At both our 9am and 10:30am services, we will be celebrating God's goodness to us and honoring God through our giving. The giving will follow a look at Proverbs 3:5-10. In this Proverb full of wisdom, we see two key lessons that benefit the church when we "get it":
James 1:17 says: Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
1 Corinthians 4:7 says: For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
Luke 12:48 says: But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
The theme of these verses is: God is a great giver!!!
For the most part, I was a good kid growing up and, other than a few stupid choices in my life, I've tried to do the right thing. Usually.
While I certainly have known some "prodigals" who went off and wasted their lives with riotous living and debauchery, I was never one of them.
Just as I was getting into the time in my life when I actually could have wandered off, God brought just the right person into my life to keep me on the straight and narrow.
And because of my "doing the right thing" and not going off as a prodigal, I can be a bit pharisaical and judgmental of those who did. I have very little patience for the prodigals of this world who should have known better, but didn't.
This is an exciting time here at West Pines. I echo the words of the Apostle John in 3 John 4:
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
This reference to "children" goes way beyond the biological into the spiritual. The "children" who I love to hear about walking in the truth are my four kids (Jordan, Heidi, Ben, and Kimberlee), but also those whom I've had the privilege of pastoring and mentoring over the years.
This weekend ramps up my "no greater joy" to a mountain-top experience. Why, you ask?
Let me begin with a quote from a recent article titled "Why Is It So Hard To Read My Bible These Days?" It's written by Megan Hill who writes for the Gospel Coalition.
Since March, I've struggled to maintain my daily habit of Bible reading and prayer. Some days, I've happily turned to the next passage in my year-long plan (or asked Alexa to read it to me). Some days, I've slogged through my daily chapters only because I know it's the right thing to do. But, some days, I've skipped altogether.
According to new research, I'm not alone.
A recent study from Barna Group and the American Bible Society reports that daily Bible reading among Americans has dropped during the pandemic, with only 8.5% of the population opening the Scriptures every day compared to 13.7% in 2019. Some of that drop off can probably be attributed to rearranged schedules and the domino chain of additional responsibilities created by the virus. But the data also suggests a correlation between church participation and private Bible reading.
When people engage less with the local church, they engage less with their Bibles.
This past week in my study of the parables, my understanding of heaven and hell has grown.
In the parables of the found treasure and the found pearl, I gained clarity on the wonder of salvation and all that I have found in Jesus. He is the found treasure for me. He is the found pearl of great cost for me. Heaven and salvation and JESUS have been found and I am in awe of their amazing worth.
In the parable of the dragnet of judgment, I gained clarity on the destruction and death in hell for those fish thrown into the furnace of fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell is eternal torment and many will spend eternity there. And that breaks my heart.
And for many, there is no fear of the reality of hell.
This Sunday, September 6, we will be continuing our series on The Parables taught by Jesus, but we will be taking a sharp turn.
Last Sunday, in Matthew 13:44-46, we looked at the value of our salvation. The value of Jesus Christ. This was illustrated for us by the man finding great treasure in the field and the merchant finding a pearl of great value. The point of this teaching of Jesus is that we should have joy in finding Him. We should be "over the moon" excited about our salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, over the moon!!