Blog Archive: Bible

Leadership Team Development, Quixtar, Amway, and Greed

LTD is Quixtar is Amway

In the past few months, I’ve been contacted by several individuals about joining Leadership Team Development. I did a little bit of research and found hints at a connection between LTD and Quixtar. I asked one of the individuals who had contacted me and she told me straight out that LTD is Quixtar. I did a little additional research and found out that LTD is headed up by Larry and Pam Winters, a couple who is “Double Diamond” pin level with Quixtar (see Quixtar Wiki). So, for anyone who is wondering, LTD is Quixtar. And, we all know that Quixtar is Amway.

The Perils of joining LTD, Quixtar, or Amway

These organizations (or should I say “this” organization, singular, since it’s all really the same thing) portray an “overt Christian emphasis” at “the rallies, events, and in the motivational material”1. Having only gone to these seminars when I was very young, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the Amway / Quixtar “Christian gospel” message, but it is clear to me that the members’ greedy pursuit of worldly riches conflicts with Christ’s preaching. My dad, who used to be a part of Amway and was motivated by Larry Winters’ tapes, described Amway’s “motivational meetings as nurtured by and nurturing greed.” Nurturing greed while also proclaiming the Gospel is dangerous and often leads people to the conclusion that Christ came and died on a cross to make us prosperous or wealthy here on this earth. This is a different gospel than the one Christ preached.

Following are some thoughts I’ve gathered about this topic – the dangers of greed, and how the pursuit of wealth stands in opposition to what should be our greatest treasure: Christ.

But first, I’ll reference another guy’s comment I found while doing some research about LTD.

I found it offensive that this couple tried to bill this as a ministry opportunity. I went, and took the wife with me because I really liked the couple, we need some friends, and they seemed genuine. Now, I wonder. I wanted to do some networking in the Christian world. Since I’m in finance for Christians, that is an important part of what I do. I did not expect to be invited to satiate my greed and carnal laziness. Oh yeah, did mention that one could make enough to take one’s child to Costa Rica to study Spanish, and work from there? Or that you could work only a few hours a day and make a quarter million?

It’s sad that people fall for this, but then it meets our most basic and carnal desires. We are sinfully lazy, lust for power and wealth, and are inherently rebellious towards those in authority. To be self-employed, make a lot of money, and do it in very few hours seems great right? It’s too good to be true, and don’t be taken in.

Excerpt from “LTD’s Pyramid Scheme

In my conversation with the second individual who invited me to join LTD, I was told, “Yes, people can be wealthy and a Christian … lol … I never knew either.” I’m not contesting the fact that someone can be both wealthy and a Christian. I just wonder how closely the pursuit of wealth, fame, popularity, knowledge, pleasure, etc, aligns with the pursuit of Christ. How does seeking after riches measure up to seeking Christ’s kingdom first? Revelation 22:20 says, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Can I sincerely pray “Come, Lord Jesus” while musing, “Show me the money!”? Is eager anticipation of Christ’s imminent return congruent with the pursuit of riches?

My point is not to suggest that earning money is a bad thing. It isn’t. I have a job, I’m earning a living. I would be a bad steward of those gifts which Christ has entrusted to me if I did not work. But, my chief goal in life is not to earn a lot of money, to “make it big” or to be successful, as the world defines it. Rather, my desire is to know Christ and make Him known. (You can read more of my thoughts about success in my paper, “Happiness Through Humility“.)

John Piper discusses the surpassing value of the pursuit of Christ in his book, Don’t Waste your Life. Piper comments, “God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives” (emphasis added). I simply cannot comprehend how building up treasure for myself here on earth makes much of Christ in my life.

What you think about, what you talk about betrays the state of your heart. I’m reminded of Luke 6:45 – “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” What is the abundance of your heart speaking?

Earthly riches will pass away. Recall James 1:9-11, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”

My concern is simply that the appeal of wealth and material success can be such a great temptation and we need to guard our hearts against our desire to pursue those things. These things are passing away with this world, but the word of Christ will stand.

On January 8, 2006 Joshua Harris gave a sermon titled Affluenza – the Disease of Greed at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. They no longer have the MP3 available on their web site, though I’m sure they would provide it upon request. Anyway … I wish I could post the entire sermon text here – Harris hits the nail on the head when he preaches on Luke 12:13-21.

Sixteen out of the 38 parables of Jesus deal with money, possessions, their use, and their relationship to us.

Jesus never condemned wealth in and of itself, but he knows how easily our hearts can make money our god. Jesus knows and he wants us to understand that one of the greatest, if not the greatest hindrance to spiritual life and spiritual growth is material wealth and the temptations it brings with us. Friends, if we ignore the dangers of affluenza, we put ourselves in great spiritual peril.

Jesus says to all of us, “you DO have a money problem.” Money has too much of your heart. God wants us to see that when it comes to money problems, our greatest concern should be avoiding the pitfalls of covetousness.

Greed says that the quality of life, their worth is measured in the size of their bank account and the quality and quantity of their possessions. But in verse 15, Jesus warns us not to fall prey to this mindset. He says, “Take care. Be on your guard against all covetousness. Watch out for it because, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In other words, watch out, don’t believe the lie of greed. Don’t buy into it. Because if you do, you’ll pass by what truly matters in life.”

Greed blinds us. It blinds us to what is truly important in life. It blinds us to spiritual realities and Jesus illustrates that by telling us a story of a rich man who has believed the lie of greed. It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t say that having money or being skilled at making money is wrong … The issue is how we view the money we have, how we use the money we have. The rich man’s problem is not that he is rich, but that he is selfish. He hoards what he has. He uses it for his own pleasure and he puts his trust in his wealth.

Where do you put your trust? Is it in your wealth? Is it in the “safety” of America? Would you be satisfied if you never earned more than 40k per year (+ whatever normal inflation is)? Would you be satisfied with less? Or is your life meaningless if you can’t earn a bigger salary, have a bigger house, nicer car, and more possessions?

I like what Paul says in Philippians 4:12 – “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Paul’s happiness is not contingent upon worldly success. His life is not caught up in the pursuit of financial gain. Rather, it is in knowing Christ. Earlier in the book (1:21-24), he says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” Earthly riches are the absolute last thing on Paul’s mind. For that matter, anything that is “of this world” is of no concern to Paul. His only reason for desiring to remain on earth is so that he may encourage the Philippians in their pursuit of Christ.

What is the state of your heart? For what do you live? Do you live to earn a lot of money, to buy a large house, to “keep up with the Joneses?” Or do you live to proclaim Christ’s message of salvation to this lost and desperately needy world? When you face Christ on that final day, will you joyously receive his praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or will the way you live now require you look on Him with head hung low and receive his reprimand, “You wicked and lazy servant”?


Avoiding Responsibility

While discussing the topic of banking last Friday at work, our presenter commented on how people’s attitudes toward bankruptcy have changed over the past few decades. Whereas thirty or forty years ago, declaring bankruptcy was the sort of thing that one would try to keep under the rug, many today boast about the number of times they have declared bankruptcy. For many, it no longer functions as a last resort, but rather as a scapegoat for the responsibility of owning up to the incredible debts they have racked up.

We briefly discussed how this mindset of offsetting the blame for one’s actions is manifested elsewhere in our society. Take, for example, the thief who locked himself in his victim’s garage while they were away for the weekend. Somehow this guy won a lawsuit arguing that the homeowner should have had a way to get out of the garage from the inside.

In his book, The Jesus of Suburbia, Mike Erre provides another example of blame-shifting:

Why is it, I wondered, that the Playboy Foundation is one of the biggest supporters of abortion on demand? Is it because of their deep and abiding concern for the equality and objective value of women, or is something else behind it? I argued that our current system legitimates male irresponsibility by allowing men to merely offer to pay for the “procedure” if their girlfriend gets pregnant; if she chooses to keep the child instead, he is off the hook. p. 162, emphasis added

Initially, I thought this attempt to avoid responsibility was something that came about recently. Although in many senses it is more prevalent now than a few decades ago, this is not a new issue we, as human beings, are facing. Rather, it is a behavior manifested by the very first man and woman to walk on the earth. Look at Adam and Eve’s response to God when he asks them, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."
13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
Genesis 3:12-13

God’s question is initially directed at Adam. Rather than acknowledging his direct disobedience to God’s command (Genesis 2:16), Adam blames God, arguing that the woman God gave him shared the fruit with him and he ate. Eve’s response is similar. She does not confess her sin but rather places the blame on the serpent, who deceived her.

More important than bankruptcy or “male irresponsibility” is our attempt to avoid responsibility for our sin. John writes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

When we deny our sinfulness, the Truth is not in us; we die in our sins and trespasses. However, when we confess that we are sinners, God forgives us and gives us life. This is all made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection, in which he took the punishment for, the responsibility for our sins upon himself. As Paul writes, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Where was God at Virginia Tech?

With yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech, the question of God’s role in such events has been on my mind quite a bit. Yesterday, I had a friend ask me, “I am just having a hard time understand why God would allow such a thing to happen … what good can come from this?” Because of a Bible Study I’d prepared earlier in the morning on John 9, the following verses came to mind quickly: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.'” Though no one is accusing the deceased of being killed because of their sin, this passage does make a very clear statement about God’s sovereignty despite bad circumstances. Not being God myself, I don’t know why he allowed these tragic events to transpire, nor do I know how His glory might be revealed in these circumstances. But, I do know that all hope is not lost. I have seen efforts made by believers to comfort those who have experienced loss. At my school alone, several prayer meetings have been held and will be held for the victims of this crime. Further, events like these generally cause us to consider the brevity of life and that which is truly important, something that comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air for our fast-paced, greed-driven, self-absorbed society.

I was also reminded of the story of Job. After losing everything, Job did not sin or curse God but rather affirmed, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). After the long discourse with his “friends,” I love God’s answer to Job:

Job 38
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 "Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
3 Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 " Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?

God’s monologue goes on for a few chapters … I’d recommend reading the rest of it.

It is so easy for us to think we know better than God, to think that certain things simply shouldn’t happen. While I don’t mean to suggest that the actions of yesterday’s shooter were justified or undermine the seriousness of the loss of life, I feel we do need to keep a proper perspective on matters and allow God to be God. Our thoughts and ways are not God’s. Rather, He reminds us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). The story of Joseph’s is a great example of this. His father favored him over his brothers, which bred jealousy in their hearts, which then led them to sell him into slavery. Joseph suffers further when he is thrown into jail on false accusations. Yet, in the end, when he sees his brothers again, he forgivingly explains to them, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” God used his brothers’ jealousy and their sale of Joseph into slavery to provide for His people.

While discussing this issue with a different friend, he posed the rhetorical question, “Why did God prevent this from happening the day before? … and the day before that?” In all reality, God doesn’t owe us anything, and yet He bestows us with his grace daily. Not only does he give us physical life, but also provides spiritual life, sight for the blind, the bread of life for the hungry, and living water for the thirsty. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and yet “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Finally, if I haven’t copied/pasted enough Scripture, I find the following passage from Romans to be comforting. I know the context isn’t addressing human suffering in general, but I think it helps to paint a more complete picture of our Lord and Savior.

Romans 8:35-39 (NKJV)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

" For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Unashamedly Spreading God’s Word

And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

– Acts 5:27-32; 41-42

I recently heard the perseverance with which the apostles shared the Gospel in this passage compared to a short, scrawny guy who gets pushed down in jest by his tall, well-built friend and then gets right back up and encourages his friend to “bring it on.” While it is true that the apostles ignore the human authority, they by no means have the cocky and childish attitude of one who encourages his harassers to “bring it on.” They don’t encourage the pharisees to persecute them. They simply hold fast in the Truth. It just so happens that it’s not the popular thing to do. If we seek to do what is unpopular, we have the wrong motive; our goal is in the wrong spot. Instead of seeking to bring the wrath of our enemies upon us, we should seek to share Christ, regardless of what people think. We shouldn’t emphasize the conditions under which we must do something as our goal. Rather, we should make the goal the goal and stick to it. Paul runs for the prize. Why? Not for the sake of running, but for the sake of the prize? And what is our prize? It is Christ, our Lord and Savior.

More on the Last Days

Stan challenged me to say a little something about the passage I posted earlier this evening. So, here go a few thoughts, perhaps even somewhat of a summary of our conversation …

This passage was one of many that I heard read in church today. I think the thing that struck me the most about it was how descriptive the first part is of the world today. However, it’s not as if our world as we know it now is necessarily worse than it was at any other point in time since sin entered the world. Consider the days before the Flood. Genesis 6:5 tells us, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” I’m always struck by that last part – only evil continually.

Anyway … aside from the big list of various sins that will characterize the last days, the part where Paul writes that people will be “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” stands out at me. I see that all the time at school. I’m surrounded by bright people who have been blessed with the skills necessary to learn, but all that learning is in vain without knowing Christ, not to mention that there is something seriously wrong when there is a lack of acknowledgement of the source of those gifts. Paul seems to contrast this perpetual learning that lacks knowledge of the truth down in verses 16-17 when he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Where math textbooks will fail, God’s Word prevails.

I’m reminded of Ephesians 2 –

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

This life Christ gave to the believers in the Ephesians church is available to all those who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Stan feared that I posted the passage from 2 Timothy because I was despairing in the world around us. I’m not. Rather, I’m thankful for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for my sins and yours. I’m thankful for what Paul writes later in Ephesians 2 –

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Another reason that the 2 Timothy passage has an air of despair in the bit about suffering. I’ve been exposed to a lot of Scripture lately that addresses the issue of suffering and realizing the stark contrast between the world’s attitude toward suffering and Christ’s attitude toward suffering. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Paul follows in Christ’s footsteps, not despairing in his suffering, but rather seeing God’s purpose for it. At the end of Colossians 1, Paul writes:

24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

(can I bold-italic that entire passage?)

In our flesh, we have a me-me-me attitude, and from that perspective, suffering is terrible; it stinks. But Paul rejoices that he is able to suffer for Christ’s sake and for the sake of the Gospel. Paul follows in Christ’s footsteps and is a minister of His word not only to several churches 2000 years ago, but to us today through what has been captured in God’s Word, which is “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

The Last Days

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3

Jesus walked on Ice???

While on Gmail, I noticed a headline that read Study: Jesus Walked on Ice, Not Water. This is not only a blatant denial of the Scriptures, but goes so far as to attack the essence of who Christ is. Some miracle walking on ice is … I’ve done that only at least a couple dozen times. And how do you explain Peter’s sinking? It wasn’t a result of his walking across a thin patch of ice. Rather, the passage is very clear that it was his lack of faith in Christ to sustain him in this miraculous encounter that led to his sinking.

I would write more, but I should shower and get to bed. I’ve got a busy week ahead of me.

Selections from Philippians 3

My pastor spoke this morning from Philippians 3. Because it’s almost midnight and I’m feeling pretty tired, I’ll just quote some of the verses I thought to be espeically challenging or thought provoking. You can download an MP3 of the sermon from my church‘s web site.

1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Seasoned Speech

I read Colossians 4 this morning and verses 5 and 6 especially stuck out at me.

2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

My first thought regarded the frequency at which I let myself get carried away when I’m upset and let those with whom I’m upset know about it. For example, I have seldom been the most pleasant voice on the telephone to telemarketers or ignorant customer service representatives who have little knowledge about the problem I am trying to resolve. My mom frequently reminds me that we are Christ’s ambassadors to the world, whether they know it or not, and as such, our attitudes toward them should reflect this. Our words should be spoken “with grace, seasoned with salt.” How often I fail at that.

Looking at the context of verses 2-3 might suggest to some people that this grace and salt-seasoned speech is commanded only when sharing the gospel with others (see also Ephesians 4:15). If we are to love our “neighbor(s) as” ourselves (Luke 10:27) and part of love is patience (1 Corinthians 13:4), then it seems that seasoning with grace and salt all our words spoken with members the world is really not so far from what God, through Paul was communicating to us.