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Reviews

Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory Review

Jeremiah Burroughs. Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s GloryGrand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013. $6.75 (Amazon), 119 pp.

This little book is a reprint of an appendix to The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. Burroughs (1599-1646) was a member of Westminster Assembly and helped draft the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger Catechism.

Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory has been edited by Philipp L. Simpson with the modern reader in mind: the English is smoother, making this great Puritan work accessible to almost any reader. Burrough’s text is one of several books available in the “Puritan Treasures for Today” series published by Reformation Heritage Books. 

The whole book is essentially an exposition of Philippians 4:12, where Paul says he has learned how to be content both in prosperity and in need. Burroughs main argument throughout the book is that prosperity is a far greater trial for the Christian than affliction. After all, he states, no man ever was led to conversion because of his prosperous estate (49). Therefore, Burroughs writes to help Christians learn how to honor God in fullness. This, he says, is a much better lesson to learn than simply “how [to] get full,” that is, how to be prosperous (10).

His argument takes shape in ten short chapters. Many readers may be turned off by the repetitiveness of Burroughs classic Puritan approach (he takes 119 pages to explain one verse!), but if you stick in there and follow Burrough’s biblical logic, you will be challenged, convicted, and motivated to honor God by being content and satisfied in him when prosperity comes. Here are ten quotes that really get to the heart of Burroughs’ main point:

  • “It’s better to know how to honor God with those good things I have than to know how I can get more. It’s better to know how I might behave myself in the enjoyment of those good things God has given me than to know how to get more of those good things” (10). 
  • “If you let out your heart in such a way that you rejoice in created things so as to make them your primary joy, your only joy, then such a joy is not right. But it is not so with the heart of man who knows how to be full [i.e. content]” (23).
  • “For someone with a grace-filled heart, it is not enough to have the peace of God; he must have the God of peace. It is not enough to have honor from God; he must have the God of that honor” (28).
  • “It is…harder to manage fullness [i.e. prosperity] than being poor; more skill is required to manage fullness than is required otherwise…Many have been melted under the heat of prosperity, losing their godly character, though they previously withstood the scorching heat of affliction” (35).
  • “Truly I can find no examples…in Scripture, where the prosperous estate of a man was the occasion leading to his conversion. Therefore, that shows that there is a great deal of danger in a fuller [i.e. more prosperous] condition” (49).
  • “Oh this is a sign of true humility, when you find your income to be more than it had been previously…and [you] sit down before the Lord…saying, ‘Oh, Lord, who am I, that Thou shouldest deal so graciously with me and that Thou shouldest make such a difference between me and others?'” (89).
  • “Do not be overly worried about the possibility of becoming poor, and do not be so impatient and impetuous in your desire for riches. Do not envy those who are above you. Observe the risks there are of misbehavior and spiritual failure when one enjoys abundance. It may well be that God saw you did not know how to abound, and therefore He has in mercy denied to you that which He has in wrath given to others. Remind yourselves of the examples of those who have failed in their fullness, and that will be a tremendous help to you” (109).
  • “Some of you have gloried in the fact that you have spent like kings; instead, let it be your glory that you give like kings” (113).
  • “Praise Him for His blessings, but especially praise Him if He has blessed His blessings to you. Learn to thank Him when these blessings point you to Him” (113).
  • “God’s grace so satisfies and strengthens the heart that the things that are outside of it in the world make very little difference to it. External things cannot alter a heart full of grace” (119).

By the world’s standards, everyone in America is rich. If you are reading this blog on any kind of electronic device, you already have more than billions of others. Prosperity is a blessing from God, but it is also a trial. It is a test of where our true joy lies. Burroughs sees this reality and he wants us to see it to. I heartily commend this little book to you for your joy as you seek to glorify God in the trial of prosperity.

Categories
Theology

Why Should I Be Generous?

Often during the Christmas season (we have been using the term “Advent” on this blog) people feel a genuine desire to give more. From a secular standpoint, the point of Christmas is to be kinder, gentler, peaceful, and, of course, more generous. In the same way, some Christians reduce Christmas to set of principles and morals to heed.

It is important to give. As Randy Alcorn has said, “The only antidote to materialism is giving.” If you want to avoid the plague of accumulation and the desire for stuff, give. Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Christmas, however, is not about giving gifts (as good as that is). It’s about the ultimate Gift hanging on the cross to bring us to God.

But we still give at Christmas, and Christians are called to be generous people everyday. What is the motivation for giving? Is it to be a good example to your kids? Is it so you can be happy rather than a Scrooge? Is it because it is the “Christian thing” to do? Is it so you can get God in your debt?

When Paul wrote to the young, chaotic, pretentious, and selfish urbanites in Corinth, he did appeal to any pragmatic reasons for giving. He did not tell them to give because it will make them happy. He did not tell them to give because when they die they will be left without anything. Ultimately, Paul knew that these motivations were merely moralistic and have no heart-impact. So what did he say? He told them the example of the Macedonians and how he hopes they excel in generosity. Then appealed to the gospel and Jesus’ generosity to us:

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:8-9).

The compelling motivation to give, for Paul, was that Christ, in his great riches, gave to people who did not deserve it. He gave the Corinthians (and us!) salvation and all the benefits that go with it (cf. Eph. 1:3). He gave us blessing in exchange for a devastating death on a cross (cf. 1 Cor. 5:21).

You will never be as generous as you should be. In fact, left to your own, you will probably be a miser if not for the occasional guilt trip from your conscience or loved one or pastor. But when you are changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ–really changed–when you taste and see what he has given to you, what he has accomplished on your behalf, what he has forsaken so that you might partake, you will not be able to keep yourself from worshiping God through generosity.

Categories
Life

StartMarriageRight.com

Most couples spend months–or even more than a year–planning for their wedding day.  Though it’s not proven through sociological research, I believe girls start sampling center pieces when they are 11.  What happens after the big day? A couple will spend the rest of their life together. At least that is the hope.  Does anyone plan for that?  

With divorce rates skyrocketing each year, it’s becoming clear to even secular Americans that something isn’t working with the way people do marriage in our culture. And if you’ve bought divorce insurance before your wedding day, I’m willing to bet you aren’t starting holy matrimony off on a good foot.

That’s where StartMarriageRight.com comes in.  It’s a website of Christian conviction and it’s goal is not for couples to have a glorious wedding event; it’s for them to experience a lifetime of covenant love together as husband and wife. What makes a marriage last? It’s not common interests, patience in hard times, and letting your wife pick your home decor (though that might help). It’s primarily about building your marriage on a secure footing: Jesus.

On their site you’ll find articles about various topics couples deal with, a Q & A page, the blog, and other resources. And on the front page, there’s a link to a “Love Language” quiz. If you don’t know what your love langauge is, I recommend you find out.  

Start your marriage right.  And if you have already been married for one year or 30, chances are if you are like me, you still have a lot to learn. 

Disclosure: The ideas, advice, books, ministries, and any other content found on StartMarriageRight.com might not necessarily reflect my theological convictions and practical opinions.

Categories
Life

Bringing Up Bobby Review

From time to time I receive family-oriented and faith-friendly movies to review on this blog from a Christian marketing company. I have done a terrible job of writing reviews, so I’m attempting to catch up.

Today, I saw Bringing Up Bobby, a comedy about a weird family twelve years after their parents death. The four kids are James, Andrea, Dennis, and Bobby. James and has served as both big brother and surrogate parent for the last dozen years and he’s ready to start a relationship. Andrea is greedy, and a controlling wife to her husband Walter. Dennis (or “The Dennis” as he so fondly calls himself) is a deranged, eccentric (and funny) cocaine addict who wants to keep his distance from “the anarchists.”  Bobby, the youngest, is a Gothic 16 year old searching for an identity.

James and Bobby live together in their deceased parents’ house. Andrea and Dennis both come to town because on Bobby’s 16th birthday their parent’s will finally goes into effect. While all the kids are cleaning up the house, James finds an enormous stash of cash in the attic. James doesn’t tell anyone about the money and he hides it in a garbage bag. Greed has long been dividing the family when a new (highly powered) attic fan blows the money out of  the bag, down the steps in front of everyone, staring a huge family fight.  As it turns out, the parents’ will splits everything evenly, and even the house must be sold.

James and Bobby both have love interests. James falls for Andrea’s attractive lawyer, Terry, and Bobby is willing to change everything — even his wardrobe — for Liz, the new girl in school. Some of those interactions are classically awkward and make me glad I’m no longer looking to date. James also wants Bobby to take God seriously.  They have many conversations about life and spiritually. At one point, Bobby notices some glaring mistakes in James’ life and he says, “You should be the last person to tell me about Jesus.” James replies, “If I didn’t make mistakes, I wouldn’t need a Savior. That’s why I’m the perfect person to tell you about Jesus.”

As James, Bobby, Andrea, and Dennis sit at the table with the lawyer and a judge to figure out what to do with their parents’ will, Bobby reads a note from his friend Eric. Eric’s mom is an alcoholic and almost daily, Eric needs to pick up his drunk mom from the bar and put her to bed. Eric calls child services to be picked up and placed in foster care. He leaves a note with Liz to give to Bobby. When Bobby reads the note, he realizes that money and stuff is not what life’s about. It’s about people and sacrifice and love. He and James quickly run to Eric’s home just as he is about to leave with the social worker. James offers to be considered as Eric’s foster placement.

The movie ends with James searching through the shed at home, which he alone received as part of the will.  Evidently no one had entered the shed in a very long time, because as James and Terry search through the rubble, they find dozens and dozens of fifty and one hundred dollar bills stashed away.

Bringing Up Bobby was explicitly Christian: within the first five minutes, the words “Jesus Christ” had been spoken — and not in a vain way. I don’t have a problem with that at all; more power to the directors. There are two theological issues I have with the film. First, James told Bobby that “life is not about being happy.” My wife pointed out that he was probably saying, “Life is not about being happy in the way the world thinks of happiness.” That may be true, but it wasn’t explained that way. Life is about being happy — the happiest we can be in God. Secondly, the big cash stash in the shed at the end seems to communicate that, in the end, God will repay us for our efforts. Of course, that isn’t true. He owes us nothing. Sometimes, most times, our story doesn’t end happily-ever-after here on earth. We can be sure that once in heaven the story will be happy because our treasure will be with Jesus.

The movie is definitely “low budget”: The video and audio quality is low, over-acting is common, and there are the run-of-the-mill Christian cliches. Finally, it was unmistakable a “Christian” directed film, which is its greatest downfall.  Considering that God calls his people to do work well and with excellence, it is unfortunate that another Christian film falls short on quality and skill. Bringing Up Bobby is a good story in theory, but in execution and production, it is sub-par at best.

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Disclosure: I received on more more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention in here. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Categories
Life Ministry

The Next Chapter

Another chapter in life is approaching, Lord willing.  Carly and I have started to raise financial support to work as a pastoral intern at our church, Brookside Church, here in Omaha.

I’ll be filling you in on more details in the coming days, but in the meantime, please stop by my intern page here on the blog for more info.