Money, Peace, and Prosperity

1222896_52704774On Sunday we looked at how to have true peace, freedom, and hope in relation to our finances. It might sound a bit funny to talk about money at church like this, but this is something that Jesus spoke a lot about and also causes a lot of stress in our lives. My bet is that if you could have peace, hope, and freedom in your finances you would want that.

The trouble is that our answer to finding peace is always to have more money. But more money doesn’t bring about more peace or freedom. The reality is that you might even have experienced this personally. That perhaps a few years ago you thought you only needed a bit more and you’d be set, but it hasn’t brought a deep transformation of peace. The truth is that if our life is based on having more, then our peace is always out there before us rather than residing with us.

So we looked at Jesus’ discussion on possessions, worry, and life in Matthew 6. He begins by saying not to worry about everyday concerns. The problem is that for many of us this seems like an impossibility or a fantasy, but we’ve forgotten that many of us at one point in our lives lived this way. And we lived this way because of trust. My two boys trust me to make sure that they have cheerios, goldfish, and raisins to snack on. Worry and stress does not consume them because of the trust they have.

This is similar to what Jesus is teaching, that if we can trust deeply in the Father who knows all our need, peace and life will flow into us. Peace comes from trusting the Father who knows and cares for us, not in having giant savings, RRSP’s, or salary increases. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t’ be prudent with our financial planning, spending, and habits. What it means is that peace doesn’t come out of good financial planning, it comes out of trust in the Father who knows and cares for us. Peace doesn’t flow out of having more, but deeper trust in God.

So we landed on the fact that until we get the trust piece right with God, the rest of our lives won’t fall into place. So the question is do you trust God? When and how has he been faithful in the past – so that you can be reminded – that he will be faithful today? Can you say you trust him? And if so, what is he asking you to do to put that trust in action?

So that’s what we explored on Sunday – that having more doesn’t bring peace – trusting in God brings peace.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea Peace flows from trust in God

Take Aways…

  • We base our financial freedom on having more
  • Having more money doesn’t bring more peace, freedom, or happiness
  • God doesn’t want our money he wants our hearts
  • You cannot serve both God and money Jesus
  • Trust provides peace and freedom
  • Peace comes from the creator caring not what we own and have
  • We don’t trust our futures to our finances but to our Father
  • How big is your God? How much do you trust him?
  • Peace flows from trust
  • Steps for Trust to Grow
  • Decide and declare to trust God
  • Remember times of God Being Trustworthy
  • Put trust into action by following God

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? What did you think about the idea that “more” doesn’t bring peace? Have you seen that true in your life or friends lives? How deep is your trust in God? How can you start to deepen your trust? When has God proven his trustworthiness to you? What next steps is he asking you to take?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about today’s sermon. Talk to them about how life and peace comes from trust in God not the stuff they have. Ask them to think of when God has been faithful to them, when he has answered a prayer, or spoken to them. Focus on building their trust in God.

Challenge for this Week: Trust God, Be Reminded of his Trustworthiness, and Practice Trust

 

What’s in Your Wallet?

1361618_19944881On Sunday we are exploring the topic of money, and its related topic of peace. There is a lot of ad’s that promise freedom from finances, peace with possessions, and all sorts of things like that. And that’s what we really want to explore on Sunday. How can you have peace, freedom, and hope in relation to your finances and everyday concerns?

I think this is a really important question because if it is possible to live without worry, to go to sleep without stress, to have hope about the future rather than dread – then we’d want that in our lives.

And as we’ll discover on Sunday so much of society tells us the answer to having that peace and freedom is always…more. Make more money, have more things, be more independent, be more in control etc. But I think the reality is very different than that. Having more doesn’t bring an increase of peace, otherwise most people in North America would be the most happy, and stress-free people on the planet. We have so much in North America, so why doesn’t that translate into more peace and freedom from stress and anxiety?

That’s what we’ll discover on Sunday, how to live life with such assurance that peace, and hope are naturally a part of all you do. We’ll discover how Jesus teaches that peace and hope don’t come from more, they come from him.

God Doesn’t Want Your Money…He Wants Your Heart

1390009_45620103On Sunday we looked at the issue of money and wealth from Jesus’ perspective. The big idea was pretty simple, that God isn’t interested in our money, but in our hearts. The point is that our lives organize around our hearts. So if greed holds our hearts, our lives will end organizing themselves around greed, wealth, and more possessions. When this happens our lives shrink, anxiety increases, and fear abounds. Dallas Willard writes: If we value [money or wealth] as normal people seem to think we should, our fate is fixed. Our fate is anxiety. It is worry. It is frustration. The words anxious and worry both have reference to strangling or being choked. Certainly that is how we feel when we are anxious. Things and events have us by the throat and seem to be cutting off our life.” When our life is controlled by greed that is how we feel cut off, and chocked by an insatiable desire that never lets up.

So we talked about how Jesus really isn’t interested in our money. He has lots. What he is really interested in is having our heart so he can give us freedom and life. As long as greed controls us our lives will never be full. If our focus is on money then it’s not on God. So we ended with a simple challenge: Give. Give. Give. Giving breaks greed. Giving ensures that God has our heart. Giving is a way to keep God at the centre. I think one of the reasons that Jesus talks so much about money is because where our money goes, so too does our heart. So if we give our money away, we are also giving our heart to God.

So that’s where we went on Sunday ending with some simple practical ways to give. First, give as a priority. Make it first not just an after-thought. Second, give a percentage. God cares more about giving as a percentage than a dollar amount. So make a practice of giving to protect your heart from greed. And lastly, give progressively. Keep giving more and more, deeper and deeper. The path of discipleship, it’s also the path of generosity.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: God doesn’t want our money, he wants our hearts

Take Aways…

  • God doesn’t want your money
  • Jesus point in Matthew 6 isn’t practical living, but the intentions behind your life
  • Life organizes itself around your heart
  • Greed leads to smaller and less fulfilled life
  • Focus on placing your heart in heaven not what you have
  • “Jesus is very clear. Wealth is a problem” Stanley Hauerwas
  • whatever you value most will direct your life.
  • If you heart is focused on wealth, then it isn’t focused on God.
  • Giving keeps God at the centre of our hearts and lives
  • Giving breaks greed
  • “Generous giving is one of the best external indicators for measuring transformation and spiritual growth” Chris Willard, and Jim Sheppard
  • Three Keys to Giving: Make it a Priority, Make it a Percentage, Make it Progressive

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? How have you seen it true that life organizes itself around your heart? Would you say that money has a hold on your heart? What can you do to break that hold? How much is generosity a part of your life? How much would you like it to be part of your life? What can you do to make a habit of generosity to give you heart to God?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about the importance of generosity. Talk with them about how giving changes not only others but also us. Ask them about their favorite gifts they’ve ever gotten, and also given. Ask them if there is someone they know who could use a gift to encourage and make them happy. Follow through on any ideas they have.

Challenge for this Week: Give. Make it priority, a percentage, and progressive

Why Does Jesus Talk So Much About Money?

On Sunday we are exploring a difficult topic. We are talking about money. Here is the difficulty though with this topic. Whenever money is talked about people can get defensive and uncomfortable. This has often been because the church has talked about money so poorly, seeming like all we care about is a bigger offering. But money, wealth, and finances do need to be talked about in church because of how it can affect our lives. Whether or not we acknowledge it money has a huge influence on our lives. Here are just a few examples:

  • Marriages often split over finances and fights about finances
  • Financial stress can bleed out into all sorts of relationships that we have
  • Many of us are scared about our future in relation to money, wealth, and security

And so we should talk about how to find peace, life, and hope. The truth is that if Jesus talked about money so should we, and he talked about money a lot:

  • Jesus talked about money more than anything else, other than the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined
  • 25% of all the parables have connections with money

I think the point is that Jesus knew that money is a stress, it is a focus, and it can steal our peace. So he talks about it to give us freedom, life, and a new perspective.

So here is a sneak peek into the big idea for Sunday. It has two parts but I’ll share the first part now: God doesn’t want your money. This is true, and on Sunday we’ll be exploring Mathew 6 to find out why that’s true. Why God isn’t really interested in your money, why we won’t be having a second offering, and why money isn’t the issue, it has something to do with our hearts.

Kingdom Currency

A Challenge from the Past: Giving, Wealth, Hospitality, and John Wesley

My dad was first a pastor in the Free Methodist Church of Canada. Coming from that background I’ve always appreciated the writing and person of John Wesley.

Recently, while reading some of his stuff, I came across a few quotes from him that I found really challenging. So if you don’t feel like being challenged too, maybe just skip the rest of the blog post.

Wesley wrote this:

“One great reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them…The distance that wealthy people are now able to put between them and the poor makes them less likely to appreciate the need for hospitality.”

Wow how true is that? One great reason why those who are rich have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them. That just hits home, because I know I am rich. While I’m not rich in North American terms I am incredibly rich in light of the rest of the world. This quote made think about my sympathy for others who are struggling in my neighborhood and in Africa. It made me think about whether or not I’m willing to open my house, my life, and my world to those who need comfort and true welcome. It made me think about whether I am too isolated and insulated from those with true needs. In general, it made me think a lot. But I don’t think that’s the point.

I don’t think Wesley wrote it so I would think deep thoughts. I think he wrote it so I might take action. So that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m going to try to act on my convictions and go from there. Maybe if that quote got you to thinking, you should see if it can’t move you to acting as well…