Heart Investment

th (16)Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eyes are the lamp of the body. If your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise th other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matthew 6:19-24

Jesus is desperate to lay claim on the heart of his follower. To follow him is to be ALL in, heart, and soul, and mind and strength.  He’s said this in a hundred ways so far. Sometimes it seems more ethereal than cerebral, so he makes it practical. He says if you want to see where your heart is, look for your treasure. Be honest. Find your heart in the kingdom of God, and you’ll see things in a whole new light – THE LIGHT!   God is King there, in heaven and on earth.

This a great teaching, but if you’re like me, you look to God, hands in surrender, and beg. How? How do I put my treasure in heaven? I can’t see it. How can my eyes reflect light from within me? That’s too deep for me. How can I avoid serving money? Doesn’t the world revolve around it?

I need simplification. In my world, I have a financial advisor. She puts our money to work. I don’t understand all that she does, but she makes it simple. Tell me your goals. Set aside this. Put it here. Create this. Just do it. When you need it, I’ll show you how to get it and use it. I trust her.  God is the ultimate physical, mental, spiritual, financial advisor rolled into one. He came and lived it. He left himself inside us.  He says trust me.

We know a little about money. We can’t survive without it. We understand some basic principles of investment. Save. Let is grow. Maybe if we think of investment in spiritual terms, this can make sense:

Invest in people. God created them in his image.

Invest in promises. The Word. The Father spoke it through the Son, and they speak it through the Spirit. It NEVER fails.

Invest in praise. God inhabits it.

Invest in prayer. God communicates. He speaks, we listen. We speak, he listens.

Invest in power. God’s got ALL of it! His grace empowers us to do what our flesh cannot.

Lay your assets, your time, your thoughts, your desires, and your relationships on the table. Ask God to set them firmly in his kingdom. Ask Him to put them to work. The result is his Glory, seen clearly by eyes that reflect it. When you see that, your heart follows suit. These are things you take with you forever. They are hauled to heaven in the hearse of your heart, not confined by four walls or a rotting body. You experience light and life. You experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control here and now AND someday and forever. You’re a kingdom dweller, and King Jesus is set firmly on the throne of your heart. You’re a disciple.

Secret Mission

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Have you ever been given a secret mission? Something that only you and maybe one other person knew about? When I was a kid, my granddad would call me up and say he needed me to ride my bike over to his house (a couple miles away) to “help him” with something. When I’d get there, he’d have an ice cold drink waiting for me and tell me to sit down and watch a TV show with him – our special secret! We’d talk about that show for years to come, my treasured connection with a man that I loved so much. I think Jesus longs for each one of us to have a unique connection with his Father, a secret mission that will bind us together in a relationship like none we’ve ever known.

Read Mathew 6:1-18

Three things are assumed by Jesus when he addresses people who want to follow him. Notice they are prefaced with when and not if: giving, praying and fasting. Each section ends with the promise: “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” I don’t think this was meant to discourage anyone, but rather to encourage followers of Jesus to seek God in a uniquely personal way as they lived in community with one another.

Community was assumed. These were public, collective actions of good Jews. They were to give to the poor, pray and fast, according to Hebrew Law. The thing was, these laws assumed an internal, deeply personal connection to God that somehow got lost in a need to impress. So, in customary fashion, Jesus turns these laws on their head.

Jesus says that the heart of giving, praying and fasting is a loving relationship with the Father that no one else sees or even knows about. It produces the purity of heart that enables God to reveal a unique external mission. He expects us to give, serve, love, but only after experiencing the perfect love of Father, Son, and Spirit, that overflows through us to the world around us.

In The Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling makes an astute observation some other important words of Jesus, his last words to his disciples before he left to be with the Father, what we know as the “Great Commission.”   He makes the case that the commission is two-fold, an inner and outer commission, and actually starts in Matthew 28:16:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

Verses 16-17 reveal Jesus’ internal directive to go to the mountain, to look for and worship him, and even to wrestle with doubts. Only then does Jesus go to his disciples and speak to them audibly. He externally commissions (verses 18-20) them and us to make disciples, as we go, immersing people in the love of Father, Son and Spirit, living out his teachings alongside one another, and reminding each other that God is with us…till the end!

This gels with Jesus’ teaching on the mountainside, and highlights its importance. Jesus longs for us to practice being in the presence of God, in worshipful communion with the one who is good and loving, merciful and kind. From there, giving and serving will flow from pure motives.

This internal and external mission, if you choose to accept it, is rewarding! Jesus says so!! When I think of the reward my grandfather gave me all those years ago, I get excited! He was flawed and imperfect, yet my grandfather’s love and friendship was a great reward, transcending money or stuff. Your heavenly Father’s love and friendship is an infinitely greater reward, one that changes everything! He’s waiting for you in the closet.

A Forgiving Heart

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I recently heard a story that just burned me up. It was about a dirty cop coming clean, admitting to all the bad things he had done in his 20 years on the force and his subsequent stint as a bonafide drug dealer. He had originally “confessed” to frame someone else and get a reduced sentence. In the end, his previous “partner” got 11 years and he got 2 months, but that wasn’t what burned me up. First blow was that when he saw his partner after getting out of jail, the two hugged and went on as if nothing ever happened. What?! “We were best friends,” he said,” In the end that’s all that matters.” Then to really get my blood boiling, when the interviewer asked if he was still getting a pension from the police department, he proudly said that the pension was for life, no matter what he had done.

I’m an American for goodness sake. Equal rights means people deserve to be treated fairly. When the scales aren’t balanced, my instinct is to get angry.  I decide who’s being treated too unfairly or who’s being treated too well, based on my judgements and personal biases. Then I demand justice. This guy was a criminal, parading as a law expert. He was completely self-serving, a liar, a cheat, and a no good friend. He deceived his own family. Sinner, right? He should pay.

I don’t think Galilean Jews were that much different from me. When Jesus talked to them on that mountainside, you can almost hear him saying, “I know you guys are oppressed, beaten down by Rome, suffering on many fronts. I know you think things are unfair, and you want me to give your enemies what they deserve. But I want to tell you a secret, a mystery; my Father has a plan and it will work. You’ll see…”

Read Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to them and to us: You’ve got this eye for eye thing down to a science. The law allowed for that so you wouldn’t go crazy, and take a life for an eye or a face for a toe. If left alone, your vengeance and retaliation will always escalate. Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. You think you can delineate friend from enemy.   You love and hate according to your feelings and perceptions. Guess what? You can get that wrong.

The good news is that Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We have perspective looking back on that text. We can see what those first hearers could not yet: God’s got this; perfect/complete redemption and reconciliation can only come with sacrifice and they (Father, Son and Spirit) did that for us. They faced the chaos and injustice of a sinful world head on. It leads to death, so they died instead of us. It can only be overcome by a power outside the laws of nature and retaliation, so they defeated death with resurrection, and then put that same power inside you and me.

Jesus words convey,

“Trust me. So, here’s what we (Father, Son and Spirit) are asking you to do:

Do not resist an evil person. If anyone hits you, let them hit you again. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat (your law protected right) as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go two. (Carry something heavy, too.) Give to the one who asks you. Don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

Do that with our power. It works.” (Non-italicized words are mine)

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) He’s going to right every wrong, from every perspective.   You’ll benefit, and it will be perfect. Focus on this: love God and love people, even when it’s hard and doesn’t make sense!

I, as a Christian, was burned up when a dirty cop received reconciliation and redemption. Jesus offers that very thing, to all who will call on his name and trust his perfection rather than their own effort. I’m so glad I don’t make the rules!

Listen to: Anna Sale’s show, “Death, Sex, and Money: A Dirty Cop Comes Clean”