called the Discus Thrower, Michelangelo’s David, and the sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial are just a few of countless heroes depicted.

Children love to hear stories of heroes triumphing over evil. All of our grandsons have been taken with Robin Hood at one time or another, even though it is challenging as parents to celebrate Robin’s stealing, even if he did give to the poor. In fact, most all heroes have “feet of clay”, even those in the Bible.

Our granddaughters played princess and there was an evil stepmother or mean fairy princess. Yet, do not despair! There was always a knight or prince to rescue the damsel in distress, even if he was burned by a dragon.

Children love the story of David and Goliath, yet David and Bathsheba is a difficult story for adults to process, much less children.

There are fallen heroes brought to light regularly in our current culture. Sometimes these fallen heroes are individuals our children have looked up to and they may be deeply wounded by their transgressions, even to the point of feeling betrayed.

It is important that we start early teaching our children that the only person to ever live on this earth who was perfect is Jesus. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Jesus did not sin because He is God. We want our children to look up to worthy individuals as role models. At the same time, we must help them keep their “heroes” in perspective.

1 Peter 5:8-10 (NLT)

8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

The BAD GUY is the devil. These verses say he is like a roaring lion. Lions roar to proclaim their territory. The analogy may then be drawn that the devil is prowing around, seeking those who he may claim and then devour.

It is a battle. There is a real enemy and he is the bad guy.

Verse 9 is our battle plan:
* Stand firm
* Be strong in the faith
* Remember you are not in this battle alone

God’s promise is that He will RESTORE, SUPPORT, STRENGTHEN, and PLACE YOU ON A FIRM FOUNDATION.

We can be heroes of the faith and we must encourage our children to be heroes of the faith as well.

Super Heroes of the Kingdom! Won’t that bless God?

I Don’t Know All the Answers

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“Why?”

Because God is God and I am not.

That is why I don’t know all the answers:
* It is not because I am not smart enough (which is true, by the way)
* It is not because I have not read the right kind of books (which is also true. I read all the time but “The Belly Button Book” only answers belly button questions)
* It is not because I have not faced the situations you face. (again, true, but inconsequential)

God is God and I am not.

I have two very dear friends who are facing circumstances that are beyond my understanding. In both of these families there is great suffering. The suffering is not the result of their sin, but SIN resulting from the FALL.

These are folks who love God and seek to serve Him whole heartedly.

They have been praying, friends have been praying, whole churches have been praying, people literally around the world are praying.

The suffering continues.

Why?

I don’t know all the answers.

I remember sitting on the floor in a large room at the University of Illinois – Urbana in 1973. I was seated on the floor because the room was full of college students like me. We were waiting to hear Elizabeth Elliot speak. Mrs. Elliot had lost her husband when he was murdered, after they had been married less than two years, by tribal people they were trying to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I heard her speak that day, her second husband had recently died of cancer.

Why? I wondered.

As Elizabeth Elliot spoke, a calm assurance emanated from her person. I have never forgotten what she said. “Many of you are facing grievous situations now in your families, your schools, even with your friends. Some of you are broken hearted and feel that God has abandoned you. I don’t know all the answers to your questions…. but I know the One who does.”

What a powerful truth! God has the answer.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NLT)

12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

I have found the three words listed in verse 13 to be the key to my unanswered questions.

1) faith – I have faith that God is God and He is good. Terrible things happen, but God is GOOD and He can use those very circumstances FOR my good. I still don’t understand, but I trust God.
2) hope – when it is darkest, hope is the anchor that keeps me from drifting off into darkness. My hope is based on God’s faithfulness to me as His child.
3) love – God loves me and He has promised to carry me through all that I face in life. God’s love never fails.

Verse 12 says –
“All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” Someday when I am in God’s presence, I will know why.

I don’t know all the answers…..but I know the One who does.

Family Ministry

lunch

“Hurry and pick up those toys!”

“No, you can’t play outside right now, someone is coming for lunch!”

“I said we would make cookies later. Put the books back on the shelf.”

Even as I write those words, I feel shame at the message I was communicating to my children – they were not important – but the person coming for lunch was.

This was back in 1984. Phil was serving as a campus minister and I was staying home with four small children. One day a young college girl asked if I could meet with her for prayer. I was THRILLED! We talked about her schedule and it seemed the only time that she could meet was lunch since she had classes and a part time job. We planned to meet the next week on Monday for lunch.

I enjoyed it so much! I was ministering to this young woman, sharing from the vast wisdom I had accumulated in my 33 years. I felt so good afterwards. I was serving God. I was meeting a need in this young woman’s life. Soon I invited another college girl to meet with me each Tuesday during lunch. Not long after, I invited a student who was a single mother to meet for lunch on Wednesdays. Finally, I invited a woman who was a graduate student to have lunch each Thursday. She was close to my age, a single mother with a daughter the age of our oldest daughter.

I saved Friday for my children.

How many “I’s” are in the above sentences? I believe it is 17.

It was all about me.

The shame I feel is for the way I neglected my children so I could have a “ministry”. I rushed them through an early lunch each of those days so that I could put them down for a nap and have “freedom to minister.”

I put other people’s needs above the needs of my own children.

Finally, I crashed. Fortunately I didn’t burn because of God’s grace and forgiveness. I was crabby and tired and I was taking it out on my children. Phil confronted me one day with the reality of my selfishness. I wanted to minister to these young woman because it made ME FEEL GOOD TO HAVE A MINISTRY.

I did not see that I had a ministry 24/7 right in my own home! God had given us four children and they deserved my full attention, not the leftovers after I had spiritually fed others.

Godly ministry is birthed by God and led by the Holy Spirit. It ALWAYS glorifies Jesus -not the person doing the ministry.

A very wise friend recently challenged us as a group of women to read Mark 14:3-9 to see something that I had not noticed before. It is the passage of scripture that describes the situation when a woman pours perfume on the feet of Jesus.

Mark 14:3-9 (NIV)

3 While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
It is certainly true that this story has been shared thoughout the world, recently through the beautiful song by CeCe Winans called the “Alabaster Box”. The part of this passage that our friend shared was verse 8 – “she did what she could…”

Jesus was pleased with her because she did what she could. Instead of striving to be or do something she couldn’t, she honored Jesus by doing what she could.

It has taken me many years, many missteps, and so much grace from God to teach me this lesson. I don’t have to have a recognized ministry to please the Lord. In fact, He wants me to see that where He has placed me IS my ministry. Back in 1984 my ministry was our four children – and maybe the ONE student who asked to come pray with me. I took it too far by scheduling time that should have been my children’s.

Let’s pray that we would be like that woman who pleased Jesus by doing what she could.