Archive for July, 2010

Financial Survival For Christians, Part 5

July 21, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 5

Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Time: July 20th, 2010

We’re continuing our study of God’s promises for financial survival. I’m still in the Old Testament story of Elisha the prophet and the widow woman because it contains so many examples and plenty of encouragement for people going through money problems. Today, I’ll continue drawing out helpful examples of how God provides for his people in times of need. I mentioned this before but I want to touch on it again, especially for those of us going through financial challenges – and who isn’t during this recession that has lasted now at least two years? It’s important we take stock and appreciate what we already have so that we know how to go forward to get what we need. I’ll explain further. Here’s the passage: 2 Kings 4:1-7, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’ Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a little oil.’ Elisha said, ‘God around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” The key verse today is, “Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’” Why is this verse so important? Because it draws our attention to an important principle in surviving financially tough times – know what you already have and use what you already have. In other words, before looking for more resources, utilize what resources you already possess. Why does this need mentioning? Because we all have a natural tendency to think we have no money or resources, but upon closer examination we find we do have some money and some resources. And it’s important that we use what we have, use what we find ourselves with already, use what God has already given us, before we go searching elsewhere. When we are operating under normal financial circumstances we might not feel the urgent need to take stock in what we already have because when things are going well we don’t have to count every penny and try to save every little bit to make it. We can afford to be a little more loose and casual about our financial income and our outgo. But when things get really financially tight, when it looks like we are in jeopardy of not paying our bills, when we are sinking deeper into debt or even when we are at risk of losing our house in foreclosure or losing our car or some other possession in repossession, then we need to be more careful with our finances. That starts by taking inventory and examining where we really stand financially, not guessing, but making a sober evaluation. Then we’ll know where we stand – and how far we have to go to make ends meet. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself as you enter financially challenging times.  (more…)

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Financial Survival For Christians, Part 4

July 20, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 4

Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Time: July 19th, 2010

We’re continuing our study of God’s promises for financial survival. Last time I talked about the importance of 2 Kings 4:1-7 for encouraging us in going through money troubles, but the passage is such an inspiration for everyone struggling financially that I thought I’d talk more about the verse because there is so much more to say that is helpful. 2 Kings 4:1-7, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’ Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a little oil.’ Elisha said, ‘God around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” Now what’s so inspiring and encouraging about this particular passage is the creativity it shows coming from God to the people in need. God doesn’t just meet the widow woman’s financial need – he meets her need in a way that shows creativity and collaboration. God doesn’t just give her a miracle – something he could easily do, no doubt. But instead, he uses a number of different intermediary means to provide for her. He uses the prophet Elishah, who served as the mouthpiece of God, directing her in what to do and how to do it. He uses the neighbors, even though they didn’t know they were being used! They probably thought they were just giving her useless jars, or they might have thought she was crazy for wanting jars in such a desperate time! Finally, God uses a miracle by filling the jars with a continual supply of oil – although notice that the miracle comes last in order, not first. So instead of using a one-shot, sudden, out-of-the-blue supernatural miracle, which could have solved the problem instantly, God uses a long, drawn-out process that incorporates a mixture of miraculous intervention and also human effort or hard work. I think there’s a lesson in this passage for all of us when we go through financially challenging times – through a combination of God’s supernatural intervention and our own hard work human effort, God will meet our needs. He does not want to make it too easy or we’d get lazy, but neither does he want to make it too hard or else we’d get discouraged and give up. No. God wants to work his will through our lives during money troubles through a combination of supernatural assistance and our own human efforts. Let’s look closer at the passage and learn some more. (more…)

Financial Survival For Christians, Part 3

July 17, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 3

Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Time: July 15th, 2010

We’re continuing our study of God’s promises for financial survival during economically hard times. Today, I’d like to consider a passage from the Old Testament, from the Book of 2 Kings, about a widow woman who had God meet her basic and necessary needs when everything seemed hopeless. Today, many people feel hopeless as they watch their home value drop below what they paid for it. And for many, they owe more on their home than it’s worth to sell. For other people, they’ve been out of work for months or even over a year with no sign that the employment situation will get better. Still others are making ends meet but going deeper and deeper in debt through credit card borrowing. Most people agree that this is the hardest recession they’ve experienced – and we still don’t know if the worst is over, or if we’ll go into a “double-dip” recession that makes things even harder. Is there anything a Christian believer can do, with reliance upon God, with prayer, with standing on God’s promises found in the Bible – is there anything that can be done from a faith perspective to get through financially hard times? Thank God the answer is “Yes!” The two great principles of prayer and promise – praying our way through financially tough times and standing on the promises of God – these two can get us through even the toughest recession. But just knowing about these two things doesn’t help us at all unless we are willing to use them. Of course, we should always be praying about everything, as the New Testament teaches us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” Philippians 4:6. I’ll say more on this passage in another message, but I mention it to remind us all that prayer should be a normal, every day activity in the life of a Christian. But it takes on special meaning in financially challenging times, because it is in such time that we must lean on God heavily with prayer just to survive. The other key to surviving materially in an economic recession is standing on the promises of God found throughout the Bible. I’ve already talked about a couple of New Testament promises for financial survival, but now I’d like to turn to the Old Testament and review another passage that gives us hope in the midst of money problems. 2 Kings 4:1-7, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’ Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a little oil.’ Elisha said, ‘God around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘there is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” When things seem hopeless, there’s always hope with God. You may feel that there’s no way you can pay your bills or make ends meet this month, but if you stand on God’s promises you’ll be surprised, as this widow woman, how God will meet your needs. Let me explain. (more…)

Financial Survival For Christians, Part 2

July 16, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 2

Text: Matthew 6:25-34

Time: July 14th, 2010

Last week I talked about my favorite verse of the Bible to trust in during financial challenges – Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” I’ll talk more about that important verse again later at another time, but today I’d like to review another important biblical verse to anchor our faith during financial troubles – Matthew 6:25-34, especially verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When I’m going through money troubles, I turn to Philippians 4:19 first, but Matthew 6:22 is a close second, because God promises me “all these things,” or in other words, “all my basic and essential needs” will be given to me. I think what we need to have during economically troubled times is hope. What we need to cling to and hold on to is hope – and these verses along with other promises found in the Word of God give us that hope. What I need, what you need, during money troubles is the hope that in the end, when all is said and done, I’ll have my needs met, all things will be taken care of for me. God’s Word makes a number of different promises that are essential for me to know when I go through struggles with finances. Philippians 4:19 tells me that all my needs – all my basic and essential necessities – will be met by God in some way at some time. Matthew 6:33 promises me almost the same thing only puts it a little different – “all my necessities will be given to me.” But Matthew 6 reminds me not to worry myself or be anxious about waiting for my need to be met, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘what shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This passage gives us a lot to think about as we are going through money problems – and it’s a good thing, because we need something other than our financial state to think about! We can receive real encouragement and faith if we take the time to reflect on this hopeful promise from God. Let’s examine this passage and see if we can draw out as much hope as possible. (more…)

Financial Survival For Christians, Part 1

July 14, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 1

Text: Philippians 4:19

Time: July 7th, 2010

We are still in the midst of one of the most severe recessions most of us have ever experienced. Many people who have lost their jobs in the past two years are still unemployed, while still more are working but underemployed. If enough homes haven’t been lost in the past few years, the foreclosures still continue – more people than ever are losing their homes. Credit is still hard to get, despite what the banks claim and the government reports. With the economy still down many Christians are asking, “How am I going to make ends meet? How am I going to get through this financial crisis?” Is there any unique Christian response to the economic troubles our nation is going through? Can Christians turn to God for help – and get help? Now these are not abstract or theoretical questions I’m asking myself simply in preparation for this message. No. I’m going through a financial challenge myself at the present time – these are questions I’m asking now, today! And my first response is to turn to God, and specifically God’s Word, as I’ve been taught to do is such situations. What does God say to our present financial struggles? The most important verse in all of the Bible that comes to mind in reacting to a financial crisis is Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” I love this verse because it covers everything – not just money situations, but all kinds of challenges in life. But the key to trusting in God during financial difficulties, the key to standing on God’s promises found in the Bible, the key to everything in the life of faith is application. How do we apply this verse to our specific situation every time? For example, if I’ve got bills to pay but not enough money to pay them, what good is this promise from God? If I’ve got a house payment coming due but not enough money to pay it, how is this verse going to help me? If I need money for food in order to eat, in order to feed myself and my family, how is this promise going to meet my need? The promise of God in this passage tells me that God will meet my needs, but it doesn’t say exactly how he’s going to do it. That’s where my faith and action come into the equation. If I know that someway, somehow God is going to meet all my needs, but I don’t know exactly how he’s going to do it, that’s motivation for me to discover the way or ways God is going to meet the need. That starts me on a search for the specific way God is going to use to get the needed resources to me. Now there are thousands of ways God can get resources to us in time of need. But let me list a few ways he’s used in meeting my financial needs, and maybe these ways will be helpful to you as well. (more…)

Salvation By Faith Alone in The Book of Galatians

July 6, 2010

Title: Salvation By Faith Alone in The Book of Galatians

Text: Galatians 1:6-9, 2:16, 3:10-11

Time: June 24th, 2010

In the last few messages I’ve been talking about the subject of salvation by faith alone as taught in the New Testament. I pointed out that although it’s clearly taught in the Bible and was taught in the early church, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was unfortunately allowed to lapse in the historic Christian church for over one thousand years. The true teaching on salvation by faith alone was gradually corrupted over many generations into a doctrine of faith and works. Because the change was never dramatic or sudden, because there was never any radical break from the immediate past – only a slow, creeping tendency to add more and more human effort to the salvation equation – the original faith alone doctrine was almost entirely lost in the Christian church until Martin Luther and the Reformers rediscovered and reestablished it in the 16th century. From my own observations on the matter, I believe that salvation by faith was one of those assumed doctrines that never really got the theological attention it deserved from Christian theologians down through the ages. All Christians have always assumed and believed that we are saved by faith – the question that was never addressed until the time of the Reformation was, “Are we saved by faith alone or faith along with works?” Because Christians never asked that important question there was never any historic church Council decision made on the topic and because there was never any rank heretic challenging salvation by faith, there was never any reason to include anything in any of the Creeds to safeguard the correct teaching on salvation by faith. So as a result, here was this fundamental and essential doctrine floating freely in the air throughout church history without any theological grounding or Council or Creed formulation to clarify the difference between truth and error concerning salvation by faith. When the Reformation came, it was too late, because by that time it had gone without guidance for so long it was impossible to get all Christians together, unified around the biblical truth on salvation by faith. Consequently, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians continued teaching the long-standing tradition that salvation was a product of both faith and works, while Protestant churches began to affirm strongly the biblical teaching that salvation was the result of faith alone. That’s where things stand today. Now in the past few messages I’ve tried to point out from the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. But today I’d like to show that this important doctrine is found in other New Testament books as well, for example, in the Book of Galatians. What this shows is that justification by faith alone is not some obscure teaching found in only one book of the Bible – it’s found in many different books. Today, I’d like to show how it’s taught in another letter by the Apostle Paul, in Galatians. (more…)

Did the Reformers Invent “Salvation By Faith?”

July 6, 2010

Title: Did the Reformers Invent “Salvation By Faith?”

Text: Romans 3:28, 20-22, 1 Peter 1:3-9

Time: June 23rd, 2010

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians have often accused the Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin of essentially inventing the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Why? Because for most of the history of the Christian church the teaching about salvation by faith alone was neglected or almost entirely absent. How could this be? How could the church forget or omit such a basic and fundamental teaching as salvation by faith? I explained last time that if one doesn’t pay close and careful attention to the Bible it’s relatively easy to get off track theologically and spiritually. Unfortunately, for much of Christian history the official church perpetuated what was handed down from generation to generation instead of closely reviewing and reviving biblical teachings. Sure, the Bible was used in regular worship and studied by church leaders, but only selectively not comprehensively. More emphasis was placed on learning church tradition than on learning biblical teachings. The basic assumption guiding Christian theology for centuries was that church theology was biblical – and didn’t need proven or tested as such. Unfortunately, this assumption proved false. Over time it was possible for theological and spiritual error to creep into church tradition without anybody noticing it. Since church tradition was assumed correct simply because it was church tradition – passed down from generation to generation – nobody seriously or carefully checked it against close biblical teachings. Why didn’t anybody check or catch the theological errors creeping into church tradition? Because another assumption was in operation during this time – God, through the Holy Spirit, would keep the church free of all spiritual, theological and moral error. Didn’t Christ himself say, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?” Isn’t that a promise of church infallibility? Evidently not, because what the Protestant Reformers painfully pointed out, although the Catholic and Orthodox churches continue to deny it, is that the visible, human Christian church is capable of error. As a part of the fallen, sinful world, the visible, human organization called the Christian church can and does make mistakes, as any fallible, human organization. It is not exempt from error the way older Catholic and Orthodox theologians used to argue. The promise of Christ is not that the church would be infallible or incapable of error, but that ultimately Christ’s church would prevail over all adversity, over all evil, to accomplish its divine mission. Looking back in retrospect, we can now see that indeed for a long time the church did error in not properly teaching salvation by faith, in giving the false impression that salvation could be obtained by performing good works, that salvation was the result of both faith and works. The truth is the Bible teaches and has always taught salvation by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. This is not an invention of the Reformation but is plainly taught in the New Testament. But let me explain further why salvation by faith alone is not an invented doctrine but it is instead the only true biblical teaching, indeed, the only true Christian teaching concerning salvation. (more…)