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Gaining Momentum as a Church Financially

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

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I’m in debt. I am a true American.”~Balki Bartokomous

Interest on debts grow without rain.”~Yiddish Proverb

The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor.” ~Unknown

Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.”~Unknown

A church debt is the devil’s salary.”~Henry Ward Beecher

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Debt stinks. I think I’ve heard someone say that before. Debt often has regret tied right to it. And regret stinks as well. I’ve been writing about money for the last few weeks. This week, I want to look at debt and the church as a whole body. Before we start, here are some definitional things to look at first. Those of us involved in a local church are part of that church family or church body. You could go as far as to say that the churches who claim Christ in a given area are the body of Christ in that city, town or village (Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 12:27).

Here’s the idea…debt stinks for the church…the body your a part of. If there are 100 people in a given church, and 50% of them are tied to debt, 50% probably are in a spot where they cannot give like they want to. 50% of them are probably in a spot where, if the church was called to fill or reach a specific need, they could not participate fully because their bills are a priority over their church family’s ministries. Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that these people are bad or unfaithful. Hear this…confession time…if this church were real and I was a member, I’d be in that 50%! Many of you would be right there with me. I wish I hadn’t made some past financial decisions. I know that my impatience, my greed or selfishness has my family in a spot where we cannot give to our neighbors, community, our church, or those in our world like we might have been able to otherwise.

Picture a church family that has little to no debt. Now, I’m talking about two things here. I’m talking about a church budget that doesn’t include debt payments and the individuals in that church family that are near or out of debt. Think about what they can do. Think about what they can give. Think about the spontaneous things they can provide to people in their community. Think about the open doors they might have where I see closed doors because I have “payments.”

We have talked about debt creating a ‘slave to the lender’ scenario (Proverbs 22:7). From that verse I get a sense that ‘freedom’ is at stake when we have debt. Peace is at stake when we have debt. We know in our gut what it would feel like if we had no student loans, no car payment, no credit card payment for that big family getaway weekend that happened eight months ago. We know don’t we. We’d yell “FREEDOM!” We’d have more peace. We’d be a bit closer to that “…life more abundant…” that we hear Christ talk about in John 10:10.

How about the church family? Is your family…your church family…living that abundant life? Where your resources are provided for so much, and you’re in such a free and peaceful spot that you can stop and move as God calls you to with no hesitation? The closer we get there the more momentum we will have. Momentum creates excitement. Momentum helps us feel more as we always should. Momentum can help a community see Christ in newer and more consistent ways. It keeps the ball rolling. Debt stops that ball.

What can you do to help create more momentum in your life financially…and in the life of your church family? What steps can you take this week…maybe even today that will put you on that path. Maybe its saying “no” more to the weekly expenses you feel tied to but aren’t necessary. Maybe its getting rid of some stuff that will help pay off loans. Maybe its a whole shift in your life outlook. A young Cameron McCabe was answering a question for me years ago in Kid’s Worship Time in our church family. The question was, “What can we do as young people (2nd-5th grade) do to serve God. Answers were flying around. Huge, big, crazy, Sunday School answer type answers that really weren’t applicable but sounded really Biblical and religious. Cameron, frustrated with the answers, looked at me and said, “Just do something!” Some of us need to heed Cameron’s advice. We probably know many things we need to do. Let’s start with 1 thing and start.

If we all start to do something that will enhance our ministry to others and to our church family, momentum will increase for us. It will not only be noticed within our church family. It will be noticed by those around us. They will see our lifestyle of freedom. They will see the peace that passes understanding the Bible talks about. They may even see it as something that is so attractive they want a part of it. Maybe that will be someone in your immediate family. Maybe it will be someone in your workplace. Maybe it will be your neighbor. Imagine what you’ll be able to say when they ask the big question, “Hey, there’s something different about you. What is it?” You’ll be able to say that you’re living more like God wants you to…like Jesus lived.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Be thankful for the needs that all of us have filled daily through the providence and miracles of God.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

Ed

What is your world view? – Money

November 5, 2011 1 comment

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The minister was preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to, after the worship service, ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for repairs to the church building. Therefore, he was annoyed to find that the regular organist was sick and a substitute had been brought in at the last minute. The substitute wanted to know what to play.

“Here’s a copy of the service,” he said impatiently. “But you’ll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement about the finances.”

During the service, the minister paused and said, “Brothers and Sisters, we are in great difficulty; the roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected, and we need $4,000 more. Any of you who can pledge $100 or more, please stand up.”

At that moment, the substitute organist played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And that is how the substitute became the regular organist!

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What is a world view?  Let’s just get specific.  What is your world view?  Here’s a basic definition of the term:

…it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.

A world view is the foundation of our life.  What we believe to be true shapes our morals and values.  Our morals and values then shape our behaviors and thoughts and words.  So what is your world view?  Do you have a God?  Who is this God?  How big is this God?  Is he just one of many?  Is he just a part of life or is he involved in all of life?  Whatever you believe to be true or not true of those questions determine how you live.

I am a Christian.  I hold true the belief that God is the creator of the universe.  Everything is his.  He creates and intimately knows each and every person who has, is and will be..although many do not believe him.  I believe that he has called us his children.  I believe that he has made one way for us to be back with him in a perfect and sinless environment.  I believe he has resourced us and will continue to resource us with what we need to live a full and peaceful life here, to serve others, and to help them see his ultimate and perfect plan.

Ok, there’s a snapshot of my belief.  Out of this framework of what I believe to be true about life, now and life after this body of mine ceases to live, I derive morals and values.  If I believe that God is the creator of all I see and holds my life in his hands, then it would hold true that I should value what he values.  My values and morals will be his.  Therefore, my actions should hold true to what I value.  People should be able to see my God’s character, values and morals reflected through my words and actions.

I hope that makes sense.  Again, what our world view is determines how we live life.  If my God were small and insignificant in my life…and I didn’t hold his views as true…then I would live life according to someone or something else’s values.  My actions and words would show that God isn’t important and that my ego or something else is.

How we view money and use money or abuse money show’s what we believe about God.  If God owns everything and everything is under his command, as he is sovereign, then it includes all my money…well not my money…his money.  I’m simply a steward of what he provides me.  I can do really stupid stuff with money…and he might allow me to mostly as ‘teachable moments.’  I can do really great things with money.  Money is just a tool, but it’s in The Creator’s tool box.

Here’s my view.  Money doesn’t turn the planet.  Many of us think and act like it does, but it doesn’t.  All the money is God’s, and if he needs it in a certain place at a certain time for a certain action, he can move it where it needs to go. However, if our world view is that money is essential to living, and it becomes bigger than God, then money will rule our world.  We will be influenced by it rather than controlling it as Dave Ramsey encourages.  We will be worried by the lack of it and enamored with dreams of having more of it.  As the Bible says:   For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1st Timothy 6:10

The last part of that verse doesn’t seem to peaceful to me.  Doesn’t sound like money brings contentment.  Doesn’t sound like money will fix things.  Can money be helpful in many circumstances?  Sure, but it is not the source of fixing…God is the source of fixing.  God is the source of all we need.  God is our Father and we are his children, and he wants us to trust Him in all things.  One of my favorite verses, probably my favorite, is this, “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”  That is from the mouth of God through his prophet Micah.  That’s what God desires from us.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

Questions for growth:

  • Write down your world view.  What do you believe to be true.  Where do your values come from?  Where do your actions point?
  • Pick someone apart from yourself.  Can you tell something about their world view by how they act and speak and think?  Remember, people daily evaluate your world view based on what you do and say and think as well.  Do you point to God?
  • Is money a big part of your world view?  Does your thoughts about money line up with God’s view of it?
  • Are you consumed with thoughts and worries and dreams about money?  Or, are you content with where you are and what you have…content enough to be focused on God goals?

 

Debt Stinks

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

  • The best way of saving money is to forget who you borrowed it from.
  • Fred: Thank you so much for lending me that money. I shall be everlastingly in your debt.  Harry: That’s what I m afraid of!
  • Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. ~ Benjamin Franklin
  • This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed. ~ Patrick Henry

Proverbs 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Arguments abound as to how much wealth King Solomon actually had.  Some place him in lists compiling the richest men in history.  Some say that he was just a ‘good’ king in a small, rural village government that did well while he was in power.  Here’s what I know.  Since Jesus rose from the dead, I have reason to believe what the Bible says.  The Bible gives many accounts from the life of King Solomon concerning his wisdom and wealth.  I could list all the references here, but it would take most of a few pages to properly account for them all.  I’ll just simplify the list with the following short statements.  His yearly salary estimate was $280,000,000.  He ruled 40 years…do the math.  He had shields made with Gold.  He made alliances and peace treaties with rulers of that known world…and received gold and treasures in return for his political savvy.  He married 700 wives…many of them daughters of the powerful rulers of the known world of that time.  His kingdom may not have been the largest, but it was very influential in the region, and he was paid well for his leadership and help with hard diplomatic questions.  He was known for his wisdom as a leader and ruler.

Why do I start this article on Proverbs 22:7 like this?  This proverb about rich and poor was written by this wealthy king.  The books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, books of wisdom, were written by Solomon.  Most suggest that they were written in his later years as he looked back at his life.  From the king’s throne he witnessed a lot.  Having the wisdom of God, he was able to make powerful business and kingdom decisions.  However, two things he lacked were obedience to his God and common sense.  He came around to those two things later in life as both of these books show.

Solomon writes about being rich and being poor in many ways in the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.  Sometimes he lifts up the rich other times he writes of their greed.  Sometimes he writes about the good nature of the poor, and sometimes he calls them out for being lazy.  When you lay all the verses he writes about the rich and the poor side by side, a bigger picture is seen.  He is getting to the heart of the matter, which really has nothing to do with money.

He was one who had position to rule over the poor.  For the most part, evidence from Scripture show that he wasn’t an evil ruler…but being rich afforded him the luxury of ruling.  As king, he ruled over others who were rich, some who ruled with an iron fist over the poor.  Solomon, as the king, was the final judge in many “court cases.”  He no doubt ruled sometimes in favor of the rich…sometimes in favor of the poor.  The wisdom he writes of simply comes from his observations.

The focus for the week, however, is the position of those who are in debt.  From all of the verses that Solomon wrote about, concerning wealth or poverty, he writes about it being a character issue.  Being rich or being poor is simply about position.  There isn’t anything evil about being wealthy, unless the wealthy disobey God.  There isn’t anything evil about a person who’s poor, unless poor disobey God.  Money is just money.  John Maxwell says this about money, “Money does two things.  It provides options and it provides something to share with others.  That’s it.”

This verse points to two things…rich rulers and poor who are in debt slavery.  From his throne, he saw the rich ruling over the poor and the poor who were in slavery to the rich because of their debt to them.  Did he make any judgment?  No.  It was simply a statement about what happens when people go in debt.  Is there a moral to the story?  I believe so.  Solomon, in all his vast wealth found out that it didn’t satisfy all his needs.  Only God can supply a “full life” (John 10:10).  I believe that in his wisdom statement there is a warning.  Don’t pursue the things of “wealth” as the world sees…only to go into debt and be a slave to the lender.  Becoming a slave to a lender has its consequences.  Even though you think have more stuff, you have less options in life because of payments and you have less to share with others (remember John Maxwell’s quote above).

Next, I’m going to put some verses back to back to back from Solomon’s hand to give you a snapshot of what he finally figured out through his life experience.

Ecclesiastes 1:8,10,11  I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces… I denied myself nothing my eyes desired… Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;  nothing was gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:26  To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

Proverbs 28:6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

Proverbs 22:2 Rich and poor have this in common: The lord is the Maker of them all.

What I come away with from these verses and others like them is this…what one has doesn’t define them.  Their actions with what they have or with what they lack, their character, builds their reputation.  Some try to build their reputation by buying things they cannot afford.  I’ve been in that boat and am paying interest because of it…slave to the lender.  It’s not a fun place to be.  I’d feel a lot freer if I had less but didn’t owe anyone anything.  Solomon saw this.  He saw how the ‘love of money’ and the love of stuff strapped people down…and how others ruled over them.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, he literally called it meaningless…a chasing after vapors in the wind.

Solomon’s big conclusion to all of his gained wisdom and knowledge came down to this.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Summary:  Be content and don’t chase after things that God hasn’t brought your way.  Forced blessings usually put you in a debt situation.  Debt is bad.  We could argue what kind of debt is bad or what kind isn’t…but we’re talking simply about the principle of wanting things not within our reach and thus making decisions that will hinder our ministry to our family and others around us.  Love God.  Love people.  Those are our charges.  Making poor decisions with our finances keeps us from fully serving our Creator.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

Ed

 

Questions for Growth:

  • Do you have debt?  (y/n)  Was that debt necessary? (y/n)  Do you feel weighted down because of it? (y/n)
  • If you are in debt, do you have a plan to “master” your spending? (y/n)  Can you verbalize it to someone else? (y/n)  Try it now with someone near you.
  • What things are necessary for you to live a full life as described by Jesus in John 10:10?
  • How does our American culture see “stuff”?…Accumulation of stuff?…
  • Does stuff define us? (y/n…yes it is a trick question)  Stuff can define us…if we purchase stuff on loan so we have what others have, then we will be defined as a debtor by some bank.  Is this how you want your life defined?
  • Ouch…are you feeling the “pinch” of this verse like I am?  😦
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