May 5, '08 4:40 AM
Greetings, Salutations and Felicitations!
Hmmmmm........ Felicitations. Brother. There's one of those archaic words you just don't hear being used anymore. The word originally began its usage meaning "congratulations" but evolved into a word for rejoicing, best compliments and -- generally -- verbal bouquets.
There you go. That's your English lesson for the day. As if you needed it. Hohohohoho.......
It never fails. Some of the things I say bring instantaneous condemnation from some people (All you ever talk about is money, money, money!), and at the same time glowing praise from others (Wow! That's the most inspiring Coffee Break you've written in a long time!). K-E XXIV brought the gamut of responses from folks ranging from the outrageous to compliments that made me turn red with embarrassment. I might have been better off just saying that the Lord has highly prospered us instead of saying unabashedly that we were millionaires -- but sometimes I really mess up the "politically correct" thing. You know. Open mouth. Insert foot. That sort of thing.
Even though we've made many millions of dollars throughout the years at various business ventures and have seen the Lord bless and prosper us at virtually everything we've put our hands to, we don't have -- and don't keep; and in fact have never had -- millions of dollars in cash on hand. That doesn't prevent folks from stretching out their hand to us periodically thinking we have free handouts for them.
We don't give money away just because folks express a need or desire. In fact, we don't just give money away -- period! The monies we do give -- and we give consistently (that sounds like a contradiction, I know) -- are given because we are specifically directed by the Holy Spirit when and where to give. It is a joy to give, but the joy comes in seeing a tangible result from the giving. More accurately, the joy comes because there are tangible spiritual results.
Money is only a commodity -- a means to an objective. Della and I have long since learned that money is not our source of happiness, joy, pleasure, reward; nor is money our means of living. Money -- when used in and through the direction of the Holy Spirit -- prospers the Kingdom of God by producing the means to win the lost, heal the sick, raise the dead, set folks free from bondage, and provide a teaching environment in which they can grow up into the grace, the love, the power and the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As already noted, Della and I don't live by how much money we have or make. We live by the Word of the Lord. That Word -- functioning in and through us by faith -- produces everything we have need of.
When we finished up with our last Coffee Break, I said that I had a story to share with you and that I would share it in today's Coffee Break.
Before I do, however, I just wanted to say that our primary ministry website -- http://www.RiverWorshipCenter.org -- is up and running, thanks to our Hispanic pastor, Cesar Lopez, who took the initiative to get it up and running. It is not fully functional yet, but over the next couple of weeks, you should see many additions and enhancements.
I've been remiss by not mentioning Cesar earlier and his very effective ministry. Cesar comes originally from Nicaragua, along with his wife and three children. Connected to Dr. Isaias Guerrero and IGLESIA DE CRISTO MIEL, a burgeoning and productive ministry based in Thousand Oaks, California, the Lopez family came to the Yakima Valley originally two years or so ago as part of a missions effort among the Hispanic people who are a major part of the valley population. They returned a year later to begin a pioneering effort among the unchurched and unsaved.
Cesar approached me just over a year ago about moving his growing ministry into the facilities of River Worship Center. It was the beginning of what we see as a long and fruitful partnership in ministry, and although my knowledge of Spanish is pretty limited (I get to use an interpreter when I'm preaching), there is no lack of communication in the realm of the Spirit, and we have a wonderful bond of fellowship together.
OK. That's it for preliminaries today. Gotta have my cuffa coppee......uhh....cuppa coffee before we start. See what happens when I'm slow on the draw in pouring that French Press? And you believe that. Right? Yup. That's what I thought.
Some of this story has probably been shared in previous Coffee Breaks over the past three years, but let's put it together from the start and show the context of Kingdom Economics.
The year was 1991. Della was the Assistant Regional Manager for Zales Jewelers in Anchorage, and managed their largest jewelry store. She'd just come off a year of record sales successes and was rapidly climbing the ladder of corporate success. I think we figured out that in spite of the fact that I was Chief Engineer for the FOX television station and the highest-paid television Chief Engineer in the state of Alaska, Della was earning more money than I was.
I was also running (very literally, too) a distribution business for the Anchorage Daily News newspaper, and earning more money than I did as Chief Engineer for KTBY-TV. Between my job, my early-morning business, and Della's successes in the jewelry business, we were doing very well financially, thank you very much, and earning more money than we'd ever made in our lives -- international banking years excluded.
What is absolutely nuts is that we were also slowly going in the hole. We were living a Chateau Mouton Rothschild lifestyle on a Chateau St. Michelle budget. (You wine connoisseurs will understand this contrast.) If you go to the www.wine.com website, you'll get the picture very quickly. We didn't consider that we were living lavishly, but when you have six kids of high school or college-age, things get very spendy quickly.
The day came in the Spring of 1991 when the Lord spoke very clearly to us and said, "Simplify." A couple weeks later, a second Word came from the Lord: "Consolidate."
Huhh? Simplify? Consolidate? We really weren't sure what that meant, although we probably -- in all honesty -- were afraid to consider the consequences and impact. It wasn't long before a third Word came from the Lord. "Get out of debt."
That took no rocket science to understand, but we just couldn't figure out how to get out debt. Looking back, the $17,000 or so of debt that we owed in 1991 seemed like a mountain in spite of a generous six-figure income. But that, folks, is what happens to you when you get your eyes on money instead of the source of all that you are and have: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Somehow, our abundant lifestyle had become the focus of our attention. The need for more and more money was ever before us. God wasn't commanding poverty, and He wasn't out to deprive us of an abundant lifestyle. What He WAS out to do was demonstrate to us that we could live that same abundant lifestyle without any visible means in the natural realm.
New doors of ministry began to open up to us. It wasn't that we weren't in ministry. We were. But that ministry had a very narrow focus. Suddenly, I was being asked to minister in Canada. Invitations came to minister in the northwest. Responding to those invitations was the most natural thing to do.
It was no surprise, therefore, that another Word from the Lord followed hard on the heels of the previous three: "Be ready to go wherever I send you, whenever I say."
But that meant conflict with my 24-hour, on-call position as Chief Engineer, and I didn't really have good, reliable people who could take care of the newspaper distribution in my absence. Resigning at KTBY-TV really didn't present any big deal to me; and it was clear that the increasing calls to travel in ministry would make it impossible for me to continue on 24-hour call at the TV station.
Despite pleas to reconsider, I tendered my resignation at the station, but gave them 60 days to find a replacement. (The 60 days eventually turned into a year of contract work as contract Chief Engineer and travel back and forth from the Spokane area.) Della submitted her resignation at Zales (they turned her resignation into a leave-of-absence with the expectation that she would return to the company).
Leaving the newspaper business was far more difficult than I'd imagined, and to my surprise, leaving the Anchorage Daily News was more of an emotional struggle than leaving the TV station. I'd been in radio and television most of my life and had far more friends and attachments in broadcasting than in the newspaper business.
The struggle that was going on for both Della and me (and believe me, she struggled as much as I did!) was the need to sow our lives, our finances, and -- this'll surprise you -- our debts. I describe it as a struggle, and perhaps that's a bit of a misnomer, but we were walking away from a sizeable income with no promise -- in the natural -- of any income whatever.
We were literally being faced with absolute, total trust in the promise that "My God shall supply all your need (the Greek word is chreia: employment, demand, requirement, necessity, lack) according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
Brother! This is when trust in the Lord becomes more than a religious doctrine or concept. My God shall supply all your employment according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus. Or, how about, My God shall supply all your demand according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus. Or even, My God shall supply all your requirement according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus.
You see it, don't you?
The Word better be a whole lot more than a theory or a religious doctrine. It better be life! This is sowing, and it is the sowing of your absolute trust and faith in the promises of God. My Dad used to quip that "What God orders He pays for."
If God instructs you to do something, and you know of a surety that the Word you've heard was and is God speaking, then the consequences are ....... uhhh....... inconsequential. That is to say that it doesn't matter if it appears to your natural eyes and/or reasoning that you are stepping off a precipice, God's Word says you can't fall, and you can't fail.
Therefore, you obey. That's exactly how we had to treat what we were hearing from the Lord. We had to sow our abilities to make a lot of money back into the Lord and simply respond to His Word. We had to sow our debts.
I know that sounds funny, but let me put it like this.
When you've spent your life feeling like you are restricted from any freedom to respond to the Holy Spirit because you have indebtedness; and you have an obligation to pay those debts before you obey the voice of God (at least that's what I was told more times than I could count), I had to literally give those debts to the Lord and say -- like Jesse Duplantis often says -- "Uhh, Lord! You've got mail!"
In his first general letter to the body of Christ, the apostle Peter writes, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you." (I Peter 5:7) That is the way you literally have to live -- care free! And, brother, is it ever liberating! It means that you can walk off what appears to be a precipice because the Lord instructs you to; and you have the absolute faith and confidence that ground will come up to meet you without you falling off the edge to your death.
From the time that the Lord spoke those simple commands to us, and we obeyed -- Hmmmmm.....well, almost completely (and I'll talk more about that later) -- nearly nine months elapsed before we finally departed Anchorage for Post Falls, Idaho and Trails' End, the 160-acre ranch we were put in charge of. It was more of an agricultural preserve than a ranch in the normal sense of the word, and Della and I soon found ourselves gardening and raising our own vegetables and fruit. That was our daytime activity -- when we were actually at Trails' End. Virtually every evening was occupied with spontaneous worship gatherings as folks began to get together with us to minister to the Lord.
Sometimes it was just Della and me, and Robert and Sandy (they are a part of River Worship Center's worship today), and sometimes it was the four of us with Bob and Charlotte Bartow (Charlotte was Robert's sister). Other times, we had folks who would fly or drive in from all parts of the northwest, and even other places in the country. There were the occasions when we would have "A Gathering." I put it in quotations because these were the times when 20, 30, 40 or even 50 people would come in the cars or motorhomes or campers and spend four, five, six or seven days at a time with us meeting and fellowshipping and worshiping almost around the clock.
The point I'm making with all of this is that we had only one agenda: the Lord Jesus Christ, being with Him, being in His presence and just worshiping Him. The question that has often been posed throughout the years since by many folks is, How did you live? How did you make ends meet? Especially if you were still facing lots of debt?
During the first year we spent at Trails' End, as previously noted, the FOX TV station in Anchorage wanted me to continue to provide them with contract services as Chief Engineer until they were confident in the engineer(s) who took my place (they wound up replacing me with three separate engineers). That contract paid me more money -- considerably more money, in fact -- than I had made as a salaried employee, and I spent perhaps seven-to-ten days out of each month commuting and staying in Anchorage taking care of their problems. Without the high costs of living, we quickly erased our debt.
Meanwhile, a sister in the Lord had begun giving us a monthly tithe check of $200. For a long time, that was the only income we could actually depend on. That's not to say that the Lord didn't add to it, or that He didn't provide us with other income opportunities. He did. But nothing was promised, and nothing was guaranteed beyond the $200 monthly.
That made life exciting. Della and I have laughed frequently about the fact that we lived better, drove better, and ate better on that $200 per month than we had on the generous six-figure income we'd been making before we left Alaska. The difference was that our jobs were no longer our source. Our talents -- and the Lord has given us many -- were no longer our source. Our abilities were no guarantee and we neither could, nor did trust in those abilities.
The result was that we never lacked for anything. We never asked for anything, either. OK, let me clarify that. We never asked people for anything. We never told folks that we had a financial need, and we never asked for money. We didn't even set out an offering basket or a box marked "Tithes." In the atmosphere of God's presence, in the dimension of worship that unfolded there at Trails' End, people opened up their pocket books. They quietly handed us cash or left checks on the kitchen counter, or sent finances in the mail.
Let's be clear about something, here. We never saw six-figures in income, but we sure lived like it! At least we lived better, drove better vehicles (I even had a classic 1963 Mercury Comet Caliente hardtop that I restored. It took 8th place in a classic car show in Spokane.) ate better and healthier food, and lived a much healthier lifestyle.
"My God shall supply all your employment, demand, requirement, necessity, lack, according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus." That's precisely what Paul meant when he wrote that to the Philippians, and that's precisely what we experienced. One of the things we learned throughout the five or so years we spent at Trails' End was that when people begin to enjoy the real and living presence of the Lord, and the Spirit of God is moving in your midst, pocket books, check books and wallets suddenly become God's property.
In II Corinthians 3:17, Paul writes, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Yessir! Better believe it! Where the Spirit of the Lord is, fear vanishes. Worry about one's finances and one's financial future is whisked away. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, stinginess disappears. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, generosity is a visible hallmark and manifestation.
And where that generosity exists, needs vanish. Needs for those in ministry are taken care of, and those who give often find the Lord multiplying their finances and resources above and beyond their wildest fancies.
The whole experience at Trails' End and the bonds in the realm of the Spirit that formed between us and many other people provided visible proof that when people begin to seek first God's Kingdom and roll their own needs, their worries, their finances, their debts and concerns off on the Lord, every conceivable thing one has need of is supplied.
You're going to laugh at this, but the issue is money, money, money. Taking your eyes off money, off needs, off debts, and focusing on God's purposes, His heart's desires and seeing the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled in you. When money becomes the least of your concerns and the Kingdom of God becomes the greatest of your concerns, you suddenly find yourself willing to part with money at the prompting of the Holy Spirit no matter what your own finances look like.
And that, my friends, in when and where prosperity begins. I was with my Dad many years ago traveling in Missouri. We passed by a store where the proprietor had posted a thousand dollar bill in the window. Underneath that thousand dollar bill was a sign that read something like this: IF YOU CAN PROVE THAT YOU CAN OUTGIVE GOD, I'LL GIVE YOU THIS THOUSAND DOLLARS.
We stopped -- naturally -- and talked to the store owner. The bill was faded from exposure to the sun. The store proprietor told us he'd had many would-be takers. The condition he had put on the deal was that people had to keep a written and demonstrable track record of how much they gave to the Lord. Their giving had to be sacrificial. It had to be to a church, a ministry, an evangelistic effort, or some provable avenue where the giving was specifically directed for God's purposes. If after 30 days, they could prove they were worse off by giving to the Lord than they were when they first started, he'd give them the thousand dollars.
In every single instance -- and he'd kept records of the would-be takers -- those people who gave to the Lord, and gave really to the point of their hurt, received more from the Lord than they could possibly imagine. They wound up so well-off they came back to thank the store owner for challenging them and bringing them to the realization they couldn't outgive God.
That's the way it is with seed-sowing. That's the way it is with giving. If we give out of a heart and purpose of generosity and love towards the Lord, we'll never be broke another day in our lives.
I'll be traveling for the next ten days, and I'm not sure I'll be able to get a Coffee Break out during that time, and if that's the case, I'll see you again in a couple of weeks.
More to come. This story isn't finished.
Poverty is a form of Hell caused by man's blindness to God's unlimited good (and blessing) for him. God's plan for man is the prosperity that comes by living in divine favor. Living in divine favor is the product of direct and committed -- covenanted -- obedience to Him and His Word!
The Blessing of the Lord: it makes rich and He adds no painful toil and sorrow! (Proverbs 10:22) Be blessed!
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