Friday, March 16, 2018

Words and actions, and the gospel

If you see someone about to step out in front of a moving car, you scream at them at the top of your lungs.  If you are nearby, you pull them out of traffic.

When someone in town is out driving on ice—thankfully that has not been a big deal this year—but when someone is stuck, we stop and help and push and pull.   This is Oklahoma.  You don’t just drive by shouting, “If you can’t drive on ice, then stay home.”

Now after you get them out of wherever they were stuck, you might suggest that they spend the rest of the day at home, but we help first.

Parents, if you catch your kids texting and driving or riding with friends who text and drive, you most likely take away some liberties closely associated with vehicular transportation.  When they complain that you are mean and that’s not the Christian thing to do, you remind them that Jesus walked.

If you see a friend about to try crystal meth for the first time, you might just grab them by the collar and pull them out of whatever mess they are about to get into.  There are no apologies for the abruptness of your actions.
When we find people that are hungry, we feed them.

When we find people who don’t have coats for the winter, we get them a coat.

When people have had their water cut off, we often help with a water bill or gas bill, especially if there are children in the home.  Yes, the parents are sometimes self-centered, financially irresponsible, and are trying harder to stay out of the family of faith than they are to budget their money, but we often help anyway. 

There are so many physical manifestations of being love that you know and do and are a part of while you walk this earth.

You may go buy some food for hungry neighbors or may stop by the church and get some of the food that we keep here just for those purposes.  Your heart leads you.  God’s Spirit that lives inside of you leads you.

You understand that we cannot know the great love that God has for us and do nothing for others in need.  We get that.  We really do.

But sometimes, we forget the most important thing.  Sometimes we forget that we carry not just food and money and love in so many various forms for our neighbor; but we carry the gospel with us.

We always carry the gospel with us!

I’m not talking about the little books that I have dared you to give out so that I have none left.  As I brought that up, I double dog dare you to run me out of those books because you gave them all away.

I am talking about the message of God’s great love for all of humankind, for all of creation.  We have the gospel, the good news of how much God loves us.  It is not something that we throw in at the end of giving someone food or help with a bill or a ride home.   The good news must never play second fiddle.

We must be people of good news first and foremost.  What we forget sometimes is that the delivery of the gospel is action.  It is action that is more powerful than food or money or anything else that we may help others with in this world.  Yes, we help with things that are only temporary but never at the expense of what is eternal.

When we are known as people of good news, not just good people, and then help with food or with a bill or with gas to get granny to the hospital or anything else, the physical things that we do are leveraged.  They become so much more.

When we leave out the good news or truncate it to an afterthought or just throw in a God loves you to check the block that this is a church thing, we have not been faithful to the One who gave his blood to atone for our sins.
We began this year with the topic of love.  We have graduated to love and action.  The latter proceeds from the former.

Peter and John were headed to the temple.  They had been emboldened by the Holy Spirit.  Peter was proclaiming the gospel.  A man who had been lame since birth called out to them asking for money. 

That was what he did.  He was a beggar.  That’s all that he knew.  He was lame and his career choice in those days was beggar.

Peter said, “Look at us.”  That’s an interesting response to please give me some money.  The man complied. 

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”

The disciples helped the man up.  His strength returned.  He walked.  He even jumped up and down.  He praised God.

The man asked for money.  These two disciples knew they had more than money.  They ignored the man’s request for money—which would have been enough to eat for a day or to make sure that they added to what he had so he could eat for a day. 

Evidently, the disciples didn’t have any spare change on them.  There’s a message in that all by itself, but today we look at what they gave this man.  They were equipped by the Holy Spirit to heal this man.

This man may have very well given up on healing.  He was likely at the temple in the hope that people might be a little more compassionate.  He would have probably been fine with a donation made out of guilt.  The disciples saw what he needed most.

The man only wanted to be able to eat for a day.  The disciples knew that what they had was so much greater than what the man was seeking.

The gospel author John reminds us that words and speech are not enough by themselves. Read the book of James and you will see these thoughts echoed. Action is the fruit of our love.  If we see someone in need and can help, love compels us to help.  We don’t turn a blind eye, walk on the other side of the road, or dispense condemnation.

We are called to action!

For a brother or sister who have received salvation, knows Jesus as Lord, and is an active part of the family of faith, sometimes all they need is a little help with food or a bill or a budget.  But for the person who does not know Jesus as Lord, or they live as if he is not their Lord; they need the gospel before they need gas money for their car.  They need to know there is a way to abundant life and eternal life through Christ Jesus before they need their electric turned back on.

In our time, we sometimes jump right to paying the bill and skip over the best news this world has ever known.  When we see someone in need, we help.  We help, but sometimes we skip the real help.

But we who have eyes to see know that the greatest need in this broken world is to know the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

Here’s something that you hear a lot, even from longtime Christians. 

“Jesus always met the physical need before attending to the spiritual need.” 

It’s just not so.  Read your Bibles.  Jesus always took care of what was most important.  That most often involved the truth or forgiveness or some manner of teaching and instruction.  Where there was seemingly unprompted healing, Jesus noted that it was faith that was first present.  

He fed the multitudes after he ministered to them by teaching all day long.  He told the man who was lowered through the roof that his sins were forgiven before he told him to get up and walk.

He came to earth on a mission to take care of the most important thing—being the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

Our most important thing is delivery of the good news.  We know how to deliver food and help with bills or get someone a bus ticket back home.  We know that part.

We must do our very best to make sure that the temporary part is not the only part.  We are vehicles of God’s love that sometimes comes in a box of food but must always be accompanied by the truth.  That truth is that God loves you.

We are uniquely equipped with God’s own Spirit inside of us.  God’s Spirit walks with us.  When we help those in need, we are without excuse not to be God’s messengers.  Love must be fully evident in our physical help.

We don’t beat people over the head with Bible verses.  We bring God’s love with words and deeds that are in harmony.  One without the other is incomplete.

We know God and we must be his love in this world.  We cannot deny that dynamic. 

I don’t ever want to give out a box of food that’s just food.
I don’t ever want to pay a bill that only turns the power back on.
I don’t ever want to put gas in a tank that only fuels the vehicle.

I want to meet the full need and that includes putting God’s love squarely in the middle. 

This should sound familiar.  We need to get out of the business of transactions and into the business of transformation.  We know the One who transforms.

If we only give out food for food’s sake, we miss the mark.  The love of God and witness to his goodness and a desire to bring people into the family of faith where they may know fellowship and abundance are the real sustenance.  Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  We must live the words that proceed from the mouth of God not forgetting the God part.

God’s love, God’s word, God’s abundance in the fellowship of believers must be foremost in all of our acts of compassion and benevolence. 

We get the stuff part.  We do this all of the time.  Let us lead with love and good news.  Let our words and our deeds be in harmony with God’s will.

We are sometimes challenged by the fact that some people only want their physical needs met.  They don’t want the gospel.  They don’t want to hear about God’s love for them.

We are not people of condemnation, but we are faithful to our God.  That means that we are people of good news and our words and our deeds are in harmony.  We never leave out the truth of how much God loves us just because someone doesn’t want to hear it. 

That means that for us, God’s love governs and is central in all that we do.  We are people of good news.  The delivery of good news is action prompted by love.

We are God’s love in action and our action must always includes good news.


Friday, March 9, 2018

All the Law and the Prophets

Let’s make sure of our perspective before we begin.  We say GOD LOVES YOU – LOVE ONE ANOTHER time and time again.  Do we fully believe that God loves us?  It does make a difference.

We know God is holy.  He is righteous.  He is all powerful.  He is sovereign.  He is all knowing.  He is immutable.  He is God and he is Creator and he is the Judge of his creation.

Most people acknowledge these things and those things should give us pause to think and reflect and maybe shake a bit in our boots.

But until we accept that the very essence of God is love, much of the Bible is obscured to us.  Until we believe that God loves us, our growth is minimal.  Until we accept that God is love and that he loves us, it is sometimes impossible to believe that he has good plans for us. 

Before we were just a little blimp in our mother’s womb, God knew us; but did he love us?  That’s the question that must no longer be a question for us.  If you question whether God loves you or not, the answer is that he does.

The struggle might be to know this with everything that you are—heart, soul, body, spirit, and mind.  Everything that makes you, you, must know that God is love and that he loves you.

When we say or read or think God is Love and God loves me, it must be more than theory.  It is reality for us.  Actually, it is reality for everyone, but we have eyes to see the truth.  We believe these things and therefore can move forward with this topic of love being more than an academic exercise.

Knowing the truth of God’s love for us produces action in us.

Love is not only real, it drives the universe.  Love propels everything with purpose.  And so we come to those words that we have said over and over and worn on our wrists and share with thousands:


There was a path to get to this point.  Here is the tweet version:  Creation, sin, preservation of a remnant in the flood, choosing a people to be his own, and the law.  Yes, there is a bit more in the 39 books on the left-hand side of your Bibles, but God was best known to his people for a time through the law. 

To keep people pointed in the right direction, God occasionally sent prophets.  People didn’t always do a good job on the home study and correspondence courses when it came to knowing and obeying the law.  Sometimes, they needed a person to point the way.

So the guiding forces for God’s people as they tried to be people of God were the Law—often called the Law of Moses—and the prophets.

By the time that Jesus came into this world as God with Us, there were many experts in the law.  They were Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and other religious leaders who thought they had a good handle on the law.  They were not always in agreement with each other.  There was much discussion and commentary among the experts.

They would have loved Facebook because everyone surely had a special insight that others had missed.  Some surely emerged as more expert than others.

This is the first century world in Judea and Galilee and in those areas of the Promised Land where knowing the law as important in daily life.  

Understand knowing the law often came with unique perspective. 

Rabbis—teachers—would accept disciples and train them.  The disciples were said to have taken on the yoke of their master—of their teacher.  That meant that they would learn his insights and adopt his perspectives, at least while each was a disciple.

But some would become experts.  They would dig deeper than most.  They had more analytical skill.  They connected the dots better.  They might have touched the edges of what today we call the full biblical witness, absent the other 27 books that came later.

Today, we take with a grain of salt anyone who claims to be an expert.  We see experts on television all of the time and many of them don’t seem credible, much less an expert in anything.

Most of us do know or have known experts in at least one area.  Perhaps we are or have been an expert in this area.  We all know expert parents.  What constitutes an expert parent? 

An expert parent is a parent who knows exactly what to do in each and every situation.  You might think that would take decades of parenting experience, but quite the opposite is true.

It seems to be that those with no children of their own have all of the answers.  Those who have never been a parent are always the expert parents.

The irony is that two weeks after having a child of their own, their expert status is revoked.

Today, you don’t always find experts where you think you should.  It seems that all of our state’s expert educators are in the state legislature.  Oops!  Did I leave that in my message?

My point is that today being an expert doesn’t carry the same weight that it did 2000 years ago.  A man believed to be an expert in the law would have been given this status by his peers.  It was not likes on Facebook or text your vote to the Sanhedrin.  Among all of the men who believed that they knew their stuff, a few were held in very high regard.

In this 22nd chapter of Matthew, we see 3 distinct encounters between the religious leaders and Jesus.   If you need the big picture context, the religious leaders of the day don’t like Jesus.  Jesus is bringing truth and the leaders prefer comfort.  They like things the way they are.

The Pharisees reinforced by the Herodians took their shot with is it legal to pay taxes to Caesar?  The question itself should have been escape proof.

Answer yes, and Jesus has told people to pay taxes to a very unpopular conqueror—the Romans—who just happened to have an emperor who had declared himself to be god.

Answer no, and the Jesus problem would be taken care of by the Romans.  The Romans didn’t care much what the Jews believed, but they would not stand for someone advocating not paying taxes.   Such a man gets locked up.  He can run a prison ministry but he won’t be circulating around the countryside anymore.

We know what happened.  Jesus asked for a coin and one was offered.  He presented a question:  Whose image is on the coin. The people answered:  Caesar.   He proffered a solution:  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.

The Sadducees took their shot with their 7 brothers for one bride question and were told they were just wrong.  There is a resurrection.

So the Pharisees want to take another shot at tripping up Jesus.  They are still licking their wounds, but they select the best among them to test Jesus in the law.  The trick question didn’t work.  Let’s just see if Jesus paid attention in school.  Let’s just see if he knows his stuff.

The expert is polite and professional addressing Jesus as Teacher.  He asks, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

Visualize the wheels spinning in the expert’s mind.  Depending upon how Jesus answers, the follow up questions will exploit anything that seems to be weak or incomplete.  He has been sent by his peers to test Jesus.

Jesus answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

He answered the question and even reminded the expert of the question in his answer; but Jesus does not allow the expert a follow-on question as he continues in explanation.

He continues, “And the second is like it.”

Hold on, the expert only asked for the greatest, but the first and greatest commandment is incomplete without the second which is like it.  An expert should know that.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Both of these commands come out of the law.  They are not paired together in what we call the Old Testament.  Jesus has connected two big dots.

It’s not that the Pharisees were a bunch of dummies.  At least one other expert in the law had connected these dots.  Read the beginning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Here, the expert gives the answer:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

The pairing here is not new and some of the religious leaders had put these two commands together as very important.  But Jesus continued.

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

The expert had asked about the law, but Jesus added the complete context.  God gave you law and he sent prophets.  If you read these words and listen to the words of the prophets, then you will realize that the foundation for all that you have received from God is loving God and loving your neighbor.

If you are truly expert in the law and in the books of prophecy, you would know that the infrastructure to what God is telling us rests on loving God and loving our neighbor.

If each of the books of the law and the scrolls of the prophets were cloaks, they would all hang on the coatrack called love God and love your neighbor.
If you were not blinded by your own self-righteousness, you would see that loving God defines the state of our hearts and minds.  Loving our neighbor calls us to live what is inside of us.

If you had eyes to see then you would realize that what comes in the law and through the prophets are not book answers but life answers.

Jesus was teaching that everything that you have learned from God’s laws and his prophets up to this point have pointed you to love God and love your neighbor.

There is a command that comes after what came in the law and prophecy.  We know it.  Jesus told his disciples, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.

It sounds like the old command, but it is more.

How did Jesus love us?  How did he love his disciples?  With everything that he was, that’s how he loved us.  He gave his very life for us.  That’s love.  That’s raising the bar.

The law directs us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.  That’s tough but doable.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor more than we love ourselves.  We love with the totality of our lives.  He has raised the bar.

What is the first and greatest commandment? 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

The law and the prophets take us to this pairing of fundamental directions.  Jesus takes us a step farther.  Love one another with your very life.  Love one another as much as I have loved you.  Love each other as much as God loves you.

I ask again.  Do you believe that God is love and that he loves you?  It is not a question of what you have read, though reading helps.  It is a question of what you believe.

You may not be an expert in the law, but you must be certain in this belief.  God loves you.

For once you truly believe that, there is one irresistible response within you; that you love one another.

Everything in all of history up to the advent of Jesus, said love God and love you neighbor as much as yourself.  Jesus takes us to the place where we love God by loving our neighbor as much as he loves us.

I remind you once again that God is love and that he loves you.  Let’s respond in love in all that we are and all that we do.

God loves you.  Love one another.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Love - Hate Relationship

Read Matthew 6

Can you smell it?  It’s almost here.  I am not talking about Palm Sunday.  I am talking baseball season.  Spring training is underway.  Horsehide spheres are flying in Florida and Arizona and in backyards across this country.

How is this relevant to the gospel?

First, baseball is a divine gift from God.  It’s mentioned at the very beginning of the Bible.  You know the words.  In the Big Inning—beginning.

Actually, more than playing baseball, I want you to think about the umpire.  For any pitch that does not make contact with the bat or the batter, he has two choices:  Ball or Strike.

I remember in the 1970’s that sometimes when the umpire called a strike, it would take 4 or 5 seconds to call the pitch and scoot a few feet to exaggerate the call.  Striiiiike!!!

Balls were called with less enthusiasm, but the call was either ball or strike.  There was no, “Hmmm, that’s a close one.”  It was a ball or it was a strike.

Other than when the bat makes contact with the ball or the ball makes contact with the batter, it’s either a ball or a strike.  It is a simple dichotomy.  It’s one or the other.

Jesus put together a series of teachings that we know as the Sermon on the Mount.  This sixth chapter has many of those lessons.  Many are very straightforward dichotomies.

Jesus said, when you do your acts of righteousness, don’t put on a show for people.  This is not in conflict with let your light shine before men.  If we are doing right, people can’t help but see, but we don’t put on a show. 

When you are doing the good works that God prepared for you in advance, do them for him.  If you do them to get attention for yourself, you have been paid in full by the undo attention of others.  The immediate accolades and compliments are your bonus.

How is this a dichotomy?  You can do the good that you are supposed to do to get personal attention or you can do the things that God has set before you because you love God.

When you pray, don’t do it so people give you accolades.  Make a real connection with God.  You might get extra points with some people if your words are always accompanied with alliterative acumen, but there is no divine dividend for didactic demonstrations.  What?

Fancy prayers don’t score extra points with God.  Genuine prayer is what God desires.  It is important that we pray together.  It is powerful and effective, and it is also meant to be genuine. 

Are there things that we should include in our prayers?  Sure.  

Thanksgiving, adoration, confession, affirmation, petition, the anticipation of what God will do for his glory, and much more.  But prayer is not a show.  It is not for our recognition.

What’s the dichotomy?  We pray to garner attention for ourselves and our fancy or numerous words or we pray to the living God with our own living words.  Is it for show or for real?

It’s the same line of thinking when it comes to fasting.  Fasting is not a big part of most of our lives.  Fasting is not dieting.  A fast is not to lose weight but to lose—at least for a time—this focus we have on everything being about us.  We stop feeding our bodies and give our spirits a chance to take hold for a while.  This is designed to be between your spirit and God’s Spirit and to set aside the physical cravings that often govern our days. This was big a couple millennia ago.

But, not everyone got into the spiritual component of fasting.  In fact, many wanted some attention.  It’s hard to get attention for something that’s going on between God’s Spirit and yours, well, unless you put on a show.

Oh my, Oooooooh!  I have gone without food.  I’m doing it all for the Lord.  See my long face and know that I am doing this all for him.

Jesus counseled to get cleaned up like you would any other day and present yourself as energetic as if you had eaten the breakfast buffet at Shoneys.

Jesus also told a parable to make this point.  The Pharisee was making a big show of how great his deeds were.  He was trying to disguise his bragging as a prayer, but he was putting on a show for sure, even to the point of belittling the one person who seemed to understand praying to God—the tax collector.  The tax collector’s prayer was genuine confession. 
One was for show.  One was for real.

Jesus moved on to talking about treasure.  What’s treasure?  It’s mostly our money and stuff and also our time and talents, but money and stuff is easier to keep up with.  You can have metrics for those.

He said do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.  Why?  They may be corrupted or stolen.  Your account might get hacked.

Instead store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.  The security is fantastic.  You treasure will be ready for you when you arrive.

What’s the dichotomy?  There are a couple here if you look closely.  The first you might have missed.  It is in the verb store or store up.

While we walk this earth, saving is good but putting our money and resources to work is better.  Think Parable of the Talents.  Putting our treasure to work for our Master, stores treasure in heaven for us.  This parable tells us that most of the treasure we acquire on earth is meant to be kinetic, not potential energy.

This does not mean that we live with no savings or IRA or emergency fund.  It means that we are not accumulating wealth so that we can just eat, drink, and be merry.  Jesus had a parable to go with that as well.

I said that there were a couple dichotomies here.  This second dichotomy is intertwined in the first.   It is not the verb store or store up.  It is the storage location.  Is your treasury on earth or in heaven?  Where do you keep most of your valuables?

Why does that matter?

Jesus said, where your treasure is, that’s where you heart is.  They are collocated by your nature. Your treasure and your heart are connected.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Just what constitutes my treasure?  What is it that you are looking for?  What do you desire?

If you desire and you seek the things of God—his kingdom and his righteousness—that’s what defines your treasure.  If you are set on being enriched by the things of the world, that’s what defines your treasure.  What is it you are looking for?

When I see a group of people do I see competitors for the world’s resources?  Do I see people who might get what I want before me?  Do I think, there might not be enough to go around?

Or, do I see people who might need to hear about God’s love.  Do I see people who need the fellowship of believers?  Do I see people who need to see God’s light in me?

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Dichotomies to follow:
Am I full of light or full of darkness?
Do I seek light or do I seek darkness?

Our eyes are two-way windows not one-way mirrors.  What’s inside comes out and we hope that it is light .  The eyes also seek the desires of the heart to come in.  They are looking for what the heart wants.

It seemed that Jesus was on an either-or track.  So let’s look at how he wrapped up this pericope.

No 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.

We don’t like slavery in this modern era.  It seems so inhumane, but we need to understand slavery a little bit to understand this verse.  Jesus is not talking about having two bosses.  He is not talking about taking a part time job after your main job is finished.

He is talking about having a master.  A slave had one master.  The master owned the slave.  The slave could be sent to work for somebody else, but he had one owner.  Having two owners was an impossibility, at least wholly impractical.

If you were the slave, you would be torn apart trying to serve two masters.  You couldn’t do it.  You would end up loving one and hating the other.  Having one master is the only way this works.

Don’t get all worked up that I am talking about slavery.  There is one form of slavery that is good.  Being a slave to Christ is a good thing for us.  Being wholly owned by our Savior is a good thing.  We say he is our Master, but today we often equate that to being our boss at work.

Being our Master, we belong to him.  He owns us.  He purchased us with his blood.  He is still our Friend, but his is fully, completely, totally our Master.

And, we don’t want another one.  Understand, that this is a winning relationship for us.  He is our Master!  We win!

We do not want to be owned by another master.  We do not want to serve another master.  We don’t even want our independence.  We do not want to be set free from our Master.

He has set us free from sin and death.  We are liberated from those things having eternal power over us.  Yes, these bodies will perish but we will live.  Sin is still around to do its best to deprive us of abundant live, but the matter of eternal life is settled by the blood of Jesus.

We need to be able to talk openly with our Master and affirm, I am yours!

I think that we understand this, but sometimes we don’t live it.  Sometimes, it seems that other masters lure us into their service.  Am I talking about Satan?  Maybe, but the masters that we might have had a fling with go by the names of money, pride, power, self-gratification, fame, or even our favorite football team.

In our modern time, there are masters that go by the names of apathy and ambivalence.  Of all the masters that we might have had before, or have flirted with, or are doing their best to recruit us; Jesus named money.

You cannot serve both God and money.

Money is surely ranked number one among worldly masters.  If you have heard me talk about money before, then this is not new.  Money is not bad.  Money is not evil.  Money is to be our servant.

In the relationship between us and money, we are the master.  If it’s the other way around, get out of the relationship.  Get back to God being your Master and then go take care of your finances.

You can’t have it both ways.  Paul would later write to his protégé Timothy and tell him that making money your god—desiring or loving money—produces all sorts of evil fruit. 

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

If you serve money, you heart is turned against God.  Both won’t fit into your life. God is a jealous God.  He is not going to share his position with anything or anyone that you have made god in your life.

It’s a love-hate relationship.  You can love all of your children and grandchildren, but you can only love one God.

You can love everyone in the body of Christ—in fact that’s exactly what we are commanded to do—but you can only love one God.

You can be master over your money.  You can abstain from money—sort of a vow of poverty if you will.  You can assign a trustee to take care of your money.  But you can’t serve both God and money.

Of these choices, I suggest that you are the master of your money.  Unless God has placed a life of poverty on your heart as the way he wants you to serve him, be the master in any relationship with money.

Unless you are helpless—like an alcoholic or addict—in dealing with money and need some guardianship there, be master of your money.
Be the master in your relationship with other things of this world:  power and authority, fame, and even your relationship with football.

We must be very honest with ourselves and each other when it comes to our love and service.  Whom do we serve?  Fortunately for us, money has metrics. 

We used to call it checkbook theology. You went through the register of your checkbook to see where all of your money went.  I am sure that I have lost some younger folks at this point who have only read about checkbooks in history class and have no idea what a register is.

The register might look like this:
Car payment
Gas bill
Electric bill
Water bill
Satellite TV
We try to pay the important stuff first, then pay the rest, such as:
Eating out
Church offering
And if you live in Burns Flat, it might also have things like:
Eating out
Movie rental
Clothes for kids
And don’t forget two dollars for the goat and two chickens.

At the end of the month, you keep asking, where did it all go?  The problem is we seldom do this exercise. I’m not picking on fundraisers.  Some registers might have 20 entries that say ballgames or movies or golf.  If you want to make sure that you never get the answer to where your money goes, make all of your checks out to cash.

Today, the cards that I use to pay most of my bills and expenses will total my spending by category.  That’s cool.

Does our register review tell us who our master is?  No, but it might give us pause to investigate further.  We never want to put our loyalty and service at risk.

We are saved by the blood of Jesus, but whom do we serve?

Before he died, Joshua, who led his people into the Promised Land and drove out those who were foolish enough to try and fight against God’s own people, put forth a challenge to all of the tribes.

He said, choose this day whom you will serve.  There was no shortage of false gods.  They could pick from those who were in the lands where they were slaves or who had been worshipped in the land that they now possessed. There was no shortage.

Joshua was compelled to challenge his own people to choose.  He taunted his own people a bit telling them that serving the Lord was probably too much for them.  They were not up for the job.

Joshua, as you recall, declared as for him and his household, they would serve the Lord.

The leaders of the tribes responded in like manner, but the false gods didn’t just pack up and go home.  They hung around seized every opportunity to draw God’s people away.

We have false gods in our time as well.  They just don’t seem to go away.  They go by different names but they want to be our master.

We have only one Master.  We are his.  We don’t want it any other way.  By his stripes we are healed.  By his blood sin and death have no power over where we spend eternity.  Death is defeated!

And false gods are still doing their best to pull us away from our Lord.

So as we look at the dichotomies that Jesus addressed, with God and money—or anything else that wants to be our god—we need to affirm whom we serve.  I charge us to make an affirmation in the style of Joshua.

Let’s affirm that we serve the Lord.

As for me and my house, we serve the Lord!