Archive for July 26, 2010

Playing Fast And Loose With Debt

You cant spend your way out of debt. Robbing Peter to pay Paul only delays the inevitable. So why do governments follow such a pointless practice? Because it takes humility to admit you were wrong and discipline to enact sound fiscal policies to right the situation. When was the last time you heard a high level government official come on television and admit they were wrong and really mean it? And when was the last time you heard any of them try to sell a program that would cut benefits or entitlements to any large segment of the population?

Debt is also a common feature of many households. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve the total consumer debt in 2009 for all U.S. households was about 2.5 trillion dollars. That is about 8,100 dollars for every man woman and child. It is scary how cavalier we have become about something that threatens our financial well being and the well being of our children and grandchildren. This is not just a cause for concern this is a pandemic.

Monetary debt, however, is not the worst kind of debt we are facing. Regardless of our socioeconomic status, we also face a sin debt. This debt not only effects the here and now but more importantly it will determine our state for all eternity. The good news is that this debt was paid in full by Jesus Christ. If you wish your sin debt to be paid in full, you must by faith accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. His grace, which invades our hearts by faith, will not only enable you to escape the punishment for those who have not settled their sin debt, but will also give you strength to deal with monetary debt as well. Hear what God’s word has to say about both kinds of debt:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
– Colossians 2:13-14

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
– Romans 13:8 (emphasis mine)

Wouldn’t you like to be totally debt-free today?

A Slick Presentation

The gospel doesn’t require a marketing strategy.

I am amazed at some of the attempts made to make the gospel more palatable. There are no ends to the games, gimmicks, and ploys that some people use to dress up the gospel. The whole mess can easily leave you wondering as you drive home for Sunday lunch whether you have been in church or a used car lot.

The gospel that Jesus taught, the gospel that He passed on to His disciples, the gospel that jumps off the pages of God’s word is much less complicated and infinitely more convicting. The gospel is truth and this truth includes statements like, “You were born a sinner”, “Jesus had to die an awful death to free you from sin,” and, “To be free from sin you must deny yourself and die”. How does that rate as a sales pitch?

The truth is that the gospel doesn’t need a “pitch”. Jesus is not offering a set of steak knives or a luxury sedan. He is offering something infinitely far better; He is offering himself. Either a person receives this blessed truth because of a work of the Holy Spirit or they don’t. It is just that simple. Our job is not to dress it up, our job is to present it in such a way that they see its author in the offering.

Do you feel overwhelmed and unable to give a whiz-bang gospel presentation? Good, that’s a great place to start. When you realize that the power is not in the messenger but in the message and the one who sent the messenger, you are well on your way to garnering the following accolade:

“…How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
(Romans 10:15b ESV)

Communion On The Moon

The beauty of the gospel cannot be hidden. This was demonstrated to me most vividly in learning about an event I never knew had happened. Many of you may remember when William Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman (the crew of the Apollo 8 mission) read from Genesis 1. The TV broadcast of the event was a moving moment that garnered the most viewers of any TV broadcast up to that time.

Shortly after it aired, famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued NASA claiming that the broadcast violated the principle of separation of church and state. The supreme court threw out the suit on the fact that they had no jurisdiction in outer space. This suit did however cause NASA officials to be cautious of what they allowed to air over public radio and TV broadcasts.

Not even one year after the incident, the Apollo 11 mission was able to complete the goal left unfinished by Apollo 8 namely to land on the moon. Owing to the singularity of the event and to his faith, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin could not let this event pass without recognizing its spiritual significance. Aldrin, an elder in a Presbyterian church, had prepared for the event by visiting his pastor and the two of them consecrated juice and bread which he stored securely in his space suit. When the lunar module touched down on the surface of the moon, Aldrin took out the elements and celebrated communion as the first act performed by man on its surface.

This event went virtually untold for many years. It is an amazing story that testifies to the power of the gospel to overcome all barriers. No matter how hard its detractors try the gospel cannot be hidden. Here is a video dramatization of the lunar communion. I hope it will inspire and encourage you today:

HT: Eric Metaxas

Laughing and Learning About Ourselves

Are you capable of laughing at yourself? If not you are missing out on a great opportunity. It is amazing how therapeutic and revealing laughter can be.

Laughter is not only an aspect of common grace but it has redemptive import as well. Consider Jesus following statement:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 18:1-4

Although laughter is not mentioned here, it is implied that becoming more like a child means laughing more. The fact that Jesus mentions humility almost certainly confirms this. Laughing at all but especially laughing at oneself requires a great deal of humility.

One humorist that has of late caught my attention is Jonathan Acuff. The humor that Acuff provides is especially entertaining and challenging because it is informed by a distinctly Cristian worldview and experience. In one short essay, Acuff can take you from laughing to reflecting on the authenticity and fervor of your faith in Christ. Acuff in his painstakingly descriptive style has raised humor to a higher level that results in a better understanding of ourselves in God’s great narrative.

Here is an excerpt from Acuff’s blog Stuff Christian Like:

Although the pirate phenomenon is making a spirited comeback, I’m almost positive some of us have some backwards opinions of Africa. But you know what’s even worse?

People who become experts on Africa after a 6-day mission trip.

This is the time of year when they start coming back from trips and regaling us with their tales of massive missionary magnitude. Soon they will return from a short hop overseas. How do you spot them in your church? How do you see them coming? Here’s how:

6 ways to tell your friend has become an “overnight missionary expert.”

1. They temporarily wear some wicked awesome sandals.

Mission trip sandals, something I’ve chronicled before, come in two varieties: woven and rubber. The woven ones appear to made of some sort of rope and actually look painful. My wife and I saw a guy with bloody feet wearing these the other night. He was limping. The rubber ones are more comfortable but only come in two colors: rainbow and bright rainbow.

2. They use the phrase, “So American.”

This might be the worst one on the list because it attempts to shame you for something you’ve done. Sometimes you’ll see it in the comments on SCL. I’ll write about money and then someone will immediately say, “That is so American to think that way.” Or they might use the variation, “Well, in the West …” What they usually don’t tell you is that they spent all 32 years of their life, minus the six days they were on a mission trip, living in Ohio. Which is in America.

3. They pretend there’s a household need for a machete.

87% of all men who go on mission trips buy machetes. Like how I felt when I saw two Lamborghinis racing on the highway the other night, something about a machete makes you feel like an 8-year old little boy again. You get giddy with the possibility of actually owning a sword. But if your friend starts using it to whack away at yard work, they might be taking it a little too far.

4. They convert everything into foreign currency.

Never go to a Starbucks with a mission trip expert. They will inevitably look at your four dollar coffee and mumble, “Hope that week’s worth of wages is delicious.” To be kind, respond with a simple, “I’ll pray for you.” To be a jerk say, “I’ll stop drinking coffee when your wife stops wearing that blood diamond.” (That’s a horrible thing to say, because ultimately both issues need to be addressed.)

5. They use the phrase, “used to live.”

I spent about 25 days or so in Costa Rica. Once at a dinner party, I told someone I used to “live in Costa Rica.” My wife, who was unfortunately within hearing distance, burst into laughter. I hadn’t lived there. I had visited there. Briefly. If your friend uses weird math to pretend they were on the trip for a long time, like when the ex-coach of Tennessee said he really enjoyed “the 13 months at Tennessee,” you know someone is faking it. (As if saying “13 months” makes folks feel less like you were jumping ship after a year. Might as well convert it into weeks and say “I was a great coach here for 56 weeks.”)

6. They are constantly dragging you out to restaurants.

My wife and I once lived in a fancy neighborhood outside of Boston. On our first day there, our neighbor, a professor, came over and said, “Do you guys like Southern Cambodian cuisine.” Now clearly, if you know me, you know I prefer Southeastern Cambodian. I actually just order by longitude and latitude, I am that cultured. Not really, but if your friend suddenly refuses to go to Applebee’s because “they don’t have good breadfruit,” be worried.

I write this list not because I hate missionary experts, but because I’ve been this guy. I went to Dominica once, probably one of my top three favorite Lesser Antilles, and that entire list happened except for number 6. I had rainbow sandals. I found three machetes in my garage yesterday. And I once said, “Our Western culture doesn’t have a mourning process that leads to real healing.” I wrote this list because I am this list.

Jonathan also has a wildly popular book entitled Stuff Christians like. You can purchase a copy here.