Fountain in the Rose Garden - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Be careful where you set your heart.

What does it mean to set your heart on things of heaven? I’ve heard that all my life. Store up treasures in heaven. Seek first the kingdom of God. All wonderful things but all vague if you try to put them into practice.

Fountain in the Rose Garden - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Fountain in the Rose Garden – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Luke 12:34.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

How can you set your heart on the things of heaven when we really don’t know what heaven is like? I meant he Bible gives us clues not specific ones. So how does that help us set our hearts on heaven?

I’m a practical person. Granted, I enjoy creativity and artistry to a certain extent, but I really prefer to have some kind of practicality behind it. So vague, churchy phrases do little else than to irritate me.

It’s easy to set your heart on things of the world because they’re visible, tangible, usually immediate, and they make us feel better. But the things of the world are temporary. Wealth spends; health declines; possessions wear out. No matter how much you obtain in this life, you can’t take it with you. So it makes sense to store up “treasures” in heaven, which means to live your life for the intangibles that last forever.

Yes, I’m sure some treasures in heaven may consist of mansions and heavenly wealth and eternal life, yada yada yada. But to me, treasures in heaven are people I love. And that’s a great goal. But how do you set your heart on filling up heaven with treasures while you’re still on earth?

Well, I guess you live the dream God gave you.

God has given everyone a dream. Maybe some of us have hidden it, stuffed it way down deep into the corner of our hearts that rarely sees light because it’s too absurd to pursue in broad daylight. I can’t speak for anyone else. But for me? Writing has always been my dream. From the moment I understood that writing was something I could do for a living, it became my desire. But not writing specifically – publication: that magical word that changes a writer from an amateur to an expert (whether they actually know anything or not).

From the time I was very small, I wanted to be a published author. And I remember the first time I sent off a manuscript to a publisher. I cringe now thinking about what I mailed, and I pity whoever was unfortunate enough to open it. And I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for a response … and receiving none. But not to be deterred, I tried again. And again. And again. And the first time I received a response letter, I was so excited! Until I read it. A rejection notice. I’d heard of them. And this was the first of many to follow.

I could probably paper my walls with all the rejection notices I’ve received now. I remember hitting the bottom when I was halfway through college, thinking that it wasn’t worth it and that maybe I had misunderstood the dream God had given me because obviously nobody wanted anything I was writing.

But then I read a book somewhere that told me to define what success meant to me. And success for me was this: that someone would come to know Christ directly because of something I wrote. And by that definition I was successful through the first set of dramas I wrote for my church, a drama series called “To Be Continued.” And I have been writing ever since.

I had set my heart on being a published author. Granted, I wanted to become a published author so that the stories God has given me can reach as many people as possible. But I had my heart set on the wrong part of that goal. My heart needed to be set on reaching people for Christ. My heart needed to be set on the end and not the means. My interpretation of the dream God had given me was too small.

If I can step back and try to see the big picture of the dream God has given me for my life, that’s what I need to set my heart on fulfilling. If I try to set my heart on my interpretation of the smaller events that will lead to the big picture, it’s like focusing all my efforts on a single puzzle piece and neglecting the entire puzzle.

That’s why we crash and burn when we don’t get the answers we want. That’s why we get depressed and discouraged when our plans don’t work out. We have our hearts set on the means we think we need to accomplish our dream rather than the dream itself. If we can set our hearts on the big picture God has for our lives, it’s a lot easier to let go of the little things that don’t work out like we expect. It’s a lot easier to trust that whatever path He leads us down is the right one, whether it feels like it or not.

I’m almost 30 and have been writing for 20 years without being published. So what? I have my heart set on God using my writing to help people, and He’s done that. And He’ll keep doing it. It just may not look like what I think it should look like. But that’s up to Him.

The best way to tell the difference between your dream and God’s is that God’s dream for your life will always be impossible for you alone. So be careful where you set your heart. And before you get too attached to the plans you’ve made, ask yourself if you’re depending on your dream or God’s.

Life after realizing your dream

Everyone has dreams. Some of our dreams are more difficult to accomplish than others, but everyone has something they want to see happen in their lives. Maybe it’s a kid growing up. Maybe it’s having kids to begin with. Maybe it’s getting married. Maybe it has nothing to do with relationships and is all about success in business or a business-related subject. No matter what our goal is, everyone has them, but the fact is that not everyone will see their dreams come true. That’s just the way life works sometimes.

But for some people, we will see our dreams become reality. But what happens after that?

Today’s passage is Luke 2:28-32.

28Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
      as you have promised.
 30 I have seen your salvation,
    31 which you have prepared for all people.
 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
      and he is the glory of your people Israel!”Okay. We need to back up. Because this passage starting in verse 28 makes precious little sense until you understand who Simeon is. Let’s start in verse 25 and read through 27 for the background. 25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there.

So this is Simeon. He’s a man in Jerusalem, not necessarily a priest. I can’t remember. But either way, the Bible says the Holy Spirit was on him. God had revealed to this man, Simeon, that he would see the Messiah before he died.

Put yourself in Simeon’s shoes for a while. I don’t know how old he was. He might have been ancient. He might have been middle aged. But he was “eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.” This was his dream. Simeon dreamed that God would rescue his people.

He’d been living for this dream for a long time. Remember, at this time, Israel was in captivity to Rome. They had been in captivity for hundreds and hundreds of years. And God had been silent for 500 of those years.

So what do you think Simeon felt when he saw Jesus?

I have a lot of dreams personally, but only a few really major ones. And I remember when one of them came true. I remember the shock. I had been living for that moment for nearly my whole conscious life and when it happened, I almost didn’t believe it. But when I realized that it really had happened, I just started crying.

Isn’t that a strange way to react?

Dreams are tricky things. Because they can help us stay on target. They can help us stay focused on a specific goal. But what happens after they come true?

What happened to Simeon after he saw the Messiah? Well, I don’t know. There’s nothing else about him after this. Maybe he died.

But when we achieve a dream, many people stop trying. They see that they’ve done what they’d set out to do, and then they just coast through the rest of their life. And I don’t want to be like that.

Personally, I think that all of our dreams are connected. And when you achieve one, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved everything. All of us are part of one big story, after all. And when we achieve one goal, it affects the people around us. One dream opens the door to a bigger dream. So there’s really no point in stopping or letting down or giving up. There’s still more to do. There’s always more to do.

You see, I don’t know what Simeon did after he saw the Messiah, but I know how his dream affected someone close to him. Because there was a woman in the temple the same day Simeon was. Her name was Ana, and this is what the Bible has to say about her:

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.[c] She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

The end of Simeon’s dream became the beginning of someone else’s. Ana went out and told people that the Messiah had come.

And I guess that’s my point today. Dreams don’t really end. And even after you see your dream realized, that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop dreaming. And besides, you have no idea how big your dream might get. Just because you’ve seen part of it accomplished doesn’t mean it’s achieved as much as it can.

So if you have a dream, and you’ve seen it come true, don’t stop pursuing it. And if you have a dream and you’re still waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting), don’t give up.


Christianity can be like any other club out there, a group of people united by unnecessary membership fees, dress codes, and unattainable standards. The church can easily turn into a club where everyone talks about the Bible in terms that don’t upset or challenge anyone. I know of a church in Wichita that preaches the truth but decided to never preach about money because that made people uncomfortable (even though Jesus talked about money and wealth).

But the other fact that makes Christianity like a club somtimes is the jargon.

If you’ve been around the church for any amount of time, you probably don’t even know half your vocabulary is made up of churchy phrases that no one outside the church will understand.

Phrases like “accept Jesus into your heart” or “take up your cross” or “passing the plate” don’t mean anything to someone who’s never read the Bible, but Christians throw them around all the time and then sneer at people who don’t understand like there’s something wrong with them.

That’s one of the many reasons I love my pastor — he talks straight. I’ve listened to many preachers who can wax eloquent on salvation or a multitude of other biblical topics, spouting off florid verbiage that sounds both poetic and overdone. I have little patience for communication that doesn’t accomplish anything other than making the pastor look impressive for his vocabulary.

So, when I read the verse this morning, my mind immediately jumped to the many sermons I have heard using this text as reference. Even if you haven’t grown up in church, you will recognize the cliches and church-speak all throughout this verse:

Luke 9:23-24

23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

There are many phrases in this verse that passionate repetition has turned to cliche. The one that catches my eye mostly is “take up your cross.” You will hear this phrase everywhere, in every denomination almost. Take up your cross! Or sometimes it’s said that we all have our cross to bear.

In all honesty . . . I don’t think I’m studied enough to tell you what it’s probably supposed to mean. I used to know. But I’ve been out of a traditional church for so long most of my knowledge of cliches and church-speak has faded. I’m pretty sure it means that you should take advantange of misfortune and try to use it for good . . . or it’s part of the concept of salvation, that your old self is crucified with Christ and is dead . . . . or it’s part of understanding what it means to live a Christian life, accepting unjust punishment and prejudice without complaint. I know I’ve heard all of those explanations for that phrase, but is one of them right? Or are all of them right? I can’t tell you.

I can only tell you what it means to me now . . . and maybe it’s different for every person. That wouldn’t surprise me. It’s different for me now that I’m older than it was when I was young. That’s the miracle of the Bible. It grows with you . . . .

Whenever I think of Christ bearing up under the weight of the cross during the long, agonizing trek to Golgotha, I remember that He did that for me. No one made Him do it. He chose to die painfully to make a way for me to have a relationship with God. The Jews didn’t kill Him. The Romans didn’t kill Him. He gave up His own life. He could have stopped it at any moment, but He chose to keep going.

Jesus bearing the cross, to me, is a picture of selflessness, of a willingness to sacrifice His life for other people. He hadn’t done anything wrong. All He had done was speak the truth and heal people, both physically and spiritually. He was fully, totally, completely innocent. But He chose to give up His comfort and His position and His very existence to pay for sins He’d never committed. Jesus lived His life for other people, just like He died for all people.

To me, that’s what “take up your cross” means.

Take up your cross daily. Every morning when you wake up, remember that your life isn’t about you. God put us on earth for a reason and He keeps us here to accomplish something.

The church and religion has taken this phrase and turned it into something commonplace, but “take up your cross” is the furthest thing from common that there is. It’s hard. It’s beyond hard — it’s excrutiating. Because no matter if we have chosen to believe in Christ, we still want to live for ourselves. That’s how we’re wired. But that’s not what Jesus did.

But we throw it around like all the rest of English idiom, like it’s just a string of words that doesn’t mean anything. We all have our crosses to bear, don’t we?

Taking up your cross daily — living for other people — is a lifestyle. It’s a picture of what it truly means to follow Christ, to live like Christ, to give up your life. It’s one of the most difficult things we can chose to do as believers.

Can we believe in Christ and not follow Him? Of course. I’ve met a lot of Christians who are right there. There were many Christians in the New Testament who believed in Jesus but didn’t follow Him. But you’ll see if you read Scripture that they didn’t start making a difference in the world until they gave up their lives, until they sacrificed their dreams, until they turned over their wishes and desires to live for other people.

We can struggle and fight to achieve something great for God in this world, but until we learn to live for other people, we won’t accomplish anything. Until we learn that our lives aren’t about us, God won’t use us — not the way He wants to.

What are you holding on to today?

I can tell you I struggle with turning my writing over to Him. I want to write what I want to write. I want to make a difference with my stories and my plans and my ideas, but who are those stories and plans and ideas for? Me or other people? My dream was always to get a book published and reach as many people as possible. But what if His plan isn’t for me to reach a lot of people? What if His plan is for me to reach one or two people? Am I okay with that?

What about you? What are your dreams? Financial security? (I’ve had that one too.) A relationship? (Ditto.) A house? A car that runs consistently? A job you love? Why do you want these things? What is driving you to accomplish your dreams? Are your dreams for yourself?

I had to come to a realization many years ago that my dreams weren’t as important as God’s plans. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I had to surrender my dream to God. And I can tell you from experience that my dream hasn’t come true yet — at least, not the specific dream I had. But God has answered part of my dream . . . . .

You’re reading this devotional, aren’t you?