Weekly Newsletter – April 24, 2023
FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
THE MYTHS OF OUR AGE
We are living in an age unlike any in the history of mankind. The last century alone saw more scientific and technological advancement than all the rest of history combined. Today we take for granted things that were but science fiction just a decade ago. Yet despite all this-perhaps because of it-our society as a whole may be more Baffled, Bewildered, & Befuddled than ever before.
When asked what it would take to satisfy them, most people respond with a list of things. Money, luxury items, cars, vacations, entertainment-these are what come to mind first when contemporary man thinks of being satisfied. How far from true satisfaction we have strayed!
This week we want to look at two myths of our age, that of instant gratification and materialism and then deal the myth of prestige next week.
The myth of instant gratification
One fallacy that has worked its way firmly into the fabric of modern reasoning is the belief that we can be most fulfilled when the gratification of our needs and desires is immediate. I call this the myth of instant gratification. We have become conditioned to expect on-the-spot results from everything. There is instant coffee, instant milk, instant potatoes, instant rice, instant printing, and instant photography. If one doesn’t have a digital camera that takes and prints instant snapshots, he can take his film to a place that will develop it and make color prints in less than an hour! Even banks have 24-hour electronic tellers so that we don’t have to wait until the facility opens. And we can even send packages across the country through a number of overnight delivery services.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. In fact, I gladly use such services and am thankful that they are available when I need them. But overnight delivery and 24-hour ATMs are the mild side of our obsession with getting things we want without having to wait. It also has an ugly side.
We cringe and are grieved at the growing phenomenon of drug abuse throughout all levels of society, as people look for a pill or an injection or some kind of stimulant that will instantly make them feel good. Yet, we often fail to see the connection between this kind of behavior and the elusive promise of instant gratification that beckons to us along every avenue of life.
We shake our heads in dismay when we read of a con man who defrauds needy people out of thousands of dollars in some get-rich-quick scheme. But isn’t the greed of both the con man and his victims really just an extension of the mentality that causes people to put themselves into unmanageable debt because they want something now and do not wish to wait for it? Yes, we all must come to the realization that our pursuit of instant gratification is destroying our society like a cancer.
Luke 15 relates the familiar story of the prodigal son, who, like so many today, wanted instant wealth. Anxious to do his own thing and experience life for himself, he refused to wait for that which would be his in due time. He wanted what was coming to him now.
His father gave him his inheritance, and the young man immediately began squandering it in mad pursuit of instant gratification. He traveled abroad and became caught up in the “action” of his day. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” he thought, “for tomorrow we die.” This humanistic philosophy of the ages quickly became his mindset and the motivating force in his life.
Then the bottom fell out of everything. An economic crisis struck the land, and he suddenly found himself far from home. Dejected and bewildered, he was forced to accept the most menial of tasks just to exist, and his heart longed for what he once had and took for granted-the love and security of his father’s home. As he thought on his foolish selfishness and wrongdoing, he made the most important decision of his life: I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants (Luke 15:18, 19).
Modern man is not different from that young man, except that instead of coming to his senses, acknowledging his misdeeds, and turning from them, he continues blindly onward, baffled, bewildered, and befuddled. He never seems to learn that instant gratification is generally also fleeting and seldom truly satisfying.
The myth of materialism
We have become hypnotized by the myth of materialism-the belief that material things are the source of true satisfaction. However, this is an empty and dehumanizing philosophy in which things become more important than people, beauty more desired than virtue, power more respected than character, and status more prestigious than integrity. Consequently, we find ourselves foolishly pursuing the very things that God has said make being close to Him more difficult and sometimes impossible.
Although most of us do enjoy some added pleasures to our lives above and beyond our basic needs, we must ask ourselves one important question-do they control us? As Detroit News staff writer Chuck Bennett stated: “Let’s be honest-we all love material things. At least most of us do, even if we can only dream about having them. And it seems once we begin to get a taste of them, even with one little item, we want more. Yesterday’s luxury becomes today’s frill and tomorrow’s necessity; no matter what level we’re at, we want something better.”
Mr. Bennett has captured the essence of man’s obsession with the material. The main problem is the obvious-we never seem to have enough. When a person becomes a millionaire, he soon finds himself wanting to become a billionaire. On a lesser level, others have their hearts set on obtaining larger houses, finer automobiles, additional income, more power, and more prestige. Instead of rejoicing and being thankful for what God has given them or allowed them to accomplish, they become consumed with a desire for still more and believe that they need it to be happy. The result is bondage.
Have you heard of the Quaker who wanted to teach a great lesson to his friends and neighbors? He had a large sign printed and put up on the vacant lot next to his house. The sign said: “I will give the deed to this lot to anyone who is absolutely contented.” Applicants were directed to apply next door at his home.
There was a man of great wealth living in the community, and as he drove by and saw the sign, he stopped. He thought to himself, “If there is anyone in our area who is absolutely contented it is I. I have everything that I could possibly want.” So he went to the Quaker’s house and knocked on the door.
The Quaker came to the door, and the man said, “I read the sign you placed on the vacant lot next door. I understand you want to give it to anyone who is contented.”
“Yes,” said the Quaker.
“I think I am absolutely contented, ” the man replied. “I will be glad if you will make out the deed to me.”
“Friend, if thou art contented, what dost thou want with my lot?” the Quaker asked.
The Jewish Talmud says that man is born with his hands clenched, but he dies with his hands wide open.
How tragically empty are riches and possessions! Perhaps you have had the experience of wanting something for a long time. Maybe it was a car or a house or something less-but you desired to have it so much that it was all you could think about. You saved for it, planned for it, hoped for it, and dreamed about it. But when you finally got it, after a time you found it to be disappointingly unfulfilling.
On the other hand, some have fallen prey to the notion that self-deprivation is the quickest and easiest path to spirituality. Such reasoning is equally fallacious and can result in a lifetime of despair and bewilderment .
A few years ago during a meeting we were conducting in Atlanta, a young girl came and asked me to make an announcement concerning a local Christian ministry for runaway young people. She wanted me to tell any such persons who might be present that they would be welcome to seek help from her group. Wanting to find out more about this ministry, I asked, “What do you do with the runaways who come to you seeking help?”
“Well,” she said, “we just come together and stay and have fellowship.”
“How do you get food?” I asked. “How do you support your ministry?”
“We just ask God for it,” she replied.
“You mean you don’t work?”
“No,” she answered, amazed that I would ask such a question. “We just live there.”
Further investigation revealed that the “ministry” she wanted me to promote was a communal group who went out to shopping centers and street corners and stopped people to ask for money. Members of the group were not encouraged to seek employment or to return home, nor were they learning anything of value as far as I could tell. In fact, their lifestyle was characterized more by slothfulness than by anything else. I lovingly explained to my youthful inquirer that the Bible teaches …if any would not work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). God has promised to meet our needs but He has also commanded us to be diligent, hard working, and wise in our stewardship.
Those who center their thoughts on the temporal, as well as those who refuse to acknowledge that material possessions should occupy a place in one’s life, cannot be truly satisfied. And neither group is truly wealthy, no matter how much or how little they have.
Scripture is consistent in its teaching that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). However, this passage is often misquoted and misapplied. Please notice that it does not say that money is the root of all evil. Rather, it is the love of money-the placing of material things above the more important things in life-that brings the piercing of oneself through with many sorrows. God can, and often does, reward our faithfulness to Him and His service with material blessings.
Upon his appointment as King of Israel, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad (1 Kings 3:9). Because he sought the Lord and others before himself, God not only granted Solomon’s request but also added, I have also given thee that which thou has not asked, both riches, and honor (v. 13).
Likewise, Job, who suffered great losses, trials, and pain, remained faithful to God, and …the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning (Job 42:12).
Certainly, Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6), and as we have clearly seen, it is not how much one possesses that makes him great in God’s eyes and satisfied in life. To the contrary, it is whether or not he allows his possessions to possess him! Those who are truly wealthy are those who have discovered the spiritual riches and deep satisfaction that comes through a life of surrender to God.
A CLASSIC MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE
Daniel 6:4 – 9
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live forever,
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
In actions that demonstrated the depth of their anti-Semitism, the Gentile administrators compelled to work with Daniel were determined to find a way to put this man down once and for all. How could they tolerate the presence of a Jew in such a high position-one greater than their own? That was the rub. So they pulled Daniel’s file. I can just see them scouring the official records looking for just one act of impropriety, for some minute administrative error.
Perhaps they’d find that some unaccounted for, under-the-table money had changed hands. Perhaps Daniel had been derelict in his duties earlier on, but no one had caught the mistake. They searched to the point of exhaustion, only to end their quest unsuccessfully. As much as they hated to admit it, Daniel was apparently as good as everyone said he was.
The only thing they could find wrong with him was that he served God. What a marvelous indictment, and would it. not be wonderful if our detractors were to say the same thing about you and me? But it will only be said about us as we remain people of the Book who live on our knees in devoted worship to our heavenly Father. It’s what Luke says as he reminds us of the words of Jesus,
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
That’s our choice: We can either pray or faint. It’s either one or the other, and Daniel never stopped praying. Because of this, his fellow administrators figured they’d finally discovered the smoking gun they were looking for, and that’s when their treachery began. Today we might call it “bootlicking”-cozying up to someone from whom we might want a favor or some special arrangement. This is what Daniel’s “friends” did by going to Darius with their newly-hatched scheme to catch Daniel in the act of praying. It’s important to realize that it was not just a few who plotted against Daniel.
Remember, there were 120 princes and three presidents-the first of whom was Daniel. That means there were 122 government servants under the Medes and the Persians who had turned against Daniel. The vote was 122 to 1. How could any politician survive those odds? And it all started with a vile, dirty little sin called jealousy. You might say, Well, I don’t go out and get drunk; I don’t commit adultery; I don’t steal; I have never murdered a person… but if your heart is filled with envy, that not-so-small sin will remove you from the presence of God eternally unless repentance occurs. Galatians 5:19-21 reads,
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
God’s Word is constantly reminding us to check out our hearts, and find out if we are envious of the position, wealth, or appearance of others. Daniel didn’t compare himself with the Smiths and the Joneses of his day, and neither should we. Daniel had higher goals, and his message to us is that if we are to truly know God, we, too, must have goals and objectives that reflect our love for the Savior. Meanwhile, Daniel’s enemies got their way as they pushed through a decree that promised a den filled with lions for those who worshipped any god other than the king. What a fool-proof idea.
Finally, they would get this Jew who had been elevated to such a lofty position of leadership. Yes, a den of lions. That would surely do it. Not even a praying Daniel could extricate himself from those hungry beasts. Something else: They reminded the king that when a decree is signed, it is an irrevocable law of the Medes and the Persians. The king knew this, but because of the pressure of virtually his entire administrative staff, he complied with their wishes, signing the document on the spot.
Daniel 6:10 – 15
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
Then thy came near and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of and God or man within thirty days, save of thee O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, not the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
These verses are a mini-treatise of what true friendship is all about, even though it may seem to be expressed in a context we might not expect. Here is a powerful king, Darius, who has signed a decree under considerable duress, now only to be made aware that his friend, counselor, and confidant, Daniel, has been “caught in the act” of praying to the God of the Hebrews. I’ve seen some Christians “scratch their eyebrows” as they bowed their heads and intoned a quick prayer in a restaurant, hoping that no one would see them praying before eating their food. Not Daniel. No secretive scratching of Jewish eyebrows for this saint of God.
Daniel knew the decree had been signed, and that his life was on the line. Yet, he continued to pray three times a day, as was the Jewish custom, and not just pray, but pray before an open window! He wanted everyone to know what he was doing and to whom he gave his allegiance as he bowed his head humbly toward Jerusalem, not toward, the headquarters of the Medes and the Persians.
Matthew 10:32-33 reminds us that,
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
It was true in Daniel’s day, and it is true in ours. God doesn’t put much stock in would-be believers who quietly “scratch their eyebrows” for fear of being caught in the act of praying.
Later, Jesus added,
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
While the first six chapters of Daniel are more historical and devotional, do not forget that the essential content of Daniel- seen more graphically in the last six chapters-is about the return of Messiah, the coming again of Christ, a moment in time when Jesus will remind us that if we have been ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us. It cuts both ways.
The crown hangs forever heavy on the head of any ruler, and this night the head of Darius was heavy indeed. He realized he’d been tricked by his own staff just so they could get their man. The problem was that their man was also Darius’s man- but for completely different reasons. Darius loved Daniel. It didn’t matter that Daniel was a Jew in exile, that he was well up in years, or that he continued to worship the God of Father Abraham. Daniel was his friend, and Darius loved him.
But now his friend was about to be thrown into a den of lions-and it was all his fault. Love-real love-seeks to overrule even the strictest, most binding decree. But, in this case, not even Darius’s friendship with Daniel would be enough to save the day or the man. He had signed the proclamation. He had bowed to the pressure of putting himself in a position to be worshipped. Now, he would pay the consequence by losing his dear friend.
That evening, the kingly head tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Darius wished he could undo his terrible decree, but it was a law that could not be altered. An eighty-five-year-old saint and friend was about to be devoured by hungry lions, and that’s all Darius could think about throughout the long, painful night
CHANGED LIVES-one at a time
We do enjoy your e mail communications and the inspiring, refreshing quotes, reminders and assistances provided in most every word you share with us in this method.
I know “pressing on” has been trying for you over the last several years with the departure of Jack, and now as I read about your Mother, and also with the loss of your talented Trumpeter.
Like a bridge across the pillars holding you up were pulled out from under you, one by one, but Jesus builds a strong bridge made of the “real stuff” FAITH and TRUTH and HOPE all found in you and so the bridge still stands in you and the example you give and live, so willingly to all of us.
We wish somehow you would be near to meet you and to hear you deliver Gods plan and the promise to us for our Lord as He gave us hope for things to come in person. Please pray for me as I wage war with Kidney failure brought on by the damned COVID infection which attacked my Kidneys, Heart and Brain but being in my 80″s I am an example the God does indeed create works in flesh that can please Him in this world.
God bless you and keep you, now and forever.
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