Author Archives: Kent

Two Tuesday Testimonies About God Providing Financially

Today, I have two testimonies about God providing. The first one comes from someone I have been doing some budget counseling with, and they are wonderful sweet people. I’m so very proud of their hard work and commitment. The husband just told me about the blessing they recently received. This is what I recall from our conversation:

We are working through our budget, trying to follow it well. We are tracking spending on, but we made a few unplanned purchases perhaps we shouldn’t have, but we were not discouraged but more committed to getting it right.  I prayed to God; “Lord you know my heart, and am asking you for help with our expenses, let us find some money.” Later that day, we were in the car going somewhere, we came to an intersection and stopped. I looked over, and there on the pavement I saw Benjamin Franklin’s picture. I was in the passenger seat and jumped out of the car, to pick up the blessing of a $100 bill. No one was around to claim it, and knew in my heart this was God’s blessing. We were able to fill up our car with gas and replenish our kitchen with food. – Anonymous

The second testimony was emailed to me a while back, from a friend.

“To pay for seminary, I needed to make some financial decisions.  One was to keep my old car…15 years old…believing that God would provide a way to get a newer one in the future.  After seminary, I still needed to make financial sacrifices to pursue the goals that God had for me.  So the car got older…18 years old ….  but it got me where I needed to go.  I was grateful.  In September 2012, I felt like God wanted me to start praying for someone to give me a car.    I thought I would win a contest or something.  Nothing happened that I could see.  So I put the prayers “on the shelf” and continued to be grateful that I only had to drive 8 miles a day.   In March, of 2013 my 19-year-old car had the brakes go out and would require $1000 brake job.  I asked God what to do since I did not have the money.  My next door neighbor came forward and told me that God had told her to give me her car (a 6-year-old car in perfect condition).  I offered to pay what I could, but she said that God had told her to give it to me for free.  I gave my older car to the mechanic who had always taken care of me.  He was overwhelmed, knowing that he could fix it for the cost of parts and give it to his son who was in a bad place.  My neighbor’s act of generosity gave me so much courage that God would always be there for me.  Whenever I see my mechanic, he is still amazed at God’s provision to him and his son. God is always amazing in his generosity.” – Anonymous

God provides and is generous. Pray to him, with a grateful heart, bring him your needs and wants and don’t give up.

Taking a Financial Class Was the Beginning of Transformational Faith

Tuesday Testimony, about how a great guy’s financial and faith life was totally transformed after he took Dave Ramsey Financial University at Vineyard Columbus. Our next class starts the 2nd Tuesday in September. For more information and sign-up click here.

Here is my family’s story of great generosity from other believers through God’s power:

After attending the Dave Class, we went Gazelle intense for about 2 years.  We didn’t buy clothes.  We ate the “beans and rice” diet.  I worked 5 jobs.  We were paying off a lot of debt, but not enough.  Despite all our effort, we still ran up against the wall and didn’t have enough for our minimum credit card payments.

My wife was in tears.  She couldn’t make the math work to pay all our bills.  We were going to default.  I’m usually the one to fall apart when finances go south.  God pressed upon my heart to not worry and to pray for provision.  I felt a tremendous peace on my heart.  I KNEW that God would provide.

Literally, the next day I went to my weekly Guys Night (fellowship) with some of my closest friends.  At the end of the night, one of my friends handed me a check.  He said that he, his wife and my other friend felt God pressing on their hearts to give us this money.  I gave them a hug and didn’t look at the check.  I said I didn’t want to open it until I was with my wife.

I went home and my wife and I opened it.  It was a check for $6,000 dollars.  It covered ALL our credit cards and took a nice chunk out of the next debt in our snowball.  We cried for a long time.  I remember my wife repeating over and over, “They can’t do this..”.

I have to hold tight to this memory.  Since this time, we rapidly went back to trying to follow Dave’s plan and force our way out of debt under our own effort.  We have been on baby step 2 of the Dave plan for 5 years.  Due to my wife’s and son’s disability, we have not been able to knock out our last debt, my student loan.  We honestly questioned Dave’s plan because it doesn’t seem to be working for us.

Recently, I have come to understand that Dave’s plan isn’t the issue.  We are in God’s plan and he is the one providing for us.  An overlooked part of Financial Peace University is this; when everything else fails, pray to your Father in Heaven.  He loves you and wants to provide for you and that’s what I’m holding on to now.   I’m taking the wisdom on how to handle money from Financial Peace University and praying to God in my deep helplessness to provide for my family’s needs.  I’ve been learning through all of this that all generosity comes from God, and that’s where I’m placing my trust. – Anonymous

Jesus Loves Business, But…

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 19:45-46. We see Jesus rebuking people selling in church, yet in Luke 19:12-27, Jesus tells a parable that seems to have blessed the combination of responsible investing, hard work and stewardship- all elements of business ownership.

I think Jesus loves capitalistic, entrepreneurs; business owners. They work hard, show their faith and trust in action through tough risk. They use and expand their God-given talents. Business fails more often than it succeeds, and God uses failure to teach and grow us more than success. Business owners create jobs, provide health and other benefits, enabling people to work hard to provide for their families. Entrepreneurs give back to society through charitable donations, business is financially healthy for communities, and they often invest in other businesses that have the same benefits.  The Pope recently commented some about the negative sides of  big business; exploiting the poor and ruining the environment. This is true at times, however business and capitalism isn’t immoral – it always comes down to the motivations of its leaders. Sounds like to me, they need the influence of Jesus and from other Christian business owners.

I’ve even heard some people in the faith community say they prefer a more socialistic system, that provides for the poor better. However, capitalistic democracies like the U.S. provide more for the world’s poor, than any other system. Is it any wonder, people from other countries are pouring into our country through our southern border? Where else do you see this except in war-torn areas? Corruption and immorality of its leaders will always exist in any type of economic or political system, but in socialistic systems there is always more poverty. Checked democracy and capitalism, although far from perfect, is just the most efficient system of freedom and distribution of goods and wealth.

So back to the Bible verse noted at the beginning, Luke 19:46-47: When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Was Jesus condemning business people selling stuff; putting down capitalism or entrepreneurship? Was Jesus saying that business was unholy? I don’t think Jesus was saying these things at all. Jesus was disgusted that a place of worship was being used as a means to make a profit. He hated that faith was being used, either for worshipers or leaders as a way to line either of their pockets. The main focus of church should be the trinity, and not our financial profitability.

So how do we reconcile Luke 19:46-47 and Luke 19:12-27? One on hand Jesus is quite harsh on those whose main faith motivation is for financial gain. Yet in the earlier verses in Luke, he praises good business stewards. In the technology sector, we hear about “China Walls.”  Chinese paper walls are thin; sound and light travels through them. Each room is connected, yet separated by thin walls. For Christians, our China walls should be the checking of our heart’s motivations. Our faith should influence how we operate in business, and business is good for faith as well. However the litmus test is to ask ourselves; “from where do our motivations come?” We should err on the side of caution.

Business owners are under great pressure. In many business sectors, profit margins are low, costs of supplies and human resources are high, and business is extremely competitive. Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft, said that intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana; and all business owners know that they have to keep changing and work hard to maintain competitiveness. At the end of the day, business owners need  a growing faith to survive, so their work lives need to become more closely aligned with faith, yet to be extremely alert to the motivations of their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, from the four Gospels, with this approach: Jesus is shepherding us in our finances, for our good, to help us help others and for the Kingdom. Jesus leads us with grace through this difficult area of life, and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to do amazing things. This is the fifty-seventh post in this series.

Testimony About Giving, Faith and Worship

Putting money is the offering plate can be a difficult thing for many people to do. It isn’t easy to part with money, when we have so many needs and wants in life. Giving regularly often begins with letting go and trusting. Even if our hearts aren’t totally into it, God then often blesses us, and encourages our faith. Ultimately, giving should be about worship (read the excerpt at the bottom), but God meets us where we are. I think this short transparent testimony that was emailed to me demonstrates this quite well.

“The first time I paid tithe, I tossed a small check of $25 in the offering plate. My face immediately turned beet red. I was a FOOL! I watched my check get further away as it slowly flowed away. As the offering plate was passing in the next row BEHIND me I nearly fainted. I wanted MY money back. What was I thinking…giving good money away. I cringed but refrained from dipping my hand into the plate and removing my check. As a new Christian I heard of “being blessed” when tithing but I was a skeptic. That week a three figure check showed up in the mail. It was an unexpected “refund” from Uncle Sam. I knew it was a mistake so I mailed it back. Not long after…it was again returned with a letter telling me it was mine. I sent it back. Again it returned, I CASHED IT! I chalked it up as being “blessed by the IRS”. Decades later I have been financially blessed many times over because of my faithfulness to paying tithe even when I felt that I couldn’t “afford” to.” – anonymous

From the NIV Stewardship Study Bible:

“Many people seem to think that the reason we have an offering during the Sunday morning service is because the church needs to pay its bills and also wants to do good things with the money that is collected. Your church does need to pay its bills, and it probably does do good things with the money you put in the offering plate … but that is not why we have an offering during the Sunday morning service.

The offering is an act of worship, an instance in which we are invited to give up something that we value—our money—as a sacrifice to God. In many ways, it is the high point of the liturgy. We come to church to worship God and at no other point in the service are we provided with so pure an opportunity for worship as this …

We are invited to put money in the offering plate on Sunday morning not because the church needs our money but because we want and need to give it. We have a spiritual need to worship God, and through our offerings we are able to express our love and devotion for God in a way that is simple and sincere. The motivation of the giver is what counts most, not the size of the gift or the degree of benefit to the recipient (see Mk 12:42–44). The good news of stewardship is that church offerings are not fund-raising rituals but acts of worship in which we are invited to express our heartfelt devotion to the God who is so good to us.” -Powell, Mark A. NIV Stewardship Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. Print, page 1614.

Great Example of How We Are Blessed To Be a Blessing

Tuesday Testimony, from a friend. It is an amazing story about how he was blessed through the generosity of others and classes he took. God kept his life together, even though he feared it would fall apart, not only was his home blessed, he was able to bless people around the world, and the people who originally blessed him.

“Maybe 5-6 years ago, I was at a bad point in my life. I went from being nicely employed, then was unemployed for 7 months, then underemployed (but happy to have a job). However, I missed three mortgage payments in a row. I was fairly certain that I would lose my home, and worried the situation might cause me to lose my girlfriend.

Gratefully, I was in a small group that prayed for each other. I remember gathering into smaller groups for the prayer time, after the Bible study. I shared my scenario with the few guys in my prayer group. One gentleman said that he and his wife had been blessed financially, through a class at Vineyard and wrote me a check that covered the three house payments!

Because of their financial responsibility, their blessing helped me keep my house and my girlfriend. She became my wife and now we had two children. We took the Dave Ramsey FPU class and developed a budget and started living within our means. We later became small group leaders.

Through our budgeting, we have been able to support a couple of missionaries on a short-term basis, helped one girl in a 3rd world country get through high school and are now supporting a 2nd girl through high school, and we were able to bless the couple that blessed us, when they fell into hard times. “

In summary, you can never under-estimate the generosity of God, and how he loves to bless us. He too loves it when we become good stewards and bless other people, being Jesus to the world around us.

The Joy of Hard Work, Luke 19:12-27

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 19:12-27, is about hard work. Modern society’s view of work, doesn’t always agree with scripture, so let’s see what the Bible has to say.

He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ 20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ 24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Key elements of the verses:

  • The Command: Verses 12 – 13 we see the ruler leaving his assets in the hands of his servants to make profitable while he is away; “Put it to work.”  Believers are God’s servants, working with the time, talent, and resources he has given us, to make profitable for him, and for ourselves.
  • The Complainers: Verse 14 a delegation complained to a higher authority. In the context of these verses, many of the servants didn’t want the kind of king that ruled this way. People in kingdoms sometimes don’t like to work for the king, and for the benefits of others, but just themselves. Subjects might prefer to conquer and be taken care of by slaves and the spoils of war.
  • The Profiteers: Verses 15 – 19, two of the servants report to the king the profits they have produced. The king increases the number of their responsibilities.
  • Judgement: The  Verses 20 – 24, one of the servants did nothing with the money, while the king was away. The king took the money he entrusted to him and gave it to one of the harder working servants. The king was furious, he ordered the execution of the complainers.

You have heard these verses and Matthew 25:14-28 being taught probably several different ways, perhaps in the context of investing, or Kingdom principles. I previously covered this as a teaching about the Eternal Significance of Good Stewardship. I stand by this article and would probably agree with the many other ways these verses are taught. However, this article will probably will be a new way of looking at these verses; because I think it is quite possible Jesus is talking about how much he loves hard work and how much he hates being lazy.

I have worked in a lot of places, and have talked to a lot of business owners, and the number one complaint they have about their employees isn’t intelligence, know how, experience or that they are nice people. Their number one complaint is finding people who work hard all day.  Often, people don’t arrive on time, miss work often, take long lunch breaks, goof off talking too much or spend a lot of time on social media.

Some people look down on hard work. You hear that work is that thing we do, in between having fun on the weekends. “We work hard, so that we can play hard,” is a worn out quote I’ve heard too often. In some societies, hard work is seen as something for people lower down the social-economic scale. The number one goal for many people is to save up enough money, so that one day they don’t have to work anymore, they can lay back and relax in retirement (read Luke 12:17-21).

However, I think Jesus wants us to always work hard. To expend a lot of effort into the things we do. In our feel-good society, we don’t elevate hard work. We preach that the ills to society are lack of compassion towards the poor and disadvantaged. I think Jesus would say that although this may be true, but one of the biggest ills of society is our attitude towards work.

Rich Nathan the Pastor of Vineyard Columbus taught What Ever Became of Hard Work? in the Neglected Virtues series. For many people hard work is a forgotten virtue (don’t worry this sermon also touched on workaholics too). It is easy to slack off, this is a temptation. Constant activity, physical fatigue and seeing others not work as hard pulls down our attitude to work hard.

I think hard work is a blessing. A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook: “I love Fridays! Not only because it’s the weekend, but it feels sweet when I’m tired and I’ve worked hard all week, then hear my master say well done good and faithful servant! (Matt 25:23) There is joy in hard work.” I honestly believe this is true.  Take some time to review the many Bible verses about work, listed here. Monday is a good day to change our mind about how we view work; so that at the end of the day or the end of the week, although we may be exhausted, we will feel really blessed. I encourage you to do this, I’ll bet you hear Jesus say to you “I’ve been with you all day and watching you work hard with integrity- great job!”

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-sixth post in this series.

Testi-money About God’s Generosity

A good friend of mine, sent me an email recently about giving, that I thought might be encouraging.  He has lived good stewardship, and gotten back on his feet financially, after deeply digging out from a failed business venture.

“I was looking at our tithe last year and it was indeed 10% but given our income amounts it was some crazy number that ended in 39 cents (or similar) and I thought that perhaps God was due at least a “rounding up”. After thinking about it – I rounded it up even more (because God deserved more than THAT). But wouldn’t you know that I got a raise a month later and when I recalculated my tithe base on the additional income it worked out EXACTLY to what I had previously rounded up our tithe to. You can’t out give God.”

In summary. This is true, you can’t out-give God. Sometimes he blesses us monetarily, but often in much better ways too. God is generous and loves to bless his kids. Tithing is often a test with our money (hence the title testi-money) and our trusting him. A good scripture reference is Malachi 3:10.

Zacchaeus’ Walk With Jesus, from Greed to Purity

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 19:8-9. In the preceding verses, we see Zacchaeus a tax collector, following Jesus, and immediately is compelled regarding his financial life.

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus collected taxes by going door-to-door, not like today, when we pay our taxes through the internet or payroll deduction. There is quite an advantage to collect taxes this way. Living amongst his collectees, he could see their lifestyle. The parties people threw, clothes they wore, the livestock, fields and business’s productivity was very observable. Zach surely walked the marketplace and saw money change hands, and the things people purchased. He also probably knew of their hard times and good times, struggles and pain. Yet at the end of the day, he commanded the payment amount, or he could make life very difficult. Zacchaeus had the force of law and the power of soldiers to enforce the collection of money.

If Zacchaeus was successful, he could exploit people for additional amounts, for his own lifestyle. A very nice arrangement for the tax collector, although he was a hated man. Quite a trade-off, greed and wealth for loneliness. Not a tall man either, he had to climb a tree to get a view (Luke 19:4), although he probably held himself in high esteem. But when he got down from the tree, he went from a high altitude, down to his knees, at Jesus feet, as we see in Luke 19:8: “But Zacchaeus stood up…

Zacchaeus is an Aramaic name that means pure. On one hand he was purely despised by his neighbors. He probably didn’t have a lot of friends or guests in his home, unless they were begging or bribing him, but Jesus went to his home (Luke 19:5-6). Jesus gladly went to stay with him for a while, and I’d guess at least shelter for the evening. They were instant friends, beautiful.

Jesus welcomed this man of scorn and greed with love and friendship. In Jesus, I believe Zach saw the Kingdom of God. He saw Jesus’ purity, and his own purity quite lacking. He saw his own sin of living for himself, of greed, and putting his trust in money. Zachaeus wanted no more of his past behavior and wanted to demonstrate his new heart right away, when he said Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

In summary, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior, and are following him with your life, you have a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus we have pure hearts; all of our names could be Zacchaeus!  Jesus called out to Zacchaeus in his spirit, he pointed to the thing in Zach that was his religion; the love of money and possessions. He immediately wanted to tithe one half of everything he had to the poor, and give back to those he stole from, four times the amount he took. I call that repentance, and putting on a new lifestyle, a new garment of living (Romans 13:14). What is Jesus saying to you today about what you hold on to, your honesty, your greed, how best to repent of it, and how to walk with Jesus in your finances?

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-fifth post in this series.

Being Interruptible to Bless Others

A friend recently emailed to me this story about how God used him to bless someone.

One Sunday afternoon when I was 22 years old, I sat down with my girlfriend at a nice airport restaurant while waiting on a flight. Travel activity was low that day, so the restaurant was all but empty. Our server was a man who looked to be about 45 years old. He was cheerful and considerate, but also quiet, almost to the point that I wondered if his smile might actually be hiding a deep sense of sadness. As we finished eating, I felt a sudden tugging in my heart to do something that I had never done before. When he brought us our check which amounted to about $30, my heart started racing. My hands trembled and my as I wrote “$90.00” in the tip line. For some reason, I was nervous. We waited until the waiter was out of sight and then quickly slipped away from our table. We practically ran away from that restaurant, laughing as we imagined the surprise that would soon appear on our waiter’s face. We wondered aloud about what God had in mind. What if the waiter had prayed earlier that day, asking God to provide exactly that amount of money? Not only was this experience a total rush, but it brought us much closer as a couple and had a major impact from that moment forward on my attitude toward giving. It was the best $90 I’ve ever spent.

In summary, I think it is important to be interruptible. Meaning that you conduct your life in such a way that you are aware when God is trying to get your attention to say something to you, maybe it is to encourage, warn you, or to use you to bless others that you come into contact with.  This is an excellent example of what can happen you if you are open to it.

Being Aware of Opportunities to be Generous

Here is an excellent story about a man who gave his last two dollars to bless someone else. He learned several lessons, and you will to.

As a middle school teacher my voice is usually my craft, without it I am already defeated in a classroom. One Friday I was beginning to lose my voice and my throat was becoming scratchy. I left school that day craving one thing, cough drops. I knew it would relieve the pain but I only had $2 cash left for the week according to my Dave Ramsey budget which I was sticking to. I pulled into CVS parking lot and made a b-line toward the door. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy approaching me. “Oh no” I thought in my head. I got to the entrance of the store when I heard a loud voice from behind “Hey buddy…” I could literally see the cough drops sitting on the shelf in the store. I turned around “yeah man whats up?” Praying in my head he doesn’t ask for money. “Do you have $2 you could spare so I could catch a bus uptown, I forgot my wallet.” Part of me wanted to bolt through the door and pretend like I didn’t hear anything but I said sure. I opened up my wallet and handed him my last two dollars. I still continued to go into CVS hoping God would bless me with some FREE cough drops but that wasn’t the case. They were $1.80 and I just gave away my last two dollars.

I left feeling upset and agitated even though it was only two measly dollars but I knew God wanted me to give that money away. The next Monday I came into the school forgetting about my miserable throat and the $2 cough drops I never purchased. My day was normal just like any other until I had a little 2nd grader come up to me and pulled on my shirt from behind. I said “how are you darling” she responded “I saw you give that man money the other day.” I was taken back, what do you mean? “He needed help and you helped him. That was nice of you.” Again later in the day one of her other siblings came up to me, a fifth grade. “Mr. Jones (named changed) I saw you give that man money, that was generous of you. I want to help people like you do one day.” My first reaction was to ask how they saw me but before I said anything she spoke up “My little sister, brother and I were waiting in the car in the parking lot and saw the whole thing.” God knew that would be a teachable moment and I had no idea the impact it would have the kids around me. Not only did it remind me that people are always watching but that God is always watching and developing our character. He also reminded me to never have a grip on money so tight that I miss what He is doing and the opportunities He gives us to steward his money.

This story exemplifies well, that we should be aware of our surroundings wherever we go, looking for ways to be good stewards, show generosity and love to those around us, and to be open to ‘Jesus Moments,’ Matthew 25: 35 – 40.

Modesty, A Forgotten Virtue, But Key to Good Stewardship

Is this word still applicable to this age?

“It is a good thing for man to live in moderation. It is commendable when a man is able to control his lusts and desires, so that he is not a slave to his belly and is no longer driven by the powers of his fleshly desires (1 Co 6;12). Well, those who earnestly practice godliness can achieve this kind of life. They are called to live in moderation. They dress neatly and respectfully, they eat moderately and gratefully, and they enjoy themselves in an edifying manner, doing all things necessary to maintain or sweeten this life. They do not satisfy their lusts but to strengthen themselves (Ecc 10:`17). Is this not a beautiful calling?”

Teellinck, Willeem (1579 – 1629). “A Moderate Life.” Afterword. NIV Stewardship Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. p. 1585. Print.

Money, Eternity, and Childlike Faith; Luke 18:17

childrenThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:17. In this verse, and the one that follows it (Luke 18:17 – 25), Jesus is giving clues about how to receive the Kingdom of God, and how money can be an obstacle.

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

In the couple of verses that precede this one; Luke 18:15-16, we see a beautiful description of Jesus calling the children to him. Jesus places his hands on them, probably as he is praying for their lives. And it seems as if he is just truly enjoying their company, specifically focused on them and not the entire crowd, as is often the case. Jesus went out of his way, even to the disappointment of the apostles, to call the children to him.

Did Jesus say this because the children were from good families, who had high social standing and wealth? Some people believe these are signs of God’s blessing and approval. However, children and women in that day in age, had little to no possessions or legal authority, to impress Jesus with. A Rich Ruler wondered about these things, as reported in Luke 18:18-25. He observed what Jesus did with the children, and what he said about them. I believe this poked his conscience. The man took stock of his own perfect performance in living a sinless life in verse 19, and voiced it. He wondered, comparing his life to that of child, what could he possibly do now, to gain eternal life? He’d done it all; perfect behavior, good career, wealth, and lots of responsibilities, but what must he do now to be like the child sitting before him in Jesus’ lap?

The children on the other hand clung to Jesus, and were not holding on to the their parents or toys; just enamored to be in his presence. Jesus tells the Rich Ruler, in Luke 18:22 that he should get rid of it all and cling to him, like the children were doing. That is the picture of the Christian life. We can’t cling to two masters (Matthew 6:24), as we walk through life with Jesus. We need both hands, to hold on. Without both hands holding on to his robe, we will slip and fall. If our other hand is holding on to money, possessions, success, power or position it will weigh us down, and we can’t hold on. Or the other master, will eventually walk a different path, and we will have to make a decision, and let go of one.

You can’t take anything with you to heaven. Job says we will enter heaven as we entered life, like children (Job 1:21). All of the things we worry about; your car {many of you will say good riddance}, house, wardrobe, timeshare in Cancun, and your career will be left behind and destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21, to invest in treasures that will be around for eternity; Jesus and people, especially young ones.

In summary: envision the picture of Jesus; him with children, and nothing else. We can carry around this picture in our hearts as we walk about throughout or days. Letting go, following him, clinging with both hands. Putting all of our stock in him. Going ‘all-in,’ moving all of our chips to Jesus. It’s a better life, one of freedom and peace.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-fourth post in this series.

Financial Performance & Relationship With Jesus, Luke 18:9-14

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:9-14. In these verses Jesus warns us to not base our relationship with him on living a good life and tithing.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

When you ‘read the red,’ words in the Bible, the red ink in some Bible versions, highlighted are the words Jesus spoke. Readers chewing on these words, will have all kinds of emotional responses. You may feel the love of the father caring for you so much, that he is giving you words of wisdom and coaching you to a better way of living. You may feel encouragement to follow the advice, because you know it is of caring and concern of a father, brother or friend. If you already are living the words, you may sense him telling you that you are doing a good job with what is being spoken, and it feels encouraging. You may sense that you are touching heavenly wisdom, and feel called to follow it.  Some people will feel discipline, or a rebuke, because they sense the correction is necessary, and is a wake-up call.

Jesus often spoke in parables, like he is in these verses, in part because stories communicate concepts better- they help the reader feel and understand on a much deeper level. I think there are additional benefits of story telling. One reason is that parables teach us hard things without ‘in-your-face’ confrontation. In a way, it is a very nice gentlemanly like way to communicate with people, and let them see the truth, as they mull it around in their minds, as opposed to being told what to do. Jesus is a master story-teller, communicator, and a gentleman; he tells parables to teach us, and lets the Holy Spirit breathe the words into our hearts, souls and minds that are applicable to us.

So back to the parable: “…Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ” Luke 18:11 -12. I believe Jesus is speaking to anyone, but especially believers who are like the Pharisee here, that judge their relationship with God, on their good behavior like tithing money. They are probably doing okay financially too, and perhaps they see their success in life and religion as a blessing for good behavior and hard work. In this example, the Pharisee is looking down on someone not living up to their narrow standards. In Jesus we know our approval or salvation is not earned, but a gift, just like many of the blessings in life we may be fortunate enough to have. 

So what is Jesus saying to you and me right now as we read this. Do we think that “Wow I am a good tither, I have a good job and income,” and look down on and judge others not doing as well? A judgmental attitude is a sign that our hearts are not where they should be. In other words, what is your lens on your spirituality, or your relationship with Jesus? Is it the tithing record, bank account, income, or material things?  This is a call-out to greater devotion, surrender and relationship with Jesus, for some of us; a tender rebuke and wisdom from Jesus. I see parables as love letters too, from Jesus to us.

Summary: If our hearts are alight with Jesus, and we are walking in the Holy Spirit, then our relationship with him and others people is not one based on performance or judgement, but of love for God and mankind.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-third post in this series.

How to Pray About Money, Luke 18:1-8

judgeThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:1-8. In these verses Jesus shows us how to pray for our troubles, especially financial ones. However, there are two parts of this parable–one speaks to those who are suffering, and the other speaks to those who have the means to relieve suffering. This blog post will close with some tips on how to pray for our finances, even if we are doing pretty well with money.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”  6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

In this example of a widow, Jesus is talking about those who suffer financially because of their situation, and not because of what they brought upon themselves (I will get to that toward the end of this article).  Millions of Americans, including hundreds that I have worked with in the last 5 years, have gone through all kinds of financial hardship. What financial difficulty are you having?  Maybe you recently lost your job, or you are back to work earning significantly less than you were used to. Many people are drowning in medical bills, paying high costs for hospitalization, doctor’s visits and prescriptions. Health bills are a large source of financial difficulty for many people. Deductibles and co-insurance amounts are higher than ever, and so are the premiums for many group and individuals plans as well as for new policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). Millions of people have gone without health insurance either because the cost was too high or because they were not insurable. Health care and job loss are one of the big reasons people are suffering financially, but there are other reasons, such as a self-employed business not doing well, divorce, fraud, abusive lending practices, or death of a breadwinner.

If we are suffering because of unfortunate circumstances or are able to help those in poverty, how are we to pray?  Jesus encourages us in this example to pray for everything persistently, for help and relief, and for justice. Jesus commands us to pray with vigor, urgency, and desperation. We are to pray with faith and expectation that he will provide for us, because he is much better than the unjust corrupt judge who does not help the widow against her adversary (in today’s scripture). Jesus is the exact opposite of this judge. Jesus is compassionate and patient; he cares for us and hates to see us suffer. He helps us both when we don’t deserve it and when we are doing all the right things. Furthermore, Jesus hates injustice (Isaiah 10:1-3); he will answer its victims and will punish the unjust.

The A list of things we should pray for:

  • “Daily bread” as in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). Bread can represent basic needs of food, shelter, clothes, transportation, and utilities. Bread also means spiritual food to sustain us emotionally and spiritually during suffering. Pray for Jesus to lift us up, keep us going, and give us patience and endurance (John 6:35).
  • Possessions, such as our cars, houses and clothes, so that things don’t wear out, break, or need costly repairs (Deuteronomy 8:4). My car has over 300,000 miles on it, and at one time the tires had over 100,000 on them. I have prayed for this car and its tires, and my maintenance and repair expenses have been very minimal during our financial difficulty.
  • God to carry us, so that we are not totally consumed by our situation (Psalm 23:1-6 and Psalm 91:10).
  • Justice. If we have been taken advantage of, such as by predatory lenders, fraud, an ex-spouse, or age or race discrimination, we should ask for Jesus to intervene on our behalf (Psalm 17 and Psalm 10).
  • Enemies.  Pray for those who owe us money but are withholding it. If people are persecuting us and working against us, we should pray for their forgiveness, for heart change, and for Jesus to bless them with good things (Matthew 5:44, Mark 11:25).
  • Miracles (Matthew 13:31-32). I have witnessed and received the benefit of financial miracles during our financial setbacks. People have told me about debt lenders who just forgave for no reason, interest rates lowered on mortgages, and checks in the mail from old jobs or friends.
  • Quick relief, but also perseverance (Romans 5:3-4) since answers don’t often come when we want them.
  • Ask for his help in budgeting, debt repayment, marital financial harmony and spending control. Pray about expenses to eliminate, things to sell, and ways to make extra money.
  • Our jobs, businesses and places we work. Pray for successful companies, good jobs, raises, promotions or better jobs to come our way.
  • For people that are suffering injustice in our society and suffering in our world in societies of oppression.
  • For direction of where to invest our time or money to help others. If we are going through difficulties, not only is it good for those we are helping, but also it will help us a lot.

If you are doing well financially and the heat of your situation is not forcing you to look at your finances, pray for the things on the A list as well as for an increase so that you may bless other people. Pray for discernment about your finances; you may have plenty of money but not Jesus’ heart when it comes to money and materialism.

If your financial difficulty has something to do with your poor financial management, then how are you supposed to pray? It could have been that you borrowed too much money, were a bad worker, gave little, didn’t save anything, and lived a lavish lifestyle beyond your means. Perhaps you didn’t do any of these things, but you just failed to budget and plan well. Whatever camp you were in, if you combine just one of these with an unfortunate financial setback such as a job loss or a health care insurance crisis, you too may find yourself in terrible financial straits.

One of the huge benefits of difficulty is the opportunity to grow. Often God lets difficulty come our way, whether we brought it on ourselves or not, in order to save us. He may be saving us for eternity if our lives were focused on the love of money and not on Jesus. He may be saving us from the path we were on by giving us a better life in the days to come; he ultimately may be refining our faith and teaching us the secrets of being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13, Luke 8:10). He might be testing us (Luke 8:13-14) or teaching us about riches, worrying, and pleasures (Luke 8:15). Jesus may be teaching us about all kinds of things that we need to learn that we wouldn’t have learned if life had just gone really well financially.

The B list of things we should pray for:

  • Jesus to show and teach us things about ourselves that are bringing about unfortunate finances (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Forgiveness. If we have not obeyed his teachings about money, possessions, work (effort and honesty), integrity, greed, and giving, we should repent and pray for forgiveness and for Jesus to make us whole.
  • Biblical financial wisdom about stewardship, debt, riches, giving, budgeting, and work.
  • Heart change about our attitudes toward money.
  • Ask for God to show us not just negative things, but also positive things about our finances and about just life in general that he is pleased with.
  • For the things on Prayer list A, even if we might have been some of the cause for our poor finances.

There are also lessons in Luke 18:1-8 for people in political positions, those with financial resources, and those who are self-employed or leaders in business. It is easy to point the finger at politicians when there is injustice or there are people suffering from financial difficulty. It’s quite a different matter to try to help.  If you are in positions of influence, you have the responsibility to care for those suffering, including the  poor and the immigrants: Zechariah 7:9-10, “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

  • Contribute money to organizations that help the poor with daily needs and with things that can help people help themselves out of poverty (read the books Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts).
  • Influence politicians to help those suffering from injustice.
  • If your business is doing really well financially, forgo raises for the top people and increase wages for those on the bottom.
  • If you have the means and ideas to start or expand your business, take the risk so that the economy in your area strengthens and more job positions can be opened up.

Summarizing, the list of financial things to pray for is really endless, but don’t forget to pray for abundance and prosperity, wisdom and self -control, and his help to be a good steward over the things he has blessed you to manage. God answers prayers; I’ve seen it countless times. God is generous and he loves to bless us, but in his participatory system, he’s sometimes waiting for us to ask.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-second post in this series.

The 2nd Coming of Christ and Money, Luke 17:28-35

cloudThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 17:28-35. These verses describe the return of Jesus, but almost every teaching about them teaches the wrong things. It is not about rapture but how we live our lives, day-to-day, and where our hearts are focused.

28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

   30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

I’ve heard countless sermons by preachers on these verses, mostly on the radio or end-times religious TV fundamentalists, using these verses as a scare tactic to save unbelievers. Some people have made quite a good living doing so, such as the author of the “Left Behind” books. With so much focus on being raptured, I fear that many people may miss the really important messages being conveyed here. Keep in mind, there are many verses about the 2nd coming of Christ, but the word rapture is never used in the Bible.

No one knows for sure how exactly the end of times will happen, or all of the world events that will proceed it. Why is this a mystery? It is a mystery because God chose it to be. Not all mysteries have to be solved; some things are just plain mysteries. This is a challenge for many people to accept, because humans love to solve mysteries and puzzles. Millions of people are captured by mystery novels, soduko, and problem solving video games. We are curious people, for that is the way God made us. However, even Jesus doesn’t know the day or hour (Mark 13:32). There is a reason God keeps this a secret–he wants us to focus on other things instead, such as not waiting to change our lives and prepare our hearts!

The challenge we have when we read 2nd coming types of verses is to think that stewardship doesn’t matter since everything will be destroyed and will be made new (Revelations 21:1-4). This is the error I fear for my fellow believers who have heard too many end-times teachings, and who think nothing material in life has value–only the spiritual life and the coming Kingdom. Luke 17:28-35 addresses this ignorance head on.

There are certain key Bible verses to remember to solve the mystery of how temporal and eternal fit together:

  • Mankind was set up to steward over the earth: Genesis 1:26-30
  • Our stewardship over all things, including materials in our care, has eternal ramifications: Matthew 25:14-28
  • Believers will rule with Christ in the new coming Kingdom: Revelation 20:4
  • People’s eventual rewards may somewhat be affected by their present stewardship, the way they behave with money and possessions, and how they deal with the poor: Matthew 6:19-21, Proverbs 19:17
  • Our lives don’t consist of our material possessions: Luke 12:15

Luke 17:28-35 is a natural extension of these verses. It is telling us that when Jesus returns (“when the son of man is revealed”), it will be a surprise. No one will know the moment before, for we will be going about life “eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.”

That will be a strange day; we will leave everything behind, and we can’t take our nice homes and cars with us. We can’t take our careers with us. Our country, country club, and clubwear designer clothes will be left behind. You will not be able to take your present life with you at all (Luke 17:33). We are to be good stewards up until the day we leave, and we will have to give an account, but Jesus is warning us not to put too much value in things. He is warning us today that even though he values our stewardship, budgeting, saving, debt avoidance and generosity (and it has eternal importance), when the trumpet calls, we must not put too much value in the things of our present life. Then we won’t yearn for it “like Lot’s wife,” (v. 33) because we can’t take anything with us when he calls us home (Job 1:21).

Our yearnings instead should be for the coming Kingdom, and we will gladly leave those things behind for we didn’t love our life, money, our possessions and everything else. We will rejoice when we see Jesus coming to us (Revelation 1:7), our first love (Revelation 2:4), our only main focus of our affection and love (Matthew 6:24), and will run joyfully to him, leaving behind our prior lives. No one knows the time of His return, or our death, but with this mindset we live each day with a focus on loving Jesus.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-first post in this series.

The Right Attitude About Work: Servantude, Luke 17:5-10

wash feetThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 17:5-10. These verses seems to indicate how hard work, obedience, and a servant-like attitude are linked to the type of faith that moves trees and mountains.

Jesus was responding to the request of the apostles to increase their faith, but His two responses seem rather bizarre. For me, that is what makes Bible reading fun–trying to solve a puzzle. What really fascinates me is that God has provided words written through man that give us insight about how He thinks and acts. That is quite an amazing thing for the Creator of the universe to do. So when Jesus (God incarnate) speaks in a puzzling way and His words are recorded in scripture, we are encouraged to dig–into the Bible and into our souls–while communing with Him for direction and for explanations. These verses are a great opportunity to do just this.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

When 21st century Americans, and I am sure people from other developed countries, sit down and read the Bible looking for financial guidance, it is difficult to find the answers they want.  That is because they often want to know what they can do to be rich or how they can have people wait on them while they work less, as in today’s scripture passage. When we look for such answers, we will be offered heart-wrenching change.

All kinds of wisdom and guidance about money are in the Old Testament, in particular passages that connect our actions with either wealth or poverty–for example, advice about just being wise, saving and generous, as well as cautions about accumulating wealth. Likewise, we see poverty connected to laziness, spending all income, and spending tomorrow’s paycheck today when we go into debt. We also see many times in the Bible where nations or persons are blessed because they obeyed God, were good stewards, and didn’t worship anything but God.

So there is some cause and effect exemplified in the Bible: reaping and sowing, prospering financially if behaviors and attitudes are right.

There is also grace in the Bible. God is generous towards us, before obedience, wisdom or heart change. For example, God liberated his people from Egypt and gave them everything they needed while they traveled–food literally fell out of the sky every day. Ultimately he gave them a place to live that flowed with milk and honey. It wasn’t because they earned it or behaved well at all, but it was because God loved them.

When Jesus talks about life in general, or more specifically about money, the direction He gives or the answers to questions he provides are usually not to add to what has already been said in the Bible.  Jesus has a different audience. Before Jesus, Biblical instruction was often to a theocratic nation, but it is still applicable today. Jesus is speaking to people from many nations, with all sorts of religious beliefs. In Jesus’ audience, there were multi-god religions, Judaism, and intellectuals schooled in the teachings of Latin and Greek philosophers, as well as individuals worshiping money and power. It was much like America is today, so Jesus taught down to the core heart issues instead.

So back to the Bible verse above. Jesus was responding to the request for people to have more faith and to believe in Him and His teaching.  Jesus challenged people, or more likely blew their minds, by saying that if they had even a little faith in Him, they could command objects like trees and mountains (Matthew 21:21) to be uprooted. However, what is particularly interesting is what follows, where Jesus was saying that we need to be obedient, humble, and faithful followers of Him; to be hard workers; and to have faith.  The example here is of a guy working hard in the fields all day, who then has to prepare someone else’s meal before preparing his own. That is hard work, and Jesus is connecting faith to obedience and hard work. It seems as if in American society today, we want to have more money, higher position, and a good retirement, in many instances, so that we don’t have to work as hard. That is a broken paradigm, and one that Jesus says will diminish your faith. It seems that Jesus is connecting having faith and seeing miracles for the things you are praying for with hard work and an obeying heart. We are not to be living for future days of less work. This is true whether we are an executive in the “C-Suite,”  a worker in a call center, or someone doing day labor.

Do you want to have that faith Jesus talked about, and to see miraculous fruit, maybe in your finances, your small business, or in many other things? Then hard work with a Christ-like (John 5:19) servant’s heart of obeying and serving Him in all things seems to be essential (also read Colossians 3:23). Jesus is telling us this because He is our friend (read John 15:15) and is interested in molding our hearts to emulate his example (Matthew 20:28), and not in having us be His slave-like servants.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fiftieth post in this series.

The Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

rich man and lazThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 16:19-31, a story Jesus told to address the concept of large wealth and its implications to salvation.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
   22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

   25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

   27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

   29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

   30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

   31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Question #1: What is Jesus warning us about? Jesus is warning us about the extreme danger of having a lot of wealth. Jesus is saying quite clearly in these verses that a life centered on money, possessions and personal comfort is not the plan he would have for our lives. He is saying indirectly that we will live in Hell for eternity if that is how we are. It is quite plain that if our lives are not devoted to Christ, that the place we will live in is called Hades, that it is fiery hot, full of torment and regret. The void between there and heaven is wide and there is no escape from it, no relief, not even a cool drop of water for our tongues. We don’t talk much about Hell in feel-good Americanized Christianity, but it is healthy to do so.

Question #2: What is Jesus encouraging us to do? To repent from a self-centered life and to follow what Moses and the Prophets taught us to do throughout scripture for thousands of years–that is, to follow God, love him only, and serve no others gods. If you read the entire Bible, you will see this theme hundreds of times, in virtually every book–from Genesis to Revelation, and in story upon story, prophecy upon prophecy, and teaching upon teaching. Or you will see the consequences illustrated when people fail to follow, love and serve Him–calamity and destruction, followed by repentance, obeying and blessing.

Question #3: Is this a warning only to wealthy people? I’ll answer this question with a few questions; you be the judge: Do we live in a comfort-, entertainment-, pleasure- and money-obsessed society? Do a majority of people want the best and nicest home, car, vacation, retirement, job, clothes, and church? Is the daily news dominated by stories about the economy, stock market, sports stars and celebrity multimillion dollar contracts? Are casinos and lotteries doing a bang up business? It isn’t just the small minority of very wealthy people in our country that are focused on these things, but it is also those that are not wealthy but are striving either to be wealthy or to have some of the trappings of wealth. Reflecting on this and the entirety of scripture, it seems that the warning is for everyone.

Question #3: If ‘scripture interprets scripture,’ are there other Bible verses where Jesus taught like this? These Bible verses provide conclusive evidence of the connection between wealth and salvation:

  • Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 12:33: not treasures on earth, but in heaven
  • Matthew 6:24: you can’t serve God and money
  • Mark 10:25: it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle than for the rich to enter heaven
  • Luke 12:15: be on guard against greed; life isn’t about material possessions
  • Luke 12:29-31: don’t set your heart on material possessions
  • Mark 10:17-31; Rich Man and the kingdom of God
  • Matthew 22:36-40: love God with all your heart, mind and soul

Question #4: Why is Jesus preoccupied with Money? The Bible contains: 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions. Jesus talked about money a lot: more about money than Heaven and Hell combined, more than anything else except the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, Jesus is more preoccupied with us and the Kingdom of God. More than anything Jesus wants us to live with him for eternity, so much that he painfully died for us. He loves us and wants the best for us, both today and for eternity.  He knows what will make us really happy, and this is only He, both today and forever. These are his motivations for teaching us this stuff.

Question #5: What are valid questions to ask one’s self about this?  Introspection is always healthy for those considering Christ, or for those who follow him. Examine your own thoughts and beliefs about money, possessions, comfort, and retirement. Do you look to Jesus for hope, joy, happiness, fulfillment and comfort?  Are you happy, content and joyful or are you financially stressed? Is your heart set on Him, His Kingdom, and eternity, or on the things of this world? Are you serving yourself, money or Jesus as you arrange and plan your future? Are you generous with your time and money- giving a lot of it away? Only you and God know the answers to these questions and whether there is need for repentance. Jesus is always standing there with open arms to forgive us and to guide us on our walk with Him–the Good Shepherd.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-ninth post in this series.

Jesus and Financial Integrity, Luke 16:10-13

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 16:10-13. In the verses previous to these, Jesus illustrated his approval of a shrewd and dishonest manager to communicate wisdom, but he immediately followed it with a strong directive to be honest with money and possessions. These are heart surgery verses, and Jesus is a most excellent cardiovascular surgeon:

10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Research and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Christians have just as much difficulty, and they often fail being honest when it comes to the issues of money and possessions, as do the rest of the population. Are we always honest on our tax forms, at the return counter, with our spouses, employers, and ourselves when it comes to money? If you answer “yes always,” then you probably don’t struggle with issues of putting your faith in Christ on matters of money and possessions.

There are three levels of honesty: with ourselves, with everyone else, and with God:

  1. Self honesty is below the surface integrity–integrity that no one can see most of the time.  It is honesty in its truest form–where beliefs are in alignment with behavior when no one is looking. A test of this is to look into the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I always honest on my taxes, at the store, with my spouse or close friend, and with the company I work for (if self employed “with my employees”)? Do I fudge on tax deductions, return an item to the store that I broke because of misuse, turn in false expense reimbursement forms to my employer? Do I hide purchases from my spouse, or take advantage of friends’ generosity by claiming I have no money?  Do I spend too much money on myself and neglect my family, friends and those in poverty? Do I believe in the tithe (10%) and consistently observe it?
  2. Outward honesty is what everyone sees you demonstrate, or what you claim to do. Stay at the mirror and ask yourself some more questions.  “Do I spend too much money trying to keep up with my friends and neighbors, trying to look good on the outside while below the surface my finances are a mess? When making financial transactions in the marketplace and business, am I always honest? Do I talk a good religious life, tell others that I have the utmost financial integrity, but in secret my answers to these tough questions are not all good?
  3. Honesty with God is saying that I love him and believe in him and his goodness. Furthermore, it means that I have put all of my trust in him, and I believe he will provide adequately all that I need, both today and in the future. It means that I believe what God provides me with is enough. When I am honest with God, I gladly accept and live by these truths. It doesn’t mean that at times I might like to have more for my comfort and to look good to those around me. However, it does mean that I will be content with what the Lord blesses me with, and I will not be a bad steward or act dishonestly to get what God hasn’t provided for me in the period of time I expected to have it.

13″ 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.”

Repentance is being honest with God. It is letting Jesus descend more deeply into our hearts to show us that we may at times be living the negative side of Luke 16:13, that we are more devoted to and in love with ourselves, and that we serve money and possessions to please us instead of putting our trust in him to live with full integrity for God’s good pleasure, having faith that he will provide and please us. Repentance is always good for financial change; it is a natural thing, and it is a basic regular requirement for getting to some of the root causes for financial problems. Repentance is surrender to Christ and his ways, putting our full trust in him.

Transformation is key for change. This article may weigh heavily on the hearts of some people because of the difficulty of changing habits that have become very ingrained in one’s personality over many years. You may have resolved to lose weight, or to quit smoking or biting your nails–and no matter how hard you tried, you failed. Moving into full financial integrity and fully trusting God in these areas isn’t any easier than these resolutions. Effort and repentance are very necessary, but so is heart change. Romans 12:1-2 indicates that the life of the believer is a process of our hearts being transformed into Christ’s likeness. Money touches nearly every aspect of life; therefore, it’s a wonderful place to start in this journey.

Financial freedom is how it feels when we walk this out. When we are free from serving money, trying to endlessly please ourselves, or to maintain or achieve an appearance of something we aren’t, it feels good, and we sleep better. I believe when we walk with integrity, trusting in him, we are much more prepared to handle the blessings God will entrust to us.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-eighth post in this series.

What Will 3D Printers Mean to Investing and Business?

In the first book of the Bible in Genesis we read a full account of God creating heavens and earth, all out of nothing (Genesis 1:1). From the first substances, God created everything else (Genesis 1:2-31). God created man and women in his image, and endowed them with amazing creative abilities. Technology has helped us expand our creativity, with 3D printers coming on the scene, the time from conception of an idea to the creation of an object, is now quicker than ever. This technology evolution will change they way we think, live, and invest, and will affect the business world in rapid ways. Change always brings challenges and opportunities.

Taking a reflective walk down memory lane about 3D printers, I find that it’s a short walk from my dentist to my laptop.  Several years, ago I had a cap glued onto a molar. It was created from several pictures relayed to a 3D laser that cast a duplicate of the missing top of my tooth from a raw piece of ceramic. This year I had it done again. With increasing frequency I’ve read articles about 3D printers and the amazing things they can do.

What really caught my eye lately is what Jay Leno is up to. No, not the fact that he was retiring from the Tonight Show, but what he was doing with car parts. This is boring to most people but not to me since I’m a car guy. Jay has several pieces of equipment, including a 3D part printer, a 3D scanner, and various computers, so that he can create parts right in his garage from raw blocks of material. I stumbled across the Popular Mechanics article. If you don’t know already, Jay has an amazing collection of cars; some are very rare, such as several steam-powered machines. Finding parts can be hard and it can take forever and cost a lot; even if you find them, they don’t always arrive in great condition. Jay solved this problem by being able to create them from scratch.

A few months ago the Wall Street Journal had an article about printers that could print candy, and Hershey’s was looking into them. I tweeted that the day will arrive in many of our lifetimes when we own food replicators in our home, much as we have Keurig coffee machines today. Previously they were science fantasy first seen on Star Trek’s Next Generation series in 1987.

Last month I walked into my local computer store, MicroCenter, and they had three 3D printers buzzing away creating trinkets and toys from blocks of plastic. For about $1,000 you can buy one and take it home.  You can design something on your computer, such as your invention for a better mouse-trap, or a gift for your children, and before you know it you are watching it being created in front of your eyes. It is quite interesting to view the machine work through the clear plastic printer case.

In the coming years, 3D printers could be as huge and common as personal computers, cell phones, home printers and microwave ovens are today. What this will mean to manufacturing, to the company you work for, and to your investment portfolio, no one knows. But I predict that it will be huge–big in terms of profits, shifting wealth, unemployment, individual investment growth (and losses), and entrepreneurship. Hold on to your rocket Boy Elroy; we will be in for quite a ride when this technology hits main stream. If you are interested to know more, check out the video at Motley Fool titled “The End of ‘Made-in-China’ Era. It is a little bit of hype but well done. Caution–be careful if you are thinking of investing in this industry; picking winners and losers is difficult, just as it was when the world was white-hot.

Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Luke 16: 1-9

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 16:1-9. The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is a strange parable, one many Biblical scholars debate about; however, it teaches a unique message to financially unwise believers.

1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ 3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ 7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ 8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The antagonist and anti-hero. In this parable, Jesus uses two central characters to teach us–a wealthy business man antagonist and his anti-hero manager. We are told at the outset that the manager was accused of wasting assets of the businessman. We don’t know if he was guilty, but we do know he was fired. He was also called dishonest, but we don’t know if his lack of truth was malicious for his own gain. It could have been that he was fearful of telling the businessman what he didn’t want to hear–the truth that his business had problems because of the owner. Whatever the case, he had a short time to tie up loose ends of the business and then look for a job. In those days, it was hard to get re-employed in a position if an employer accused you of wrong doing, whether you were guilty or not. In this instance the boss wouldn’t give him a letter of recommendation. The manager was worried that he would have to resort to manual labor in his older years. The manager was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

In today’s employment environment, employers often are hesitant to make recommendations or say something bad about a previous employee, because they fear they might be sued. However, in pre-modern times, a letter of recommendation and a good name were worth more than anything else in seeking a new job.  People didn’t have resumes that gloriously listed all their accomplishments, education and prior jobs. No one could look them up on Linked In to see their professional network. Networking was done, but probably between merchants and workers in the market place and in other places where people gathered. If people developed a bad reputation, it was as if their names got dragged through the mud and a scarlet letter was sewn to their garments. Shame and guilt could hang with them forever.

Whether the manager was a good manager or not we don’t know. It is possible that the business owner set him up to fail by giving him the bad accounts–the ones with late or no payments. Maybe the rich man was just a harsh, demanding man, over-working and under-paying his manager. This isn’t an unusual situation in any business environment.

In literature, we often see the anti-hero as the tainted bad boy, who ultimately does good. The manager may have been dishonest, but he demonstrated two good important qualities. One is that relationships are key.  How well we relate to people may help us in our current job, and it might also help us if we have to look for a new one. Someone once told me you never know who could be your next boss–maybe someone working below you or waiting on you in another business, or even a client. Therefore, not only is it a commandment to love others, but it is also a smart thing to do in business. The second skill I observe here is to be financially wise. It makes sense sometimes to settle for less when someone owes you money than to wait for a day that may never come to receive full payment.  Showing grace, forgiveness and understanding, especially over money and in business, shows tons of love, and it gives people the opportunity of a new, fresh start.

The story is completed with this fascinating ending: “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Jesus uses the phrase “people of the light” to refer to people who know God, and “people of the world” to refer to people who don’t know God. Jesus indicates that when it comes to business, money, and relationships, “people of the world” act more wisely than believers. I can see the point Jesus is making here in my role as financial ministry director at church. It has been my experience in counseling and teaching many people that believers often act much less wisely than the average person on the street, especially in finances. Christians are to walk by faith, but we are to become wise and to exhibit wisdom in everything we do, too. Wisdom and faith are both sides of the same coin in the ‘both and,’ not ‘either or’ Gospel of Jesus. Having forgiveness and faith in Christ doesn’t release us from study and intelligent thinking and acting. This is especially true in finances. He wants us to be smart, wise and shrewd as he taught us to be in Matthew 10:16: ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Sometimes we are to have blind faith with finances, but it has been my experience, both for myself and others, that we need to be much wiser.

In Conclusion: humans are easily and often fooled by their emotions and wants, particularly when it comes to finances. Taking time to pray and exhibiting patience will often reveal God’s heart and our own on particular financial matters. This also gives us time to seek and consider other people’s opinions too. Proverbs 15:22 : “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” We are the forgiven anti-hero in Jesus’ story, misunderstood souls who have failed but have been forgiven and blessed with second chances to get things right in our finances.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-seventh post in this series.