Simply Free: Seek First
November 08, 2015
Questions to go Deeper
November 7 & 8, 2015
Simply Free: Seek First
Pastor Rosario Picardo
Roz: I know you normally see me up here preaching by myself, but today as we continue our Simply Free series and build on Pastor’s Mike’s sermon from last week on an issue of trusting God with our money; we want to talk about Seeking First The Kingdom of God with my better half, my wife Callie.
Callie: Hey Ginghamsburg Church! We are excited to be here and share with you in this Simply Free series because God has grown us a lot in our faith through learning to trust him with money.
I grew up around people with money. I also grew up in the church. I remember when I first heard the verse in Luke 18 that says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” I thought, well why don’t we all give our money away because don’t we all want to enter the kingdom of God? I think that was the first time I noticed a disconnection between my stuff and the Bible. (Show picture of Callie and her family on the screen.)
Roz: I grew up on the other side of the tracks. My parents immigrated to the US from Sicily and only had a third grade education. They worked hard in factory jobs. They were frugal, so our needs were met, but I didn’t get to enjoy everything I wanted. (Show picture of Roz and his family on the screen.)
Callie: No matter how we grew up or what setting we currently find ourselves in financially; we’ve got to wrestle with a culture focused on money and possessions. Today we are going to look at some of the myths our consumer driven culture feeds us; and some ways we as Christ-followers can live simply free in spite of the culture around us.
Callie - Financial worries are something Christian’s have been wrestling with for centuries as we see in Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:25-34: “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Show visual interpretation). “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Show visual interpretation).
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Callie: Some of us today, are feeling those very real worries of having enough food to eat, clothes and shelter. Others are struggling with the pressures our culture adds of having the right clothes, the fancy health foods and of keeping up with those around us.
Roz - Having more things will make me happier. The fact is things can bring happiness. The problem is it's temporary. It's just for a while. Things do make you happy. If you get a gift, you're happy about it. But it doesn't last and after a while the thrill goes away and the excitement fades and boredom sets in because things never change and people change. We get bored with things that don't change so we want to redecorate... What did you get for Christmas last year? It's fun for a while but the happiness doesn't last. How many of you are still thrilled over last Christmas's gift? Re-gift things? If you remembered last Christmas's gift, this year you want the bigger model, the better model, the nicer model and you want to redecorate. You've got to have more.
Callie - Having more things will make me more important. This is the idea that's promoted by commercials, shows and magazines, that if I've got money, then I must be important. The misconception is: I am what I own, that my valuables determine my value, that if I have little then I must be worth little. So since I want to be liked and respected and looked up to, I must continually keep on getting more and more and more. I've got to keep up with the Jones'. Don't worry about keeping up with the Jones' -- they just refinanced and took on more debt. In fact their life might look a little something like this. (Show Lending Tree video)
Roz and I have owned three houses together. The first was one I owned before we got married. It was a three bedroom two bath house in one of the nicest areas of Lexington, KY. It was about five minutes from my parents’ home, and I was told with buying my first house that I should buy in that neighborhood because the three rules of real estate. Anyone know the first one? What about the second? And, the third? (Location! Location! Location! I thought having a nice house was important, but it was honestly more than I could afford on my own, and I had to keep dipping further and further into savings just to cover the mortgage payments each month. When Roz and I married, he kept challenging me that we didn’t need that nice of a house, but I had a really hard time giving it up.
Roz - Having more things will make me more secure. "If I could just achieve financial independence..." Have you heard that one? As if that's the goal of life. The fact is, the more you have; the more insecure you can be because the more you have to worry about. The more you have, the more time and energy it takes to maintain it. The more you have, the more insurance you have to pay to insure it.
Living the American dream means we are asleep to the reality of what is taken place in our world.
The truth is, real security can only be found when you place your security in something that can't be taken away from you. If you put it in something that can be taken away from you, you put your security in things; things can be ripped off from you a million different ways -- legally or illegally. You must have security in something that cannot be taken away from you and the only thing that cannot be taken away from you (because even your family can be taken away from you) is your relationship with God.
If you're trusting in your pension plan for your security; that becomes your god. If you're trusting in God, He is your God.
Callie – There’s the rub. We want to trust God as our God, but we are constantly fighting these myths culture feeds us. The debt adds up, and this stuff doesn’t make us feel any happier, any more important or any more secure. Yet we still want more.
It’s time to explore some strategies we as Christ-followers can follow Christ in the midst of this consumer driven culture. I really like patterns, so all four of our strategies start with the letter R. You can follow along and take notes on the message map insert in your bulletin. Roz and I struggle with fighting these cultural myths about money, but here are four strategies we’ve found help us live simply free…
Roz - RESIST COMPARING WHAT I HAVE TO OTHERS
There was a famous study that was done in Muncie, IN. They discovered that a high percentage of women who took jobs didn't really need to take jobs but they did even though they preferred staying at home. Why? The number one answer was so they could buy things that would make them the envy of others.
Just about the time you're starting to feel good with what you've got, you look over your shoulder and somebody just got the newer model.
We compare ourselves with our peers and say I don't have as much is “so-and-so.” Missions- we go thinking we are going to do good and help and really helps us more. We come back disgusted with our wealth but then when we are back around our peers, we forget and get desensitized again.
Callie - our possessions can possess us. If you own anything -- a house, a car, money in a bank account, a nice guitar, anything -- and if God told you to give it away and you're not free to give it away, you don't own it. It owns you. Our possessions possess us.
That first house I owned and I thought I needed was so hard to give up because it was possessing me, and I worried what others would think about us giving it up to move to a more affordable home, but the more we wrestled with it, we realized it may have fit in with my life before Roz and I married and the people I’d grown up around, but it wasn’t congruent with the call God had placed on our lives. Picture of house
So we sold it and bought a three bedroom two bath house for half the price in downtown Lexington between the two campuses of our church. (Show picture of house on screen.) We quickly realized that we were happier without as much debt. And even though the location was not as desirable of a “location” in the eyes of many, it was in a better location for God’s call on our lives.
Then, God called us to Ginghamsburg, and we knew with getting The Point going we’d need to be fully invested in Trotwood, so we bought a three bedroom two bath house in Trotwood, OH for a third of the price of our most recent house in Lexington. (Show picture of house.)
With each move, we’ve realized that as much as location, location, location matters from a real estate perspective, having the nicest most expensive house just means bigger mortgage payments, and what matters more is God’s call on our lives. That call is different for each of us, but whatever that call is, we’ll find more joy being in the center of it, but that required resisting the temptation of comparing ourselves with others. Downward mobility is not just moving but living close to the cross. How has God called you in a unique way? In order to follow Him, you’ve got to Resist comparing yourself with others.
Roz - REJOICE IN WHAT I DO HAVE
Contentment is not a natural trait. It must be learned. You have to learn it. I invite you to enroll in the school of contentment. Say, "God, teach me to learn to be satisfied with what I have rather than always be wanting something else." Paul learned it. In Philippians 4, he says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (Phil 4:11-12) G. K. Chesterton says, “There's two ways to have enough. One, get more. Two, desire less. If you desire less, you can be content without having to get more.” You can get off the track.
Our verses today call us not to worry about tomorrow, but to Rejoice in the food and clothes we have for today, and the God who cares for us intimately. As verse 30 says, “And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.”
Callie – I did this a lot better as a kid. I’m really close to my grandpa. (Show picture of Callie with grandpa.) I’ve always called him “Honey” because that’s what my grandma called him; and I thought that was his name. It stuck. (Show picture of grandpa) Honey loves to tell the story of my birthday was coming up and he asked me if I’d like a new dress, and I said, “I already have a dress, honey.” So he said, “What about a new stuffed animal?” My favorite stuffed bunny rabbit was pretty worn out, but I replied, “I already have a bunny, honey.” I was happy and content with what I did have, but somewhere along the way I grew up and forgot to be grateful and rejoice it what I already have. Jesus never tells little children to grow up, but He does call us to have a childlike faith. We’ve got to be more like a child, rejoicing it what God has already provided rather than comparing ourselves to others.
Roz - RETURN THE FIRST TEN PERCENT BACK TO GOD.
That's called tithing. Pastor Mike talked last week about giving God our “Firsts” and not our left over. We have to release for God to increase it. Matthew 6:33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” – the KJV says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first.
God doesn't need our money, but He wants are heart, and where your treasure is there your heart will be also. Tithing is a way to test our own hearts. Does our money possess us or are we free to give it. Giving is an antidote to greed. It breaks the chains of materialism, it forces us to step out in faith and trust God. It’s defying that myth that more money will make me more secure, and saying, “God I am secure in you.” I trust you more than the number of dollars in my bank account. And friends, it can be scary. When each month can be a struggle to stretch a paycheck, making the leap of faith to seek God first and tithe sounds crazy. But remember the God we serve… the God who is a loving Father and already knows all your needs. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but God does. And he provides.
Callie - Satan would love to hold you back with fear, but friends don’t let him. That’s why rejoicing in what we do have and all the ways God has provided is so important. That’s what allows us to step out in faith and return 10%.
This is something my parents taught me as a kid as soon as I was old enough to get an allowance. That last dollar was always broken out so I had the exact change to put 10% in the offering plate at church. Parents, it’s never too early to start teaching your kids the importance of giving and tithing. Picture of money
Roz - Student Loans… How did I pay this off? – Temptation to stop tithing in order to get out of debt. I’ll start my diet tomorrow. I’ll start Monday. When we put it off we never start. Someday is now.
This is also something that’s helped us live simply free and follow Christ throughout our marriage even when our consumer-driven culture tells us not too It’s been hardest in times when we’ve been stretched thin. But we had to keep remembering that God is faithful and choosing to seek first the Kingdom of God.
Callie - REFOCUS: HOLD WHAT YOU DO HAVE WITH AN OPEN HAND.
What if in addition to giving generously back to God at least 10%, we gave Him access to the other 90% of our income and all our stuff. What if the stuff we have was dedicated toward doing good and used to be rich in good deeds? What if we truly were willing to share it?
I tend to hold things with a tight grip. The world says it’s mine; I earned it or at least qualified for the credit card to finance it. But remember when we can’t give something away, it owns us, but it’s hard to hold things with an open hand. What if God calls me to share my stuff? What if He calls me to give it away? What we are really asking is can I trust God?
For me, I have to pry back the fingers of might tightly fisted hand one at a time, and what helps me is to write down a list or name out loud the things that I’m clinging to, worrying about, the possessions that are beginning to possess me.
God, I surrender to you… the house, the car, the appliances that aren’t working the way they should, the clothes in the closet, the jewelry on my dresser, the furniture we’re always trying to place in just the right location, the money in our bank account… God I trust you as owner of it all. You give and take away. Help me to manage things wisely and be open to your direction. Please use all I have for your glory and for your Kingdom. And God when I start to try to close my fist again, help be to continually Refocus and hold these things with an open hand.
In each of those three bedroom two bath houses, we’ve owned, we’ve had space for a guest room. And in each of those three houses, we’ve been able to use the guest bedroom at various times to have friends who needed a place to say live with us for free. Some have been recovering addicts or friends who would have otherwise been on the streets. Others have been friends or a family in transition getting settled in a new city. Each time, it’s required setting aside our own desires to have privacy and a house to ourselves, and each time we’ve been stretched and challenged but also blessed beyond what we would have imagined. Stuff gains value when it’s open to God to use for ministry.
So we’ve got to Resist comparing ourselves to others, Rejoice in what we do have, Return 10% to God and Rejoice, holding what we do have with an open hand.
Roz - What’s God saying to you today? What one thing do you need to do this week to respond to him? God’s calling each of us to live simply free and to follow him in a consumer driven culture, but that call looks different for each of us.
If you are married, that might start with a conversation with you, your spouse and God. Invite him to direct you to steward those resources together.
Do you need to Resist comparing yourself to others? Perhaps you need to stop a magazine subscription or curb the amount of time you spend browsing Facebook. What would it look like to serve and focus on blessing someone else rather than focusing on how you need to bless yourself?
Maybe you know you need to start Rejoicing and thanking God for everything he’s blessed you with rather than focusing on what you don’t have. Can you start each day this week thanking God for three things he’s given you? Thank God for the car that gets you where you need to go, even if it’s got some dents and the AC only works half the time.
Callie - Maybe you’ve never taken that leap of faith to Return 10% to God and today is the day to start tithing and put God to the test and see how He provides.
Maybe you need to Refocus and you might need to start by taking an inventory or where your money is currently going. You can tell a lot about what we value by looking at our checkbook and credit card statements. Does where you spend your money line up with what you say you value? What possessions are you unwilling to share? Is it time to make a list, that start with the words, “God I surrender…”
Invite folks to come forward to pray and respond to God.
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