Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Livin’ in Beverly Hills, That’s Where I Want to Be – Money: Part 1 of 4

Where I come from isn't all that great
My automobile is a piece of crap
My fashion sense is a little whack
And my friends are just as screwy as me
I didn't go to boarding schools
Preppie girls never looked at me
Why should they?
I ain't nobody, got nothing in my pocket
Beverly Hills, that's where I want to be
Livin' in Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills, rolling like a celebrity
Livin' in Beverly Hills
Look at all those movie stars
They're all so beautiful and clean
When the housemaids scrub the floors
They get the spaces in between
I want to live a life like that
I want to be just like a king
Take my picture by the pool
'Cause I'm the next big thing
Beverly Hills, that's where I want to be
Livin' in Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills, rolling like a celebrity
Livin' in…

Artist – Weezer
Song – Beverly Hills
Album – Make Believe
Year –
For those who could not yet see prosperity in their own lives, patience became the highest virtue. “Patience! The power twin of faith!” exclaimed Kenneth Copeland.
Kate Bowler – Blessed; A History of the American Prosperity Gospel
“Lol” said I.
Me – when reading above Kenneth Copeland quote in Bowler’s Blessed

Money: Part 1 of 4
What does it mean to have a “blessed” life? When the Bible talks of “blessing” what is it talking about? Livin’ in Beverly Hills, rolling like a celebrity? Or something else?
Genesis 1:27-28
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
It is in the book of Genesis that we first encounter the Biblical idea of blessing or of being blessed. Essentially blessing or to be blessed refers to God’s desire for humanity to experience life as a flourishing, whole and right reality. Blessing and blessed also refers to God’s initiative in creating the conditions in which this kind of life is possible.
Though God (Father, Son and Spirit) exits perfectly content as God, Trinitarian love overflows and desires always to invite and include “others” in loving relationship. Out of love God creates humankind in order that they might participate in God’s love, not as God, but as God’s image bearers, unique in all of creation.
We should thus understand flourishing, whole and right as follows...
Flourishing – To be fruitful in life, helping to contribute to and ordered creation. To steward and tend to the planet. To produce food, goods and services that provided for one another and make the world even more beautiful. To invent and order, and to continue God’s good work of creation. To have found good work for one's own hands and joy in one's work. To have ready access to the necessities of life.
Whole – To be in a close and healthy relationship with God, self, others and creation.
Right – To live in right step with God’s order of things, in line with God’s way, truth and life. The way of justice, righteousness, mercy, generosity and peace. 
To be blessed is thus to be flourishing, to be whole, and to live in right step with God.
Alternatively, it is to receive something that is a catalyst towards a flourishing, whole or right life.
With this in mind, we see in Deuteronomy the way in which life is used as shorthand for blessing and blessing as shorthand for life. While at the same time death is shorthand for cursing and cursing is shorthand for death.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
Unfortunately, humankind chose death and cursing pretty early on in the piece rather than life and blessing. Rather than live ‘right’ or in ‘right step’ with God’s order of things, humankind chose to do its own thing and sin and death enters the story, things break down; we’re out of step.
And yet God is faithful even when humanity isn’t and works continually that people would be blessed and know life as God intended life to be.
God offers life and blesses Noah and his decedents. God declares he’ll maintain the conditions needed for life to carry on and blesses humanity once again.
Genesis 8:22 – 9:1
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”
Later on, in order that people might come to know true life, flourishing, whole and right life, God calls Abram and his decedents, promising a special blessing which again, though in different words, speaks of fruitful increase and flourishing.
Genesis 12:1-3
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
And of course, if you are familiar with the biblical narrative, you know that in this passage we’ve hints of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God who will give his life in order that humankind would find true life.
Thus this promise of blessing culminates in Jesus Christ and his life as articulated in the gospel narratives and, in a manner helpful to this discussion, in Romans 4. Remember that blessed is shorthand for a flourishing, whole and right life.
Romans 4:7-8
“Blessed are those
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
You’re on your way to true life, a flourishing, whole and right life – you’re blessed – when you find grace and reconciliation and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
We see this in John 10 as well.
John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Jesus came that you might be blessed, that you might find true life, and that you might come into right relationship with God and from here into right relationship with self, others and the rest of creation and into a flourishing, whole and right life. A blessed life. 
In this age, we’ll only ever experience this in part. We’ll all face highs and lows, have victories and defeats, know health and sickness, provision and lack at times. While in the age to come this will be known in full.  
In saying that though, as we follow Jesus, as we continue a long obedience in the right direction, we do discover increasing measures of wholeness, we do flourish in new and unexpected ways. We discover Godly wisdom that does serve as a catalyst towards blessing though not as an immunity card that protects us from the heartache and pain of life.
Psalm 1 is a fine example of the blessing that God’s wisdom brings.
Psalm 1:1-6
Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
Now, hopefully, in all of the above you will have noticed we’ve NOT once mentioned money.
The Western Christian tendency to define blessing in economic, materialistic and consumer driven terms is so far off the mark that it isn’t funny. Bank balances are not a biblical definition of blessing.
Certainly the concept of a blessed life in the Bible assumes an economic component (job security, a fair income, basic financial wisdom and a reasonably just society). But, BUT, BUT!!! – a flourishing, whole and right life goes far beyond economics and is not contingent on personal wealth.
The prosperity gospel is a sham, and more often than not a scam as well!
A blessed life is a certain quality of life, not quantity of wealth.  
These are the sorts of qualities found in a blessed life...
Right relationship and connection with the creator of the universe, the God of heaven and earth.
Non-anxious living, with storms on the horizon, in storms, beyond storms.
A deep set sense of peace, of hope, of being loved. 
A secure sense of value and dignity and place in life. 
Unencumbered in being the person God called you to be. 
Sleeping soundly, laughing lots, enjoying simple pleasures, sharing meals with friends.
Breaking bread and wine. 
Restored and healthy relationships – within yourself, with others and with the rest of creation.
The ability to be present in life. Present with yourself, but also present and connected with family and friends. 
Plenty of people have lots of money but lack most of the above. At the same time, plenty of people have only a little money but despite that their lives overflow with the aforementioned. Who do you think is more blessed!?!
There is way more to a flourishing, whole and right life than one’s bank balance, than living in Beverly Hills.
More needs to be said in regard to money, of course, and hopefully I can share a few more thoughts soon. That said, we need to zoom out before we can zoom in. We need a more biblical concept of blessing before we start talking about money. Otherwise, we’ll struggle to talk about money in its right place; money has a way of becoming the thing rather than a thing. We have to be mindful of this.
·        In considering money we need to keep in mind that when we read words in the bible like blessed, favoured, prosperous, abundant etc, we should think of a flourishing, whole and right life. There is an economic component to the whole deal for sure, but we shouldn’t misinterpret these words through Western lenses infatuated with economics, materialism, consumerism, status, power and bank balances.
·        I absolutely believe God’s heart for people is that they would experience a blessed life – but this means a flourishing, whole and right life. The term has been corrupted by prosperity preaching to the point that it almost needs to be thrown out. Instead though, we’ll try and redeem the term; blessing and prosperity relates to a flourishing, whole, right life. God is and always has been working towards this, the climactic reality of this being the coming of Jesus and His promised return. 
·        Following Jesus won’t result in you becoming a millionaire. Mostly Jesus’ financial advice, if properly followed, will result in bank withdrawals not deposits. Keep that in mind.
·        In economic terms, most of you reading this, with your current wealth, assets and income are already flourishing financially. From a global perspective the medium gross household income in New Zealand, with purchasing power parity taken into account, is about $47,100. That puts you in the wealthiest 4.5% in the world. You’re better off financially than more than 6.3 billion people on our globe. 
A blessed life is a gift from God and is found in Jesus. It can’t be bought. You can’t buy a blessed life.
All too often we give intellectual assent to this but put our hope is in our finances. Money will look after us, keep us secure, give us peace, help us to enjoy life, protect us from storms. That’s often why we are so quick to measure blessing and economic terms, we see money as power, and the power to attain a certain kind of life. This is a lie that the bible warns us against again and again… but that’s a whole different post… 

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