Treasure Hunting

Connecting Points

Friday, July 20, 2012

Today’s Topic: Treasure Hunters

Today’s Text:  Proverbs 2:1-11 (NLT)
My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. 8 He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. 9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. 11 Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.

In 1974 I worked at a small town grocery store in North Dakota. My boss had just bought the store from the previous owner. Inside the store was a huge safe that we were told had not been opened for years. We were told we could have whatever we found if we could get it open. The day came when I was assigned the task of opening the safe.

I was captivated by the possibilities of what was inside. What kind of treasure would I find if I could somehow get it open? I didn’t want to destroy anything that was inside, so I planned carefully how I would break into this massive safe.

I started by trying to figure out the combination. I put my ear to the door and slowly turned the dial as I listened for clicks, just like I had seen in the movies. It didn’t work. I guess you really do need a stethoscope. Then I dried drilling holes near the dial in hopes that I could find the tumblers and align them so the lock would release. That didn’t work either. The only other option was demolition, so I headed home to get a sledgehammer and pry bar.

After several hours of work I succeeded in working my way under the corner seam to peel back a small section of the 1/8 inch thick metal casing of the safe, only to discover three inches of concrete. After a couple more hours of peeling back metal and chipping out concrete, I had to pry apart the metal protecting the inside of the safe.

Finally I was in. I had removed one side of this five-foot tall safe to discover what treasure was inside. At first it looked like our efforts were wasted, as all we found were old business records. But then, in one small drawer at the top of the safe, was a small black bag. Inside were two twenty-dollar gold pieces from the 1800’s. They were incredibly valuable. I’m sure my eyes popped out of my head when I saw them. I immediately gave them to my boss, and he said I could have them for all the work I did. I rushed home after work to find a safe place to keep them.

My first real treasure hunt had yielded a huge bounty. But it was short-lived. Several days later the previous owner of the store stopped in and asked if we had gotten the safe opened. I showed him the opened safe, and he immediately looked in the little drawer and asked if we had found two gold pieces. I said yes, and he asked for them back, denying that he had ever said we could have the contents of the safe if we got it opened.

I immediately went home and returned the treasure to the previous owner. No thanks. No reward. Just the satisfaction in my heart that I had done the right thing. Honestly, it took a while for the reward of righteousness to overcome the disappointment, but it eventually did. It’s hard to look for treasure and never find it, but it’s harder still to find it and then have it taken away.

But there is a treasure that will never be taken away. It is worth all the effort you put into finding it. It is the treasure of wisdom. Stop right now and go back and really read Proverbs 2:1-11. Come on – there’s treasure there.

To those who seek wisdom like treasure the Lord will grant it. It will become the permanent shield of those who walk with integrity. With God’s wisdom comes understanding of righteousness, justice, and fairness. Those who walk in God’s wisdom find the right way to go and will be kept safe. There is eternal joy for the one who seeks wisdom like a treasure.

We spend literally hours every day digging for treasures that will never satisfy – success, recognition, financial security, and recreation. We invest hours in fulfilling our own dreams and the dreams of our children. We believe we and our kids are entitled to experience all that this life has to offer. We even sacrifice our service to the Lord for the sake of fulfilling our earthly dreams. We have chosen where to look for treasure, and unfortunately what we will find is no treasure at all.

I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus who said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He even told two stories about it.  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

So here’s my challenge for you – let wisdom begin in your life by choosing to hunt for treasure in the right place. May today be the day you begin your treasure hunt for God’s wisdom. May there be nothing in the world that requires more of your time or energy than the pursuit of the heart of God.

Pastor John

Where Do We Begin?

Connecting Points

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today’s Topic: Let the Teaching Begin

Today’s Text:  Proverbs 1:10 (NIV)  My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.

Do you remember the first conversation you ever had with your father? I don’t. Even if I eliminate the early years prior to the age of five, I still can’t remember a conversation of any real significance. I’m sure there were some because of the values and beliefs that are still foundational to my life, and for that I am so thankful: but I can’t remember them. I wonder if he can.

Communication with our children is critical. Unfortunately our conversations with them are usually quite shallow, and when we do try to teach them something it is done as an emotional response to an undesirable action on their part. Very seldom do parents have a plan for the training of their children that is consistently implemented.

There are two general patterns that parents adopt for the training of their children. The first and least desirable is what I call the “reactionary” method. Other terms I could coin would be the “off-the-cuff wisdom” method or the “this is really inconvenient for me right now” method.  In this format parents simply react to whatever the children do and hope they have the wisdom and skill to handle the consequences when it happens. There is no need for planning or preparation, and there is certainly no defined long-term purpose to what they are doing. Teaching of the child is confined to the limited time immediately surrounding each event that required parental intervention, and is usually done with emotional outbursts.

The second and preferred pattern is the “disciplinary” method. Parents using this method have established goals for the character development of their children, and have defined a specific plan of how to accomplish those goals. They know that a child’s life is a treasure that needs to be fully discovered but that without proper polishing the treasure could be lost forever. They recognize their highest priority is to “disciple” their children through teaching, correction, admonition, training, and application. They have developed a “scope and sequence” for each child, uniquely adapted to the individual needs and personalities of their children. There is a syllabus for every year of their lives based on their emotional, educational, and spiritual maturity. They don’t react to events that happen, but train their children to be prepared for when they do happen.

The disciplinary method is the Biblical pattern for parenting. In fact, it is God’s pattern as our Heavenly Father for all of us as His children. God’s scope and sequence had a beginning for us – the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). That  is the same place we are to begin in the training of our children.

It is extremely significant that with all the wisdom he was granted by God that Solomon chooses to begin the instruction of his son with these words – if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. He then goes on to explain the consequences of sin. Then, to balance that, he also teaches his son the value of wisdom and its benefits for life. Starting in verse ten, read the rest of chapter one right now. (see footnote below if you don’t have your Bible handy) Pay special attention to how Solomon prepares his son for the potential traps of sin and the consequences of that sin, and then to how he presents the positive alternative by following the path of God.

If the training of our children is not first and foremost founded on faith in Jesus Christ which includes the recognition and rejection of sin, then we have built for our children the wrong foundation. As parents we must have a plan with a purpose. Our teaching must be intentional and consistent. It will be the temptation right now to think that this is too hard and will be inconvenient. If so, then you have already made your choice of methods. But just look into the eyes of your child and see if that choice is really the product of the love that lies deep in your heart.

Pastor John


Proverbs 1:10-33 (NIV)
10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. 11 If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul; 12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; 14 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse”– 15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; 16 for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood. 17 How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds! 18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves! 19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it. 20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: 22 “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. 24 But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, 25 since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you– 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. 29 Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, 30 since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

What Are We Teaching Our Kids?

Connecting Points

Monday, July 16, 2012

Today’s Topic: A Parent’s Privilege

Today’s Text:  Proverbs 1:8 (NIV) Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

We all had them. Many of us were them. Some of you are planning to be one.

The first recorded words of God to people were His blessing and commanded to become parents. Chronologically of course God had spoken to Adam prior to the creation of Eve, but in Scripture chronology takes a lesser role of priority to the revelation of God’s heart to man. His heart is for multiplication, and it is through the marriage of one man and one woman that His heart is to be expressed.

As parents and grandparents, our role is significant before the Lord. In his opening statements of wisdom, Solomon addresses his son and challenges him with the importance of listening to his father and mother. Inherent in that discussion is the reality that a parent’s instruction and teaching must be worthy of hearing and applying to a child’s life.

What are we teaching our kids? That question must burn deeply in our minds every day as we consider the awesome and eternal responsibility God has given us to instruct, teach, and train the next generation of Christ-followers.

A quick study of the two Hebrew words used in this verse is valuable for us. Dad is responsible for instruction and Mom brings teaching. Now I must say that this is not the only verse about parents in Proverbs, and it certainly cannot be taken as the whole counsel of God concerning the unique roles of mom and dad. But in this first reference to a parent’s responsibility, the literal meaning of the Hebrew words tells us that Dad is the enforcer of God’s law that mom has taught.

The word translated “instruction” means “chastisement”, and is translated as discipline, correction, and instruction. Dad, your role with your kids is to correct them when they are outside the boundaries of God’s will and to do so with the intent of training them to stay inside those boundaries.

Mom’s, your word “teach” is the Hebrew word for “law”. You will recognize it because it is the word “torah”. To moms God has given the responsibility of teaching the law of God to her children. That is not to say that dad doesn’t also have that responsibility. What it says is that between mom and dad there is a mutual understanding of and agreement with the law of God and they work together to train their children to know and serve the Almighty.

It is our privilege as parents to represent the Lord Jesus Christ to our children. It is our responsibility to teach them and train them through instruction and discipline to recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives. We will fail at that if He is not Lord of our lives. Verbal instruction and teaching must be validated with visible activity.

Our kids are being taught whether we are saying anything to them or not. They learn mainly by observing.

So what are we teaching our kids?

Pastor John


Healthy Fear

Connecting Points

Friday, July 13, 2012

Today’s Topic: Healthy Fear

Today’s Text:  Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Friday the 13th. Black cats crossing your path. Broken mirrors. Walking under ladders. These superstitions invoke fear in the hearts and minds of many people. Desperate people. Foolish people who are literally despising wisdom and instruction.

Fear is beneficial for us if properly acknowledged. Fear of being burned usually keeps us from touching fire yet the fire itself is beneficial to us as a source of heat, cooking, and more. Fear of falling and breaking bones keeps us from walking too close to the edge of a cliff – or at least it should, right Dennis? Every day in a variety of ways fear produces wisdom for decision-making.

It is this kind of fear that the Bible says is the beginning of knowledge and the key to wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” But we have changed the meaning of the word fear from what God intended us to understand. Our modern Christianity has simply defined the fear of the Lord as “wonder and awe.” I do not believe that is a complete and sufficient definition. Yes, God is awe-inspiring. He is to be revered. But He is also to be literally feared.

Let’s look at the words of Jesus concerning the type of fear we are to have of God. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said,  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. That’s more than just reverential awe, isn’t it? One of the thieves on the cross understood this when he turned to the other thief and said, “But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?’” (Luke 23:40) The beginning of all wisdom, especially the wisdom of God that comes through His grace to bring us to salvation, starts with a very real fear of God’s justice and judgment. Those who are not saved by the blood of Jesus Christ which was shed as the payment for our sins on Calvary have never faced their fear of God in a healthy way. Rather than embracing it and seeking the grace of God, they have rejected God and His wisdom, thereby making themselves out to be fools.

For those who are saved, the wisdom that comes from a true fear of the Almighty Judge transforms our fear of judgment into a reverential awe of the One who saved us from all judgment by judging His Son Jesus on the cross in our place. But both parts of fear must remain.

In the book of Acts, as the early church was getting organized, a man named Barnabas sold some land and gave the proceeds to the Elders of the church. Seeing the recognition he got, Ananias and Saphira decided to sell some land and give the money to the Lord as well. Their intention was not to help the church, but to help themselves, so they gave only part of what they earned but claimed they had given it all. This lie to the Holy Spirit of God brought instant death to both of them – the judgment of God on sin in the church. As a result, Acts 5:11 says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

The Greek word translated into English as “fear” in this verse is the word “phobos”, from which we get our English word phobia. It is literal fear, and it must continue to be a part of a healthy understanding of God even though now we have been saved from eternal judgment. He is our heavenly Father, and in His eternal love for us He is working to bring out His best in us. That requires discipline and training, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of that training in wisdom. The fear of discipline is a Godly motivator.

So my challenge from Proverbs for today is this – restore a properly acknowledged and healthy fear of God based on His judgment and His grace, and embrace both as the wisdom that brings obedience.

Here’s what a friend said about this verse as he accepted the Proverbs challenge: We have lost our fear of the Lord.  Fear of the Lord should be a respectful, genuine fear of failing to please Him while also being aware of the consequences of disobeying Him.  If we listen (follow, obey) to the Lord, we will live in safety.  The ESV says we will live at ease, without dread of disaster.  Does that mean we will never experience disaster or harm? No.  It means we will not live in fear of it.  Rather, we will be at ease because we know our Lord will never leave us, nor forsake us.  He will faithfully supply ALL our needs.  Therefore, we need not be anxious about anything!  What an AWESOME GOD.

Pastor John

Proverbs Challenge

Connecting Points

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Today’s Topic: Proverbs Challenge

Today’s Text:  Proverbs 1:1-4 (NIV) 1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—

Twenty-one days ago I issued a challenge to you – to read one chapter of Proverbs every day for thirty-one days and write down one or two things in a daily journal that the Lord uses to renew and refresh you in your faith. I hope you accepted the challenge. Several of you are sending me your thoughts on a daily basis and I am being encouraged and blessed by what God is teaching you.

Beginning today, I want to share some of the things God is teaching me, and also share, with their permission, what others are writing as well. I am excited to see how God is going to use this study of Proverbs to deepen our faith and enrich our wisdom.

We begin at the beginning, which is always a good place to begin. I am the type of person that likes to know the goal before I start out on any adventure. God’s call of Abraham to simply go east would really be a test for me. I am thankful that Solomon sets forth the goal of Proverbs right at the beginning. He says that these proverbs have five primary purposes:

  1. They are the learning center of wisdom and discipline;
  2. They teach us how to think clearly;
  3. They produce a God-honoring lifestyle;
  4. They enhance one’s common sense;
  5. And they help even the young to make good decisions.

WOW! Just think, by reading, studying, and applying these Proverbs to our lives we will tap into the eternal Source of all wisdom with the result being that our lives will become more disciplined; we will be able to think clearly about every circumstance in our lives; we will be transformed into people who obey God and love doing His will because we now understand our eternal purpose; we will no longer be simple-minded but be blessed with an abundance of common sense; and we will be confident in our ability to make good decisions no matter what the choice may be.

That sounds like the kind of person I want to be. How about you?

Pastor John


Connecting Points

Monday, July 09, 2012

Today’s Topic: Sawdust

Today’s Text:  Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV) 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

What a week. It may seem like a strange way to spend the Fourth of July week, but it was very fulfilling for me to be able to help my daughter and son-in-law begin the remodeling of the entire lower level of their home. From Monday afternoon until Saturday afternoon Brad and I spent every day, including the holiday, framing in the family room, den, office, bathroom, and storage areas in their 1400 square foot basement. Then we did all the plumbing for the bathroom, followed by the electrical wiring. We are very close to having it ready for sheetrock. What a great time we had together, and it was especially rewarding to be able to see immediate results for one’s labor.

During the week, there were numerous times while cutting or nailing boards that sawdust would end up in my eye. I immediately knew it was there. My finger would instinctively rise to the task of removing it. Not once did Brad have to tell me that I had something in my eye. I’m not sure I will ever need anyone to tell me that there is something in my eye. I may need help occasionally to remove it, but the knowledge of its presence is undeniable and un-ignorable. And when I do need help, I want someone with clear vision to assist me, because I treasure my eyes.

Yesterday I preached on this passage of Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount. But in all of my preparation and study I had not thought of this point until this morning as I reviewed these words of Jesus. People who have sin in their lives know it’s there; I don’t need to tell them it’s there. I know I have sin in my life, as do you, and until we deal with it we are not able to see clearly enough to help someone else with theirs. And when we do help them, because we can see clearly through eyes that have been cleansed by Christ, we will help them from a platform of love that motivates service rather than a position of pride that generates judgment.

Let me illustrate with this story:

Pastor Jud Wilhite shares the story of a church member named Cody Huff. Before Cody became a member at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, he was sleeping in an open field next to the church. But at one time Cody was making loads of money as a famous bass pro fisherman who had even been featured on ESPN. Yet he couldn’t overcome his problem with drugs. He began a crack addiction that led him to smoke up $600,000 worth of savings, his house, his Harley, his new boat. He smoked away everything he had and ended up homeless. A man who had eaten at fine restaurants and interacted with celebrities had bottomed out and was now homeless.

But God would turn his life around—and it all started with the kindness of a church volunteer. Some people from the church’s homeless ministry were handing out sandwiches in the park where Cody slept, and they told him he could get a shower at Central Christian Church. The last place Cody wanted to go was a church, but he hadn’t bathed in so long that even other homeless men couldn’t stand his smell anymore. Cody explained what happened next:

I walked into the church, and this lady named Michelle, who knew me from the homeless ministry, said, “Good morning, Cody. How are you?” Then she looked at me, and she said, “Cody, you need a hug.” And I said, “Honey, you don’t want to touch me because I haven’t had a shower in 3 months.” If Michelle heard me, she didn’t seem to care. She walked up, and she looked in my eyes, and she gave me a big hug and told me that Jesus loved me. In that split second, I was somebody. She even remembered my name. That was the point where I knew that God was alive in this world.

Over the next several weeks, Cody’s life began to be restored. He gave his life to Christ. He started leading a Bible study in the park for other homeless people. “That was over 3 years ago,” Jud says. “Now he’s married, and he and his wife serve faithfully in our homeless ministry every weekend. He has his own business. From ashes, God has raised him up to use him as an instrument.” But his involvement in ministry all started with the warm embrace from one of the church’s greeters.

That’s what you do with sawdust – remove it from your own eyes, and trust that others are doing the same. And when they need help, shower them with love not criticism. That’s the Body of Christ at work – seeing the world through the eyes of a doctor not a judge.

Pastor John

Proverbs Challenge Update

Connecting Points

Monday, July 02, 2012

 I am so thankful for the people who are participating in the Proverbs Challenge to read one chapter every day for 31 days and write down one key principle God teaches you from what your read each day. I am being richly blessed by reading what God is doing in your hearts and lives. Thank you for studying the Wisdom of God’s Word.

It’s not too late for you to get started, as this young lady did just yesterday. I share this with you as an encouragement to come away with Jesus every day and let the Holy Spirit teach you. She writes:

The verse I chose today is Proverbs 1:19

Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.”

I am a prideful person. I struggle with it. This verse struck me because of the words “unjust gain.” The past three weeks God has been refining me, breaking down me in order to build me up in Him. It has been great! I have been praying for months for Him to do something like this in me. But be careful what you pray for because God knows how much you can take and He’s not going to hold back to get you to where He wants you to be. It’s been difficult. I cried, I got mad, I self-pitied, and I tried to rationalize it out of my mind. But God held tight, sat me down like you do with a stubborn, misbehaving child, and told me to get off His pedestal.

 A definition of pedestal is “an architectural support for a column, statue, vase, or the like.” That is what I was trying to be for my life. I knew I was saved. I believed in what Christ has done for me, I was growing in Him, and I was learning so much about Him and what it looked like to live out the Christian life. But somewhere along the way I decided I was independent enough to support my own life. I became greedy. I was the person in the proverb who “is greedy for unjust gain.” I went so far as to take my salvation for granted and thought God was fortunate to save me. Haha! Well played Satan, but God always wins. Yes, I became prideful, but through all my sin, God still shown through! He was able to witness to the lost, build-up his children, and grow the people I was meeting with in His name, despite my selfish greed! GOD IS SO GOOD! I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY by His sovereignty, and power that exceeds all sin. He’s won me over again and again. He is my Savior! And I am saved by the grace that comes directly from Him, “founded solely on the work of the cross, totally apart from anything whatsoever in or from (me)” (Green Letters by Stanford). I am weak. I’ve always been weak, but now I’m listening. As a result, He’s on His pedestal again and I am on my knees in humble worship of His overwhelming grace and mercy.

In closing I have to chuckle at the verse of the day. You’ll see why… Romans 12:3

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”