What’s The Take-Home


Writers of non-fiction generally are advised to answer the question, What’s the take-home value of your article or book? Behind this question is the belief that readers come to non-fiction to gain something—knowledge, insight, inspiration, instruction.

The fact is, the question fits Western culture. Generally speaking, we are a people asking, What’s in it for me? What can I get out of it?

Interestingly, John F. Kennedy moved a generation when he turned the question on its head: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That may have been the last time any leader has challenged those of us in western society to altruistic behavior.

Most appeals come with a list of benefits: do this because you will gain x, y, and z.

No wonder, then, that this mindset has spilled into the Church. Come to Jesus, the appeal goes, and receive health and wealth. Or come to Jesus and your marital problems will be answered or your addictions will vanish or your fears will dissolve.

The truth is, God is a benefit-giving God. Throughout the Bible, He laid down choices—do this and you’ll be blessed, but do that and you’ll suffer the consequences of your sin.

The problem is, too many of us are missing the grand prize for coming to Jesus: Jesus. We’re like the man in the parable who found a treasure, then went and sold all he had so he could buy the field where it was hidden.

Except, once we have the field, instead of claiming the treasure, we’re busy collecting rocks. The rocks might be good and helpful, but they aren’t the treasure. They aren’t the reason we took up our cross.

Obeying Jesus and following Him does so often bring peace and joy; His ways are right and good. But those aren’t the Christian’s “take-home.” Jesus is. Peter, in a line that reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, said

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. (1 Peter 3:13-14a – emphasis mine)

Hundreds of years earlier, Daniel’s three friends were faced with death if they didn’t worship an idol. They responded by saying

“If it be so [that we are sentenced to die], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:17-18; emphasis mine)

He will, He is able, but even if He doesn’t, He’s still God. And in they went, only to find Jesus, the pre-incarnate Christ, there in the furnace with them. Their reward wasn’t status or protection or even deliverance from the furnace, though they eventually had those things too. But while they did not have them, they still had their relationship with God.

He is the treasure. Worshiping Him, enjoying fellowship with Him, walking with Him day by day—those are the delights that are ours no matter what our circumstances.

Paul said the same thing (in more words) in Colossians:

attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself (2:2b).

Christ Himself—the treasure, the reward, the take-home value of the Christian life.

This article is an edited version of one that first appeared here in September, 2012.

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Published in: on August 27, 2018 at 5:26 pm  Comments Off on What’s The Take-Home  
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Collectibles


BabeRuthGoudeycard2I suppose it’s a sign of affluence when a society becomes enamored with collecting things. Not so long ago collecting baseball cards–except they weren’t limited to baseball–became all the rage once again. People who found a stash of old cards in their grandpa’s attic hit pay dirt. But everyone was collecting and trading–NBA cards, NFL, you name it.

My first brush with collectibles came when I was in fifth grade. My brother had a stamp collection, and I wanted one too–except, at the time, all the first class stamps were exactly the same. I had nothing particular to collect. If only I had had a starter set of stamps, I realized some years later, I would have had a little hope and maybe given it a try. I determined then I’d start saving stamps with the idea that someday I could pass them on to someone in need of a starter set of stamps. I still have them, though now stamp collection has morphed into saving unused stamps (though I heard a rumor that the used ones were again coming into collection favor).

I’ve saved some coins too–not many and nothing that shows up as valuable every time I check one of those coin books. But I heard recently that Canada is planning to stop producing one cent coins, maybe nickles too. I wonder if the US will soon follow suit. So perhaps keeping pennies might be a good collectible move.

When my sister and I returned from our year in Africa, stopping in a number of European countries on the way, we decided to do some souvenir collecting. My sister picked silver spoons. I chose key chains. I still have my collection which I’ve added to, but I’ve never figured out how to display them. And would anyone else really care about my key chains?

With the Great Recession, any number of people looked to make money by selling off their collectibles. People who had money were only to eager to buy. Gold, coins, antiques … all looked like a better investment than stocks and bonds, and nobody was saving money–not a big enough return.

I suppose there are two basic reasons people collect. One is the desire to own. Collectibles can be displayed so that others can see them, or they can be privately enjoyed the way old Scrooge McDuck used to enjoy his hoarded millions from time to time by diving into his large vats of cash or playing with it in some other way.

Collectibles also serve as an investment–Grandma’s china or silver or antique lamp might bring in a pretty penny at the next Antique Roadshow.

The thing about collecting is that a person never knows what will or won’t end up being valuable at some point down the road. What looks like junk sold at a yard sale for a small pittance often ends up being a rare item collectors are willing to pay thousands for.

In the US, I think we must be collecting more and more, despite the slow economy, because rent-a-space storage places continue to spring up all over. We can no longer fit all our junk into our garages or sheds, so we rent some place off site to store the overflow.

Collecting is a way to connect to the past. Old letters, photos, even books and music (sheet or vinyl) can become collectibles. They help preserve fond memories and remind us of people we loved.

But at some point, a person and his collectibles will be parted, and all that matters will be those treasures stored up in heaven.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:20-21)

So how do we go about finding heavenly collectibles? Apparently by giving away the earthly ones. Jesus told the rich young ruler who asked him what he lacked to sell his stuff so he’d have treasures in heaven.

Paul mentioned this too in his first letter to Timothy, but he was more expansive:

Instruct them [“those who are rich in this present world”] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

So I wonder what it would look like to become a collector of good works instead of key chains or stamps or baseball cards.

Published in: on February 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Treasure


treasureWho wouldn’t love to find a hidden treasure? I grew up reading stories about treasure–buried by pirates or discovered by teenage sleuths. Often a map showed the way.

The Bible has lots to say about treasure and is, in essence, the map showing the way to the treasure of which it speaks. Of course, too many of us misunderstand what “treasure” means in the Biblical context. My pastor gave a helpful definition on Sunday: treasure is whatever we value, prioritize, or order our lives around.

So the man in the parable who found a great pearl, then went and sold all he had to buy the field in which he found it, valued that pearl above all else. The Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to find the lost lamb, valued the lost above all else. [As an aside, how great a picture is that of God pursuing us lost sinners?]

Jesus gave some clear instruction about our treasure:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)

Quite apparently, Jesus was contrasting treasure that is perishable with that which is imperishable. Our treasure trove, He says, should not be stuffed with valuables that don’t last but with those that do.

Interestingly, just before Jesus gave this treasure admonition, He taught about “religious activity”–giving to the poor, praying, fasting. In each instance, He says, don’t do what you do to be noticed by others. Then He launches in on a discourse about treasure.

I conclude that the accolades of men should be racked up with perishable treasure. But so should the money kind of treasure. A few verses later, Jesus states clearly, “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24b).

My guess is, the preoccupation with acquiring treasure–earthly or heavenly–derails us from doing what Jesus commanded toward the end of His sermon. Our preoccupation isn’t to be about us. It’s to be about God and the things of God.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:33)

Too often we read that verse and immediately ask, What things is Jesus promising us? Well, He isn’t promising us anything. He’s speaking to those who seek first His kingdom and righteousness. By asking, what is Jesus promising, it seems to me we automatically rule ourselves out of the promise.

If we’re seeking after His kingdom and righteousness, we’ll come to that verse and say, How am I to seek after His kingdom and righteousness? What does that look like in my life? Where do I sign up? When can I get started?

The treasure, I suggest, is buried in the answers to those questions.

Published in: on January 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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What’s The Take-Home


Writers of non-fiction generally are advised to answer the question, What’s the take-home value of your article or book? Behind this question is the belief that readers come to non-fiction to gain something–knowledge, insight, inspiration, instruction.

The fact is, the question fits Western culture. Generally speaking, we are a people asking, What’s in it for me? What can I get out of it?

Interestingly, John F. Kennedy moved a generation when he turned the question on its head: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That may have been the last time any leader has challenged those of us in western society to altruistic behavior.

Most appeals come with a list of benefits: do this because you will gain x, y, and z.

No wonder, then, that this mindset has spilled into the church. Come to Jesus, the appeal goes, and receive health and wealth. Or come to Jesus and your marital problems will be answered or your addictions will vanish or your fears will dissolve.

The truth is, God is a benefit-giving God. Throughout the Bible, He laid down choices–do this and you’ll be blessed, but do that and you’ll suffer the consequences of your sin.

The problem is, too many of us are missing the grand prize for coming to Jesus: Jesus. We’re like the man in the parable who found a treasure, then went and sold all he had so he could buy the field where it was hidden.

Except, once we have the field, instead of claiming the treasure, we’re busy collecting rocks. The rocks might be good and helpful, but they aren’t the treasure. They aren’t the reason we took up our cross.

Obeying Jesus and following Him does so often bring peace and joy; His ways are right and good. But those aren’t the Christian’s “take-home.” Jesus is. Peter, in a line that reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, said

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. (1 Peter 3:13-14a – emphasis mine)

Hundreds of years earlier, Daniel’s three friends were faced with death if they didn’t worship an idol. They responded by saying

“If it be so [that we are sentenced to die], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:17-18 – emphasis mine)

He will, He is able, but even if He doesn’t, He’s still God. And in they went, only to find Jesus, the pre-incarnate Christ, there in the furnace with them. Their reward wasn’t status or protection or even deliverance from the furnace, though they eventually had those things too. But while they did not have them, they still had their relationship with God.

He is the treasure. Worshiping Him, enjoying fellowship with Him, walking with Him day by day–those are the delights that are ours no matter what our circumstances.

Paul said the same thing (in more words) in Colossians:

attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself (2:2b).

Christ Himself–the treasure, the reward, the take-home value of the Christian life.

Published in: on September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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