Hope for your financial life and beyond

What Happens When You Seek First the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)

Hidden Nuggets Series #97 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

When your eyes crack open in the morning what is it you seek? What is the first thing on your mind?

seek first the kingdom of GodIf you are like me it’s probably the last thing you thought about the night before. Sleep never seems to wash away what we are passionate about. It’s always there the next day, front and center in our mind.

However, the answer to the question will reveal your priorities.

So many things vie for priority #1 in our lives that sometimes it’s a struggle to keep them in perspective. What seems important one day fades into the rearview mirror the next. New challenges, opportunities and attractions replace the old, and so on and on goes the cycle.

In the Bible, Jesus addressed our focus on priorities one day in a discussion about worry. Evidently some around him were fretting over what they might eat and drink and over what clothes they might wear. Not fretting like how you or I might have trouble deciding between steak and chicken for dinner or what to wear on any given Sunday to church. Theirs was a literal concern over not having any food or clothing as basic necessities of life, a dire circumstance to be in for sure.

As only Jesus could, he brought clarity to what they should seek first each day. As we’ll see the benefits received from putting his suggestion priority #1 actually spoke to their most pressing daily needs.

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With God All Things Are Possible – Even Saving Rich People

Hidden Nuggets Series #96 – “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

On one occasion in the Bible a rich young ruler approached Jesus with a very serious question. The man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. After a brief back and forth exchange Jesus had this final answer for him:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

with god all things are possibleIt’s easy to misinterpret what Jesus was saying to the young man. He was not saying that owning possessions in and of itself is bad. Nor was he saying that a person can buy their way into heaven.

He also wasn’t saying that we all have to give up our wealth to enter heaven. And he certainly was not saying that God favors the poor over the rich. God looks upon all people with equal value regardless of their financial status.

Jesus knew something about this particular man though…something that was keeping him from inheriting eternal life. The man’s reaction to Jesus’ final instruction reveals exactly what it was.

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The Future Is Where Your Present Goes to Die

Hidden Nuggets Series #95 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I’m not 100% sure about the future.

the futureI don’t know for certainty what it holds, where I’ll be five years from now or what I’ll be doing.

At times in my life it’s been unnerving not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next year. It’s easy to get wrapped up in and obsessed about it to the point where it hinders us from achieving anything in the present. In that way the future becomes where the present goes to die.

Don’t misunderstand. I’ve got plans. I’ve got ideas. I’ve even got dreams.

But they are MY plans born out of my best guesses as to where I see life taking me. There is no assurance they will unfold based on the expectations I currently maintain. The pathways of life can turn on a dime as I’m learning more and more the older I get.

I wish I could write a post for you entitled “5 Easy Ways to Figure Out Your Future” and be done with it. It’s really not that simple. But what I can share with you is the hope I have that my future is already taken care of. It’s in the hands of the One who does know.

“For I Know…”

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An Apprentice Going For It With Courage

Hidden Nuggets Series #94 – “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” – Joshua 1:6

As Joshua stood on the doorsteps of Canaan he must have felt a tremendous sense of dread looking into the land. His mentor Moses had died and now he had been given the responsibility of escorting a nation into its new home. Millions of people were counting on him as their next leader.

be strong and courageousThere was no more standing in Moses’ shadow.

No more following orders.

No more on the job training.

Joshua, you are now the man.

I doubt you or could really appreciate what Joshua was going through. He’s following an iconic leader, a man – no check that – a prophet for which the Bible says none had arisen like him – a person whom the Lord had known face to face (Deut. 34:10).

Moses’ leadership abilities were superb…his strength in adversity unique…his humility, patience and perseverance unmatched.

To follow that must have been intimidating. Even though he’d been tutored as Moses’ right hand man, Joshua must have felt like the coach who is instilled as the new leader after the iconic master who has been at a program for decades steps down. Surely Joshua thought he’d fail because he couldn’t live up to the standards of his predecessor or the expectations of the masses.

How could he move forward with such a great task?

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Buying the Blessings of God (Acts 8:19)

Hidden Nuggets Series #93 – “…he offered them money saying, ‘Give me this power also…'” (Acts 8:19)

Throw a few greenbacks in the offering plate and be showered with the blessings of God.

buying the blessings of GodIf only it were that easy. Think giving to churches or charities would go up if this were the case?

Unfortunately many believe it. There are churches out there preaching that the more money you give to God the more He will bless you. Misinterpretation of verses like Luke 6:38 (“Give and it shall be given to you…”) lend credence to the notion God’s favor can be bought for the right price.

It’s nothing new. This idea has been around for centuries. In fact, Peter – one of Jesus’ disciples – dealt with it in the early days of the church.

Trying to Buy the Blessings of God

Old habits are hard to break. Even when we’ve committed to turning over a new leaf the baggage still lingers. We often carry it forward for a while until we are weaned from its grip.

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When Giving Money Is the Wrong Gift (Acts 3:6)

Hidden Nuggets Series #92 – “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” – Acts 3:6

Can all problems be fixed by giving money to someone? Silly question…of course they can’t. Money doesn’t solve every problem. In fact, it doesn’t solve many problems.

There is nothing wrong with giving money to people when they need help. However, what if that’s not what they need most? What if their issue is deeper than the surface problems money can solve? Would we be doing a good service by only meeting their superficial need? I think not.

The funny (interesting) thing is sometimes people don’t even know what their real need is. They think it might be “X” when it’s really “Y”. Case in point this man, who one day had a run in with Jesus’ disciples Peter and John in the temple.

Giving Money or Miracle?

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If You Give Like This God Will Be Laughing

Hidden Nuggets Series #91 – “So let each of you give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – II Corinthians 9:7

For some it’s the most boring part of the Sunday morning worship service. We think the preaching is OK and the music is fine. We even tolerate the meet and greet. But this 2-3 minute event many would just assume skip like the commercials on a DVR.

god loves a cheerful giverWhat am I referring to?

The moment when we give money to the church, otherwise known as the offering.

There are varying reactions to the offering, depending on your background. When I was growing up it was like halftime. Our Sunday morning equation followed this pattern: music – announcements – offering – more serious music – message – benediction (i.e. endless stanzas of “Just As I Am”).

So for me it was a break in the service. I’d spend the three minutes whispering to my friends, going to the bathroom or checking out the cute girl in pew three. Anything but giving.

As the teen years passed into early adulthood, some maturity began to take hold. I realized the value in these moments that take place during the service and did my best to honor them. But at times I’d still get mixed up in the wrong feelings and motivations about giving, feelings that I know are common with believers.

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The Difference Between Wise and Foolish Builders

Hidden Nuggets Series #90 – “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock…” – Matthew 7:24

Every builder knows you need a strong foundation to support a house.

wise and foolish builders

Build your house on the rock

A concrete slab works.

A poured basement wall placed on a footer works.

So do concrete blocks built on the same footing.

On the other hand, building a house that rested on gravel wouldn’t work in the long run.

Dirt would prove even worse.

It would be devastating on sand.

No one would conceive of building a house on something as unstable as sand, right? Without a solid foundation the ground would buckle under the weight of the house. The slightest storm would wash away the sand and cause the house to crumble.

Ironically though, we do this all the time because we fail to heed to what’s really true. And the contrast between wise and foolish builders is clearly seen in this story from the Bible.

Wise and Foolish Builders

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What Would You Sacrifice to Gain Something Valuable?

Hidden Nuggets Series #89 – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44

ladderThat valuable item you seek will cost you dearly. You’ll have to let go of something you already value in order to pursue it. We know this to be true because we’ve seen it play out in our lives.

Completing personal goals…achieving wealth…working through a career change…renewing your spiritual walk…healing relationships…none of it comes easy.

None of it happens without great sacrifice.

The question you need to ask yourself is, “Will I be willing to give up “X” to pursue “Y”?

Jesus put it this way when he explained to the people how aggressively they should pursue heaven. He said in Matthew 13:44-45,

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The One Winning Formula For the Poor (Proverbs 28:11)

Hidden Nuggets Series #88 – “The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding searches him out.” – Proverbs 28:11

The winning formula to have success with money involves two things: altering our knowledge and altering our behavior. Of those two, behavior is by far the most important factor in the winning formula. We can have all the knowledge in the world but unless we put it into practice we’ll never win.

winning formulaRich people have figured this out. Their behavior is commensurate with the fact they have money. Somewhere along the way they realized (gained knowledge) what they should and should not do (behavior). They’ve done something (actually a lot of right somethings) to get to where they are.

According to the Bible the rich are “wise in their own eyes.” They understand what they’ve done and know the right path to take. They have chosen to avoid or pursue behaviors that might damage or propel their future respectively.

They don’t need any more advice.

They’ve figured it out.

The poor on the other hand haven’t and could sure use some.

And as we see in the second part of Proverbs 28:11, they would be wise to seek advice from the rich.

Seeking Out the Rich Is a Winning Formula

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I Have No One to Blame But Myself

Hidden Nuggets Series #87 – “Also to you, O Lord, belongs mercy; for you render to each one according to his work.” – Psalm 62:12

Hard workIn my teaching days I’d often hear moans and groans coming from students when they learned of their failure on a test. What usually followed their whimpers of dissatisfaction was a litany of excuses as to why they did so poorly.

“I had a ballgame last night.”

“My little brother wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“I forgot.”

My favorite complaint was this one, “But I did study!” to which I’d respond by saying, “How long?”

“30 minutes while I was watching TV” (or something like that was the typical response).

Ugh.

I worked in a Christian school so it was typical for us to pray during the day. I always prayed before tests just to calm the atmosphere and help kids get their mind focused.

As I began to put two and two together – lack of study time translating into poor grades (and then subsequent griping about said grade) – I decided to set the tone in my prayer for what the students could reasonable expect to happen based on their study patterns. So at the end of my prayer, I’d be sure to say something like this…

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