Posted tagged ‘Ananias and Sapphira’

Privileged People and the Privilege of Money

March 16, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 16, 2019

                    

A few years ago a mom was upset with me. Her son had tried out for the 7th Grade basketball team and I hadn’t chosen him. He, along with about 25 others, didn’t make the cut.

She was visibly angry.

“He played on a club basketball team!” she informed me. 

“Well, good! I’m sure there’s other opportunities for him to join into, if he wants.” It was not the answer she wanted, but it didn’t seem like an appropriate moment to give her an analysis of her son’s fundamental deficiencies- didn’t have a left hand, couldn’t shoot, and was about two steps slow on defense. 

What she was saying is that she had paid money for him to be a part of a club basketball team. Money should count for something! 

And there it was! A fundamental flaw in the understanding of what money’s purpose is. Using it to help someone hone their math skills, or perfect their singing voice, or dribble with their left hand…those are several worthy uses of a family’s finances, if they have extra funds. But this mom’s understanding of money was that it opened doors that would otherwise remain closed. Money entitled her and her son!

It painted a mindset of a person who felt privileged, a person who expected things!

We all have that mindset in some ways; maybe not with financial funds, but with similar thinking. When I wrote my first novel I figured people would be lining up for the privilege of publishing it. So far I’m still waiting…and waiting. At least, however, I did write it!

Esau felt privileged, as many other first-borns do. David felt entitled to another man’s wife. Ananias and Sapphira didn’t seem to think twice before deceiving the first church by not disclosing all of their financial information. 

Sometimes privileged people forget that they put their pants on just like the rest of us do. 

And so we shake our heads at the news of people, who have money, using it for ill gain! We mutter to ourselves, “That’s just not right!” We often ponder what would happen if we had a pot load of cash? What would happen if the monthly inflow was always more than the outflow and we wouldn’t have to fear the sudden expense of a car repair or the news that one of the kids needs to start wearing braces? We think it would be a breath of fresh air, and we inhale the dream!

Money, however, has a way of taking someone down a glittery path towards distorted reality and an elevated view of their importance. 

If a person doesn’t know who he is then he will allow money to define him. But if he knows who he is- his virtues, thoughts, and routines- whether he has financial resources or not will not matter. 

So…one mom walked away angry and disappointed. Her dream for her son’s life in basketball had been detoured by an old coach who had seen too many wanna’ be’s who never would be.

The People Who Carry You

July 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 9, 2017

                                   

    “Some men came, bringing to him (Jesus) a paralytic, carried by four of them.” (Mark 2:3, NIV)

There are certain times in each of our lives where we struggle, are helpless, and have to be carried. They are episodes in the midst of our struggles where we are simply paralyzed by circumstances and situations.

When I was five I playfully rolled down a hill at Jenny Wiley State Park outside of Prestonsburg, Kentucky. The problem was that there was a glass bottle that my head hit in the midst of the roll. I’m unclear whether the bottle was broken or not, all I know is that when my head hit it the bottle sliced into the back of my head and the blood started pouring out. My dad picked me up and carried me back up the hill, a cloth was put on my cut, and off to the Emergency Room we went. A few stitches later, and with a throbbing noggin, we headed back to the park. In the moment of need my father had carried me to where I received treatment.

I remember that episode…and besides making me wary of rolling down hills…it stands out as one of those childhood moments of being picked up by my dad.

In my decades of pastoring there were a few times when people picked me up and got me through chaos moments of ministry. If not for those people I would have exited the ministry at various points along the journey.

When I read the story in Mark 2 about the paralyzed man the question that runs through my mind is “what would he have done if there weren’t the four men who picked him up and carried him?” How would the story have played out? As the story goes, there was no way for him to get to Jesus. There isn’t even an indication that he wanted to be taken to Jesus. It was his carriers who knew he needed to be brought to Jesus. They sensed the urgency of the situation and the opportunity of the moment and go so far as to cut a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus is located, lower him down on the mat he’s been laying on, and wait. (Worrying Baptist Mom Moment: “What if you would have dropped him? He could have been seriously hurt!”)

Jesus is taken back by the faith of the carriers, and the rest of the story, besides his being healed, revolves around some rigidly religious folk who were only willing to carry on a conversation, never a person.

All of us need carriers from time to time, as well as people in our life who may rely on us to carry them. Who might that be for you?

I’m not talking about people who will carry you out, like the young men who carried out both Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 after they dropped dead right after an episode of deception. I’m talking about people who will carry you away from destruction, carry you away from danger, carry you away from what could be your own demise…and people who are committed to carrying you to healing and safety. Who would that be for you?

Here’s what I’ve learned about those times of being in a valley! The people who carry you in the midst of the storms are never forgotten. You will always remember them. Sometimes it’s a parent who picks you up at the bottom of a hill, and sometimes it’s friends who pick you up out of a bottom moment of life. In either situation you remember the help and concern in your moments of helplessness.

Power Priorities

April 2, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         April 2, 2016

                                        

One of my favorite authors is a deep bass-voiced man named Steve Brown. I know he has a deep voice because I heard him speak several years ago, and that’s when I started buying his books. In his book entitled What Was I Thinking? (Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All), he writes these words that I underlined, starred, and highlighted.

“My mentor, Fred Smith, told me once that Christians, if given the choice between spiritual power and political power, will almost always choose political power. I agree with that and would even expand on it. Given the choice between the supernatural power described in the Bible and the power of money, fame, and status, for most Christians it’s a no-brainer. Money, fame, and status win every time.” (page 80; Howard Books, 2008)

When given the choice…

Most of the first followers of Christ didn’t have power, fame, or money. In many ways, they didn’t have the personal struggles with power.

Exception: Judas!

Okay, second exception: Ananias and Sapphira!

What they did have was spiritual power. The lack of other power sources seems to have intensified their attention on what God was up to and doing.

For us today…let me put it this way. Whatever power source we focus on the most is the power that will dominant our decisions, behavior, and belief system.

If we seldom look for the supernatural hand of God in our life…seldom consider the closeness of his awesome power, we will seldom rely on him.

If we get so wrapped up in the current political campaigns and focus our efforts on the gaining of political power…in whatever form that takes for you, your party is triumphant…your dislike for a certain candidate takes over your thoughts…you take on a mission “to convert” as many people as possible to vote for your political candidate. Political power becomes your heart cry. In recent months political power has become the heart cry for many Americans. And what has happened, and will increasingly happen, is that the thirst that people have to see their political agenda win will filter into a large number of churches. There will be pastors who will tell their congregations that a vote for a certain candidate is a vote against Christ. The lust for November victory will try to chummy up with the ways of God. Believe me! Knowing how polarized our nation is politically right now, and having a daily dose of verbal jabs between candidates being fed to us, the potential for churches to lose their way and their purpose will be great!

Another power priority is money. I’ve known, and know, a lot of Christ-followers who have dollar signs tattooed on their brains. Their money is their security blanket. It’s their method of impressing others, and reminding people that the church would be in a pile of hurt if they took their money and went and played somewhere else. If someone was handing out twenty dollar bills for those in one line, while the opportunity to meet Jesus was the focus of a different line there would be a lot of people lifting up “Jackson’s!”

That takes me back to the spiritual power that has been offered to us through our journey with Jesus, and the companionship of the Holy Spirit. This week my wife and I had something happen that we both identify as a God-story. We decided to take the blessing we received in that God-story, the impact it had on our lives, and, for lack of a better term, pay it forward. I won’t give you the details of that, although they are incredibly humbling. I’ll just say this! It has made us more acutely aware of the supernatural power of God and the presence of God.

If we had dismissed the situation as a coincidence we would have missed it! In like manner, if our eyes are so focused on the natural powers of the world, and blind to the moving of the Spirit we will become increasingly sight-impaired to the presence of God. If we seldom rely on the power of God we will seldom see him.

Mud Prints

February 11, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 February 11, 2015

                                                  

I wear a red Nike shoes. The red stands out in a crowd of short people. They feel comfortable and are about as radical as I ever get. Perhaps that’s why people notice them so much, because they seem like a hood ornament on a guy who drives a seven year old Civic Hybrid.

My Nike’s get good traction, are very light, and easy to spot in my closet. But there’s one thing that bugs me about my pair of “reds.” It’s the bottom of my shoes. They announce where I’ve been, and leave tracks that look like an octopus has taken a stroll across our kitchen floor.

I can’t hide the mud prints! In the crevices of my shoes the dirt takes up temporary residence, and it doesn’t matter how much I stomp on them in the garage I still manage to “hold on” to some freeloaders until I come inside.

I’m sure that many of you are thinking to yourself, “Just take them off when you enter the house!” Sometimes I do, but at other times my common sense, time-efficient mind reminds me that taking them off would mean that I would have to put them back on when I exited again. That would cost me…what, thirty seconds?

And so I track the outdoors to the indoors. In case you are wondering, mud prints on the kitchen floor equal unhappy wife looking at me!

Where we’ve been leaves a trail as we walk to where we’re going. I can’t hide my past path when I stride across the kitchen floor.

There’s numerous stories in the Bible that give us a similar message. David couldn’t hide his adulterous affair with Bathsheba from Nathan. Ananias and Sapphire couldn’t hide their deception and greed from Peter. Jonah couldn’t hide his bitterness for the Ninevites from God. Our behavior and reactions too often give us up. People see the trail of our words that don’t match the footprints of our behavior.

One time quite a while ago I left a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Unbeknownst to me I was communicating to everyone who passed me where i had just come from.

Now a days I always check my shoes, especially my red Nike’s, when I leave the john! Unfortunately, I’m not as discerning with our kitchen floor!

Momentum Church

October 20, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           October 20, 2014

                                        

Momentum is not a scriptural word…unless you go to The Message paraphrase, and then it appears once in Matthew 4:25. Other than that there is no momentum in the Bible.

And yet we talk about momentum quite a bit in the ministry of the church. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of our over-zealous sports world mindset. There’s hardly a game that can be viewed on TV without “The Big Mo” word used during it. Teams have the momentum, grab the momentum, make a play that changes the momentum, can sense the momentum shifting…and on and on.

And so we hold it up in the church as a key part of our success…or failure. There’s a couple of problems with momentum. One is we try to make it a spiritual concept. Or on the other hand, we translate a spiritual revival or awakening as a sign of building momentum. Increased attendance at worship is seen as meaning there is momentum. An increase in baptisms, or those wanting to become members of the church, or financial giving, or a building project…all of those are viewed as spiritual indications of momentum building. We crave it. We even idolize it.

But where as the Spirit is steady, momentum is fickle. It can come and go at a “moment’s” notice. The hardest Sunday of the year for a pastor is the Sunday after Easter. Easter is a spark of momentum. The Sunday after Easter things go back to the way they were. It’s almost like Jesus goes back into the tomb. So much for momentum!

There’s been a few years where the excited momentum of Easter was quickly followed by the depressed loss of life.

Which brings me to a final question that I don’t necessarily have an answer to, but I want to ask it! What is the difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum? The early church experienced both. I love the Acts 2 and 4 passages where the believers met daily in the temple courts, praised and prayed, took care of one another. The difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum is that transformed lives are the result of the Spirit’s moving. People who are changed are left in the trail of the Spirit’s wind. Ananias and Sapphira’s “special gift” mentioned in Acts 5 was an indication of being caught up in the momentum of the times. They weren’t moved by the Spirit, but rather by their greed and need for recognition.

So…any time there is a sense of momentum there will always be the anger of false acts of spiritual devotion. It’s the Christian version of “fifteen minutes of fame!”

How do we know what is of God and what is of our own creation? I don’t entirely know, but I am taken back by the story in the gospels where Jesus notices the gift of a poor widow that everyone else has discounted as meaningless.

Something to think about!