MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR MONEY

(Philippians 4:14-23)
There’s certainly plenty of teaching – and phenomenal illustrations of how destructive money can be… but when it gets harnessed and used properly, it’s amazing what God can do!

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HOW DEBT SABOTAGES CONTENTMENT

(Romans 13:7-8, Proverbs 22:7)
Houston, we’ve got a problem! Our culture not only promotes discontentment, it produces an entangling, deceptive solution: credit/debt. Lending institutions know the truth of Proverbs, that the borrower becomes the servant of the lender. We need to wise up and use it against them and for us!

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CONTENTMENT COSTS HOW MUCH?

(Philippians 4:10-14)
You may be surprised to know that your problem is not about having enough money. We live in a culture where debt is not only rampant; it is the monster that stalks the majority of those who live in this crazy 2021 world. We go in debt – because our system knows exactly how to lure us into discontent. See, we don’t usually have a problem with money; we have a problem with discontentment. And discontentment is an itch that can’t be scratched no matter how much money and stuff you throw at it… but there is a better way!

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PEACE… When Normal is Not an Option

Well, the drama and difficult stuff didn’t end at the stable – or with the financial struggle of living as poor people in a strange town and paying taxes. Then Mary and Joseph and Jesus faced danger – from a crazy, evil king! Then they had to escape to the foreign country where their ancestors had been slaves! Then, even though they tried to go and live in the center of their faith, where Jesus could live out His destiny – they were sent back to Gossip Central – to the very place where they had been most understood! Every Christmas, we experience the same. The wonder and excitement of Christmas – and then – January in Toronto! Back to school. Months before the weather will be warm again… and, of course, we have to pay for Christmas. Jesus brings peace to normal, though. And that’s good – because life is mostly about normal. Even now – in the middle of a pandemic when most everything about our lives has changed – Jesus brings peace.

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PEACE… When Good Happens in Bad Circumstances

There’s very little about Jesus’ actual birthday that you could call good – at least from a human perspective. No one likes to be taxed! If I had to go back to Pittsburgh so I could then be taxed by the US government – I’d be an unhappy camper! Same with many of you. Imagine having to make a long dangerous trip to… pay taxes! If you’re a woman, imagine being 9 months pregnant – knowing that you would have to give birth where no one you knew – except your husband, could help! And, of course, Mary went into labour once they got to Bethlehem. Now we know Jesus had to be born there – but Mary didn’t! Now we send cards with cute sheep and cows and donkeys – with a smiling baby on clean straw – out in a shed on a starry night. It seems peaceful – almost a little romantic! But at the time, it was every Dad’s and every Mom’s worst scenario. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination! And yet – it was so spectacular that angels showed up and sent a gaggle of visitors – who also weren’t ideal and on the level of carnies in our world. But what God was doing in the middle of not good, not ideal, un-sanitized, events and places brought peace. Just like the angels said, Glory to God, peace on earth, good will to all of humanity. Don’t give up on peace when it seems like everything in your world is fighting against it!

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PEACE… When Following God Leads to a Barn

As you know, from Jesus’ biography, there were sane, wise, good leaders in Jesus’ story. The problem is, we don’t know their names, where they came from, or what happened to them after they met and worshipped Jesus. The strange part of this story is that the religious leaders of Israel, the keepers and exegetes of all the sacred writings and prophecies were only 7 miles away from Bethlehem – where Jesus was born and spent His first months of life. And they never even came to see who He was – even though they knew He’d been born. The Magi, or wisemen, as they were known, didn’t follow the God of Israel – and yet they were the ones open to hearing about the Messiah. The back story on what happened is fascinating. You’d think that after a dangerous, expensive journey that took months – they’d be disappointed at finding Jesus – in what would seem to be a very unspectacular place. But their enthusiasm and connection with God, didn’t seem to at all affected. We find God is some very unusual places, too. We just have to be open – and wise enough to see Him – and know Him.

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PEACE… When the Leaders are Crazy, Evil
– or Both!

If you read your history books, the world has always, it seems, had a leader somewhere that was either crazy or evil… usually both. The craziness was usually associated with an obsession for money, sex or power. And leaders that are both crazy and evil – like Hitler – do a  lot of damage and leave a lot of scars. We aren’t the first world to experience crazy leaders – in fact, it was a lot worse in the first century BC. Not only was Herod both crazy and evil, Caesar Augustus was too! The fascinating thing is that as big and well-known as they were then – household names – they’re just footnotes in Jesus’ story.If the Prince of Peace can come – vulnerable and helpless – and die vulnerable, nailed to a cross, and bring peace 2000 years later, it’s pretty clear that crazy, evil leaders who get their money and power by stealing it from others – cannot steal your peace. To hand your peace to them is both crazy… and evil!

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PEACE… When There’s Chaos in Your Home

So, here’s the question; is it only possible to have peace at the core of your life – when there’s peace on the outside – more specifically in your home? Where you live? With the people who surround you – you know, the people you eat supper with, clean up after, share living space with? Having tension where you live and with people you love definitely affects the quality of life. But if peace actually flows from peace with God – then peace at the core is possible. And that’s important, because sometimes God calls you to do things that people you know and love do not understand – and may not like – for years! I’m guessing – that’s what happened to Mary. In that culture, getting pregnant out of wedlock when you’re engaged wasn’t just difficult and inconvenient, like it is in ours. It was literally life-threatening! I can only imagine the tension at the dinner table – and the tension in the tiny shame-based town Mary lived in.  And yet… all she was doing was immensely pleasing to God – and she became the most honoured woman in history! Any tension or drama you have in your home this Christmas is likely no greater than hers. What we have to do is make sure we’re not the cause of the chaos – or making it worse! And that takes humility – something that Mary had.

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THE LAW OF EXPOSURE

There is a law in the universe that is every bit as predictable and real as the law of gravity. It’s the law of exposure. Whether or not you believe in it, you need to know that cancer research believes in it, that social media experts believe in it, and that the entire marketing community believes that it is inevitable. Simply stated – what we regularly expose ourselves to affects our bodies, our mental health, and our soul. We gradually become what we expose ourselves to. If it’s good stuff – that is, noble, true, right, pure, etc. – it will produce good fruit. If it’s not? Well… not so much.

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DON’T LET ANXIETY RUN YOUR LIFE!

Getting back to the issue of anxiety – it is a taskmaster, a slavedriver that will crush you and suck the joy and happiness right out of your soul. But you already know that. Paul, who lived in a pressure-cooker learned how to find peace when life was bleak. And he was just an ordinary person – not a super human. The key seems to be finding a place to unload your anxiety. and puting up a firewall that keeps it there.

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