Friday, September 28, 2012

Money: A God-given Opportunity

God has good in mind for His people.  Money is part of God’s plan.  And, strangely enough, it doesn’t matter if it is a lot or a little.  God is looking for what we do with money from our hearts and what money does to our hearts. 

I have attended motivational and money seminars where the idea of money is addressed.  Maybe you have too.  Denigrated by the tone the speaker points out what many call money.  It is called, “Cold, hard cash.”  But the speaker points out that money is soft and warm.  Sharing the idea that life is tough which the audience readily accepts.  But then with great exuberance says, “It sure is easier with money.”  The crowd applauds.  So, I learned at seminars and motivational talks, Christian books on finance and dealing with Christians that God agrees with them and money is to be sought, cuddled, and collected.  What is a person seeking God and wanting to look at things His way to do with money?

Money is a God-given opportunity.  He allows the system of money to exist in our world to teach us values, to help us prioritize, to develop in us character, to show us people and to reveal His glory.  I am sure those are not things covered in Economics 101.  They rarely show up in church.  But I find them to be fascinating and wonderful. 

Here are some lines from Abba’s song Money, Money, Money:

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain't it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That's too bad
In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn't have to work at all, I'd fool around and have a ball...

Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man's world
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world

Just being rich is the answer.  Many including followers of Christ agree.  Getting more money and putting more in investments is the answer.  But there are those who have gone another way.  For example, Christian businessman, R.G. LeTourneau, known throughout the construction world as, "The Dean of Earthmoving,” LeTourneau is considered to this day to have been the world’s greatest inventor of earthmoving and materials handling equipment.  Did this rich man handle his finances by seeking, cuddling, and collecting it?  No.  In fact, Mr. LeTourneau realized something very important: “God owns it all - He is the true owner of everything! All that we have, everything that we claim to "own," is in fact a blessing from God. Having this knowledge and believing it fully, he opened his company treasury to God. Cheerfully and bountifully, Mr. LeTourneau gave not 10 percent, but 90 percent! He practiced a "reverse tithe" - instead of giving God 10 percent and keeping 90 for himself; he kept only 10 percent and gave God the rest. After Mr. LeTourneau learned the valuable lesson that you cannot out-give God, he was privileged to watch millions of dollars flow through his business and into the funding of extensive worldwide ministry, helping to meet the needs of countless people physically and spiritually.

A man who faced hard financial times is Randy Alcorn.  In 1990, he was one of the pastors of a large church. He was also on the board of a Crisis Pregnancy Center and had even opened his family’s home to an unwed teen. Eventually Randy felt prompted by God to participate in peaceful, non-violent rescues outside an abortion clinic. Randy and others were arrested and jailed. The abortion clinic was awarded a settlement of lost income as a result of the protests. Randy told the judge that he would gladly repay money owed, but he could not just hand the money to an abortion clinic when the clinic would only use it to kill more babies. Then Randy learned that the funds would be garnished from his church salary. The church would either have to give over the funds or defy a court order. The only way to keep this from happening was for him to resign from his job. So he did. This bold step left Randy without an income. Then another abortion clinic brought suit against Randy’s group and won one of the largest settlements ever against a protest group – 8.4 million dollars. Suddenly it looked like Randy and his family could lose their house. The only way Randy could avoid garnishment and loss was to earn only minimum wage.

Randy learned very quickly what God meant when he said, “Everything belongs to Me.” (Job 41:10) Through these very events God helped Randy and his wife see a new vision for their life. You can find out more of what they discovered from his book The Treasure Principles.   Here is a principle:

“Money leads; hearts follow.  My heart always goes where I put God’s money. Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.”

Consider this “reallocation” from Jesus’ perspective.  He was at the Temple in Jerusalem watching people as they put money into the treasury.  The idea was that they were giving to God who had given them everything.  Imagine those coming by to participate in making an offering; those who were workers in the fields and others who built things along with the government workers and supervisors and business owners of all kinds.  Then this widow came by and gives what she had.  It wasn’t a large amount, but it was all she had.  Jesus noted that she had given more than all the rest. 

What about the man referred to as the rich young ruler?  Fairly descriptive title.  He asks about eternal life.  The man is told to sell all he has and give it to the poor, and then come follow Jesus.  The man left.  The money and all that it meant to him had a hold on him.  He was in bondage. 

Jesus presented a non-401k option for an abundant life.  The widow had nothing.  Consider the taxes from Rome and the Temple alone would stretch her if she had money.  But she risked it by putting all she had in God’s treasury.  Really?  What would she do for food, housing, or any other essentials?  She may have debts and owe money.  Why didn’t Jesus deal with her irrational approach to money?  She needed a seminar.  But, Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the Mediator between God and men, the Savior, affirmed her heart. 

Eternal life, abundant life is waiting.  It is not just out there somewhere in eternity, but available now to those who follow Jesus.  Money is a God-given opportunity to follow Him fully.  It is a test of our hearts.  It exams what or who we truly trust.  We can’t serve two masters.  It is either money or the God of heaven.  And with all my limitations and messed up finances and economic blessings and disasters I choose to go with God.  Pursuing wealth according to Proverbs is a waste it just takes wings and flies away.  Money has its place, but it is not the ultimate goal.  The Lord said don’t worry about all the things all the rest of the folks worry about…money and such.  Instead, seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and He would take care of the rest.  Hmm.  George Mueller in 1800s England took care of thousands of orphans by asking God to send what they needed.  God did.  On top of that Mueller asked God for additional so he could support the mission work in China of Hudson Taylor and God provided millions more for that.  “Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and He will supply.”

As you take out your wallet or write a check or pay with a credit card whatever it is that is before you…you have a God-given opportunity.  May you approach every penny with humility and an open hand allowing God to guide and bless you. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Is God Doing Taking Away My Excuses?

Discovering my imperfections is upsetting enough, but God even eliminates my excuses.  I have found that when everything else has fallen apart I can rely on my excuses.  They are comforting.  They are cuddly.  They are the delusions I can rest upon.  So, what is God doing taking away my excuses? 

God desires that people live in the truth and live truly free.  The truth will set you free, you know.  Excuses tend to fog the truth and freedom is lost.  God has a better idea.  I came across this in Romans 1:20 about excuses. 

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  Romans 1:20 (NLT)

There it is no excuse.  People who are committed to a view that there is no God have no excuse.  People who claim God hasn’t been clear enough for them to really know have no excuse.  People who have made up their own idea of God have no excuse.  People who have been mistreated by others and deny God have no excuse.  “They have no excuse for not knowing God.” 

There is more.  In Romans 3:19 I found this it's a troublesome idea about excuses not being acceptable. 

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.     Romans 3:19 (NLT)

Apparently, God provided a standard by which to evaluate attitudes and behaviors.  God’s standard shows how crooked and out of alignment people are by comparison to His standard so that there is no excuse. 

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.   1 John 1:8 (NLT)

Oh, no, my claims to have no sin haven’t fooled anyone?  My excuses for why I said that or why I have such anger or why I lash out or why I don’t really trust God or why I have to be in control or why I struggle with the flesh are no good.  It is true I am not living in the truth, but I convinced myself that other people at least thought I was living in the truth.  But it seems I was only fooling myself.  Bummer.  My excuse ridden existence is crumbling.  But isn’t that good?

Excuses are like excrement which needs to be removed.  The marble the artist chisels is only shapely and beautiful once the unnecessary fragments are removed.  God is in the business of bringing out the beauty by revealing the truth. 

As I think about it I find that I am blessed by God to have the excuses exposed and to discover the freedom the truth brings.  God help me to remain true and to not be as the pig returning to the mud or the dog returning to his vomit, but one who stays faithful to You.  No excuses.