Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘wealth’

Echoes of temptations

Imagine spending 40 days with no food out in the desert!  Would anyone voluntarily do this?  Well, Jesus did it as He prepared for the next 3 years of his life in the public. 

And in His weakened state, he was further assaulted by the devil who brought three propositions that seem quite attractive on the surface—that is, IF the end justifies the means.  After all, who wouldn’t want fame, power, wealth and the legitimate provision of their physical needs?  The price?  Twist the Scripture a little, shortcut the suffering of the cross, worship Satan…Whoa!  Worship Satan?  Yes, that was the deal. 

All of these temptations focused on selfish desires.  But Jesus warded each of them off by refocusing on God his Father. 

So Satan left him “for a while.”  So when did he come back?  I’m not sure exactly, but I see interesting echoes of the three temptations in other events of Jesus’ life. 

Temptation:  Turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger.
Jesus’ response:  “It is not by bread alone that a man will live, but by every word from the mouth of God.”
Echo:  As crowds streamed out of a town to listen to Jesus, his disciples urged him to eat something.  His reply:  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.”

Temptation:   Receive power to rule the world in exchange for worshiping Satan.
Jesus’ response:  “The Lord your God is the (only) one you will worship.”
Echo:  After he multiplied bread and fish to feed thousands, they wanted to make him king.  Jesus resisted, knowing that only in the Father’s predetermined time would his worldwide reign be fulfilled.

Temptation:   Do a daredevil stunt, assuming that angels would catch him.
Jesus’ response:  “Do not test the Lord your God!”
Echo:  When religious leaders demanded a miracle to prove Jesus’ power and identity as God, he refused.  While hanging on the cross and taunted to “Come down from that cross and save yourself!” he again refused, committed to accomplishing the salvation he came to provide for mankind by taking the just punishment for their sins.

Jesus was not out to do his own thing and promote Himself.  He came as God’s servant and mankind’s savior—humble and obedient to God alone.

Shall we do less?

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Wise Investment

Every once in a while my husband and I wonder if our modest retirement savings are in the right place.  Will they be there when we need them?  Or should we invest them somewhere else?  Experts don’t agree, and of course they can’t see into the future. 

Even more important—because its effect goes way beyond our retirement and even our death—is how we invest our affection, our priorities, our time, our energies.  Are our thoughts and efforts focused on physical pleasure, possessions, power, and popularity—OR on things that will last forever?  Why is this such a difficult choice?

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.  (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)

Move over, Ben Franklin!

If one believes the proverb, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” then I ought to be doing pretty well right now.  Jet lag is luring me to bed way too early in the evening.  (My husband had to keep waking me up as we watched a documentary last night about diamonds.)  And in the morning I’m popping out of bed too early again.  (That’s why I’m writing a blog in the morning!)

But as for being healthy, wealthy, and wise—my Scripture reading just now reminded me of the real secret of success in all those areas:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
WISE:  Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
HEALTHY:  Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
WEALTHY:  Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
and your vats will overflow with good wine.  (Proverbs 3:5-10)

So, Benjamin Franklin, move over.  Here’s a better plan for success!

What Makes Happiness?

“The United Nations Human Development Index 2011 measures happiness in different countries based on factors such as income, education, health, life expectancy, economy, gender equality and sustainability.”  Norway, they say, is the happiest country.  The US is #4. (Source: CNN Travel website.)

Looking at the website, I don’t see the word “happiness.”  That seems to be an inference made by the CNN writer.  But assuming the viewpoint that these factors comprise happiness,what’s wrong here?  By these standards, Scrooge might have been a happy man, and definitely Bob Cratchit (father of Tiny Tim) would not be.  However, the reverse was actually true in that well-loved Christmas tale.

In this scheme, where are the following factors?

sense of purpose & fulfillment
contentment
solid loving relationships
respect
a clean conscience
commitment
And greatest of all, faith and hope in our Creator and Savior

If you had to choose between the first list (health, wealth, long life) and this second list, which do you think would make you happier?  And do the more “developed” countries really have a corner on happiness?  Having lived in both, I think not.

From the Poor to the Posh

From the poor to the posh, we have experienced it all in the past few days.  And grace in it all! 

First we visited a very poor community where we had lived for a number of years. Old friends and partners in ministry met us with smiles, open arms, and generous hospitality.  Out of their poverty they gave their best, with their love.  We were profoundly touched by their stories of God’s faithfulness—and theirs—through the years.  And with churches overflowing with enthusiastic worshippers.  What a thrill it was to hear them singing their hearts out to God in their own language!

Then after a ride to the city, we were thrust immediately into another kind of gracious hospitality—that of the well-to-do.  These people, though we had never met them before, gave us a royal welcome because of a family connection between one of their relatives and one of ours.  The word “grace” came to mind repeatedly during those three days as we enjoyed their beautiful home and were taken to restaurants and tourist sites with all expenses paid.  The mention of their name was the magic key—a reminder of God’s lavish grace available to us through the name of Jesus. 

A Tale of Two Rich Men

This morning, the proximity of two well-known Bible stories caught my eye.  Two rich men who sought Jesus out.  The first approaches with an apparently sincere inquiry of what it would take to get eternal life.  But as it turns out, eternal life wasn’t high enough on his priority list to pay the price: exchanging it all for a life with Jesus. So he goes away sad

Just a couple of paragraphs later, Zacchaeus was so determined to see Jesus that he made a spectacle of himself by climbing a tree to ensure a good view.  He was also very wealthy, though his reputation wasn’t so sterling as the other man–a swindler and traitor.  But he ends up joyfully giving away everything to the poor and those he has cheated.  Furthermore, he obtained the very thing that the other man had claimed to seek as Jesus exclaimed,  “Salvation has come to this home today!”

Score:  Wealth + sadness   VS.   eternal life + joy + blessing.                        Who got the better deal?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?     Matthew 16: 24-26

How Wise Was Solomon?

The fabled wisdom of Solomon:

—Choosing wisdom as his “one wish” from God (Wow, what would I have chosen?  I think the request in itself was pretty wise!) (1 Kings 3)

–Threatening to cut a baby in half to determine who was the real mother         (1 Kings 3)

–Thrilling audiences from far and wide with brilliant lectures on botany and zoology (1 Kings 4:33-34)

But how wise was he when he flaunted God’s list of guidelines for kings in Deuteronomy 16:16-20:

–Do not accumulate a lot of horses, especially not from Egypt.

–Do not take many wives.

–Do not accumulate vast amounts of wealth.

–And DO copy out God’s whole law, READ IT daily his whole life, and OBEY it!

Solomon had everything going for him:  God’s special favor, wisdom, wealth, fame, a huge and peaceful kingdom.  And God’s promise of an ongoing prosperous dynasty IF he would remain faithful. 

So what did he do?  He threw it all away, violated every one of these regulations.  His heart turned away from the God who had lavished favor on him to the gods of his myriad wives. Sad smile  Read the sad story in 1 Kings 10:23 to 11:13. (I have lots of “sad faces” in the margin of my Bible beside the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah.)

So what about me?  Will I cling to God when things go well, or do I need problems to keep me holding tight to His hand?  By God’s grace, I choose the former.

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