The Unconquerable Gospel

Clements 20190710 Gospel.pngPaul encouraged the church at Colossae to “be not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard” (Col. 1:23). The saving gospel of Jesus Christ can never fail. It is unconquerable in every place, applicable to every heart, and brings hope for every believer.

The saving gospel of Christ is the only thing that can bring hope of heaven—hope for cleansing—hope of forgiveness—hope for wholeness. Trust in the saving gospel can change your life, as well as your eternity. There is no hope like the hope of the gospel.

However, a false gospel of good works instead of God’s grace, brings defeat instead of hope. In the region of Galatia, within 30 years of Christ’s sacrifice for sins and commission to proclaim the gospel, some people had come, preaching “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). It was a gospel of law-keeping instead of grace-receiving. In clear terms, Paul wrote, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

Paul defined the saving gospel of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. He reminded them that he had proclaimed “the gospel” (verse 1), which was the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (verses 3-4).

The early church preached this good news that God saves, forgives sins, and promises heaven, to everyone who repents and trusts Christ to save them. Whether he is a wicked thief on a cross, a religious Pharisee, or a Gentile jail-keeper, the gospel was the same: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Jesus commissioned His followers to go to the whole world, and proclaim this good news of the gospel to every person (Matt. 24:14: Mark 16:15). The Lord commanded His disciples to “be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The gospel—the good news that Jesus saves—is accompanied by God’s power. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel—this good news that Jesus saves—is God’s power to save all who believe. The gospel itself is the very power of God.

It is for this reason that preaching, sharing and communicating the saving gospel should be the primary purpose of every church and the main message of every life! Paul said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17). Because of it’s exalted place of importance, Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).

The truth is that, if Christians become enamored by other things—if we aim for any other purpose than sharing the gospel—people around us will die without Christ. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord” (2 Cor. 4:3-5).

J. D. Greear, in “Above All,” wrote: “Apart from the gospel, our ingenious life change strategies will lack staying—and saving—power. Apart from the gospel our kindness to the poor will only make people comfortable for a while before they perish eternally. Apart from the gospel, the world we reshape through our politics will be every bit as bad as the one we are trying to reform. Apart from the gospel, self-help strategies will only lead us to pride (if we succeed) or despair (if we fail).”

However, the gospel is unconquerable. Though we may not see people come to faith in Christ as often as we would like, the saving gospel is reaching people everywhere.

Greear also wrote: “Last year more people became Christians than any year to date. More Muslims have converted to Christianity in the last fifteen years than in the entire thirteen hundred years since Islam’s conception. The global South has seen a remarkable increase in evangelical Christianity in the twenty-first century. People are being saved by the thousands in South America, Africa, and Asia. Even in the West, where the numbers of evangelicals are declining, we’re not witnessing the death of true Christianity but of cultural Christianity, which was never gospel Christianity to begin with. And in some of the most difficult places in the Western world, in some of our darkest corners, the church is growing. And thriving.

“We don’t need another Savior.

“We don’t need another focus.

“We don’t need a different power.

“There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“There is one source to which we turn for God’s power.

“His name is Jesus.”

With God’s blessing, let’s follow Paul’s example: “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4).

God Bless America!

Clements 1.jpg

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! Every year on July 4, Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on that date in 1776. Our nation is truly blessed of God!

The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence knew there would be great consequences and loss of life, if America truly gained independence from England. John Hancock stated, “We must be unanimous… we must all hang together…” to which Benjamin Franklin quipped, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

In his research on the Signers of the Declaration of independence, Michael W. Smith noted that seventeen of the 56 signers saw military service in the Revolutionary War, and 9 were killed. Five were captured and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British Navy. He sold his home and property to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was forced to constantly move his family from British pursuit. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken and he died in poverty. The properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge and Middleton were vandalized and looted as well.

The home of Thomas Nelson Jr., was seized by British General Cornwallis and used as his headquarters in Yorktown, Virginia. During the Battle of Yorktown, Nelson quietly urged General George Washington to open fire anyway, destroying his home. Nelson died bankrupt.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year John lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion. Lewis, Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Smith sums it up like this: “Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These signers were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. Their average age was 45. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: ‘For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor’” (www.michaelwsmith.com).

The United States of America is inseparably linked to the God of the Bible, no matter how much revisionist historians seek to sever it, and political correctness to deny it. The Christian roots of our nation’s founding, and biblical quotations of our country’s forefathers are carved in stone, set in glass, and forged in brass, as well as written on parchment.

Principles of character, justice, and soul freedom that America holds dear, came to the early colonies from the English Common Law, which was based squarely on teachings of the Bible. Early in American history, belief in the Bible resulted in concepts of human liberty, social benevolence, and the system of government and education, becoming part of the fiber of our nation. References to the Bible and to the God of the Bible are inscribed on hundreds of America’s founding memorials in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., New York City, and elsewhere across our land.

This week we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, which did just that—it firmly declared the American Colonies independent of—the authority and rule of Great Britain. This historical document states that the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” entitle the American nation of people to a separate and equal station among the powers of the earth.

The Declaration of Independence uniquely contains a theory of rights that depends on God, not man, for its validity. It states that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” With these words the Continental Congress affirmed that the Creator gave people’s rights to them—not a monarch, an aristocracy or a government agency. Most historians agree that this wording—these rights—this statement of legitimacy—has no parallel in human sources. We see in these words a deep affirmation of the religious faith of our founding fathers.

What Thomas Jefferson and the contributors meant in these words were that the liberty God gave to man was not sourced in, or dependent upon, the permission or toleration of any human ruler or sovereign—but flowed directly from God the Creator, Himself. It was for this reason the Declaration stated that governments, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” are established. The result of this truth means that the people have the right, and even more, the obligation, to change or abolish a form of government that becomes autocratic or dictatorial.

In the closing paragraph, the signers appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude” of their intentions. They declared unashamed dependence upon God to validate the justice and righteousness of their cause, and without a doubt, He did! The United States of America came into being because of their commitment to principles of liberty and their reliance upon the God of the Bible.

God gives this great promise:Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12). As Americans, let’s take God’s promise to heart and bring others to saving faith in Jesus Christ. May God continue His blessing on America! Happy Fourth of July!

Be Your Best for Jesus—As a Partner

romans_12_9_sincere_love_subway_art_poster-re19b55da2ab345e2b63b21649d69653c_ku6_8byvr_540.jpg

Self-Help Books are written to instruct readers on solving personal problems. This style of book was popular from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. They qualified as a cultural phenomenon in those days. The idea was, if you want to change or improve some aspect of your personal life, simply follow the steps in a self-help book written about your theme of interest.

These books cover subjects from how to win and influence people… to how to develop good habits… to how to make a million dollars… to how to improve your health… to how to get things done… to how to find the right mate… to how to get physically fit… and so on and on and on.

In some ways, God’s Word, the Bible, is the supreme self-help book, but would probably better be described as the God-Help book. His Word tells you how to be born again and how to live a Christian life. Within its pages are instructions, directions and insights about personal, family, vocational, community, private, public, home, and eternal life.

With this in mind, let me ask, as a Christian, are you doing your best for Jesus? Of all the areas we need to do our best, being our best for Jesus should be a top priority. Here are some thoughts from Romans 12 on how to be your best for Jesus.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans falls into two main divisions. The first 11 chapters deal with theological doctrine, while the final 5 chapters present subjects for practical application. The final section in Romans 12 begins this way: “Therefore I urge you brethren…” (verse 1). It starts with Paul’s exhortations for them, and us, to apply doctrinal truth to real life. It is never enough just to know doctrinal truth. To be affective, learning must be translated into living.

Romans chapter 12 falls into three natural divisions that may be applied like this:

  1. How to be your best for Jesus as a Person (Individually), Romans 12:1-8.
  2. How to be your best for Jesus as a Partner (In the Body), Romans 12:9-16.
  3. How to be your best for Jesus as a Pilgrim (In the World), Romans 12:17-21.

God longs for His children, born-again by personal faith in Christ, to become part of a local church body. The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation, but in participation with other like-minded believers. To go to heaven, you do not have to be a church member—but as a believer—you need to be a church member, because you need others, and they need you. So, Paul wrote: “I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think… for just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (verses 3-4).

In Romans 12:9, Paul gives specific instructions on how to be your best for Jesus: To be your best for Jesus as a Partner:

 1.  You Must Love Others…”Let love be without hypocrisy.”

Loving others is the first duty in the Christian life, and the greatest virtue. Love is the greatest spiritual gift (1 Cor. 13:13). Love is the first of nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Love is the identifying mark of Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). And Love is to be higher than any other duty. “Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Christian love is to be without hypocrisy. The origin of the Greek word “hypocrisy” is rooted in the Greek and Roman theatre. The word described an actor who would hold up different masks during a performance, to show his happiness, anger or sorrow. When applied to life, a hypocrite is one who puts on a face different than the intent of his heart. Paul said Christian love is to be genuine, real and true, without pretense or show.

2.  You Must Hate Evil, “Abhor what is evil.”

Don’t think a Christian should not hate—he should hate—evil! “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Prov. 8:13). The psalmist wrote, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Psalm 97:10). The Christian must hate evil in his own life. Evil in the Christian life is like a malignancy that spreads, if allowed to remain. If we do not hate evil, we will tolerate it, then pity it, and finally embrace it. You cannot flirt with sin and expect it not to affect you. “Abhor” means to despise or hate; to have a horror of evil. The correct way to show our revulsion of evil is by withdrawing from it.

3.  You Must Do Good, “Cling to what is good.”

The word “cling” means to glue together, to join, bond or unite firmly together. We need to stick like glue with “what is good.” Goodness and doing good things should be part of our lives every day. Paul gave the best advice you can heed when he wrote the Thessalonian church to: “Examine everything carefully; Hold fast to that which is good; Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21). Notice this command begins with “examine everything carefully”—which calls for spiritual discernment. Evaluate what you do, where you go, how you think, and determine whether to reject or cling to it.

If you are a believer in Christ, and want to be your best for Jesus (and who doesn’t?)—Love Others Sincerely—Hate Evil Aggressively—and Hold to the Good Tenaciously!

 

 

 

 

BLASTED and BLESSED

2.jpg

Most of us are enamored with success stories. R. G. LeTourneau headed a foundation worth over 40 million dollars, that was established by just keeping 10% of what he made, while giving 90% to the Lord’s work.

However, the road to success, for Robert Gilmore LeTourneau, led through tough times. Before becoming the leading earth moving machinery manufacturer of his day, with plants on four continents and 300 patents to his name, he dropped out of school and began working in a foundry at the age of 14. He held over 40 different jobs before he married, and was in tremendous debt.

LeTourneau, when in his 40’s, began inventing machines to level ground without using men with shovels and mule-drawn plows. He began producing earth-moving equipment and later sold it worldwide. As his business grew, he gave God the credit, and most of the profits.

It seems that everybody wants the product, but nobody wants the process. The truth is that the product comes from the process. You can’t have one without the other. In fact the process prepares and shapes the product. It is for this reason we should keep going and never give up what God has called us to do.

By inspiration, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote: “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me, declares the LORD” (Isa 54:17).

There are many Bible examples of people who kept going in the will of God, even when the way seemed impossible. No person illustrates this truth better than Joseph, one of the sons of Israel. His life pictures the roller coaster of blasting and blessing. He is a great example of tenacity and endurance.

BLASTED…Though God’s hand and future blessing were on Joseph, he seems to be the only one who recognized it. Joseph was his father’s favorite, which caused problems with his ten brothers. God gave Joseph dreams of impending greatness, which further angered his brothers. So, when he was 17 years old, Joseph was beaten up by his brothers, and sold into Egyptian slavery.

BLESSED…Potiphar bought him and for 13 years Joseph worked faithfully as a servant, rising to comptroller of Potiphar’s house. “Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand” (Gen. 39:3).

BLASTED…However, Potiphar’s wife tried to tempt Joseph, and then falsely accused him of attempting to seduce her. Joseph’s response was “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Potiphar believed his wife and had Joseph imprisoned.

BLESSED…Even there, Joseph was faithful to God and “the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper” (Gen. 39:23).

BLASTED…In prison, Joseph interpreted dreams of the Chief Baker and Chief Cupbearer, which came to pass just as predicted (Gen. 40). But after being released, the Chief Cupbearer waited two full years to tell Pharaoh about Joseph (Gen. 41:1-14).

BLESSED…Because of the wisdom God gave Joseph, he correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and then became the second under Pharaoh, leading Egypt, at thirty years of age. After seven years of plenty, the seven years of famine came, which resulted in Joseph’s brothers coming before him. They “bowed down to him with their faces on the ground” (Gen. 42:6). Over twenty years had elapsed; from the time his brothers rejected him, until they bowed before him.

Later, when Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they “could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence” (Gen. 45:3). However, Joseph was not vindictive, recognizing that, through all his pain, deprivation and sorrow, God was working for His glory and Joseph’s good. So, he told his brothers, “do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (verse 5). Again, Joseph said, “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (verse 8).

Joseph had learned—what we need to learn—when facing difficulties doing the will of God. Mark Hall touched this theme when he wrote and sang, “I Will Praise You in the Storm” (Casting Crowns – 2006):

I was sure by now, God You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away, Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

 

As the thunder rolls, I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I am with you”, And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives, And takes away

 

And I’ll praise You in this storm, And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are, No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried, You hold in Your hand

You never left my side, And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

We too, must learn to praise Him in the storm. Paul put it this way: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Godly Fathers—Ungodly Times

2.jpg

Fathers take a beating in the modern media and the entertainment world. In popular culture, dads are often depicted as bumbling, incompetent, disconnected, self-centered men, who are not nearly as important to their children as their mothers. In truth, God designed the family to be led and children to be reared, by a mother and a father. God’s plan for the family is ideal, and cannot be improved. When we alter God’s blueprint, it is not without cost. Frederick Douglass wisely said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

The word, “father” is found more than 1,100 times in Scripture, yet in modern society it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find a father in the home. The U. S. Census Bureau reported 24 million children now live in a home in which the biological father is absent. That is one out of every three children in America (Joe Carter, thegospelcoalition.org).

Despite popular misconceptions, the benefit of fathers being involved in their children’s lives cannot be overestimated. The statistics are both undeniable and surprising. Nationwide statistics from July, 2012 reveal: Children who grow up without a father—comprise 85% of prison convicts; are twice as likely to end up in jail; are twice as likely to drop out of school; comprise 75% of teen suicides; and are 10 times more likely to be drug abusers.

Even Psychology Today agreed on the positive impact of involved fathers. Dr Ditta Oliker wrote (June 23, 2011): “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and as they grow older, have better social connections. Children with involved, caring fathers also have better educational outcomes. The influence of a father’s involvement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents.”

Another surprising stat is related to church attendance. If a mother attends church regularly with her children, but without the father, only 2% of her children will choose to become regular churchgoers as adults. If a father attends church regularly with his children, even without the mother, 44% of his children will choose to become regular churchgoers.

The Bible has much to say about the role of parents, in the upbringing of children. He calls children “a heritage from the LORD” (Psalm 127:3). God makes it clear that they are to be nourished and trained by parents, who then dispense them, like arrows toward a target. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (verse 4). So, “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!” (verse 5).

Deuteronomy 6 is full of instructions for parents in ways to raise godly children. So, as a father, how can you best equip and dispatch your children?

ONE: Fathers Must Love the Lord—“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6).

No matter what you say with your lips, your life speaks louder. Children see through all the words we say, and can discern our values by the choices in our lives. If we want our children to love God, we must love Him first.

If you love God with all your heart, soul and might—it will show in the actions of your life. How has your love for God affected the way you live? Has your life changed as a result of loving God? If a father wants to lead his children in loving God, he himself must truly love God.

Your children want to hear truth from you, but even more, they want to see you living out that truth. Too many times dads say one thing and do another. Children recognize that what you really believe is what you say, and what you do. If you want your children to love and follow God—you must truly love and follow Him.

TWO: Fathers Must Teach their Children—“You shall teach them diligently to your children” (verse 7).

The Hebrew word for “teach” literally means to sharpen, with the idea of piercing your child’s heart and mind with Bible truth. This kind of teaching is active, not passive. To teach your children Bible truth pass it along in understandable ways. You need to be on the lookout for teaching opportunities in everyday life. You need to teach Bible truth with a view to applying it in life.

THREE: Fathers Must Model Truth in Life—You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up” (verse 8).

Notice that Bible truth is to be communicated during the normal activity, in the common places and circumstances of daily life. When children rise and prepare for the day, teach them about God. When you, your wife and children sit at the table for a meal, talk about things of the Lord. When you drive them to school—when you walk through the neighborhood—when you put them to bed at night—pray with and teach them about God. The ideal time to share the truth of God with your children is in the realities and concerns of daily life.

Robert L. Backman nailed it when he said, “‘Father’ is the noblest title a man can be given. It is more than a biological role. It signifies a patriarch, a leader, an exemplar, a confidant, a teacher, a hero, a friend.” Strive to be such a father!

 

 

 

True Treasure

Clements 20160605 Treasure.jpg

The first book I ever read, was “Treasure Island,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. As a twelve-year-old, I was captivated by the swashbuckling pirates, sailing ships and deep mysteries, depicted in this book. The adventures of young Jim Hawkins as he, with treasure map in hand, sailed the sea in search of a buried pirate’s chest, captivated my imagination and longing for excitement.

There is something fascinating about pursuing hidden treasure. The idea of searching for gold, silver, and precious jewels, hidden somewhere, has been the theme of multiplied books, theater, and movies, even until this day. Many are intrigued by the idea of finding something hidden, that will make them rich, in an instant.

In fact, some people spend a lifetime searching for treasure. For many, riches, security, satisfaction, popularity and attaining the good life always reside just out of reach. When the multi-millionaire, John Rockefeller was asked, “How much wealth is enough?” He smiled and said, “Just a little more.”

Even a lifetime of seeming success, striving and accumulating stuff under one mortgage will not satisfy when the end arrives. This is true because there is more to life than possessions. There is more to living than obtaining things. It is not that treasure is unimportant—it is. What matters is the life you live while you travel here and the destination at which you aim. So, what makes the difference?

The location of your wealth is what matters most. Jesus had a lot to say about wealth, riches and treasure. It may surprise you to know that Jesus spoke more about money than He did about heaven. The key to accumulating treasure and wealth that pleases God is the location of it. The Lord said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). Treasures here are precarious and perishable—treasures there are precious and permanent.

Then Jesus told us why this is so important: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (verse 21). Jesus knows our nature: If your treasure is on earth, your heart will be here; but if your treasure is in Heaven, your heart will be there. Your treasure is what you value most. And the Lord desires our hearts and riches to be heavenly and fruitful, not earthly and barren.

In the story of the rich farmer, Jesus warned the worldly wealthy that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). The thrust of the parable reveals the foolishness of any man who, “stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (verse 21).

So—How can you lay up treasure in Heaven? How can a person be rich toward God? The Bible points out at least four ways.

ONE: Live in fear of the Lord. Live a life of reverence, respect and godly fear. “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it” (Proverbs 15:16). You are better off to reverence God in poverty, than to possess great earthly treasure and not to fear Him.

TWO: Give to the needs of others as you follow Jesus. One day a young man came to Jesus, desiring to be a disciple. Mark records that Jesus loved this rich young ruler and said, “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (Mark 10:21). That man foolishly refused the Lord’s request. But from the Lord’s words we learn that treasure is deposited in Heaven when we give without hope of gain, take up the cross and sincerely follow Christ.

THREE: Tithe and give to the Lord’s work down here. Giving of our income to our church, missionaries and others in God’s work, is like investing treasure. Paul wrote, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Giving is returning to God a portion of what He allows us to receive. When we give, God gives, for Paul continues: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (verse 8).

FOUR: Sacrificially live for Christ. Willingly give up things for the cause of Christ, and you will be rewarded in Heaven. Moses is a great example: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Hebrews 11:24-27). His choice to sacrifice comfort to follow the Lord meant Moses will be rewarded in Heaven. And so will you!

The Bible is clear; when the child of God lives in these ways he or she will lay up treasure in Heaven, and be rich toward God.

SO: Where is your treasure? Are you rich toward God or toward men? Why not begin daily deposits in the Bank of Heaven? God pays great interest and His rewards last forever!

No Greater Love

Clements 20190529.jpgHow often have you sung, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come”—and had no idea what you were singing? Those words are from the second verse of the hymn “Come Thou Fount” written by Robert Robinson in 1758. They were meant to remind the singers that God was a God of help in their time of need.

The original meaning of the songwriter is rooted in a biblical incident during the early history of Israel. The nation of Israel battled long with the Philistine inhabitants of the land during the times of Samuel, King Saul and King David. The Israelite army had sought to use the Ark of the Covenant as a lucky charm, and lost it to the Philistines as recorded in 1 Samuel 4.

Later God brought a great victory over the Philistines. To commemorate the victory and honor God, the prophet Samuel took a great stone and raised it as a memorial. He “named it Ebenezer, saying ‘Thus far the LORDhas helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). Generations later, when the Israelites saw this “Stone of Help,” it would remind them that their God, who had been present to help them, would also help them in the future. So, through his lyrics, Robinson wanted singers to remember, and not forget, what God had done in their lives.

Memorials are good things. When we see them, they trigger memories of love, value, gratefulness and appreciation. This is the reason for headstones in cemeteries, statues in parks, memorial plaques and monuments across our land. Every memorial shouts out: “Remember Me! Don’t Forget Me! Consider Our Cause!”

This week, in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day—A day when we pause to remember the men and women who have given their lives in defense of our nation and way of life. It should provoke thoughts of thankfulness and gratefulness. It is a time to remember the great sacrifice of our fallen soldiers. It reminds us how precious freedom is, and that it needs to be guarded closely.

However, we are prone to forget the significance of Memorial Day.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.” Let’s not forget that freedom is never free.

Robert A. Heinlein reminds us that: “Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”

Memorial Day reminds me of two things. On one hand, it’s about remembering the price of our freedom.  It is recalling the cost paid to secure our way of life in liberty. The very most a person can do for his friend is to die for him – a clear demonstration of supreme love. But Memorial Day also reminds me of the greatest cost ever given by any man to bring freedom to others. It is a day to recall the immense price Jesus paid to free us from the death penalty of our sins and to grant soul liberty, salvation and eternal life.

Jesus spoke of this great love in John 15:13 when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” The “greater love” is shown, not discussed—but displayed—becoming visible when one willingly gives his life for another.  This is the kind of love Jesus has for each one of us.  Jesus demonstrated His love by giving His life a sacrifice “for his friends” – literally in behalf of his friends, or in the place of his friends.

The Lord’s love for us was immeasurable.  His compassion for our condemned condition was so strong, that, “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

As Peter wrote, this sacrifice Jesus made, this death He died for us, was so He could, “bring us to God.” His atoning death was able to please the holy and righteous demands of God because “Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).

My son, Timothy (1997 graduate of Monticello High School), is a Staff Sergeant currently deployed with the 1stBattalion, 3rdMarine Corps Regiment. He posted this on Facebook today: “This Memorial holiday we pause to remember those loved ones we have lost, who served. Being the greatest country on the planet requires the greatest sacrifice, many times to the detriment of our family and friends. But as Americans, we have always stepped up and taken it on the cheek. That’s why we celebrate Memorial Day—to remember those who served who are no longer with us. So if you have lost someone who served – from my family to yours – we THANK YOU for their service, and we HONOR their sacrifice. The remembrance of their sacrifice is special because it reflects the greatest kind of love there is…the love of God #nogreaterlove, #john1513, #gonebutneverforgotten.”

On this Memorial Day, remember those who paid the ultimate cost, giving their lives for your national freedom. And rejoice and trust in the One who gave His life for your spiritual freedom. Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).  And freedom in Christ is the greatest freedom the world has ever seen.