Tag Archives: Marketing

The Path to Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

Our friend Tony Harris published a book this past year entitled FADS Marketing. Tony is an expert marketer and his book is a fascinating insider’s view of the world of big marketing. The book opened my eyes to the way I am being sold a bill of goods every day with regard to food, alcohol, drugs, and sex (F.A.D.S. Get it?). If I’m blind to it and if I’m not paying attention, then I will fall for it over and over and over again. What big marketing does is take the field of my basic human appetites and then sows discontent.

Contentment is a recurring theme in Paul’s later writing. I find it interesting that it seems to have become a more important topic the further he got in his own spiritual journey. He takes a rather balanced approach. “I know what it is to have plenty,” he writes, “and I know what it’s like to be in need.” In either circumstance, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves (because it can change rapidly in ways we don’t control), we should seek to be content.

That’s hard to do if I’m blind to the fact that every advertisement and marketing ploy (and they’re all over the place) is trying to stir my appetites’ discontent until I have what they tell me I want and need.

The further I get in my life journey the more I find myself pursuing contentment. I’m not perfect at it by a long shot. I confess that. Like most paths to growth and maturity, the road to contentment often finds me repeatedly taking one step forward before falling two steps back. Looking back, however, I can see the progress. More and more the things of real value to me are relationships, conversations, laughter, time, quiet, a shared meal, life together.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself once again honestly taking inventory of my wants and also taking inventory of my haves. Along the path to contentment, I’ve discovered that if I focus myself on gratitude for, and enjoyment of, the latter then the former takes up less room in my heart and mind.

And so, I contentedly enter another day of the journey.


Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
2 Kings 4:2 (NIV)

Many years ago I was pushing into my spiritual journey and trying hard to understand my feelings of shame, the deep, abiding sense that I was worth-less to the core. I have shared before about my friend and counselor who asked me to label my shame. He wanted me to give my shame a name tag; A moniker of my shame that would allow me to pick up my Sharpie and write on the my name tag at church: “Hello, My Name Is…” and write my shame right on there.

Not Enough” was the label I gave to my shame.

As I’ve continued on in my spiritual journey I’ve come to have more than a few head-slapping, eureka moments as I mull over my “Not Enough” shame moniker. Of course I feel “not enough” because it’s what culture and marketing have whispered and screamed to me so regularly since I was a toddler that I don’t even recognize it anymore.

You’re not athletic enough. Eat your Wheaties.
You’re not manly enough. Smoke a Marlboro.
You’re not beautiful enough. Wear brand “X”.
You’re not good enough. Work 24/7/365.
You’re not rich enough. Climb that ladder at all costs.
You’re not suave enough. Act like James Bond.
You’re not good enough. Stop sinning.
You’re not Christian enough. Only listen, read, and consume things labeled and marketed as “Christian” and sold by an acceptable, orthodox supplier.

You get the picture.

In today’s chapter the ancient prophet Elisha is approached by a widow who is in a desperate situation. Her husband died and was indebted to another man in the town. In ancient days, if you couldn’t pay your debts the creditor took whatever collateral the borrower had. Because the widow was left with nothing of real value her two sons were going to be taken from her to become the creditor’s slaves.

When Elisha asks the woman, “What have you got?” she replies that all she has is a small jar of oil. Elisha tells her to get all the empty jars she can find and borrow and pour the oil from her small jar into all the empty jars. Miraculously, the woman keeps pouring and the oil keeps flowing until her house is packed full of jars of oil. She is can now sell the oil and pay off the debts. And, there’s enough left over to provide for her and her sons.

What does this remind me of?

Oh yeah. Jesus fed the crowds (more than once) with just a few fish sandwiches that Peter and the boys could scrounge off a little kid whose mother packed him a sack lunch. The woman and her oil jars is kind of like that. In fact, it’s just like that.

I love it on my chapter-a-day journey when I begin to see patterns, themes and dots to be connected across the Great Story. This endless jar of oil is just like Jesus’ endless baskets of filet o’ fish sandwiches.

So, what is the point? What’s God trying to tell me?

In each case, God took the little that they already had and provided all that was needed. In fact, in both cases there were leftovers. The point is that what they already had was enough for God to work with. God can take what I am and what I have and it is enough for Him to work with to be all that I need, all that He needs, when it’s needed.

I don’t believe this means God is giving me an excuse to be complacent and slothful. It doesn’t mean that I have carte blanche to be foolish and stagnant. God wants me to keep progressing, keep pressing on, and keep pushing further up and further in. It’s important, however, to think about what I’m pursuing.

I’ve found that shame always calls me back. I constantly find my heart slipping off on paths that mindlessly pursue unreachable destinations. The more money I make the more I realize that there’s always someone richer, and I’ll never stop chasing after “just a little bit more.” No matter how skinny, ripped and ruggedly handsome I can make myself with wardrobe, workouts and organic male beauty products, I will still look in the mirror and fail to see Daniel Craig.

This morning I’m reminded that when I stick to the path in pursuit of God and God’s wisdom I find that what I already have is enough. It’s enough even if God has to, once in a while, miraculously stretch my enough to cover what’s needed in the moment.

Spiritual Scarcity

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift….”
1 Corinthians 1:7a (NIV)

A few weeks ago I was wondering exactly where my property line lay in relation to a few adjacent lots. There are metal property pins driven into the corner of each lot, but most of them have been buried over time. So, I put out a plea on Facebook for a metal detector as I figured that was what I lacked to find the pins, and a friend brought one over to me. In the process, however, another friend messaged me a link to an iPhone app. I never knew it, but my iPhone can act as a metal detector. Who knew. All along I had what I needed right in the palm of my hand.

You don’t have enough….”
What you really need is….”
If only you had….”
You’ll never, until you have….”

Along the journey through life I have come to realize that our economy and our culture is predicated on an innate sense of scarcity. A market is driven by supply and demand. If a company is building a supply of widgets that they want to sell to the masses, then they must somehow create a demand for it. The marketing and branding gurus go to work convincing us that we want that widget. We need that widget. Our lives are less fulfilled without it and life would be more comfortable, satisfying, and complete if we only had this widget.

Scarcity is the underlying belief that I am not enough and I don’t have enough. We are subtly fed this message day in and day out without us ever being aware of it. Along the way, I’ve come to the realization that it seeps out of mass media into my very soul. It affects the way I view God and my spiritual thought and belief system.

If only I was a gifted [fill in the blank]….”
God won’t ever be happy with me because I’m not….”
I would feel closer to God if only I had….

In the opening of his letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth, Paul reminds them that they don’t lack any spiritual gift. Other teachers were trying to convince them that what they “really needed” was to be baptized by this particular teacher, or the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues, or this, or that, and et cetera. Paul made it clear. You’ve got what you need. You just don’t realize it.

On this Monday morning when my soul is weary and I’m staring out at long week ahead, it is easy to feel a sense of lack. It seems that what I really need is scarce and I’m starting the week in a deficit of [fill in the blank]. It is good to be reminded that as a follower of Jesus I am blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) God has spiritually provided all that I need. It’s time to realize it, and accept the realization.



Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 10

Inside the church built by brothers Marcus and...
Inside the church built by brothers Marcus and William Brims, Mareeba, ca. 1904 (Photo credit: State Library of Queensland, Australia)

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)

Over the past several months I’ve sat in church on Sunday mornings and carefully observed more than ever before. I’ve watched. I’ve questioned. I’ve worshipped. I’ve listened. I’ve prayed. I’ve contemplated. I’ve ruminated…So often church becomes about programming, but I think it’s really about people.

So often church becomes about pulling many people in, but I think it’s really about sending people out.

So often church takes itself way too seriously. Yesterday I was reminded in the sermon that God has feelings so He can feel hurt and pain and disappointment, and rejection. While I wholeheartedly agree, I sat and contemplated that God must also then feel levity, joy, happiness, laughter, silliness, and even giddiness. If what we believe is true, then there is more than sufficient reason for smiles, laughter, and celebration. I think church needs a greater sense of humor.

So often church becomes about catch-phrases, gimmicks and marketing, but I think it’s very simply about love. When I read the verse above from today’s chapter, I thought it an apt mission statement for the church. If we’re not motivating people to active love, I think we’re missing the mark.


Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 6

A "What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD) bracelet
Image via Wikipedia

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Hebrews 6:11 (NLT)

I was raised going to church every Sunday morning. While there have been occasional stretches of the journey during which I’ve opted to frequent “Bedsprings Baptist” or “Pillowcase Presbyterian,” I’m still a regular attender. Corporate worship is a waypoint in my weekly journey.

Along the way and through the years I’ve seen a lot of programming fads and gimmicks come and go. Some are slick affairs cooked up by the Christian marketing and publishing machine or a denomination’s corporate offices. Others are home grown initiatives trying to tap into our culture which endlessly buys into fads and passing fancies.

I remember sitting in a church service holding a bracelet I’d been given. I listened to the instructions regarding how I should respond when people asked me what my bracelet meant. I was to parlay the conversation into inviting them to church. The sub-text of the instructions told me that the goal was to get more butts in the chairs. I laughed to myself as I pictured Jesus looking sincerely at his disciples and saying: “I tell you the truth, they will know you are my followers if you all wear these shiny orange bracelets.”

Cynicism aside, I’m reminded again by today’s chapter that being a follower of Jesus is not about 40 Days of Purpose or not sweating small stuff or Each One Reach One or being Promise Keepers or What Would Jesus Do or National Come Back to Church Sunday or bright orange bracelets. Being a follower of Jesus is about love…. period.

Love is the start, the finish, and the means. Love is what God gives freely and abundantly, and love is what God requires in kind. Love is the calling card, the contract, and the reward.

Love God with all you’ve got. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you. Love not just with words but with acts of kindness and financial gifts that require sacrificing your own self-centered desires. Love and forgive those who’ve wronged you, hurt you, double-crossed you, cheated you, slandered you, talked about you behind your back, stolen from you, spit in your face, dishonored your name, teased you, ignored you, misunderstood you, withheld from you, and raked you over the coals. Love the sick. Love the orphan. Love the slave. Love the prisoner. Love the widow. Love the leper. Love the one dying of AIDS. Love the poor. Love the starving. Love the unloveable. Love the liberal Democrat. Love the conservative Republican. Love children. Love the elderly. Love the sinner. Love the whore. Love the drunk and the addict. Love and honor your parents. Love and do not exasperate your children. Love fully. Love freely. Love with complete abandon. Love until it hurts, then squeeze out more.

When love is authentically and actively present, no other marketing or gimmick is required.

Chapter-a-Day James 3

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 14:  Guests to the White ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. James 3:17 (NLT)

It is said that good things come in small packages, and the further I proceed into the journey the more I find both truth and wisdom in the saying.

In our consumerist culture we fall easy prey to a mindset that “more is better” and “bigger is better.” The sentiment trickles into the homes we live in, the cars we drive, and even into our worship and our churches.


I’ve watched speakers and preachers who fall into the same trap. If one point is good then three points are better. If one illustration is good, then five illustrations will nail it.

Things are different in the economy of God’s Kingdom. Despite what you may have heard from televangelists and public icons made by the Christian marketing machine, Kingdom economics run upstream from popular thought. In Kingdom economics less is more. The last is first. Giving is better than getting. The humble are exalted. Contentment is profitable.

In today’s chapter I found one little verse that sums up the entirety of who I want God to mold me to be. Such a good and powerful thing in a few simple words.

Good things come in small packages.

After all, salvation came in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.