Investing in the Kingdom of God

I have an IRA.

It was first suggested to me by a friend who is a financial guru (he writes financial articles for a living) and had given me stock investments as a birthday present in my early twenties.  I barely think about my IRA except for times I add to it or when the economy tanks.  I’m hoping the Lord returns before I ever need to use it.  Yet, should He tarry, one day I should (hopefully) get to partake of that investment.  Of course, it will only buy me temporary things and support me with extra income, but still, it is a helpful thing to have and should the economy not completely crash, an investment that will reap rewards.

Yet, there is a greater “stock” we can invest in that will reap eternal rewards but sadly some can invest very little into because they can’t see what will be the return on their investment like they can when they peek at the numbers in their physical IRA or savings account.  Or we can think rewards aren’t important to us (though when we stand before the Lord to give account we are going to wish we had cared a little more).

However, I also believe we make “investing” such a difficult task or fail to realize how much Jesus will be looking to reward us for that we did not even think about.  For instance:

  • Have you ever prayed for your pastor or a missionary?  You may not see how your prayers are answered, but I believe there will be rewards because of our sharing in the rewards of that pastor/missionary that we prayed for that kept going because of our prayers.
  • Ever given to your church?  There is an investment that will bring back a huge return in the next life!  All those lives both here and abroad that were touched and changed because of the finances that made it possible to do ministry because of our giving to the local church.
  • Do you teach your kids about the Lord?  Ever stop to consider how they may go on to impact thousands or maybe even your kids will lead the next Billy Graham to Christ who will lead thousands to Christ?  The ripple effect that we will see because we spent time investing into our kids in the things of the Lord.
  • Ever shared the Gospel with someone but they didn’t make a response towards salvation?  Don’t be discouraged – not only were you doing the will of God (preaching Christ) but who knows if that person doesn’t one day accept Jesus and go on to impact many others simply because you shared with them.
  • Seeking to be more like Christ and continuing to be joyous under hard trials?  People are watching you and your testimony can impact those watching.

So there are plenty of ways to make “investments” into the Kingdom that can produce a “return” in the life to come that are more than just financial investments.  But if you do ever wonder why give to a local church or a missions organization, you are ultimately giving to the Lord and like a physical savings account, your money in the Kingdom of God can accrue “interest” in lives that are impacted because of your generous giving.  So don’t think of it as a chore or something you HAVE to do (God doesn’t need your money), but something you GET to do as an act of worship and investment in His Kingdom!

We invest in temporary things all the time – the new iPhone, used car, house, retirement account, etc. – which aren’t bad to do so (unless you are living for those things), but they won’t last.  Our return on those investments will only be limited to this life.  But those things we invest in that have an eternal value, well, we will partake of those for eternity!

This blog post comes from the thoughts of the sermon on John 6:22-71 titled “The Bread of Life” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

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You Don’t Have a Boring Testimony

“Likewise I say to you, the is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10

As we studied John 4:27-54 on Sunday and mentioned how your testimony can help bring a harvest of souls, I spoke on that no one has a boring testimony and I want to reiterate that point here in this post.

Often times we hear “amazing” testimonies (sometimes brag-a-monies if the sin is highlighted over the salvation from it) where a person was in drugs or killing people or paralyzed and they heard the Gospel, received Christ and were radically changed.  Those that do not have a testimony that wows the crowd can feel as if they should not share their testimony because it is boring because they grew up in a Christian home and knew Christ at a young age, or because “there isn’t much too it”.  They can feel as if the world does not need to hear how they were lost and now found because they weren’t “into the evils of the world” as much.  If that is you (or you have ever felt that way of someone else’s testimony) let me say:

YOUR TESTIMONY IS NOT BORING…and for four reasons.

1. Angels rejoiced in heaven when you got saved.  Whether it was at 5 years old or 35 years old, they rejoiced in Heaven for you!  And Scripture only tells us of 4 other things they rejoice about which makes your testimony a big deal to them.

2. You were lost and now are found – it doesn’t matter of “how lost” because Heaven and Hell is not based on levels of righteousness (or lack thereof) that we can think in.  By nature we are sinners and the fact that we sin just proves that point.  We sin because we are sinners not the other way around.  A person who stole a penny but doesn’t know Christ is as lost as the person killing others who doesn’t know Christ.  Jesus died for you and saved you!  That is pretty miraculous.

3. Jesus is still working in you!  That is part of your testimony right there.  The fact He continues to shape you and grow you and conform you more to His image is unbelievably amazing.

4. Those of us who knew the ways of the world and did not grow up in a Christian home wish we had.  We wish we did not need to know the pain of a sinful lifestyle and could have been in that environment.

So don’t convince yourself your testimony is boring.  Get out there and share it!  It is the one thing people can’t argue about.  There are at least 2 billion people who will die without Christ during your lifetime (and to understand 2 billion, like I taught on Sunday, if I gave you $1 every 2 seconds from the day you were born to the day you died, you would still not reach 2 billion dollars).  These people need to hear about Christ, they need to hear about your testimony.  Share it! (but remember to keep Christ at the center…focus should always be on Him not you).

 

Sunday’s message from John 4:27-54, “White for Harvest”, can be heard in its entirety here: A Place of Refuge as well as other sermons from our teachings through the Gospel of John

Love & Fury

This past Sunday, we studied John 2:1-25, focusing on both the love and fury of Jesus.  I spoke on the fact that God the Father (or as some try to distinguish “God of the Old Testament”) and Jesus (“God of the New Testament”) are the same and therefore you will find the nature of God the Father in the nature of God the Son.  If you study the Old Testament you will find more than just a wrathful, judging God and if you study the New Testament you will find more than a one dimensional, loving-never-harsh Jesus, and in John 2 you see both the loving side of Jesus (blessing a marriage) and the fury side (overturning tables, driving out money changers, etc).

I want to focus on John 2:6-8, dealing with the servants who obeyed Jesus by filling the waterpots (to the brim) with water and taking it to the master (which sometime Jesus turned into wine).  We discussed four important principles (as similar to what Spurgeon stated on this passage):

  1. When Christ is about to give a blessing, He often begins with a command
  2. Jesus’ commands are not to be questioned but obeyed
  3. Whenever you get a command from the Lord, carry it out to the fullest
  4. God doesn’t need us but He chooses to use us

The fourth truth is one we can all dwell on more because we can either think too highly of ourselves or too lowly.  Many will get a large amount of education and/or Bible training and think they have all the head knowledge, knowing more than everyone else, and therefore God will use them greatly.  Or people will think they’ve blown it too many times or have zero to offer the Lord in talents and therefore God won’t use them.

The glorious truth is that both are incorrect ways of thinking.  We are not used because we are someone special (read 1 Corinthians 1:25-31 if you have any doubts).  Like the waterpots and the servants, we are used because we are available to be used.  We should not boast in being used or expect to be used, but simply tell God we are willing however He chooses to use us.  Therefore, don’t think of any ministry as “beneath you” (and though people will never say that, they will say something like “I’m just not called to do that” to get out of something***), but simply be glad and humbled, the God of the universe who died for you is requesting you help Him (be it cleaning toilets, watching kids in the nursery, teaching wild 5th graders in the classroom, greeting people or teaching from the pulpit).  It’s an amazing privilege to serve so great a King and let us do so to the very fullest!

Click to hear Sunday’s message, “Love & Fury”

***if you really aren't called to do something, don't do it.  Not everyone should do children's ministry (as one example), but you know whether it is an excuse to get out of doing something you don't like or feel beneath you or not.

Come & See

My basic outline for our text in John 1:19-51 was this:

  • A Voice in the Wilderness (v. 19-28)
  • Come & See the Lamb of God (v. 29-37)
  • Come & See – Jesus’s Call to Know Him (v. 38-39)
  • Come & See Jesus for Yourselves (v. 40-51)

I want to spend a little bit of time on the last two points and cover them more deeply than in the message.

In Jesus opening Himself up to the disciples by inviting them to come and see where He was staying, He began the time of fellowship with these disciples and it impacted their lives so much they remember the time this took place (“about the tenth hour [4 P.M.]).  He was not afraid to show Himself and be known to those who wanted to draw close to Him (and He is  still the same way with us).  It is a model for us to be real with people.  You may say, “yeah, but He had nothing to hide!  He was perfect, the Son of God, afterall.”  True, in the sense that there were no sins in His life or imperfections, but: He was not rich, this was not His home (He was staying with someone else), Isaiah 53:2 tells us He had no form or comeliness or beauty that we should desire Him, and He had all kinds of skeletons in His closet when it came to His ancestry.  There were plenty of things that could have, and did, make people turn away, but He was not afraid to show who He was, because He was confident in who He was and what God had called Him to do.

If we want to experience true fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be willing to open ourselves up to them.  We need not worry whether the house is perfectly clean before inviting others over (if you have kids, it may NEVER be clean..haha), or whether we are intelligent enough or have enough theological knowledge to talk with others.  You might think or say, “but I could get really hurt emotionally by doing so!” or even, “at my last church I got burned by people and are afraid to open up again”, or possibly even, “don’t you know how judgmental people can be?”.  Let me assure you – at some point in time by opening up and having deep relationships YOU WILL get hurt!  People are people, they let us down, and sometimes even stab us in the back.  It all happened to Jesus and still happens to Him.  So He understands.

BUT…you will also experience a deep connection with others you may have never had before.  You will find friends that are closer than a brother (or sister).  You will have people who will be there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on or a person to confide in or a friend to confess your sins and faults too (James 5:16).

So how can you practically do this and how can you use wisdom in doing so?  Well first, look for someone that seems trustworthy and walking with the Lord.  Then invite them over to your house for dinner or meet at Starbucks for coffee or just go out for a $1 sweet tea at McDonald’s.  Before you meet with them, just ask the Lord to bless the time.  Then just start talking – maybe start by sharing your testimony, asking them their testimony, maybe bring questions you are wrestling with in the Scriptures or share what the Lord has been teaching you.  Someone walking with the Lord, is going to respond in a positive way to these things.

We will cover the second point in a later post.

Sunday’s message found here: Come & See

Turn on the Light

This past Sunday, the message was titled “When the Eternal Stepped Into Our World” and we covered John 1:1-18.  We took time to look at what an amazing thing it was for Jesus to take on human form so that we could know Him and obtain salvation.

I want to take this blog to focus on John 1:4-5  – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  The word comprehend is also be translated “overcome” and better shows the meaning of the verse.

Darkness can never extinguish the light but the light can always extinguish the darkness.  If you put a candle in a totally dark room, the candle isn’t going to go out because the darkness is so thick.  Rather, the light will chase the darkness.  If you want to get rid of darkness in a room, you simply turn on the lights.  The more light there is the less darkness there is.

The same principle is true in our lives.  If you are walking in darkness or your life is in the dark, are you turning on The Light?  When we allow the light in our lives to dim, darkness will creep in.  We find we aren’t interested in spiritual things, maybe depression or lack of hope comes in as well, and we wonder what happened to the joy we once had.  The cares of the world seem overwhelming, it can be hard to “put up” with cranky kids, and we may just not want to keep going on.

Turn The Light on!

The easiest way I have found, at least for me, is grab your iPod, CD player, or any music player, and start listening to worship music.  Focus on singing along (outloud or silently in your heart) and focusing on Jesus.  Worship is a great chance to be reminded of the promises of God, the loving character of God, the truths of Scripture, and give praise unto Him in a very prayerful way.  Then open His Word, the Bible, and refresh yourself.

Will your problems go away?  Will all in your life be cured?  No, but the Light will be on and you’ll find when your path is lit, it is much easier managing what is going on in the world around you than when you were stumbling through the darkness.  Hope and joy will replace fear and sorrow and you will find rest for your souls (and He promises rest for all who come).

Other messages can be found at: www.refugesanger.com

Our Vision, Your Service

Acts 2:42-47, Ephesians 4:11-16

We spent time discussing what the church should look like and what our vision will be. 

Let me review what we are calling “The Heartbeat of Refuge Sanger”: Equip, Know, Go (our EKG)

  • Equip – focusing on teaching you the Word of God so you can do the work of ministry God has prepared for you
  • Know – Knowing Jesus & one another in deeper ways by being devoted to prayer, worship, and fellowship
  • Go – Going into all nations and making disciples. We will be a missions minded church

 But as we venture out on this direction The Lord is taking us in, we only go so far as the saints get involved, being Spirit-filled to do the work.  I would challenge you to ask yourself, how has God gifted me & how can I serve Him at Refuge.

As we rollout this vision and go from inreach (what you had done for 5 months while Dan served faithfully as interim pastor looking for new pastor until Jesus brought our family out so I would serve as the senior pastor) to outreach, there will be and currently are a multitude of opportunities to serve. 

The early church was devoted to the apostles teaching, prayer, breaking of bread and fellowship. Let it be said that we as Christians and Refuge Sanger are devoted to those same things.

 

Sunday’s message found here: Our Vision, Your Service