What do you cherish most?

I heard a great message a while back by Max Lucado about what we cherish in this lifetime. The message posed some pretty challenging questions like “What are you the most grateful for?” or “what do you thank God for the most?” and “what do you invest most of your time in?” These are all excellent questions and immediately got me thinking. Then an illustration was given to really bring the message home. Max said, “Take a sticky note and put it on all the things that you value, but only put them on the things that will be burned up in the end. What remains should be the answers to the questions asked at the beginning.”

So then I thought, what in my life can really be impacted by eternity? Eternity does not consist of my job, my car, or my house (and everything in it); eternity consists of the hearts of my family members, the heart of my wife, the hearts of my kids, the hearts of my friends, the hearts of strangers, and of course, my own heart. These are what I should cherish, praise God for, keep watch over, be the most grateful for, and invest the far majority of my time with.

Job put it very well when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21).

Money Can Buy
A bed but not sleep
Books but not knowledge
Food but not appetite
Finery but not beauty
A house but not a home
Medicine but not health
Luxuries but not comfort
Pleasures but not happiness
Religion but not salvation.
-unknown

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters!

The Problem with Abundance

welcome-prosperity

Every time I see devotions and books about abundance, I get a little wary. Especially with the acceptance of the prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all) by so many. I’ve heard many messages that demonstrate a misunderstanding of Jesus’ proclamation in John chapter 10 that He came to give us abundant life. So mix that idea with their goals of gaining wealth and health. All you have to do is look at the life of Jesus and His teachings to know that the life of a disciple of Christ is not a life focused on the material or yourself whatsoever. That’s not too say God won’t bless people with financial provision, careers, healing, etc…God loves His children and knows what they need and when. But some of us can’t handle money. Some of us need to walk through valleys in life. Some of us need to struggle to learn dependence on God. He knows the faithful stewards and He knows how to mold His children.

I’ve come to realize, in my short 37 years of life, that there is a simple equation that can be applied universally across humanity. Abundance produces apathy which results in atrophy. I’m not using the word abundance in a spiritual sense but in a physical sense. When Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, He was referring to a spiritual reality, not materialism. Life experiences have taught me the pitfalls of physical abundance. So have my studies of history, and more specifically, the Bible.

“Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God, by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I command you this day: lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

Deuteronomy 8:11-17 RSV

Before Israel entered the promised land, God warned them not to forget Him once they had the “good life”. What did they do? They forgot Him. Quickly too. It only took one generation. So did the future kings of Saul and Solomon. Once prosperity hit, they were corrupted. When our sense of need for God dissipates our devotion naturally follows. Abundance generally produces a desire for more abundance. People don’t want to lose what they have. The more they have, the more effort and worry they’ll put into maintaining it. The more we do that, the less mental capacity we have for God. The more time we strive to maintain a way of life, the less time we have to spend with God. The more we have, the more prideful we can become. Pride makes no room for God. Apathy creeps in. The more apathetic we become, the more our faith atrophies. The longer this process continues, the more dangerous the outcome. For Israel, and their kings, it took tragedy and destruction to get them back on track. My story isn’t too far from that. I have had to lose in order to win in life. Even now, I feel a pull during the “good times” where nothing is going wrong and financially we’re well off. That pull is towards comfort and away from convictions. I can easily lose sight of what matters most during those times. It’s easier to not fall on our knees in prayer when we feel like we’re keeping ourselves standing tall.

Learning these lessons has really changed the way I pray. I don’t pray for anyone to be wealthy, especially myself. The opposite of poverty is enough, not wealth. All we need is enough. All we should ever want is what God knows is best for us. He knows what we can handle. If we’re not generous in our poverty, there’s no way we’ll be generous in prosperity. If we’re not faithful with our time in hard times, why would we be in good times? God is so good. And good things are going to happen to us. But we can’t let the good times and the good things derail our faith. That happens when our love for prosperity outweighs our love for the Giver. No matter our present circumstances, our need for Him never changes.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters