Simply Free: An Issue of Trust
November 01, 2015
“A Trust Issue”
I. Money Worries
II. An Issue of Trust
IV. Love God—Love Others
Questions to go Deeper
A Trust Issue
October 31 / November 1, 2015
Simply Free – An Issue of Trust
Pastor Mike Slaughter
I'm so thankful that Dan (Bracken) got back home from Beirut last night. Beirut is not the safest place in the world to be. He's brought back great stories, again/. If you have followed his social media this past week, and saw some of his pictures this past week, pray.
Next Saturday, Dan and I are speaking at a conference in Philadelphia on the “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday” theme. We are engaging churches all around America. Can you imagine if we spent only half as much this Christmas, and direct the other half towards this global refugee crisis? One in five people right now are refugees; twenty percent right now. We forget there are thousands of children in detention camps on our own boarder who fled Guatemala because of gang violence. Please pray for the sixty-five churches that have committed to this conference in Philadelphia; pray for a powerful movement to happen this Christmas.
Karen Smith and I wrote a book together this year called, The Christian Wallet. It's about looking, as followers of Jesus, how we live, how we spend and how we give. In each chapter a person was interviewed. One of these folks that I want to introduce today is Rene Eshleman.
Rene’s husband Rusty is part of our staff. Rusty has been on our worship team for six years. He'll assume the leadership of worship on December 1 when James Keith Posey and his family move back home to Alabama.
The chapter featuring Rene and Rusty is simplifying our lifestyles.
Mike: (To Rene) Not only do you believe in simplifying your lifestyle, but we also talked in the book about how we ghetto-ized ourselves in the suburbs so we're all kind of the same. We think the same; we look the same. You and Rusty chose to not only simplify your lifestyle but also literally diversify your lifestyle by moving into the Fort McKinley neighborhood. Talk about simple! You bought one of the better homes in the neighborhood for $35,000. How did you get to this place?
Rene: Can I share a little of the back-story that got us there? I grew up in rural Ohio just a little ways between Tipp City and Greenville. I grew up in a Christian home, a lot of my family is German Baptist, and so I have strong faith and farming roots, which is maybe why I wanted to have a big garden and chickens even in urban Dayton. There was a point in my life when that child-like trust and faith were challenged. When I was 18, I was in a car accident and my boyfriend was killed in that car accident. I knew that the pain and the grief were too heavy for me to get out on my own, to deal with on my own. At that point I wondered if a lot of the churchy phrases that I had heard other people say in my life growing up about trusting and relying on God could really be true for my life in this situation. In spite of the uncertainties, in the midst of the tragedy, the questions about God and trust, I can say I was never abandoned. I felt broken, I felt vulnerable, I felt alone at times, but I was never left there. It's that same trust that I've been able to carry with me throughout other parts of life.
Pastor Mike: Now, both you and Rusty are college educated; you're currently working on your Master’s degree in counseling. How do you simplify your lifestyle, but also move into an area that's not the best area?
Rene: There was a point in our marriage when Rusty and I kind of took a big leap of faith and gave up both of our jobs and moved to inner city Atlanta for a year with a program called Mission Year. That year really shaped our lives. We were exposed to issues that we hadn't really seen in our life up to that point. Issues around diversity, racism, injustice and it really developed in us a passion for racial reconciliation and an idea of ministry that it's not just about me helping you, or you helping me. It's about being in a mutual relationship together. So when we heard the story about Ginghamsburg and Fort McKinley and their emphasis on the neighborhood, it just made sense for us to move into that place.
Mike: So what does it look like moving into that neighborhood?
Rene: We weren't sure how we would fit or what that would be like. I have some pictures. (Show pictures.) Our property has kind of served as a metaphor for trust in God's provision along some of this journey. When we moved into the neighborhood six years ago, these two properties on the left were right beside our house. They were abandoned, dilapidated, raccoons living in them, needles and what not. We had a hope, especially being a country girl and liking space, and as we had kids, we really hoped that we would be able to beautify this place and have a little more space. So over the course of a couple years, the township had some money and were able to tear the houses down and then the properties still looked kind of like a mess but we were trusting that something better would happen. Then a year and a half ago we were able to purchase some of the property and do some work. Today, it's a really nice green space next to our house. If you look closely, in this picture you can see I even have my little garden in the back there. To us, this really is a miracle on El Paso Avenue. It's not just a dream come true for us, or a picture of trust in God's provision, but it's a picture of hope and restoration in a neighborhood where resources often feel scarce and space is limited. One of my favorite times is when kids can come over and play in that space and just have fun together.
Mike: Fort McKinley, one of our campuses is an anchor in the community. By living, there you and Rusty have started a neighborhood watch and so forth. The Dayton government reported that in three years’ time through our involvement, crime has dropped eighty percent in that neighborhood.
Rene: An even bigger part of this story is that each of you has a piece in it. We were drawn to the Fort McKinley neighborhood because of Ginghamsburg’s partnership and its vision of being in the neighborhood. It's because of your investment and your time that all of this is a miracle for all of us because we get to share in the kingdom together, so thank you.
Mike: Today our passage is from Matthew 6. Open your Bibles to Matthew the sixth chapter. It’s from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Chapter five, six and seven is the Sermon on the Mount, and we're going to be starting at verse 19.
Rene: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 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! 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."
Mike: Thank you, Rene. It's timely that we just finished the series on "Under Pressure" and now we're talking about lifestyle, money and treasures. All of us deal with money pressures at different points in our life. Carolyn and I had 38 pastors at our mountain home with us there this past week. All fairly new in ministry, they're in a program called Start. They're in the first phases.
There are a lot of young people here today; do any of you young people have college debt? I'm not going to ask you here how much, but I did ask those pastors. I ask how many of them had college debt six figures or over. Almost every one of the 38 raised their hands. In ministry too, you come out (of college) and start at a job for thirty-some thousand dollars a year.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum. I'm going to be 65 on my next birthday, so those of us in those last working years near retirement; you're wondering, how much am I going to need? Am I going to have enough? I just read a statistic. The group between 55 and 64—which is really an important time to be investing in retirement—the average person has only $48,000 in their IRA.
God is always testing me before I preach. Before I came here to preach last night, I received my investment retirement report for the last quarter in the mail. Why did I open that before I came here to preach about trust? God always has me preaching to myself, so this is really preaching to myself about trust. The driving emotion that Jesus is addressing here in this passage is fear. Because when we have the wrong focus and we really worry about God's promise and God's provision, it can totally derail our faith. As a matter of fact, money can be the biggest stumbling block or detractor to our faith. What Jesus is saying here, when we talk about our money issues, is it's all about trust. It's an issue of trust. Look again at verse twenty-two. It says, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy," it means single. If you keep a single focus, the translation is "single eye." So if you keep a single focus. A couple weeks ago, I said you have to elevate your altitude to lift your attitude, and that is to begin to see your life from God's perspective. So if you keep seeing your life from God's perspective, God's love towards you, and 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!" We experience the consequences or the blessings of what we focus on.
While Carolyn and I were at our mountain home, I was working on this message. The mountains are just beautiful; they're just incredible. I held up this dollar bill, and ask Carolyn to take a picture of me. (Show picture on screen.) Because I'm looking at this mountain range and I hold this dollar bill up right here, this distance, and all of a sudden my focus is missing the expanse of God's creation and what God can do. And how God continually changes creation, the beauty of creation.
Yesterday, I went to my four year olds soccer game down in Cincinnati. I was sitting out there watching, and it was just precious. Yesterday, they were wearing their Halloween costumes playing, and mine had a princess dress on. What happens is we can so miss the gift of the moment, like if I'm focused on this, and worrying about this, I'm missing a gift that is quickly passing. I can't even see the gift. Right now, I can't see you. Because when we have a wrong kind of focus, we're going to experience the consequences or the blessings of whatever we're focused on. That's why Jesus said when you have the wrong kind of focus, right here, it's the last verse of this chapter, we miss today, we don't know about tomorrow. We may not be here tomorrow. But here I get to sit here and take in and absorb the gift of relationships today.
As a matter of fact my 89-year-old mom is going to be at the next worship time. If I'm worried about what I have to do later, I'm going to miss the gift of right now. Now there's a powerful story, turn back to Judges the sixth chapter. Israel has just spent 40 years in the wilderness. Desolation. Now every morning, here's God's faithfulness to his people, every morning when they got up, what was on the ground… bread from heaven; manna… enough for today; not tomorrow. Forty years, they had experienced God's provision daily in the wilderness. Forty years they had experienced that. Now Moses led them forty years, he's not going to be the one who's going to lead them into the Promised Land. Joshua is now taking over. They're ready to cross the river Jordan into this place of promise. But get this folks, we never enter God's place of abundance and promise without meeting great resistance. So many of us fail because as soon as we meet resistance we retreat and go back to easy so we've never experienced the abundance that God has promised for us. So they're not just going to waltz into the Promised Land and experience what God say's is this abundance of milk and honey. Milk means, man this is going to be a great place for you shepherds. And honey, there's going to be fruitfulness for you farmers. They're going to meet walled, fortified cities of resistance. First one, you were there with us brother and sister, Jericho. It's a walled city with a powerful army. So what does God tell them, hey I want you to walk around the city one time for six days. Before we ever come up against resistance, it can be in our financial area, relationships, or whatever. Folks, we can't just bring our best know-how to it. We've got to surround it in prayer. Now look with me in the 15th verse, 6th chapter of Joshua. "On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times." Now some of you have said to me, hey pastor we see you early in the morning running around the campus here, you're exercising. I'm doing more than exercising, I'm running around the campus seven times praying for what God's going to do in our lives, sisters and brothers. That's what I'm doing. We're in warfare and we need to look at that warfare as it deals with areas in our life like lifestyle, money matters. Look at verse 17, "The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord." Now that word devoted, if you have that in your Bibles underline it or circle it, it means consecrated. The city and everything in it is consecrated to the Lord. The Hebrew word literally means an irrevocable giving of possessions and persons. That's what devoted means. An irrevocable giving of possessions and persons devoted to the Lord. Verse 18, "But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them." Now what this is talking about in the Bible, it's the law of first offerings. So the spoils of the first conquest, Israel can't take for itself. They're first energies have to be given fully to the Lord… the law of firsts in the scripture. The first fruits of our harvest have to be given to the Lord, not the leftovers, right. It's always the first. The first-born must be offered to the Lord. That doesn't mean sacrificed, they must be given as a priest or a leader. The first born of your flock--not the last; not the leftover. You can't say well God I don't have enough, I'll give you the leftover—no—the first of your energy. You're going to confront many with your energies. You're going to have losses in these battles, but the first spoils of the first battle belong totally to the Lord. Now you go over to the 7th chapter, first verse. "But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the consecrated things; Achan took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel."
See sometimes we wonder why we're struggling, but not only are we struggling, our families are struggling, and our children are struggling. See, when we fail to offer first things, our time, our talents, our resources. When we fail to offer our first things to the Lord, it impacts people around us. So go over, now I'm in the 11th verse of the 7th chapter. God's talking to Joshua, "Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions." It's just like in Malachi, when God say's to the people, you robbed me. They say how are we robbing you? You rob me in tithes and offerings. Bring the whole tithe into my storehouse so that there may be food. Well what is food? Pastor Rachel just shared that we served through New Path, 57,000 people in the Miami Valley. That's a big number right? Or salvation, do you know that we've had over 200 baptisms since Easter here in this church? Now the Pharisees who Jesus was preaching to in Matthew understood the principle of the tithe. They were diligent in the tithe. That's what they call the things consecrated to the Lord, the first 10 percent. Jesus said that you do this, even your little seasoning boxes where you grow mint and dill, you even tithe that. But what is consecrated for followers of Jesus.
What are the consecrated things? First fruits, but it's all of it. See everything I have, it's no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, so I am a manager of the whole. So Jesus said to the Pharisees, you ought to be doing this, which is the 10%, and more. Now, what God say's there, he says to them, 12th verse, "That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction." Unless you give up what you're hanging onto, you've taken. What happens to Israel, they won Jericho but they get beaten in the next battle, which is the battle of Eye. Now folks, God wants to do extraordinary things in you and through you, but the things God wants to do can't stand in your life apart from the priority of your first--the first of your time, the first of your devotion, the first of your talent, the first of your resources. Jesus told the parable of the seed. The seed is the word of God. Now the problem, some of us look around and we go, why is that person being blessed in ways I'm not being blessed? Why am I struggling with my children in ways maybe someone else isn't struggling with their children? Well Jesus said the problem is not with the quality of the seed, that's the word of God that God brings. The problem is with the receptivity of the soil. Sometimes we look at people and say well God loves them more than me. God has no favored children; all are favorite children. The problem, the same seed that God wills for you, has been sown the seed of the spirit. The problem is not with the quality of the seed that God has sown in your life, the problem is with the receptivity of the soil. We've got to fertilize the soil. So Jesus said that in one of the types of soil, the seed began to grow, but then the thorns choked it out. What he says is that's worries and the deceitfulness of wealth choked the word making it unfruitful. What he's saying in this passage, in Matthew, I'm back to the 6th chapter of Matthew. What he's saying is that we've got to remember who we are. We are God's children, sisters and brothers. Look at what Jesus said as we read down further in this passage, he says what are you worried about? You're worried about how you're going to pay the utilities, you worry about clothes, and you worry about food. Your Heavenly Father knows you need all of this stuff. As a matter of fact Jesus says, don't only remember who you are, remember who God is. Father is named 11 times in this chapter. Jesus even used a word, first person to ever do this; he called God "Abba Father". Abba is an Aramaic term. My grandbabies call me "papa." Do you know what a papa is? God's a papa.
I got to the soccer game before my kids got there yesterday, and Anna comes running out in her princess dress to play soccer. Its 38 degrees, but she's oblivious to the coach and the kids. Papa! Papa! She runs over to me. God wants to give you things, gifts. Think what a papa does. Sometimes we think God wants us to live this lifestyle. No, God wants to give you things you don't even need. I mean, isn't that what papa's do? I take my grandkids one at a time to the movies. So little Addison was here, this is my 4 year old from Philadelphia, and I let go up to the counter. "Pick out anything you want," I tell her. So she's got M&M's in her lap, she's got popcorn… used to be she'd get cotton candy and other stuff too. She saw that she couldn't deal with it all, so this last trip she just got the popcorn and the bag of M&M's. There's a lot of M&M's in those bags. And then I take this picture so I can send it to their mothers. I say smile for your mommy! (Show picture on the screen.)
When we get home, Stacy, my daughter in law, says, “Honey, you're going to ruin your supper.” I said, “No, we stopped at Dairy Queen.” “Papa got me a Blizzard, that was supper!”
Look down at verse 32 in the 6th chapter, "For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." You know when we say "Our Father in Heaven," I pray that prayer multiple times a day. "Father" tells us who God is, and "Heaven" means the place of ultimate authority and unlimited resources. See when I opened my retirement thing yesterday and saw how bad the last quarter was, God's economy isn't dependent on the Dow Jones. When gas goes to $4 a gallon, does not impact God's economy. So when we start out "Our Father," we're reminding whom God is. If you being evil know how to do these things for your kids—blizzards for supper—how much more does your Father in Heaven know?
Here's what he says in verse 33, here's all we've got to pay attention to, here's our focus. "But seek first his kingdom." Kingdom of God is not Heaven later, it's the realm where God is working, where God's in control, and healing is happening—Fort McKinley neighborhood, where crime is going down 80 percent. You keep focusing on my business, God says, right, and all these other things will be given to you as well. The disciples come to Jesus, and 5,000 folks, families, are standing around—more than 20,000 people. His disciples said, how are we going to? We always have this scarcity mentality. Our Father who art in Heaven, where does enough come from? So they said all we have are two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus takes it in his hands; he looks at it. What do we do sometimes? This is not enough! This can't feed my family; much less anyone else's family, and we tend to do this. What does Jesus do? He keeps His hands open and he blesses what doesn't look like enough. And then you know what he does, he releases. See you've got to release it to increase it. Are you getting this? We don't think big enough. How am I going to pay for my children's college? Think bigger than that. Our Father who has unlimited resources, not only does he want you to pay for your kids college, you're going to be able to pay some other kids college. You see we're just not thinking big enough what God wants to do. But we're not going to see the increase until we release, sisters and brothers. Communion, every day, in a place of desolation; no source of food. There are no gardens. There are over a million Israelites in the wilderness. Everyday they got up, what was at the door of their tent--bread from Heaven--everyday, enough for the day. When we come to this table, God is reminding us of His covenant with us. This is the living bread from Heaven. This is the Lord Jesus Christ. And if God is willing to give his Son for you, how much more is he willing to give you all things. What a promise. What a promise. Will you bow your head before we come to this table in prayer, and just take a moment to name to God what you are thankful for? Bless what doesn't look like enough. Just name, be specific. Thank God that he can be trusted, I'm quoting the Word, and every promise of God is yes in Christ Jesus. Ask, seek and knock, for everyone, not some. Everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks finds. Everyone who knocks, the door will be open. Offer yourself fully because God wants to do amazing things, but those things can only stand in our life, as we're willing to give God first--first of our time, first of our talents, first of our resources. We give you thanks in Jesus name, Amen.
I'm not in a hurry, because today is the day that the Lord has made. Remember the first day of the week is before any of the others that we go to work; we're to come together and offer our thanksgiving and our offerings, right. The law of the “firsts.” I'm just taking you all in. When you're almost 65, you realize you're not going to always have this opportunity to take you all in. Don't miss today. Go live in the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ and the peace that surpasses understanding.
God bless you.
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