If you dedicated yourself to what matters most, how would your life be different?
This question came to me for a number of reasons:
- I began my week reflecting about the definition of true riches with a highly successful businessman who laments an imbalance that has placed the family he loves in jeopardy.
- Second, I conducted a memorial service for an 88 year-old Christian lady whose children could not think of anything distinctive about her life other than, “she was a great mom and wife.”
- This week marks the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s purchase of Graceland in 1957.
You might be wondering what the purchase of Graceland has to do with the first two observations. It’s a matter of perspective and priorities.
Elvis purchased Graceland for $102,500 in March of 1957. Graceland, of course was where Elvis, his parents and his grandmother, Minnie Mae, lived; but unofficially, it was also the home/hotel/clubhouse for the “Memphis Mafia” – where the ever-changing cast of friends, musicians and business partners gathered. Today, Graceland is preserved as Elvis left it when he died in the upstairs master bathroom in 1977. His daughter Lisa Marie inherited Graceland and has done an impressive job of preserving it in his memory. Graceland has in fact, become the second most-visited house in America after The White House.
Carol and I have often passed through Memphis on our way to the Gulf beaches by way of Interstate #55, via Jackson, Mississippi, then east to the Florida coastline. Memphis is where we cross the Mississippi River from Arkansas into Tennessee. A few years ago we decided there were things in Memphis worth experiencing. So, instead of just passing through per usual, we spent a few days enjoying the music and vibe of Beale Street, rode the trolley, watched the duck procession at the Peabody and enjoyed some of America’s quintessential eateries including: The Rendezvous, Gus’s Funky Fried Chicken (seasoned with cayenne pepper), and Gibson’s Donuts. (I recommend the maple bacon variety.) And we toured Graceland.
Elvis denied himself no luxury. He had the money and fame to acquire the best of everything: the best cars, watches, jewelry, appliances, furniture, TVs, draperies and finishes. As I walked through Graceland, I couldn’t help but think what a total “gut job”, it would be if someone bought the mansion today. No person of means would live in “those conditions” today. The floor plan is choppy and confined. Walls would have to be removed. The kitchen was a nightmare of outdated (small) appliances, soffits and dark oak cabinets all crowded into a narrow space with Formica counter-tops. The shag carpet, the paneling, the swag lights and the overall dark décor of the house would send potential buyers running.
The best of the best in 1957 is no longer desired. It struck me how hard we work to accumulate things that don’t last. It gave clarity to Paul’s advice to young Timothy:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Who doesn’t want “life that is truly life?” Maybe everyone? (At least by the measure of our life priorities.) In the end Elvis died surrounded by inanimate objects and superficial relationships that lacked the joy and contentment that make life worth living. His was not “life that is life indeed.” Unable to experience the highs of life, Elvis sought the high of drugs …life that was not life. It was tragic.
So why do we spend so much time and money chasing fame, fortune and fun? Don’t misunderstand; there is nothing wrong or inherently sinful about success or even money. Some of the great people in Scripture were powerful and rich. But the wealth, power and influence of the godly is understood and used differently than the ungodly. The godly understand these things are mere tools to be used to serve God’s purpose which in the end leads to “life that is life indeed.”
Elvis sang some beautiful renditions of gospel music to be sure; but apart from God’s intended purpose, the things God intends as a blessing only end up making us blue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PotB76gi2_4
Well, since my baby left me
Well, I found a new place to dwell
Well, it's down at the end of Lonely Street
At Heartbreak Hotel
Where I'll be--where I get so lonely, baby
Well, I'm so lonely
I get so lonely, I could die
“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10
- What’s the key to “great gain?” What does that mean?
- Explain the difference between proper and improper ambition?
- How would describe the “ambition” of Jesus based on John 12:22,28?
How might most of your friends describe you?
A. Overly attracted to the finer things in life.
B. Totally unaffected by material possessions?
C. A person who puts the Lord’s priorities first most of the time.
Click here to take the survey and take a moment to leave a thought or opinion.
If you were unable to attend services last weekend and would like to listen to the message, visit our homepage at stjstl.net and click on Media at the top right of the web page. Growing Deeper, a Bible study, written to accompany the message series is also available to download.
St. John Church live streams Sunday services at 9:00am and 10:45am. Join us!
“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.—Proverbs 30:7-9
Midweek Lent Services: March 25 at 7pm
A special series called The Ask where we’ll explore several different crucial conversations that people had with God, learning how we can better go to God in whatever circumstances we face.
Torn: Holy Week Experience
We invite you to join us as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the power of Holy Week by following Jesus during His final hours in the Garden through His crucifixion in a creative, powerful and immersive worship experience. All three services on April 2 and 3 are identical. Use this invite card to invite people via social media and email.
Thursday, April 2 at 7pm and Friday, April 3 at 12noon and 7pm—The three presentations are identical and include communion.
We have a HUGE celebration planned for Easter. Information on service times is here.
And, don't forget, we'll have free food, bouncy houses (who doesn't love a bouncy house) and 10,000 Easter eggs up for grabs at our Eggstravaganza right after the 5pm Saturday, April 4, service ends.
Stephen Hower, Pastor
Challenging the status quo to awaken an appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:13,14 (and to lower my golf score)
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