Acres of Diamonds
February 26, 2020
I was reading my daily Bible reading on Sunday. I ran across a familiar verse, but for some reason, it struck me as something new. I wondered if I ever really understood it. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's Glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing Glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It seems to be saying that we are increasing in Glory as we gaze upon Jesus, and this occurs by the Spirit of God. In our Christian life, there is a treasure. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
It made me think of a book entitled “Acres of Diamonds.” The book title is based on a story that a man named Russell Conwell, a Baptist minister, delivered over 6000 times, making him one of the original motivational speakers. “Acres of Diamonds” was a parable Conwell heard while traveling through present-day Iraq in 1870:
There was once a wealthy man named Ali Hafed, who was visited by a priest who told him about diamonds. Ali Hafed heard how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was discontented because he feared he was poor. Ali Hafed sold his farm, left his family, and traveled to Palestine and then to Europe searching for diamonds. He did not find them. His health and his wealth failed him. Dejected, he cast himself into the sea. One day, the man who had purchased Ali Hafed’s farm found a curious sparkling stone in a stream that cut through his land. It was a diamond. Digging produced more diamonds — acres of diamonds. This, according to the parable, was the discovery of the famed diamonds of Golconda.
The application is clear. You are possibly sitting on an acre of diamonds, so do not search for them elsewhere. Sayings like: bloom where you are planted, the grass is not always greener, and if you have lemons... communicate a similar point. Stay where you are until it is clear that God is leading you elsewhere. Though you may not see it now, you might leave a place that has acres of diamonds.
The story says that there is an acre of diamonds around you. It would help if you worked to discover them (which is an excellent lesson to learn). The Bible goes further and states there is Glory within you by His Spirit. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's Glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). David Garland states that "Paul is implying that the divine light shining in him is more brilliant than that of Moses and more powerful than that of creation."
We all want to be significant. Nothing is wrong with that. It's a desire for meaning and purpose. But this can easily lead to a craving for approval, recognition, and praise, which can enslave us. The challenge is to shift from the worldly pursuit of Glory and replace it with God's pure vision of Glory. But more than just a call to self-debasement, people are to pursue a God-given hunger for His Glory.
C. S Lewis uses an illustration of our eventual state of glorification. He stated that if someone saw us from the earth in our glorified state, they would be tempted to worship us. Not that we become God, but we share in his Glory. "When Christ appears, we will be like him for we will see him as he is” (I John 3:2). It is an incredible thought about our future reality that as we gaze upon the Lord today, we are increasing in Glory until we see Him face to face. Our bodies are wasting away. We are renewed day by day. The gospel’s glory and power is displayed in a weak vessel just as Christ displayed his humility in going to the cross. So in a real sense, we have acres of diamonds within as a new creation in Christ.
Mel Barisic (Joe Barisic's son)
Ann Marie Schuch
Ken & Dolores Wetmore (Pastor Robert's parents)
We return to 2 services this Sunday, March 1, 2020. The contemporary service will be at 8:30 am and the traditional service will be at 11:00 am. Sunday School for the children will be during the 8:30 service at 8:45 am.
Ray and Sally Neighly were the victims of the horrisble house fire on Elijah's Lane earlier this week. The house and contents are a total loss. Sally is a long time John's Place volunteer. We will update you with further information as it becomes available.
There will be a VBS workday, Saturday, February 29 from 9 - Noon.
We will be building and painting sets.
Concert of Prayer, Worship and Testimony
There will be a Concert of Prayer, Worship and Testimony on February 29 at 7:00 in the Sanctuary. Come prepared to be encouraged and draw closer to God.
Being Sensible To Love
February 19, 2020
I went to a church conference last week where I heard many essential ideas about church life, but one the most significant was what I heard during the first talk. The speaker highlighted the importance of a church establishing its culture. The host church has ten core values to develop their church culture. One of their values is ‘Creating an Environment Full of It.’ By that, they mean full of faith, fun, and family, and they modeled this well. I saw it lived out in how they hosted the event and how they worshipped.
Is it too simple to say, "let’s love God and love each other,” to establish a church culture? Love is an overused term, and the phrase doesn’t quite grip you. It might need to be phrased differently, yet we do not pay enough attention to this overused term.
In my daily devotional reading (in the Valley of Vision), a phrase struck me. The Puritan writer prays that he would not become ‘insensible to the Love of God.’ Insensible – lacking sense, dull, stubborn, thick-headed. Much of my problem consists of not understanding God's love for me. I affirm its truth – yet it is far from my heart. To see God's love in new and fresh ways, I need to see His holiness and my sinfulness. The Puritan writer states:
May I always be subordinate to thee, be dependent on thee, be found in the path where thou
dost walk, and where the spirit moves, take heed of estrangement from thee, of becoming
insensible to thy love. Thou dost not move men like stones, but dost endue them with life, not to
enable them to move without thee, but in submission to thee, the first mover.
He continues and states: I could not have begun to love thee hadst thou not first loved me or been willing unless thou hadst first made me so. The last line recalls, “This is love: Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
It is critical to acknowledge our need and remember that we are not entitled to receive anything from God. We do not deserve His grace but only wrath. Our life in Christ slips away as we fail to embrace this truth in the depth of our soul. As we experience His love anew, we are changed. If we adopted this truth to the bottom of our souls, it leads to love and humble service of others. We grow in our desire to have others brought into the all-encompassing sacrificial love of our Savior and Friend. He is the one who initiates with us.
Yet we are often insensible to His love. Ignorant, stubborn, and resistant. We feel we need a break from church or spiritual things and just rest or indulge in my favorite distractions thinking God can’t be with us as we re-create. We falsely believe His love is irrelevant in certain situations. He is not invited in. Yet we grow upset and worried, not trusting in His love. He is the prime mover he has initiated with us. The devotion continues:
I know that my sufferings are the result of my sinning, but in heaven, both shall cease… Let thy love draw me nearer to thyself, wean me from sin, mortify me to this world, and make me ready for my departure hence. Secure me by thy grace as I sail across this stormy sea.
Ann Marie Schuch
Ken & Dolores Wetmore (Pastor Robert's parents)
We return to 2 services March 1, 2020.
The contemporary service will be at 8:30 am and the traditional service will be at 11:00 am.
Sunday School for the children will be during the 8:30 service.
There is a VBS Workday to build and paint sets on February 29, 2020 at the church.
It is from 9:00 am to Noon.
Come help make this our best VBS yet.
Concert of Prayer
We will be hosting a Concert of Prayer, Worship and Testimony on
February 29, 2020 at 7:00 pm in the Sanctuary.
Come and be encouraged and uplifed.
Authenticity In Church Culture
February 12, 2020
This week Robert and Flavia, Monica and Ed, and Liz and I are in sunny Florida at a church conference. The theme of the conference is the building of the church. The conference organizers desire to help church leaders and members take back ideas that have made them successful to their own congregations.
The church is called Christ Fellowship Church and it is nothing that I have ever seen before. It is a true mega-church of 25,000+, with multiple campuses, the main one in Palm Beach Gardens where the conference is being held. Monica and Ed were introduced to this church by none other than our own in-house Rabbi, Elliot Spar. Elliot has a true gift for making contacts and friends.
Right off the bat I can say that I wasn’t sure this was right for me. All the dozens of staff that greeted me on the way in the building (called the Dream Team by the pastor) seemed way too cheerful and happy, almost unnaturally so. While I think our church is friendly and welcoming, it seems that it is a bit more authentic. But as the sessions started, I soon realized that some of the information being presented was rich and powerful and is very helpful in cultivating my own ideas about establishing vision. One idea that was especially helpful to me as a church leader is the concept of understanding your church’s culture. MPC definitely has a church culture, influenced by many things and I look forward to exploring how to build that out with Robert and the other leaders in the church.
For example, this authenticity that I spoke of earlier is a big part of our culture at MPC. The humble, caring affection we share together may not always be perfect, but is always authentic. If there is one thing we do right, it is to care for each other out of our own individual brokenness. When broken people care for broken people, they are by definition being authentic. So, I sit here in Palm Beach Gardens feeling very thankful for all of you, who continually inspire me with your humble selflessness and genuine kindness.
As far as Christ Fellowship goes, the Lord brought correction to my heart as the day proceeded. Just because they are being expressively upbeat doesn’t mean they are inauthentic; it just means they are wanting to make people feel welcome.
So, as I walk around this gigantic, extremely impressive facility,
strangers keep looking at me and telling me that they are happy I’m here.
I think I’m happy to be here as well.
Ken & Dolores Wetmore (Pastor Robert's parents)
Volunteers are needed to prepare food for Coffee Hour.
There is a sign-up sheet for Coffee Hour in the parlor.
It's Difficult Making It Easy
February 5th, 2020
It’s difficult making it easy. There is this tension in the Christian Life. The call to give up everything and follow Jesus appears to be too difficult and a heavy burden. It is only for the extremely devoted. But Jesus said, “Come to me,all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). It seems that my struggle and restlessness to give my all in my spiritual life is needless.
Yet it seemed difficult for the rich young ruler:
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”Jesus looked at him and loved him.“One thing you lack,”he said.“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.”At this, the man's face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,“How hard it is for the richto enter the kingdom of God!”(Mark 10:20-23).
Jesus also called others to follow without looking back, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead”(Matthew 8:22). It is difficult to leave behind what we think makes life work.
The Apostle Paul seems to capture best what it means to have a life given over to God. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). One of the better biographies of this servant of God is entitled, Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free by FF Bruce. It is an apt description of his life and his understanding of being in Christ. It is hard to give up our right to our lives and our wisdom to fully embrace Jesus as Lord, but that is where the great freedom lies.
Some of us carry loads we are not meant to carry, and we are overburdened. We do not have the lightness and joy of belonging to the Lord. We are not exhibiting His meekness and humility because we have a yoke that is ours alone and not one given over to the Lord. The burden can be light because He is carrying the load.
Joy, ease, and rest is available now and not just in eternity. Trials enable us to continue to give our lives over to the Lord. Jesus emptied himself not only on the cross but in his life. He submitted himself to his Father while on earth. He said he only does what the Father tells him to do, and his teaching is not his own. He did not use his status as God for his own advantage but in order to become a servant of all.
Augustine said “We are restless until we find our rest in Him.” There is work for us to do, but He fits us for that –without stress. He is not relaxing demands, but giving us the power to fulfill them. Dying to self brings great freedom. Jesus also said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children”(Matthew 8:22). Little children that depend on loving parents are not stressed. We need to be like little children.