Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pampered Americans

There are some things that, seriously, are done or found "only in America," such as:

25 kinds of peanut butter
because you know some people cannot just have
Creamy but need
Extra, EXtra, EXTRA
while others only like
Extra, Extra

A Starbuck's Coffee on every corner
since driving 5 more minutes to get a
cup of coffee would be unthinkable you know!
(and it would be even worse
to just drink Folgers)


You always hear, "Look how much I saved!"
and you spent $1,000 to save $50?
Oh yeah, makes sense to me...
+ + +

This weekend I went to a Pampered Chef party. I like their products. I want their products. I own some of their products. I could spend a lot of money buying their products. I have friends who own ALL of the products.

Seriously, though, do we need an "avacado" colored knife that costs $16?

There are gadgets, tools, spoons, knives, cutters, slicers, dicers, bowls and pans for everything. You can wash, dry, chop, and serve your salad in one bowl. (Ooooo, ahhhh!) It could probably eat it for you too. Slight exaggeration, I know...

And the PRICES. I have not been to a Pampered Chef party in a couple of years so I forgot how ridiculously priced these kitchen toys are! I know that some people would try to tell me the old, "You get what you pay for" thing, but that doesn't work with me. The Walmart spatula for $1 works just fine AND if it does break I can buy a replacement 12 times for the price of one from Pampered Chef (which equals $12 by the way- for a spatula!).

I could go on. You get my point, right?

+ + +

It burdens and grieves me that we dump so much money into frivolous things. I am definately guilty, as we all are, so do not think I am just frowning on Pampered Chef products.

What about $200 car payments? (or $300, or $600)
Clothes that HAVE to come from designer stores? (when thrift stores have great variety!)
Spending $8 for a salad when eating out? (when that same price could by a week of salads)
Budgets for Starbuck's? (someone I know has a monthly $50-$100 budget for Starbuck's)

It is everywhere in our culture. From childhood the materialistic part of the secular worldview is impressed into our minds so that it all seems normal. We are so good at justifying and rationalizing our expenses that we cannot even see the wastefulness behind it all. We can explain away the reasons why we had to make certain decisions and purchases.

Christians are just as prone to materialism. We unbiblically call possessions blessings while pouring our lives into serving them. Our children have to do soccer, ballet and music lessons. We buy new clothes and eat the best food. Of course we need to keep up with the world so we also own the latest in technology, see all the new movies and try all the new restaurants. American Christians find tithing difficult. A missionary speaks at church and if we are in a good mood we might find $10 to give him. (Meanwhile the parking lot is full of new cars.)

I am not calling for a "sell all you have and live in poverty" kind of Christianity. That mindset, while I have met those who believe it, is not Biblical either. Rather, I desire for people who claim to know Jesus to be wise with what God is lending them. Nothing is ours in this world. We can take none of it with us when we die. There is a spiritual war raging around us. A war for Christ-likeness. A war for souls.

What does history display about how people handle money during a war? Every penny counts. Cash is hidden between matresses. People are careful, not frivolous. Old cars must be driven in order to feed the family. New clothes are not an option. And people are content because they know their countrymen are fighting for the freedom of the nation.

My plea is for a Biblical, war-like lifestyle. What if we all lived in such a way, being so careful and deliberate with our money that...

... missionaries had all they needed?
... the homeless were fed?
... our pastors could focus on ministry?
... orphans were in homes?
... wives could stay at home?
... Bibles were translated into every language?
... missions organizations were fully funded?
... no one was on welfare?
... no one was hungry?
... everyone had warm clothes?

... everyone had the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus?

Do these issues matter to us as followers of Jesus? They should! It matters to Him.

They should be of more value to us than new clothes, nice furiture, cool cars and eating out. A desire to see these become reality should so burden our hearts that we ARE WILLING to sell all we have to see them come to pass.

The problem, though, is that we have cheapened grace. Grace too has become a possession that we buy, own and sell. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, states,
This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our own spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience. Perhaps we had once heard the gracious call to follow Him, and had at this command even taken the first few steps along the path of
discipleship in the discipline of obedience, only to find ourselves confronted by the word of cheap grace. Was that not merciless and hard? The only effect that such a word could have on us was to bar our way to progress, and seduce us to the mediocre level of the world, quenching the joy of discipleship by telling us that we were following a way of our own choosing, that we were spending our strength and disciplining ourselves in vain- all of which was not merely useless, but extremely dangerous. After all, we were told, our salvation had already been accomplished by the grace of God. The smoking flax was mercilessly extinguished. It was unkind to speak to men like this, for such a cheap offer could only leave them bewildered and tempt them from the way to which they had been called by Christ. Having laid hold on cheap grace, they were barred for ever from the knowledge of costly grace. Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace- whereas they had in fact lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience. The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.
Grace is costly. It cost Jesus His life. It will cost your life.

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:37-39

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Philippians 3:7-16

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Titus 3:11-14

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:6-19
+ + +

Some may say, "What's the big DEAL, Jaclyn, it's JUST Pampered Chef!"

I would answer, "How many things are we going to excuse before we FULLY surrender to Christ? It's just a movie. It's just one drink with dinner. It's just a kiss. It's just a sermon. How many?"

Grace was too costly for me to waste my life with excuses. Money is the resource God has given me to bless others with food, clothes, housing... and most importantly... a way to hear that Christ is their treasure!

I want to live to prove that Christ is more precious than life! This conviction will permiate every area of my life and leave none as they were before. I must destroy the secular worldview inside of me whether it is the culture I have grown up in it or not. I have to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. If our whole lives are focused on getting and maintaining possessions then we will look like everyone else in the world. Jesus then becomes apart of life and not life ITSELF. If He is not treasured by us then why would anyone else treasure Him?

Nice houses, cool cars and fat bank accounts will never point people to Jesus.

*Disclaimer: The author claims NO perfection in the aforementioned topic. God is severely convicting her in regards to her monetary wastefulness. She is disgusted by Christians who waste so much money when she herself is exposed to so much world-wide need. She does not want to be one of those people, even though she is disgusted by herself so many times...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bumper Cars

"We demolish arguments and every pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought
to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5

I have seen two interesting and infuriating bumper stickers in the past week. The first is just dumb and dishonoring:

God was my co-pilot.
We crashed in the mountains.
I ate him.

and the second one is fascinatingly false:

God is too big to fit into one religion.

If people would stop and think logically they would see what stupidity they are believing. As I thought about the message this person was trying to communicate, three possibilities came to mind: one, they are just trying to tell Christians that they are wrong for saying there is only ONE way, or two, they are one of those who says to tolerate all religions because every religion leads to God in the end. The third and only other option is that they truly believe it. As I said, logically, it does not make sense. (Logic these days, though, has been thrown out the window and replaced with relativism. Personally I see it as an excuse to not have to think hard.)

The religions of the world are continually in conflict with each other. Not all of them believe the same about God, His nature and His purpose in the world. If there is only one God, (and there is only one) and He was in all religions, then He would be going against Himself all the time. Which, is impossible for God to do by the very definition and nature of "God."

God is simple. He is simple because He knows all and understands all. He cannot learn, change or be controlled. In His simplicity He cannot be divided. A divided being can be studied and somewhat explained in the divisions. A complex being, like humans or trees, can be divided (anatomy, biology, philosophy, etc.) and be explained. In His simplicity He is incomprehensible.

It is only by His mercy that we even know the mystery of His existence. The Scripture makes it perfectly clear that He revealed Himself to us (Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 1, 3, 5; Colossians 1, 2, 4, etc.). He then sent His Son and told us that the ONLY way to Him was through His Son, Jesus (John 14). THAT is the one religion that God chose to give us. He does not "fit" into it because He IS the Creator.

It (religion) is our access to God not His (God's) limitation.

And in that access there can only be one way that is right in order for God to not contradict Himself. That "religion" is faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who:

"being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2

So, bumper stickers, say what you may. You are setting yourself up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5, verse above). One day those who displayed you will bow before the One True God and all things will become very clear to them.

I pray that they are awakened to the beauty and majesty of the One True God before they meet Him face to face!

(Who, by the way, is no one's CO-pilot...)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Don't Waste Your Life

I am currently reading Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.

I have two words for this book:



I bought this book in 2004 shortly after it was published. Usually I soak up Piper's writing like a sponge, but this time it was difficult for me to find interest. I read a page here and there, skimming chapters and setting it aside for months at a time.

Last June I decided to read it... or at least try again. This time it was like water to a thirsty soul, milk for a crying baby, paint for a painter, oil for a mechanic... ok, well, you get the idea.

It was EXACTLY what I needed to read.

The job at American Family Insurance, although I loved what I did and who I worked with, was not filling my deep passion for missions. My heart was in a far off place and my mind said, "You are wasting time." For several years I pleaded with God to give me the desire of my heart to serve Him in missions. I volunteered here and there, taking trips, researching and going to classes. Still, I longed for something more.

In October, my family was at a crisis point financially. Dad had been without a job for almost a year. We were dipping into savings to pay the mortgage. My job at American family was strictly part-time and not pulling in enough to cover what we needed. Therefore, we began discussing the need for me to find a full-time job.

All the while I am reading Don't Waste Your Life. My plea deepens with God as I beg, "PLEASE, God, I do not want to work full-time and waste my life! I know we need the money, but I want missions. I want to furhter the name of Christ AND get paid to do it!" An impossible request in my mind at that time. I am sure God was smiling as He replied, "Just wait."

During this time my dad had applied for a regional manager position at an organization called Initiative360. As he discussed the job with the recruiter she inquired, "The HR manager at Initiative360 met your daughter this spring and was wondering if she needed a job." At first we thought it was a joke. It was not. They could not hire my dad, but had a matrix job to offer me with Initiative360 and OMF International. (See previous posts here and here and here!)

I began the initial stages of talking with the recruiter. I created a resume, filled out an application and waited. Several options began pouring in, non of which seemed to fit what my family was needing: raise my own support, a student stipend, etc. I needed a full-time job that would help pay the bills. Period. Missions organizations are not known for their pay, but I knew that God would provide what I needed when I needed it.

I was ready to turn the job down with the information I had been given when I talked with the recruter one more time. "So, if I understand this correctly, I will be making $-,--- and can raise my own support above and beyond that?" "Oh, no," she answered, "you will be getting a salary that is $-,--- a month." Now I had to reconsider everything from a positive perspective!

Was it a reality that I could make this money AND work for a missions organization? Was this money enough for what my family needed? Could I leave my job of seven years and dear co-worker Katie? What about the 45 minutes drive, extra gas and long hours?

All the while God is prodding my heart and reminding me, "Jaclyn, why do you quesiton with human logic when you KNOW this is a direct answer to the prayers you have prayed the last 3 years? Did you think that there would not be some kind of cost and sacrifice involved? Take this job. You will not be wasting your life..."

So, here I am, reading Don't Waste Your Life again and I am reminded of God's faithfulness to me as well as my journey of spiritual growth last fall. I am where He wants me to be and it is such a wonderful reality. I am amazed at how He answered my prayers- financially and spiritually!

My favorite chapters in Don't Waste Your Life are five and nine. Here are the chapter titles:

5. Risk is Right- Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
9. The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy- A Plea to This Generation

First, I have to say, ONLY John Piper can have chapter titles like that!
Second, you want to read the book now, I am pretty sure.
Third, don't waste your life.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Until Death Do Them Part

Drink in the beauty of this picture...
I will tell you a precious, tear-producing, heart melting story soon.

I have never met this aged, frail couple, and will not meet her, now, until my death is upon me.

In this picture you see Mr. and Mrs. Burns Bornes. She passed away just this Saturday. I did not know she had died when I posted this picture on Sunday. My account will be all the more beautifully painfully to recount because she is gone.

In my last post, "Life and Death by Ministry," I introduced you to retired OMF missionaries who now reside at an assisted living home called Lammermuir. Burns is, and Rachel was, among those servants who are slowly passing away.

Burns and Rachel left all and followed Christ to East Asia. They were missionaries when it was not as "easy" as it can be today. It was dangerous. It was expensive. It was risky. And they loved every minute of it. I have yet to hear their whole story, so I only know bits and pieces of what their life has become in the last 2 months.

Just 6 weeks ago Rachel's health was failing so quickly that the care-givers at Lammermuir realized it was time for her to be moved to the nearby nursing home. JoLene, primary administrator of Lammermuir, says that Burns and Rachel are still as vibrant, in love and gracious with one another as they must have been 50 years ago. She knew the news of Rachel's move would be devistating.

So she concluded that she must tell them seperately, first Rachel, then Burns. I do not know details here... but when JoLene told our staff this story we shed many tears. Once Burns was told that Rachel would be staying at the nursing home, not coming back to Lammermuir ever, he cried. He walked out of the room to where Rachel was.

Hardly able to walk without excruciating pain, Rachel stood and as quickly as she could, moved to Burns. He covered the distance faster than she and they embraced. And they cried.

Wrinkled. Frail. Aged. After nearly 70 years of marriage they would soon be seperated.

Once Rachel was moved to the nursing home Burns called people every day to ask, "Can you take me to Rachel?" Thankfully, many faithful people did.

He sat by her side, talked to her and came home alone each night. She could no longer eat. Her body refused all liquids. She was slowly dying.

Burns did not want to believe what he was hearing when the doctors began to say, "Only a few more days." The pastor, who took Burns to see Rachel, overheard Burns asking her, "Do you still love me? I love you." He made his customary bird calls by her window and she smiled.

She died in her sleep Saturday morning.

Many of you might have heard the new song by Mark Schultz called, "Walking Her Home." It makes me bawl now, for I can only picture Rachel and Burns. What love, what devotion and what faithfulness they had for eachother. You might as well cry too and read the lyrics:

Mark Schultz - Walking Her Home
From the album Broken & Beautiful
Looking back
He sees it all
It was her first date the night he came to call

Her dad said son
Have her home on time
And promise me you’ll never leave her side

The way she laughed, the dress she wore
He’d never felt like this before

He was walking her home
And holding her hand
Oh the way she smiled it stole the breath right out of him
Down that old road
With the stars up above
He remembers where he was the night he fell in love
He was walking her home

Ten more years and a waiting room
At half past one
And the doctor said come in and meet your son

His knees went weak
When he saw his wife
She was smiling as she said he’s got your eyes

And as she slept he held her tight
His mind went back to that first night


He walked her through the best days of her life
Sixty years together and he never left her side

A nursing home
At eighty-five
And the doctor said it could be her last night

And the nurse said Oh
Should we tell him now
Or should he wait until the morning to find out
But when they checked her room that night
He was laying by her side

Oh he was walking her home
And holding her hand
Oh the way she smiled when he said this is not the end
And just for a while they were eighteen
And she was still more beautiful to him than anything
He was walking her home
He was walking her home

Looking back
He sees it all
It was her first date the night he came to call

Go ahead, it is ok to cry and when you do, pray for Burns.

Farewll Note from a Single Servant