God’s Will for My Wallet

All of us have questions about the will of God in our lives—whom should I marry, what school should I go to, how should I raise my children, etc.? Hopefully, those questions stem from an earnest desire to please God in every aspect of our lives. Of course, oftentimes, God doesn’t give us direct answers to those questions, but calls us to live out Biblical principles that can apply to every situation—also known  as wisdom. When it comes to our finances, God gives us both direct injunctions as well as general principles that help to guide us in using money according to His will. The first and foremost principle, without which none of the others is genuinely possible, is to simply, and radically, recognize that your money is not your money. It all belongs to God.

The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

“Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” (1Ch.29:12-14)

 “What do you have that you did not receive?” (2 Cor.4:7)

In other words, these verses, and many others throughout the Bible, affirm that God created all things, rules over all things, and owns all things. Everything that we have flows out of His abundance. The more we recognize this fact and embrace it, the more we will assess how we use our money. We will see our money as a resource we can use for His kingdom purposes before our own desires.

The Great Gospel

If an unbelieving friend came up to you and asked, “What’s so great about the Gospel, anyways?” what would you tell him or her?

It seems like a slam dunk kind of question, doesn’t it? And my guess is that most Christians would readily give a number of answers related to how they have been forgiven of all of their sins, saved from hell, given the gift of eternal life, and had their life completely transformed. What’s wrong with these answers? Absolutely nothing. We ought to bring up all of these amazing benefits and more. But there is more greatness to the Gospel than its benefits to me or you. The greatness of the Gospel, ultimately, is its unequaled display of God’s character and attributes. That is, the death of Jesus Christ for sinners and His bodily resurrection from the dead (1 Cor.15:3-4) reveal more about who God is than any other event or action in the history of the world. In the Gospel, God is shown to be:

  1. Holy—The cross demonstrated God’s hatred of sin, for His eyes are too pure to approve evil. (Hab.1:13)
  2. Just—The cross demonstrated God’s perfect punishment of sin. (Rom.6:23; 2 Cor.5:21)
  3. Righteous—The cross revealed God to be right in both punishing sin and justifying the sinner at the cross. (Rom.3:23ff)
  4. Merciful—The cross was the ultimate demonstration of God withholding punishment from those who deserve it by placing their punishment on another. (Is.53)
  5. Gracious—The cross was the ultimate demonstration of God freely giving life and joy and peace to those who do not deserve it. (Eph.2:8-10)
  6. Loving—The cross demonstrated His indescribable love in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rom.5:8; John 3:16)
  7. Wise—The Gospel is the greatest demonstration of God’s unsearchable mind and inscrutable plans. (Rom.11:33)

These attributes of God, along with many others, were revealed in the progressive revelation of the Old Testament, but in the Gospel they are all put on full display in one moment, one event, one act of obedience that forever changed the world. In the end, the Gospel is great because it shows us our great God.

 

Are My Kids Christians?

I have two young children. My wife and I have tried to teach both of them the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus faithfully (though far from perfectly) since their births. Yet, when it comes to a profession of salvation, one is quite confident while the other perpetually wallows in insecurity. Does this mean one of my children is regenerate and the other is not? No. Does this mean that neither is regenerate, despite their professions? No. Does this mean they are both regenerate, but simply have different levels of assurance? Not necessarily. What this means is that kids, like us, are complicated, and we need wisdom and discernment when it comes to the matter of their regeneration.

The doctrine of regeneration, or the new birth, is central to Christianity. For the Christian parent, therefore, it is an issue of great concern. If we care about our kids, which we tend to do, we spend a lot of time wanting them to be saved, wondering if they are saved, and/or waiting for them to be saved.

It is important, however, that we parents be careful about falling into one of two extremes.

On the one hand, we can assume our children are what they say they are simply because they say so. However, if we understand the doctrines of regeneration and conversion rightly, we know that a mere profession of faith if meaningless. It would be extremely easy for most parents to lead their young children in a “sinner’s prayer” any day of the week, wipe a “phew” from our foreheads, and check the salvation box. In so doing, we run a great risk of implanting a false security in their minds that will become more and more difficult to supplant with age.

On the other hand, we can be so close-minded about salvation in our young children that we never even entertain the possibility that God may have genuinely regenerated them. One thing that is clearly absent in Scripture is the notion of an age requirement for following Christ. Jesus certainly welcomed the children, and rebuked those who would keep them from Him.

So, what do we do?

  1. Live out a Christian life in front of your kids. No one listens more closely to your words, sees more consistently how you react, and watches more carefully what you do than your kids.
  2. Preach and teach the Gospel clearly, accurately, fully, faithfully, and joyfully. We must be diligent to teach the full counsel of God—His attributes, our sin, His judgment, His salvation, our response. And pay attention to that last word “joyfully.” If the Gospel doesn’t excite us, why should we expect it to excite them?
  3. Discourage sin and disobedience. Be consistent in discipline, and take as many opportunities as possible to point out what the Bible says about that sin.
  4. Encourage them when they show signs of understanding, obedience, and faith. Do not disregard professions of faith, or imply they are lying about it—but encourage them by using Scripture to affirm or modify their vision of what true faith looks like. Show them that genuine salvation is a work of God alone, and encourage them to continue to seek after Him.
  5. Never cease praying for your children’s salvation. Never cease praying for yourself, that you would be a faithful witness and guide into God’s truth for them.

The Value of Truth

Truth holds a strange place in our society. On the one hand, we value and advocate for “truth-telling” among certain people and situations. For example, most of us (believers and unbelievers) are very upset with our children when they don’t tell the truth about why their brother or sister is crying, or why they got into trouble at school. Most of us (believers and unbelievers) cry out for truth-telling from our politicians. We want to know the truth about Benghazi and Michael Brown. We want full disclosure on Area 51. On the other hand, for many people, truth about more important matters is not valued. When it comes to questions of God, eternity, why we’re here, and what we should be doing, “truth” takes a backseat to preference. “All religions are basically the same”; “if it works for you, that’s all that matters”; “no one knows what is really true.”

The unfortunate thing is that I am not just speaking of postmodern relativist unbelievers over against Bible-believing Christians. Within the evangelical church, truth can be undervalued, which often leads to it being undermined, and even abandoned altogether. It is not hard to undervalue the truth in the local church. In the preaching, Scripture can be relegated to a supporting role in a clever sermon—and truth is undervalued. In the singing, mood and emotion are the goal at the expense of sound doctrine and praise offered to God—and truth is undervalued. In children’s and youth ministries, games and activities squeeze out teaching of the deep things of God—and truth is undervalued. When truth is undervalued in these, and many other ways, we leave the door wide open for truth to be undermined and even abandoned on certain issues. The results are disastrous as God is dishonored, His people stand for nothing, and the local church becomes powerless in its work and witness.

Embracing the Opportunities of Re-starts

I don’t know about you, but for me, starting over on something is just about the worst thing that can happen. Fairly jarring examples of having to start over in my own life have included a college paper that I forgot to save on the floppy disk (that’s right, floppy disks rule!) and having to go back to Level 1-1 on Super Mario Bros. I have come to notice that there is a strong correlation between my negative feelings on starting over on a particular task and the amount of time and energy I have spent on that task. If that is the case, then starting over in the family arena seems especially difficult. Where do you spend more time and energy than on marriage and raising kids?

Starting over in the family can take many different forms: dealing with tragedies such as death or divorce, moving the family to a new city, or adjusting to life after the kids move out, to name a few examples. In each case, starting over often brings with it the temptation to fear. It could be the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, or even the fear of hard work. Often, instead of turning outward to God in these situations, we end up turning inward to ourselves. The result of such inward focus is inevitably more fear, greater anxiety, useless self-pity, and plain selfishness.

In the book of Ruth, Naomi had to start over after the tragic loss of her husband and two sons. She evidenced some of this inward self-pity:

She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21)

All that Naomi could see in that moment was the pain of loss and the difficulty of the future. She would have to start over, but what purpose could she have now?

Naomi did not abandon her faith in God, but her view of His character was incomplete. She forgot that God specializes in using the weak and unexpected people of this world to bring about world-changing purposes. She did not realize that starting over meant new opportunity for her and for her daughter-in-law, whom God had placed in her life. God would go on to use both of these women in their “starting over years” to play a vital role in establishing the line of King David, from which came the Messiah, the King of kings.

Maybe you are frustrated by having to start over in your family. Maybe you are feeling anxious about it. Maybe you even feel like you have already served your purpose in this life, and God has little use left for you and your family. I think God would have us to feel excited about starting over, because in a new situation God gives new opportunities to glorify Him in your family. Are you willing to take those opportunities?

God’s Mission, Our Mission

Although the basic definition of the word “mission” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is simply “a task or job that someone is given to do,” we typically reserve the word for more than taking out the trash or giving the kids a bath. In the secular world, the term is primarily used for important, newsworthy tasks, such as military missions or space program missions. Most of us don’t regularly think of ourselves as being part of a mission; instead, we watch or read about others who have been, or are part of, important history-making missions.

If you are a regenerated son or daughter of the King of creation (a.k.a. a Christian), however, we need to renew our minds on this point. Every man, woman, or child who has placed faith in Jesus has been placed smack down in the middle of the longest-running, most costly, and most significant mission in history. And you and I are not just bystanders of this mission, we are crucial members of it.

What is this mission? In truth, it is one big mission comprised of millions of smaller missions. The one big mission is God’s own mission: to glorify God throughout the universe (Ps.106:7-8; Ez.36:22-23; Hab.2:14; Rom.11:36; Eph.1:3-14). The smaller missions are the various ways we glorify God in our individual lives (Matt.5:16; 1 Cor.10:31). Every war consists of battles, and every battle consists of small missions; therefore, the great mission to win a war depends upon the success of the smaller missions. In the same way, our great mission to glorify God is worked out primarily in the smaller missions He gives us every day.

The hard part for us, it seems, is to keep the great mission before us—in our minds and in our hearts—at all times. We are so easily distracted away from the mission by the busyness, or even the routineness, of our lives that we forget about our main mission. We try to go about the smaller missions without the larger mission in sight, and we sink into despondency and legalism.

What we need is to make a point of waking up every morning reminding ourselves of the great mission we are on, and go about our day recognizing the importance of every small mission we are given. We need to recognize that we can choose to glorify God by making sure He is our greatest desire; that pleasing Him through our joyful obedience is our meat and drink. We need to ask ourselves if we are actively seeking to love and encourage and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ for the purpose of bringing God glory. Are we practicing kindness, humility, patience, self-control, etc., in the home and in the workplace for the purpose of bringing God glory? Are we preaching and teaching for the purpose of bring God glory? Are we evangelizing the lost and giving to/sending/going as missionaries for the purpose of bringing God glory? Are we praying, ultimately, for the purpose of bringing God glory?

If you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, you are on a mission, the one great cosmic and eternal mission. And don’t forget, if you are on this mission, God has given you everything you need to accomplish the smaller missions He gives you (2 Pet.1:3).

 

 

Andy Lack serves as our Pastor of Missions. He is married to Sara and the father of two energetic boys.

Truth Matters

Not long ago, I heard a politician interviewed for her stance on a particular issue. Her position had been criticized by the evangelical voting populace for whatever reason, and she was trying to defend herself as a strong Christian. In so doing, she adamantly stated, “I believe very strongly in my faith.” Well, whether she was a strong Christian or not is beyond the point that ought to be made from this statement. Instead, her statement brings up a sentiment that seems to be pervasive in our culture, and even in the Church; the sentiment that we put our faith in faith. Truth is relegated to the side, or not even considered at all, for many people. After all, what’s true for me may not be true for you. But is this true?

I found myself having to think about this question again when I was talking with a gentleman on an airplane. The issue of good deeds came up, and he was politely acknowledging that my good deeds stem from my faith, but that his good deeds stem from a different faith or philosophy. For him, the point was that as long as the good deed is done, the motivation does not matter. For this man, religion is good insofar as it motivates people to do good. But what was missing from the conversation was “truth.” What is actually true?

Christianity is a religion, or faith, completely wrapped up in truth. If it is not fundamentally and factually true in its claims, it falls apart as worthless dribble. Our faith rests on a true God (Jer.10:10) who gave us a true Word (Ps.19) that can be trusted. And it is the truth of our faith that must motivate us to live holy lives; and it is the truth of our faith that must drive our evangelism. Paul understood this when he wrote the Corinthians (1 Cor.15:3-5) about what was “of first importance…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” For Paul, the Gospel was not about positive thinking or cleverly devised fairy tales—it was about the historical realities of the Gospel. Jesus Christ did indeed come from God to this earth physically during the reign of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1). Jesus Christ did, in fact, live and walk and work and speak among people as a person in the actual regions of Galilee and Samaria and Judea. Jesus was certainly tried by Pontius Pilate and physically executed on a cross outside Jerusalem. Jesus was physically raised from the dead on the third day, and was seen and heard by at least 500 witnesses before He literally ascended into heaven (1 Cor.15:6). This is where our hope rests – on this real person of Jesus. We do not point people to an idea about forgiveness or joy or even, generically, God. We point people to this Man—Who lived and died on this earth, and is coming again as King of Kings. We point people to this person, Son of Man and Son of God, in Whom we find forgiveness and joy and peace and life eternal.