True Riches

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

Proverbs 24:4-5 (NIV)

Granted, this Proverb is talking specifically about money. And, money (or wealth of some sort) is a universal idol for people of every culture throughout history. Jesus said that the love of money is so strong it threatens our relationship with God to the point where we must choose who will be our master–God or money (see Mt. 6:24). As I’ve heard more than one pastor say, “You will either love God and use money, or love money and try to use God.”

But it wasn’t financial wealth that God brought to my attention when I read these verses in Proverbs 24. God reminded me this morning that I need to trust and rely on him for success in ministry. “Rich” doesn’t just mean money. For a pastor, “rich” can be any number of things, but it’s most often numbers. It’s a struggle for pastors to avoid the comparison game, looking at other churches to see how many people they have and what they’re doing to get those people through the front doors. We are very tempted (and it’s not easy to resist) to slightly exaggerate our average attendance when we meet other pastors and they ask, “How big is your flock?”

In my time with the Lord this morning, I was praying for LakeView, thinking about the direction God has called us and the transition coming as we begin to follow his lead. As with any big decision or course change, there is always a little anxiety. What if it doesn’t “work”? What if we’re not at 500 in five years? Did we hear you correctly, Lord?

I prayed, “Lord, don’t forget your servant.”

And he replied, Servant, don’t forget your Master.

I remembered something Dr. Mathews said in one of my classes at Moody Theological Seminary. “You worry about the depth of your relationship with God. Let God worry about the breadth of your ministry.” My role, and our role as a church, is to remember our Master, to worry about the depth of our relationship with God. We’ll let him worry about the numbers as we faithfully worship, pray, meet with him in his Word, and share his love with others in our lives (both inside and outside the church).

What do you wear yourself out to obtain? Where do you find yourself tempted to trust your own cleverness? Money? Reputation? Your position at work? Success? Experiences in life? However you define “rich,” my prayer for this week is that we remember our Master. God’s love is true wealth, and we have it in infinite abundance. Let’s focus on spending time with him and let him worry about the “riches” of this life.

Who’s In Control?

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.

Proverbs 21:31 (NIV)

Control. It’s probably one of the most significant spiritual strongholds evil has used to deal out destruction and mayhem in America, including in our churches and our families. We think we need control. We think we have control. We think we can control. And therein lies the snare.

The truth is, control is and always has been an illusion. God is in control, and he suffers no rivals. True, we can influence some minor outcomes in our lives through our decisions. But let’s not fall into the folly of believing that we control those outcomes. As soon as we start thinking we can control, it’s almost impossible to not try to gain control. Struggles for power and control are often brutal, trust-breaking, relationship-straining, and deeply saddening. They can also be violent, abusive, and dangerous.

The moment we begin to grasp for control is the moment we reveal a lack of trust in God; and the moment in which we start to lose our peace, our confidence, our security, our joy, and our freedom. There is no exultation in playing God. There is only anxiety, fear, insecurity, pride, and despair.

As I read this verse, the Lord reminded me to trust in him. He is sovereign. He is good. He is wise. He’s never failed me, and never will. He’s saved my bacon more times than I can count–and those are just the times I know about! Slow down, fix my eyes on Jesus, breathe, and let go. That’s my prayer for this week.

Lord, I Need You

The series on prayer continues with a look at Psalm 16, a prayer of dependence and confidence in God. How can we say that God is our only hope? Why do Christians put all their eggs in God’s basket? Why do we pray: “Lord, I need you”?

The Eyes of the Lord

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3, HCSB)

As I was reading the opening verses of Proverbs 15, I noticed that verse 3 seemed out of context. I’ve learned over the years that when something in the Bible appears to be out of context, it’s usually worth digging into it to find out why. It’s kind of like God puts these little clues or hints for us to find so that we dig a little deeper, and that process can generate a conversation with God about what we’re looking for or finding, which means we’re spending more time with our Father in his Word.

In Proverbs 15, verses 1, 2, and 4 all had to do with the tongue, our speech. But verse 3 wasn’t about us or our tongues at all. Here’s the full text, so you can see what I mean:

1 A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
2 The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive,
but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.
3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
observing the wicked and the good.
4 The tongue that heals is a tree of life,
but a devious tongue breaks the spirit.

Notice that verse 3 doesn’t seem to fit in with the others? That really stuck out in my mind (which is also one of the ways God speaks to me in my quiet time–he makes a verse or two jump out at me as I’m reading). As I was talking with God about it, and reflecting on the passage, God asked: Do you trust me?

Suddenly I saw what God wanted me to understand. God is everywhere. He sees everything. He’s watching over us, and he will handle things. I don’t need to use my tongue to speak harshly, manipulate the conversation, blurt out my foolish thoughts, or stir the pot because I’m not getting my way. I need to trust God enough to let him take care of things. I need to use my tongue to speak encouragement, wisdom, and life.

The extent to which I trust God to see everything and deal with it his way is the extent to which I can stop using my mouth as a hammer or a wedge and start using it honorably. My prayer for this week is that we will trust God enough to stop attacking people with our words and start building them up instead.

Can Faith Fix Anything?

“The word on the street is that faith is a potent mixture of intellectual and emotional self-control that when properly harnessed can literally change outcomes through positive thinking and clear visualization” (Larry Osborne, Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe). What is faith? And, can it really fix anything?

Don’t Be a Gossip

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13, NIV)

Gossip is a sneaky sin, and I don’t think anyone of us is immune to it! Christians are often quick to point out the obvious, flagrant sins in others–pornography, adultery, addiction, etc. Yet, in my experience gossip is one of the most prevalent and widespread sins in the church. In fact, I’ve seen gossip more often in churches than in the world. For some reason, we overlook this dangerous sin in our midst that wreaks havoc and devastation everywhere it exists. We are experts at disguising gossip, at putting lipstick on this pig that invades our lives.

One very common (so common that it’s become the subject of many jokes) form of Christian gossip is prayer requests. “Pray for Susie. Her husband’s being a huge jerk right now. Their marriage is in really bad shape.”

Or it may be offered in the guise of a friendly warning. “Hey, I heard you went out for coffee with Bill. That’s great you’re getting to know him! I just want you to know that his marriage ended because of infidelity. Not that you shouldn’t spend time with him, just go in with your eyes open.”

Gossip is often shared in the context of asking for advice. “Hey, Bill and Susie are struggling with their marriage after Bill almost cheated on her. I really want to help them work through this issue, but I’m not sure what to tell them. Do you have any advice for me?”

In the church, there are structures in place to give us safe people to confide in, ask for prayer, and get advice. These safe people are the elders and pastors. They are spiritually mature leaders who have met the qualifications in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:2-4. They don’t break confidence but are trustworthy with sensitive information. Their role is to shepherd, pray for, and give wise counsel to those in need.

We should be very careful what we share, when we share it, and with whom. I’ve found Andy Stanley’s definition of gossip to be very helpful in guiding my own conversations over the years.

Gossip is sharing sensitive information with someone who is not part of the problem or the solution.

No matter how good our intentions are, we can fall prey to gossip if we don’t intentionally guard our mouths. My prayer for the week is that the Holy Spirit will nudge you when you’re about to share sensitive information with someone who isn’t part of the problem or the solution, and you’ll realize the sneakiness of this sin which infects us so subtly.

King Over the Flood

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” (Psalm 29:10-11, NIV)

Psalm 29 celebrates the glory and power of God on display through a massive storm. The storm sweeps in from offshore, and it’s one of those storms where the thunder seems to shake the earth itself. Trees are shattered, snapped, and twisted. Everyone who sees the terrible beauty and awesome power of the storm responds with one word: “Glory!”

Yet even a storm powerful enough to shake the earth and split living trees with its thunder and lightning doesn’t shake God’s people. The Lord sits on His throne over the flood, over the wind and rain. He strengthens and blesses us… with peace. Isn’t it ironic that as God shows His power through the storm, He reveals His greater power by giving us peace?

I often feel overwhelmed these days–that life is flooded and I’m just trying to stay afloat. Reading Psalm 29 this morning reminded me that even when life seems to spin out of control, God is still King forever! He is on His throne and gives peace during the chaos (my chaos is often beautiful, but beautiful chaos is still chaotic) to all who trust in Him.

My prayer this week is that God will remind us that He is enthroned over our flood and that He will bless us with peace as we turn our eyes to Him.


Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

Trust Brings Joy

“Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you” (Psalm 86:4).

The last several months have been a study in putting trust in God as we came to realize God is calling us to LakeView Church in Stoughton, WI.  There have been days when we wondered if we were hearing God’s voice, and other days when God has spoken more clearly to us than ever before.  I have personally experienced the joy that comes when you place your trust in the Lord, and I pray that God will give me the grace to put my trust in him many more times in the future.

My prayer for you this week is that you, too, will find joy through trusting in the God of our salvation.