Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christians and Wealth

How can Christians be rich and believe the Bible?

Almost all of my life I have heard the passage in I Timothy 6:10 quoted any time money is the subject, “Money is the root of all evil.”  First, that is not what the verse says. Let’s look at it in plain English, “The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have turned away from what we believe because they want to get more and more money. But they have caused themselves a lot of pain and sorrow.”
I highly applaud money because it is a product that is pretty difficult to live without.  You see, money is a necessary part of life and is certainly not intrinsically bad or good. It’s one of the many areas in the life of a Christian that the Lord actually owns, but allows us to use as His stewards. When we properly utilize the money that He places for our use, and maintain the proper attitude toward it, He very often multiplies it. It is when we adopt the wrong attitude toward money and wealth that we get in trouble. If we allow ourselves to develop a love an excessive desire for money and wealth, it becomes sinful. Again, money and other material things are not sinful in and of themselves. Actually, they are a blessing from God when we practice good stewardship. 
The "prosperity gospel" that some have been preaching is the actions of sinful and wicked “preachers”.  While it is true that wealth is a blessing from God, poverty should not be seen conversely as God’s disfavor because poverty often comes from a lack of knowledge or lack of resources.  Jesus told his disciples that there would always be the poor.  Which reminds me of what my father once told me when I was talking about making a lot of money.  He said, “Son you have been poor all your life, so get used to it.”  It is true that I have been poor for part of my life, but I am richly blessed to be in the upper 25% of American household income.  As I have gained knowledge about the principles in God’s Word and applied those principles to my life, God has prospered me.  It was not by sending some TV evangelist “seed money” for them to gain wealth, but by applying the principles from God’s Word.  It has taken several years to understand that God wants us to prosper. 
In His parable of the "Seed and the Sower", the Lord in Luke chapter 8 11 “This is what the story means: The seed is God’s teaching. 12 Some people are like the seed that fell beside the path. They hear God’s teaching, but then the devil comes and causes them to stop thinking about it. They get caught up in listening to devil, and cannot hear the truth.
This keeps them from believing it and being saved. 13 Others are like the seed that fell on rock. That is like the people who hear God’s teaching and gladly accept it. But they don’t have deep roots. They believe for a while. But when trouble comes, they turn away from God.  How often have you seen people get caught up in their own troubles that they forget God and go about trying to solve their problems on their own?  It never works!
14 “What about the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That is like the people who hear God’s teaching, but they let the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life stop them from growing. So they never produce a crop. These individuals are seeking the material life rather than the spiritual.  They forgot that seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness is the principle of growth.
15 And what about the seed that fell on the good ground? That is like the people who hear God’s teaching with a good, honest heart. They obey it and patiently produce a good crop.
In verse 11 the Lord tells us that the seed is the Word of God and when people hear it and allow the anxieties, cares, riches, and pleasures of this life to dilute its message, they fail to mature in the faith. As Christians, God’s Word must be more precious to us than anything this world has to offer, if we are to make any progress in our walk with Christ.
As He opens the "doors" we will be able to walk through them. Unfortunately, many Christians do not understand when God has opened a door for their freedom from the bondage of the curse of sin.  This is underscored by the words of Christ in Luke 12:15: "And He said to them, Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more; for a man’s life does not consist and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance, or that which is over and above his needs" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
The underlying spiritual danger associated with money and possessions is that they may easily become idols in our lives. I trust you realize that an idol does not have to be some sort of figure made of wood or stone sitting in a temple, surrounded by worshippers. No, an idol is anything that we allow to come between our God and us! He demands our total allegiance, just as a husband and wife demand it of each other. When our love and attention is drawn to anything or anyone other than God, He is offended and we should understand why. 
This concept is outlined in Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [that is, deceitful riches, money, possessions or what is trusted in]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
The apostle Paul had quite a bit to say about money and material things, and in his first letter to Timothy he cautions Christians and particularly preachers against the misuse of them. In 1 Timothy 6 we start our reading in the middle of verse 5 and continue through verse 9, then to verse 17:“. . .men who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit a money-making business, a means of livelihood. From such withdraw. [And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness, accompanied with contentment that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency is great and abundant gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied). But those who crave to be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing." 
" As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for enjoyment" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary,.
Our society is one in which a premium is placed upon wealth and material things. People are classified socially according to their income: lower class middle class upper class, or some variation thereof. We are being constantly bombarded with advertising propaganda that is designed to appeal to our desires to have a fine home, nice cars, trucks and boats, along with all the “toys” that are the latest craze and all of this for just one “low monthly payment.”
As Christians, we must constantly be on guard against this urge to possess and gain social status as well as those who will take full advantage of it.  It is heartbreaking to learn of Christians who do not have the will-power to practice proper stewardship over what God has given them. The desire to have and get and use has grown to such a degree that millions are hopelessly in debt and many Christians are among them. Satan has allowed easy credit to ruin the testimonies of countless Christians across the land and it is not getting any better. Nobody should ever go in debt beyond their ability to pay back and especially those who name the name of Christ. To do so is to bring reproach upon yourself and your Lord. Those little plastic cards are awfully easy to come by, but they sure can act like a drug to some people and the first thing you know the interest begins to pile up. Owing what you cannot pay back is wrong and sinful if your lack of self-control caused the debt. When we consider the fact that we are the Lord’s stewards and are misusing His money we are most defiantly an unprofitable servant to the LORD and His Kingdom. 
I am grateful that we were able to kick the credit card habit.  It took us a few years to pay off the credit cards and get out of the bondage of credit card debt.  We have been free of the credit card for over ten years. It is a relief when student loans, car payments, and other debts are gone.  The stress and worry that take up a large part of your daily life is over when you find that financial freedom.
In the culture we live in debt is the accepted way of acquiring what we want in life.  From our house, our education, our cars, our leisure activities, even our vacations is based on debt.  The thought is can we make the payment and will we have money left over?  We have become a society that is in financial bondage.  Our nation is $18 trillion dollar in debt and as individuals we have an average credit debt of $7,529,140; a mortgage debt of $155,361 and student loans of $31,946.  The total, American consumers owe $11.85 trillion in debt, and increase of 1.7%from last year.  The total credit card debt is $890.9 billion dollars.  The total indebtedness for our mortgages is $8.17 trillion dollars.  Our student loans is $1.19 trillion dollars, which is increasing every year.  
As a nation we are in bondage because we have forgotten God.  Many Christians are in bondage because they failed to trust the LORD, keep his commandments and walk in righteousness and holiness. My advice to you is that if you are in debt, get out of debt just as quickly as humanly possible even if it means selling some of the "things" that got you there. (Mortgages are not what I am talking about because they are backed by collateral) When faced with insurmountable debt, the easy way out is to declare bankruptcy and leave the creditors hanging. Yes, it’s legal, but is it right when you made the decision to live beyond your income? If you are facing such a situation, please do the right thing and try to work with your creditors about repayment. They did not twist your arm and make you pile up the debt.  The least that you can do is make an honest effort to repay them. 
Stop for just a moment and put the first verse we talked about in perspective.  The “love of money.”   When people do not have the income to provide for the necessities of life, but are given the means through credit, to live beyond their means, it is no more than the love of money or material things that puts them in bondage.  It starts by coveting what others have—keeping up with the Jones will put you on the road to bondage.  The Law of Sowing and Harvesting is, if you sow credit you will reap debt.  The problem with sowing credit is that it reaps a greater harvest, because of the interest on the debt.
The apostle Paul, has this advice for us: “But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing" (1 Timothy 6:6-9, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
When our life’s emphasis is rightly placed upon godliness, personal contentment will be one of the wonderful by-products. This is what we are promised in the Word of God in Psalm 112:1-3  Praise the Lord!  Great blessings belong to those who fear and respect the Lord, who are happy to do what he commands. Their descendants will be given power on earth. Those who do right will be greatly blessed. Their family will be very rich, and their goodness will continue forever.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sacred or Secular

Jesus Christ—the LORD. In my life all things have become sacred. 

My birth was sacred. God through his WORD says this, Psalm 139:13 It was God who made me. Before I was in my mother’s womb he knew me. Jer. 1:5 It was God who, “formed the way I think and feel. He put me together in my mother’s womb.” This makes my life sacred.

My marriage is sacred. In the beginning of mankind starting with Adam, God provide a helpmate. What God did for Adam, he did for me. Listen what Adam had to say, “Finally! One like me, with bones from my bones and a body from my body. She was taken out of a man, so I will call her ‘woman.’”24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. In this way two people become one. It was by the direction of the Holy Spirit that I found my wife. That makes my marriage sacred.

My education is sacred. Paul instructed Timothy to study to show himself a proven student of the WORD of God. My education required me to do my best to be the kind of person God will accept, and give myself to him. Be a worker who has no reason to be ashamed of his work, one who applies the true teaching in the right way. My education was a sacred duty to become knowledgeable in the WORD of God so that I might teach the right TRUTH.

My employment is sacred. I have been commanded that whatever I do, do my work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord I will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom I serve.

My family is sacred. I am commanded to love my wife just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. I am commanded to love my children. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

My daily life is sacred because it is a gift from God. I have been commanded, don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ That’s what those people who don’t know God are always thinking about. Don’t worry, because your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. What you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what he wants you to do. Then he will give you all these other things you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Tomorrow will have its own worries.

My meals are sacred. Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.
My worship is sacred. I am commanded to worship with believers. Hebrews 10:25 (KJV) 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

My Christian life is sacred. I have been called to be light and salt in the world. Not in a church building or within the four walls of confinement but in the world. I have a commission to act upon that calling. I am to preach the gospel to everyone, everywhere and every day.

So why do I look at my whole life as sacred? Because the devil would like for me to separate my spiritual life from my daily life. There are those Christians who have fallen for the lies of the devil that we are to separate our faith from the world. This lie is called the “wall of separation”. We are to divide the sacred from the secular. As Christians have we forgotten who Christ is? Let me remind you “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.… Col 1:17

So let me ask this question, with Christ what is secular? Nothing! All things are sacred. As Christians we are not to separate our lives into sacred and secular. The reason we are losing the spiritual battle in our homes, our church, our community, our state and our nation is that we have given control of our spiritual sacred lives to the devil. We have forsaken our faith when we bought into the lie of the “wall of separation”. We allowed the world to take away our power and authority.

When we talk about the Kingdom of God what do we actual think the Kingdom is about? The central theme of the message of Jesus Christ was the Kingdom of God. Let me say this, a Kingdom is not built in the four walls of a church building. We cannot build the Kingdom the God within the confines of a building. The Great Commission is a call to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. The message of Jesus Christ is summed up in this the gospel of the kingdom. How can I separate my life into sacred and secular when I am to work for the Kingdom of God? 

Salvation means we have entered into the Kingdom. The hope we have as Christians and the comfort we gain comes from being in the Kingdom of God. My life is sacred because I seek first the Kingdom of God. Jesus himself summarizes his teaching about all of inspired writers when he said,: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

So how can my government, the Supreme Court, elected leaders or bureaucrats tell that I must worship within the confines of my church when I cannot separate what is sacred in my faith to a secular world. Why is it that what I deem sacred, the secular has invaded without resistance. Let me explain.

The government does not have the authority to decide who is a minister but they do. They do not have the authority to decide how my church can show charity, but they do. They do not have the authority to tell me as a pastor what I can say about people running for office, but they do. They do not have the authority to tell me as a Christian who I can do business with, but they do. They do not have the authority to tell me where I can pray, but they do. They do not have the authority to tell where I can assemble, but they do. They do not have the authority to tell me what I can preach, but they do. 

To those individuals who would say Christians need to separate their faith from the secular, do not practice what they preach. The secular had invaded the Christian faith to the point they are regulating the sacred. The government does not believe in the sacred, they believe all things are secular, because this is the message of the devil. The conflict we are in, is spiritual, Satan is determined to remove the power and authority that God has given the Church by using the lie that there is a “wall of separation” between sacred and secular. If you have fallen for the lie, you have joined the wrong side in the battle. You have allowed the lie to convince you, that it is OK for you to live two separate lives—sacred and secular. Jesus told us we cannot serve two masters, you will love the one and hate the other. 

The Problem with American Christians is found in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask where the old road is. Ask where the good road is, and walk on that road. If you do, you will find rest for yourselves. But you people have said, ‘We will not walk on the good road.’ That road is the sacred road, the road to the Kingdom of God.

The Results of Choosing the Wrong Road

Leviticus 26:36-38 36 The survivors will lose their courage in the land of their enemies. They will be afraid of everything. They will run around like a leaf blown by the wind. They will run as if someone is chasing them with a sword. They will fall even when no one is chasing them. They will run as if someone is chasing them with a sword. They will fall over each other—even when no one is chasing them. “You will not be strong enough to stand up against your enemies. You will be lost in other nations. You will disappear in the land of your enemies. 

When we divide our lives into the sacred and secular, we do not know where we stand and have no power and authority in our lives. We will end up dead.

Luke 12:9 But if you stand before others and say you do not believe in me, then I will say that you do not belong to me. I will say this in the presence of God’s angels. 

You cannot live a sacred life and secular at the same time. You cannot say you are a Christian in some things and not in others—you are a Christian or you are not.

What are we to do?

Ephesians 6:11
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Your faith is your defense against the lies of the devil. Lift up your shield.