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5 Ways to Use Visual Theology
April 21, 2016

Several years ago our church experienced an unexpected surge of growth. The majority of those who arrived in that surge were young adults who loved the Lord but had not received consistent teaching on how to live as Christians. As one of their pastors, I longed to see them grow in their knowledge of God so they could, in turn, live for his glory. I did not know it at the time, but it was here that Visual Theology was born.

Want a free infographic? You can download The Fruit of the Spirit right now.
Bought the book? Submit your receipt and get two bonus graphics.

Visual Theology is a book that offers systematic teaching on how to live the Christian life. There are many excellent resources that are meant for new believers or for believers eager to spur on their growth in knowledge and holiness. The majority of the resources are essentially short systematic theologies and, while systematic theology is good and crucial, I wanted to focus instead on systematic Christian living.

Over the course of a series of Sunday afternoons and evenings, I opened up classes to teach about the Christian life. We began with foundational matters such as the centrality of the gospel and understanding our new identity in Jesus Christ. From there we progressed to learning the importance of growing in our knowledge of both the doctrine of the Bible and the drama of what God means to accomplish in his world. We looked at how God calls us to put sin to death and how to come alive to righteousness. And then we looked at specific parts of life—vocation, relationships, marriage, sexuality, stewardship—and saw how in all of these ways we can live for the glory of Christ.

When all of this was complete I realized I had the beginnings of what might be a helpful book. I teamed up with Josh Byers to experiment in making this an illustrated book that would combine words with infographics. And just like that we had Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. The book released on April 19. I’m grateful to everyone who purchased a copy and hope those who haven’t yet will at least consider it!

Visual Theology

5 Ways to Put Visual Theology To Work

I’d like to suggest a few ways you may want to consider using this book:

  1. Read and observe it. The most obvious way to use the book is to simply read it while also looking at the graphics. We intended to create graphics that would complement the words, adding visual learning to the standard textual learning.
  2. Read it with your family. We deliberately prepared the book to appeal to a wide range of people. And, indeed, much of the teaching that led to the book was done in front of a full congregation of children and adults. We believe Visual Theology will serve as an ideal book for parents to read with their family, especially with older children. It might also make a good homeschool resource.
  3. Read it with your group. Already I know of peer groups that are reading the book together. It could also be a candidate for men’s or women’s meetings. I believe it will be especially attractive to those who have little natural interest in reading (you know who you are…).
  4. Give it as a graduation gift. The book was prepared with a visual generation in mind. Where young people may be convinced that theology and Christian living are a bit drab, we hope this book will have immediate visual appeal that will motivate them to dive deeper.
  5. Use it as a teaching aid. The book provides a systematic method to teach how to live the Christian life. You can borrow the format and (coming soon!) download and use the graphics to help you as you teach others how to live in this world for God’s glory.

This Visual Theology book is just the beginning. We have a whole collection of additional graphics and resources at www.visualtheology.church with many more graphics (and books?) to come. We are also working on a study guide to accompany this volume.

Want a free infographic? You can download The Fruit of the Spirit right now.
Bought the book? Submit your receipt and get two bonus graphics.

Visual Theology is available wherever good books are sold, including:

Visual Theology

Visual Theology

Evolution and the Time Problem
April 20, 2016

I love to read and ponder the biblical account of creation. So much makes sense and so much comes into focus only as we understand God as the creator of all that is. As I read the creation account I find myself coming to a series of conclusions about the relationship of man and the world he inhabits: God created the world; God created man; God created the world for man and man for the world. God created the world to be seen and overseen by man. He created time and space so he could insert man into time and space. He created all things so man could exercise dominion over it all and, in that way, reflect glory to the Creator. Creation makes no sense, it is incomplete, without man, without the jewel of creation.

I recently came across an extended quote from Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? In this excerpt he helps readers understand the incredible amount of time encompassed by an evolutionary framework. But the deeper he goes into his argument, the farther he seems to go from the centrality of man in God’s plan for creation. Here is what he says:

One useful way to envisage history as viewed through the lens of evolution is to imagine the whole 4.6 billion year history of the earth as being crammed into a single day.

If we had a bird’s-eye view of the whole day, what would we see the Creator do, starting our 24-hour clock at zero and imagining that midnight is the present moment in time? Simple forms of life would already be appearing by 2.40 a.m. with single-celled organisms (prokaryotes) flourishing by around 5.20 a.m. The great oceans of the world start to change colour as cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) spread cross the planet. At the same time the genetic code becomes established that will dominate the generation of biological diversity for the remainder of the day.

After this early-morning start, there would then be quite a long wait until single-celled organisms containing nuclei (eukaryotes) become visible around lunchtime. A further seven hours pass before multicellular organisms (living things with more than one cell) start appearing in the sea by 8.15 p.m. About half an hour later the planet changes colour as cyanobacteria and green algae invade the land.

From then on the biological pace picks up and there is a busy evening of observation ahead. The Cambrian explosion starts at 9.10 p.m. and in an amazing three minutes an immense diversity of phyla appear, each with a distinctive body plan, with many of the anatomical features introduced continuing in many of the phyla right up to midnight. Twenty minutes later plants start appearing on land for the first time, followed very soon afterwards by the earliest land animals. At 9.58 p.m. this is followed by the mass extinctions of the Devonian period.

At 10.11 p.m. reptiles start roaming the land, followed half an hour later by the mass extinctions that mark the end of the Palaeozoic period.

By 10.50 p.m. the earliest mammals and dinosaurs are appearing, but five minutes later there is further mass extinction at the start of the Jurassic period.

By 11.15 p.m. archaeopteryx are flapping around and within minutes the sky begins to fill with birds. Another mass extinction occurs at 11.39 p.m. in which the dinosaurs are wiped out.

Just two minutes before midnight hominids start to appear, and a mere three seconds before midnight anatomically modern humans make their entry onto the scene, the whole of recorded human history until now being compressed into less than one-fifth of the second before midnight, the mere blink of a human eyelid.

This is a helpful illustration for the time and scope of evolution. Alexander wishes to draw our attention to the marvel of the universe and the incredible span of time it encompasses when viewed through an evolutionary framework—even an evolutionary framework that admits the presence and power of God. The illustration is helpful and necessary because just as we have difficulty understanding the vastness of billions of dollars we have trouble understanding the vastness of billions of years. The numbers are so big that they beg explanation.

Yet what stands out to me in this illustration is what I consider a serious incompatibility between the biblical account of creation and the evolutionary account (or, for that, any account that demands an ancient universe). What I cannot reconcile with my understanding of the biblical account of creation is that man appears only at the very, very end of it all. In this twenty-four hour day, Adam or an Adam-like figure appears just one-fifth of one second before the stroke of midnight. The day has very nearly elapsed and then, at that final moment, man appears. This split second encompasses all of human history from its earliest beginnings to the lives of Moses and Jesus and you and me. This means that the majority of history is man-less; almost every bit of the world’s history is devoid of humanity. In this understanding of our origins, the history of the universe is not the history of mankind. It is the history of nothing and no one with man’s fleeting role encompassing a fraction of a moment.

Yet the biblical account seems to move crisply and purposefully to the creation of man. There is no indication in the text that the world was ever in a billion-year process of preparation, that for age after age it awaited man’s appearance. Genesis appears to move quickly and deliberately from God’s first words to the creation of man to the assigning of stewardship over all that had been created. The biblical writers seem to want us to understand that the world was created for man and that it had no purpose apart from man. A builder makes a home so a family can move into it; God makes a world so humanity have dominion over it.

If we admit and endorse an ancient universe, we see a vastly purposeless universe that for the great majority of time had no human beings to bring purpose and order to it. We see that humanity’s role in the universe is late and incidental rather than timely and purposeful. We see God’s creation existing for a million ages without the purpose and presence afforded by the one being created in God’s image. And, for me, that is one powerful argument for a universe that is only as old as humanity.

Coming Soon: Visual Theology the Book
April 19, 2016

Today is the day! Today is the official launch day for my new book Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. This book is the result of a collaboration between me, a writer, and Josh Byers, a graphic designer. We worked together to create a book that brings together two great media—words and infographics. Combining the power of each of them, we created a book that both describes and illustrates the truth about God and man.

Our purpose in creating Visual Theology is to provide a guide to the joy and privilege of Christian living, a systematic look at living in this world for the glory of God. We teach that living for God’s glory is a matter of Growing Close to Christ, Understanding the Work of Christ, Becoming Like Christ, and Living for Christ—the four major sections that comprise the book.

Order

Sections

As you progress through these four sections you will learn the centrality of the gospel in all of life, you will come to understand both the doctrine and the drama of the Bible, you will see the importance of putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness, and you will come to see how the Christian faith transforms vocation, relationships, and stewardship. All the while you will see these truths illustrated through beautiful visuals.

Visual Theology is a work meant to celebrate and combine two complementary media—words and pictures. It is meant to combine them in a way that teaches and disciples Christians to better know, love, and serve the Lord. It is a book to read on your own, a book to enjoy with your family, a book to read with people you are discipling. It is a book to read, to observe, and to enjoy.

Order It

Visual Theology is available at all major book distributors, including:

Visual Theology

Wayne Grudem kindly penned a foreword to the book, and here is what he says about it:

Visual Theology is a delightful read. It combines wise knowledge of sound theology with a readable, inviting style and frequent perceptive insights into practical Christian living. Tim Challies and Josh Byers repeatedly tie their discussion to relevant Scripture passages and then provide a healthy and balanced application to the Christian life.

Another strength of this book is that it takes sin seriously, an emphasis that is sadly lacking in some evangelical writing and preaching today. This book describes practical steps for progressively overcoming sinful habits and patterns in the daily lives of Christians, something that is essential if we are going to grow in Christian maturity.

I often draw diagrams in the classroom because I find that students can more quickly grasp and retain theological concepts when they can see them in a single visual image. But this book has expanded that process far beyond anything I have ever done. The visually inviting infographics in this book are very helpful in synthesizing theological concepts and showing their application to practical Christian living.

I am happy to commend this book, and I expect that it will invite many readers on a pathway toward regular Christian growth and increasing likeness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Wayne Grudem, author of Systematic Theology and research
professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary

Visual Theology
Visual Theology

Order

Spiritual Drafting
April 18, 2016

I’m no fan of most forms of racing. Cars, horses, drones, people—none of them do much for me. I find bicycle racing especially drab, except for those Olympic sprint events that suddenly grab my attention every four years. I do not know a whole lot about racing (which may well be why I don’t enjoy racing), but I do know enough to understand what they call drafting. Drafting is when a rider tucks himself immediately behind another racer, often settling just inches off his rear tire. When he does this, the lead rider has to muscle through the air resistance while the follower can enjoy the little vacuum that forms behind. The first rider has to work just a little bit harder which allows the second to conserve energy for that final push. In other words, the second rider benefits from the strength and diligence of the first.

Drafting is a great strategy for racing. Drafting is a lousy strategy for Christian living. Yet I fear that many Christians allow themselves to fall into a form of spiritual drafting. Let me explain—and let’s not push the analogy too hard since eventually, like any example, metaphor, or parable, it will eventually fall apart!

A number of times I have spoken to a woman and heard her admit that she essentially drafts behind her husband. She takes comfort in her husband’s spiritual strength and discipline but neglects her own. She goes to church when he is around but is quick to bail when he is not. She allows him to carry the load when it comes to teaching and training the children, when it comes to reading and praying with them. She doesn’t only allow him to take the lead (as, indeed, he should) but uses his leadership as a quiet excuse to not put in much effort of her own. She finds that the family is in good shape spiritually but admits that this is far more because she rides in his draft than that she is full-out pursuing the Lord. If he stopped putting in the effort, she would have little strength of her own.

Just as many times I have spoken to a man who confesses, perhaps a bit more sheepishly, that he drafts behind his wife. She is the one who has the living, vital relationship with the Lord and he coasts behind it. She is the one who guards her time to ensure she has a time of personal devotion each day. He allows her to be the one who suggests that they read the Bible and pray together. He expects that she will be the one to call the children for Bible and prayer. The family is doing well enough spiritually, but he can’t deny that it owes more to her effort than to his. He is drafting, taking advantage of her spiritual strength so he can put in little effort of his own.

It isn’t just husbands and wives. Teenaged children can coast along behind their parents instead of learning to pursue God on their own and determining they will personally develop spiritual strength and discipline. Church members can nestle in behind the few who are especially godly and neglect their personal spiritual walk. Sometimes the vast majority of the work of prayer, evangelism, or service is done by just a few members, often an indication that many are gladly coasting along, enjoying the greater efforts of the few. It’s all drafting.

Drafting is a concern because it is an indication of complacency. We all benefit from observing other Christians and seeing how they live the Christian life. This is God’s grace to us, giving us men and women who are worthy of imitation, putting people in our lives who are stronger than we are spiritually. But having such strong believers in our lives is meant to drive us to imitate them, not to simply take advantage of their efforts. Their example is meant to spur us on to greater earnestness in our spiritual lives, greater discipline in our pursuit of holiness.

The antidote to drafting is zeal, that quality we bring to so many of life’s pursuits but are prone to neglect when it comes to our faith. This is a good time to pull in that common biblical metaphor of the race. The Bible tells us that the Christian life is a race—not a race against one another but against the old man as we overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is a race that demands everything we have. It requires every effort. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1) We are to lay aside everything that hinders us, everything that slows us, including complacency. This race requires zeal deliberately directed to the highest pursuit.

We may think some people are naturally zealous or supernaturally gifted with spiritual fervor. Perhaps so. But my observation is that zealous Christians are those who are most committed to the awesomely ordinary means of grace—Word, prayer, worship, sacrament. This deep commitment to ordinary means is the fuel to their fire. This is a tremendous relief but also a significant challenge because it assures us that zeal is available to all Christians. Zeal is not bestowed only on the few and the gifted but is available to all who will follow the Spirit’s conviction. If you can honestly admit that you are drafting, putting in little effort of your own because of the greater effort of the one you follow, today is the day to confess that sin of complacency before God, to ask him to grant you godly fervor, and to pursue the means he offers to ignite such zeal.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Our Forgetful God
April 15, 2016

There are some things I just can’t forget. There are some wrongs done to me that I cannot erase from my mind. I try, I pray. I don’t want to remember them. I don’t want them to remain in my memory or to come back to my mind. But somehow I can’t forget them. Somehow, sooner or later, they come back, flooding me once again with all of those thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

There are some things God just can’t remember. Perhaps better said, there are some things God just won’t remember. There are some wrongs done to him that he will not bring back to his mind. He doesn’t want to remember them. He doesn’t need to remember them. They never come back, flooding him with all of those thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They are erased from his mind and gone forever.

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Hebrews 10:17).

Looking at all of this evidence, Charles Spurgeon says, “This is a wonder to me, a wonder of wonders, that God should say that He will do what in some sense He cannot do—that He should use speech which includes impossibility, and yet that it should be strictly true as He intends it.” He intends for us to know that “His pardon is so true and deep that it amounts to an absolute oblivion, a total forgetting of all the wrong-doing of the pardoned ones.” God puts aside our sin so thoroughly, so utterly, so completely that it is like he has forgotten it altogether. He has so dealt with our sin that he does not ponder it, he does not ruminate over it, he does not allow it to change the way he thinks of us, he does not look for further justification to make right our wrong-doings. “The Great Father’s heart is not brooding over the injuries we have done. His infinite mind is not revolving within itself the tale of our iniquities. Ah, no. If we have fled to Christ for refuge, the Lord remembers our sin no more. The record of our iniquity is taken away, and the judge has no judicial memory of it.”

The very things I cannot forget are the very things God will not remember.

Image credit: Shutterstock

How To Finish Over 100 Books in 2016
April 14, 2016

My friend Bryan DeWire is like me in that he loves to read. He loves to read and loves to share his love of reading with others. While I’m finishing up my stint at Together for the Gospel, he put together this article for me—an article of tips on how to finish more books. Happy reading!


Finishing 100 books in a year is not as hard as it might sound—if you put a little variety in your technique. Books are accessible to us in so many ways. Obviously, you can read the printed page. But you can sometimes read free PDF’s (think of Desiring God’s books). You can read eBooks on your Kindle, Nook, smart phone, iPad, and computer. You can read books on Bible software programs like Accordance and Logos. You can even get others to read to you on audiobooks!

Taking advantage of all this technology enables me to finish a relatively large amount of books. The key has been figuring out what kind of book matches up best with what kind of medium. Obviously, what works for me might not work well for you, and vice-versa. But these ideas might get your creative juices flowing and help you more strategically get through more ofthe many books you want to read. Here are some of the factors I think through when I decide if I want to go through a book on the printed page, electronically, or audibly.

Print Books

My default preference for finishing a book is to simply read a physical, printed copy. I love the feel and the smell of books. I love book covers that are tastefully done. I love marking page after page with a pen, compiling my own index of themes and highlights, and connecting various parts of the book. If I get free time by myself, it’s likely I will read a printed book.

Now there are certain types of books that will almost guarantee I choose the printed version rather than the e- or audio version. If it’s a book I know Iwant to mark up a lot—if I cannot NOT mark it up—then I will purchase the print version, even if it’s more expensive than the other versions. For example, I am very likely to mark up books by John Piper (like When I Don’t Desire God), C.S. Lewis (like Mere Christianity), and Sinclair Ferguson (like, most recently, The Whole Christ).

eBooks

That said, there are definitely still factors that will make me go the e-version route. For example, so many great eBooks are made available for very cheap or completely free—I’m talking classic after classic for free! I also love being able to easily hold big books—400, 500, 1,000 page books—in my hand. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to read a book like Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden or A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. And perhaps you haven’t done so simply because it’s so bulky to carry around. Then, I would suggest purchasing and reading the e-version.

On a related note, I have found that reading on an e-reader helps big books feel smaller and enables me to not get distracted. Who hasn’t had the daunting experience of reading through books with massive pages (like, say, The Works of Jonathan Edwards)? Sometimes you wonder if you’re evergoing to finish that page! But reading on an e-reader screen can help. (And how amazing is it that backlit electronic paper screens can be read in both pitch black rooms and beneath direct sunlight?) Likewise, if you’re looking to improve your attention span, consider the e-reader. My experience has been very similar to Alan Jacobs’s: 

“In short, once you start reading a book on the Kindle—and this is equally true of the other e-readers I’ve tried—the technology generates an inertia that makes it significantly easier to keep reading than to do anything else. E-readers, unlike many other artifacts of the digital age, promote linearity—they create a forward momentum that you can reverse if you wish, but not without some effort… .

“I found my ability to concentrate, and concentrate for long periods of time, restored almost instantly.” (The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, pp. 81–82)

So, if there is a biography or some fiction or devotional you’ve been putting off—if you’ve been daunted by the idea of trekking through such books—consider reading the e-version.

Audiobooks

There are numerous options for listening to audiobooks. My aunt has given me a half-year subscription to audiobooks.com the past two Christmases, and I have enjoyed it. Similar to what I noted above, you can listen to many classics and other books in the public domain for free on LibriVox. A couple years ago, our family subscribed to Audible and we’ve really made it worth the investment (plus it’s the most user-friendly audio option I’ve found). We get books for our kids (like Charlotte’s Web—read by E. B. White!—and Winnie-the-Pooh). We get great stories for ourselves (like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—read by Elijah Wood!—and the Master and Commander series—read by Patrick Tull!). And I’ve heard fantastic feedback on the newly released Harry Potter audio series. Nothing makes long road trips enjoyable quite like a good audiobook.

But you don’t need a long road trip to enjoy audiobooks. You can listen while driving to work, brushing your teeth, and exercising. I listen to books while feeding our (sometimes screaming) 3-month-old. Last year, I started going for a 20-minute, post-lunch walk every day—and few things make me feel as productive as listening to an audiobook (on 2x or sometimes even 3x speed!) while walking. And while such opportunities are pretty rare for knowledge workers, I do even find “mindless” work each week where I can get things done while listening to an audiobook.

When I’m looking for an audiobook, I mainly try to think of bigger books I’m interested in, but probably won’t get around to reading anytime soon. So, I’ll choose books on politics, business books, or biographies that aren’t on my must-read list. There are certain book categories I’ve come across in The 2016 Reading Challenge that I don’t naturally gravitate toward, and finding the audio version has helped me knock quite a few of them off the list. (If you’re looking for an entertaining and edifying book, I would highly recommend listening to the brand-new book This Is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes.)

A Bonus Tip

You know how certain foods are so good for you that they’re considered power foods? Some examples include salmon, kale, avocados, raw honey, and so on. Think of this last tip as a power tip. It is a habit I just happened upon over 10 years ago, but it has greatly helped me become a better reader. At the time, I had read C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters a few times. But I had just recently gotten ahold of the audio version, so I started listening to it. But then it hit me—and this is the power tip: You can listen to a book while you’re reading it!

That insight might seem obvious to you—perhaps it is obvious. But I know it has worked wonders for me. How so? When I only read a book, the temptation is to go slowly, constantly re-read words, and get bogged down and, therefore, lose the flow of the book. On the other hand, when I only listen to a book, the temptation is to let my mind wander and focus on anything other than the audiobook. But by reading and listening to a book, I am able to both keep making progress (because the audio continues to play) and keep my focus (because my eyes are engaged with the words). This tip has helped me especially with books that are a bit heady (as C.S. Lewis joyfully tends to be). So, however you choose which books for which medium, I encourage you to get creative with how you engage with books—and thus finish more of them!

How and Why to Pray for T4G
April 12, 2016

Maybe we are growing too accustomed to these Reformed mega-conferences. If that’s the case, we should think back to the time—it was only a few years ago—when there appeared to be an inverse relationship between a conference’s attendance and its doctrinal soundness. For many years it was true that the conferences that held to Reformed theology were sparsely attended. But then something happened and today we can choose from any number of great conferences centered around proclaiming the deepest truth.

This week, more than 8,000 people will gather in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2016 Together for the Gospel conference; thousands more will watch the livestream. Though all kinds of people attend, it is primarily an event by and for pastors and is meant to teach, challenge, and equip church leaders. I believe the Lord has used this event in remarkable ways since it began 10 years ago, and I think there is every reason he will do so again this year. To that end I want to encourage you—whether or not you are going and whether or not you know someone who is going—to pray that God would meet this group in powerful ways. Just think what God can do when 8,000 church leaders gather together to hear God speak through his Word!

So please pray, and perhaps pray in some of these ways:

For Speakers and Organizers

  • Pray that God would help the planners finish up last-minute preparations for the thousands who are arriving in Louisville.
  • Pray that God would give the pre-conference, side seminar, and plenary speakers wisdom and boldness as they proclaim their messages.
  • Pray that God would give the speakers the humility they need to direct all praise and glory to God.

For Attenders

  • Pray that God would encourage the hearts of those Christian leaders who feel particularly stuck in their sins or discouraged at their people that this would be a time of true refreshment.
  • Pray that God would use the 160,000 books that will be given away to give these leaders greater wisdom and understanding.
  • Pray that God would let the fellowship of these leaders be sweet, enlightening, and mutually beneficial as they encourage one another in the faith.
  • Pray that God would manifest his presence through the times of worship in song and prayer.
  • Pray that God would bring about his global kingdom purposes through this conference as people go to all the nations to proclaim the gospel.
  • Pray that God would let there be unity through diversity as people gather from across denominations and across the world.
  • Pray that God would allow new friendships to form at the event.
  • Pray that God would use the print, audio, and video resources that come out of this conference to accomplish all these purposes for those who are not able to come to the conference.
  • Pray that God would allow the thousands of men in attendance to leave a favorable impression of Christians on the city of Louisville as they interact with hotel managers, restaurant servers, airport personnel, and so on.
  • Pray that God would bless the people attending with safety. (The growing security concerns are reflected in the reality that to get into the event, people must pass through a metal detector—now a standard procedure when entering the KFC Yum! Center.)
  • Pray that God would bless the families the conference attendees have left behind.

Finally, I plan to be there and would love to meet you. It is always so encouraging and humbling to meet those who take time to read my blog and my books. If you see me, please do say hello. 

I Wish I Was Rich
April 11, 2016

Surely you’ve had the filthy-rich daydream before, right? Maybe you heard about the latest tech billionaire who turned a little app into gold by selling it to Facebook or Google. Or maybe you heard of lotteries with their prizes stretching into the hundreds of millions or the guy who made the little investment in just the right company at just the right time. You heard about it and thought, “I wish I was rich. I know what I’d do with that money.”

If you’ve had the daydream, you have undoubtedly considered what a generous Christian could do with hundreds of millions of dollars. Think of the ventures he could support, the churches he could build, the missionaries he could sponsor. Let your mind run free for a few minutes and you could draw up a plan to spend every dollar and cent for the good of the kingdom. And you would, right?

In all probability you will never be rich. You will never have hundreds of millions of dollars to allocate to one ministry or the other. You will never be the person divvying up your billions before you die. But you don’t need a million or a billion to know what you would do with extravagant wealth. You can simply look at your current patterns and project from there. If you aren’t being extravagantly generous with the bit you have now, what makes you think that having more would suddenly make all the difference? Generosity isn’t about how much you have, but what you do with the bit you do have. It isn’t about what you would do with more, but what you actually do with what you’ve got.

How are you using the wealth God has already given you? Are you attentive? Are you creative? Are you generous? Do you give enough that it makes a difference to you and your family (so you have less than you otherwise would) and to the lives or ministries of others (so they have more than they otherwise would)? If you aren’t being generous today with modest wealth there is no reason to think you would be generous tomorrow with abundant wealth.

It strikes me that in Jesus’ parable of the talents (see Matthew 25) the questions and expectations are the same for all three servants, whether they had been given five talents or two or one. The mark of faithful stewardship was proportional to what had been entrusted to them by their master. The one who had been given five returned ten, the one who had been given two returned four; there was no comparison or competition between them, for each had been equally faithful with their unequal endowment. In all likelihood, God will never call you to be that five-talent servant, the one who has been given the extravagant wealth. But whether he gives you two or one, the expectation is the same—that you will steward it with joy and generosity to carry out the work of God on earth.

You already have enough money—enough to do what God means for you to do, enough to prove your loyalty to him and your disloyalty to money. You already have enough to make a difference in lives and ministries. You already have enough to be as generous or as stingy as you would be with billions. Rather than spending your days dreaming about what you would do if you had more, spend your days working hard to make a living and then give with joyful generosity (see Ephesians 4:28, 1 Thessalonians 4:11). When the day comes that God requires an accounting for all he has entrusted to you, I suspect you will be content that God did not entrust you with even more. I suspect you will agree with his wisdom in giving you just two talents or one.

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