Thursday, August 30, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 4

Desiring God- by John Piper
Our Calling: A Wartime Lifestyle

The mention of “war" is not merely rhetorical. What is specifically called for today is a "wartime lifestyle." I have used the phrase "simple necessities of life" earlier in this chapter because Paul said in 1Timothy 6:8, "If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." But this idea of simplicity can be very misleading. I mean it to refer to a style of life that is unencumbered with nonessentials-and the criterion for "essential" should not be primitive "simplicity," but wartime effectiveness.

Ralph Winter illustrates this idea of a wartime lifestyle:

The Queen Mary, lying in repose in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war. On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peacetime complement of 3000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended upon it. The essence of the Great Commission today is that the survival of many millions of people depends on its fulfillment.

There is a war going on. All talk of a Christian's right to live luxuriantly "as a child of the King" in this atmosphere sounds hollow-especially since the King himself is stripped for battle. It is more helpful to think of a "wartime" lifestyle than a merely "simple" lifestyle. Simplicity can be very inward directed, and may benefit no one else. A wartime lifestyle implies that there is a great and worthy cause for which to spend and be spent (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Winter continues:

America today is a save-yourself society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Laborsaving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves.

How hard have we tried to save others? Consider the fact that the U.S. evangelical slogan, "Pray, give, or go" allows people merely to pray, if that is their choice! By contrast the Friends Missionary Prayer Band of South India numbers 8000 people in their prayer bands and supports 80 full-time missionaries in North India. If my denomination (with its unbelievably greater wealth per person) were to do that well, we would not be sending 500 missionaries, but 26,000. In spite of their true poverty, those poor people in South India are sending 50 times as many cross-cultural missionaries as we are.

The point here is to show that those who encourage Christians to pursue a luxuriant peacetime lifestyle are missing the point of all Jesus taught about money. He called us to lose our lives in order that we might gain them again (and the context is indeed money-"What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"- Mark 8:36. And the way he means for us to lose our lives is in fulfilling the mission of love he gave us.

Be Rich in Good Deeds

Which leads us to the final admonition Paul makes to the rich: "They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous" (1Timothy 6:18). Once they are liberated from the magnet of pride and once their hope is set on God, not money, only one thing can happen: Their money will flow freely to multiply the manifold ministries of Christ.

What about the Lake Home?

So what does a pastor say to his people concerning the purchase and ownership of two homes in a world where 2,000 people starve to death every day and mission agencies cannot penetrate more unreached peoples for lack of funds? First, he may quote Amos 3: 15-"I will smite the winter house and the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish; and the great houses shall come to an end." Then he may read Luke 3:11, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none."

Then he might tell about the family in St. Petersburg, Florida, who caught a vision for the housing needs of the poor. They sold their second home in Ohio and used the funds to build houses for several families in Immokalee, Florida.

Then he will ask, is it wrong to own a second home that sits empty part of the year? And he will answer, maybe and maybe not. He will not make it easy by creating a law. Laws can be obeyed under constraint with no change of heart; prophets want new hearts for God, not just new real estate arrangements. He will empathize with their uncertainty and share his own struggle to discover the way of love. He will not presume to have a simple answer to every lifestyle question.

But he will help them decide. He will say, "Does your house signify or encourage a level of luxury enjoyed in heedless unconcern of the needs of others? Or is it a simple, oft-used retreat for needed rest and prayer and meditation that sends people back to the city with a passion to deny themselves for the evangelization of the unreached and the pursuit of justice?"

He will leave the arrow lodged in their conscience and challenge them to seek a lifestyle in sync with the teaching and life of the Lord Jesus.

Why Has God Given Us So Much?

In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need." In other words, there are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.

Too many professing Christians live on level two. Almost all the forces of our culture urge them to live on level two. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three. "God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9: 8). Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on and then use the rest for all manner of good works that alleviate spiritual and physical misery. Enough for us; abundance for others.

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of his grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn't. Copper will do.

Living on the Brink of Eternity

Our final summary emphasis should be this: In 1 Timothy 6, Paul's purpose is to help us lay hold on eternal life and not lose it. Paul never dabbles in unessentials. He lives on the brink of eternity. That's why he sees things so clearly. He stands there like God's gatekeeper and treats us like reasonable Christian Hedonists: You want life which is life indeed; don't you (verse 19)? You don't want ruin, destruction and pangs of heart, do you (verses 9-10)? You do want all the gain that godliness can bring; don't you (verse 6)? Then use the currency of Christian Hedonism wisely: do not desire to be rich, be content with the wartime necessities of life, set your hope fully on God, guard yourself from pride and let your joy in God overflow in a wealth of liberality to a lost and needy world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Are You a Disciple?

I am attaching a link for everyone to watch this video called "Experience the Life" when you get a few minutes. In the video Bill Hull is discussing something that God has been teaching me over the last several years. When I read God's word He convicts me of the state of the Church today. Becoming a Christian these days has been lowered to "just walking an aisle" or "praying a prayer" etc in order to be saved. Yet it is so obvious in America today that "so called" Christians have no transformation in their lives. They continue to live life the way they have or at best they may have cleaned up their act a little and go to church to check off a set of religious acts. But, what God has showed me is that to be a Christian, means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Bill Hull states in his article "What must change now" that: The word Christian-used three times in the New Testament has been preferred over Disciple, used 269 times. Christian seems to be a word that has lost its meaning more so than those who think Disciple is passé. It seems that outside the Church Christians are thought of as intolerant, even hateful, they are critics and judges. It is a title that has disappeared into the fog of Western culture to define religious origin. Inside the Church, Christian has become a word that describes agreement with a set of religious ideas; it does not require action or movement.

Disciple is a robust word; it calls upon a person to give an answer to God, to do something, to follow and in doing so create an opportunity for transformation. Answering the call to discipleship means positioning oneself for spiritual formation. It requires intentionality, self-denial, and commitment to follow Jesus wherever He leads. As Bonhoeffer aptly stated, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

We are called to be disciples of Jesus. Are you a disciple?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 3

Desiring God- by John Piper
Laying Up for Yourself a Good Foundation

Paul's teaching to the rich in 1 Timothy 6:19 continues and applies these teachings of Jesus from the Gospels. He says rich people should use their money in a way that "lays up for themselves a good foundation for the future and takes hold on life which is life indeed." In other words, there is a way to use your money that forfeits eternal life.3

We know Paul has eternal life in view because seven verses earlier he uses the same kind of expression in reference to eternal life: "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12).

The reason the use of your money provides a good foundation for eternal life is not that generosity earns eternal life, but that it shows where your heart is. Generosity confirms that our hope is in God and not in ourselves or our money. We don't earn eternal life. It is a gift of grace (2 Timothy 1:9). We receive it by resting in God's promise. Then how we use our money confirms or denies the reality of that rest.

Pride of Possessions

Paul gives three directions to the rich about how to use their money to confirm their eternal future.

First, don't let your money produce pride. "As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty" ( 1 Timothy 6:17). How deceptive our hearts are when it comes to money! Every one of us has felt the smug sense of superiority that creeps in after a clever investment or new purchase or a big deposit. Money's chief attractions is the power it gives and the pride it feeds. Paul says, don't let this happen.

Why It Is Hard for the Rich to Inherit Life

Second, he adds in verse 17, "Don't set your hope on uncertain riches, but on God who richly furnishes you all things to enjoy." This is not easy for the rich to do. That's why Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23) . It is hard to look at all the earthly hope that riches offer and then turn away from that to God, and rest all your hope on him. It is hard not to love the gift instead of the Giver. But this is the only hope for the rich. If they can't do it, they are lost.

They must remember the warning Moses gave the people of Israel as they entered the promised land:

Beware lest you say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth." You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

The great danger of riches is that our affections will be carried away from God to his gifts.

Is This a Health-Wealth-and-Prosperity Teaching?

Before moving on to Paul's third exhortation for the rich, we must consider a common abuse of verse 17. The verse says that "God richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy." This means, first, that God is usually generous in the provision he makes to meet our needs. He furnishes things "richly." Second, it means we need not feel guilty for enjoying the things he gives us. They are given "for enjoyment." Fasting, celibacy, and other forms of self-denial are right and good in the service of God, but they must not be elevated as the spiritual norm. The provisions of nature are given for our good and, by our Godward joy, can become occasions of thanksgiving and worship ( 1 Timothy 4:2-5).

But a wealth-and-prosperity doctrine is afoot today, shaped by the half-truth that says, "We glorify God with our money by enjoying thankfully all the things he enables us to buy. Why should a son of the King live like a pauper?" And so on. The true half of this is that we should give thanks for every good thing God enables us to have. That does glorify him. The false half is the subtle implication that God can be glorified in this way by all kinds of luxurious purchases.

If this were true, Jesus would not have said, "Sell your possessions and give alms" (Luke 12 :33). He would not have said, "Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink" (Luke 12:29). John the Baptist would not have said, "He who has two coats, let him share with who has none" (Luke 3:11). The Son of Man would not have walked around with no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). And Zacchaeus would not have given half his goods to the poor (Luke 19:8).

God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professing Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistible law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity) they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun.

Why God Prospers Many Saints

They will object: Does not the Old Testament promise that God will prosper his people? Indeed! God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove our yield is not our god. God does not prosper a man's business so he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a business so that 17,000 unreached peoples can be reached with the gospel. He prospers a business so that twelve percent of the world's population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.

I am a pastor, not an economist. Therefore I see my role today the way James Stewart saw it in Scotland thirty years ago. It is the function of economists, not the pulpit, to work out plans of reconstruction. But it is emphatically the function of the pulpit to stab men broad awake to the terrible pity of Jesus, to expose their hearts to the constraint of that divine compassion which halos the oppressed and the suffering, and flames in judgment against every social wrong.... There is no room for a preaching devoid of ethical directness and social passion, in a day when heaven's trumpets sound and the Son of God goes forth to war.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 2

Desiring God by John Piper
The Images of Wealth

I recall a full-page ad for a popular office chair which showed a man in a plush office. The ad's headline read, "His suits are custom tailored. His watch is solid gold. His office chair is________________. " Below the man's picture was this quote:

I've worked hard and had my share of luck: my business is a success. I wanted my office to reflect this and I think it does. For my chair I chose a________________. It fits the image I wanted . . . If you can't say this about your office chair, isn't it about time you sat in a _________________? After all, haven't you been without one long enough?

The philosophy of wealth in those lines goes like this: If you've earned them, you would be foolish to deny yourself the images of wealth. If 1 Timothy 6:9 is true, and the desire to be rich brings us into Satan's trap and the destruction of hell, then this advertisement, which exploits and promotes that desire, is just as destructive as anything you might read in the sex ads of a big city daily.

Are you awake and free from the false messages of American merchandising? Or has the omnipresent economic lie deceived you so that the only sin you can imagine in relation to money is stealing? I believe in free speech and free enterprise because I have no faith whatsoever in the moral capacity of sinful civil government to improve upon the institutions created by sinful individuals. But for God's sake let us use our freedom as Christians to say no to the desire for riches and yes to the truth: There is great gain in godliness when we are content with the simple necessities of life.

What Should the Rich Do?

So far we have been pondering the words addressed in 1 Timothy 6:6-10 to people who are not rich but who may be tempted to want to be rich. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Paul addresses a group in the church who are already rich. What should a rich person do with his money if he becomes a Christian? And what should a Christian do if God prospers his business so that great wealth is at his disposal? Paul answers like this:

(17) As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. (18) They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, (19) thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.

The words of verse 19 simply paraphrase Jesus' teaching. Jesus said

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus is not against investment. He is against bad investment- namely, setting your heart on the comforts and securities that money can afford in this world. Money is to be invested for eternal yields in heaven-"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven!" How?

Luke 12:32-34 gives one answer:

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

So the answer to how to lay up treasures in heaven is to spend your earthly treasures for merciful purposes in Christ's name here on earth. Give alms-that is, provide yourself with purses in heaven. Notice carefully that Jesus does not merely say that treasure in heaven will be the unexpected result of generosity on earth. No, he says we should pursue treasure in heaven. Lay it up! Provide yourselves with unfailing purses and treasures! This is pure Christian Hedonism.

You Will Be Repaid at the Resurrection of the Just

Another instance of it in the teaching of Jesus is Luke 14:13-14, where he is more specific about how to use our resources to lay up treasures in heaven.

Whenever you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot pay you back, for it will be paid back to you in the resurrection of the just.

This is virtually the same as saying, "Give alms; provide yourselves purses in heaven." Don't seek the reward of an earthly tit for tat. Be generous. Don't pad your life with luxuries and comforts. Look to the resurrection and the great reward in God "whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Beware of Being Wiser than the Bible

Beware of commentators who divert attention from the plain meaning of these texts. What would you think, for example, of the following typical comrnent on Luke 14:13-14: "The promise of reward for this kind of life is there as a fact. You do not live this way for the sake of reward. If you do you are not living in this way but in the old selfish way.'' 1

Is this true-that we are selfish and not loving if we are motivated by the promised reward? If so, why did Jesus entice us by mentioning the reward, even giving it as the basis ("for") of our action? And what would this commentator say concerning Luke 12:33, where we are not told that reward will result from our giving alms, but we are told to actively seek to get the reward-"Provide yourselves with purses!"?

And what would he say concerning the parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-13), where Jesus concludes, "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations" ( 16:9)? The aim of this parable is to instruct the disciples in the right and loving use of worldly possessions. Jesus does not say the result of such use is to receive eternal habitations. He says, Make it your aim to secure an eternal habitation by the use of your possessions.

So it is simply wrong to say that Jesus does not want us to pursue the reward he promises. He commands that we pursue it (Luke 12:33, 16:9). More than forty times in the Gospel of Luke there are promises of reward and threats of punishment connected with the commands of Jesus.2

Of course, we must not seek the reward of earthly praise or material gain. This is clear not only from Luke 14:14, but also from Luke 6:35, "Love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High." In other words, don't care about earthly reward; look to the heavenly reward, namely, the infinite joys of being a son of God!

Or, as Jesus put it in Matthew 6: 3-4, don't care about human praise for your merciful acts. If that is your goal, that's all you will get, and that will be a pitiful reward compared to the reward of God. "When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Luring Others to the Reward by Loving It Ourselves

The reason our generosity toward others is not a sham-love when we are motivated by the longing for God's promise is that we are aiming to take those others with us into that reward. We know our joy in heaven will be greater if the people we treat with mercy are won over to the surpassing worth of Christ, and join us in praising him.

But how will we ever point them to Christ's infinite worth if we are not driven, in all we do, by the longing to have more of him? It would only be unloving if we pursued our joy at the expense of others. But if our very pursuit includes the pursuit of their joy, how is that selfish ? How am I the less loving if my longing for God moves me to give away my earthly possessions so that my joy in him can be forever doubled in your partnership of praise?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 1

In my Sunday School class I am currently teaching from John Piper's book called, Desiring God. This month we are on the Chapter that deals with money. This lesson has been very difficult for all of us but one that WE as believers need to hear especially in this day and age of wealth. Compared to the rest of the world we are extremely wealthy people. God has a plan and purpose for our prosperity and how we are to handle it. So, I thought that I would post this chapter online. I have broken it up into 4 segments and will post a segment every couple of days. I would love to hear your feed back on it. This chapter is very convicting and my prayer is that Christians today would really grasp this. It would be life changing if we did.

The Currency of Christian Hedonism

Money is the currency of Christian Hedonism. What you do with it-or desire to do with it-can make or break your happiness forever. The Bible makes clear that what you feel about money can destroy you:

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. (l Timothy6:9)

Or what you do with your money can secure the foundation of eternal life:

They are to be liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. (l Timothy6:18,19)

These verses teach us to use our money in a way that will bring us the greatest and longest gain. That is, they advocate Christian Hedonism. They confirm that it is not only permitted but commanded by God that we flee from destruction and pursue our full and lasting pleasure. They imply that all the evils in the world come not because our desires for happiness are too strong, but because they are so weak that we settle for fleeting pleasures that do not satisfy our deepest souls, but in the end destroy them. The root of all evil is that we are the kind of people who settle for the love of money instead of the love of God ( 1 Timothy 6:10) .

Beware the Desire to Be Rich

This text in 1 Timothy 6 is so crucial that we should meditate on it in more detail. Paul is warning Timothy against

[They are] people who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now, there is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to bc rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.

Paul writes to Timothy a word of warning about slick deceivers who discovered they could cash in on the upsurge of godliness in Ephesus. According to verse five, these puffed-up controversialists treat godliness as a means of gain. They are so addicted to the love of money that truth occupies a very subordinate place in their affections. They don't "rejoice in the truth." They rejoice in tax evasion. They are willing to use any new, popular interest to make a few bucks.

Nothing is sacred. If the bottom line is big and black, the advertising strategies are a matter of indifference. If godliness is in, then sell godliness.

This text is very timely. Ours are good days for profits in godliness. The godliness market is hot for booksellers and music makers and dispensers of silver crosses and fish buckles and olivewood letter-openers and bumper stickers and lucky-water crosses with Jesus on the front and miracle water inside guaranteed to make you win at Bingo or your money back in ninety days. These are good days for gain in godliness!

He Didn't Say, "Don't Live for Gain."

In his day or in ours, Paul could have responded to this effort to turn godliness into gain by saying, "Christians don't live for gain. Christians do what's right for its own sake. Christians aren't motivated by profit." But that's not what Paul said. He said (in verse six), "There is great gain in godliness with contentment."

Instead of saying Christians don't live for gain, he says Christians ought to live for greater gain than the slick money lovers do. Godliness is the way to get this great gain, but only if we are content with simplicity rather than greedy for riches. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

If your godliness has freed you from the desire to be rich and has helped you be content with what you have, then your godliness is tremendously profitable. "For while physical training is a little profitable, godliness is profitable for all things, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4: 8). Godliness that overcomes the craving for material wealth produces great spiritual wealth. The point of verse six is that it is very profitable not to pursue wealth.

What follows in verses 7-10 are three reasons why we should not pursue riches.

Getting Raises Is Not the Same as Getting Rich

But first let me insert a clarification. We live in a society in which many legitimate businesses depend on large concentrations of capital. You can't build a new manufacturing plant without millions of dollars in equity. Therefore, financial offers in big businesses often have the responsibility to build reserves, for example, by selling shares to the community. When the Bible condemns the desire to get rich, it IS not necessarily condemning a business which aims to expand and therefore seeks larger capital reserves. The of ficers of the business may be greedy for more personal wealth, or they may have larger, nobler motives of how their expanded productivity will benefit people.

Even when a competent person in business is offered a raise or a higher paying job and accepts it, that is not enough to condemn him for the desire to be rich. He may have accepted the job because he craves the power and status and luxuries the money could bring. Or, content with what he has, he may intend to use the extra money for founding an adoption agency or giving a scholarship or sending a missionary or funding an inner-city ministry.

Working to earn money for the cause of Christ is not the same as desiring to be rich. What Paul is warning against is not the desire to earn money to meet our needs and the needs of others; he is warning against the desire to have more and more money and the ego boost and material luxuries it can provide.

There Are No U-Hauls behind Hearses

Let's look at the three reasons Paul gives in verses 7-10 for why we should not aspire to be rich.

(1) In verse seven he says, "For we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world."There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.

Suppose someone passes empty-handed through the turnstiles at a big city art museum and begins to take the pictures off the wall and carry them importantly under his arm. You come up to him and say, "What are you doing?"

He answers, "I'm becoming an art collector."

"But they're not really yours," you say, "and besides, they won't let you take any of those out of here. You'll have to go out just like you came in."

But he answers again, "Sure, they're mine. I've got them under my arm. people in the halls look at me as an important dealer. And I don't bother myself with thoughts about leaving. Don't be a kill-joy."

We would call this man a fool ! He is out of touch with reality. So is the person who spends himself to get rich in this life. We will go out just the way we came in.

Or picture 269 people entering eternity in a plane crash in the Sea of Japan. Before the crash there is a noted politician, a millionaire corporate executive, a playboy and his playmate, a missionary kid on the way back from visiting grandparents.

After the crash they stand before God utterly stripped of Mastercards, checkbooks, credit lines, image clothes, how-to-succeed books, and Hilton reservations. Here are the politician, the executive, the playboy, and the missionary kid, all on level ground with nothing, absolutely nothing in their hands, possessing only what they brought in their hearts. How absurd and tragic the lover of money will seem on that day-like a man who spends his whole life collecting train tickets and in the end is so weighed down by the collection he misses the last train. Don't spend your precious life trying to get rich, Paul says, "for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of the world."

Simplicity Is Possible and Good

(2) Then in verse eight Paul adds the second reason not to pursue wealth: "If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." Christians can be and ought to be content with the simple necessities of life.

I'll mention three reasons why such simplicity is possible and good.

First, when you have God near you and for you, you don't need extra money or extra things to give you peace and security.

Keep your life free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. For he has said, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." Hence we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

No matter which way the market is moving, God is always better than gold. Therefore, by God's help we can be and we should be con tent with the simple necessities of life.

Second, we can be content with simplicity because the deepest, most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. Buying things contributes absolutely nothing to the heart's capacity for joy.

There is a deep difference between the temporary thrill of a new toy and a homecoming hug from a devoted friend. Who do you think has the deepest, most satisfying joy in life, the man who pays $140 for a fortieth-floor suite downtown and spends his evening in the half-lit, smoke-filled lounge impressing strange women with ten-dollar cocktails, or the man who chooses the Motel 6 by a vacant lot of sunflowers and spends his evening watching the sunset and writing a love letter to his wife?

Third, we should be content with the simple necessities of life because we could invest the extra we make for what really counts. For example, the "Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission 2002" by David Barrett and Todd Johnson reports that there are 1,645,685,000 unevangelized people in the world. That means 26.5 percent of the world's population live in people groups that do not have indigenous evangelizing churches. This does not count the third of the world that does live in evangelized peoples but makes no profession of faith. If the unevangelized are to hear- and Christ commands that they hear-then cross cultural missionaries will have to be sent and paid for.
All the wealth needed to send this army of good news ambassadors is already in the church. And yet in 1999, the average Protestant gave 2.6 percent of his income to his church.

According to the website of Mission Frontiers.

1. The total global church member annual income is $12.3 Trillion ($213 billion)
2. Of this, $213 billion (1.73 percent) is given to Christian causes.
3. Of this, $11.4 billion (5.4 percent of the 1.73 percent) goes to Foreign Missions.
4. Of this, 87 percent goes for work among those already Christian; 12 percent goes for work among already evangelized non-Christians, and one percent-$114 million- goes to the unreached.

If we, like Paul, are content with the simple necessities of life, hundreds of millions of dollars in the church would be released to take the gospel to the frontiers. The revolution of joy and freedom it would cause at home would be the best local witness imaginable. The biblical call is that you can and ought to be content with life's simple necessities.

How to Pierce the Heart with Many Pangs

(3) The third reason not to pursue wealth is that the pursuit will end in the destruction of your life. This is the point of verses nine and ten:

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.

No Christian Hedonist wants to plunge into ruin and destruction and be pierced with many pangs. Therefore, no Christian Hedonist desires to be rich.

Test yourself. Have you learned your attitude toward money from the Bible, or have you absorbed it from contemporary American merchandising? When you ride an airplane and read the airline magazine, almost every page teaches and pushes a view of wealth exactly opposite from the view in 1 Timothy 6:9 that those desiring to be rich will fall into ruin and destruction. Paul makes vivid the peril of the same desire which the airline magazines exploit and promote.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Therefore do not be ashamed of the Tesimony of our LORD, nor me his prisoner. But share in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God.
2 Timothy 1:8

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed."

The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.

The decision has been made. I am a disciple of

Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down,

back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present

makes sense, and my future is secure.

I am finished and done with low living, sight walking,

small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams,

chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position,

promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by

presence, lean by faith, love by patience,

lift by prayer, and labor by power. My pace

is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my

road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few,

my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought,

compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back,

diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the

presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy,

ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander

in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until

Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know,

and work until He comes. And when He comes to get

His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.

My colors will be clear.

But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
2 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

If Only Our Prayers Were More Like This