V GENUINE MOTIV TION MAY
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN
DESPERATELY SEEKING SOLITUDE BEING A ROCK
WITHOUT BECOMING AN ISLAND
40 DAYS IN THE DESERT OF DOUBT
FREE MONEY NO JOKE
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN 04
Feature Article: A Quiet Place
On The Couch: Rock, Yes. Island, No.
Can You Relate: Measuring up to the Wrong Standard
May God Bless the Hell Out of You: The Desert of Doubt
Cornered by Grace: The Wrath of God Rests
Press On: How to become Addicted To God (Part 1)
The Tool Box: Free Money, No Joke
THOM MOLLOHAN Randy kosloski JASON MOORE
THE MERRY MONK ROBERT BEAMES WILL DOLE
a publication of On My Own now Ministries
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Editor In Chief / Rob Beames Art + Creative Director / MIKE MURO & DANIELA BERMĂšDEZ
A QUIEt place BY THOM MOLLOHAN
GM : 04
Maybe in brief retreats like these where one is momentarily removed from the buzzing drone of human need, one can more readily hear the still, small voice of God
The 120-degree heat of the sun bore down on my head with fierce zeal. At the moment there was no wind, but I was glad, for it would have made things worse—it would have been like aiming a blow-dryer at my face from only three inches away and turning it to the highest speed. I determinedly clambered up a steep hill so I could look across the great rift that separated the Negev Desert from the Sinai. As I reached the pinnacle of the crag, all around I could only see barren wasteland. Before my feet was a small gorge at least 300 feet deep; its far side rose sharply into another cliff face. Beyond each rocky and lifeless summit was another. A host of desert mountain tops marched on until they faded from sight in the dusty haze of the hot afternoon. Before completely losing myself in the brilliant landscape before me, I glanced back and realized that the rest of my team members were preparing for a siesta, leaving me to my own devices for a time. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I found a stone shelf near the top, facing the west, which was somewhat flat and out of sight. I planted myself there so I could have a few moments alone. Well… not exactly alone. It was, in fact, an opportunity to visit with God without the distractions of a busy schedule or the pressures of decision making which constantly assault me. As I looked to the west, I thought about the mountains on the Egyptian side of the rift called the Sinai. Not so far from where I sat, the Israelites had been delivered by God from their centuries-long bondage and had marched towards the fulfillment of the special promises
God had made to them. Nearby was the place where the Lord had saved His nation from the attack of a hostile army as they escaped through the impassable obstacle of the Red Sea as it drowned their pursuers. Sitting in this historic setting, I thought of all those people recorded in the Bible who had been used by God to powerfully change the world. What set them apart and gave them a place in His mighty movements to work out His will for humanity? They couldn’t have done it if they were not ultimately willing to listen, trust and obey the Lord. Perhaps that was why God’s prophets and even the Lord Jesus often withdrew from their busy lives to the remote wilderness. Until I had spent that tiny bit of time in the desert, I had always envisioned the wilderness mentioned in the Scriptures as more of a Rocky Mountain or Appalachian Trail kind of wilderness containing plenty of green plants and plenty of animals. But unlike those places I had visited previously, I found the wilderness of the Negev Desert to be absolutely silent. There were no animals or birds to betray the ominous silence that seemed to fill my ears nearly as tangibly as cotton balls. Maybe in brief retreats like these where one is momentarily removed from the buzzing drone of human need, one can more readily hear the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12). Isolated places like this, where the blare of ignorance and idolatry seem more remote, often facilitate this sort of intimate communication with God. As I sat on my little rocky crag, I prayed. I praised God as I sat quietly in the vast silence. It was good to be alone with the Lord, if even for a little while.
GM : 05
Trying to eliminate all distractions is too distracting of a venture to venture upon.
But then a fly landed on my arm. I flicked it away and resumed praying, but the fly came back… this time with friends. I tried to shoo the crowd of critters away, but they buzzed around my head all the more. I relentlessly continued with my prayer and worship as I became agitated and lost my focus. Finally, it dawned on me that my diminutive assailants were like many of the little annoyances which distract all believers throughout their walk with the Lord. Little things have a way of buzzing into the forefront of our thinking the very moment we try to settle down and spend time in prayer or in God’s Word. Let’s face it. Little things accumulate so quickly in our lives that many of us are nearly drowning in details. There is such a buzzing going on in our minds so much of the time, even though we may go regularly to church and may be serving Him in some capacity, that we can’t hear a thing He says to us. It’s like watching hundreds of TV channels all at the same time. God’s signal is being transmitted as His Holy Spirit moves in our lives, but we cannot make out what He’s saying—we can’t see the tree for the forest surrounding it. Consequently, our vital connection with God becomes unclear under the deluge of signals sent our way. It becomes difficult to be refreshed or to receive guidance from God. Perhaps God is sending divine provisions, but we cannot find them in all the clutter of our fast-paced lives. It’s those little things that dilute our passion for the Savior. It’s the little things in life that get under our skin. Little annoyances constantly interfere with the peace of God that should be filling our troubled minds. It’s these little things that imperceptibly compromise our spiritual integrity and draw us from the sure footing of walking with the Savior.
GM : 06
But what can be done with the little buggers? We might try to swat a few here and there, but we can easily allow them to steal our gaze from the face of Jesus. Trying to eliminate all distractions is too distracting of a venture to venture upon. We should eliminate those things which can be removed while recognizing that we cannot cut ourselves off completely from our responsibilities, nor can we foresee every contingency that might introduce distractions into our lives. We should also recognize that there is a spiritual power at work that does not want us to tune into God and will attempt to increase our disarray. While alone with God at a critical time in His life, Jesus found Himself the target of distracting ideas, suggestions and temptations from the prince of evil (see Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, & Luke 4:1-13). We too, can find ourselves subject to notions and impulses that will try to grab hold of our attentions and keep our gaze turned away from the Prince of Peace. These spiritual flies will buzz and buzz, but we need to just let them buzz while we stay focused seeking God’s face in His Word, through prayer, and in service to Him for the sake of His kingdom. How appropriate that a nickname for the devil is Beelzebub, which means Lord of the Flies. He is indeed the lord of distraction and don’t forget he is the lord of lies, as well. We too easily follow his leading over the leading of God Himself. Nevertheless, we have in God both true light and real life. Let us not allow ourselves then to be robbed of an unspeakably marvelous gift by failing to spend quality time with Him in prayer and in personal worship. Even the lord of flies looms tiny and inconsequential compared to the King of all creation.
â€œFor the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.â€? Deuteronomy 10:17, 21
GM : 07
on the couch
ROCK, YES. ISLAND, NO. by Randy Kosloski
“IT IS GRACE, NOTHING BUT GRACE, THAT WE ARE ALLOWED TO LIVE IN COMMUNITY WITH CHRISTIAN BRETHREN.”
- DIETRIECH BONEHOEFFER
Have you ever had the experience of wandering around aimlessly in a car with no idea of where you are going, because the driver—perhaps you—has no motivation to ask for directions? Or while building a shelf have you ever attempted to hold up one end while trying to screw in the other end as you stretch with your fingernail to maintain some leverage? Is there anything more manly than a shelf hung on a 14 degree angle because you were unwilling to ask for help? I once built a woodshed all by myself only to have it collapse during the first winter. Then I fixed it all by myself only to have it collapse again. Even after this second collapse I refused to ask for help. I just went without a woodshed. These are the consequences of defining manliness as a completely self-reliant and independent pile of wet wood. Lawrence, a client of mine, had an anxiety disorder as a consequence of his definition of manliness. His view, like my own, forbade him from asking for help, and more than that, it kept from saying “no” to any request. The result was a man overrun with work responsibilities and thus strapped with an anxiety problem that was alienating him from those that he loved most. To make things worse, he chose a quack like me to provide him with professional help. His anxiety got so bad that he had to take a break from his job as a director in a government organization. As a divorced man, it took all of his energy just to manage his two children of 8 and 10 years. He no longer had the ability to manage his career and family. When he finally asked for help, he’d lost everything but his kids. The propensity to try to be everything to everyone goes way back. During the 40 years of wondering in the desert, Moses served as a judge for the Israelites, settling all their disputes. The Bible says Moses did this, “from morning till evening,” (Ex 18:14). Then Jethro, a shepherd from the desert, told Moses, “what you are doing is not good... the work is too heavy,” (Ex 18:1618). Moses did not allow his pride or his definition of manliness to stop him from taking this good advice from his father-in-law, Jethro. He sought the help of other responsible people to solve Israel’s disputes and got back to doing what he did best: bringing God to the people. Whereas I bet Moses could have hung a shelf level and built a good woodshed with the help of his trusted friends, Lawrence would have had the same difficulties that I had with these tasks. As men, we believed that we needed to be islands unto ourselves, lacking nothing.
Luckily for Lawrence, he had enough motivation to change. He had an anxiety disorder, a failed marriage, and he felt he was unable to work. He was extremely motivated by his family. He was torn up by the loss of his marriage, and was determined to do right by his children. In the psychology world we have a really technical term for this kind of motivation: warning bells. Being the skilled quack that I am, I used this determination to help him revamp his view of manhood and move him to change. In the same way he was motivated to do right by his children, we should be motivated to do right by God. How much more could we accomplish if, for instance, we asked for help from our friends? They have help to offer, and by accepting that help, we are blessed and our friends who provide the help are blessed also. And so the vortex of blessings whirls around and around. Dietriech Bonehoeffer wrote an excellent book on Christian community called Life Together, in which he says, “It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” It is a bonus blessing that God gave to us friends to help us in our humanity, in our frail, struggling-for-faith humanity. It is like the nitrous oxide system in a race car. It was not there when the car was created but it really moves the car along. If we could see each other as gifts, as Bonhoeffer suggests—“in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity”— then there would be no shame in asking for directions. We should be real about our strengths so that we can help those whom we have the ability to help in their weaknesses. We should likewise be real in our weaknesses, so that we can allow others to be blessed as they help us. My definition of manliness needed to change and Lawrence helped me to see that. He helped me to see that there are consequences when I don’t ask for help. He also helped me to see that by having an opportunity to aid him I was blessed. So there is no reason for shelves to remain uneven or for wood to go uncovered when we have God-installed brothers around us to help us be more like God intended us to be.
“HOW GOOD AND PLEASANT IT IS WHEN GOD’S PEOPLE LIVE TOGETHER IN UNITY.” PSALM 133:1 GM : 09
MEASURING UP TO THE WRONG STANDARD
CANYOU RELATE BY JASON MOORE
Jason Moore is the Organizing Pastor of New Creation Presbyterian Church located in Wentzville, Missouri. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary. Most importantly, he is child of God who has been saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ. Visit New Creation on the Web.
GM : 10
A few years ago, I developed a strange habit. It started when I installed a new refrigerator in a 75-year-old house. The new fridge had a water dispenser on the door. My wife and I were excited about the prospect of quickly filling our glasses with cold, filtered water. There was one problem though. Our old house had weak water pressure so our new dispenser took up to a minute – or more – to fill a glass. How do I know exactly how long it took? With every cup I filled, I would count the seconds as they passed. It has been nearly two years since we moved from that house and I am still counting. Measuring water in minutes rather than volume has caused me to reflect on other things that we use the wrong standard to measure. How well would a cake turn out if the recipe called for an inch of flour? What would a house foundation turn out if the concrete mix called for two minutes of water? Obviously, how we measure things matters. Most of us spend a lot time measuring ourselves. We measure our successes and our failures. We compare our performance, possessions and popularity to the perceived level others have in these areas. We are chronically trying to keep up with the Joneses. My grandfather used to warn me not to compare myself to others. He told me I could always find someone who is doing better or worse than I was. He taught me to do my best, rather than indulge in the endless cycle of competition and comparison. My grandfather was wise, but if we don’t compare ourselves to others then what is our standard? I hear people say, “I’m a good person.” Often, this phrase is followed by a set of criteria that helps establish what it means to be good. In my experience, it seems that each person has his own definition of what it means to be good. In the end we are not quite sure how to measure ourselves. We are often left to wonder if we’ve tried hard enough, done well enough or accumulated enough stuff. It’s normal to feel like we will never be able to satisfy the demands of our jobs, our kids, our spouses, our parents, our friends, ourselves or even God. Living up to our own standards or the standards of others is exhausting. But, what if there was a better way? Instead of leaving us
on our own to figure things out, I believe God loves us enough that He’s given us a standard. At first, this sounds like bad news when we consider scriptures like, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Bible tells us that only God is good, and that His standard is perfection. Unfortunately for us, we all fall short of this perfection. We are prone to respond to this bad news in a couple of ways. Some of us devote ourselves to religious activity. We work hard to be good. We become perfectionists or, at least, try to be better than the people around us. Some of us devote ourselves to rebellious activity and work hard to redefine what it means to be good. We become performance-based creatures or pleasureseeking souls. We live according to our own standard of good or, at least, try to do things that make us feel good. The truth is that both religion and rebellion will eventually fail. But there is a third way of living called the gospel of grace. Our true standard of measure should not be based on what we do, but what Jesus has already done for us. We don’t have to lean on our own goodness, but can instead lean on the goodness of God. Jesus came to set us free from religion and rebellion. Jesus lived the perfectly obedient life that we should live. He then took on our weakness and moral failure and died as a sacrifice on our behalf. One day, God will measure us all. We will not be graded on a curve, but rather will be measured according to whether we were willing to trust Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus achieved the perfection that we can’t. He invites us to share in the benefits of that perfection. Are you ready to give up on the cycle of comparison and competition, ready to be measured by something other than your own goodness, or ready to try the third way of living? Go to your heavenly Father and tell Him you are ready. He’s been waiting. He’s ready for you.
ONE DAY,GODWILL MEASURE US ALL. We will not be graded on a curve,but rather will be measured according to whether we were willing to trust Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.Jesus achieved the perfection that we can’t.He invites us to share in the benefits of that perfection. GM : 11
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:66-68
THE DESERT OF DOUBT MAY GOD BLESS THE HELL OUT OF YOU BY THE MERRY MONK
GM : 12
I gave up solid food for 40 days. I’m writing to you from the low desert of Lent. I am Israel. I am Moses. I am Jesus. I am the people of God who have always gone through the water and into the wilderness. We wander and we are tempted. Sometimes we wandera for 40 days. Sometimes we wander for 40 years. This is our way. We walk with the whispered words of Satan in our ears, “If you are the son of God…prove it.” When Jesus was tempted to prove it, He refused. He didn’t have to prove anything. He knew who He was. I’m not that fortunate. I have come to doubt. Much of the time it doesn’t end well for people who are compelled to go into the wilderness on a vision quest. But if they don’t wander around until they die in the desert, they come back with some revelation, some message that eventually gets them killed. People don’t like you when you’re different. People want you to go with the flow. You know, go along to get along. If you can help it, don’t go. If you can resist the urge, stay safe at home and don’t go treading off to find holy ground. Things will turn out much better for you if you simply buy into the system. You may be unenlightened, but hey, you’ll have cable, running water and fried chicken. Of course, if you’re one of those restless souls who’s not sure who you are or why you’re here; if you have some deep desire to test yourself against the harshness of nature; if you know there’s more to life than what you’re experiencing in your school, cubical or church, and that the answers you need may be found in the wilderness; if that’s you, my warning won’t make a bit of difference. People who can stay probably don’t have that peculiar calling. But if you’re called, you’re gonna have to go. To me, Lent is about going into the desert to taste God. It’s about setting aside my food and drink so that God may become my food and drink. Ideas about God or philosophy aren’t enough for me. I want to experience the Divine. However, I’ve been experiencing the opposite. I’m scared that I’m losing my faith. I haven’t been sleeping well. It was 1 a.m. I was in a hot bath trying to relax when I was overcome by a wave of darkness. I thought, “He wouldn’t have to look hard to find an excuse to send me to hell.” It stirred a bizarre mix of dark emotions within me and I began to doubt in the existence of God and at the same time, I was scared of His punishment. I was literally naked, exposed…and afraid. So I did what any potentially insane believer would do upon finding himself engulfed inside a cosmic imaginary friend, I asked God if He’s really there. No answer. Then I thought about what believing in the unconditional love of a sovereign God has done to my life. It has given me peace and hope in the face of my many flaws and mistakes that tempt me to despair. My belief has kept me faithful to my wife for over 16 years, giving our love room to deepen, grow and giving me great pleasure. It has given me a job with a sense of meaning and purpose. My faith
is the center of rich and long-lasting friendships. It has helped me to deal with addictions that have threatened my physical and mental health. I have even reached out to those who hate me and I’ve given time and money to alleviate the suffering of others… all in the name of God. Granted, being a Christian has exposed me to—and identified me with—the whack-jobs in my faith family, but so what? There are atheist whack-jobs too. They’re in whatever group you identify with, and if you can’t find one in your group… you’re his brother. Anyway, other than that, and the strained relationships with loved ones who have a visceral disdain for Christians, it’s been a good deal. So, given all the above, if God’s not really there, I have a pretty cool imaginary friend. No harm, no foul. I die and pass into nothingness having lived a life full of good things that I’ve enjoyed to the full. However, if He is there, my faith gets me that same great life and eternity to boot. Laying there in that tub of water in the desert of doubt, I was reminded of something I grew up hearing my dad say, “Son, assume the quality and it’s yours.” He usually told me this to encourage me to get good grades or quit smoking, but it applies to faith too. So I prayed this prayer… ”Father, if You are not an elaborate figment of our collective imagination, please grant that I may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways. But, if You are not really there, or You are a God Who doesn’t really care, may my religion be of such a quality that my enjoyment of this life is maximized thereby.” Don’t get me wrong, I know life throws us curve balls. I’ve swung at a few. There may come a time when, like Job, my life will fall apart. Will I still trust Him if He slays me? I’m banking on the fact that my faith will give me hope and meaning then too. You know, when we’re in the dark, we have to trust what we’ve learned in the light. I’m fully aware that people throughout the centuries have suffered and died for this faith that gives me such peace and joy. I know that even today there are people being killed for their belief in Jesus. I’ll do what I can to support those brothers and sisters and hope that if I’m ever asked to put my butt on the line for my faith, I’ll be up to it. How could I fail to defend a faith that has given me so much? I bet I could find a way. But in the mean time,
I am Israel. I am Moses. I am Jesus. I am the people of God who have always gone through the water and into the wilderness. GM : 13
THE WRATH OF GOD RESTS
CORNERED BY GRACE by Rob Beames
I hate cats. Over the last few years I lost track of the amount of times my daughter asked me for one. I can say with all accuracy that the number of times she asked was one less than the number of times she was told, “Absolutely not!” I never did give in, but the day came when my daughter cradled a certain ball of furry cuteness in her arms and all the possible consequences for going against my wishes paled in comparison. Needless to say, we now have a cat, in fact, we have had two cats. Nothing disgusts me more than a cat trying to get my food. The first cat was easily trained to stay away from our food with a rubber band gun. After a few snaps on the behind when caught breaking my rules, he would flee at the mere click of the unloaded gun. After a while the gun wasn’t even needed. The uninvited guest staying with us now is not so teachable.The cat illegally dwelling in our household now is more stubborn than her predecessor. When she sees people-food within her radar, she pounces. Nothing deters her. One night I caught the thing in the act of going for our supper leftovers. I grabbed the Nerf dart gun I bought my son for Christmas and set out to teach her a lesson. She was finally going to feel the full force of my wrath—I had all 12 barrels loaded with the soft-tipped projectiles and I was prepared to reload, if necessary.
GM : 14
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 After a couple hits the chase was on. A bed proved to be a temporary shelter for the clawed creature, but I was determined to make her pay. My son flushed her out like a faithful bloodhound. I followed at full speed preparing for the kill shot which would finally put the feline menace in her place.
Jesus certainly knew what He was doing. He mentioned several times that it had to happen just the way it did. He clearly communicated that He willingly laid down His life for us. He was the only one who could take the penalty for us. It had to be an innocent person to take the punishment of the guilty.
I had a clear shot as I turned into our hallway, but before I could take it, I found myself on the floor grasping what was later confirmed as a broken toe. Along with my toe, my pride was also broken—not to mention my sense of administering justice. The cat was the only thing left unbroken as she stared down the barrel of the gun daring me to fire. In my pain it didn’t seem important anymore.
Can you imagine this happening in our legal system? Let’s say a friend and I each decide to murder someone. When convicted, no court would allow me to pay the penalty for my friend. We would both have to pay because we are both guilty. How less likely then would it be for a court to allow me to do the time for my murderous friend if I were innocent? That would be unfair. And so, it is in theological terms. For us, it’s unfair—like winning the lottery and never having to worry about money again. Who ever gives the money back?
Perhaps someday I’ll accept the cat because I love my daughter, but for now, my wrath remains upon that vile creature as I limp around on my broken digit. I will not forgive. Why should I? The cat is stubborn and guilty. If the filthy animal is going to live in my house, she will obey my rules. It’s my right! Somewhere in the process of caring for my self-inflicted injury, I was reminded me of the way God deferred His righteous anger toward me to Jesus. As John says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” (John 4:10). Propitiation is one of the most beautiful words in our language. You might not find it in the Bible, but it is there between the lines. It is the satisfaction of the wrath of an innocent person who has been wronged. The deserved punishment is not waived, but it is redirected and satisfied by another. In the above verse, “sacrifice”carries the same concept of propitiation and indicates an entirely innocent person being inflicted with the punishment meant for one who is truly guilty. Propitiation is a pleasant melody to those convicted of crimes against God. It gives life to dead bones crushed under the weight of their sin. Dead corpses have their sentence removed —not just suspended—and dance in the streets with joy. Is this fair? Think of the most infamous malcontent imaginable, like a serial killer. Now imagine he is given a full pardon, because in his place is sentenced your mother, father, sister, brother, or dearest friend. That would be insane—not fair! God’s grace extended to us is not fair. The only innocent man ever born took the punishment we deserved. It was hardly fair, but it was the only way.
I really don’t hate cats. I don’t even hate the one which happens to be living in my house...for now. She’s still guilty and I don’t have to forgive her, but maybe I’ll reconsider when my toe heals. That’s another aspect of propitiation, too. We are stubborn and guilty, so God is just with His judgment on us. The big difference is that Jesus interceded for us. My cat isn’t so fortunate. The only thing which saved her from feeling the sting of a fully loaded gun was my stupidity and weakness. That’s not what saved us. Perhaps weakness did save us in a way; Jesus made Himself weak to suffer the cross, but stupidity has nothing to do with our salvation. God’s wisdom punished the only blameless one with the stinging darts of death because it was the only way. For a time, God’s wrath rested on Jesus. Now, it simply rests, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. Propitiation is one reason we just celebrated Easter! His death allows us to rejoice and to enjoy Him now without guilt. We do not have to punish ourselves anymore. We are free to forgive ourselves, as well as others. We have permission not to punish anyone. In fact, for us to punish in light of His atoning sacrifice invalidates the cross. Still punish yourself with guilt every Easter because your sin put Him on the cross? Stop it! The blood of Jesus covers that guilt, too. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)
GM : 15
HOW TO BECOME
ADDICTED TO GOD PART 1,
BY WILL DOLE GM : 16
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
ACTS 2-42 In last month’s article I used the analogy of addiction to illustrate our relationship with God. In doing so I drew three comparisons between the two. Namely, that our relationship with God appears foolish to the world, it takes some time to acquire, and once we are addicted we will want more. Intellectually, the idea works. But what good does this idea do us as we walk through our day in an attempt to press on toward the goal Christ has for us? Well really, if we stop with these three points, there is little benefit. To know I ought to be addicted to God does me no good unless I know how to become addicted to God. While there is no magic formula, over the course of the next few months I will attempt to share a few fundamental things, which we nonetheless often overlook in our lives. To become addicted to God requires more than simply attempting to make God our number one priority. This is jargon that we throw around often, especially in church circles—I know I have used this phrase many times, and perhaps you have, too. One of the mains texts used in connection with this idea is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The idea most people draw from this verse is something to the effect of, “If God is my number one priority, then He is going to give me the other things that I’m chasing as well.” Really? In the preceding verses, Jesus is instructing us to worry about nothing, not even the food we will eat or the clothes we will wear. Jesus is not placing the kingdom of God at the top of a list of priorities—the Pharisees were doing that already. No, He is saying that our singular pursuit ought to be God. He says we should lay aside what the pagans are worrying about (verse 32) and pursue Him instead. When we do so, He will take care of our other needs. So, Jesus should not be a priority in our lives, but rather our driving passion.
This will exemplify itself in many ways, but let’s focus on the first of four examples from Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The first thing we read is that we are to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. Who were the apostles and what were they teaching? Not to oversimplify it, but the apostles are the guys who wrote the New Testament and they taught the words and deeds of Jesus. They also taught the Old Testament, and how it testified of Jesus. What can we draw from this? Simple: studying the Bible is important. Of course, we know this, but how often do we actually read it? And when we do read it, how much do we really learn? This is one of the ways we can discern whether God is a priority or a passion for us. If our relationship with Him is only a priority, reading the Bible is something on our checklist of things to do, and we are often inclined to either push it down the list, or hurry and get that pesky Bible reading out of the way. Perhaps we find a way to push it completely off the list. Conversely, if we are reading with the intent and the mindset of seeking His kingdom, knowing what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is God-breathed, then we will look at it, not as something that must be done to fulfill our list of so-called Christian duties, but as an opportunity to grow closer to our loving Creator. It should not a burden, but an incredible opportunity. If my desire is to become addicted to Him, then I need to feed my addiction. We should feast regularly on God’s word—not just in small bits and pieces reading quickly to get it done, but taking big bites and thoroughly savoring them. Chew on the details and digest the nuances. There is so much to be enjoyed. God has written to us a revelation of Himself. What a better place to start in our pursuit of Him than in devotion to His word? Let’s take action on this, and in the following issues we’ll examine the three other things found in Acts 2:42: fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.
GM : 17
THE TOOL BOX FREE MONEY, NO JOKE*
I’m not laughing, but you could be smiling big time by the time you get to the end of this article. I’m about to bust the top off of the well-kept secret about Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), savings tools that double your money. You save $1000, you get $2000. Sweet! And no, this is not some high-risk investment. Read on. IDAs can help non-savers become big-time savers in short order. They are savings accounts designed to help us actually achieve our savings goals by matching what we save dollar-for-dollar or even more. It’s free money! IDAs are specifically designed to help people with low to moderate incomes save toward a specific goal which will give them more financial stability in the future. This can include buying assets like a house or a car, starting your own business, getting vocational training, going to college, or even just buying textbooks. Eligibility varies, as these programs are run locally, but usually income limits are based on the federal poverty guidelines or local income averages. (Learn more about poverty guidelines.) The program in my area said that the income limit is 185% of the federal poverty guidelines. Since there is only one person in my household, as long as my income is less than $20,146.50 annually, I qualify. And even if my income goes above that limit after I graduate from college, I can still continue in the program. Additionally, programs may require a minimum contribution each month, but seeing as they are designed to work with people with low income, the minimum deposit is not overbearing. Details vary with each program, but usually taking some classes on budgeting and managing finances are also part of the deal since the IDA is
BY JEFFREY BRIDGMAN
designed to help people learn to be better stewards of their finances and to create lifelong habits of saving. But how does it work? Local non-profit organizations act as the sponsors for the IDA program. They work with local banks or credit unions to do the actual banking. Funds come from a combination of federal and state government grants, such as the Assets for Independence Program. Charities, corporations, and private foundations are often included. A website run by the Corporation for Economic Development provides more information about IDAs, in general, as well as a directory with information about local programs. For example, my rather small state has six different IDA program locations. Do you find it hard to save? Do you start and then stop? Do big goals overwhelm you? Do you begin to doubt you’ll ever reach them and then chisel away at your savings for things like car repairs and Christmas presents? When I have tried to save money in the past, I always second-guess my future: What if I don’t save enough? What if I change my goal before the time comes to spend it? What if I get married and decide I would be happier just staying where I am now? If you have similar struggles when it comes to saving money, especially for way down the road, find a local IDA program and give them a call. This first step, which you owe it to yourself to take, will take 10 minutes max, and it could have a huge, positive impact for your future. I know I could use some help saving towards graduate school. I think I’ll give it a try and I’ll let you know how it goes.
*For those with low to moderate income who qualify
GM : 18
Published on May 4, 2011
The Christian Alternative to the Men's Magazine. In this issue: Desperately Seeking Solitude; Free Money - No Joke; 40 Days in the Desert an...