Reflection – 15 November 2020


Here’s Martin Frost’s reflection for Sunday 15 November.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. Martin will be leading worship this week .

If you want to join via Zoom in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for log in details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

London Road Congregational Church Reflection 15/11 – Where’s your treasure?

Call to Worship:

O Lord, our Lord
there are many places we could go this morning,
but we desire to meet with you.
There are many concerns that could drive us away,
but we bring them to you.
For you are great and you are good,
You are worthy of praise and worthy of trust
You overcome sin and death
Trounce evil and make all things new
O, Lord, we turn to you.
O, Lord, we sing to you!

Confession

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against You
in thought, word, and deed,
by seeking lesser treasure
and being dulled by the darkness.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
Because of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us, and forgive us, O Lord;
that we may treasure your Son, and walk in your light, that your kingdom come, and your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven,
through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Hymn: Take My Life and Let it Be.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise


Take my hands and let them move
A the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee


Take my silver and my gold
Not a might would I withhold
Take my intellect and use
Every power as You choose

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne


Take my love, my Lord I pour
At Your feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee

Here am I, all of me
Take my life, it’s all for Thee

Prayers & Lord’s Prayer

Readings:

God’s Provision – Genesis 41:25-36

Joseph said to the king, “The two dreams mean the same thing; God has told you what he is going to do. The seven fat cows are seven years, and the seven full heads of grain are also seven years; they have the same meaning. The seven thin cows which came up later and the seven thin heads of grain scorched by the desert wind are seven years of famine. It is just as I told you—God has shown you what he is going to do. There will be seven years of great plenty in all the land of Egypt. After that, there will be seven years of famine, and all the good years will be forgotten, because the famine will ruin the country. The time of plenty will be entirely forgotten, because the famine which follows will be so terrible. The repetition of your dream means that the matter is fixed by God and that he will make it happen in the near future.

“Now you should choose some man with wisdom and insight and put him in charge of the country. You must also appoint other officials and take a fifth of the crops during the seven years of plenty. Order them to collect all the food during the good years that are coming, and give them authority to store up grain in the cities and guard it. The food will be a reserve supply for the country during the seven years of famine which are going to come on Egypt. In this way the people will not starve.”

Heavenly Treasures

2 Cor. 4:16-18; 

For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.

1 Pet. 1:17-21; 2:11

 You call him Father, when you pray to God, who judges all people by the same standard, according to what each one has done; so then, spend the rest of your lives here on earth in reverence for him. For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of life handed down by your ancestors. It was not something that can be destroyed, such as silver or gold; it was the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw. He had been chosen by God before the creation of the world and was revealed in these last days for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from death and gave him glory; and so your faith and hope are fixed on God.

 I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul.

Phil. 4:10-13.

In my life in union with the Lord it is a great joy to me that after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me. I don’t mean that you had stopped caring for me—you just had no chance to show it. And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.

Reflection: Where’s your treasure?

The more I read the Bible at the moment the more I see how my life in God is all about whether I am willing to trust him. It started in Genesis with whether I will trust what he says, I’ve read in Job about whether I will trust God’s dealing with me in the past or just accuse him of deserting me when things feel hard. The beatitudes have been, to an extend about whether I will trust my life to God and commit to him wholly. I could have felt condemned on many occasions about falling short of what God wants – and I am not shirking from the challenge – but I also am aware that when God points out my failings, he is not saying how much I have fallen short but pointing to the fact that what he wants from me is not immeasurable. This is my last reflection on the beatitudes and so I suppose it is fitting that this passage is asking me where I am going to put my trust, in stuff or God. What I will set as my goal for my life can be seen in what I value and what I worry about. To be a citizen in the kingdom of God, to live the Beatitudes is shown by the answers to these two questions

My passage for today divides into five parts; vv19-21; 22f; 24; 25-33; 34. All of these apart from the last verse can be found in Luke, whilst not in the same order, and show a common source. Matthew’s theme is that true loyalty, or trust, in God excludes any rival; in particular any material comfort or security.

Vv19-21 challenges us to question whether we put our trust in earthly or heavenly treasures. It is not discounting the value of earthly things as all things are created and given by God, but on what are you going to rely.  Earthly things are perishable, either by worm, rust or thief. Not only that but the expectation that such things will perish highlight the folly of someone who relies on such things. Heavenly riches focus on the blessings of God. And they do not perish. To lay up heavenly treasures means to use your God given potential as a good steward of the manifold grace of God. To store treasures in heaven requires earthly time and commitment of our lives to new values and priorities. God has entrusted each of us with a five-fold stewardship, five key assets, for which we are responsible before God during our stay here on earth. These five are:

  • TIME (it takes earthly time to store up heavenly treasure),
  • TALENTS (gifts and abilities),
  • TREASURES (earthly wealth, money, things, etc.),
  • TEMPLE (the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit), and
  • TRUTH (the gospel).

What we see as most important will be that which we focus our efforts – our hearts.

V22f is a parable which Matthew places here to remind us that to be able to discern where we are placing our priorities, we need to have a clear (single) vision. The reference to an eye is not the physical eye but our focus. The eye that is evil is focused on earthly things, as compared to the use of the word to denote generosity of James 1:5. If our loyalties are divided, we no longer have a clear, single, vision and that can be dangerous.

V24 then puts these previous verses in context. Loyalty: a servant cannot serve two masters and we cannot truly serve mammon and God. A double minded person will inevitably serve mammon (Jas i.8) whereas a single focused person will Give God their full attention.  Again, as an aside, the use of the comparison between hating one and loving the other is the same as Luke 14:26 where it speaks about hating your family and following Jesus. The Hebrew idiom refers to absolute and partial commitment. It means, ‘love less than’. It then reemphasises this by saying that you must be loyal to one and disregard the other (not necessarily despise). We have to make a choice.

VV25-34 warns against worry over material things. Worry shows that we have mistaken our real need as physical. Where are our priorities. We are concerned about food when our focus should be our life, our concern should be our body and our focus has moved to clothes. If God is the source of the former, surely he will provide the latter. There is a difference between being aware of concerns and worry. The former can be a part of good stewardship, the second is a form of distrust in God and will result in being distracted from faithfully doing His will. If our allegiance to God is absolute, why do we need to worry? The birds are free from anxiety and in addition to this Matthew points out that anxiety is futile. Worry cannot extend or improve our lives. Science has shown that anxiety does quite the opposite – it just seems longer. If God is willing to adorn nature with such beauty, which lasts only a short time, how much more will be provide for us. Anxiety reveals our lack of trust in God to provide and in that our small and passing faith. We should priorities God, His kingdom now and in doing that God will provide us with those secondary needs.  We saw in the Lord’s prayer that is seeking God we ask for our daily bread to be given and trust in Him to provide.

v.34 also points out that worry has another sting. Often our anxiety about an unknown future can paralyse us from functioning today. Matthew – and Luke doesn’t – reminds us that our hypothetical anxiety for tomorrow holds us back from the real challenges of today.

So my questions to leave with you today:

  1. What is, if anything, your distraction – doesn’t have to be wealth?
  2. How good is your focus?
  3. Does your level of anxiety about things show you need to ask for grace to be able to trust God more as you focus on Him?

Prayer:

God of hope and shadow, you have called us to turn from sin, and turn again to you. 
You ask us to follow our hearts, to stop putting our treasure into that which does not give life. 

Forgive us when we fall short of that better way. Forgive us when we seek what will satisfy for a moment, only to leave us hungry again. Forgive us when we store up treasure for tomorrow, while our neighbours are in need today. 

May our lives be the sign of your love for one another; may the work of our hands bear your mercy to a friend in need, or a stranger who’s hurting. 

Teach us to carry such a love with us each day. Show us what it is to put the treasure of our being into the very heart of you. All that we have, and all that we are is yours, Lord. Give us the courage to speak that truth with our lives. Amen. 

Hymn: All That I Am

 

 

Take every treasure, take this life

Everything’s on the altar now
No holding back, no holding out
In view of Your matchless sacrifice
Take every treasure, take this life

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are
You’re the pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are

Ooh-ooh, whoa-oh
Ooh-ooh, whoa-oh

Selfish ambition and my pride
I’m giving up, I’m letting die
In these empty hands I have it all, have it all
The pure joy of knowing You, my Lord

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are
You’re the pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are

It’s only in surrender that I’m free
It’s only in surrender that I’m truly free
It’s only in surrender that I’m free
(All I am is Yours, my Lord)
It’s only in surrender that I’m truly free

I am free
I am free indeed
I am free
I am free indeed

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are
You’re the pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are

Grace

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