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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Staging our own little "mutiny against excess"

I want to invite you guys along for a little journey I'm going on these next 11 weeks. A group of my friends and me are working through the Bible study "The 7 Experiment" by Jen Hatmaker. This Bible study is completely different from anything I've ever seen before, partly because it covers a topic that has gotten little press, especially until recently.

The author wrote this study as a response to the great success of her book entitled simply "7". In this book, she chronicled her journey as she realized what an entitled, indulgent, excessive lifestyle she had been living and that this was in direct contrast to so many of Christ's teachings. We probably want to read that sentence and think we can't relate to that at all, but bear with me here. As her own "mutiny against excess", she chose 7 areas of excess in her life to focus on for one month each. This study is a much less daunting version of that original experiment, and focuses on each area for just one week instead of an entire month. We will have an introductory week and a conclusion week with 2 missed weeks for other events going only. Therefore, we'll attack 7 areas of excess in 11 weeks. Got it?

Anyways, I want to invite you along for the journey. This is week one, the introductory week, and we'll start our first fast next week. (Fasting is a biblical term for cutting something out of your life in order to gain clarity and press toward a spiritual breakthrough, be that knowledge, change, or a range of other spiritual requests.) Even if you're not a Christian, fasting is an instensely useful tool for gaining self discipline and clarity.

Two things that I really love about this study:

1) There is an intense focus put on examining on our lives and how they are hurting or helping the cause of the destitute and hurting, both locally and worldwide. So many of the decisions we make affect those who need what we have to offer, be that time, prayers, money, resources or compassion.

Everything we have and every dollar we spend is a decision on what we fill our lives with and, conversely, what we don't. There will only ever be a set amount of time, energy, and money in my life and I want to use that intentionally to accomplish what God has put me here to do.

2) I knew the Bible talked about wealth, and Christ touched on it some, but I never realized just how much Jesus talked about wealth in a negative manner:

"Woe to you who are rich, for you have recieved your comfort" - Luke 6:24

As for the seed that fell among the thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life and produce no mature fruit." - Luke 8:14

(The parable of the rich young fool - a man spends his time and effort saving up extra crops for the future, and then dies without using it.) "That's how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." - Luke 12:21

"He (God) has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty." - Luke 1:53

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." - Matther 20:31

So, there's a small sampling of what the Bible says about wealth. Not too good, is it?

But here's where it all starts to fall apart for most people: What is "rich"?

Rich is kind of a relative term, and we can debate "how much is too much" until we pass out, and still never come to a conclusion.

You see, most of us decide what rich means based on looking at all the people who have more than us, or at least our peers who have the same amount. Compared to most of America, I'm not even close to rich.  Compared to most of the world, I'm filthy stinkin' rich and throwing money around like crazy.

I'm sure you've heard these statistics before, but in case you haven't - if you make $35,000 a year, you are in the top 4 percent of the world in income (35 times the amount of most of the world). If you make $50,000 a year, guess what? You're the 1% (70 times that of most of the world's population).

I try to frequently remind myself what poor really means, so that I'm less likely to start thinking I'm the one living in poverty. I still complain plenty and catch myself longing for a newer car, nicer clothes or more fancy dinners, so it helps to keep me grounded.

One of my prayers for all of us is that God will help us learn to find those who need our resources in our own communities. I'm not sure why this is so hard for me, knowing my immediate neighbors in need, but I think it has something to do with my being self-absorbed.

All it takes is 10 minutes on the computer to be reminded what those far away live like. Reading some of the stories at World Vision's web site would be a great place to start.

To close, I want to share some quotes from Jen on fasting:

"Temporarily changing our routine of comfort jars us off high-center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves."

"God did not invite me into this fast to condemn me; it was to liberate me."

If you're interested in getting yourself a copy of the book, you can find it on by clicking the link below. (Click on the photo to order it for your Kindle.)

How about you? Have you ever fasted? Does it seem like a strange concept to you?

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