Avoiding An Insignificant Life!

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A Little Vacation Time

-A Culture Of Consumption!

Let me share something, with you, that you may not know about the average 5-year old in America—the average 5-year old, in America, has 250 toys! Yes! I said 250 toys! Now, let’s apply some math to that. A 5-year old has only lived on planet Earth roughly 250 weeks. So, that 5-year old has grown up getting 1 new toy every week—on average—for their entire life! That’s just the AVERAGE! Some have 500 toys! Others have 1000! And, why are we surprised that they are rarely satisfied? That they are always wanting more? We’ve trained them to be “consumers”, haven’t we? We’re a culture that’s consumed by a desire for more stuff!

-The Stuff We Don’t Have!

We’re constantly exposed to commercials that advertise all the stuff we don’t have; and, telling us that we need it! “Our friends went to Best Buy, on Black Friday, and, got a new 70” Smart TV & our puny 55” TV just doesn’t cut it anymore”—that’s the general mindset of the average American! You take a ride in your friends new car & you love that new car smell! You get back in your old car and it smells like french fries & damp, moldy soccer cleats! You walk through SAMS or Target or COSTCO and you see all this new stuff that you NEED! You didn’t know you need it until you got there & saw what you were missing! Now, I may be exaggerating a bit; but, not by much!

-Managing God’s Estate!

If we’re followers, of Jesus, we can’t tolerate that selfish, consumerism controlling our lives! We must see ourselves—as Scripture tells us—as faithful “stewards” of God’s resources! We “manage” a portion of God’s “estate” that He’s entrusted to our care! How are we doing with that? If you live your life like you think you “own” your stuff, you’ll waste it all on building your own “little kingdom”—you’ll live an insignificant life! For the one, claiming to follow Jesus, we should not fear failure as much as we should fear success at something that really doesn’t matter in light of eternity! We need a constant reminder, from God’s Holy Spirit, that NOTHING we have is truly our own! It all belongs to God! And, whatever He’s given us, He’s trusting us to manage it well for Him; or, to leverage it in a way that builds His “big kingdom”! That’s how we avoid an insignificant life!

-How To Beat Consumerism!

In the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter, to Timothy, he instructed him to: “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real” 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Here’s how I would paraphrase Paul’s challenge—You beat consumerism by denying your flesh & by chasing a new passion! It’s not just enough to deny your flesh! You need to live for a new passion! To the rich, he says, don’t be arrogant (v.17). So, a key, to avoiding the insignificant life, is to renounce the financial pride that can over take us! Remember, it’s not ours!

 

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How To Measure Generosity!

I’ve Left For Some Vacation Time!        Next Post June 13!

-I’m Naturally Selfish!

I confess to you that I’m not naturally a very generous man. I mean, by that, that I’m prone to be selfish! It is almost never my 1st inclination to give financially to meet a need. I have to be prompted by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. His Spirit prods me to commit a generous “act”; but, constant generosity just doesn’t flow instinctively from me. It’s not one of my gifts! So, I’ve had to ask the Lord to plant generous thoughts in my heart.

-Not The $100 Bill!

I remember one time, during a worship service, that I felt the Lord elbow me to give the bill in my wallet to whatever ministry was participating in our service. When I opened my wallet I saw that it contained a $100 bill—now, I want you to know that’s not a regular thing with me—but, that day I had a $100 bill; and, in front of it a $20 bill. “Lord, certainly you mean for me to give that $20 bill, right?” But, I felt a very distinct impression that He wanted me to give the $100 bill; so, reluctantly, I did!

-I’ve Never Missed What I Gave!

Through the years I’ve felt similarly pressed to give, sometimes more & sometimes less. But, here’s my testimony—I’ve never missed what I’ve given! It has always been absorbed by God’s abundant generosity; so, I’ve always had enough! Here’s what I hope to get across to you in this post—when you give, from a generous heart, it costs you nothing! In other words, you won’t lose what you give away! But, the person who hoards & selfishly holds onto his money, when the offering plate is passed, tends toward poverty! That person lives with the constant struggle to make ends meet. “One person gives freely, yet gains more; another withholds what is right, only to become poor. A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water” Proverbs 11:24-25. To paraphrase, using The Message, “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” God measures our generosity by our sacrifice! That doesn’t make sense to the unbelieving world. The world says, “If I want to have more, I have to KEEP more.” But, that’s not true in God’s economy—”If I want to have more, I have to give it away!”

-You Can’t Outgive God!

There’s a principle here that says you can’t out give God! Now be careful here! Don’t draw an unbiblical conclusion like those who twist Scripture & preach a “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel.” God is NOT an investment broker! Don’t expect to put a $100 bill in the offering plate & get $1000 back. Giving that way is not generosity, it’s GREED! The God who knows our heart also knows the motives behind our giving! He measure our generosity by what we sacrifice to give; and, it’s not a sacrifice when we expect to get something back! No, it’s the world of the generous that gets “larger” and “larger.” It might be extra cash in your pocket; but, probably not! Like God extending the life of the Israelites robes & sandals to last 40 years in the wilderness, He may bless us with the extended life of our appliances & vehicles & health!

 

Do I Really Own My Stuff?

-Or, Am I A Manager?

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that question! If you don’t listen to the Word of God—when it comes to your finances & your stuff—you’ll forfeit something. God will oppose you as long as you live like an “owner” of YOUR stuff rather than a “steward” or a “manager” of HIS. The prophet, Malachi, was inspired by God’s Spirit to write: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed ME! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9.

-God Owns It All!

Clearly, God means for us to understand that our resources are not ours to use however we may wish! In my last post I challenged you with Scripture that makes it clear that God owns ALL of it! He doesn’t just get our tithe & offerings; and, the rest is ours to spend on ourselves! He owns it ALL—Deuteronomy 10:14; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:26. As stewards, we are responsible for managing the portion of HIS “estate”—that He has entrusted to us—the way that HE wants it to be managed! We don’t really have the freedom to do what we want with it! Our responsibility is to spend it the way He directs us! We have to get this right, Church! You’re the STEWARD of your stuff, not the OWNER! Repeat that our loud! You need to convince yourself of that!

-Do A Financial Audit!

Here’s what you need to do—you need to do an AUDIT of your finances! And, if God’s Spirit shows you that you’ve been living like an owner instead of a steward, you need to “repent.” Literally, to “repent” means to “change your mind” about something. If you’ve not been obedient, in this area, you need to repent & change your mind about the way you’ve been living! And, I would challenge you to make it a matter of prayer, every day, to release your stuff back to God! Talk to Him every day, about it, and, give it all back to Him. And, how will you know if you’re making progress? Well, you’ll begin to experience freedom from greed, first of all! When it’s part of your mindset that none of your stuff is really yours, you’ll also begin to experience a freedom from the anxiety that a love of money can bring. It’s all Gods anyway; and, He’s promised to take care of you! So, your dependence transfers from your IRA to God, right?

-Don’t Wander From The Faith!

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his son in the faith, with these words: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Catch the gravity of Paul’s warning to young Timothy? He tells him that the way he looks at his money & his stuff has a direct correlation to his relationship with God! And, if he gets it wrong he’s in danger of “financial apostasy”; or, wandering from the faith! Don’t do that!

 

God Of The Impossible!

Is Anything Too Hard For God?

Luke 18:27 records that Jesus said: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  That’s another one of those Scripture verses that we just love to take out of context, isn’t it? We can’t help ourselves! Am I saying the impossible is NOT possible with God? No, not at all! I’m not even saying we should never use this Scripture to teach the omnipotence of God!

Unpack The Scriptures With Integrity

But, this is another one of those verses that reminds us to unpack the Scriptures with integrity. We need to interpret it correctly—in “context”—and then make our applications. Determine what God is actually saying first! Resist the temptation to start with the application! So, open your Bibles; and, read this verse in the context of the verses surrounding it. What is Jesus saying? He’s addressing His disciples as they try to picture a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle, right? He’s saying that it’s easier for that to happen than for a rich man to go to heaven. But, He says, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” It might be humanly impossible to fit a camel through the eye of a needle; or, for a rich man to quit trusting in his riches and trust Christ’s work on the cross—but neither one frustrates God!

Not Even The Rich Are Beyond God

He is committed to making all things new! He is actively at work in our broken world among broken people; even, the rich. We need to accept that many things are impossible for us—including the saving of souls! No one, however, is beyond the reach of the “God of the impossible.” The Power that resurrected Jesus Christ is able to save that loved one you fear is beyond hope! Are you praying for the impossible?

Make Disciples

The most common interpretation of Jesus’ Great Commission—in Matthew 28:16-20—is that we’ve been commanded to “evangelize” the world! But look again! We’ve actually been commissioned to “make disciples”— “Since discipleship is the primary thrust of the commission we have been given, we must stop tacking it on to our existing ministry structure as an afterthought. Discipleship must function as the heart of our ministries, and of our lives personally, if we expect our people to be involved with it.” —taken from an article by Pastor Eric Sipe, titled: Evangelism As A Way Of Life

Best Investment Advice!

The Connection Between Our Faith & Our Finances

No one offers better “investment advice” than Jesus does in His “Parable Of The Unjust Steward” in Luke 16:1-13.  In v.11 He makes a significant connection between our faith and the way we handle our financial resources: “…if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?” Seek after the “genuine” spiritual wealth & riches of a God-focused life; NOT, the temporal wealth of this world! If you cannot be trusted with the temporary wealth of this world, how can God trust you with the true riches of a deep relationship with Him? As long as your passion is the stuff of this world, you’ll never grow deep in your faith and your walk with the Lord!

The Problem With Earthly Treasures

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus put it like this:  “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” Jesus offers additional “investment advice” when He uses the unjust steward to remind us that one day we’ll be “…called in to give an account…” (v.2) Every year I hire the services of an accountant to prepare my taxes for the day I must “give an account”—April 15th.  In the parable, the Master—the real owner—calls in the steward to “give an account” of the way he had managed his Master’s resources. “If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?” Jesus asks (v.12)

Managing God’s Stuff

The Apostle Paul warned the believers in Corinth, “ We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may give an account for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless” (2 Cor 5:10) So, spend your Master’s resources as one who must “give an account”; not, as autonomous! If you see yourself as an owner you’ll live as though you’re autonomous; that, you have the freedom to do with your stuff as you please; like, you’re the Sovereign! The judgment seat of Christ will determine how faithful you were in the management of all the stuff God gave you to steward for Him!

Whose Slave Are You?

Jesus concludes the “Parable Of The Unjust Servant” like this: “…you can’t be slaves to both God and money.” v.13 You will choose one or the other! Everyone does! And, the judgment will reveal it— “good stewards” or “worthless stewards”? Enslaved to money & stuff? Be a worthless steward to God! Or, make God your Master & leverage the money & stuff for His kingdom purposes! We need to regularly, intentionally give everything back to God! Tell yourself, “I need to emotionally pry my fingers off everything I own…God, this is Your house…Your car…Your job…Your 401k; How do You want me to manage it for You?”

 

Actually, God Does Own Your Stuff!

How Much Do We Have To Give?

The “tithing” question almost always revolves around “how much do we have to give?” Do we still have to give 10%? Isn’t that just in the Old Testament? I’ve heard people argue that it’s their money and they’ll give to causes or projects that they believe in; while, others claim they don’t give because churches & pastors have misused church offerings and can’t be trusted! Some have told me that they can’t tithe because they can’t afford it— “There’s always too much month left at the end of our money,” they say. Others say that they’re afraid to tithe— “What happens if we fall on hard times & we’ve given all that money to the church?”

It’s All About Your Heart

In counseling people about their finances, I’ve found that it’s ultimately not a “tithing” question; but, a “heart” issue! Where is your heart? God addresses money matters so frequently—it’s estimated there are over 2000 verses speaking on money—because our financial interests have a way of stealing our heart more than anything else in life! I’ll just admit right now that I probably won’t satisfy your curiosity about tithing in this post. If we just focus on whether to tithe or not to tithe it can quickly turn into legalism and a fulfilling of the letter of the law. I’ll just say this much: I believe there is Scriptural support that if O.T. giving was a tenth under law, that nothing less than that would be the starting point under grace!

Are You A Steward Or An Owner?

In Luke 16, Jesus unpacks some financial principles in His parable about the unjust steward. I’ll only deal with one of those principles here—Jesus teaches us to think like a steward of our stuff; not an owner! God is like the rich man in the story & we’re the steward! The reason the steward was unjust? Because he handled his master’s money as though it were his own! The psalmist wrote:  “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him” Psalm 24:1. See also Psalm 50:10 & 1 Corinthians 4:7. This is bigger than a tithing question! God says it’s not 10% His and 90 % ours! It’s ALL HIS! ALL of it! We’re just managing God’s stuff? Are you acting like a steward over your stuff or an owner?

Faithful In Little; Faithful In Much

Take a look at v.10 in that Luke 16 passage—Jesus teaches us to also be content with the stuff He’s given us to manage, not covetous!Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful in much.” I’ve heard people say they can’t tithe because they don’t make enough money. That’s backward thinking! The tithe comes 1st— “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” Prov. 3:9. Jesus is ultimately saying here that if you don’t tithe with your current income you wouldn’t if you made twice as much— if you’re unrighteous in little you’ll be unrighteous in much! And, I’ve seen that played out way too often!