Fiscal Fitness

You would expect that the richest man who ever lived would have something to say about money, and, in Solomon’s case, you would be right. He has plenty to say. There is a wealth of wisdom about wealth in Proverbs. With money, there is not only much to earn, but there is much to learn. In fact, the entire Bible has much to say about money. Howard Dayton, the founder of Crown Ministries has counted about five hundred verses in the Bible on prayer, but over 2,350 on how to handle money and possessions.

The amount of hard cash lost each year in the United States amounts to about $75 per capita. The total average income for most of this planet comes to about $69 per person annually. In other words, the average American loses more money each year than almost anyone else in the world earns.

Money is like nitroglycerin: handling it is not morally wrong, but, especially if you do not know what you are doing, it is extremely risky. It seems as if everywhere you look, there is a warning label of some kind on toys, cigarettes, diet soft drinks, even air bags! Perhaps it would be a good idea to put a warning label on dollar bills, certificates of deposit, and credit cards. Perhaps nothing has been the ruin of more people, marriages, and friendships, than the failure to handle money properly.

You are either master over your money or a slave to it—there is no in between. As I walked through the rich grain fields of financial wisdom in Proverbs, I gleaned some keys to helping you to master your money—lessons you can pass on to your children that will be “worth their weight in gold.” Let me share just two with you…

Principle No. One: Being poor is a problem, but being rich isn’t the answer. The New Living Translation renders Proverbs 8 this way: The rich can pay a ransom, but the poor won’t even get threatened.

The poor man may get no mail, but the rich man may get “blackmail!” The good news is, that the rich are worth kidnapping. The bad news is, they are able to pay the ransom. For the poor, the bad news is, they are not worth kidnapping, but the good news is, they don’t have to worry about ransom. The principle is that money is not an end. It comes with its own set of problems. Pursuing riches may rid you of some challenges but it will also bring other challenges and it certainly will not bring you happiness in any eternal sense.

Principle Number Two: Remember the difference between “needy” and “greedy.” We have all heard, when it comes to cars, “speed kills.” When it comes to money, “greed kills.” So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners. (Proverbs 1:19) We Americans pledge allegiance to “One nation under God,” and then live as if we believe in “One nation under greed.”

A greedy man is just like the heroine addict. It takes a “hit” to satisfy him, but the effect soon wears off and he needs another “hit.” When John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world, he was asked by an employee, “Mr. Rockefeller, how much money is enough?” To which Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more, son, just a little bit more.” A Greek sage once said, “To whom a little is not enough, nothing is enough.”

–James Merritt


The Fishing Business

How many of you have ever been deep sea fishing?  I was shocked to learn that more than 2.4 million people participated in this sport last year, resulting in retail sales of almost $2.4 billion dollars and a total economic impact of almost $4.5 billion dollars. Deep sea fishing provides jobs for nearly 55 thousand people.
You may be asking what does deep sea fishing have to do with the church? Deep sea fishing is a picture of the deep soul fishing we are to be about as a church. I asked myself this question, “If Jesus was here today, what would He see and what would He say?” I believe He wouldn’t see a building.  I believe He would see a boat.  In this crowd, He would see two types of people–fishermen and fish.  Let me let you in on a little secret, you are one or the other.
I have no reason to doubt that the very first thing He would say to us would be the very first words He spoke to the very first people who became His disciples.  “As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen and Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.'” Mark 1:16-17. That one statement tells us what our primary business is, both as a church corporately and as followers of Jesus individually.
It never ceases to amaze me that the first two words Jesus ever said to those who would become His followers were “Follow Me”. There are two amazing things about those words. What He said and why He said it. Think about it. When He said those two words, He was talking to complete strangers.  He gave them no formal introduction.  He presented no credentials, no proof of id, no drivers license and no social security number.  He just simply said, “Follow Me.” Can you imagine what immediately went through their minds, “Follow you?”  I don’t even know you.”
Look at their response, “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Mark 1:18. They were gone in sixty seconds! In the blink of an eye, with a snap of a finger (just like that), gone, left home, business, friends and family and began to follow Jesus. If you want to know what a true Christian is–there you have it. A Christian is a follower of Jesus. That is where the Christian life begins and ends–following Jesus in life and following Jesus through death.
The lesson to be learned here is to follow is to fish or to put it even more simply–“Followers Fish”.
–James Merritt


shutterstock_51132958The country music group Rascal Flatts has a song titled Life Is A Highway.  That really is true.  Life is a highway a highway that eventually ends.
Most everyone hopes that highway ends in heaven, but there is a roadblock on that highway called “sin.”  Unless we find a way around that roadblock we will never make it to what should be our final destination.
It is a driver’s worst nightmare.  You are on a long highway, stuck in traffic, there is nothing but chrome and concrete in front of you and everything and everybody is at a complete standstill.  You have hit a classic roadblock. Time is of the essence. You’ve got to move.  You have a destination to reach and it has to be quickly.  There is no exit in sight.  You have only one hope or at least you think you do – find a detour.  Find someway around that roadblock.  Find someway to get to that destination.
As we face this roadblock called “sin” there is a detour that appeals to the vast majority of the human race and it seems like the logical way to get away the roadblock.  The detour can be called “religion”.  The detour can be called “good works.”  The detour can be called “giving your best.”  The detour can be called “doing good things.”  The detour can be called any number of things, but it all amounts to the same thing – trying to work your way around that roadblock.   There is only one problem with taking that detour, the detour around the roadblock of sin leads to death.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23
Eternal life is a gift that keeps on giving.  God does not give us eternal life just so we can enjoy it and use it to get into heaven.  God gives us eternal life so we in turn can give it to others.  One of the ways you do that is by finding people who have gotten off on this wrong detour and letting them know that detour only leads to death, but they can receive the free gift of eternal life.
The mission of every Christ-follower is to share their faith—their story in Christ.  It is by sharing our story that we lead others to love God. 
No Detours!
–James Merritt

How Can I Please God?

shutterstock_132299630One of the most exciting events in track and field is the relay races.  It takes a combination of speed, timing, precision, and teamwork in order for a relay team to be victorious.  Now the suspense is much greater than an individual race because in an individual race the fastest person always wins.  In a relay race the fastest team can lose if one thing happens –they fail to pass the baton. Any track coach will tell you that relay races are won or lost not in the sheer speed of the team, but in the transfer of the baton.  There is that critical moment when everything can be lost by the slightest miscalculation.
In the 1988 Olympics, the world just assumed that the United States would be victorious in the 400 meter relay because we simply had, by far, from top to bottom the best team.  From the crack of the opening gun, we took the lead and extended the lead through the first three runners.  After the last curve, the unthinkable happened.  The United States was ahead by ten meters and no one was going to catch them.  At the last hand off the impossible happened.  They dropped the baton and the fastest team in the world lost not only a gold  medal, but any medal because of a dropped baton.
I thought about that when I read something that Dr. James Dobson once said. “According to the Christian values which govern my life, my most important reason for living is to get the baton – The Gospel safely into the hands of my children.”
I could not agree with him more.  I can tell you both as a pastor and as a dad, you will never teach your children a greater lesson than the lesson of having faith in God.  I have said before, nobody can change your life like God, but even God cannot change your life until you place your faith in Him.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “It’s impossible to please God apart from faith.”
Why is faith so important?  It is just this simple. You cannot please God without faith, because you cannot know God without faith. You cannot be saved without knowing God and that is why the greatest lesson you’ll ever teach your children and the greatest lesson you’ll ever learn yourself is what real faith is, how to get it and how to live it.
–James Merritt

Up Close and Personal

Dr. Merritt begins a new teaching series for June 2012 entitled “Up Close and Personal”. What is your relationship with God like? Is it distant, like there’s an ocean between you? Or, could it be something more? Something closer, more intimate and personal than you imagined? Join Pastor Merritt for this fascinating teaching series entitled “Up Close and Personal” as we open God’s Word to discover just how close He really can be in our lives daily.

Up Close and Personal is a four-week teaching series, June 10 – July 1, 2012.