Monday, July 29, 2013

Financial Advice From The Bible

Did you know the Bible has a lot to say about money?  Over 800 Scriptures deal with money.  One of every seven verses in Luke talks about money.  Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined.  That isn’t to say Jesus meant money was more important than the two.  I just think He knew money would be a problem for us so He put it into eternal perspective.  Almost half of marriages that end in divorce are over money issues.  Why is talking about money from a Christian perspective necessary?  80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  Over half have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.  Consumer debt is at an all-time high and has become a normal way of life for most people.  Most people would have to use a credit card to pay a $1,000 unexpected debt.  Christians need to get a right perspective on money because you cannot serve both money and God (Matthew 6:24).  

Let’s get this straight from the beginning.  God is not here to make you rich nor is He here to keep you poor.  Proverbs 11:28 says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  It was a great idea for us to put “In God We Trust” on our money because most people live “In Money We Trust”.  Our security is not wrapped up in finances.  Hebrews 13:5-6 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.’”  We can only find security in God.  He is our provider and gives us the ability to make money (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Not only is your security not found in finances, you identity isn’t found in it either.  Luke 12:15 says, “Then he said, ‘Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.’”  Don’t measure your life by how much you have or don’t have.  The real measure of your life is if you lost all your money, what would you be worth?  What is so valuable to you that you’d never sell it for money?  Your health?  Your family?  Your salvation?  Money can’t buy you happiness either.  Donald Trump would beg to differ.  He said, “If someone believes money can’t buy you happiness then they don’t know where to shop.”  I like new stuff just like the next guy.  But one thing about new things – they get old quick.  Especially when the bill comes in (if you’ve charged it).  Solomon, the wisest (besides Jesus) and probably richest man that ever lived said this in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!”  Someone once said, “Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven.”
Money isn’t evil, but the love of it is (1 Timothy 6:9-10).  When you serve it, it becomes your master.  Here are three quick steps to keeping money from mastering you.  First, give God the first part.  This will show God you love Him more than you do money.  Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with your first fruits.”  Secondly, be a good steward of the rest of your money.  Use your possessions for God and His Kingdom, not selfish desires.  If you can be trustworthy of little and someone else’s, then God can trust you with your own (Luke 16:10-12).  Lastly, remember, true riches are not found on this earth but in heaven.   Store up treasures in heaven that will last forever.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reconcilable Differences

One of the biggest reasons listed for divorces today is “irreconcilable differences”.  Generally speaking, this phrase means nothing can bring us together and marriage is pointless.  But with Jesus’ help, all differences can be reconciled.  Having a good relationship with your spouse is not an accident – it takes work.  Scripture gives us several principles that will lead us into strong relationships with our spouses.  For example, Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension but a patient man calms a quarrel.”  Simply keeping your cool goes a long way in building a great relationship.  Another Proverb is, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”  Some couples fight over almost anything.  If they would just stop and realize that most arguments start over petty issues there would be more peace and less mess in their relationship.  I am a firm believer that when you apply God’s Word to your marriage any difference can be reconciled.

Five of the biggest reasons for conflict in marriage are poor communication, selfishness, pride, unmet needs, and unexpected differences.  How you communicate to your spouse determines if you marriage is whole or hell.  Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, and keep watch over the door of my lips.”  What you say or don’t say and how you say it will either enrich or entrench your marriage.  The second biggest reason for conflict in marriage is selfishness.  Having to be right 100% of the time, only seeking your best interest, and ignoring your spouse’s feelings is not only disrespectful but deplorable. Selfishness can even mean never listening to and always interrupting your spouse.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening brings folly and shame to their life.”

A third reason for conflict is pride.  Never admitting your mistakes, refusing counsel, and blaming your spouse are examples of pride.  Scripture says you need to take the plank out of your own eye before you talk about the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-4).  Another reason for conflict is unmet needs.  James 4:1-2 says fights and quarrels come from the evil desires that battle within you as you don’t get what you want.  Your deepest needs can only be met by the Lord.  Asking your spouse to fill those is unfair as they cannot meet your unrealistic expectations.  Maybe you didn’t expect the differences you have discovered between you and your spouse.  Remember, Jesus is our peace and can make the two become one and destroy the barrier and hostility between you two (Ephesians 2:14). 

So how do you reconcile with your spouse?  First you must begin to focus on the good and not the bad.  Remember why you decided to get married.  Think about the good times of your marriage.  Philippians 4:8 tells you to think about things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, and admirable.  If you can’t remember any good times then it’s time to create some.  Another step is stop overreacting.  Right actions are way different than wrong reactions.  You must be proactive and overcome evil with good instead of letting evil overcome you (Romans 12:21).   You also can’t reconcile if you are always running away or putting more distance between your spouse.  You must learn to talk it out instead of waking out on your mate.  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26-27).  That means do something to make it right between your spouse today.  Be quick to forgive.  Don’t hold grudges.  Be teachable and willing to do whatever it takes to engage and win your spouse back.  You can be reconciled because Jesus died to defeat sin and death.   He desires to resurrect your marriage and heal your relationship with your spouse.  While He is able, it is your choice and takes two.  I pray you are willing.  There are no irreconcilable differences in Christ. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

God Gives Second Chances

I'm glad God gives second chances.  I'm not sure about you, but I'm glad for multiple do-overs.  He's a God of new beginnings, fresh starts, and mulligans.  What's a mulligan?  In golf, a mulligan is a second chance a golfer receives to perform a move or action.  In some golf tournaments, you can purchase a mulligan and use it whenever you want to.  I wish I could have a mulligan in my pocket ready to use in any situation I desired in life.  Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.  Sometimes you throw the screw-balls.  I need do-overs.  This isn't a license to sin knowing God will forgive me.  It is a desperate plea for grace and mercy because I have weaknesses and limitations.  Sometimes people give you second chances but God always gives multiple opportunities for us to make things right and grow in Him.

When I was applying for a job in high school I remember my dad saying, "You'll never get a second chance to make a first impression." That meant do my best to impress the boss so I'd get the job.  I did and Fred's was a good place to work for about a year.  When you meet someone you try make a good impression on them.  What if you make a bad impression?  They will probably always remember that and label you as they first saw you.  You may not get a second chance to make a first impression with people but you do with God.  "His mercies are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:22-23). When I wake up I have a new day to grow in and use for Him.  His grace covers my yesterdays - the bad, the "never good enough's", and my best attempts at good.  If I have messed up and sinned He forgives my sin.  God forgives and "remembers our sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25).  Only an all-powerful God can be all-knowing and forgetful at the same time.  He doesn't hold them against me or keep a list of my wrongs.  He gives me the greatest mulligan ever - forgiveness in Him.

I'll buy a mulligan every time I play in a golf tournament.  While not everyone does, I'm thankful for friends and family who allow me to mess up and make things right.  I'm more thankful for a God who gives me new mercies every morning and doesn't hold my sin against when I ask for forgiveness.  I'm glad God gives second chances.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Did God Say That?

“The Bible says God will not put more on you than you can bear.”  I’ve heard that statement about four times in the last week all from well-meaning people trying to help those struggling in difficult situations.  But are they right?  Is that in the Bible?  I looked – hard.  I didn’t find anything in the Bible that specifically said God will not give a Christian more than they can handle.  I did find a verse that said God will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).  I found another verse that says God will not let Christians be tempted beyond their ability because He will always provide a way out of that temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  There are several more verses that refer to God’s help in times of trouble but none about how we can overcome apart from Him. 

Hopefully, people are implying God can see you through anything.  After all, He is able, sufficient, powerful, helpful, etc.  But, if you leave it unknown or implied and just assume they get it, they probably didn’t.  Will you have more in this life put on you than you alone can bear?  Yes.  Will God put more on you than He can bear?  Never.  Apart from God, we can do nothing.  Those aren’t my words, but Jesus’ in John 15:5.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we remain in Him and He remains in us we will bear much fruit but apart from Him we can do nothing.  Only God can bring healing, restoration, and resurrect dead things.  Does this mean that we are incapable of figuring out how to deal with things without God?  We have all tried things to bring comfort and sense back to our lives. But apart from God, our attempts usually come up short even if they seem to work initially.  Ask yourself this question – If God already knows the plan and solution before you had the problem then why not go to Him first instead of trying everything else and finally resorting lastly to God? 
On our own we always have more than we can handle.  On his own, David had a giant facing him that no teenage boy could have conquered.  On his own, Daniel was Lion food.   Paul faced beatings, imprisonment, hardships, and ridicule that would have caused the strongest leader to run.  People often misquote 1 Corinthians 10:13.  It is about temptation to sin.  God DID say He would not let you be tempted as a Christian above being able to resist it.   There is ALWAYS a way out of sin – ALWAYS. 

Paul said, “we are hard pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8).  Is this because of our intelligence, perseverance, determination, and winning personalities?  Not a chance.  It is because, “the one who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus” (v. 14).  The troubles he faced brought God’s presence and grace and reached more and more people (v. 15).  We should not lose heart because of outward problems because Jesus is renewing us inwardly (v. 16).  What we face with God’s help is light and momentary and is achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs the problems (v. 17).

You will face tough things but God is faithful and will see you through it.  It is arrogant to think you can overcome anything apart from God.  Paul’s said in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.”  Stop relying on you and rely on Jesus who resurrected and raises the dead.

Friday, July 12, 2013

7 Signs of True Repentance

We have all broken God’s law and sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10).  Only appealing to His grace and forgiveness can absolve us of sin.  God desires to forgive our sins and extend grace to a heart that repents.  The scripture says He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  We have redemption through His blood, which forgives sins, and the richness of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).

Paul gives us the difference between someone who is truly repentant of sin and someone who is just sorry they were caught or found out. 2 Corinthians 7:8-13 explains this and lists seven signs of true repentance.  Paul said there is a difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.  Worldly sorrow brings death and destruction but Godly sorrow brings repentance and salvation (v. 10).  Worldly sorrow hates it got caught and that others may think less of us.  It focuses only on itself, not the hurt of others or that it hurt God.  Godly sorrow is true guilt over sin which hurts God and others.  But neither are repentance.  Worldly sorrow won’t lead you to repentance but only to steps trying to save one’s self and reputation.   Godly sorrow owns up to the sin and wants to repent of it to God and those it’s hurt, make it right, and make steps to never do it again.  A repentant heart chooses Christ because it knows how horrible the sin was against God and also how horrible God’s justice against that sin will be.
So how do you know you or someone has truly repented and honestly trying to get out of that sin?  How can you begin to trust them again?  Here are seven signs or fruits of repentance found in 2 Corinthians 7:11.  First is earnestness.  They are aggressively pursuing righteousness.  They are sincere about getting free from sin and aren’t justifying or arguing their case any longer.  They are genuine and sincere about being more Christlike.  Second, they want to clear themselves.  This isn’t paying for their own sin, They don’t want to hide their sin but have it removed at all costs.  They are an open book about the sin and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure it is gone.  Thirdly, is indignation – anger at sin.  Their attitude toward sin is one of hate.  Sin isn’t wrong because they were found out or someone told them but because they know it hurt their relationship with God and God Himself.  They know sin is a real killer, as it killed Jesus on the cross. 
Fourthly, they have alarm or fear.  Their eyes are open to keep from sinning again.  The have set up boundaries and precautions.  They have a holy fear of God’s wrath towards sin as well.  The good news is Jesus satisfied God’s wrath on the cross and our sins can be forgiven.  Fifthly, is a longing or desire to be in perfect relationship with God.  They want to have a rich, full, growing relationship with Jesus.  They are quick to repent and look more and more like Christ in their character.  Number six is zeal or passion to serve and live for Him.  Lastly they desire to avenge sin.  They know they can’t pay for their own sins but they desire to make all wrongs right.  These signs, Paul says, leads us to “being innocent in the matter” (end of verse 12).  It isn’t pretending the sin never happened but resting in the blood, suffering, and cleansing work of Jesus death on the cross.  Repentance also means living a life that hates and fights against sin to live zealously and purely for Christ.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Critique or Critic?

Let’s face it, no one likes to be corrected.  Correction, especially when we know we are wrong but refuse to admit it, cuts deep into our pride.  But we all need correction.  Scripture brings the best correction to our lives (2 Timothy 3:16).  Everyone also needs approved counselors speaking into their lives on a daily basis.  These are trusted individuals who have proved their walk with the Lord and truly have your best interest in mind.  You need someone who won’t always agree with you and will tell you the truth regardless because they love you.  This is lived out in relationship.   Proverbs 15:22 says plans fail for lack of counsel.

Critiques should be welcomed in life.  You need people helping your get better in your marriage, business, parenting, and life.  Critiques come from people who aren’t trying to slam, ruin, pick you apart, or hold one thing over your head.  They are friends.  A critic, however, is someone who is gunning for you.  They may come in the disguise of “friend” but they are really negative and faultfinding.  They are more interested in being religious and legalistic than redemptive.   A critic uses your information against you and holds it over your head.  A critic takes one sentence you said and forms an opinion of your entire life from it.  A critique evaluates the whole of your words and lifestyle.
How do you know if someone is being critical or offering a critique?  First, how well do you know this person?  I have a rule:  I don’t let others consistently speak into my life (good or bad) unless I know they love God, love the church, and love me (in that order).  If they just love me, they will try and please me.  Really, all three of these can’t be separated if you plan to truly help someone.  Never let those who know you the least define you the most.  Secondly, are they talking to you face to face?  Critics love talking behind your back – usually to other critics.  I tend to approach those I’ve heard talking behind my back and ask for a meeting to discuss specifics.  Sometimes, it isn’t worth the fight if their tendency is to be argumentative and think they are always right.  Proverbs 26:4 says not to argue with fools or you will become foolish as well.  A critique comes face to face, usually over time spent talking about much more than one fault.  If the person speaking against you doesn’t have the guts to live out the steps of confrontation found in Matthew 18:15-17 then consider them a coward and move on.  It’s easy to send an email, text or Facebook message blasting you but it takes real character to sit and respectfully discuss a matter and walk away in the end friends.  Also, anything  said anonymously is to be dismissed as foolish, cowardly, immaturity.  I don’t respond to anonymous emails and unsigned letters.
Thirdly, is what they are saying true?  There is something to weighing out the validity of their point, even if it comes across as an attack.  Let the Lord search your heart.  If you need to repent, forgive, or make some changes do it regardless of how it was brought to your attention.  God can (and did) use a donkey (speaking politically correct) to bring change to your life.  But it only happened one time in Scripture.  Lastly, you can’t make everyone happy – it’s the fastest way to failure.  Just make sure you are acting holy.  Live a life above reproach but be sure not everyone will like you.  Most of the time critics argue over opinion and method, not principle.  Their opinion is the only one that is right and how dare you to question it.  Don’t let insecurity of people pleasing drive you.   Be a God pleaser!   You will be criticized no matter what you do in life, especially if you lead.  The point is to outlast your critics and listen to wise critiques.  Pray for the critics, love them, serve them, but don’t bow down to them or back down from being and doing what God has called you to.  Like Nehemiah, don’t leave the wall to fight the enemy.