Category Archives: Jeremy Stopford

“The four saddest words in the bible”

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor


21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)

It is fun to go for a walk with my wife Thuvia in HER hometown of Norwich, NY – which town for all intents and purposes for the past 45 years has been MY hometown as well. Did I mention that this is HER hometown? In our walks someone invariably begins a conversation with us by saying, “OH JEREMY!” this, or “OH JEREMY!” that. The chat could go on for almost 15 minutes before our friend leaves. At that point, my beloved bride looks at me and wisely asks, “who was THAT?” Of course, I must answer every time, “I have no idea.” Thanks to my almost 3 decade career with the local police department, I’ve had connections with many people. They KNOW me, even if I really don’t know them on a first-name basis.

As the Lord Jesus brings the Sermon on the Mount [remember, S.O.T.M.] to a close, He is trying to:

#1 Carry the sermon into its application phase;

#2 Rid the Pharisees and religious leaders of any measure of self-worth by which they might deem themselves worthy of heaven’s entrance; and

#3 Push the seeker to the Savior and not to the Pharisaical attitudes of His (and our!) day.

He does this through 3 amazing challenges.


Repeating verse 21, ““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”


The heart of the world’s philosophy is, “I must DO SOMETHING, I must meet MY OWN STANDARDS which will soothe my conscience.”

But Jesus says, “Not everyone that (even) says,

#1 “Lord, Lord”: literally, “Master, Master” – an appeal of devotion

#2 “The will”: the heart of righteousness

#3 “My Father”: The standard of Heaven

This is the first time in Scripture that Jesus identifies Himself with God. AND Jesus personalizes the unique relationship with His Father. He will do that often in His brief earthly ministry:

“I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

“Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9), which shows a new relation in position of every Christian!

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

What the Savior is saying is this: “PROVE whether you measure up to My standard!”

In the Pauline Epistles the believer in Jesus will be challenged often to enter regularly into this intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father, just as our Savior does:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, THAT YOU MAY PROVE what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2; my emphasis)

EXAMINE yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. TEST yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor. 13:5)

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling…” (Phil. 2:12)

Second is THE CHALLENGE TO QUESTION (verse 22)

Repeating verse 22, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’”.

“In The Name” is a precious relationship! Here is just a small sampling from the Gospel of John alone:

John 10:3: Jesus calls His own sheep BY NAME!

John 14:13-14: “if you shall ask anything IN MY NAME, I will do it.” !!!

John 14:26: The Father will send the Comforter IN MY NAME (that is, IN MY STEAD)!

John 17:12: Jesus kept them (His own) IN YOUR (the Father’s) NAME!

John 20:31: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life IN HIS NAME.”

The Apostle John would later write, “Try (TEST) the spirits” (1 John 4:1). When faith is used as some kind of religious “good luck charm”, it is not genuine. Rather, it is actually an abomination to God! There are MANY counterfeits today! So we are challenged to question! For example:

PROPHESIED: spoke God’s Word! How do you know that a man who does this belongs to God, simply because he is speaking the Word of God?

CAST OUT DEMONS: does the supernatural!

DOES MANY WONDERFUL WORKS! Let’s bring this down to my level. He does works that are of wonder and well beyond my power.

Do you remember when Moses first came on the scene before Pharaoh? What did he do? He did MANY WONDERFUL WORKS! And what did Pharaoh’s magicians do – those who were energized by Satan and not by God? They duplicated Moses’ MANY WONDERFUL WORKS! Yet they could NOT duplicate the creating of life. Only God can do that!

Perhaps you’ve seen the story of the devil harping at Jesus about doing MANY WONDERFUL WORKS. Satan says to Jesus, “why ANYBODY can create! Let’s have a contest. Whoever can create a person out of nothing FIRST wins.” Jesus said that He normally didn’t like contests with the enemy of the faith, but this seemed to Him like a fair contest. So an Angel marked the beginning of the contest: 3,2,1 GO! Jesus grabbed some dust of the earth and then Satan grabbed some dust of the earth. At this point the Lord said, “WHOA! GET YOUR OWN DUST!”

Finally, there is THE CHALLENGE TO FEAR (verse 23).

Once again, verse 23 says, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU;

depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”.

D. L. Moody was one of the greatest evangelists born in the United States (1837-1899). Although he preached salvation messages all around the world, ultimately Chicago, Illinois would become his home base. It was there that the Moody Bible Institute would be established, a Bible training college which major trait was that NO STUDENT would ever be charged for his or her tuition – a trait which continues to this day! As recalled in his biography, in October 1871 Moody was preaching a wonderful salvation message. Throughout the message he was challenging the huge crowd about their need to trust in the Lord Jesus as their Savior. At the conclusion of his message he said, “now you come back next week and I will share with you HOW to trust Jesus as your Savior.” That night, THAT VERY NIGHT, was the infamous Chicago fire. Hundreds of people lost their lives. Chicago would have to be rebuilt, including the hall in which Moody preached. Immediately Moody said to himself and before the Lord, “how many people died and are spending their eternity in the lake of fire because I didn’t give an invitation – I did not seal the message by sharing with my listeners HOW to trust Jesus as Savior?” That earthly FIRE changed his life, his ministry. It put an eternal FEAR in his very soul.


I: Jesus

NEVER: Ever? NO! For all eternity!

KNEW: In an intimate experiential way

YOU: Personalized to the point!

When your life is measured up – by you and by God alone – can you say with the Apostle Paul:

NOT by works of righteousness which I have done, BUT according to His mercy He saved me!” (Titus 3:5a applied)

“The Strait/Narrow Gate is the ONLY Gate”


(Matthew 7:13-20)

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

Matthew 7:13-20 (NKJV)

It is suggested by some scholars that this passage marks the beginning of the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps the Savior is taking His disciples down off the mountain to where they can see the outskirts of Jerusalem. Each city has a Main Gate! Throughout the Old Testament, the “gate” referred to the Main Gate near the city’s entrance. There are 385 uses of the word “gate” in Scripture!

A casual reading of the Book of Job will find several fascinating references to the “Gate”. Allow one passage to be mentioned here as an help to our study. From Job 29:1, 7ff:

““Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me;

““When I went out to the gate by the city, when I took my seat in the open square,

The young men saw me and hid, and the aged arose and stood; the princes refrained from talking, and put their hand on their mouth; the voice of nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth.”

In the midst of his misery, suffering, and pain, Job looked back to those days when life was simpler – and when he was the object of respect in the land of Uz. He would go to the place known as The “Gate By the City”, the place where often business dealings were consummated. Did you notice what Job really hungered for? He looked again for the proper recognition given to him by both young and old alike. And that recognition took place at the Main Gate. And there was only ONE “Main Gate.”

Into that very familiar picture our Savior begins His final words to the disciples, and to those of the multitude who were eagerly listening as well. He said “enter by the narrow gate…”. There was only ONE narrow gate. There were not MANY narrow gates. There was only ONE. There were many WIDE gates which lead to destruction. But there is only ONE narrow gate.

There is a story told about a little boy visiting New York City for the very first time. Perhaps one day in YOUR life YOU were that little boy! I know I was that boy once! I grew up about 30 miles outside of the Big Apple. So when my parents took me to New York City, well, that was a special day! The wise parents thought their son would enjoy traveling on the train, so they took him to the majestic Grand Central Station. Dad went to the ticket counter and bought two adult tickets and one child’s ticket for the train. And then? And then they went to a GATE. Up to this point, the little boy could only hear the noise of the hustle and bustle of the traffic of the train station. He could only hear the occasional train whistle. He could only hear the distant “All Aboard” of some shouting conductor. Those noises were far away. Before him was The Gate. There was only ONE GATE into Grand Central Station [ok, ok, I’m embellishing the story a tad – can you imagine only ONE GATE for a zillion people who enter and leave Grand Central Station each day? But listen on!] Dad gave the little boy his ticket and gave him the instructions as to what to do with the ticket. With excitement, the little boy gave his ticket to the Nice Man by the ONE GATE. And then the Nice Man said, “Welcome, son, into the joy of Grand Central Station!”.

There is only ONE GATE to Heaven. It is a “strait” (KJV) or “narrow” (NKJV and others) gate. That ONE GATE leads to Heaven. All OTHER GATES (and there are MANY!) lead to destruction.

There is ONE GOOD TREE! “Every good tree bears fruit”. This second point is connected with the ONE GATE, and gives a further illustration for the ONE GATE. If you are going through the ONE GATE, you will be a GOOD TREE which bears GOOD FRUIT! The key to this TREE is that ALL OTHERS – did you catch that? – ALL OTHERS bear bad fruit! Our Savior is creating a brilliant visual of the difference between the GOOD SERVANTS of the Lord and those who are not, which He calls the “FALSE PROPHETS”. The “false prophets” are those “merchants and traders who really love a good religious revival! YOU know who they are, right? They are the religious scalpers. They are the spiritual exhibitionists! They are the hawkers who want your money. They may even tell a good “Christian” joke or story to get your spiritual juices flowing. But dear people…what is the KEY to these “FALSE PROPHETS”? Do you know? Have we learned together yet? The KEY to these “FALSE PROPHETS” is that they did NOT go through the NARROW GATE! They are the ones who think there are MANY GATES which lead to LIFE! Yet Jesus said there is ONE GATE which leads to life, which leads to a GOOD TREE which bears GOOD FRUIT. There are MANY paths which lead to DESTRUCTION. And on that path will be many often well-meaning folk, religious, spiritual good talkers. They are the FALSE PROPHETS of both Jesus’ and our days.

Finally, there is ONE TRUE LIFE! Do you have a “B.C.” and an “A.D.” in your life? Is there a “Before Christ” period of your life? For me it was 19 years. For my wife and our daughter, it was only 8 years each! I know of a precious man – who is now “with the Lord” – who came to know Jesus as Savior at age 70. At age 70 he began his “A.D.” – his “after dying to self, his dying to and trusting in Jesus and the cross. He lived to be 90 years old! But OH what he did in those last 20 years of his life. He had been a carpenter by trade, and for those 20 years he served the Lord through his carpentry. But you know what he told me when he turned 90? What do you think he said? He said, “WHY didn’t I trust Jesus when I was younger? I could have lived ALL MY LIFE for Him!”.

There is only ONE TRUE LIFE, and that is the life lived for Jesus’ glory. It is the life that began by “walking” through the NARROW GATE of faith at the cross. It is the life that bears GOOD FRUIT. It is the ONE TRUE LIFE. All other lives are, well, empty.

Have you read the Book of ECCLESIASTES lately? Solomon the Preacher begins by telling about his life. He had many pursuits, and in those pursuits he had plenty of this world’s goods! He had land! He had money! He had valuables, which in his day were horses and buildings. He had everything his eye hungered for. He wrote,

“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.” (2:10)

And then he looked over ALL HIS STUFF. He looked over ALL THAT HE HAD SPENT A LIFETIME LABORING FOR. And do you know what his conclusion was? Do you have ANY IDEA?

Solomon wrote, “and indeed, all was VANITY and GRASPING for the wind. There was NO PROFIT under the sun.” (2:11).

We understand “vanity”. “Vanity” is the shallowness which is the fruit of seeking something which has no substance. But what about “grasping for the wind”? You may KNOW what it means without realizing it! Remember the toy we all played with as a kid? In one hand you had a stick with a circle at one end. You would take that stick with the circle and place it in a bottle. You would then pull the stick with the circle out of the bottle. And then? And then you would blow into the circle! And what would happen? Out would flow a floating bubble of various sizes. And THEN? You would chase that bubble, perhaps even successfully catching it in your hand. And THEN? The bubble would…BURST! THAT is “grasping for the wind.” A bubble that bursts. You have no substance to show.

AND WHY NOT? Because there is only ONE TRUE LIFE. All other lives which did not begin by going through the NARROW GATE, by not seeking the GOOD FRUIT of the GOOD TREE results in an empty life.

“Oh, yes,” you say. “I have it all! I have my horses: I have riches. I have homes. I have cars. I have it all.” Like Solomon you may have it all. And you are EMPTY.

There is a song I heard for the first time many years ago at a concert. The lady was the “opening act” for the main attraction. You know, I don’t remember who the main attraction was. But I’ve never forgotten the song the intro girl sang. The song is “He’s the Only Reason”. I have not been able to find the name of the author. It is a brief song. Two verses and the chorus. I close with this song.

I’ve been blessed with so many things, God’s been good to me

I have family and friends who share in all I do

But if I lose it all and I am left with nothing

If I have the Lord, then I know I’ll make it thru

You may have tried a lot of things to find real happiness

But if you’ve looked very long then you know it just can’t be found

Until you find the Lord in the power of His spirit

Jesus will be your reason to live and He’ll never let you down

Chorus: He’s the only reason I live but, Oh what a reason

He’s the only reason I live but, Oh what a reason

There is nothing in this world worth living for

It only leaves you empty and longing for more

He’s the only reason I live but, Oh what a reason

As you re-read Matthew 7:13-20, ask yourself: “is this the song of my life?”.

“The Most Misunderstood Verse in the Bible”

Jeremy “Moxie” Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor


“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 7:12 (KJV)


There were two lawyers who were best friends forever! Amazingly, one of them became a Sunday school teacher. Surprised by his friend’s new Sunday occupation, the second lawyer said, “I BET you don’t even know the Lord’s prayer.”

“Of course I do! ‘Now I lay me down to sleep…’”

“You win!”, said the other admiringly. “I didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible!”

We laugh, don’t we? Well, stay with me. Is your Bibles still closed?

Ok. QUOTE for me “The Golden Rule” as recorded in the Scriptures. Let me start it for you: “Do unto others…”.

NOW look at the above verse and read what the verse REALLY states!

There are 3 reasons why this is the most misquoted, misrepresented, misapplied, misunderstood verse in the Bible!

Why, this is a verse that MANY ARE DEPENDENT UPON for their salvation! Even you?


In fact, many people don’t even read that “therefore” as a part of their remembrance of what they call “The Golden Rule.”

So how should I determine WHY the “therefore” is there for? Follow the Savior’s amazing train of thought in Matthew 7:

* Since I recognize God is the True Judge (verse 1)…

* Since I recognize God’s holiness as the standard for true judgment (verse 2)…

* Since I surely see that I can’t criticize anybody’s speck until I take the log out of my own eye (verses 3-5)…

* Since I realize that only the gospel of Christ can change lives (verse 6)…

* And since I am truly convinced that only continuous prayer – true dependence upon God – will effect anything of eternal value (verses 7-11)…

THEREFORE as a result, my life NOW will be so governed (verse 12)!!!

Now in our study, THIS is a VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION WE MUST ASK: “Is the Lord Jesus addressing this to the world as a SALVATION verse?

OR is He addressing this to the Christian as a WAY OF LIFE?” Hmmmm.


The Lord Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy NEIGHBOR as thyself”. “Neighbor” is an important word to this study! It is used at least 144 TIMES in the King James Version.

He goes on to say about “loving your neighbor”: “THIS is the law and the prophets,” that is, “THIS is the general nature of the entirety of the Scriptures!”.

Let’s look at a few helpful examples:

* In the 10 commandments (Exodus 20, especially verse 16-17):

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

By the way, “covet” has the modern idea of “keeping up with the Jone’s”.

* In the Law of Release (Deut. 15:1-2):

“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the Lord’s release.”

Thus the true follower of the Lord will not harbor anything against his neighbor!

* In the removing of a landmark (Deut. 19:14):

“You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”

I learned recently of an huge boundary dispute at a local property. Apparently, the boundaries were initially figured from two different angles! Can you imagine the neighbors who were involved? They had no idea what was truly their own land! In the end, lawyers had to get involved to determine why there were discrepancies in the boundaries. In Old Testament days, the honoring of the boundary was a genuine way in which one “loved his neighbor”.

* In the speaking of truth to one’s neighbor (Zechariah 8:16-17):

“These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor;

Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace. Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ says the Lord.”

This passage is quoted in the New Testament, as found in Ephesians 4:25, showing that it is not just an Old Testament principle:

“Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.”

Look at James 2:8-10, which will lead to our third point:

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”





Why? Because for all eternity, I AM #1 !!! What is the chant at all basketball games? Is it yelled wonderfully to the opposing team, “YOU ARE #1! YOU ARE #1!” OR is it yelled at our own supporters as an encouragement and as a needle in the enthusiasm of the opposition, “WE’RE #1! WE’RE #1! WE’RE #1!”.

What does the Savior say? Look at the conversation wonderfully recorded for us in Matthew 22:35ff:

“…a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Note the order! We are to love God FIRST OF ALL. Only THEN are we to love our neighbor as ourselves. See? Salvation FIRST. Example and Evangelism SECONDNOT the other way around!

As we bring this week’s study to a close, today’s text has a lot to say about our hearts:

WHO IS #1?



And the BIG question: Have you depended on this verse for YOUR salvation?

“It’s WHO You Know That Counts”

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor


7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

—Matthew 7:7-11 (NKJV)

Many of you might not be into watching television – and perhaps today that is quite understandable.

But on May 20, 1993, the final episode of the TV show “Cheers” aired. Set in a bar in Boston, the show included a psychiatrist named “Frazier Craine”, played by Kelsey Grammar. I remember the first time I saw him on the show. I said to my VERY skeptical wife, “I KNOW THAT GUY!”.

Of course, she muttered something to the effect, “Yeah, right!”. I said, “I think that’s Kelsey Grammar, Pine Crest School Class of 1973, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.”

You know part of the rest of the story. YES, the part WAS played by Kelsey Grammar, and he went on to continue the character in the popular show, “Frazier”. And YES, he did graduate from my high school 2 years after I did. And YES, he played on the football team. And YES, of course he was on the drama team.

So I can say that I know him, right? Well, he DID go to the high school I attended at the same time I did. So that gives me SOME degree of connection with him. But if I were to go up to him and say, “Hi Kelsey – Jeremy Stopford, Pine Crest Class of ’71” what do you think he would say? I know, he’d say “that’s nice.”

You see, I was acquainted with Kelsey Grammar when he went to high school over 50 years ago. But to be ACQUAINTED with someone and to KNOW someone are two different things, aren’t they?

Today’s passage says the same thing:

it’s Who you KNOW that counts!

This is one of the most often quoted passages in the New Testament. it is considered a passage of promise, and it is! It is considered a passage of presumption, but it isn’t. To understand the promise of verses 7-8 let’s first look at verses 9-11.


The most precious, tender relationship in Scripture is, in general, that of a parent and child, and in particular, that of a father and son. Dads know what is best for their children! Note the comparative in verses 9-10.

Do you remember ever wanting something REALLY SPECIAL when you were a little kid? OH I so wanted the drum set on sale at Leplers in downtown Rye, NY! $50! FIFTY DOLLARS! Dad said, “IF you save it, you can have it!”. It took me months saving my allowances and doing odd chores around the neighborhood. One day I had that $50 and I said to Dad, “TODAY is the day to buy the drum set.” Dad somehow had this innate wisdom that I’m sure came with his own childhood experiences. He wisely replied, “I am willing to bet it will be destroyed the first day you have it home.” We went down to Mr. Lepler’s store where I proudly set my $50 on his counter and said, “Mr. Lepler, we are here to pick up my new drum set.” We got it home, unpacked it, set it up in the basement, and within 3 hours…I had put a hole through the top of the main drum.

The father/son relationship in these verses is a pattern God develops as an all-wise Heavenly Father. One of my favorite chapters is Proverbs 23 which the Lord in His wisdom had me reading the day my dad died at the age of 90 years. The chapter talks about the Father Who is the MIGHTY Redeemer of the fatherless (see verses 9-11). Look also at verses 13-15 and verses 24-26. I like verse 22a which says, “Listen to your father who begot you…”. But you ask, “my father has passed away” or “he lives miles from here in another state”. “How can I listen to him?”. The key is WHAT you are listening to! Listen to – REMEMBER – his words, those intimate conversations that are just yours and his. What wisdom did he give you? What encouragement, what challenge?

The hard part, of course, is for the Christian who had an earthly father who he either never knew or worse, who was not a good example to follow. In that case, the images of what to expect with an Heavenly Father are tough to visualize. But in due time, and with the diligent reading of the Good Book, the child of his Heavenly Father will find a relationship which is tender and loving. That’s what the Savior means in verse 11 of our main text: “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”. As a result, the Christian recognizes his need to be dependent upon a sinless Father! THIS is a RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE!!!


ASKING is not DEMANDING! We all have seen the helpless mother in the aisles of Walmart! Can you hear her children? Can you? “MOM! I WANT THIS, and I want it NOW!” And when they get to the counter, the four darling urchins are taking advantage of the suggestive sales by the register and loading mom’s cart with those dollar items that suddenly put the grocery bill to an unreasonable total – all because of the little tykes’ WANTS!

True Biblical “ASKING” refers to the heart attitude of the petitioner! It recognizes that I am in a lesser position that the One I am petitioning!

What heart attitudes should we have?

* HE IS ABLE: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Ephesians 3:20)

* HE IS WISE: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6)

* WE MUST NOT BE SELFISH! HE ALONE IS TO BE GLORIFIED: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3)

* OUR LIVES BACK UP OUR PRAYERS: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22)

* OUR PRAYERS WILL CONFORM TO HIS WORD: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)


“Seek” means “to strive after, desire, work toward a goal, to covet earnestly.” It means that I am to have the attitude that thinks that I will agree – come in compliance with – that which You Father require of me! Have you read these verses lately:

“But SEEK first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33my emphasis)

“If then you were raised with Christ, SEEK those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1my emphasis)


There once was an ad in the paper promoting the business of Mr. Opper Knockity. It read this way: “I take care of all your piano needs. Remember, Opper Knockity tunes only once.”

To “knock” means “to strike repeatedly.” Thus from the Greek it is pictured as “to KEEP ON asking, KEEP ON seeking, KEEP ON knocking.”

By practical application, it means that while you are knocking, the Spirit is taking care of the HEART (“ask”), of the HEAD (“seek”), and of the SPIRIT (“knock”).

Even so does the Lord Jesus! Revelation 3:20 says in part, “Behold I stand at the door and…KNOCK”. He is KNOCKING for our heart, for our fellowship.

As we close, I’m reminded of the words quoted by a VERY wise experienced missionary in one of his prayer letters, words that were written by an unknown author:

“nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished apart from prayer.”

As you look at YOUR CHURCH, is it and all it does founded on PRAYER?

As you look at YOUR LIFE, are you and all you do founded on PRAYER – on a tender relationship with your HEAVENLY FATHER?

It’s WHO you know that counts!!!

“The Proverb of Matthew 7:6”

By Semi-Retired Pastor, Jeremy Stopford


“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

Matthew 7:6 (NKJV)

I read something last week in a daily email I receive from “Mikey’s Funnies”, a clean humor email sent by Mike Atkinson, a former youth director from San Diego.

[check it out at “” I encourage you to subscribe!]. This particular day’s edition wisely looked at events in Scripture through the eyes of the modern day mindset of “don’t offend anyone at all costs.” The premise: “how would today’s media cover Biblical events if they occurred today?”. For your enjoyment:

* On Red Sea crossing: “WETLANDS TRAMPLED IN LABOR STRIKE: Enforcement Officials Killed While Pursuing Unruly Mob”

* On David vs. Goliath: “HATE CRIME KILLS BELOVED CHAMPION OF RELIEF TROOPS: Psychologist Questions Significance of Rock Used as Weapon”

* On the prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel: “FIRE SENDS RELIGIOUS ACTIVIST INTO FRENZY: 400 Killed In Unprovoked Attack”

* On the birth of Christ: “HOTELS FULL, ANIMALS EJECTED FROM SHELTER: Animal Rights Advocates Enraged by Insensitive Couple”

* On feeding the 5,000: “LAY PREACHER STEALS CHILD’S LUNCH: Disciples Mystified Over Behavior”

* On healing of the two demon-possessed men in Gadarenes: “MADMAN CAUSES STAMPEDE: Local Farmer Faces Bankruptcy After Loss of Hogs”

That is a great introduction to this week’s offering: “The Proverb of Matthew 7:6. What was our Savior saying? What was He trying to teach us? How does it fit within His teachings of the Sermon on the Mount? And how does it possibly apply to us today? This is a real PROVERB!!! It is a mystery, to which we must dive in! The careful student of the Scriptures must ask at least 3 insightful questions!

Our first question is, WHAT DO THESE WORDS MEAN? The Bible – whether King James Version or even the more helpful New King James Version – uses terms which are very foreign to the 21st century child of God.

* The first word is “HOLY”. “Holy” means “to be separated from sin, and alternately to be consecrated to God.” Quoting Leviticus 11:44, the Apostle Peter writes (1 Peter 1:15-16), “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”.

* The next word is “DOGS”. The word used here is NOT a domestic pet. Rather, it is the village scavenger. It is a fierce and dangerous animal. It is half-wild. The Jews often used this term in reference to non-Jews, such as Gentiles.

* Next comes the familiar “PEARLS”. A pearl is quite valuable. It is a deposit from the juice of the pearl oyster. In Matthew 13:45-46 the Savior uses “the pearl of great price” to refer in His eyes (by application) to either the gospel or to Israel. Revelation 21:21 states that the gates of heaven are LITERALLY “gates of PEARL”. Even Paul in his marital wisdom before his son in the faith, Timothy (1 Tim. 2:9) draws a contrast between the beauty and richness of pearls and the beauty and richness of a godly woman!

I’m reminded over and over of a gift my dad gave to my wife shortly after my mother died. If I’m not mistaken on their history, as a wedding present my dad gave to my mother a pearl necklace. In turn, after mom’s passing, in love dad gave that necklace to my wife. He could have sold it. He could have kept it until his ultimate passing. Instead, for him the greatest treasure was to share this piece of beauty with a loved one, his daughter-in-law. Hence, the picture that the Savior is showing of something which is both valuable and loved.

* Finally, “SWINE”. A swine is a…HOG!!! It is a symbol to the Jew of all that is unclean!

Using the above definitions, let’s re-read Matthew 7:6:


The second question we must ask is, WHAT CAN THIS PARABLE TEACH US? At least 3 basic truths about the heart of people:

#1. The heart of the reproved is hard. Chew on these gems from Proverbs:

* Proverbs 9:8: “Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.”

* Proverbs 15:12: “A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise.”

* Proverbs 29:1: “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

There is a complete coldness in those without Jesus. He can come to the point where he says, “I refuse to listen”. This point is one of uselessness to the reception of the gospel. This is a very DANGEROUS condition!

#2. The heart of the sinner is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (read all of Jeremiah 17:8-10). “Dogs” and “swines” are NOT pleasant terms when referring to…PEOPLE! In Romans 3:16-18, 23 (while collectively quoting verses like Proverbs 1:16, Isa. 59:7-8, and Psalm 36:1) Paul writes:

“Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Paul later writes that the gospel is hid to the lost, whose mind is blinded by the enemy (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

#3. But the heart of the saint is PRECIOUS! Because of that, “plant the seed” of the gospel! Perhaps you will be the one who “waters the seed” showing genuine Christian love. AND perhaps you’ll be the one who leads someone to the cross, building on the previous work of others. And in everything, GOD GIVES THE INCREASE! (1 Cor. 3:7).

The third and final question that must be asked as we wisely discern this passage is an obvious one: WHAT IS JESUS ULTIMATELY SAYING?

We have seen that the Savior has a tremendous burden for the gospel! He is setting an amazing foundation for the building of His not so future church. The gospel itself is a most valuable treasure. It MUST not be treated LIGHTLY by the believer. It is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). It can change the heart of any sinner! It is not up to us to determine WHO might or might not receive that precious gospel. It is not up to us to determine WHERE to plant the seed of the gospel.

It is simply up to us to SHARE the good news of salvation! WHY?




“Here Come De Judge!”


Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?

5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

— Matthew 7:1-5

For almost 3 decades – while at the same time pastoring small town churches – I had the privilege of working for the City of Norwich Police Department, wearing multiple hats.

First of all I was their parking enforcement officer – and for many years until they were removed I was known as the city’s “meter maid”. And second (among other hats as well), I was the city’s dog control officer. That job necessitated the enforcement of both the city’s AND the state’s dog laws.

One year my wife and I took a spring vacation. When I returned to work, I learned that a friend of mine had received a “city dog ordinance violation” ticket. Why? Because her dog was barking “to the point that it disturbed someone other than the owner.”

The dog owner called me all upset. So I took her through the meaning of the law. I shared with her that, while dogs ARE allowed to bark, they are not allowed to bark so uncontrollably (the owner or someone never shuts them up) that the noise disturbs someone other than the one responsible for the dog. I told her that, yes, her name would be in our small town’s local paper police blotter (serious stuff you know, barking dogs!). AND she would have to appear in the local court – and so I shared with her what to expect there.

WHAT DID I JUST DO? The one who would be prosecuting her in court took her through all the logistics of what she could be receiving from the prosecution – much less from the judge!

When we come to Chapter 7 of the Sermon on the Mount, we find the connectedness with Chapters 5 & 6 in a continuing theme: the Christian’s relation to his fellow man based upon the ever present Christ and His fellowship.

Chapter 7 introduces the topic of what the Bible calls “judgment”, a word which primarily means “to criticize, to condemn.”

From our court room analogy above, Jesus is saying that when we judge others, we become:

* Prosecuting Attorney: the one who gives evidence

* Jury: the ones who weigh the evidence

* Judge: the one who passes sentence!

The Lord Jesus takes that human understanding of the court room and applies it to perhaps the harshest area of human relationships: our nature and desire to let others know just how we feel. As a result, what happens? We LORD it over them! Let’s look at the Savior’s response to such a judgment.


In Isaiah’s classic chapter 6, Isaiah amazingly writes, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up…” [my emphasis]. Man’s throne is vacant! God is the universe’s eternal Ruler. He is “high and lifted up”, that is, He is seated in a place reserved for worship of ONLY Him! In commenting on this passage in John 12:35, the Lord Jesus said, “he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.”

Following up on this theme, Jeremiah (chapter 1) relates God’s word was his stay (verse 4); God’s knowledge was his humility (verses 5,6); and God’s holiness was his mission (verse 16).

Ezekiel has a similar outline, as in chapter 1. God’s presence was most individual and unique (verses 1-3). God’s appearance was indescribable (whole chapter). And God’s presence demands worship (verses 27-28).

One more! In Psalm 44:3-8, David mulls on God’s greatness and concludes that God’s presence demands only one thing: His worship. Verse 8 he concludes, “In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.” And then David adds the poetic musical term, “Selah” which basically means “pause, think of that!”. When do WE “pause and think of that” when contemplating that God ALONE is worthy to be HIGH AND LIFTED UP?

In his “Love Chapter” (1 Cor. 13), Paul describes love (verses 4-7). Listen to this wonderful rendition found in the New Living Translation – a rendition so good I use it in most weddings I officiate:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

True love is not judgmental but…UPLIFTING!

So how does the Christian understand true judgment? How about Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

THAT’S true judgment. The JUST dying for the UNJUST! True judgment comes from an understanding of Who God is!


Did I mention I used to be the dog control officer for the City of Norwich? Over the course of 27 years, I was confronted with many cases, but none like this one. A distraught lady called me to her house: “come her at once – I have a complaint you need to hear for yourself!”. I knew this would be, well, INTERESTING!!! The caller took me to her backyard where she and her husband often enjoyed their nice patio. She said, “sit down here”. I sat! Then, she said, “Listen.” I listened! And listened! And…about 5 minutes later, the distinct bark of a dog could be heard, coming from about 3 blocks away from her back patio, “DO YOU HEAR THAT?”, she screamed at me. “THAT DOG’S BARKING HAS ENTERED MY SPACE!” What did I write in my follow-up report? I wrote, “Her KINGDOM – her backyard with its very nice patio – was a KINGDOM which created a standard which is impossible to meet or enforce.”

We must determine the standards of judgment. If we set ourselves up as judges, we must be willing to use those standards upon ourselves! As someone wisely observed, when we point 1 finger at others, 3 fingers are pointing back at us!

Let’s observe how God’s holiness is the true standard of judgment:

* With God’s holiness as the standard then we can understand Christ’s words “It is finished”. All eternal judgment is based upon man’s relation to the cross!

* Self judgment must begin in relation to our view of Christ (see 1 Cor. 11:27-32)

* The minister must judge himself and such judgment is based upon the foundation of Christ alone (see 1 Cor. 3:11-15)

* A Christian must judge himself – and will be judged in the future – by the terror of the Lord against personal sin (2 Cor. 5:6-11)

* Since God’s holiness is the true standard of judgment, we must govern our lives by great instruction like James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

If you set yourself up as a standard, be prepared to be judged by that standard! The better response might be, “Hey! May I share with you what I have first learned of Christ Himself?”

Thirdly, TRUE JUDGMENT BEGINS WITH…ME! (verses 3-5)

This week I am scheduled to have the first of two cataract surgeries – pretty exciting to be growing “more mature”, ain’t it? Yesterday a hospital nurse called and milked me through the procedure. Among other things, BEFORE the procedure even takes place, the surgeon will put 15 drops in my eye – one at a time and spaced well apart in time. Tuck that illustration away for a minute.

Our NKJV talks about the “speck” in your brother’s eye and the “plank” in your own eye. The old KJV talks about that “mote” or speck and that “beam” or plank. What often is that “speck” in our brother’s eye or life? It could be a touch of immorality, or some sin of the flesh, or something in HIS life which does not measure up to YOUR standards. So then, what are almost always the steps we then take to correct this heinous violation of our standards? Let’s see (and can YOU identify with these?):

* Pray for (and then we name the person BY NAME) ___________

* He/she did THIS (identify the violation BY NAME) ____________

* “Isn’t that AWFUL?” (Identifying your horror at the violation!)

* “He reproached OUR church, HIS family (oh, and ALSO Christ!)”

* “AND be sure to tell our BROTHERS AND SISTERS all the details so they can INTELLIGENTLY… PRAY!

But you forget about your eye drops – remember, those FIFTEEN eye drops? They are YOUR “log”, “plank”, literally YOUR beam! These absolutely obscure YOUR vision! Rather, those drops should cause us in our weakness to bear the FRUIT of humility, TRUE compassion, UNITY of heart, TEARS of sorrow.

We need to learn to LISTEN. James (James 1:19-20) wisely tells his readers,

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

As we close, you know what I’m challenged to do? YOU BET! I’m challenged to PRAY:

* To ask God to show me what MY planks are that I simply thought were little specks, and ONE BY ONE lay them at the foot of the cross

* To seek out those brothers and sisters in Christ that I have been overly judgmental before, and ONE BY ONE, seek their forgiveness – and together pray for His restoration of true fellowship in Him

* To seek out those who are NOT “in Christ”, who have never (YET!) trusted Jesus as Savior, who I have wronged by being so “heavenly minded and no earthly good” before them. And ONE BY ONE ask their forgiveness. And, ONE BY ONE, point them to the One Who taught me true love

HERE COME DE JUDGE!” Many years ago there was an old TV program – a classic at the time – called “Laugh-In”. Remember it? Each week the show’s characters presented many vignettes – some humorous, some perhaps a tad risqué (I really don’t remember them being risqué as I didn’t know Jesus as Savior at the time). But there was often one vignette where all the characters would shout “Here Come De Judge! Here Come De Judge!” I DO remember how much my dad and I would laugh and laugh and laugh – even if I don’t remember today anything that followed that. But I wonder if those words are what some of our family, friends, neighbors, church family and even unsaved folk say about us when they see US coming: “Here Come De Judge. Here Come De Judge”.

Let’s pray that when they see us – with an heart that has been humbled by the cross – they see the Lord Jesus and hunger for Him Whom to know is life eternal (John 17:3).

When folks see us may they see Jesus in us FIRST!

“Why Pray When You Can Worry?”

Matthew 6:25-34


By Jeremy Stopford, Semi-retired pastor

“25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

If you don’t look it up, you won’t know what it means! Back in the old days there was a disease called “consumption.” I always thought it was “diarrhea,” but the dictionary advises otherwise. Today it is called “pulmonary tuberculosis.” I don’t know all the medical facts, but as the name implies, it was a wasting disease, destroying in particular the lungs. How horrible to die by suffocating little by little.

Yet today we are approaching a disease which could be called “spiritual consumption.”

Do you know it’s symptoms? Do you know anyone who has it? Do YOU have it? And if YOU have it, how do you get rid of it?

“Spiritual Consumption” first of all involves THE CONSUMING WORRY, as seen in verses 25 and 31. The old King James Version said, “take no thought” which has been translated above as “do not worry” in both these verses. A consuming worry is one which makes one perpetually uneasy, anxious, indeed – worried!

Sometime before I turned 13, my parents bought me a “sunfish” – that would be a sailboat which included on the deck a place for my two feet. I LOVED to sail! By the end of every summer, my red hair would have turned bleach blond! I remember when I was first learning how to sail, I would often capsize! The brilliance of the sunfish is that it readily uprighted, so capsizing wasn’t a big deal for the newcomer to sailing. But when one is first learning how to sail, one must learn quickly the most important rule about sailing: DON’T STAND UP! Standing up in a boat can cause an imbalance which can either cause great harm (why, the mast can hit you) or frustration (you might tip over!).

A consuming worry! What worries – like the possibility of tipping over a sailboat – can consume even the strongest servants of the Lord Jesus? The Savior describes this brilliantly. Simply put (verses 25-27), food, water, and clothing! Perhaps the modern word would be…STUFF! The Lord illustrates from nature – His creation (verses 26 and 28). The birds aren’t anxious, because they know they are fed by their Creator. The lilies of the field don’t work, because they know they are beautifully clothed by their Master – why even more beautifully clothed than Solomon, the wealthiest man ever to live in Biblical times. Even a thought of worry cannot help you grow an inch (verse 27)! That thought becomes verbalized in verse 31: “‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”.

The “consuming worry” bottom line causes a person to be of little faith (verse 30): and that person does not look to God nor to His Word.

Secondly, spiritual consumption also involves THE CONSUMING SEARCH (verse 32): “For after all these things the Gentiles seek”.

Just who ARE the “Gentiles”? Initially, of course, they are in Scripture the non-Jews. 1 Corinthians 10:32 reads, “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God…”. The “Greeks” in this verse are the non-Jews, or, as seen in many other versions, the “Gentiles.” So why would the Lord use the Gentiles in His message as concerning a “consuming search”? Because, as described throughout Scriptures, the consuming search of the Gentiles is…THINGS (again, as we say today, “STUFF”!).

The Bible gives at least three good instances – I’m sure there are more! – about being consumed with searching for STUFF! One passage should be very familiar, the other two perhaps not so much. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus introduces His lesson with an overwhelming truth: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Verse 15). The farmer was a good farmer, a very productive farmer. He was so good that he desired to tear down all his barns and build bigger barns. That in itself is not bad – in fact, that might have been a wise move. EXCEPT there is one catch: his purpose was that his goods would give him an ease of life for eternity. He had no consideration for the Savior, nor for the brevity of life. In Acts 8:18-20, a follower of Peter named Simon lusted for the power of the Spirit which the disciples freely expressed. He wished to purchase that power with his money. His consumption was for the Spirit/salvation using earthly reason (and money!). Finally, 2 Corinthians 10:5 reads, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”. Here, there were those who were seeking intelligence! On the surface, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But Paul was referring to those who sought intelligence rather than first seeking true faith in the Lord Jesus through the cross. In the end, what have they really gained? NOTHING!

Thirdly, spiritual consumption is defined as THE CONSUMING PASSION (verses 33-34).

The Lord Jesus say “SEEK FIRST”. This can be defined as “aim at, strive after, let these be your consuming passions above any earthly needs”. And just so there isn’t any guess work, He then tells His hearers (and US His listeners/readers) what to SEEK FIRST.

We are to SEEK FIRST His Kingdom (verse 33a). I love Colossians 3:1-3. When I was a freshman in a secular university as a new Christian, I sought out an on-campus Christian fellowship. That fellowship provided me not only memories but also a strong foundation in my walk with Christ in all the years to follow. One of the leaders of that fellowship was a senior named “Ray”. His life verses were this text in Colossians. Ever since I was under his leadership, I have called these verses “The Ray Principle”:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

What did Paul say? SEEK (verse 1), SET (verse 2), and SETTLE (verse 3). Good true SPIRITUAL STUFF!

The Lord said not only to seek first His Kingdom. We are also to SEEK FIRST His Righteousness (verse 33b). The entirety of the Scriptures is our Heavenly Father pleading with His creation to seek first His way of doing and being right. His plea even goes to far as sending His one and only Son to the cross, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). We seek first His righteousness because He first seeks US!

We are not only to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. We are finally to SEEK FIRST His Day (verse 34). What does this mean? One can easily paraphrase this verse to say, “Tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Each day has its own troubles.” What guarantee do you or I have that today will not be your LAST??? So seek first His day. That means to seek first His Lordship for THIS day. He’s already taking care of tomorrow. Why, He’s already taking care of today!!! So seek first His day – His glory, His purpose, His goals for this day in your life.

As we close, LET’S BE PRACTICAL! To seek Him first means to cast on Him all our cares, as well as our cares for others (see 1 Peter 5:7). So what then should we do FIRST? You bet – PRAY!

I close with an amazing illustration which has repeated itself a multitude of times in my life – and I’m willing to wager (although I’m not a betting man) that this scene has been in your lives many times as well! I’ve lost my car key (or “fob” as it is in many cars today)! So what do I do FIRST? Well, I think through where I was the last time I remember seeing the keys. HELLO! If I knew that, I wouldn’t have to look for the keys! But nonetheless, I try FIRST to re-think my steps. And THEN? I re-trace my steps. I go from the car to the front door (the front door key is attached to the ring which holds the car key). Then I go to the kitchen where I often put the keys. And then I go to each room of the house, desperately looking for the aforementioned missing object. After at lest an half hour – or sometimes not at all until that EVENING – I end up in the bedroom. And what is sitting on the dresser next to the bed? Why, it is the car key! Oh I remember now! Before going to bed last night, I said to myself, “Self – since I forgot to leave my car key by the front door when I came home this evening, let’s start something NEW, Let’s keep the key on the bureau next to the bed. Thus the key will be the last thing I see at night, AND the FIRST thing I see in the morning!”. Well, that FIRST thing didn’t work, WHY NOT? Because Jesus said to seek Him FIRST!

Let’s covenant together to seek Him FIRST today!

“Single and VERY Happy!”


Matthew 6:22-24

“22 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 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! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

The story is told of the pastor who was traveling from Rochester NY east to his home in Georgetown NY. If you know New York State at all, especially in winter, there is a rule about the weather: if you don’t like the weather you have in the morning, just wait! By noon it will be different! Well, Pastor Ken left Rochester on the main Interstate 90, and it was raining. Pretty soon the temperature dropped, and the rain turned to sleet. And what do you know! Not too long afterwards, the sleet turned to…SNOW! When Pastor Ken got off I-90 to head south to Georgetown, he was completely in the DARK! He pulled off the road and discovered that his headlights were completely covered in 2 inches of…ICE! When he cleared off the ice, guess WHAT? He could see clearly! And then he could safely drive HOME!

Verses 22-24 are the foundation for the rest of this chapter. They develop a principle, which principle is followed by 3 simple but profound fruits.

PRINCIPLE: The eye is the lamp of the whole body – what we look at and what we let in to our mind.

Have you read 1 John 2:15-17 lately? Here this passage is:

“15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

This leads us to FRUIT #1: A focused eye produces a fruitful life (v. 22)

The old King James uses a word which is quite foreign to today’s Bible student. Verse 22 in the King James reads, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” The word “single” [or “good” in the New King James Version] is from the Greek word, “haplous”. It is defined as “having a focus of purpose”. It is also translated as “pure” (The Living Bible) and “sound” (Amplified Version).

In my first charge in a small country church town, we lived in an 100 year old parsonage (come to think of it, in my SECOND charge we lived in a parsonage built in 1894!). We lived across the street from the neighborhood farmer and his wonderful wife. And with his barn came, well, mice and rats. Well let me tell you! We had a black and white cat named “Callie” who understood “haplous” very well! He would post himself in one of the doorways near the door to the garage. He would brace himself. And then? He would wait, and wait, and…all of a sudden there was this POUNCE! And the poor helpless animal became another victim that Callie proudly displayed for his parents – us! You see, Callie was SINGLE AND VERY HAPPY! The parsonage life in a farming community was the life for him!

But what if you used that focus – not to pounce on people (or mice or rats, for that matter!) – but on personal holiness? Proverbs 11:25 says, “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” To “be made rich” is wonderfully translated elsewhere as “be made fat” (KJV), “be blessed” (Septuagint – the OT Greek), “enriched” (Amplified), and “rich” (Living Bible).

Isn’t that what we want, what we hunger for? God wants to create, and we are hungry, to be a spiritual man who sees things just the way they are, and responds in a way that reflects the Savior upon Whom he is focused! Which leads us to…

FRUIT #2: An unfocused eye, beyond being unfruitful, is DARK – an instrument for the devil’s use (v. 23).

“Dark” or “darkness” means “blurry”. Literally, it means “having double vision”

Blurred by WHAT??? How about: Sin. Lusts. Desires. Prejudices. The world’s standards.

The Bible says we are to “love one another” (John 13:34-35 AND 21 other references!) and we are to “hate evil” (Psalm 97:10 AND 2 others). The world says that all men are inherently good. So it is possible for the Christian with the unfocused eye to live in the fear of the world rather than in the fear of the Lord. It is possible for the unfocused Christian to have a fear of what the world will think of him, a fear of being misunderstood. As a result, he is, well, USELESS for the Lord!

Let’s look at an amazing Biblical example. One of Paul’s co-workers was a fellow named DEMAS. We learn of him directly in 3 passages: Col. 4:14, Philemon 1:24, and 2 Tim. 4:10. To the Colossians and to Philemon, Paul referred to Demas as working along with Paul’s personal physician, Luke. Further, Paul considered Demas a “fellow laborer.” 2 Timothy 4is believed to be the last chapter Paul ever wrote before he went home to glory. What does v. 10 say about Demas?

“for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica…” [my emphasis]. What a sad commentary about someone who at one time was one of Paul’s trusted fellow servants. Demas is a perfect example of FRUIT #2: he had an unfocused eye, a DARK eye. He was no longer of use for the Savior. And if THAT is true, for whom is he useful? Hmmm…

Finally, there is FRUIT #3: a focused eye gives true DIRECTION (service) in what really matters most (v. 24)

The great American writer, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) had a thought about verse 24. He said, “this verse is a proof text against Mormonism and their old belief in having more than one wife. For the verse says, “no man can serve TWO masters.” (Groan…)

Lehman Strauss was one of the greatest authors and speakers that God used throughout the later years of the last century. He had no car and no house. He said, “those tie me down.” He commented that as a result, he was completely yielded to serve!

Both the Old and the New Testament say that the follower of the Lord is to “love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. God never said that we can’t have THINGS. He doesn’t want THINGS to have US, thus blinding our service for Him.


There is the story of the farmer whose prize cow gave birth to 2 calves: one red, and one white, He proclaims to his wife, “when the time comes, I will sell one and keep the proceeds to live on, and then I will sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lord’s work. She asked him, “which one will you live on, and which one will you use to help the Lord’s work?” He wisely replied, “We won’t bother to decide now – we’ll treat both the same.”

A few months later, the farmer says to his wife, “The Lord’s calf is dead.” The wife reminds him, “but you never decided which is the Lord’s calf.”

“Yes,” the farmer replied. “The red cow was always to be the Lord’s calf.”

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: the Lord’s calf always dies.

That is the heart of this passage in Matthew 6:22-24. The singular heart is the one which has died to self and lives focused only on the Savior.

And you know what? The heart focused only on the Savior is…SINGLE AND QUITE HAPPY!

Am I really? Are you?



Matthew 6:19-21

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

“Treasure”. Allow me to relay a, well, what Dr. Becker might call a “joke”:

“A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget’s Thesaurus crashed as it left a New York publishing house last Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, taken aback, stupefied, confused, punchy, shocked, rattled, paralyzed, dazed, bewildered, mixed up, surprised, awed, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, astounded, amazed, confounded, astonished, boggled,  overwhelmed, horrified, numbed, and perplexed.”

A “thesaurus” is a book which is a wonderful resource for pastors, other servants of the Lord, those doing research, Scrabble players (!), as well as those who are simply searching for that right word to say or write. Throughout college, it was one of those reference books that was invaluable to all those assignments that somehow always were due the NEXT morning! Of course, y’all never had that problem.

Wasn’t that above joke FUNNY? So WHY, you ask, is this important to our study? Interestingly, the word “treasure” in our text is from the Greek word – are you ready? – “thesauros”. Its meaning is quite similar to what we have in our English language. In the Greek, “thesauros” has both a negative and a positive importance. Negatively, it is NOT worldly things! Setting that nugget of information aside, positively it IS: a place of safe keeping; a storehouse; the valuable placed in that storehouse.

With that in mind, wisely our Savior used the word “thesauros” to illustrate with great power His desire for the hearts of those who would be walking with Him – both then and now. So how about us? What is my “thesauros”? What is yours?

Our Savior is giving us 3 good principles to understand “thesauros” and to be able to answer the question, “What or Who/who is our ‘treasure’”?

PRINCIPLE #1 says “The Christian is in a battle for the world’s attitudes” (Matt. 6:19)

The amazing things about the “things on earth” – that is, things of this world – is that they are more often than not GOOD things. If they were in appearance something BAD, it would be easy to discern it as BAD now wouldn’t it? But the “things on earth”, the things which govern the world’s attitudes, are a battle ground for those who love the Lord Jesus as Savior, What things? I’m sure today the list is endless. Let me make a few suggestions. How about THINGS! A house. A BIGGER house. A house which I really can’t afford, but when I own a house it means that I have really arrived, man!

A “thing” could be a TV! I remember one Thanksgiving night standing in a long line at…you got it, Wally World (ok, Walmart). What were we in line for? A TV!!! Not just ANY tv, but a 19” tv. What? Just a puny little tv? Well, that’s all we really wanted for our bedroom. And for $70 and 3 hours of waiting, we took home our…treasure. It was a good treasure to us. And believe it or not, when we moved from that house, we were able to sell that tv for exactly $70.

How about “family”? Can your spouse or your children become “treasures”?

How about “position”? We’ve all heard the term “moving up the ladder of success”. Some people literally walk over other people – friend and foe alike – in order to get to that position in the job that they thought they MUST have in order to be considered a success, to have arrived. Believe it or not, that also can happen in a church. There are many churches where even the trustees have the mindset that “what they say goes” when it comes to the oversight of the church facilities. The Lord did not have much say in what they had “say” in!

So that is Principle #1. Our Savior begins this section with a warning. The world’s attitudes are a battle ground. It does not take much effort for the world’s attitude to become the saint’s attitude. And when the world’s attitude becomes the saint’s attitude, the Lordship of Christ is no longer the priority of that saint. Has that happened to you, to me, to our churches?

PRINCIPLE #2 says “The Christian must have a right view of himself.” (Matt. 6:20)

If we are to have “treasures in heaven” we must make at least two major decisions on earth. FIRST, we must fix in our hearts that “this world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through”! One of my favorite scenes in the Old Testament is when Patriarch Jacob, in Egypt, is asked by Pharaoh, “how old are you?”. Now you or I might answer “I am [x] years old.” Not wise Jacob! He had a right view of himself, knowing this world is not his home. So how does one then answer that question? Jacob said:

“The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few

and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to

the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

[my emphasis] Genesis 47:9

The psalmist was equally wise. Another classic line is found in Psalm 84:5. Here is one of the 3 blessings listed in the psalm (look up the other 2!):

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.[my emphasis]

The psalmist states his heart is set on pilgrimage. It is set. It is fixed. Why? Because he knew, as Jacob did before him, that this world is not his home!

Second, we must learn from the Scriptures what the Lord Himself determines are true “treasures”. Here is a suggested list of some good Biblical treasures:

(a). A heart which is filled with God Himself or the things of God’s Word:

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:35)

(b). Eternal profits rather than earthly profits:

“Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21)

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21 – and context)

(c). The gospel rather than a social gospel:

“whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Cor. 4:4 and context)

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

(d). Filled with the wisdom and knowledge one has in Christ !!!

“For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:1-3)

PRINCIPLE #3 says “if your profits are in heaven your heart will be there, too!” (Matt. 6:21 The Living Bible)

Who should be my greatest treasure? Did you catch the question? This is not a “WHAT” should be my greatest treasure. Rather, the question rightly says “WHO” should be my greatest treasure?

That should NOT be an hard question. But for many of us – including born again, blood bought earthbound (not in heaven, yet!) sinners, it often IS an hard question. We have set aside the reminder that we are in a battle for the world’s attitudes. We DON’T have a right view of ourselves. AND, if that were not enough, we have fallen under the category of “SETTLED FOR”. We have “settled for” earthly gain rather than heavenly profits.

BUT if our treasures are heavenly, so will be our goals, our purposes, our values, our desires, our hungers while on earth.

So there you are, sitting in the huge crowd near the mountainside while the Savior is delivering the Sermon on the Mount. You say to yourself, “I’ve lived a good life. I’ve been blessed by God in so many ways. I’ve got a good nest egg. I’m set for life. But WAIT!!!! Jesus is saying WHAT??? “You’ve settled for earthly treasures, my child. Now settle for ME ALONE.”


May the Lord give each of us grace to TREASURE HIM ALONE!


Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

Shared at Smyrna Baptist Church Smyrna, NY

July 25, 2021 11am

STOP THE PRESSES! HOLD YOUR HORSES! GIVE A LISTEN! Just WHERE is this week’s edition of the “Sermon on the Mount” study? Sorry, dear people. The study in Matthew has been set aside for at least one week for a very important announcement: Yesterday in church, I had the privilege of sharing about an amazing event which will actually take place sometime tonight (July 26, 2021). Are you ready?

My life is divided into 2 sections: BC and AD. BEFORE Jesus and AFTER coming to Jesus. For me, that was BEFORE age 19 and AFTER.

Before age 19, I believed in God. I remember that when I was younger, I used to lay flat on my back on the grass. Then I would look up at the clouds – and do what? I would have conversations with my unknown God!

Dad retired when I was 13. At that time we moved from our home near New York City down to our new home in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. All that led up to that fateful day when I was 17. My best friend Jim and I were swimming in my parents’ pool when Jim said, “I got saved at the revival at church last week.” IMMEDIATELY I told Jim, “you keep that stuff to yourself.” But for the next 2 years I watched Jim. I watched his changing and changed life. Jim was going from “old things were passed away” to “behold, all things become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When I was 18 years old, I worked as a counselor at a boys’ camp in New Hampshire, the same camp where I had been a camper for 3 summers in the 1960’s. One of the counselors, named George, asked me to watch his cabin of boys one night while he was taking one of his 2 nights off we were given per summer. When I walked into his cabin I saw a stack of brand new Bibles, individually wrapped in plastic, located on his bureau. When he came back from his night off, I asked, “George, can I buy a Bible?” He wisely said, “No, I’ll give you one in the morning.”

The next morning at breakfast, George gave me the Bible. Inside the front cover he wrote that he was giving me the Bible at the boys camp. With that summer’s date. THEN? Then he wrote on the cover page 2 verses: [read from that Bible:]

“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

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16

The September after I came home from camp, George sent me a 4 page letter explaining how I needed to know – and how I could know – Jesus as my personal Savior. [I still have that letter!]. Included in that packet was a book entitled, “Now That I Believe,” by Robert Cook – former president of Kings College in New York. I set both letter and book aside.

We need to advance to when I was 19 years old, just over a month removed from my high school graduation. One night I couldn’t sleep. Ever have one of those nights? So for whatever strange reason, I was led to re-read that letter I hadn’t looked at for 10 months! And then I started reading that book, “Now That I Believe.” It wasn’t too long before I came to an HUGE conclusion: I DIDN’T believe in Jesus as my Savior.

I knew Jesus had died on a cross. That was HISTORY.

I DIDN’T know that He had died on a cross FOR ME!!! Now that was a MYSTERY!

That night, as best as I knew how, I asked Jesus to be my Savior.


Within 2 months, while a freshman at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York – REAL UPSTATE, like a few miles from the Canada border upstate – I started attending a Baptist church under the pastorate of Rev. Herman Underwood, who would soon become my spiritual mentor to the day he died some 40 years later!

Within one year I had transferred to a Bible College in Canada.

That first day of school, I met a girl from central NY. Let’s see if we have this straight. A guy from Ft. Lauderdale goes out of the country to Canada and meets a girl from central New York! The next story in my new adventures in Christ? Within 2 years of my receiving Jesus as Savior, Thuvia and I were married! And that counselor, George? He would be one of my ushers! He served with Tim, a fellow student at Bible School. AND he served with David, one of Pastor Underwood’s sons! Pastor Underwood’s daughter Kathy would be our organist. My best man, a fellow named Allen Carpenter, would go on to serve the Lord as pastor in about 5 different churches before he got called to be with the Lord at a very young age.

Within 15 years of my receiving Christ, I would begin serving as pastor of my first charge, a church “in the middle of nowhere”. How in the middle of nowhere? Several years later a friend asked for us to host her and her boyfriend’s wedding there BECAUSE: it was a plain colored church, built in the mid-1800’s, “in the middle of nowhere” – for her, a perfect setting for a Civl War themed wedding!

And as unbelievable to me, about that same time I began my 27 year career working as a parking enforcement officer with the City of Norwich (NY) Police Department.

Years later, a missionary friend who served for many years in Pakistan wrote a book with a title taken from many of the psalms: “WHAT GOD CAN DO”!

And that’s what God has done – and continues to do – for me! He faithfully works in me to draw fresh attention to Himself. Wow! What God can do!

OH! The date I came to know Jesus as Savior?

JULY 26, 1971


What God can do for me, He can do for everyone!

“…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest!”

(Matthew 11:28)

Close in prayer – and praise!

EPILOGUE After the service, my wife and I went to our car to prepare to go home for the day. As we got into the vehicle, the thought suddenly hit me. I said to her,

“Weren’t you saved at the Bible Camp when you were 8 years old?”


“That means you were saved during the summer of 1961…

“That means you received Jesus as Savior 60 years ago this summer!

I know the date I received Jesus as Savior. My wife knows how old she was and where she was, but she doesn’t know the exact date.

But you know what? GOD KNOWS THE HEARTS!


Have YOU received Jesus as YOUR Savior?

Do you know anyone who needs to trust Him today?

Catch the eternal vision of men and women, boys and girls, in the “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14)