God wants us to see things correctly. Too often we see things with a bad eye. Many of us need to change what our picture of a good steward truly is. Todd unpacks many myths of stewardship. Good stewardship is when people who use God's resources the way God wants us to. Good stewardship is faithfulness.
All the Church Wants for You is What Christ Wants
Seeing Clearly Through Debt and Savings
Why God Doesn't Want You to be Jerked Around by Materialism
The Danger of the "Bad Eye" and the Beauty of Seeing Clearly
There is some information that recently went out in the Current that talked about something we're going to celebrate right now which is some addition to our central pastoral leadership here at Watermark that we want you to hear about this morning, as a number of you have been praying with us and giving us great feedback on that.
I want to share with you very briefly what myself and the other leaders of Watermark have been doing over the last months. We're always asking ourselves what we need to do to be more faithful in honoring Christ and serving him in all of the ways he wants us to. There have been three real areas we have focused on that we think are, in a sense, major initiatives, things we need to double down on at the end of 2013 and certainly as we charge into the new year.
One of them is what is central to our purpose. That is, how are we doing at shepherding those who are already here? Everything we do we do for the purpose of making disciples and allowing us to be more of who God wants us to be. I'm really excited about what I'm going to get to share with you on the very first Sunday in January that has a major application of this as we really make an effort to be able to give an account for those here at Watermark with us.
Everything we do always flows out of that very first thing. We never stop thinking about how we can build into those who are already here to make disciples. That's what God calls us to. Not to gather on Sundays, not to even have people make professions of faith, but to teach people how to follow Christ. We've been spending a ton of time on that. I'm excited to share with you some of that in the days ahead.
Secondly, we're always asking ourselves, "What can we do for those who are not here yet?" You've heard me say a lot that the most important people at Watermark are the next 100 people who come. It's because those folks are so important that we build so deeply into you. It's because you're the means through which those next folks are going to hear about Christ.
You're the people who are going to compel them to come in on Christmas Eve when we're going to be here five times. You'll come once with us. Maybe you'll come a couple of times if you have different friends who can come at different times. We hope you do. You heard Luke talking about how if you're coming by yourself, we want to drive you to some of the services that others won't necessarily come to as much (the 12:00 and the 2:00).
Anyway, the next 100 people who come… We're spending a lot of time asking ourselves what we can do to serve them. I don't know if you ever come up to Watermark on a Monday night, a Tuesday night, a Wednesday night, or a Thursday night, but there is no room up here on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night, because all of the folks we minister to on a weekend come for different reasons throughout the week.
If we're going to minister to new people, we have to think about adding new services here and maybe doing Saturday services and things like that. With all of those folks we want to disciple and minister to in different ways, there is no room for them during the middle of the week, so we're spending some time thinking through how to care for those people and what we can do with the physical plant here and immediately around us and what we need to do in terms of adding more physical plants where we can make disciples.
One of the ways we're going to reach more of our community is by having campuses where we reach more a little bit away from here. As you think about year-end opportunities and stewardship, we would ask that you would invest with us in the days ahead. You all know we have a part of our body that gathers with us in Fort Worth.
In the years and months ahead, we hope there are going to be folks who are part of Watermark who gather with us in North Dallas maybe a little bit east of here maybe 10 to 15 miles away. We're going to ask hundreds of you to make that your main campus. That can only happen if those of us on this campus invest that way together in the future. We're spending a lot of time thinking about that. As more clarity comes, we'll share more with you.
The third thing we've spent a lot of time on is thinking about how we serve the larger church. As Watermark, because of your faithfulness, becomes more of a church of renown, we're always getting phone calls from other churches. Our staff spends a lot of time discipling other church staff and other ministry leaders, helping them be more effective and faithful with what God calls them to do, so we're always trying to figure out how we can use the facility we have to encourage them, how we can use our staff to encourage them, and how we can build the broader kingdom by the way we help others make disciples.
We really need you to pray for us, which goes really to where I am right now, and I ask that you would be very considerate as we move forward. We have some exciting days ahead of us. We pray our best days are before us as you minister with us and as you grow in Christ-likeness and as you invest with us here and give us more opportunities to invest going ahead.
Some of you all have been at Watermark for a long time and maybe have never participated with this ministry. You need to know you're not on scholarship here. Others are funding what is happening, and we invite you to join in with us as God stirs your heart with gladness to invest, as I am so glad I've invested here.
Let me show you some of the men and share with you some of the men who lead and invest with me. It was really in 2001 that I gave a message called The Beginning of the End or the Greatest Day in the History of Our Church. It was the day we appointed the men (the pastors) of Watermark, guys who would join me in the core leadership of our church.
You know we've been praying continually about who some other men are who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, who really embody the core values of our church, and who God has given the margin to steward their lives in a way that would allow them to be a very present active steward of the body.
We shared with you a number of weeks ago and we shared with you in the Current this week the time of that feedback as we have done vetting for years and months specifically with this one gentleman. It is coming to a close. We asked you if there was anybody out there who disagreed or thought this was not a good idea, and we're bringing that to a close this morning and celebrating the fact that God is adding to our core leadership.
Kyle and Dean, why don't you come up here with me? Beau, we invite you to come up here. This is Beau Fournet who you've met before. We introduced Beau through a handout we gave the entire church and reminded you of that in the Current. After doing, like I said, months of vetting, Beau went through an ordination exam with our key staff. He submitted basically a 30-page document that talked about core truths that we tested him on, examined him on, and questioned him on to make sure he was biblically informed in all that he did.
We've talked to folks he works with. We've talked to people he has discipled and people who have discipled him, non-believers in his life, and we've talked to you. After having done all of that and waiting for feedback, today is the day we add Beau to our pastoral leadership, which is what an elder is. We welcome him. Kyle Thompson and Dean Macfarlan are also part of that team. Guys, take it from here.
Kyle Thompson: It is something to really celebrate. I've had the privilege to be around Beau for really the last 12 years. Beau and I got to lead in various ministries, and it's amazing all of the ways God has used Beau to grow and sharpen me. A couple of things that stick out that are very distinctive…
One is the way Beau loves his wife, Natalie, and his five kids (Caleb, Hannah, Beck, Deshi, and Michelle). As a man who leads a number of folks in business and as a neighbor and as a dad and as a husband, seeing how Beau stewards his life in a way that his wife and kids are a priority… Just the life balance.
The other… Any of you who have been around Beau know that and know he is a man who disciplines himself for the purpose of godliness. The way Beau emulates and practices the spiritual disciplines… Just this last month since Beau has really been leading with us, God has really used him to continue to up my game in the ways I practice spiritual discipline, so there is a lot to celebrate with Beau. Dean?
Dean Macfarlan: I agree. I had the chance to do that. If you were here a month or so ago, I got to talk at length about this process and the opportunity to see Beau and Natalie's faithfulness, like Kyle said, over the last 10 or 12 years. Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
I have had the chance to see Beau and Natalie Fournet's light shine brightly here, and it has just been an incredible thing to watch. What I always want to communicate in a situation like this is what a privilege it is for me to get to lead and serve with Beau and Natalie and, obviously, Kyle and Lucina and Todd and Alex. I'm just looking forward to each of you getting to know this family. God has been good to us.
This is an opportunity, as Todd said, that is overwhelming and also one of the greatest blessings you could ever have at the same time, so we pray with great expectation. We've seen Beau and Natalie totally reprioritize their lives in order to serve this mission, and we just have a humble, faithful servant in Beau Fournet, who we are grateful to have the opportunity to present to you this morning, and we're excited about that. Pray for us as we abide with Christ and as we lead from his Word and, as Todd already articulated, for the opportunities we have before us that we're so excited about. This is a great morning!
Kyle: Let us pray really quickly for Beau.
Father, we do thank you, as we've already said, for just the privilege and the responsibility we have to just care for, to love, to teach, and protect your people. I thank you for Beau, as we've already said, in the ways he is a man who is committed to following you. I thank you for the ways he is an example of all of those character qualities that are in your Word of what an elder should look like.
We do pray that we individually and collectively would abide with Christ and we would depend on your Word and your Spirit in everything we do and in all of the decisions we make. I thank you for just the blessing that has come out of that even in this process that has led to us adding Beau to our team. I thank you for the ways you remind us of our dependence on you in ways we love each other and in ways we love folks who are far from you. Help us to continue to be about that (about being and making disciples). We love you, Lord. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.
Todd Wagner: There is no greater kindness you could show us than to pray for us regularly. People are always telling me that they're praying for me. If there is any good that comes out of my ministry, I am confident it's because there are a number of folks who pray for me that God would protect me from evil and God would give me a love for his Word and not just me but all of our leadership here, lay and pastoral. I thank you for that.
I really believe when I stand before the Lord if he says to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant," there are going to be a bunch of people whose names I maybe don't even know who he is going to speak of, saying, "Todd, come here and let me show you something. These are the people who prayed for you. This is why you didn't tube it. This is why you had a passion for me, because they pleaded for your heart." Thank you. Thank you.
One of the things we're going to say at 11:00 is we are asking all parents of junior high ministry… I'm going to share this with you as part of how we're trying to serve the next 100 and to make a sacrifice. We're asking our junior high students to make a sacrifice to come now at 9:00 and not at 11:00.
That's going to allow us to use the primary service that guests and visitors use which is 11:00. We're going to reclaim the loft, so we'll have 500 extra seats we can put overflow in. It's also going to open up some seats when folks would usually sit in here while their students are in that loft. We're doing everything we can to steward this facility as wisely as we can.
I want to remind you there is plenty of room at 5:30, so we invite you to maybe make that your regular place of worship right now. There are going to be other folks joining us here in the weeks ahead as we head into January. All that is because we care about those who God gave his life for and who he is desperate to save. Let me pray for us right now as he is desperate to save us from a bad eye that sees things incorrectly. He's trying to straighten out our view.
Father, I thank you so much for this community I get to be a part of for the way they love me, for the grace they extend to me, for their love for your Word, for their love for Jesus, and for the Spirit they yield to who causes incredibly good things to happen as the hands and feet of Christ and the mouth of angels that declares to others your kindness that called us out of darkness into your marvelous light. Would you just bless them this morning? I pray you would use your Word to just give us a good eye to see things the way you see things for the glory of Christ, our good, and for those who will be blessed through our walking with you. Amen.
Well, we are in a little series called Switch. Do you remember that? This looks really great to you. This makes a tremendous amount of sense right here (this particular painting). I'm letting them get me up there. If I take this painting and I flip it over… I can't because they've bolted it down. Did you guys put that down there or am I just weak? You bolted it down! I know that one is upside down. I was going to flip them both. Look at you!
Well, if I could flip this thing, you would go, "That painting no longer looks good." I'd flip that one back right side up and it would look good, but they would think you can just move your eyes from one side to the other. That makes sense. I love brilliant people. God wants us to see things correctly and too oftentimes we don't. We see things with a bad eye, and it gets us in trouble.
What I want to do is just pick up with some more myths this morning. We've covered a bunch of them. I'm just going to dive right in for the sake of time. Here is a myth. All we want to do is be good stewards. This is a message in a series about stewardship. We want to fundamentally change our picture of what a good steward is. I gave you some myths and truths related to that. I'll review it in some sense in this very first one, but let me just say this.
It's a myth that simply spending less money makes us good stewards. That's not the case. The truth is stewardship is really nothing more than people who use the Master's resources the way the Master wants us to, to operate with all that we have according to our Master's visions and values.
Do you remember what we said? The truth is that God owns everything, and we are his money managers. I love what my buddy, Adam Tarnow, who serves our body in so many ways in this particular area, said. He said, "Todd, make sure you tell them that frugal does not equal faithful and saving money means buying something on sale."
That's a lie! Coupons do not equal Christlike. If somebody uses Groupon and recycles, that doesn't make them a good steward. Buying in bulk does not mean they're biblical. Spending less money is not the litmus test or the goal of stewardship, and too many people think it is. Stewardship is faithfulness. The whole idea here of what I'm trying to talk about with this series…
I mentioned the bad eye. It comes from a little passage in Matthew, chapter 6, when Jesus is talking about money. He's telling us, because he loves us, not to waste our time investing and trying to make this earth our home. This earth is not our home. He tells us how to store up for ourselves treasures that rust won't destroy and thieves won't steal. He says this little statement here. He says, "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"
What he's saying is, "If you don't see clearly, if there is a problem with your vision, it's going to affect everything in your life." If you see dimly, darkness is going to be a constant hindrance in your life. What God is trying to do is open our eyes to truth to see things for what they are. Money is the least of things to be trusted with. Money is a test. It's a testimony. It can be a trap and a great source of trouble, but it is the smallest of things, and everything we have is the Lord's. All of it. Just spending less money doesn't make us faithful.
Spending money, time, and talent consistent with the Lord's vision and values… You might go, "Todd, what's the Lord's vision and values for my money?" Well, we're covering some of it in this series, but that's where you want to spend time with the Master and the Master's people (others who can encourage you).
You ought to get with folks who have ten talents and share your five talents. You ought to get with folks who have one talent and tell them you have five and say, "What should I do with these talents? What do you think?" That person with one talent will say, "This is what I would do if I had more." Other people with ten talents would say, "This is what I'm doing," or "We had better get busy together in investing our lives the way God wants us to." We have to make sure every single one of us starts to see with God's eyes.
It's a myth that just because you are able to pay your bills you are being a good steward. Some folks in here are going to think, "Well, I don't have any debt, so because I'm not in debt…" I'm going to talk a lot about debt this morning. Debt is not something Scripture forbids; it's something he warns against.
It's why we as leaders did not feel like we should build this building with debt or even with bridge loans, because we felt like God had already given us the resources here. If this body was seeing God at work and saw the hindrance that facilities were, we would take what is already God's that he has given us and we would give it toward the opportunity to use the facility to make disciples and to reach other people, just like we're now about to face again.
We didn't feel like we should use debt to do that, because we see warnings in Scripture related to debt. If you're a guest or a visitor, you need to know we've never started something here that we didn't have the money to finish, and we've never begun to build something that we couldn't use, and everything we've done we've done from the resources God already gave us without ever having debt.
There has not ever been a single dime of God's resource here that has been stewarded into servicing debt. We've waited until the Lord brought the provision. Then, we moved forward in it. We felt we needed to model that for you because so many folks are in bondage to debt. Let me just tell you something else.
Just because you're not in bondage to debt doesn't mean you're a good steward. What makes you a good steward is that you use what you have according to the Lord's visions and values, but I do want to spend some time on debt this morning, because there are a lot of people who are burdened by it. Our country is burdened by it. I'm going to read you a little quote that came from a guy who studied civilizations and countries.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage…" Pain causes you to evaluate what you're doing, so you start to look for revelation outside of you. You start to look at that revelation and you put your faith in it. "…from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage."
Can you think of a nation that has figured out that it can vote for itself certain entitlements? Can you figure out a nation that, because it now has some amazing amount of debt and there apparently has been no consequence to it, we'll just keep making more money and paying for all of the things we vote for ourselves to have?
I can. Let me tell you the road we are on leads to bondage, and it is up to us to understand that and to communicate that to our governmental leaders to put leaders into place in office who understand that, because we will reap what we sow, and it is a fact that because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore, the hearts of men among them are given fully to do evil.
We'll just charge it on up until all of a sudden our lives are racked by incessant bothering, and because all of a sudden credit card companies shut us off and we can't get any more money. Bankruptcy and shame are assigned to us. Things we owned are taken from us. Now, we have to work just to pay back what we've already consumed. That day is coming corporately, and for some of us, it's here presently.
What I want to do is give you some simple fundamental advice. All truth is God's truth. A number of years ago, we commissioned some actors in New York to make this video for you, and I want you to watch it now. This is to help those of you who just don't know what to do to keep yourselves out of debt. Are you ready? Tune in. Here we go.
Oh, my! That is just hilarious. It's funny that that is funny, isn't it? We look at that, and we go, "Come on! Steve, you know better than that. It's as clear as it could be." Yet, how many of us are throttled by consumer debt? Let me tell you that you live in a city that is the pinnacle of a city that is convinced that more things equal more happiness and more life.
There is more square footage of retail space in this city than any other city in America, there are more dollars spent on dining out in this city than in New York City, and there is a ton of consumer debt in this city. That doesn't necessarily surprise me in a town that has a bad eye. The problem is many people who say they know a God who does not want them to live enslaved to anything and accept a God who wants to set them free are living with a bad eye and a bad understanding about money. We're shackled by debt.
Let me walk you through a few other simple statements. I hear this a lot. I hear people going, "I really don't want to share with other people what's going on with my money." Again, there are really a couple of people in this room, there are folks who say, "I have so much debt I'm never going to tell anybody," and there are people who think, because they've never had debt, they don't need to let anybody into their stewardship decision, and you're both wrong.
It is a myth that the more extreme your situation the harder it is for you to find other people who can understand. Let me say that again. It's a myth that the more extreme your situation is… You have extreme debt, so nobody can relate to this even though we know there are members of Watermark who we know who have had six figures of debt.
I'm talking consumer debt. I'm not talking household debt. I'm not talking educational debt. I'm talking about six figures of consumer debt. We had one member of our body who, when he got here and got married and graduated from college, had $7,000 in consumer debt to Taco Bueno alone. We've seen these folks begin to work through their issues.
Now, it's hard to find somebody… It might have been $3,000, but it was several thousand dollars of debt toward some fast-food Mexican restaurant. You just go, "He's going to have a hard time finding a small group that can identify with that kind of love of the burrito." We have other people in this body who are among the richest folks you could ever imagine, and they would go, "It's hard for me, Todd, to find somebody who can relate to me." Let me tell you something.
It's a myth that the more extreme your situation it's difficult to find somebody. Here's the truth. The more extreme your situation the harder it is for you to seek help, because guilt and shame or love of self don't typically like light. I'm going to tell you the more wealth you have the more desperate you are for others to speak into your money.
This is not a society that believes others should tell you what to do with money. This is a society that believes people who love you and who can wrestle with Scripture with you and pray for you will help you be a good steward. We're not here to tell you what God wants you to do. We're here to point you to Scripture, we're here to remind you that you will give an account, and we are here to take responsibility for one another.
You need to know that these guys and others who I share life with… I know all about their financial situation. I know what they make. I know what they save. I know what they invest in. I know what they give. I believe if they are giving wisely it's going to be partly because of my faithful friendship in their lives. I believe if they are selfish and poor stewards I am under judgment even though I have none of that money at my own access.
I believe that's true of us. I believe if you isolate yourself the reason you isolate is not because you can't find somebody who can relate to your extreme debt or your extreme wealth, but I believe it's because, as the Scripture says in Proverbs 18:1, " He who separates himself seeks his own desire…" I believe you're quarreling against all sound wisdom.
The fact is many of us would rather strip down naked and sit in our Community Group naked for an evening than we would to get naked with one another financially, and that is a very dangerous position to be in, especially because Jesus said one of the easiest ways to see where somebody's heart really is is to look at how they handle temporal financial resources.
To take that out of your conversation of biblical community is exceedingly unwise. People who get well and people who sharpen and grow are people who share life with one another. Let me just show you a couple of things. If you have extreme sin or bondage in your life, this is what James says to you in James, chapter 5, verses 12 through 16.
"But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick?"
If we studied James together, I would tell you this is not physical sickness here in the context. It's so funny how so many people come to us and they want us to pray for them as elders when they're physically sick. The context of this, if you look at the Greek words and we'll teach on this sometime together, really has more to do with spiritual sickness.
"Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…" Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit. God might come to them and might bring healing into their life as they begin to be obedient to the Lord. Remember what it said. Bondage leads to spiritual dependence. What this is saying is, if you are under bondage go to the elders of them who remind you of the spiritual deliverance available with confession.
It says, "…and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins…" Do you see the context? "…and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed."
Some of you guys are under extreme consumer debt, and you're trying to figure it out on your own, and the very first place I would go is to other people and say, "Through my own rebellion against God and through my own unwillingness to listen to what God's Word said, I have gotten myself in a really bad place. Would you help me? By help me, I don't mean write checks to get me out of this. Would you help me begin to address this in a biblical manner?"
I am telling you we've had people in our body consistently work their way out of five-figure or six-figure consumer debt in a community of grace and care and encouragement, and you can be next. We have a ministry. It's called MoneyWise. In January, we're going to dive in with you. This is for people who have what I would say extreme wealth or extreme needs, or this is for people who really don't even know what they're doing with their money.
We can sit with you specifically and help you begin to make decisions based on Scripture. We encourage your Community Group to go through that material together. It's a myth that you can't find somebody who can relate to you. How about if you're extremely rich? Watch what it says in 1 Timothy 6:10-19.
" For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…""Specifically, that you love one another even as I have loved you. So you should also love one another." Christ loved in an intimate, known community. When he was grieving, he invited others in. When others were grieving, he stepped in. That's the commandment. Watch this.
"…which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen."
Watch this. "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy." How can you instruct one another if you forsake your assembling together? The fact is most of us hear stuff in a very large setting like this. There might even be a wave of conviction that comes over us.
This Switch series is starting to affect us a little bit, but if I just get away from others who are really going to help me wrestle with it and if I'm not meeting with a community who will go through the questions we write for you every week to go over in community so that you can apply it to your life, it's amazing how all of a sudden that conviction moves to a whisper, and that whisper gets hushed away to the side, and nothing really changes.
It says specifically in this text, "Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…" How can that happen if you're not together? Why does Jesus want you to do this? "…storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."
So that you might be ripped from the grips of self-worship, self-love, and self-justification. By the way, when we think about the rich, we always think about somebody who has more, don't we? None of us consider ourselves rich. I went to a website, theglobalrichlist.com, and I just plugged in a few numbers.
Let me just tell you something. If you make $75,000 a year, you are one of the 10 percent of richest people on the face of the earth. If you make $99,000 a year, you are in the top 1 percent of the worlds' richest. That is many of us. Do you guys know, if you make that much money, you make 132 times more an hour than the average laborer in Indonesia?
Do you know it takes the average worker in Ghana 618 years to make what you make in a single year? That means in 2631, he will have made as much money, if he lives that long, as you'll make this year. Do you know your monthly income could pay for the monthly salary of 608 doctors in Malawi if you make that much money? That's how rich you are. Your monthly income could fund 608 doctors in Malawi.
It takes you 41 seconds to earn a Coke. In Indonesia, it takes somebody to work two hours for them to get a Coke. That's why you walk in and say, "Give me a Coke." Some guy has to work for two hours to get that same thing. You are rich, and we all need encouragement to do good works with that riches, because we want to live with vision and value, because judgment is absolutely coming.
It's a myth that debt is normal, unavoidable, and just the way it is. That's a myth. The truth is that debt is dangerous, it leads to bondage, and that's just the way it is. Let me say it again. It is dangerous, and it leads to bondage, and you need to have that clarity with debt. Our world just tells you things equal happiness, possessions define us, the more you have the more you should spend, spending is a competition, you really should never be content, and you need these new products.
It's why you're bombarded with all of those images. It's why credit cards want to convince you that if you spend money you're really getting something. I know people who spend tons of money in order to save a little money. That's a bad deal. Credit cards want you to believe you're helping yourself by using that card more. No! You're helping them! That's why they want you to do it. The one thing they don't want you to do is to use their card just so you don't have to carry cash and pay it off every month. They get rich off of your enslavement. It's a myth that debt is something you should see as normal.
It's a myth that if you avoid debt you are a good manager or are a good steward. Again, I'm going to tell you. Frugality is not stewardship. The truth is if you are a good steward, you are a good steward. Let me just say this again. There are some people in this room who have no debt at all but they have a tremendous debt to their family, and they're really in bondage to a lifestyle, what we call golden handcuffs.
They can't get off of that train. They're going to find out their kids have no relationship with them and are bitter toward them, but they never had any consumer debt. Well, there's another debt that sometimes comes with the choices you're making. There are many people in our body who have no consumer debt but have a debt to a final judgment, because the God who has blessed you expects you to be a conduit and a steward not a consumer and a spendthrift.
I'm going to remind you that just because you don't have debt it doesn't mean you are somebody who is living life with a sense of good stewardship. People in this room who have consumer debt know the bondage that comes, but I'm going to tell you people who don't have consumer debt but are in bondage to a lifestyle that takes them from their family and destroys their relationships know a different kind of bondage, and Jesus doesn't want you on either end of that continuum.
It's a myth that you can be a good steward with just a wing and a prayer, just hoping it happens as you go along. The truth is you have to know where you're money is going and why it's going there to be a good steward. That's what it takes. If you don't know where your money is going, there's a good chance your money is cheating on you.
I would track your money, and I would ask others to watch it with you so they can encourage you, affirm you, and celebrate with you. " He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom." Why do I tell you that? Because I love you and because I want you to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. I want you to store up for yourself a treasure with a good foundation for the future so that you might take hold of that which is life indeed.
It's a myth that tomorrow will lead to greater opportunity. Do you know that 82 percent of us believe that? "It's always going to work out. I can buy this house. This house is going to appreciate in value." Here's the truth. We don't know what tomorrow will bring, and we should not presume upon tomorrow. This is what James says in chapter 4, verse 13.
" Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin."
Proverbs says it this way in chapter 13, verse 10. " Through insolence comes nothing but strife…" Some of your translations will say through presumption comes nothing but strife. The word insolence comes from the Latin word insolentiawhich basically means accustomed. If you don't do what is accustomed as right, you are insolent. You think that you don't have to do the right thing and that you'll be okay if you don't look at things the way God says you should look at things.
The Scripture says that when you don't think things accustomed to truth, it will lead to strife. Here's the problem. Some of you guys say, "Well, I have no strife. I've built my storehouses here on earth. I have no consumer debt. I have no strife. If I run out of this money, I'd go to that storehouse of money. I hedge all my bets. I'm diversified." I'm going to remind you of what 1 Timothy 6 said. There is nobody sovereign and immortal but the Lord. The Scripture says a rich man's wealth is like a high wall in his imagination.
I want to remind you that just because you're not experiencing strife now, it doesn't mean strife isn't coming. It's like a guy who jumped off a 100-story building. I'd tell him, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." He kind of passes me on the seventieth floor and goes, "Todd, you were wrong! This is awesome! I have adrenaline running through my body. I've never felt so alive!"
What I want to tell you is that sooner or later the reality of your experience is going to catch up with you. Just because you're not currently experiencing strife… Some of you have leapt off and you are violating not the law of gravity but the law of God, and strife is coming, and you are presumptuous if you think you can act in a way that is not consistent with or accustomed to the Word of God and not eventually feel strife. It might be on that final day, so faithful friends remind each other of this and encourage each other right now to be obedient to it.
It's a myth that a house always appreciates in value. It is a myth that a house always appreciates in value. "Todd, we know stock markets have had bubbles, but real estate is a good investment." Have you been paying attention? Our entire country came to its knees because we thought there would always be an escalation in housing prices.
The truth is at the end of 2010, 11.1 million residential properties or 23 percent of all homes in America that had mortgages had negative equity. If you want to go ahead and say, "Our house will get better. I'll do fine here if I'm going to invest in real estate. That's a good place to take debt, because this will go up. It's really an investment; it's not debt," you're not paying attention. That's a myth.
It's a myth that we can scoff at God's Word and not ultimately suffer for it. Let me just read you a few simple truths from Scripture. Proverbs 13:11 says, " Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it." The Scripture says," In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."
Second Thessalonians 3:6-8 says, " Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."**"What is the tradition you've received from us?" you might ask. Here it is.
"For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you…"
Paul continues in 2 Thessalonians. " For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." Let that inform you the next time somebody stands with a sign in front of you. Maybe sit them down and get to know their story. Let them know we want to help them get back on their feet where they can work, but if they don't want to work, let their stomach work for them. God built it into them.
When you have a country that says, "You don't need to work. We'll just take care of you," that is a country that is going to look like ours very quickly. Now, there are people, because of education and because of family and because of brokenness and because of trial in their life or because of sickness, who have gotten themselves behind the curve. It's our job to come alongside of them.
We have said in this body, "If you are known and a part of our body, you will never be homeless in this body. You walk with us. You lead a disciplined life. We'll all be homeless before we let you be homeless," but that doesn't mean you're going to get to keep your satellite TV. It doesn't mean you're going to get to keep your car. It doesn't mean you necessarily get to live in that house.
We're going to make sure you have food, shelter, and clothing, and that you're cared for. We're probably going to make sure you can love your children the way we love our children, but you're we're going to have to see you work with us. We don't just give money to widows. We give money to people who, as the Scripture says, are widows indeed who live consistently with what the Scripture says. This is why connectedness and community is so important. Look what it says.
" For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good."
In other words, for those who are in genuine need, meet their needs. This is why when folk come up and go, "You have to help me," we go, "We don't know you. We don't know if you're a busybody, but we'd love to get to know you." Get to know us now so when the crisis comes, we'll go, "That's a faithful person. Let's help them any way we can. They've done everything they should do."
When you come to us through the Charis ministry or when you come to us through MoneyWise, we're going to get to know you. We're going to watch the discipline in your life, and we're going to make sure we lovingly help you in a way that's consistent with Scripture. This is not a communist society. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say everybody should drive the same car and live in the same amount of square footage.
It does say that every single one of us ought to be good stewards, and it says we ought to love one another. It says if we see a brother in need and not having what they need, they have a need that I can meet, and I have a need they can meet. Because I have an abundance, what should I do with it? I should meet their need because they're faithful, and at this particular time I have more than they do. That's the reason God gave it to me, but that happens in the context of community and relationship, not just a knock on the window.
It is a myth that debt allows us to get what we want when we want it. Let me just say that to you again. Do you know it's a myth that debt is there because it allows us to get what we want when we want it? Do you know what the biblical truth is? Here's a biblical truth. The truth is debt allows us to get what we don't want.
What we don't want is anxiety. What we don't want is despair. What we don't want is frustration in the sense that now I have to work to provide for that which I've already consumed which, frankly, didn't do for me what I thought it was going to do. What debt does for me is limit my freedom. I can't say, "Yes," to go do something because I have to stay here and work to pay for what I've already taken.
My little girl was thrilled because I told her she was going to make $5 today, because very wisely when they were little and they thought $5 was a lot, I signed a contract in blood that whenever I used my kids in a message, they would get $5. I couldn't get away with that deal right now, and I don't ever talk about my kids without talking to them, but Landry was excited because I told her, "I'm going to talk about you tomorrow. That's worth $5."
Why? Because we were talking about this message with our family as I'm trying to teach my kids about this. Landry was driving to school with her brother, and she said, "Let's go to JD's Chippery." He takes her to JD's Chippery. She wants to get a chocolate chip muffin and a cherry limeade.
They walk in there, and she orders it, and Cooper looks at her and says, "Landry, are you going to pay?" She says, "No! I don't have any money." Cooper goes, "How are you going to pay for it?" She said, "Well, I thought you'd get it for me. I'm going to babysit this weekend. I've got you covered."
She's ordering the chocolate chip muffin and the cherry limeade. She consumes it and it has passed long before she has to work for it. By the way, some really fun stuff came up that weekend and she wanted to cancel her babysitting assignment, but she was under bondage and not free to do that.
The truth is debt doesn't get you what you want; debt gets you what you don't want. Proverbs 22:7 says, " The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave." That, my friend, is the truth. God doesn't want his people to be slaves. That is why he absolutely died to set us free.
I'm going to read to you guys a little story in just a moment that really highlights for you why you don't want to be somebody who lives their life in debt to things, because it keeps you from life indeed. Let me pray for you before I read this story. We're going to celebrate the amazing grace that God who sets us free doesn't want us to be a slave to anything but him. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for the joy of just coming up here and having you switch our thinking and helping us think with great clarity. I pray, Lord, that we would live in relationship with you, the God who loves us and who doesn't want there to be bondage in our lives and who doesn't want us to try to find life in things that are not life-giving at all, so I thank you for today.
I thank you for your Word. I thank you for what it teaches. I thank you for community and friends who will spur us on to care for each other, to be free indeed, and to be good stewards in such a way that we steward for ourselves great treasure. The truth is debt doesn't give us what we want; faithfulness gives us what we want.
Would you give us the discipline to see things for the way they are accustomed to your Word so we might experience life indeed? We thank you for your grace that allows us to work through our debt. We thank you for your grace that pays our debt. Would you help us to be gracious with one another, present, and loving each other even as you commanded us? In Christ's name I pray, amen.
Well, I want to end with this. It's such an appropriate way to end, because the God who set us free doesn't want us to be in bondage to the ways of the world. He wants our lives to be filled with glory and free to serve him with joy. He doesn't want us to be filled with anxiety. He doesn't want us to be anybody's slave. That's why he set us free. Not a slave to the ways of this world and not a slave to our flesh and our lusts but a slave to a righteous and good and benevolent God who means well for us.
I got this email in 2005 that says, "Three years ago on the day after my first child was born, I quit a job I passionately loved, a job that fits my gifts like a glove. The decision to quit that job was the greatest and godliest decision I ever made because it freed me up to take a less time-consuming job three years ago that I enjoy but I don't love, and I thank God for that, for, you see, God doesn't have tunnel vision.
As I have looked at his hand in my life with the broad vision he has for me, I see my job's role in this season of my life so much broader than just simply the 9-to-5 window or the 9-to-8 window and what it can provide for me in this season of my life. God now has blessed me with a job that provides incredible flexibility and very little travel. Sure, I'm not climbing the career of Mount Everest that I once climbed, but he has given me so much more.
For example, because I left that job to intentionally take a job that was less promising so I could do other things, I've been able to do this. I flew to New Orleans on a weekday to hang with my dad, to give him a Bible, and convince him to read his Bible, with much help from God, finally, for the first time in 45 years.
It gave me the flexibility to have breakfast and lunch with an atheist friend weekly for three years and not only watch him begin praying with his young daughter but begin studying the Bible with me and watch him convince an old friend that they shouldn't have an abortion. We've later seen that guy come to know Christ and he's a member of this church.
It helped me read the Bible and pray with my kids daily now. I have time to take the daily phone call from my 2-year-old son to hear him describe in intricate detail all of his experiences. I watched my son turn every stick into a snake, and I call down frogs and locusts from the skies with him.
It has allowed me to take a much more active role here at this church that has meant so much to me and see so many lives changed. Frankly, all of the stories of life change that I've seen now are starting to run together. It has helped me date my wife weekly and have the time and energy to do life with her daily, really get to know her, and see the fabric of her heart." This was a guy with no consumer debt, but he was in debt to something else, and he made a decision because of his faith in Christ that there was a better way to follow him.
"Todd, I could go on and on about all of these awesome things I've been blessed to experience over the last three years. Very few, if any, of these memories have occurred at work, but God, through his providence, put me in a job that has allowed me to do so many more of them. If I had followed my own selfish desires, I doubt any of these things would have happened, and there would be a bit less treasure stored up in heaven. I don't know if he'll have me in this new job for another week or another decade, but I do know if I follow God's leadings I will always be in a job that will allow me to bring maximum glory wherever he desires. Beau Fournet."
The man who eight years later we have watched his life be so filled with faithfulness, knowledge of God's Word, and love of his family that it allowed him to adopt one kid from a young girl who had the courage to not have an abortion and invite him into his already full family. It allowed him to adopt two kids from Ethiopia and invite them into his family so he can be present to shepherd them the way he was shepherding his own kids.
Beau was in bondage to this lie in Dallas that you have to get this job you love and just keep on going. He found a job that allowed him to be faithful and growing to steward his life with his family, and every single one of you are going to benefit from it. When the leader gets better, everybody benefits. There are people who are waiting for you to start to see things clearly the way Beau did in 2005 that leads to Beau Fournet 2013. Don't live in debt. See things clearly.
If you don't clearly know the God I've talked about this morning, I pray you would come let us tell you about him. His name is Jesus, and he paid the debt you couldn't pay on the cross. Take that little perforated section and check the box that says, "I want to know how to have a relationship with that God who loves me enough to give himself for me." If you know him, would you worship him freely for his glory, for your good, and the salvation of all those who need to see you walk with him and tell of him?
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.