Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Enough #3

This past Sunday I preached on the difficulty of accepting God's mission for our lives over what John Ortberg calls the 'shadow mission'. The shadow mission refers to those missions the world calls us to that involve accumulating things and climbing the ladder that gives us worldly status.

You might not think of things God is asking you to do as a mission. Just like you might not think of the things the world is calling you to do as a mission. A 'mission', however, means a specific task that you have been assigned or accepted. God and the world give us missions to accept or reject all the time.

When you see someone on the street corner asking for food - you are being given the option to accept or reject a mission to help him or her. When you see someone being bullied (and yes, there are bullies in the grown-up world, too) - you are being given the option to accept or reject a mission to intervene. When you are sitting down with your spouse and making a family budget - you are being given an option to accept or reject storing up earthly treasure - depening on how you choose to use your money in this world.

Unfortunately, in our culture, a lot of things just come down to money and whether or not you have it or whether or not you spend your days trying to get it. For God, however, I think money is a tool that He has given to us to make the world a better place. Most of the time, however, we reject his mission for money and accept the world's.

In my sermon I spoke about the diffferences in natural spending habits between my husband, Chris, and myself. I like to spend money on stuff and Chris, as he often says, would rather spend money to feed someone. It is pretty hard to argue with that line of reasoning and so often I feel irritated on the topic of money because I feel guilty that my first instinct is to hang on to the money, rather than give it away.

For me, this is one of my main battles -do I use money as a tool to further myself or do I use money as a tool to help further others? The answer is obvious but it is just so darn hard to do! For me, I think the key is to pray for God to help me care only what He thinks about me and not what others think about me. If I keep praying this and God's helps me out, I think I will probably be able to choose more 'missions from God' than from the world.


"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LOrd your GOd, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. - Deuteronomy 30: 19-20


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Enough - Week 2

Finances are a hard thing to talk about - particularly in the Church. For whatever reason we don't have much of a problem teaching what the Bible says on other issues - adultery (or other sexual immorality), cheating, lying, coveting, gossip, etc...but we seem to have a really hard time discussing the role of money in God's creative order. The one time a year we usually do hear about finances from the pulpit is when pledge cards are due - and then the pastor REALLY doesn't want to talk about money because all he/she is doing is standing up to ask for it.

Instead of making an annual ask to the congregation for money, wouldn't it be so much better if church was a place where we regularly learned how God wants us to use the money he has given into our care? Wouldn't it be better to learn how we can order our lives to be able to do what He wants us to do with it rather than do just what we want to do with it?

Live Oak Church is in the middle of a 4 week series on finances and this past week Caz spoke a lot on how God views money. The Bible is full of teachings on the subject of money and many of them can be boiled down to this: money is a useful tool if you control it but it can quickly come to control you.

I think it is safe to say that every culture in the history of Earth has developed some form of currency and along with that development came hierarchy and division. Those who had the most wanted to keep what they had and gain more and those without it, wanted to get it. It is a part of the human condition that we want to accumulate goods. Left to our own devices we will tend to store up as much material wealth as is possible. And for what - to have it written on our gravestone that in life we had more than anyone else? (We certainly aren't going to take it with us after we die.) - To build a great legacy to pass down to our children? (Maybe - but has anything strong and wise ever come from a life of ease?)

If we are not very, very careful, the more wealth we accumulate, the less we rely on God and the more we think we are the ones in control. Even if we do not consider ourselves to be weathy but are on the quest to gain wealth for the sake of being wealthy, we have missed the point. God does not want us to be focused on material gain. He wants us to be focused on spiritual gain.

We cannot chase after God and wealth at the same time. They are both all-consuming and we will either do both poorly or have to make a choice. The choice in the end is really very simple - are you going to choose things of the world, which will pass away, or are you going to choose God, who is eternal?


"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


That is the title of our church's current sermon series that started this past Sunday. Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at money - God's view and our view.

Today I want to look at what does it mean to have 'enough'? Does it mean an abundance? Does it mean just squeaking by? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, enough means "occurring in such quality, quanity, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations."

To me, that definition sounds like it is much more than 'squeaking by' but probably not as much as having an 'abundance'. That seems like a good middle ground. I don't think God wants us to feel as if we have to live our lives on the edge, feeling pinched, but I also don't think God wants us to live our lives with an overabundance of material goods either. He wants us to be satisfied, to have 'enough'.

For different people that might mean different things but I suspect in God's eyes it means one thing, all the time. Just because we have a huge disparity of wealth on Earth, doesn't mean that is how God wants it to be. I suspect that God would like those of us who have material wealth in abundance to give our wealth away to those who are barely getting by or not getting by at all, until those who are 'wealthy' and those who are 'poor' have just 'enough' to meet their needs.

That means that instead of having more toys than he can possibly play with on a regular rotation, my son has fewer toys and he sometimes gets bored with what he owns. That means for me, instead of following the latest fashion trends and buying that pair of skinny jeans or Bearpaw boots that will probably be unfashionable by next Fall, I just stick with regular clothes that can go a few seasons. That means for the men out there who buy brand new sporting equipment each year, they have to deal with their 'old' equipment for a bit longer.

For some families, it might mean eating leftovers, going to restaurants less, having fewer or smaller vacations. The end goal here is not to make yourself feel deprived, but to help others feel satisfied.

This is not an easy thing for any of us. We live in a culture that judges us by our 'covers' and we want to measure up and to not be found lacking. We try so hard to meet the expectations of those around us that we completely lose sight of God's expectations for us.

We need to remind ourselves on a daily basis that all of our 'stuff' is temporary, but our souls and the souls of every person on earth is 'eternal'. At the end of our lives, our stuff might have made our lives 'easier' but I don't think any of us will be able to honestly say the stuff made our lives 'better'. Our inward life - our relationships with God and those around us, how we treat others and are treated in return, the love that we give and receive - these make our lives better. None of those, however, can be bought or traded. They can't be packed in a box or stored in the attic until we need them.

Where are we each going to put our focus today and everyday for the rest of our lives? Are we going to focus on the external and temporary? Or are we going to focus on the internal and eternal?


"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:20


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year

So, I know I missed writing last week's blog entry on love...the holidays sort of threw me off and it wasn't until last Thursday that I realized I hadn't written anything on Tuesday. So, at that point, I just decided to finish taking 'off' the rest of the week and start fresh today.

A fresh start. That is what we all want sometimes, right? Particularly at the beginning of a new year. A new year has begun and I bet a lot of you have made resolutions, right? There are lots of things many of us want to change about ourselves and our lives during the next year. This pressure that we put on ourselves to change, however, can cause a lot of anxiety. And anxiety, is something I have decided to get rid of this year. :)

Usually, I have been right there with most Americans, setting resolutions for the New Year. In the past some of my resolutions have been: to eat better, to exercise more, to stay out of bad relationships, to add more prayer time each day, to read the Bible more each day, to be more patient with others...and the list can go on and on.

This year, however, I didn't set any resolutions. I thought about it briefly and decided that I really didn't feel like it. For me, New Year's resolutions usually last about a month. About the time it takes to get into the swing of writing the correct year when I write a check or go to the bank. By the end of January, I have pretty much gone back to whatever it is I was doing before. New Year's resolutions tend to be pretty big goals that can be overwhelming and hard to complete successfully.

I know that I tend to be more successful at long term goals if I take life one day at a time. Sort of a strange thing to say, but it is true. I do better if I break up big things into small ones. Then they seem managable. In chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that God will provide us with what we need. He tells us "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) It sounds like God knows we try to get ahead of ourselves, huh? Anxiety is taking issues from the future and putting them in the present. God doesn't want us to be filled with anxiety about tomorrow or the day after or the day after that. God wants us to live in today, knowing that he is with us in this moment.

So, despite the fact that I said I didn't make a resolution this year, I guess I have. I have resolved to take life one day at a time and leave tomorrow's worries for it's own calendar day.


I think we get really hyped up about the turn of the year. It can mean different things to different people. Moving on from disappointments, letting go of failures and successes to look toward what might happen next.