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How rich would you want your children to be? I imagine you’d prefer them not to be poor. Susie, my wife, and I have worked really hard so our children would not have to ever be as poor as we once were, maybe you have done the same. Maybe you bought a lottery ticket or two for the slim chance of winning big so you can put the financial tightrope behind you and have your kids and grandkids be all set.

Of course, Susie and I didn’t just work hard on the money thing in regard to our kids, we wanted them to have opportunities as well. But with little money, opportunities are also harder to come by. I can’t tell you how many tamales got manufactured in our kitchen in order to raise money for an exchange student year and other opportunities we wanted our children to have.

But there is still more to life than money and opportunities, you can have lots of both and be poor in character. In fact, if we would have had to choose between money, opportunities, and character Susie and I would have asked for our children to grow up and be rich in character, for them to be honest, hard-working, kind, generous, dependable, thoughtful, wise, gritty, frugal, confident, ever- learning, courageous, caring, optimistic, daring, creative, fun-loving, and selfless people.

We also did not want them to have poor minds; a mind is terrible thing to waste. So, we read to them, filled our house with books, took them to the library mobile, limited the TV and other electronic mindlessness, challenged them to think, to figure things out, to love discovering and learning, and develop discipline and tenaciousness of mind. No, we did not want them to have poor minds, because poor minds think small and are easily deceived. I have to admit that there were times when we almost regretted working hard to enrich their minds, usually when they outsmarted us, blew holes into our parental arguments, or exposed our own mental poverty or duplicity.

There are so many ways to be poor and our constant prayer was we would succeed in raising our kids to be anything but poor. We don’t want them to have poor manner, poor social skills, poor foresight, poor judgment, a poor sense of justice, poor morals, poor vocabularies, poor habits, poor skills, poor money and time management, poor civic involvement, and so much more. Man, parenting to make your kids rich is tough, because you don’t just have to pay attention to so many things but you also have to model all that stuff.

Suppose you and Susie and I succeed in doing a really good job at all of the above helping them to grow up in a “rich” environment, a “rich” home filled with real love, fun, opportunities, values, security, and all the things that help them become rich in every way. We can succeed in all of the above and our children could still be utterly poor of soul if God is nowhere to be found in all of that riches. Jesus, in describing a hardworking man who is living the American dream, but with God nowhere in the picture, calls him both a fool and poor when it came to God (Luke 12:1-40).

There is not much good in poverty of any kind, but none is more far-reaching than poor towards God, leaving God and Christ out of life’s most important decisions, having a mind that is not curious and seeking after God, having a heart that does not love God, having values and morals that offend God, living and dying without trusting in, following, and obeying the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Fellow parents, how I pray that you give yourself to God through his Son Jesus Christ, that you build your family around your relationship with God and the word of God (the Bible), that you dedicate yourself to make your children really rich in what matters most, both now and for eternity.

If you are wondering where to start, get back on track, and stay on course for the long-haul I encourage you to do the following three things beginning today.

  • Every week for the next six months go to a church where the Bible is taught and lived.
  • Read the Bible in your home, start in Mark. Be prepared for your children to ask questions you can’t answer (that will have you come back to church for answers).
  • Pray in the name of Jesus with your spouse and your family.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Susie and I started our life together like many others with basically nothing in regard to money and possessions. Married halfway through college our major goal was to finish college without being in debt. So after two years of marriage all we owned fit into our tiny Datsun F-10 alongside our baby son and lone piece of furniture, a rocking chair.

Things didn’t get any better financially the next few years. I ended up out of work and we were poor, really poor. When I finally got a job it was minimum wage. I don’t know how Susie managed to feed us the way she did. And somehow, by God’s goodness, we paid our bills.

Well that baby who traveled with us in the Datsun F-10 turned out to be a very smart little fellow. Turns out he has like an almost photographic memory, which meant he beat me at Memory at age three, right after he figured out that for the past six months Daddy only won by following his eyes. When he started looking in other directions I was toast.

That little rascal wasn’t just good at Memory, he was also good at money, saving it, managing it, keeping track of it. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I remember why. I needed some money for gas and we lived an hour from or bank, and we really didn’t have anything in the bank. In my need I borrowed from the smart little fellow. He was more than willing, but I think he already had memorized Proverbs 22:7, The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (NASB). So now he could not only beat me in Memory but he could also call in my loan. “Hey Daddy, you might really want think about that spanking because your current balance is minus $30.00.” Good thing he was not the kind of conniving kid his Daddy was as a kid.

Once, as I was trying to settle my current account with him (I think he was twelve by then) we disagreed on the figure. I could have sworn I had made a previous payment, but whose memory was more reliable? Whose figures did we eventually go by? You probably guessed it.

That little guy is now a grown man with his own family. I so hope his sons will have photographic memories and whoop their Daddy’s behind in memory and who knows what. But they won’t end up loaning him money because he is still good at managing it, saving it, keeping track of it, and even more importantly, being generous with it.

It is much easier to be generous when you are not in debt. That little “loan shark” of ours figured that out too. He delighted in figuring out his tithe (10% you honor God with) of whatever money he was blessed with. He loved buying his sisters treats. He enjoyed giving extravagant gifts. That’s much easier to do when you are in the black and not in the red. In the red the first obligation is to the one you owe, and depending on how much you owe there might not be anything left to be generous with. It is tough to experience “It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35 (NASB), when you are in debt.

One more thing, it is amazing what can happen to us financially and materially when four things come together: 1. Working hard, 2. Managing well, 3. Honoring God, and 4. Generosity.

“I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35 (NLT).

 “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce” Proverbs 3:9 (NLT).

 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more …” Matthew 25:14-16 (NLT).

 “… God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV).

Wouldn’t it be great if we’d figure all of this out before the age of five? But even if we didn’t, today would be a great day to start.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you live in or around Don Pedro and you wonder how to make a start on the above why not sign up for an upcoming Biblical Financial Seminar in the month of May. Contact the church office ldpbaptistchurch@gmail.com, (209) 852-2040. If you do not live around here check out http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/ or http://www.crown.org/ .

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Better Gets Us into Trouble, or A Better Better

We have it even if never really thought about it; in fact, the less we have thought about it the greater its grip on us and our behavior. I am talking about our definition of better. More money – better. Bigger house – better. More free time – better. Bigger TV, smarter smart phone, fancier car, kitchen, BBQ, furniture, … – all better. Notice how much better depends on more money.

How many of the following would you mark as better for you and us as a society? Greater devotion to God, to Christ, and his church. More generosity. More communal involvement. More sacrificial love. More commitment to marriage and family. Less stuff. More time to serve each other. Notice that all of them require time, money, but less for yourself.

Proverbs, the most extensive wisdom book of God’s word (the Bible), recognizes how easy it is to work out of a flawed definition of “better” and the need we have to check and adjust our definition of “better” against true wisdom. “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf (T-bone steak) with hatred” Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV, parenthesis mine). “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice” Proverbs 16:8 (NASB).

The wrong working definition of “better” will breed discontent, greed, debt, ungratefulness, and all sorts of evil. A good definition of “better” recognizes the truth that “… true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (and all the things money can buy) is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

It doesn’t come natural to us to work with, to live out of, a better definition of “better”. The Apostle Paul wrote that he had to learn contentment, continually gratefulness, and the joy of depending on God, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT).

Two brothers were fighting over their inheritance. Clearly both of them thought more was better. Neither was content, happy, or grateful. Their definition of “better” was of no help, in fact their definition of better was more than willing to be unloving, unkind, use harsh words, and take each other to court. Court wasn’t going so well for one of the brothers so he turned to Jesus to help him arbitrate. Jesus refused, but he did challenge the one on the short end of the dispute to examine his definition of “better” and how it affected his heart, his attitude, his love, his relationships, and his life. Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” …  

Jesus replied, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods,  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” …

“Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” Luke 12:13-21, 31-34 (MSG).

“Where has your “Better” taken you? Where will your “Better” take you? Is it time to adopt a better “better”? Is it time to Make sure that your character is free from the love of money (and all it can buy), being content with what you have; for He (God) Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, parentheses mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How rich is God? “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him” Psalm 24:1 (NLT). “’The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts” Haggai 2:8 (NASB).

Let the reality of what you just read about God’s unfathomable riches sink in for a minute. It means:

  • He is able to supply for all of our needs.
  • He will never run out, be in debt, go bankrupt, or worry about tomorrow.
  • He is completely unfamiliar with not having enough.
  • He knows how to manage for the long-haul. He has been doing an outstanding job with the entire universe for as long as it has existed.
  • He has better financial wisdom than all those wealthy people listed in Forbes Magazine combined (which doesn’t mean we cannot learn from those who manage well).
  • He owns everything you and I and everyone else has. Which means we are accountable to him for how we manage what we have.
  • The ultimate purpose of wealth is to please and honor its owner – God.

How in the world has the wealthiest nation on earth got itself into an over $19 trillion and counting national debt hole? Take a minute and go to http://www.usdebtclock.org , it will make your head spin. Even more staggering is the over $64,000,000,000,000 (64 trillion) total debt in the USA. That means it’s not just the government, the states, counties, and municipalities that are lousy in managing money, it is also the average citizen (the total personal debt is over $17 trillion). Somewhere along the lines we have forgotten an important truth about managing money, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” Proverbs 22:7 (ESV). When it comes to money and managing wealth we are collectively ignoring God’s wisdom and as a result are missing out on God’s blessing and ability to supply. God is not in the slavery business, but somehow our entire culture thinks that debt and the slavery that comes with it is a good thing.

If you are continually scraping by, never have enough, always borrowing, straining under a load of debt, forever worried, then maybe it’s time to tap into God’s wisdom, learn God’s ways, and seek God’s blessing.

The ancient Israelites needed to get back to God’s financial wisdom, they were limping from one financial crisis to the next. God told them, Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure” Malachi 3:10 (HCSB). They needed to go back and learn what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians who weren’t following God’s financial wisdom either, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT).

If what you have read so far in this pastor’s note is hitting a nerve, if the last two scriptures you read is something you want then here is what you do:

  • Establish or reestablish a real connection with God. It is always about more than money. You get into a right relationship with God trough faith in Christ. Call me, email me, or come to the next church service if you have questions on that (209 852-2029, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com, http://www.ldpbaptistchurch.com ).
  • Come to all of the April church services because God’s ability to provide and his financial wisdom is this month’s topic.
  • Sign up for the seminar that will follow the sermon series, so you can learn the practical application of God’s wisdom. Call or email to get on the seminar sign-up list. (If you don’t live in Don Pedro check out http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/ , or http://www.crown.org/ ).
  • Take a moment right now and ask for God to help you, tell him you need him and his financial wisdom, ask him to forgive you for where you have mismanaged both finances and life, tell him you are interested in his ways and blessing.

The best time to get started is right now. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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One suitcase of our two piece luggage allowance was dedicated to transporting materials, video equipment, printed materials, seminar supplies, children’s ministry resources, and a guitar. All of it we planned to use and leave behind with our Tanzanian ministry partners.

We didn’t return with less. We simply shared that of which God has given us an abundance but in return God, through our Tanzanian ministry partners, packed bags for us we did not even have to carry. We were part of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers a long time ago, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need 2 Corinthians 8:14 (NIV). And we experienced the dynamics Paul described, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the sur
passing grace God has given you” 2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NIV).

It will take us some time to unpack all God has sent us home with. As we do the blessing will be multiplied and shared with all of you who gave, helped, and prayed to fill the bags we went with. Now we get to unpack together and rejoice in all that God has sent home with us, the experiences, the encouragement, faith that has blossomed and grown, the awe of what God can do with what little we have when we are willing to surrender it for his use and to his glory.

In the end we end up at the foot of the cross, looking up, in awe, filled with praise, wanting to worship, “Giving thanks to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you and miss you, Pastor Hans.

 

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“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” Proverbs 13:22a (NASB)

We are going to leave something to our kids, it is not a matter of if but of what. Leaving them something good and worthwhile requires we recognize how important that is and the determination to do something about it, that in turn requires the determination to be good ourselves because we usually produce what we are, or as Jesus put it, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” Matthew 12:35 (NIV). It is tough to hear it that bluntly, isn’t it? So what will your children inherit? Not just financially but culturally, ethically, intellectually, and spiritually? Are we passing an inheritance of blessing, of how to think, how to be, how to act, how to care, and how to worship?

Good doesn’t just happen; you have to work on good. Ordinary, mediocre, messes just happen, but good takes concentrated and sustained effort. You have to want good, practice good; excellence and blessing rarely just happen. You only get an inheritance if someone didn’t spend it all, if someone was smart, if someone saved, if someone cared enough to pass something on. To a good man/woman that’s important, to good parents and grandparents that’s important.

To be good, to do good, to pass good things on you have to know what is good, good has a definition. Good was good before we came along and good will still be good after we are gone. Good is not arbitrary, it is constant, it is eternal, it finds its roots in the reality and truth of God. We, the parents, the grandparents, our children, and grandchildren have the ability to alter the meaning of good (which far too often renders good no good) but ultimately we will be held accountable to God’s definition of good. Thus the wise man, the wise woman, wise parents will be careful to pass on a spiritual inheritance even more than a material inheritance. Our kids are not blessed if they are rich and godless, if they are wealthy and wicked, if they have the “good” life but are immoral, if they have opportunity but don’t perceive it as a means to care about others and to glorify God.

A good and sizeable inheritance enables, it gives future generations a head start, that’s why good men and women work on leaving one to their children and grandchildren. This is why we should care about politics, the national debt, justice, hatred and bigotry regardless which flag it hides behind, violence, education, personal responsibility, wickedness, freedom, education, values, morality, and our responsibility before and accountability to God.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4 (NIV).

“For what does it profit a man (woman, child, son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter) to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36 (NASB).

Let’s leave our children and grandchildren an awesome inheritance, one that God would applaud.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Bucket Lists and Prayer

Do you have a bucket list, a list of things you want to do, places you want to see, things you want experience before you die? What’s on it? Climb the highest peak on every continent? Drive a race car? Swim with the dolphins? Cruise around the world? Play golf at Augusta and Saint Andrews? Run with the Bulls? Dive on the Great Barrier Reef? Build your own airplane? See the great pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China? Write a book? Visit all of the great art galleries? Run a marathon? Sky dive? Train a horse? Travel with your family? Buy a ranch? Learn an instrument? ….? What would be the two things you would put on top of that list? The two things you absolutely hope to experience and come to pass before you die?

Someone’s bucket list is very revealing, both for what’s on it and what’s not on it. It gives insight into your interests, passions, and dreams. It shows what you care about, what gets your juices flowing and what leaves you cold. What you would be willing to spend your time and money on (Bucket lists seem to take time and money, that’s why many have two bucket lists, the one they can afford and the one they would have if money were no object)?

Self-indulgent they are for the most part, our bucket lists. They are about what the “I” wants, the “me” likes. I wonder if Agur, the hireling, the gatherer, the collector, was working on his bucket list before he crumbled it up, tossed it in the trash, and replaced it with a bucket list prayer? “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God Proverbs 30:7-9 (NIV). What are the chances you and I would have put something like that not only on top of our bucket list but also our prayer list? Integrity, honesty, genuineness, submission to God, the honor of God, how important are these to us? How much do we want to experience them? How much do they influence our desires, our dreams, our prayers? Maybe your bucket list is already what Agur petitioned God to keep him from: an exclusion of God from our desires, our dreams, our plans; God is not needed nor wanted? Maybe it is time to rewrite both our bucket list and our prayer list? Maybe the two should be compatible? Maybe we are lying to ourselves when they are not?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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