The Motive Behind the Money

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to one person’s jealousy of another. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:4

Money is a part of life. Without money, we can’t pay bills, buy food and clothing, or travel. In normal life, we work, we make money, we spend money, we might save a little money, and we do the same the next day.

The Bible’s view of money and wealth is neutral–it can be used for good or bad. What defines it as such is our use of it and our motive of obtaining it. In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon, the richest man of his time, pondered the motive. He noticed that people go out and work and make money, some work even extra hard. He also noticed that many did this out of a jealousy for others. They wanted to keep up with their neighbors.

We live in a consumeristic society when it comes to money built on the very thing Solomon lamented. We work, earn, and spend so that we can have the newest best thing, or at least have what our neighbors have. Advertising firms know this. So do credit card companies.

Yet, as Solomon wrote, such an attitude is futile. Life isn’t supposed to be about keeping up with our neighbors.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul gave a better motivation for money: Use it to be generous and to enjoy life. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with buying things that we want or enjoying ourselves, so long as such things honor God and so long as it doesn’t temper our willingness to share with others.

When we have a heart of generosity, we’re not so interested in what others have so that we can go and gain the same, but we’re interested in what others lack so that, if possible, we can help them gain. Let’s seek to have that heart and motivation behind what we earn.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Pure Religion

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

God cares deeply about the poor, needy, and afflicted. Psalm 113:7-8 says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the trash heap in order to seat them with nobles–with the nobles of his people.” It is no wonder, then, that God requires the same for his people.

When we speak of “religion” we speak of a system of beliefs that one holds with a sense of devotion which usually involves devotion to a deity of some kind. Religion, then, involves how we worship and how such worship impacts our lives.

Believing there is one God in three persons, Christians worship God through Jesus. We sing, pray, share, preach, and celebrate all with a focus on what God has done for us through giving Jesus his Son. Jesus even says that to have eternal life is to know the one true God and Jesus whom he sent.

Yet, if we limit our religion to the adoration of God through Jesus with no concern about other people, then we are missing the mark. In telling us to care “for the least of these,” Jesus said that as we do for them, we do for him (Matthew 25:31-46).

It is no wonder, then, that when James wrote of our practice of our religion, he defined it as such: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27). Later, James will write about how true faith is a faith that works, that does good. True religion, then, is putting our faith into practice.

The world is filled with needs. We see them around us day in and day out. No one person can meet every need. God never intended that to be so outside of Jesus. Yet, we can meet the needs we see and are able to meet. We can put our faith into practice and help take care of those less fortunate than us, just as our Father in heaven raises up the poor and needy and sits them in the place of nobles.

All scriptures taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ Ecclesiastes 2:1-2

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Ecclesiastes 2:1-2
I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”  (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, you are the God who delights in what is good. You call us to make you our highest delight through Jesus and to enjoy every good gift that comes from your hand. Father, turn our hearts from worthless pleasures–those that delight for a moment but end in ruin. Yes, sin has it’s passing pleasures, but what you provide is joy forevermore. May we test our hearts with you instead of the momentary passions of sin. Amen.

Sunday 9.29.19 (psalms of ascent: mercy & grace)

This Sunday, we’ll continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent with Psalm 123. We’ll see how on our life’s God-ward journey in Christ, God provides us mercy and grace along the way to combat our sin and pride. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Something Needs to Change video study

Sermon Notes
Mercy and Grace ~ Psalm 123

The sermon in one sentence: Life in Jesus is an upward journey on which God provides abundant mercy and grace.

  • The Problem: Pride (123:3-4)
    • Pride is a specific form of idolatry
    • Idolatry says, “There is a better way than God’s” (false-religion)
    • Pride says “My way is better than God’s” (self-religion)
    • The story of humanity from Genesis 3 on is that we spurn God and choose sin because we think we know better, though we don’t
  • The Solution: We Need God’s Mercy and Grace (123:1-2)
    • Saved by grace through faith: Repent of sin, idolatry, and pride; trust in God (123:1)
    • Depend on God’s mercy (123:2)
    • Depend on God’s grace

Songs for Worship
O Worship the King
I Exalt Thee
At Calvary
Tell It Out with Gladness
Refiner’s Fire

Psalm 120-134 (Psalms of Ascent)

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Make Known His Love

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

I will make known the Lord’s faithful love and the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, because of all the Lord has done for us–even the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, which he did for them based on his compassion and the abundance of his faithful love. ~ Isaiah 63:7

In a tweet once, a pastor named Philip Nation wrote, “Evangelism is easy: You talk to Jesus about people and you talk to people about Jesus.”

Talking to Jesus about people is prayer. We pray for people to hear the gospel, respond to the gospel, and be saved from their sins by Jesus through the gospel. When we make evangelism harder than it needs to be, our problem usually isn’t on the prayer side of things (unless we simply don’t pray for people).

Isaiah 63:7 is a model for the other side of this: Talking to people about Jesus.

We often wonder Where should I begin? What should I mention first? How should I broach the subject?

The answer is that you begin with God’s love. If we tried to list the good things that God has done for us because of his love, our hands would grow tire writing before we even scratched the surface. James says that every good thing comes from the Father. Every good person, possession, and event in our lives is a gift of God’s grace.

We begin with the fact that God is good and gives infinite goodness to those who will receive it. We begin with the realities that in his love he will make “all sad things come untrue” for those who trust him. We point to God’s goodness on display most greatly in Jesus who came and gave himself so that we, who had nothing before God, could gain everything.

We don’t have to be experts in any particular presentation to evangelize well. We simply must be willing to make God’s love known.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ Isaiah 65:25

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Isaiah 65:25
The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like cattle, but the serpents food will be dust! They will not do what is evil or destroy on my entire holy mountain, says the Lord.  (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, we turn on the news and hear of wars and rumors of war. People platform to debase those made in your image. Stories fill our lives of untimely deaths and ill and frail children. Sin seeks to rob the beauty of your world, but you promise this is not the way it will always be. Through your Son, set our hopes on the New Creation. In the midst of war, sickness, and strife, remind us again and again that the day is coming of perfect peace, health, and love. You shamed Satan, the serpent of old, through the cross. You promise the day is coming when you will crush that snake under our feet. Give us great hope so that we can be a light in the darkness to our world. Amen.

What Encourages Us

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Therefore, since we also have such a large crowd of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Life is a journey. The author of Hebrews called it a race. Perhaps like a cross country race with ups and downs, twists and turns. In this race we’re striving toward the goal, the finish line.

The thing about the race of faith: it’s not about winning. We have thousands of years of people who have faithfully sought God and followed Jesus who have gone before us and have made it to the finish. It’s not about winning but it is about finishing.

Distractions throw us off course. Sin trips us up. The devil whispers that we’ll never make it and might as well give up.

As we face these bumps and trials on the course, we have two main sources of encouragement to keep us focused. First, we have Jesus. He’s the “source and perfecter of our faith.” That is just another way of saying what Paul wrote in Philippians 1: “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” If we have begun the race, Jesus and his Holy Spirit dwelling within us give us the strength and will to finish.

We also have the example of Jesus. Through the cross, he faced great pain and suffering but it was all for a greater joy. He knew he was accomplishing the salvation of his people. He knew that he was rescuing rebels against God and offering them the grace of becoming his brothers and sisters with whom he shares everything. He knew the joy of his family would be eternal. So, he walked through the pain and toward the joy.

We will never have to suffer like Jesus. We will not have to bear the weight of God’s wrath against countless sins. If we trust in Jesus, we will not even have to bear an ounce of the weight of God’s wrath against our sins. What he did for us is an encouragement to keep striving and keep pressing forward in order to finish life faithful to God.

Second, we have the example of all the faithful saints who have gone before us. That is Hebrews 11–the great “hall of faith,” filled with men and women who saw great highs and suffered many lows. They weren’t perfect. They needed a lot of grace. Yet, they followed God until the end.

Not only are their lives an example, but their voices throughout time are our cheering section. They have finished as we aim to do, and now tasting the joys of heaven, they want to see us there, too.

In life, run the race. Keep focused on Jesus. Hear the cheers of the crowd of saints. In the ups and downs, be encouraged. Even if you’re tired and feel like you can give no more, you will make it and the ceaseless joy to follow will be sweet.

All scriptures taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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