Rich & Famous

How much money would you need to consider yourself rich? One survey of Americans resulted in answers averaging around five millions dollars.

If you make more than $48,000 per year, you are in the top 1% in income compared to the rest of the world! A $24,000 per year income puts you in the top 5%.

There’s a high probability that if you are reading this, 95% of the world has less income than you!

So Jesus’ conversation with the rich, young ruler challenges many Americans, perhaps even causes us to wince! Why? Look what He said:

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 ESV

This verse is often quoted, but rarely in the context in which Jesus spoke it. It is in the context of telling the disciples how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

A common assumption of the first century and of many today is that the more material possessions one has the more God has blessed them! But Jesus turns that on its head!

Actually, material wealth hinders being saved and kingdom living.

Then, “Who can be saved?” the disciples asked in astonishment! That’s when Jesus gives us the oft quoted line that all things are possible with God.

God certainly does not save you from sin and hell because you are rich, an American, educated, or healthy. In fact, the temptation is to trust in one or more of those things instead of trusting in God.

So can a wealthy man stop trusting in his or her wealth and trust God’s Son to save them? Yes, but it is very difficult! Aren’t you glad Jesus said:

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Our Father, thank-you for making salvation possible through knowing Jesus. Please forgive our pride. We put our trust in Christ alone!

My Dad Prechs

He handed me his drawing. It was a stick man standing behind a crudely drawn pulpit. Odd shaped circles dotted the area around the pulpit with two eyes and a smile in each “head.” Above the doodled drawing he penciled uneven letters made by a child, “My dad prechs.”

So I said, “Son, you should wait until you take art lessons to draw this picture.”

Or did I say, “Boy, this is substandard, what are they teaching you at school anyway! Don’t you know how to spell?!”

Of course, I didn’t say any of those things! Rather, I glowed with admiration. I knelt down and gave him a manly hug. I framed it and put it up in my office. It is one of my prized possessions still today even though it happened in the 1980s at a little church in Bradley, Arkansas.

Why? I knew his motive. I knew his heart. The innocent love and admiration of a little boy for his dad trumped any imperfections in the work of art!

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:2-3 ESV

.

Paraphrase: My son’s drawing seemed pure in his own eyes, but his Dad weighs his spirit. He committed his drawing to his dad. His plan was established, still hanging on his Dad’s wall!

I believe that if we go to God with our great plans, expecting Him to bless them, tell us how great we are for “thinking them up” and ask Him to put His stamp of approval on them, then we have become presumptive and He will certainly not bless them.

But I also believe that if we commit ourselves to the Lord, submit our minds, hearts, and skills to Him, and ask Him to guide every step we take in seeking to do His will, He will bless it. If we will saturate a decision with prayer first, make sure our motives are godly, and earnestly want to do it God’s way, He will guide.

Many times I’ve prayed, even agonized over a situation, asking God for a direction, but not receive a plan or a prescribed action. Yet, I had to walk into that situation totally dependent on His guidance in the moment.

In Joshua 3 (read it HERE) the people crossed the Jordan River at time the river overflowed its banks. But not until the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant STOOD IN THE WATER did the Jordan stop flowing!

Instead of asking God to bless our plans, we must give ourselves totally to God and ask Him to bless His plans using us in the process.

There’s a fine line there somewhere! But, oh, let us be sure we are on the God-side of that line!

Our Father, thank-you for Your promise to establish plans which we commit to do with the right spirit of honoring You. Examine our hearts that we may proceed to do Your work with pure motives.

T – R – O – U – B – L – E

Billie Sue’s grandfather, Lex Smith, loved to do word puzzles in his retirement years. He would sit for hours filling in the squares with letters.

In the those last days, he would spell the same word out loud over and over again. I can still hear him saying the letters again and again.

“T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”  “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.” “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”

I’m not sure why he got stuck on that one word. But he did.

Jesus talked about “trouble” too.

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 HCSB

We can get stuck on tomorrow’s trouble too.  Jesus knows our tendencies. How easy it is for us to get focused on something that might or might not happen tomorrow. In doing so, we miss living today to the fullest!

Yes, tomorrow will come with its trouble, but why live it today in our minds before it actually happens? Plus, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We could end up worrying about things that will never happen anyway!

I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. Worry sneaks into my thoughts when I don’t stay focused on the truth of God’s Word and His Son Jesus.

So, how do we do that?!

Remember the verse just before verse 34? Verse 34 begins with “Therefore.” So what is it “there for”? The solution and a very familiar verse:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33 HCSB

All those “things” we worry about God provides for us if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first.  First? Yes, instead of first worrying about things, we seek God’s kingship and righteousness first.

Someone observed, “Today is the Tomorrow you worried about Yesterday.”

Worry is all about putting “things” first instead of God’s will. Remember Jesus’ instructions on how to pray:

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 HCSB

How do we “seek first the kingdom of God?” We seek to do His will on earth today! That’s an all-encompassing focus that takes up all our attention today. When we focus on doing His kingdom work today, we are not focused on the “things” that will “trouble” us tomorrow.

Jesus is in the life-changing business!

Our Father, we confess our sins of worry and ask your forgiveness. Thank-you that we don’t need to worry. The “things” of this world are temporary.  Your word and kingdom will last forever! We ask for your ever-present Spirit to teach to live by faith, not by worry.

Mighty Mouse, Superman, & the Road Runner

Cartoons fascinated me as a child. The make-believe world of animated characters, creatures, and super-human stunts still grab the attention of my grandchildren today.

Does anyone remember the Roadrunner dropping an anvil on the coyote? Or do you remember Mighty Mouse flying through the air at supersonic speed and punching the villain in the nose?

I vividly remember as a child wishing there really was a Superman or a Mighty Mouse to come at just the right moment and rescue people from their impossible circumstances!

This morning I read this wonderful promise:

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. Psalm 18:30

It was written by David in praise to God when God rescued him from Saul and his army. But the description David gives of God rescuing him would be a challenge for any animator.

Check this out this imagery in Psalm 18:

Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
10 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.
11 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
12 Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
15 Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

The Holy Spirit inspired David to write this! We have our hero!  We have our rescuer! He is our Lord!  He is our God. Whether He rescues us from our here-and-now circumstances of life as He did with David or He rescues us ultimately in heaven, He is our hero!!!

Our Father, thank-you when you rescue us, heal us, or get us out of the messes we or someone else make. You are a great and awesome God beyond our imagination. Fill us with faith today in You. Whether our enemy is a physical illness, a human terrorist, an Ebola, a spiritual attack, or a discouragement, please give us the faith of David to face it knowing You are always with us.

 

We Agreed

“We agreed” carried us through the difficult challenges! “We agreed” became an anchor point for everything we did after that.

The decision to move to Hot Springs Village and accept the pastorate at Balboa Baptist Church created a transition in our lives with some painful steps. Transition always produces stress.  Stressful times always stress relationships. The marriage of a “preacher” and his wife are no exception!

But, we agreed this was the wise thing to do.  We agreed this was in the center of God’s will for us. We agreed “finishing well” in life meant moving to the Village.

But then came the ripping and the tearing of buying, selling, and moving . Loss produces grief. A sense of loss came over both of us as we purged. We had to let go of some “stuff.” We sized down. We know now many of you have experienced the same purging, moving, and transitioning!

But we agreed it was only “stuff.” We agreed that none of this “stuff” will matter a hundred years from now anyway!

Agreement solves a lot of issues! Our marriage didn’t survive this little bump in the road, it thrived!

The word “confess” means to agree. Do you “agree” with God about who Jesus is?  It solves a lot of eternal issues. It requires some purging and letting go of some “stuff.”

Our agreement as a married couple to move solved a lot of other issues. But the most crucial “agreement” is between you and God about who Jesus is.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15 ESV

God lives in you and you live in God when you agree with God about Jesus. Do you agree Jesus is His perfect Son risen from the dead? What a thought! What a reality! We are indwelled and surrounded by the God of the universe in personal relationship if we agree with God about Jesus!

Do you agree? This is the most important agreement you will or will not make. It impacts how you live now. It impacts how you spend eternity!

Our Father, we praise you for being a loving Creator. We rebelled against you in our sin. Thank-you for offering to each of us the greatest gift possible: salvation, forgiveness, relationship, redemption, and your presence in us and around us! Father, WE AGREE! Jesus is Your Son, risen from the dead, alive and well, the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and now our personal Savior! Thank-you!