Money stresses people out more than anything else. The debt load we carry has a direct impact on our emotional health, spiritual health, and relational health. Debt eats away at our peace and causes us to feel insecure and in bondage. This is why we have chosen to make reducing personal debt 50% in five years part of our vision. We know that if we can help people handle money better, they will ultimately live better and be more able to follow God’s plan for their life.
When our kids were young they could be rather possessive at times. Often we would treat our kids to McDonald’s after a fun time playing at Safari Island. One time I took everybody to McDonald’s and began handing out the happy meals. As soon as I finished I caught a whiff of Josh’s fries and realized I was hungry. So I picked one out of his pile and he got angry at me. He said: “Dad, don’t take my french fries!” All of a sudden I realized that he had no idea where those fries came from. He didn’t know that I worked hard to earn the money so I could take him in the car to McDonald’s. He didn’t understand that I was the one who took my money out of my pocket and bought him french fries. He didn’t have any concept that if I wanted french fries I could have gone up to the counter and bought more. Since I bought all the fries I could have claimed them all as mine, or I could have brought him to the counter and buried him in fries if I wanted. Everything on his plate and even the clothes on his back came from me. All I wanted was for him to share with me what I had already given him. But he didn’t get it. In his mind they were his french fries.
Before we can be better stewards of our money we need to determine who our master is. If your master is money then no matter what your vision is, you are not going to change. You will never have enough money because you will always be chasing more: more stuff, more things, more upgrades, more entertainment, more stuff to clutter up your closet.
Jesus says: “24No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
Everything that we have comes from God and belongs to God. It’s all His. We are His creation living on His earth playing in His sandbox. You and I are called to be stewards of what God has given us. Once we understand that God is our savior, and not money, we can accept the very next thing Jesus says in Matthew 6.
“25Therefore 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 than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25
Why are we constantly struggling financially? Because we don’t trust that God will provide for us. This is why “tithing” or proportional giving is so important because it says, “God, I trust you.”
“8Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:8-10
Make the pursuit of God your first priority because then everything else will fall into place. This is the only area of our lives where we are told to test God. When you put God first and give to God first, he will bless you. Getting more margin in our finances isn’t always about getting more money. It’s about setting priorities and it comes back to trust.
I will say that some of you simply don’t make enough to make ends meet. You work really hard and live without all the bells and whistles and it’s still tight. I get this. When we started Freshwater it was tight. We had a new baby and not much money coming in, so it was tough. But this is not the case for everyone. Most of us are stressed about money because we have created our own mess. I know I have. I have bought things I could not afford and held onto things that cost me way more than they were worth. And every time I get in financial trouble, it impacts almost every other area of my life.
So how do we handle money better? Here is some simple advice that will save you a ton of struggle if you follow it.
1. Know how much money you make every month. Do you have any idea how much money you actually make? Most people don’t. The first step you need to take is get an accurate number of what comes in. This will help you set a budget and your standard of living.
2. Know what goes out. Every month you have fixed expenses. It might be rent or a house payment, car payment, and taxes. You also have your phone bill, insurance, Netflix, gas, and other bills. Add up all that goes out every month then figure out where all the rest is going. One latte a day at 4 dollars equals about $120 per month plus the gas to drive there. One pack of smokes a day at 6 bucks equals $186 per month. If you go out to eat twice a week for lunch at 12 bucks a shot is $100 a month. All this stuff adds up quick, especially is you drink lattes, smoke, and like to go out to eat. These little extras will set you back $406 a month plus maybe another $60 in gas. That’s $466 a month. This is the stuff that we don’t want to count but need to consider.
3. Live below your means so you can live above the stress. When you live below your means it will help you lower your debt. Eventually you will be able to save more money every month than you spend. The key to success here is commitment. You need to commit to living below your means month after month after month. Chances are you won’t get out of debt in a day, it’s going to take work and commitment.
As a church we are committed to help you to lower your debt so that you can live a better life. This is why debt reduction is part of our vision. This is why we keep talking about it. If you need some financial counseling, we have free counselors who will meet with you, and help you create a budget that will enable you to get ahead every month instead of falling further behind.
May this be your prayer: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” Proverbs 30:8-9 NIV
Angels are one of those supernatural beings that many people are fascinated with. If asked to describe an angel many would start to describe a halo, wings, white robe, and a harp in their hand while they sit on a big white fluffy cloud.
Angels pop up all throughout the Bible. Over 350 times angels are mentioned. In fact, angels are often referred to as “holy ones” watchers,” or collectively they are known as “the assembly,” “host” or “hosts.” But what are angels?
Angels are spiritual beings. God created angels just like he created everything else. We don’t know when he created them, all we know is that he commanded that they exist, and now they do. In the book of Psalms and other places they serve in heaven and on earth.
Angels are personal beings. Angels are not robots, they have personalities. They have intelligence and will. If they didn’t have a will, they wouldn’t have chosen to follow Lucifer or Satan. When they made that choice God sent them out of his presence.
When I first became a Christian I thought that all angels did was attend a perpetual church service. Yea, it might be fun for a few hours, but to spend eternity on a hard pew didn’t appeal to me. Scripture shows us that angels have five primary functions.
Angels worship God. He is the creator and sustainer of all things and the angels continually bring God glory. Angels praise God every time someone begins a relationship with Jesus. Most of the time they praise God in his presence, but on at least one occasion they did it on earth. It was at the birth of Christ. When Jesus was born an angel came to tell a group of shepherds that their savior had come.
Angels are God’s messengers. Throughout the Old Testament angels revealed and communicated God’s message to humans. Theologian Millard Erickson writes: “Whenever angles are mentioned in the bible it is always to inform us further about God, what he does, and how he does it.” The word “angel” in Hebrew and Greek means “messenger.” The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him that his wife was going to have a son and they would name him John. Then Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she was going to give birth to the Savior Jesus.
Angels minister to believers. They take great interest in the spiritual well-being of God’s followers. Hebrews 1:14 tells us that they serve believers. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent for to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” Hebrews 1:14
Sometimes God sends out his angels to bring justice upon those who oppose him.
Jesus himself said: “41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” Matthew 13:41
Angels will be involved in the Second Coming of Jesus. Jesus says: “When the Son of Man [Jesus] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” Matthew 25:23
Angels are not deities to be worshipped, they are powerful spiritual beings.
“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idol notions.” Colossians 2:18
I believe in angels because the Bible tells us who created them, what they do, and why they do it. God even says that sometimes we entertain angels without even knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2 says: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” We may never know how many times we interacted with angels until we get to heaven.
Angels exist for a reason. They are God’s messengers, they rejoiced at the birth of Christ, they celebrated when you gave your life to Christ, God will send them to protect you if He wills, and they will be there upon your death.
I watched the Netflix series Stranger Things and it captured my attention and imagination. If you have not seen the series, I am not endorsing it because it’s not Christian in any way, but it did make me think about the fact that there is more to life than what we can see.
The first season of Stranger Things focused on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town. I think the series resonates because we intuitively know that there is more to life than what we can see, and that ordinary people can be used to reveal an extraordinary event.
There isn’t a stranger thing in history than Easter. Easter is about a man who claimed to be the Son of God. He heals people supernaturally, is crucified by jealous people, his followers all scatter, three days later he rises from the dead, preaches for another 40 days, and then ascends to be with God the Father. And if that’s not strange enough, his ragtag group of disciples get re-energized after seeing him resurrected. The movement that started in Jerusalem spreads and today there are more than 2.3 billion people who claim to follow Christ, some under intense persecution. That is roughly 31% of the world’s population. This whole story is a stranger thing, but it’s the real thing, and because of Easter, it can also be your thing.
I want you to consider believing in Jesus based on three stranger things. The first stranger thing is that women were the first witnesses to his resurrection. Culture 2,000 years ago was very different than it is now. Men dominated society and a woman’s life was confined almost entirely within the private family sphere. Yet God revealed the resurrection to an average woman first. How cool is that!
The second stranger thing was that outcasts became outspoken. Peter, James, and Mark were all the equivalent of high school drop outs. They were fishermen, not noblemen. And after Jesus died they went back to work completely defeated. Their teacher had died and they had left in shame. According to John 21:4-7 Peter, James, and Mark are back working as fishermen when they hear Jesus call out to them. Once they realize it is Jesus they rush to greet him and even share dinner. These men became the first leaders of the early church. The New Testament records at least 12 separate appearances of Jesus after his Resurrection. These are eyewitness accounts. Why is this so strange? Because Jesus appeared to average people first and other people eagerly joined them. Shepherds, tax collectors, women of the night, a prominent Jewish leader, outcasts of all types. These were the people who God used to start His church and it just doesn’t make sense.
The third strange things is that Jesus followers would rather die than deny him. On the day Jesus was crucified, Jesus disciples were frightened, confused, dazed, fearful, disoriented, and disheartened. They truly believed that Jesus was dead and that they would never see him again. Peter had denied him and the other disciples wouldn’t go close the crucifixion scene. Only John would come near the cross. After Jesus died, many of his disciples locked themselves in a room because they feared for their lives.
Fast forward a few short weeks and these same disciples who were hiding in shame are now standing in the temple courts preaching to anyone and everyone. What changed? There is only one credible explanation for such a radical change. They had seen the risen Christ and that sight had changed them forever.
There is nothing stranger than the resurrection and nothing more powerful. Jesus proves once and for all that there is more to life than what we can see, the kingdom of God is real and you can experience it yourself here and now and for all eternity if you put your faith and trust in Him.
You can place your faith and trust in him by asking him to forgive your sins and come into your life. The Apostle Paul writes: “8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:8-9. Take a moment and invite Jesus into your life today.