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December 14, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 6 of 12) – Getting God’s View

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we continued looking at God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. We’re finishing that discussion today, and we’ll start talking about practical applications next Sunday.

       In David’s prayer to God after the Israelites’ freewill offering for the building of the temple, we see an excellent example of God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives:

David’s Prayer

10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
       “Praise be to you, O LORD,
       God of our father Israel,
       from everlasting to everlasting.

       11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
       and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
       for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
       Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
       you are exalted as head over all.

       12 Wealth and honor come from you;
       you are the ruler of all things.
       In your hands are strength and power
       to exalt and give strength to all.

       13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
       and praise your glorious name.

       14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.

1 Chronicles 29:10-18 (NIV)

       David recognizes the awesome power of God. God is the ruler of all things, creator of all things, owner of all things, and giver of all things. We are truly nothing in comparison to all of God’s glory. Our very few days on Earth (when compared to God’s eternity) are but a shadow. We must remember that we have not created all we have—it all comes from God.

       The second part of David’s prayer has some especially good points to keep in mind in our giving. First, everything we have comes from God, so when we give we’re really only giving what is already God’s. Second, we must give willingly and honestly to truly bring joy to God. He doesn’t want our Money for the sake of having our money. A willing offering is a sign of complete loyalty to God—it shows that our heart belongs to God and not Money.

       If a willing and honest desire to give back to God in thanks for His goodness, mercy, and glory is not in your heart, pray that God will help change your heart and focus your mind on His ways. If you already have a willing and honest desire to give, pray that God will keep that desire in your heart forever and that He will keep your heart loyal to Him.

       To view everything as belonging to God, to view contentment as the ultimate path to wealth, and to give God all praise and glory are ideas that go against our human nature and the ways of society. It may be difficult to take on God’s View and live it out because it will seem like foolishness to many people. But consider what Jesus said in Matthew 16:26:

       26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:26 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Luke 9:25.

       What good will millions of dollars do for you if you lose your soul in the process? How much will you care about having a nice car and a nice home if it means you have severed your relationship with Christ? Is there anything in this world that’s really worth eternal separation from God?

       It’s so easy to let Things creep into our lives and put up a barrier between us and Jesus. Sometimes it happens without our realizing it. But we have to remember that nothing is worth more than our life in Christ. When the Things of this World seem to start taking precedence over your faith, step back for a moment and consider: Is it worth it?

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

December 7, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 5 of 12) – Getting God’s View

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we began looking at God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. We’re continuing that discussion today, and we’ll finish it up next Sunday. Then it’s on to practical applications.

       In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches us that we should focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth:

       19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Luke 12:33-34.

       Jesus makes two main points here:

  1. Earthly treasures are only temporary. The wealth of this world provides no eternal security and very little security in this life. It is easily stolen, lost, or otherwise destroyed. On the other hand, heavenly treasures last forever.
  2. Whatever we treasure will control our heart. If we hold the riches of the World in high regard, our hearts will be focused on serving Money. If we value God’s Word more than the World’s riches, we’ll be able to truly serve God and experience His blessing. God will have the only thing He needs to work through us—our hearts.

What's in your treasure chest? (Treasure chest by markleggett on Flickr)       God’s View of storing up treasure is so different from ours. Instead of worrying about the value of our 401(k) plans and savings accounts, Jesus would rather have us thinking about how many people we’ve shown love to in the past 24 hours—and how we can share His love with even more people tomorrow. Instead of looking at things in terms of the past few months or over our lifetimes, we need to start viewing everything in light of eternity. It’s the only way we can really get God’s View.

       If we let the Things of this World come in and take over our lives and our hearts, Jesus tells us very plainly what will happen. In Mark 4:18-19, He explains the parable of the sower:

       18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Matthew 13:22 and Luke 8:14.

Thorn bush by Elsie esq. on Flickr       As Christians, we often discuss bearing the good fruit that comes from having the Spirit within us. But look at what Jesus says. If we let the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come into our lives and take over our hearts, we will be unfruitful.

       Getting caught up in the things the world reveres—wealth and all its trappings—chokes God’s power in us and keeps us from doing His Will. To fully serve God, we have to view everything in terms of eternity and reject the World’s view of money and meaning. Once we do this, we can break free of the thorns in our lives and flourish in God’s glory.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

November 30, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 4 of 12) – Getting God’s View

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we began looking at the solution to the problem of The World’s message. We’re continuing that discussion today and over the next two Sundays. We’ll look at God’s View of the world, money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money.

       In Luke 18:18-30, we see the story of the rich ruler. The ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Here is Jesus’ response:

       18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

       19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'”

       21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

       22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

       23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

       26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

       27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

       28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

       29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

Luke 18:18-30 (NIV)

This story is also found in Matthew 19:21-30 and Mark 10:17-27.

       When this rich ruler approached Him, Jesus knew that his heart was still focused on his wealth even though he had kept all the commandments since he was young. Earlier in our Personal Finance Bible Study, we learned that focusing or serving Money keeps us from serving God. When Jesus answered the ruler’s question, he quickly honed in on this fact and challenged the rich ruler to give up his wealth if he truly wanted to serve God and inherit eternal life.

       But we see the rich ruler’s response. He was saddened at the thought of giving up all of his wealth. What would we do if Jesus told us to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow Him? Would we be so attached to our material possessions and wealth that we wouldn’t give it up for Jesus?

Green My Apple iPod by Brianfit on Flickr       What if Jesus asked us to sell our iPods so we could feed the hungry? Or buy a smaller home so we could give clean water to those in third-world countries? Or forgo a new car and get a used one instead so we could give medicine to the weak? These are small things in comparison to selling everything we own, but there’s a good chance we feel resistance at the very thought of those actions.

       Naturally, we hold the Things of This World very dear to our hearts because we clearly and plainly see them every day. We easily understand the necessity of some things, and we enjoy the convenience and fun of others. But our focus on This World keeps us from seeing the necessity of God’s viewpoint-of realizing that love and relationships matter much, much more than iPods, big homes, and new cars. We can take nothing with us when we die, yet look at how we strive to accumulate so much Stuff all our lives! This is exactly one of the reasons that Solomon said everything under the Sun is meaningless.

       But if it is so natural for us to be attached to the Things of This World, how can we be saved if the salvation Jesus offers requires us to give up that very attachment to our natural world? We can try to remind ourselves that eternal happiness with God in Heaven is worth more than anything The World can offer, but we cannot completely remove the attachment to The World without God’s help. What is impossible for us on our own is possible with God. Through prayer and a close relationship with God, our hearts can be changed so we focus on God’s World and not ours.

Hot Meal by Ordered Chaos on Flickr       The reward of contentment is very great. Our lives are made easier and much more joyful here on Earth because contentment makes the smallest things very great. A hot meal, warm clothes, or a soft bed-all are great wealth to the person who is content. We also get the eternal reward of communion with God and everlasting life in Heaven. How can any benefit of the world’s wealth be greater than the benefit of God’s rewards for us?

       So this is the first part of God’s view we must begin to take on for ourselves. Our attachment to This World keeps us from fully receiving God’s gifts and fully serving Him. We must give up this attachment if we want to truly receive eternal life in Jesus. And we cannot do it on our own-we must ask God to change our hearts and teach us His ways. If it seems impossible, remember you are not alone. God can do it through you!

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

November 23, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 3 of 12) – The Solution to the Problem

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we talked about the problem with The World’s message. Loving money and believing The World’s message keep us from serving God. Additionally, The World can offer us no eternal reward and the Stuff it tells us to buy can’t be taken with us when we’re dead.

       Today, we’re going to begin talking about the solution to the problem with The World’s message. We’ll only get through part of it now, but we’ll finish up the discussion next Sunday.

Where Does the Problem Start?

       In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus clearly tells us where the problems of greed and envy start:

       21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’

Mark 7:21-23 (NIV)

Broken Heart by CarbonNYC on Flickr       Greed and envy come from within—they’re heart problems. These aren’t the kinds of heart problems that can be fixed by taking the right kinds of medicine, getting enough exercise, or eating right. Greed and envy are reflections of our deepest motives, desires, and attitudes. Humans are inherently prone to these kinds of thoughts because Sin infects every area of our lives. The only way we can get these things out of our hearts is to let God come in and take over.

       Every first Tuesday for the past six months at my Bible study, we’ve had a guest speaker named Butch Marvin. One of Butch’s favorite sayings is that God doesn’t want your money, your good works, or anything else you think you can offer Him. God only wants your heart—because once He’s got our hearts he’ll get everything else in our lives.

Renew Your Mind!

       For God to fix our hearts and get rid of all the evil things that can come from within us, we have to fully accept Jesus and let Him live in us. That means we have to give up our lives, our hearts, our selfish ambitions—everything! We need to ask God to change our hearts and the way we think. We need to ask Him to keep us focused on His Ways instead of The World’s ways.

       2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

       God can rid our lives of greed and envy and teach us to be content, if we’ll just ask Him to change the way we think. Only then can we truly understand the great gain that comes from contentment and begin to see God’s perfect will for our lives.

   36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
       and not toward selfish gain.

Psalm 119:32 (NIV)

Human Brain by Gaetan Lee on Flickr       We can start the process of renewing our minds and becoming new people by simply praying to God. David’s simple prayer here is a great way to start—simply asking God to keep us focused on Him and not on This World.

       Next Sunday, we’ll talk about the next step in this process: getting God’s view on our lives, money, and the things of This World.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

November 16, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 2 of 12) – The Problem with the World’s Message

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last week, we talked about The World’s message – if we can just get more of what The World can offer us, we’ll be happy and satisfied. God has told us The World’s message is wrong and clearly shows us in the Bible that only His Message is true. Only God can bring us true happiness, satisfaction, and security.

       This week, we’re going to look a little more at why The World’s message is a problem.

It Keeps Us from Serving God

In Luke 16:13-15, Jesus tells us:

       13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
       14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

Luke 16:13-15 (NIV)

       If we’re focused on The World and the things it offers, then we’re effectively serving Money. And Jesus tells us when we are serving Money, we absolutely cannot serve God.

Deep Emotional Attachment by baslow on Flickr       God knows our hearts, and if we value the things of This World above Him then we are detestable in His sight. Putting more faith in the “wisdom” of The World than in God’s Wisdom means that we have demoted God to a lesser status. And we Christians know that the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind – our entire being. If we place The World’s message above God’s Message, we cannot keep this greatest commandment.

It Cannot Provide an Eternal Reward

       In Psalm 49, David does a wonderful job of explaining why we shouldn’t believe The World’s message. The wealth of This World cannot save us from death; and once we die (as we all must), we cannot take any of it with us. Slowly read this passage and reflect upon it as you ask God to reveal the lies of The World and teach you His Truth.

   1 Listen to this, all you people!
   Pay attention, everyone in the world!
   2 High and low,
   rich and poor-listen!
   3 For my words are wise,
   and my thoughts are filled with insight.
   4 I listen carefully to many proverbs
   and solve riddles with inspiration from a harp.

   5 Why should I fear when trouble comes,
   when enemies surround me?
   6 They trust in their wealth
   and boast of great riches.
   7 Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death
   by paying a ransom to God.
   8 Redemption does not come so easily,
   for no one can ever pay enough
   9 to live forever
   and never see the grave.

   10 Those who are wise must finally die,
   just like the foolish and senseless,
   leaving all their wealth behind.
   11 The grave is their eternal home,
   where they will stay forever.
   They may name their estates after themselves,
   12 but their fame will not last.
   They will die, just like animals.
   13 This is the fate of fools,
   though they are remembered as being wise.

   14 Like sheep, they are led to the grave,
   where death will be their shepherd.
   In the morning the godly will rule over them.
   Their bodies will rot in the grave,
   far from their grand estates.
   15 But as for me, God will redeem my life.
   He will snatch me from the power of the grave.

   16 So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich
   and their homes become ever more splendid.
   17 For when they die, they take nothing with them.
   Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.
   18 In this life they consider themselves fortunate
   and are applauded for their success.
   19 But they will die like all before them
   and never again see the light of day.
   20 People who boast of their wealth don’t understand;
   they will die, just like animals.

Psalm 49 (NLT)

Tree and Gravestones by Jim Frazier on Flickr       I especially like the last three verses. How often do we admire the wealthy for their success? Yet despite all their success, if they trust in their wealth they will die just like wild animals. God is the only one who can save us from death, and He can only do that if we give up believing The World’s message and seek His Truth.

       Next Sunday, we’ll start talking about how we can ignore The World’s message and begin understanding the Truth.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

November 9, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 1 of 12) – The World’s Message

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Do you buy into the hype of shopping and consumerism? Do you think more money will make you happier? Do you think more stuff will make your life easier? Do you always have to have the latest model, the newest car, the hottest fashions, or the biggest house you can afford? Advertisements tell us every day that we are missing out if we don’t have the things they’re selling. Just watch this video from YouTube titled “Please Buy More Stuff” to see what I’m talking about:

       This is just one of the many messages from The World that flies smack in the face of The Message that God has been trying to tell us for thousands of years. Do you believe The World’s message? Jesus speaks directly to those who believe the world’s message in Revelation 3:17-18.

       17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Revelation 3:17-18 (NIV)

       The World tries to tell us that if we just acquire more wealth & things, then we won’t need anything else – we’ll be satisfied and secure. But the truth is that the more we get the more we’ll want. The World can not offer us any true satisfaction or security. It’s a false hope to think that a bigger bank account will make you happier or more fulfilled. Jesus already knows The World can’t satisfy us, and that we’ll actually be pitiful, poor, blind, and naked if we listen to The World’s message. Only God can provide us with true wealth and open our eyes so we can see the truth.

Something Better

       God has a higher purpose for us than million dollar investment portfolios and 3,000 square foot homes. God wants more meaning in our lives than a brand new car and shiny boat in the driveway. God has a higher calling for our retirement years than day after day spent on the golf course, beach, or back porch.

       There’s a major problem with The World’s message – specifically in that it contradicts God’s Message. We’ll talk more about why The World’s message is a problem next Sunday.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

November 2, 2008

What Does the Bible Say about Personal Finance?

Filed under: Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 9:00 am

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This is a question I have asked myself many times. Many people have already tried to answer this question as a quick web search will show you. But I often see where people have twisted the Scripture to fit their message rather than looking at the Scripture first to find the message. I’ve also read that there are over 2,000 Scriptures about money in the Bible, but I can’t seem to find a free resource online that shows all of these Scriptures in one place. Bob at Christian Personal Finance has the most comprehensive list of Scriptures discussing money in the Bible that I have found anywhere online, but it’s a bit short of the 2,000 number that’s so often quoted.

       So I decided to do my own Personal Finance Bible Study to list and categorize as many verses in the Bible that I can find pertaining to some aspect of personal finance. From that resource I hope to cull the Bible’s message about personal finance and apply it in practical ways to our lives today. My biggest worry is that I might also fall into the trap of using Scripture out of context to fit my own message, especially since I’m a financial planner and already have my own ideas about personal finance. If you ever catch me doing this, please let me know!

       As I complete this work, I’m going to share it with you on this website. I’ll start a page showing the categorized list of Bible verses I’ve found along with a running total of the Scripture references and number of verses in each category. I’ll also share Personal Finance Bible Studies with you via individual posts. I encourage your participation as your wisdom and insight will help me improve this Bible Study and my own understanding.

Why Spend So Much Time on Personal Finance in the Bible?

       I don’t want to focus on money so much because of any personal fascination with it or because I’m greedy or because I want to be rich. I’m doing it because it has such an important impact on both our spiritual and material lives. It can be used as a tool to serve God and our needs, or it can keep us far away from God and take control of our lives. The problem isn’t when we’ve got money – it’s when the money has got us. Jesus told us this in Luke 16:13.

13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Luke 16:13 (NIV)

       Jesus is clearly telling us that we must have the right views about Money if we’re going to truly love and serve God. That’s why I think it’s so vitally important to focus on Personal Finance in the Bible and how it should affect our lives as Christians. If we can get that right, it’ll make it much easier for us to serve God completely and wholeheartedly.

Stay Tuned!

Stay Tune by shop boy on Flickr       So stay tuned for these things to come. I’ve already got a bit of the work finished, but it will take a while to get it on here. I’m planning on adding Bible verses on Wednesday and the Personal Finance Bible Study on Sundays. Each Wednesday I’ll choose one of the verses I’ve added and write a short post on it. I’ll be starting with Contentment and then Giving. We’ll see where the Bible takes us after that!

Want to learn what the Bible says about Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

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