From birth, I had a front row seat at the moving picture; “The Failure of The American Dream.” The cast included the paternal side of my family. I was born after the dream of owning their own business was conceived. I was two years old when the Cummins Construction Company was launched but H.E. Cummins (my grandfather) and his three sons already had a big head of steam in 1955. You would have thought, with such a good seat, having the cast as his mentors, the first born male of the third generation would acquire a hard-knuckled grasp of entrepreneurial capitalism. You would have thought he would just follow the script and inherit the kingdom laid out before him. He did not. This relational oriented child was watching (and experiencing) what was going on behind the scene.

Some kids run away from home when they have had their fill of the corrupt regime that is running their households. In my pragmatic, wounded and rebellious heart, I just stuck around, enjoying the food and lodging; but I was running away in my heart. Growing up on this set, the grand revelation accruing to me was that material prosperity did not directly equate to quality of life. In the code that was forming in my heart, I was working with the premise that materialism in fact led to family dysfunction. The primary tutor, reinforcing this theory, was my often absent father, who was growing his part of the family’s regional conglomerate along with a duodenal ulcer.

The ulcers, the divorces, the hatred, the failing emotional and mental health of the cast, reinforced my vows that I would never, NEVER return to this set; that I would never participate in this horror movie, and that I would stay as far away from my Dad as I could. Why? It was painful. This relational child could not handle rejection. I witnessed the accumulation of wealth and pain. I didn’t know much at 18 but I knew I could not survive in this environment. I was able to flee geographically when I went to college. The primary lesson I learned there was that the regime was not the only problem. There was some kind of corruption at work in me as well.

I became a Christian in 1976, which addressed the root of my corruption but my vows remained in place. When I read our passage at the age of 23, I simply merged my vows with Jesus’ teachings. Christ’s teachings seemed to reinforce the revelation of my youth; “We must sell everything in order to be right with God.” Did you hear the lie embedded in that last sentence? Keep this question in mind as we read our passage together.

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. (Matthew 10:17-22)

“Amen Jesus!” It was so encouraging to know Jesus agreed with me. He and I both knew that one must maintain their vow of poverty in order to be right with him. I wasn’t going to go away sad. I didn’t own much property, and by God’s grace it would remain so. Thus, my life verse;

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) 

It seemed Paul too was in agreement with Jesus and I. Wow! It felt great to be walking hand-in-  hand with the Lord on such solid spiritual ground! Or so I thought. Let’s follow Jesus and I a bit further down the trail.

And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Matthew 10:23-27)

The Holy Spirit would help us identify and renounce the lies we have believed. The whopper I had latched onto was that there was something remaining that I must do in order to be right with God. That is the demonic-inspired lie that fuels religion and it drove me for years. The Spirit didn’t just pluck that tare from the field either. He let it grow until I got a pretty good taste of the nasty fruit it can produce. Vows and oaths have deep roots and mine had even become entangled with scripture. However religion, like the Law, can be an excellent tutor. By God’s mercy, the Holy Spirit has been succeeding in his mission. If I hear the snake say, that I must do anything in order to be right with God, I quickly take the hoe to his head.

Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” (Matthew 10:28-31)

Those who know me, know that I returned to my family in Enid and even served the Cummins Construction Company as its President for many years. How could this be? It came about because I had been caught up in another script that God my Father was writing. I am fond of Jesus’ words;

With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.

It is impossible for man to contribute anything that can make him right with God. If you think I am wrong, you are standing on shifting sand. It is Christ alone who has drawn me through the needle’s eye. It was as though I was born to play a role I swore I would not take. In spite of us, the author writes us back into his story; God restored my relationship with my Dad; My Dad became a Christian; In spite of inheritance squabbles, my sibling speaks to me once again. In spite of me, I have received a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms. If persecutions include the resistance of the world, the flesh and the devil to this story, then yes, there has even been persecution. And while I can not see it now, from the perspective of my part, I anticipate that many who are first will be last, and the last, first.

Father, we were born to play parts in a moving picture that will go on and on, far beyond our mind’s eye, far beyond this season in the flesh. Help our hearts to yield to those persecutions that have been written, inexplicably, into the plot. Help us to embrace them, knowing they are our cues toward Life. Amen.






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