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Monday, June 29, 2009

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

I'm re-reading Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands for my upcoming classes in August. Below is the book review I submitted for the Winter 2005 issue of EFCA Today (reprinted with permission). Excellent book!

Instruments in the Reedemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
(©2002, P&R Press: Phillipsburg, NJ, 348 Pages)

Review by Rev. Matt Mitchell

Heading the list of “things I wish I had learned better in seminary” is how to help people change. It turns out that spiritual growth is not automatic, and neither is knowing how to help people grow. That’s why Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands was such a welcome book to me. The subtitle says it all: “People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.”

Instruments is a manual on “personal ministry”–training the reader to help others to grow in Christlikeness. Paul Tripp artfully unpacks the doctrines of indwelling sin, progressive sanctification, and the priesthood of all believers, bringing it into the kitchens, living rooms, and mini-vans of everyday life.

He begins by painting the “big picture” in six inspiring chapters: Good News! The King has come and is restoring His people, starting in their hearts and working outward. And we, as His ambassadors, have the high calling of representing Him in each other’s lives. We, ourselves, are being changed by the King, and He calls us to be instruments of change in His redeeming hand.

In the last eight chapters, Tripp unfolds his model of helping people towards heart and life transformation with four key words: LOVE - KNOW - SPEAK - DO. Tripp teaches that we need to follow the “Wonderful Counselor” by incarnating His love and entering into the worlds of the people around us. Merely casual relationships will not do in the Body of Christ. When we have built each others’ trust, we begin to see where change is needed. Tripp then trains us in the art of asking good questions to get to the heart of things. Lasting change will not happen, however, until the truth is spoken in love and people are led in authentic repentance.

Instruments does have its weaknesses. At 350 pages, a reader can get lost pretty easily. Though engaging, it feels a bit like an academic textbook. And many of the colorful illustrations are drawn from the author’s intense counseling ministry leaving some readers overwhelmed with the severity of the problems being addressed. If more of the illustrations were taken from kitchens and mini-vans, it would strengthen his argument.

All in all, however, I strongly commend this book to you. Every page is saturated with Scripture and biblical principles that can be put right to work. Use it to train each of your members in face-to-face personal ministry. If wisdom is “the spiritual art of applying truth to life,” Instruments is a book to make you and your people wise.

For deeper study, Instruments has been adapted into a church-based discipleship curriculum: “Helping Others Change,” and is available with an array of similarly excellent materials from ccef.org.

I wish I had this book when I was in training for ministry. I’m glad I have it now. Spiritual growth may not be automatic, but it is possible because of Christ. And through His grace, God has called us to help people change.

Underestimated Danger

The 2009 Summer issue of EFCA Today has come out and I have an article in it [.pdf].

The whole issue [Hidden Danger] is on sexual addiction among church leaders, and my article is called Underestimated Danger: How EFCA Districts Are Helping Pastors.

A highlight at national conference this year was talking with another pastor in the hall who thanked me for my article(s) in the magazine. Praise the Lord for being helpful to others. That's what it's all about!

Multiply

Had a great time at the EFCA National Conference this last week. The theme was:


Heather got to go this year and thoroughly enjoyed the workshops, fellowship with other ministry wives, and even time with me! She enjoyed a good pace this year--including time for a date-night and a half day at the U of M arboretum.

I really enjoyed participating in some forums that were looking for input (EFCA Today editorial consultants team, District Boards of Ministerial Standing, etc) and networking with friends old and new (especially with district friends!).

Our President, Bill Hamel (who was elected for another 3 year term as president), spoke on Wednesday night on multiplying younger leaders. He was at the top of his game, and I was encouraged to re-evaluate who I am doing the most investing in--is it the next generation?

A conference highlight for me was meeting and voting for the new President of Trinity: Craig Williford. Trinity has caught a good one!


Craig & Carolyn Williford


Sunday, June 21, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "The Lord's Money and The Lord's Heart"


“The Lord’s Money and The Lord’s Heart”
In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
June 21, 2009
Psalm 24:1-2

Last week, we began our new sermon series on money entitled: “In God We Trust: What the Bible Says About Money.”

And we started to lay a theological foundation for thinking about money biblically.

What was the main thing that we learned last week?

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Money is not just physical. Money is not just financial.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

You know the phrase, “Follow the Money?”

There is a direct tie between our money and our hearts.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Did you think about that at all this last week as you did your financial dealings?

What you do with your money reveals your heart.

How was your heart revealed this week?

If we looked at your accounts, what spiritual things would we see?

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Now, this morning, I want to lay down another major foundational biblical truth about money.

But before we do, I want us to think briefly about this question:

Is Money Good or Bad?

What do you think?

Now, I don’t see any way around money in this present world. It’s got to be.

But isn’t that because we are bad? So it’s a necessary evil?

The Bible says, doesn’t it, that money is the root of all evil?

What do you think?

That’s right. The Bible does NOT say that money is the root of all evil.

What does it say? The LOVE of money is the root of all evil, or of all kinds of evil.

Money is good. It’s something that God has provided for His people at least in this age, and it seems to me, in the world to come.

It comes, in this fallen world with our fallen hearts, with all kind of temptations to do wrong things with it. We’ll talk about those: steal, covet, love, worship, serve, overspend, miss-spend, defraud and so on.

But money itself is a good thing.

And here’s one of the major reasons why I say that (and it is the major foundational point I want to make this morning):

GOD OWNS ALL OF THE MONEY IN THE WORLD.

And if money was bad in and over itself, He wouldn’t want to own it.

God owns all of the money in the world.

Here’s our first text this morning:

Turn with me to the twenty-fourth Psalm. Psalm 24, verses 1 and 2.

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”

Everything on earth belongs to the Lord.

And that includes money.

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,” [KJV: “and the fullness thereof”] Why? Verse 2 says because He created it.

He made it. Therefore it is His.

And that includes all of the money.

God owns all of the money in the world.

Does anybody remember what last week’s message was titled?

Anybody remember the title of last week’s sermon?

It was called, “My Money and My Heart.”

This week’s message is titled, “The Lord’s Money and the Lord’s Heart.”

Because God owns all of the money in the world.

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”

Now, if this was the only verse that said anything like this, then we might be tempted to explain it away.

But it’s just the most comprehensive and poetical!

The rest of the Bible is completely clear that God owns–in the ultimate sense–everything that there is on Earth including all of its wealth.

Psalm 50:9-11, God says: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” And in that agrarian society, that describes tremendous, unimaginable wealth.

King David in 1 Chronicles 29 prays, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

God owns all of the money in the world.

And if we have any in our hands, it comes from His hands!

In the book of Haggai, the people are concerned about the piddly little temple that they are seeing rebuilt in Jerusalem.

And God promises that His future temple will be glorious.

And it’s not clear exactly how that’s going to happen.

So, do you know how God promises to make sure that it will happen?

He says (Haggai 2:8), “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty.”

God runs through the Bible laying claim to everything and everyone.

He owned the Promised Land.
He owned Levites.
He owned the Israelites.

He owns the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.

Even the silver and the gold. Even the money.

All of the wealth of the world is His.

If God were writing scripture today, He’d say that He owns the bank accounts and the visa cards. He owns the hedge funds and the federal exchange. He owns the blue chip stocks and the liquid assets.

God owns all of the money in the world!

Money is profoundly spiritual. And one of the biggest reasons for that is that God, the most spiritual being in the universe, God Himself owns it all.

Now, that may or may not be news to you. But it is completely life-changing when we realize the implications of it!

God owns all of the money in the world.

Now, let me ask you a question: If that’s true, what does that do to private property?

Is there such a thing as private property, is their such a thing as human ownership?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, there is private property as it relates to each other–other humans.

No, there is no private property as it relates to God. Unless we think about it as only His private property.

The money in my bank account is mine in relationship to you.

And the money in your bank account is yours in relationship to me.

Your money is not my money and my money is not your money.

Therefore, private property exists. It is wrong for me to steal. It is wrong for me to covet. It is wrong for me to defraud you of your money. It is yours. That’s implied by the 10 Commandments.

That was clear even in the early church, for example, when Annaias and Saphira pretended that they had given everything to the church when they hadn’t. Peter told them as they died[!] that the money was theirs and they should’ve just kept some but been honest about it.

It was theirs compared to not being everyone else’s.

We’re not supposed to take from this truth, God owns all of the money in the world, and I belong to God, therefore, I can just take it from whomever I want–it’s not theirs anyway!

No. We’re going talk more about stealing down the road.

But in relationship to God, there is no private property.

There is no: This is my money over here and this is God’s money over here.

That’s how we often think about it, isn’t it?

Especially on Sundays when it’s time to give.

“Nine for me, one for Him. Nine for me, one for Him.”

No. God owns all of the money in the world.

The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it.

Now, what does that make us?

The old word for it is STEWARD. A steward is someone entrusted with another’s property and given the responsibility of managing it for a time in the owner’s best interests.

We don’t use that word much any more except around church. It’s lost its meaning.

Today, we might talk more about a Money Manager. Or a Financial Agent.

But it’s the same thing.

We are God’s Money Managers. Any money (or possession) that we have is ultimately His and put in our care for a time, and we will have to give an account for it.

Jesus taught this.

Jesus tells several parables in the gospels about being money managers or stewards. Luke 16, Luke 19, Matthew 25 and so on.

In all of these stories, there is a Master who is more or less like God. And there is a manager, a servant who is given money to manage, and there is an accounting for how the money was used.

And while I believe that these parables are about more than just money, they are not about less than money.

They are also about how we use the resources (time, talents, treasures–money) that God has entrusted to our care.

God owns all of the money in the world.

And we are His money managers.

Now, in one sense that’s very freeing, isn’t it?

The Christian leader John Wesley was once told, “Mr. Wesley, something terrible has happened! Your house burned to the ground!” But Wesley responded, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.”

It’s freeing. If we have this perspective, we aren’t possessed so much by our possessions–they aren’t ours in the first place!

But it also raises a major question, doesn’t it?

What should we do with the Lord’s money?

If I’m a financial agent, and if it’s not mine, then what am I supposed to be doing with it?

And here’s the answer: Do what you believe is in the Lord’s heart for that money.

I need a brave volunteer from the audience. It could be a man or a woman, young or old. Needs to be at least, let’s say, 10 years old.

Yes. Roye, come up here.

Are you brave?

I want you to examine this $10 bill. Is this a real $10 bill? Not one of Jeff Schiefer’s funny-monies is it?

Okay. Here’s the deal. This $10 bill belongs to me and my wife.

We want you to manage it for us.

Will you do that for us?

For the next 2 weeks, we want you to make the decisions about this $10 of ours. You can put it in your wallet with your own money. You can spend it, loan it, invest it, give it, whatever you can do with money, you are welcome to do with this $10.

Here’s the catch. In two weeks, on July 5th, we’re going to want an accounting of what you did with that money.

Now, I’m not saying that it needs to grow. I’m not asking for interest. It’s okay if it does grow, but it doesn’t have to. This isn’t a loan. You aren’t borrowing it from me. You’re managing it for me. Your are our financial agent. Okay?

How does that feel?

You ready for this?

Okay. Two weeks. We’ll see you back here.

Now, God is doing that every single day with everything that we have.

God owns all of the money in the world.

And if we have any in our hands, it is His. We are supposed to manage it.

How much money do you have? How much in your wallet? In your bank account? In your investments? In your possessions (equity in your house)?

It’s not yours. It’s yours relative to me. But it’s not yours relative to God.

It’s His. What are you doing with it?

Do you see why money is profoundly spiritual?

How do we know what to do with money?

We do what we believe is the heart of God for that money.

And that could be a lot of different things, couldn’t it? We have to get to know the heart of God so that we make wise choices with His money.

That’s the point of this whole series. That’s why we are studying what God thinks about money–so that we get a sense of His heart!

If God cares about the poor, then we should make sure that His money gets invested in the poor!

If God cares about the lost, then we should make sure that His money gets invested in missions.

If God cares about the local church, then we should make sure that His money gets invested in the local church.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

If God cares about our families, then we should make sure that His money gets invested in our families.

If God cares about order in society, then we should make sure that His money gets invested in government by way of taxes.

If God cares about our businesses, then we should make sure that His money gets invested in...

You get the idea! If God cares about...fill in the blank...then we should make sure that His money gets invested in the things that are valued in the heart of God.

That’s a big deal, isn’t it? It’s bigger than $10.

Our friend Pastor Josh Perry and some of the members at Crew Community Church in Huntingdon, West Virginia did a little experiment that they ran before their congregation.

They switched debit card accounts for two weeks!

Josh and Sarah had Tim and Jennie’s debit card.

And Tim and Jennie had Josh and Sarah’s.

And for two weeks, they used each other’s money for all of their financial dealings.

What a trip, huh? Would you like to try that sometime?

Sure, if I’m switching places with Bill Gates, right?

The point of their experiment was to really feel the fact that the money they were using wasn’t theirs.

We should feel that each and every day.

Wisdom in financial dealings has a lot to do with knowing the heart of our Father.

If you are a child with a living father, what did you get them for Father’s Day?

I was greeted today with several hand-made gifts at the table. Love ‘em!

Maybe it’s a phone call or a card today for your Dad.

I’m going to see my Dad this afternoon. And the kids are going to stay at his house this week while Heather and I go to National Conference. So, I guess I’m giving him grandkids for Father’s Day!

The best way to get a good Father’s Day gift is to know your Father so much that you know what he would want. You know his heart.

And that’s how we learn how to use the money that God our Father has entrusted to us.

What are you up to with God’s money?

Does it reflect His heart?

In the parable of the “talents” in Matthew 25, a man goes away on a journey (the man is like God), and leaves three servants in charge of his estate (the servants are like us). He gives them money to manage.

Two of the manage it well. And the master tells them this, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” [Mt. 25:21, 23].

They knew the Father’s heart and they got enjoy it.

But the other servant didn’t know the Master’s heart. He told him, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering wher yo have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

He didn’t understand his master, at all! He didn’t know his heart.

His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” And then he banishes him.

Now, the main point of that parable is to be doing God’s business while we wait for the return of Christ. To be investing in the kingdom.

But I was struck this week that the wicked servant didn’t know the heart of the master. He didn’t know (or care!) what the master cared about. He didn’t really know what kind of a master he was. One that wanted to share His happiness with His faithful servants.

He didn’t know the Master’s heart.

If he had, he would have managed the Master’s money more faithfully.

Roye, you are welcome do with that money whatever you think would be in the heart of Heather and me for that money.

For example, if you are hungry, if you think that Heather and I would want to feed you, then buy yourself lunch with that $10.

If you think that we’d much rather invest it and get a return on our investment, then you do that.

If you think we’d rather it was given to a good cause, then you do that.

It’s not yours, but you are making choices with it. Choices that reflect our heart. And you will have give an account for what you did with it.

Now, how do you know our hearts?

You watch us.
You read what we write.
You talk with us.

You relate to us. As we grow in our relationship with God, we grow in our knowledge of what He really cares about and in wisdom for what we should do with the money He entrust to us.

Here’s another way that we come to know His heart.

We give Him our hearts.

What is the second half of Psalm 24:1?

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it...”

We are His, too. Not just all of the money.

But God owns all of the people in the world–because He made us. And can do with us what He wants.

But it gets better than that.

We belong God, as Christians, not just by creation, but by redemption.

1 Peter 1:18&19 says, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed (bought!) from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ...”

We who are Christ-followers belong to God in a special way–we have been bought back from our slavery to sin, we have been redeemed!

Have you been redeemed? If you don’t know if you are redeemed, I invite you to turn from your sin and put your trust in the precious blood Christ.

Give Him your heart.

And you will come to know His.

And that will be a guide for you into the wonderful world of stewardship.

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”

God owns all of the money in the world.

We are His financial agents.

And as we learn His heart, we will know what to do with His money.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thumps Up for UP!

Heather and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary yesterday with a trip to the movie theater.

We saw what I can only describe as the best cartoon I've ever seen--and by far: UP.

I am prone to crying in movies, but never before in the first 10 minutes.

Poignant, funny, powerful, character-driven, fantastical, story-centered, dramatic, adventurous, joyful--perfect! And a love story to boot.

See it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sing!

Joe Thorn has a new note to himself: Sing!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Reading

Al Mohler on Summer Reading.

(You wouldn't know it, at first, but Mohler is a very funny guy).

I hope to soon get out a list of what I'm attempting to read this Summer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "My Money and My Heart"


“My Money and My Heart”
In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
June 14, 2009
Matthew 6:21

Well, as you can tell from the back of your bulletin, the new sermon series on money has officially begun!

Thank you for praying for me as I’ve studied and prepared (and studied and prepared and studied and prepared!). Don’t stop praying, because as I’ve told other people, just because I’m ready preach doesn’t mean it’s any good!

Really, truly, thank you for praying.

And thank you to Jeff Schiefer, our resident graphic artist, for the new logo for this series. It’s a little small this week, maybe we can have Stacey blow it up bigger for next week so that you can see all of the little details that Jeff has worked into the design.

I especially like my name there where the secretary of the treasury normally signs the bill!

Jeff told me that he’d thought about putting my ugly mug in instead of Washington’s. But I think that there would be too many Groucho glasses and handlebar mustaches drawn onto the back of our bulletins if we did that!

Now, Jeff these aren’t legal tender are they? You can’t print up about 100,000 of these on green paper for me can you? I didn’t think so.

The series title is “In God We Trust: What the Bible Says About Money.”

And it’s not just a series on giving. Often, when you think about preachers and preaching on money, you expect them to talk about giving.

And we will talk about giving–a lot. Generous giving is an important biblical command for us to follow with amazing joyful rewards that come with it. We’ll talk about that.

But this series is about more than just giving.

In fact, it’s about more than just money. It’s really about our possessions, in general.

But money, in specific, because money symbolizes our possessions, is what we often use to get our other possessions, and can be our greatest earthly possession.

So, we’re going to talk about money. What the Bible says about money.

What we could do, would do, should do with money.

And also, what we couldn’t, wouldn’t, and shouldn’t do with money.

We’re going to cover a lot of ground in the next couple of months.

But before we get too far into it, I want to say a few things about the reasons WHY I am preaching on money and a few things about what are NOT the reasons why I’m preaching on money.

First off, I’m not preaching on money because the church is in bad financial shape.

Some people think that whenever the preacher gets to talking about money, there is a money problem in the church. But the opposite is actually true. Your elder board met on Tuesday night, and we got our financial report from our trusty treasurer Pennie, and we’re in fine shape. All of our bills are paid, the missionaries are supported, the staff has received their paychecks (Praise the Lord!), we’re not behind on the budget. Our fuel bill is paid for at least the next year.

We are in good shape. (That doesn’t mean “stop giving!”) But we are in good shape right now.

And I think that that makes it a good time to preach on money. Because there is no possible ulterior motive.

And while I’m talking about that–today marks my 11th anniversary as your pastor. It was actually June 14, 1998 when I officially began my ministry here.

For what it’s worth, I think that today, I have become the longest serving pastor that Lanse Free Church has ever had in its 117 years. There was a Reverend Johansen that was here for 11 years, I don’t know if that’s 11 and some change or just 11. But as this next 12 months go by, I’ll be passing him into 12 years of service.

And for the last 11 years, you have done a phenomenal job of taking care of our financial needs. Thank you!

You are a very generous church. I have nothing but pastoral pride for how you have taken care of us...AND...for how you have given to others!

You send about a quarter of all of our budget outside of our ministry here. That’s awesome.

And it’s actually more than that because you regularly give to causes and funds and needs beyond our budget!

You gave an extra, unbudgeted $10,000 to our district this March. I am so proud of you!

You are generous as a church. I don’t know if everyone of us is generous, and we always need to hear the call to be generous, but I’m NOT preaching this series because this church needs a boost in the generosity area!

Second, I am not preaching on money because I’m some kind of financial expert!

I am not!

I’m not a total money dummie, but I’m not an economist either, and I have struggled both to understand the big picture of what God says about money in the Bible (one of big reasons why this series has taken so long to prepare!), and I’ve struggled at times to manage my money well within God’s revealed will for how to handle our money.

To give you an embarrassing example. This week, I overspent the money in my checking account, and I’m going to get what I call “a speeding ticket” in the mail this week saying that I have a overdraft protection fine. Sorry about that, Heather Joy!

Now, we’ll be fine. I’ll be getting my next generous paycheck soon, and I can pay the overdraft fee, and we will make our monthly budget this month, too.

But I got to spending too fast without reference to what I had in my account, and I’m going to have to pay a speeding ticket.

And, part of this overdraft situation, I was at a restaurant this week with some friends, and I realized that I didn’t have cash and had to borrow ten bucks to pay the bill.

Now, that’s not the general way that I operate. Don’t get me wrong! And think that your pastor is out of control with his funds. Or will be hitting you up for a loan soon!

But, I tell you this to say that I am not some kind of an expert on money.

Wisdom with money comes hard for me. And God has been very gracious to me in the wife that He gave me and the principles of financial wisdom that came with her.

And I’ve learned a LOT over the years.

But I’m not some kind of an expert. I’m not Dave Ramsey or Larry Burkett or Ron Blue or Randy Alcorn.

So, we’ll be learning together as we study what God says about money.

And I’m going give some personal examples along the way. Examples of what to do and what not to do from my own experience (like–don’t get a overdraft speeding ticket!).

And in giving these personal examples, I don’t want you to think that I’m expecting everyone to do the same exact things with their money that I’ve done with my money.

No, I’ll give them for examples, but you need to figure out FROM WHAT GOD SAYS here and how you feel that the Lord is leading you what you are going to do with your funds. Okay?

So, I’m going to be real with you, and you then deal between you and God with what you do with these principles. Okay?

Now, enough about why not. Why?

The number one reason is because of our economy. As I look out on an economy in recession–which could conceivably (I’m told) become another Depression, I think that it is vital that the church rehearse what God has told us about money.

If we are going to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, then we need to go over again and again what He wants us to do with money.

And that’s true all of the time, but I think in depressing economic times, it’s even more true. We have to remind ourselves–this is what Gods think about money! And act accordingly.

And secondly, I see that a lot of people are struggling with money. So, there is a practical component to this series, as well. It’s not a money management course, but I expect that the principles that we learn will have a practical outworking in our own household budgets and the decisions that we are making about money.

I expect this series to help us practically with our own balance sheets.

And the third major reason for this series (beyond the fact that I’ve never preached a series on money, just individual sermons), is the point of today’s message.

And that is this: Money is Profoundly Spiritual.

The Bible teaches that what we do with money is profoundly spiritual.

Money is not just physical.
Money is not just financial.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

What we do (or don’t do), what we think (or don’t think), what we feel (or don’t feel) about money reveals all kinds of things about our spiritual condition.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Our text for today is the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6, verse 21.

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Money is profoundly spiritual.

What we do with money is profoundly spiritual.

It involves our hearts!

Remember, your heart is not just the “feeling” part of you. It is the worshipping control center of your being. It is the spiritual part of you.

We live out of our hearts. The heart is the authentic you. It is the most you part of you.

Our hearts are the spiritual control center of our lives.

The Bible says to guard our hearts because our hearts are the wellspring of our lives.

Our lives flow out of what is in our hearts.

That’s true of our words. Right? Out of the overflow of the–what?–heart the mouth speaks.

Well, it’s also true of our money.

Money is profoundly spiritual. It is directly tied to our hearts.

Notice what Jesus says in verse 21.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In the context of talking about giving and money and not worrying, etc, Jesus explicitly ties our money to our hearts.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

We might not want to think about it, but money is profoundly spiritual.

There is a direct link between what we do with money, and what is going on with our hearts.

I want to say three things about that.

#1. THE LORD CAN TELL WHERE OUR HEARTS ARE BY WHERE OUR TREASURES ARE.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And God can see it.

What you do with money reveals what is going on in your heart.

Now, in this context, that’s true about giving. If you send your “treasures” on ahead to heaven, they won’t rust or wear out or get stolen.

First Bank of Heaven is 100% guaranteed. FDIC “Father Deposit Insurance!”

And God can tell if you heart is set on things above by whether or not you are a generous with money.

But it’s also true about everything else that we do with money.

Money is an spiritual indicator.

Whether you are:

Buying.
Selling.
Borrowing.
Loaning.
Investing.
Stealing.
Paying taxes.
Working.
Spending.
Worrying.
Gambling.
Budgeting.

Whatever you are doing with money is an indicator of your spiritual condition.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And God can see it.

Now, I can’t always see it. And neither can you.

I can’t necessarily tell by looking at your bank statement or your credit card statement what is going on in your heart.

Because I can’t see your heart. And the same action might have radically different heart motives behind it.

So it’s important not to quickly judge people based upon what you see them doing with their money. It’s important not to too quickly judge motives!

But God can see it.

God sees where your heart is by where your treasure is.

Your money gives away your heart.

And if we’re honest with each other–we can see a good deal of our own hearts by looking at our money, too, can’t we?

Think about your financial dealings this last week. What might they say about your heart?

My wife and I refinanced our mortgage this week.

What we were doing was not just financial. It was profoundly spiritual.

Our hearts were totally engaged. And I felt that on Friday when we closed on the loan. Especially because I’ve been working on this series.

How much money is in your wallet right now?

Don’t yell it out!

But do you know?

And how important is that to you?

How much equity do you have stored up?

How are your investments doing?

Those are not just financial questions. They are spiritual questions. And the state of your heart towards those things reveals your spiritual condition.

Not to me, necessarily. But to the Lord.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Here’s our second point.

#2. THE LORD CAN MOVE OUR HEARTS BY HELPING US MOVE OUR TREASURES.

Notice carefully what our Lord Jesus is saying.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It’s an inevitable rule.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So, one way that God does His work of changing our hearts is by helping us to move our treasures.

Randy Alcorn, in his helpful book, Money, Posessions, and Eternity puts it this way, “But what we do with our money is more than an indicator of where our heart is. According to Jesus, it is a determiner of where our heart is. This is an amazing and exciting prospect. If I want my heart to be in one particular place and not in another, then I need to put my money in that place and not in the other.

Do you wish you had a great heart for missions like other people you know? You can, according to Jesus. Put your money into missions and your heart will follow. Do you want a heart for the poor? Then give your money to the poor. Do you want your heart to be in the church? Give your money to the church. You heart will never be where your money isn’t. It will be where your money is. If most of your money is in General Motors (He wrote this book in 1989!), your house, or your hobby, where is your heart going to be?” [pg. 130]

Do you get it? One way that God changes us (and it’s God’s work, not ours, ultimately!), is to move us to move our money.

To put it into the places where He wants it. So that our hearts get there, too.

Does that make sense?

The Lord can move our hearts by helping us move our treasures.

Is there, right now, a place where your money shouldn’t be?

Without hearing 8 more sermons on it, do you know that you are using money in the wrong way?

It’s time to repent and change.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

And God wants to get our financial houses in order so that our hearts will be in order.

He’s going to use our money to get at our hearts.

Because, number 3, and last:

#3. THE LORD SHOULD BE THE ULTIMATE TREASURE IN OUR HEARTS.

The Lord Himself should be the ultimate treasure in our hearts.

Remember Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And I think He’s talking about more than just money. More than just “treasures” in the sense of possessions.

He’s talking about what we treasure with our hearts.

Even, what we worship.

That’s why verse 24 likens Money to a false god. Jesus calls Money: Mammon (KJV). And He treats in that verse like a false god.

Now, money isn’t a false god by itself. We’ll talk about that probably next week.

But we can turn it into a false god by treasuring it too highly.

And then the Lord has been taken out of His rightful place at the center of our lives.

He wants to be our supreme treasure!

He wants our hearts!

And what we treasure is where our hearts will be!

Money is profoundly spiritual.

It indicates, in fact, whether or not we are worshiping the One True God revealed in Jesus Christ.

The Lord should be the ultimate treasure in our hearts.

Of course, He has not always been that. Not for any of us.

That’s what sin is. Sin is falling short of treasuring the Lord like we should.

But Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for our appalling lack of treasuring God.

He treasured God perfectly! And His death pays the debt we could not.

And His perfection is now applied to our account so that God see us as perfectly treasuring Him.

And He has now freed us to increasingly love Him more than anything else–including money–and all that it can buy.

He wants to be our Supreme Treasure and where our hearts truly are!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Whole Lives Drift Relentlessly Toward the Spot Where Our Treasures Are Stored

"We think about our treasures, we are drawn toward our treasures, we fret about our treasures, we measure other things (and other people) by our treasures. This is so painfully true that a person who honestly examines himself can pretty well discover what his real treasures are, simply by studying his deepest desires...

[W]tend to move toward the object on which we fix our gaze. In the same way, our whole lives drift relentlessly toward the spot where our treasures are stored, because our hearts will take us there. To follow Jesus faithfully entails therefore a consistent development of our deepest loves, to train ourselves to adopt an unswerving loyalty to kingdom values and to delight in all that God approves."

D.A. Carson on Matthew 6:21 [The Sermon on the Mount, An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7, pg. 78]


True and Abiding Riches

"Jesus bids His disciples therefore never to regard earthly possessions as treasure, much less as permanent treasure to be held on to at all costs. On the contrary, he implies, they should make it their aim to use their material wealth wisely and generously, for by such wisdom and generosity they may well be adding to their true and abiding spiritual riches."

R.V.G. Tasker on Matthew 6:21

Quotes on Money

As our new sermon series begins tomorrow, I will also begin posting quotes that I find stimulating (and may not have room for in the messages).

In God We Trust: What the Bible Says About Money


We're starting a new sermon series tomorrow--"In God We Trust"--one that has been several months in the making/studying. It's on God's view of our money--not just "giving," but the whole gamut of things we could, would, should, and shouldn't do with money.

Jeff Schiefer, our resident graphic artist, has done it again with a new logo for this series.

When I told him how much I like the design, he said, "Thanks. I think we should put you in Washington's place..." Not sure how I feel about that! I think it would lead to a lot of Groucho glasses being penciled into the back of our bulletins...

Thank you to all who have been praying this sermon series into existence. Don't stop until it's done!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drew's Double



Baseball has been one of the sweet surprises this Spring.

Drew has steadily improved as a player, his coaches and teammates have been gracious, fun, and helpful, and our family has enjoyed attending practices and games. Praise God!

Here is Drew getting a double last Friday. Yeah, Drew!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Watching for the End Times" Mark 13:1-37

“Watching for the End Times”
June 7, 2009
Mark 13:1-37

No. The sermon series on money is still not ready.

Lord-willing, we’ll begin that next week. Please continue to pray for me as I prepare.

What’s funny is, after I finally get started, you’re going to be like “What was so hard about that?”

But I have found studying what the Bible says about money to be more full and deep than I had expected. So I’m studying and praying and hope to share some of the fruit of my study with you starting next Sunday.

So, again this week, we are going to look at something else.

And I was thinking about what else to preach on, I thought about a conversation I had with George Leathers about a month ago.

George is one of our elders; and he was in my office; and we talking about the Church and the National Day of Prayer and about what Christians need to be thinking about and doing these days. And George asked that I devote some time either in the pulpit or in a Bible study or Sunday School class to the subject of the End Times.

A lot of Christian people are talking about the End Times right now.

With the current global financial crisis, with North Korea launching missiles, with ongoing wars in various places around the world, and with various troubling changes here in our own nation, a lot of Christians are asking more questions about eschatology.

“Eschatology” is the big word that means study of the Last Things or the study of the theology of what will happen at the End of the World when Jesus returns.

Mark 13 is all about eschatology. It’s all about the events that precede Jesus’ Second Coming.

So it makes sense for us to go back to Mark 13 today and talk about eschatology.

Now, there are few parts of Christian doctrine that are so hotly disputed as the End Times. I think that’s because eschatology is all about the future and things that haven’t happened yet, so there is more unclear than in other areas of Christian teaching, and therefore more areas for disagreement.

I am certainly not claiming to have it all figured out.

I know that we in this room are probably not all on the same page with some of the finer points of eschatological doctrine. And that’s okay. We are still brothers and sisters in Christ.

I believe that there are two major ditches that we can fall into when talking about the End Times. One is what I call “End Times Fever.” That’s the folks who have their prophecy charts out every morning at breakfast when they read the newspaper and are trying figure out what everything in the paper means in light of Daniel and Revelation. “End Times Fever.” We can be more concerned about the time-table than about the Lord’s return. And if someone doesn’t agree with us on each part of our time-table then we are up in arms.

The opposite error of that is also a ditch that we need to avoid. I call it “End Times Indifference.” These are people who couldn’t care less about prophecy. “End Times Indifference.” All too often, we can make the mistake of thinking that it doesn’t matter and not concentrating on what Jesus has said will happen in the last days in such a way that it changes our lives.

So, we want to steer, as a Church and as Christians between those two ditches.

In Mark 13, Jesus confronts both the errors of End Times Fever and End Times Indifference. And the key, according to Jesus, to staying on the road and not falling into either ditch is application.

The key to thinking about the End Times is living in light of them.

And Jesus sums up how we are to live in light of His Second Coming with one word: “Watch!” It’s the very last word of the chapter and it occurs throughout.

Jesus is not so much concerned to give us answers about events in the future as to give us perspective on how to live in the present.

And He says, how to live in the present is to “Watch!”

Jesus is in Jerusalem on what will be His last week before His crucifixion.

He has put the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Teachers of the Law in their place. And they are rip-roaring mad and out to get Him.

They will kill Him.

Jesus is leaving the temple for the last time. V.1

“As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’”

Herod’s Temple was magnificent. It took up one sixth of the land mass of old Jerusalem. It was a wonder of the ancient world. The stones, according to Jewish historian Josephus, were 37 feet long by 12 feet high by 18 feet wide and gilded with gold! The outer dimensions would cover twelve football fields.

But Jesus says that this amazing, massive building will be torn down.

“Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Well, that sounded to the disciples like the End Times. If that was going to happen, that would surely signify the End. V.3

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple [He’s now outside the temple looking back at it...perhaps in judgment], Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’”

Peter, James, John, and Andrew were the first four of Jesus’ disciples. And now, they are getting a private tutoring in eschatology that we are invited to listen in on.

They want to know when the temple will be destroyed and what signs will accompany it; and in their minds that signifies the End Times.

But Jesus is more concerned with how they act in the present time than in giving them a bunch of signs about the future.

Application #1. WATCH OUT FOR DECEIVERS, DISTRESSES, AND DATE-SETTERS. V.5

“Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many.”

Watch out for deceivers. There were be many, and they will deceive many.

They will claim to be the Messiah and lead people astray.

This happened in the first century, and it has happened in every century since then.

They have names like Sun Yung Moon and David Koresh and Jim Jones. And they are sneaky and don’t always look like bad people.

There is a man right now named José Luis de Jesús Miranda who lives in Miami that claims that He is Jesus Christ returned to Earth. He calls himself "Jesucristo Hombre" -- "The Man Christ Jesus.” And he followers in 35 countries with a radio program that reaches 287 stations. People listen to this guy.

And catch this! He has a tatoo with the number 666 on his arm.

Watch out for deceivers.

And watch out for distresses. V.7

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”

Notice closely what Jesus says to His disciples. He says that there will be various distresses: wars, rumors of wars, international rivalry, earthquakes, and famines.

Now, does He say that that means the End Times are here? Actually not.

He says (v.7) “the end is still to come.” He says (v.8), “These are the beginning of the birth pains.”

All of these things are signs but they are not signs. They are signs of the age between the two comings of Christ, but they are not signs of the End.

All of these things happened in the first century. And they have happened in every century since then.

They are the birth pains.

Birth pains are awful suffering that a mother must go through to get to the great joy of a baby.

The birth pains of the world are the awful sufferings that come between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming that the world must go through to get to the great joy of His return.

And whenever we see wars, rumors of wars, international rivalry, earthquakes, and famines, we are reminded that the Lord is coming.

But we aren’t to take any of these distresses as a definitive sign that He is here.

And we aren’t to be surprised that life will be tough until He returns. We feel the birth pains, too. Especially the persecution. Look at verse 9.

“‘You must be on your guard [in Greek that’s the same word as “WATCH”]. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

All of that happened in the first century, and it has happened in every century since then. And it will happen again and again until Jesus returns.

We can expect persecution. We can expect families to turn on one another. Jesus said He brought a sword that would divide families. We are to watch out for distresses because they are coming.

And in the face of these distresses, we are to preach the gospel boldly.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is to be spread to all the nations while we wait for the Lord’s return.

Because God is gathering for Himself a people from “every tribe, people, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7)–just like we read and sang this morning.

And when we are called upon to testify, we don’t have to worry. God the Holy Spirit will give us words!

Don’t be surprised that hard times will come. Just be faithful in them. “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Those who bail on Christ when it gets difficult may not have belonged to Christ in the first place.

Watch out for deceivers and distresses. Jesus said they are coming.

Now, has Jesus answered their question?

Not really. He hasn’t really given them any signs that they can hang onto or told them when the temple will be destroyed.

I think, that in this next part (verses 14-23), Jesus answers their question.

He teaches about the fall of the temple which actually happened forty years after this teaching in AD 70.

However, many good Bible believing scholars disagree with me and think that this next passage is all about the Great Tribulation that is coming at the End of this Age. And some scholars take it to be about both AD 70 and the Great Tribulation. So, there’s room for disagreement here. And I’ve gone back and forth over the years.

Regardless of exactly when this happens, it describes a time of unparalleled distress. And it is an actual event that will occur before the Lord’s return. V.14

“‘When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong–let the reader understand [Mark says, and I wish I did fully!]–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible [and it’s not]. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”

You can see why I think that this is a description of the Jewish war in AD70 and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple that happened then.

The ancient historian Josephus describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in much the same horrifying way.

And it answers the disciples’ question.

But you can also see how this sounds like a description of something that will happen in the future at the Great Tribulation, especially with the words “those days will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equaled again” (v.19).

Perhaps it’s both. Either way, Jesus said that it would happen, and He wants us to “watch out” because of it. V.23

“So be on your guard [Same word again, “WATCH!]; I have told you everything ahead of time.”

And then, the next item on God’s prophetic time-table is the return of Jesus Christ! V.24

“But in those days, following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Behold, He Comes
Riding on the Clouds
Shining Like the Sun
At the Trumpet Call

Lift Your Voice
It’s Year of Jubilee
And Out of Zion’s Hill Salvation Comes! (“Days of Elijah” Robyn Mark)

Jesus is coming back...soon!

Jesus’ words come right out of Daniel chapter 7, verses 13 and 14.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Jesus will return for His people.
Jesus is the King.
And His Kingdom will never be destroyed!

Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Maranatha!

That is our Blessed Hope! The return of Christ!

But Jesus says, beware. Watch out for date-setters. V.28

“‘Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. [Or “He is near, right at the door.”] I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

I think that Jesus is saying that like a fig tree that blooms in late Spring, you can tell by seeing the things in verses 5 through 23 that the return of Christ is near. But you don’t know exactly when it will happen. Summer is close if there are figs, but you don’t know when Summer will actually be here.

So you have to be ready, but at the same time, you are waiting.

And “this generation” alive when Jesus is saying these things will not die until all of the things in verse 5 through 23 have happened (at least begun to happen, the birth pains have begun), so that in the next 40 years Christ’s return will be imminent.

All of these things will be seen in the first century even if they continue for 21 more centuries or 101 more centuries, and they all remind us that Christ’ return is near.

And therefore to be watched for and ready for.

But not certain when. Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Watch out for deceivers (false Christ’s and false prophets, signs and miracles), watch out for distresses (wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, persecutions, tribulations), and watch out for date-setters.

No one knows about that day or hour. Not the angels in heaven, not even the Son of God! But only the Father.

Beware of people who tell you when Christ is going to return.

People did it during the first century, and they’ve done it every century since.

There was a book entitled “88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in 1988.” I don’t think that happened!

We don’t need a book tilted, “2009 reasons why Christ Will Return in 2009!”

Don’t get caught up in End Times Fever and let someone set a date for the return of Christ that makes you change your behavior.

But also don’t get lost in End Times Indifference and forget that Christ is coming back soon! You don’t know when. So you better be ready. V.33

“Be on guard! [WATCH!] Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'”

Application #2. KEEP WATCH FOR THE RETURN OF CHRIST!

Watch out for deceivers, distresses, and date-setters.

But keep watch for the return of Christ.

Do you see how Jesus is not so much concerned to give us answers about events in the future as to give us perspective on how to live in the present?

Keep watch for the return of Christ!

Some delay is expected. But you don’t know when He will return, so you need to keep watch.

What does that mean? “Keep watch?” 6 things.

First, Be Awake.

There is a mini-parable here. Jesus says “It's like a man going away [Whose the man? Jesus]: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back– whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.” That would be a bad thing.

Now, I don’t think that this means that we shouldn’t sleep! That would be a hard one to do!

I think that a least one of the things that “being awake” means is being saved. Being a Christian.

In the New Testament, “sleeping” is often a metaphor for being a nonChristian. But the Christian is spiritually awake.

That’s why Ephesians 5 says, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (v.14).

Be awake.

When Jesus comes a second time, He’s only coming for those who are “awake to Him.” Those who long for Him and love Him and are trusting Him with their lives.

If that doesn’t describe you, you are asleep, and you are in danger.

I invite you to place yourself in Jesus’ hands today. He died on the Cross as the sacrifice for sins, and He is the only way for you to get to the Father. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“Do not let Him find you sleeping.”

Next, Be Busy!

“Keeping watch” is not just “not sleeping,” it’s being busy doing the assignments that the Lord has given you.

In verse 34, the owner of the house gives each servant an assigned task.

What does He want done while he’s gone?

Does He want all of the servants looking out the windows wondering when He’ll get back? No.

He wants them busy doing their assignments.

Preaching the Gospel. When was the last time you shared your faith in view of the return of Christ? I’m praying that someone will get saved this Summer!

Using Their Gifts. What has God given you to build up the body? Use your gift in light of Christ’s near return.

Doing Your Assignment. What has God given for you to do while you are on this Earth? We have many assignments and we are to keep them in light of Christ’s soon return.

You don’t know when He’s coming back, be found busy.

This one goes with last one, Be Investing.

In Matthew’s version of this “Olivet Discourse,” Jesus tells the parable of the talents. A man goes away in that story and leaves his servants in charge of some money.

I’ve been reading that story to prepare for the money series.

What are the servants supposed to do with the money? Bury it? No. Invest it. Put it to work. Like our money, our gifts, and our time. (Time, Talents, and Treasures.)

The owner comes back and wants a return on the investment. And to the extent to which they’ve been putting their time, talents, and treasures to work, they are rewarded.

Keeping Watch means investing in the future.

It means living with an eternal investment mentality.

Jesus calls it “storing up treasures in heaven.”

Here’s how you know if you really believe that Jesus is coming back:

You are investing in the world to come more than you are investing in the world that is now.

We are stewards who will have to given an account.

Be investing.

And then, Be Patient.

It’s not what you expect from a message on the End Times, but that’s a lot of what Jesus is teaching here. He’s surprised us again!

Jesus says that there is going to be some delay (and it’s been 2000 years now). The owner of the house went away and isn’t back yet.

“[W]ars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen but end is still to come.” (V.7)

Keeping watch means waiting. It means being patient for Christ’s return. He is not slow in keeping His promises. He’s just hanging back until the full number of His chosen come in.

So, while we strive and long for the return of the King, we wait patiently for His good timing.

And also, Be Pure.

In Luke’s account of this same teaching, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”

Be pure.

John says, “We know that when [Christ] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

Paul says to Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2:11-13).

Be pure.

Are you living your life the way you would want the Savior to see it when He comes back?

Last week, Heather was away and the house was a pigsty because her husband was in charge.

But I knew that Heather was coming back on Monday.

What do you think I did?

I got that house cleaned for her return.

Be pure.

And last, Be Ready.

“Keeping Watch” basically means living in a state of readiness.

Not too feverishly and definitely not indifferently.

Jesus wants us to be ready for His return.

V.33 “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

V.37 “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Be ready!

Live your life now in light of what will happen then.

Watch for the Return of Christ!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Q&A on Preaching Longer Series

I have a saying, "I have a million opinions, and they are free to the public."

In the spirit of that saying, I'm going to start posting questions I receive (sometimes with names and sometimes anonymous) and emailed answers I send back.

Here's the first in this series:
Q. I am going to take some time next week to think through a preaching schedule for the next 6-12 months. Our leadership really wants us to teach through books of the Bible for the most part. Do you have any thoughts on or resources to point me towards on teaching through longer books (ex. John). It seems like you may need to approach that type of a study differently than say Philippians or Jonah. As I think of doing John for example, you could easily spend 6 months on that book. How do you keep it from getting old?
A. Great question!

For the last decade, most of my preaching has been long series exposition through books of the Bible. My folks love it (for the most part).

I've preached 55 messages from the Gospel of John, 36 from Genesis, 20some for Exodus and Numbers, etc. Love it.

Here are some thoughts for you in no particular order (adapt to your personality/style/context/gifts, of course!):

1. The Bible is not boring. You and I can be boring, but the Bible isn't boring. So a long series doesn't have to be boring if we are preaching what is there.

2. Have a reason for why you are preaching a certain book. Don't just say, "This is a good book. I'll preach that." Just as when we pick shorter books, or topical series, we should have an idea of what themes/truths/applications are present in this book and how that will fill a need in our people right now.

3. Feel free to break up long series with breaks at seemingly appropriate times. When I preached the Gospel of John, I did chps 1-12 in November-July. Then I took a long break and did a topical series on the purpose of the church. Then I came back to chps 13-21 and landed John 20 on Easter! It fit great. Don't do it too much or your people won't know which end is up.

4. Don't go too small with your preaching portions. I measure that, not by what others can do (John Piper is going to take years and years to make it through John--it took almost a decade for him to get through Romans), but by what I think my gifting will allow me to do. Try to measure out your preaching portions in advance (an extended outline).

5. At times, it will seem repetitive. When I preached John, it seemed like the message all the time was that Jesus was God and in Him is life. Well, duh, that was the point of the book (cf. chp 21)! What do you do with that?

A. Be okay with it. If the Spirit was repetitive inspiring John, then maybe we should be repetitive too. We obviously need to hear things again and again.

B. Be creative. Repetition forces us to think and be more creative with HOW we are saying what we're saying. So what if the message is the same? Can you help your people to hear it with new ears?

C. Summarize. Preaching expositionally through books doesn't mean reading every verse and making a comment on every verse. I just preached the book of Joshua. We read nearly the whole thing. But I did an exposition of chapters 13-21 in one message, too. I think that message is true exposition, even though it may not have sounded like it because I didn't read and comment on every verse.

6. When you are embarking on a long series, read several commentaries in preparation. Read good technical commentaries for the details and for what the message of the book is. But also read preacher-type commentaries to see how they broke up the books into preaching portions and what direction they took the applications. I really like the commentaries in the Preach the Word series by R. Kent Hughes for this. Warren Wiersbe's BE series and the NIV Life Application Commentaries are also good for this purpose. Going online and see how online preachers have divided up the text is a good strategy, as well. Don't be a clone but learn from others.

7. I'm not sure what books to send you to. I think that The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching might cover some of this, but I've not read it--just drooled over it. It's more something you learn by feel, example, and trial & error.

Let me know if I can answer any more specific questions.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Right Where She Belongs


Heather had a great time visiting her family--they feted her each and every day--THANK YOU, LUNDEENS!

This is Mommy at the top of Sulpher Mountain.



She is standing under the East Sign--thinking about us back home.

But now...she's right where she belongs--right here with us!

WELCOME HOME, HEATHER JOY!

No More Sleeps Left

I'm on my way to get my honey.

She sleeps with us tonight!