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Glorifying God With Our Money

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We all have money and we all have stuff. We have also all been tricked into the worlds way of thinking about our possessions. The world says we need more and we believe it. How many of us have stood before a full closet of clothes bemoaning the fact that we have nothing to wear? The world says old is not good you need some things new and we agree. How often do we buy new things even though the old ones work fine but look a little worn (electronics, furniture, shoes, kitchen items). The world says you have worked hard for your money you deserve to spend it on yourself and we listen and become greedy, selfish and stingy.

Luke 16 is all about the love of money. Wealth, in and of itself, is not bad. Luke himself was a doctor and would probably have been well off. Possibly one of the wealthiest of Jesus’ disciples. Other people in the Bible were wealthy, like Abraham, but they knew the place money and wealth had compared to godliness.

The Pharisees, on the other, despite all their religiosity, were very money minded. They wanted to look good and believed that wealth was a sign that one was blessed by God.

So the stories that Jesus tells were designed to expose what was inside the Pharisees hearts, specifically in regards to money. One of these stories is about a very wealthy man who was covered in the best clothes and lived in luxury while a very poor man, Lazarus,  was covered in sores laying at the rich man’s gate hoping for some scraps of food.

Both of these men die. Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich man goes to hell. While in hell the rich man asks that Lazarus wet his lips with some water. When he realizes that all is lost he asks that Lazarus be allowed to warn his brothers. Abraham says “They have the word of God, that is what they need to listen to”. But the rich man doesn’t think that is enough. He thinks that if his brothers could see someone come back from the dead then they would repent but Abraham knows the condition of man’s heart. He tells him that if they don’t believe God’s word then they won’t believe even if someone comes back from the dead.

A real man named Lazarus did come back from the dead and the Pharisees did not believe. Jesus himself was raised back to life and people have continued to reject him.

People’s hearts are set on the wrong things and therefore do not believe or follow God. We can also fall into this same trap.  We become preoccupied with the pleasures of this life over the life to come. We are more interested in the gifts then the giver. How do we avoid this pitfall? We must place money and our possessions in their proper place.

1. Remember

We must always remind ourselves where all the good things we have come from (James). But we must also look beyond the material things and realize that it is God who has given us and our spouses the talents, brains and desires to get an education or find a job that brings in the money that allows us to buy things. Is it possible that God allowed all of these things to fall into place so that we could help others?

If we want to curb our [ungodly] passions we must remember that all things are made for us, with the purpose that we may know and acknowledge their Author. We should praise his kindness toward us in earthly matters by giving him thanks. – John Calvin

2. Stay Thankful

Thankfulness will keep us humble and it will protect us from abusing or misusing the good gifts that God has given us. It will keep us from turning our material possession and our money into idols. We must protect ourselves from stinginess as well as wastefulness and being thankful will help us.

3.  Look for opportunities

We must look for opportunities to serve with our finances as well as with our material belongings. Could you bless a missionary with a package? Are there people in your lives whom you could spoil with a home cooked meal and an evening of fellowship? Maybe we can donate items in our house that are sitting around collecting dust. Don’t hold on to things thinking that maybe, one day, when the kids are grown, you could use it again. Trust that God will provide for you when the times comes and give those things away to someone who can use them now.

God has called us to love and care for others. The things we own and the money we have will not last forever, but what we do with them can have eternal consequences both for good or for bad.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

{Luke 16} Changed, to live a life that’s faithful…

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It was January 2010, and a massive earthquake had just shattered the streets and lives of Haiti.  And while the world watched the struggling country’s tragedy unfold, an internal struggle was going on inside of me.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” ~ Luke 16:10

I had been praying for God to change me.

Ever feel like you’re in a slump, and you’re not even sure why?  That was me.  Spiritually, emotionally, even physically.

But by His grace, God used the events in Haiti to catch my attention that day.  From my journal:

I can’t do one thing throughout the day without the pictures

of devastation flooding my mind.

I think of the dark, sad eyes of rubble-covered, filthy orphans

when I wipe my baby’s face.

I scrape the extra food off of her highchair and think of their hunger.

I cringe at a paper cut and then remember their wounds. Their pain.

I climb into my comfortable bed and pray for them to be able to sleep,

somehow, under the stars.

I get overwhelmed with the clutter of toys, while they yearn for the basic necessities of life.

I long for a moment of peace in the midst of a chaotic full house,

and think of those who long to have their loved ones back.

My mind went back to 1995, when I stood on those dirt roads, handing out pencils and gum and hope to hungry, hurting children. When life was much simpler and mercy seemed to come more quickly for me. My mind wasn’t cluttered with the things of this world as much. At least not that week of Spring Break, when I got to witness for the first time what life – and poverty – was like outside of my small college world.

While I was working my tail off to avoid taking out student loans, people were starving to death in that small little village in Haiti.

A good friend named Tyler (who would later become my husband) was on that trip too. We sat on the steps outside our apartment building together each night, listening to the Voodoo chants of the neighboring village. We sat in pure darkness; no electricity since the generators had already shut down for the night. He would play guitar. We would sing a little, then pray a little. And wonder how a place – a people – that was so lost, could ever find God.

And now, all these years later, I’m thankful that it’s God who does the finding.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…” ~ from Psalm 46

Not that the crisis was about me, but God was doing a work in me because of it. He answered my prayers and my pleading for His Word to come alive to me in a fresh, new way. I wanted to long for it like I did on those Haitian steps almost eighteen years ago. Overwhelmed with grief and the guilt of my selfishness, I sat on my bathroom floor during one nap time with tears streaming down my face, soaking up the Psalms as I read them aloud. God met me there. And His Word did come alive.

It had been too long.

When had I become so discontent in all of God’s provision for me?  When did I stop managing well all that God had entrusted to my care?

 Something had to change.

A few nights later, I sat on my bed, grabbed hands and formed a circle with my husband and three boys, and one by one, we lifted up the people of Haiti to the One who is our “ever-present help.”  It was the first of many nights that we began consistently, passionately praying again for someone – something - other than ourselves.  And it felt good.  Really good. A baby step to be sure, but a freeing one out of our self-absorbancy and pride.

I watched a few days later as my boys – all on their own – raided their Ziploc bags full of lost-teeth-and-birthday-money. They marked separate tithe envelopes “for Haiti,” and stuffed in their money, in a most unorganized way. Later we sat and looked at pictures of Haiti online, and my oldest, convicted and full of compassion, brought down another dollar. Their nineteen dollars seemed so minuscule, but for the work it did in their hearts? Priceless.

I remember thinking, “I don’t want to forget all of this a week from now.” And I still pray against forgetting every.single.day.  When it’s clear that it’s not about me and I’ve had little sleep and my patience is not what it should be.

I want to live changed, so that I can live a life that’s faithful.

Don’t you?

He changes lives, you know. The very God who created the universe. Who allows things that we don’t understand to fulfill His plan and purpose.  And He’ll meet you where you are. Even if it’s a bathroom floor, or a pit that you think you’ll never get out of.  If you’ll let Him.

Oh to be changed, so that we will be faithful in little, so that we can be faithful in much.

Jesus, help me not to forget…

 

At His feet,

 

 

Costly Mistakes

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When it comes to parenting, what’s more important God or money? It may be easy to say “God” until our kids make a costly mistake . . . it’s then our true colors come out.

It happened to us just a year or so ago. Our teenage daughter was right behind us in her car, driving home from church, when we received a phone call. She’d been cresting a hill just five houses down when she hit the back of a parked car. Thankfully, she and her brother—who was in the car with her—didn’t get a scratch. The other car had some damage, but my daughter’s car was totaled. (Can you hear the dollar signs?)

John and I had sacrificed by giving her our old car instead of selling it or trading it in. Not only that, we’d just spent nearly a thousand dollars in engine repairs, and since we only had minimal insurance on it, it was all gone. Add to it, we had to buy another (used) car since we had two teen drivers who needed to get to school and work.

In Luke 16:15 Jesus said, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts.” John and I strive to be good, godly, loving, forgiving parents, but inside I wanted to rant. Our daughter should have been paying better attention. Her irresponsibility just robbed us of that money we’d worked so hard to save.

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While I ranted (mostly internally), my husband John offered our daughter grace. He dealt with the totaled car. John also spent weeks searching for another used car. More than that, He used that experience to share about God’s grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve, and He’s there to pick up the pieces when we mess up. My husband’s words explained this. His actions proved this.
My soul settled down after a few hours, but this event really showed me I had given money a prominent place in my mind and heart. This wasn’t the only time one of my children caused a costly life lesson, and like my friend Phil shares in our co-authored book Lead Your Family Like Jesus, it’s what your child learns from the mistake that matters most.

Moving Beyond Mistakes

Grace-filled family leadership is all about turning mistakes into opportunities for growth. Jesus modeled this when, after His resurrection, he encountered Peter—who three times had denied even knowing Jesus after the latter’s arrest. It could have been a humiliating rejection for Peter, but Jesus made sure it wasn’t … (You can read about it in John 21:7-9, 12-19)

Instead of dressing Peter down or giving him the silent treatment, Jesus restored him to service. We need to do the same with our children. It’s easy to say, but hard to do—especially when you see one of your kids make a very costly mistake.

I remember one such time when my son, who was then in his twenties, dropped out of law school. It could have been a defining moment—in a bad way. My response could have set him up for failure.

But I helped him step back and say, “There’s a lesson to be learned here.” Yes, a lot of money had been spent in an unsuccessful venture, but maybe some life lessons could be learned from the experience.

“What positive things did you learn about yourself from law school?” I asked him. He said he learned he could work hard and that he was smart enough to do the work. He shared other positive things, too.

I then asked, “What could you have done differently?”

He replied that when he received feedback on his performance, he didn’t use the information well. When he did better on a test than he expected, he celebrated; when he received what he expected, he didn’t investigate it further. If he got a lower-than-expected grade, he didn’t go back to the teacher and ask what he could have done better. Instead of talking to the people who were grading the papers to find out how to be successful, he consulted his friends. In the end they were not a reliable source of the advice or help he needed.

We talked about communication, pride, starting new projects, tackling the routine parts of a job before the exciting parts, not majoring in minors, and seeking feedback.

Perhaps someday you’ll need to help your child work through an expensive life lesson. If so, remember that disappointments may be God’s appointments to draw us closer to Him. While we want to protect our children from hardship, that’s impossible. Instead, we may be called to lead by walking them gracefully through the valley and guiding them through the shadows.

What about you? Has your child made a costly mistake? How did you react?

Jesus knows our hearts, yet our heart-loves are often revealed during a costly mistake. Pray today and ask God to help you serve Him as master above all!

{Week 8} Luke 16 ~ Eternal investing versus earthly gain…

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Investing in the Kingdom of God with the money we have been given on earth…

Are you doing it? Am I doing it?  Luke 16 forces us to take a good hard look at how we view money as followers of Jesus.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” ~ Luke 16:9

Now I know what some of you might be thinking… not the “money talk” again.  Let me encourage you to resist sneaking out of the back of the “sanctuary” this week while everyone else’s eyes are closed during prayer. :)  Money is a touchy subject, yet a hugely important part of our daily lives.  And it drives and consumes the world - and often us – so much, that God knew He’d have to talk about it a LOT in His Word.  When something (like money) is repeated so many times in the Bible, if we’re wise, we’ll settle into our pews, and open our ears and hearts to what He has to say…

 

{If you are unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

Some of you might be frustrated today, thinking, “If money wasn’t so tight for me right now, I’d give it to God in a heartbeat.”   Let me encourage you with John MacArthur’s words regarding investing in eternity:

“The truth is circumstances don’t determine faithfulness, character does. You hear people say, “If I had more I’d give more.” No you wouldn’t. It doesn’t matter how much you have. The widow who had nothing gave everything. People who have everything give nothing. It’s never about circumstances. It’s a view of heaven and a view of earth. It’s a perspective that has captured your heart.” ~ John MacArthur

What is capturing your heart today, friend?  The things of this world, that are so very temporary and will ultimately fade away?  Or the things of God, which produce an eternity of reward in heaven one day?

 

At His feet,

 

{Week 8} Weekly Challenge: Take a few minutes to make a list detailing where your money is going.  Are there obvious eternity investments, or do the majority of your finances go towards earthly gain?  Pray that God would show you any needed adjustments, and ask Him to give you strength to put your faith and your finances into action to further His Kingdom this week!

 

 {Week 8} Reading Plan:

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{Week 8} Memory Verse:

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The Parable of the Prodigal Son

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Most of us are very familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. In this story there is the outright rebellious younger son who asks for his inheritance early. By doing so he was basically wishing his father were dead. He had no regard for what was right and lived a selfish life of partying, luxury, and immorality which resulted in destruction and misery. In the end he returns home, a broken man, and is joyfully embraced and accepted by his father.

Then there is the older son who was morally upright, hard working and a rule follower. He did everything he was supposed to, outwardly respected his father, and yet his heart betrayed his good works. He was filed with bitterness towards his brother, a love of things over the love of his father and self righteousness.

The two brothers reflect the two kinds of people in the word. Those who are openly rebellious towards God and do not think they need him, and those who are self-righteous and don’t believe they really need him. One of the truths in this parable is that everyone is lost. The religious as well as the rebellious are dammed without Christ. The Pharisees, with their religious rule-keeping and the prostitute with her immorality both need to be rescued. There is no one righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10)

Can you identify with either of these brothers? I can identity with the older one. I was always the rule keeper, the “good girl” who never got in trouble. It was easy for me to try and rely on myself more than on God. It was easy to think “I’ve got this.” But there is no one good enough in the eyes of God. We all need Christ and the work he did on the cross.

Did you know that there is actually a third son in this story (Driscoll). This is the son who was neither rebellious nor religious. He was not selfish or greedy. He wasn’t immoral or self righteous. He was perfect. Actually he is the one telling the story. While we may be able to identify ourselves with one of the two imperfect brothers, it is in Christ, the perfect Son, in whom we must find our identity. It is Jesus who saves us and leads us in the right way. We need him for everything. Just like both brothers needed to be saved from the sins of self-righteousness and blatant unrighteousness so we need to be saved from our sins.

Our dependence on Jesus goes deeper than we can ever comprehend. Through his death Jesus accomplished our salvation but a person’s need for Jesus doesn’t stop there. He gives us a righteousness that we cannot earn and a power to live godly lives and overcome sin that we cannot muster up on our own. He gives us wisdom that we can’t  learn on our own, and grace for every moment of our day that we don’t deserve. He holds our very lives together by his word. He wisely and sovereignly determines when we are born and where we live. He is master over the weather and has the power to give and to take away. We are nothing without him.

Can you identify who you are–the older or younger brother? Until you can you will not be able to identify your savior who rescues you from your sin and yourself.

Check out Tim Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” as well as his free sermon series by the same title.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

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