Lord, give me patience, but please hurry

…For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”– James 1:4 (TLB)

We are in the second week of our Be Rich series at Northstar. We have talked about the subject of riches and the corollary messages of prosperity, blessings and generosity. My hope is that as we talk about these important subjects, you will be in prayer seeking God’s will and guidance on how to best apply the principles we are teaching to your life. First, we need to be patient.

We live in a culture of instant gratification, so we expect instant answers to our prayers. And we have developed a predetermined idea about what that Yes answer will look like. It is human nature to ask God to guide us and immediately after we say amen, we walk away to start assisting God by wading into fixing the problem without waiting for an answer. We pray from our Be Rich series text in 1 Timothy 6: “God, I want you to give me wisdom; help me not to be arrogant or put my hope in wealth. Help me to put my hope in You, who richly provides me with everything. Help me do good and to be generous and willing to share. Lord, help me take hold of the life that is truly life.” But we think God needs our help. So we start doing our part. We start figuring out what changes we need to make.

God has promised to give us wisdom, if we will ask. Wisdom is seeing life from God’s point of view. Wisdom is the ability to make decisions the way God makes decisions. God never makes a bad decision. He never makes a mistake. He says if we trust him and listen to him, He will guide us. But only if we ask and wait for His answer.

Listen to what James 1: 5-7 says: “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.” (TLB)

There is a beautiful song that is part of the Fireproof movie soundtrack by John Waller called “While I’m Waiting.” The chorus says, “I will serve you while I’m waiting. I will worship while I’m waiting.”

I do not know what God may be trying to teach you through the Be Rich series. But I do know that if He is calling you to seek His will on the subject of riches and any other subject.

Questions:

1. If we are going to seek God’s will and plan form the blessings and riches He provides us, what do we need to believe about them?

2. Are you ready to open your heart to really listen in prayer, to be patient for His voice? Even when we do not initially agree with or understand the answer?
3. Habakkuk 1:5 (TLB) says: “The Lord replied: “Look, and be amazed! You will be astounded at what I am about to do! For I am going to do something in your own lifetime that you will have to see to believe.”Pray and ask God for the trust and faith to understand that when it seems nothing is happening. a lot could be happening behind the scenes. You just can’t see it.

4. Ask God to help you seek Him in very situation, not when we hit rock bottom. Why do people seek God in the bleakest moments? How can you change that in your life?

Too much money. Too much dependence.

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6:10-12

Jesus is rich. Jesus is the Son of God, and God is the Ultimate Owner of Everything. That means Jesus owns everything, and owning absolutely everything meets every possible requirement for being rich. But when He came to earth as a man, Jesus came as a poor human being who was born in a place where animals were kept. He gave up His claim as The Owner of Everything to become a lowly servant, so that he could teach us the truth. Jesus did not preach about being prosperous, or making more money. Instead, He warned us, again and again, about the dangers of allowing the heart to become focused mainly on the accumulation of wealth and earthly treasures.

A prime example of a rich man losing his way is Howard Hughes. At age 45, Hughes was one of the most glamorous men in America. He dated actresses, piloted exotic test aircraft, and worked on top-secret CIA contracts. He owned a string of hotels around the world, and even an airline. By age 65, Howard Hughes was worth 2.3 billion dollars. But you would never know it. He lived in small dark rooms atop his hotels, without sun and without joy. His once powerful 6’4” frame had shrunk to about 100 pounds. Life held no meaning for him. Finally, wasting away and hooked on drugs, he died at age 67 for lack of a medical device his own company had helped to develop.

The lesson of Howard Hughes is that even though Hughes had it all, he did not enjoy what he had been richly given. This is what happens when God is left out of the equation. All that this world has to offer can be incredibly empty and unsatisfying apart from God.

George Bernard Shaw once said that “there are two tragedies in life: one is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.” Consider the following statement: wealth is a greater test of character than poverty. A Romanian church leader who spent time in the West made this observation: “95 percent of believers who face the test of persecution pass it; 95 percent who face the test of prosperity fail it.

While that statement seems counter intuitive, I believe it is probably accurate, even if the actual numbers vary somewhat. Money does not ensure the great life most people believe it does. Because no matter how rich you are a life spent apart from God is a poor life.

Is it God’s desire that we have no money? Should we aspire to live in poverty in order to live a life that is pleasing to God? Is ambition a sin? No, no, and no, I’m not saying it is a sin to be rich, or even to desire to be rich. I’m saying it’s necessary to be honest with yourself, to search your heart for your motives, to make sure that what you desire is a way to better follow, serve and glorify God with all He has blessed you with.

Questions:
1. Life is often about or comforts. Are you comfortable? Do you feel safe being dependent on God?
2. Don’t be afraid to take risks for the Lord. Ask God to make you a little uncomfortable and more dependent on Him. Ask Him for guidance on how to tithe. Pray. Read His Word. Be generous to others. Share your faith.

3. What is one thing you can do this week to begin to put your hope in God instead of your money?

I can’t get no satisfaction

Are you satisfied? Not just in a “I just ate a big lunch” sort of way. But truly satisfied? Or does it seem like you’re always longing for something more? As if there’s something “out there” that you know will make you truly happy if you could just find it?

Do you find yourself thinking “if I can just afford/do/accomplish/be with [fill in the blank]”, then I’ll be happy only to find out it is a moving target. Or maybe you have you been let down so many times that you’ve become cynical even to the idea that anything can make you truly satisfied?

If any of those questions sound like you, you are not alone. Many of us who grew up in the United States have been fed on a diet of the American dream. We suffer from affluenza and even though we have so much more than most of the world’s population, we are never satisfied.

Let’s take a moment and compare that to what Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived, has to say about the subject in Ecclesiastes 6. In the first few verses Solomon discusses the three measuring sticks of success in Hebrew society: wealth, long life, and lots of children. But as wonderful as these gifts are, unless God is in the midst we cannot enjoy them.

In 6:1-2, Solomon shares his basic premise: “I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.” The “evil” that Solomon speaks of is not being able to enjoy the gifts that God has given us, including money and our stuff.

There is a very important principle in these verses. The money, honors, and accomplishments of life can only be enjoyed if God is empowering us. Having wealth, as great a blessing as that can be, is not the source of satisfaction. Most people accumulate wealth to sustain them through a long and prosperous life. We try to eat right, work out, and make sure we look good. Yet, the truth is, many people who have been given long life do not use their years wisely for the Lord. So the issue is not long life per se, but rather how you live the life you have. The same can be said of our wealth. As so many people learned in the recession of 2008, money can disappear quickly.

The bottom line is this. We need to enjoy what God has given us today. There is no guarantee that we will have our money and stuff tomorrow. Be satisfied with what God has given you and trust Him for all your future needs.

Questions:

1. Take a few moments and ask God if you are enjoying the blessings God has given you? Then answer these questions honestly: Where does my satisfaction reside? Are there things in my life that God has been asking me to let go? What must happen for me to loosen my grip?

2. Am I satisfied or dissatisfied with what God has given me in this life? Why am I restless? What motivates me to do what I do on a daily basis? When I have success who receives the credit?

3. Does the thought of God’s hand ruling over my life comfort me? Can I accept the fact that I am not sovereign and all-knowing but still trust in the God who knows me and loves me?

How Well Do we Depend on God?

If you have watched even a small amount of TV, you have experienced an interesting phenomenon. It seems to me that the majority of advertisements on all forms of media are designed to bring to the surface, and then exploit, our natural sense of insecurity. Marketing managers are experts at identifying and exaggerating the things we are insecure about — our breath, our body, our status, etc. Once the advertisers have our attention, then they offer us something to buy — mouthwash, a weight loss program, a bigger car, etc., that will remedy our problem and make us hip or cool, or at least acceptable again.

It is understandable why this approach is effective. It is immediately tangible. Relationships, community, purpose — the kinds of things that Jesus invites us to embrace and strive for — are much harder to lay our hands on. We know what a good relationship feels like, but it’s hard to point to or produce on a moment’s notice. And being totally dependent on God is a wonderful feeling, but it’s not like you can run out to Walmart and buy it. So, we supplement our dependence on God with other things because they are right in front of us and we’ve got a whole culture telling us that this is the best way to go. Money to most people is the most dependable.

Our best intention is to be totally dependent on the God who loved and died for us. But when we have hard times, the natural inclination is to hit the ripcord and jump out of the totally dependent on God plane. Yes, we still depend on God, but we want to have some other things as a security blanket.

But here is the fundamental truth: When we depend on money, we get what money can do. Likewise, when we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do. If we depend on education, we get what education can do. When we depend on man, we get what men can do. When we depend on ourselves, we get what we can do.

But when we depend on God, we get what God can do. Depending on God means we rely on Him and depend on His reliability. Depending on God means that God is bigger, greater, and better than me – and he loves me greatly.

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:1-2.

Questions:
1. When do you replace your faith in God with worry?
2. How can I learn to trust that He is in control and rest in that?
3. In what areas of your life do you need to acknowledge your dependence on God?
4. In prayer time, ask God to help you with a work related question or decision, a relationship difficulty, or any other day-to-day issue we have always tried to solve ourselves? He longs to take your cares and concerns and fill you with His peace. Just give your mistakes, your burdens, and your busyness over to Him in prayer.

 

Fiscal Responsibility

“…everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48.

Money is a necessary part of life and is certainly not intrinsically bad or good. It’s one of the many “things” in the life of a Christian that the Lord actually owns, but allows us to use as His stewards. When we properly utilize the “things” that He places at our disposal, and maintain the proper attitude toward them, He very often multiplies them. It is when we adopt the wrong attitude toward “things” that we get in trouble.

Jesus saw wealth as a gift from God to be used in His service (Matthew 25:14-30). Those who have been blessed with wealth must share generously with the poor (Matthew 25: 31-46), and avoid the sins of arrogance (1 Timothy 6:17-19), and greed (Luke 12:13-21).

Those of us who are blessed with wealth beyond our need have a responsibility to share with the less fortunate. We should view our wealth as a gift from God, entrusted to us, to carry out His work on earth. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” – 1 John 3:17.

They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up real treasure for themselves in heaven—it is the only safe investment for eternity.”  (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Questions:

1.The Bible says, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke 16:11). This is a very important truth. God says there is a direct relationship between how I use my money and the quality of my spiritual life. How I manage my money (“worldly wealth”) determines how much God can trust me with spiritual blessings (“true riches”). Reflect and pray about the following question:  Is the way you manage your money preventing God from doing more in your life?
2. Besides money, consider what other resources has God made you responsible for? Reflect back on the last year. During that time, what resources would God say you invested well? Why?
3. What resources did you overlook or could you have invested more wisely? Why?
4. Pray for wisdom and direction to be good stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to you.

 

 

Eyes On The Prize

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless..” – Ecclesiastes 5:10

Life is complicated in 2014. So much so that the thought of simplifying your life may seem completely out of reach for you today. Life is busy, cluttered and complicated. There is family drama and debt, busyness and stress, and real pressure from everything from the job to the commute to the job. And then there are all the distractions that must be dealt with very day. “Simplify this life? Not gonna happen.”

It is easy for money to become a distraction. Just the making and management of money alone takes effort and focus. And as you work harder to make more money, you start to feel like money is becoming a subtle at first, then not so subtle master of your life. It is understandable. We think a lot about money in these hard economic times. However, if making money becomes the consuming focus, then our devotion to the dollar competes with our devotion to God. If a life is consumed by money, then very little is left over for the priorities that God has set for Christians.

There is a solution to money’s distraction. Paul dealt with this as he wrote: “But I am frightened, fearing that in some way you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to our Lord, just as Eve was deceived by Satan in the Garden of Eden.” (2 Corinthians 11:3, TLB).

As new Christians, we experience that euphoria of our first love and will not permit anything between us and our Lord. But time passes, our intensity and zeal cools, and we will be tempted to push Jesus to the side of our lives and pour our best time, energy, and even money into some distraction. We do not abandon the Lord; we simply don’t give Him the priority He once had in our lives.

Money’s distraction, or any distraction, is derailed by a love relationship with Jesus. When you love Him wholeheartedly, there is no room for money to distract.

“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” – 1 Corinthians 7:35 (NLT)

Questions:

1. Why do you suppose that Jesus talks about money so often in parables? Money is an attraction that can easily become a dangerous distraction. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us our hearts are going to follow our treasure. In verse 24 He says, “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.

2. Reflect for a few moments on whether money is a distraction for you? Pray for wisdom in those areas where money has become a distraction for you?

3. Take a few moments and recount for all God has given you. Thank Him for all the material blessings in your life such as a home, job, family and friends. But, also take a few minutes to thank Him in prayer for his mercy, grace, faithfulness, etc. in our lives.

Money and Dependency On God

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:2

C.S. Lewis writes: “One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give, and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God.”

I remember receiving my first paycheck, and ripping open the envelope to see how much I took home after taxes. It was minimum wage, but it didn’t matter. I was proud. Adding any amount of money to my bank account or my pocket was an exhilarating feeling. With that cash flow came some perceived independence. I was on my way to being an upwardly mobile soon-to-be corporate executive that enjoyed the lifestyle of the rich and famous  Well, one can dream can’t they.

And then life happens. And making your way to easy street is not as easy as you thought in your youth. So you are caught somewhere in between, not poor but far from rich, and certainly not famous outside of family and friends. But rich is where we want to get to, because we’ve seen enough rich people treated with respect and admiration to want a piece of that for ourselves.

Yes, we have God, but we want more. We figure we need to work a little harder and a little smarter. We want the American dream that so many before us have enjoyed. But here is the thing. As the paychecks get larger and our portfolio expands, so does our share of the credit. Our dependence on God gets lost in the mix. We forget Deuteronomy 8:18 which says, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. “

The simple solution to being more dependent on God is to stop worrying about making more money and trust God to provide all your needs. I don’t say that lightly. I consider myself a pretty big God truster, yet I learn daily that I need to trust him more. Fortunately, God leaves the training wheels on until we are ready. That doesn’t mean we should quit our jobs and wait for mamma from heaven. We just need to make sure we don’t put those things before God or that they hamper our dependence on God.

Questions:
1.  Take a few minutes and list what you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night? Read Luke 12:24-34 and decide if what you most worry about is covered in this passage of scripture?

2. We all have a desire to be self-sufficient—to be independent. However, our daily needs are meant to remind us of the need for daily dependence on God’s provision. Jesus taught us to pray, Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)  What does daily bread mean in your life?

3.  What first steps can we make to be more totally dependent on God?

4. Take a few moments and rate your ability to be patient for God to provide our needs. Romans 5: 3 (TLB) says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient.” And James 1:3-4 (TLB) says, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete. Pray for the patience to wait for God to provide for your needs in His timetable and according to His will.  

 

 

We Are Blessed

It is hard to argue that Americans are rich? But maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you look around and from your vantage point you don’t have that much because you see people that have even more. That’s because being rich is a moving target.

Many people equate being rich with having a surplus of money and a whole lot of stuff. That image is perpetuated by the media which inundates us with advertising for all the newest models and the latest styles. It naturally seems, after a while, our stuff, seems kind of average, outdated, or not-good-enough.

Let you remind you of a point I made in the kickoff message of the Be Rich teaching series on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with money or stuff. In fact, I highly recommend saving money because it is a commodity that is pretty difficult to live without. And our earthly possessions aren’t inherently sinful, but they are temporary.

Most of us know of the passage in Philippians 3:7-8, where Paul writes, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” In the Christian’s life, “considering everything as loss” is a process of giving up the temporary joy that I found in our “stuff.”

The joy that I find in my possessions is in knowing that anything that I do have is simply a physical expression of God’s love for me. I want to handle what God has given me the right way. I want to thankful, but I do not want to be attached to it. The right way as found in 1 Timothy 6: 17-19 is to be generous.

When Jesus talks about his followers, he talks about people who are generous, people who clothe the naked, take food to the hungry, take water to the thirsty, people who visit the prisoner, people who invite the stranger in, and people who give their time, people who give their energy, people who give their money. That is what it means to be generous.

Questions:
1. How do you define “rich”? How much money does someone have to make in order to be considered wealthy?
2. What can you do to be more generous?
3. You have been blessed. Who are you going to bless?

We Are Rich

One of the more popular bumper stickers you see on cars everywhere reads, “God Bless America.” My immediate reaction to seeing that bumper sticker is to say, God has blessed America. We are being pretty naive when we start to think that our world is “the” world. We are fortunate to live in the United States.

The Worldwatch Institute says that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, uses about a quarter of the world’s resources. America has more private cars than licensed drivers. Over 92 percent of the people in the world do not have a car, and it doesn’t matter what make or year of car you drive, most of the world sees a car and they think rich.

We have access to clean drinking water. More than one billion people lack reasonable access to safe drinking water. We go the cupboard, pull out a glass, get some ice from the side of the fridge and pour a clean glass of water to drink. Hundreds of millions of people in the world that watch us do that daily task, that we take for granted, must think to themselves –  wow, it must be nice to be rich.

We probably ate more than we should have today. There are countless numbers of people around the globe who won’t eat today. A lot of them are children. People die from hunger every couple of seconds.

We are rich. God has blessed America.

Questions:
1. Do you feel blessed?
2. Why or why not?

Your Role In The Daily Devotional

Proverbs 1:1-6 says, “for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

You may be wondering why I would spend the time to write these daily devotionals. The reason is simple. Our walk with Christ is every day. I will never be all that God intends me to be unless I have daily, quality time with God.

Yes, I write the devotionals. But, you have a part to play as well if they are to be truly effective. It will take some communication on your part. Communication is a two-way street that involves talking and listening. We speak to God through prayer and God speaks back to us through His holy word. If you want to know what God thinks, what God wants, or what God expects of you, then read His word. Ask yourself what God is saying to you in this scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Then take a few moments to personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life.

My hope is that you will read these daily devotionals with great expectations that God has something for you somewhere in the text. Take your time and see if you can find and extract extraordinary truths for everyday living as well as in handling difficult circumstances. Pray to God expectantly before you read these devotions. Ask Him to open your eyes to all He wants you to see. Then ask yourself these questions, “What does the text say, what does it mean, and what do I do?”

You’ll be glad you did.