Focus on What Matters (Matthew 10:28)

Matthew 10 28

This verse really causes us to put things into proper perspective, doesn’t it?

We are living life on earth and it’s important what we do, how we spend our time, and the relationships we make. But in the grand scheme of eternity, our life on earth is but a blip in time. The time we spend here is nothing compared to the eternity we will spend after we leave this life. Jesus is reminding us here that we should not fear those who threaten to harm or kill our bodies, because in reality, they can’t affect our eternal destiny.

God, on the other hand, does control our eternity destiny. If we are right with God, then we have no fear about where we will spend eternity because he’s promised us eternal life in heaven. Why worry, Jesus asks, about those who can only affect our bodies? Why worry about a virus that you may or may not get because in the end, your soul is secure in Christ.

Jesus goes on in the next couple of verses to talk about God’s care for the sparrow – “not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (10:29). He also says that the hairs on your head are numbered. God cares deeply about his creation, of whom you, as a human being made in his image, are the crown jewel. He knows how many hairs are on your head – he knows what your deepest needs and desires are – he knows your most intimate fears.

Jesus encourages us to not be afraid of those things which can only affect the body because the soul is the most important thing we have and no one and no thing can touch that apart from God. Instead of worrying about things outside of our control, let’s spend time focusing on things that bring God glory – helping the poor, telling people about Jesus, spending time in prayer, and sharing our resources (time, talent, and treasure). When we are focused on God and his work we have less time to focus on the fears we may have.

Choose Whom You Will Serve

When it comes to life, there are always many options. What will I have for breakfast? What shoes will I wear? When will I go to bed? Whom will I marry? Where will I work? These questions are ones we all must make, some questions obviously more important than others. The most important question for anyone to answer, however, is the one that Joshua asked the Israelites: “…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15, NIV).

The Israelites were a people who had just seen God deliver them into the Promised Land. The Lord gave them all of the land that he promised them, and he drove out all of the evil, idol-following nations who were there. They had seen God’s provision close-up, but they still had to answer the question, “Whom will you serve?”

The people answered that they would serve the Lord, just as Joshua and his family had. Joshua told them that the next step was to “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23, NLT).

Destroying idols may seem like a very “Old Testament” thing to do, but in reality we all have idols that we must destroy if we are truly going to be serving the Lord with our whole heart, mind, body, and soul.

Idols today don’t necessarily look like they did in Joshua’s day; we don’t often see or possess images carved into wood that we worship as gods. But we certainly, if we think about, have other things that we worship; our modern day idols.

One quick way to check on what you may be worshipping is to look at your “books.” Your appointment book and your checkbook. These two books show where you spend your time and your treasure. Those are often good indicators about what you are worshipping and focusing on. The priorities of your life are seen by the time and money you spend.

But beyond just seeing the idols of your time and treasure, it’s important to look beyond the surface and see what your true motives are. You need to look deeper into why you do what you do. Spending a lot of time at work shows that you value work and may be worshipping that idol, but what is the underlying spiritual condition? Are you looking for financial security? Power? Prestige? Wealth? What’s driving you to make work your idol? Until you can look at the root cause of your idolatry, you won’t fare well in trying to make a change.

Matthew 6:33 says to seek first the Kingdom of God. When we truly seek God’s Kingdom first, we will destroy the idols that are in our lives and put God’s will and way above our own. We will allow God to be our first priority – in all areas of our life – not just on Sunday morning.

I would encourage you to do a check of your books, and then pray for clarity about what your underlying idols are. Then seek out Scripture that speaks directly to the root causes, repent, and pray that God would free you from those sinful attitudes.

You cannot grow spiritually when you are not completely sold out to following Christ first. Jesus said that you can’t serve two masters; which master are you choosing to follow? Yourself or Jesus? Choose this day whom you will serve.

The Treasure

When I was in college, right after high school, I officially changed my major 4 times – in the first semester! I had felt that God was calling me into full time ministry, but I wasn’t ready to give up the benefits of living a life for myself.

I knew that living a life in ministry was going to require a certain amount of sacrifice on my part. I knew that riches were certainly not in my future, and things like an expensive new car, luxurious vacations, and a large mansion were not going to be in the cards. The problem was that I had a desire for all those things! I didn’t want to be stuck driving my old Ford Escort. I wanted to be able to travel the world. Yet I knew, deep down, that God was calling me to something more; something deeper and more meaningful than the luxuries of this world.

I know that these are first world problems. In some areas of the world, these things aren’t even dreams for people because they are so far out of reach. I recognize that, and am deeply fortunate. That didn’t change the reality for me, though, that I was giving up the life I had dreamed for myself in the quest of serving God with my whole heart. There are twin parables in Matthew 13 that address this shift in focus and the quest for what matters.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. Then he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

– Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT)

The men in these two parables found something of great worth – Jesus – the Kingdom of God. When they found it, they immediately recognized its worth and gave up all they had in order to acquire it. When I look at my own life, I did give up some of my material dreams for the future, but did I give up ALL that I had in order to follow Jesus?

I think about my day-to-day life and I wonder, am I giving up all that I have in order to serve Jesus in this very minute? Are my thoughts on things of God? Am I sharing my faith with others so that they might know Jesus? Or am I still living for myself?

This question is one that cannot be answered too quickly. It’s easy to say, well, I go to church, tithe, teach, preach, and serve others, so I must be OK, right? But just doing the right things doesn’t mean that I’m living my life sold out for Jesus. It doesn’t mean that I’m giving Jesus 100% of who I am. What parts of me am I holding back?

These parables should cause us all to pause and evaluate our lives and life choices. If our relationship with Jesus is supposed to be the most important thing in our lives, we need to check to make sure that is true. Are you willing to sacrifice ANYTHING for the sake of Jesus? If you can’t answer yes to that question, it’s important that you wrestle with God about that.

What is God calling you to give up or sacrifice for His sake? Are you willing? If not, why not? What has a hold on your life greater than your desire for the Kingdom of God?

Be in the Moment

A couple weekends ago I got to take my son to his first home Seattle Seahawks game. (Go Hawks!) It was a playoff game against the Detroit Lions, which we won handily. It was a great birthday present for me! He had never been to a home game, and it was always something I looked forward to sharing with him.

We got to the stadium hours early to participate in the early events provided for fans, and it was a great time together.

The joy we shared together that day is something that I’ll always treasure. I felt like it was sort of a rite of passage for him, being a Seahawks fan living in Kansas, getting to go on this incredible trip. And it got me thinking about other rites of passage that will come down the line.

Logan is 10 years old now, and sooner than I’m ready for he will be going to middle school, learning how to drive, graduating high school, going to college, and starting his life outside our home. As I think about those things, I’m flooded with emotion. I’m excited for him to be able to do all these things that have the potential for such joy, though I’m not looking forward to losing what we have now. But for anything to grow, there has to be change, and part of that change is loss. That’s the part of change we don’t like, but it is inevitable.

I will always cherish the time we have now, even in those moments that are not so picturesque. I’m committed to living in the moment, not looking too far ahead or behind, but really being there with him, my daughter, my wife, my friends, and my family. Learning to just “be” has not been easy for me. My mind often wants to race on ahead, but I’m reminded to enjoy the present and not be so easily distracted by what could have been or what could be.

I’m only going to have one chance to be there for my kids. I’m only going to have one short season of life to play hide-and-seek, Barbies, Madden, and catch. I will only get to coach my kids’ soccer teams for so long. It will be only a matter of time until I won’t be asked to brush my daughter’s hair, tuck them in at night, or tell them bedtime stories. But I can’t think too much about those future losses, because if I do, I’ll miss today. And today is something I cannot get back tomorrow.

The Hurried Easter

The time has come – Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, is upon us!

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Thanksgiving, lighting the tree, and singing “Auld Lang Syne” to ring in the New Year. The groundhog did not see his shadow, our valentines have been sent, and now Easter is here! When I was a kid, I always thought time moved very slowly. As an adult with children of my own, I now see time continually speeding up.

God knows that is our tendency. God understands that as we get busier and life’s demands continue to pile up, the time seems to slip by more quickly. That’s one reason he instituted festivals, feasts, and the Sabbath. He designed our lives with intentional rhythms, to help us slow down and remember what’s really important.

Resurrection Sunday is one of those times when we are to slow down, remember, and celebrate something that changed the course of human history. On that day, some 2,000 years ago, Jesus rose from the dead! The man who was betrayed, mocked, ridiculed, and crucified, defied death and rose anew. This act conquered death once and for all, and gives each of us who follow Christ the assurance that Jesus is even more powerful than the grave.

The resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the gospel message. If we go through this Easter season intent on focusing on the Easter bunny, egg hunts, and chocolate, we risk missing out on the true reason for the celebration. I encourage you to sit down with your family this Easter season and read an account from one of the Gospels about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Share with them the truth of Christ, the truth that really matters.

Entertainment or Worship?

code black logo

As fall comes upon us this year, though the weather doesn’t feel like it, we know it is here because of the new crop of TV shows appearing. This year many new shows are hitting the air waves battling for our attention. I’ll admit, I do enjoy finding a new show each year. Some years are better than others, but this year, there were a number of shows that caught my interest. One such show was Code Black.

Code Black is a medical drama based in Los Angeles. The name comes from the code given when needs outnumber resources. We’re told in the pilot that this particular hospital goes into code black 300 days out of the year. As a fan of ER, I was excited. I thought, This is going to be exciting! So I settled in for the pilot episode and I was extremely underwhelmed. The acting was fine, but there was a sense of excitement and tension missing from the show. I found myself tired of the story and almost turned it off part way through. Now, that’s just my opinion, as one of my friends really liked it (although he is an EMT, so maybe he is predisposed).

So what was my major problem with the show? It was just boring; particularly compared to the fast pace and intensity of ER (at least in its early days). I missed the doctors barking out orders, recognizing the life-and-death impact of their action or inaction. I just didn’t feel that in the pilot of Code Black. Maybe it gets better in the second episode, but I probably won’t be there to find out.

This whole situation got me thinking; thinking about the church.

As a church, we are asking people to spend an hour out of their weekend each week to worship God. To many, Sunday is a prime time to sleep in and have a lazy day – at least until the football game. So what are we as the church supposed to do?

There are several answers to that question. One suggestion that I have seen attempted over and over is to try to make the worship service as exciting, energetic, and entertaining as possible. Through the use of music, media and lighting, the church tries to put on a show each week. They try to compete with the world’s entertainment standards to entice people out of their beds to see what’s going to happen each Sunday. The problem is that with 99% of the churches, there’s no real way to compete. We don’t have the budget, time or talent to put on a Broadway caliber “show” every Sunday. Instead, churches who try this model of worship often end up looking like a cheap knock off, and it’s just a sad shadow of what people might expect.

As you may guess, I’m not a fan of this model. In fact, even if we had the budget, time and talent to pull it off, I don’t think I would. Don’t get me wrong – I think using lighting, media and contemporary music are all good things – but the focus can’t be on the production – it can’t be about the entertainment. It has to be more.

Worship services need to be a time to come together to connect with one another and to connect with God. In order to do that, you need a service designed to quiet your mind, freeing it from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so that you can truly focus on God, your creator. Certainly using lights, music, and media can help that process – I use them myself – but that can’t be the focus.

While I say that, church should also not feel boring or lazy, as I felt Code Black was. We are doing one of the most important things we can possibly do – praising God, proclaiming his truths, joining with other believers. That’s what we need to focus on. Regardless of church budgets or resources, any church properly focused can have a meaningful worship service focused on Jesus Christ, our Savior.

If our focus is on Jesus, building relationships and telling people about salvation, then our focus is in the right place.

I believe people like a good show. But I also believe that people are seeking something authentic. Something worthy of their time. I hope and pray that is what we offer at my church, and I pray that is what all churches strive to do.