Whose Money is it Anyway?

“Hey, Max, before we start this five-hour drive,” I said, “let’s get some good coffees.”

“Okay,” my partner on the speaking tour said, “get me a Mocha Venti. You have the card, right?”

Ten minutes later, I climbed back into the van with his Mocha, my Cappuccino (with an extra shot of espresso) and an iced Mocha Frappe.

mocha-coco-frappuccino“Who is the Frappe for?” Max asked?

“Oh, I thought we’d drop it off at the breakfast place on the way out of town for that waitress who told us how to get to Starbucks. Remember she said she loved iced Mocha Frappes?”

“Right, good idea.”

After pleasantly surprising the waitress with her favorite iced coffee, we drove on down the road, and, as I sipped my Cappuccino, I thought how easy it was for me to spend those few dollars to make someone feel appreciated.

What made it even easier was that I had used the Starbucks card provided by Wycliffe Associates, not my own money.

It’s easy to be generous with someone else’s money, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t vote for better office chairs at work, or faster snow removal in our community, or a clearer sound system in church? It’s easy to promote good projects when we don’t have to pay for them from our own bank account.

Now for a theological reality check. Nothing we own is ours. There is not one shiny nickel in our bank accounts that Jesus can’t put his finger on and say, “This is mine!” In fact, every nickel in the world is His. As is every dollar, yen, peso, yuan, real, guilder, schilling, franc, pound, ruble, euro, mark, rand, rupee, etc. “All creation and its bounty are mine” Psalm 50:12 (MSG).

You and I are merely God’s money managers. Most of earth’s seven billion people don’t understand this concept. They labour under the delusion that the money is theirs, not realizing it was God who gave them the power to earn it. “If you start thinking to yourselves, ‘I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!’—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth . . .” Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (MSG).

Unfortunately many Christians, who ought to know better, also hold fuzzy ideas about God owning everything. Some believers give 10% of their income to God’s work and then act as if the rest is their own which they can spend without having to account to Him for it. Not so. We give the tithe simply as a token amount to remind us that everything we have belongs to God.

It goes against the grain of our greed to pray, “Thank you for helping me to earn this money. Now guide me to make wise decisions and give generously to those in need.”

Once we understand that the money in our wallets, purses and accounts is not our own, God merely needs to nudge us and we’ll quickly use some of it to meet needs around us.

We’ll respond to His inner voice as easily as it was for me to use Wycliffe money to buy a Frappe for a hardworking waitress.

PS: I have never been sick on any of the many speaking tours I have been on, until this week. Severe diarrhea and weakness, likely the result of food poisoning, , according to the doctor, probably from a Chinese buffet dinner last Sunday night. Thus far I have continued to speak, with no “accidents”. Starting tomorrow night I am speaking three more times before Sunday day off. You know what to pray for!

 

 

A Tickle in the Funny Bone

Tickle-Funny-Bone-cvrP3My first ebook, A Tickle in the Funny Bone, is a dozen of my humorous columns including all the April Fool’s ones and the hilarious responses.

Readers’ comments:
I had a good laugh at this one – still wiping away the tears!
I like your sense of humour!
I laughed all the way through.
I haven’t had such a good laugh in a long time.
Keep us thinking, Jack, and laughing!!

Only $1.99 Get it here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/258000

 

The One Thing That Trumps Commitment

A song popularized long ago by Dean Martin has the lines,

Try standing on a corner, watching all the girls go by.
You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking,
Or for that wooed look in your eye.

True, you won’t go to jail for mentally ravishing those girls, but you may go to hell.

An Amazing Gift From God
We human beings, in contrast to animals, are the species with the ability to think, to imagine, and to visualize. We have the amazing God-given talent to picture in our mind something that does not yet exist, to mentally create situations that have not happened.

The problem with all of God’s gifts is that Satan perverts them. He tempts people to misuse every good thing God provides. For instance, God gave us the capacity to use words to praise Him and speak the truth, but Satan turns that to cursing and lying.

The Power of Imagination
Nowhere is that more clear than in the use of our imagination. Every kind deed, every self-sacrificing action anyone has ever done on earth started as a thought in someone’s head. So did every evil deed.

That is why Jesus warned his male hearers to stop looking at women and imagine having sex with them. “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he said. And He could have added, “If you keep on thinking that way, you will eventually commit the actual, physical act with her or someone like her.”

Over time, we human beings tend to accomplish the things we think about imaginatively. The stronger and more emotionally we respond to our focused thinking and visualizing, the more sure the eventual outcome will match our mental picture.

Scientific Proof
Researchers showed that our imagination is even stronger than our will. They drew a vertical and a horizontal line on a square sheet of paper dividing it into four equal squares. They asked each subject to hold one end of a half-metre long piece of string with a small weight at the bottom, extend their arm and commit to holding the weight directly above the intersection of the lines in the centre of the paper.

The researcher then told him, “Close your eyes while holding the weight steadily over the intersection, but imagine it is swinging back and forth from left to right.”

In nearly every case, the weight would soon start to swing in whatever direction the researcher told the subjects to imagine it was moving.

ringA Firm Commitment is No Match for Undisciplined Imagination
Imagination and fantasizing trumps firm decisions and commitment. Marriage is an excellent example. A couple will make a firm decision to be faithful to each other and make a public commitment during their wedding ceremony. But if either of those spouses consistently fantasizes about being intimate with other people, that marriage is doomed. Over time, the tendency is for that fantasy to become real. As the poet Emerson said, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

So what should you and I think about? Here’s the apostle Paul’s advice: “Whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil. 4:8.

A Disciplined Imagination
Imagination can also strengthen and confirm commitment. My wife and I committed ourselves to serve the Canela people of Brazil by translating the Word of God for them. We used our God-given imagination constantly as we mentally pictured Canela villagers reading the Bible in their own language and applying its truths to their lives. Decades later our dream became a reality as Canelas read the Scriptures and started cleaning up the negative, messy things that Satan had introduced into their culture.

Some Personal Questions
To build enduring, satisfying marriages, both spouses need to commit to spend the rest of their lives with each other. That is a given. But how many of us married folk make the commitment every day to fantasize, dream, and imagine intimacy only with each other?

And do we keep that commitment even when we are standing on a corner and happen to see an attractive person of the opposite sex going by? Or do we watch and imagine?

Just a Little Bit Pregnant

A few months after Jo and I returned to Canada, having finished the Bible translation project among the Canela, we started worrying about the Canela believers. The rumors we heard and the sporadic notes from our Canela friends in the village were not reassuring.

We had planned for a missionary family to live in our village house and keep teaching reading and do Bible studies. But they encountered many delays. A well-funded community developer from Germany had arrived with medical personnel, teachers, and other workers. The leader kept ridiculing the Canela believers. “Why are you reading that book?” he would ask whenever he saw a Canela reading his Bible. “That’s not for you people.”

A Reassuring Visit
We calmed our worries by praying much for them but kept longing to see them again. The chance came when we returned to Brazil 18 months later to renew our permanent residency visas. During the few days we were in the village many Canelas came to tell us how they loved reading the newly translated Bible–great evidence of God’s work among them.
“I just love reading God’s Word.”
“I read it every day.”
“I read it through once right from the beginning to the end, then I read it through again, and now I am reading it for the third time.”
“People in my house are always asking me to read it to them.”
“When I read, I understand.”
“I pray the songs of King David every morning.”

crowdThe Note That Made Us Cry
The day we left a young woman handed me a note as I pushed through the crowd with a bag to put into the jeep. I glanced at it then gave it to Jo in the back of the house, saying, “This is from Jirot”, and walked out with another bag. When I came back into the house Jo was crying. “Read this” she sobbed, holding out the note. I read it and sat down with Jo and cried too.

Here is the note translated from Canela:
Hello Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, (our Canela names) Listen to my short thought. You are now going back to your children, Pjekar, Tehtyc and Kwyrxomkwyj. (our daughters) May the Maker of this earth, who also is our Maker, take care of all of us. We Canelas are always together with each other. And we, including you, will surely someday be together with each other again. To that end I surely pray for you like this:
“Good Father, look after all of us here. And my relatives, Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, who are the ones who revealed You to me, look after them, and also look after me.” Yes, that is the way I pray. Done.
Jirot

We had received many hundreds of notes ever since the Canelas learned to read and write in their own language. But this one was special since it not only contained a prayer, it also had the words “who are the ones who revealed You to me” showing deep spiritual understanding. And it was the only note we ever got that didn’t end by asking us for something.

That note was tiny evidence of a growing Church—almost insignificant. A woman who is just a tiny bit pregnant is, however, pregnant. She will give birth to a baby in due time. So also the Canela church is alive, nothing tiny or insignificant about it.

Jo and I need not have worried during those 18 months. We should have remembered that Jesus said “I will build my Church.” Not “Jack and Jo,” or “a strong denomination.” He, Himself, will build His own Church, among the Canela, and every other people group that is reading and hearing His Word in their own language. What a comfort! What a relief!