The Problem with Getting too Comfortable

In the previous article we discussed how we do not need to go to other countries to do missions, but that our mission field is right here, where we live and work and spend our day to day life.  But we don’t see the area we live in as our mission field.

Why is that?

Taylor Mansion
Taylor Mansion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think the main reason we see this as not being our mission field is because we have made this our home. We have put a lot of time and effort into making this a safe and comfortable place to live where we can sit back and relax from the stresses of life.

But our citizenship is in heaven – Phillipians 3:20

We have forgotten that the earth is not our home.  As Christians our residence is in heaven, not on earth.  Our time on earth is just a temporary stopping point where we focus on our mission before heading home.

We are citizens of heaven, not of earth, not of the U.S., not of the middle class lifestyle, but of heaven.

But instead of living for the mission we forget about it because we get comfortable and distracted in the business and entertainment of our day to day life.

When I was in the Navy I would travel for weeks or months at a time.  Being away from my home was tough.  I missed my wife and my home, but I was there for a mission.  Sure I had a little bit of fun when I could, but my main focus was to do my mission for the military while I anxiously awaited the day I could return home to the one I love.

It should be like this for us.  We should be anxiously awaiting our return home, to see Jesus, the one we love more than any other.  We should not distracting ourselves and making our lives here comfortable enough that we do not care about the mission, about Christ, or about heaven.

Peter urges us to treat this life as travelers just passing through and to avoid the lifestyle of those around us.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh – 1 Peter 2:11

Abstain from the passions of the flesh?  That’s no fun.  God gave us these passions to enjoy ourselves with while we are here, didn’t he?  The problem with our culture is that we are all about the passions of the flesh above all else.  They become our obsession, but when we accept Christ we are told to deny ourselves and not let our flesh, our desires, or our passions become our master.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, – 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Our home here is supposed to be nothing more than a tent.  And by tent I do not mean we are only supposed to have structures made with fabric sides and zipper doors.  It means that what we have here is temporary, something we can throw away and lose if we are called to, not something we attach ourselves to that keep us grounded where we are.

Why are we so determined to purchase homes when they just tie us down?  Renting a place many say is throwing away money, but if you are not sure that God wants you to stay in that area then renting frees you up to just go when God calls you elsewhere.

Again, I am not saying that it is wrong to buy a house, but what I am saying is look at how our lifestyle decisions effect our ability to fulfill our mission.  It just shows where our focus and our treasure really is.

Paul even goes a step further and says that everything he gained in this world is now considered a loss, garbage even, in the mission for Christ.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ – Phil 3:7-8

Your car, house, cell phone, computers, clothes, all of it is nothing more than garbage compared to us knowing Christ!  How do we even try to compare the importance of the mission that we have to save those who are lost with our toys and gadgets?

So why do we obsess over this garbage so much?   Why is it so hard for us to believe that we are citizens of heaven?  Why are we so determined to settle down and make our home here on earth?

We will look at that more in our next article.

Don’t be discouraged.  These articles cover some deep topics that are close to our heart, but our God is gracious and merciful.  Keep reading to the end. 🙂

Do you have as much passion for Jesus as you do for football?

Written by Jon Zenor

Have you ever seen a person who is fanatical about football? They sit in the bleachers in a blizzard with nothing covering them but pants and paint.  What is it that makes a person go to such lengths to show support for their team?

It’s passion, or in this case extreme passion.  But you don’t have to have an extreme passion for something to make it number one in your life.  Most football fans don’t go to those extremes, but they do spend as much time as they can involved in the sport.

A football fan spends hours a week watching football, even throwing parties to get others together to watch the game.  You talk about it all day at work, spend time looking up news on how well various teams did that week and on trades or injuries.  You wear jerseys that show support of your team, even if they lose all the time.  You even create your own fantasy teams.

Your life, as a football fan, is consumed by football.  There is not anything wrong with being a fanatical fan at all, I just have one question for you.

How does your passion for Jesus — your Lord and Savior, your creator, the one who died to have a relationship with you — compare to your passion for football?  It may not even be football for you, it could be video games, baseball, programming, martial arts, planes, motorcycles, or any number of things that consume your every thought.

Jesus must come first!

Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

As Christians Jesus must come first in our life.  Not because it will please God, but because God deserves it, it is the least we can do, and the Bible says we must do it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

It is even written in the Ten Commandments when God says to Moses “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  Leonard Ravenhill reminds us that “Anything you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, I don’t care what it is!”

If you think that is harsh look at what Jesus himself said.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Jesus is saying that your love for Him MUST be first in your life, and nothing goes above that, not your own life, and not even family.  And if you think this is selfishness on God’s part, just remember that He is God almighty, the creator, the one who holds all of existence in his hand, you are just a created thing, a sinful man who rejects God every chance you get.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am not saying all entertainment is bad and you should do nothing but read the Bible and sing praise songs.  What I am getting at is that when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower, we are saying we are putting God first in our life, above everything, including entertainment.  Where you spend your money and how you spend your time show what is first in your heart, Jesus or something else?

Imagine the impact YOU could have

Imagine what the impact would be like in the lives of those around you if you treated Jesus with as much time and energy you spend on football.  You would go to work talking about what God has done in your life, sharing the gospel, talking about God and what is going on in the church.  You would let the world know that Christians are not just hypocrites that live like the rest of the world but they are actually out there doing things!

You would remind them that when disasters happen and the government has its hands tied to help, like FEMA did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was our churches that were out there giving food and aid to the people.  In fact, instead of going to football games you would go on a missions trip to somewhere that needs the help and help others.

Instead of looking up news for football stats you could look up what news there is on martyrs around the world and pray for them.  Every week I get an email from Voice of the Martyrs with information on those being put in prison, who are losing their homes, who are being outcast from their families and beaten because they are the ones on the front lines putting Jesus first in their life.

You would attend church no matter what the weather was like outside, or how much air conditioning worked or how comfortable the chairs at your church were.  Your focus would be more on fellowship and worship than on comfort.

We don’t even need everyone to do this, just you.  If just you would start putting Jesus first in your life, and having a passion for Jesus, then you alone could change a huge part of the world, everyone you interact with.  Those that look up to you would catch that fire and it would spread.

Del Tackett of Focus on the Family, teacher of The Truth Project, said if just a few of you would really believe what the Bible says is true, you would change this world for Christ.

Being a Christian is not a game or a hobby. It is not something we do just once a week.  Being a Christian is a life long commitment that changes your daily life, putting God first in everything you do.

When you don’t have the passion

If you find that you do not have the passion for Christ that you should there is hope for you.  The first and most important thing is to test your salvation, make sure you are saved.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Study the Word of God, what does it mean to be a Christian?  This is an important enough topic to spend the time studying for yourself.  When I went through this last year it took me a couple of months of searching scripture, comparing what I was reading to my life, and most importantly praying, a lot.  Being saved is not based on works, but if you are saved, if you do have Christ living in you, then you cannot help but manifest the fruit of God living in your life.

A major thing that will get in the way of a Christian’s passion for Jesus is sin.  If you are living in sin then you will not be passionate for God, you can’t be.  You will avoid the Word of God, and the things of God.  Search your life for any unrepentant sin and repent of it, turn every area of your life towards God.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:4-6

Jesus wants all of us, not just our leftovers

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus wants, and deserves every part of you to follow Him.  He knows that we are most satisfied personally when we are bringing glory to Him, it is what we were created for.  Don’t waste another day putting garbage in the place of God in your life.

Living Rich with God’s money

In my previous article I addressed some questions that come up when talking about money and saving and what God has shown me about each question. In this article I will briefly explain how I am being led with my money.

The Goal, The Plan, The Purpose

Last year God gave me a goal to work on for finances. He wants me to cut my living expenses by at least 35%. I did not know why or how to do that when I am currently living paycheck to paycheck. This goal has been on my mind since, and I have done what I can to make it happen but without much luck.

Finally, after about nine months of praying over this God gave me the plan (Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) which I just started. I am not fully aware of the purpose of this goal other than to free up the resources God has given me to manage to help others. It is pretty clear in the Bible that this is required of all Christians, to help others with what God provided. Beyond that, I do not know why God wants me to make such drastic changes in my life.

Don’t worry, focus on God

Luke 12:21-24 has some words of warning and advice for us here.

“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

This passage tells me to not worry about your money, God gives and takes away, it is all His. If He chooses to use you for a storehouse for a year or a lifetime, awesome, if not, awesome.

Realize that it is all His, and you are just the steward, realize that money is nothing, focus on a relationship with God, that is what matters. Everything else just gets in the way. Want to save money? Sure, just make sure you are doing it for the Lord and following Him, not trying to make yourself secure. Only God knows the future, you never know what will come up where the money God has given you to manage could be used in a huge way if you were to just save a percentage of it now.

Want to give away every dime and rely on faith for your retirement? Awesome, just make sure it is from God so you are not left broke wondering what happened and God says “I gave you all the resources you needed and the abilities to work, you were not responsible so I took them from you.”

Whatever you do, do it for the Lord.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line, what counts is not how much money you have in savings, how much you make, how much you give away. What matters is your attitude towards God and towards your money.

I know someone who makes a lot of money, and gives a lot of money, yet his life does not show devotion to God. God isn’t pleased with our giving, He is pleased with our obedience to Him through our relationship with Him.

Repent of your greed (we all have it to some extent), and follow God. As you draw closer to Him your desires will become His desires. You will want to save and give away what He tells you because you are close to Him. Just be cautious of the greed and the pride that can sneak in and distract and destroy.

Word of Warning

One last word of warning though. Do not just assume that God wants you to build up wealth and spend money on yourself to live comfortably and have nice cars. In America we have the mindset that we deserve the nice cars, big houses, big screen TVs and game systems. Before you buy anything for yourself, or before you start putting most of your money into retirement, pray, and sure you use God’s money the way God wants you to. God may not have called you to that life of comfort you want to live in.

The link between wealth and salvation

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:8-10

Both this passage and Luke 18:18-27 mention a link between wealth, what you do with that wealth, and your salvation. What is this link, and what does it tell us about our salvation?

Two noticeable events take place in this passage. The first is Zaccheus declaring that he is giving away over half his money, and the other is that Jesus announces that he is saved. At first glance appears like a cause and effect, the cause being that Zaccheus gives away his wealth, and the effect is that Jesus declares that he is saved.

This idea also looks to be backed up by the passage in Luke 18 where a rich man asks Jesus how he can have salvation and Jesus replies saying to give away all of his wealth. The rich man then walks away sad and Jesus says to his disciples that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven.

There is something you have to remember about reading the Bible though. You cannot take certain passages in the Bible and base doctrines on those passages, you have to take the Bible as a whole. A lot of times concepts are explained and then later on they are refined or more detail is given.

So then how do we reconcile this with verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

The passage in James 2 ties these two concepts together perfectly and clears any cloud of confusion that some may have. James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14,17)

A person is not saved by any work they do, no matter what it is, because our sin is so great to God that no amount of our “good works” could make up for it. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ that we can have salvation, and by nothing else. But when you have faith, you will have good works as a response to your faith. It is not something you have to make yourself do, it is out of an act of love.

I love my wife, and because I love her I do things for her, help her out around the house when she isn’t feeling well, or buy her her favorite chocolate as a surprise when I am at the store.  These acts do not make her love, the acts do not make her my wife, they are just acts of kindness that I do in response to my love for her.  Faith in Christ works the same way.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:21-26

Abraham was not saved because of his actions. Abraham took action because of his faith, they work hand in hand. If Abraham did not have faith, then he would not have acted.

Zaccheus was saved that day, but not because he gave away his wealth, but because he had faith in Christ. Once Zaccheus had faith his wealth was meaningless to him because he had Jesus. Zaccheus acted out of response to his faith in Christ. Jesus then announced that he was saved because Zaccheus had faith, and he also had evidence of faith in his works.

The rich ruler in Luke 18 wanted Jesus, but he wanted his riches more. He did not have faith or he would not have cared about his riches.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

When you are saved through your faith in Christ you have a heart for God, and a heart for others. At that point the things of this world should seem meaningless as you pursue Christ and the kingdom.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27

If you have wealth, how are you using that for the kingdom of God? Are you just spoiling yourself? Are you staying “unspotted from the world”? As a professing follower of Christ you should be pursuing the things God wants you to pursue, and if you are not then why not? Do you put Christ before your family even? (Luke 14:26)

Are you really putting Christ first in your life?

If Jesus confronted you today, would he say “today salvation has come to this house” or would he say “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God”?

The choice is yours.

Removing my idols

The Lancer Evolution VIII is an absolute beautiful and powerful machine. This is the car I have wanted for a long time for a lot of useful reasons as well as a lot of personal fun reasons (I wanted to learn how to drift at the local race track). Every time I see one on the road I cannot help to stare and wish I had one.

Last summer i saw one for sale, used, for $24,000 which is not a bad price when the car is normally $32k for the base model. I could not get it though. I have blown and waisted my money and I have too many other bills to be able to afford a second car. So I was beating myself up over it. If I had just managed my money better I could get it, if I had not spent money on useless things I would have been able to get my dream car. It led me to a new resolve, to get out of debt and spend less money.  To help encourage me to do this I printed out the add for the car, with a picture of it along with the price, and I stuck it in my wallet.

This I used as a reminder and as motivation. It was right by my debit and credit card so I would see it anytime anytime I would spend money.   I would look at the picture and remember what I am saving up for which I was hoping would prevent me from blowing my money.

Last week while I was in prayer God brought that picture to my mind, and I was shown exactly how disgusting that act was. The car had become my idol. I was thinking about it every time I opened my wallet, I was sacrificing for it. The Lancer had evolved from just coveting (which is itself a sin) and it became an idol, like most things we covet tend to become.

That day while in prayer I took that image out of my wallet and ripped it to pieces, and with it my resolve to ever buy the car. How could I let a meaningless machine take such a high priority in my life? I have since filled that space in my wallet with a picture of Franco, a child I sponsor through Potter’s Field ministries. If ever there was a reason to save your money, that is it. Jesus told us to give to the poor (James 1:27), to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20), not to acquire nice things on earth!

Which would you rather be known for, having a nice car, or helping the poor? Living to impress others, or living for Jesus? Which way of living truly shows that you get it and that you actually follow Jesus? Feeding the hungry is feeding Jesus (Matthew 25:40), having a nice car serves nothing but yourself.