Materialism and Jesus

I woke up this morning to a small dusting of snow on the roads. My wife went to work, and I cleaned the house. The best way to clean is listening to podcasts, in my opinion. My podcast of choice was Timothy Keller: Treasure vs. Money.  His analysis of our materialistic inclinations as Americans was quite astounding. Definitely worth a listen.

FHN Blog Quotes.png

My life is at a weird point. I am in a job I enjoy for the most part (auto technician) an I am heading up the shop’s social media as well. It is a cool job description, but still not what my end goal is.

 

I am also dabbling in helping other people grow their business brand. I do not have a whole lot of experience other than my business podcasts and building a small landscaping company that turned a decent profit over the summer. I am essentially learning as I go and seeing what works. Currently I am helping friends and family.

These thoughts brought a lot of insecurity to my soul. Questions ran through my head, wondering if i would be “stuck” at one job, or that I would regret not doing this or that.

It is no coincidence that as I was stressed and frustrated over my lack of “direction” in life, Tim Keller’s voice rang through the house as I was putting away the dishes. His challenge in his message was to reconsider all of your ideas of materialism. Most Americans do not consider themselves materialistic.

This thought challenged me, because I do not consider myself materialistic. But as He spoke and revealed Jesus’ words about money, The Holy Spirit revealed to me my indwelling materialism. What were my end goals for my business? For my job? For my life? Subconsciously it is to make money. Not to glorify God, not to make God look great, but rather to make money so I will not have to work as much. This is materialism.

The thing is, making money and aspiring to make a good living (by american standards) is not a bad thing. If my goal was to make more and work less so that I could serve the Lord in more sacrificial ways, then that is a good God-glorifying goal. But all my heart has been set on is that savings number we are shooting for.

As God checks my heart, it is so freeing to know that God is greater than all these things, and that the Holy Spirit can break down all materialism in our souls. This is so encouraging to me.

Tim Keller – Treasure Vs. Money

Instagram – Daily Inspirations

Facebook – Daily Biblical Inspiration

Jesus is the Only Foundation That Cannot Be Shaken

In our obsession with the world and what it has to offer, we lose sight of Christ. How to Start Paying Off DEBT (2).png

The common objection to the claim of scripture:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7

This is a bold statement. The peace “of God”. Think about the peace that God has. Eternally content, happy, and joy-filled. The human mind cannot understand it. Not only the simple mind, but the elite thinkers and philosophers cannot and will not understand it. This peace is beyond all understanding.

Then comes promise: “…will guard your hearts…” it is not simply a vague “some of you can have peace”. If we are growing in our love for Jesus, peace is sure to follow.

Peace will also guard our minds. How is this possible?

When we place our hope and peace in something finite, there is always a chance of loss. For instance if our hope is money in the bank, then the moment we have less than our “peace standard” we lose our peace. If our hope is in another human being, we will inevitably lose that hope when they either leave us or die. It’s a morbid thought, but simply put, everything in this world is finite. Everything will end.

Some will claim that they have lived there whole lives in peace, what makes a Christian’s peace different? We lay hold of a foundation that can never be broken. Throughout our whole lives, we never have to worry about losing out on God’s love for us. We will always be His. In five years, ten years, 50 years, He will hold us fast to Him.

You can certainly place a pseudo-peace on money, recognition, you name it. But in the back of your mind, though there’s a chance you won’t lose them, there is certainly chance that you will. That gnawing reminder of your own fallibility and idolatry will never create the lasting peace that comes from the only sure foundation. In Christ alone.

Subduing My Little Piece of Ground

This past Monday (my day off) was spent by myself for the first half of the day. My wife was at work so I decided to finally mow my front yard and clean up some of the landscaping.

As someone who tries to see the spiritual aspects of all of life (something that Adventures in Odyssey taught me!) working to make my yard and flower beds look nice kind of reminded me of God’s command to subdue the earth in Genesis.

I think this is where many people (both men and women) get their drive to build, create, restore and rebuild. We have it wired into our very beings. Ultimately we will never restore our little piece of dirt to it’s former pre-sin glory, but we desire to try to subdue it as best we can.

And that was what I did last Monday.

Pictured, I have some before and after photos.

There was something immensely gratifying about getting my hands dirty while listening to great music. It really is such a beautiful metaphor of God’s work in us.Daily Re-dedication.jpg

The Holy Spirit’s work in us isn’t a one time thing. We can’t just mow the lawn of our souls once. It’s a constant trimming back, revitalizing, and convicting of our hearts. And it takes work.

Grass starts looking like weeds when it sits stagnant for a time. Flower beds get overrun, leaves pile up. The sin in our lives is the same way. When you’re not fighting it, it’s growing back.

Fighting sin is messy. Your hands will get dirty and your soul will grow tired, but we must go back to God’s word and to prayer to reconnect with our Lord to regain our strength again every morning.

And it’s not an easy task. God calls us to die to ourselves. Take up our crosses. Go make disciples of all nations. The only way we can do this is by the simple daily act of committing ourselves to God’s will as shown in the Bible. And though cutting grass and putting down brown bedding may be trivial in of itself, God can still use something simple to show us a small glimpse into one way He works in our lives.

Because, just like up-keeping a home, cutting grass, and washing dishes, keeping our souls requires daily re-dedication. Daily reviving. Daily dying.

 

A Radical Response To the Gospel

As I was studying to teach the 7th and 8th grade lesson on Acts 19, I was struck with the Ephesian people’s response to a horrifying discovery: Their pagan magicians could not contend with the power of Jesus.

The sons of Sceva (the pagan magicians) were meddling in places they shouldn’t have been meddling. They saw all the wonders that Paul was saying and doing in Ephesus, and thought that all they needed to do was invoke the name of Jesus, and maybe they too would be able to command demons and heal the sick.

In verse 13 they try to command a demon, but what happened to them would horrify anyone who found their hope in pagan worship. The demon literally said “Jesus I know, Paul I recognize, but who are you?” and proceeded to beat them and strip them and send them running.

So now the high and mighty sons of sceva were brought low by the power of satan. And all the people finally understood – these men do NOT have the answers.

Though i’m taking some liberty, i can imagine the people were comparing the two people – Paul and the disciples vs. the sons of Sceva. The two don’t even compare! One can command demons and heal the sick in Jesus’ name, and the other? Well, they get beat to a pulp for even trying. Based on the response of the Ephesians, I can imagine they listened to what Paul was preaching and many of them believed.

The power of the gospel is greater than we realize. The transformative power in the hearts of people as a result of the gospel is apparent in this passage. They ended up burning 50,000 pieces of silver’s worth of pagan books! That’s right around $5,000,000 worth of idolatry.

That’s the equivalent to:

  • 185 Ford 2018 F-150 Trucks
  • 12,500 GoPro Hero 5 Blacks
  • or, 6,501 iPhone 7 Plus’s

As Christ said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I think the Ephesian people who believed the Gospel were beginning an act of repentance in burning this paganism out of their lives.

This echoed in the ears of the silversmiths, who crafted the idols. They would lose their livelihood, so what did they do? Well, they were going to lose their pride and money, so they rioted and chanted godless things. Sound familiar?

All this to say, a radical gospel changes people radically. You can’t have one foot in the world and one foot in holiness. You’re either being swept away in sin’s current, or your swimming against it in the Spirit’s power.

Do I have that ‘crazy’, ‘foolish’, ‘radicalized’ faith that the world looks down upon? Am i friends with the world? Or have i renounced my pagan practices (or maybe, addiction to money, entertainment, etc.) and allowed God to burn them out of my life?

The Bible makes clear that true disciples of Jesus make disciples, and look radically different from the world. Is this true of us?

Theology Thursday #3 – Promises, Promises

“which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures”
~Romans 1:2

In today’s Theology Thursday text (as you see above) we’ll be looking at Romans 1:2.
Now, as we’ve already seen in the previous post, this is the Apostle Paul writing the letter to the Church in Rome around a.d. 55, and it was most likely written from Corinth.

The context for the beginning of the second verse:

“which he promised…”

is that Paul is referring to the Gospel, or literally, the “Good News” as we read back in verse one which I expounded on here: http://wp.me/p3UQi7-2x
So next we see Paul tells us that the Gospel was “promised beforehand”.
Now, what would that mean? We’ve already seen the context and background so now we have a fairly good idea of what he’s referring to, but, for my own sake, (i just love defining things for clarity) we’ll look at both words:

The definition of “Promised” (according to Google) is:

“To assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.”

And the definition of “Beforehand”:

“Before an action or event; in advance.”

So, looking at both these definitions working in harmony together, we see Paul telling us prophiesthat The Gospel was a message that was definitely going to happen, but was also promised before the New Testament was even written. Pretty cool seeing God’s sovereign hand working in history before it happens!

To expound even further, we’ll look at some pretty mind-blowing “promises beforehand” found in the Old Testament completely fulfilled in the New Testament concerning Christ who is the very center of the Bible and the Gospel.
The first being Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Kinda cool finding a promise for Christ so early on in history, completely fulfilled in Christ on the cross paying our penalty for sin. (John 19:30)
Another later on:

“A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.””
~Isaiah 40:3-5

This passage is a very commonly cited messianic reference pointing to the one who would “prepare the way” namely, John the Baptist. Who, in turn points to Christ as Lord and Savior and God.
And take note, there are literally hundreds of these prophecies pointing to Christ. These I noted are just a couple of examples! It’s really fascinating reading up on more, and there are plenty of great study resources to take advantage of out there.

If you’re a Christian, you’ve most likely heard all this before, but sometimes it’s good (for me included) to look through the Bible and really study, not just read, but study and learn and apply. I hope this encouraged you in some way!

Thanks for reading and remember to follow to be notified about future posts!

The Amazing Gift Of Community

Night_Maze     So this past Saturday, I went to the “River of Life Night Maze”. It’s basically a Christian event from 5pm-Midnight where they have big inflatable obstacle courses, games, etc, an amazing speaker, and a corn maze! On top of that, a bunch of my friends who were off to college a few months ago were on a ministry trip to help out so the Night Maze would run smoothly and effectively.

It was a great time. Quality time with close friends I hadn’t seen in a while, a great message from an amazing man of God i’ve known for a while, and just plain corn maze awesomeness! Seriously, corn mazes at night are fantastic. Loved it.So at this little outing, I was very encouraged, I had laughed so hard it hurt, and beat my good friend at an obstacle course game. (My favorite type of inflatable game.)

So all in all it was great. Great time, great friends, great God.

It was encouraging because there are times in my week where I just need to get out. Get out of the house, see new sights, or just the occasional brief change of scenery.
My life is pretty simple, nothing too amazing, nothing too terrible about it, it has its highs and lows just like anyone else. I wake up, I eat, I have school, I have work, I have plenty of things that keep me busy throughout the week.

But I’m sure there’s plenty of us who just need something more every now and then. What with the daily grind of life, and the times it seems just too monotonous and hopeless and you feel just plain down. (I don’t know about some of you, but that’s me a lot.)
So I tried to medicate the problem, asking myself:
“Do I need more time in my bible?”
“Do I need to sleep more?”
“Should I pray more?”

All those are good options, and we always need to make sure we’re getting a proper amount of each, but those didn’t seem to be the problem.
So usually at this point I begin to pray and ask Jesus for some wisdom in my predicament of (we’ll call it) loneliness.
Why do we feel lonely? Why as Christians do we say Jesus is enough and then turn around and feel lonely? Is it unbiblical to be lonely? Is it ok to feel even a little bit down?

These questions always run through my head. And, for me, the answer usually isn’t any I listed. (Although sleep is a legitimate problem at times I admit.)

The Answer? (For me at his point.)
It’s people.

Godly people Jesus has placed in my life to encourage and lift me up and show me Jesus through how we talk, laugh, and interact.

Community, The Body of Christ.

I’ve heard of many Christians who live lives thinking if they “need” people, or if people encourage them, it’s somehow an idol in their hearts and interactions should be strictly platonic, because, after all, shouldn’t Jesus be enough?
Well, yes, He should.
But, we’re really missing something. Jesus commanded us:

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
~Hebrews 10:25

We see clearly in this verse to “all the more” seek the community of godly people, not neglecting it! How encouraging is that? We’re to have friends and love and serve people, and God does it for His glory and our good! (Romans 8:28)

Pretty encouraging! I was so encouraged seeing my friends this weekend and seeing how God’s been working in their hearts and minds, and I hope and pray anyone reading this would remember to seek out godly people for help and wisdom, and to find a good, bible-teaching Church to grow in community and service with other believers!

Seriously, when Jesus commands something of us, He knows best. So believe that and be encouraged!

Theology Thursday #2 – Romans: Paul, The Apostle

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God”
-Romans 1:1

On this week’s Theology Thursday we’ll be looking at the beginning of Romans.
Now, the historical context for this incredible letter was set in circa 56 a.d. Rome. ImageThe original recipients for the letter was the church in Rome, and it was most likely sent from Corinth due to Paul’s references to people such as Phoebe (the deliverer of the letter), Gaius, and Erastus who were all associated with Corinth in that day.

Now, enough of the history, let’s get to the verse.
The first word of this letter clearly indicates the writer, “Paul” who, as many believers and scholars alike know, wrote a great portion of the New Testament including Ephesians, Galatians, and many more.
Paul is well known not only for his inspired writings (through the Holy Spirit), but also for his insane devotion to Christ. Having been imprisoned on many occasions, shipwrecked (Acts 27:39-44), beaten by an angry mob (Acts 21:30-31), and eventually martyred during the reign of Nero.

In the next part we see Paul as a “Servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle”.
The Greek word used here, “Doulos”, was the common New Testament word for servant, but Paul, using it in it’s more Hebrew sense, elevates the word to mean a “servant committed to a master he loves and respects”. So Paul identifies Himself as one who is committed to His Lord and Savior, out of love and deep respect.
Now, “apostle” is a widely debated topic, whether they’re still for today, and whether they theoretically can do anything through Christ’s power supernaturally.
But, all controversial thought aside, we’ll look into the context:

“an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (v.1)

I believe “set apart” to be the key two words. Because it indicates an exclusivity not easily gained. The definition of it literally being to “select something or someone for a specific purpose”.
In Acts 9:15 we find the answer to whether Paul was an exclusive apostle to be used by Jesus or not:

“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
-Acts 9:15

Other references include Acts 22:14, 26:16, and Gal. 1:1. You can also read the account of Paul (or, Saul at that point) on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.

So clearly Paul was set apart by God to do great things in his name, and to write inspired scripture, and to be arguably the single most greatest missionary of all time.

An interesting thing to note is that all of the New Testament was written by or under the auspices of an apostle. (John 14:26)
So clearly, the office of someone writing inspired scripture was very explicitly and unarguably chosen and verified by God in that day, so no one could go running around claiming they had a “new revelation” that would contradict God’s chosen servants and His word.

So clearly, Jesus had exclusive followers who were “One’s who were sent” as the Greek word for Apostle means. And they did incredible things for Christ: lived lives of bravery, but also lives of torture.
But ultimately, they sought Christ to be glorified so others would see how incredible He is and how much better he is than anything this world could ever offer, a forgiving savior who seeks and saves the lost.

Thanks for reading and make sure to follow if you’d like to read more in the future!
Feel free to comment sharing your thoughts!