Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Freezing Tuesday!

Good morning, everyone!

Let me just start by saying my office is colder than Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. If you need somewhere to hang raw meat, come on over.

I have a lot of studying to do for Sunday so I can't take a long time here, but I wanted to throw out a couple of thoughts.

One hit me as I was driving down Walnut Ave. last week. A reality dawned on me that I thought might be a broader spiritual principle that applies to others also.

The Count family budget is very, very tight right now. Tighter than it's been in a long time thanks to a couple things. 1. The Pool. (I know you feel reaaallly bad for me right now, don't you?) 2. Amy's change from a salary job, to 100% commission.

As I was driving down Walnut, I was lifting this up to God and praying for Him to supply our needs. Not overly stressed, just relying on Him to get us through - and then it hit me: I couldn't remember the last time I had done that. There hadn't been a need to pray for that because paying our bills hadn't been a problem.

That led me to ask myself a question - Was I really depending upon God when I had more than enough in the same way that I was depending upon Him now? Who was I really trusting in for my daily bread? Was it God or my salary?

In my life, I've found that when I have more than enough I become self-reliant and less God-reliant. The urgency of the need for God's provision isn't there. I hit cruise control and I enjoy the ride. On the other hand, need brings me to my knees and therefore, to God.

It's funny, isn't it, that we try to get to the point where we are comfortable financially and yet that very thing might create distance between us and Him. Is it any wonder that God has to yank everything out from under us from time to time so that we don't forget who we are to depend upon?

And, silly us, as soon as we are knocked down from the top of Sunshine Mountain, we're trying to figure out how to get back up there - even though we might never be as close to Jesus as we were at the bottom.

I consider myself a lot like the rich young ruler. Jesus told him what He should do: Sell everything he had and give it to the poor.* He gave him the opportunity to voluntarily lay it down. Unfortunately, the guy just couldn't do it.

Everyday, each one of us can look around and see ways that we could voluntarily lay it down for Jesus - but the pull of materialism and self-preservation is just too strong. We can't do it. And so God, in His mercy, takes it away from time to time so that we will remember to rely on Him (and probably a host of other reasons).

I have less money right now than I have had in a long time, but ironically, I am more aware of how blessed I am than I was before. Praise God for His superior ways and wisdom!

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

I don't think Paul is asking us to pat him on the back because he was able to be content when he had plenty. It's the fact that even when he had plenty, he knew it was a temporary thing. He knew he would face more times of need and perhaps that is what enabled him to be so spiritually minded and so close to Christ - he was never that far away from needing to totally rely on Jesus just to survive.

The blessing is needing Jesus and Him providing what we need. I wonder if we miss out on that blessing because we never really need anything.

Just a thought...

*incidentally, Jewish scholars don't believe that Jesus was saying that everyone should sell everything and give it to the poor, but he knew it was specifically what the rich young ruler needed to do because of his attachment to his money.

Song of the Week

Just to drive last Sunday's sermon home. I thought about using it in the service, but it seems like we are always short on time.
It's by one of the runner ups from American Idol, either last year, or the year before.
Some people think we could be twins.


Charles said...

One thing that April and Ihave been going thru is the job with 100% commission like Amy and Phil. On a one income family, I have been totally, unusually not worried about. When people ask why, I tell them what I feel, I know that the Lord will provide. I usually get funny looks and responses, but I actually mean it. I have been humbled by this new financial position we are in, I have to say, when talking to other Christians we should not be so suprised to hear that they are putting their faith into the Lord to get them thru their hard times (and mean it). Right now I am in my cell number 24, and we are ok with it. (reference of cell 24 from last sunday)...

Psalms 91:14
Because he loves me,"says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, FOR HE ACKNOWLEDGES MY NAME....

The Lord is there for us when in trouble, but equally so when not, the question is, Have I called upon him as much when its good then when not?

PS if your pool suddenly suds over will a trillion bubbles,.....I didnt do it.....

Keith C said...

Sounds as if another air register adjustment is needed?

I and my family know what it is like to rely on God's provision with faith, belief and trust and it is not easy!

We have 2 incomes but there was a time when our combined incomes were less than 28K.

The Lord does provide!!! As I look back on my 1st trip to Peru I see where God was preparing me for how to lead my family through what was coming in the future, financially, income wise, relationally and in every other way.

I feel God wanted me to let go of thinking I was the real protector of my children, and that I was the provider for my family!

The 1st trip I went on to Peru, I wrote a personal check, money was not a real issue, leaving my children was a huge issue.

Now as I look back I see how I can have peace in my life not seeing 3 of my children everyday, it is still painful, but God fills the voids with His Spirit.

Little did I know while I was in Peru the 1st time that I was in a few short months going to embark on an adventure in doing without financially!

A trip to Peru will make you realize how rich you are! Finacially, health wise, and rich in having every thing you want in a church, Bibles and worship songs, etc... We are so SPOILED!

As I felt the call to ministry the financial hardships intensified and became more difficult to deal with. The harder the became the more I and Sheila prayed, and prayed and fasteda nd prayed. God sustained our family.

There have been more than one time I have questioned God and His call on my life! After I stop acting like a baby and read and meditate and pray, God always shows me His intentions for my life and my family, and it is always good!

We were and have been blessed by people in ways I can not describe, with gift cards, money and it is very very humbling!

Today we still run a negative of income to expenses based on our regualr pay. We cut things and change how we spend and find ways to make money on the side (building fences, decks, wood floors, tutoring, etc...)

God allows us to sufer so we will rely on Him...

Charles, I know what you are experiencing and going through, our circumstances are probably different but the experience is the same and for many of the same reasons.

The rich young ruler, was not willing to set aside the things he really worshipped!

Peace :)

john m said...

Wow, great blogs. You know it is hard for me to understand why James says "Consider it pure joy, my brethren whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." It is hard for me to understand considering trials joy. But, praise God those verses are in the Bible. How can we get down when even our trials can be considered pure joy. Thank you Jesus.
I once heard it said that Jesus wasn't asking the rich young ruler to give up anything he was not going to have to give up to be a follower of Christ. First century Christians had to give up all whether they were rich or poor. Can't imagine many uncommitted Christians in churches back then. May we be ready if we're ever asked to make that decison.
Thanks for your testimonies of trust.

Kat said...

If only I would learn all these things in the core of my being!

Kirsten T said...

This is really good Pastor Phil.
I agree that Americans miss out on a lot of God's true blessings (spiritual) because we are so fulfilled with the material. I recently read Brother Yun's biography "The Heavenly Man". Wow, it blew me away. He had nothing at times, yet God always supplied his needs (and I mean TRUE NEEDS like keeping him alive out in a snowstorm or giving him the nutrition he needed when he fasted for 70+ days, not American "needs" like air conditioning or running water). The spiritual reliance that he has on the Lord puts me to shame.
It is true that hard times grow you so much closer to the Lord. One of the hardest times in my life (and my family's) was in '98 when our home was flooded. It really put what was important into perspective, our faith in Almighty God, and each other. We went without a lot of things that we had been used to for a while, like privacy when 4 girls shared a living room as a bedroom for a year. But that helped create a strong bond and a platform for spiritual growth that we would have never experienced otherwise. When I think back to that time, I always thank God more than anything, because He clearly showed how He "works ALL things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Ro 8:28).
Here’s another great related verse on the same line as John M “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”- Ro 5:3-4. These are all qualities that we as Christians should desire and seek after. If we don’t have sufferings, then, like Pastor Phil said, will we ever come off happy mountain and grow in the Lord?
Thanks Pastor Phil, for sharing what the Lord is teaching you!

david m. said...

Appreciate Pastor Phil's blog and reading others' posts and perspectives on this topic. And speaking of perspective, I recently learned about an extremely interesting website: www.globalrichlist.com where you enter your annual income and are able to see instantly where you rank in global wealth. (Even an American living at the government-designated "poverty level" is easily within the top 15% of the world's richest people.)

Most of us don't feel rich, which makes you realize how affected we are by the consumer culture that we live in, always being targeted with messages that we need more "stuff." We spend so much more time thinking about what we lack than what we have. I think that's the spirit of the world, and Christians need to be alert to it's insidious effect. Also it's opposed to living in constant awareness of the abundant blessings of God, which we're called to do so many places in His Word.