Sam Houston’s Baptism – Deuteronomy 15-16

Read Deuteronomy 15-16

Giving to God is a common issue that believers struggle with regularly. Moses gives us instructions on what and how we should give to God. Giving is an important component in our growth as believers in Christ.

In the previous chapter, God tells the people to give a tithe. “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.” (14:22-23). Tithe means tenth and where we can give to God through money, ancient Israel was an agricultural economy. They gave a tenth of their crops.

In today’s reading, we learn something else about our gifts to God: “But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God” (15:21). Both in giving God a tenth and in giving Him our best, Moses is teaching us the importance of regular giving to God as a vital part of our growth in Christ (see also 26:1-19).

Sam Houston (1793–1863) was an American statesman and military commander who led the fight for Texas independence from Mexico and later its admission into the United States. The city of Houston is named in his honor. He was led to Christ by George W. Baines, the great-grandfather of President Lyndon Johnson. After his conversion, Houston “was a changed man, no longer coarse and belligerent, but peaceful and content.” Those who knew him were very surprised when he was baptized. After his baptism, he offered to pay half of the local minister’s salary.

“When someone asked him why, he said, ‘My pocketbook was baptized too.’” Yes, giving is a good sign that a person has truly been converted.[i]

[i] Randy Alcorn, Money, Posessions, and Eternity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003), 173

Four Traits to Raising Money Smart Kids

Note: We begin a new sermon series this Sunday (October 4, 2015) entitled Financially Fit. Join us at either North Richland Hills Baptist Church or Cross Church for this important series.

Parents realize the need to teach their children how to handle their finances. And Christian parents recognize the wealth of material available to them inside the pages of the Bible. And because we love our kids so much we naturally want to give them practical wisdom on how to organize their lives around wise financial principles. For many of us with young children at home, the lessons can’t start soon enough. Recently Forbes Magazine pointed to a report done by the University of Cambridge that revealed that money habits are already formed in children by the age of seven.

I took some time this week in the Old Testament book of Proverbs as I read through the entire book in less than three hours. Proverbs is a collection of short and pithy sayings on wisdom that vary widely and cover a wide range of subjects. Wherever I observed a wise saying in the book related to a financial concept such as avoiding laziness, embracing a strong work ethic, or giving to the poor, I wrote each of the verses down in a separate document. And when I was finished reading all thirty-one chapters, I discovered a wealth of material that spanned some fifteen pages in my notes and covered more than 210 verses in total.

The wisdom I discovered has less to do with Wall Street and more to do with Main Street. While some of the sayings I found were hard to live by, none were overly difficult to understand – anyone with a basic education could grab the basic gist of what Proverbs was saying. By the end of the week I narrowed the lessons down to four traits to raising money-smart kids.

1. Work Matters

Teach your children to embrace work, even hard work. Consistently scattered throughout the pages of the Bible, you’ll find a strong emphasis on the goodness of manual labor.

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 12:14).

“From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him” (Proverbs 12:14).

You may not really value how much God loves work until you contrast the biblical views with some of the other religious texts of ancient times. Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in Manhattan recently contrasted the Bible’s view on work with that of Greek mythology. No doubt you’ve heard about the Greek legend of Pandora’s box? The first human beings were living in absolute bliss when Pandora gets a box, and the gods say, “Don’t open that box.” But she opens the box only to allow all of the human miseries that afflict us today come out. What was in the box? Death and decay and disease and aging and sickness and work. Note carefully the last thing to come out the box — work. Work comes out of Pandora’s box in that legend. Work is seen as a problem in the Greek legend.

Yet, work isn’t seen as a problem in the Bible. Indeed, when we discover the original couple in the Garden of Eden, we see them working before anything goes tragically wrong with the fall. Work is consistently seen as a positive thing to be embraced even in the perfect Garden of Eden. Work gives dignity to life and a sense of accomplishment. Parents, teach the next generation to work diligently for their work matters to God.

2. Get Money Honestly

The majority of crimes in the United States are motivated by money. Whether it be public corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, or tax evasion, the desire for more and more money is at the root of all that’s evil (1 Timothy 6:10). The U. S. Secret Service came into existence during the Civil War because more than one-third of our currency in circulation was thought to be counterfeit. In contrast, my time in reading through Proverbs taught me again and again the value of getting money honestly.

“Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel” (Proverbs 20:17).

 “A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work” (Proverbs 15:11).

 “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (Proverbs 21:6).

Parents, teach the next generation to get money honestly.

3. Give Generously

One of most important lessons we teach our children is that our possessions really aren’t our possessions. As a family of faith, we believe God owns everything and He allows us to manage His resources.

Early on in Proverbs, we see these words:

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).

Traci and I will be married for nineteen years in a few weeks and her experience was pivotal in our early decision to tithe. From the beginning, we’ve enjoyed giving at least ten percent of our income to the church we’ve attended. It’s been a huge blessing to our home.

Yet, we should also teach the next generation to give generously to the poor. Look at these words from the ancient book of Proverbs:

“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him” (Proverbs 14:31).

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).

“Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor” (Proverbs 14:21).

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).

I am amazed at how the Bible stretches the analogy in the passages above in order to communicate our need to give to those who are in need. Parents, be sure to teach the next generation to give generously to their church and to the needy.

4. Be Content

Whoever loves money never has enough. And despite our relative prosperity measured against other nations, Americans aren’t content with what we have. A recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 64 percent of Americans couldn’t even cover a $ 1,000 emergency with cash on hand. Another study from Bankrate.com found that one in four Americans does not have a single penny saved.

It’s so important to stress the need to be content with what we have for we live in the most “marketed-to” culture in the history of the world. We must continually fight diligently for the hearts of our children as they are under siege from endless marketing.

Once again, we discover this wisdom from Proverbs…

“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it” (Proverbs 15:16).

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it” (Proverbs 15:17).

Here’s two experiments to try with your kids to teach contentment:

1) Take a field trip to a dump or a junkyard. One they’re there, they’ll discover  piles of “treasures” that were formerly birthday and Christmas presents.

2) Your child wants a new video game system right away and doesn’t have the patience of waiting. If the system costs $399 and he wants you to buy if for him, sit down together in order to work out a payment schedule where you loan your son the money at the going interest rate of nearby bank. Be careful to tell him that he will need to pay on time and don’t forgive him the note. Show him the real cost of his loan by adding the principle and the interest together. By doing this, you are not only teaching your son the value of work but also the real cost of borrowing money.

Parents, be certain to teach the next generation to be content with what they have.

Five Challenges for 2015/2016

Sunday was an important day for our church. Once a year I speak to the vision of our church (both NRHBC and Cross Church). It is a day I set aside to challenge our church around five areas of future growth moving forward in the remainder of this year and much of next.

Below is a quick recap of the five challenges. I have also included video portion where I speak to our church. If you care for our church, please join me in praying and rally together toward these five challenges.

1. Increase the Number of Bible Study (SMBS) Groups. We currently offer 36 adult SMBS groups at NRHBC and 5 small groups at Cross Church. In the next four years, we want to offer 45 groups at NRHBC. Sunday Morning Bible Studies is the lifeblood of our church. This is where we care for people and it is where we study God’s Word in depth. I cannot underestimate the importance of these groups to the life of our church. They are critical and God does so much good through this one aspect of ministry. In fact, if you are not in one of these groups, you are missing out on an area of growth and relationships.

To get to our goal, we need competent godly people to step up and start new groups. It takes real work to call, teach, and care for adults. However, leading also brings a great deal of joy. Seeing others grow in Christ and “get it” spiritually is extremely powerful. Pray that God allows us to move to our desired number.

2. Send 30% of of NRHBC and Cross Church on a Mission Trip by 2018. During a short term mission trip, we mobilize Bible-believing people for a short period of time, from a matter of days to a few weeks. The impact of how God works through these important times is incalculable. When you go on a short-term trip, you grow exponentially, but you also impact the people where you are ministering. Whether you are clearing debris after a disaster or sharing Bibles in a major metropolis around the globe, short-term missions puts you in touch with career missionaries and causes your hearts to beat with the love and compassion of God Himself (Romans 10:1).

To get to our goal, we need 450 people to step up on a mission trip in the next three years. We have trips planned to Colorado Springs, Colorado, Vancouver, British Columbia, and SE Asia. More trips are planned continually and you simply need to reach out to our missions pastor for more information on how you can be involved.

3. Join together for a Week of Prayer on November 8-15 and for 24 Hours of Fasting on November 14-15. In a recent New York Times article entitled “Googling for God,” we witness some of what happens behind closed doors when Americans are alone with their computers.

“It has been a bad decade for God, at least so far. Despite the rising popularity of Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, Google searches for churches are 15 percent lower in the first half of this decade than they were during the last half of the previous one. Searches questioning God’s existence are up. Many behaviors that he supposedly abhors have skyrocketed. Porn searches are up 83 percent. For heroin, it’s 32 percent… The top Google search including the word “God” is “God of War,” a video game, with more than 700,000 searches per year. The No. 1 search that includes “how to” and “Walmart” is “how to steal from Walmart,” beating all questions related to coupons, price-matching or applying for a job.”

Many of us feel the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation slipping away. The commitment to Christ and His church has slowly eroded. Apathy for spiritual things has moved to antagonism for people, for the Bible, and those who believe. Turning this around is beyond any one person and any one congregation. We need God to move in and change the tide. We need to recognize our inadequacy and plead with God to change our churches, our lives, and our nations. We need a spiritual awakening.

We are setting aside one week to ask God to bless our missionaries and to advance the gospel around the world, November 8-15. And we are calling for a church-wide 24 fast beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. through Sunday at 7 p.m. Your fasting should be a sacrifice on your part and it can include food, drink, social media, television, or video games. This 24 hours is set aside to plead with God to impact our church and our nation.

4. Finish Paying for the Land for the Future Home of Cross Church. Our church purchased approximately 27 acres in 2013 in order to begin Cross Church, our church’s second campus. God has blessed our work in a remarkable way over the past 18 months as our second campus has meet in a nearby school. Yet, our longterm goal is to secure the land as a future home and erect a building. We need a permanent home for many reasons but here is one of our biggest needs: a permanent home allows us to meet together anytime of the week rather than only Sunday mornings. A permanent home allows us to better serve North Fort Worth as community center hub.

To complete the purchase of the land, we have set aside Sunday, November 15 as a Big Offering Day. Our one day goal is $325,000. Join me in praying and giving sacrificially on this day.

5. Commit to Share the Gospel on Thursday, October 15. Let’s join with hundreds of churches across the United States in prayerfully committing to intentionally engage in a gospel conversation on this Thursday. Take time to share your commitment with friends and ask them to join. You may want to use gospel presentations such as 3 Circles or The Story. Begin praying right now for someone that needs to hear about God’s love through the cross of Christ. Again, I am calling on everyone of us to share our faith on this one day.

Thank you for taking time to read this and watch this video. Please consider sharing these five challenges with a friend, co-worker, or family member as a way to stir them to great faithfulness in Christ.

Related Post: For the Five Convictions that Direct our Church, go here.

For the full video of Sunday’s Vision Recast Sermon, go here.