Dependent on God

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” Mark 10:21-26

Whenever you read this passage about Jesus and the rich young man, you always stop and say, “Wait a minute, are you telling me to go give away everything I have?” Am I right? It’s a very challenging passage.

I don’t think that’s necessarily what Jesus is saying. He’s just pointing out that it’s hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. It’s not impossible. I have to remind people of this all the time. You’ve got to understand the context. The eye of the needle was obviously not an actual needle, right? It was a gate. Jesus was standing near it, so He pointed over to it. The gate was not that big. It was just the right size for a small cart, and Jesus was saying that a camel could get through it, but it would be very difficult. It would not be normal.

It wasn’t normal for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, because rich men didn’t realize that they were dependent on God. They thought they didn’t need God. “What do I need?” they would ask. “I’ve got a house, I’ve got fine clothes, I’ve got security, I’ve got servants, I’ve got people that make my food. Why are you saying that I need God?” Because in that day, that’s truly what people thought! Rich men were called lords, they were called kings, and they said, “I don’t need God.” Or in the case of Caesar, they even said, “I am God!”

Jesus looked at the rich young man’s heart and saw this. This young man had kept all the commandments, and now he wanted to know what he had to do to have eternal life. Perhaps he thought entry to the Kingdom was something he could pay for. I guarantee you he would have paid for it! Suppose God said, “Okay, give me a thousand dollars.” The young man would have said, “Here you go.”

But that’s not what God said. He didn’t say, “Here’s what you have to give me.” He said, “I want you to give everything up.” Whoa.

Maybe that young man only thought he kept all the commandments. Maybe Jesus was telling Him that he broke the first commandment, and that’s “you shall have no other god before me.” Maybe, because that young man was so wealthy, he couldn’t see that he depended on God.

“That’s right,” Jesus said. “I want you to give up your fake god! You are not dependent on me as your God, and if you want to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, you have to be dependent on me for everything. You have to understand that all your money, everything, even every breath you take, is only there because I allow it to happen. If I want to take it away, I’ll take it away.”

That’s what happened between Jesus and the rich young man.

I truly believe that God gives, and He takes away. I have a reverential fear of that. I understand that He could take away everything in an instant. God could ruin me financially, and I’d have nothing. He can do that at any time. And so I truly want Him to know that when I tithe, when I donate, when I give money in service of His Kingdom, it’s because I’m saying look, first and foremost, I know this isn’t my money.

Do I believe I’ve been blessed with money? Absolutely! I have financial prosperity, there’s no doubt. I don’t deny it. But I also know it’s not mine. It all belongs to God.

See you Friday.

A Rich and Childlike Faith

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22

Coors Field in Colorado has a really awesome bullpen. For me it was a cool place to sit and think. One day while I was sitting there in study and prayer I read this passage, and then I literally just asked Jesus about it. I honestly didn’t know if that rich young man is me.

Right before this passage, the Bible tells us that people were trying to bring their children in to be blessed by Jesus and the disciples were telling them to get away. Jesus saw that and said, “Hey! What are you doing? You don’t block these kids from coming to me!”

Jesus told the disciples, “These kids are the center of the Kingdom of God. They are It. Their kind of faith is what this Kingdom is built on. You want to know how to be saved? You want to have eternal life? Then be like them. You need to have childlike faith.”

After blessing the children, Jesus left. It was then that the rich young man chased Him down in the street saying, “Wait! What must I do to be saved?”

I think this young man heard Jesus say that we must have childlike faith to enter the Kingdom, so he ran after Jesus to ask Him about it. “I’m not a child,” he said. “So what do I need to do?” When He heard that, Jesus told him, “You know what to do. Keep the commandments. Don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and so on.”

When the young man said, “I’ve done all that,” then Jesus said, “Right. So go, and sell everything you have.”

Do you see what was happening here? Jesus was helping the young man understand how to have childlike faith. What is that? What is the faith of a child?

Children don’t have anything. They’re totally dependent on their parents. My sons say, “Dad, I’m hungry,” and they expect me to give them food. “Dad,” they say, “I’d like to have this toy. Go buy it!” They think money is made on trees. They tell me to take that card thing of mine and swipe it, because they think that’s all I need to do. They haven’t learned yet about the adult world.

My sons are totally dependent on me for every single thing, and that’s how we are to God. We are His children, and we are totally dependent on Him for everything. That’s what Jesus was trying to teach the young man.

I don’t necessarily think God tells every rich man to go and give away all of his money and possessions. In fact, the ministry of God depends on people with money. You need money to push the Gospel. Without financial support, Bibles wouldn’t be printed, and missionaries wouldn’t survive. Ministries wouldn’t get built and people wouldn’t be served. Spreading the Gospel depends on donors with money.

But I do think Jesus challenges us by asking, “Hey, look, would you be able to be totally dependent on me?” That day in the Colorado bullpen, I think He told me, “You need to think about that, because you’re paid a lot of money.”

I truly believe it is God’s will to prosper you. But this story asks us an important question, and it’s one we have to think about. Are you that rich young man?

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Humble Abundance

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life? What does that mean? For most of the people in the world, it means something different than it means for you and me.

For most of the people in the world, abundant life simply means a life that is not in need. It doesn’t mean that you have millions of dollars. It means that you don’t need to find food, or water, or a place to live. You don’t need to find a job. You’re not homeless, sick, or starving. Your basic needs are met.

For most of the people in the world, abundance is a pretty humble proposition. If you have enough, plus a little extra, then you live in abundance.

Suppose you could go around the world and ask people, “What does abundance mean to you?” A lot of them will tell you, “It’s having a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square-foot home. It’s a home. Even in a tiny home, my family is safe. We don’t have to live on the streets. Abundance is a water filter. Or a well filled with clean water. When our water is safe to drink, my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Abundance is a job! With a little income, we have food on the table. With a little extra, my kids can go to school. That’s abundance. I know what it’s like not to have those things. When I have them? And my family’s safe? That’s abundance.”

Sometimes Americans have trouble grasping just how much we have. We’re so accustomed to abundance that we don’t recognize it! Instead we define abundance by how much we can buy.

Focusing too much on what we can buy can actually kill people. When we get caught up in buying more stuff, we don’t think about the people that need our help. And we need to think about them, because without our help, they die.

I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m not saying that at all. Like I said last time, it all comes down to what you have in your heart. God searches your heart. He knows your heart. Do you have a heart for helping those in need?

If our drive, our heart, our focus, is simply to make sure we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always saying, “I want this and I want that, and I know I could live without it but I’m going to get it and I’m going to get that too,” and we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we have the wrong mindset.

An abundant life is so much more than having a lot of consumer goods. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance can mean something really different in other parts of the world. Let’s learn to think about abundance in a new way. What if abundance is humble? What if it is having enough, plus extra for somebody else?

Jesus said He came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us that quality of life when He was on earth. When He ascended, these things didn’t leave with Him! He gave them to us. He teaches us to live by them. And when we do, people see Him! It’s our awesome calling to represent Him and reflect Him into the world!

Now, I know what you’re asking. How do you know when you have enough? At what point do you begin steering some extra to the people who need you?

This is where reverential fear can help you. More on this next time. See you Friday.

A Lottery Prayer That Works

I began this blog in 2011. Can you guess the top search term that lands readers here? It is “lottery prayer that works.” That phrase has shown up within the top search terms literally every week of this blog’s existence.

If that’s why you are here, then let me help you. Look at this awesome promise that Jesus made before He was arrested and crucified:

Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do. John 14: 11-14

What do you think about that? Jesus said that we will do greater things than He did, and that He will give us whatever we ask in His name! I think that’s awesome!

But even in the world of believers, there’s a lot of skepticism about this promise. We will receive anything we pray for? Really? You hear people say, “Oh really. You’re telling me that if I pray, ‘God, I want a Mercedes Benz,’ then all I have to do is believe, and I’ll get it?” Or, “I can pray to win the lottery, and if I really believe I’m going to win, then I will?”

Those are good questions! But my question is a little different. My question is, “Why do you ask for those things?”

Why? That question stands in advance of every prayer.

I believe it is God’s will to prosper you, but prosperity doesn’t always mean money or property. God can prosper you with a healthy family, or peace at your job. There are so many ways that God can prosper you! In the end, though, they all have one thing in common. It’s an issue of the heart.

God looks at the heart of all people. Men and women alike, He looks at your heart. If you sit there and say, “God, I pray for a million dollars,” I’m going to guess that the first thing God’s going to ask is why you want a million dollars. If you want a million dollars so that you can be rich, then I don’t know if He’s going to prosper you in that way.

Jesus promises to answer your prayer and give you what you ask for because “that’s how the Father will be seen for who He is in the Son.” That’s the context of His promise. God will give you what you ask for because you are doing His will.

I pray for finances. I really do. I pray for them, and I believe I’m going to get them. I can’t necessarily tell you why God grants my prayers, but I can tell you the reasons in my heart for wanting finances. I can see all the good that I can do with them.

I think God looks at your heart when it comes to everything. If your prayer is birthed in sin, it will never happen. Why would God answer prayers birthed in sin? I believe God answers prayers that are birthed in the hope of bringing grace and faith and power. I believe God answers prayers that are birthed in the desire to empower people to believe in Him and love Him. If that’s your reason for asking, then yes, I fully believe that you’re going to receive what you pray for.

In other words, if you’re going to do God’s will with those lottery winnings, then pray for them with all your heart!

I’ll say more on this next time. See you Tuesday.

The Discipleship Lifestyle

The Bible tells us to live and love like Jesus, and it shows us how to do it, by showing us how He lived and loved. Last time, I told you what I think it’s all about.

Now I’ll tell you what living like Jesus is not about. It’s not about health, wealth, and prosperity. These are things that God chooses to bless us with as He sees fit. Living like Jesus is also not about your “best life now.” Not all the time. I know some Christians say that once you’re saved, everything’s going to be hunky dory. But that’s a tactic they use to get you saved. And it works! People hear a promise like that, and of course they get saved. They think they’re going to become rich!

But then when they don’t become rich, they say there is no God.

We get into this salvation mentality. We think we just have to get people saved, and then once we do that, we think we’re done. I truly don’t believe that’s where it ends. I truly believe that salvation is just the beginning. It’s the beginning of a life of discipleship. It’s living out an understanding of what the Gospel means.

What is the Good News? I mean, what is the Jesus Gospel? That you have to accept Christ or rot in hell? There are people out there who are seriously claiming that a threat like that is “good news.” I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

The lifestyle of Jesus, the one He lived and taught us to live, is good news. The discipleship lifestyle is the Gospel. Salvation and justification are part of it. They are our beginning, but we’re called to live it.

You hear people ask, “Did Jesus speak the Gospel?” And some people will say He didn’t. They will say He couldn’t have. They will say the Gospel didn’t come until after Jesus died.

That’s a little mind-boggling to me! I mean, Jesus is the Gospel! Jesus is the good news! Whatever Jesus did was the good news. He was IT! Of course He preached the Gospel, because He did the Gospel! But people don’t think like that.

That just shows me where we’re at. We’re stuck in this salvation mentality. We focus everything on Jesus’ death. We think we’re done being Christians when we acknowledge His death for our sins. But what about His life? How can we ignore that, when the Bible contains a detailed account of all the things He did and all the things He said, and all the instructions He gave to everyone who wanted to be His disciple?

Sometimes I ask myself why I live the way I live, and that nails what I’m saying here. Why do I live the way I live? I don’t ask myself why I am the way I am. I know the answer to that. I’m saved. I’m justified by Christ. But I don’t assume that means I’m good. I’m not necessarily good. I’m not necessarily right. I’m not necessarily on the right path. I examine the way I live, because I want to be His disciple.

Do I mess up? Yes. Am I always good? No. Am I always on the right path? No. But when I get off on the wrong path, I ask the Spirit to lead me back. And I believe that the Spirit does, because I want the discipleship lifestyle. I want to be deeper, I want to go further, I want to be on His path. How do I know when I’m on His path? I’m there when I’m fulfilled, when I’m happy, and when I’m full of joy. How about you?

See you Thursday.

Abundance: Simpler Than We Realize

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What a gift! But what is it? An abundant life is a life without need. You don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job. You have one.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance is much simpler than that. Abundance is having enough, plus something for somebody else. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

Clean water is abundant life.  We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Clean water is abundant life. We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Think of what abundance means in other parts of the world. There are so many places where people are locked in a daily struggle to keep themselves together, body and soul. You could go to any one of those places and ask, “What does abundance mean to you?” And they’ll say, “Abundance is a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. My family doesn’t have to live on the street. My kids are going to school. I’ve got a job and we’ve got food on the table. I’ve got access to a well with fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Now that’s abundance. I know what it was like to try to live without a home, a job, clean water, and food. When I have these things, my family is safe. That’s abundance!”

Sometimes we struggle to understand the simplicity of abundance because we live in a consumer culture. It’s hard for us to see it, but consumerism can actually kill people. We get caught up in buying stuff that we don’t even need, while there are people around us who will literally die if they don’t get our help. That’s the situation we’re in.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” And it’s true. I mean, I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I can access the internet with three different devices, all at the same time! Do I need to do that? It’s probably excessive. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m only saying that we also need to have a mindset to help someone in need. If our drive, our heart, and our focus is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always thinking about what we want and what we’re going to get, and at the same time we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we’re being shallow. We have the wrong mindset.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. When He came, He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us abundance in Him. When He left, these things didn’t leave with Him. He gave them to us so that we’d live accordingly. Now we are His ambassadors! So if we are to represent Him, we need to focus our minds and hearts on bringing abundance to others.

See you Monday.

Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What does that mean? Well, abundant life is a life that is not in need. It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. It means you don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, because you have a job. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

If you could go around the world and ask people, “What does abundance mean to you,” a lot of them will tell you, “You know when I have abundance? It’s when I’ve got a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. Even in a small home, my family doesn’t have to live on the streets. Abundance is when we’ve got a well to get fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Abundance is when I’ve got a job so that my kids are going to school and we’ve got food on the table. That’s abundance. I know what it’s like not to have those things. When I have them? And my family’s safe? That’s abundance.”

Sometimes Americans have trouble grasping just how much we have. We’re so accustomed to abundance that we don’t recognize it! Instead we define abundance by how much we can buy. But consumerism can actually kill people. We can get caught up in buying more stuff, and people that need our help can die.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. It comes down to what you have in your heart. We have to have it in our hearts to help those in need. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that if our drive, our heart, our focus, is simply to make sure we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always saying, “I want this and I want that, and I know I could live without it but I’m going to get it and I’m going to get that too,” and we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we have the wrong mindset.

An abundant lifestyle is so much more than having a lot of consumer goods. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance can mean something really different in other parts of the world. Let’s learn to think about abundance in a new way. Let’s say that abundance is having enough, plus some for somebody else.

Jesus said He came so that we may have life and life abundantly. He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us that quality of life when He was on earth. These things didn’t leave with Him when He left! He gave them so that we’d live by them. As Christians, we’re ambassadors for Christ! It’s our awesome calling to represent Him.

How do you know when you have enough? This is where reverential fear can help you. More on this next time. See you Thursday.