Transcript: Episode 0053

This transcript:
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  2. Has not been checked for errors.
  3. May not be entirely accurate.


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Welcome to the Stone Choir podcast. I am Corey J. Moeller and I'm still whoa. On today's Stone

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Choir, we're going to be discussing talents and gifts and our duties and Thanksgiving. As we're

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recording this the week of Thanksgiving, we thought that that'd be a nice way to tie all those

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things together. We had a question about one of them and we realized that the concept of having

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duties to do things, being thankful for our gifts and for the opportunity to be a benefit to others,

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all kind of ties together nicely and in a timely fashion. Today's going to be hopefully a speedrun

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episode. If we succeed in what we're hoping to do, this will only be about an hour long. Of course,

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we do this all in one shot. So as you look at the actual runtime, you will see how wildly wrong we

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were. I think it'll be pretty short. Today, we want to especially welcome all the new folks from

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the Pete Kignona show audience who've joined us recently. Corey and I appeared on that show last

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week and that was a lot of fun. It's ironic that the best introductions to Stone Choir have not

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been on Stone Choir. They've been shows that we did with Adam on the 20th century and with Pete on

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his own show. I'm thankful for folks who are discovering us that way because it kind of gives

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you the lay of the land. We did an episode early on where we talked about why we're Lutheran and

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that's kind of part of the explanation for why we did the show. There's a lot more to that episode

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than that. As I mentioned in the episode last week that we did with Pete, if you're a new listener,

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we really highly recommend that you go back to the beginning. The episodes we do are not ripped

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from the headlines, so they will generally almost never age on you. You can go back years from now

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and find that these will still be relevant topics to listen to. I mentioned that in particular

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because knowledge isn't going to be a short episode this week because of Thanksgiving, but

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we're taking next week off because the following week we're going to finally be tackling Eastern,

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quote unquote, orthodoxy. That's a really important one to get right, so we're doing some finishing

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touches on research and prep so that we can really nail that one because it's going to be vital to a

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lot of folks, particularly as reference material. Next week when there's no episode, if you want to

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go back and listen to some prior episodes, it's worth it. It's worth listening to episodes more

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than once. That's one of our goals when we made these shows is to try and make them worth revisiting.

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Since this is Thanksgiving, I do want to highlight a couple episodes that if you're going to be

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sitting down with your family and going to want to be talking about politics and religion and

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redpilling the old folks on stuff, there are two episodes that are vitally important for you to

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hopefully have in mind before you open that can of worms. Honestly, just don't do it. Just love

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your family. Forgive them when they're dumb. They're family. They're yours for better or worse.

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They're not yours to fix. The two episodes we did fairly recently were titled Persuasiveness

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Matters and Conspiracy Theories and Truth. We did those in reverse order. We did the one on

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conspiracy theories and got people psyched about redpilling people on all the weird stuff that

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you discover on the internet. We did another episode that should have come first saying,

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now that you know this stuff, be careful and don't just run your mouth and go wild because

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people aren't ready. Let people take things at their own pace. That's another part of the reason

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we lay down these episodes. You can have a nice peaceful conversation. If something comes up

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with family, maybe if it would make sense, you can say, hey, I heard this interesting episode.

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Talk about this in depth. I thought it was cool. Let me know what you think. Then you can just

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blame us if they think it's all terrible. You don't have to make an enemy of someone in your

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own household. To get into it today, the question we had had to do with the blessings that we

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receive from God and what we do with them. Basically, in the church stewardship parlance,

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it's often talked about in terms of time, talents and treasure. First of all, in terms of

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thanksgiving, it's important for us to always remember that all of those things are gifts from

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God. Whatever you have, whether it is your time, every breath you take, every day that you have on

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this earth is appointed by God. The day of your death has been appointed already. He knows.

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You don't need to worry about it. Between now and that day, you're spending your days just as

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you're spending your money and you're spending the talents that have been given to you for one

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purpose or another. You get up every morning and it's completely up to you. Most people listening

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are adults. There's nobody looking over your shoulder saying, you need to do X, Y, and Z today.

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You have a boss. You have a husband or wife. There are people to whom you answer to some degree,

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but you had input on who your boss was and you had input on who your spouse was. You can opt in

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and out of those things to some degree. That's one of the burdens of adulthood is that when we

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have these opportunities to do anything you want, it's like you first reach adulthood and maybe

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you had a penchant for sugary cereal as a kid and your parents would only occasionally let you

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have it. The first time you go to the grocery store as an adult, you're like, oh man, I'm going to

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fill my car with peanut butter cap crunch. That was my weakness.

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Dumb, bad idea. You'll make you sick, rye or tea, but there's nobody telling you no. When we have

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these abilities in this time and our money and whatever other gifts God has given us,

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the key takeaway from scripture is that these are not just for your own personal amusement.

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They're there to sustain your life and they're also there for you to help take care of other

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people. Principally, those people will be your immediate family, your extended family,

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and then your immediate neighbors and then your extended neighbors and your extended family,

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you're going out to the local and the level of your nation in some cases,

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but those concentric circles are always present in whatever we do. You don't live your life on

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the internet. You live your life around the people that you interact with. As we, as adults,

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choose to allocate our time and our talents and our treasures, it's important to remember that

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not only did God give us those things for our benefit, but almost more importantly, He gave

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them to us for our neighbor's benefit. The key point that I hope we can get across today is that

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when you have that in mind, it may trigger small or perhaps large changes in how you

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live some part of your life, but the important part is actually thinking about it, thinking about

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the fact that whatever you have, you didn't just earn, you did earn it to some extent, but

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it was God giving you the opportunity to earn it, giving the ability to earn it, and then giving you

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whatever it is that you earned. Even the things that we somewhat kind of want to take credit for,

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ultimately, it all comes from God. Once we realize that, it becomes a lot easier when we're looking

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at how do we dispense what we've received, because if God is just pouring these gifts out to you,

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are you the end point, or is there the opportunity in your life for them to flow through you

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to others to whom you have some sort of duty?

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So recently, there's been some discussion of the phrase, Christ is king, and I'm not going to make

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this episode topical because we don't try to do that. The point that I'm making is timeless,

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insofar as this era is concerned. Christ is king, and he is reigning now. However,

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he's not, so to speak, physically reigning now. Christ isn't holding courts somewhere on the

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earth. He doesn't have a castle. You can't go there and serve him by sweeping the floor,

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working in the kitchen, or whatever it happens to be, assuming those are talents or callings that

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you have. And so you can't serve Christ directly. But that's sort of the point of how God has

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organized things in this life. You don't really serve God directly. You serve God by serving your

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neighbor. As Luther put it, God does not need your good works. That should be fairly obvious.

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God doesn't need anything. But your neighbor does need your good works. And so you serve God

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by serving your neighbor. That's the point. That's why God gave you your talents, your abilities,

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all of these gifts that he has given you, these things that he has entrusted to your care in this

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life. They are for the purpose of serving, of benefiting your neighbor. And that's how you

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serve God, your good works flow to your neighbor. But that is worship of God in service to your

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neighbor. And it's sort of a mirror image of the way that God also himself works through creation.

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Because yes, there are gifts that God gives you directly. Your attributes, for instance,

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are gifts from God that flow directly from God to you. Yes, they also float in a way through

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your parents, because obviously much of it is genetic. But there are things that are more or

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less direct from God to you. But most of the things in your life that are good flow approximately

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through someone or something. And so when you were young, your mother made your meals, assuming

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you lived in a home with a mother and a father who were married, or at least one parent was present,

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your parents prepared your food for you, your parents provided clothing for you, provided

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the roof over your head. These are all gifts from God, but they are provided

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approximately through others in creation. The good that God delivers to us, he delivers to us

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through means. And so it's important to keep that sort of framing, that understanding of the way

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that things work in both directions in mind, because we return thanks to God and service to God

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by rendering good works to our neighbors. And God gives us good gifts primarily through others in

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creation, and not just other people, but other parts of creation. The fact that your dog is loyal

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is a gift from God. That is a gift from God through part of creation to you.

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One of the key texts that often comes up in the context of church itself is from Romans 12,

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which reads, For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of

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himself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to

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the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members

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do not all have the same functions, so we through many are one body in Christ, and individually

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members of one another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use

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them if prophecy and proportion to our faith, if service in our serving. The one who teaches

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in his teaching, the one who exhorts in his exhortation, the one who contributes in generosity,

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the one who leads with zeal, the one who does acts of mercy with cheerfulness.

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I think one of the importance of highlighting this passage and the gifts that Paul is discussing

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here specifically is I think one of the mistakes that we make in the churches we're talking about

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giving to others, serving others, is that because most of the passages that scripture addresses

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directly are talking in the context of the congregation, I think the mistake that we tend

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to make rhetorically when we're talking and focusing on this is we limit it to Sunday morning

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effectively. We limit it to what we do at church with other church people, and that's one aspect

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of it, but it is a no-way shape or form limiting of our duties to neighbor. This Romans 12 passage

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illustrates clearly, God gives these gifts unequally. The person who has nothing can't give

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generously, or you know if it's the widow's might, her generosity is all that she has,

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but it's only a drop in the bucket for the needs downstream. So it does not in any way diminish

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what the poor give. Frankly, it's often the poor who give more proportionally than the rich,

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because they're so close to the edge that they can see over, and they tend to do a much better job

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of taking care of people who are adjacent to them, because those who are adjacent to them

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are in even more need than them, and they understand just how dire those needs can be.

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And those are usually not spiritual needs. I mean, spiritual is always part of it.

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Spiritual is part of everything. There's never any diminishing of the importance of

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the spiritual welfare impacting everything in our lives. But when we talk about these gifts from God,

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I think it's crucial that we understand that it's not just a Sunday morning thing. It's not

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between whenever Sunday school starts, and you have the service, and maybe you have a pollock

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afterwards, three, four hours if you're super in the church, and then you go home, and you have the

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other 164 odd hours of your week to do whatever you felt like doing. And I think that when we focus

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in the church on limiting gifts to spiritual things, or indeed, even to, I'm going to use my gifts only

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for spiritual purposes. So maybe you have money, and you can write big checks. And so you think,

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well, I want to write big checks for evangelism, and usually most of these so-called evangelism

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programs end up shipping that stuff overseas when you look at a map of your area, you'll find that

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the vast majority of your neighbors are going to hell. They don't go to church. They don't have any

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faith. That's overwhelmingly the majority of the people all around us. And so today, this modern

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notion of I'm just going to write a check and send it overseas, and then I've checked the box on doing

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my duty as one who contributes in generosity, it's kind of missing the mark because you've neglected

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your neighbor. You've neglected the people right around you. You know, we often neglect even our

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own family. And to look at our gifts in terms of the benefit that they do to those who need it,

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it just needs to be something that we're thinking about all the time, not thinking about it all

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the time. But the consideration should be an ever-present part of the calculus of how we allocate

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our gifts, whatever they are. Corey and I were gifted in many ways. We tend to be good at virtually

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everything and we do. So I'm not saying this to brag. I'm saying it's, in some ways, it's a burden

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to be good at stuff to the point that it doesn't make it easy to decide what to do. From almost

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the very first episode of Stone Choir, they're really good, well-done, polished episodes. I think

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even the first one was good. But the very first episode of Stone Choir was the very first time

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that Corey and I had ever spoken. So we're kind of knocking some of the rust off just getting to

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know each other a little bit verbally, even though we've spoken for years online. When we're able to

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knock something out of the park the way we have with this podcast, that's because we've been given

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the gift to do this well. And we didn't know when we put it out there if anyone would listen, if

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anyone would care. The feedback has been overwhelming, not only in terms of being positive, but in

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terms of people giving thanks to us for the things that we've shared on many of the past episodes.

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And again, I'm not saying any of this to point to us. I'm pointing it just as a specific example

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that we can give you all familiar with because you're listening. We did this because we felt

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compelled by God to do it. We felt the gifts that we had aligned perfectly with being able to

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explain some of these subjects in ways that people find very beneficial. And we're situated

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in our lives in such a way that the threats and then the delivery of doxing didn't slow us down.

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So we can continue to do what we've done, even in the face of hatred and death threats and all the

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other terrible things that are happening to so many people today. We're in a position to do that,

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that frankly, most other men aren't. And so the gifts that we were given to be able to do this

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one specific task, I don't want to hold this out as an example. More of you should go start

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podcasts. Please don't. One of the reasons not to do this is the last thing the world needs is

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another podcast. But what was missing was these specific discussions having taken place in a way

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that was accessible to normal people. Like this isn't a big brain podcast. It's not weirdos screaming

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into the void. There's actually some good material here that you can share with completely normal

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people and it will resonate. Agree or disagree, it's going to trigger thought and probably some

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really good conversation. That's not typically the case in most sermons and most episodes,

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anything you find. So when we started delivering and people started sending us messages and saying,

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thank you so much for that, we're very appreciative of people letting us know that they appreciate

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it. But it's also, in a way, very consciously we receive that as God saying, yeah, you got to

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keep doing more of this because what we are doing, God is using to bear good fruit. Hundreds of people

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have been enjoying churches, baptized all because of a year's worth of episodes. That's something

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that Corey and I have been doing online for many years, just tweeting and talking to people.

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Much as people think we're bomb throwers, the fact that we're able to clearly communicate these

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things in public has fired something up in a lot of people and they want to join churches

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or they want to get more serious about it. That is something that's tremendously beneficial in

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all your communities. So it's ironic that as we're saying focus on neighbor, this is one example where

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none of you are neighbors. You're all just your strangers somewhere in the ether.

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And yet when these ripples spread throughout all of your communities, the benefit and the dividends

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that that pays is to everyone around you. And that's the true blessing of being able to help

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someone in a big way or a small way. So when you're given a gift to do something,

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you can't just keep it for yourself. It's important to be able to deliver those benefits

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to others. And podcast is a small example, but I think it's an important one in this case because

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we know from many of your messages that it's had a real positive impact

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on people's lives that are going to change the trajectory of your family for generations.

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That's God's doing to be explicit. That's not Corey or me doing anything. That's God working

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through whatever we've said and not gotten wrong to benefit your lives. That's the way we interact

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with each other. You don't even know whom you're going to help when you do these things,

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but you know that when you're using your gifts in a positive way,

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that God will give the growth where he sees fit. And you will often find that's the case,

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sometimes in the least expected places.

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I want to go back for a minute here and focus on those numbers because I think people lose sight

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of the importance, relatively speaking, of the time we spend doing certain things.

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And so you have 168 hours in your week. Each of us does. We don't get more hours or fewer hours.

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We all get 168 hours. And you're awake for 112 or so of those, maybe a few more if you sleep a

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little less. On Sundays, you're in church for two, three, maybe four hours. Let's say it's four hours.

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That's a little over three and a half percent of your waking hours, assume you sleep about an

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average amount of time. What are you doing with the other 96% of your week? That's the time

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where you have opportunities to serve your neighbor. And yes, of course, much of that is going to be

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absorbed by preparing food or traveling to and from work. Obviously, you're working hours,

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various things like that. But just because you have these various tasks that are required for

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life doesn't mean you don't have opportunities within those time periods to serve others.

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For instance, if you're preparing food for your family, that's a good work. You are serving others

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and you are giving thanks to God in that. Perhaps you can say a little prayer and give

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thanks to God for the food that he has provided you. Hopefully all of you will be praying before

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your meal on Thanksgiving Day this week, assuming you're American, if you're Canadians another time

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during the year, or if you're listening somewhere else in the world. You should pray before every

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meal, of course, but there is an opportunity when you come together as a family for a particular

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holiday meal to make a point of giving thanks to God. And of course, Thanksgiving is a very

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appropriate holiday on which to do that. But the point is that you have all of these opportunities

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to serve your neighbor and you serve your neighbor by doing a good job of those things that God has

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given you to do. And I want to go to another passage in Scripture, another one from Matthew.

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There are many passages in Scripture that are related to these issues and I will put a number

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of them in the show notes. We're not going to go through all of them in this episode. It's not the

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point of the episode. But I do think that if we're discussing talents, we must certainly at least go

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over the parable of the talents. And so from Matthew 25.

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Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

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And he who had received the five talents came forward bringing five talents more saying,

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Master, you delivered to me five talents, here I have made five talents more.

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His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant,

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you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much,

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enter into the joy of your master. And he also who had the two talents came forward saying,

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Master, you delivered to me two talents, here I have made two talents more.

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His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant,

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you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much,

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enter into the joy of your master. He also who had received the one talent came forward saying,

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Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you

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scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground,

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here you have what is yours. But his master answered him,

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you wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown,

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and gather where I scattered no seed, then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers,

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and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

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So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents, for to everyone

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who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not,

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even what he has will be taken away, and cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness,

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in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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To start off, it is important to note that the issue in this parable is not money.

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Yes, a talent was an historical measurement of an amount of money, typically gold,

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a very large amount of money incidentally, and that is part of the point.

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But the talents are a stand-in, simply for the gifts that God has given us.

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And of course we can look at the parable and know this, because very obviously,

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what is happening with these servants when they are called to give account

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is the last judgment, this is the final day. Well, you don't take your money with you

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when you go to the last judgment, this isn't money we're dealing with.

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These are the gifts God has given you, the attributes, the abilities, all of the things

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that flow from God to you, and you are being called to account for how you used them in this life,

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and how you used them in the service of your neighbor, and so if you've been given many talents,

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it is expected that you will have accomplished more with those talents than if you were given less.

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The point is not that the servant who has given the one talent

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was somehow incapable or lesser, because you can see the servant who had the two talents

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and made two more is given the same praise as the servant who had the five talents and made five

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more, and so the same holds if the servant who had the five talents and gone and buried his

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in the ground. He would have received the same rebuke, the same condemnation, as the one in

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the parable who had the one and buried it. The point is that you must use what God has given you

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to complete the tasks before you. God has prepared beforehand good works for you

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so that you can walk in them. All of this has been prepared beforehand by God. He has prepared

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the good works for you, He has given you the ability to execute those good works.

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Yes, it relies upon you to do these things, because, again, sanctification is synergistic.

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You work with the Spirit in the performance of these good works,

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and you do in fact get credit for them, you get praise for them, you get rewarded for them

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at the final judgment. Justification, again, monergistic. You are justified by faith alone,

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but sanctification is a matter of cooperation with the Spirit. It is a matter of the good works,

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and Scripture is very clear. You will be rewarded for these. That is what we see here

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in the parable of the talents. One of the things that strikes me about this parable is that it

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really slaps my own life in the face. I've always had incredibly low time preference.

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We were very poor growing up. There were years when all of our Christmas presents were donated

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by others, or years where a lot of our food was donated by strangers. I didn't know how poor we

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were. We weren't dirt poor, but we were kind of one rung up from that. Even in that circumstance,

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by the time I turned 18, I had saved $20,000 from mowing lawns and small gifts I received

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for Christmas and birthdays from friends and family and paper out that I had. I saved basically

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everything. I didn't have anything particular in mind. It's just, well, I'm accumulating, and then

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I will have something to do with it later. That's just kind of my personality. That continued in

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my professional life. When I worked at Apple for 14, 15 years, I made a great deal of money.

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When you're making that much money, the government takes over half of it. Whatever number you look

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at, you basically are giving away 50% and giving away is taken from you. That's one of the reasons

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I left that world is I was disgusted that with the amount that I was receiving, over half of it was

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being taken. It wasn't the taxes that offended me, although they really bothered me, especially as

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a libertarian. I was disgusted by what was being done with that money, perpetual war. I was making

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enough money that I was paying bombs and missile money. Actual entire missiles that killed people

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could have been financed with the money that was taken from me in taxes. I did not want to be a part

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of that system, and I'm not going to evade taxes. You'd rather deal with the cops and the IRS,

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and I don't want to deal with either. If avoiding taxes isn't an option by not paying,

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the next best thing you can do is just not make the money in the first place. After a while,

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I decided I'm done. I had, and it didn't make me any happier, and I knew it wouldn't. I spent about

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five years working on the distillery, and that didn't really pan out. I sold that. When I got

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docks, I'd been paid maybe 15% of what I was owed. The rest became uncollectible, so that's a

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write-off. As that trajectory was winding towards where I am today, really last three, four, maybe

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five years, as I was paying less attention to the material world of material wealth, not creation,

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and paying more attention to spiritual matters as they intersect with created life,

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I started to focus more and more on these things, on talking to people about

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what God wants from us. In the last couple years, before we started the podcast,

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Corey and I and some others would be brainstorming. Here's all the stuff that we could do. Wouldn't it

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be nice to be able to publish some books that should really be back in print or help people go

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to seminary or whatever? As I started having all these big ideas about things that needed

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not really a whole lot of money, I started thinking about, well, when I had that money before, what

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I could have done if I had had it. For about a week, I was not moping, but I was just fantasizing

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about the life that I would have led differently if I had used those resources when I had them

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on godly things instead of things that I'd spent them on. Towards the end of that little period,

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I realized you're full of crap. I realized that it was completely dishonest because when I had

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those things, when I had these blessings that God had poured out, none of that occurred to me.

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I gave far more to the Mises Institute than I gave to my own church. It wasn't that my church was

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hard up as a very successful church in Cupertino. They were not lacking for funds, but that's no

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excuse as a Christian. There's other stuff I could have been doing, but I was putting my money,

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my treasure, where my heart was, and that was in Austrian economics. As I looked back, I realized

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that no, having that stuff, I don't know if it was part of the problem, but I know that for me

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personally, if I still had what I had then, I'm convinced that I would continue not to care about

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these things. For me personally, I had to lose that stuff before I began to realize

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what is supposed to be done with it. It would be hypocritical if I still had that, and I was

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saying, we should do this, but I don't. That's fine. I'm thankful for it. I'm thankful to be back

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to the point that I hardly spend anything, and I'm content. I was never discontent,

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but I realized that having more materially didn't change that in the slightest.

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I think that's important for us. Different people are different. For me personally,

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my flaws that when I had things, I was not focused on God's stuff. That's not the case with some

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people. There are some of you who are listening. When you have an extra doll in your pocket,

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you start looking around for someone to give it to. That's not me, and I can't pretend it is.

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It should be, but it simply isn't. I think one of the things when we're considering

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how to be a blessing to others is that the gifts that you have, when you have them,

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maybe you have to change something about what you're doing with them. Cory was talking about

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vocation, preparing meals for people in your home. There's service that we do just naturally.

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I think that one of the useful things about viewing our gifts from God as a 24-7 thing,

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and not a Sunday morning thing, is that you're all good for something to somebody. There's

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something that you do in your life that is already benefiting some people. Maybe there's a way to

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extend that in some small way to help more people and have a bigger impact. One example would be

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maybe someone's an electrician or a plumber or a mason. That's something that you do professionally.

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You go out, you do it every day. You make money from it. Maybe if you happen to own a business

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that's doing that stuff, consider possibly. As we're talking about these things, I want to make

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it very explicit. These are matters of wisdom and consideration. This is not laying down the law.

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If you have turned a profit, you must then do X with it. If God has given you more than you need,

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the what then of the Christian life should be different than it was in my life. When I had

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more than I needed, I just continued to save it. I just continued to accumulate. I just didn't

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know what to do with it. I wasn't really profligate with my spending. I just saved and saved and saved.

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That's exactly what the faithless steward was in that parable. He basically just buried it in the

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ground. I buried it in the bank, saving it for, I don't know when. It wasn't a lack of trust in

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God per se, but I think functionally it manifested that way. If you have a business where you're

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already doing something professionally, maybe, I know that in the last couple of years,

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pretty much all professional services and blue collar work tends to be very heavily oversubscribed.

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There's stuff that you need to get something done in your house. It might take four or six

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months to be able to get somebody out to do it because there's been so much activity.

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One of the things that you could possibly consider, this is not laying down the law,

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it's just something to think about. Maybe if you're in a position where you're turning a profit

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and you're oversubscribed, you have more customers than you can possibly service

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in a timely fashion, consider possibly doing what even the Bar Association recommends that

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attorneys do, where they're expected to try to have at least 50 hours a year of pro bono work,

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where they expect little or no compensation in return for the work that they do.

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The premise of that within their guild is to try to benefit those who don't have the resources,

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who could really use the help. If you own a business that's doing some sort of service or

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providing something in the home or in whatever it is that you're doing, maybe there's someone in

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your community that could really, really use the work that you already are doing, but they

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can't pay for it, and so they would never ask for it. Maybe it's retiree, they're living from

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social security to social security check. If they don't have the means to get stuff fixed or repaired,

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if you become aware that they exist, maybe one thing that your business could do would be to

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start doing some pro bono work, just a little bit, where you willingly set aside a few hours of

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paying customers once in a while and go do work for someone who can't pay you. You can coordinate

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this with your accountant so that you can use that as a write-off, because if it's billable at X

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dollars and you are delivering it as charity, basically, talk to your accountant, but typically

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that's something that can be written down as to reduce your overall profit, so you have less

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taxable. Even the amount of income that you would forego would have a positive benefit on

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the relative amount of tax you'd pay. You're still going to come out behind, but

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the nice thing about that is that it's something you're already doing. You're already doing it

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40, 50, 60, 70 hours a week. If instead of one of the hard things, if someone has a professional

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vocation, if you're an electrician and you do that all day, every day, the last thing you want

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to do on your day off is do more work like that. I don't think that anyone should be expected to

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do that. If you just love it so much that you can't get enough of it, great, whatever it is.

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You know, I'm talking about the trays in particular, but they can apply to anything.

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However, if in the context of a business, particularly if you're a small Christian

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business owner, maybe you make a conscious shift to do a small amount of pro bono work,

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knowing that it will cost you a little bit of money, but the upside to someone in your community,

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and it necessarily has to be in your community because they've got to be your neighbor.

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You're not going to go 6,000 miles away to install a toilet. You're going to do that

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someplace within driving distance. There may be some little lady who really needs that,

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into whom that would be a tremendous blessing. It's just an idea. The matchmaking for that

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is a difficult thing. It would be some more work and it would mean less money to do it.

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But I think if your gift, if your vocation and the abilities that God has given you are such that

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you can do things with your hands or with your brain and make it easier for something,

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like maybe you build websites or something, if the thing that you're already doing pretty much

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automatically, whether or not you're getting paid for it, if you could consider making slightly less

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than doing it for somebody who really needs it, that I think would be very much in the spirit

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of kind of what we're talking about here. Again, this is not to bind conscious. We're not saying

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you must do pro bono work or you're sinning. We're pointing out that this is an opportunity to make

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a small change in the way that you're already doing what you already do that could have a

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profound benefit to the very people that God is putting us around us to try to help.

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So if the trades and the other professions want to let the lawyers continue to have the

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moral high ground with their pro bono work, I know certainly some businesses would do that,

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but I think that model is at least an important one for consideration. It should always be in

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our minds, what can I do with what I already have? In my case, my skills weren't really transferable

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to neighbor, but the money was and yet I didn't spend the money on neighbor. If you have those

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resources and you can allocate them in a way to help someone nearby, that could have a tremendous

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benefit and you would find it very rewarding too, like the thanks and the gratitude from someone

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who could never possibly pay you for a professional job that they badly need. That would be something

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you can never understand how much that person would appreciate it. It would probably make their

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year in some cases. So these sort of opportunities are all around us, but they're invisible and

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because we never think about them, we either never go looking or we never even see them when

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they're right there in front of us. A vitally important point here is really a point that I

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already made when I mentioned that the parable of the talents is not primarily about money,

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although it's not not about money. It can also be about money.

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We all have different talents. There are many thousands, millions of different talents, attributes,

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abilities that God has distributed unequally. That is part of his good design. And so it may

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be that you are good at making shoes or you're good at gardening or you're good at accounting,

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whatever it happens to be, whatever gifts God has given you, you can use those in service of

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neighbor. And it may be that you have a handful of different gifts. You may work as an accountant,

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but happen to be particularly good at gardening. And so you go and work on the garden of a retiree

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on the weekend. That can be how you contribute to neighbor in some way.

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The purpose and the point is that you should do what you can with what you have been given,

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because that is the whole point of the parable of the talents and many other passages in Scripture.

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God has given you certain gifts. He has given them to you for the purpose of serving your neighbor,

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because in serving your neighbor through those good works, you are praising God,

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you are worshiping God. That is how we actually render unto God service and thanks for what he

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has given us. Because again, God does not need our good works. God does not need anything.

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In the words of the psalm, he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, meaning of course all

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things in creation, not just a thousand hills. Your neighbor needs your good works,

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because every single person needs something. Even the wealthiest individuals need something.

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They're going to have something in their house that needs fixed. And yes, of course,

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they can pay for it. And I'm not saying you have to do pro bono work for your particularly

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wealthy neighbor. But just because your neighbor is wealthy doesn't mean that you shouldn't want

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to render good works to that neighbor. Of course, that person in return, not as a quid pro quo,

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but in light of the fact that God has given him this material resource, this wealth,

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he should use that for the good of his neighbor, this case, you and others.

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But the point is that if we're going to have a Christian society, is that we all have to view

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each other as neighbors, because God has put us in a particular place at a particular time

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surrounded by particular people. And that's what neighbor means as we went over in previous

43:28.200 --> 43:33.800
episodes. It is the person next door is the person nearby, neighbor and nearby are basically the

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same word. It's the nearby farmer, if we're going back to the old English.

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But you are to serve your neighbor because it's we're going back to that issue of the concentric

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circles. And so when you look at your resources, and you look at the needs around you, and you look

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at what you can do with your resources to serve those needs, you start with the inner circle and

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you move outward. The inner circle is of course your immediate family. Then it is your extended

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family, the family that are still closely related and incidentally nearby. And then it's your neighbors,

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and then you're slightly more distant neighbors. And then it's your city, your town, your state,

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moving outward, concentrically to those who are less closely related, less close physically to you,

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but still someone to whom you owe a certain duty. And as we've mentioned, these are not hard and

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fast rules, because this is not a matter of math. We are not going to give you a bunch of formulae

44:42.040 --> 44:49.880
and say that if you make x, then you must do y with z percentage of x. That's not how any of this

44:49.880 --> 44:55.720
works. This is not math. This is a matter of wisdom. This is a matter again of looking at what you

44:55.720 --> 45:01.880
have been given, looking at the needs around you, and looking at your duties with respect to those

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who have those needs, and then acting appropriately. Now that sounds complicated, but it's not. If you

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see that your elderly neighbor's yard is overgrown, and you have a working mower, you can help. If you

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see that your neighbor's animals are escaping because there's a problem with his fence, and you

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happen to know how to fix a fence because not everyone knows, but most of us could perhaps manage,

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you can help. It is a matter of looking around you and seeing what needs to be done, and then doing

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what you can with the abilities that you have. Now, it is important to note that part of this

45:42.920 --> 45:50.040
is knowing your neighbors, which is a very real obstacle in modern society. Most people,

45:50.040 --> 45:55.160
even in suburbs where we practically live on top of each other, at least I used to live in a

45:55.160 --> 46:01.320
suburb I no longer do, but very few people really know their neighbors. Some don't even know their

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neighbor's names. Go knock on the door. Introduce yourself to your neighbor. If you don't even know

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your neighbor, you're not going to know the needs your neighbor has. You're not going to know if you

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have the ability to serve your neighbor, if you have the ability to render good works to your

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neighbor. And so part of it is just building that relationship, being aware of the people around you,

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and again, building a relationship with those people, building up a Christian community.

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Now, it may be that some of your neighbors are not Christian, but if you have this relationship

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with them, and they see that you are willing and even eager to help others, that may open up a door,

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it may open an opportunity to discuss the faith with that person at some point. I'm not saying,

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do the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormon thing, and go and knock on your neighbor's door and

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immediately say, Have you heard about Jesus? That's not usually the best approach. Develop a

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relationship with your neighbor. You have to build that rapport. You have to be someone your neighbor

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can trust. And then eventually, there will be an opportunity to broach that subject. That is going

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to be more effective than if you do the, well, the equivalent of a cold call.

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And all of this again, you must absolutely bear in mind, when it comes to these issues, it's in

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God's timing. And so you don't have to worry about it. Don't be anxious. Scripture is very clear

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about that. God is going to use you as he sees fit. He has prepared the good works beforehand,

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and that includes introducing your neighbor to the Christian faith, if that is going to be your

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role. And so you don't need to worry about it. But do lay the groundwork. Do the actual necessary

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prerequisite work in order to develop that soil so that when the opportunity arises,

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there's an opportunity, there's a chance to sow that seed and have it actually yield some sort of

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result. The greatest Christian witness that you will ever give is the life that you lead when

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you assume no one is watching, because they are. We're always watching each other, and we always

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are continuously evaluating other people relative to ourselves and relative to whatever ideals we

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may have. And so it may very well be that the most important message that you give to someone is

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to stand out from the crowd some way. If you are always the kindest or the most generous or most

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patient, or if you're just always there, if you show up when others won't show up, if you will

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deliver when others fail to, that stands out. And maybe they don't know why. Maybe they don't know,

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but at some point it will probably come up a conversation. You seem different than other

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people. What is it? That's your opening. That is God saying, here you go. You have spent months

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or years cultivating trust and rapport and being a good neighbor, being a genuine Christian in your

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community, being the salt and light of the earth. Now is the opportunity that God is giving you to

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explain to them why you are the way you are. And it's important for us as Christians to

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recognize that a lot of pagans live the same way. In fact, that is very much a part of some groups

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like Freemasonry and some others. Because they see it as work's righteousness, it's urgent for them

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to do those works. Because the insinuation into the community and the delivery is the

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teak and alarm. It's the making this world a paradise for its own sake. And it's not,

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it's the opposite of the Christian impetus. Ours is to glorify God. But to glorify God,

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not in some high fluid and spiritual way, it's right here. When your conduct and your behavior

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and what you deliver to your neighbor is a credit to yourself and you can point to God,

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that may be the thing that opens someone's eyes. Maybe they don't know anything about Jesus or

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anything about faith or sacraments or whatever is important in your Christian life. If they know

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that there's something in Christianity has changed you and they see it as a positive,

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that's the door open. And I think it's important for us as we're looking at all these things to be

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thankful when others are a blessing to us and when we're given the opportunity to be a blessing to

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others. You mentioned earlier, and I mentioned several times that we frequently get messages

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from people thanking us for Stone Choir. And I say that again, only to acknowledge that that is

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God's work through us. I don't get those messages and think, wow, yeah, you're a really great guy.

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You really nailed it. I am humbled and I won't say terrified, but we're chained to this thing now.

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We can't go anywhere. We don't have any choice but to continue doing this because of the fruit that

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God is growing through our words here. And so when you say thanks to us, it is a kindness and then

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we receive humility and grace. But it's also a price signal, like we talked about last week

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in the Market episode. When you say, yeah, more like this to something that's just a good work,

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to something that's beneficial that has no, the purpose is not to do something for ourselves.

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The purpose is to do what God wants. And when God bears good fruit through that,

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we're thankful to hear it. So we're at least as thankful to you when you tell us, as you are at

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us for having received what God is delivering through these episodes. Because if no one listened,

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if nobody cared, we wouldn't do it. It would be a waste of time. The fact that it's actually

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bearing fruit means that it's a good thing. We judge our own tree by the quality of its fruit.

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And if the fruit were not good, we would need to change something or we'd have to chop the tree

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down. But in this case, all we can do is continue to fertilize and water this tree and continue to

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grow as long as God is bearing good fruit through it. Keep both of those in mind. I've said this

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before, if you are able to do something for someone and they say thank you, or if someone

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apologizes to you, and there's this sort of, I'll call it false humility, but there's a modern,

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especially American notion that nothing can ever be serious. So when someone says, I'm sorry,

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I did something, the natural response is don't worry about it, forget about it. You should say,

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as a Christian, I forgive you. I'm sorry, should always elicit, I forgive you. You should immediately

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announce God's forgiveness to them. Because that is the same forgiveness that God announces to you

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when you confess. And the same is true with Thanksgiving. If someone is thankful to you

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for something, don't just say, oh, don't worry about it, it's nothing. Say, you're very welcome.

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And maybe it's an opportunity, again, to point to why you're doing it or how you came to be

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doing that thing for them so that you're not taking credit and you're not making it about yourself.

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On the flip side of that, if your pastor typically doesn't deliver whatever kind of sermon you think

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maybe your congregation needs, is a kick in the butt. And one Sunday, he really nails it,

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and you're kind of surprised. And maybe he's outside his comfort zone. And I think the best

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thing you can do is just after the service and you're walking out and say, thank you, pastor,

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that was a really great sermon. I really needed to hear that. And I hope that it bears fruit for

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everyone. Giving thanks for when someone is doing their job is a key part of all of this.

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Again, it's a price signal, not with money, but simply with the affirmation that, yeah,

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that right there. Do more like that. Me personally, if someone blows something,

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I'm almost always just going to keep my mouth shut. I don't want to start anything.

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If someone does really well, I try to go out of my way to give thanks to them to say that

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was really good. More like that. You're really good at that. Because sometimes that's all people

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need because you never know. When you're doing something, if you're professional, you know

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whether you're doing a good job or something. But when it's a little more subjective and you're

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not quite sure if it lands for somebody to actually go out of their way to give positive feedback

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instead of complaining, which is our natural nature. I think on websites like Yelp or whatever,

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if I remember correctly, it's like four or five times out of five,

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the feedback is going to tend to be negative versus a positive view of something. Because

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that's just how we're wired. You want to complain when something is done wrong. You don't want to

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say thank you when something goes well because of a sense of entitlement. If you go to a restaurant

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and have a good meal, well, they did their job. Of course, they had a good meal. That's what you're

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paying them for. The thoughtfulness of just going a little bit extra and extending thanks to someone

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when maybe they're not expecting it is a part of also us paying dividends in the world

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as just good members of the community, as good neighbors. Because when you stop taking those

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things for granted, it's again a chance to point to God. I think one of the worst things about

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our world today, as I've said before, is that we have grocery stores and we have specialists for

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all these things. We have online purchasing and you can have anything you need virtually anytime.

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Certainly in the week or the month, there's no need to wait almost ever. You can give vegetables

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year round even if you don't know anything about growing vegetables. You can get meat if you don't

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know anything about slaughtering animals because of the specialization of labor and the fact that

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there are other people who are good at that and they do it for you. That intermediate step that

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has removed us from God's providence at the front end where the cow was conceived and the

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seed was germinated. All those things are miracles even as they're also a natural part of creation.

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When they happen and then they move through all the process of the system, the market,

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and get onto your shelves at home, when we forget how miraculous it was that it began,

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and indeed that it came through all those steps to finally come to us in a relatively affordable

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fashion, it's easy to forget to give thanks to the butcher or certainly to God for having

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delivered that food to you. We say, give us this day our daily bread. It should be in cognizant

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recognition. It should be cognizant of the fact that that's actually happening. Whatever you ate

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today, God gave to you. Yes, you may have earned the money or maybe it was given to you as a gift.

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Whatever it was, it came to you by God's providence. No matter what, the food would not exist if God

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didn't turn the sun on, if God didn't send the winds and the rain. All the natural elements that

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make those things possible are there. They're why we have anything. The world of plenty that we have

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makes it really easy to forget to give thanks. We're observing thanksgiving this week in the

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United States. I think it's important to remember just how easy it is for all those things to go

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away. We talked about the normalcy bias episode. The state that we have today is not a natural one.

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This stuff can all very easily just vanish. We should be thankful for every day that we have it.

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Before we close out this episode and tie up these three issues, duty, talents, and thanks

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into a sort of neat little package, perhaps an early Christmas present. Although don't worry,

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we won't change the outro music. It's not even Advent yet. But before we do that,

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I want to make a point that may seem a little esoteric or arcane, but I don't think that it is.

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And I want you to think about it a little bit. For a number of years now, I have come to

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almost hate the term human being for a very specific reason. I think that it implies the wrong

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sort of thing. It gives the wrong idea because a human being implies that humans are just

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existing. Yes, I recognize that being is used in partly a different sense in this term.

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But my point is that humans are never being. Humans are becoming. Humans are doing. We exist in the

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act. And we've mentioned before in previous episodes that you are always moving godward or

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hellward. And so the whole point of this topic and of this episode is that when you use your talents

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to serve your neighbor, that's moving godward. That is sanctification. That is your faith

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working out through works that is working out your faith in fear and trembling. That is showing your

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faith by your works. And yes, that is scriptural. Again, you aren't justified by these works,

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but a living faith produces works. And so this is how you move godward. That is how you are a human

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becoming. You are becoming what God wants you to be. That is what sanctification is. It is the

01:00:01.320 --> 01:00:07.400
making righteous of one who was once a sinner and has now been justified by the blood of the lamb.

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And so the whole point is that you have duties. Just as a Christian, you have duties, but just as

01:00:17.240 --> 01:00:26.920
a person, as a man or a woman, you have duties. And those duties radiate outward. You have the

01:00:26.920 --> 01:00:33.720
highest duty to your immediate family. And then you have the extended family, your town, your city,

01:00:34.680 --> 01:00:43.800
your nation. These duties radiate outward. And so yes, the ones that are more immediate trump the

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ones that are further out. But how you execute, how you fulfill these duties is through the use

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of your talents, those things that God has given you, your attributes, the gifts, abilities, whatever

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they happen to be, all of these things that flow down from God. You use those to fulfill your duties.

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And then you give thanks. You give thanks both for the fact that others have rendered good things

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to you because those gifts ultimately come from God. He uses others to deliver them to you.

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But then you also give thanks for the fact that God has created all of these opportunities

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for you to use your gifts to do good. Because that is your opportunity as a human becoming

01:01:39.960 --> 01:01:45.480
to move Godward. That is your opportunity to work out your faith in fear and trembling.

01:01:46.200 --> 01:01:51.880
That is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have a living faith. And that is a great thing.

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That is a great gift from God. That is God choosing you and making you into one of his sons.

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And I mean that to apply both to men and women because sons are the ones who inherit.

01:02:07.000 --> 01:02:12.600
That is the point of the scripture passage. And so when you have these opportunities

01:02:12.600 --> 01:02:19.400
from God to use your talents to fulfill your duties, give thanks for that. He is giving you the

01:02:19.400 --> 01:02:25.720
opportunity to demonstrate your Christian faith. Because ultimately that is the heart

01:02:25.720 --> 01:02:31.160
of the Christian faith. Yes, it is belief in Christ. It is the belief in Christ that justifies us.

01:02:31.960 --> 01:02:37.960
But it is the good works rendered unto our neighbors that are true worship of God,

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that demonstrate that we have a living faith and that we are true sons of the Father.

01:02:44.120 --> 01:02:50.840
And so we will close out this episode with a passage that we have used a number of times before.

01:02:51.640 --> 01:02:57.320
But as with all of scripture, it is worth revisiting. And this one is particularly

01:02:57.320 --> 01:03:06.680
worth revisiting here at the end of this episode. And that is part of Matthew 6 about not being anxious.

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Therefore I tell you do not be anxious about your life. What you will eat or what you will

01:03:13.800 --> 01:03:20.440
drink, nor about your body what you will put on, is not life more than food and the body more than

01:03:20.440 --> 01:03:26.680
clothing. Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,

01:03:26.680 --> 01:03:31.400
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

01:03:32.120 --> 01:03:36.200
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

01:03:36.920 --> 01:03:42.360
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,

01:03:42.360 --> 01:03:48.680
they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like

01:03:48.680 --> 01:03:54.680
one of these. But if God so close the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow

01:03:54.680 --> 01:03:59.560
is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

01:04:00.360 --> 01:04:05.080
Therefore do not be anxious saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink,

01:04:05.080 --> 01:04:11.000
or what shall we wear? For the heathens seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father

01:04:11.000 --> 01:04:16.200
knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,

01:04:16.200 --> 01:04:21.240
and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow,

01:04:21.240 --> 01:04:26.440
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.