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Friday, July 31, 2009

Wear Out the Knees of Your Everday Jeans -- For Children's Workers

Chris Brauns on what to remember when struggling to find workers at church (cf. Matthew 9:35-38).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "The Heart of Giving"


“The Heart of Giving”
In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
July 26, 2009
2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15

Pop Quiz. Question #1. Money is what? [Profoundly Spiritual.]

That is not just a sentence that we have repeated again and again, it is a deep spiritual truth! Money is not just neutral, physical, or financial. It is spiritual. It is tied to our hearts.

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

What did your heart do with money this week?

What did you buy, rent, sell, loan, give, borrow? And what did it say about your heart?

Your heart is active when it comes to money.

Question #2. Who owns all of the money in the world? [God does!]

“The Earth is the Lords’s and all that is in it.” Not just all of the “unallocated” natural resources in the world–but all of the money that we consider our own!

Everything in our accounts, wallets, and purses.

God owns.

Question #3. What does that make us? [Stewards! Money Managers! God’s financial agents.]

And that means that we must give an account for what we do with God’s money.

Question #4. How many masters can you serve? [Only One.]

Only God or Money. God or Mammon.

We must choose. Once and for all and every day.

Question #5. What are the four main ways that we are tempted to serve money?

1. Worry About Money.
2. Steal Money.
3. Hoard Money.
4. Crave Money.

Question #6. What is the opposite (the antithesis) of worrying about money?

[Trusting God.]

#7. What is the antihesis of stealing money?

[Working and Giving]

#8. What is the antithesis of hoarding money?

[Being generous!]

#9. What is the opposite, the antidote to craving money?

[Contentment in Christ.]

Yes! That’s what we’ve learned so far. And to the degree that we’ve learned those 9 lessons, we’ll experience financial peace and blessing!

Now, this week, I want to go deeper into “The Heart of Giving.”

We’ve seen over the last two months that God has much more to say about money than that we should just give it away. Money is good for more than just giving.

But giving is one of the greatest things that we can do with God’s money. It may be, in fact, the greatest thing that we can do with God’s money. I think it is!

Giving is an incredibly beautiful thing.

Taking something that is in your care, something that is valuable to you and to others and then releasing the control and ownership and care of that thing, that possession, that value, that treasure, from your hands into the hands of someone else–at your own expense, letting go, giving!

That’s beautiful!

Giving is an incredibly beautiful thing.

And we all know that. Even when we don’t want to do it, we all recognize how beautiful, how spiritual [!], how amazing a gift is.

Giving is an incredibly beautiful thing.

And that’s how Paul commends it to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.

Let me give you the background before we read it together.

The Christians in Judea were suffering. They were very poor and there had been financial setback after financial setback–the economy was terrible! So, several times in the New Testament, there were collections of funds taken among the new churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire, especially in Greece, to relieve the suffering of the Christians in Judea.

In the New Testament, there are two main things that Christians are called to give for: Gospel work and workers and the meeting of tangible needs, especially of the poor.

Gospel work and workers and the meeting of material needs, especially of the poor. This was a collection for the second of those: meeting people’s material needs.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul had urged them to get this collection together. And perhaps they did and this is a second collection, but I think that the collection process got stalled–for whatever reasons.

Now, Paul is asking that the church at Corinth finish the collection process and get the money to where it is needed most–Israel.

That’s the background. Paul is asking for money. Not for himself (though he’s not afraid, as a gospel-worker, to live off of the gospel and the giving of Christ-followers), but this time, he’s collecting for the needy in Judea. Let’s see how he asks and what he says about the heart of giving.

He starts by talking about the beauty of some other churches’ giving.

1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 1.

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability[!]. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.”

Giving is a beautiful thing.

Paul was amazed at the beauty of the grace that had been given to the church at Macedonia, the gift that the Macedonia Christians had received. What was the grace? The ability to give.

And to give beyond what they were able!

The Macedonian Christians were experiencing trials. Probably persecutions. Maybe some of them had lost their jobs, not over the economy, but over their Christianity!

But did that stop them from giving? Uh uh. It helped them!

Paul says, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy [in God!] and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity [Now, that’s a crazy equation! Joy + Poverty = Generosity!]. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability[!]. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

That’s totally turned around! The “fundraisees” were asking the fund-raiser for permission to give! Permission Granted!

Here’s the heart of Christian giving: Giving from the heart!

#1. A GENEROUS HEART.

That’s what God wants from us. And what He does in us.

God wants from us and creates in us generous hearts.

God wants us to give generously.

Notice where it comes from. From a relationship with God. V.5

“And they did not do as we expected [poor Christians, going through trials, we expect them to hold onto their cash!], but they gave themselves first to the Lord [That’s important] and then to us in keeping with God's will.”

Notice the consecration involved here. The relationship.

Before giving their money, they gave their hearts to the Lord.

Our generosity comes from our relationship with the Lord.

That’s where these guys got their (v.2) “overflowing joy” to be able to give.

It’s something God does in us. He gives us joy to give.

A generous heart.

That’s what God wants. See verse 6.

“So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning [with this collection], to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

“[E]xcel in this grace of giving.”

God wants us to have generous hearts.

He wants us to excel in the grace of giving.

Are you generous? Am I? Do we have generous hearts?

This church does.

I said it the first Sunday of this series, this is a generous church. You take good care of me. About 50% of our budget here cares for me and our support staff. You give outside of these four walls. 25% of our budget goes outside of here to gospel work around the world. And that doesn’t include special giving like the Shoe project from Family Bible Week or the money given to Haiti earlier this year or next month’s Missionary Christmas fund.

You are very generous as a whole church. I am very pleased to be your pastor.

But are we all generous?

I have not come to generosity very easily. My wife is very generous, but I am much more selfish. Heather has helped me tremendously to learn to be generous with money.

Early on in our marriage, our monthly expenses almost always exceeded our monthly income. I was working part time as a youth pastor, she was working part-time as a church custodian, and I was going to school full time.

It didn’t make any financial sense for us to give! (At least to me.)

But my wife was generous. And she encouraged me to give the firstfruits of our income to the Lord every week.

And, surprisingly, somehow, often miraculously, God took care of all of our needs (and so many blessings beyond!).

I’ve learned some about generosity over the years, but I have a long way to go to (v.7) “excel in this grace of giving.”

How about you? Do you, personally, excel at giving?

We all agree that giving is a beautiful thing! How are you doing at being beautiful?

The heart of giving is a generous heart.

Why?

Because it is #2 A THANKFUL HEART. Look at v.8.

“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love [notice that giving is love! I wish I could camp on that, but we’ll just note it and move on, “I want to test the sincerity of your love...”] by comparing it with the earnestness of others [like the Macedonian Christians–and like Jesus v.9.] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

We love because He first loved us. We give because He first gave to us.

Paul says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [He is the most beautiful person of all!], that though he was [unimaginably] rich, yet for your sakes he became poor [becoming one of us!], so that you through his poverty might become rich [and have every rich spiritual blessing there is!].”


It is from the gospel of Jesus Christ that Christian generosity arises!

We are generous because He was generous first!

Are you thankful for your salvation?

Here’s one way to know–are you generous with your money?

A thankful heart.

Now, you could give money for the wrong reasons. Lots of it for the wrong reasons. But if you are NOT generous, you need to check your heart to see if you are truly a real Christian.

Because Christ gave us everything for you, so you can give some of what you have to Him. A thankful heart.

If you are not yet a Christian, consider the beauty of this gospel–this good news for just a second. The Christian story is that God’s own Son was rich in every glorious way but for your sake became poor–living as one of us–and more than that–dying on the Cross to pay for our sins–absolute poverty so that those who put their trust in Him, those who turn from their sins and trust Him as their Lord and Savior–become spiritually rich forever!

If giving is beautiful, well, there is no greater gift!

Christianity is based on grace. What verse 9 calls, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s all a gift.

And gifts are for receiving. Our side is simply to receive His gift by faith.

I invite you to do it right now, right here!

And then that unlocks something in our hearts (thankfulness) that unlocks something else in our hearts (generosity) that makes us giving people.

Thankful hearts. It starts here.

Now, in verse 10, Paul begins to lay out how he wants them to proceed with this gift. V.10

“And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

Now, this is important to note.

Paul wants them to complete the process of this collection. He wants them to be generous. That includes their willingness (see that there in verse 12, we’re going to come back to that in a minute) and their generosity is measured not by how much they give in raw amount (how many dollars exactly) but by how much they gave relative to how much they had–proportionality.

Generosity involves sacrifice.

It’s not, “Look, I gave $100,000 dollars! But I have 2 billion!” So what?

Or the other way, “I can’t give $1000. I only have $500 dollars to my name!”

No, it’s not according to what one does not have but according to what one does has.

Remember, the story of the widow who gave her two bits?

Jesus saw this woman at the temple who gave all that she had. It was (by earthly standards) not very much at all. Lots of other people were giving lots more money.

But she gave more in God’s eyes because of the sacrifice it was for her.

Generosity is measured, to some degree, by sacrifice.

Are you sacrificing in your giving?

This is the hardest one for me. I don’t mind giving, but I don’t want to give up something else that I want to have.

I’m finding that I need to reign in my spending so that I have more to give.

My son, Peter, wants a new capgun. A shotgun capgun. And it costs $16. He only has $8 to his name.

Do you know why? Because he gave $11 for the family goat project that I told you about last week.

If he had held onto his money a little longer, he would have had $16. As it is, he is saving up for it. I think that’s awesome! And I’m looking forward to him getting the whole $16 and laying it across the counter and taking home his capgun.

He gave sacrificially for the goat that we want to buy for some needy family.

And I’m trying to learn that as well.

Here is one of the major enemies of generous giving–the credit card.

Now, these are great tools. I’m sure that some people can use them just fine in the right way. To the pure all things are pure. If you don’t have a problem with these, more power to you!

But they are a temptation for many of us to spend beyond our means–and then what?
Then we can’t give as much as we could have!

Heather and I are working on a new budget this month that will eliminate our need for this thing. We pay it off every month! We don’t carry a balance.

But I believe that the temptations that come with it–especially the temptation to buy it right now whether I have the money for it or not, those temptations–are holding us back from the generosity that we could be living.

Pray for us. And consider it for yourself.

Generosity includes sacrifice. The Macedonians gave “beyond their ability.”

Now, Paul wants them to know that the point isn’t to make the Corinthians poor. V.13

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’”

He’s talking about the Manna in the Wilderness.

Paul isn’t saying that the goal is that everyone has the same exact amount. He’s talking about everyone having their needs met and everyone being generous and caring for one another.

Why? Because God is supplying. That’s what manna points to. God’s supply.

Our family has begun to pray for a new Manna Van. It’ll be a Mini-Van, probably, but we’re calling it our Manna Van because we’re praying for God to supply it out of His loving providence for us.

Not more than we need and not less. Manna.

Isaac knows that we’re praying for a van, and he asked his mom if God was going to drop it right out of heaven into our driveway for us! He had heard this story about bread from heaven coming the same way! His Mom said that God could do it that way, but He’ll probably use some other means to get it here.

Regardless, when we receive it, we will know that it was God who gave it. It will be Manna. Our Manna Van.

Now, in verses 16 through 24, Paul shows what great lengths they are going to go to to make sure that the collection is handled carefully with full accountability.

We’re not going to take the time to read it all. But basically, they have 3 honorable guys that everyone can affirm set to take the money to Judea. They are serious about their accountability with this money.

Our church has the same seriousness in financial integrity. Come this afternoon to our church family meeting and see how we keep track and report on every dollar given and how it is used. We take this seriously.

Then, in chapter 9, Paul begins by explaining why he sent ahead this delegation with this letter to get things moving with the offering. Again, we won’t read it, but the point of verse 1 through 5 is that he had promised others that they would be ready to give, so he’s getting them ready to give. So that v.5 “it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.”

And that brings us to our third point. The heart of giving is a generous heart and a thankful heart. Here it is also a cheerful heart.

#3. A CHEERFUL HEART.


That means that it comes out of a happiness to give, not grudgingly. V.6

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

A Cheerful Heart.

Now, notice where the amount comes from that Christians are to give.

Where?

What a man has decided in his heart.

There is nothing here about 10%.

There is nothing here about a tithe.

The Old Testament had a tithing system. It was actually much more than 10% as there were actually 3 tithes that were required of their grain and produce. Two every year and one every three years, so that it was actually more than 23% was tithed each year under the Old Testament system. And some of that money went to the poor, some of it went to care for the Levites, and some of it was actually to be saved to be enjoyed in a feast time.

But in the New Testament, that system is over and gone.

There are NO New Testament commands to give 10% of your income.

That comes as a shock to many people.

There are NO New Testament commands to give 10% of your income.

Now, if 10% is where the Lord has you, that’s great! Don’t stop.

If your parents taught you to take off the first 10% of your income check and give that to the Lord, that’s great. Don’t stop.

But don’t do it like it’s some law that you need to keep. V.7 says, “not...under compulsion.” Nobody is twisting your arm. You are not under the Old Testament law.

But wait. Don’t leave yet!

You are under something much greater! You are under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

We are under a better covenant now! The New Covenant!

And, what do you think that maybe would do to your giving?

I think it rachets it up! We’re not give “under compulsion.” But also not (v.8), “reluctantly.” Cheerfully! Generously! Thankfully! For the greatest gift ever!

I think that New Testament Christians ought to consider 10% to be the floor, not the ceiling of Christian giving.

If there is a binding relevance to the tithing law of the Old Testament, is as an example of a great place to start!

Cheerful!

A heart that is happy to give!

Verse 7 says that every one should decide in their own heart what to give. I think we need to do that regularly, systematically. 1 Corinthians 16 lays out a pattern of setting aside a portion in proportion to how God has blessed each week to give.

And then, after you decide what you think the Lord wants you to give, give it away cheerfully!

Be glad to give it away!

“God loves a cheerful giver.”

Because it means that we’re becoming like Him!

It’s been so much fun to see our little family enjoy themselves at putting our own money into the little goat-fun can on the counter at home.

I came into a little extra money this week, and I got to put in a ten dollar bill. And it was thrilling. I was so glad.

And I realized, “I’m cheerful!” I’m happy about this. I’m a cheerful giver.

Now, I don’t tell you that to impress you. If I did, then Jesus says that that would be my reward and there wouldn’t be any more reward coming.

But I tell you that to encourage you. It is possible to give and enjoy it.

And that’s where He wants to get us.

Worry, Stealing, Hoarding, and Craving all get in the way. We have to do battle with them so that we can get past them and GIVE, but it’s great to do it.

I know that many of you have experienced the joy of giving. You’ve taught me about it. I don’t know it like many of you know it.

But we all need it.

God loves a cheerful giver.

And you know what, He gives back to them!

That’s number four and last: #4. AN EXPECTANT HEART.

The heart of giving is a heart that expects God to act in response to our generosity.

Did you notice the promise in verse 6?

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That’s both a promise and a warning, isn’t it?

Well, get a load out of verse 8!

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’”

I love all the ALLS in verse 8! What a promise!

God promises to be sufficient and to reward cheerful giving. We can expect it!

We will have what we need–spiritually and even materially to abound in every good work. V.10 says it again.

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

This is the paradox of Christian generosity. You can’t outgive God.

This is not the health and wealth and prosperity gospel. The perversion you see on the television.

This is Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory” and grow you spiritually and make you even more generous and bless you in the most important ways!

Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you...”

Not because we earn it by giving, but because that’s God’s way of operating.

R.G. LeTourneau used to say that “I just shoveled money at God, and He shoveled it back. And God’s got a bigger shovel!”

And not just money, of course, but every good thing. Our cheerful, generous, thankful giving somehow opens the door for God’s richest blessings to pour out on us.

It’s that relationship between faith and blessing. Obedience and blessing.

You never earn it. But the two go hand in hand. You can expect it.

And it blesses others, too. V.12

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. [Everyone is blessed!] Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”

They’ll pray for you as because you gave to them. Not because you paid for prayers, but because they’ll be so thankful to God for you.

Isn’t giving beautiful?

That’s because of the most beautiful gift of all. V.15

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Throwing Money

"Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart."

-John Wesley

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Raising Children in a "Pornified" Culture

Rod Dreher asks: "We live in a pornified culture. So how do we raise sane, healthy children in this cesspool? What do you think?"

Here are some good preliminary answers:

Vitamin Z
Chris Brauns

As the father of 4, I am very interested this one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Giving to Panhandlers

We don't experience panhandlers much out here in rural Pennsylvania, but we did all of the time when we lived in Chicago.

As we've been learning about Money and giving, what should we do in these cases?

Arloa Sutter is the director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago (an EFCA affiliated urban ministry). I worked at BUM when I was a student at Moody.

Arloa gives her expert opinion: "I don't know!" (Actually, she has more to say. Check it out.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "God vs Money: Part Two"


“God vs. Money: Part Two”
In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
July 19, 2009
Matthew 6:24

This is only the fourth message in our series on money: In God We Trust–What the Bible Says About Money. But it is the third time I’ve had you turn to Matthew 6. You can tell that I think that Matthew 6 is a key place in the Bible for understanding God’s view of money. It’s some of Jesus’ own words about the subject.

While you’re turning there, let’s remind ourselves what we’ve learned so far.

There were two foundational truths that we learned early on:

#1. Money is Profoundly Spiritual.

You’re probably tired of me saying it by now, but I don’t care! We need to get this drilled into our heads.

Money is not neutral.
It is not just physical.
It is not just financial.

Money is spiritual. Profoundly so.

Jesus said, in this chapter, “Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Money is tied to our hearts.

Money reveals our hearts.

What did you do with money this week? That tells God something about your heart.

You and I made financial decisions this week that reveal our hearts–they were profoundly spiritual.

And I don’t just mean what we chose to give. But also what we chose to save or borrow or loan or buy.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Many of you have been telling me how this sermon series has been helping you. And it starts right here, by recognizing the spiritual nature of money.

Our second foundation truth was this:

#2. God Owns All Of the Money in the World.

“The Earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it.” “The fullness thereof.”

So, what does that make us?

Simply stewards. Money managers for the Lord.

You and I are financial agents of the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

That’s immediately freeing and also a great responsibility.

Because, we will each have to give an account.

We saw this illustrated by Roye Houston being a good steward of the money that Heather and I entrusted into his care.

And he had to give an account for it. And he did. A good one.

We are all money managers and will have to give an account of it.

This church may likely pay me over a million dollars.

Does that sound scarey?

Not all at once!

I’ve set a personal goal of being here more than 25 years.

And if the church spent $40,000 each year on me and my family, it would only take 25 years for it be one million dollars.

I will have to give an account for all of that before the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

And you will, too, for the money entrusted to you.

God Owns All of the Money in the World.

Has that changed the way that you’ve been thinking about your finances this Summer?

Because not only does what we do with money reveal our hearts, it also reveals what we think about our Lord’s heart! Our Heavenly Father’s heart!

Do you see how much hearts are involved in this?

And we learned last time (two weeks ago), that our hearts are the problem.

Sin still exists in our hearts, and it tries to mess up our relationship with God through our relationship with money.

And that’s where Jesus’ statement in Matthew chapter 6, verse 24 comes in.

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

“You cannot serve both God and Money.”

You have to make the choice. Once and for (conversion) and every day (the Christian life).

“You cannot serve both God and Money.”

“God Vs. Money.”

And last time, we learned that even though it’s that simple, it isn’t easy!

Money (not the good thing that God owns all of, but MONEY the thing that our hearts and the world and the devil twist it into being, Money) doesn’t always come right out and say, “Hey! Serve me! I’m better than God!”

It’s subtle and powerful and seductive. And dangerous.

So, we’ve begun to think about the ways that Money entices us to serve it and how to break free from that and serve God instead.

“God Vs. Money.”

Last time, I told you that there were at least 4 major ways, 4 categories of ways that we tend to serve money. (Is money bad? No. Is serving Money bad? Absolutely.)

And we introduced 4 categories of Money’s temptations.

Last time, we only had time to go deeply into one of them: Worry.

We serve money when we worry about money.

And Jesus says to not worry about money.

Do not worry about money.

How are you doing on that one? Did all of your worries clear up since we met last time?

I have done better in the last two weeks. But my temptation, the pull, to worry about Money is still there. I have to continue to fight it.

And how do you fight it? By faith.

Not worrying about money, not putting my hope there, but putting my trust in God.

In God We Trust (written on all of our US money!).

Now, for today, here are the other three. I want to turn each one over a bit and go to different passages that talk about them.

In addition to worrying about money, there is:

Stealing Money
Hoarding Money
Craving Money

Let’s take them one at a time.

#1. DO NOT STEAL MONEY.

That’s sound familiar, doesn’t it?

Which of the 10 Commandments is that?

“You shall not steal.”

It’s the 8th Commandment.

And it’s pretty basic. Don’t take what is not yours. We tell that to our children every day!

It’s a fundamental building block of a healthy society.

Do not steal money.

But Money is subtle sometimes, isn’t it?

I doubt that anyone here needs to be told not to pick pockets. Or to snatch purses. Or to break into houses or to hotwire and run off with cars.

But what about file-sharing? Copying digital music that you don’t have the rights to.

What about taking office supplies home with you?

What about taking longer breaks at work or exaggerating an expense report?

What about taking off with your employer’s patent or database or rollo-dex or intellectual property?

Christians are not immune to the temptation to steal.

I know of a church in Mexico where some of the church members stole the church building! They broke in and changed the locks!

I know of a church where the treasurer embezzled over $100,000 from it.

Christians are not immune to the temptation to steal.

Have you ever gotten more change back at the checkout counter than you were supposed to?

What did you do?

Now, taking the money wasn’t stealing. But keeping it, after you figured it out, that would be.

Kids, how about shoplifting?

I had a buddy when I was a kid who called it, “The Five Finger Discount.” Sounded cool. But it was wrong.

Another way of stealing is to hide what’s wrong with something you’re selling and sell it for too much. Or to lie about what you’re selling. That’s called “fraud.”

Stealing is serving money. And there is a million ways to do it.

Sometimes people use lawyers to do it.

Or they don’t think it’s a bad thing if they steal from some company, some insurance company or some big corporation–as if that made the stealing any different!

Turn with me to Ephesians chapter 4, verse 28.

This is the part of Ephesians were the Apostle Paul is talking about the changes that the gospel makes when it comes to a person.

Here’s verse 28.

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”

So, the opposite of stealing is working. For Christ-followers, stealing must stop and working takes its place.

Is work good or bad?

The Bible presents work as something very good. Very honorable and God-pleasing.

It, like money, can turn bad. You can work too much or for the wrong things.

But work, including work for money is a God-honoring activity.

The Bible says that those who are not willing to work (willing being the operative word) should not eat!

And the godly man of 1 Timothy works hard to provide for his family.

But it’s more than just work here isn’t it? Stealing must stop. Work must commence. And then what? Giving! V.28

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”

Working and Giving is the antithesis to stealing.

We’ll talk more about giving in a second.

But before we move to point #2, I have to ask, is there something you have stolen that you need to return?

Zacchaeus had. Remember that evil little man, the evil little man was he?

When Jesus came Zach’s house, he repented of his thieving ways. By the way, his theft was legal.

Sometimes, you can obey the law (or be the law!) and still not be doing what is right (what is God’s law).

Zacchaeus repented of his theft, returned it (fourfold!) and became generous afterwards. Because of Jesus.

If you know Jesus, you’re going to take back what you stole. And you’re going to make amends. And you’re going to work and give, not steal.

#2. DO NOT HOARD MONEY.

Turn with me to James chapter 5. It’s some of the scariest, most prophetic words in the New Testament. James 5.

James turns his attention away from the Christians he’s been teaching to some of the rich landowners that have been oppressing the poorer Christians (and others).

Listen to what he says:

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”

Whoa. Those are strong words.

Now, there’s a lot more going on here than just hoarding. There is a failure to pay their debts. They aren’t paying their workers. That’s another form of stealing! We’ll have more to say in a couple of weeks about justice and injustice and the poor.

But notice what James says they have done so wrong (v.3): “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”

As we said last month, we are living now in the last days (have been since Jesus returned to the right hand of the Father).

And one day soon will be the last of the last days. We need to be living for “That Day!”

But these folks weren’t. They were living for the short run, not the long run.

And in the meantime, they were stockpiling their money.

“You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” And it will turn against you.

Now, it doesn’t normally feel like James 5 applies to us.

I’m sure that if we’re employers here, we pay our employees.

But we are all tempted to hoard money. To hold onto it at all costs!

And when we do, we’re serving money, not God.

Turn back to Matthew 6. Verse 19.

Very familiar passage. I think that James is referencing it when he denounces the rich land-owners. Paul draws on it, too in 1 Timothy 6.

Matthew 6:19.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Don’t Hoard Money.

Now, this does not mean that we shouldn’t ever save money.

Jesus can sound like that because He’s going to radical root of our hearts.

But the Bible teaches that it is wise and prudent to save money for reasonably anticipated needs.

For example, Proverbs 6:6.

Solomon says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Productive and saving ants are smarter than human sluggards!

The Bible teaches that it is wise and prudent to save money for reasonably anticipated needs.

But don’t hoard it.

Now, where’s the line?

I can’t tell you where your line is. That’s something you’re going to have to work out in your own mind and heart with the Lord.

But I can tell you that there is a line and when we cross over it, we’re sinning.

I think that at least part of what makes something hoarding, is beginning to put your trust and hope and confidence in it.

Worry is putting your hope in something, some money, you don’t have, but desperately wish that you did.

Hoarding is putting your hope in something, some money, you do have, but shouldn’t.

The Bible says to not trust in money because it’s so uncertain.

It wants you to serve it, but it will not deliver what it promises!

And it may not be there tomorrow.

Are you hoarding money? Trying to pile it up and higher and higher and build yourself a safety net and a security wall that is impregnable?

Moth and rust will destroy it.
Thieves will break in and steal it.
And someday, you’ll have to give an account of it. And then what?

That’s what happened to a man in one Jesus’ parables. In Luke 12 Jesus tells this story:

“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' [He loves to talk to himself!] ‘Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’' ‘But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' ‘This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.’”

Is this saying never to build a barn? No.
Never to open a savings account? A 401k? No.

But beware of storing things up for yourself and not being rich toward God.

Jesus said, “Store up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

The antithesis of hoarding is giving. It’s generosity.

It’s taking from that pile and giving it to those who need it and giving to the work of the gospel and giving it to the Lord. Which is actually investing it in the world to come.

Now, we’re going to talk about giving more in the next couple of weeks. I want to give a whole message to that subject.

But do you see how it’s already become the antidote to the first two temptations that Money throws at us? Generosity is not just commanded–we need it!

We need to be generous to escape the seductive pull of Mammon.

At our house, right now, we’re trying to buy a goat.

No, not a goat to mow the lawn for me or to keep the chickens company!

We’re trying to raise money (within our own household) to buy a goat through World Vision to help a poor family.

A goat is good for milk and for goathair and breeding. It’s a great little business for a struggling household in places like Africa.

Today is Isaac’s birthday. He’s five. Getting the goat was his idea.

His mom was talking with all of the kids about their birthday gifts–Robin’s and Peter’s and Heather’s birthday were last week. Isaac’s was coming up. And they had received a lot of great gifts.

And Heather has been teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

And somehow, this idea of buying a goat with our own money came up.

I came home from work one day and there was a can on the counter that said, “Goat – $75). And each one of my kids and my wife had contributed to it–from their birthday money!

Well, I got out my wallet right there and put in $20.

We’re only 30 bucks away!

We want to be rich towards God. We want to store up treasures in heaven.

We don’t want to hoard it right here. Terrible place to put our trust.

Now, this goes along with the last one. And this one is the big one. Probably we could put all of the others in this basket in some ways, too.

#3. DO NOT CRAVE MONEY.

Craving money, or wanting it too much, is another way of serving money.

Money becomes god to us!

We need it.
We put everything aside to get it.
We are driven by it.

The Bible uses the word GREED to describe this heart for money.

And it’s clear in the Bible that this is a false worship.

Colossians chapter 4 equates greed with idolatry. Money becomes our idol.

It’s what the 10th Commandment forbids: coveting. Wanting someone else’s money or possessions.

Do not crave money.

The Bible’s most pithy phrase for it, I think is, the love of money.

Right?

The love of money is what? A root of all kinds of evils.

Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 13.

Hebrews 13 is the wrap-up chapter of Hebrews where the author gets really practical.

Verse 5 is the key verse for us today (Jeff Schiefer put it on the Money logo on the back of your bulletin and even wrapped the words of it around the G beside the picture of Washington).

Hebrews 13:5 – “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Keep your lives free from the love of money.

I think that’s the hardest one.

Worrying comes from it.
Stealing comes from it.
Hoarding comes from it.

It’s treating money as if it was God.

Use money but love God.

Don’t love money.

Again, this is easier said than done. How do we get there?

How do we pry the tentacles of money-love from our hearts?

What does the verse say?

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have...”

The first thing is to develop contentment.

If we just simply get happy with what we have, that undercuts money’s pull on us.

We should be trying to develop a simple life where we are content with what we have.

I wish I could camp on that right now.

But let me go further. What do we have right now?

We have God!

See what he says? “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ [Even if we don’t have money, we have God!] So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper [NOT MONEY!]; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”

Don’t love money. Trust God.

In God We Trust. And we will be content with that.

I have more that I want to say, but we are out of time.

What are you going to do with what you’ve heard?

Which is it going to be? You can’t have two masters. Is it going to be:

Stealing or Working and Giving?
Hoarding or Generosity?
Craving or Contentment in Christ?

How does this work out in your life?

The Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. This is in Philippians 4.

He learned the secret of being content when you have money.
And he also learned the secret of being content when you don’t have money.
And he didn’t have money all of the time!

He said that the secret was Jesus Christ.

That’s why he said, “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.”

If you know Jesus, you have enough to be content from now to all eternity.

God Vs. Money?

Choose God in Christ.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden Salad!





Tonight's dinner was crockpot lasagna with a fresh garden salad--a VERY fresh garden salad.

For the first time, everything in the salad (including the edible flowers!) came directly from Heather's garden boxes in the front yard. Ahh, sweet success.

Yum.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baseball Is Over

Drew's (and our) first year of baseball is over. What a great time!

From going from total rookie and novice status--nothing but some "playing catch" in the backyard to being on a great "minor league" team, getting hits, and even playing in the infield (on defense on the pitcher's mound)--Drew's had a great season.

While we won't miss all of the min-van rides around town and concession food, we'll miss the fun times with the rest of the fans and parents in the stands and watching Drewby play.









Birthday Party in Cook Forest


Yesterday, we celebrated 4 birthdays by inviting a bunch of our kids' (and our) friends out to Cook Forest (my favorite place on God's Green Earth) for a big birthday party. It was a blast--friends, food, fun--the whole 9 yards.

A thunderstorm didn't stop us. It just gave us an occasion to light the cake (a scrumptdillious chocolate/candy/pretzel log cabin hand-made with love by Mommy) and do some face-painting.

A good time was had by all!

6 Candles for Peter "The Kid"



"Cowboy" Peter with his favorite presents from his party yesterday.

9 Candles for Robin Joy



Our Robin Joy, Age 9 Today

[Matt's Messages] "Greater Than We Can Imagine"

“Greater Than We Can Imagine”
July 12, 2009
Psalm 145

Well, it’s been a great Family Bible Week!

Praise the Lord!

Praising the Lord is the subject of our message this morning. We’re going to be studying Psalm 145 together.

We just sang about it in the FBW theme song for this last week. Every night and this morning we sang the song, “Greater Than We Can Imagine” which comes directly from Psalm 145!

Each night of Family Bible Week, the adult class has been learning how to understand and apply the Psalms to our own personal lives.

So, it only seemed fitting that this psalm would be the subject of our message this morning. Psalm 145.

Psalm 145 is the last psalm in the Psalter than is ascribed to King David. It is the last Davidic Psalm. It is also the last of the acrostic psalms. The psalms that are designed to follow the alphabet. Each line of the psalm begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet from Aleph to Tav. David used extreme carefulness and skill as he composed this psalm of praise under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Derek Kidner in his excellent commentary on the Psalms calls it a “great outpouring of praise.” That’s exactly right!

Let’s read it and see what we have to praise God about.
Psalm 145:1 A psalm of praise.

Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.

5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.

10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you.

11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,

12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.

14 The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.

18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

20 The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.
The adult Bible Class at Family Bible Week learned all about psalms this week. And one of the things they learned was how discern different kinds or (sub-genres) of psalms from one another. There are at least 7 different kinds of psalms: psalms of confidence, thanksgiving, remembrance, wisdom, kingship, and so on.

Class, which kind of psalm is Psalm 145?

It’s a hymn.

The superscription of psalm 145 calls it “A psalm of praise.”

The hymn psalms normally begin (and sometimes end) with a call to worship where the psalmist begins to praise God and call others to praise God. That’s what’s going on in verses 1 and 2.

“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.”

David is full of praise!

I love it!

He’s talking directly to God, isn’t He?! Really, he’s singing his prayer directly to God.

“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.”

Notice how David repeats himself. That’s not because he’s forgotten what he said. It’s because it’s so important and full in his heart.

David going to praise God!

What is praise?

We can learn something from the Hebrew parallelism here. Our class learned about parallelism on Wednesday night of this week. Parallelism is increased meaning that we get from putting together two corresponding lines in a Hebrew poem. Verse 1 for example:

“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.”

There are two thoughts there.

A. I will exalt you, my God the King;
B. I will praise your name for ever and ever.

We learned this week that the B-line enhances the meaning of the A-line. It is A, and much more B.

So, want to know what exalt means? It means praise!

Want to know what praise means?

It means exalt. And v.2

“Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.”

Exalt, praise, extol.

These are all words refer to the expression of the David’s appreciation for and delight in God.

Praise is the expression of our appreciation for and delight in God.

Praise is verbal love.

It’s saying or singing how great something is. And the something here is God.

How great God is!

And verse 3 tells us how great He is. V.3 David sings:

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”

The song says He is: “Greater Than We Can Imagine!”

Our God is great.

How great?

Most worthy of praise.

How worthy?

“His greatness no one can fathom.”

The King James says, “His greatness is unsearchable.”

Work as hard as you can, try with all your might and you will never find the end of His greatness. Search till you are out of strength and you will never find the end of His glory.

“His greatness no one can fathom.” You can’t reach the bottom of how great He really is!

That’s why David says that he’ll praise God forever and ever. He’ll praise Him (v.2 said) “every day.”

Do we praise God every day? Every day?

Every day from now through eternity God is worthy of praise!

Now, isn’t this going a little overboard?

I mean, I like God and all that, but this seems a little over the top, no?

No. This is the correct response to knowing our God for Who He really is!

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”

GOD IS GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE.

Now, I can imagine a LOT of things. I’ve got a good imagination. Sometimes it gets a little out of hand–I dream of big things that are impossible.

But Psalm 145 says that I can’t imagine anything as great as our God!

I’ve been reading “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” to the kids.

And my favorite character is the Scarecrow. What does he wish that he had?

If he only had a brain!

I used to know all of the words to that song from the movie. I won’t try to sing them for you today. I’ll spare you that experience.

But in that song the Scarecrow rhapsodizes about all of the thoughts that he could think if he only had a brain.

His mind would be like a super-computer that can think of all of these grand thoughts if he only had a brain.

But what Psalm 145 is saying is that even though we do have brains that are more amazing than any super-computer, we (collectively) cannot comprehend how great our God really is!

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”

He is greater than we can imagine!

David is saying that God is mind-blowing. And that because of this, He deserves praise. He is most worthy of praise. Every day.

Now, Class, what is the next thing to expect in a Hymn Psalm?

First, is the call to worship. Then what?

The next thing is a list of reasons to praise God.

And David has them, in spades!

#1. GOD’S DEEDS ARE GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE.

In verses 4 through 7, David says that every generation of God’s people will praise God’s deeds. V.4

“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”

David so full of praise, isn’t he?!

Look at all of the words he uses to describe God’s deeds:

Mighty Acts
Wonderful Works
Awesome Works
Great Deeds

David’s God is a God Who does things!

He is God Who gets things done.

David’s God is Active, not passive.

And History is the story of His mighty acts, wonderful and awesome works, and great deeds.

He has done great things!

And because of that, He’s worth of praise. Every day.

Praise for Creation. Praise for choosing Abraham and giving him faith.

Praise for the People of Israel.

Praise for the Red Sea Rescue from Egypt.

Praise for the provision of manna in the wilderness.

Praise for the conquering of the Promised Land.

Praise deliverance under the Judges.

Praise for the monarchy–for King David himself.

That’s the story as David knew it. But the story of God’s deeds doesn’t end there, does it?

Praise for preservation of God’s people in exile.

Praise for the sending of the Messiah!

Praise for the Messiah’s death and resurrection.

Praise for the giving of the Spirit!

Praise for the birth of the church!

Praise for our new birth in the Spirit into the church!

Praise for all of the amazing things that God has done in each and every one of our lives.

Amen?

He has done great things. And this is a memorial to His great deeds!

What has God done for you? Praise for it!

And tell the next generation.

David said in verse 4, “One generation will commend your works to another.”

That’s why we have Family Bible Week, right?

The older generation teaches the younger generation how great God is.

How many generations have sung this Psalm? Class, how old is this Psalm?

David lived about, when? 1000 B.C.

So that’s about 3000 years ago! Let’s conservatively estimate a generation as 20 years?

150 generations, so far!

Tell the next generation that God is greater than we can imagine.

#2. GOD’S COMPASSION IS GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE. Verses 8&9.

“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

This God not only does things but feels things.

And He feels the right things all of the time.

He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. That’s God’s own description of Himself from Exodus 34, right? Back when Moses said, “Show me your glory!” And God said, “You couldn’t handle it, but I’ll show you glimpse of the afterglow of my glory...” and then He passed by Moses and said (v.8), “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

Isn’t it great that God understands us?

That God cares about us? That God loves us?

This says that He has a love for (v.9) all he has made. He is good to all. He has compassion for all.

He wants everyone to know that He cares.

He is more compassionate than we can imagine.

But, those of us who are Christ-followers know His love in deeper way than all of the rest of the creatures on Earth.

Because we know what His compassion led Him to do.

His grace and His compassion led to the unthinkable!

He gave His One and Only Son for us!

Paul says that His love for us is a “love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19)!

His compassion is greater than we can imagine!

“I scarce can take it in.”

But that makes it all the more worthy of our singing it! Every day. Forever and ever.

#3. GOD’S KINGDOM IS GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE. Vv.10-13a

“All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.”

Do you see all of the words for kingdom in those 3 verses?

David knew about kingdoms!

And He knew that God’s kingdom was the greatest.

Glory of your kingdom.
Mighty Kingdom
Splendorous Kingdom.
Everlasting Kingdom.
Dominion Enduring Through All Generations!

That’s a Kingdom.

That’s a God Who Is in Charge.

God is sovereign.

Are you thankful today that God is sovereign?

Now, think before you answer that question.

God’s sovereignty, God’s kingdom means that that hard thing in your life right now is controlled by God. That think that you don’t like very much? God’s in control of that.

That means that He’s allowed into your life right now for a good purpose.

Be glad. Because that thing is not allowed in your life for no reason.

It may seem purposeless, but it isn’t.

God (the God who does things and the God who is compassionate–more compassionate than we can imagine) is also in control.

He is the King!

And His Kingdom is here now in part (though it is contested and He has to work through and use evil tools right now in accomplishing His plan)–but it is also a Kingdom that is coming! A Kingdom that is unlike any kingdom that we have ever seen.

And it is eternal. It is a forever Kingdom!

His dominion endures through all generations. For ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. Amen!

God’s Kingdom is Greater Than We Can Imagine!

#4. GOD’S FAITHFUL LOVE IS GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE.

He’s not just compassionate for a time, but He is faithful in His love.

He is steadfast. He is loyal. V.13b.

“The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.”

What a great God!

We can’t fathom how God interacts with all of His creation every day all day long.

He never sleeps. He is constantly caring for things and for people.

If anyone has a meal today, God was involved!

6 billion people on the planet.

And how many creatures?

And God is involved in feeding them in what He determines is the proper time!

How faithful He is to bring the seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.

Springtime and Harvest.

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.”

And even more so to His own children.

He keeps every one of His promises! V.13 again.

“The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”

Are you bowed down today?

I think that means those who are suffering and those who are humble enough to ask God for help.

Are you bowed down today?

That’s the kind of person the LORD loves to help!

The Hebrew word for faithful love is “Hesed.”

It means covenant love or loyal love or steadfast love.

God doesn’t just love us sometimes. He is completely faithful in His love.

We know that because of Jesus. The Bible says that all of God’s promises are YES in Jesus.

Do you know His faithful love? Praise Him!

His faithful love is greater than we can imagine.

Here’s how we experience it:

#5. GOD’S NEARNESS TO HIS PEOPLE IS GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE. V.18

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.”

This calls for us to respond.

Whom is He near to?

Those who call on Him.

If you are a Christ-follower, are you calling on Him?

Are you a praying person?

Are you loving Him?

He watches over all who love Him.

He is near. He is near.

Do you need to hear that this morning? He is near.

But He’s also near to those who are calling on Him for the first time.

If you call on Him in truth. If you cry out to Him to be your Savior and your Lord. He hears your cry (v.20) and saves you!

But if you ignore Him. Or you take Him for granted.

If you spurn Him. “The wicked he will destroy.”

We learned this week in our Psalms class that there are only two real paths in life: the path of the wicked and the path of the righteous.

The wicked are those who go their own way.

The righteous are those who heed God’s word and cry out to God for salvation and help.

He is near.

He is near.

Don’t turn away from Him. Turn to Him.

He is near.

God’s nearness is Greater Than We Can Imagine!

God is greater than we can imagine!

So, what should we do about it?

Class, how Hymn Psalms normally end?

With another call to praise! V.21

“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.”

And all God’s people said? Amen!

Friday, July 10, 2009

36 Candles for Heather Joy


My greatest joy under heaven is Heather Joy.

Happy birthday, my love!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Topical Preaching

Jack Brooks and Brad Bigney on the value of topical preaching (like our current sermon series on money).

Sunday, July 05, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "God vs Money: Part One"


“God vs Money: Part One”

In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
July 5, 2009
Matthew 6:24

Our current sermon series is titled “In God We Trust – What the Bible Says About Money.”

It’s as important as ever in this global economy to understand and rehearse what God has said to us about this crucial topic: MONEY.

So far, we’ve learned 2 foundational lessons:

#1. Money is Profoundly Spiritual.

Right here in this chapter, verse 21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Money is profoundly spiritual. It reveals our hearts.

Follow the Money!

What we do with money is directly tied to our hearts.

Money is not just physical or financial–it is profoundly spiritual.

#2. God Owns All of the Money in the World.

The silver is His and the gold is His. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

“The Earth is the LORD’s and everything in it.”

And what does that make us?

Stewards. Or money managers.

It’s the Lord’s money, not ours. We have it “in trust.”

We are the Lord’s money managers.

And 2 weeks ago, we started a little experiment. Do you remember?

Roye, why don’t you come up here? Two weeks ago, Mrs. Mitchell and I entrusted $10 with Roye Houston (our brave volunteer!), and put him in charge of those $10 to manage for us.

He was our “steward” of those 10 bucks.

Remember the rules? Roye could do anything he wanted to with those $10 as our agent. It was not his money, it was our money, but he was in charge of it.

And we wanted him to do what he thought would be in our hearts for that money.

Because, remember, that’s what we’re all supposed to do with all of the money that God has entrusted to our care. It’s His money, and we’re supposed to do what we believe would be on His heart for that money.

And there was one more rule–Roye has to give an account for what he did with that $10. We’ll have to do the same with our Lord one day.

Okay, Roye. Let me ask you a few questions:

1. How did it feel to have that money that wasn’t yours that you were in charge of?

2. What did you do with that money?

3. Why? How?

4. What other things did you consider doing with it? What advice did you get from other people? Why did you do this instead of that? How come you didn’t gamble it?

[Roye bought a pillow & two pillow cases and (with help from his folks) mailed them to Haiti to be given to poorer folks through Vision of Hope Ministries.]

Well done, good and faithful servant! Mrs. Mitchell and I are very pleased with what you did with it.

This is another $10 bill. It is not ours. It is now yours. It is a reward for serving us well. Use it however you like (but remember, it still belongs to God and you'll have to give an account for it someday).

Well done, good and faithful steward!

Every day of our lives we are acting as stewards of God’s property. Every day.

This came home to me again last week as Heather and I were at the EFCA National Leadership Conference, and I was struck several times by your generosity and our need to be good stewards.

We drove to Ohio with mileage money that you give us. We flew to Minneapolis with conference money that you’ve entrusted to us. We ate in Minneapolis, we stayed in a hotel, drove a rental car, attended the conference, paid our conference fees–all with money that wasn’t our own. It was the church’s–it was yours.

And we benefitted (and I hope, ultimately, that you benefit, too!) from both your giving and your entrusting of those funds into our hands.

I felt a greater responsibility this year to be a wise steward of those funds while at conference and make the most of the conference because it was your funds that got me there.

In the same way, we should all feel responsibility to be wise stewards of all that God has entrusted into our hands–every single day of our lives.

But! There is a problem, isn’t there?

There is this little problem called SIN. And sin worms its way into everything and tries to mess everything up.

Including what we do with money.

Sin (in our hearts, in the world, and in Satan’s temptations) takes something good like money (a good gift from a great God) and tries to pervert it into something bad.

So, while money itself is very good, in this fallen world with our fallen hearts, money becomes a source of all kinds of evil temptations.

And leads to a battle between two masters: God and Money.

Which brings us to today’s passage. Matthew chapter 6, verse 24.

These are the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s already talked about giving, about laying up treasures in heaven and about our treasures revealing the location of our hearts.

Now, in verse 24, He lays out this battle in stark terms. V.24

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Now, when He says, “Money” here (in v.24), you’ll notice that it is capitalized in the NIV. Jesus is personifying Money here as if money was a person or even the name of a god. The King James translates it “Mammon.”

It doesn’t just mean, “money” as in that good thing that God gives to us to use for His glory and our good.

It means “MONEY!” that thing that has been perverted into a rival for God.

God Vs. Money.

“No one can serve two masters. [Which one are you going to serve? Can’t you serve both.] Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

God Vs. Money.

This is where most of our problems with money come from.

Not from the money but from sin. From hearts that have begun to “serve” money in some way.

Money becomes the slave driver, the master, the boss.

It goes from being something good that we’re supposed to steward into something bad that runs us into the ground.

And God hates that!

God is jealous for our affections and our worship and our service.

So He opposes it.

“You cannot serve both God and Money.”

We can’t have it both ways.

We must choose. We must choose once and for all (that’s called conversion), and we must choose each and every day not to serve money but to serve God.

Now, when Jesus puts it that way, it seems like an obvious choice.

“You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Okay. I’ll serve God, thanks!

But Money (with a capital M) doesn’t normally come out and say it like that.

It’s more subtle.

The problems we have with money don’t often announce themselves at the front door:

“Hi, I’m Money, and I’m here to get you to serve me!”

No, it’s much more subtle than that. That’s why we need Jesus’ declaration to cut through the fog. “You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Now, I’ve identified 4 ways that the Bible says that we tend to serve Money instead of God. We could probably come up with a much longer list (my original list had 12 items on it), but I think that most of them can be boiled down into one of these four:

Worrying About Money
Stealing Money
Hoarding Money
And Craving Money

This is where our hearts get mixed up with Money.

Now, we don’t have time to look at all four of those this morning, so we’re going to make this a two part sermon. Part One this week. Part Two in two weeks after Family Bible Week is all over.

Today, we’ll just look at the first one, and then on July 19th, Lord-willing, we’ll look at the last three.

Look at what Jesus says right after verse 24.

“You cannot serve both God and Money...Therefore I tell you, do not worry...”

Hhm. You can’t serve both God and money THEREFORE don’t worry.

It seems that Jesus is saying that worrying about money is “serving Money” (with a capital M).

God vs. Money (#1): Don’t Worry About Money.

Well, that’s easier said than done!

Notice how subtle Money-serving is. Already, we’ve gone from “Oh! I’ll serve God not Money” to “Don’t worry? Aah. That’s not so easy!”

It is serving Money to worry about money.

It’s easy to worry about money, isn’t it?

All you have to do is read the news to see that the economy that we’re living in is troubled. There have been some hopeful signs of stability but few of recovery.

When I originally conceived this series (back in March), the first sermon title that I came up with was, “Don’t Panic!”

I noticed that the first chapter in How To Survive the Economic Meltdown” was titled, “You’re Going to Get Through This!” (By the way, there are still a few free copies of this book out in the foyer. Anybody who wants one is welcome to it.)

Chapter 1: “You’re Going to Get Through This!” In other words, “Don’t Worry!”

And that’s what Jesus says to us. It’s radical, but it’s Jesus’ own words!

“Don’t Worry!”

Let’s see His reasoning. Vv.25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I love that last statement. Tomorrow will worry about itself! Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow!

But, O, how hard it is to practice this, isn’t it?

“Do not worry about your life what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear.”

He’s talking about possessions, isn’t He? And basic necessities. And it takes money to eat and drink and be clothed. He’s talking about money.

And He’s making it personal. It’s a choice between worrying about money and trusting God.

That’s why he talks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

He says that God feeds the birds and God clothes the lilies.

How much more will He take care of us?!

And if we don’t trust Him to do that, we’re worrying, and we’re serving Mammon.

How effective is worry?

Jesus says it can’t add a single hour to your life!

Worry is ineffectual. It’s what the pagans do.

The pagans don’t have a Heavenly Father!

But we do, and we should trust Him.

Worrying about money is part of the larger category of trusting in money or hoping in money. “If I only had money then...” is what goes through our minds.

But money can’t be trusted. It can’t be hoped in. It will disappoint.

Money that is here today might be gone tomorrow.

Just ask those people who trusted Bernie Madoff!

We can’t trust in money.

And we need to tell ourselves that it doesn’t do any good to worry about it!

Now, this does not mean that we never think about money.

The King James translates verse 25 as “take no thought...”

But Jesus doesn’t mean to never think about food or drink or clothes.

Those are legitimate concerns that we need to work for, provide, get in place, plan for, etc. Or we’d be hungry and naked! “We’d eat like birds and dress like flowers!”

He doesn’t mean that God is going to provide in the same way as the birds and the lilies. We aren’t supposed to expect food to drop in our laps all of the time.

But (it’s an argument from lesser to greater), if God provides for them, won’t He provide for us, His own children? Of course, He will!

Therefore, don’t worry. Don’t get anxious. Don’t let these thoughts consume you.

Don’t get bogged down in worry and anxiety about earthly possessions.

Fight it! Fight worry.

Don’t serve Money.

Now, that’s easy to say, but hard to do.

It’s important to replace worry with something else.

If worry is trusting in money, then the antidote, the opposite, the antithesis is trusting in God, hoping in God, or as verse 33 says, “Seeking God.”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Some of you may have noticed that our van has lost its last hubcap! Our van is allergic to hubcaps. That one was #12!

That twelfth hubcap came off last week while the van was getting its brakes fixedin Ohio.

It turns out that when you hear this loud squealing noise, that it means that your front brake pads are shot, and you’re down to the rotors and they need replacing, too.

And we also sprang a brake-line leak in the back, on top of the fuel tank.

So we had to drop that to replace the lines!

Don’t worry, all the Mitchells were safe at all times. We weren’t in any danger.

Except in the pocket-book!

We had to take the van into the garage and decide if it was worth spending the money on fixing it or not.

In fact, I went back and forth and back and forth on that decision.

I was very tempted to worry.

Heather and I are working on re-working our family budget. Some of our financial things have changed recently (we’ve re-financed our mortgage, etc) and we need to fix our budget to fit our goals.

And I’m very tempted to worry.

But Jesus says, “No. God or Money. Pick Me! Do not worry about money.”

So, Heather and I have to make the quick decision on the van, and my wife says, “Can we pray about that?”

“Oh, yeah. Good idea!”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Don’t worry.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

This is what God is saying to you today, “Do not worry about money.”

Yes, work for it, save it, make wise choices, spend it carefully.

We decided to fix the van and to start our long-term search for our next van.

Yes, work for it, save it, make wise choices, spend it carefully.

But don’t worry about it.

Why? Because we have a Heavenly Father.

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to make you God’s Child.

He paid the penalty for your sin and shame and guilt and sinful worry.

He gives you life through His resurrection life.

And He sent His Holy Spirit to take His place in your life.

You are not alone in the world.

You are not an orphan.

The pagans are orphans.

You are God’s Child.

Your Heavenly Father will care for you.

You say, “Well, Pastor Matt, there are some people who don’t have enough to eat and enough to drink and no clothes–in times of famine, drought, war, and pestilence. What about them?”

The Bible says that if they belong to Jesus, He will be enough for them and take care of them and the call in the midst of those trials is still to trust. To hope in God. To rejoice in God. To seek His Kingdom and His righteousness.

The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time like that.

And this was his testimony. He said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls [complete financial meltdown], yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. [His salvation is worth everything!] The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

And that’s serving God not Money.

It’s trusting in God, not in Money.

“In God We Trust.” Yesterday was the Fourth of July.

“In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States of America.

It’s printed on all of our money.

That’s very ironic, of course, because I doubt that the United States of America (taken corporately) trusts in God and not in Money.

That’s not the character of our nation.

But it’s a great motto!

It’s exactly what we should do.

In God We Trust.

God vs. Money?

Choose God.

He’s Your Heavenly Father.

Matthew 6:25-34

Dilbert.com

Friday, July 03, 2009

Freedom Begins Here

The ministry, Freedom Begins Here, addresses pornography and sexual addiction for Christians.

Their most recent video-blog highlights the newest issue of EFCA Today and the special section on Hidden Danger, of which my article on what EFCA districts are doing to help pastors is included.

Hooray that there is a dialogue about these issues and resources out there to help people!



[The EFCA Today segment starts about minute 3:30.]