Gospel Financial Advisor

I just heard a story about a pastor in a very poor part of Africa that was asked about the biggest issue plaguing his village. He shockingly and simply said “materialism.” Not hunger, mortality rates, sexual sins, theft. Materialism. He said that a guy in the village got a cow, not all the other men were coveting the cow and trying to figure out how to get their own cow.

This issue of money and possessions has been (and always will be) a universal disease. In the very beginning God gave all of creation to mankind, for our benefit and his glory….with the one boundary of “the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17). But Adam and Eve were persuaded that they could (and should) use God’s gift for their own glory…exactly how we treat money and possessions.

The Book of Proverbs is saturated with financial wisdom, like these two:

13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

23:4 Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.

Solomon, the world’s wealthiest man, is being a Gospel Financial Advisor, trying to keep us from the traps that encircle him while leading us to a place of freedom where we are not slaves to wealth, whether it’s never having enough or obsessed with keeping what we have. The real issue under the issue is idolatry: we want money to give us what can only be received from God. We want value, security, acceptance and security, and it truly feels like money will give us those things. And, in a shallow and short-lived way, it does. Money can get us to a place where we can “buy our way out” of most any problem. We can buy enough things to make us comfortable and happy. We can convince ourselves that we are better than others that have less. But this is as fleeting as being popular in high school. It works for us, for a minute. Until it doesn’t.

The heart of what we are truly looking for can be found in Proverbs 22:

22:1- 2
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
2 The rich and the poor meet together;
the LORD is the maker of them all.

We want a GOOD NAME, but that can only be truly given by Jesus who was essentially disowned by the Father on the Cross so that we could be adopted into his royal family, given His Name forever. The “favor” of man is always conditional, while the FAVOR of God is permanent, based upon Jesus and what he’s already accomplished.

But, honestly, the problem is that we don’t really have a proper filter. Our definition of “need” is horribly skewed, our view of the purpose of money is misplaced and our view of God’s goodness and generosity is anemic. We think we “need” the comforts of life that our neighbors have. We think that we “deserve” all that we have and it’s ours. We think that we need to acquire and acquire because God is likely to let us down and leave us in the ditch. So in light of this, we need to keep coming back to the outrageous trustworthy generosity of the King. Jesus, at great cost, gave up heaven and his Royal Riches in order to share his inheritance with us. He has proven over and over that he immeasurably loves us and desires to give us all good things, even though sometimes his (correct) definition of “good” is different than ours. And so we have to keep coming back to Jesus , asking him to loosen our tight clamp on this world as he has tightens his grasp on us. And as this slowly happens, we can start to live open-handed generous lives as God graciously invites us to join him as he blesses others with and through the finances that he has loaned us in this life.

The only thing we have to fear…

Do you see God as soft and fluffy, or burly and scary?

Do you lean toward God being your nice friend or harsh judge?

The first 9 chapters of the Book of Proverbs sets up the offer of Divine Wisdom to us, leading us away from destruction and into life. Solomon sandwiches these 9 chapters with the idea of “fear”:

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

I’m sure many of us have perpetually heard that this word “fear” doesn’t mean to be afraid but to be in absolute AWE. Whereas I think this is mostly accurate, I think we have a difficult relationship with this idea of “being afraid of God.” Let me explain:

1) Many of us have a really unhealthy fear of God, being afraid of his judgement and wrath when we disobey him. We see him as being infinitely above us (which of course he is), waiting to discipline us (even harshly) when we disappoint him. We see him as a cruel judge.

2) We also may venture the other way, not seeing God as “wholly other” and infinitely pure as we sit Him next to us as our “co-pilot” and see his commands as soft advice. We “declaw the lion of Judah” (Dorothy Sayers).

We likely don’t cleanly fit into either camp, but we certainly lean one way or the other. But the proper “fear of the Lord” is to realize (as much as we humans can) that God has every ability and right to judge us with the ultimate judgement, but that he already poured out this full just judgement onto his own son. So to be afraid of God is to NOT believe the Gospel; to believe that Jesus hasn’t paid enough of the price and/or that God will require double payment for our sins, Jesus’ plus ours. Similarly, God is not our buddy buddy (though he absolutely is our tender Father and close brother). He is the God of all creation and infinitely above and beyond us, justly demanding our allegiance and worship while voluntarily sacrificially serving us to the point of death. “Fear of the Lord” just isn’t as clean as we want to make it because God is somehow perfectly both: just and love; grace and law; above and among.

Ben Seneker reminded us this past week that the proper Fear of the Lord doesn’t push us away afraid but rather draws us near in awe and worship and then sending us outward in love.

Living Wisdom

Every moment of every day we look for, find and answer this question: “What do I do with my resources?”

  • What do I do with my time today?
  • How do I spend or save my money?
  • How do I use my talents?
  • How do I utilize my stuff?

To be honest, we almost always answer this with sheer instinct, or with what we are “supposed to do.”

  • We hit the snooze button because we determined that the best use of the next 7 minutes, which we will never get back, is to get a tad more sleep.
  • A cup of coffee for $2.50 is better than saving that money or giving it to the guy on the corner.
  • Using 24 specific words to comfort a co-worker is better than using 46 words online to prove that somebody is wrong.Wisdom, as we will see in the Book of Proverbs, is the real-life working out of Truth. The real question is…which Truth? When our “truth” is that I need to build and keep my value, then it will be worked out in a “me first” avenue. When Truth is that Jesus has wooed me and given me infinite love and value, then it will be worked out in a “God first” and “others first” avenue.

In life we constantly ask “what should I do” in an infinite number of situations (parenting, job, pain, success, church etc). The first question should actually be “what do I believe?” because  it’s out of our belief that we will make decisions.

In the midst of that, there are still countless situations, circumstances and questions that simply don’t have simple and clear answers. It is in these real-life scenarios where we have freedom and are empowered with the very Spirit of God inside of us to speak, guide and even carry us moment by moment. So the real question under “what should I do” is “what do I believe?”, and the real question under that is “can I trust God?” Can I trust that God is for me and has the power to make all things work for the good of those who know him and are called by him? The answer to that is simply found here:

Romans 8-32
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

In Step

I was talking with a friend this morning whose son just got out of a leg cast which had forced him into a  wheelchair for a while and then onto crutches. He was telling me the strange unexpected phase 1 of post-crutches life was that his son still occasionally walked with a limp as if his leg was still in a cast and he wasn’t able to walk smoothly. The leg wasn’t the problem, it was his realization (belief) that he was healed. So he would catch himself limping, come to his senses and continue on with his healed walk.

This is a revealing parallel to our spiritual life. This morning’s sermon was on Galatians 5: 16-25, which starts and ends with the same concept: “16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

Paul is telling us that all who are in Christ have been healed and are invited to live “in step” with the Spirit, the power of our newly created life. He goes on in the passage to firstly describe acts of the “flesh”, which are practical ways in which we walk in synchronized cadence with our old sinful self-centered nature, and secondly the practical dance-steps that the Spirit is producing in our new nature (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Here is what Paul is saying: our old nature HAS BEEN, IS BEING, and inevitably WILL BE crucified with Christ. Our brokenness has been healed by our crucified Jesus as he was broken in our place on the cross…yet we still “walk with a limp” even though our bones have been put back together. We fall back to the muscle memory from our old nature and limp around (i.e. “sin”, or serve ourselves), but then the Spirit reminds us of who we really are…that our old selves have been crucified and we have been given a wholly new life with new abilities. Sin no longer has power over us, though it still have presence and annoying persistence. But in the end, the sinful nature will be fully and finally defeated at which time it will have neither power nor presence. But until that day we are called to remember the Gospel: Who Jesus is, what he has done on our behalf, and who we now are in Christ…and walk in step (cadence) with the Spirit not out of guilt or fear but because we are healed and made to dance.

Free At Last

5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

This has got to be one of the most debated, misunderstood and abused verses in Scripture. This even begin to understand this verse, we have to unpack what we mean by “freedom.” What does freedom mean to you?

  • A day to yourself on the couch?
  • You and your best friend going on a hike?
  • Something a bit more “naughty”?

Our initial reaction almost certainly and understandably involves something that makes me feel good. It involves removing whatever we feel is binding us down. These can be things that we love and are really good (like relationships) or just the regular things of like (like responsibilities). But when we define freedom from this perspective, we are thinking way way too small. What is it that is truly chaining you down and enslaving you? Isn’t it the fear and insecurity of life? This is the freedom that the Gospel is inviting us into: to accept and actually enjoy the absolute and full approval of God thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus, who exchanged his freedom for our imprisonment, and enacted by the Spirit who breathes a new creation into our being.

This is freedom: that all fear of divine-rejection has been eaten up on the cross, fully and finally securing divine-approval on our behalf. Because of this there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) regardless of our behavior. But because of this secured freedom, we are empowered by the Spirit to live a life of free-gratitude as we perpetually get brought deeper into personally owning the incomprehensible affection of our Father. An affection that is not fickle, being based upon how well we live up to our new identity. When I fail to live a life of love, Jesus’ love doesn’t falter. When I actually love others from a humble heart, Jesus’ love doesn’t rise. This is because all who are in Christ already have 100% of his love. He isn’t holding any back! We’ve got it all. For good. Forever. I don’t have to live in fear of disappointing him and having him begrudgingly accept me. And I don’t have to live in fleeting arrogance when I think I’ve “done better” than others (and I better keep it up, or else). Because it is through Love that we are brought home, and for love that we are empowered to live.

So what does that mean for my life? It means freedom. It means that, as I bask in the warmth of his smiling face, my heart if melted and I smile back. To him and to others.

Saint Augustine put is like this: “Love God, and do as you please.”

Yes, this scary and messy. Yes, it boils up a lot of questions of what I should do and not do. Yes, it forces us to enter an honest, conversational relationship with Jesus instead of leaning on the safer list of rules. And yes, this is the freedom that Jesus has secured on our behalf so that we can do what Malachi 4:2 promised: But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.


Galatians 4:12
Brothers, I entreat you,
become as I am,
for I also have become as you are.

We are a polarized and polarizing people. We all sit on top of our pedestals as we look down and judge others for not being as enlightened as we are. We stereotype others, creating “straw-men” that we can blow over with our brilliant arguments.To make it more insidious, there’s people like me that polarize the polarizers! I arrogantly see myself as being more enlightened and wise so as to not pigeonhole others into simple categories…as I pigeonhole those who don’t see it my way. Here is the problem: we operate with a self-kingship mentality. From the very beginning of time (in the garden) we have decided that we wanted authority over everything and everybody (including God…especially God?). And we live this out in our regular, everyday lives, not really living “with” others but “over” them.

In light of this cultural and spiritual polarization, the verse above offers a lifestyle-hope called “incarnational ministry.” Paul entered the real, regular, messy, everyday life of the people of Galatia. He opened a small business (tent-making), lived in their neighborhoods and engaged their art forms (he would quote regional artists in some of his sermons). He became as one of them…he listened, learned and sought to actually understand; he actually loved them with a loving passion (he would call them his “children” and his “brothers”). But he didn’t stop there. In the midst of his relationships with them he also invited them to know the Jesus that loved and redeemed him from emptiness. His METHOD and his MESSAGE were the same thing: sacrificial relational love. He didn’t just stay on the outside, telling the Galatians to just be better, nor did he entering their world but without the hope of the gospel. He did both. Relationship plus hope.

And this is exactly what Jesus did; who Jesus was. He was the Word (God’s very voice) made Flesh. He was simultaneously God himself and man. He “incarnated” (“made flesh”) as one of us in order to bring us back home. On the cross he was divided from the Father so that our division (“sin”) would be paid for on his back while giving us the his Father-Unity we lost back in the garden and have been craving ever since. This is the WHY and the HOW of doing incarnational ministry. It’s not simply “because Jesus did it.” It’s because we are His and have been fully empowered by his indwelling presence to God’s representative (“ambassadors” according to 2 Cor 5:15-21) to the whole world. God is bringing people back home and using us to do it. What a privilege to not just be in his family, but be instrumental in his Kingdom while being real, raw and honest in our real world.

Breakin the Law

Are you a rule-breaker or rule-follower? Where do you fit on a scale from 1 (totally breaker) – 10 (total follower)? What you think of somebody who is the opposite of you?

If you were the Supreme Commander, what law (that doesn’t currently exist) would you create? What curret law would you immediately do away with.

We all have a dysfunctional relationship with rules. We love the ones that we agree with (and find rather easy to follow) while detest the ones we disagree with (and don’t want to follow). And when we find ourselves breaking these rules (legal, relational, spiritual, HOA etc) we tend to give ourselves a pass, convincing ourselves and others that 1) we had a valid reason for breaking the rule, 2) that this breakage doesn’t make me a bad person, yet 3) if you break rules, you reason isn’t valid and 4) your breakage in fact makes you a “bad person”.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity actually uses this natural, univeral, ingrained sense of “right and wrong” as proof that there must be a higher power that has created and rules the universe with moral laws just as surely as he has created and rules with physical laws (gravity etc). With extremely few and typically superficial variations the world has generally agreed on what is right and what is wrong. Lewis would go on to say that no civilization has EVER celebrated a person that breaks promises and even become a traiter. That’s because the perfect and pure God (that we now know is Jesus) has created us in his image to live perfectly and purely. And every last one of knows with great clarity that there are universal rules, and that we all break them repeatedly. We also all demand justice. Real Justice. But we don’t see our justice-scales as being “that” tipped while adamantly insisting that the overtly tipped scales of “those” people (insert what you see as a really ugly sin here, like sexual and physical abuse). We are partially right. “Their” scales MUST be leveled. But, so do ours. Just as much! You better read that again. JUST AS MUCH. What if the scale-maker truly is “perfect and pure” and we are not compared to one another but to Him? Would we still want pure justice? Maybe not, but we certainly NEED it, or else there would be no hope and all would be lost. Then we will either have to pay justice penalty ourselves, or be humbled as Another pays that payment on our behalf. That’s why Jesus’ perfect and pure life ending with his Ultimate death on the Cross is so so much bigger than we can possibly realize. Jesus had to level the scales for every believer. And with his leveling our standing before God, we have been freed not just from the just penalty, but from the burden of the Law that we somehow try to use to achieve wholeness.

This is where Paul was going in Galatians 3:23-25 ”Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian…” This Law reveals the character of God (because they describe what perfection and love look like), reveal how far from perfection and purity that we are, how much Jesus paid to make us perfect and pure, and what it looks like to live out of our new re-created and imputed identity.

Read THIS if you’d like to see what has become known as the “Three Uses of the Law”. I think it’s very helpful, freeing and encouraging to know what God’s Law is actually designed for so that maybe, just for a minute, I’ll stop misusing it to do something that it wasn’t designed for and cannot do (i.e. create my own personal righteousness).

Gospel Amnesia

Are you forgetful? How often do you forget where you keys are? What that guy’s name is? Where you parked? The answer to that test question (that you just read in  your book)? What that smell reminds you of?


Us people have memory problems. Even if you have a pretty solid memory for the logistic things in life, when it comes to deep heart-memories, we have spiritual amnesia.

Going through the book of Galatians we see Paul reminding us over and over and over about the heart of the Gospel: Jesus Plus Nothing. And the leaders of the church, the ones that actually spent years and years with Jesus himself, fully agreeing, and then forgetting. Look at Galatians 2:11-14

But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Let’s be honest. Peter and Barnabas are far smarter and spiritually knowledgeable than we will ever be. Yet they forgot. They KNEW the Gospel, but were deeply influenced by what others thought and acted out of step with the Gospel that they knew.

When and How do you forget the Gospel of Jesus?

1) When you are tempted to pursue your own satisfaction in a relationship rather than realize you are fulfilled in Jesus?

2) When you refuse to forgive yourself for a sin for which Jesus has fully paid?

3) When you drop names and your spiritual resume so others will think more highly of you rather than leaning on Jesus’ resume.

4) When you envision God’s looking at you with a scowling or at least disappointed face instead of believing that he looks on you as His adopted, beloved, valuable child?


Paul is inviting us to live “in step” with the freeing Gospel of Jesus rather than “in step” with hopeless self-performance. But first we have to continually know and re-know the hope of Jesus, because it is really easy to forget.


Galatians 2:3
But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.

We are an insider/outsider people, having hearts filled with various “us” and “them” filters ranging from gender, school allegiance, education, race, political affiliation, social class and, of course, spirituality. Us church-folk can be brutal in this. We have learned all the loving and unifying Bible words to use, but in our hearts we crucify those who disagree, relegating different Christ-followers to either second-class spirituality, or, even worse, to hell itself. When we do this (and we are usually sly enough to only do it in our hearts, not in our words or overt actions), we are might be mistaking fruit for root. We list different behaviors (many of which God has clearly commanded while others are more cultural distinctives that we’ve elevated to universal truths) as mandatory for a person to be adopted into God’s family, rather than realizing that the only requirement for being adopted is to believe that our only hope is in Jesus alone, the very Son of God, has come to live, die, raise and ascend so that our treacherous sins can be forgiven and Jesus’ life can be our own. Full Stop. Plus nothing. But we get the ingredients inverted, making the fruit that God’s love produces in us the requirement of God’s love.

In this passage Paul has gone to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders so they can be of one mind regarding the Gospel because there were “spies” who had infiltrated the church, saying that salvation comes from Jesus, but you have to become a Jew first in order to then be a Christian and be acceptable to God. In their church meeting (everybody’s favorite thing) the leaders unanimously agreed that God’s love and gift are offered without string (5b “the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you”). This is because they realized the ultimate and true “us vs. them” is not horizontal between us, but between all of humanity and God. In our rebellion we’ve rejected the One True King, pitting us against him. But God didn’t treat us the way we treat others, Thank God!

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners (the ultimate outsiders), Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

God shattered the barrier that we created which justly divided us from Him in the person of Jesus so that membership in The Family is secured by Him, not by us, making the Family of God wildly and ridiculously diverse. Firmly keeping to the Essentials of Jesus as our Foundation and Cornerstone, we can now live and move through disagreements, diversity and freedom. We can sing differently, pray differently, baptize differently, eat differently, vote differently, play differently etc etc. This by no means waters down our firm belief and conviction in Jesus, neither does it water down our beliefs about the other aforementioned points of theology. Rather it draws us into more dependence and trust in Jesus, who is the author of our faith. Not only do Christians not have to be all alike, we SHOULDN’T be all alike. We need to listen to the Spirit of Christ personally, but also corporately (which is what Paul was doing when he went to Jerusalem). We need a miraculous spirit of humility and discernment to live out this motto:

In Essentials, Unity
In Non-Essentials, Liberty
In All Things, Charity


Yes, this is super messy, and scary. It forces us to deeply ask “What is essential?” Here’s a hint, not everything you believe is essential, even things you are extremely confident about.

Let’s finish with this story. In John 9 a blind man was healed by Jesus, which infuriated the Religious Elite because Jesus wasn’t following what they thought were essentials (they were wrong). When they asked the blind man for a testimony against Jesus, all he said was the Gospel:  “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

  • What “us vs. them” dominates your average day?
  • Who is inside and who is out?
  • What things do you treat as “essential” that might not be?
  • What “cultural distinctives” do you treat as “theological imperatives”?

Enter your value here ____.

If you were an app, what would your rating be?

We are all value-seekers in desperate need of being affirmed and approved. Every one of us. It is super obvious in some of us, while others camouflage it by acting very confident, even arrogant. But it still just as true. I know this because not only is it true for me too, but full-approval and inner-peace is in our original  human architecture. God made us to be with Him and each other will full confidence and transparency. But we wanted more, and wanted to somehow make it “better,” which introduced a vicious and fatal virus to our operating system, sending us spinning out of control as we perpetually try to get our personal rating higher and higher (or at least higher than others around us) because “my value is determined by what I think you think about me.” What a mess we are in.

Paul in Galatians 1:10 was being accused of living this out when it comes to his preaching of the Gospel, as the religious people were telling other that he was only preaching Gospel Freedom so that he’ll be liked by the crazy Gentile sinners:

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

But what Paul knows and is trying to convey is that, unlike every other religion that has ever existed, our performance does NOT lead to our value. God’s view of you is determined NOT by your actions, but by Jesus’! He has taken his people as his bride and has adorned us with his wedding dress of perfect righteousness. Get this: If you’ve accepted Jesus’ gift of value in exchange for your insecure self-centered-value-seeking, which was made perfect and permanent on the cross, God is not mad at you!

Even more, God is not even DISAPPOINTED in you!

He looks at all his adopted children and his dress-adorned bride with joy because he has given us the value of his own Son. Despite my behavior, he tells me “well done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

And now I am invited to live out of my new value; my new identity. I am invited to put down the scoring app, both the one I use to score others and the one that I am trying to increase my score. I am invited to believe that I am a beloved child of God and that he dances over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

To help with living this out, I invite you to think about where you fit on these continuums: