Monday, August 25, 2014

"Money On My Mind"

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the provider of all that we could ever ask or hope for in giving us Jesus.  You have given us life, breath, the ability to run, move, dance, sing, and play outside.  You continually fill our hearts with your peace, grace, and unconditional love.  And yet you know us.  You see us in our weakest hours.  I confess that this week alone you have seen me when I have been literally unable to calm down because I've been so anxious about finances.  You've seen me as I've spent money on things I don't need, and you've seen me as I've disdained money as something awful from the enemy -- neither of which was good...!  And instead of looking at me with disappointment and disgust, you lovingly remind me that you are completely satisfied with me not because of my performance but because of Christ's perfect performance on my behalf.  You are far too good to us, Lord.  I ask that you would fill me with the Holy Spirit and speak through me.  You know I lack so much wisdom and discipline in the area of finances, but I trust that you are all-powerful, Lord, and that somehow your power is made perfect in our weakness.  I pray that I wouldn't write what I want to be true but that I would write what your Word says is true.  May your glory and honor be manifest in my simple words this evening, Father.  Amen.


A few months ago, I was driving through one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Oklahoma City with two of my best friends.  I have driven through that area so many times, but this particular evening, the sun was setting so beautifully that everything from the trees to the rooftops seemed to sparkle.  As we drove along, I envisioned each home with its perfect, little inhabitants -- wearing all J. Crew, praying over their meals, processing through their days as a family, lounging on beautiful Pottery Barn couches after dinner.  Even though I know that is not reality, it's so easy to imagine, "They have everything they could ever want.  They have to be happy."  

I remember the thought running through my head, "Wow.  If I ever get to live here one day...!"  I pictured a life of peace, comfort, and ease -- five mile runs every morning, the perfect marriage, angelic children, cookies always in the oven, rocking chairs on the front porch, every room always clean, every piece of silver always shined and sparkling, the whole nine yards.  Again definitely not reality, but you know how the imagination works.

About the time I was drifting far off into dreamland, one of my friends began to describe a John Piper sermon he had listened to in college.  In the sermon, Piper spoke about how as humans, we are quick to desire for ourselves kingdoms here on earth and forget that our true kingdom -- our forever home -- is in heaven.  So we do everything we can to fill our lives with peace and comfort and ease and security and beauty.  Some days that looks like a new set of dishes from William Sonoma and other days it looks like a fabulous new outfit from Nordstrom Rack (I mean it was on sale, right?!).  But the reality is that every single thing on this earth except for the souls of men will one day pass away completely.  Every lamp, every pillow, every blouse, every iPhone, every candlestick will one day be gone.

Whether it is a big, white house with navy shutters and beautiful flowerbeds or the newest dress from Anthropologie, I see that my fleshly tendency is to lust after the things of this world, thinking that if and when I get those things, my heart will be more satisfied.  I will be one step closer to the future, better version of myself I hope to become.  I know that for me personally, my high (misplaced) value of money isn't so much about the money itself but about what it can buy, what I think it will give me.

For example, I find that when I'm struggling with deeply desiring the approval of others, I want others to think that I'm pretty and stylish.  So I spend any extra money I get on new clothes or getting a manicure or pedicure.  Are clothes and manicures bad?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I think that when done with the right motives and heart attitude, shopping and pedicures can be so relaxing and the sweetest treats!  But admittedly, so often my motives are not pure.  Usually I find that even my purest desires can be somewhat tainted with the desire to build a kingdom for myself.  I want others to think highly of me.  I want others to affirm and validate me.  It's all about me.  

Y'all there is this idol of image that I am so quick to serve.  I want to be seen as the fashionable one.  I want to be known as having expensive taste and good style.  I enjoy eating at nice restaurants.  I want to live in a beautiful, inviting home with fresh flowers on the kitchen counter and a volcano candle burning on the coffee table.

And honestly, sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to wear a cute outfit or buying a nice dress or going out for a fancy dinner.  I truly don't see anything wrong with creating homey, beautiful spaces and environments where people feel comfortable, relaxed, and at ease.  But I know that often my motives are mixed.  A new dress can just be so fun and such a sweet blessing.  Or it can become something I want to wear to impress other people or to be seen as the one who is "put-together" and pretty.  An inviting home can be a wonderful place for people to come together in community and have fun and be known and safe, but I can also look to nice things to provide me with the comfort and security I should be looking for in Jesus.  Our lives can be all about ourselves.  Or they can be all about Jesus.  We can use the things of this world to try and create heaven on earth, or the things of this world can point us to heaven.

"For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." ~Hebrews 13:14

We can enjoy a great party, a beautiful dress, an inviting home and think to ourselves, "Wow.  What a great day.  My life rocks."  Or we can enjoy those things with the perspective that no matter how enjoyable the things of this world may be, they are only a mere shadow of the kingdom that is to come -- the kingdom of heaven, where death will be no more.  All the sad things will come undone.  We will be perfectly united to our Father, worshipping and enjoying Him for all of our days.  Our hearts will be fully and completely satisfied.  We will have absolutely no lack, no desire, no want for anything more.  

"Behold!  I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?'  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ." ~1 Corinthians 15:51-57

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.  And He who is seated on the throne said, 'Behold I am making all things new.'  Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'  And He said to me, 'It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." ~Revelation 21:1-6

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~Matthew 6:19-21

"The kingdom of heaven is like 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." ~Matthew 13:44

The things of this world can be so appealing, and they can seem as though they'll meet our deepest needs and desires.  But the truth is, have you ever bought a new purse and thought, "I love this so much!  I will never need a new purse again as long as I live!"  Only to find that a few months later, the Kate Spade outlet is having an incredible sale and... "Oh my gosh.  This bag is perfect.  If I get this, I will never need another new bag again as long as I live."  I'm laughing.  I use that example because it's true, as in I've so been that person.  The treasures we think we can store up for ourselves on this earth, which will make us more valuable or important or worthy of love, will be here today and gone tomorrow.  And even if they're still here tomorrow, chances are we'll be tired of them and onto desiring something else.

But there is a treasure that lasts forever.  There is a gift that we can never lose, that will never end, and that is a relationship with Jesus.  It's incredible that God loved us so much that even when we wanted nothing to do with Him whatsoever, He made a way for us to know Him.  He initiated with us.  He pursued us in sending Jesus, who though He was the King of the universe came to earth with absolute humility, bravery, and love.  He came so that we could know God, so that we could see what He is like -- hear His voice, see His actions, experience His love, grace, power, and healing.  He came to restore us back into a relationship with God.  In the beginning when sin entered the world, relationship between God and humans was destroyed -- not because God didn't love us, but because we chose to go our own way apart from Him.  We chose sin instead of God.  We chose our own kingdoms instead of God's kingdom.  But God loved us so much that He didn't leave us to destroy ourselves.  He sent Jesus, who came so that we might be saved from our sins.  He came so that we might have LIFE and have it to the fullest!

Jesus lived the life we never could.  Though He was perfect and didn't deserve death, He died in our place.  And in doing so, He took on our sins and gave us His righteousness.  Everything good Jesus ever did is now attributed to those who call upon Him as Savior and Lord.  He forgives us of all of our sins -- past, present, and future.  And He gives us the gift of salvation, of knowing God intimately and personally -- who though He sees the darkest things about us, loves us more than we could ever imagine.  Jesus is the true treasure, the lasting treasure who changes everything now and for eternity.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into run and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." ~1 Timothy 6:6-10

Consider a few of these questions to help you process where you're at in your journey with Jesus in regard to money...

Every dollar in your bank account -- where did it come from?
I once heard that if you want to know where your treasure is, look at your bank statement.
On what do you spend your money?  Your heart will be close by.
Are you storing up your treasures on earth?  Or in heaven?
How are you stewarding what God has given you?
For what purposes do you spend your money?
In what ways do you seek glory for yourself?
What does the idolized "future, better version of yourself" look like?
How are you using money to serve that idol?
Have you sat down and spent time working through your budget with the Lord?
Would you consider sitting down with someone who is older and wiser and asking for help with your budgeting, giving, saving, and spending?
Who could you ask?
Are you giving to the kingdom of heaven?
How can you trust the Lord with your finances?
What is most valuable to you?
How does the fact that this world is not your permanent home affect how you spend your money?

I'm not going to lie.  These questions are SO convicting to me.  It is true that sometimes I can get so stressed out about the money itself.  Do I have enough for gas this month?  Am I putting enough in savings?  Am I giving enough to the church?  How much should I spend on coffee?  Should I never have coffee again?  Is it okay to buy flowers?  When is it alright to buy a new pair of shoes?  How much is too much to spend?   But amidst any anxiety, we can have peace because of who our God is!  When we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He gives us the Holy Spirit to come and live inside our hearts.  Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came, that He would guide us into all truth.  We have the incredible blessing and privilege as believers to have direct access to the Lord through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  God does not want us to be controlled by our finances or the things of this world, so I truly believe that when we ask Him for His wisdom and guidance in our spending, saving, and giving, He will lead us in the way He would have us go.  I know that for me, however, so often I just don't ask Him.  I am impatient and want an immediate answer.  I often think I know best and choose what is right in my own eyes, rather than asking for the Lord's direction.  But I know that He knows best, and so many times in life, things would be so much less painful in the long-term, if I would simply ask Jesus and wait for Him to answer in the short-term.  

Just yesterday, the Lord reminded me of when He called Matthew (aka Levi) to come and be one of His disciples.  Levi was sitting in his tax booth, working for the Roman government, basically cheating the Jewish people out of tons of money. Everyone hated him.  He was despised by pretty much the whole of society.  And while he was in the middle of his extortion, his loneliness, his shame, Jesus called to him and said, "Follow me."  And leaving everything, Levi rose and followed Him.  Jesus knows that we are far from perfect.  He sees all of the ways we look to the things of this world to satisfy us instead of looking to Him.  He sees us in the midst of our filth and sin and countless mistakes and invites us to follow Him.  He loves us not because of what we've done or haven't done, but He loves us because He made us.  And by His grace, when we trust Him to be the Lord of our lives, He is committed to us forever.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  He delights in us and will continue to show us mercy, grace, and unconditional love until we meet Him in the best embrace of our lives in the kingdom that is to come.


Lord, we just confess that we are quick to hoard and store up things on this earth that have no eternal value whatsoever.  All of our stuff will one day be burned up, but what will last forever is our relationship with you.  Help us to see you in your glory and desire you above all else.  We cannot change on our own, Lord.  We don't just need to revise our budgets.  We need new hearts.  And in order to receive new hearts, we need you.  Lord, we place ourselves, our money, our misplaced desires for value and status, and all our stuff in your hands.  All we have is yours.  Help us to steward the money you have entrusted to us in such a way that is honoring to you.  Help us to be cheerful givers.  Help us to see all spending in this world in light of eternity.  We need your wisdom, Lord.  We need your grace.  Help us to take steps of faith to trust you in the area of finances.  You are our good and perfect provider, Lord.  Thank you for convicting us of our sin and taking such good care of us.  Thank you that because of Jesus, our identities are not found in the size of our homes or the things in our closets but in the fact that we are deeply loved by the Creator of the Universe.  We don't deserve you, Jesus, but we are so thankful for you.  We love you forever!

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