Treasure In A Field

A farmer in the Swiss canton of Aargau made a profitable find recently. In July, he decided to remove a mole hill on his property. In the process, he found a bunch of old coins. In September, a group of volunteer archaeologists did some more searching and found even more loot: 4,166 coins to be exact. They were made of bronze and silver and constitute one of the largest such finds ever. The coins were from the Romans in the 3rd century, meaning some of them are almost 1800 years old. They bear the images of different Caesars from that period of time. Researchers speculate that someone was using the ground as a makeshift vault for safekeeping. The coins were kept safe all right – they remained hidden for centuries. The money would have represented a small fortune even for the 3rd century. No word yet on what their modern day value might be. So think for moment about the man or woman who hid away all those coins. I suppose they didn’t trust the banks, if there were any. No doubt they were hoping to be rich and had plans to do something with all that money. Maybe they were saving up for something special. Whatever the dream or reality, they never got to use the money. It just stayed hidden in the ground waiting for someone else to come along. Jesus had special instructions for people in his day. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths 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.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Our world is often obsessed with hoarding money and items that are subject to decay. Jesus’ point is that ‘we can’t take it with us.’ Too often our treasures are left buried in a field for someone else to take advantage of. They don’t add value to our lives or the lives of others. So while we are here on earth, we should be investing in heavenly treasure. What’s the currency of heaven? People. So the question becomes, “Am I investing in projects and ventures that will result in people spending eternity in heaven?” We all have enough toys and gadgets to play with. While we might always hope for a larger bank account, most of us are doing just fine. So in addition to planning for retirement, make sure you are also investing in a heavenly treasure. Someday you’ll be glad you did.

A Prayer From Paris

My favorite city in the world is Paris – always has been and always will be. So it’s been painful to watch the events of the last few days and the attack on that beautiful city. The terrorist attacks didn’t occur in some remote and unknown place but in a location I’m familiar with. The coordinated events of last Friday evening were more than just an assault on the city of Paris. There are evil people in this world who do evil things. It was yet another reminder that there are great battles going on in our world today. It’s also been painful to watch the reactions of some people. I know our immediate reactions are often impulsive and poorly thought out…however, sometimes they reveal what is in our hearts. I am most disappointed with the way many Christians view the situation, especially as I read comments on various social media forums. It’s easy to go for the simple answer. To solve problems, we like clear solutions. We like to put things in black and white. But the world is not so easy. Labelling others because of their ethnicity or religion is really a way of dehumanizing them. Grouping people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories is seldom accurate or helpful. Perhaps this is an occasion to look deep within ourselves. Perhaps we should stop and consider what role we are playing in this world. Let’s stop name-calling and finger-pointing for a few moments. Let’s check our own hearts first. In December of 1912, a small devotional French publication, La Clochette, located in a parish of Paris, published a written prayer. There was no mention of who wrote the prayer, but a couple of years later, during World War 1, it was sent to the Pope who had it more widely published. During those years of great conflict and death, many people prayed these now familiar words. In the 1920s, a French priest printed the prayer on the back of an image of St. Francis. Since that time, the prayer has been known as the Prayer of St. Francis. It’s a prayer that comes from Paris, and before I try to solve the world’s problems, it seemed appropriate to pray this first: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Two Paths

According to Psalm 1, people in this world are on one of two possible paths: the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked. It’s unpopular in today’s culture to say that some people are wicked. In this case, the wicked are simply those who are not on the path of righteousness. The righteous are those who seek God and his direction. The Psalmist says that the righteous man or woman is the one who takes “delight in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:2) God’s law brings blessing and spiritual strength into our lives. The Bible has a stabilizing effect on people. Because God’s Word is inspired and infallible, it is completely sufficient to meet every need that we have. David writes, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” (Psalm 19:7) Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:3 that Scripture contains all we need for life and godliness. The wise person is the one who follows the path of Scripture. Scripture not only comforts us but it also challenges us. As a pastor, I often hear people say, “I know what the Bible says, but I feel…” In other words, they make a decision to ignore Scripture because they can’t bring themselves to submit to it. The Bible can be subject to various interpretations. We should engage in those discussions and wrestle with what it is saying rather than just rejecting it all together. I know there are puzzling passages. None of us have yet come to fully submit ourselves to all the ways of the Bible. But if our posture is one that continues to reject the role of Scripture, we will find ourselves “like chaff that the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:4) We discover that our life stops yielding the fruit of the Spirit; we no longer prosper or experience the fullness of life in Christ. We are on the wrong path. As believers, we can’t afford to ignore the Bible. Reading it regularly is not enough. We must take delight in God’s Word and do what it says even when we find that hard and uncomfortable. God has promised us that when we put his Word in the right place, life will be full and rich.

When God Seems Hidden

He found himself in prison due to unfair accusations. He had done nothing wrong. In fact, he had acted with great moral character. But there he was, jailed, with no hope of release. Joseph would spend more than two years in that Egyptian prison. It seemed as if he was forgotten by everyone and especially by God. I wonder if he ever got angry with God. Did he, like David, ask, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) I think that all believers go through times of trial and testing that leave us wondering where God is hiding. We know that God isn’t actually hiding – rather, it just feels like he is. We can’t seem to catch a break or get out of a difficult situation. We lose that sense of God’s presence. But God was at work in Joseph’s situation. God had a plan and he was working it out. I’m convinced that he does that for all of us. Daily struggles, long term illness, difficult family dynamics, poor working conditions – these are elements of life. But God has not forgotten us or walked away. We all face circumstances that perplex us. In these moments, our faith is challenged to trust solely in the promises of God and not to rely on our emotions or feelings about the situation. It’s the testing of our faith that causes it to grow stronger. Will we still worship God when he seems hidden? In dark times, we express our confidence in God by waiting upon him and continuing to believe in his promises. Don’t let your current situation shake your faith but use the occasion to strengthen it. Keep trusting that God is present and at work.