Tag Archives: Love

Where is your treasure?

When we lived in Louisville, I delivered pizzas part time to help make ends meet while I was taking classes at Seminary.  I got to meet all kinds of people and it was, oddly enough, a pretty enjoyable job!  But, let’s face it–pizza delivery isn’t going to make you rich.  After paying for tuition and books, I usually felt like the little boy with two fish desperately hoping God would somehow multiply my meager earnings so we could just pay the bills.

So, over time I began to struggle with jealousy.  I often delivered pizzas to homes that were quite extravagant.  And while I couldn’t always tell whether or not the owner was a believer, sometimes it was quite clear that they weren’t!  (Or at least weren’t acting like one at the time!)   Here I was trying to serve God and follow his lead, and it was all I could do just to pay the bills!  I remember one house that was especially lavish.  It had all the custom trimmings, a perfectly manicured and landscaped lawn, and you couldn’t help but be intimidated by its grand entryway.  Yet for all its extravagance, it sat in the shadow of the house across the street.  Literally.  The neighborhood was in a hilly area of town and the house across the street sat up much higher on the hill, so when the sun set the home literally sat in the shadow of the castle across the street.  It kind of made me chuckle a bit.  These folks had spent who knows how many years accumulating their wealth and saving up to build their dream home, and then along comes the Jones’ who build an even bigger house on the hill!  Every time they walk out the front door, they have to crane their neck upwards and block the sun with their hand just to see their neighbor’s home.

Now there’s nothing wrong with being rich.  Job was rich, and he was a godly man.  Furthermore, there’s not necessarily any spiritual benefit to being dirt poor.  There’s nothing necessarily unspiritual about owning stuff–as long as your stuff doesn’t own you.  And, on the flip side, there’s nothing necessarily spiritual about NOT owning stuff, because your NOT owning stuff CAN own you.

Just take a look at the warnings Jesus gives in Matthew 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 your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” [Mat 6:19-25, 31-34 ESV]

Jesus’ warnings here don’t only apply to the wealthy.  In fact, who is more likely to worry about where their next meal is going to come from or what they will wear tomorrow–the rich or the poor?  Jesus isn’t only warning against piling up treasures on earth, but also against coveting such treasures.  Jesus’ focus was on what< you treasure, not on how much treasure you have.  I’ve met relatively poor people who treasure material possessions and worldly comfort more than some rich people!  (And I have been such a person, too.)

The reason that Jesus spends so much time talking about money is because money and material possessions betray our true passions in life.  The way we spend our time and money reveals a lot about what we value, or “treasure,” here on earth.  It reveals our perspective on life.  Many people skip over verses 22-23 , because they’re difficult to understand, but they state exactly that:

The eye (i.e.–perspective on money) is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye (i.e.–perspective on money) is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye (i.e.–perspective on money) is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.

How many of us walk around filled with worldly darkness with our spiritual growth stunted because our “eye” is bad?  Oh that God would open our eyes to see the way he sees!  Why do we treasure money and material comforts which will all be destroyed instead of treasuring the eternal God?  We ought to treasure him and the things which he treasures, namely, human souls!

As Jennifer and I are preparing for service with Wycliffe, one of the obstacles we have to overcome is our debt.  Some of our debt is from educational loans, but some of it is from chasing our own little American dream.  After years of praying for God to reveal his will to me for my career path in ministry, God finally revealed it this January at Total it Up (A weeklong Wycliffe “orientation” of sorts).  Unfortunately, because of my “bad eye” in the past, our ability to move forward with Wycliffe has been delayed until we can pay down our debt.  Suddenly this passage came to life. I began to hear God asking me, “Jason, what do you treasure? Do you treasure me and following my will, or do you treasure your gas-guzzling four wheel drive truck? What about your comfort–could you live in a smaller place if it meant being able to get the gospel to those who have never heard sooner?” My accumulation of worldly treasures was preventing me from inheriting the eternal treasures God had promised. I wrestled with it it for a while, until I read this:

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” [Luke 12:15-21 ESV]

I don’t ever want to face God and hear the words, “You fool!”  Could we get to the field without having to sell our possessions?  Perhaps eventually, but how many of the people to whom we will be sent would perish without having heard the gospel in that time?  If my soul is required of me tonight, do I want to be still clutching to my stuff when I face God, knowing that I treasured money instead of God?

… 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [Luke 12:31-32 ESV]

Over the last couple years, God has slowly replaced the worldly treasures in my life with himself.  It’s been a slow, and at times, painful process.  But the difference is astounding.  Once I finally let go of those possessions that possessed me, the jealousy that had consumed me was replaced with a fiery passion to see the gospel go to the nations. It was so freeing!  The idea that years from now I might possibly have the privilege of handing a completed New Testament to a people who previously had no scripture is beyond my capability to express in words.  Now, my passion is God, his Word, and his Kingdom.  I think that were I able to trade lives with those whom I coveted before I would find myself saying, “This is it?  This is what I wanted?  I’m supposed to be satisfied with this?!?!”  I don’t want to settle for the American Dream.  I want God’s Dream.  The American Dream is too small.  I’ve been given a taste of God’s passion for the nations and I can’t imagine settling for anything less. But, it took God prying away those idols from my life so that he could change my unwilling heart into a heart that he could use. Please don’t misunderstand–I had nothing to do with this.  God alone deserves the credit.  But by God’s grace, I now treasure him–not as I should, of course, but more than I once did.

God has a purpose for your life, and it’s not for you to fulfill your American Dream.  He has bigger plans for you than that.  He wants to give you the Kingdom!  Don’t settle for fool’s gold.  He alone is the true treasure, the only thing worth living for.  What’s your treasure?

 

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Love Her More and Love Her Less

This is a poem written by John Piper, upon request, for his son’s wedding. It needs no explanation, so I will simply repost it here. May we all “love her more, and love her less.”

The God whom we have loved, and in
Whom we have lived, and who has been
Our Rock these twenty-two good years
With you, now bids us, with sweet tears,
To let you go: “A man shall leave
His father and his mother, cleave
Henceforth unto his wife, and be
One unashaméd flesh and free.”
This is the word of God today,
And we are happy to obey.
For God has given you a bride
Who answers every prayer we’ve cried
For over twenty years, our claim
For you, before we knew her name.

And now you ask that I should write
A poem – a risky thing, in light
Of what you know: that I am more
The preacher than the poet or
The artist. I am honored by
Your bravery, and I comply.
I do not grudge these sweet confines
Of rhyming pairs and metered lines.
They are old friends. They like it when
I bid them help me once again
To gather feelings into form
And keep them durable and warm.

And so we met in recent days,
And made the flood of love and praise
And counsel from a father’s heart
To flow within the banks of art.
Here is a portion of the stream,
My son: a sermon poem. Its theme:
A double rule of love that shocks;
A doctrine in a paradox:

If you now aim your wife to bless,
Then love her more and love her less.

If in the coming years, by some
Strange providence of God, you come
To have the riches of this age,
And, painless, stride across the stage
Beside your wife, be sure in health
To love her, love her more than wealth.

And if your life is woven in
A hundred friendships, and you spin
A festal fabric out of all
Your sweet affections, great and small,
Be sure, no matter how it rends,
To love her, love her more than friends.

And if there comes a point when you
Are tired, and pity whispers, “Do
Yourself a favor. Come, be free;
Embrace the comforts here with me.”
Know this! Your wife surpasses these:
So love her, love her, more than ease.

And when your marriage bed is pure,
And there is not the slightest lure
Of lust for any but your wife,
And all is ecstasy in life,
A secret all of this protects:
Go love her, love her, more than sex.

And if your taste becomes refined,
And you are moved by what the mind
Of man can make, and dazzled by
His craft, remember that the “why”
Of all this work is in the heart;
So love her, love her more than art.

And if your own should someday be
The craft that critics all agree
Is worthy of a great esteem,
And sales exceed your wildest dream,
Beware the dangers of a name.
And love her, love her more than fame.

And if, to your surprise, not mine,
God calls you by some strange design
To risk your life for some great cause,
Let neither fear nor love give pause,
And when you face the gate of death,
Then love her, love her more than breath.

Yes, love her, love her, more than life;
O, love the woman called your wife.
Go love her as your earthly best.

Beyond this venture not. But, lest
Your love become a fool’s facade,
Be sure to love her less than God.

It is not wise or kind to call
An idol by sweet names, and fall,
As in humility, before
A likeness of your God. Adore
Above your best beloved on earth
The God alone who gives her worth.
And she will know in second place
That your great love is also grace,
And that your high affections now
Are flowing freely from a vow
Beneath these promises, first made
To you by God. Nor will they fade
For being rooted by the stream
Of Heaven’s Joy, which you esteem
And cherish more than breath and life,
That you may give it to your wife.

The greatest gift you give your wife
Is loving God above her life.
And thus I bid you now to bless:
Go love her more by loving less.

–John Piper

“But I say to you…Love your enemies…”

          As New Testament believers, we often classify the words of Christ in Luke 6:27-28 as part of the group of Christ’s teachings which were radical reformations of Old Testament (OT) Law.  We all too often assume that it was biblically acceptable in OT times to hate those who had wronged you.  After all, wasn’t the law of the day “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth?”

          But even an “eye for an eye” is in context of legal jurisdiction as demanded by a judge (see Ex 21:22-25) and does not allow for the victim to exact vengeance himself (see Lev 19:17).  The OT never endorses hate as the proper response to our mistreatment by others.*  This became quite clear to me as I was reading and meditating today on Psalm 35, especially verses 13-14:

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer kept returning in my bosom.  I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.

When those who sought for David’s life experienced sickness or difficult times, his reaction was not one of smug satisfaction or pleasure at their expense, but of genuine, sincere sorrow on their behalf!  He fasted, prayed, and mourned on their behalf as if they were his own family.

          While I would not consider myself the most vindictive or begrudging person that I know, I fall quite short of the mark of David’s empathy for his enemies.  Though it is a rare occasion that I seek revenge toward someone who has wronged me, it is an even rarer occasion that I mourn their calamity, pray, or fast on their behalf.  Frankly, these are actions that I rarely do for friends, much less enemies!  When someone cuts me off and flies past me on the interstate and I pass by them and a state trooper a mile up the road, I’m not mourning their calamity!  In fact, I’m tempted to stop and tell that state trooper just how fast and reckless they were driving before he saw them!  (And it’s not because I’m concerned with justice being done—which is a perfectly legitimate attitude—it’s because they’ve wronged me and I’m glad to see them suffer!)  But David’s reaction toward the calamity of those who’d wronged him is exactly what Jesus meant in Luke 6.  This is the love that both David and Christ demonstrated: the love that turns the other cheek and prays for the forgiveness and well-being of those who have wronged us, even those who would kill us given the opportunity.  This is that attitude I must imitate.  This is part of what it means to be Christian and the essence of what it means to show the love of Christ to the world.

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*There is a proper time and place for righteous indignation, or “hate,” but not in response to the infringement of our “rights.”  Look for a later post on the usage of “hate” in the Bible, which is used quite frequently by the psalmists.