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Seeking Things Above

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)

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Scripture Thursday - What is Abundant Life?

John 10:10 (ESV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
God has really been working on my heart lately about my own excess and the poor.  Maybe it's good to go through these struggles from time to time.  Otherwise, it might be a sign that my heart is getting too calloused. 

I spent this past week at a Baptist preteen camp.  I was really looking forward to this trip because last year I had great spiritual experience.  I not only had a spiritual high for a few days but the experience altered my course of thinking for the long-term as well.

This year we went to a different camp and this year the camp only served to heighten my current spiritual struggles.  The camp theme this year was "living the dream" and John 10:10 was the key verse.

I loved the "camp" atmosphere.  There were canoes, BMX bike trails, a great pool, rock-climbing, and bungee jumping among other activities.  I loved the time with the kids.  I got to minister to a few of them, including my own son.  We had some great bible study and devotional times as a small group.

The part that I really struggled with was the way the kids took to the snack shack and gift store during free time.  Buckets full of money were being poured into candy, sodas, and trinkets.  As I'm struggling with how I should respond to the fact that a child is dying every 7 seconds due to lack of food, watching the indulgence by our kids at a Christian camp was seriously intensifying my struggles.

The teaching lessons to the kids was on living the dream, as in living your life for Christ and the promise of a fulfilled life and eternity in heaven (hmm, what about the resurrection - that's another topic).  So, the message being taught in the worship services and the small group discussions was good.  However, what was the lesson we were sending on their hours of free time each day with pockets full of money and free reign on the junk food and souvenirs?

This leads me back to my own struggles.  How much is too much?  God has blessed me to live in this great country and he has blessed me with a great job, health, and money.  When is it wrong to spend this money on myself?  Where is the line where I say, rather than feed that one child for a month, I'm going to spend this $30 on a non-essential item for me or my family? 

On the other hand, does this mean I sell everything, move into a small house somewhere, only buy the bare essentials, and give everything else away?  Do I live as if I were in poverty even though God has blessed me with much?

Where do I draw the line?  Is this what it is like getting a camel through the eye of a needle?

Matthew 19:24 (ESV)
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."


Tony Cathey said...

I think the main thing we have to do is "acknowledge" that God has blessed us by creating us to live in a blessed country such as this. There is nothing wrong with all of these things you speak of, because if you are following God, he is ordering your steps just as psalm 37:23 says. If you see indulgences with your children and no thankfulness, then explain it to them. I have to do that with my children.
On the topic of "feeding the children" There is an importance that God throughout the scriptures places an emphasis on as far as helping people go. Namely: the poor, the orphan, the widow, etc. If you feel convicted to give monthly to something like that, i would just make sure that the Gospel is going along with that "piece of bread" if you know what I mean. There are so many "Christians" that are just feeding the bodies, but not feeding the souls.
I enjoy your blogs. They are very uplifting and thoughtful.


carol said...

Camps are meant to be fun. A step out of daily life. A time to refresh. If kids are given an opportunity for real service in their daily lives even something as simple as picking up the church and helping to change garbage after service, camps can function as that step out of real world.

The problem is our kids are not expected to serve in dailiness of their lives and camps instead of being a time of chance become just another time to indulge self.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Tony,
You're being too hard on yourself. The Bible said, "For the love of money is the root of all evils." Money in itself is not evil but the hoarding and "I don't care about others" type of love for money is evil. Being blessed by the Lord should not worry you. You can give as much disposable income that you want to charitable institutions. You can use your extra income as a channel of God's blessings. The Lord blessed us with material things to act as a channel of His divine providence to our less fortunate brethren. How much or how little will depend on your capacity to give and the inspiration from the Holy Spirit. You don't have to sell your properties and live a simple life to be at peace with God and your fellowmen. You can do His divine will no matter what your circumstances are. Not all the followers of Christ were poor people. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicomedes were rich and powerful people too. You just teach your kids the value of spending money wisely and to care for their less fortunate brethren. We can never cure all the ills in the world even if we wanted too. Thanks for the enlightening post. God bless you and your loved ones always.

Tony said...

Tony C - Amen - I've said this before somewhere - Jesus often told those he healed to "sin no more." Teaching people about Jesus gives them hope in their hopelessness. On the other hand, physical needs of the poor and sick cannot be forgotten.

Thanks for you encouraging words.

Tony said...

Carol - I think you've hit on a big part of it. We (parents) often don't provide our kids with opportunities to serve.

Mel - Thanks for your encouraging comments. I'm probably sounding much harder on myself than I really am. I am listening to His Spirit. I just think His Spirit is starting to ask more of me than I am used to - I'm not complaining. I'm actually nervously excited about where this may take us. I just can't get this out of my head - 40% of the world is in extreme poverty. What am I willing to let God do through me to do something about it?

I'm just starting to see things as bigger than a little charity here and there.

Larry and Jennifer Darnell said...

Tony, the fact that you keep focusing on this recurring theme I believe is indicative that God is speaking to you in this area (obviously). That simply means you evaluate what you do with God's blessings. I believe God will lead you to do something about the feelings you are having.

I know at times in my life God has spoken to me through these type of situations and it is up to each one of us to respond in a way that will bring glory and honor to God.

I'll be praying for you to clearly see what God would have you do in regard to this.

Karen Zemek, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

It sounds as though the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about your finances. I have had similar thoughts and my tithe to the church is just the starting point. Since all I have belongs to God, I am just his steward so need to use what he's given me as He would want. I continually pray for his guidance in handling our finances. I find great joy in giving to help others and feel that giving is my spiritual gift.

Here's a cute little poem that says a lot:

Collection plate is coming around,
It should hold a heap.
God does not look at what we give,
He looks at what we keep.

Remember the woman giving just two mites, but it was ALL she had and Jesus saying she gave more than all the others who gave larger amounts.

Sorry this comment is so long but I am passionate about giving. Don't be too hard on the kids though, Tony. After all, look how long it took you to realize this! All we can do is teach the kids the Word of God and trust the Holy Spirit to guide them into truth too.

Tony said...

Larry\Karen - Thanks. Karen - I have no issues with the kids.

Thanks again. Tony

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