Tuesday, November 24

The best sermon on money I've ever heard

The main idea: money is the bottom line in faith. It shows whether or not you've been changed by God's grace.

Listen: I know all this stuff, but, man, is this a convicting sermon about how grace should affect us.

Plus, there's no guilt in it. If you feel guilt, that's your baggage. Keller is not preaching guilt here at all.
Grace and Money

Acts 4.32-37

The grace of God - how it impacts our lives, changes our understanding and use of money.

The early church was very different from those around them when it came to money. Drastic, unreasonable generosity was an engine that drove influence on community around it.

The apostles' preaching was backed up by an unaccountable generosity. The people on the outside looked and said 'We don't get this! Nobody treats their money like this.'

252 AD: plague in Carthage. Healthy people left if they were able, but Cyprian called Christians to serve (including financial aid) those remaining without regard for their faith or persecution.

Emperor Julian wanted to stem Christianity and wrote in disgust 'Their success lies in their charity to all. They take care not only of their own poor, but ours as well.'

Christianity is a religion of grace and every other religion relies on moral effort.

Grace revolutionizes our attitude toward money, our procedure and the benefits of giving.

1. Grace revolutionizes our attitude toward money.

It's my money.

Christians say 'it's not my money'.

If people ask you for 'your' money, it annoys you.

Scrooge's attitude is changed because he's had an experience of grace - a second chance. That's not a lot of grace, but it's some. Scrooge looks at his money totally differently. He's gleeful and scheming about giving his money away.

The Bible says if you've experienced God's grace, you too will have a revolutionized way of looking at your money.

Money is the bottom line. It tells companies how they're doing. The Bible says money is the bottom line in our lives - how you spend it and what your attitude is toward it.

Scrooge has his attitude changed by the comparatively small grace of a second chance. How much more should our attitude be changed by Christ's grace. It is not a second chance. It is not just a model. (I could never live up to Jesus' example, if that's all there was to it.)

Jesus came and died to pay the penalty of our failures and if we receive Him, his record becomes our record. 'If you trust in me, the Father will welcome you as complete in Me.'
Lay your deadly doing down, down at Jesus feet
Stand in Him and Him alone, gloriously complete
Since that's so much more grace than Scrooge got, why aren't why so far beyond him?

If you have experienced grace, your bottom line changes.

Martin Luther used to get up every day and look up to heaven and say 'You are my goodness, I was Your punishment. You assumed everything I deserved and was so that I can receive everything You deserved and are. I'm rich. I'm adopted into the family of God. I have an imperishable inheritance. I'm going to shine like the stars in the kingdom of My Father. And even now I've got His holy power and joy has come into my life through the power of the Holy Spirit and it's begun to grow and it will eventually swallow up all my foolishnesses and all of my sadnesses and all of my weaknesses.'

So, we look at our material possessions and say 'This is a small thing compared to what I've got and will never lose. And you look at your material possessions and say 'This is all grace! I was in my grave and suddenly it's Christmas.' It melts away your possessiveness.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians, when he's asking for giving to hunger relief, 'I'm not commanding you to give. I'm just looking for the sincerity of your love for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who, though He was rich, for us became poor so that through His poverty we might become rich.'

There is never any need to lay guilt on a Christian to get them to be generous.

Rich young ruler: Luke 18:18-23

Is there anything else I need to do?

Jesus says 'Yeah, one thing: sell everything you have, give it away, and then you'll have treasures in heaven.'

He confronted him because He loves Him. 'You have a lot of money, but it's all going to burn up. If you have Me, you have everything - my record, my forgiveness. Unless you see that my dying love is your real treasure, that, frankly, salvation is not a matter of doing or adding one more thing to your good life. But, rather, it's a matter of throwing it all over and trusting wholly in Me. Until you see that if you have Me you have everything, you cannot inherit eternal life. If you understood that I am eternal life, your attitude toward money would be very different.'

Remember how God tells Abraham to put Isaac on the altar? He didn't really want Isaac to die. In fact, as soon as Abraham said 'Ok, You are the most important thing. If I've got You, I've got everything - all the love and wealth.' As soon as Abraham understood the Gospel, that eternal life does not come through adding but rather throwing everything over and having everything in Jesus; as soon as Abraham understood that, God said 'You don't have to kill Isaac.'

And probably that's what would have happened to the rich young ruler. If he had understood that in Jesus he had everything, he would have said 'Sure, if you want me to give it away, whatever' and Jesus would have said 'you probably don't need to now.'

What's the bottom line? You will always give money effortlessly to that which is your god.

[Then my god is myself and my own pleasure and comfort. That's what I give money effortlessly to.]

If you see that your salvation is in Jesus, then your attitude toward your money is 'I want to give it away in radical and drastic proportions. I want to change people's lives through it. It's not mine.'

On the other hand, if you salvation is clothes, looks, romance, status or security, then you're going to hold onto it and it's going to go effortlessly toward those things which are your real gods.

Your money is the bottom line. It tells you what your religion is, it tells you what your real salvation is. If the idea of giving great amounts of money away to the church or the poor appalls you, it shows that your heart is someplace else. If the idea of spending a lot of money on a new home sounds like a good idea because it is a great investment, but putting a whole lot of money into the poor, a whole lot of money into the church is not, it just simply shows you what your real salvation is and where you think grace really comes from.

2. Grace changes the procedure of your giving. Our giving without grace is passive and spontaneous. It's my money. I'm not looking for ways to get rid of it. I don't have enough of it anyway.

Most of us have to motivated by someone pulling on our guilt strings, like the Jerry Lewis telethon. Once someone gets through to us, through our passivity, we might give as much as we can afford. Cash in the wallet or bank account.

Christians are totally different. You will be active and intentional in your giving as a result of experiencing grace. Scheme about how to get rid of your money! 'Look at how God planned to poor out his riches on me! I'm going to plan, too.'

To be active and intentional, you have decide ahead of time how much you're going to give away, what percentage. It's a little harder if you have the kind of job where you don't know what your income's going to be, but you can still do some planning.

[We plan for retirement. We take out 6 or 10% off the top. How much more important is storing up treasures in heaven?]

The guideline in the Bible is the tithe, 10% to ministry and the poor. In an agricultural community, the tithe was the firstfruits. God got his gifts off the top. We have a tendency to fund out lifestyle first and then give God the leftovers. Instead, the Scripture says decide what you're giving God and then you live off of the leftovers.

Since, after Christ, we are more indebted to God, more blessed by God, it's inconceivable that God would expect or we would give less than the OT standard of 10%.

No legalism: Before or after taxes? I don't know. [But do you want to be blessed on the gross or on the net?] Does it all have to go to the local congregation? No.

If you begin your economic life using the tithe as a guideline for your giving, it's not hard. You just act like it's not there. But most of us have to transition, and it's very hard. It's impossible to do immediately and still pay our debts and bills. It might have to be something you're moving toward.

3. Grace changes the benefits of giving.

If you haven't experienced God's grace, what are the benefits of giving?

Jerry Lewis said 'If you give, you'll be able to look in the mirror tomorrow and say 'You are a caring person.'' It's true, and that's about as great a benefit as you get if you're doing it simply because Jerry Lewis got you to feeling guilty. There's nothing wrong with what he does. The kids need the money, that's the only way you can get it out of people who haven't experienced God's grace.

'Great grace was upon them all.'

The benefits are to others and to you.

To others:

People look for ways to invest their money in ways that will go on past their lives. Foundations and schools, but the future trustees don't share their values (like Harvard).

Lk 16: 'Make sure you make friends in heaven with your money so they will receive you when you come to their dwellings.' It's possible that some of you will come to Heaven and meet people whom you've never met that will thank you for giving to a ministry that pointed them to God. Money will burn up, but we can have wealth forever.

Go to your broker and say 'I want to put my money into something that lasts' I doubt that s/he'll think of this.

A billion years from now, do you want your wealth to still be with you? It's possible.

To you:

Some of you do not give as much as you should because you're worried about your money; you don't have enough. Some people can't give because they've got too much. If you can't give, money has you by the throat. You're so worried. Grace changes that. It makes you say 'Hey, He gave me His own Son. He's not going to let me starve now.' You're liberated.

Change your lifestyle so you can't do many of the things you're doing now because of your generosity. Then you'll be free, too.

Do you see the power of money over you receding because of your generosity?

Do you see glory being awakened in other people through your money?

Have you come to the place where anybody who knows you realizes you're different, incredibly generous, hospitable and welcoming?

Are you finding this a tremendously irritating sermon? So you think it's incredibly cheeky for a minister to talk to you like this? Does the idea of giving 10% of your income to charity or the church strike you as ridiculous?

You don't need to give your money away. You need to find the Christ that turns you into a person of radical generosity.

I'm not after your money. I don't want it. I'm after your blessedness. The Bible says it's more blessed to give than to receive.

If you're not sure where you stand with the Lord, we certainly don't want your money. We want you to find Him. Because you're in the same shoes as the rich young ruler. He thought all God wanted was for you to be a moral, decent person.

Christianity is never an addition to what you already have. Christianity is not just a little boost to make you a little better person. It' explosive. It explodes in your hands. It wipes away what you already have and puts something brand new in there. It says 'Jesus is your Savior entirely, you're save wholly by grace and therefore you follow Him entirely and it changes your attitude toward everything. Things that used to be very precious to you, you snap your fingers at because you've got Him.'

Don't think I'm saying 'Better give. That'll get you to heaven.' It's the exact opposite of everything I mean. You want to change your life, find Him.

[Keller applies this to nonChristians at the end, and that makes sense, of course. But I am so convicted by this sermon. I am not a cheerful giver, and, chances are, you are like me. No guilt: we need to find Jesus. We need His grace to change our lives more. He said 'You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.' Amen.]

Thursday, November 19

A few cartoons from my childhood

I was looking up the Toothbrush Family (pretty cheesy now) and came across a few others:

+ Picture Pages

+ Fat Albert

+ Underdog

+ Peabody and Sherman (actually, a lot more clever than I remembered)

Fun :-)

Saturday, November 14

Keller on absolute truth

Absolutism: Don't we all have to find truth for ourselves?

Galatians 2:4-16, Dr. Timothy Keller, October 8, 2006

In today's society, absolute truth is thought of to be the enemy of freedom. But truth is more important than you think, freedom is a lot more complex than you think, and Jesus is a lot more liberating than you think. Surrendering to God's absolute truth gives you a deeper, richer freedom in every area, without oppression.
[NB: there's a small problem with the streaming file on this page. Simplest thing is to just download the mp3 that's offered.]

Foucault: truth claims are power plays.

Nietzsche: Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Jesus brings the same criticisms against the Pharisees.

If Foucault, Nietzsche and Jesus all agree on something, it has to be true ;-)

But, not all truth claims are power plays. Not all of them destroy freedom.

Saying no one has the truth is itself a massive truth claim.

Everyone makes truth claims. We have to. We cannot live in a world with content, without truth, without belief. 'Fundamentalism' does not always lead to oppression. It depends on what the fundamental is.

There is no freedom without truth (and it has to be a truth beyond 'there is no truth', itself an arbitrary truth claim).

Only the truth will set you free. Example: navigation. You say 'maybe that's true in the empirical realm but not the moral/spiritual realm'. No, we see people run aground on moral/spiritual rocks every day. Freedom comes from submission to the truth. We think freedom is doing what we want, maybe getting free from 'truth'. Sure, then you're free to run aground.

Freedom in Christ does entail constraint to Biblical ethical norms.

We can't just eat anything we want, especially as we get older, if we want the richer, deeper freedom of good health and long life.

No one is free to be great at music without the restriction of practice. You say no to the 'freedom' of doing whatever your heart might desire at the moment for the greater good of the freedom to play well.

Freedom is the presence of the right restrictions.

A fish on the grass is not free. 'Oh, I wish I were free of this water!' ;-) It has lost it's freedom to move, even to live.

Love brings the freedom of fulfillment and security and joy.

John 1: The absolute truth is a person. When two people love one another and rely on each other and sacrifice their independence for the other one, it's heaven.

Only one religion has a god who sacrificed His freedom for us.

Thursday, November 5

Walter's CrossFit workout

My buddy, Walter, is a beast. He's been working out at CrossFit in Austin and he recently got his own workout!

Here's the workout:

And here's the interview with Walt:

And, if you're still with me and interested, here's the workout at CrossFit Central.

Tuesday, November 3

Live Healthy: Catching up

Don't worry. I've been doing ok. Just haven't been posting about it :-)

+ The best news is that Friday I was down to 199! New low for this effort. Took the weekend off (Halloween and all). Back to work today. Reasonably, based on how I've been doing, I'd like to lose 2 more pounds by Thanksgiving.

+ I've had this nagging feeling that I should be doing more body weight exercises on Thursdays. Tuesday and Saturday have been my normal days, and I'm probably not going hard enough to have to take Thursdays off. So I added up 10 negative pullups (really have been meaning to do more of these), some miscellaneous exercises from Wil's physical therapy (I do it with him sometimes, mostly as a means of supervision), some of the exercises that came with my new stability ball (that I got with my SparkPeople gift certificate for pre-ordering 'The Spark') and a couple more. That felt more like it ;-)

+ Rode >12 miles in an hour with my father-in-law on Saturday during the second half of the Iowa game.Considering how tumultuous that game was, it was probably for the best ;-)

Rode down on the Three Rivers trail and it was a beautiful day, but not too crowded. I really bombed the southern end, including the boardwalk portion. Fun to go fast!

+ Jogged 2.4 miles in 25 minutes with my friend, Scott, on Sunday. I felt good about my pace and endurance.

Experiencing a very little soreness in my knees that I'm paying attention to. Probably normal and nothing to worry about.

That was the end of week 6 of Couch-to-5K training. It was also the end of walk breaks. 25 minutes of jogging per outing (3) this week, 28 next week and 30 the following week. Then, the Sleigh Bell Trot. Will I be able to achieve my goal of 31 minutes (6 mph)? Stay tuned! ;-)

Sunday, November 1

My incredible Iowa game recap!

How did I not know about ESPN360.com, where a bunch of college games can be watched online, including after the game has finished?! Watching the second half that I missed yesterday starting from midway through the 3rd quarter.

+ Ricky Stanzi owes the defense, big time. He also owes Indiana for not being good enough to capitalize on all those picks.

+ So much less anxiety watching afterward and knowing what the score is and who's going to win :-)

+ Wegher's pretty impressive for a white, true freshman. You don't see many starting white halfbacks these days. Of course, a lot of his yards were after the blowout began...

+ Ferentz says he never considered benching Stanzi? How can that be? Obviously the right call, but the worst quarter of football of his life.

+ Heard Hawks will drop in the polls, but haven't read anything on that yet. What should really happen is that USC should drop a good bit and Oregon should not leap us. We'll still be fine with the computers, but who far will the voters drop us for losing to IU for three quarters?

+ Ricky is obviously a gunslinger. He can keep throwing with no remorse.

+ I found Bob Davies very annoying, but it's probably because of my own partiality. And I applied my famous 'if he knew so much about [insert sport] he'd still be coaching'. But here are some things Bob Davies said that I agreed with:
  1. Hidden yardage. This is the way the Hawks win with such a modest (though clutch) offense (86th in the nation). Scoring Defense: 14th, Turnover Margin: 6th, Net Punting: 12th, Kickoff Coverage: 18th, Penalty Yards: 3rd. So the knock on the Hawks is that they don't have enough offense to beat a really good team (like those ranked above them in the AP. But look at all of these other ways they add up to beat you. Of course, it didn't apply yesterday...
  2. The Iowa way: base defense and the next man in line steps up and plays. That's what you get with a good, strong basic system, offense and defense.
  3. Iowa has reaped the success of sticking with Ferentz through some sub-par years (especially given the size of his contract!). Patience has paid off.
  4. The Iowa strength and conditioning coach gets props for Iowa's total and complete 4th quarter dominance.
  5. The wind really did make a big difference to the QBs. What was it, six picks against the wind?
  6. Where should Iowa be in the polls?
+ Commentary on the Iowa RB injury succession. Maybe it's kind of like the Denver Broncos have been: the O-line is so good, you can plug in any reasonably decent RB.

+ Great job just riding Wegher at the end of the game. Wish the Vikes would have ridden Peterson last week against Pittsburgh :-(

+ Really didn't like seeing Ricky run and dive head-first a couple times at the end of the game.

+ At the end of the game, Davies says 'We've seen the worst Iowa football can be.' Not true. Ricki Stanzi was horrible in the third quarter. The rest of the team was pretty good the whole game, especially the defense. If the defense hadn't shut them down so many times, Iowa would have lost.

Ok, obviously the AP and USA Today rankings are out by now and the AP is a total rip off. You rank a one-loss Oregon team above an undefeated Iowa team with a stronger strength of schedule? Asinine.

A little more commentary for you: It's more than chemistry in Iowa's and Oregon's winning formula (furthermore, he's picking them to play each other in the Rose Bowl).

At least at this point, I'm not feeling greedy. I don't need Iowa to be in the national championship game or to win it. Like Kirk Ferentz said, our team doesn't look like world-beaters right now, but they keep winning games. Heck, I don't even need them to go undefeated. I'd like Iowa to win the Big Ten outright and the Rose Bowl. That's all I ask. Pretty modest, aye? ;-)

People I want to read this post and add to it (tagging in Facebook): Tyler Luebke, Phil Luebke, David Rodnitzky, Jason Streed, Andy Knox, Suzy Swenka and anyone else who loves to follow and analyze the Hawks.