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Sermon 6/13/04
Treasure – Matthew 6:19-20

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Treasure

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20)

It’s been extraordinary to watch the various services and ceremonies for American President Ronald Reagan.  He was a man who is rightfully being honored for his service to the United States, and, without doubt, he performed courageous service that has contributed to the peace and safety of this world.  The services being performed for him are both beautiful and sad.  The flags, the family, the uniformed men, the music are wonderful to behold and yet it is sad, not only for his family, but also for him, because he cannot be with us to receive and enjoy the honors the world is bestowing upon him.

We were recently in Riverside, California, to honor four veterans who have passed away.  Veterans and family members were present at other graves, including a large contingent of motorcyclists bedecked with flags and other patriotic decorations.  We looked at names on a number of gravestones.  Many of them contained brief epitaphs, but most simply listed a name, a military rank at time of discharge from service and other brief information, including date of birth and date of death.  These were dates from not very long ago.

The markers were a reminder of those under the gravestones, who, as young men and women, full of life, were about to go off to some war or another.  If they survived the war, they led lives filled with successes and failures, love and loss, joy and sorrow.  The later years of President Reagan were especially poignant because he had Alzheimer’s disease and undoubtedly, toward the end, he could recall NOTHING of his illustrious career.  Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, a great leader of her time, attended the ceremonies and “spoke” beautiful words, but it was a recorded message because she has been experiencing short-term memory loss.

Yesterday they were young.  Today, for that generation, there is grass, flowers, an occasional tree, a memento on a number of graves, kneeling mourners, and then silence, as the visitors depart, the celebrants of special days go elsewhere and the day is over.

I periodically taught on Sunday afternoons at a convalescent home in Long Beach, California, for five years, and became close to some of the attendees.  There was a retired medical doctor, a retired Roman Catholic priest, and others who just “yesterday,” functioned for society, and today, they are silenced and are gone.  I now teach a Bible study at a 160-bed facility in Norwalk, California, called Southland, the place where my mother resides.  Each Thursday morning we share the Book of Psalms, prayerfully touching on the words of David, along with the sons of Korah and other authors, who wrote 3000 years ago.  Just yesterday, they were young, as are those who reside in Southland and other facilities, and those in the graves we visited.

My wife, Genevieve Douglass-Beckham, is Founder of the Agent Orange Widows Awareness Coalition (AOWAC).  Her organization assists widows, veterans and children who have suffered from the effects of a defoliant which was sprayed on Vietnam, Korea, and U.S. bases around the world - farmers used a weaker version of the stuff on their crops!  Millions have suffered from illnesses and died from exposure – The price of eliminating unwanted plant life such as weeds can be very high.  Recently, we attended meetings in Washington, DC, where we were in meeting rooms and legislative offices that were filled with those who are dying from blood cancers; some caused by Agent Orange.  They were in DC lobbying for additional research money, desperately seeking a cure, and if there is none, hoping for new drugs to extend their lives and also to help others.

Our Friday Study Prayer Team has been praying for certain new babies that have been at risk.  All three of them were born successfully and we praise the Lord for their entry into this world, and for the people who have the skill, intelligence and discipline and it is hoped, the love, to pursue medical careers to help others.  It is good to thank the doctor, the nurse and the research specialists, but it is also good to thank the Lord who gave them those skills.  We also thank those who have prayed for these children: Prayer is real, because the God who answers prayer is real – He LOVES those in need – He loves you and me.

Our little ones reveal to us that life on earth can be wonderful, but we also should see that life is only a gift for a time.  In another month, we will return to Washington, DC, in part to view the In-Memory memorial plaque dedicated to the service men and women who died from cancers and other terrible illnesses due to their military service.  When we are there, it is our intention to also visit Arlington National Cemetery, where we will see more graves of those who were young yesterday and are gone today.

It has been said that statistically, 100% of our “treasures on earth will be lost.”  Nothing of this world will last.  If we are to have anything at all, it is necessary to look outside of ourselves, out of this life in order to find it.  When we honestly look into our own hearts, we find a mixture of thoughts and attitudes that are often not acceptable to a holy God.  How can we have “treasures” or even LIFE in eternity?  How can we be acceptable to Him?

The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life in service to all humanity.  Whatever you may think of His birth, life, teachings, death, and subsequent resurrection, He has, in fact, “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).  “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).  He was innocent and we are not.  He died a lowly criminal’s death in our place, that you and I might know the glory of God for all eternity.  His death paid the price.  He is an ACCEPTABLE Substitute for you, in the sight of the Father.  He is the Cure who heals you in the sight of a holy God.

There are many heroes among us, past and present, and President Reagan is one of them.  The former president lost his memory and he has now lost his life.  For him and all who pass from this life, what’s important is that we have TRUSTED in the Lord, who is the “Treasure” we need.  Let’s place our faith in Him:

Father, we reach out to You right now.  We recognize the brevity of life.  We see that our “treasures” on earth don’t last.  We trust in You, Lord Jesus, for You are the “Treasure” that lasts – Forever!  Thank You, Lord.  We receive You now.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

www.FridayStudy.org

www.FirstChurchontheNet.org

E-mail:
Ron@FridayStudy.org
Tel: (562) 688-5559
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

 

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