Sunday, January 10, 2010

Considering the Cost

After a warm, hearty greeting Pastor Brad meandered into the topic for today. His theme last week is continuing for a few weeks more, he noted. "We talk about money because Jesus talks about money." He also pointed out that God doesn't need our money, but that something happens inside us as we give.

Announcements followed, including these:
1. Sunday School begins next week.
2. This Wednesday Adventure Club begins again for the new year, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Junior and Senior High youth will meet from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
3. Men's breakfast is at L.A.'s on Thursday mornings at 7:00 a.m.

Brad also noted that it was Marlys's birthday (65 years) and it is the 57th anniversary of Chuck and Lois Vanderscheuren.

The Quartet opened the worship time with two wonderful numbers, The Midnight Cry and Praise the Lord. During the offertory they also sang another great song which included the lyrics, "God is good, He's good all the time."

During our prayer times it is often evident that there are many needs in our church family with cancer battles, surgeries and life passages. It is good that we can lift our concerns and burdens to the Lord in difficult times.

Today’s Scripture reading proved to be the intro and basis of today’s sermon. Brad read the following.

28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. ~
Luke 14:28-33 (NIV)

Considering the Cost

Pastor Brad opened with comments about how we all have varying money management styles. Some people shop at Kohl’s, others are Wal-Mart shoppers. Some go to Target and others to boutique-type stores. Some pay cash, others use credit. Some are big tippers and then there are the pastors in the room… ;-0 Some carefully balance their checkbooks down to the penny and others just try to keep it close.

Some people have stock brokers and others go broke just fine without them. But whatever your style, this passage from Luke 14 is challenging. Brad compared it to a doctor with a large hypodermic needle who says, “Bend over… this is going to a hurt a little, but it’ll be good for you in the end.”

Before moving forward we got a quick recap of last week’s message about a man who was good at managing his money but gave no thought for God, seeking instead to find meaning in his possessions. He was good at financial management, poor at the management of eternal things. This week’s parable deals with improving the money management side of the equation.

Brad outlined some eye opening stats at this point. One Gallup poll noted that 64% of all couples argue over money. One quarter of all Baby Boomers have less than one thousand dollars in savings. The average young couple spends $1600 more than they make. The average college student carries three credit cards carrying a balance over $8,000. Kids are leaving college due to financial problems as much as bad grades.

In short, money management is an issue people are struggling with.

There are a number of causes of financial stress. Among them he cited the following.
1) Laziness. Proverbs 28:19 states, “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty."
2) Consumptive lifestyles. Our tendency to acquire beyond our means leaves us struggling to pay off debts we didn’t need in the first place. “Debt keeps you stuck in your future paying for your past.”
3) Hard knocks. Sometime setbacks are beyond one’s control. Lost jobs, health issues, an economic crash, bad business partners, a spouse who leaves…. All these things can put us in a hole and create stress fractures in our foundation.
4) Lack of a financial plan. The Wall Street Journal stated that 70% of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. It is amazing how many tens of thousands of dollars can go through our hands with little thought to a financial plan. Proverbs 21:5 notes that good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.

Today’s passage is about building a tower and making sure you can finish what you started before you begin. It is about planning, and Pastor Brad offered up a 10-10-80 plan. The first 10% of your income you use to honor God, meaning you bring your tithe to the Lord. The second 10% you save for the future, for yourself. Then you live joyfully on the other 80%.

The numeral 10 is an interesting number in Scripture, he noted. In Exodus we read about ten plagues that God sent on Egypt. Pharaoh was being tested, ultimately hardening his heart. The 10 Commandments test us in ten areas of obedience. How many times did God test Israel in the Wilderness? Ten. How many times did God test Jacob’s heart when he was working for Laban? Revelation 2:10 mentions ten days of testing. And the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 is an illustration of testing their preparedness.

The principle of tithing is revealed in many places but spelled out especially in Malachi 3:10.

"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 you will not have room enough for it.

One reason we tithe is that it is a way we show that everything we have is God’s. “Are we growing in our sense that everything we have belongs to God?” Brad asked.

Debt is a great burden for many people. Unfortunately, although many want to get out from under that burden, they don’t want to change their lifestyles. Here are some tips to help us move in the right direction in 2010, from debt to no debt… or at least less debt.

Debt is problem because generosity does not have to end at 10%. It’s very challenging to give generously when burdened in this way.

1) Learn how to live on less. Houses and cars are especially big budget busters.
2) Don’t purchase things when they are not on sale.
3) Track your expenditures for a month. See where it’s going and take control.

Brad asked more probing questions.

a) Am I trusting God as the owner of my possessions? All I have comes from God. We are stewards only. (Ps. 24:1) Ultimately we don’t need a miracle from God. We need God. What possesses you? God or money? Ownership belongs to God. We are simply his trusted managers.

b) Am I robbing God? If you have ever been the victim of a robbery you know what it feels like. God has blessed and blessed us. All He asks in return is a tithe.
c) Will I take action right now? Decisiveness is required.

If you do this, God promises, “I will open up the doors of Heaven.”

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