Category Archives: Money

smaller and less

pexels-photo-89695

Recently there has been talk about making Christmas bigger and better than ever. And something about this just hasn’t set right with me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and big family gatherings and all the festivities around the church. But bigger and better than ever? I’m not quite sure those are the values that should qualify Christmas. It almost seems like more and more this is how society is trying to shape what began as something very different. You need to buy this better gift or your friend, spouse, kid, coworker, etc. won’t have a Merry Christmas. You need to make sure your debt ratio is getting bigger and bigger or Christmas won’t be complete. We have to make sure we capitolize on this season in our churches with as many activities to draw people in because this may be the only time of year we get to see them (well at least until Easter). We need to make sure everyone around us knows how big and important this holiday is because otherwise they’ll never understand the true meaning of Christmas.

To me it just all feels a bit off. The idea of shopping and planning and stressing and exhausting schedules seems so far removed from Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. One of my favorite versions of the Christmas story in scripture was actually written by Paul to the church in Philippi. “Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human.” – Philippians 2:6-7 The Christmas story is best categorized by words like emptied, slave, less, weak, humility, frail, fragile, etc. Not words like bigger and better. When God stepped into our world He became less. God became small. In fact, if you weren’t a shepherd or a magi (I’m not sure if I ever got to be one in one of the kid’s Christmas pageants) you probably didn’t even know about the first Christmas.

You may ask yourself though, why am I taking such issue with this? Because Christmas should represent our values as Christ followers and not as economists. Perhaps we should seek to embody the shepherds and seek out those who appear to be weak, vulnerable, less, frail and fragile this season. And when we find them it might be an opportunity for us to practice a Christmas value as we seek to enter into their situation with them. Perhaps Christmas is more about becoming like the broken, outcast, unloved, untouched, smaller and weaker because that is what God did for us at Christmas. So maybe for a moment this holiday season we all might find a way to try something different. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture or anything massive, but maybe the smallest thing might become the most Christ-like as we seek to emulate the God who emptied Himself and became smaller and less for our sake.

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wait, what? 


So on Monday I became a teacher…

I guess it all began a few weeks ago. I heard a “story” about a guy in a flood. As the water rose to his knees someone came by in a boat. “Do you need help?” “No, my God’s going to rescue me”, was the man’s reply. As the waters continued to rise someone else came by in a boat. “Do you need help?” “No, my God’s going to rescue me”, was the man’s reply again. Eventually the water rose so high that he had to climb onto his roof. Not long after that a helicopter came by. “Do you need help?” “No, my God’s going to rescue me”, was the man’s reply yet again. Well he ended up drowning. Upon arriving in Heaven he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God’s reply, “Well I sent two boats and a helicopter, what more were you waiting for?”

Now the business of a church is tricky at times. And sometimes when you feel like you are doing the ministry God has called you to it doesn’t always add up in terms of finance. And at our own church it has been this way for quite some time. You could see the proverbial waters rising and we all were just waiting on how best to solve this dilemma. Then a couple of weeks ago I found out that the school my kids attend needed a science teacher. For most pastors this probably wouldn’t sound like a boat, but this pastor happens to have an undergraduate degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Not only that, but the school was looking for a Middle School teacher and I had worked with Middle School students for over five years during my youth ministry days…what?!? So I applied, talked it over with my board and on Monday I became a Middle school science teacher.

Now here’s the beauty of it; I’m not alone in this endeavor. More and more pastors are turning to bi-vocational ministry as they seek to minister to contemporary culture and settings. Not only that, but there is a Biblical example for this type of ministry as well. In his letter to the Thessalonian church we read this from Paul, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.”‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:7-8‬ Although I may feel a little overwhelmed, I am actually excited about the possibility of working outside and inside the church. It will help stabilize our church finances, but it will also give me an opportunity to see the work and sacrifice many of our laypeople already engage in (not to mention a platform to speak to those laypeople who aren’t all that involved).  So I invite you along on this new journey with me and our church. I ask for your prayers and patience in the days ahead. And I still look with ever-increasing expectation and optimism to what God is going to do among His people.


treasure

There are certain words in the English language that make me giggle from time to time. You all know what I am talking about. Words like savings, or investments, stock portfolios, etc. These words crack me up. I mean, maybe they aren’t supposed to, but they always get me right there. It’s not because I am necessarily financially irresponsible, I just find that these are concepts that seem very foreign to me and maybe they might get some of my attention on down the road a ways. Let’s be honest, I don’t think I chose my career because of the lucrative dividends…fringe benefits perhaps, but I don’t think people get into the ministry to make money (or at least I don’t think they should). More so, to make a life. And I’m not knocking practical savings/investing/etc., but I sometimes wonder if we are always investing in the right places.

In the Sermon on the Mount there are all sorts of nuggets of practical wisdom and one of my favorites is found in the following, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21. I have heard all sorts of interpretations about the ideas of treasure and heaven. I have heard people talk about crowns, jewels, mansions, etc. and I for one consider all of that talk hogwash (if you need to know what that is, consult a pig farmer). Do you think Jesus has ever for one moment defined treasure in terms of earthly monetary value?!? The very definition he gives above contradicts that completely. Anything that can be consumed by age or appetite (i.e. anything on earth you can possess) is worthless treasure. In fact, it’s not treasure at all.

So then I have to ask myself, what is the treasure in heaven? What is so priceless that God himself in the flesh would call it “treasure”? What is worth so much to God that he would give his very life to attain it? (You’re tracking with me now). Us…people…human beings…we are his treasure. And likewise we are/should be treasure to each other. And so when Jesus tells us to store up (the Greek word actually means invest in) treasure in heaven He is talking about our investment in other people, not some sort of weird heavenly possession. And so my question to us today, who are you investing in? Who are you pouring your life into? And not just your life necessarily, but the life of Christ.

You see there are all sorts of things we invest our time and resources in. It might be literal investments, maybe sports, or fashion, or entertainment; anything, but the only real investment that transcends this temporal life…others. So may you invest yourself fully in that which matters most as we store up our treasures in the hope of Heaven.


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