The Greatest Investment, 17 March 2024

The Greatest Investment
God Cares More About Your Money Than You Do

Luke 12:13-34

Series Big Idea:
Money matters…to God, to us, and to those we love.
Big Idea: The greatest investments will last forever.
Although I love this country, the older I get, the more I see its many flaws. No nation is perfect, of course, but despite our financial wealth, our culture has many weaknesses. One of them is we are impatient. Would you agree? When we stare at the microwave clock wishing it would cook faster…!!! Speaking of fast, have you driven on I-75 lately? If you’ve ever put money in the stock market, hoping the value would double overnight…It reminds me of my grandkids who once planted a garden and checked on it the next morning!
The late Dallas Willard famously gave this advice to his disciple, John Ortberg: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” Good luck!
As we conclude our three-part series “God Cares More About Your Money Than You Do,” we are talking about the greatest investment.
What’s the greatest investment you’ve ever made?
I’m pretty happy with the Apple stock I bought in 2005 before I worked for the company. I bought 4 shares, spending $367. That $367 is now worth over $44,000. Imagine if I bought 100 shares instead of only 4! Truthfully, I’ve done very little investing in the stock market. Most of my very modest retirement account is in mutual funds.
All fruitful investments require time. By definition, the returns are not instantaneous. If you buy something from a vending machine, we call that a transaction. No waiting is required (unless the machine is broken and you have to kick it!). When you order fast food at a drive-thru, you hope and pray it won’t take an hour to receive your order!
But investments are different. There is no instant gratification. This is why many use financial investments to fund their retirement. They know it is years or decades away. They also recognize the value of compounding interest. The Bible has over 2000 references to money. Don’t worry, we’ll only look at half of them today!
God gives us many gifts for our good…that the enemy uses to destroy. Our planet was created filled with beauty, yet pollution taints its splendor. Relationships are God’s design, yet they often bring the greatest pain. Sex is a wonderful gift…within God-given boundaries designed to protect us. Money is another tool that can be used for good or harm.
In case you missed our message two weeks ago, we said
-       If you spend less than you earn, you will never be broke.
       Work hard
       Spend wisely
       Give generously
Those are principles for building financial wealth. They also bring us great joy when we honor God with our money, no matter how much we possess…so long as our money doesn’t possess us.
I want to talk about another dimension of money and that is investing. Saving is not only a financial principle, it’s a healthy discipline. Because we live in an on-demand, have it now culture, the mere mention of the word “wait” might be enough to cause some of you anxiety. Who has time to wait?
The same is true with money.
It’s hard to wait sometimes. We either see something we want, but it before we have the money, and pay outrageous interest fees (by the way, making the minimum monthly payment will rarely if ever lead to the payment of the debt!)…or we cash our paycheck and spend it all before the next one arrives…with no thought of savings, much less investment.
Many of you have heard of an emergency fund or a rainy day fund. So-called experts differ on exact formulas, but before you spend every penny you own, consider the fact that
emergencies will arise. It’s a fact of life. Rain will fall (especially in Toledo). And all of us have a limited number of days on earth…and days when we are able to work.
I realize our church family is very diverse. Some of you know more about money than I do. Many of you
have more money than I do! And some of us struggle to save even a little, much less invest. We are so focused on surviving today that we can’t even imagine planning for tomorrow. Then the rain comes and we’re in crisis mode.
I want to remind you of the “spend wisely” principle from two weeks ago. We need to differentiate between our wants and our needs. Advertisements are designed to destroy your contentment. People are paid to convince you that desires are necessities. And you need that new (fill in the blank) now! And if now won’t work, perhaps you can wait for Amazon to deliver tomorrow (or later today!).
Since each household is unique, I want to simply remind you that
a budget brings freedom, not bondage…and savings should be in your budget. Whether you save $1/paycheck, 1%, 10%, or more, it’s essential to save…and then invest that money so it can grow.
Jesus told a great story about three men who were given money to invest. In the 25
th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells of a man going on a long trip.
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. (Matthew 25:15, NLT)
“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. (Matthew 25:16-18, NLT)
“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ (Matthew 25:19-20, NLT)
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (Matthew 25:21, NLT)
“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ (Matthew 25:22, NLT)
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (Matthew 25:23, NLT)
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ (Matthew 25:24-25, NLT)
“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ (Matthew 25:26-27, NLT)
“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:28-30, NLT)
There’s so much that could be said about savings and investments. A great resource is, a ministry of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Of course, some of you will be meeting with David Munn of Munn Wealth Management today at noon. His company is built upon biblical principles and has been extremely generous to First Alliance and many Christian organizations throughout our community. David is a personal friend and a great resource. There are many others, too, including the Ron Blue Institute which partners with Orchard Alliance.
But I want to go back to Jesus’ story of investing. It’s a great picture of investing money—silver—
but the greatest investment in the world is people.
A biblical example of investment
Who wrote the book of Timothy? Actually, there are two books called Timothy…1
st and 2nd Timothy…and they were written by…Paul. These short letters were written from a mentor to an apprentice, a teacher to a student, a discipler to a disciple.
Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. (2 Timothy 1:3, NLT)
Paul invested prayer. Night and day he prayed for Timothy.
I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. (2 Timothy 1:4, NLT)
Paul invested passion. He cried when they parted and longs for a joyous reunion.
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. (2 Timothy 1:5, NLT)
Grandma and mom invested, too.
This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. (2 Timothy 1:6, NLT)
The Holy Spirit invested in Timothy with a spiritual gift.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)
That’s the fruit of the investment…power, love, and self-discipline. Who doesn’t want that?
A few verses later, Paul tells Timothy to…
Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:13-14, NLT)
So What?
The greatest investment you can make is not in real estate, Bitcoin, or Microsoft. It’s in people. We do that through our
time, talent, and treasures.
We must spend
time with people. This is the core of discipleship, of investment, of friendship. Love is spelled t-i-m-e! There are no shortcuts or hacks. You simply need to invest time in people, listening to them, eating with them, having fun with them! When is the last time you chose to spend an hour with a non-Christian with no agenda, just to be with them?

Another way to invest in people is through your talents, your abilities. This might include volunteering with one of our Home Missions partners from last Sunday, cooking food for Dinner Church, assisting on the next Alpha Course, joining the music or tech teams, or any number of other things to get involved around here. What do you love to do? How can you do that with others, for others, for God’s glory?
You can also make a financial investment in people through giving your treasures to First Alliance, FAC Missions, and the Alliance Great Commission Fund. These three accounts are used to impact lives for eternity by supporting this local congregation, serving our ministry partners in our city and world through church planting, Home Missions, and Faith Missions, and contributing to the global work of our Christian & Missionary Alliance family, including Germany and the Dominican Republic.
Financial investments are great, especially as we age and become unable to work and earn income. Starbucks stock was worth more than eleven times its year 2000 value in 2016. Monster Beverage stock was worth 24 cents in 2001 and grew to $150 in 2015.
But despite the bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” there’s only one investment that’s eternal, and it’s not about money. It’s about people…and Jesus. The greatest investment you can make is investing in people, loving people, serving people, praying for people, introducing people to Jesus.
Several weeks ago, my sermon was entitled
evangelize now, meaning “share good news now, tell others about Jesus now.” It is true that tomorrow could be too late…for you or them!
Investing in people always
begins with prayer. Pray that God would lead you to the right people, that He would prepare their hearts, and that He would give you wisdom and words.
The next step is to
listen…listen to them. Don’t bombard them with information. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Eat with them. Grab coffee. There’s something powerful about food and relationships. The Bible is packed with examples, including the very manner in which we are to remember the death of Jesus.
Serve them. Put your faith into action.
share your story. After you’ve listened to theirs and served them, you’ve likely earned the right to share your story…God’s story. If you began the process with praying for them, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in learning more.


There's even a free BLESS app for your smart phone. Search for it.
But we must be intentional. It takes time. Sometimes years or decades! It requires sacrifice. This is true of all investments, but I promise you there is no greater investment than people. The returns are eternal!
British missionary C.T. Studd (what a great name!) penned a powerful poem entitled, “Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past.” Here’s a sample:

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way; Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its clays I must fulfill. living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn; Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”; And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Bless The LORD, 22 April 2018

Bless The Lord
D6 Series—
Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
Psalm 103

Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

Big Idea: God is worthy of our praise!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalms 103:1, ESV)

We’ve sung the words, but what do they mean?

Today we are continuing our series, Songs from the Heart, on select Psalms. I have mentioned how the book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook…and my favorite book of the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

On Resurrection Sunday, we saw glimpses of the suffering Jesus in Psalm 22. Then we looked at the Messianic nature of Psalm 72 and God’s love expressed in Psalm 89 last Sunday. Today we turn to Psalm 103.

At the recent Worship Night in America event, Pastor Darren Whitehead talked about the seven Hebrew words for “praise.” Just saying that makes our English language seem so simplistic!

The word repeated used in Psalm 103 for “praise” or “bless,” depending upon your translation, is the word “barak.”

Of David. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalms 103:1)

בָּרַךְ   bāraḵ   means to bless or pronounce blessings, give praise, give thanks, extol, to kneel down, to bow or salute, to bless God as an act of adoration.

This Hebrew word appears about 300 times in the Old Testament. To bless or praise the LORD is to bow down before Him, acknowledging He is God and we are not, thanking Him and telling others how great He is…in word, song, and deed. Praising or blessing God, then, is more than just words…it’s a lifestyle, an act of worship.

King David begins this famous psalm by not merely stating, “barak,” but telling his soul, all of his inmost being, to praise the LORD and His holy name.

The Hebrew name for God is so holy, in fact, that to this day it is never spoken out loud by Jews. The word “Adonai” is a more general term for God, but the holy name which Gentiles often pronounce “Yahweh” is sacred and revered. There is so much in this one short verse. It’s as if David is throwing himself before the LORD saying, “I’m Yours, LORD. All of me. My body. My soul. My heart. My mind. It all thanks You. It all adores You. It all belongs to You.”

Have you ever felt like that? That’s devotion. That’s passion. That’s worship. And God loves it! This idea of blessing the LORD is the central idea of this psalm. The LORD has blessed David, and David returns the favor.

Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases, (Psalms 103:2-3)

David tells his soul to forget not. Why? Because we forget! What do we forget? We forget the LORD’s blessings, His benefits.

Do you like benefits? It seems like every few months I’m getting a notice in the mail about new benefits coming soon to my credit card or changes in my health insurance benefits (not always good changes!). When making a major purchase, one must always learn about the features and benefits of the investment.

We must not forget the benefits of the LORD. David lists five in this psalm.

  • 1. God has forgiven our sins (all our sins!)
  • 2. God heals all our diseases (someday all diseases will be healed; maybe today!)

  • What else?

    who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
    who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:4-5)

    Here we see the final three benefits:

  • 3. God redeems our life from the pit (now and beyond the grave)
  • 4. God crowns us with love and compassion (surrounds us, placed upon us)
  • 5. God satisfies our desires with good things (we can satisfy them with bad things!)

  • The result is our youth, our strength, is renewed. Because of the goodness of the LORD we can have hope and passion (one of my prayers for FAC).

    Is this good news, family? Absolutely! The problem for many of us is we forget. I don’t necessarily mean we have no knowledge of these truths, but rather we are so familiar with them we forget their importance, their impact, and we forget to thank God!

    The LORD works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
    He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
    The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalms 103:6-8)

    Have you ever felt oppressed? Many in our world today are oppressed—by poverty, slavery, injustice…and yet God works on their behalf. He is engaged in righteousness and justice. His timing might not be as quick as we would like, but in the end, justice will prevail.

    Moses and the people of Israel were witnesses of God’s righteousness and deliverance.

    Verse eight is echoed throughout the Bible. From Exodus to Joel to Jonah, this phrase appears:

    “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in love.”

    Because God is just, he gets angry. We should get angry when we see injustice. We simply need to direct our anger appropriately.

    … “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

    Jesus got angry. The Father gets angry, but His anger is limited by His grace, mercy and love.

    He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
    he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalms 103:9-10)

    This is great news! We come to a God of justice but also grace and mercy. He is a God of wrath, but also love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Meditate on that for a moment. Hallelujah! People often talk about what they deserve. All I deserve is eternal separation from God because of my sins, yet God does not treat me as my sins deserve. I’m so grateful. Praise the LORD!!!

    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
    as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:11-12)

    Here’s another oft-quoted scripture. God created the cosmos for us to enjoy. His love is as great as from here to the heavens! That’s infinite!

    Furthermore, our sins are forgiven, sent as far away as from the east to the west. That’s far! That’s infinite!

    God’s love is endless. God’s forgiveness is endless. There’s more!

    As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
    for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust. (Psalms 103:13-14)

    This past week I was thrilled to be present for the formal legal adoption of the Glovers’ son. Watching him during these six months since birth has brought me so much joy, and mine pales in comparison to the joy of mom, dad, and big brother.

    I was thinking about him when I read this verse. His mom and dad know he is small, young, and fragile. God knows even the strongest people on our planet are nothing compared to God’s power. We are all but dust. Those who fear—who revere—God will receive His compassion rather than His wrath and justice for our sins, which reminds of the one child the Father did not have compassion upon—Jesus. He took our punishment. He died on our behalf.

    The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
    the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more. (Psalms 103:15-16)

    Here’s another beautiful image of our weakness, our mortality. We often think we’re so strong and mighty, but when we compare ourselves to God…to the universe…we are like a blade of grass. Yet to God, we are special.

    But from everlasting to everlasting
    the LORD’S love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
    with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalms 103:17-18)

    All good dads love their children. They give age-appropriate feedback and discipline. They encourage, support, and provide for their kids. They are aware of the limitations of little people and nurture them to adulthood.

    But don’t miss the condition—obedience. We talked about this last week. God’s love language is obedience. We love Him because He first loved us. We obey, not out of fear of punishment, but out of reverence, respect, and love. God can be trusted. God’s Word can be trusted. God’s commands can be trusted. He’s a good, good Father.

    The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalms 103:19)

    That’s pretty comprehensive! God’s kingdom rules over all, and not just over us.

    Praise the LORD, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word. (Psalms 103:20)

    The LORD rules over the angels who praise Him.

    Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will. (Psalms 103:21)

    The LORD rules over the heavenly hosts who praise Him.

    Praise the LORD, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion. (Psalms 103:22a)

    The LORD rules over all of creation who praise Him. There’s a great scene in the Palm Sunday account where Jesus warns what will happen if we don’t praise the LORD.

    When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

    “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

    “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

    Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

    “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40)
    I don’t want any stones praising the LORD instead of me!

    And finally, David ends the way he began:

    Praise the LORD, my soul. (Psalms 103:22b)

    So What?

    As the ushers come forward, I want to prepare you for opportunities to praise the LORD. First, you can bless and praise the LORD by giving of your tithes and offerings. The word tithe means ten percent, something of a minimum. All we have belongs to God. We have the freedom to spend and save, but the Old Testament minimum was ten percent to the LORD. Some of you give more than ten percent, which is wonderful. You’ve experienced the joy of generosity as Heather and I have. Worshipping through giving is not the weekly church fundraiser. It’s a way to tangibly declare our allegiance to God.

    If you don’t tithe, I want to encourage you to begin with something. Start with five percent. Start with one percent! I recently learned that in the average church, one third of the people give zero, zip, nada. How sad…for them! Another third give less than $10/week. That might be fine for some of our students whose only income is a paper route, but for many of us ten dollars is less than we spend a week on restaurant tips…and we’re talk about Almighty God! If you’re not prepared to give this morning, no worries. You can give via our free smartphone
    app or on our website, too.

    If we love God, we will obey, and that includes being generous with the resources He has given to us. As you listen to this beautiful song of praise, may it prompt you to fully engage in worship, in blessing the LORD.

    Benediction (containing “barak”)

    ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’ (Numbers 6:24-26)

    some ideas from D6, Westside Church Vancouver

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Blessed, 27 December 2015

    Psalm 1

    Big Idea: Blessed is the person who knows the LORD.


    Good morning! Welcome to that odd, in-between Sunday. The gifts are opened, maybe you’ve spent time returning that ugly sweater or unwanted fruitcake (can you return a fruitcake?!). The decorations are ready for the attic. You might be thinking about using that gift card to buy a treadmill or join Planet Fitness. New Year’s Eve parties (including the biggest of all, right here at 7 PM!) and bowl games are right around the corner. Parents might be ready for school to resume, kids enjoy every moment of freedom.

    We look back at Christmas and look forward to New Year’s.
    We look back at 2015 and look forward to 2016.
    We’re going Back to the Future!

    It’s that odd, in-between Sunday!

    Rather unexpectedly, the Psalms became a focal point during our Advent series. Advent itself is an odd, in-between time, looking back at baby Jesus and looking forward to the Return of the King.

    As we near the end of 2015, we’re going to go to the beginning of the Psalms and look at Psalm 1 together.

    Blessed…(Psalm 1:1a)

    Do you want to be blessed? I often here people pray, “LORD, bless me” or “LORD, bless so-and-so.”

    Have you been blessed in 2015?

    God bless us all in 2016!

    The word “blessed” or “asrey” in Hebrew means…blessed, happy, a heightened state of happiness and joy, implying very favorable circumstances, often resulting from the kind acts of God.

    Like joy, blessings are not related to our circumstances. Blessings are not obtained by seeking them, but rather they are often a side benefit from choices we make…or don’t make. A wise man said that happiness is like a
    cat. Seek it and it will run from you. But go about your business steadily day by day and soon it comes and curls up at your feet. How true, although I’m not a big cat fan!

    In biblical terms to be blessed meant to be rightly related to God so that your life was fulfilled and you experienced deep personal satisfaction. Who wants that?!

    Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, (Psalm 1:1)

    Did you ever stop and think your actions are a factor in God’s blessing? It seems clear here. Note the contrast. Walk with the wicked or love the law, the Torah, God’s Word.

    Notice this psalm begins with a negative. A person is blessed if they
    don’t walk, or stand or sit. That’s in interesting progression. In each instance evildoers are involved. We are not to walk with the wicked. That could be a casual interaction. We are not to stand with sinners. That could be a more involved conversation. We are not to sit with mockers, perhaps to avoid becoming like them.

    You are your friends. Jim Rohn says it this way: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

    We need to invest our lives into those who don’t yet know Jesus, but we must guard ourselves from their influence. Like someone rescuing a drowning person, we must be careful to ensure we don’t get dragged down while we are attempting to serve others.

    Often dangerous people look nice. Who’s going to come up to you and say, “I’m an unsafe person who will deceive and harm you?” Can you imagine a stranger approaching you wearing a “Let’s go to Hell together” t-shirt?! But this world is filled with wicked, proud-of-their-sin mockers. Notice I didn’t just say sinners since we’re all sinners. What’s your attitude toward your sin?

    We are to be in the world but not of the world. This can be tricky.

    The progression is walk, stand sit; think, behave, belong.

    The psalm begins by telling us what not to do if we want to be blessed, but what should we do instead?

    …but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

    Your delight determines your direction. Do you delight in the law of the LORD? Do you delight in the Bible? Do you delight in God?

    Which is more popular, partying with pagans or going to a Bible study? Which is more fun? Which is the pathway to blessing?

    I know I’m not supposed to say this, but sometimes I struggle to read the Bible. There are times I’d rather read blogs than the Bible. But no blog can offer the wisdom, inspiration, and transformation found in the living Word of God. And it is an exciting book. If you think it’s boring, you’ve either never read it or you have an ancient translation you don’t understand. In either case, we have free Bibles in modern English available for you at the Information Center in the lobby. Please take one…and read it! Or read it online (more about that later).

    The other day I was talking with David Sankovich in the office and I said, “Did you know there’s a story in the Bible about someone speaking with the dead?” He knew. Did you? There’s accounts of donkeys talking, the dead raised, the earth swallowing up households, a woman driving a peg through a man’s temple, God serving frosted flakes to thousands—if not millions—of people…and that’s all before Revelation!

    Do you want to be blessed? Get into the Word! Is your faith weak? Get into the Word!

    Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

    You can read and listen to and study God’s Word, the holy scriptures, the Bible. Throughout history many have been unable to read. Most of us are able to read, but we can also listen to it as you are now, or online or via recording.

    Much of Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible—is devoted to God’s Word. Of course, it’s not enough to read or listen to the Bible, or even know it intellectually. We must obey it. We must do what it says. Why? Because Daddy knows best. God’s ways are higher than ours. Blessed is the one who delights in God’s Word.

    …but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

    What is the object of your delight?

    On Friday we saw children delighting in their Christmas gifts.
    On Friday we saw adults delighting in their Christmas gifts!

    Young lovers delight in…one another.

    Sports fans delight in their teams, especially when they win.

    The word for “meditate” means to digest thoroughly. I like that!
    “Day and night’ means anytime, but it could also mean from the beginning of the day to its end.


    LORD, help me to want to know You and Your Word! I want to want you!

    That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

    I love this image for many reasons. First, I love water. I often feel closest to God when I’m near water…and ocean, a lake, a river, a stream…sometimes a drinking fountain will do!

    I’m…uh…blessed to be able to see Swan Creek in my backyard during this time of year when the leaves have fallen. I could spend all day watching and listening to the current. Water is life. Our bodies are about 60% water. We obviously need it to live.

    So do trees! Trees with access to water will grow and become fruitful.

    A tree planted by a stream is usually stable. Its root system is often greater than the tree seen above the ground.

    How do you know when a tree has good roots? When the storms come!

    Have you ever noticed apple trees produce apples? Orange trees produce oranges.

    As we delight in God, our lives will produce godliness.

    As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit:

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

    Psalm 1 continues…

    Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (Psalm 1:4)

    “Not so” the wicked. They are not like the righteous…at all!

    Chaff is like peanut shells, waste. The wisdom of the wicked is waste. Garbage.

    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:5-6)

    I used to think “stand in the judgment” meant to appear and be present at the judgment, to show up. It means “stand” as in “stand up, stand firm.” Without roots, trees will fall. Without righteousness, the wicked will not pass the judgment. The winds of judgment will blow them over like chaff.

    The righteous will stand. The righteous will not blow down or be blown away. They will be like a strong, healthy tree with deep roots, surviving the windy storms and surviving God’s judgment.

    The LORD knows the ways of the righteous, like a dad knows his children.

    The wicked will eventually perish. It might not be today. Things might not seem fair now, but on Judgment Day God will have the final word.

    Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Are you ready? Are your roots deep? Are you grounded in God’s Word or being sucked downstream by the current of the culture?

    I pray we would be rooted in the Bible in 2016 (and every year!).

    So What?

    My first resolution for next year is to listen more…to God’s Word. Will you join me?

    For the last several years I’ve done a Bible reading plan. I have done many different ones, but my favorite I’m about to finish this year and I can’t wait to do it again. It’s called One Story and it takes you through the key stories of the Bible in one year. The plan shows how the many stories of the Bible make up one interconnected story – God’s story. The plan calls for reading between one to three chapters of Scripture a day from three separate chapters (i.e. the main storyline and key cross references), six days per week. It’s not only the greatest hits of the Bible, it is beautifully constructed to link the Old and New Testaments in ways I’ve never seen before.

    If you have YouVersion, it’s simply to access. Go to

    If you visit you can not only access the plan, there’s also study guides and videos you can use on your own, with your family, or in your Sunday School or small group.

    I’m not merely asking you to read the Bible next year. I’m inviting you to read it with me and the rest of us…together. If you miss some days, it’s not a problem. There’s power in reading the same passages. You’ll always have something to discuss when you get together.

    I have a second resolution for next year: to talk more…with God.

    is a beautiful gift. We have 24/7 access to the Creator of the universe!!! But it’s hard. Just as I’d sometimes rather read blogs than the Bible, sometimes I’d rather talk to my friends than to my heavenly Father.

    We have been invited to join churches across Toledo in three exciting prayer intiatives:

    a. Church Together 21 Day Corporate Fast, praying for our city January 1 through 21 while fasting from one meal each day…or whatever God may be leading you to give up during those three weeks (Facebook, TV, desserts, etc.).

    40 Day Prayer Journey with the same area churches beginning Sunday, January 3 and blanketing the seven key aspects of society.

    Toledo Prays citywide prayer gathering on Thursday, January 7.

    I believe Toledo’s best days are ahead and I believe First Alliance’s best days are ahead, but I believe they will only occur if we partner together with brothers and sisters of other churches at the foot of the cross, seeking the direction, protection, and power of Jesus Christ.

    Begin the new year in God’s Word. You’ll be blessed. Read with us.

    If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to sign up for one or more of the prayer initiatives. Begin the new year on your knees. Pray with us. You’ll never regret it!

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

    Bless Everyone, b.l.e.s.s., 6 January 2013

    Bless Everyone
    Series: b.l.e.s.s.

    Big Idea: We have been blessed to be a blessing.

    Scriptures: Genesis 12:1-3; John 6:1-13; Philippians 2:1-11

    Happy New Year!

    We have begun a new year, a year full of hopes and promise, possibility and potential. As we all know, one of the most common elements of the new year is the making of new year’s resolutions.

    Have you made new year’s resolutions?
    Have you have been able to maintain your resolutions for six days?!

    Why do we make resolutions? We hope to change. We hope to grow.

    This is really a great time of year to reflect, plan, and focus. There’s a myth that says as we get older, we’ll automatically get wiser. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    Growth does not just occur...unless you’re talking about your waistline! Dr. John Maxwell says that we have to be intentional towards growth.

    One of the keys to growth is perseverance. It’s easy to get impatient with our resolutions and goals. It is so important to stick to it!

    This week I was reminded of the power of perseverance. If you swing an axe five times on a tree, most likely nothing much will happen—unless it’s a tiny tree! If tomorrow you do it again, you probably won’t see much change. If you take five swings every day, eventually it will fall, no matter how big the tree. Perseverance is the key.

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

    We have defined success for Scio Community Church:

    We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

    - serving our communities

    - sharing our story
    - sending disciples to bless the nations

    so that God is glorified.

    How? Let’s begin with why.

    Genesis 12:1-3

    The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

    Do you want to be blessed? We have all been richly blessed. We have not been blessed for merely our own pleasure, however, but to be a blessing to others. We are to be conduits of God’s blessing to our weary world that rejoices when they encounter Jesus Christ.

    God’s covenant with Abram in chapter twelve of the Bible begins a thread that is found not only throughout the pages that follow, but also today and until the very end of the age when followers of Jesus will ultimately experience God’s presence forever.

    The Hebrew word for "blessing" (
    JKårD;b, baœrak) means "to empower to strength." We seek God's blessing and pass that blessing on to others. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. This applies to our finances, our freedoms, our resources, our relationships, and our salvation.

    Today and for these first five weeks of 2013 we’re going to look at how we can be a blessing to others, and ultimately to God. To make it simple, throughout this series we will use the acronym b.l.e.s.s. Today’s “B” is simply “bless everyone.”

    As I was studying this week, I was struck by one feature of a well-known story, Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish. There were thousands of hungry people when Jesus tells His disciples that the people need food.

    John 6:7-13

    Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
    (John 6:7)

    Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8-9)

    Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. (John 6:10-11)

    When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. (John 6:12-13)

    The boy did not need a miracle from God. In fact, he didn’t even need lunch. He brought his own! The boy offered what he had to Jesus. In doing so, his sacrifice was multiplied and thousands were fed, including the boy. John Maxwell said,
    “If you trust Him with your lunch, it is only a matter of time before you trust Him with your life. The more you put in His hands, the greater it becomes.”

    How have you been blessed?

    Philippians 2:1-8

    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

    That might sound far-fetched, but this is what it means to follow Jesus. Paul continues...

    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

    Perhaps Jesus said it best. His entire ministry was filled with both words and deeds to express the love of God to those around Him. He said

    “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

    I’ve been reading a book by Mark Russell called
    The Missional Entrepreneur. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to use their marketplace work as their mission field. The book highlights a study done by two teams of missionaries sent to Thailand.

    You could call one team the “blessers” and the other team, the “converters.” The “converters” went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing everyone around them. The “blessers” went with the intention of “blessing” people. They would say, “I’m just here to bless whoever comes my way” or “I just want to be a blessing to the people in my community.”

    The study followed both teams for a couple of years and here are two interesting observations. First, the “blessers” had a greater social impact than the “converters.” Blessing created social good. Secondly, the “blessers” had 48 times as many conversions as the “converters!” They were more successful at helping people encounter Jesus.

    People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    From the very beginning, God’s way to change the world has been a “blessing strategy.” God blessed Abraham relationally, financially and spiritually; but the purpose of that blessing was not for him to simply receive that blessing. The intent of the blessing for Abraham and all who followed after him, including Jesus and us, is that we are being blessed to be a blessing. This is a subtle but important point – if you do not get this you will never discover your mission in life and nothing else you read in this book will make any sense! Every single blessing you’ve ever received was given to you so that you would in turn be a blessing to others. Yes, you were blessed to be a blessing!

    Being a blessing to people is both how you accomplish the Jesus Mission and how you discover your own mission. How do you bless people? First, begin with prayer. Ask God to show you who and how you are to bless. One of my regular prayers living at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland is, “LORD, I have been blessed and I want to bless others. Show me who and how to bless.” Then obey!


    The challenge this week is simple:
    bless one person, preferably a person that does not know Jesus. Feel free to bless others, too, but ask God to show you who and how to bless. It may be a little thing like holding the door open for a stranger or something more significant like providing a meal for a sick neighbor or paying the bill of the people behind you in the drive-through (though that doesn’t provide much relational connection). One suggestion: ask your waiter, waitress or barista how you can pray for God to bless them. Other ideas can be found at


    Don’t live a solitary life. Bless everyone.


    Aaron Niequist has created a series of interactive worship tools called "A New Liturgy." The second project is "Blessed To Be A Blessing,” a worthwhile download that would be a great next step. The audio package is $5 at iTunes.

    You can listen to the podcast here.