Tag Archives: East Tennessee

A New Beginning

All of a sudden I looked up and it’s December 29th. Only a couple more days and it’ll be a new year. Time to make new years resoloutions. You know what they are don’t you. For most of us they are empty declarations that we will be better in the new year than we were in the last.

It’d be great if a new day on the calendar is all that it took to change my bad habits. To be honest, I’ve had them most of my life and getting rid of them takes more than a new day on the calendar.

I’m so glad that God doesn’t make me wait until a certain day of the year to get a new beginning. His word tells that His mercies are new every day.

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22

Happy New Year!

Where’s your heart?

In the last post I shared how that my understanding of Matthew 6:22-23 had been made clear to me as I was reading a couple of weeks ago.

For this post I’d like to think about the 21st verse. This verse reads easy and it’s one that we usually read quickly and then move on. But it’s really a verse that we should stop and think about what Jesus said.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 
Matthew 6:21 NKJV 
https://bible.com/bible/114/mat.6.21.NKJV

At first glance, I thought it was written backwards. Lots of people have suggested that the way to happiness is to follow your heart. We’ve all heard the phrase “to thine own heart be true.” Sometimes when I’ve been trying to make an important decision, I’ve been advised to trust my heart, that it’ll show me the way. So it almost makes sense if it read that where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. You know, follow your heart to wealth, peace, happiness and the good life. But that’s looking at it through earthly eyes. And don’t forget that the scriptures teach us that our heart can’t be trusted. Jeremiah 17:19 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? (KJV) Then later in Roman’s, we learn that there is none righteous, none that seek God. If we aren’t careful we end up spending our time trying to live a good life when what we should be aiming at is living a Godly life. So I am sure it’s not written backwards and it’s written just as it should be.

If I read this as it’s written, and then mediate on it as I should, here’s how it goes. First I have to ask what is it that I really treasure? I remember years ago a preacher said that he could look at anyone’s check book and tell you what that person really thought of God. That one hurt some as you realized that he was saying that what you spent your money on would clearly show what was important to you. And not just money but what about your time, your skills or talents? Jesus was saying that whatever you treasure, or whatever is important to you, if you will take the time to look you’ll see that your heart is there also. I’m amazed that we can be physically present in a church service, but in our mind/ heart we can be miles away. Or we can be troubled in our heart and not be where we need to be. That can happen when we read verses like this and just move on without really thinking about what we’ve read.

God has grown me quite a bit during my life. I used to try to live with one foot in heaven and one on this earth. I was saved and on my way to heaven, but I also felt like I had a life to live here, before I went to heaven. Often my church or Christian life would interfere with my earthly life forcing me to make a choice between the heavenly thing or the earthly thing. In reality it was a choice between what God wanted me to do and what I wanted to do. Mostly simple things like a ball game vs Church service, or going to visit the sick vs going for a ride on my motorcycle. Or maybe whether I should tithe or buy more camera equipment. Then God started using verses like this one that would ask “where’s your heart”? What do you treasure most? Earthly things or working for eternal rewards in heaven?

In the end I had to change my treasure so that my heart would be in the right place. That involves being heavenly minded and focused on serving God and others and not myself. And changing my treasure from what I want to what God wants. I’ve been trying to lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth like Jesus advised. I’m not perfect and I can still make bad decisions sometimes but by the grace of God those times are getting farther apart.

Have a great day and know that Jesus treasured us so much that he came to earth, lived a totally sin free life, and died on the cross for our sins.

Good Eye- Bad Eye

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23 NKJV

Often in our journey through the Bible, we read scriptures that aren’t really clear in what they are saying. We try our best to understand what God is saying but it just doesn’t jump off the page and into your heart. Then one day you will be reading and suddenly it jumps off the page and it clears up lots of questions that you had. That was my experience a couple of weeks ago with the verses above. I was reading a different translation than I normally read and this changed the way I understood these verses.

For a long time if you asked me about the good eye vs the bad eye I would have said something like this. The good eye belongs to someone who is focused on God and is keeping their life focused on God’s word and living a life that is pleasing to God. By living life focused on God their whole body is full of light and this enables them to give God the proper place in their life. They find joy by serving God and serving others. On the other hand, if your eye is bad, you are living a life that is focused on yourself. Not caring about God or the life He wants you to live. This person is mostly interested in their own life and not looking to God for instruction or direction in life. This is completely opposite so this results in their body and life being filled with darkness.

One way to understand scripture is looking at the verses around the one that you are trying to understand. In this case, verses 19-21 deal with the difference between storing up treasures on earth and laying up treasures in heaven. They remind us that earthly treasures can be destroyed over time or even stolen. Heavenly treasures though are not vulnerable to rust or being stolen. Then we are reminded that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Basically this is a warning about how we use our money. Do we spend it on earthly things or heavenly things? I’ve often said that whenever I give to the church or someone in need, I’ve also made a heavenly deposit that will be stored in heaven to my future rewards.

Then in verse 24, which is after the verses above, we are told that we can not serve two masters because we will hate one and love the other or we will be loyal to the one and despise the other. The verse ends telling us we cannot serve God and mammon, or money.

So there you have it. Nestled between verses that deal with money we find these verses about the good eye and the bad eye. Sometimes this happens to me and I find a verse that seems out of place. That was the case with these as I didn’t really catch the connection between the eyes and money. That is until a couple of weeks ago. I was reading a new to me translation. The Complete Jewish Study Bible. I usually read the New King James Version, but I like to read other translations as they will sometimes help me get a clearer view of what I’m reading. That’s what happened when these verses got really clear to me.

I was reading in Matthew chapter 6 and when I came to the “eye” verses, this translation described the good as generous and the bad as stingy. And suddenly everything fit together perfectly. The eye verses were dealing with money also and they were right where they belonged. I had never thought of generous as “good eye” or stingy as a “bad eye”. According to a side note in the study Bible, this was a Jewish saying that was popular during the time Jesus was on the earth. A rabbi might say , “if a person gives a gift, let him give it with a good eye, ” meaning give it generously. I never got that until I was fortunate enough to read this translation.

I guess now would be a good time to confess that I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box, but with God’s help, I’m still learning. Somehow I had never seen generous or stingy in the verses. But I’m glad that God has shown this to me. It’s so much clearer now than it was. It has made me look at my own giving and question if my giving lives up to what God wants us to do. I want my body and life to be full of light and to be a blessing to God.

In fact I began to think about a biblical definition of generous and it didn’t take long to realize that the gift God gave was the most generous gift of all.

For God so loved the world that He gave His  only begotten Son,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.    John 3:16. NKJV

Why Won’t They See

For a while now I have had a thought rolling around in my head. And I’ve been trying to figure out this thought and what I should do with it. So here goes. Short answer is that I need to pray for friends and family and trust God to cover the details. Long answer is below.

You know how you share the gospel with friends and family and they don’t respond? They just choose to stay where they are and seem like they are happy there. I’ve been wondering why that certain people won’t follow the gospel. Or for that matter, why won’t they follow me. After all, I’m a pretty good fellow. Anyway, that’s my thought. I’ve been wondering why you sometimes see no response when you have shared the gospel and what God has done for you.

Looking into the scriptures, you can find the answer to this question. And it’s a really good answer from Jesus personally.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 

John 3:19-20

Basically, they are happy with their lives and the way they live, so they won’t change. They don’t want interference into their lives and choices. I remember a friend that I would sometimes share the gospel with. He told me I was scaring him when I talked about heaven and hell. We both liked to ride motorcycles so I asked him this question. What if we were riding our bikes and I looked over and saw that the wheel nut was loose on his front tire. If I started yelling pull over, would I be trying to scare him or save his life? He quickly said if I could make him see the danger of a loose wheel nut, he would pull over and thank me for saving his life. But what if he is really enjoying the ride and he just tunes me out and rides on down the road. He won’t listen to the warning or see the danger that’s coming.

Doesn’t that describe some people that you know. People that get content with their life and just cruise on down the road unaware of any signs of danger. They have made choices that make them happy and they are just cruising along without a care in the world. Maybe they think that they have done enough good works for God to take care of them. I know some that believe that God is so good, He would never pass judgement on them. And some think that the goal is to make sure that your good works outweigh your bad works. They think that somehow this will impress God. I’m figuring out, and sometimes remembering, why they won’t come to God.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had this thought in my head and it’s taken me on a journey through the scriptures. I’ve looked at predestination, election, free will and other things that can make you cross eyed as you ponder the details. While looking for the answers though, I had forgotten a basic thing in my own life. And today a friend, Nicki Woodfin, posted on her blog something that helped me remember.

Due to events in my life, (more about these events later) I have spent some time in my own desert wandering much like the children of Israel. I was dealing (not very well) with things and was guilty of finding my own way in life. I had questions that seemed to be bigger than life itself. I was finding my own answers to my questions and problems and leaning on my own strength to make it through. And, for a while, I was content with my life. But God began dealing with me on the issues in my life. I didn’t like the way he was dealing with me either and as a result I didn’t make immediate changes in my life. I tried to justify what I was doing and how that it all seemed to be good for me.

I had forgotten how that I too was blinded by the cares and troubles of this world. I remember now how that I had hurt so much, all I wanted to do was not hurt anymore, So I tried to make a world that protected me and would allow me to have pleasure without worry or hurt. It didn’t work of course, but I was determined. Not smart, but determined. Then God began to draw me back to Him. I fought him along the way, but eventually God won out. I’m so thankful for that.

Simply put, all that time thinking led me back to remembering how far that I drifted from God and that it is always God who draws us. In my zeal to live life without pain and full of pleasure (which is impossible), I was not looking for God. But God had another plan and he wasn’t finished with me. I’m sure there were people praying for me to get my life together. Praying for me to trust God instead of my own strength.

So, with that thought in mind, I’m reminded that I need to pray for family and friends who don’t seem to respond and I need to trust that God is already on the case. In fact, He wants to save them way more than I do. After all, He gave his one and only son as a sacrifice so that we could be saved!

Have a great day and know that God loves us much more than we ever realize. His desire for us in not to have a comfortable life, but to be able to find comfort through Him and His word.

Old Barns

A little blue sky, a little green field, a small patch of woods and an old barn.

When I first saw this old barn, the first thing I thought was that it was just an old barn. There was nothing that really grabbed my attention except for the fact that it was standing all alone, surrounded by the trees. I liked the way the boards had been angled on the walls and the red tin roof served to make it all complete. So I decided to capture the shot if, for no other reason, just to have the photo. It really didn’t strike me as something special.

But then, a while later, I was going through the photos on my computer and found the old barn. I started to look at it and did a little editing to help bring out some of the colors. Then it was cropped to help the composition. And before I knew it, I had a photo that I wanted on the wall of my house. I ended up ordering it in a 16×20 metallic paper print that makes all the detail and color pop. And it’s really pleasing to me when I view it. Just looking at the print brings joy to my heart.

Different barn, same day

This second barn was just down the road a little way from the other barn. I liked the way this one also sat at the edge of a small patch of woods and the way the tree branches hung down from where I was standing. Again, there was nothing about this shot that really grabbed your attention, but I liked it so I took it and went on my way.

Then, just like the other barn photo, I did some editing. First I added some detail, did some cropping and made a few adjustments to the lighting and after some editing, I found another pic of an old barn that I really liked. This one is different due to the look that the increased details added, but I think its got a good look. It pleases me and that’s what I was after.

Both of these photos lived in my computer for a while. The basics of the photos were there but they needed some work to really make them pleasing to me. In a way, my walk with God has been like that. I wasn’t perfect and was a long way from fitting the description of Christian. But over time, God has edited me. He’s removed some things, He’s added other things and has brought me out of things that were harmful. God has also taken care of me during sickness and He even delivered me from what the doctors thought was certain death. And He has not only delivered me that time but He has protected me so many times even when I didn’t know I needed protection. In other words, He has kept me and He has been so very faithful.

But still, I’m not perfect and there are things in my life that need some work. But I know that God will keep and sustain me. He has promised that He would never leave me nor forsake me. And sometime in the future, God will look at me and decide I’m a finished work. Then He’ll take me home to live forever with Him in heaven.

Now, isn’t that a most wonderful thought?