Learning Spiritual Maturity

Take a married man like me.  I’m 39 years of age.  Lisa and I have been married 18 years.  I’m best at my marriage when I’m thinking – not about Ed’s needs, not about what makes Ed look good or feel good – when I’m thinking about whose needs?  Lisa’s needs.  That’s when my marriage is at its best.

Take planning a family vacation.  What’s the most mature thing for me to do: to plan the family vacation around the needs of our four children and Lisa, or to say, “Hey, kids, we’re going to go to a mosquito-infested swamp and bass-fish for two weeks.”  What’s the most mature thing?  I turned to my friend at the small group and I said, “Hey, we have a hunk of spiritually mature people who plan ministry and programs not only for people who are already at Fellowship Church, but also who plan ministry for those people who haven’t shown up yet!”  Did you get that?  We have people who plan this church not only for those of us who are here, but also for people who haven’t shown up yet.  If we hadn’t planned this deal for those who had not shown up yet, most of you would not be here.  Over the last two years, we’ve doubled in size.  We moved into this place running 5,000, now we’re at about 11,000.  Spiritual maturity.

“Happily Ever After” Part 1



Good morning! What’s love got to do with it? That’s what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about this secondhand emotion. We’re talking about commitment. We’re talking about pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. Well, since we’re talking about love and love stories I’ve invited my man back. I’m talking about Chuck Bethany! Let’s give him a round of applause. Because since we’re talking about romance we need some music, don’t we? What do you think? Valentine’s is right around the corner. Guys are you square for Valentine’s? Hope you are. Are you? I like it… I like it!

Today I want to tell you a story, and this story is a true romance novel. It’s found in the book of Ruth. Now, Ruth is nestled over in the Old Testament. I think it’s the greatest love story out there not only because of the character development but also the subplot. Last week we opened this series, What’s Love Got To Do With It? And we talked about Ruth. Basically Ruth was from a land called Moab. She left Moab, went to God’s country, Bethlehem. You know, where Jesus was born. She happened to meet (because her husband had died in Moab), she happened to meet billionaire Boaz, this man of God, called the kinsman redeemer. Basically, as we left them last week, we saw that they lived happily ever after.

I don’t know about you but I like to live happily ever after. When I was a kid my mother would read me all those children’s books, all the epic children’s books. And they lived happily ever after. Go to a movie and what do you want? You want a good ending. Or maybe someone reads a book or whatever and we say, how does it end? And now and again if you’re reading something or watching something you might fast-forward to the end. Or maybe you’ll turn to the last chapter because we like an ending. I would argue we’re made for happily ever after. We’re made for it. All of us face an ever-after. We either face it with God or without God. Yet we find that Ruth and Boaz lived happily ever after.Ed Young

Well today I want to give you the back-story of Ruth and Boaz, this couple. And what I love about the Bible is the Bible keeps things real. No smoke and mirrors, no veneers, I mean it’s like boom, boom. Keeps it real. The Bible, in many circumstances and in many areas, is not G-rated, it’s R-rated. So if you’re ready to tackle that, here we go. Are you ready? Yeah, I think you are.

It Keeps Me In The Zone

Well, brings me to the third reason why I give.  It keeps me in the blessed place.  That’s the third reason why I give.  I want to live in the blessed place.

We throw this term around all the time these days.  “Hey, blessings on you.  You’re blessed.  This is a blessing.”

What in the world does that mean?  Blessing.  What does that mean?  The word “blessing” means to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God.  Usually, when we talk about blessings or being blessed, we’re talking about the intangible stuff we can’t feel or touch or smell or pick up.  And the intangibles are part of it according to Ed Young Blog.  Yes, God blesses us that way.

Notice this, blessings are not just about the intangibles.  They are also about the tangible stuff.  In other words, matter matters.  God made the world.  He invented.  He created matter.  He made the tangible stuff.  So the blessings of God are both intangible and tangible.  So if I’m in the blessed place, I’m going to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God.  I’m in the zone.  If I’m in the zone, I’m protected.  I’m in the safe place, the sweet spot of God’s success.

I discovered a long time ago that I’m not rich enough, I’m not powerful enough, I’m not smart enough to secure God’s protection and blessing on my life without being in the zone.  I can’t do it.  I’ve got to have it.  I’ve got to have it.

What Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

And that’s the wildest thing about giving.  When I understand that God has given stuff to me and that He wants to work through me to give to His church and to others, I refresh myself by thinking about others and by giving to others.  It’s amazing in God’s economy.

Malachi 3:10, once again, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”

“Let me have about 32 of those please.”  Finger food, morsels don’t really satisfy the hunger pangs, do they?  They make my stomach growl louder.  “More, Ed, more food.”  I want something substantial.  I want something big when I eat.

Generosity is at the core of who God is

Now, why would God tell me to bring it?  Well, I know. Because God wants me to have joy.  He wants me to able to hit on all cylinders.  He wants me to discover this amazing agenda that he has for my life.  Generosity is at the core of who God is.  Every time I give, I’m reflecting His nature and His character.

Have you ever wondered why people give?  There are a lot of people who are totally disconnected from God. There are plenty of de-churched and pagans who give.  Why do they give?  They don’t really know why they give, but they give because they’re made in the image of God. God’s a giving God, and mankind has this desire to give.  Even in our selfishness, we still want to give.  And most people who are away from God don’t really give for the right reasons.  But they’re givers. And they’re givers because of God.

Twenty-four years ago, Lisa and I made about $25,000 a year.  And at that time I had no problem writing the check to bring the tithe into the storehouse.  No problem.  $2500. That’s 10 percent of $25,000.  Boom! I could drop it in the plate.  No problem.  Well, now we make much more than that.  And sometimes I choke on the check.

You’re laughing.  You mean you have the same feelings, too?

I’m supposed to be different.  I’m a preacher, right?  I’m a preacher, but I’m not any different than you.  We’re all the same.  This church doesn’t force me to give.  I don’t have to give.  I’m not manipulated to give.  I give because I like myself better.  The one I surrendered my life to instructs me to give.

I want to be such a generous man that I want to regularly give my accountant heart palpitations.  I’m serious.  I want him to look at what I give and as, “Well, what do you mean?  Why are you giving that much?  I can’t believe that!”  The world will not understand the giving of those of us who know Jesus Christ.  The world won’t understand that.

But, because of what Jesus has done for us, and once we realize that and own that and process that; once I realized what Jesus has accomplished for me, I can’t wait to give.  And He tells me to give. Why?

I want a meal.  Dads, we only have a certain amount of emotional energy.  And most of us as we dive into the marketplace, where we are leaders, creative and innovative, and we are difference makers.

God Is Giving Us Permission by Pastor Ed Young

To put it to where we can understand it; God Is Giving Us Permission to take 52 mini vacations a year.  That’s what he’s doing; 52  (Ed hits symbol on drum) mini vacations a year.  If you studied the Hebrew, the word “rest” is from the word “soul” and that means to be refreshed.  So a great translation in the Hebrew of Genesis 2 is that after God had made the heavens and the earth God refreshed himself.  So every time we stop working and start resting; every time we (Ed hits symbol on drum) – you know what happens?  We’re refreshed.  Do you take that day after every six days of work?  Do you take that day?  There’s no telling what will happen in our lives when we do this.  And I truly believe, because this is the 4th Commandment;  this Sabbath stuff, this rest stuff, I think the 4th Commandment is probably neglected and broken in our culture more than any other Commandment.  Take 52 mini vacations a year.

Do you have a hobby?  Something you enjoy doing?  (Ed makes beat sound)  Do ya?  What recharges your batteries?  You should have a hobby.   Something you can throw yourself in to.  It could be tennis, be gardening, it could be the Biblical sport, fishing (audience laughter) what is it?  Several weeks ago a friend of mine was out of town.  This guys an incredible leader.  He walked into my office and saw a number of fishing pictures and he stopped and said, “I wish I had a hobby”.  He was joking at first, and he was, was serious.  I wish I had a hobby.  We need to have a hobby.  Here though is the struggle in our culture.  Think of a continuum; on one hand you have the workaholic’s, this accepted addiction.  Macho, macho man.  That deal.  On the other end of the continuum you have leisusreholic’s.  Here’s what leisureholic’s do.  The book of Proverbs calls them sluggards.  Leisureholic’s do this.  Here’s how they get into God’s groove, because they don’t.  But here’s their attempt.  (Ed beats drum, sighs, makes snoring noise) (audience laughter)  (Ed beats drum again)  Whatever.   And then with leisure (Ed really beats the drums and yells!)  YEAH!  Rock and Roll!  (audience laughs)  That’s not it.  I guess I’ll pick up my paycheck (Ed beating drums to the beat of the sentence) just for the activity.  That’s not it.  It’s not the rhythm.  Our work place should become a place of worship six and one, six and one, we disconnect.  We, we, we move away.  We draw away.  We rest after working for six days.  We rest.  We rest.  We have to take those 52 mini vacations a year.   We have to find a hobby.  Something that recharges the batteries.

He should have obeyed God when he felt the boat rocking and everyone was getting seasick, but he didn’t, and he ended up in a whale’s belly.

Do you find yourself seeking satisfaction? by Pastor Ed Young

This next line is going to kill you.  You won’t believe this one.  “…and a harem as well, the delights of the heart of man.”  He kind of just threw that in.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Can you imagine his dealings with his in-laws?  That is all I wonder about when I read that.  In verse 9 he concludes by saying and it is the saddest line, “I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me.”  This is Solomon talking.

Do you find yourself on a search?  Do you find yourself seeking satisfaction?  Are you looking maybe for the ultimate in some of the areas that I just read to you?  Maybe wisdom.  Solomon memorized 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs.  People from all over the world came to sit under his teaching.  Is wisdom your deal?  Is it wine, drugs, alcohol, getting high?  Automobiles?  Employees?  Sex?  What is it?  Psalm 16:4 tells us what is going to happen as we continue our search away from God.  “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.”  They will increase.  We will have a greater and greater desire because we are empty.

You see, we mess up here.  We really do.  And the church for too long has really messed up on this one.  The church has said, sin is not fun.  Rebellion against a holy God is not enjoyable.  That is a joke.  Sin is fun.  If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be tempted, nor would you.  But we have to understand something about sin.  Sin is fun but it is temporary.  What happens when the buzz wears off, when the passion wanes?  What happens when the shine wears off of a new suit or a new car or a new home?  It is empty.  It is a fleeting thing.  If sin satisfied, we would just sin one time.  “Oh, OK, I’ve sinned.”  And that would be it.  But it doesn’t.  Also, and listen to this one, not only is sin empty, but sin also has consequences.  It has consequences every single time.  Some of the time?  No, no, no.  Every single time.

Some of you can say, , I am there right now.  Or maybe some are in the storm phase, others are thinking about calling the travel agent of disobedience.  But you are there.

God, Have Your Way by Pastor Ed Young

We have got to come to the point where we will do anything that Christ asks us to do.  The great thing about it is that we have just got to turn and say, “God, have your way.  I am going to release my grasp on this stumbling block.”  He will then come in and take care of it.  He would have helped this rich young ruler to go through the process of selling everything and giving things to the poor.  Who knows what Christ would have done in his live after this.  What is your stumbling block?  When Christ looks at you, loving you, what stumbling block does he see?  Have you dealt with it?

When Lisa and I bought our first house in Houston, the previous owner, for some reason, left a big, old cement block in our back yard.  I think it held some kind of clothesline thing.  Every night when I would go out to feed the dogs, I would have to walk past the cement block.  And I can’t tell you how many times I jammed my toe on it, hit my knee on it.  This block would test my Christianity every evening.  I said, over and over, that I was going to get rid of the block.  I never did.  I never did.  I never did. Ed Young Jr says but finally, about a year later, I determined that the day had arrived.  I got shovels, chains and a rope and I pulled the cement block out of the yard.  It was tough but I felt so good because nothing was impeding my progress when I went out to feed the dogs for the next four or five months that we lived in that home.  It takes work to remove the stumbling block in your spiritual life, but it is much better than the story that I just told you.  You are not doing it alone.  You have got Jesus working with you.  He will infuse a supernatural strength and energy that you never thought possible.  Stumbling blocks.

Then the Bible says the Lord, after Jonah boarded this vessel, the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and I thank God for the winds that God sends in my life

Awards and trophies by Pastor Ed Young

I would read you some lyrics from an artist named Ludicrous but this is just straight pornography, so I won’t even go there.  The waves are eroding our foundation.  They’re pounding against who we are.  And amazingly these amoral artists vote on themselves and give themselves awards and trophies.  “Hey Ludicrous, good job. Ed Young Pastor challenged that you can rhyme the f-word with 435 other words.  Great, here is an award.”   “Hey Corn, you can talk about suicide and violence and gang rape.  Good job, here’s an award.”

And we watch and we wear what they wear and we do what they do.  The waves are pounding and pounding against the foundation of who we are.  The barometric pressure has dropped, the clouds are coming together, the force five winds have hit and we’re sitting there sipping our morning coffee, yet we don’t realize the erosion that is taking place.

Some 25 million men spend between 1 and 10 hours a day surfing adult websites. Why do you think teenage pregnancies have increased over 500% over the last 35 years?  Is that because our sex education is not that good?  Why do you think suicide has increased over 300% over the last 35 years?  Is that because we have a lack of anti-gun control laws?  Oh come on, I hope you’re deeper than that.  Ed Young Blog mentioned that you’re not buying that stuff from Peter Jennings and Dan Rather.  You’re not buying that junk from Phil Donahue and those left-wing whackos are you?  Our problem is much deeper than that.

People are people.  They have the same needs.  But I have noticed this about the rich, generally speaking.  Generally speaking, the wealthy are selfish.

A Biblical budget by Pastor Ed Young

What kind of budget should we have?  We should live by the give, give, live budget.  The give, give, live budget.  This is a Biblical budget.  The give budget.  See Roman numeral I on your outline?  When I get paid the first thing I should do, the Bible says, is I should give 10% to God.  I should give 10% to God.  And the Bible says give it to your local house of worship.  If you are a member of this church, you should give the first 10% of your money to this church.  If you belong somewhere else, give it there.  The Bible is plain about this concept.  It is called tithing.  Every time I talk about giving I see those who are generous and they are kind of smiling, thinking yeah that’s great.

And those who don’t give are going, whoa, man, talking about money.  Just relax.  The Bible says that we should be cheerful givers and if you are a cheerful giver God is going to take care of you. He is going to bless you.  The Bible says in Proverbs 3:9-10   “Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of all your income.”  You see the amount is insignificant.  If you make a million dollars a month or if you make ten dollars a month, the Bible says the first 10% should go to God.  Why?  Does God need our money?  No, God does not need our money.  God uses money to test us to see if He really is Lord of our life.  Because Jesus said if your treasure is in a certain place then it indicates that your heart is in that same place.

We can look at our financial portfolios and tell what is number one in our lives.  Is it travel?  Is it clothing?  Is it a home?  Is it a car?  Or is it the Lord Jesus Christ.  And a lot of people are wondering why doesn’t God bless my finances.  Why doesn’t God give me opportunities?  Why doesn’t God do this or that?  Oftentimes it can be traced back to the lack of generosity, the lack of giving to the local Body of Christ.  Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of your income.  “And He will fill your barns (or you condos) with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.

I believe God talked more about giving than any other subject in the Bible because when we give we are more like God.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave…..”  Surely we don’t have anyone here who has a disease called cirrhosis of the giver, do we?  Does anyone have that?  That was kind of bad, wasn’t it?  When I get paid I give the first 10% to God.

Know Fear by Pastor Ed Young

Hunks of us say, “I want to have deep relationships.  I want to really, really connect with others.”  A lot of us say that, but in reality we don’t really mean it.  Most of us have hydroplane relationships.  When you are driving and you hit a patch of ice, the wheels aren’t really on the pavement, they are on the ice.  You are just skimming.  And we do that in relationships.

We have known people for a long, long time and we are still talking about the same stuff; the weather, sports, current events.  We are fearful to really relate to them on a deep level.  Why?  Because we say to ourselves, “If they could really peruse the portfolio of my problems, they would reject me, they wouldn’t like me.  They wouldn’t believe what I am dealing with or what I have done or what I am struggling with.  They would totally keep me at arms length.”