Monday, November 28, 2011

The Church Is Changing - A Reformation of the Church Based on the Truth of Scripture

For many centuries established Christian churches have attempted to assume the status and function of ancient Israel's Temple worship. From massive buildings erected to inspire, to stained glass windows or elaborate decor intended to tell stories, from the priesthood of authoritative pastors/leaders who separate themselves from 'laity,' to injunctions to tithe into the storehouse of the church or risk being devoured by the devil, the modern church looks more like Old Testament Israel than early followers of Christ. The crystallization of the institutional church into Jewish modes of worship is not limited to Roman Catholicism or even unorthodox Mormonism. Baptist churches, though shouting loudly 'no creed but the Bible,' have ignored the New Testament teaching on the nature of the true church and have replicated Israel's hierarchy of priestly authority (pastors), Israel's emphasis on worship at a specific place (the sanctuary), and Israel's obligation to an 'if-then' covenant with God ('if we will obey God, then God will bless us'). The freedom of a sinner who personally, intimately and spiritually trusts Christ and experiences the power of God at work within is substituted for a form of behavioral control imposed by a spiritual authoritarian (usually a pastor) who uses Old Testament passages of Scripture to bind believers. The pastor who operates in this manner may not realize that God abolished the Old Covenant system of worship and that the early Christians were known for their radical departure from dependence on a worship place, authoritarian priests, and any religious performance through ceremony, holy days or sacrifical 'offerings.'  As Adolph Safir reminds us in his brilliant work on Hebrews: “The Greeks and the Romans were not merely astonished at, but felt irritated by the worship of the early Christians, who without image and altar, without priests and vestments, appeared to them as atheists, men and women ‘without gods’ and at times felt threated by the mysterious power Christians possessed as they rejoiced in suffering and met with calm courage the tortures of death itself” Adolph Saphir.

The simplicity of New Covenant worship 'in spirit and in truth' has been overwhelmed by the desires and the demands of leaders within the institutional church. We pastors, often in an attempt to protect our jobs and salaries (or future job and salary), spiritualize everything about the church. Mega-church pastors are often the worst because the financial needs are the greatest. Tom Rainer's recent poll of Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma reveals Emmanuel Enid, the church I pastor, is the third largest Southern Baptist church in the Oklahoma in terms of attendance. The greatest danger I face at Emmanuel is the temptation to forget that what is done at the building on Sundays and Wednesdays is just a part--a small part--of who we are as a people. Whether it is giving, serving, or attending other places of worship, our people should have the liberty and freedom to give, serve, and attend where the Spirit leads. On Sunday at 12:00 noon. the church leaves the building, and whatever I do Sunday morning or Wednesday night should be designed to empower and encourage believers to worship in spirit and truth every day of the week. My job, in the role our church consitution calls "the lead pastor," is to lead people in such a manner that they cheerfully give to the Lord through Emmanuel, joyfully serve the Lord through Emmanuel, and willingly worship the Lord by attending corporate worship services at Emmanuel. However, a good lead pastor will always remind God's people that His church extends far beyond the membership rolls of any one church, and worship, giving and serving in other places is just as biblically sound and Spirit-led as that which is done through Emmanuel.

If the Spirit leads our people to give less, attend less, and serve less at Emmanuel, then our budget, our ministries, and our organizational mission efforts will shrink. If the Spirit leads our people to give more, attend more, and serve more, then our organizational ministries will expand. Regardless, the New Testament is quite clear that our church is NOT a new Temple, our pastors are NOT a new priesthood, and our religious activities are NOT prescribed by any law. God's people should give, should serve and should worship as the Spirit leads, where the Spirit leads, and as long as the Spirit leads. It is not the Law that constrains us but the Spirit who compels us. Unfortunately, many modern Baptist churches have taken promises and laws of the Old Testament and attempted to force them into the New Covenant church. The result is a dysfunctional gathering of law worshippers who are more concerned with conformity than a gathering of strong, individual believers who are empowered by the Spirit. I can almost hear objections from some pastors who say, "But the Word of God prescribes bringing the tithe into the storehouse! The Word of God demands that God's people 'touch not the anointed' in the church! The Word of God dictates everything we do at our church!" My response is simple: Which portion of the Word? The Word pertaining to Israel in the Old Covenant or the Scriptures pertaining to followers of Christ in the New Covenant? Read carefully the following verse in Hebrews 8:13:

"When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."

The book of Hebrews was written around AD 65, thirty five years after the death of Christ. The writer of Hebrews says in this verse that God’s old agreement with Israel was made obsolete by God, is growing old and will shortly be abolished (disappear). The old agreement God had with Israel is called "The Old Covenant" and it is found within the Old Testament. Old Covenant worship revolved around the Tabernacle/Temple, the priesthood, and the festivals and sacrificial rituals (collectively called "The Law" in the OT).  The Law was an "if/then" agreement where God promised to Israel His blessings "if" Israel obeyed the Law. The writer of Hebrews tells us three explicit things about this Old Covenant and the "if/then" promises of God that came with it.  (1). The Old Covenant has been made obsolete.' (2). It is 'growing old,' and (3). It will soon be abolished. This biblical truth leads us to ask three questions:

When did God’s covenant with Israel become obsolete?   In AD 30 Jesus the Anointed One died on a hill called Golgatha. The night before He was crucified He took a cup of wine and declared, "This cup is New Covenant of my blood shed for the remission of your sins." The next day, on the cross,  Jesus cried “It is finished!” Everything about the Old Covenant-- all the laws, the rituals, the sacrifices and the types--were all fulfilled in Christ. The Old Covenant had served its purpose (as a schoolmaster that points the sinner to Christ) and is now fulfilled. God made it obsolete in the death/burial/resurrection of Christ. Just like your old television set is made obsolete by the new wave of communication called HDTV, so too, the old pattern of worship in ancient Israel was made obsolete by the new pattern of worship opened up at the cross. The veil was ripped, so the sinner has direct access to God through Christ. And the good news about this new way is that the sinner who comes to God by Christ is guaranteed that he will 'never be cut off from the goodness of God' (Hebrews 7:25). No longer is worship about Temples, priests and rituals. In the New Covenant, those who truly worship God worship Him in "spirit and truth" (John 3:23).

When did God’s covenant with Israel grow old? For forty years (a Jewish ‘generation’) after the cross, from AD 30 to AD 70, the Temple remained standing.  For those forty years the early followers of Jesus Christ came to the Temple to pray, worship, and proclaim the new way to God through faith in Jesus Christ. It was on the steps of the Temple that Peter healed the lame man by saying, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I to you. In the name of Jesus Christ arise and walk." The disciples preached Christ in and around the Temple grounds, but the Old Covenant Temple way of worship was 'growing old.' So too, when the Apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, he eventually came back to Jerusalem and Acts 9 says he "preached Christ boldly at the Temple." The Jews were so furious with this former Old Covenant Hebrew who now advocated the new way to approach God that they sought to have him killed,. The disciples thwarted the Jews plan for Paul by secretly escorting the Apostle out of Jersualem for his own safety. Old Covenant worship was growing old. The phrase 'growing old' must be interpreted within the context and time of the writer of Hebrews. He was living in the mid-60's AD, and for over three decades since the death of Christ, Temple worship among the Jews continued --but it was growing old and would "soon disappear" (be abolished).

When was God’s covenant with Israel abolished? In AD 70 God used the Roman army to utterly destroy the Temple. Just as Jesus prophesied forty years earlier (Matthew 24), the Romans did not leave one stone standing upon another. This destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the Old Covenant way of worship was prophesied by the prophets and Jesus for centuries. Israel had been unfaithful to the covenant they had with God, and God therefore abolished it and instituted a new covenant. Again, it is not as if there was no good purpose for the Old Covenant. If it were not for the Law (the biblical way of describing the Old Covenant), Paul would not have known sin. The Law acted as a mirror, reflecting back to the Hebrews their sinfulness and God's holiness. In addition, the Law, particularly through its festivals, rituals and symbols, portrayed a coming Anointed One (Messiah) who Himself would take away the sins of the world. When the Messiah came and fulfilled the Law, the Old Covenant was made obsolete by God, grew old in time, and was eventually abolished (disappeared) in AD 70.  The Temple was gone.

The dwelling place of God in the new agreement that He has made with sinners, called the New Covenant, is the life of the individual believer. It is the life of God in the soul of man that is the true miracle of the New Covenant. The power of the Spirit of God changes the sinner from the inside/out. We are the Temple of the Living God. For this reason, any institutional church that tries to substitute itself as the old Temple, its pastors/priests as the Old priesthood, and operate by Old Testament "if/then" principles and promises, is denying the truth of the New Testament.

The New Covenant changes the way we worship God every day of our lives. The Old Covenant agreement between God and Israel was a come see religion. Come see the Temple. Come see the rituals. Come see the festivals.  The New Covenant is a go tell religion. Go tell sinners of the Savior who has guaranteed the Creator’s goodness to those who trust Him. Christianity is radically spiritual, internal, personal, and trans-cultural (all people). Some of the best worship you can have is with family or a small group of believers around a camp fire at a lake, or at home around the dinner table, or at a backyard barb-e-que. Believers are the church. God dwells in us. Where we are, there He is. We don't behave one way 'at church' and another way everywhere else. We can't do this because we ARE the church. Further, since the life of God is in the invidual sinner who trusts Christ, there is no hierarchical authority in the church. Every believer is a priest unto God.
The New Covenant changes the way we apply Scriptures from the Old Testament. The “If … then” Scriptures are seen as part of God’s promises to the people of Israel. Let me give you three examples of “if/then” promises that Christian people use wrongly.

(Example 1): If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek  my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14). That is a great Old Covenant promise. Israel often failed this condition of humble repentance, and as a result, they were often taken captive by foreigners and there land was destroyed. This verse, often quoted by Christians, is not a New Covenant promise.

In the New Covenant God says that He "is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we even ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Eph. 3:20). Here is the New Covenant promise. When you come to God by faith in Christ, God resides within you and has begun a work in you that He will carry to completion. Do you find yourself pulled toward addictive sins as a believer? He will eventually break you of them for your good and for His glory. The alcoholic who comes to God by faith in Christ need not worry that a relapse into drunkenness will cause the favor and goodness of God to withdraw from Him. In the old agreement he would have worried, because in the old agreement it was his obedience that ensured God's goodness, but in the New Covenant it is God's goodness to Him in Christ that ensures the sinners' eventual obedience. God is conforming, and He will continue to conform, every sinner who trusts Christ into the image of His Son. It is a guarantee dependent upon His fidelity and strength not your own.

(Example 2)If you bring the tithe … then I will rebuke the devourer for you” (Malachi 3:10).

This is an often quoted Old Covenant promise by pastors, used as an enticement (and/or threat) for the New Testament believer to give to his or her local church. This promise, given to Old Covenant Israel, is another if/then promise. The rebuke of the devourer is given IF Israel brings their tithes to the Temple. If the people of Israel do not bring their tithe to the Temple, then the devourer is free to reign and destory their possessions.

In the New Covenant, Jesus died and in His death He “destroyed the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). In the New Covenant, the devil will seek to devour you as a 'roaring lion,' but as Bunyan so eloquently pictured in Pilgrim's Progress, the lion is chained. Naturalists also tell us that only teethless lions roar. The truth of the New Testament is quite clear. The "strong man" (Satan) who was once at peace in his home (your life) and was well armed, was disarmed and dislodged by One "stronger than he" (Jesus Christ) who has now taken up residence within you (Luke 11:21-22). As a New Covenant believer in Christ you don't give money to your local church in order for God to rebuke the devourer. Malachi 3:10 is an Old Covenant promise. The devourer is already REMOVED from your life. Jesus is now your Lord. You give as you follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The more you comprehend the work of Christ on your behalf the more you cheerfully give, the more you joyfully serve, and the more you radically worship! In other words, in the New Covenant, giving is a matter of the heart, not the Law. As the Spirit leads you to give to ministries that proclaim the good news of Christ, care for the needs of fellow man, and work hard to do kingdom work--then give!

(Example 3): If you call upon me in the day of trouble; then I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15).

Again, that is a great Old Covenant promise, but it is nowhere close to the incredible truth of the New Covenant Scriptures. In the New Covenant, God delivers His people even when they find themselves emotionally, spiritually and personally “dead in our trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). His amazing and agressive love for His people through Christ ensures that He will "never, no never, no never" (five negatives in the original) leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). It is interesting that in the first portion of Hebrews 13:5 says that we should have "the kind of character that is free from the love of money BECAUSE God will never leave us or forsake." We  do not live this way IN ORDER for  God to never leave us or forsake us. Words are important. In the New Covenant our lives are a response to God's goodness to us in Christ. In the Old Covenant, people lived their lives in order to obtain God's goodness. If you ever find yourself being motivated to do something in order to get God to do something in return, you are living under the principles of the Old Covenant. Unfortunately, the Old Covenant, and Old Covenant churches, and Old Covenant promises will always let you down. However, the new agreement that God has with sinners will never let you down. "He is able to save forever  (i.e. guarantee that they will never be cut off from God's goodness) those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). 

The church is changing. There is a reformation taking place. The church has left the building(s). And any pastor who tries to reinvigorate the institutional church through Old Covenant principles is destined to fail.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Poem Entitled "A Perfect Family" - by Paul Burleson


A perfect family...
That's what some wish for I'm sure.
But in my mind...
... I'll settle for one that's mature.

A perfect family...
That's how some truly measure success.
But truth be known...
Behind each mask is found a mess.

A perfect family...
No, just people who love and forgive.
And that to me...
Is how our family has chosen to live.

A perfect family...
That's what some pretend to be.
But as the song says...
Our's is close enough to perfect for me.

Well said, Pops! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Therefore, Knowing the Terror of the Lord, We Persuade Men

Those who have read Grace and Truth to You for any amount of time know that this author is persuaded the Bible teaches that the eternal rewards of Christians are those rewards--and only those rewards--which are are earned by Christ. It is Christ's obedience to the will and law of the Father that obtains for God's adopted children our inheritance. It is Christ's perfect obedience which brings to sinners the Father's enduring favor and guarantees for us our position as co-heirs with Christ. As the Apostle Paul eloquently writes, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17). Trusting the performance of Christ for God's favor is the most freeing, the most liberating, and the most life-changing doctrine of Scripture.  But what about the biblical teaching that God rewards people for good, moral and self-less behavior in this life? What about God judging people for the things done in the body, whether good or bad, and giving to those who have done good the fruit of what they have sown? The Bible teaches that God does judge some people in this manner. He judges sinners apart from Christ in this fashion. Sinners without faith in the Savior will be judged and rewarded by God for every public deed (both good and bad), every secret thought (both good and bad), and every word (both idle and profound). This judgment and reward is for those who are not in Christ. This is why hell will different in terms of punishment and rewards, consistent with how moral a person has been on earth. Hell will not be as severe for some sinners as it is for others (see Jesus' words in Matthew 10:15). The experience of righteous imprisonment will vary in intensity according to the depth and number of unrighteous actions of those who die without Christ. God will not be mocked. Whatever a sinner sows in life on earth, that will he reap in judgment (Galatians 6:7). Hitler will experience the wrath of God in a measure greater than a girl who dies in her teens without Christ. The sinner reaps what he sows. If a sinner is without a personal Savior, then the sinner will be doing himself a favor to live as moral of a life on earth as possible. We've all heard the jokes about homes in heaven being different sizes, but the principle upon which these jokes are founded (the reward for moral behavior), is a principle that is associated with hell, not heaven.

Those who have faith in Christ will never appear at any future judgment of God, or be rewarded for their good behavior. Our sins were judged at the cross, and the behavior for which we are rewarded is Christ's behavior. If a sinner's name is found in the Book of Life--the book which contains all the names of those who have trusted God's Son--then that named sinner is guaranteed that the books that contain the enumerations of his works on earth will be forever sealed and never opened for judgment (see Revelation 20:11-13). The Scapegoat has removed our sins into the desert of forgetfulness (Lev. 16:22). Those in Christ never answer for our sins or shortcomings because "God sees no sin in His people." That does not mean God is not aware of our sins; it means that God has dealt judicially with our sin at the cross of Christ, and all 'the righteous wrath of God due our sins' (the definition of hell) has been born by Christ, and all the blessings and favor and glory obtained by Christ is shared by us. Someone might say, "But I wish to be rewarded for the good I have done as a Christian!" I respond: "The good Christ has done is far superior to your good, and the rewards He has earned are far greater than any rewards you may earn. God makes you a co-heir with Christ because of your faith. It is much better to be a co-heir with Christ than to reap what you have sown on earth." It's more pleasing to sit at a table with nice fine linen than filthy rags for napkins, and your works next to Christ's invite the same comparison. So....

The Biblical principle of God's judgment can be stated as follows: Those without Christ reap what they have sown on earth and those in Christ reap what they have not sown on earth. To be a co-heir with Christ means that you receive from God the inheritance Christ has earned by His obedience during His life, death and resurrection. The perfect righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in His complete and perfect obedience to God's law has obtained for us the unsearchable riches of God's great grace (Ephesians 3:8). Heaven is the eternal unfolding and enjoyment of these riches fpr all the ages to come (Ephesians 2:7). Again: We Christians reap what we have not sown. One of the tell-tale signs of the legalist is the inability to totally rest in the knowledge that the riches of God's favor are earned by Christ's obedience, not his own. It is impossible to be a co-heir with Christ if the rewards of God's people are dependent on our performance. God's favor and our eternal rewards are dependent on Christ. The Savior has guaranteed (to the uttermost!) that we will never be cut-off from God's goodness (Hebrews 7:25). It is indeed an awesome and scary thing to fall into the hands of the living God without a Savior. This is why the good news of Christ is such good news. He saves sinners from the coming wrath of God. It is the knowledge of God's impending wrath and the terror of future judgment for sinners that causes us to be ambassadors for Christ. I make an appeal to sinners to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.

If you won't trust Christ, I urge you to live the most moral, ethical and selfless life possible to make your future judgment and your subsequent eternal prison more tolerable.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Prosperity Gospel's Fundamental Flaw Is Its Faith in Faith

 Last Friday night my wife Rachelle and I spent an evening with our friends Gary and Lanna Richardson  at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ole Anthony (pronounced Oh Lee), pictured to the left, was Gary's guest for the weekend. Gary and Lanna had arranged for several people to meet with Ole and find out more about the Trinity Foundation. The Trinity Foundation serves as a watchdog agency looking out for corrupt television evangelists. Ole is a retired Air Force investigator and a licensed private detective. Since 1987 he has been on a crusade to expose and legally punish the illicit activities and financial fraud of many well-known prosperity gospel televangelists. His first target was the Dallas ministry of Robert Tilton. Diane Sawyer of ABC News teamed with Ole Anthony to air an undercover investigation of Tilton. The program revealed many fraudulent and unethical activities of Tilton's ministry, and Tilton became furious as his annual income stream of $140 million dollars began to dry up. Tilton always played Jesus in his church's annual Christmas Pageant, and at the pageant after the ABC investigation aired,  Tilton rode into his church on a donkey that he had named Ole. As Ole shared that story with us, he smiled and laughed a little, but the lines on his face show the angst of over two dozen lawsuits against Ole by the televangelists he has sought to expose as frauds. Ole is by no means a perfect man, and I don't agree with all his tactics, but you must admire any person who shares as powerful of a Christian conversion testimony as Ole. He walked away from a mult-million dollar business, vowed to live on $55 a week among the homeless in Dallas, and works every day to protect God's people from what he calls 'wolves in shepherd's clothing.'

We learned many things from Ole last Friday night. I specifically asked him if anything he shared was confidential, and he responded in precisely the same manner I would have responded. "If it were confidential, I would not have shared it." Many people don't like Ole. Television evangelists have named him "the Anti-Christ" and "Satan incarnate," and other wild names, but I like him. I like the fact that he says it like it is. Though he has taken a vow of poverty, he is comfortable having friends who have not. He also expresses a passion for knowing Jesus Christ and the gospel of God as revealed in the Scriptures. He is dedicated to exposing the false gospel that is often advocated on Christian television. Ole gave us many facts uncovered during his twenty-five years of investigations. Some of his information surprised us, like the factoid that the largest number of homosexual pick-up bars on a per capita basis exists in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Other information sickened us. What Ole has uncovered in his investigations of people like Richard Roberts, Benny Hinn, Mike Murdoch, Kenneth Copeland, Morris Cerullo, Jesse Duplantis, Daystar Network, Paul Crouch and TBN, and other prosperity gospel evangelist and networks is just plain sad. Were it common knowledge, it would damage all Christian ministries, even the good ones. I have no interest in repeating the details of what Ole told us Friday night, but it did lead Rachelle and me to discuss on our drive home what it was about the prosperity gospel that attracted so many Christian people to give large sums of money to people like those named above.


That's the operative word that describes what people want. We all want control. Christian people want to believe that if they just have enough faith, and then exercise that faith by planting a financial seed (to the televangelist's ministry of course), that they control their futures. They want prosperity, health, and happiness. Its the notion that they can control their future via their faith that drives them to give to the evangelists. Instead of singing "Have Faith in God" the donor should be singing "Have Faith in Faith." Faith, at least in the prosperity gospel, has taken the place of God. The negative effects of this distorted perspective on faith is seen in the teaching of Jesse Duplantis as he describes his confusion and hurt over his mother's continuing illness, even though he was praying she be healed.
"I was confused. I was hurt. I didn't know what else to do. That is when God spoke up, "Jesse, I have a covenant with you, yes. However, I have one with your mother as well. You are praying for her healing. She is praying in her heart for Me to take her home. Now, I will obey My Word. But you and your daddy are battling your mother's will. It is her life at stake. You have Me in a hard place, Jesse. Someone has got to give in. Get yourselves together and tell Me what I am to do! (Jesse Duplantis, "My Experience Doesn't’ Change God’s Word," Article C-Faith)
Oh boy. God is in 'a hard place,' and He needs Jesse and Jesse's mom to 'tell Him what to do." How do you control your future of health? Exercise faith. How do you control your future of financial prosperity? Exercise faith.  Faith in what? Faith in faith. Your faith controls God. Your faith controls your destiny. Your faith is the end all. Have faith in your faith.

However, one of these days the markets are going to collapse despite all the faith in the world. One of these days our national prosperity will be gone despite our faith. If that day doesn't come in our lifetimes, we will all come to the place where the world as we know it will be changed for us personally. Our careers will come to an end. Our loved ones will die. Our health will deteriorate.  We are not in control of either the world or our lives. But we know the One who is. Your faith will always be weak and insufficient. Your faith will let you down. Thank God that it is not the amount or quality of your faith that controls your future. God does. It is not faith in faith that we need. It is faith in God. He is good, and He is in control.

I wonder how many people who possess the calm assurance that God is in complete control of their futures, regardless of the size or quality of their faith, actually give to televangelists? It's a question I suspect Ole might answer with two words: "Very few."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering Bob Vance and Others Who Have Sacrificed So That We Might Be Free

Someone once said that "If you can pick up a book and read it thank a teacher. If you can read the book in English thank a soldier." Today I would like to thank the two men to the left for helping me read in English and not German. My paternal grandfather Reed Burleson fought at the Battle of the Bulge and received multiple medals, including the Purple Heart. My maternal grandfather Fred Cherry also fought on the battlefields of Europe, riding throughout France and Germany in his jeep that he nicknamed "John 3:16." Thanks to my mom, Mary Burleson, for the photographs. I am currently working on some background information on my grandfather Reed Burleson, particularly focusing on his landing in Normandy after the D-Day invasion and his movement into Belgium where Hitler's divisions of Panzer tanks turned back from their retreat and put up a fierce fight at the Battle of the Bulge. I pause to remember my grandfathers for their service to our country. I would like to also honor another man, a contemporary of both my grandfathers, a native of Enid, Oklahoma, and a graduate of Enid High School. His name is Leon Robert Vance.

Rachelle and I were in Normandy, France in September. We spent a day at Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery where over 10,000 Americans are buried France's soil. One cannot help but be deeply moved when thinking of all the soldiers who gave their lives in June 1944 as Americans joined Britains, Canadians, Australians and others as the combined Allied Forces invaded Europe to put an end to Hitler's despotism. A very compelling story, told in the exit lobby of the impressive American Cemetery and Memorial is that of Bob Vance of Enid, Oklahoma. Most Oklahomans do not know Bob Vance's heroic actions at Normandy, and that includes most people who live in Enid, Bob's hometown. Everyone has heard of Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, but few know the reason why the former Enid Army Air Corp base is now named after Bob Vance. This Veteran's Day of 11/11/11/ is posted in tribute to my grandfathers, Bob Vance and other American soldiers like just like them.

Leon Robert (Bob) Vance, Jr. was born in Enid, Oklahoma, on August 11, 1916. His father was the principle at Enid's Longfellow Middle School, and his mother was an Enid educator as well. Bob graduated from Enid High School in 1933. He had been an exceptional athlete and an honors student in high school, and after graduation Bob entered the University of Oklahoma and the ROTC program at OU. Bob attended the university for his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to the West Point Military Academy in 1935.  Bob  would spend four additional years at the Academy,  graduating from West Point in 1939, part of the class that Newsweek magazine called in 1999 The Warrior Class because the graduates would go on to fight in WW II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Bob was training to become a pilot for the Army Air Corp (now called the Air Force). While at West Point he met a native New Yorker, Georgette Brown, and the day after his West Point graduation, Bob and Georgette were married at the Academy's chapel.

For the next five years Lieutenant Robert Vance would first be trained, and then train, Army Air Force pilots at various Air Force bases around the United States. He would sometimes wonder if the war would be over before he actually saw combat, but his expertise as a pilot trainer was both needed and rewarded. By 1944 he had become a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Air Force. One of Bob's best friends in the Army Air Corp,  having met him early in his pilot training at San Angelo, Texas,  was Lieutenant Horace S. Carswell. Carswell was a native Texan who had earned his wings in November 1938 and was subsequently assigned as an instructor in the Air Corp, just like Lieutenant Vance.  The Vance and Carswell couples became fast friends. Both Vance and Carswell would eventually leave the Air Corp training program to fly combat in B-24 bombers. Both would arrive in different theaters of combat in April of 1944. Both would earn the Medal of Honor within six months of each other. Both would have Air Force bases named after them - Vance Air Force Base and Carswell Air Force Base.

Bob Vance's Actions at Normandy which Led to His Medal of Honor

Lieutenant Colonel Bob Vance kissed his wife and two year old daughter Sharon good bye and left for England in April of 1944. For two months he trained with other men in a B-24 bomber, preparing for D-Day and the invasion of Europe. Vance's combat mission would be to fly with a crew in a bomber named the Missouri Sue and drop bombs on the German lines located on  the shores of France twenty four hours before invasion, softening the beach for the infantry landings that would arrive a few hours later. Early on June 5, 1944, the Missouri Sue took off from England for the bombing mission. The bombs failed to release on the first run over the  target, so Lieutenant Colonel Vance ordered a 360 degree turn for a second pass. Somewhere in the process of the second bomb run Missouri Sue was repeatedly hit by German flak, killing the pilot, wounding several members of the crew, and nearly severing Bob Vance's right foot, pinning him to the floor of the plane.  The crew fought to complete the mission and then turned the plane toward home. Three of the bomber's engines eventually shut down and the fourth had to be shut down to prevent a stall. The damaged plane showered  gasoline throughout the trip back across the channel to England. The bomb bay doors remained open with an armed 500-pound bomb dangling precariously there from. Vance was the command pilot of the craft, and as the plane continued its forced descent from 10,000 feet, he ordered that all the crew parachute to safety. Unwilling to have the plane crash into the English landscape, particularly with a 500 pound bomb dangling from the bomb bay, Vance, still pinned to the floor with his severed foot, piloted the gliding plane back into the English channel where it crashed into the water. The force of the crash propelled Bob Vance from the plane and knocked him unconscious. Somehow he managed to  float to the surface where he was eventually rescued. Unfortunately, Bob's career as a pilot was over. His right foot had been severed.  The surviving ten men credited the actions of Bob Vance for their safe parachute landing on English land.

Vance's Recuperation and Tragic Death

Vance recuperated in England from his injuries for the next eight weeks. He wrote letters home describing to his wife and family the injuries he sustained, urging them not to worry, and that as soon as he was able, he would be on a medical flight home. His letters were initially filled with excitment and enthusiasm for Operation Overlord (the invasion of Europe), and he expressed pride for what his bombing crew had done in preparation for the landing. His spirits lowered, however, when he left the hospital for the first time, hobbling on his crutches in the streets of London, and was met by a small boy who looked him over, saw his missing foot and said, "Don't worry Yank, you won't miss it!" The emotional impact of realizing he would never fly again was enormous, and his depression increased when word came that his father had been killed in an aircraft accident.

The only thing that kept him going during his eight weeks of recovery was the knowledge that he would soon see his wife and small child. He made plans to leave England on a medical evacuation plane. Just before he left he discovered he had been nominated for the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. On July 26, 1944 Vance joined other wounded soldiers as they boarded a transport plane for the trip back to America. His wife Georgette and Sharon, anxiously anticipated their loved one's arrival. Sharon, just over two years old, didn't understand much, but she could say, "Daddy's coming home!"

Bob Vance never made it. Somewhere between Newfoundland and Iceland the plane went down. The plane has never been discovered, nor has Bob Vance's body ever been recovered. Georgette received this telegram, informing her that her husband was missing in action. The family was stricken with grief. Just weeks later, the government told Georgette that her husband had been bestowed the Medal of Honor. She requested that offical ceremony be delayed until her daughter, Sharon, was old enough to comprehend what her father had done. Two years later, in 1946, Sharon Vance, Bob's four year old daughter, officially received on behalf of the Vance family the Medal of Honor which the U.S. government had bestowed upon her father, the highest recognition given American soldiers. Later, the Army Air Base in Enid would be renamed Vance Air Force Base.

On this Veteran's Day, at 11:11 a.m. 11/11/11, I say thank you to Bob Vance, my grandfathers,  and others like them that when I read books, I read them in English.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unconditional Love for a Person Means Unconditional Approval of the Person

This morning I came across a quote on Facebook that perplexed me. Troubled would be too strong of a word to describe my initial feelings when I read it. The quote simply nagged me; it hung on my mind like a piece of dead skin that can't naturally turn loose. So I finally dealt with it by analyzing the point being made and came to the conclusion that I disagree. The quote, unattributed, said:

"Some people mistake unconditional love with unconditional approval."

I think just the opposite is true. Unconditional love IS unconditional approval.  If you unconditionally love someone it means that you unconditionally approve of that someone Approval is defined by Websters' as "the belief that something or someone is worthy of your acceptance."

I think the author of the quote meant, "Some people mistake unconditional love for a person with unconditional approval of that person's actions." If that is what the quote actually said, I would agree. But that is not what the quote says. The object of the love and the object of the approval does not change from person to actions in the quote. For this reason I can't agree with it.

The trouble, in my opinion, is people don't understand that unconditional love of a person is unconditional approval of the person.

An Illustration

I know a father who did not approve of his seventeen year old daughter dating an older man. The relationship, from the perspective of the father, was unhealthy for his daughter. The father unconditionally loved his daughter and unconditionally approved of his daughter, but the father neither loved nor approved of the actions of his daughter in dating this man. The father gave his daughter two weeks to break up with her boyfriend and told her that if she could not, he would break off the relationship for her. After two weeks the daughter was unable to end the relationship, so the father went to the man and told him that he was forbidden to have any contact with his daughter, and if he violated those boundaries, he would be answering to the father. The father was gracious and kind to the man, explaining that this decision to break off the dating relationship was for the good of his daughter, whom he loved unconditionally. 

Upon arriving home and telling his seventeen year old daughter what he had done, the daughter flew into rage. She yelled at the top of her lungs, "I hate you" over and over again. The father calmly, and gently told his daughter that he loved her even though she felt hatred toward him. He explained that even if she continued to feel hatred and expressed it verbally to her father until the day she died, he would always love and approve of her as a person. He intervened in her dating relationship because he loved his  minor daughter and disapproved of his daughter's actions.

 "But what if I run away and marry this man without your approval. What then?"

"Oh, please don't misunderstand sweetheart!" said the father. "You will always have my approval as a person, even if you run away and marry him. The fact that your mom and dad will not financially support you in your decision, assist you in continuing the relationship, or be a part of any wedding plans does not mean that we don't approve of you. On the contrary, it means that we love you. We see your relationship with this man as unhealthy, and if we didn't love you, we would not intervene!  We will always unconditionally love you, and if you choose to bear the consequences of running away (the loss of financial support), we will love and approve of you just as I am doing right now while you are filled with hatred for me. Your actions never change our love and approval of you as a person. We unconditionally love you and accept you--period!"

The relationship the daughter had with the young man ended. In time, the girl met another man, the "man of her dreams," and she forgot all about her old flame. The one thing that did linger with her, however, was the feelings of being unconditionally loved by her father that day as she yelled "I hate you!" to him. Years later she would explain to her dad that his warm embrace and tender love for her as a person, even when she was a hate-filled daughter, taught her what genuine love and personal approval was all about.

Love for the Person in the Midst of Sin

Unconditional love--love that is independence of one's performance (agape love)--is THE mark of genuine Christianity. It is by this love that people know we are followers of Christ. Too love like this is a gift of grace. This love is magnetic and transforming. Once experienced, it changes you. Once it changes you, others are changed around you. Unconditional love of a person is unconditional approval of that person. That doesn't mean that you approve of all the actions of the person you love, it means that because you love that person and always approve that person, you will consistently do what is best for that person in the midst of his or her sin. You expose sin, never cover it. You call an action immoral because it is. You turn a person over to police because of a criminal action. In other words, you abhor that which should be abhorred--the action, not the person.

BECAUSE unconditional love is unconditional approval of that person, you find ways to communicate your love to that person in the midst of immorality, while helping to escape from it. You hang in there loving that person, even while turning the person over for his crimes, and even though the criminal makes life very uncomfortable. You risk being hated as you help the one you love identify, expose, and forsake sin. The unwillingness to allow any immoral or criminal action to drive you away is the sign you truly love and approve of a person.

Everybody of sane mind is sickened and revolted by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. I've been wondering the last couple of days who in this world has really loved and approved of Jerry Sandusky the person. I'm not expecting you or me to love Jerry Sandusky; we don't even know him. I'm just wondering who the Sandusky in my life is?


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Why We Should Positively Teach the Gospel Rather than Engage in Polemics with Gusto

I recently came across a blog post written by Tim Keller on his City to City Blog that spoke to my heart. The application for me and my ministry is clear, and I thought I would pass it on to see if it was as helpful to others. Tim wrote ....

D.M. Lloyd-Jones once had a memorable encounter with T.T. Shields, the pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto, and a leading defender of orthodoxy against the growing liberal theology of the churches in Canada. Shields regularly attacked other church leaders in both his preaching and his writings. Lloyd-Jones shared virtually the identical theological positions with Shields, but he believed "'that the Baptist leader (Shields) was sometimes too controversial, too denunciatory and too censorious.' Rather than helping young Christians by the strength of his polemics against liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics, Lloyd-Jones believed that Shields was losing the opportunity to influence those whose first need is positive teaching.” (I. Murray, D.M. Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, p.271). We should recall that Lloyd-Jones was quite willing to engage in polemics himself. He and John Stott clashed publicly over whether evangelicals should remain in the Church of England. (Lloyd-Jones said they should not.) And yet Lloyd-Jones opposed making polemics a major part of one’s ministry, and challenged Shields.

In their meeting, Shields asked Lloyd-Jones if he enjoyed reading the works of another contemporary defender of orthodoxy. Lloyd-Jones said that he seldom read the author, because, “he doesn’t help me spiritually.” Shields responded: “Surely you are helped by the way he makes mincemeat of the liberals?” Lloyd-Jones responded: “You can make mincemeat of the liberals and still be in trouble in your own soul.” This touched off an extended debate. At one point Shields said that he was only doing what Paul did to Peter—contradicting and opposing him. Lloyd-Jones responded “The effect of what Paul did was to win Peter round to his position and make him call him ‘our beloved brother Paul’ [2 Peter 3:15]. Can you say the same about the people whom you attack?” For this Shields had no answer. The simple fact was that his polemics were really designed simply to stigmatize and marginalize his opponents, not persuade them. Suddenly the younger Lloyd-Jones appealed to Shields in a bold way. In the 1920s, Shields had expected an appointment to McMaster University, but theological liberals blocked it. Lloyd-Jones pointed out that from that time it had changed the tone of his ministry. “Dr Shields, you used to be known as the Canadian Spurgeon, and you were…but over this McMaster University business in the early twenties you suddenly changed and became negative and denunciatory. I feel it has ruined your ministry. Why don’t you come back! Drop all this, preach the gospel to people positively and win them!” (Murray, p.273)

On the lips of someone else, this could be seen as an appeal to “just preach Jesus” and not care about sound doctrine. But it is hard to accuse Lloyd-Jones of that. Rather, Lloyd-Jones was standing in the tradition of Gillespie and Alexander. Polemics is medicine, not food. Without medicine we will surely die—we can’t live without it. This is why “polemical theology’ must be a required part of every theological curriculum. Yet we cannot live on medicine. If you engage in polemics with relish and joy—if polemics takes up a significant percentage or even a majority of your time and energy—it is like trying to live on medicine alone. It won’t work, for the church or for you. That was Lloyd-Jones’s message.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Spiritual Scorecards and the Sacred Diadem of Jesus Christ

 There are a few things in professional Christendom that peave me.   At the top of the list is the tendency for Christian people to keep score of how holy they are compared to others. It's never outright stated that "I'm a better Christian" than so and so, but you can't miss the arrogance of those who measure their holiness by what they do or don't do in this life. From tithing to abstaining from alcohol, from attending church visitation to avoiding movie houses, the checklists and scorecards for Christians vary from church to church and denomination to denomination. The words "godly man" or "godly woman" are thrown around as if what makes a person godly is their performance morally or religiously. I'd like to show the dangerous consequences of trusting in any personal activities, no matter how moral or good they are, for the guarantee that you will never be cut off from the goodness of God.  The Scripture is explicit that there is only One person considered "Holy to the Lord" and this Person, Jesus Christ, is our holiness (I Corinthians 1: 30).

 “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord." (Exodus 28:36-38). 

This golden plate, or the Sacred Diadem ('holy crown) of the High Priest had two Hebrew words enscribed on it. Translated into English these words mean "Holy to the Lord." Or in more precise language, "You alone are holy to the Lord."  The ancient High Priest of Israel is a picture (type) of the Great High Priest Jesus Christ. The Scripture is clear that there is none like the Son of God, nor will there ever be any like Him. He alone is holy to the Lord.  The High Priest of Israel represented the people of Israel before Yahweh by having their names  emblazoned on his breastplate and their names engraved on the precious stones on his shoulders. So too, Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest whom the ancients priests foreshadowed, represents His people before the throne of God. The sacred diadem of Christ reminds us that He alone is holy to the Lord, and therefore we should remember ...

  I. The holiness of Christ (the sacred diadem) is the only thing in which we may boast as a believer.

 The Hebrew word translated “plate” in Exodus 28 is tsits, elswhere translated “flower” or “blossom”  in the Old Testament.   Flowers (tsits) adorned the inner walls and the pillars of Solomon’s Temple, adding beauty, grace, and charm to the Temple. So too the holiness of Christ, to which the sacred diadem points, is Christ's  glory and beauty. Apart from Christ's holiness, man has none.

Let me show you:

The word tsits is also found in Psalm 103:15: “As for man, his days are like grass, he  flourishes like a flower [tsits] of the field.”  Likwise, the prophet Isaiah likens man’s glory to a fading flower and says: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers [tsits] of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers [tsits] fall…” (40:6-8). Whatever glory you perceive in your holy acts is like a flower that fades in direct sunlight.

Your righteous acts are like filthy rags. There is nothing that you do in this life that is not in one way or another stained with sin before God. Everything you do, no matter how wonderful you deem it to be, is in some fashion tainted with your selfishness or some other type of sin.  The Bible is very clear that there can be no holiness scorekeeping in the Christian life because we never can get on the scoreboard. We are unholy people. “You alone, my eternal High Priest, are holy to the Lord.” When we come to faith in Christ HE (the Lord Jesus) becomes your holiness. Listen to these verses:

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption. " (I Cor. 1:26-30.)

 II. The holiness of Christ (the sacred diadem) is the guarantee of every spiritual blessing we have from God.

The diadem rested on  “Aaron’s forehead.” Leviticus 13:42-46 teaches that a severe form of leprosy (a type of sin) appeared on the foreheads of people in the form of reddish-white sores.  The infected person had to wear torn clothes and let his hair be unkempt. He was required to put his hand to his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean!”    He also had to live in isolation outside the camp or city.

In 2 Chronicles 26 there is an astonishing story of King Uzziah contracting this leprosy. He reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem and did a great many noble and honorable things for which he was commended by all the people. But spiritual pride took hold of him and he entered the Temple of the Lord to burn incense. The priests alone held the exclusive right to enter the Temple, but Uzziah felt his actions made him worthy before the Lord.  Azariah the priest tried to talk sense into the king, reminding him that that the king was unworthy before the Lord. The king became angry. We read: 

And while he was raging at the priests in their presence…leprosy broke out on his forehead…so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house – leprous, and excluded from the temple of the Lord.”

The pride of man is revealed in the leprosy on the forehead. The holiness of Christ is revealed in the sacred diadem on the High Priest's forehead. Christ exchanged his holy diadem for a crown of thorns and bled at the very place mans' sin is revealed. The reason spiritual scorekeeping of any kind is so deadly is because when a man boasts in his actions for the Lord, he is infected with Uzziah's disease. There is nothing worse than believing yourself holy before the Lord when the Lord emphatically has stated throughout Scripture that nobody but His Son is considered holy to Him.

III. The sacred diadem is the reason we are called ‘co-heirs’ with Jesus Christ.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs; heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).

The Scripture does not call us secondary heirs or sub-heirs; the word is specifically co-heirs of Jesus Christ. This means that in this life and in heaven, you are not rewarded as an heir of God based upon your performance. You are rewarded every spiritual blessing due to Jesus Christ and His obedience to God. As a believer in Christ, His holiness has become your holiness.

So, the next time somebody tries to tell you that the favor of God is due to your obedience to any command, you remind that well-meaning person that God's favor is yours because His Son's holiness is yours.

Christ exchanged His sacred diadem for a crown of thorns so that your leprosy might be given to Him at Calvary and His holiness might be granted to you eternally.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Bible Passage that Provides Help to Those Who Struggle with the Desire to Be Rich

(6). But godliness with contentment is great gain.

(7). For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 

(8). And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

(9). But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 

(10). For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows

(I Timothy 6:6-10)

I. There is a problem with money that the Apostle clearly defines . . . "they that will be rich" (v.9).

The problem is not those that are rich, but those that "covet" riches or grasp after wealth.

John Gill says of this verse, "Some rich men are good men, and do much good with their riches; and are as free from temptations and snares, and foolish and hurtful lusts as other persons as Abraham, Joseph of Arimathea, Gaus, and others. 

(A). The desire to be rich leads to temptation . . . "they fall into temptation" (v.9)

To "fall" into temptation is different from "jumping" into it. The desire to be rich gradually and imperceptably changes character and conduct. .

(B). The desire to be rich leads to a trap . . ."they fall into a snare"  (v.9)

The Apostle calls it a "snare" and he uses the same word in I Timothy 3:7 when he speaks of "the snare of the devil."  Your enemy sets a trap in order to catch you. It may be a trap where you have to choose between family and riches. 

(C). The desire to be rich leads to trouble. . . "they fall into hurtful lusts"  (v.9).

You can't blame all your problems on the devil. If you seek to be wealthy, there are "many foolish and hurtful lusts" which will sink you. Over time your lusts for more will lead you into greater trouble.  The desire for wealth is never fully satisfied within you.  Greed, if not corrected will ruin you, and  it will ultimately destroy you ("perdition" speaks of judgment).

II. The are specific pains that come from the love of money that the Apostle vividly describes. . . "they pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (v.10).

Paul gives to Timothy a warning using graphic language of an arrow or a spear piercing the body. In our day, the words of Paul might have been, "Timothy, those who love money shoot themselves in the foot." What are some of the arrows of sorrows that bring pain to the person who is constantly craving after riches or money? In his excellent book The Upside Down Kingdom, Donald Kraybill, offers some insight into the hurts we bring.

The arrow called "STRANGLER" . . . (Luke 8:14).
In the parable of the sower, Jesus says people who hear the word of God, but are caught up in a desire for riches are like seeds thrown onto thorny ground -- "they are choked by the cares, riches and pleasures of life." Do you want your spiritual life strangled? The love of money chokes out the vitality of your spiritual life. Greed is a silent killer, and will destroy you. 

The arrow called "WORRIER" . . . (Luke 12:29-34).
Jesus said, "Do not be of anxious mind (about material things) . . . but provide for yourselves treasure in the heavens (relationships) where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Jesus understood that wealth brings anxiety in that the yesterdays bring regrets and the tomorrows bring worry.

The arrow called "BLINDER" . . . (Luke 16:19-23).
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we see "There was a certain rich man who fared well . . . but died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes . . ." Riches have a way of blinding a person to the really important things of life. Greed will blind you like the rich man was blinded. The love of money will cause you to miss what should truly be loved in life. 

The arrow called "CONSOLER" . . . (Luke 6:24).
Jesus said, "Woe to you who are rich (spent your loved with the craving to accumulate riches), you have received your consolation" Whereas the righteous will receive their comfort after death, the only comfort the greedy obtain is that which they have in life.

III. There is a principle about money that is delivered by the Apostle Paul which will keep you from falling into traps and pain  . . . "godliness with contentment is great gain" (v.6).

The word contentment is the word "self-sufficiency." It implies by Paul that "the person in relationship with Christ is a person that should be independent of outward circumstances, enabling him to maintain a spiritual equilibrium in the midst of both favorable circumstances and those which are adverse" Kenneth Wuest.

 How is this possible? How is it possible to not crave after riches? The ability to have contentment in this life is possible when you understand the teaching of verse 7.

"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (v.7).

The phrase "it is certain" (hoti) is better translated "because."

So that what Paul is saying is "we brought nothing into this world, because we can carry nothing out."

Nothing this world gives you adds to your value as a person eternally. No amount of money or the leisure, prestige, fame and power that money brings adds one thing to who you ultimately are as a person. You brought nothing into this world because God is reminding you that you will take nothing out of this world.  What you leave this life with is a relationship with your Creator and other people.

That's all you take with you.

That's why we should never desire to be rich in anything other than personal relationships.