Wealthy?

psalm 37 16

Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37.  Today we look at verses 12-17.

This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.

The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means  morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.

The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).

There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible.  With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.

1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

 

2.  Meditate:  Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.”  He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth.  I wonder why he makes those associations?  Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?

What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life?  He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day.  Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering.  According to Jesus, it was his wealth.  He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).

In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil.  It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous.  But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy.  So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness.  Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money).  If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.

To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy?  I live in a pretty nice house.  I have enough money to buy groceries.  I have access to excellent health benefits through my work.  I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water.  I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go.  If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy.  If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy.  So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?

As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues.  That is what it did for me.  Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you.  Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13.  What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”?  Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?

 

3.  Pray:  Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer.  Talk it over with God.  Bring him your questions.  Bring him your complaints.  Bring him your fears.  Bring him your gratitude and joy.  Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating.  Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble?  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Do not just speak, also take time to listen.  Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.

 

4.  Rest in God:  As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God.  Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient.  Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector.  He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior.  Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

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1 Timothy 6

Sat Devo

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:18-19

What is the purpose of life? What really matters in life? These age-old questions have numerous answers, but Paul tries to point us to the true answer in 1 Timothy 6. In this chapter, we see two different kinds of people: those who love money and those who love God. In Paul’s words, those two things can’t exist together. Paul says, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Paul doesn’t necessarily call money evil in this passage, but he definitely states that loving money, or making it an idol in your life, will lead you down a dark path. In fact, Paul urges Timothy in the next verse (v. 11) to run from these things and to pursue, instead, “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” It would seem from these verses that the love of money and God are mutually exclusive. Jesus confirms this when he says in Matt. 6:24, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” 

Our culture today encourages us to make ourselves slaves of money. Our lives are dictated by pursuing jobs that will provide enough money to pay our bills and other living expenses until we can get the next paycheck. If we have the chance to work more to get money to buy some more nice things for ourselves, many of us will jump on the opportunity. And, that lifestyle is applauded by those around us. But, we have to always ask ourselves when get sucked into a cycle of living: is this godly or worldly? According to 1 Timothy 6, our purpose in life shouldn’t be to become rich and get all of the material goods that wealth entails. 

So what should our purpose be? Paul answers that in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: 

“Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of a life that is real.” 

When we set our hope on God, it changes what we think is important. Instead of pursuing a life of riches on earth, we begin to “collect for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart[s] will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21).

~ Cayce Fletcher

A Legacy?

eccles 5 10

Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12

Do not be surprised if you lose the fruits of your labor to a higher authority. Solomon lays out a hierarchy of power and thus was born the phrase, “there is always a bigger fish.” Well I doubt that phrase came from Solomon but you get the picture. Some actually use verses 8-9 of chapter five to say that Solomon did not write this book, that he would never paint his own rule in such a poor light. Have these people ever read the rest of the Bible? It is full of people acting stupid and not sugar coating it. They fully disclose the heights of their idiocy because they were compelled to write the truth. Solomon may have been generalizing but we see in 1 Kings 12 how the Israelites demand Rehoboam to reduce their oppression, to lighten their load. This suggests that Solomon’s governors made financial demands of the people in order to support Solomon’s extravagant lifestyle. So I am thinking that his government was not excluded from this ugly truth.

But what did his wealth gain him? What does it gain anyone? The covetous are characterized as never satisfied. The more they have, the more they want. They never have enough. It is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with water using a teaspoon with a hole in it. Additionally, the more you have the more avenues by which you could lose it. When one suddenly comes into a large sum of money they instantly find themselves surrounded by relatives that they never knew existed. It is no wonder that Solomon says there is no sleep in the abundance of a rich man. Between striving for more and keeping an eye on what you have to protect, it sounds like a miserable life to me. Solomon argues that the only results for increased wealth for a covetous person are increased anxiety and increased vigilance, not increased enjoyment.

All of this striving is meaningless! You chase after it and you protect it yet it could be the very reason you lose your life. And if all of that did not suck enough, Solomon realized that you cannot take any of it with you when you die. We all enter the world with nothing and we all leave it with nothing. The realization of this can cause great “frustration, affliction, and anger.”

But Solomon realized that God gives us life and labor and the fruits that each produces. God also gives us something that we cannot find anywhere else, true joy! This is a gift from God: that He enables us to enjoy the fruits of our labors and to be happy in our work. He grants us contentment as nothing else on earth can. However, he warns us that God can provide the materials but not grant the ability to enjoy them. It is a blessing from God, a gift, not a right or guarantee.

Solomon pities the one who does not know joy from their work. He characterizes it as a life devoid of meaning. And yet there numbers are great. So many have appetites that are never satisfied. Constantly searching, impatiently looking for something new, something better or something that is not certain. In contrast “what the eyes sees” is at hand. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” never made sense to me until I read this. (Go ahead and get the “nothing makes sense to you” jokes out of the way now.) Ready to continue? Good. This continues Solomon’s theme that is woven throughout the book; that of being content with what God has blessed us with.

Solomon ends the chapter with a number of questions, all of these point to the One True God. He created the universe and every living creature. He has blessed us above all the rest of creation. Blessed us with an awareness of our Creator and knowledge of the promise of salvation for those who come to Him through His son Jesus. He knows what was, what is, and what will be. He alone is the Almighty, the All-powerful God Yahweh. None can stand against Him and none can hope to change His mind with many words. He knows what is good and He has revealed this to us through His word and the life, ministry, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

All of this points to the gift from God who enables us to enjoy our works and that which we have produced. To be content with what we have and not striving after the hollow and decaying things of this world. This is the legacy that we have access to. To draw closer to God through His son and see every moment and circumstance of this life as a blessing. To enjoy life and labor with gladness in our hearts.

To be continued …

Jeff Ransom

The Master and Manager

Luke 16

Luke 16 13

God and money?  Can a Christian have both? No. Yes. No? Yes? Hmm.

I am to sell all my worldly possession (Luke 18:22), but I am responsible for making sure the physical needs of widows and orphans are met (James 1:27).  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 19:24), but God richly blesses men with wealth who follow him (Prov. 10:22).  I am to store up my treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19), but I am told the wise man saves his riches for a rainy day (1 Cor. 16:12. Prov. 21:20).  On the surface of this topic, it would seem we have contradiction, but thankfully today’s reading might help us come to a clearer conclusion when we consider two powerful, but unequal masters: God and money.

In Luke 16 we are presented with a peculiar parable that shows the strength of the almighty dollar.  As the story opens, we are introduced to a dishonest manager who is in charge of accounting (a running theme) of debts for his master. He learns that his master soon will dismiss him, so as each debtor approaches the manager with their contracted commitment, he forgives a portion of their debt.  Being shrewd, he knows he will be the receiver of their thanks, although it was neither his debt to forgive nor his portion to take.  Jesus makes no misgiving that he was speaking specific directly to the Pharisees, who were fundamentally dealing in the same way.  These “managers” of God put literal prices on forgiveness and offerings, ensuring their comfort, but cheating God of glory, praise, adoration, honor, or extending grace himself.  They, like the shrewd manager, traded their merciful Master for passing provision.

In Dale Carnegie’s famous work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he states “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” This is a challenging thought that calls us to contentment, but also in context of this specific parable, helps us increase our focus.  Are you the master or the manager of your wealth? time? health? will? Are they yours to divide, take, or utilize as you please? Who receives honor, praise, and recognition when you offer these things freely to others?  Sometimes we are as shrewd as the Pharisees, thinking a possession, a place, or a position is the source of a joyful life.  They make us feel momentarily like the master, but really, they take us away from our true purpose.

Jesus concludes this parable by saying if we cannot be trusted with the small things, why would God ever give us the BIG things. If we cannot rely upon him for our own daily bread why would he ever ensure we are the steward for the needs of others?  If we are faithful to Him, we are entrusted with more of His bidding, not in direct correlation, but determined by the master (See: “Parable of the Talents”).  Yes, this can include money.  Yes, this can include more time on earth.  BUT GLORY, HALLELUJAH, YES, he is talking about the KINGDOM.

So, can you have God and money? Yes. Can you serve two masters? No.  Will God give you more if you are faithful? Yes.  Is it money? Not necessarily, but IT IS the Master’s wealth beyond measure for His faithful managers.

-Aaron Winner

The Prosperity Gospel vs. Giving Generously

Proverbs 22 – Monday

Prov 22-9

Proverbs 22:4 & 9

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

   is riches and honor and life…

Those who are generous are blessed,

   for they share their bread with the poor.

 

On any given Sunday morning, I can flip on my television and find a number of ministers promising me riches, wealth, and prosperity if I only have faith.  They usually then want me to practice that faith by making an offering to their ministry – “give us $5 so that God can return it to you one hundred fold.”  These promises do indeed sound promising, but this prosperity gospel is not the message that our Lord came preaching.

 

Just like we can twist the words of Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 to fit this perspective, we can also turn to Proverbs to try to find a God who rewards those who are faithful with riches, wealth, and health.  But our interpretation of the Proverbs would be just as tortured if we tried to find its truth in the shallow waters of the prosperity gospel.  

 

Rather, let’s use the Scriptures themselves to better understand the “riches and honor and life” that is promised for those who love the Lord like we find in Proverbs 22:4.  Just a few verses later, we find the clarification that we need.  It is the “generous” who are (hashtag) blessed.


The wealth of the Gospel of Christ lies not in storing up material wealth or riches or fame, but in sharing the material goodness that we have been given with those who don’t have them.  We are blessed with lives of richness, honor, and life abundant when we give away the riches we have so that those with neither riches nor basic needs can be filled as well.

 

To close with a parable of Jesus, there was a man whose harvest was larger than his barn could store.  He decided to build a larger barn to store his crop.  However, that night he died and all his wealth was lost.  I think that the point of this parable isn’t that we shouldn’t plan ahead or have large barns, but rather that when we have more than we need, we should share it instead of store it up for ourselves.

 

We can find life, wealth, and riches only when we are generous and give the very things we think we need to hoard.

-Graysen Pack

 

 

Graphic Material

Ezekiel 5-9

ezekiel 5 14

Monday, March 20

This portion of Ezekiel is, admittedly, difficult to read.  It’s a pretty graphic account of God impending judgment against the city of Jerusalem and his people, Israel.  God tells Ezekiel to shave his head and beard.  This would have been an act of mourning for most people, but it was double disturbing for Ezekiel, since he was a priest and normally forbidden from shaving his head or beard.  Ezekiel was told to burn, take a sword to, and scatter his cut hair.  This was to symbolize what was to happen to Israel.  A few hairs were kept back, symbolic of the remnant who would not be destroyed.

God accuses his people, Israel, the chosen nation, of being worse than the other nations.  They broke the law more than the nations that did not have the law.  God was bringing his judgment against His own people.  The description of the siege almost defies comprehension, including cannibalism of both parents and children.  This was to serve as a warning to the other nations: if this is how God treats his own people for their idolatry, beware of what he will do to you.

In Ezekiel six God makes it clear that their judgement is upon them because of their idolatry. However, there is a remnant that will be spared and live in captivity and will come to repentance.

In Ezekiel seven, a special emphasis is made regarding their idolatrous attachment to gold and silver.  This wealth that they turned to and fashioned into idols will be unable to save them from the coming judgment.  All the money in the world can’t save you from judgment.

In Chapter eight Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem.  This includes the “Idol of jealousy” which we discover is the pagan god Tammuz.  Tammuz was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation.  At the summer solstice there was a period of mourning as the people saw the shortening of days and the approaching drought.  Sacrifices were made to Tammuz at the door of the Jerusalem Temple.  This was an absolute abomination to Israel’s God, YHWH as He made it clear that He alone was to be worshipped as God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

In Chapter Nine an angel is sent out to put a mark on all of the people of the city who did not commit idolatry and worship Tammuz.  They would be spared.  But then all those who did not receive a mark would be destroyed.  This is reminiscent of the story of Exodus, when the doorposts of the Israelites were to be marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and those with the mark were spared their firstborn sons dying when the Angel of Death passed over their houses.  It also points to the future (See Revelation 13) when the beast will cause people to have a mark on their forehead or they would not be able to buy or sell.  This is contrasted with those in Revelation 14 who have the name of God and of the lamb on their foreheads.

God is a God of love and mercy.  God has provided a means for us to be rescued from the consequences of sin.  There is a way for each of us to be spared the final judgment of God that is coming.  Jesus Christ, the lamb of God is the only means by which we can escape judgment.  Along with God’s mercy is His holiness.  God will not allow sin and rebellion to continue on earth forever.  A day of judgment is coming for all the earth just as it did for the nation of Israel.  God tolerated their sin for only so long, and then came the time for judgment.  Mercifully, God spared those who repented by placing His mark upon them.  God has been tolerating sinful rebellion on earth, but a day is coming when He will destroy sin and sinners who have not repented and turned away from their sins and turned to him through Jesus Christ.  Ezekiel’s harsh imagery should remind us that we must not forget that God’s wrath is coming from which we all need to escape, and we need to warn others.  This won’t make us popular, but doing God’s will is seldom popular among the rebellious.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/)

Kings and Queens Make a Full House

II Chronicles 8-11

queen-of-sheba

Saturday, November 26

Solomon has completed building the Temple and his house and has moved on to building cities. Everything Solomon touched was lavished with beauty and excess. He built one entire city for the purpose of housing his many horses and chariots. That is one way to build a name and gain a reputation. As word of Solomon traveled outward to other nations, interest grew to understand what this king was all about. Solomon shows that his desire to build was for his own pleasure and he enjoyed the benefits that his talents garnered. He was a man on display. He worked hard to share how God had chosen him to bless the nation of Israel and show justice and righteousness to God’s children.

One thing that was lost on Solomon was that God was the creator of all and wanted Israel to be a light to the nations. Instead  he would not allow Israel to do certain jobs he felt beneath them and would take nations as slaves and indentured servants to do the ugly work.

When the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon she traveled herself to see if what she was hearing was true. And indeed she found him to be a man full of wisdom and in control of vast lands and wealth. After swooning over all his fame and power, she tells King Solomon, “It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts and of your wisdom. However I didn’t believe their words until I came, and my eyes had seen it; and behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom wasn’t told me: you exceed the fame that I heard.” II Chron. 9:5-6

Even though Queen Sheba had heard the truth, it did not resonate with her until she saw it for herself. Others bringing word to her was not enough. King Solomon sounded too good to be true. This is why it is so important to be living out the word of God in our lives so that the message of Christ rings true to those who observe His truth in action. I can write this out using the electronic medium at our disposal today and maybe be a witness to some on God’s behalf; but it is the personal relationships that we create that witness into people’s lives and situations at a much more powerful level.

Solomon understood about God. He even spent an incredible amount of time and resources devoted to sharing Yahweh with others. Solomon was wonderful at telling others what would be best in any given circumstance, but he was not so good at heeding his own lessons. He is like some we witness who gain power and begin to feel they are above the law.

Years ago Brother Billie Kennedy said in a message at Camp Mack (yes, I am going back that far in my memory bank!) “Some people will miss the kingdom of God by 18 inches because that is how far it takes to get from your head to your heart.” That last few feet is the hardest step of all at times, but when we reach that final destination I am hoping for a full house and do not want anyone to miss out by just a few inches.

If the Queen of Sheba thought putting in the effort to check out the truth of who King Solomon was, how much more should we seek out the truth of God’s love and mercy toward all of his children.

-Glennis Walters