What Makes You Valuable?

The world is loud and clear that what makes you valuable is your ability to help or advance the person assigning value. If you can advance their career, benefit their family, or assist someone in something valuable to them, then you have value. Bottom line – your value is based on my perception of your ability to do something for me. Think about it, which are you more likely to spend $50 on? Are you morel likely to drop $50 on dinner for someone who might hire you or give you a promotion or are you more likely to give $50 to a guy with a cardboard sign standing at a nearby intersection? In both cases we lose $50 but in the first instance it is viewed as worth it because the $50 is more about us than it is about the other person.

God’s economy of worth doesn’t work like that. It is a great concept because there is nothing we can do to make God’s net worth go up. So our value in his eyes is not based on what we can do for him because he already owns everything. I love what Randy Harris says about this, “There is nothing you can do that will make God love you more than he already does.” That is a powerful concept. Whether we have $1 million in the bank or are in debt up to our eyeballs, God still loves us because he does not love us based on our potential to elevate or advance his position in the world.

What makes a person valuable? A person’s value is assigned by the One who has created them with value and the standards of the world can never detract from that. So beautiful or plain, tall or short, skinny or heavy, wealthy or poor…it doesn’t matter. You are valuable to God and that means as Christians…each and every person should be valuable to us as well. I wonder how often and how easily we buy into the world’s standards for what makes a person valuable rather than God’s standard?


Detroit Church Fasts and Prays for a Bailout for Automakers

Huffington Post

Photo HT: Huffington Post

The Greater Grace Temple in Detroit had a Sunday service devoted to God moving Congress to grant a bailout to the auto industry. With 3 SUV’s on the stage Charles Ellis organized a service to encourage members, many of whom have pensions from the auto industry and to pray that God would work things out. Reuters quotes him as saying, “We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this week.” referring to the impending decision that will probably be delivered this week by the House and Senate.

When I first heard this I have to admit I was floored. It is disturbing to see those SUV’s on the stage with people worshiping all around them. It just gives me flashbacks to the foot of Sinai and the all too easy temptation of seeking the kind of God we want at the foot of the mountain, a powerless, lifeless God of golden paycheck materialism. All the while the real God is on top of the mountain in all his glory looking down on this display of egregious mistrust of the sovereignty of God. God doesn’t need Congress to fulfill Matthew 6:19-34. God doesn’t need the Senate to fulfill Psalm 33:4. If the bailout fails, God hasn’t failed. If this is the worst “midnight hour” this preacher has ever faced then he must not deal with people living in sin very often. I am also tempted to question the priorities of believing God must work through the government for Christians to survive.

Here is a quote from Reuters

“At one point, Ellis summoned up hundreds of auto workers and retirees in the congregation to come forward toward the vehicles on the altar to be anointed with oil.

“It’s all about hope. You can’t dictate how people will think, how they will respond, how they will vote,” Ellis said after the service. “But you can look to God. We believe he can change the minds and hearts of men and women in power, and that’s what we tried to do today.”

Then there is the other side of this minister facing those in his congregation who have depended on their pensions for their income and are greatly troubled at what the ramifications of this week might bring to their lives. Should we pray for pensions? Should we pray for unions? Should we pray for bailouts? Or maybe we pray God’s will be done and that we will humbly submit whatever answer he has for our lives. I still believe in Matthew 6 even if the bailout fails. That is easy for me to say since my pay doesn’t come from one of the “Big 3.”

Last, is this just another example of praying for the hands of the doctors to heal someone (which is heard in the prayers at many congregations on a weekly basis)? Would it be the same if brought in a bunch of doctors and nurses to stand on the stage as we prayed for the sick of the congregation?

The Gospel Doesn’t Need Spin

We live in a culture of spin. We saw it in the presidential debating. We also see it in commercials. I saw a commercial today for Progresso Soup that made the claim 7 out of 10 people prefer Progresso Soup over Campbell’s in a national taste test. On the bottom of the screen the fine print read, “For those who had a preference.” In other words 9 out of 10 might have said “I can’t really tell the difference” or “they taste the same to me.” Then out of the remaining 1 out of 10 that said there was a difference, 7 out of 10 could have endorsed Progresso. What then appears to be a 70% preference for Progresso Soup becomes a 7% preference for Progresso Soup. I don’t know the numbers and it is probably not that extreme but fine print shows that there is some degree of spin taking place here.

Some Christians have tried to put spin or fine print on the Gospel. The health and wealth Gospel is one example that makes the claim – God will do whatever you want and maybe even more if you just do this or that or send money here or there. But the fine print reads “These are not typical results.” We don’t have to spin the Gospel do we? Isn’t the fact that God has overcome death and that he will redeem us from the grave to live with him forever and that he even redeems and restores us here and now enough good news for us? We don’t need fine print. We don’t need spin. The Gospel speaks well enough for itself without any hype.

Addiction, Blessings, and the Book of Job

One of the best definitions of addiction I have come across is someone who treats objects like people and people like objects. People become something to be used rather than someone to have a relationship with. Objects transform from something to be used to someone to have a relationship with. Funny thing is the way we have viewed blessings from God have undergone this same transformation. As I mentioned in a previous post about Christians misperceptions of what blessing is all about, blessings have been distorted by portions of the Christian community from a someone to a something. In scripture, a life that is blessed is a life that is centered on a relationship with a someone (God). Somehow we have strayed into believing blessings are about objects to be received rather than a relationship to be lived. In other words when we think about our blessings we often list objects rather than a relationship.

One place this understanding helps in interpreting scripture is in the book of Job. In Job the accuser, Satan, comes before God and God points Job out to him as a man who is centered on God (Job 1:8). Satan’s response is that Job only serves God because of all the things he has received from God (protection, possessions, etc). Let’s listen in,

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”- Job 1:9-11

Satan’s accusation is that Job serves God because of what he has received from God in material goods. Satan is saying that if God withdraws the possession that Job will withdraw from the relationship. The only way to find out if this is true is to do just that and see if Job’s relationship with God is based on Job’s possessions or on God’s possession of Job himself in relationship. If you have a distorted view of blessings being about stuff then it is hard to capture the relational aspect of the claims Satan is issuing about Job’s character and motivation for his relationship with God. Job is so committed to God that he is able to say things like “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” in 1:21 and “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” in 13:15. Job understood that it was a blessing to be in relationship with the Almighty whether or not he was to receive any material benefit from it whatsoever.

How are we doing in this area? Have we so misidentified what blessings really are that we have fooled ourselves into thinking our country is the most blessed in the world because we are so materially prosperous? Does our prayer life reflect more praise for who God is and thankfullness for our relationship with him than it does requests for objects? Have we become so addicted to objects that we no longer understand the blessing of being in relationship with God even if we have to go lacking with material possessions? I think these are valid questions and I think it is important we address this in our churches so that we can face the coming weeks, months, and years of potential economic difficulty while remaining grounded in our relationship with God. What is even more important is that when things turn around that we don’t forget what is still most important.

Tide to Go and the Talking Stain

This has to be one of the funniest commercials I have ever seen. Thank you Tide to Go and the Talking Stain. You made my day! What kind of awkward or embarrassing interview experiences have you had?

When I interviewed at the University of Florida for the doctoral program in clinical and health psychology it was so hot that day that I left my jacket in the car. I walked in the room with the other 40 interviewees and I was the only guy there without a jacket on! That was embarrassing. I also only got three hours of sleep before the five hour drive to Gainesville. I found myself nodding off through several lectures as I sat next to the director of the department. By the end of the weekend I figured I was out of the running. I ended up getting accepted and thanks to that experience found my wife, Missy. God has a sense of humor.

Practical Christian Living – From Consumerism to Contentment

We are experiencing technical difficulties with our email due to a website server switcharoo and so I am posting the content of our next LIFE group lesson here. Feel free to give feedback.

Icebreaker: What would have been your favorite thing about living in the Garden of Eden?

Last week we talked about sin in the garden and how the serpent tried to challenge God’s command not to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan was substituting God’s way with an alternative that, although sounded good and pleasing, in the end resulted in emptiness and death. God had all their needs taken care of but Satan convinced them that what God had provided was not enough—they needed more.

That is the message of the world—Consumerism. Why does consumerism breed dissatisfaction?

·You feel like you never have enough. There is always something bigger and better you can buy.

Consumerism can become an entire worldview—something that effects the way we see everything. Because of that we have to address this early in our study because many of the other things we study are problems because people have developed a consumer mindset that has taken the place of God in their lives. In other words, when this has fully taken root, we begin believing that the world can meet our needs instead of God. But like Adam and Eve the end result will be emptiness and even death.

How does the world bombard us with the message that what we have is never enough?

· Advertisements, trends, movies, television, internet, etc.

How was the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture?

· It was a perfect existence between God and mankind.

· They should have been satisfied—all their basic needs were met.

The Bible makes very clear that God is the one who supplies our needs. Because of that we should be content.

Phil 4:19 

How many of your needs did Paul say God will meet?

· All

What is the difference between a want and a need?

· A want is something that is non-essential for the continuance of living life as a whole person. A need is something that only God can provide that is essential for life and spiritual development.

· Paul didn’t say God will meet all your wants. Paul said God will give you what you really need.

What does the world tell us we really need?

· Definitely not God—they say God will mess you up or that God is out to get you or that he doesn’t exist.

· The world says we need stuff. Once you get enough stuff you will be satisfied.

· The world says we need love and acceptance—the difference is how you go about finding it.

Matthew 6:28-34

The world says if you don’t have what you want you better worry until you get it. What does God say about worry? Why?

· Don’t worry—God will provide what you really need.

Jesus shifts the priority from chasing some really important things (food and clothing) to something of even greater importance. What does Jesus say is the most important thing to seek out?

· A relationship with God

What does Jesus say will follow if we make God our priority?

· The things we really need will be provided in addition to the greatest thing—a relationship with God.

Back to the way the world looks at this. The world says if you want clothes you chase clothes. If you want food you chase food. If you want stuff you better chase it yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. And don’t chase just anything. Only the best is worth your attention. Following that line of thinking to the end makes stuff our “lord” instead of God. Stuff begins to rule our lives and we end up on an endless pursuit of things that will make us seem important or “somebody.”

Gen 1:26-27

Where does scripture say our value is found?

· Our value rests in our relationship with God. We are made in his image and that makes us valuable.

What does it take for the world to say you are valuable?

· If you have the right income, job, clothes, cars, appearance, etc.

· In other words, you don’t have any inherent value apart from your things.

Consumerism robs us of who we are and it steals away from us a healthy view of others. Instead of seeing others for who God made them to be we start seeing others for how they can benefit us, how they can help our cash flow, buy our product, compliment us, etc.

Moving from Consumerism to Contentment:

Philippians 4:11-13 shows us that contentment does not come from filling ourselves with stuff. Contentment is not based on circumstances or a series of good purchases. Contentment comes from resting in the fact that we have value that comes from God and that through God our needs will be met.

What are some things in your life you feel get in the way of seeing God and others in a healthy way?

What are the necessary steps it will take for you to find contentment in God alone?

Kingdom Consumerism

In talking about Kingdom Consumerism Philip asks the question, “does the 1st Corinthians passage about unity (“I’m of Apollos, I’m of Cephas, I’m of Paul, I’m of Christ…”) bring anything to bear in addressing this issue? That is, in terms of churches making the statement, “I’m of Rick Warren, I’m of Bill Hybels, I’m of Christ, etc.?”

We are surrounded by so much advertising and branding it is hard not to let some of that creep into our thinking on how to market the church, how to operate church business/finances, and how our leadership is structured. Are churches turning into McChurch?, a Chick-fil-Atonement?, or a Burger Kingdom of God?

Chime in over at his blog – I Don’t Know Where the Angels Sleep.

Just When You Thought You Owned Everything But a WordPress Hoodie…

After you purchase your new WordPress Hoodie here is something for you to consider…It is a nifty cover for your laptop for those sunny days on the beach. It is called, get this, “Lap Dome.” If I saw someone with that I would have a hard time not laughing. I am really sorry about that but it is true.

(HT: Gizmodo Australia)

Losing our Sense of Wonder – John 2

When I read the story of Jesus clearing the temple I often wonder about how all those money changers got in there. Certainly no one walked up one day and said, “I have a great idea…let’s fill this place up so full of merchants that we will forget why we came here in the first place!” John points out that they are not in the temple proper. Rather, they are in the temple courts. The sounds of worship could easily be drowned out by the hustle and bustle of what, from a purely economic point of view, would be the perfectly placed market. The desire for profit quickly outgrew the desire for worship and the call to be emptied of self was replaced by the eager desire to fill their pockets.

How often do we stand in the presence of the divine and settle to be filled with the temporary? How can that happen? It happens when we stand in his presence for so long that we lose our sense of wonder. The extraordinary becomes the ordinary and before we know it we are peddling our faith as if it were on level with a watch or a new suit. It is little wonder that the same ones who failed to understand the awesomeness and majesty of the God and whose temple they stood in the shadow of also failed to recognize his glory when he hung on the cross.

We have a serious problem when we begin to trust the place more than the person and when we elevate religious practice over relationship. This was not a new problem. It had been repeated over and over again in Israel’s history (see Jer 7:1-15) and it still happens today. I hope that the senatorial investigations of certain ministries do not find that several high profile ministers in America have fallen into the ever common trap of having lost their sense of wonder. Although less visible, it is certainly no less significant when it happens in the pews rather than in the pulpits. Let us renew our sense of wonder by respecting God and remember that although we hear the message over and over and although he is present with us even today it does not lessen the significance of the fact that God is truly awesome.

Catching #756 & Finding Our Value

Barry Bonds hits home run 756 and the man who caught the ball, Matt Murphy, finds value. On the Today Show this morning Matt Lauer made the comment that this would change his life. Why is it that as a culture we find value in everyone else’s accomplishments? I think it was Tony Robbins (yes the guy with the really big smile and the even bigger hands) who brought this point up recently, that as Americans we fill ourselves up with other people’s dreams and accomplishments instead of actually accomplishing something ourselves. People desperately seek to be connected to history whether it be a piece of coal from the Titanic kept in a display case, an autograph, or some piece of history, many people find their value in what others accomplish.

As Christians we find our value in someone else’s accomplishments. Jesus lived and died for us and he invites us into the kingdom of God. We don’t connect ourselves to this event through memorabilia, autographs, or pieces of the cross. We are connected with him. It is our identity. It is who we are. We are also connected with a particular point in history as we reenact his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism. His accomplishment, defeating death, brings our lives meaning. Barry Bonds may end up in the hall of fame some day (who knows) but he can’t have Matt Murphy inducted with him just because he caught the record breaking ball. Barry Bond’s accomplishments are not Matt’s accomplishments. We, on the other hand, have been united with Christ and we will go with him into glory but not for our glory, for his.