Re: Money, Friend or Foe?

friend-or-foeGenesis 13

There was a television game show that used to air on the Game Show Network called “Friend or Foe.”    Center stage on the show was what was called the Trust Box.  Each contestant would get some time to tell the other why they should be considered a friend.  Then, each would put one hand inside the box.  Inside the box they each have a button.  If one doesn’t press the button, he or she is a friend.  If one does, he or she is a foe.
An amount of money is revealed.  Here is how the money is awarded:
1- friend and friend- they split the money.
2- friend and foe- the foe takes all the money.
3- foe and foe- the pot is lost.

I’ve only watched the show a couple of times but I’ve never seen anyone win money… ever.  Both contestants are usually so afraid of being duped that they each press “Foe” and leave penniless.

Observe the way of the foe and the way of the friend:  Lot chooses the way of the foe.  In Genesis 13, verse one, we learn that Lot journeyed from Egypt with Abram. I think he got one of his first glances of high society. The small town boy went to the big city, and he liked what he saw.  Verse two 2 informs us that Abram, his uncle, was rich with lots of livestock, silver and gold.

Verses 5 and 6 tell us that Lot’s wealth is beginning to grow as well.  It isn’t too long before they sense the need to separate.  The land could not sustain Abram and Lot dwelling together, because the Canaanites held the best parts, so the servants of these two men had to scrap for water and food in the rest. (v. 7)  Pasture was at a premium in the bare limestone hills.

So Abram asks Lot to choose a place to take his wealth.  Lot looks around. His eyes are immediately attracted to the valley of the Jordan.  It is green. It is lush. The cities of the plain, Sodom and Gommorah, gleam in the sunlight. “I’ll take that way!” Lot exclaims.

Author Ben Patterson writes: “Abram’s nephew… Lot appears to be the man with all the experience and Abram appears to be the man with all the money.  At first glance it seems that Lot walks away with all of the money and all Abram walks away with is a very bitter experience.”  But that is only what it looks like on the surface.  Verse 10 reminds the reader that “…this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”  More on this later.

Contrast Abram who chooses the way of the friend.  His faith actually helps to solve strife.  Abram gives Lot the free choice of the land.  This was not something he needed to do.  Abram had the right to make the first choice.  But faith does not selfishly seek it’s own desires.  Faith doesn’t hoard in fear, but gives with liberality.  Abram displays trust in a God he knew would supply his every need.

Now Decisions made in faith are often difficult at first.  Feeding his cattle on those barren hills could not have been pleasant for Abram.  But he had a promise from God that one day, all the land would be his.  After Abram’s courageous compromise with Lot, God confirms his promise to Abram in verses 14-17:  “The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give to you and to your descendants forever.  I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it you you.”

We see here a contrast between Abram and Lot.  Abram was told to lift up his eyes and look. (13:14)  Lot looked up himself. (13:10)   The Lord said he would give Abram the land.  Lot just took it.   Joy in living comes when we don’t demand but humbly receive what’s coming to us.  Receiving what God gives us with thanksgiving floods our hearts with joy.

So… Regarding Money:  do you choose to be a friend or a foe?  Generosity marks the path of joy.


Hold That Note!

Hit That High Note1 Peter 4: 10-11

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

I don’t believe I’ve ever shared this on my blog, but I love Oldies.  I listen to the 60’s on 6 more than any other channel on Sirius/XM and have over a thousand songs on my Ipod from the 60’s and 70’s.  (I’m listening to Fats Domino‘s “I Want to Walk You Home” as I type this.)  Many of my friends also know that my specialty is quirky stories about these songs.  I hope some day to start a blog called NOTABLES to feature some of these stories.

Here is one today from Tom Jones‘ Discography.  In 1965 Tom Jones began his career with his first big hit, “it’s Not Unusual.”  It went to #1 in England and reached #10 here in the U.S.  He was new and successful so he was asked to sing for the new James Bond movie, Thunderball.  He sang the title cut.  The end of the song features a note that is very high and sustained.  He delivered it all right, but passed out in the recording booth afterward.  Asked about that monster note in a later interview he said:  “I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.”

That is dedication!  To hit and sustain the notes God is calling us to sing in the chorus of life also requires such dedication.  Peter says that we have each been given a gift.  We are to be good stewards of that gift.  In my analogy, we have all been given a voice and we are each called to keep that voice in tip top shape.  Then Peter reminds those that have speaking gifts to speak as though they were speaking “the utterances of God.”  Sloppy or ill prepared oratory isn’t going to cut it.  Peter then reminds those that have serving gifts, to serve as though God were powering their efforts.  A half-hearted sense of duty will not sustain you.  Why not just go ahead and hit that (grace) note of yours and then sustain it!  Put everything into it.  Give it your all!

Maybe you have be doing your particular ministry in your church for a while now.  Maybe you have it down cold.  You don’t have to put as much effort into it as you did when you started.  It practically runs like it’s on autopilot.  Do some evaluation this year.  It might not be on autopilot… it could be on life support!  Stretch yourself and your faith.  Go for that note!  Sing it with all the strength that God supplies you.

Enough said…. I Gotta go…. The Classics IV are now singing “Traces.”  Love that song!

Here Comes the Nominating Committee… Everybody Run!

people running away1 Corinthians 12:4-7

It’s that time of year again for most churches.  The fine members of the local church Nominating Committee are making their rounds.  They are phoning folks, flagging members down in the church parking lot, sending out letters to inform the church about open positions, and are trying to catch your eye across the crowded worship center on Sunday morning.  They have a huge task before them:  to answer the question… “Who is going to serve this church in 2014?”

For those not skilled in the art of nominating committee dodging, (you have to be a Christian a while to get really good at it) you have to come up with a suitable answer when asked… an answer that doesn’t use the word “no” but communicates it just the same.  A favorite answer is:  “I will pray about it.”

Now,  I wonder what it is they are praying about.  If it is for them to make an informed decision about where to serve…  to teach a class or become a youth sponsor or serve as an usher,… then that is fine.  What I hope they don’t mean is whether or not they should serve at all.

The Bible is already clear on this:  Every member is to be a minister.  Paul writes to the Corinthians:  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Paul is saying, “Sure we aren’t all gifted in the same way, sure not every ministry is going to be our cup of tea, and yes, some ministries have greater impact than others… I will give you all of that.  But EACH ONE of you have been given a gift!  And note that the gift is for the “common good.”

The “common good” requires everyone to contribute.  If we don’t all chip in for the pizza… somebody will be left holding a hefty bill.  (This has happened to me… I have been a youth minister.)  If we don’t all bring our instruments to the recital… Beethoven‘s 5th is going to sound pretty awful instead of pretty awesome.    If we don’t all bring something to the potluck… not everybody is going to get fed!

I had a lady in a former church that came to the pot luck without a covered dish.  Nobody was going to say anything to her, but she offered this excuse anyway:  “I was going to make a fruit salad, but God told me not to.”  Really?  God wanted there to be less food at the fellowship meal?  The logic here escapes me.  But this is the same logic for believers that won’t minister because they need to “pray about it.”  Whatever your reason for a ministry vacation (time off for yourself… the desire to draw closer to family… to spend more time with God… etc.), know that the Bible is clear… the common good outweighs the good of the individual.  God has called you to a family!

Do something for me this Sunday.  When you see that Nominating Committee member in the Sanctuary… approach them and ask:  “Where can I best serve in 2014?”  You just might be the fruit salad they are looking for.