There’s nothing better than Jesus except money!
I love to worship Jesus. It makes no difference if it’s private, just Jesus and me in my car out early some morning, or right here, right now with all of you online or in person.
I’m going to start my message today but telling a few “what do you call” jokes.[i] I came up with this one. What do you call worshipping Jesus without a mask? Spectacular! A reality. This begins on Sunday, June 6. Masks are no longer required and I am thrilled. I hope you are too😊.
These jokes are better. What do you call a bagel that can fly? A plain bagel. What do you call a fake noodle? An Impasta! What do you call someone who never passes gas in public? A private tutor. What do you call someone who saw an iPhone being stolen? An iWitness. What do you call something that’s easy to get into, but hard to get out of? Trouble. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in trouble. Those watching online drop in the chat your favorite emoji if you’ve even been in trouble.
Tell me. Who’s in trouble here? Hmmm? LaTasha Dove thought her three boys who she affectionally calls the “triple toddler tornado” were playing with their toys in the other room. When she poked her head around the corner she found two boys using their brother as a marker board.[ii]Good thing the boys didn’t use sharpie markers.
Extra stories I used in this message…
I’ve been in trouble before. One time I shoplifted a three musketeers candy bar. I walked into the store with my Mom and I walked out of the store with my Mom and a three musketeers candy bar in my pocket. I pulled that delicious chocolate goodness out of my pocket and my Mom starts interrogating me! Where did you get that? How did you pay for that? I stood speechless. She said to me. You get back into that store and put that candy bar back. I did exactly what she said. The tone of her voice made it clear that I was in trouble. The most accurate definition of a Mom I’ve ever read was this. Moms are full of love, kindness and just a dab of mean! That is really accurate!
I’ve been in trouble at the store, at home, in school, and I almost got in trouble at church. My sister, Cheryl, is two years older than me. When she was 17 which made me 15 she drove us both to church for youth group in our Dad’s light blue Plymouth Satellite. It was a nice car. We were early so I asked her if I could drive in the church parking lot only. She said yes. So I get behind the wheel and she’s in the front seat next to me and I start driving around a pretty much empty church parking lot. I’m not driving fast. My sister is pushing me to go a little faster. I tell her to back off. Then she takes her left foot and shoves down on the gas pedal with my right foot already on the pedal. We start spinning around in circles in the church parking lot in my Dad’s nice Plymouth. Finally I slam on the brakes and the car nearly flips over we were spinning so fast. My sister and I vowed never to tell Dad because if he knew what we did to his nice Plymouth Satellite we would have been in so much trouble!
Since trouble comes in all shapes and sizes, may I ask? Have you ever been in financial trouble? You know, more month than money, operating without a budget, missing payments, no savings, getting deeper into debt, using credit cards to make payments & only making minimum payments.
Today is the final message of a three-week series called “There’s nothing better than Jesus except…” I don’t know your exceptions, but Jesus provides three in Luke 8:14. Life’s worries, riches and pleasures. These three are more commonly known as money, sex and power. Money, sex and power are both gifts and temptations. They can help. They can hurt. We’ve already discussed power and sex, so today let’s focus our attention on money. First, I’m pro money. Proverbs 30 tells us that if you have little money, you might think that God doesn’t care. If you have oodles of money, you might think that you don’t need God. Both thoughts are bad thoughts. Money isn’t the problem. Loving money IS the problem. Money can lead us to be generous or loving money can lead us to be selfish.
Let’s take generosity first. Being generous with our money can do such good things for God and people. There are several Joseph’s in the Bible, but only one goes by the nickname of Barnabas. Look at what Barnabas does in Acts 4:36. (Read 36-37) His gift gave the Apostles options. Meet 4-year-old Noah Ruiz. Noah is on the autism spectrum and his favorite snack is a SpongeBob Popsicle with gumball eyes. He got on his Mom’s computer and ordered $2600 worth of SpongeBob Popsicles from Amazon. Jennifer, his Mom was not happy. Noah got in allot of trouble. I think he’s grounded from the computer. Amazon would not accept a refund because the popsicles were all melting. So friends and even strangers helped Noah’s Mom, Jennifer, to raise the money to pay the bill. Money can really bail a person out.
Meet Brittany Burcham. Brittany is a foster care Mom to teen girls. Her first was a 13-year-old girl who came out of an abusive home situation. The first thing Brittany does when a girl comes to her house is take them to Shake Shack. She says it gives this person a chance to calm down. Then she takes these girls her back to her house and gives them a welcome basket. When it’s time for any girl to leave they each receive a sturdy duffel bag, because nobody leaves Brittany’s house carrying their belongs in a trash bag. None of this would be possible without this lady being generous with her money. (Mention Ben Thompson)
And then there’s you. The Westerville Christian Church family. You are so generous with your money and with it we do so much good for God. Friday Fare just ended. FF enables families to eat on the weekends. Bags are packed during the week and children take those bags home on Friday. Tracy Rush informed us that for this school year, Westerville Christian Church packed and delivered 2,413 bags –just over 19,000 meals for Westerville students and families. You can’t do that without money/donations. Tracy is not the only person who’s grateful. Look at these thank you notes.
Thank you, so much, for all of your support Tracy. You and your church are a blessing to Westerville. Westerville Christian Church is a blessing to Westerville. Friday Fare helps so many families and we are grateful. WCC is a true blessing to so many people. Many blessings & thanks to you! Thank you for all of your kindness and support for our students this past school year. Thank you for all that you and the Church does for our student community. We appreciate all of the support! On behalf of the Cherrington community we are grateful for your support of our families. Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the blessing you have been to our Blendon students and families. Thank you for all you have done and we are already looking forward to next year. Thank you so much for taking care of our kids! Thank you for all your help this year with our families!
With money we can do so many good things for people. Generosity helps people see God. But the love of money can lead us to do a bunch of bad stuff. Money is one of the greatest temptations and it often fuels sex & power. Turn in your Bibles or smartphones to Acts 16:16. Paul, Silas and Luke are in a city/Roman colony called Philippi. Paul will eventually write a letter to these people called Philippians. Look at what happens in Acts 16:16a. (Read verse 16a)
I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “elephants in the room.” Well, there are two elephants in this verse that we cannot ignore. The first elephant is slavery. I have questions. Maybe you do too. Why is slavery mentioned in the Bible? Because the Bible is a historical document. If slavery was omitted, the Bible wouldn’t be considered historically accurate or reliable! Why does God allow slavery? When Adam & Eve sinned, they were not the only ones who fell. The whole world fell. Sin changed everything. The world before sin was free. The world after sin is now enslaved whether to our own passions or someone else’s passions. How did a person become a slave? Dr. N.T Wright said, “One became a slave when captured as a prisoner of war, when kidnapped by slave-traders, or through being sold into slavery by one’s family.”[iii] Probably to avoid starvation. Your kid either starves to death or you had them over to someone else. How did this girl become a slave? Well, she was either captured, kidnapped or sold. This is never what God intended for his creation. I am beginning a five-week series next Sunday called God is… Let’s talk about God’s character. I will show you the most repeated description of God in all of the Old Testament. Let’s ask & answer questions about God that really matter.
The second elephant in verse 16 is fortune-telling. Luke tells us this girl was possessed by a spirit that enabled her to predict the future. A spirit can be good or holy. A spirit can be evil or unholy. This girl is possessed by an unholy spirit. Dr. Mark Moore paints this picture. Fortune-tellers would get on a stool just outside of an opening in the ground. Potent vapors would pour out of the ground and this girl begins breathing them in until she’s intoxicated.[iv] HIGH! Once she’s out of her mind she starts predicting the future and just like everything else in this world what she does makes money for the people who own her. Go back to Acts 16:16b. (Read 16b-19).
Her owners don’t care about her. They only want her to make money for them. And now she can’t. They are peeved at Paul and Silas. It’s not just them. This is verse 22. The crowd is mad because now they have no one to help them see their future. They don’t mind spending the money. What was happening then is still happening today. Why is there so much corruption in the world? Because people love money. Why is there so much corruption in Washington D.C? Because people love money. How often does money drive power? Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are considered powerful because they are billionaires. Money drives the sex industry. Why is sex-trafficking so prolific? It makes people money. Traffickers will destroy a child just to get rich. Why is pornography a world-wide epidemic? It makes people stinking rich. People will do anything to make money. According Customs and Border Control, human smugglers made approximately $411.5 million last February alone taking people from Mexico and other countries to the US border. This averages out to roughly $14.6 million a day.[v] Pastor Greg, those smugglers are great humanitarians. No, they simply love money.
Money can do so much good. But loving money can create so much harm. The love of money pushed some people to own a girl. To see her not as a creation of God but something to possess. What could the love of money push you or me to do? To become selfish. To think about ourselves all the time. Jesus warns us in Luke 16:13. (Read verse 13) Money is a counterfeit god. Always demanding more. The very next verse says this. (Read verse 14a)
Their love of money pushed them to demand that Pilate crucify the Son of God. The love of money lured the Apostle Judas to betray Jesus.[vi] What could the love of money lure you to do? Me to do. James said this in James 5:13a: Is anyone among you in trouble? Are you in financial trouble? Don’t give up hope. Are you having relationship troubles? Don’t give up hope. Are you having physical troubles? Feeling sick? Don’t give up hope. Here is James solution for trouble. Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.
Why do we pray to God? Because it’s not about mere belief. It’s about trust. It’s not “In Money We Trust!” It’s not “In Government We Trust!” It’s “In God We Trust!” Is prayer your next step? Pray to God about your finances. Pray to God about any struggling relationship. Pray to God about your health, your diagnosis. Is your next step to accept Christ and be baptized? Any why? We all are in trouble because of our sin. But if you put your trust in Jesus, the One & Only Son of God, he will forgive you of every sin you’ve committed. Come forward. I will meet you right here. Is your next step to come pray for other people? I have 21 prayer requests on 21 pieces of paper. People are in trouble and they are asking God to help them. Let me pray and then you come and pray for one person right now.
[i] https://www.rd.com/article/what-do-you-call-jokes/ [ii] https://www.inspiremore.com/latasha-mcclendon-dove-toddler-tornado/ [iii] N.T. Wright, The New Testament in its World, Zondervan Academic, 148 [iv] Mark E. Moore, College Press NIV Commentary, Acts, 286 [v] https://mailchi.mp/c191404a1556/daily-briefing-september-18-137543?e=ed180f12f6 [vi] Matthew 26:15 (NIV)