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Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

From my sermon yesterday on Luke 12:31-34 …

Look, Jesus is not against investing. He’s against bad investing.

So, an Armani-suited, rolex-wearing, slick-haired man comes up to you and says, “I have an investment opportunity for you. Listen to this. Take all you have and I’ll invest it for you and you will lose every penny of it … and your house … and your car … and your clothes … and your beauty. All of it.” Now the Bible says this: “16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. 17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.” (Psalm 49:16-17)

And another man dressed in rags with bleeding hands and a bleeding side with a crown of thorns comes up to you and says, “I have an investment opportunity for you. Give me all you have and I’ll invest it for you and you will receive 100 times back what you gave me. 100 Times.” Now the Bible says this: “29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Now, which one of those men do we believe?

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From my sermon yesterday on Luke 12:13-21

18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. There it is. There’s our world. “I’ve made more money. Of course, I’ll go bigger and better. I’ve made more and so I will live with more.” See, here’s the thing. For the covetous person and our culture, the getting of more and the increase of wealth and the increase of comfort is a no-brainer. Did you notice that? It’s just obvious. Of course that’s what you do. Given a choice between bigger and better or not (whether it means cutting back or just staying the same), you always choose bigger and better. Given the choice between more money or less, you always choose more. Given the opportunity to increase your standard of living or keep it the same … of course. Job Promotion? Sure you take it. Career? Whichever pays the most. Job relocation? Absolutely, if it pays lots more, why wouldn’t you? It’s a no-brainer.

Now here’s the thing. Is it wrong to take a job promotion? No. Is it wrong to relocate your family for a different job? No. Is it wrong to choose a career that will pay well? No. Is it wrong to do those things without asking God what he wants? Yes. Is it wrong to do those things simply because it will give you more possessions and you are going to use those possessions on yourself? Yes. Is it wrong to do those things without thinking about eternity and whether this will push you closer to Jesus or further away? Yes.

Do you see? The whole thing is tricky. I don’t think God says you have to live a life of poverty. I don’t think God prohibits you from going on a vacation. I don’t think God prohibits nice things. I don’t think God would prohibit improving your life at all. I do think we ought to ask the question though: how much is enough? I do think the question is always, “How much or will this make you closer to Jesus or not, and will it keep you from spreading the kingdom of God? What will maximize my and other’s joy in eternity?”

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From Sunday’s sermon on covetousness, Luke 12:13-15:

Beloved, I have no rules for you today. And in fact, the NT does not give a lot of rules concerning giving or investing or keeping or tithing. Basically it says, “Be generous. Give lavishly to others. Don’t keep it but give it away. And when you give, give willingly and cheerfully.” It doesn’t say you have to tithe but I think it assumes you will and you should and that a tithe (10% of your income) would be a good starting point. So, 2 Cor. 9:7 says you should give what you have determined in your heart but do so, not begrudgingly, but cheerfully. And see, if your heart is not right, right there you are thinking, “Oh, I don’t have to give 10%. I can give whatever I want, whatever I decide in my heart. I can give 1%.” See, if that’s you, you’ve missed it. The issue is your heart. Look, some of you, all you can give to the church or to others is 10%. You can’t really pay your bills if you go more than that. But for some of you, 90% is way more than you need to live on. You could give more than 10%. You should give more. We’ll look at this more but the point is, we have to look at our hearts – When you think about money and possessions, are you looking to give the minimum you can and still be a good Christian? Is this the question going on in your heart: “What’s the least I can give and still be godly?” Or, “What’s the most I can keep and still be godly?” It’s a heart issue. Jesus wants to deal with that.

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Here’s another excerpt from my sermon this past Sunday regarding the election. For those of you who are not from our area, we live in coal country, an industry that is down due to government policies. That will help you make sense of this a little better.

Here’s another good thing. We talked about this some Wednesday night. We have such an opportunity to point people to Christ right now. We need to remember that how we face this trial is being observed by non Christians around us … does being a Christian make a real difference in our joy or does it not? Millions of people woke up on Wednesday morning devastated. Perhaps it is because they are just politicos bent on seeing their party win. Perhaps it is because the policies of this President will really cost them their job (or already has) and they are uncertain about how they will pay their bills. Perhaps it is because they fear religious freedoms beginning to be stripped away, that as the country grows more secular, persecution of Christians will become a distinct reality – this has already happened in other places. How will we as the people of God react? Will we show them that our hope is in heaven (not a country), in a savior (not a politician), in a King (not a president), in the gospel (not a policy or political platform)? If our joy can’t transcend such things, what message are we preaching? Think of this verse written to Christians who were being persecuted far more than us.

Heb 12:28-29 [28] “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, …

Beloved, we are receiving a kingdom right now! If Jesus is your Savior, if you have been forgiven of your sins, if his blood and righteousness cover all your transgressions, if his Spirit lives within you giving you strength and comforting you and enabling you to do his will and keeping you from dangerous, soul-killing, life-destroying sin, if his Word is sweet to you, if you regularly receive the cup and bread by faith, if you have a church family who loves you and supports you and helps you and serves you, if you have all his promise that he will never leave you nor forsake you, that he will return and take you to be with him forever to receive an inheritance that is right now being kept for you … then you are receiving a kingdom right now that is unshakeable (no election can touch it) and you will enter one day into the fullness of this kingdom … why can’t we rejoice?!

Beloved, all too often this comes down to a question of identity. We’ve asked the question, “Who is this?” But I am asking you the question, “Who are you?” And if you answer that question primarily by saying, “I am an American,” if my identity is ‘I am an American, I am apple pie, I am baseball and hot dogs and church bells and hard work’ … the traditional Americana experience (and I like all of that) … but if that is my identity, then when those things get taken away or they disappear, you lose your joy, you lose yourself, you lose your life, and you think, “I am nothing.” No my friend; you are a child of God, you are receiving a kingdom, you are forgiven, you are justified, you are adopted, you are his new creation, you are his bride, you are his beloved, you will be glorious; listen to the ways God speaks about you and he does so because he sees you not merely as you are in this miry, fallen world, but as you will be in your glorious self in all of eternity.” This is the kind of perspective we need.

The apostle Peter spoke of those who even though they were being afflicted were filled with inexpressible joy. Why? Because, he said, they were enjoying the salvation of their souls! And despite all the doom we are forecasting or even experiencing, will it be worse than what the early church experienced? So, if the kingdom of God could thrill their souls in the midst of severe persecution, if all that they had in Christ Jesus could give them joy inexpressible in their suffering, why can’t it thrill ours? It can’t if our hope is in the shakeable kingdoms of men. Peter wrote these same words to those same persecuted people:

1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

If we act like all others then we should not be surprised that others do not ask us about the hope we have within us; after all, it looks like we are hoping in the same things they are hoping in.

Beloved, we have an amazing opportunity here. We can be generous to others who have little, even if we have less than we used to. Why? Because we have a deeper and abiding possession in Christ and in eternity. We can be happy when others are not. Why? Because the joy of the Lord is our strength (not money or championships or the praise of others or financial security or …). We can respond to those we feel are a threat to us with respect and love, pray for them, do good to them just as 1 Peter 2 and Matt 5 tell us. Why? Because we have been loved by one we hated and persecuted and murdered, who did good to us and prayed for us. We can honor a man who we may feel dishonorable and we can pray for him. Why? Because we believe that God has established him as the leader and we will trust him and obey his command for us to do so. We can render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Why? Because we are receiving a kingdom and it is not the kingdom of America, but the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, and it is unshakeable. Beloved, the sun will rise tomorrow because Jesus, the Son has risen, and he will return one day to take us to our real country.

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This is my sermon text for Sunday:

(Luke 8:26-39 ESV)   [26] Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. [27] When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. [28] When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” [29] For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) [30] Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. [31] And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. [32] Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. [33] Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
[34] When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. [35] Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. [36] And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. [37] Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. [38] The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, [39] “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

And this is a good poem by William Dunkerley about the response of the Gadarenes (or whatever their name was).

Rabbi, begone! Thy powers
Bring loss to us and ours.
Our ways are not as Thine.
Thou lovest men, we–swine.
Oh, get you hence, Omnipotence,
And take this fool of Thine!
His soul? What care we for his soul?
What good to us that Thou hast made him whole,
Since we have lost our swine?

And Christ went sadly.
He had wrought for them a sign
Of Love, and Hope, and Tenderness divine;
They wanted–swine.
Christ stands without _your_ door and gently knocks;
But if your gold, or swine, the entrance blocks,
He forces no man’s hold–he will depart,
And leave you to the treasures of your heart.

No cumbered chamber will the Master share,
But one swept bare
By cleansing fires, then plenished fresh and fair
With meekness, and humility, and prayer.
There will He come, yet, coming, even there
He stands and waits, and will no entrance win
Until the latch be lifted from within.

Now, read Luke 8:14: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

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It’s time for another book plug. Today’s plug is for two books by the same author. Both of them are philosophy books (though not your usual kind). And both of them star Socrates. No, these are not books by Socrates nor have any of his writings. Instead they are fictitious books in which Socrates comes back 2000 years later to earth and dialogues with various individuals about abortion, marriage, music, money, pleasure, and more. In each dialogue, “Socrates”, of course, uses his normal questioning method. He meets different types of people like Felicia Flake, Pop Syke, King Herod, and others whom he grills with questions to lead them along a more logical line of thinking. The dialogues are quite hilarious and very instructive, as Kreeft exposes many of the flaws in contemporary pursuits, values, and logic. I highly recommend both of these.

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Here’s a convicting thought from the pen of John Piper:

Two guidelines for giving: 1) “Whenever we renounce anyone’s pleas or refuse to meet any need that we see, we must be able to say honestly: I am refusing because of the great love God has for me and because I delight so much in his mercy. 2) Of all our money and possessions we should be able to say: I retain possession of this because of how much worth God is to me.”

Let’s chew on that one for a while.

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