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Guarding Our Thoughts about the Things of this World

Over the past few days, Laura, the kids and I have been moving to a “new” house (new to us, that is), which is closer to the kids’ school and the church we serve. If you haven’t moved recently, I don’t recommend it. Even after we had gotten rid of a lot of “stuff,” I was still shocked to see how much “stuff” we had to get from one house into another. I don’t know how it happens, but it seems that non-organic objects somehow multiply exponentially.


What starts out as owning a couch and love seat turns into needing another chair, and then a sectional for another part of the house. This happens in our closets, too. We add shirts, slacks, and dresses, and rather than purge ourselves of what we’ve already owned, we begin to accumulate. Over the course of many years, we now have a “winter wardrobe,” and a “summer wardrobe,” and something, of course, for the seasons in between.


We don’t mean to be hoarders—even if we’re not the type that would make it on the reality TV show. But we find it harder and harder to throw things away or give them to others. You never know when you might need that “doohickey,” even though you haven’t used it for years.


The Bible speaks as strongly about this subject as it does almost any other. God taught the Israelites to place their complete dependence upon Him, when He led them through the wilderness. They were to eat the manna from heaven, but only one day’s supply. If they tried to accumulate, the manna rotted with maggots. If they tried to transport too many belongings, they would grow weary and faint.


Likewise, in the New Testament, we read that our hope is not in what we possess but in the fact that we are in the possession of our Lord (1 Timothy 6:17). Jesus told the story of a rich man who ran out of space to store his crops. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, and there he would store all his grain and goods. This seems reasonable enough, and the rich man said to himself, “You have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). Isn’t that part of the American Dream?


God gives a harsh judgment, though: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20). God’s condemnation comes not because the man was a builder or a wise businessman, but because the rich man laid up treasure only for himself. He had no concern for God or others.


When I read this story I have to come under the scrutiny of the text. Am I like the rich man who builds only for himself, so that one day I can relax, eat, drink, and be merry? As I move down the path of saving, investing, and purchasing, is there any difference in my purpose and motivation that guides my decisions versus someone who is not a Christian? How does following God influence my decisions to buy, spend, and invest? The issue in the New Testament does not appear to be related to how much you have as to what you do with what you have and whether or not you are rich toward God.


Again, quoting from Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).


For all of us who might not consider ourselves to be rich, be made aware that half the world’s population lives on $2.00 a day or less. The house we just moved into, though smaller than the one we sold, would still fit several families (or more) from third-world countries. So, let’s be generous and ready to share. That type of “storing up” is not accumulation for self, but for laying a good foundation for the future. Then, and only then, will we understand what it truly means to be rich.

This One Thing Remains

A Christian band that goes by the name, Jesus Culture, recently produced a song called, “One Thing.” The lyrics go, “Higher than the mountains that I face, stronger than the power of the grave, constant through the trial and the change, one thing remains. Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me. In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love. My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love.”


These lyrics come directly from one of the Apostle Paul’s most encouraging injunctions, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).


Paul knew quite a bit about persecution, calamity, trials and tribulations. His faith was no “pie-in-the-sky” belief system that slaps a veneer of pseudo-hope over the troubles of this life. Paul experienced the brutal realities of facing mountains of persecution, the threat of the grave, trials and constant change (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). But Paul knew that one thing remains, and that nothing can separate us from that one thing, the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


When everything is stripped away, what is the one thing that remains constant in your life? When sickness comes, the death of a loved one, fire, flood or unemployment find their way to your door, what remains?


I have a cousin who serves as a missionary in South Sudan, and I just received a text this morning that she has to be evacuated by the military because of ongoing fighting between the rebels and government soldiers. Even as I’m typing these words, I received another text that they can’t evacuate her yet due to the heavy flight traffic of government officials and dignitaries.


When my family and I were in Wichita this past week, we watched a DVD my son picked up at a youth event called, “Love Costs Everything.” It’s a documentary on the persecution of Christians worldwide, the type of news that typically falls below the radar. The DVD gives accounts of pastors beaten in India, churches bombed in Iraq, Christians fleeing their homes and becoming refugees because of militant Islamic rebels.


And what are the mountains I face? A few critical emails. An unhappy parishioner. A leadership challenge to navigate the waters of congregational change. My cousin in South Sudan and those facing persecution around the world make my mountains look like molehills. What is the one thing that remains for my cousin and for those who face real threats around the world? The same thing that tenaciously gripped the Apostle Paul: the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


My prayer for you is that you will be gripped by the same thing. Whatever mountain you face, know that the one thing stronger than the grave, that is constant through the trial and the change, that will never fail you, give up on you, or run out on you is the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Receive His love. Receive Him, and allow His love to wash over you and give you a true hope that endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).

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