Planning Generosity

“Generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”  Isaiah 32:8

God has five investment plans for your life.  You can invest in eternity by using your money for God’s purposes.  It’s secure.  It’s risk free.  It’s guaranteed interest.  It yields dividends forever.

You can invest in God’s treasury fund.  Part of worship is giving a percentage of our income to God.  Certainly, God doesn’t need your money.  But when you give to God- an undesignated, planned, or proportional offering we are honoring God.  This gives God pleasure.  “Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of your income.”  Proverbs 3:9 LB)

You can invest in God’s mutual fund.  We can give money to show love to each other.  Anytime you go out and get a nice card for someone you’ve invested in the mutual fund.  When we give money, our time, or loan something of ours to a Go Group friend we are investing in the mutual fund.  The Bible says, “When you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.” 3 John 1:5 MSG

You can invest in the growth fund.  God also wants you to take some money and invest it in yourself.  2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (TLB)  God wants you to use your money to grow your skills, grow spiritually, and become the kind of person God wants us to be.  “Buy the truth and don’t sell it for love of money.  Buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight.”  Proverbs 22:23 MSG  Anytime you use your money to buy a Christian book or music that helps you grow in Christ, or take a class, then we are investing in the growth fund. 

You can invest in the service fund.  God wants you to use some of your money to help people in need.  God didn’t put us on earth to live for ourselves.  God put us here to be a light in the darkness through serving others.    Proverbs 19:17, “When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord, and he Lord will pay you back.”  (TEV)  The church needs to be more than a mouth for God.  It also needs to be the hands and feet of Jesus. 

You can invest in the global fund.  God wants us to use some of our resources to the take the Gospel across the street and all over the world.  Jesus said, “Use your worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves  so that when it is gone you will be welcomed in eternal dwellings.”  Luke 16:9  God wants you to use your money to help people get into heaven.  This is why our church supports the ministry of Shaun and Mary Ann Cooper, who work to bring the good news of Jesus into Indonesia.  When we invest in eternity- and see the people there because of our investment- we will enjoy the dividends for ever and ever.

Giving is good.

3 Prayers to Help Relieve Financial Stress

August 13, 2017

Message Series:

Making Change

Message Title:

Stress is Bad

Assorted Scriptures

(Unedited manuscript)

Good morning everyone and welcome to our second week of “All In.”  For this message series we are asking everyone to get involved in a “Go Group,” which is a small group of 8-20 people who get together to pray, study the Bible, and serve others.  All our groups our studying this series we are going through.  The good part about being part of a Go Group is it helps you become a better person.  You can take what you hear today, you might do it, you might not with little consequence.  But when you study it with a group of people that accountability of taking it deeper together, helps you become more like Jesus, which is our whole goal here at C3. When you study together and learn together it’s just a lot more fun. It’s not too late to get into a group.  All you need to do is sign-up using the connection card portion of the handout you received and put it in the offering box- then we’ll get with you for the details- or you can talk to me after the service.

 

Last week, Adam kicked off this series about downsizing, less is more.  We live in a world where we think more is better.  More money, more investments, more house, more guns, more shoes.    The truth is we need less- less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does matter.  Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil chasing after the wind.”  This week the theme is Stress is Bad. Next week we are talking about how Giving is Good.  Giving is good, I really like that. In the fourth week, we will close with Tomorrow Matters.

 

So what are we talking about in this series, Less is More, Stress is Bad, Giving is Good, Tomorrow Matters.  Forgive me for being annoying but these four weeks is less is more, stress is bad, giving is good, and tomorrow matters.

 

Today: Stress is bad.  Here is the idea.  Financial Stress is bad.  Financial stress can cause fights in your marriage- even divorce.  I never heard a married couple say we never fight because we are in debt.  Financial stress can take away your joy.  I never heard anyone say getting into debt saved their love life.  I never heard anyone say paying off my credit bill of $2000 over 20 years helped me get rich. I never heard someone say financial stress made me love life more.  I never heard someone say impulse buying helped pay my kids way to college.  I never heard someone say being financially upside down helped me feel closer to Jesus.  I never heard anyone say every night when I go to bed I thank God for my debt.  I never heard anyone say I’m so happy now that I have all these payment plans.

 

I’ve heard people say this though, I wish I could give more to help people in need, I’m just not able to do that right now.  I wish one of us could stay home with the kids, but that’s not an option.  I wish we didn’t have this stress all the time.  I wish we could travel.  We can’t even consider it because we have financial stress.  How do you handle that stress?  Don’t even think about it.  Play the lottery and hope.  Complain a lot.  Do something unhealthy?

 

Financial stress is something we can take seriously.  It has caused too many fights, too many ulcers, and too much of feeling overwhelmed.

 

What do you think it would like for you not have any financial stress? Think about it.  What if you paid for your car- with cash? Not payments, cash. Wouldn’t that be something?  You walk on the lot, see the car you want, offer 5000 below and say, I’ll pay cash right now.  What if someone around you was in need, no problem.  You have the cash to do that.  What if something significant breaks down on your car, or your home?  What if you didn’t freak out.  You just paid for it?   What if you had a week off from vacation and the only problem you had was choosing where you want to go?  The mountains or the beach?

 

A lot of times we think, if I just had more money.  More money doesn’t mean you will be more organized with your resources.  It just means you have more to be disorganized with.  More money doesn’t stop you from comparing yourself to others.  There is always someone with more than you.  More money will not unite your relationship.  Couples in financial stress are not in need of more money, but more oneness.    More money doesn’t make you more generous.  If you are not generous now doesn’t mean you will be generous with much.  Having more money doesn’t solve financial stress.  Many times, it causes more tension.

 

Financial stress is bad.  It causes guilt, shame, stress, fights, tension.  If you are financially stressed out when someone starts talking about it, like now, you feel like you are on trial.  Why is that?  Proverbs 22:7 might give us a clue, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (NKJV)  The reason why you feel stress financially is when you borrow and have all kinds of payments then you are in bondage.  You are in bondage for five years, 20 years, whatever the life of your loan is.  Bondage puts on your decisions on trial.  Did I do the right thing?

How do you get out of financial stress?  Sign-up for my $600 seminar on debt free living, starting next week.  We take all credit cards.  Nooo.. haha.  What I want to give you the most powerful force on earth, and it’s offered to you for free.  What you need to is pray.  You start by praying.  Sit with your spouse, in your closet, with a friend, and start praying.  Not… God I pray you get me out of this mess!  God can get you out of the mess, but you must follow him.  Let me give you three prayers this morning you can say that will allow God to help you get rid of financial stress.

 

Prayer #1: God, give me self-control.  Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control

is like a city with broken-down walls.”  In ancient days a city without a wall around it was defenseless, vulnerable to attack.  Think walls of Jericho when they fell and the Israelites rushed in won the city.  When you spend your money without a budget, or self-discipline, you leave yourself vulnerable, when that medical bill comes up, when your car needs new tires, when braces come up, or a storm damages your house.  Suddenly, you are vulnerable on one count because you have a need, and two counts because you don’t have the means to take care of it.

 

We’ve all seen this. Some of you want this now.  You ever see a 2 year old kid at the grocery store, or some other store, and they are crying and they are whining and they say, “I want it now!”  I want it now!  Inside us adults is that two-year-old kid.  I want it now.  Say, God help me discipline that two year old kid.  I need to put him or her in timeout.

 

But how often do we impulse buy?  Let’s get honest.  Ladies when you go by the clearance rack, I’m meddling now, I know, but you need to say to that two-year-old kid, get in the corner. Get in the corner.  Then when you get home I know you try to convince someone you saved money because you got the little trinket on sale, and you needed the outfit to match.  You can nickel and dime, nickel and dime, and you sink the ship.

 

Men you are not like that.  You just blow the ship up all at once.  I bought a boat.  I bought a boat.  I got a new trailer for the boat, with twin Sea-Doos, and I needed a new truck to pull the boat.  Now I need is a house by the water.  Right?  God give me self-control.  My life does not consist of the abundance of stuff.

 

Need to say to our two-year-old, you say no to smaller things now so you can say yes to bigger things later.  Say no to the smaller things now so you can say yes to bigger things later.  Some of you might need to go onto a spending freeze so you can pay off your debt quicker.  You pay the gas bill.  You ate as little as possible.  When you do eat out you get water and no dessert. Ramen noodles.  You just pay for the necessities and pay off everything else.  You pray to God.  God, give me self-control.  Nails done once a week?  Gold twice a week?  Does your 12 year old really need the latest iphone?  Do you need the steam cooker from Amazon Prime Day?  The brand new car that depreciate 20% in value?  Pray, God give me self-control.

 

Prayer #2: God, give me understanding.  Proverbs 10:21, “The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.”  God give me understanding.  Give me common sense.  Here is how I understand this verse.  I need to understand what I am doing with my money, not just what I am purchasing with my money.  Often I focus on what I am getting with my money and not what I am doing with my money.

 

How much down?  How much a month?  How much is the real cost?  The average credit card debt in America today is $16,000.  What are you doing with your money?

 

If you pay $250 a month on $16,000 at 19%, it will take 40 years to pay it off, and you will pay $105,000 in interest.  Just think, even if you didn’t invest it, and saved the money, with no interest, you’d have $105,000 in the bank.  If you invest it at 12% you’d have 1.5 million dollars.  If you added the $250 a month on your investment of $16,000 you get $4,000,000.

You need to ask, not what value am I getting with my money, but what am I doing with my money.  The reason people often have a hard time giving is not asking, what am I doing with my money?  Am I honoring God with my money?  Am I using money to benefit me and my down the road?  Am I prepared for an emergency?

 

We need to pray, God give me understanding. Give me insight about my resources.  Give me wisdom.

 

The last prayer you can pray is, God, give me a plan.  Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”  The plans of the diligent gains.. ehat?  Profit.  You get savings.  You get ahead.

 

What is haste?  In the Bible it means I felt sad and I went shopping.  I’m just joking.  It’s retail therapy.  Not having a plan is what leads you into poverty.

 

Listen, listen.  I heard this some time ago… you can wander into debt, but you won’t wander out.  Isn’t that true?  You can stumble your way into debt but you cannot stumble your way out.  You can mistake your way out of debt but you cannot mistake your way out.  This is why you need a plan.

 

Plans are scriptural.  It is spiritual.  The plans of the diligent lead to profit.  So you need to follow a God given plan.  God give me a plan.  You might need to plan on an emergency fund.  Do you have a plan for that fund?  How are you going to plan to get that fund?  One way I did it was my tax refund.  Often, when you get your tax refund you plan on using it for vacation, maybe a car, making something better in the house.  I set some of it back as an emergency fund.  In life you can plan for unexpected expenses, are you planning financially for it.  Every little bit counts.

 

How are you getting rid of your commercial debt?  Credit cards, car payments.  You can do the debt snowball.  It’s where you pay off the the smallest debt first, while making the minimum payments on the other.  And when you pay off the smallest debt you take that money and add it to the next smallest debt, and so on.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly you pay off your debt and get to debt free. You can google it to see the details.

What is your plan for saving for the future?  What kind of plan do you have for investing?  There is all kinds of good resources out there to help you plan well.  Dave Ramsey with Financial Peace University, Good Sense Ministries is another.  Pray, God give me a plan.

 

Where do you start to get rid of financial stress?  You start by praying.  Be specific in your prayers.  God, give me self-control.  God, give me understanding.  God give me a plan.

 

Less is more.  Stress is bad.  Giving is good.  Tomorrow matters.

 

In your seats and bulleting I have a business card.  On the card I have these three prayers.  God give me self-control.  God, give me understanding.  God, give me a plan.  I made it the size of a credit card on purpose.

 

This is a tool that help you pray your finances.  Here is what you do.  Take this card and put it with your debt card or credit card.  Just put it right next to it.  Then every time you make a purchase, pull out that card, you have these three prayers right there before you.   Some of you it may not need to go next to your credit card, but near your phone or tablet when you make online purchases.

 

The idea is when you go to make your purchase, you are including God in the picture.  Remember, God wants his best for you.  God loves you more than any earthly father.  You can trust him.  So, go ahead, and use these three prayers, and leverage God’s goodness to remove the financial stress from your life.

 

God, give me self-control.  God, give me understanding.  God, give me a plan.

 

Pray:

 

Today, I really pray and hope today that you really feel like you are going to make some faith filled and positive changes.  You want the freedom that financial planning can give you.  You don’t want to be in bondage anymore.  It’s time to do something better.  We want to honor God with what we have now believing he will trust us with even more.  We want to bring honor to you.

 

We’ve been talking about debt today and there is one kind of debt we all share and that is our sin debt.  If I could be honest with you.  All of us have sinned.  We have a sin debt we do not have the ability to repay.  This is why the story of Jesus is important.  In the Christian world we call it the good news or the Gospel.   The Good News is this: God recognized our sin debt and sent his son and gave his son to pay the price for our debt.  Jesus was without sin so he was the perfect payment/sacrifice for our sin.  He died on a cross for our sin so our sin debt would be forgiven.  You feel the weight of sin.  You know you are not qualified to get into heaven.

 

But when you call on him, trust in him, and are baptized into his death and resurrection, he will forgive every sin you ever created.  It’s why many of you are here today.  You are here because you need to Jesus to pay your sin debt.  Today may be the day when you have the sin lifted from your soul.

 

In a moment, we will have communion.  This is a time when we remember and celebrate Jesus paying off our sin debt. The bread represents his body, that was broken as part of the payment.  The juice represents the blood that was shed for the forgiveness of your sins.

 

The emblems have been prepared for you in the back and we invite all believers to take a moment and recall how Jesus paid off your sin-debt.  Also, if you desire prayer, our prayer counselors are made available at this time.  They will be standing near the Sound Board in the back.  If you desire to know Jesus as your debt canceller, and accept the forgiveness of sins, please come t me up here at the front.

 

Pray for the communion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Danger of Debt

While many of us think debt is just part of being an American, the Bible warns against it.  Why is it debt so dangerous in the eyes of God?

  1. Debt hampers your generosity.  Paying off your credit cards becomes more important than giving to God first.
  2. Debt hurts your witness.  If you cannot pay your bills it tarnishes your reputation.
  3. Debt hinders your ability to live within your means.  It can cause you to lose control of your finances and your future.
  4. Debt can destroy relationships. The number one cause of divorce in the United States is disagreements over finances.
  5. Debt leads to temptation as you try to keep up with what others have.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  Matthew 6:24. When we get into debt money can become the master in our life.  If we want Jesus to be truly Lord of our lives, then we respect the danger of dent and stay out of it

How to Stick with God

July 30, 2017

Message Series:

Your Verse

Message Title:

Faith Pleasing

2 Chronicles 7:14

(unedited)

 

Good morning everyone!  Next week is the week!  Next week our entire church is going through an “All In” spiritual growth event.  During the month of August, we are asking everyone to get in a Go Group.  The messages on Sunday morning are going to align with what you will be talking about in your group.  The idea we all can go grow together through this.  We will be talking about “Making Change.” A series n how God can use your resources to help you be a better you and be more like Jesus Christ.

 

If you are not part of a group simply say you want to on the connection part of your flyer, be sure to put your contact information in and we’ll get in touch with you.  A Go Groups is a group of 8-20 people who get together on a regular basis for support, prayer, Bible Study, and to serve the community.  Here is a little peek at the series, “Play video.”

 

Ever use a post-it note?  Did you know the reason we have Post-It notes is because of a frustrated church choir member?  Back in 1974 Art Fry was singing in his church choir.  They sang out of a hymnal and he would mark the songs for the day with bookmarks.  The only problem was the book marks kept falling out of the book as he turned the pages back and forth during the service.  This really frustrated him.

 

One Sunday, while dealing with his frustration, he remembered one of his friends from work who had invented this low-tack adhesive a few years back.  His friend was a chemist at 3M, Dr. Spencer Silver, and six years earlier he was trying to come up with a super strong glue, instead of that he got this super weak one.  For five years Dr. Silver promoted his stuff for some kind of product, but no one could think of anything.

 

Until, church choir member, Art Fry, applied the stuff to his bookmarks and walla!  They could stick and re-stick on the hymn book pages without falling out.  The low stick adhesive didn’t  rip the pages. He found a use for the low-grade sticky stuff!  From there the rest is history.

 

Today, we are going to look at the “super text” of 2 Chronicles 7:14.  It’s about sticking together and sticking to God.  Many people quote it when they are talking politics.  I have a friend that every time the topic of politics comes up he says this verse.  I often hear this verse quoted when we have a National Day of Prayer or when call to prayer is made to our community.

 

We often quote this scripture when times are tough.  If things are not going our way.  When the horizons look dark.  This scripture though, was given when times were good.  When God’s people were on top of the mountain.  When people felt God was blessing them.  The truth is often we fall from God when times are good and come to him when life is rough.  Sometimes, our faith is like a sticky note.  When times are good we become unglued from God.  When times are bad we come back and stick back again.  We need to embrace a stronger glue.

 

The scripture I’m referring to is in the Old Testament, in a history book called 2 Chronicles.  You see it in chapter seven, verse fourteen.  2 Chronicles 7:14.  It reads, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV)

 

This verse of scripture was spoken by God during a worship service to dedicate the new temple of God.  When you go the beginning of 2 Chronicles the King of Israel, Solomon, set out to build a grand and permanent temple for God.  Up until then God lived in a tent.

 

When Moses freed the Hebrew slaves, God gave the Hebrews instructions on building a portable tent as his temple.  They set and reset this tent temple as they wandered the desert on the way to the Promised Land.  It was elaborated with gold and purple curtains.  Inside it was the Ark of the Covenant and the commandments of God.  When they arrived in the promised Land this Divine Tent was placed in Shiloh. During the reign of the first King, Saul, the temple floated in several different locations.  When David succeeded Saul, he brought the ark and the temple to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.  You may recall the story of David dancing in his underwear as it came in.

 

When David’s son, Solomon, became king, he set out to build a proper temple for God to reside here on earth.  A beautiful place for the Ark to reside in.  It’s believed it took about 7 years to complete.

 

Upon its completion Solomon held a worship service to dedicate the temple to God.  The first part of the service, described in chapter 5, Solomon had the furniture and the ark brought to the Temple in a great parade.  All the people assembled on the streets and watched and celebrated. The Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple with long poles holding it up. The priests consecrated themselves to the Lord.  Then the ark was placed in the Temple. The musicians played.  Harps, trumpets, cymbals, drums played their songs.  The choir lifted their voices.  They gave praise and thanks to the Lord.  They sang as one, “He is good, his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 5:13

 

God then filled the temple with his glory.  His presence was with is people. His glory shown.  Everyone stopped what they were doing.  They stood in awe of God.

 

Then while the whole assembly was gathered Solomon prayed.  In his prayer he praised his God.  He dedicated the temple to God.  He asked God for His eyes to be open and his ears attentive.  He dedicated this temple as a house of prayer to the Lord.

 

After Solomon prayed God’s glory filled the temple.  It was a special moment.  The Israelites knelt before God. There faces to the ground.  The people worshipped.  They gave thanks to the Lord.  They said, “He is good.  His love endures forever.”

 

Then Solomon had sacrifices given to God.  More songs praised God.  This routine went on for days.  People were glad in their hearts.  Joy beat through the hearts of God’s people.

 

After the service, the Lord appeared to Solomon.  The Lord spoke to Solomon.  This is part of what He said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.  When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”  2 Chronicles 7:12-16

 

In the answer to Solomon’s prayer God does something wonderful.  He reveals a wonderful part of himself.  The purpose of building the temple was to provide a place for God.  It is a place for God to dwell with his people.  God desires to be with his people.  Solomon was honored.

 

Here is the connection to us.  The Bible says because of Jesus, God no longer dwells in a physical building.  God’s temple is now in two places.  The first place is with his people, the church.  Paul tells the church in Corinth, “Don’t you know you yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”  1 Corinthians 3:10.  We as a gathered family of God, are his temple.  We are that temple now.

It also teaches that our personal physical body is God’s temple.  Paul again writes, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  Therefore, honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20  The temple is your body.  Offer your body as a spiritual sacrifice- holy and pleasing to God.

 

What I’m getting at is this verse is for you.  When you placed your faith in Jesus, you asked God to forgive your sin and to dwell within.  When you were baptized into Jesus Christ, you gave your life and body as a living sacrifice to him.  And now, as a temple of God, the Holy Spirit dwells in you!

 

Jesus follower, God’s glory dwells in you.  As a Jesus follower, you are now that temple. God desires to be with you.  He seeks to hear you.  His will is to forgive you.  God longs to heal you.  God desires to dwell with you.  This verse is for you.  When you are a follower of Jesus God is your Father, Jesus is your brother, the Holy Spirit is your power… you were born again into God’s family!  You are empowered by God.  In Christ you are loved, redeemed, treasured child of God.  This verse is for you.

 

So, let’s read this verse together, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

 

What that means is you are self-centered narcissist you are no longer defined by those desires.  You are a redeemed and treasured child of God.  In Christ, you know that if you humble yourself, seek God, and turn from your selfish ways you have the power of God to overcome!  Amen!  Whatever you are facing.  You are not a drunk, or a sex addict, or a hot head, or lazy, or worthless, you are the loved, treasured, redeemed son or daughter of God who can have victory and healing over anything when you humble yourself, seek God and turn from your wicked ways.

 

This is what this verse teaches me: I need to think very carefully about my spiritual health.  Look at what it says, “As God’s child I need to humble myself, pray and worship God, and turn from my wicked ways.”  That’s heavy stuff.  God desires to be with us.  As his children, we desire to be with him.  How do you do that?  How do you humble yourself and turn from your wicked ways?

 

You take a moral inventory.  You take some time to examine your life and see if there is any wicked way in you.  You start by sitting in silence for about 30 minutes.. and you write down what God brings to your mind.  Pray what David prayed, “Search me God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me to everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24  You sit and you listen.

 

If you hear a voice that doesn’t call to you repent that isn’t the Lord.  But if you hear a voice that calls on you to repent, that’s from the Lord.  For some of you taking time to do this will not seem productive.  Your mind will scatter and think on everything else.  That’s OK.  God knows this and he can speak through your clutter.  If you listen for him.

 

I am going to share with you list of signs that your spiritual life is dimming.  If you get hit write it down and spend time talking to God about it.  Humble yourself and turn from it.  Where is your spiritual life?

  1. Prayer is no longer a vital part of your life. The only book where power comes before prayer is in the dictionary.  Some of you pray like you floss.  Ever been to the dentist office for a checkup?  And thy ask, “Do you floss everyday?”  And you say, “Not every day.”  So how often do you floss?  Uhhh, every time I see you.  I’m a professional floss man.  I hate to think that any Celebration Christian prays that way. They only pray when they are in this room.  Have a professional do it for you.  If that’s the case, no wonder there is no power, no lightning, in your faith.
  2. You’ve grown content with your Biblical understanding and do not hunger for more. Your goal in Bible study has become information instead of transformation.
  3. Thoughts about eternal things are rare for you.
  4. Gathering with God’s people is not eagerly anticipated. I mean all it takes is for some guy to offer to pay golf with you or go to the beach.
  5. Pointed spiritual discussions seem awkward or embarrassing.
  6. Acquisition of money and possessions dominate your thinking.
  7. Certain sins can be indulged in without an alarm to your conscience. You’ve accepted those sins.  It’s just how you roll.  You may have accepted them.  God has not.
  8. You can easily mouth scriptures and songs without heart.
  9. You hear God’s name taken in vain and standards mocked without indignation. No righteous indignation.
  10. You consistently read, listen, and watch morally degrading material for entertainment.
  11. Divisions or quarrels in your church or Go Group do not bother you. It doesn’t move you to pray or to take action.
  12. You are slow to respond when opportunity to show God’s love to someone presents itself. We pray for that opportunity but you don’t respond.
  • Injustice and human misery rarely touch your heart.
  • The lostness of those without Christ where you work, in your family, across the street hardly crosses your mind… you don’t have one person your asking God to use you to reach for Jesus Christ everyday.
  • You rarely think about or sense the presence of God in your life. When people talk about it at church you don’t sense that.
  1. There s no desire in you to regularly praise him for his grace. You think you might be doing him a favor by coming here.
  2. Your heart does not leap for joy, because there is no song there.

 

It’s also possible that God brought something else to mind that I didn’t mention.  If so, you are alive, you have the Holy Spirit.  Go where he leads.  Deal with what he brings up in your life.  The Holy Spirit will always take you to a good place.  Our nation and community doesn’t need us to complain about the darkness.  Our nation and community needs us to be strong in the Lord, Holy for him, and shine His light in the darkness.

 

Listen, in America the church is not the home team.  We are the away team.  We are foreigners and aliens in a strange land.  The good news you don’t have to be the home team to win.  God’s light is at work within us.

 

Notice what happens when we humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways, ““If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14  God will hear you.  God will forgive you.  God will heal your soul.  Now who heals the land- we don’t- God heals the land.  But he does it when his people come humbly before him and pray and seek him.

 

Earlier I mentioned how our faith can be like a post-it note.  We stick to God sometimes and other times we do not.  That’s because the glue we are using is low grade.  Our faith is based on our strength and our will.  We need a stronger glue.  The glue that will keep us stuck to God is humility before Him.

 

Listen, if us in this room would just humble ourselves, humility would begin to distinguish us, mark us, and God always blesses humility.  When we pray God will hear our prayers and heal us and then you can tell the stories of God moving in our life and in our church.  We talk about answers to our prayers.

 

If we seek God’s face.  The Bible says, “You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart!” Jeremiah 29:13  You come to God he comes to you.  God will honor our repentance and confession of our sin and as God heals us our light will shine.

 

What about you?  What do you need on your post-it note?  What do you need to do?  Do you need to be born again? (Draw water or child on note) Nicodemus did.  He was a spiritual leader and Jesus told him salvation isn’t about behavior modification, but about dead people coming to life.  It’s about being born again.  It’s not about you getting a little bit better.  If you believe that God gave his only one and only son you will not perish.

 

Maybe you are strong. (Draw person kneeling)  Thank God we have a lot of strong Christians in our church.  Don’t get lazy.  Stay strong.  Keep doing what has made you faithful.  Stay involved in the church.  Be generous with your time and money and work.  God blesses that.

 

Maybe you are lukewarm. (Draw H & C with person in middle) You are not where God wants you to be.  You need to start something new, like Solomon did when he built the temple.  It was brand new.  Go to one of our Elders and say, “What’s the hardest job to recruit somebody for, that’s the job I want to do.”  I’ll do it for a year and then pass it on.  When you say that the person you are talking to will pass out, we’ll revive them, and then sign you up!

 

Here is what will happen to you.  Your spiritual life will go upward, because you are embracing things that bring power and joy and closer to God.

 

Maybe your faith is just a formality. (Draw a picture of bowtie) You have no fire.  If that’s you then repent.  This is straight up sin.  You need to humble yourself and seek God’s face and turn from this wicked way.  If you turn around God will tune you in.  Set an example.

 

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you today then you need to humble yourself, seek his face, and turn from your wicked way. (Draw a person kneeling in prayer) Humility before God is the strongest glue to keep us stuck to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why a Go Group is Important

The past few posts I have been talking about you being part of one of our Go Groups.  Why are Go Groups important?  Here are 5 reasons why Go Group are an essential part of your faith walk.  Community is God’s answer to many difficulties we face.

  1. It is God’s answer to loneliness. We need a few people in our lives who really know us well, and really know them well.  We need a place to practice God’s love, to develop real Christian relationships.  Hebrews 10:25 says, “let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
  2. It is God’s answer to fatigue. We were not meant to serve God alone. We are designed to this together.  Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two people are better than one because they get more done by working together.”
  3. It is God’s answer to defeat. We all have blind spots. There are things in our life that can defeat us only others can see.  We can look in the mirror but we still need someone’s opinion.  We are not going to defeat the devil alone.  Christians ought to take care of other Christians.  Hebrews 13:1, “Keep being concerned about each other as the Lord’s followers should.”
  4. It is God’s answer to despair. We were not meant to face the crisis of life alone.  When the earthquakes of life happen, you need some support.  You need those three or four people who will prop you up.    Romans 12:15 says, “Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep.”
  5. It is God’s answer to fear. We have many fears in our life.  We can fear the future, our child’s safety, the terrorism threat, losing our job, and more.  Together, we can face the fear.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “The Holy Spirit doesn’t want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong and to love them and enjoy being with them.”  In Go Groups, you can face your fears together.

14 Requests to Pray to God for Your Children

This week our teens are at CIY and I know many people have been praying for them.  Why stop today, when they get home?  Here are 14 requests you can lift up to God on behalf of your children.

  1. Pray for their salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
  2. Pray they will hate sin (Ps 97:10).
  3. Pray they will select the right kind of friends (Prov. 1:10).
  4. Pray the Holy Spirit will be poured into them (Isa. 44:3-5).
  5. Pray they will be identified as children blessed by the Lord (Isa. 6:19).
  6. Pray God will protect them from making wrong choices (Hosea 2:6).
  7. Pray they will be protected from Satan (John 17:15).
  8. Pray they will present themselves to God (Romans 12:1).
  9. Pray they will not conform to this world (Rom. 12:2).
  10. Pray they will respect authority (Rom. 13:1).
  11. Pray they will respect their body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:18-19).
  12. Pray that, if they marry, they will marry another believer (2 Cor. 6:14-17).
  13. Pray they will be submissive to God in all things (James 4:7).
  14. Pray they will tell their children of the things of God (Psalm 78:4).

How can you find hope when hope is lost?

Supertext

 

Message Series:

Supertexts

Message Title:

Plans for Hope

Jeremiah 29:11

(unedited manuscript)

Good morning everyone!  In two weeks, we will be holding our “All In” event for the month of August.  For the month of August, the messages and what we are studying in our Go Groups will sync up.  One key way to help you grow in Jesus is to see how other people are applying God’s word to their lives.  It’s a key component in spiritual growth.  So, what we want to do is you everyone commit to attending the four Sundays in August and then get in a Go Group.  We have 6 right now you can participate in.  If you are not in one then sign-up by using the info card on the handout and put it in the offering box.  We’ll get with you about what group works best for you.  Also, in August we will be having our school supply drive for Oakland and Elephant’s Fork Elementary Schools.

 

This month we are looking at some key verses in the Bible and today we are looking at Jeremiah 29:11.  This verse is one of the most quoted verses from the Old Testament.  It is a verse that has inspired many, many people since it was written.  It has inspired many to hold on to hope when life looked hopeless.  However, when you say it knowing the story behind it, it takes on an even deeper meaning and more significant inspiration.  This is the verse, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

This verse is awesome because it gives us hope.  We cannot cope without hope.  Hope is the rope that will pull you out of the pit of despair.

 

Hope reminds me of the relationship I often see others have with their gas gauge.  I think all of us have some kind of relationship with our fuel gauge.  How you react to it can reveal a little bit of your personality.  Are you the type that when it gets on a half tank it’s time to go fill it up, or maybe a quarter tank?  When it’s a half tank you’re thinking about where the gas station is located.  You’re the kind of person who always buckles your seat belt.  You are always ready to go.  I’m a quarter tank guy.  Others of you are different.  Or are you the kind that doesn’t think about putting gas in your car until it gets to the top of the “e?”   When you see that you get to a gas station.

 

Or how many of you think, I see it’s on top of the “e” I think I have another 50 miles left?  Then you have that one time, right, or maybe more than one, where you are on the way to the gas station, and you ran out of gas, at the stoplight.    Some of you wait until it gets below the “E.”

 

This is who I used to be, back in High School, when my truck ran out of gas on the way to school, I had no money for a gas station, pushed the truck to the school parking lot, and was an hour late to school.  My friend and I tried to sneak in, but we were caught by a teacher.  Since then I’ve been more of a quarter tank guy.  Some of you are a E person and you married a ½ tank person and had the conversation, “Aren’t you going to get gas?”  “Why?”  and on it goes.

 

While there are a lot of ways to interact with your gas gauge I believe hope in your life is like a fuel gauge to your car.  You gotta have hope to run.  You gotta have hope to move forward.  You gotta have hope to have anticipation.  You gotta have hope to advance and move onward in your life.  And some of us, if we are honest, our hope gauge is getting down near to “E.”  Maybe your hope meter is down because our current political climate, the terrorist attacks on innocent people, the future for your children, maybe you are dealing with the sting of being rejected, you have faced so much disappointment you don’t if you can do it anymore.  Some of you have experienced so much frustration you can’t move forward.  When your hope gauge is near “E” we don’t know the damage it’s doing tour faith and soul.  We don’t have perspective anymore and we are hurting, we are struggling.

 

That’s why this verse in Jeremiah is so encouraging and inspiring.  When your hope gauge is down and you hear your heavenly Father say, I have plans for you.  Plans to prosper you, to give you a future and hope, that little lever on your gauge goes up a little bit.  One note, perhaps your hope tank just got filled up. You bought a new car, a home, got a promotion.  If that’s you then listen to this message, file it away, for the day when your hope tank needs refilling.  Because what I’m going to talk about today will always keep your hope tank full, no matter the circumstance.

 

When you know the man who wrote it the verse has even more encouragement.  Jeremiah was a prophet in ancient Israel, 627 years before Jesus was born.  During his ministry half of the nation was gone.  The northern half had already been destroyed by the Assyrians.  The southern half, Judah, was defeated 41 years later and the people were taken into exile in Babylon.  It was to the southern half Jeremiah ministered too, and during his ministry he saw God’s nation completely fall.

There is a tiny companion book with Jeremiah, called Lamentations, and it is a lament, a dirge, a type of eulogy over the nation of Israel being exiled to Babylon.  Jeremiah was not one of the exiles.  He did not go to Babylon.  He stayed in Jerusalem and watched the people leave. Babylon only took the people they thought would be valuable to them and left the others behind.  As he watched the exiles leave his hope gauge went down quick.  He wrote, “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within.  My heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because the children and infants faint in the streets of the city.”  Lamentations 2:11.  When you are without hope, isn’t that how it feels?

 

Shortly after the exiles settled in Babylon Jeremiah sat down and decided to write a letter to them.  He had some thoughts he wanted the exiles to recall and hold onto.  This verse I am quoting is a part of that letter.  Jeremiah had a message from the LORD for them, and for you.

 

We don’t have time to go through the entire letter this morning, but I do want to share the first part of it.  It begins in verse 4, chapter 29, in the book of Jeremiah.  It reads, “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

 

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the Lord.

 

This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”  Jeremiah 29:4-14

 

The people Jeremiah were writing to were people who had lost hope.  Not only was the nation they loved destroyed and conquered by another nation, they were taken from their homes and safety and placed in a hostile environment.  They were expected to strengthen and add to the life of Babylon.  They thought God was either impotent, he had left them, or was punishing them.  The people left in Israel were saying things like we are the real “Jews.”  God has rejected you.  On top of that there were many self-appointed prophets who were saying God was going to restore everything quickly, giving them a false hope.  In fact, God had told them they would be there for 70 years, over three generations.  These people had lost their homes, businesses, family connections, bank accounts.  They were now the property of Babylon.

 

When your hope gauge is down that’s how you feel.  You feel you are in exile.  You feel like everyone else has it better.  You might even think God is rejecting you or punishing you.  You might doubt God at all.  You might think this “God” thing, going to church, isn’t working out.  You think all your opportunity is gone.

 

Jeremiah, though, tells us, that when our hope gauge is on “E” there are stations for us to get it filled up again.  First, Jeremiah says something, that if you don’t pay attention you will miss it.  He says God has sent his people into exile, “to all the captives he has exiled.”  God caused this hardship.  God set these circumstances into motion.  This dispels the myth, at the very least, that God has left you or forgotten you.  Somehow, we think in our hopelessness and desperation God is nowhere to be found, when actually he is right there.

 

With God hardship and exile is like the refining of gold.  When gold comes out of the ground it is impure.  It has rocks, dirt, and other junk.  The way you get the gold is to heat it up to 2100 degrees to get the dross.  The dross is all the impurities and it comes to the top of the hot golden liquid.  When you scrape the dross from the top you get the pure gold.

 

Just like you heat up gold to make it pure God heats up our lives to make us pure and holy.  When we become a Christian, you start out with all these impurities and one of the tools God uses is hardship.  God has a purpose for the heat in your life.  He is still moving and working.  God is molding you and refining you to be more and more like Jesus.  This means you can trust him.  Corrie Ten Boom, a Jewish believer who survived the holocaust said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

 

Another place to get filled up is in verse 7.  He says, “Do not dwindle away!  Work for prosperity and peace in your place of exile.  Pray to the Lord, for its welfare will determine its welfare.”  JM 29:6-7

Your place of exile, the place you have lost hope, may be your marriage.  It may be where you work.  It may be your faith.  It may be with your health.  It may be financial stress.  Wherever you are feeling exile, God says don’t dwindle away.  Work towards peace in your marriage.  Work for the prosperity of your business.  Stand strong in your faith.  Don’t shrivel away.

 

Emotionally losing hope hurts.  It can feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train and not a new mountain vista.  Often, when you lose hope you relive the emotional pain over and over again.  If you stub your toe you feel physical pain, but when you recall it later you don’t actually feel the pain in your toe again.  Emotional pain doesn’t work that way.  It may hurt a little different but you hurt over and over again.    Research has shown that we think 90% of the same thoughts every day.  If you are in exile and you keep recalling the events over and over of that pain it damages your faith.  It hurts your soul.  We can begin to isolate ourselves in an effort to protect ourselves.  God says don’t allow your pain to help you dwindle away.  Continue to work for peace and prosperity.  Pray to the Lord for it.  God says this will benefit to you.

 

Why?  Verse 11, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  JM 29:11  What is God saying here?  God’s plans for you are beyond your history!  Your family dynamics.  Your mistakes and failures.  Your shame.  Your fears about the future.  God’s plans are beyond the reach of change and decay.

 

We can have confident hope that God will use us and shape us.  We can have confident hope to prepare what’s next in our lives.  See God’s hand in your hardship.  Confident hope in God is what will give you joy in the midst of hardship.  A confident hope tells you that God goes before you and is beside you.  He’s got your back.  He’s got your front.  He is the rock under your feet and sits on the throne of heaven above you.  God’s got your past.  He’s got your present and he’s got your future.  God can grow your heart, grow your character.  God can grow your joy.  He can grow your peace.  He is working in your life.  Nothing can separate you from his love in Christ.  Nothing can separate you from his strength.  Nothing can separate you form his work.  Nothing can separate you from his power.  Nothing can separate you from his spirt.  He is not finished you yet!

 

One more highlight from this scripture.  One more place to fill up your hope gauge.  Notice in this passage how many times God refers to himself.  In this section where God gives his promise he says “I will” or “I have” or “I sent.”  The ancient Jews in exile, when you look at what they did before they were taken, put their hope in their king.  They put their hope in their military.  They put their hope in their status and wealth.  They only listened to what they wanted to hear, and not what God wanted to do.  They put hope in themselves and what they could do and now their hope gauges are on empty when all of that was taken away.

 

We can do the same.  We can put hope in our work.  We can put hope in our children.  We can put hope in our worship or church leaders or knowledge of the scriptures.  We can put hope in our plans, our schemes.  Real hope, confident is trusting in the plans God has for you, your family, your church, your life.  Psalm 147:11 tells us, “The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

 

Our hope is not in our cleverness.  Our hope is not in a building.  Our hope is not in each other.  Our hope is not in our schemes.  Our hope is in the Lord.  Our joy is in the Lord.  Our salvation is in the Lord.  Our future is in the Lord.  Our love for each other is in Jesus Christ.  Our hope is in his unfailing love.  All the world and it’s stuff will pass away, but God’s love for you stands forever!

 

We can say that with confidence because we have a Heavenly Father who sent his one and only Son to die on a cross, to go into his own exile because of our sin, shed his blood.  Our hope for joy, peace, goodness, rests in the blood of Christ.  But we know the plans God has for our future as well.  For death could not hold Jesus and he rose from the dead.  Resurrected so that we might know that we too one day, as his fellow heirs, the same fate is bound for us.  He has prepared a place for us.  We have a mighty future planned for us because we have a might God!