"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Return of the Twinkie

BREAKING NEWS: Get your elastic pants and insulin needles ready—the Twinkie is making a comeback. That’s right—after an eight month sabbatical of the “cream-filled life”, the “Golden Cakes” are returning to shelves at a grocery store near you.

You probably remember that in 2012, Hostess declared bankruptcy—sending over 10,000 employees to the unemployment line and depriving even more Americans of “processed” goodness. But, Hostess has been resurrected, and Hostess predicts that Twinkies, and their less glorious, chocolate sidekick, the “Ho Ho”, will return somewhere around July 15th, 2013.

When the public was informed last year that these timeless treats would no longer be sold, internet sales sky-rocketed. In November of 2012, the starting bid on Ebay for one Twinkie was $5,000. That’s almost $1,400 a bite! Another man sold one of the final assembled boxes for $10,000!

Can you imagine spending all of that money to buy a treasure that will now be the norm—to spend thousands for something that will be sold for pennies? That’s certainly not the best return on an investment, but why are we surprised? Even Jesus, a man who never enjoyed a Twinkie, warned us about placing value on such invaluable things. Jesus said, “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 moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Enjoy the return of this cream-filled treasure. Eat until you’re satisfied or miserable—whichever comes first. But remember, the “Golden Cakes” will never compare to the “Golden Streets”, so listen to Jesus. Store up the “treasure” that matters.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Debt Free?

Every year, Americans climb the debt charts like Mount Everest. Most households spend more than they make to carry an image they can’t afford.

But, have you heard about Ken Ilgunas? In 2005, Ken graduated with a BA, as well as $32,000 in Student Loans. After entering the resume round-up in a terrible economy, Ken moved to Alaska—the only place he could find employment. He worked at a Truck-Stop that was 250 miles away from the nearest town. Because there was no cell service, he had no cell phone bill. Room and board were provided. Every dime Ken made paid down his student debt. The next summer, Ken was a backcountry ranger in Alaska. With this job, he paid off his remaining balance.

It wasn’t long before Ken realized he needed more education, so he enrolled at Duke University for Graduate School; but, even though Ken became a student at a prestigious school, his thrifty, Alaskan life-style went with him. He purchased a 1994 Ford Econoline van for $1,500—for flashy wheels? Quite the contrary—this was Ken’s home. Ken removed the back seats to make room for “furnishings”. He used a plastic bin to store food and other supplies. He did all of his cooking on a backpacking stove which he used in Alaska. He joined Duke’s campus gym for $34.00 a semester, which provided a shower. Cold nights weren’t a problem, because he slept in his thermal sleeping bag from his days as a ranger.

Ken graduated from Duke in May of 2011 with his Masters. Both his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees are debt-free. He has already written one book describing his journey, and his second book is almost finished. Financially, I would say Ken is on the right track.

As Christians, we should be drowning in spiritual debt—debt that is so great, even extreme thriftiness won’t move us to the “black”. But Jesus the savior, and God the “banker”, forgives our “note”. God credits righteousness to our account, just like Abraham. Jesus paid a debt he did not owe. And because of those transactions, we’re debt free.

God credits. Jesus clears. You Capitalize. So here’s the question: what have you done to thank them?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Which Mouse Are You?

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.”

You’ve probably heard that “adage” before. It’s a simple, motivational proverb, stemming others to success. In fact, it’s most well known from the 2002 film, based on a true story, “Catch Me if You Can”. The movie starred Leonardo Dicaprio, who played Frank Abignale Jr.—the young counterfeiter who stole millions of dollars from the United States government. After finally being caught, Abignale Jr. served out his sentence working for the FBI, tracking down other counterfeiters. In the film, Frank Abignale Sr., Frank’s father, used the story in a speech at an awards banquet. He also quoted it to his son, Frank Jr., on the eve of every difficulty. Ironically, even though Abignale Sr. claimed to be the second mouse, he was always the first. His life was full of financial fraud, unemployment, and struggling to make ends meet.

For the businessman and lover of the American Dream, it does motivate commitment. It sends the message that if you keep working and never, never, never give up (in the words of Winston Churchill), you still have a chance. You can walk out of your own financial grave.

For the Christian, the adage sends the wrong idea. The reason we don’t give up is because God doesn’t give up on us. Deep in the muck and mire of sin and human frailty, we can “churn the cream” with every ounce of our being, but we won’t make butter. If we believe we can “crawl out” because of our own strength and dedication, we will drown like the first mouse.

Paul describes the “bucket of cream” in this way—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). Which “mouse” are you? Be the one who points its eyes to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Then, and only then, will you survive.