Monday, January 31, 2011

Are You an Alien? I Am.

Let's continue our journey through Randy Alcorn's great book entitled The Treasure Principle.

We've already talked about the first two "keys" to the Treasure Principle, but let's quickly recap:

Key #1 - God owns everything. I am just His money manager.
Key #2 - My heart always goes where I put God's money.

That brings us to the third "key." This one is equally profound, and also explains why we often hoard our possessions rather than sharing or giving them away.

Treasure Principle Key #3 - Heaven, not earth, is my home.

Well, not yet. But, one day.

Some of you may ask, "How can a place I've never been be my home?" Great question.

The thing is, we were made for heaven. We, as a species, have adapted well to living on this earth. But, God had heaven in mind when He created you. Read the following scriptures, and see if you can grasp this concept:

In the "Hall of Faith," Hebrews 11 speaks to the incredible faith that many of the stalwarts of the Old Testament (Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob) had while they were living here:

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. (NLT)

Consider Paul's words to the men and women at Caesarea Philippi:
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (Philippians 3:20 NLT)

Reading the Bible, we should understand that this world is not our ultimate destination. We're only here for a little while. So, why do we behave as though that isn't the case?

As Alcorn so aptly points out in his book, "Where we choose to store our treasures depends largely on where we think our home is."

Alcorn uses a simple, yet powerful illustration to reinforce this notion. Suppose you are going on a three-month business trip overseas. You reside in America, but you will spend the next several weeks in Europe, living in a hotel. You are told that you cannot bring anything back home with you on the airplane. You can, however, mail your paychecks back home.

Would you choose to extravagantly furnish your hotel or apartment in Europe? Would you spend tons of money on the finest linens? No. Why not? Because you are only living there temporarily. You would be wasting a lot of money because you couldn't take it with you.

Ever been to a yard sale? Estate sale? Flea market? Junkyard? Ever notice anything? At some point in time, someone thought these items were valuable - at least valuable enough to pay money for them. Computers, VCRs, TVs, treadmills, cell phones, furniture, gadgets, toys, you name it. But, where do they all wind up? In the junk pile.

We are blessed in the fact that God gives us things to enjoy. We have lots of entertainment. Great restaurants. Beautiful homes. Sleek automobiles. And, I believe God is OK with us getting pleasure out of these things. But, not at the expense of losing yourself and your vision of eternity.

Remember, those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ don't belong here. We're just here for a little while, then God will take us to the place we were designed to be.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heart Follows Head

It's romantic to say, "I'll follow my heart." But, if we're honest, it rarely, if ever happens that way.

Generally speaking, our hearts follow the decisions that our minds make. This is particularly true when it comes to money.

And, this truth brings us to Randy Alcorn's Treasure Principle Key #2: My heart always goes where I put God's money.

We've already established that God owns everything - including money. So, we're past debating that (Well, I am. I cannot speak for you). Now, Alcorn is stating that our hearts will naturally be inclined to follow after our money.

Think about it. All a person has to do is look at your checkbook register, or your collection of receipts, to find out where your true interests and passions lie. We spend money on the things that matter most to us.

If you're smart, you have money in mutual funds for your 401(k). While you likely will not touch that money until you're in your 60's, you are very interested to see how the funds are performing. Or, if you were to go to a broker and purchase some shares of Berkshire-Hathaway stock, you'd be scanning the ticker constantly to see if your investment is paying off (of course, my next question would be, "How in the heck did you come up with $123,000 for ONE share of that stock?!?!).

For my family, we invest in a few things. First, we invest in God's Kingdom by tithing and giving offerings over and above the tithe (a tithe is ten percent of our gross annual income). We give this gift to God, not only because He asks us to, but also because He guarantees a blessing will come along with it. We also support the University of Georgia - both Athletically and Academically - through annual gifts. We also support friends who go on mission trips. And, perhaps to a fault, we spend a healthy percentage on vacations with our kids.

So, there it is. If you look at our bank accounts, you'd see the same thing - we give to God, to the Dawgs, and to making great memories with our kids. Plus, we eat out a bunch, and I coach baseball, so we have to buy all kinds of sports equipment. But, for the most part, these are our investments.

Which also means, these are the places you'll find our hearts.

Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be."

Where is YOUR treasure? And, where is your heart? You'll likely find them in the same place.

Monday, January 24, 2011

First Things First

I've been reading The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. Essentially, the book is a simple, straightforward guide to "unlocking the secret to joyful giving."

I'm not quite halfway through the book, but I have to admit that I am really enjoying it. Alcorn explains things in such a way that Biblical truths do not come across as "high and mighty" or "holier than thou." He doesn't lay a guilt trip on the reader who doesn't give. Instead, he explains not only why we should give, but also the many benefits that go along with it.

But, first things are first. Before we ever think about GIVING, we must recognize who is the one true owner of all the "stuff" in the world.

Treasure Principle Key #1 - God owns everything. I am His money manager.

God created everything. By everything, I mean EVERY thing. He loved us so much that He even created a bunch of stuff to give us pleasure. But, we must be responsible stewards of the stuff He's allowed us to use during our time here on earth.

King David agreed. When he was leading the mother of all stewardship campaigns for the Temple that his son, Solomon, would ultimately build, he was overwhelmed with God's love. He expressed gratitude to God for allowing him to be just a small part of His overall plan:

11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. 12 Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.
13 “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! 14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.
16 “O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! 17 I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously. (1 Chronicles 29:11-17 NLT)

So, before we spend, save, or squander, let's make sure we understand that it all belongs to God. That car. That house. That iPhone. That iPad. That chair. That laptop. That child. That spouse. All of it. Then, thank Him for allowing you to enjoy these things, if even for just a short while.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I don't know why I expect that everything is going to come up roses. I'm not sure why I believe things are supposed to go my way every time. I cannot understand how it came to be that I think I should be immune to adversity.

But, I must. Because when these things happen, I don't like it too much. I often get defensive, and like any great lawyer, I begin to build my case. I claw, scrape, analyze, research - do everything I feel I need to in order to "win" my argument.

One of the things that helps me get through trials is a deep breath, followed by a slow exhale. I've found that I've been doing this quite a bit lately.

The last few months have been perhaps the most emotionally and intellectually draining time in my life. But, as John Ortberg (my favorite Christian author) points out, these taxing moments and difficult times not only show us what we're made of, they are also the times when God is trying to grow us on the inside.

In the midst of the battle, it's tough to see that God is doing great work. Even if I am aware that He's at work, and that He is preparing me for something fantastic, it usually not much consolation. Typically, that is because I'm focused on the junk I'm dealing with rather than any potential positive outcome beyond the present moment.

Jesus told his disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)

And, no matter how many conversations I have, how much I analyze, research, debate, or put up defenses, the ONLY thing that can truly bring me peace is knowing in my heart that Jesus has already won the one true battle that matters most.