Sun, 30 June 2019
Long ago Egypt was a world power. The rulers of that ancient land had immense wealth. At their deaths, every effort was made to take their possessions with them into eternity. Huge pyramids and mausoleums were built and stocked with riches and supplies.
But as the centuries slipped by, grave robbers desecrated these sites. Some 60 years before the time of Christ, a Greek author named Diodorus Siculus visited the tombs of the Valley of the Kings [slide]. He wrote, “We found nothing there except the results of pillage and destruction.” The pharaohs had not taken their riches with them; thieves had broken in and stolen their treasures.
It was then a tremendous surprise when, in 1922, an expedition uncovered the long-lost tomb of a boy ruler—King Tut [slide]. For some 3,000 years his resting place was undisturbed. What did the archeologists discover upon entry? In actuality, Tut had taken nothing with him into eternity. Everything was still there—oils, perfumes, toys from his childhood, precious jewelry, statues of gold and ivory—thousands of items. In all, the appraisal of the treasures of his tomb are at three-quarters of a billion dollars. His solid-gold coffin alone is estimated to be worth $13 million!
One stark lesson we can learn from the pyramids is that you can’t take your treasures with you. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that, while we can’t take our treasures with us, we can send them on ahead! He said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
This will be our focus on Sunday at Istrouma as we continue learning from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Join us!
“Treasure Your Treasure”
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustdestroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also(6:19-21).
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness(6:22-23).
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money(6:24).
Sun, 23 June 2019
One of the greatest atrocities of World War II occurred in the Russian metropolis of Leningrad. The Nazi army besieged the massive city cutting off supply routes. “Leningrad must die of starvation,” Hitler declared in a speech at Munich on November 8, 1941. Estimates are that more than 1.5 million people starved to death across the 900 days of the siege for lack of adequate food.
One group of Russians who starved was particularly noteworthy. They were botanists and scientists who worked in a seed bank called the “Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry.” They barricaded themselves in the vaults of that facility with rooms full of rice, corn, oates, and potatoes. They did so to protect the “seeds” from the hungry citizens and marauding Germans. They had the food resources to live at their fingertips but died of starvation.
I suppose you would class it a heroic tragedy. It was heroic that they died to preserve seeds for a better day; but it was tragic that they died unnecessarily. They had untapped resources within reach.
Could it be that we have all the resources that we need within reach, yet suffer for lack of them? Absolutely! Prayer is such a resource! It puts heaven’s supplies at our disposal but so often we do not take advantage of them. We do not pray as we ought! Someone has rightly said, “Nothing is outside the reach of prayer except that which is outside the will of God.”
Jesus wants us to avail ourselves of heaven’s supplies. God forbid that we fail to have what is needed because we have failed to pray. What a tragedy that would be!
This Sunday morning we will look at a “primer on prayer” as Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:5-15. Join us at Istrouma!
“A Primer on Prayer”
Sun, 16 June 2019
In August of 2013, a zoo in China temporarily closed because of an unusual complaint. Visitors discovered that the zoo's “lion” was, in reality, a dog posing as a lion. According to a report in a Beijing newspaper, the fraud came to light when a mother and her young son visited the zoo and the animal, labeled as an "African lion," starting barking.
Zoo keepers later admitted that the so-called lion was actually a Tibetan mastiff, which is a large dog with a furry, brown coat. The outraged mother said, “The zoo is absolutely cheating us . . . I paid good money for the tickets and I feel defrauded.”
The people were disappointed. They were swindled because things were not as advertised.
It is disappointing when things are not as they appear. That kind of discrepancy can raise its ugly head in our lives and in the church. There’s a name for that. Hypocrisy. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls for a halt to the hypocrisy. No more play-acting.
This will be our theme this weekend as we dive into Matthew 6:1-18. Join us Sunday at Istrouma!
Sun, 9 June 2019
Baseball is a game of statistics. Baseball fans love them. They chart everything—batting percentage, home runs, strike outs, and the list goes on.
From this mountain of statistics, we learn that certain achievements are rare. For example, it is rare when a team executes a triple play (718). It is rare when a batter hits for the cycle in a game (325). Those feats are roundly celebrated. But among the rarest of achievements in America’s pastime is when a pitcher throws a “perfect game.” This is when a pitcher is able to get every batter out in a nine-inning game. He faces 27 batters and sits them all down with no hits, no walks, and no errors.
Baseball has been played professionally for about 145 seasons. There have been over 217,000 games contested. Of those, only 23 have been “perfect.” If my calculations are correct, that is 0.0001 percent of the time.
“Perfection” in baseball is rare. Perfection in life is rarer still. Of the billions of people who’ve lived on earth, only one has been perfect.
The amazing thing is that the Perfect One—the Lord Jesus—sees all our errors and loves us still. He is willing to go to the record books and blot out our errors and credit his stats to us. Now that is something to celebrate!
Join us Sunday at Istrouma to do just that as we continue our walk through the Sermon on the Mount!
Sun, 2 June 2019
Melissa Brunning was on a multi-day cruise off the coast of western Australia. One day several participants on the cruise decided to hand-feed some sharks that were spotted in the waters near their boat.
Video footage shows her offering bait to a passing tawny nurse shark (which looks to be about 7 feet long). The shark ends up taking the bait--and her hand with it. It actually pulls her in the water which is croc-infested!
Thankfully, her friends are able pull her back to safety. After medical treatment, including surgery, she is expected to fully recover.
To her credit she points the finger of blame at herself. She says that she didn’t respect the shark sufficiently and will never again be guilty of that. When fully grown nurse sharks have about 30 rows of teeth in the upper jaw and nearly that many in the lower jaw.
There are some things with which you shouldn’t toy. Sharks belong on that list. Snakes belong on that list. Sin belongs on that list. There are passing temptations that will, if you reach out to them, drag you into infested waters.
Jesus knew this full well. He addressed this in a pointed way in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus points out the seriousness of sexual sin and ways to combat it. Join us this Sunday at Istrouma as we dive into this topic.
“Don’t Feed the Sharks!”
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery”(5:27).
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (5:28).
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (5:29-32).