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Friday, July 24, 2009

Where Your Treasure Is

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.
Matthew 6:6

This verse always conjures up an image in my mind of a young man hiding in a wardrobe with shoes on the floor and clothes hanging all around him. It seems a very strange place to pray. It makes me wonder whether this was part of the inspiration for CS Lewis', The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

A Secret Place To Pray
In fact, the translator of the King James Version was trying to find an adequate word to translate the original and, perhaps, doing a little better then the modern versions have done with "room."

The original word had a very particular meaning for which we do not have an appropriate alternative. The "room" referred to was an inner store room where a family's most treasured possessions would be kept. A modern equivalent might be a vault though most of us don't have one of those at home.

The point that Jesus was making was not simply that we should pray in secret, though that is an important message. It was also that the secret place where we pray becomes a storehouse of treasure. We meet with God secretly, on our own, and this is where we are blessed beyond our wildest dreams. Not blessed with material wealth but with a spiritual wealth.

Heavenly Treasures or Worldly Pleasures
Those who haven't experienced the treasures of love, joy and peace to be found in the prayer closet may still hanker after earthly treasures. But these bring only transient pleasure. Later in Matthew 6 Jesus says, "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 moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (v 19-21).

We often associate this passage with how we use our money as that's the next topic Jesus goes on to talk about. But His listeners would surely have made the connection with His comments about the treasure house earlier.

No-one can steal from us the treasure we find in the prayer closet. We may suffer the material consequences of an economic recession, but when we pray we can find lasting treasure which will not only bless us now, but will also be a blessing to us in eternity.

Prayer College Assignment
Store up some treasure for yourself this week by spending "much time in secret with Jesus alone."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Are You Willing?

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.
Isaiah 1:19-20

When I ask for help from my children there are two possible reactions. The first is that they respond enthusiastically and can't wait to get on with what I've asked of them. The second, and far more common reaction is a reluctance so powerful that it requires something akin to dynamite to get them moving.

The Willing Child
We can behave like this with God. We read His word and we discover that there is some way in which we fail to live up to His standard. Gossiping might be an example. Now the willing child, discovering her heavenly Father does not want her to gossip will make every effort to conform to His will. But the rebellious child will find all sorts of excuses for not complying, after all, it isn't really gossip if I'm sharing the information for prayer, is it?

The willing child is teachable. He listens to sermons with the expectation that God will speak directly to his heart about his own life. The rebellious child will challenge even the words of Scripture. I remember a conversation with one person in which I referred to Romans 8:1 saying, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, to which they replied, there is when it comes to ... We stand on very dangerous ground when we set ourselves against the direct teaching of scripture.

Willing Sacrifice
The willing child doesn't wait to be asked, but looks for opportunities to do the right thing. The rebellious child will not even do what is asked of them. Romans 12:1 tells us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. It's not a popular concept these days, this idea of willing sacrifice. You can go into any Christian book shop and see titles such as 7 Steps For Answered Prayer, How To Be A Happy Christian, or The Financial Benefits Of Tithing. But where are the books about living sacrificially for Jesus, where is the one called Ultimate Obedience? We forget that we are not our own, we were bought with a price and a very dear one indeed.

Are You Willing?
The word of God through Isaiah offers blessings for willingness and obedience and severe consequences for rebellion. The question is, how willing are you? Are you prepared to be obedient to the call to live sacrificially for Jesus, or are you placing limits on what you're willing to give?

Prayer College Assignment
In an attitude of prayer, ask the Lord to show you if there are any areas of your life that you are unwilling to sacrifice to Him. Is your time your own, or does it belong to Jesus? What about your material resources, your money? Are you fully committed to your brothers and sisters in Christ or will you look the other way when they're in need? Is there any aspect where you say, thus far and no further? Wrestle with these things until they are submitted to Jesus.