The Story of the Three TVs

I have wanted to tell this story for years but have hesitated because I was afraid that it would reflect badly on me and make me appear superficial and immature. I was afraid that others would think that the gospel could be reduced to just God granting wishes and providing prosperity. I think those versions of the Gospel are dangerous and have done great harm. Still, this story did happen to us and I did learn great lessons from it and maybe you will too.

I wanted a HD TV and I had started to stop in at Best Buy on a weekly basis to look at and price small HD televisions. I started to try to justify the expense and figure out how to fit it into our budget.

At the same time, I was reading Richard Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity. In the book, Foster discusses the hold that material things can have on us and how practicing frugality develops our trust in God. Foster has some very practical ways to approach these material wants that we have. One suggestion is if you think you need to purchase something to wait 24 hours and see if that desire or need is still present. This way, you shake off the impulse buys and bring a more measured response to your purchases. Another suggestion is to actually ask God for the item and wait to see if he will provide it for you.

Even though I wanted to sweep in and buy that TV, I decided to take Foster’s suggestion and ask God for it. If he provides then great, if not, I have my answer on whether we should have the TV or not. I did force God’s hand a bit when I asked for a TV for Christmas that year. This is where the story starts to get crazy.

That year, my side of the family decided to have a White Elephant exchange. Through faulty game management on my part, I failed to obtain the giant item in the corner and ended up with a hat or something while my 19-year-old nephew walked away with a large HD TV. I was so irritated. This is what I had been asking for and my parents put it in a White Elephant exchange? And my nephew gets it? OK God. You don’t have to provide a TV for me but do you have to rub it in my face? But, after I calmed down, I took the hint from God and resigned myself to quit obsessing over it and move on.

Even though I wasn’t pleased with the results, I felt like I had approached my wants with a level of maturity and some faithfulness and learned that God does want to be included on the day-to-day workings of our lives and has something to say about our use of money and our attachment to material things. Though, I wasn’t going to get a new TV, I had learned an important lesson and felt closer to God in the process. I was glad that I hadn’t jumped the gun and, instead, had tried to let God be in charge for once. But then March came and everything changed.

First, my Mom, who does great interior decorating, came to work on our bedroom. The entire room got an overhaul and the sad, small, boxy CRT TV we had sitting on a dresser was not going to work with the new decor. My mom decided to buy us a new small HD TV for our room. Wow, this just happened. I didn’t ask for it but I had finally gotten the TV. We were now enjoying our TV and I learned that God provides in ways we wouldn’t expect.

But then, a few days later while I am at work, my wife calls me and ask, “Did you order a TV?” I told her no and asked why? She said that there was a TV that had just been delivered to our house. We thought it was a mistake and I tried to check to see if this was something that was delivered to the wrong house and whether I needed to return it. My efforts were not fruitful and the customer service guy just said, “Well, it looks like you have yourself a new TV.” Someone had anonymously ordered a TV for us and had it delivered. I just laughed at the comedy of this;  that in the matter of days, we had gotten two TVs as gifts. God was having fun with this one but he wasn’t done.

The following Sunday, I was walking our dog while one of our daughters was riding her bike. I got to a corner house and I see two big screen TVs laying by the curb (in our community you lay out stuff by the curb for garbage collection or for anyone that wants it). I tell my daughter to stay with the TVs while I went and got my car to haul these TVs back to our house. I got both of them home but I didn’t know if they worked or not. I plugged them both in and sure enough one did not work but the nicer one, a Sony Bravia HD 46”, worked great. Though my wife wasn’t pleased with me bringing home other people’s garbage, I convinced her to let me bring it in to our living room. We now had a big screen TV that the whole family could enjoy and I just found it on the side of the road! Every week, I think about how God gifted us with not one, not two, but three TVs in a matter of days.

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The TV found on the curb in our neighborhood

The ways these things showed up were absurd and were hard to believe but yet I knew what was going on. God was teaching me that he not only wants to provide what we desperately need but sometimes he wants to provide what we don’t need simply because he is loving and joyful and likes to show his power in creative and even humorous ways. I learned, when it comes to material things, I don’t have to rush out in haste to make a purchase. Most of the time, that is not the right course of action. I also learned to include God in all of my decisions, big or small, and to give God space to work. Sometimes he might convict us of our materialism and greed but other times, he might just provide three TVs in 7 days.

A Cure For The Common Busy Life (Book Reviews)

Aside

Kevin DeYoung begins his book, Crazy Busy: A “Mercifully) Short Book on a (Really) Big Problem, with the declaration that he is 17152690“not an expert” in living an unhurried life. As you read his book, you get the sense that he hasn’t really captured what he preaches, that he is in the process of figuring out what a life less busy really looks like. In comparison, Alan Fadling begins his book, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Ryhthym of Work and Rest, with the declaration that he is “a recovering speed addict.” By these two descriptions, the reader begins to understand that DeYoung is new to the topic while Fadling has wrestled with it for a while.

I am a sucker for lists and for some reason I decided to read the majority of the books on Christianity Today’s 2014 Book Award’s list. I could bore you with the details of how and when I choose the books from the list but by happenstance (though that could be questioned) I was reading both of these books at around the same time (I try to only read two books at a time). Yes, two books on living a life less busy at the same time. God, what are you telling me? Though there are few recurring vocabulary and ideas (acedia anyone?), the two books aren’t really that similar and that is a good thing.

DeYoung’s book is like discovering that your friend just got into kayaking but was a novice and hadn’t practiced enough to really demonstrate anything to you. He is really excited and eager to become an experienced kayaker but at this point he can only share important truths and practical steps for you, who might be interested in joining him. Fadling’s book is like discovering your uncle is a really good kayaker and has years of experience and knows what is really important. You are excited about the introduction and you share your friends enthusiasm but you are so grateful for your uncle’s experience, wisdom, and instructional care. In other words, DeYoung is on the right track in ending the trouble of busyness and wants to bring others along with him, but Fadling has been there and is doing many things right and his experience makes a world of difference.

16211574The authors do touch on a few things exclusive to their own work. DeYoung has a chapter on time and parenting. He talks about studies that have been done that demonstrate the harm to kids caused by second-hand stress from overworked and overscheduled parents. Yes, one gift we could give our kids is fewer things to do.

Fadling has a chapter on suffering as a means to forced slowness. I had never thought about suffering in this way but looking back on my own life, I realized the truth in such an insight. So much of living an unhurried life is learning to trust God. It is the same with suffering, when I have suffered, I have also had to trust God the most.

So, the tendency for some readers would be to choose one book over the other depending on your preferences, reading capacity, and familiarity with the topic. I would suggest that instead you read both. DeYoung for an introduction, and Fadling for a more fleshed out approach. You will be glad you did.

 

Book Review: Freedom of Simplicity – Richard Foster

fosterRichard Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity was written more than 30 years ago. For a book that discusses money, materialism, and possessions, there is not much that needs to be updated.

What strikes me is that so much of what he touches on in this book – moderation, simplicity, and generosity – has not become mainstream 30 years later. Why haven’t Christians embraced a more simple existence? Why is materialism as rampant in the church as it is outside the church? Foster’s words remain timely.

Foster always manages to keep three elements in play when he writes – the biblical, the historical, and the practical. Every book I have ever read by him keeps this same pattern. It is strange to hear occasional critics of Foster describe him as operating outside of Biblical emphasis ; these people must not have read any of his books. In this one, he spends entire chapters on the Old Testament view of money and simplicity as well as the New Testament.

Additionally, I probably know more church history from reading Foster books than just about anything else . This book is full of examples of the Christian church’s effective approaches to money and possessions.

Finally, Foster shares practical steps to removing what is unneeded in our lives and ways to approach a life that is not wanting but is full of what truly matters – God and his kingdom.

Three Ways To Simplify Your Spiritual Life

Darren Lwyd through the window The urge to try...

You may think that your spiritual life is the one area that you have maintained

Are you in more than one Bible Study or small group? Are you reading more than one Christian book? Do you stress out when the list of podcast from your favorite preacher start to collect in your iPhone or iPod? If you answered yes to one of these questions, you might be overcommited to spiritual activities.a level of simplicity but is this really the case?

Here are three things you can do simplify your spiritual life.

1. Say no the next time the church makes requests for your time– We all know those people in our churches who are just a vacuum sucking up what the church dishes out without making any real contribution to the church. But the majority of us are well-intentioned and want to help in the work of the church. Every service opportunity sounds like a worthy endeavor, every event sounds enriching, and every ministry could use an extra hand.

What did Jesus tell Martha about her sister Mary? He said that Mary had made the better choice to spend time with Jesus but he didn’t say that Martha had made a bad choice by preparing for her guests.

Martha and Mary had two choices in front of them but neither one of them was a bad choice. One choice was just a better good choice. If we choose to be more selective with our work in the church we are not discrediting what we choose not to participate in but we are letting the Holy Spirit guide us to the better choice for us and God’s plan for his kingdom.

2. Take a walk – Sometimes our scripture reading and study, as well as our small group times can become too academic and full of books and mental gymnastics. We need to find time to capture the peace and stillness of a quiet walk where God can speak and we can listen. We need to recapture that connection with God that gets pushed aside by our academic pursuits.

3. Remember RPW (Read, Pray, Worship) – I am always struck by what the apostles and the early church were able to accomplish without the tools that we see as so necessary today.

They didn’t have the full canon of scripture to draw inspiration and teaching from. They didn’t have seminary degrees to guide their theology. What they did have was the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Old Testament.

The church activities of the early church centered around prayer, readings from the Old Testament, and worship of the risen Savior. Do we really need to make our spiritual activities much more complicated than read, pray, worship?

23 Things – Week 7: Simplicity

Week 7: Simplicity

16. Learn about simplicity from this video 

17. Read Matt. 5: 33-37. This is Jesus’ instructions to avoid manipulating and misleading people through the words that we say. The goal is to be the type of person who can simply say “yes” or simply say “no.” Additional information and explanation is usually only used to make sure that others continue to think good of us.

For the next week, attempt to answer requests with a simple “yes” or a simple “no.” Avoid the urge to explain yourself constantly. Make every effort to remove verbal manipulation from your day. Work toward honest and appropriately simple language. Talk about your experiences in the comments below.

This is week seven of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 15 things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.