A Mark of Immaturity

1 Corinthians 3

1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord. 4When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? 5Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. 7The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. 9We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.  (1 Corinthians 3:1-9, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

According to Wikipedia, between 65 and 75 percent of Americans identify as Christians. Does that sound right?

Regardless of whether you consider wikipedia to be a reliable source of information on this subject, there is no disputing that a high percentage of Americans identify as Christians over other religious ideologies and non-religious philosophies.

However, the evidence of daily life, whether in the physical or online world, doesn’t seem to support the notion that so many people identify themselves as Christians. The majority of people simply don’t seem to act like Christians.

What is the problem?

Paul gives some insight in this passage. A major issue that the Corinthian church was dealing with was the problem of name-dropping and identifying and aligning themselves with certain religious leaders. It was the source of much disunity and division within this church. I wrote about this issue in a previous blog post here.

In this passage Paul plainly states that many within this Corinthian church are not mature. In verse 2, he states that he had to feed them milk and not solid food because they weren’t ready for solid food.

Now there’s nothing wrong if you are not able to eat solid food depending on the circumstances.

Think about a baby. A baby doesn’t have teeth and their digestive system is not ready for solid foods. As a result, they drink milk, either from their mother’s breasts or from some pre-made formula. As they grow and mature, however, the parents typically will begin to introduce various forms of solid food into their baby’s diet. At first, they might feed their child mashed or pureed vegetables or protein, gradually moving up to soft, chewable foods like Cheerios or small, soft vegetables or fruit pieces.

But imagine a toddler who hasn’t graduated to any form of solid food. Does that seem normal? If you saw what looked like a normal, active 5 year old crawl into his mother’s lap in order to take nourishment from his mother’s breasts as if he were a 5 month old, you would probably suspect something wasn’t normal.

This is the problem in the Corinthian church. There’s no problem with needing milk, spiritually speaking, if you are a baby Christian. But when Paul says, “And you still aren’t ready” [for solid food], the implication is that they SHOULD be ready for it.

Why weren’t they ready for it? Paul says that the reason they had not developed to a more mature point is because “you are still controlled by your own sinful desires.”

Hence, a primary marker of maturity among Christians is they are no longer controlled by their own selfish desires. Another way of putting it is immature Christians are still controlled by selfish desires.

This could be one explanation for how so many people in our country could claim to be Christian and yet their lives don’t reflect it.

Of course there are many indicators of selfishness, but one that Paul highlights here is a person’s penchant for aligning themselves with another leader or personality. Paul says that this is wrong and selfish because it robs God of his rightful worship as the ultimate person responsible for the spiritual growth and development that we may experience and attaches it to someone who is merely God’s servant doing God’s work.

If we want to move past the baby Christian phase, it will become necessary for us to learn to put aside our self-centeredness, including our tendency to elevate and idolize leadership personalities and begin to make God Himself the central focus of our lives and our spiritual development.

Reflection

What do you think Paul means when he talks about feeding them with milk? Additionally, what is meant by solid food?

As you evaluate your own spiritual development, would you consider yourself a Christian who feeds on milk or solid food? What reasons would you give to support your conclusion?

What are some practical ways a young Christian can move from milk to solid food?

Who are some Christian leadership personalities that you think some Christians may be prone to align themselves with? 

What steps can you take to ensure that you don’t improperly idolize those who may be significantly influential in your life?

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Shortest (Non) Prayer in the Bible

Nehemiah 2

1Early the following spring, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never appeared sad in his presence before this time. 2So the king asked me, “Why are you so sad? You aren’t sick, are you? You look like a man with deep troubles.”

Then I was badly frightened, 3but I replied, “Long live the king! Why shouldn’t I be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down.”

4The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5I replied, “If it please Your Majesty and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

6The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” So the king agreed, and I set a date for my departure. (Nehemiah 2:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The book of Nehemiah is a classic study on effective leadership.

Nehemiah is a Jew in exile who happens to be the cupbearer to the King. When Nehemiah gets word that the wall in the city of Jerusalem is in ruins he’s understandably distraught. The king notices Nehemiah’s sullen demeanor, which could have been disastrous for Nehemiah given his position, but fortunately, the king is compassionate and inquires about the nature of Nehemiah’s anguish.

Nehemiah shares about the news he received concerning Jerusalem and to Nehemiah’s surprise, the king asks, “well, how can I help you?”

What comes next in the text is what I find most interesting. It says, “With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah prayed to God before making his request to the king, a request which was certainly bold in nature.

It might be easy to overlook the significance of this verse. After all, it seems quite reasonable that Nehemiah would pray before making such a bold request of the king.

But think about it for just a moment. Did Nehemiah really pray? It’s not likely he had the time to pause, kneel, close his eyes and pray to the Lord, at least not as we tend to think about prayer.

This “prayer” was made in the middle of a back-and-forth conversation with the king. Nehemiah did not have the time to beseech the Lord in the traditional way we think of prayer. It would not have even been appropriate for Nehemiah to make a traditional prayer in the king’s presence while he awaited a response from Nehemiah to his question.

So if Nehemiah didn’t actually pray, how is it that the text can say Nehemiah prayed?

I think the key is the phrase “with a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah didn’t stop to pray as we think about it. Instead, he prayed AS he replied to the king. In other words, at the same time he was engaging the king, he was inviting the God of heaven to give him wisdom, to give him favor in the eyes of the king and to grant the request he was about to make.

This may be a paradigm shift in how you think about prayer. Prayer is not JUST a focused time where we lift our requests up to God. Prayer is not JUST a dedicated time of solitude where we pause, reflect and lift up our praises and requests to God. Instead, prayer is an attitude of dependence and reliance on God that we can practice at all times. Prayer, essentially, is directing our thoughts towards God, whether it is audible or not, visible or invisible.

In Nehemiah’s case, he obviously didn’t stop, pause and lift up an audible prayer to God. Nehemiah’s prayer was in reality more of a heart attitude toward God in which he, in that moment, was acknowledging his dependence on God and exercising faith that God would speak through him and grant him favor in the king’s eyes.

And God honored Nehemiah’s prayer and granted his request before the king.

You may not be able to set aside hours each day for dedicated prayer. You may not be able to set aside even 30 minutes, though this discipline can have many benefits. But no matter how much time you may have to set aside for uninterrupted prayer, Nehemiah’s example demonstrates that we can pray at any moment and dedicated, focused time in prayer is not requisite in order to connect with the God of heaven!

Reflection

What has been your practice and discipline with prayer in the past?

How have you thought of prayer in the past? How have you defined and understood the nature and practice of prayer?

In what ways does Nehemiah’s example challenge your view and understanding of prayer?

In what ways can you implement Nehemiah’s example and make prayer more of an ongoing connection with God in which you are constantly directing your thoughts towards Him?

Photo by Rock Staar on Unsplash

 

 

LinkedIn, CBMC and Helping Young Adults Embark

I was recently invited to attend a quarterly breakfast for the Orange County Chapter of CBMC (Christian Businessman’s Connection). 

Marc Ottestad, the coordinator of the group, had connected with me via LinkedIn, thinking that our similar interests and passion for coaching, mentoring and seeing men make an impact for Jesus in their jobs might make for some natural opportunities to collaborate.

When I showed up at the breakfast, I noticed that most of the men were my age or even older. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how this breakfast might directly help me.

At one point, we were asked to shuffle tables to meet some new people and discuss what we heard from the speaker.

I found another table and ended up sitting next to the only guy in the room who was younger than 30.

I introduced myself to Alec and learned that he had recently graduated from Biola and was working at expanding a website business.

When Alec asked what I do, I shared that I help Young Professionals thrive spiritually and live with purpose.

Alec is a recent graduate of Biola University who is seeking biblical community while working to build and expand his website business.

I explained that my wife and I had spent many years ministering to college students but we made a shift in our ministry focus a few years ago because we had seen a void in Christian circles in serving the needs of Young adults, who are often struggling to find the kind of community and support that they need when they are undergoing the biggest changes and most stressful transitions of their life.

Alec’s response was both sad and affirming at the same time. He said, “you pretty much just summed up my current life situation.”

It’s sad that there seems to be so few resources and support for young professionals like Alec. I’ve spent many hours thinking through this issue, trying to determine why this is the case. 

My conclusions are not researched…they are just opinions, yet it makes sense to me.

If you think about it, most churches are built around a family model. Nearly every church serves the needs of families – from kids programs to youth events as well as support for parents and marriages.

This is an extremely good thing because, if you haven’t noticed, the traditional family unit, with biblical family values is under attack in our culture. The church may be the last bastion of hope to salvage a biblical understanding of the family unit.

But that same model works against Young Professionals, who are in a season where they have often left their family of origin and are yet to start a family of their own. They are in an in-between season of life – living on their own, learning to live as an adult with real-life responsibilities.

In this in-between phase, which is lasting longer for current 20-Somethings than it has for previous generations, they are looking for others like them with whom they can experience the struggles and transitions of becoming an adult.

Jen and I regularly connect with Young Adults who share their frustrations with attending churches where they struggle to find other Young Adults.

I have heard a number of church leaders tell me that a specific ministry meeting the needs of Young Adults is unnecessary. Citing the benefits of inter-generational worship and community, they contend that Young Adults should simply get involved in the life of the church,.

I believe this view is short-sighted. Research demonstrates that Young Professionals DO want mentors and they DO want to be involved in the life of the church. So in one sense, the idea of inter-generational worship and involvement makes sense. But a weekly men’s group cannot fill the void that’s lacking for many Young Adults – the need for a family-like experience with peers while they are in the season of single-ness.

We don’t have all the answers and we’re still learning best practices as we seek to minister to this audience. But we are seeking to fill the gap in various ways. 

After meeting Alec for lunch, I was able to connect him to a Leadership Development group that I recently launched. One of the guys in the group is also a Biola grad with whom Alec was acquainted. 

We’re also exploring the benefits of coaching. It may not meet all of Alec’s needs, but our hope is that it will provide a few missing elements that will help Alec, and others like him, to thrive spiritually and live with purpose during this season of life!

 

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide!

1The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

3But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the LORD. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the LORD.

4But as the ship was sailing along, suddenly the LORD flung a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to send them to the bottom. 5Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. And all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will have mercy on us and spare our lives.”

7Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, Jonah lost the toss. 8“What have you done to bring this awful storm down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

9And Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10Then he told them that he was running away from the LORD.

The sailors were terrified when they heard this. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”

12“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. For I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”

13Instead, the sailors tried even harder to row the boat ashore. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death, because it isn’t our fault. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

15Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

17Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:1-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Earlier this evening, I saw the following tweet from renowned pastor and theologian, Tim Keller:

Interestingly, Jonah chapter one outlines this exact situation.

Jonah was a prophet of Israel at a time when the biggest, baddest guys in the neighborhood were the Assyrians. The Assyrians were the super power of the day, overtaking and subjecting every nation and every culture to its will and dominance.

Imagine Jonah’s surprise when God tells Jonah that He wants him to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and announce God’s judgment on the people there. God wants to give the Ninevites a chance to respond to His impending judgment and He wants Jonah to be His prophetic instrument.

Jonah cannot wrap his brain around the idea that God would give the Assyrians an opportunity to repent and be saved. He is so repulsed by the thought that these evil, wicked Assyrians might hear a message of judgment and then repent and be saved that he runs in the opposite direction.

On the surface, it’s easy to throw shade at Jonah for rejecting God’s command and running away. It’s hard to understand why Job resists God instead of just doing what He asks. But actually, Jonah’s response is probably more typical than outlier.

How empathetic and compassionate are you towards the person or the people whom you hate the most? Do you find yourself moving toward them in love as we’re commanded in Scripture or do you find yourself hoping and praying for their destruction? This is the gist of Tim Keller’s tweet above.

This passage from Jonah demonstrates that God is not just a God of the Jews, as most Jews believed, but He has love and compassion for all people, even Gentiles. For the Jew during Jonah’s day, this would have been a complete paradigm shift. For us today, we might say that God is not just the God of my political party, but He is the God of those who have opposing views as well!

Chapter one of Jonah also demonstrates that we cannot hide from God or escape His will and plan for our lives. God’s purposes will be accomplished whether or not we comply with His will.

Lastly, we learn that God can use even our rebellion and resistance to follow Him for His ultimate glory. Even though Jonah resists God, the sailors on the ship are so awed by God’s great power that they sacrifice to Him and promise to serve Him.

Reflection

What are some things God has been telling you to do that you’ve been unwilling to do? Why?

What is the group that would be the most difficult for you to demonstrate love and compassion toward? What makes it difficult?

What are some instances where God used a negative or difficult situation for His ultimate glory?

 

Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash

Are You Good Enough?

Mark 10

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17-27, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

This story in Mark 10 is also shared by Matthew in the 19th chapter of his account of the life of Jesus. I wrote about this story about a year ago here, in which I addressed the question of whether or not Jesus requires rich people to give up their possessions in order to be saved.

You can read my thoughts about that in the previous blog post as I’m not intending to regurgitate all my thoughts again here. Instead, I want to focus on an often overlooked part of the exchange Jesus has with this person of extreme wealth.

The passage starts with the man coming to Jesus and asking Jesus what is required to inherit eternal life. But what is often overlooked is how he addresses Jesus. He calls Jesus “good teacher”.

Jesus picks up on this and replies in verse 18, “Why do you call me good?….No one is good except God alone.”

You almost never hear any sermon that focuses on this verse or gives any explanation of why it’s there. In fact, if you just eliminated verse 18 from the story altogether, the main idea and explanation seems to remain unchanged. In other words. Jesus’ response to how the man addressed him does not appear to be central to the main point of the story, which is the idea that coming to Jesus and inheriting eternal life requires us to recognize our spiritual brokenness and our need for a savior.

So if Jesus’ response is not important to the main idea in the story, why is it there?

Jesus is using this exchange to fundamentally change our idea of what is considered good.

Think about it. Almost everyone everywhere thinks that making it to heaven is a matter of being a good person and I’ve never met a person who, no matter what bad things they may have done in their lives, didn’t consider themselves to be good. Jesus’s response alters the equation of what is required to gain eternal life, which is the central query of the rich young ruler.

Do you think you’re a good person? Jesus says that ONLY GOD is good. Jesus also indirectly points to his own deity in the process when he asks, “why do you call me good….no one is good except God.” Jesus is pressing the implication that calling him good is tantamount to calling him God, since only God is good.

The rest of the story is simply a process by which Jesus reveals to the rich young ruler that he does not measure up to the standard of goodness (perfection) that is required to gain eternal life.

The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus responded that with man, it is impossible. Why? Because no man can achieve the perfect goodness required to save himself.

But all things are possible with God. Jesus makes the impossible possible through His death on the cross!

Reflection

What has been your concept of goodness in the past? What is the standard you use to determine whether a person is good or not?

Do you agree with people who say that most people are basically good? Why or why not?

Do you think it’s possible for people to save themselves?

What do you think is required to inherit eternal life? How would you explain it to someone else?

 

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

The Power of Gratitude

GRATITUDE. It’s a word that can be hard to come by these days as the past few years have been challenging for a variety of reasons. Yet, I’ve been reflecting on the power of gratitude recently after an experience I had last month.

I had to write an essay for a program that I’m thinking about doing in the fall. The essay seemed simple enough – I had to share how I came to know Christ.

As I started writing the essay I began to think about the person who led me to that personal relationship with Christ. 

I became a Christian right after I turned 15 at a Christian summer camp called Hume Lake. I was sitting in the chapel with my church high school group and the speaker, Dewey Bertonlini, was sharing with all of us squirrelly high schoolers what it means to know Christ personally. He said that many of us were probably “on the fence” about making that decision.

My ears kind of perked up at that point. He then shared that if that was the case, we needed to get off the fence and actually make a conscious decision to follow Christ, to make Him the Lord of our lives. Once that happened, all of our sins would be forgiven – past, present and future.

I still have the Hume Lake Decision Bookmark that commemorates the day I made the commitment to follow Christ!

It was at that point, on August 13, 1985, that I asked Christ to be the Lord of my life. I knew I was on the fence and needed to start a relationship with Him. How amazing! 

I started to wonder whatever happened to Dewey. He was so animated and was able to keep my attention at 15. He humbly took the initiative to share Christ with all of us, which is a step of faith. 

I googled his name, found his email and decided to send him a message to express my gratitude. Here’s what I wrote:

“Hello, you don’t know me but I just wanted to thank you for your ministry! I became a Christian back in 1985 between my freshman and sophomore year in high school at Hume Lake. I’m now 51 and have been married for 28 years to my husband Dave. We work for Cru and have been working with young people for the last 30 years. I’ve got twin boys who are in college now. I’m in the process of applying to take some classes in spiritual formation and soul care and am writing my testimony. I’ve never forgotten the impact your talks at Hume Lake made in my life. I distinctly remember you asking the crowd if we were still on the fence in making a decision to follow Christ and I realized I was on the fence and needed to make a decision to follow Him. Thanks for your ministry! I thought I’d look you up online to see what you’ve been up to and I saw your email. I realized I needed to send you a quick email just to thank you for introducing me to Jesus! Here’s a photo of me and my family! Blessings to you and your family. Thanks again for the eternal investment you’re making in people’s lives.”

About a week later, I received this message back from Dewey:

“Jennifer, you Made My Day! I cannot put into words the refreshment your note brought to my parched soul!!! From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!”

I hesitated a bit before I sent the email to him because it was 37 years ago that this event happened! But when I saw his reply, it reminded me that it’s never too late to express gratitude to someone. Gratitude is so powerful, and God’s timing is perfect.

During this season of Lent I’ve been reflecting on how much God has done for me in sending His Son to die for me. When I sit and think of what my life has become through Christ and how He has changed me and continues to change me to become more like Him, my heart is filled with overflowing gratitude.

So….is there someone who comes to mind for whom you are grateful? It’s never too late to share that gratitude. It could be life changing! In what ways are you grateful for God’s presence in your life?

Thank you for your partnership and ministry to us. We are grateful for you!

NOTE: You can check out Dewey’s blog and podcast at: deweybertolini.com or by clicking the image below.

Is Wealth Immoral? (Part 3)

Ecclesiastes 5

10Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!

12People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night’s sleep.

13There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, 14or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

16And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into this world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away. 17Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. 19And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. 20People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-20)


The Daily DAVEotional

You may have seen in the news recently that President Joe Biden has decided to implement a “wealth tax” in his next proposed budget. The idea would be to tax those who make over $100 million a minimum of 20%.

Predictably, some are heralding this move as a positive step as it’s “about time the rich pay their fair share” while others have noted that the majority of taxes collected by the IRS are already paid by the rich, so what is the limit of what is fair?

My point is not to take a side in this particular legislation but to demonstrate that we live in an era where it has become fashionable by many, including Christians, to decry wealth as being immoral. Jesus himself seemed to care for the underserved and underprivileged so it is even asserted by some that Jesus was against wealth.

I wrote about this last year in a series of posts here and here. The problem for Christians who think that wealth is immoral is that there is nowhere in Scripture where wealth is actually condemned. Additionally, many righteous men and women of faith were people of great means.

I explain how these ideas are reconciled biblically in the previous posts but here, in today’s passage, Solomon, one of the wealthiest men in the Biblical record, helps us understand more deeply God’s view of wealth.

Here are some of the highlights:

    • Solomon doesn’t condemn wealth. He himself was EXTREMELY wealthy. But he does point out that the LOVE of money is futile because it cannot bring true happiness (verse 10).
    • One problem that comes along with great wealth is that others come to help you spend it. Many lottery winners have commented on how much more stressful life became when they hit it big. Not only was there the worry of how to keep what they have won but suddenly, everyone you’ve ever known shows up wanting a piece of the pie (verse 11).
    • People who have great wealth can sometimes lose it all because, as Solomon points out, the money is put into risky investments (verses 13-14). How many sad stories are told of athletes who made millions while playing but who are living in poverty because they didn’t know how to manage their money?

Solomon’s admonition against the dangers of wealth can be summed up in verse 15:

People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

Notice that Solomon doesn’t condemn wealth but warns against “living only for wealth”. This is another way of describing greed. The problem with living only for wealth is that you can’t take it with you. Wealthy people will die with nothing just as everyone else does. Jesus made this same point in the Luke 12 passage that I blogged about here.

Solomon ends his short discourse by actually saying that receiving wealth from God is a GOOD thing. He declares that wealth and the good health to enjoy it is a gift from God.

It seems clear from Scripture that wealth in and of itself is not bad. The real issues that are problematic are greed and envy. These two sinful vices are not reserved for the wealthy alone but for anyone regardless of your financial position.

Whatever your net worth is, the biblical admonition is to be content, not envying what others have or being greedy for more of what you think might make life more comfortable and enjoyable.

We should heed Solomon’s admonition to “enjoy your work and accept your lot in life….People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)

Reflection

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your contentment with your current financial position?

Do you think money can bring true happiness? What are you relying on to provide happiness in your own life?

Do you agree with Solomon’s statement that people should enjoy their work and accept their lot in life? Why or why not?

What does it look like to “live only for money”? Have you ever had this attitude or disposition towards money?

When was a time when you experienced feelings of greed or envy? How can you ensure that your own heart motivations towards money and wealth are godly?

 

Photo by David McBee: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bitcoins-and-u-s-dollar-bills-730547/

“Sticks and Stones…” Revisited

Proverbs 18

4 A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook. (Proverbs 18:4)

14 The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear it if the spirit is crushed? (Proverbs 18:14)

20 Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction. (Proverbs 18:20)

21 Those who love to talk will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or nourish life. (Proverbs 18:21)


The Daily DAVEotional

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my parents invited some friends over to the house. They had kids who were about the same age as me and my brother so while my parents were entertaining their guests, we were hanging out as a group of kids.

I’m the youngest in my family and was always very small for my age. As a result, I was often teased by older kids and even peers for being small.

I vividly remember being teased in this setting. Though I don’t remember the exact nature of the teasing, I do remember going to my mother and telling her that the other kids were making fun of me.

Her response was the classic line, “You tell them that ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’

I soon learned that this phrase was a stock response to schoolyard bullying and verbal jabs and I used it frequently, until of course, I discovered more sophisticated ways of responding to the insults of others, such as the mocking “Neener, neener” and the classic “I know you are but what am I”.

The problem with the “Sticks and Stones” phrase is that it’s not true.

Of course there’s an element of truth to the saying. Yes, words cannot inflict physical damage on our bodies. But as Proverbs 18 shows, our words can bring life and healing to others OR they can wound or kill others.

The phrase disregards the sensitive nature of our emotions and our spirit.

Think about it. Our bodies have an immune system which fights off infections when we are sick.

Our bodies also have a repair system that kicks in when we are injured. An open wound will heal and even broken or fractured bones will heal themselves, though obviously, compound fractures may require special setting in order for proper healing to take place.

We don’t have an emotional immune system though to repair our minds when we are discouraged or damaged emotionally. We can carry the scars and wounds of emotional trauma for years.

We live in a culture where we can instantly communicate with just about anyone we want, and with social media, our words have an extensive reach that was unthinkable even 20 or 30 years ago.

There is a lot of anger and vitriol these days, especially on Social media platforms. Personally, I need constant reminders of the power of my words so that I don’t give in to the temptation to berate and belittle others, with no regard for the impact it has on them.

Reflection

Think of a time when you were teased as a kid? How did it make you feel? What emotions and thoughts do you have now as you remember that experience?

When is a time when your words wounded another person? What did you say? Have you asked for forgiveness and reconciled with that person?

When was a time when someone gave you life-giving words that nourished your soul? What was the context and in what ways did those words lift your spirit?

What has been your experience with your words on social media? What steps can you take to ensure that your words on social media are life-giving and not wounding or harming others?

 

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

 

Super Results!

The Super Bowl is perhaps the biggest sporting event each year in America and each year, the day before the Super Bowl, Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru, hosts a Super Bowl breakfast in the host city.

The Super Bowl Breakfast program

This year, the Super Bowl and Super Bowl breakfast was in Los Angeles for the first time since 1993.

This event is not a casual affair. 1500 attendees experience a top-notched, NFL-sanctioned event featuring some of the biggest names in the NFL.

The program honors a recipient of the Bart Starr Award, which is given to an NFL player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”

Past recipients of the award include Peyton & Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, Mike Singletary & Reggie White. 

This year’s recipient was Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

The program highlights the recipient of the annual Bart Starr award and also features a keynote speaker.

In addition to presenting the Bart Starr Award, the program includes a keynote speaker who shares a testimony or a message of faith. This year’s speaker was Frank Reich, the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Pulling off an event as big as this is not easy, and the fact that the event is in a different location each year makes it challenging to secure the manpower to pull it off.

Being on staff with Cru, I was made aware of the need for volunteers and so I made myself available while also recruiting my high school friend and NFL fan Mike to help.

Part of the pre-event prep was setting up 1500 place settings for the breakfast attendees.

Mike and I were assigned security detail, no doubt due to my massive physique and imposing stature.  

It was quite a long day, which involved arriving at the hotel by 5:00 a.m. to help set up tables and then prepare for 1500 guests to arrive.

In addition to helping to ensure that attendees didn’t bother the special guests during the breakfast, Mike and I helped to secure the Guest VIP room that was located off of the lobby area. Our job was to keep eager fans from entering a special room reserved for special guests like Russell Wilson, Anthony Munoz and Ronnie Lott.

My friend Mike poses with Coach O (Ed Orgeron)

While we were waiting for the program to end, we saw Coach Ed Orgeron in the lobby. Coach O, as he’s called, was most recently the head coach of the LSU Tigers and led them to the National championship 3 years ago. His quarterback was Joe Burrow, who is now the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals who happened to be playing in this year’s Super Bowl.

Coach O makes a personal phone call to a HUGE fan!

My friend Mike approached Coach O and told him that his dad is from Baton Rouge and is a HUGE LSU fan.

Coach O, in his typical gravelly, Cajun voice asked, “Your daddy, is he alive?”

Mike responded “yes”, to which Coach O replied, “well call him up.”

Mike quickly dialed the number of his dad and handed the phone to Coach O. The exchange went like this:

“Hello Jim….this is Coach O!”

“No it isn’t.”

“Yes, it is. I’m in a hotel lobby and your son Mike tells me you’re a huge LSU fan and so I just called to say ‘Go Tigers.’” 

He then handed the phone back to my friend Mike. 

Dave with Coach O. I’m a Coach O fan as well but for different reasons. He was a coach for the USC Trojans during the success of the Pete Carroll years.

Our job was actually not very glamourous. Other than Coach O, who was not actually there for the Super Bowl breakfast, we didn’t talk to or rub shoulders with any sports celebrities. I had to get my suit altered, I got up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to L.A., paid a small fortune for parking and didn’t eat breakfast or even see most of the program. 

I certainly wasn’t making friends when I had to tell a number of people that the lobby restrooms were not available while being used by certain VIPs.

So why did we do it? What was the benefit? 

The benefit was that because of our help and the generous support of hundreds of other volunteers, 18 people indicated a new commitment to Jesus in response to Coach Reich’s message. And that number is likely much higher due to an online component to the event that is harder to accurately evaluate.

Our job was very much behind the scenes and under the radar, and yet, we rejoice in knowing that people entered the kingdom as a result of the events of that day. When people come to know Jesus, it is rarely a one-person effort but often the result of hundreds, if not thousands of people who each play a small part in the journey. 

We are grateful for the part you play in helping us as we minister to Young Professionals and volunteer at Super Bowl events!

And as a long-time Los Angeles Rams fan, I personally rejoice in a narrow Super Bowl 56 victory!

Who is Jesus?

I have to admit that this past Christmas season was interesting. With all of the travel we had scheduled and with our house being in such disarray due to repairs from our slab leak damage, it was difficult to get in the Christmas spirit.

Normal Christmas reminders were absent as we weren’t able to put up any decorations until just a few days before Christmas.

When life is crazy and chaotic, as it has been for us, it’s easy to lose sight of Jesus.

A few days ago, the Cru Facebook page that I help to monitor received a message from a user in Africa named Mathias.

The message was a simple question: Who is Jesus?

The question “who is Jesus?” is perhaps the most important question that anyone can answer.

Jesus himself asked this question of his followers. In the book of Mark, Jesus recruits 12 men to follow him. Through his teaching, ministry, and many miracles Jesus slowly reveals his identity to his disciples. At the midpoint of the book, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say that I am?”

The disciples respond with the popular views of the culture at that time: some say you’re John the Baptist or Elijah; others say you’re a prophet.

Our society has a lot of answers to the question, “who is Jesus?”

Some people believe that Jesus was a great moral teacher – an example for us to follow. Others believe he was a prophet. A few people believe Jesus was a political revolutionary.

Jesus follows with a more pointed question, “who do YOU say that I am?”

Peter answers with the only valid response that hits the mark: Jesus is the Messiah; he is God!

In our fast-paced, materialistic culture, we can sometimes forget who Jesus really is and what he offers. For those of us who have known Jesus for a long-time, the Christmas season can seem rote or routine.

But I’m reminded that there are millions of people who don’t know Jesus, and the idea that God is real and personal is incredibly new and exciting.

People like John, also from Africa, message us every day, wanting to know who God is and how they can know Him.

Though this is a very minimal part of our job, it’s a privilege to be able to tell people all over the world who Jesus is and how they can know Him.

It really is amazing that the God of the universe stepped into humanity in the person of Jesus. He alone offers hope and peace to a world that is desperate and hopeless!


For more information on the Biblical evidence for Jesus’ deity, see my short article “Is Jesus God?”

Some related blog posts you might find helpful:

Does Your Understanding of the Nature of Jesus Really Matter?

Is Your View of Jesus Really that Important? (Part 2)

Further Proof That Jesus is God