I want to take this space to recap a subject we covered last Wednesday night in Bible study. This one subject, in my personal opinion, has done more to crippled our country in the last 2-3 generations than anything else I know of. The subject is debt and we discussed the dangers of it given in Scripture. The reason its such a big deal is because we have such big debts these days. Sadly we are OK with it and think it’s normal. Its not OK and its not the norm. I gave some stats on American household debt and I can personally give them to you if do not realize that families today have more debt than ever before. It’s not just bigger houses and nicer cars. It’s lawn mowers, boats, furniture, vacations, even meals bought on credit cards.
But let me jump ahead to God’s view of debt. In Proverbs 17:18 and 22:26-27 the Bible says borrowing is “foolish” and that debt could cause to loose what you already own if you can’t pay it back. The Bible also says Debt makes us a slave in Prov 22:7. Almost every American is enslaved by debt and some more so than others. Now think about this verse: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You say “Oh preacher, that’s talking about greed not debt.” But I beg to differ, you work like you do because you owe like you do. Debt has enslaved your free money and required more of your time than you really want to admit. You can work because you want more or you can work because you’ve already spent more. You probably don’t realize your condition because you think everyone is in this condition, it’s normal.
Lets deal with idea of debt being “normal” for everyone. To be honest, you sound like a kid saying “everyone else is doing it.” Debt was designed to get us out of a temporary emergency, not a lifestyle. The generations before you didn’t live this way. The Bible says we are not to live this way. But the world says: “you need it now” “don’t wait” “only $99 down and $99* a month”*till death Before to long we miss church because we need the overtime. We can’t give to missions, we live paycheck to paycheck just paying bills. The next thing you know we can’t retire because we owe to much. Sounds culturally normal but biblically abnormal.
So what made us think we are supposed to pay bills for the rest of our life? The world we live in convinced us of that. God says “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” That is true freedom, your only payment this month is to love your fellow man. That may seem impossible, but it’s not. It may take some time, but everyone of us can get out of debt if we want to. I want you to be free to serve God and not your debts. ~HWS
While I have many doubts about the ability of President Elect Donald Trump to turn our country around, I have been truly pleased with most of the people he has chosen to surround himself with. Take for example his selection for secretary of defense Gen James Mattis. Here is a well qualified proven leader with an impeccable record of integrity. The same could be said of Senator Jeff Sessions, his pick for attorney general. These men aren’t loved by everyone, but who is? However, those who personally know them will admit they are valuable sources of information and administration. These men and a few others have given me a positive outlook on the next 4 years for our country.
Why do these supporting roles give me hope? Because they will have a positive influence on his administration. The people you surround yourself with can bring you up or down to the occasion. If our next President has the wisdom to seek wise counsel, and I believe he does, he will avoid many of the mistakes he would’ve made on his own or with weak advisors.
The same is true of the Christian. The influences in our lives will shape the decisions we make. Those decisions will account for the situations we find ourselves in the coming years ahead. If we go life alone or with worldly counsel, we are sure to make many mistakes. However, if we seek godly companions, enjoy fellowship in a strong church, and spend time in the Word of God, we will have a positive outlook on the years ahead.
While no amount of preparation can grantee we will never make mistakes or find ourselves in a tight spot from time to time. We should take steps to avoid the bad influences in our life and make an effort to surround of ourselves with wise counsel. Listen to the words of wisest man that ever lived, King Solomon taken from Proverbs 19:20-21.
Hear counsel, and receive instruction,
that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
There are many devices in a man*s heart;
nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.
Surround yourself with men who know God and you’ll avoid folly.
I continue to be amazed at what God tells people these days. You all have heard me many times warn against saying “God told me…” So you may be saying to yourself “Is he going to talk about that subject again?” Why yes I am, and I admire your discernment. The reason I continue to discuss the subject is because I’m constantly confronted with the phrase. Maybe that’s because I’m a pastor and people feel led to give me a word from God directly, and that may be true to a degree. However, I don’t think is the full story. I honestly think the subject hasn’t been addressed in churches for decades. Couple this with the rise of Pentecostalism and we now have it’s widespread acceptance. Add to this the fear that most Christians have about challenging anyone who claims to have received a special word from God.
The stage is set for anyone to claim that God told them anything and everything. In all seriousness, many of these people genuinely believe God really did tell them this. So when we finally work up the nerve to ask “How do you know that God really did tell you this?” The answer is all to often “I just know.” or “I just believe he did.” And that’s usually where we leave it.
This past week I couldn’t leave the conversation at “I just know.” Because I, just knew, God would never say what he claimed. He said “God told me to vote for Hillary Clinton, so I did what I was told.” Now fast forward to this part of our discussion: “Preacher, how do you know God didn’t tell me this?” #1 God wouldn’t verbally endorse something He has condemned in writing. #2 God wouldn’t ask us to promote sinful behavior that He already forbid in Scripture. #3 While God picks each and every leader, He still holds us personally accountable for who we vote for. #4 God’s views on homosexuality an abortion are clear and unchanging. #5 If the apostle Paul was qualified and in the running, I wouldn’t claim God told me to vote for him. I would simply say he is the best candidate according to the Bible.
When challenging the claim of “God told me” we must go to what God has already said, and that is on paper. But more importantly me must do it with love for them and love for the Truth. I know this is true because God told me so… What? You can check for yourselves, I got it from 1 Cor 13.
We are officially in the “New Year’s Resolution” season. Now is the time for you to determine to change something about yourself this coming year. Step two, go out in the woods and drive a stake in the ground, or carve your commitment into a rock (you low-lander can carve it into a tree). On second thought, Why not do all three? Set your new resolution down in a permanent manner so you will not change it. Step three, post it somewhere prominent where you will be reminded of it regularly. The refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, or better yet the opening screen of your phone so you’ll be sure to see it 200+ times each day.
Allow me now to skip ahead to April or maybe just to the end of January when you give up on the new you and settle for the reality of the old you. I know some of you have a rare success story when something really did change that one year, but that was an oddity and you need to quit dwelling on the past. So here we are, after three plus weeks of trying. right back to where we were Dec 31, 2016. Oh the horror of it all! We failed again!
Instead of making one or more New Years Resolutions every year and not keeping them, lets learn something “new” this year. First off, man’s “will” is really useless. Honestly we can’t stick with much of anything unless we absolutely have too. There is a salvation illustration in there, but I’ll let you work that out on your own. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with resolutions as long as we understand they were made by us. I’m not saying don’t try to fix what’s wrong but I am saying be realistic about your expectations. Thirdly, why do we wait till Jan 1 to start? If it needs fixing we can start any time before or after the 1st. Fourthly, don’t make “do or die” resolutions. You’ll kill yourself. Last but not least, Is this resolution of any eternal value? If not, I wish you the best of luck with that. If so, you have an Advocate with the Father who can ensure your success. When you falter (and you will falter) He stands ready to forgive and start you again.
God never offered to help us accomplish our personal wishes this new year. But He did promise our personal transformation into the person He wants us to be. With that, I wish you many successful resolutions all year!