The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

When I was in the United States Air Force, my future wife, Evelyn, and I wrote letters to each other every day of the week. They were handwritten and stamped “snail mail” letters. Evelyn even used a wax seal on her letters and were anointed with her perfume. When I opened my mailbox I could smell her virtual presence. I couldn’t wait to go to the mailroom and dial in my four digit lock code to open that little door to collect those precious love letters.
Sometimes, due to holidays and weekend schedules, there would be no letter in the box and I would be crushed. But, I would go back to my barracks and reread the previous letters.

We were just teenagers, but our love was intense and we were exclusively devoted to one another. Those letters were read over and over again to the point that I knew which ones had the content that I needed to reread in order to pick me up when I was lonely for her presence. My memory of the times I was with her were precious, but to read her words made me experience her presence in a more substantial way. It was her words, written in her style, in her handwriting, and with her scent. We would write about what we had done that day, the thoughts we were having, the hopes and dreams and plans we had for our relationship, the frustrations and hurts we were experiencing in our separate lives, what we had to eat, what we were wearing. We shared everything with each other. Total transparency and honesty. We no longer write letters to each other, because we don’t have to say, “Goodbye!”, and part from each other as we did decades ago. We thank God daily that we now live in physical presence with each other.

When I got saved as a young teenager, several years before my relationship with Evelyn, I had that same experience with the love letters I read from God in my Bible. They did not come in my mailbox, so I did not have to wait for the mailman to deliver them. Those letters were right there with me in my Bible. I could read them any time I wanted to, just like the letters I saved from Evelyn. As I read His letters to me, I experienced His presence in a real way. They were not just words on a paper, they were words of an intimate relationship between me and my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Comforter. 

He told me about His love for me, what He had done for me, about His plans for me, His emotions towards me, His total knowledge of me and His total acceptance of me in spite of knowing my sins and shortcomings and immaturity. There was total transparency and honesty. I did not write letters to Him but I did speak to Him through prayer, memorization, and meditation. I rehearsed our initial encounter when He opened my eyes to my sin and then offered me forgiveness. Our relationship has grown through the years as I have read and reread His love letters to me. I continue to reread His love letters with the anticipation of the Day when I will see Him face to face and live in His physical presence for eternity.

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like no other god created by man. Our God, YHWH, is a personal God, who loves us and has revealed Himself to us in love letters, the Bible so that we can have an intimate relationship with Him. It breaks my heart when I hear from men and women who tell me that they don’t read God’s Word on a regular basis. They tell me that they are too busy to sit down and read. They tell me that they don’t like to read. They tell me, that if they do read, they don’t understand what they are reading. They tell me that they hear what the Bible says when they go to church or listen to a sermon, or
watch an online service. I wonder if they would leave love letters (or emails) from their boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancè, or fiancèe sitting in the mailbox, with little or no time or interest to read them. What kind of love does that demonstrate towards the one sending the letter (or email)? What kind of relationship is that? How would the writer feel knowing that their communication is not worth their time reading?

We, the Church of Jesus Christ, are compared to a wife in Ephesians 5. As individual members of the Church, how is it that many believers don’t devote themselves to reading the love letters from their husband, Jesus Christ? They have lost their first love, as did the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1,4 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden
lampstands, says this:…’I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.’” Our Lord Jesus Christ responded in this way to the church at Ephesus in verse 5, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place– unless you repent.” That is the consequence of insulting our Lord by not reading His love letters. If you are one of those who does not love to read the love letters from your Savior, please take this admonishment and confess it to your Lover, and then repent and dive into what He has written to you. Then respond in love by doing the works He has prepared for you (Eph. 2:9).

Bill Olsen, Elder

 

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one who is very pleased with the relationship she has with her husband. She not only sees actions of love from her husband, but she is confident in the devotion he has for her, which is based upon the commitment that was made by him to love and cherish her until death separates them. The relationship is a dynamic one where he lovingly sacrifices himself for her and she lovingly respects and submits to his leadership. A marriage based on devotion to the basic foundations of the ‘one flesh’ relationship will produce joy, blessing and growth.

Now let me digress here a little. We all know what a wife is, but I want to tell you what a W.I.F.E. is. Paul uses the physical analogy of marriage to describe the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ. He says in Ephesians 5 that Jesus is the Bridegroom (husband) and the Church is the Bride (wife). We all know what a physical wife is, but what is a spiritual church?

First of all, the worldwide Church is comprised of all those who have individually placed their trust in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life. It is worldwide in scope and includes all who have believed since the day of Pentecost and who will believe in the future. Second of all, the worldwide Church meets in physical locations known as local churches, as it was with the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Colossae and the church at Rome. The Greek term for ‘church’ is ‘εκλησσια’ or ‘ecclesia’ and means ‘assembly’. The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts the dispersed believers with these words, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, NASB)  The local church is a physical gathering of believers in a certain locale. In the book of Acts, the local church met in the synagogues and in houses. They also had godly men (elders) who were appointed by the Apostles or by their disciples, like Paul, Timothy and Titus.  These local churches “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, NASB) These practices, which characterized the early church, are basic practices which are to define local churches today. Hence, an online meeting without physical assembling is not a church. It may have believers watching and interacting through chats, but it is not a church.

From that description in Acts, the acronym W.I.F.E. is derived “Worship”, “Instruction”, “Fellowship, and “Evangelism”. The early church was devoted to worshipping in prayer, they listened to the teaching of God’s Word, they enjoyed meals together with the Lord’s Supper, sharing with one another their material possessions so that no one had needs and they witnessed to others concerning the love of God in Christ Jesus and His death and resurrection. Consequently the local churches multiplied and there was great joy in the midst of Roman suppression and Jewish persecution. They were devoted because they had experienced the new birth and the new relationship they had with the living God through His Son. They were devoted because they now had the peace of God and hope for the future and the assurance of their salvation. Everything else became secondary to a personal, daily, and vibrant relationship with God. Having like minded believers gave them the opportunity to practice the ‘one another’ exhortations which were later recorded in the epistles. These new believers supernaturally exercised them because they were so grateful to Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to freely and cheerfully live that lifestyle.

 So, in the 21st century, the Church worldwide is still the Body of Christ and family of God. In addition, local churches existing all around the globe are still defined as they were in the Word of God. However, due to numerous factors, the local church in America is sadly deficient in being a “happy” church, thereby not experiencing a happy life. Too many true believers are not enjoying the abundant life which Jesus promised in John 10:10. Too many of these believers are satisfied that they are going to heaven when they die, but their priority in life is not seeking the kingdom of God first. They are not willing to die to self and live for Christ. Their salvation is simply, and tragically, “life insurance”. They are not concerned about worshipping the Savior Who bought them, reading and obeying the Word of God, enjoying meaningful fellowship with fellow believers, other than a casual one hour encounter online on Sunday morning, or sharing their salvation experience. How sad! What is our Heavenly Father feeling? That is not a happy or abundant life! Let’s pray for revival!

Bill Olsen, Elder

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If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

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The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...
The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, called by His name. YHWH made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, which were eternal, unconditional, and unilateral. Which meant that they could never be broken. He had promised them a nation, a land, and a blessing.

That same God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks, and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional, and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

During the Old Testament period, the nation Israel repeatedly disobeyed YHWH and committed spiritual adultery with other gods. There was a period of time in their history, which we call the period of the Judges when the nation of Israel “did what was right in their own eyes.” God disciplined them, they confessed and asked for forgiveness, God forgave, then they repeated the same pattern several times. Finally, God sent the northern kingdom (Israel) into exile in Assyria and subsequently the southern kingdom (Judah) into captivity in Babylon, even after Judah had witnessed God’s judgment to Israel.

The prophet Jeremiah ministered during the last five decades of Judah’s history. During that time, Jeremiah warned Judah of their sin and God’s judgment if they would not repent. His prophecies fell on deaf ears. While his prophecies predicted terrible times for Judah, there was a light in the darkness in chapter 29, where these words are recorded. “For thus says the LORD, ’When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ’plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ’You will seek Me and find [Me] when you search for Me with all your heart. ’I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ’and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ’and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’” That will not be fully realized until Jesus Christ returns in glory and establishes His 1,000 year reign as King, literally sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

 During the Old Testament period, the nation Israel repeatedly disobeyed YHWH and committed spiritual adultery with other gods. There was a period of time in their history, which we call the period of the Judges when the nation of Israel “did what was right in their own eyes.” God disciplined them, they confessed and asked for forgiveness, God forgave, then they repeated the same pattern several times. Finally, God sent the northern kingdom (Israel) into exile in Assyria and subsequently the southern kingdom (Judah) into captivity in Babylon, even after Judah had witnessed God’s judgment to Israel.        

Right now, this nation is doing what is right in its own eyes and it will get worse. We can still be salt and light in a land that has kicked God out of the picture.  The answer is a revival in the Church of Jesus Christ. So, live a day at a time in trustful obedience to the Word of God and hold onto this sure promise, “I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ’plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” My heart is heavy for the Church, but I am encouraged by the Blessed Hope of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Maranatha! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Bill Olsen, Elder

 

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

The Shepherd’s Staff: Sin – Flagrant or Unaware?

The Shepherd’s Staff: Sin – Flagrant or Unaware?

Our family enjoyed a week in a rental house in Frisco, North Carolina at the end of the Summer season. The
house was situated within walking distance to the Atlantic Ocean with sand dunes separating us from the water. It was an ideal location for the 8 adults and 12 children.

One night we decided that a beach campfire would be a fun activity for all of us. So we drove to the closest convenience store and purchased marshmallows and bamboo spits to toast those delightfully sweet, sticky and fluffy white morsels. Of course we needed firewood and an accelerant to get the wood burning. The store sold small packages of fire wood and we bought a can of liquid fire starter.

When we got back to the house, I noticed that there was a white slip of paper wrapped with the package of
wood. It was printed by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
and it said in bold letters “Beach Fire Permit”. It listed two permit procedures; “1. Read Beach Fire Regulations
listed on back, 2. Sign and date below.” I am a stickler when it comes to obeying things like that, so I read the
Regulations, signed and dated the permit and delegated to my son and sons-in-law to light the fire.

They did a great job and in the cool, dark, starlit night, we enjoyed the mesmerising red, orange and yellow
flames as they devoured the wood and provided heat for comfort and for toasting the marshmallows.
We were enjoying the fire for about a half hour, when a Park Ranger appeared out of the darkness and stood
by the fire. I approached him and asked if I could be of any help. I told him that I had the signed permit back at the
house and he said that someone had complained that there was a bonfire on the beach. He was dispatched to
investigate the report. When my son-in-law retrieved the permit and showed it to him, he said that the fire was not in
compliance with the regulations in that it was not below the high tide mark. I was completely taken off guard because
I thought the placement of the fire was away from vegetation and any thing flammable. I then realised that I had
indeed read the regulations, but I had not read them as thoroughly as I should have. I was definitely in violation of the regulations, so I apologized to him.

He said that we would have to extinguish the fire immediately and spread out the wood and ashes and then drown it with sea water until it was cool to the touch. He went to his Jeep and secured a shovel for us and the older boys did what he told them to do while he watched them extinguish our fire. While the boys were doing their job, I conversed with him about his career as a Park Ranger and it was a very informative and cordial talk. Then we walked toward his vehicle and he asked me for my identification because he was going to have to give me a formal warning instead of a fine. I was surprised but thankful for his graciousness as he filled out the warning and gave me a copy. The warning said, “This warning has been issued to you for a violation of the regulation as shown above . It has been issued in lieu of a summons or fine.”

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

I was embarrassed but I had violated the regulation out of a sincere assumption that I had followed it. My transgression was that I was not diligent in paying attention to each regulation. I had assumed that I was in compliance and I felt confident when I first spoke to him. Then he pointed out my error. There was no excuse, and he could have rightly given me a fine, but he recognized that I had not intentionally disregarded the regulations. I sincerely thought I was complying.

Did you know that the Lord God recognizes that there are two categories of sin? There is presumptuous or
flagrant sin, and there is innocent sin, or sins we are unaware of. In Psalm 19:12-13, David writes these words, “Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of. Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion” (NET). What David is addressing is the fact that every day we walk in this world and do things, think things and say things that we are completely unaware of. Some of those things are of no moral consequence but some of those things are sinful. While we had no intent to do them, they are still sins. We are imperfect believers who are battling with our sinful flesh all the time.

As followers of Jesus Christ, our desire should be blameless before a Holy God. The Apostle Peter wrote these words in 1 Peter 1:14-16, “Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” When we confess our sins as in 1 John 1:9, God forgives the sins we confess and also forgives our unknown sins. So keep a shortlist between you and the Father and be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

The Shepherd’s Staff: Joints and Ligaments

The Shepherd’s Staff: Joints and Ligaments

“Head bone connected to the neck bone, neck bone connected to the shoulder bone, shoulder bone connected to the back bone, back bone connected to the hip bone, hip bone connected to the thigh bone, thigh bone connected to the knee bone, knee bone connected to the shin bone…” and so on. These are some of the verses from a song entitled “Dem Bones,” a spiritual song composed by James Weldon and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson and first recorded
by the Famous Myers Jubilee Singers in 1928. In my study of the “one another” passages in the New Testament, that song came to mind. 

I was reading Ephesians 4:15-16, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him who is the head, [even] Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love,” (NASB) and Colossians 2:19, “and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (NASB). Paul was writing about the analogy of the Body of Christ, the Church, and its diverse parts all working together to produce growth. What intrigued me, was the use of the terms ‘joints’ and ‘ligaments’. In my past readings of those two texts, I glided over those two terms without questioning their function. I understood the function of each body part and their interdependence of each other, but these two terms gave me more insight into the connection between the parts of the body.

I looked up the word ‘ligament’ in the dictionary and here is what it said. A ligament is a “short band of tough flexible fibrous connective tissue which connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.” A ‘joint’ is “the connection made between bones in the body which link the skeletal system into a functional whole. They are connected to allow for different degrees and types of movement.” Wow! I thought. There are joints and ligaments holding together the parts of the human body but what spiritual analogy is that in the Body of Christ? What is it that connects the parts of the Body of Christ? I know that the Head (Jesus Christ) is the authority over the Body (the Church) and the Holy Spirit is the power (the brain) enabling and leading the Body, but what in the Church connects and holds together the parts? Connection is the key word. I believe the joints and the ligaments can be described as the community of the parts. Another term would be the Greek term, ‘koinonia,’ or fellowship, or abiding. What a picture of the application of the ‘one another’ passages! There are over 20 verses in the New Testament where the term ‘one another’ is used in an exhortation to build up the Body of Christ. Here are just a few, “members of one another” (Rom. 12:5), “devoted to one another” ( Rom. 12:10a), “honor one another” (Rom. 12:10b), “be of the same mind with one another” (Rom. 15:5), “accept one another” ( Rom. 15:7), “admonish one another” (Rom. 14:14), “greet one another” (Rom. 1:16). When the parts do not properly exercise the ‘one another’ exhortations, the church will not function according to design. When the parts properly exercise the ‘one another’ exhortations, the church will be built up and function very well.

The Shepherd’s Staff: He Emptied Himself For You and For Me

In the midst of singing carols, decorating trees, exchanging gifts, feasting on pastries and roasted meats, and gathering together with other believers-in person or online-to worship the One Who was born 2 centuries ago, there is a deeper, and more profound aspect of...

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

So how can a church be a healthy and vibrant church, bringing glory to the Head of the Church, as diverse individual parts working together in unity? By connecting with each other in properly exercising the ‘one another’ passages, a local church will grow into a body of believers who are mature and able to multiply and equip other believers who will then carry on the process of 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (NASB).

How are you functioning as a joint and ligament? Are you properly exercising your gift by encouraging one another, by praying for one another, caring for one another, accepting one another, honoring one another, or really being connected with one another, etc? If you are not a part of a Community Group, ask yourself why not? Community Groups are where the ‘one another’ exhortations should be properly exercised. Connect with the other parts of the Body and enjoy the fellowship and growth. Remember that you are gifted by the Holy Spirit to work with the other parts of the church in order to build it up. Give Wes Williams a call and ask how you can join a Community Group so that you can be a joint and ligament.

Bill Olsen, Elder

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Lamp Of The Body

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Lamp Of The Body

I recently went for my annual eye examination at the Salem VA Medical Center. It was an extensive examination, first by an optometry intern and then an attending ophthalmologist. They had all kinds of diagnostic apparatus to allow them to not just look at the exterior of my eyes, but also to look deep into those magnificent orbs created by God. I mentioned to the young intern that it must be amazing to observe the extremely complicated design of this gelatinous part of the human body. She told me that she is always amazed at what she sees. I encouraged her to never take for granted that God has designed these intricate and essential parts. How often do I take for granted that when I wake up in the morning I can look at my clock and see what time it is, I can read my Bible, I can see my lovely wife, my daughter, and son-in-love, my five grandchildren, the sunshine and so on, all day long. There are so many things I can focus on during the day that are good and produce thankfulness to my God.  

But along with those positive and good things, there are negative and bad things that come before these marvelous eyes. I’m reminded of the children’s song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See!” I have control of what I allow my eyes to focus on all day long. What I choose to look at, gaze at, lust upon, will result in consequences. Jesus had some words to say about the use of our eyes when He delivered His sermon on the mount in Matthew 6:22-23, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” The context of these verses concerns how we deal with material possessions. The two verses (vs. 19-21) prior to these two verses, warn us to check our hearts. Where our heart is, will determine where we store up our treasures. What do we do with our earthly possessions? Do I make it my goal to be materially rewarded at the expense of being spiritually impoverished? Is my heart in making money or is it in bringing glory to God? Then in verse 24, following the verses about the eye, are verses where Jesus pointedly says that we have to make a choice. We cannot serve God and serve money at the same time. It is an impossibility. There can only be one master, otherwise, it is not a master. Either our master is Jesus or it is money. No joint ownership.

Now, Jesus is not saying that money is evil. All blessings come from the Father, even material wealth (James 1:17). It is “the love of money that is a root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). In verses 19,-24, Jesus is telling us that we need to be careful about what we see. What we allow our eyes to see will affect our actions. The advertising world knows that principle very well. Why do corporations spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl commercials? It is because they know that the way to your heart (and pocketbook) is through your eyes. If they can make their product attractive to your eyes, your heart will desire their product. The Apostle John wrote these words in his first epistle when he was in his later years, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16 NLT) When we focus our eyes on those attractive material treasures, we are deceived into believing that they will bring lasting joy. While it may be sweet initially, the end result is bitterness. 

The human eye provides light to the brain so that it can instruct the body to walk in the light. If something hinders our eyes from seeing what is in front of us, we will stumble and fall. It is like walking into a dark room where you think you know that there is sufficient light to navigate your way. That light you think you have is really darkness which will hide the obstacles in front of you. “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4, NLT). Instead of focusing on those attractive material things which can lead us into darkness, we need to focus our eyes on Jesus, Who is the Light (John 8:12).

Ask yourself these questions. 

1) When I focus on getting more material things, am I ever completely satisfied? 

2) When I fix my eyes on Jesus and His kingdom, am I content? “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11 NLT)

3) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33, NLT)

4) Where do I focus my eyes? Jesus or something else?

 

Bill Olsen, Elder

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