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If Only I Had More

Posted on by Philip Nation in Sermons | Leave a comment

As we move through the book of Ecclesiastes at The Fellowship, last Sunday I dealt with how we handle money and possessions. The message came from chapters 5 and 6 but also drew from several passages in the New Testament. Here are my teaching note and the video of the message is below.

If I Only Had More – Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12

Buying someone else’s junk at yard sales. It’s as if flea markets are the original recyclers. We sell stuff we don’t want to get money to buy things other people don’t want.

The passage holds four warnings and the New Testament provides us with four truths to guide us forward.

1. Possessions never satisfy (5:10, 11; 6:1-3)

  • We are eternal beings. Nothing temporary can fill the need we have for the eternal.
  • TV show: Hoarders = hoarding is a mental condition. We know it is a problem and yet we all give in to the impulse.
  • 2009 study in the University of Rochester’s Journal of Research and Personality found pursuit of wealth and fame do not contribute to a happy and satisfying life. Achieving personal goals like personal growth, having friends, and helping others brought more satisfaction than attaining the “American dream.”
  • We are not owners, only managers
  • God owns everything. Ps. 24:1 – The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord
  • Joyfully manage what is put in our hands.


2. Possessions cannot bring peace (5:12)

  • Abundance demands that you continue to amass more.
  • The pursuit of stuff is all-consuming.
  • Wealthy people are no more happy than the rest of us.
  • Survey by Lincoln Financial Group showed that among retirees who had saved $1 million, 48% still worried they did not have enough.
  • Wealthy fear being sued, identity theft, asset protection, worrying about kids, and keeping up with the Joneses.
  • “Possessions should be tools for our hands, not idols for our hearts.” -Marty Duren
  • Luke 6:38 — Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
  • The possessions we have are to be leveraged for the good of those around us.
  • Money is a tool to empower us as we participate in the life of God’s kingdom.
  • If we trust money to bring peace, anxiety is the result. If we use money for God’s kingdom, peace is the result.


3.Wealth can bring harm (5:13, 14)

  • Lottery winners never keep it. Celebrities are exploited. Market forces change.
  • Too often, we place our faith in our stuff instead of our Savior.
  • Eats in darkness, sorrow, sickness and anger. Sounds like Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • Followers of Jesus should hold on to things gently.
  • Be content with the things we have.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:13-14 – 13 It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality— 14 at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so their abundance may also become available for our need, so there may be equality.
  • At different times we may experience abundance or need. If everyone is holding possessions loosely, we are freed to meet the needs of others, while others are freed to meet our needs.


4. You cannot take it with you (5:15-17)

  • No matter how hard you work, it stays here.
  • Joyful generosity reflects the heart of God.
  • We have a generous God so we should not be a stingy people.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 — 6 Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart —not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • Ultimately, it all points to the core of our life = Gospel
  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 – Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.


If Only I Had More from The Fellowship on Vimeo.

Everyone Has a Story

Posted on by Philip Nation in Church, Discipleship | Leave a comment

A great story of continuing life change from Bill Trueblood. Regardless of your stage of life, everyone can make a difference.

If you’d like to know more about Bible Studies for Life, just click here.

Borrowing Sermons

Posted on by Philip Nation in Preaching | Leave a comment

SpurgeonNot too long ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Alistair Begg preach. It was a beautiful sermon, rich with doctrine and encouraging to the soul. He was preaching in our chapel at LifeWay to the employees and took a bit of time to discuss life in the ministry. Since many are serving in some capacity in local churches (either as a staff member or volunteer leader), he encouraged us in our work away from office hours. Alistair is quite witty and is apparently fond of limericks. To poke a bit of fun at the ministers in the room, he recited a poem he had heard some time ago about the great preacher Charles Spurgeon.

There once was a preacher named Spurgy,
Who really detested liturgy,
But his sermons are fine
And I take them as mine
And so do most of the clergy.

With Charles Spurgeon being known to many as the “Prince of Preachers,” it is obvious why so many of us have learned from him over the years. However, the idea of quoting, borrowing, and (dare I say) stealing sermons is a sad delineation that must be made over and over again. In order to keep myself in check as I prepare messages each week, I try to operate by these three ideas.

1. It is wise to quote from spiritually mature and intellectually sharp leaders to your sermon. I find that using a short quotation from another pastor or scholar bolsters people’s confidence in what we teach. Additionally, it allows them to hear the same truth with a different verbal flair. Quoting from wise believers allows your church family access to the great spiritual wealth of those who have gone before us.

2. It is okay to borrow from another person’s sermon outline. However, you should always tell the congregation who you are quoting. There are times when getting to the right sermon outline is just tough. On top of that, if you read enough commentaries, there really are no new outlines for passages that have existed for thousands of years. So, as you borrow from other pastors and scholars, tell the congregation about those who are helping you better understand and teach the Word.

3. It is always wrong to plagiarize another person’s sermon and preach as your own. I would also add that is is pointless to do so. If you find another person’s sermon to be exactly what you need to teach, then allow the Lord to teach you the truth and then contextualize it for your church family. Every pastor or scholar that you plagiarize worked diligently on the material as part of their daily labor before the Lord and the church. By using it without attribution, we create three problems. First, you commit the sin of stealing. Second, you puff up your ego by creating circumstances whereby you can sound more spiritual than you are. Finally, you rob the church from knowing that there are many spiritual leaders from whom they can learn.


Image credit: “Spurgeon”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

6 Big Issues for This Bivocational Pastor

Posted on by Philip Nation in Church, Leadership | Leave a comment

vennFor the last three years, I’ve served as a bivocational pastor with The Fellowship. Over a year ago, I also joined our body of Elders to serve alongside the men who give strategic and missional leadership to our church family. In comparison to the first twenty-two years of ministry, it has been a significant adjustment. I am constantly looking for the proper balance in life, work, and professional ministry. As I have thought through it all, for my own sanity, I decided to make a quick list of the top issues I am working through as a bivocational pastor.

1. Relationships. It is so tempting for me to expend all of my emotional energy on my full-time job at LifeWay first, put the church in second place, and then allow my family to fall to third. It is tempting and it is wrong. Having two jobs requires extra diligence for me to show preference to Angie, Andrew, and Chris.

2. Rest. Admittedly, I have (or have learned to have) a driven personality. My preference is to be productive. I know I need to rest but often feel guilty for doing it. There is always more work to be done, something to read, an email that needs a response, a plan that needs refining, and a sermon that needs writing. On top of it all, I love to write. But it is an emotionally taxing process. So, I’m trying to learn to not feel guilty for simply taking a day (or half of a day) to just sit down and relax.

3. Study time. All bivocational ministers struggle with this one. We just need to find ways to study well; both efficiently and effectively. Every sermon still demands copious amounts of study and prayer. I’m blessed to serve with two other teaching pastors and we share the load of sermon preparation.

4. Faith. Did I mention that I’m a driven person? Faith sometimes gets run over by the “I’ve got this” attitude. Faith often requires you to wait. It always requires that you surrender control. By nature, I’m not good at either waiting or surrendering. It is a good thing that the Lord is so patient and the Spirit is such a wonderful instructor.

5. Emotional frustration. Being in ministry as your full-time vocational work, it affords you the chance to connect with the church family on a deep level. As a bivocational pastor, I do not have all of the opportunities to emotionally connect with members of our church. At times, I am emotionally frustrated that I cannot be present, connected, and deeply embedded into everyone’s life. So, I have to remember that I am simply one of the under-shepherds. The Lord has not lost control of caring for His people.

6. Vision capacity. Having multiple responsibilities for leadership means that my capacity for visioneering is spread over multiple disciplines. I am a leader at church, a director of publishing at work, an author, and also travel to speak in various conferences and churches. Just doing the first two require discipline to lean into the Word and prayer in order to stay in tune with God’s will. Returning to point number one, all of this must be subservient to living better as a husband and father. It is so apparent to me that I need to lean more heavily into the work of leading my wife and sons better.

It all stands as a key reminder for all of us. There’s only one God and I’m not Him. Thank goodness for that fact. Every bivocational pastor I meet loves the work that God has entrusted into their hands. We hope to be found faithful in our professional and ministerial work. Oftentimes, we long for the day that we only had one of the two. And you can well imagine which one we’d most likely choose.

So, for my merry band of bivocational pastors out there in the trenches today, take heart. The church is still led by the Chief Shepherd and you are deeply loved by the King of Glory.

Radioactive Acoustic Version by Imagine Dragons

Posted on by Philip Nation in Music | Leave a comment

I am always impressed when a popular band can break down one of their hit songs into an acoustic version. In an age when instruments and vocals can be manipulated with technology, it is nice to simply hear a talented band. And, with that, I give you the acoustic version of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons.

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