Thursday, November 29, 2018

Using the time God has given me

Every week we are each given 10,080 minutes to invest into living a generous life.

A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census tells us how many Americans spend that resource each year. 

Commuting: 9.4 days
The average American commutes 52 minutes per day or 225 hours a year.

Working: 120 days
The average employed American works 7.9 hours a day or 2,883 hours a year.

Cleaning house: 27.4 days
The average American spends 1.8 hours a day or 657 hours a year on chores.

Exercising: 4.9 days
The average American spends 0.32 hour a day or 117 hours a year on exercise.

Sleeping: 134 days
The average American sleeps 8.8 hours a day or 3,212 hours a year

Calling, mailing & emailing: 2.4 days
The average American spends .16 hours a day or 58 hours a year
Total: 306 days a year—84% of your year on the daily grind.

This study made me evaluate how I'm using the time God has given me. In fact, I'm more convicted by the time I waste on social media, playing games, and watching TV.

So what can we do about the time we've been given? The Bible talks about being a good steward of what we have. You can also read Ecclesiastes 3 to learn about the different seasons in life. 

Instead of simply knowing what the Bible says, I think we’re all longing to apply God’s truth to our daily life. It’s good to have information but what we really long is life transformation. 

When we think about our time on earth and living a generous life, remember this: My time needs to be invested for God’s Kingdom. Invest the time you have been given to grow God’s Kingdom. See the author of Ecclesiastes is longing for the meaning of life. He seems to be experiencing a time of hopelessness and despair. 

So how do we use this time to invest in God’s Kingdom? Let’s talk about three simple ways you can apply to your life this week!

1. Enjoy the season you are in. 

It is so easy to long for a different season. If you are single you might long for a spouse. If you are married, you might long for kids. If you have teens, you might long for them to leave the house. Enjoy the season are in and ask God what you can learn in this time. God has given you this season to embrace the good things He has for you. 

2. Invest your time to honor God. 

What does it look like to invest our time. Well, we are all familiar with investing our money in the stock market. We evaluate what it taking place and make wise choices with what we have So let’s take the 10,080 minutes we have this week and invest that into honoring God. 

What does it mean to honor God? To honor God is to put Him first in all we do. It means to worship God in all we do, to live a life focused on God. be generous this week and help someone find Jesus. Maybe you have a friend in your life who is curious about spiritual things, schedule a coffee and use the time God has given you to help that person draw closer to Him. Use the time you’ve been given to pray for your neighbors. 

Once of the ways you can invest the time you’ve been given is to study God’s word. If you are new to church, start reading the book of James. It’s a great book in the New Testament. You can also read the Gospel of Mark. It’s only 16 chapters and I think you could read it for 5-10 mins a day and finish it in less than two weeks. A few weeks someone from our church stopped me in the lobby and said that because I talk so much about regularly reading your Bible that she is doing it every day now. I love hearing stories like that! 

3. Evaluate how you spend your time. 

This is a tough thing to do. A couple weeks ago I updated the software on my phone and was able to set limits on how much time I can spend on certain apps. I did this because I know I am prone to zoning out and using my phone too much. 

Another exercise is to track your time for a week. Write down how much time you spend doing tasks, sleeping, reading the Bible, eating, watching TV, and exercising. Evaluate if this is the best use of your time. You might be shocked to see how much time you spend in one area. 

About a decade ago I was working on seminary and really struggling with time management. I could barely get my work done, snuck school assignments in at the last minute, and neglected my time with my family. I shared this struggle with a prof one summer and he committed to helping me. It took me seven months of practice, and a few meetings with him, to figure it out. But I needed to assess how I use my time and the best way to invest it. I realized that I was neglecting my family and now Charity and I have a regular date. 

I rarely get stuck at the office late because I invest my time well into what I feel God has called me to accomplish. You can live in this freedom too by evaluating how you invest your time. 

You might be feeling guilty about how you’ve invested the time in your life. You might feel confused about what to do next. You might feel content that you have invested your time well. You might even feel overwhelmed about the weight of viewing your time in a different way. 

Let me remind you that you are alive right now. You still have time to make adjustments. We can all invest our time in a meaningful way this week. 

When I think about time and learning how to be generous with the time I have I’m reminded of what a family friend once taught me. I was seventeen years old and raking leaves with her. I was a punk and she was trying to help me make wise decisions. She said, “Neal, I need to tell you three things that you need to know about life. First, life is a lesson learn from it. Second, life is a lesson learn from it. Third, life is a lesson learn from it.” 

We can learn from God’s word about using our time to invest in God’s Kingdom.

Monday, November 19, 2018

I stole from the offering plate

It was a normal Sunday morning in my family. We were heading to church and I was probably six years old. After church we would always go to the grocery store. This morning my mom told my sister and I that we were a little tight on money so we wouldn’t be able to get a treat at the store and I was obviously heart-broken. We went to church like normal, were dismissed, and drove to the grocery store.

When we got out of the car, my mom reiterated to us that we didn’t have much money this month and we weren’t going to be able to get a treat at the store. At this point, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a twenty dollar bill, and handed it to my mom. My mom was shocked. Where did her six year old get a twenty from?

So of course she asked me, “Where did you get this?” I proceeded to tell her that she said we were low on money this month, so when the big plate of money came by at church, I grabbed a little for us. This was probably a warning sign for my mom of what she was going to deal with when I became a teenager.

Yesterday I shared this story at Coastline. Our church is talking about living a generous life and what we do with our financial resources says a lot about our heart. I don't think I stole that money out of greed but out of a solution to help my family. Jesus talked about money a lot in the Gospels. Of His thirty-eight parables, about half of them deal with money and possessions. In the Gospels, one in every ten verses deal with money. Why so much talk about money? Because our attitude to money reveals a lot about us.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19–21
Jesus commanded His hearers not to accumulate material possessions that would not be used for the building of His Kingdom. Verses 19 and 20 are almost exactly the same except for the command regarding where to store up the treasures. 

The original listeners would have known something about their environment that we miss out. Moths and rust were common concerns in the hot, sandy, Palestinian climate. Moths were prone to eating garments and rust was common for items buried in the ground. Jesus also mentions the threat of thieves coming into a person’s home and stealing their possessions. Have you ever been robbed or had your home broken into? Window smashed, door kicked in, drawers ransacked and been robbed of your belongings? This is one of the most violating experiences a person can go through in their lifetime. This is a reality for earthly investments; they are not safe from anything but are vulnerable. 

The opposite, however, is true for Kingdom investments. That is why verse 21 is so important for us to hold on to, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

When our treasure is invested in heaven and we don’t fall into believing the myth that worldly wealth will bring up satisfaction, that is when we can find the freedom to invest in what can never be taken away from us. Ultimately what Jesus is getting at here in verse 21, is how our view of money reveals our heart. He doesn’t come out and say it, but He leads us to that conclusion. 

We have to ask ourselves some tough questions about where we’re investing our money and for what reasons. We have to check our heart’s motivation. Now I’m not suggesting you stop investing in retirement or saving for your kids to go to college. But Jesus is asking that you think about where your treasure is, because when you can define that, you will discover where your heart resides. I love what Pastor Rick Warren says on the subject of money, “Never put your security in something that can be taken from you.” 

The next time we’re presented with an opportunity to love money more than we love God, we need to remember this: You cannot serve both God and money. 

It’s impossible to do so. We must evaluate our true desires and make sure we’re ready to count the cost of following Christ. Because of a book I read a few years ago, I was deeply convicted on this topic. The quote that most stuck out to me was: “If your heart’s crammed tight with material things and a thirst for wealth, there’s no space left for God.” -Ian Morgan Cron

Monday, November 05, 2018

Daniel 10-12 Small Group Questions

Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. For ten-weeks we're walking through the book and talking about living a courageous life. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions
The End Times
Daniel 10-12

As we continue our study in Daniel we see Daniel is visited by a heavenly being. The story in Daniel 10-12 is best read as a continuous event. Daniel 10 focuses on the visit of the heavenly being and Daniel’s response to him. As we move into Chapter 11, we read about things in the past and the Antichrist to come. Daniel 12 helps us keep our focus on living for the Lord and finding our inheritance in Him. The book of Daniel is a reminder to us to stay courageous in the Lord and live daily for Him.

1) Share about a time in your life when you prayed for something or someone for a long period of time. Has God answered that prayer? Did you give up? Or are you still praying?

2) In Daniel 10 we read about a heavenly encounter that Daniel has. Who do you think the heavenly being is that Daniel speaks with? Could this be the same person written about in Hebrews 7?

3) Throughout His public ministry, Jesus cast out numerous demons. Read Daniel 10:20. Do you think there are demons assigned to different regions of the world to torment, cause trouble, and keep people from following God?

4) Read Daniel 11:32. Throughout history there have been godly men and women who have stood for what is right. Who you know that is currently standing for the good things of God? Are you prepared to stand for the good things of God in an evil age?

5) The Antichrist is completely against God is all things. There will be a seven year time period where this person is allowed to rule. Daniel 11:36-12:4 speak of the Antichrist. When you think of the Antichrist, what comes to mind?

6) In Daniel 12:1 we read about a book with the names of people written in it. Do you think this is the same book mentioned in: Psalm 69:28, Philippians 4:3, and Revelation 20:15? What is the importance of having your name written in this book?

7) The book of Daniel ends with a promise that Daniel will receive his allotted inheritance. What inheritance do you think this is? Is this the same inheritance that Peter tells us about in 1 Peter 1:3-5?

Close your time in prayer.