A Better Way To Live

I heard the other day that no matter how big the plate is that we Americans will tend to eat about everything on it.  So, a strategy for weight loss is simply to use a smaller plate.  What is that saying about us as people?  Do we really have that little self-control?

Unfortunately, this behavior doesn’t just show up in our eating habits, but also in our spending habits as well.  Most Americans would need to borrow money or use a credit card if they had an expense come up for more than $400.  Do we really think our refrigerator will never go out?  Why don’t we save for occasions like that?  For many of us, we’ve never been taught how.  So, we use this pattern: consume first, save second (what we feel we can) and give last (what’s leftover).  What this makes of us is a consumer.  We consume all we can as a first option.

Generous people flip this list, so it looks like this: give first (a set amount), save second (a desired amount) and spend what’s leftover.  When we do this, we become planners.  Also, giving first is a biblical principle found throughout Scripture, often with promises attached (Prov. 3:9-10).

What should we give toward?  Here are my criteria:  What am I grateful for?  For me, that is easy, it’s the local church.  The local church kept me through my life from making poor decisions and living with fewer regrets.  Then, what breaks my heart?  Again, I believe the church is the best agency to address the needs of humanity.  When the church is firing on all cylinders, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the lost are found and people are brought into the full life of Christ.

Take a look at your life.  Are you just a consumer?  God intended for you and I to be much more than that. If we really got ahold of this, needs would be met, and the world would be changed.

For a negative example, look at the story Jesus told about a guy in Luke 12:16-20.

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

It’s not entirely clear where this idiom originated, though some it started in Irish pubs where gambling was common.  A person might boast that they could do something and another person would challenge them to bet on it.  The theory being that if they were unwilling to gamble money on what they were talking about, they were just talk and basically full of it.

Today, it basically means that you need to back up what you’re saying with your actions.  So, what might that look like?  For example, you could say something along the lines of “Have you noticed the trash that seems to collect on that corner? I think someone should do something about it.”  The person you’re telling it to suggest that YOU could go out and pick it up, or organize your neighborhood to have a clean up day in order to ‘put you money where your mouth is’.

One definition I found was

to support something that you believe in, especially by giving money If people are really interested in helping the homeless they should put their money where their mouth is.

We also use the expression “Talk is cheap.”  The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read “Tithe if you love Jesus, anyone can honk.”  Meaning it’s very easy to complain about the state of things, and a lot harder or more expensive to actually do anything to change the situation.  It’s easy to say we want to support the advancement of God’s kingdom on the earth, but another to write the check or go online and give.

So, let’s evaluate our lives, and decide if we’re a honker or a tither, a mouther or a mover, a complainer or a changer.

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Last Day Lovers

The predictions of the Bible have always been fascinating to me.  Not so much that I spend all my time looking for a sign (Jesus said that’s what an evil generation does), but enough to know where are we at in God’s timeline.

Yesterday, I was reading in 2 Timothy 3 where Paul predicts what people will love in the last days: themselves, money and pleasure.  Wow!  Does that describe America or what?  There’s not much that can get in our way of loving ourselves, spending and thrill seeking.  So much so, we will often ignore the bigger items of life and settle for an incessant search for self fulfillment.

How do we know if we are what the Bible describes as “last day lovers”?  Here’s a little test to help diagnose where you fall.

Lovers of Themselves:  do you consistently think of yourself more than others?  When is the last time you went out of your way and gave of your time to serve others in Christ’s name?  Do you volunteer on a regular basis?

Lovers of Money:  do you give a percentage of your income regularly to further God’s kingdom causes?  Do you give to God’s work first and then save and live on the rest?

Lovers of Pleasure:  do you schedule time to enjoy God, His people, and His cause, or is it more about what you want to do?  Do you think of your time as your time, instead of living as a manager of God’s time?  Have you gotten to the level where you are thrilled about God’s work in the lives of others more than your own thrills?

Maybe you can tell from this little test if you fall into the category of last day lovers, or if your part of the remnant that Jesus is coming back to receive.

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The Season of Giving

Posted in Christian Lifestyle, Generosity, Giving, Seasons, Stewardship by PCraig on December 18, 2014

This is the season of giving.  I heard that 30% of all charitable giving occurs in the month of December.  That’s staggering!

It’s also concerning.  Is it really generosity if we only are motivated to give one time out of the year?  What about the rest of the year?

As a follower of Jesus, I am compelled to be generous throughout the year because my Savior is shows generosity every day.

I’m all about being generous at Christmas, because that is a big part of what it is about.  But, as a follower of Jesus, I must model a generous lifestyle throughout the year.  So, let’s be generous this Christmas, and then keep it going on through 2015.  Imagine with me what good could be done if that extra 30% of generosity maintained.

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Funny Over Money

Why do people get funny when it comes to discussing their money?

Talk about marriage and people are anxious to hear.

Talk about faith and people are willing to grow.

Talk about overcoming and people are running to listen.

BUT, talk about money – and some people start looking for reasons to not make it to church.  Some even quit attending a church when they are talking about money.  They don’t always tell you that it’s the reason.  Then, when the next church starts talking about money (the nerve), they leave it and keep repeating the cycle.  Why is that?  What is the problem?

Here’s a few thoughts:

  • These people would not like to listen to Jesus teach, because He taught about money and finances a lot!  He talked about it more than heaven, hell, healing, deliverance, or just about anything else.  It’s like He knew it was a sore spot!
  • All of us are selfish by nature and want to keep what we think is ours – ours.  We want to do with our money what we wish and don’t want to feel guilty about that.
  • We don’t know that God owns it all and we are just managers.  (See Jesus teachings on the shrewd manager)
  • We don’t understand how rich we are.  (visit www.GlobalRichList.com to see how rich you really are)
  • Some of us run from the very thing that could help us (like the rich young ruler Matt. 19).

The day you and I find out how rich and blessed we are is a great day, because we can learn how to be a greater blessing to others.  Don’t allow yourself to run from a message that can help you be good at being rich, instead run to it and become all God wants you to be.

Here’s just one promise for putting this into practice:  “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Let’s bring about more thanksgiving to God!

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The Divine Portion

Posted in Generosity, Giving, honor, Stewardship, Victorious Living by PCraig on October 3, 2013

When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, God clearly commanded them to enjoy all of the incredible creation He had provided – except for one tree!  The fruit of that tree represented the divine portion.

Later, the Israelites were headed into the land that God had promised them and once again God commanded them to let one city be His, out of ten they were going to conquer.  Once again we see the divine portion.

In Malachi 3, the prophet brings a word from the Lord to the people that they are to stop offering their leftovers to God and bring the whole tithe to God’s house first.  God said otherwise they are robbing Him of the divine portion.

Jesus said to “seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all these things will be added to us.  What things?  The context is food, clothing and housing.  Implying that if we will put God first in His divine portion, God will care for all these needs.

God doesn’t want or need anything from us, but He uses the divine portion to test what is in our hearts, not so He can see what’s there, but so we can.  He already knows what is in our hearts, but sometimes we are deceived about our true devotion.  The divine portion is a way to test what’s truly in our hearts.

Because God is so generous, He always offers incredible positives that will come to our lives if we’ll honor the divine portion: housing, food, clothing, security from our enemies, stability, and victory just to name a few.

Don’t be like Adam and Eve and eat the divine portion.  Don’t rob God and wonder why you’re not blessed.  Instead bring the divine portion to God and I believe you’ll experience the blessed life in ways you can’t imagine.  I know it’s worked for me over many years and many others as well.

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Are You A Good Investment?

Posted in Character, Stewardship, Victorious Living by PCraig on February 16, 2012

Don’t all good business people watch their new employees for a while to see how they’re doing new responsibilities?  Even parents are smart to watch their kids to see how they do with a little freedom.  If the house is still standing when you return from a trip to the bank, then you might include a trip to the grocery next time.

If we are smart enough to do this kind of testing, then doesn’t it make sense that God would do the same?  Jesus as much as promised this in Luke 16:10 when He said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  He went on to say that no one is going to trust you with more responsibility if you can’t handle what you are responsible for now.

Could this be what’s keeping you back from promotion?  Is this why God won’t answer your prayers for more money?  It’s certainly worth taking a look at to be sure you are a good investment from God’s perspective don’t you think?

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The Hottest Topic

Posted in Finances, Generosity, Giving, Stewardship by PCraig on November 10, 2011

They used to say not to talk about politics or religion unless you wanted to stir people up, but I’ve found the hottest topic is probably money.  Over the years of preaching, nothing gets people more uncomfortable than talking about God’s ownership over their money.  And probably the greatest source of controversy is in regard to the tithe.  Why is the tithe so controversial?

Let’s look at some facts about tithing.

  • First of all the word “tithe” is used 41 times in Scripture and means “ten” percent.
  • The meaning behind it was to put God first by giving back to Him out of what you’ve been given (this started with Cain and Abel at the very dawn of creation)
  • It symbolizes God is first when we give Him “off the top” and not our leftovers.  God’s not interested in being served leftovers.
  • “First” things throughout the Bible belong to God: first portion of income, day of the week, animal that was born, crops that were harvested…  My best should be offered to Him as an offering.
  • It is a universal principle like Sabbath rest.  Tithing is not just a “law” principle.  It preceded the law and was validated in the New Testament.  Abel gave of his firstborn and Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek 400 years before the law.  A universal principle is not negated by Christ’s coming and the new covenant.
  • It was practiced throughout church history showing it was a part of New Testament church practice.  Tithes were mentioned in church councils at Tours in 567 and at Mâcon in 585. They were formally recognized under Pope Adrian I in 787.
  • It is a thermometer of your spiritual vitality.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters…you can’t serve God and MONEY…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be…”  Jesus could have named a lot of other things as the opposite of God, but he chose the word money.
  • It is a starting place for New Testament giving.  We have examples throughout the book of Acts of those who sold homes and other possessions and gave all the proceeds to the church.  Since we have the Holy Spirit within, the completed Word of God and the finished work of Christ, should we do less than in the Old Testament?  Jesus often raised the expectations from what the law required (example of lust/adultery in Matthew 5:27-28)

Paul taught that we ought to give until it feels good (“cheerful“), not until it hurts.  When a person realizes all that God has done for them, it no longer is about what the law demands, but what love desires to express.

My true desire is that you and I would become more and more joyous, outlandishly generous givers each day.

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Tithing & the Single Mom

Posted in Finances, Giving, Stewardship, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on November 8, 2011

Since I shared the message on Sunday about the biblical principle of tithing, I’ve had questions about people’s circumstances.  Here’s a couple things that I want to say today:

Single Moms are much like widows in the Bible who are left deserted by their husbands and are probably more in need of the church’s help than helping the church. Don’t even get me started about deadbeat dads!

Single Moms can still give what they can to the Lord, because when we are giving a percentage of our income, it makes it fair and the same for everyone.  Some people start at 2 or 3% and work their way up – maybe setting a goal of increasing the amount each year?

I’ll be sharing this coming weekend on how to get control of your finances so you can do more than tithe and enjoy it!  Also, I’ll be sharing principles for investing, building wealth, and prioritizing your dollars from the Scriptures.

Tithe is used 41 times in the Old and New Testament and should not be a forced thing, but a love thing.  True lovers are givers.  More to come later….

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Heart Follows Treasure

Posted in Finances, Stewardship by PCraig on April 7, 2011

Where’s your treasure?  The reason this is an important question is Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Lu 12:34) 

It works like this, if you put your treasure into the stock market, then your heart will be there.  If you put your treasure into a business, then your heart will be there. 

Our heart follows our treasure, not the other way around according to Jesus, and I’ve seen it myself.  I’ve known people who began dabbling in business ventures and before long that’s all they were about.  They became consumed with following the latest trends, reading online articles, spending more and more time on it, even to the neglect of their family. 

Jesus really isn’t in search of our money or treasure so much as what it represents – our heart.  He knows that wherever you put your treasure, your heart will follow, and that’s His concern.  It should be ours as well.  Where is your heart moving toward today?

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