Monday, December 30, 2013

The Value of Having Multiple Sources of Income


In the 1950s and 60s the average household could live and even prosper on one income.  Compare that to today, and very few families can survive on fewer than two incomes (which explains why both spouses normally work outside the home). Even with two incomes, the average family finds themselves stretched to the limit, It's an uncertain future and even two incomes might not be enough.  That's why it is wise to have multiple streams of income.

Prosperous people have always known this.  If one source of income dries up, the others keep you going.  Other people with one or two incomes are more vulnerable.  If they lose one source of income, it can wipe them out.  And it takes years to recover.

Having multiple streams of income - even if it is a second part-time job - provides a lot of safety and security because if yo lose one, you'll barely notice.  You'll be stable.  You'll have time to adjust.  You're safe.

Here’s why:

It's a good alternative to the traditional retirement account.  If you were able to generate an additional $1,500 per month with a second job (or income), that amounts to $18,000 per year.  And yet.....
  • To earn $18,000 a year in a savings account that earned 4% interest, you would need to save $450,000!
  • To earn $18,000 from investment accounts at 10%, you would need to invest $180,000!
It's a hedge of protection.
  • For most people, to get $18,000 in raises from your employer could take decades.  (And it may never happen because the system is designed to keep you down).
  • An extra income of just $1,500 per month could cover things like car payments, help to pay down credit cards, or pay off your mortgage.
The secret to security is having as many sources of income as possible.

Here’s why:

Stuff happens.  Things like car accidents and astronomical medical bills require large amounts of money, and one salary (or two) won’t be enough.

Job insecurity.  No one is secure in their job, career, vocational ministry, or company any more.  No one.  And we all know it.

Employer Domination.  Because your employer pays your salary and knows you have no other source of income, they tend to dictate your life.  They can demand you work on your day off, on Saturday or Sunday, or the day of your child’s birthday party.  And what choice do you have?

What if You (or your spouse) Lost Your Job?  Household expenses always expand to available income, so that probably means that a job loss would represent a significant (or catastrophic) hardship.  There wouldn't be enough money to make ends meet. 

Vacation Costs.  The main reason the average person does not take a real vacation is the cost.  It’s too expensive for a one (or two) income family to really travel to ideal destinations.

You can Never Become Wealthier than the Person You Work For.  No employer can afford to pay more than he pays himself.   Therefore, you will always be lower on the financial totem pole.  It’s called the “pecking order” and it’s how things work in the working world.  The only way to assure yourself of a constant promotion or better pay is to work for yourself.

Because You Really Need the Money.  Seriously, you need to have another stream of income so that you can have the money to spend the way you want to!

Because God says so!  If you believe in the Bible, then read Ecclesiastes 11:1-2. “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.  Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”  In this passage, God doesn’t suggest just one or two investments (that will generate a return) but seven or eight!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Automobile Debt – Very Difficult to Get Out Of


After home mortgages, car loans are the largest debts most people carry, and are one of the biggest roadblocks to financial freedom.  More than 70 percent of all cars purchased are bought with borrowed money.

Most people never get out of automobile debt.  Here’s why…

Just when you get to the point of paying off a car, dazzled by the thoughts of a new model, you trade it in and purchase the new one with credit.  Unlike a home, which usually appreciates in value, the moment a car is driven off the lot it depreciates in value.  Most car owners are “upside down” on the car loan, meaning they owe more for the car than it’s worth.  If you had to sell it, you couldn’t get enough to pay off the loan.

Even worse, is rolling any outstanding debt from car #1 into the purchase of car #2, so forth and so on.  It just piles up and up, and you can never pay it off. 

The average American spends between $240,000 and $350,000 on automobiles during their lifetime.  This includes vehicle purchases, fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and license and registration fees.  Two-and-three-car families, and those who buy luxury sedans, as well as those who trade their cars in every two or three years will spend even more!

Here are three reasons why it’s so easy to get trapped in auto debt:

1.  The cost of cars as become outrageously expensive.

2.  Advertisers have done a masterful job of marketing an expensive image – their ads promise status and sex appeal.

3.  The cost of financing has risen too.  Lenders now offer loans for up to 7 years for a new vehicle!

My last automobile was fifteen years old with 225,000 miles when it finally died.  I bought it used (2 years old) and kept it nine years longer than the life of the loan. After I made the last payment to the finance company, I kept making the payments BUT TO MYSELF!  I put that car payment money in my savings account for nine years.

Don’t let your car drive you to the poor house.


Credit Scores are Designed to Get You in Debt and Keep You There


In order to have a good credit score, you need to have the following credentials:

  • Have a number of credit cards
  • Have balances on those cards
  • Have other consumer loans
  • Have a history of borrowing money and paying it back on time

The lender needs to see some kind of track record showing how good you are at paying back your loans.  Who wants to take a risk on an unknown, right?  But what really stands out to me is how the pressure to have a good credit score traps us into debt for a lifetime.

Here's how it works....

The only way to have a good credit score is to go into debt, stay in debt, and continually make your payments on time – without adding too much more debt or paying off too much debt.  In other words, stay in debt as long as you can.

If you want a better credit score you need to swim with the sharks more often.  If you don’t carry a balance the banks don’t like you.  It’s not because you are unsafe, it’s because you are NOT PROFITABLE to them.

A good credit score is not an indicator of winning financially.  All it tells you and the bank is how good you are at borrowing money and paying it back.  That’s it.

And you forfeit a fortune over a lifetime by paying interest.

It’s the ultimate paradox.  You believe your fiances are in good shape because you have a good credit score.  But the banks are are the ones who are profiting while you sink deeper and deeper.

Start dumping your debt, save money, and pay cash.  Do these simple things and you’ll be on your way to building wealth – not your credit score.  And what’s more important?


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Regarding Mortgage Debt


Almost all my life I have heard people talk of the benefits of having a mortgage; especially a 30 year mortgage.  The rationale goes like this:  If you have a mortgage you can claim the interest as a deduction on your taxes each year.  If you pay cash for your home, or pay your mortgage off early, you lose the tax deduction.

Smart?

Not so fast.

That’s like saying you should spend a dollar so that you can save 10 cents on that same dollar.  Said another way, you still lose 90 cents.

Sure, it’s smart to take the deduction if you are carrying a mortgage.  In fact, it would be foolish not to.  But as a financial strategy – to deliberately keep yourself in debt for 30 years – never made much sense to me.

Consider…

Anyone who has ever looked at an amortization schedule knows that with a 30 year mortgage, you end of paying approximately triple the purchase price of the home.  For a $250,000 home, one not only pays back the $250,000 borrowed, but an additional $500,000 in interest!  That’s assuming you take the full 30 years to pay it off, which most people do.

So the question becomes:  Do you get $500,000 worth of deductions in your taxes?  The answer is a big, fat NO.  You actually lose almost all of that $500,000!

What would you rather do with $500,000?  Give it to the mortgage company (so that you can claim pennies on the dollar as a deduction on your taxes)?  Or have it sitting in your own savings account?

The truth is, if you’re going to be paying out that much money over a 30 year period, it just makes more sense to have as much of that money as possible going to your bank account rather than to the mortgage company.  Keep in mind that $500,000 is a small fortune.

By the way, if you will make one additional payment each year (a 13th payment), you can pay off a 30 year mortgage in 19 years!  The extra payment is applied to the principle, which represents an enormous long-term savings in interest.

There’s an odd logic (in the mind of many people) about debt.  Debt is considered normal.  It’s even considered desirable.  But who does it really benefit?  The lender, not the borrower.

I’ve never purchased a home that was anywhere close to $250,000, simply because it was out of our reach.  Plus, the ministry is too unreliable to count on.  I simply use these numbers as an example to make the point.

We have purchased only two homes during our marriage.  After we sold the first home (we bought as newlyweds) we used all the money from that sale as a down payment on our second home (on Timberland Drive).  This lowered how much we had to finance considerably, and combined with a lot of self-discipline (and doing without extras) I was able to pay off the second home in 12 years.  It was a life-changing event for me.  Suddenly I was liberated, and I felt empowered.

I confess that debt is a source of insecurity and high stress for me.  Debt gives other people the right to my money and over my life.  With a mortgage, our home did not truly belong to us, and neither did my income.  In the end, it meant other people would have the right to take my home without any regard to my circumstances, or the situation it might leave me in.

It just makes sense to take control of your life, rather than allowing others to have that kind of control over you.


Dependence on the System


A lot of people would like to live self sufficient, financially independent, or just live a simple life that didn’t require so much money.  The problem is, of course, we are still dependent on “the system.”  So we try to minimize our ties by growing food and looking for alternative energy sources.  This gives us the sense of freedom, but is not the heart of the matter. 

The following list is what I would call the “big three” that really prevents more people from disengagement.

DEBT.  All kinds.  Anything we owe money for, we don’t really own.  They belong to the bank or lending institution that loaned us the money.  I’m allowed to posses the property because the lender makes a profit on the interest I pay, and hopes I will purchase more debt.

Another way of looking at it is, my paycheck really isn’t mine if I am in debt.  The amount of money I owe belongs to the lender.

If I default on my loan, the borrower has the legal and moral right to repossess the property or collect the debt.  Unfortunately, they go beyond that by ruining your credit ratings, increase your interest rates, and impose unrestricted fees and penalties.  Avoiding all of this unpleasantness is what keeps us towing the line.

Of course, if you have no debt, there’s no line to tow.

INSURANCE.  Some people believe that insurance is a necessity and that you can’t survive without it.  Personally, I’ve never had an insurance company do for me what I have paid them for, a least not without a battle, which is usually a losing battle.

I think the deception here is that people believe they are purchasing a service, when in fact, what they get for their money is a sense of security, but with no guarantees.

Auto insurance is mandated by law, which is a guaranteed income for the auto insurance companies and the lawyers you have to hire to get them to pay out on claims.  Health and life insurance is packaged as a “benefit”, but the ones who benefit the most are the insurance companies, their executives, and pharmaceutical companies.  And now with Obama Care, the government will profit from the premiums you pay.  

The fear of “what if” is exactly what keeps us locked-in.  Consequently, many of us are “insurance poor” – paying too much money for too many polices that we don’t really need.

RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS.  Most people feel like retirement investments (assuming you have enough money to invest) are a necessity.  Again, it’s a sense of security that has no guarantee.  The problem here is corruption in the system

People put their money in these accounts, usually with limited investment choices and little control over how the money is used.  A company custodian oversees the money and controls the accounts.  Anytime you put a single person or company in charge of millions/billions/trillions of dollars that belongs to others, the likelihood of corruption is high.  There is a reason why investors call it “dumb money.”  Everyone has heard the horror stories of people losing their entire pension plan because of mismanagement.  Then of course, the government acts as another custodian over your money, limiting when and how much you can withdraw, imposing taxes, penalties, and fees.

The wealth contained in an investment account is actually perceived wealth because it is based on a number system rather than real money.  For example, anytime the stock market goes south, people lose a lot on money “on paper.”

I don’t have all the answers, but I think these three things keep a lot of us from truly disengaging.  If it’s what we really want, and depending on how we view the future, we should at least give consideration to them.  The Amish are a perfect example being self-sufficient, and independent.  They are disengaged from most of the things we are locked-in to and they do more than merely survive. They thrive.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Hypocrisy of A&E


A&E considers itself as a champion of diversity and tolerance, but last week demonstrated total intolerance at the first sign of diversity.  Classic Hypocrisy.

Even more hypocritical is the breaking news that A&E has now decided to bring Phil Robertson back and they have no plans to fire him.  This reveals that A&E is motivated only by money, profit, popular opinion and public pressure, and doesn’t have the conviction to stand by their decisions, uh, like Phil Robertson and his family.

Some people are the salt of the earth.  Others, clearly, are not.




America's Coming Collapse


The elements will melt with fervent heat,
and all the world will be burned up.
(2 Peter 3:10)
America’s collapse is inevitable.  Just a causal glance at history or an in-depth study of Biblical prophecy, and all doubt is erased.

Kingdoms rise and fall, and God sovereignty controls the destiny of nations.

It is the height of folly and silliness to believe that we can continue on our current trend without eventually reaping irreversible consequences.  Those of us who live in America – with all its prosperity – have been conditioned to believe that the tenacity of the American spirit will ultimately triumph over every adversity we face.  Naively, we believe, “all things will continue as they have since our forefathers have fallen asleep”  (2 Peter 3).

Yet, a simple reading of the Bible tells us that America’s days are numbered. All the nations of the world are in God’s righteous Hand.  (See 1 John 2:17; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1).

After you read those verses, notice that America’s “exceptionalism” (the idea that we are superior to any other nation that exists or has ever existed) will not exempt our nation from the ultimate destruction that is coming upon the entire world.

Furthermore, the Bible reveals that all national distinctions will cease to exist under the reign of a world dictator, (known in the Bible as the Antichrist), meaning (most likely) that the United States Constitution will be abolished.

This world dictator will rise to world power without a vote by the American people, and he will abolish our most cherished freedoms, demanding that he alone be worshipped (or receive our allegiance).  Such an usurpation of power can only occur by the cancellation of our Constitution.  And once the Constitution is gone, the United States of America as we have known it will cease to exist.

I must hasten to add, our mission as the Church is not to slow down the decay of society or to “take back our nation” that has become so popular to proclaim in religious circles nowadays.  Our mission is to “make disciples” – as many as possible -  before the Lord returns and the apocalypse occurs.  God is calling us, the Church and every believer, to stand up, to speak up, to be a light in a dark place, and to push back against the tide of unrighteousness.  In other words, we need to stand for the principles we know to be true.

Now, I fully realize that suggesting that God will curse any nation or people that sanctions immorality, or legalizes perversion is anathema in today’s culture of diversity.  We have been indoctrinated to believe that religious and moral pluralism (i.e., the belief that all belief systems and lifestyles are equally valid and to be accepted) is the great strength of our nation.  It is, in fact, the greatest weakness of our nation.

What Americans celebrate as diversity, God often condemns as idolatry and perversion.  Not only will the current trend naturally lead to the breakdown of the family and society, God Himself condemns and will eventually judge what we embrace.  Take God out of the picture, and you still have a society in a death spiral.  Put God back in the picture, and you have a final judgment.  Either way, the end is horrific.

I think the reason that so many Americans are alarmed and frightened about the condition of our country is because we are so focused on personal peace, prosperity, and avoidance of pain.  It’s no wonder we are so fearful of Muslims, health-care reform, government mismanagement of money, and open hostility to all things Christian.  Earth-bound Christians realize that their private world is about to be turned upside down.  After all, if the focus of your life is money, comfort, and prosperity, then current affairs are about to give you a heart attack.

My suggestion is for believers everywhere to watch less cable news and read your Bibles more so that you can gain God’s perspective on the world. 

Your answer is not found by merely changing channels, but to change your focus.

 Make no mistake about it – it’s all coming to an end eventually.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Backyard Gardening & Homestead Living


Whether you grow just a few tomato plants, have a backyard garden, or plunge into a full-blown effort with chickens, bees, and fruit trees, growing your own food is life-changing.

For me, it has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable hobbies and experiences of my life.

When you raise your own food, you know exactly what goes into it.  You’re assured that what you put on the table is free of herbicides, pesticides, and other questionable additives.  You can enjoy vegetables that are chosen for their flavor, not their ability to withstand days or weeks sitting in a semi trailer after it has been radiated.  You can also grow unobtainable heirloom vegetables.  And with better food readily available, I’m enjoying a healthier diet.

Security

The ups and downs of personal finances is another reason to start a backyard garden or homestead.  If you’ve ever had to do some serious belt tightening because of a job loss, you know that the more you can do for yourself, the less vulnerable you’ll be.  It’s good to know that you have a “Plan B” should you have to get by on less income.  Even a couple of garden beds can bring in hundreds of dollars of produce each growing season.

Exercise

Another enjoyable benefit for me is the exercise I get from gardening.  Many of us have sedentary, indoor lifestyles.  Whether at home or at work, we are sitting in a chair looking at a computer, sitting in the driver’s seat of our car, or sprawled out in the easy chair at home.   A backyard homestead or garden engages me in productive, healthy work.  Some weeding, digging, pruning, and hauling is just what the doctor ordered for getting outdoors and breaking a sweat.  Tilling the soil and turning compost strikes me as being a more sensible way to get exercise rather than driving to the gym and mounting a machine for a workout… and having to pay membership fees to do it!

Fascination

Of course, there is the mystery of life itself.  Even a small 4x8 garden plot can be loaded will all sorts of discovery.  I am totally fascinated how a little seed grows into a living plant, then blooms, and eventually produces something edible.  And the best part of is, I love getting outdoors and picking everything that I need for a meal from my own garden and then bringing it to the table.

That is a good feeling; to know that I am growing food that is healthy, organic, and better than anything I can buy at the grocery store or eat in a restaurant.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Impact of Teaching through First Timothy Earlier This Year


In January - March of this year I preached a sermon series through the book of 1st Timothy, verse-by-verse.  You may remember it:  DOING CHURCH GOD’S WAY.  It was profound, challenging, edifying to our congregation, and insightful.  

One of my goals for this series was to lay the groundwork for a more Biblical model and operating structure for our church, and the establishment of a teaching team.  The result has been better than I could have hoped for.  We've made giant strides in that direction and PCC has taken a noticeable upswing in many ways.

This series covered topics like pastoral discouragement, false teachers, troublemakers in the church, the lifting of hands in worship, proper dress and attire for women, the role of pastors and deacons, the ability to teach, sound doctrine, public prayer, and pastoral ministry, to name a few

It also resulted in a few people leaving PCC.

Why?

They were so indoctrinated in their denominational traditions (ingrained at previous churches before they arrived at PCC) that they just couldn’t hack the clear, concise teaching from God’s Word about how to structure a church (that was outside their frame of reference).

I’ll never forget the day that a conversation took place with one person who was leaving.  It was unpleasant.  She said, (that being the wife, because her husband had her do the talking.  I could tell she was simply parroting him because I had heard it before), “I don’t think the church should blah, blah, blah.”  This was the very week I spoke on 1st Timothy chapter 3 which speaks of the difference between pastors and deacons and the roles that each has in the church. (The CDs of this sermon are still available at church or online at our web site).

I replied, “Do you hear what you are saying?  Everything you say is contradicting God's Word.  Your argument is with the Bible.  You are ignoring what it clearly says and you're proposing a model for this church in favor or your own preferences, personal opinions, and biases.  Do you really think I should lead that way?”

They left. 

This couples' departure came after we had visited them in the hospital on numerous occasions…stood by them during serious injuries of their family members…. through illnesses, surgeries, ambulance rides, and standing with them in every conceivable crisis over the years.  We had even been in their home on several occasions sharing meals together.  Then, suddenly, it was all over.  Kind of knocks the wind out of me when that happens.

I hated to see them go.  But on the other hand, if they didn’t respect the Word of God more than that then they didn't belong at PCC.  And our church is healthier for it.

Know why?  The teaching of God's Word is how Jesus exercises His authority over the Church, which He is the Head of.

In 2014 I will continue this emphasis by teaching through the book of 2 Timothy - the next Pastoral Epistle - so that the health of PCC will continue to improve.

My only goal is to peach the gospel, make disciples, and have a New Testament Church... not a religious country club for spiritual fat cats who would nullify the Word of God by their traditions.


How to Detox Your Life of Negative People and Feel Good About Doing It


Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals. (I Corinthians 15:33)

Negative people are a drain on your emotional state of mind.  The negative energy from toxic people affects your energy level, not to mention bringing a great deal of stress and anxiety to you.  It all adds up to a big bummer.

If you’ve had enough, here’s how to liberate yourself from them:

1.  Decide that you’re worth it.  Simply make the choice that it’s time for you to commit to yourself for your own happiness, and you’re not going to let anyone slow you down.

2.  Identify the toxic people. These people make you feel worse than when you first started talking to them.  There is a difference between someone sharing their struggles with you, verses someone who constantly complains or criticizes. 

3.  Let them go.  Just start.  Use whatever method you feel is appropriate.  Avoid them.  Don’t take their calls.  Unfriend them from Facebook.  Stop hanging out with them.  Distance yourself.  Avoid explaining yourself or defending yourself to them for being distant.  They may take it personally that you have distanced yourself, but so what.  It’s your life.

4.  Don’t feel guilty.  Again, your state of mind is worth it.  You must be your own best friend.  If you don’t take charge of your future, happiness, and well-being, no one else will do it for you.  You have no obligation to keep these people in your life, or close to you.  Besides, it’s normal for relationships to evolve or dissolve as people grow and change.  Just move on and be happy about doing it.

5.  Bring in the positive.  Surround yourself with positive people and friends who energize you.  These are the kind of people who support your ambitions, encourage your ideas, make you laugh, have a sense of humor, are optimistic, and you look forward to seeing them.

Begin this week by identifying the negative relationships you need to let go of.

You deserve it.

Inside the Mind of a Pastor


Have you ever wondered how pastor’s really think?  Here’s a peek.

Who Can I Talk to In Confidence?  People come to me all the time with their issues, whether it’s their marriage, job, kids, or questions about the faith.  I’m honored to pray with them and offer what counsel I can.  But sometimes I need someone to talk to myself.  I just don’t know who that is.  I’m afraid if I confided in people, they would use it against me.  Ask me how I know that.

Do People Really Appreciate What I’m Doing?  At the risk of sounding like a whiner, this feels like the most thankless job on the face of the earth at times.  I realize I’m not the only one with a tough job, but still, everyone wants to hear appreciation from time to time – something besides complaints and criticisms. 

I am overseeing a nonprofit organization (which is secular) AND doing spiritual work at the same time.  That is a difficult combination to manage.  Trying to comply with State and Federal Laws (that govern nonprofit organizations), while, at the same time, obeying the laws of God that govern His Church, is no easy task.

I truly believe that what I do matters for eternity, but I wish good people in the church would step forward with affirmation more often.  God knows, the critics and complainers seem to have no problem voicing themselves.  And then there are the abandoners; the people who just walk out of my life after I’ve done everything possible to minister, help, befriend, and include them.  That really stinks.

I Wish People Would Invite Me to Non-Church Events and Engage Me in Non-Church Conversations.  I like watching football and having dinner with people.  I am a fisherman, I like gardening, I enjoy spending time on the water, or just hanging out with people.  And I’d love it even more if the discussion didn’t revolve around church.  I know that some people will always act weird around me, but I crave normal friendships.  Everything doesn’t have to be so deep all the time.  Neither does it have to be about PCC’s latest drama.

I Hope My Kids Don’t Abandon the Church.  I know the statistics about young people abandoning the church and walking away from the faith.  And a pastor’s home is not exempt.  To be honest, this has always been a concern of mine.

Jesus talked about the futility of gaining the whole world and losing your own soul, and for me, it would be a complete failure to have a successful church but lose my family.  As much as I love PCC, I don’t love it enough to sacrifice my kids (or my marriage) for.  I've always believed that your family is your first ministry; I preach it that way and I have lived that way.  I will not sacrifice them on the altar of success or to the expectations of others. 

And for the record, I’m glad to say that both my grown sons have not abandoned the faith or the church.  For this, I am thankful.


When a Committee Goes Rouge


Church committees.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t’.  And always, they are unbiblical.

A true story:

Last week, a woman in another state sent a message to say that her nephew, an associate pastor – a young man with seminary degrees and several years of experience – had just received a visit from the congregation’s personnel committee.  According to this little group, the minutes of the business meeting in which he had been hired several years back identifies him as a youth director, not associate pastor.  Thus they are cutting his pay and hours commensurate with that position.  The woman wrote, “And he has plaques on the wall from the church identifying him as their associate pastor!”

Veteran pastors know what is actually happening here.  What it "AIN'T" is a group of faithful members trying to be true to the original vision.  What it “IS” is a bunch of power-brokers trying to do an end run around the pastor and trim the sails of a staff member, with the end result being to run him off.

Make no mistake.  That’s what the point of this is.


Okay, Life Isn't Fair


"Believe me, I'm blameless. I don't understand what's going on.  I hate my life!  Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude that God destroys the good right along with the bad.  When calamity hits and brings sudden death, he folds his arms, aloof from the despair of the innocent.  He lets the wicked take over running the world, he installs judges who can't tell right from wrong. If he's not responsible, who is?  (Job 9:17-19 Message).

Job is angry at the odds stacked against him.  His neatly ordered world is no longer safe.  In the paragraph above he is saying that he doesn’t think living for God really matters because, whether you are good or bad, it ends up the same for everyone.  In his despair he is letting God have it with both barrels.

That is the low point that many people get to when calamity, misfortune, or hardships strikes.  Maybe they won’t come right out and say it like Job did, but they think it down in the gut.  And of course, in some respects they are right!  Life is not fair.  Justice does not always prevail.

The poor and outcast seem to understand this more than the rest of us – life is not fair.  And that is their head start on the Gospel – they know the hard realities of life.  The rest of us have to learn it they hard way when our world comes crumbling down.

I’m struck by how differently the Gospel comes across when you preach it to someone with a full stomach and when you preach it to someone with an empty stomach.  That’s why Jesus said the Gospel has to be preached first to the poor and hurting (Luke 4:18-19).  They are the ones who hear it rightly.

When you preach the Gospel to full and satisfied people, they don’t understand it.  They distort it for their own ego-centered purposes, their own religious purposes, or whatever their intent may be.  They have not yet been baptized with enough pain to see it clearly.

The Gospel, in short, has to be preached to people like Job.  They are the ones who can hear it and not rearrange it for their own purposes.  All hurting people have come to realize the ultimate human paradox:  We learn by letting go; we grow by giving up.

BTW, Job climbed out of his despair.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

When Your Sermon Feels Out of Sync


Ever have one of those days?  It’s Sunday, you’re the preacher, and the sermon just doesn't seem to get off the platform.

Every pastor has those times.  Maybe it’s a difficult subject.  Maybe it's even more difficult to make interesting enough for your listeners to actually tune in to.  Or maybe you just don’t feel good physically.  Maybe you’re in a personal slump.  Maybe you and the wife had a fight the night before.  Maybe it’s something you just can’t identify.  We've all been there.

What is a pastor to do then?

Answer:  You preach.

You show up and do your job.

You go in the strength of the Lord since yours is inadequate.

You depend on the same One who took a child’s small lunch and multiplied it to feed thousands.  You trust that He will do something similar with your message.

Ignore your own misgiving about the sermon.  You are a poor judge of your own preaching and what it actually accomplished.

After all, it was “God’s Word” you talked about, not yours.

You remind yourself that the Holy Spirit did a lot of things in church today and your sermon didn’t make or break the service.  People greeted each other in the Name of the Lord, chatted and connect on a personal level, hymns and gospel songs were sung, lives were enriched, the scriptures were read, and prayers offered.  Newcomers were welcomed and God’s people made new friends.

Ministries took place in a hundred places or more.

Were these things important?  You bet they were.

Before you stood to preach, the Holy Spirit had already done a hundred things in the congregation that were Christ-exalting, gospel-oriented, and Body-edifying.

No one hits it out of the ball park every time they get up to bat.  It’s okay to hit a single every now and then.  Even the best of preachers have an off day.

So when your sermon seems out of sync, get over it.  The kingdom was advanced, and that’s all that really matters.

Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On "Being Fed"


Every preacher on the face of the earth has heard it.  Even the greats such as: David Jeremiah, John MacArthur, John Ortberg, Francis Chan, Charles Stanley, David Platt, John Stott, Warren Wiersbe, Adrian Rogers, and Max Lucado, to name a few.

“I’m not being fed.”

I even heard Chuck Swindoll say that the number one complaint he received in his church was "I'm not being fed here anymore."

Are you kidding?

Chuck Swindoll is one of the greatest Bible expositors and communicators in the church today. No one could honestly question the depth and content of his teaching. He is exceptional.

It’s not hard to imagine someone walking out of church the day C.S. Lewis gave his famed sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” and saying it was not in-depth enough, or some other nonsense.

This is a universal complaint and has more to do with the complainant rather than the church or the pastor.

So what’s up?

Spiritual Narcissism.  That’s what’s up.  There is a consumer mentality within Christian subculture that views the church as a feeding station that exists for no other reason than to keep people stimulated and titillated. 

This, of course, turns “teaching” into little more than a food bar as people search for what they like to eat in order to pull it onto their plate.  Even worse is how this “selective feeding” often results in spiritual obesity rather than being fueled for servant-hood.

Narcissism elevates the needs and wants of the individual above all else.

Have you heard the way some people talk?  Words like “I'm not being fed here,” or “didn't enjoy the sermon,” or “It didn't minister to me” rolls off their tongues without even blushing.  We walk out of a worship service saying, “didn't get anything out of it,” as if worship is only about what we receive rather than what we give to God. 

And it’s stunting your spiritual growth.

The real issue is not about whether you are fed, but whether you have learned to feed yourself, or better yet, feed others.

Anyone can be ministered to and fed (no matter who the speaker is or what the topic is)  as long as they’re open and humble enough to hear God’s Word.  He always speaks to those who are receptive.

But the wise and prudent are passed over.  (Matthew 11:25-26).  Look it up.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Went to Church Today, But Didn't Have To


I could I have skipped church today.  But I didn't want to.

Know why?

I love church and want to go.

I love to be there.  I love the atmosphere.  I love the happiness in the voices of all the people, the laughter and joy, the greetings of friends old and new, and the hugs.

You don’t have to beg me to be there.  Nothing competes for my dedication to the worship hour on Sunday.  I will be there, rain or shine, feeling it or not.

I love church so much that I have missed fewer Sundays than I can count on the fingers of one hand in over 35 years.  No kidding.  Even when on vacation, I look for a house of worship when Sunday comes rolling around.

I met my wife in church.  I was married in church.  I was baptized in church.  I dedicated my babies in church.  And I’ve made life-long friends in church.

Most importantly, I have come to know Jesus Christ in church.

So what did we do in church today?

1.  Our worship was prompted by someone else.  Had I stayed home and worshipped, I would have been my own prompter.  But to worship God under the prompting and leadership of another is a good thing.

2.  We received spiritual nourishment from those led by the Holy Spirit.  The worship leaders carefully chose and selected the songs we sang; the musicians skillfully played; and the singers sang with glorious talent, making it easy for the rest of us.  The morning message from God’s Word was Christ honoring and edifying to the body of believers.

3.  We had a full 80 minutes of uninterrupted worship, focusing on nothing else than God.  From the call to worship, prayers, songs, scripture reading, message, and benediction, it was 80 minutes of focusing on God.  Had I stayed home to worship on my own, after 10 minutes or so I would have thought of a dozen other things to do.

4.  We were prompted and reminded to prioritize spiritual things that we may not have thought of on our own.  A public assembly on the Lord’s Day has a certain anointing that does not exist elsewhere.  It’s how we “provoke one another unto good works.”

5.   It is my Christian duty to be there.  Jesus Christ gave His life for my salvation.  The very least I can do is give Him my allegiance on the first day of the week, Sunday, which is “the Lord’s Day” – not my day.

6.  I witnessed many others who were there for the same reason as myself -  they wanted to be there - and it was very encouraging to me.  There were a lot of people in church today who had every reason to stay home.  Their attendance was a personal sacrifice and great inconvenience.  But as members in the Body, they knew their part was vital to the whole.  Seeing their dedication and selfless service for the sake of others was inspiring.  

Yea, I was glad I went to church today.

And I plan on being there next Sunday and the Sunday after that.

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go to the house of the LORD (Psalms 122:1)





Friday, December 6, 2013

Flu

I've had the flu all week long, running a temperature of 102-103 degrees for four days.  Liked to have killed me.  Really packed a wallop.

Finally this morning, Friday, the fever has broken and my temperature is normal, but I still feel like I've been run over by a truck.  My strength is very low and I didn't eat for three days.

And yes, I felt and looked as bad as the guy in this picture.

However, I'm hopeful that I will be strong enough for Sunday.  I'll be preaching this week.  The message title is "The Advent of Jesus Christ."

At any rate, that explains my inactivity on this blog this week.  I will be resuming a normal pace in a couple of days.

See you Sunday at PCC.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five Things We Got Right From the Beginning


PCC will celebrate its 17th year in five months.  Most churches make it or break it in the first five years of their existence.  I don’t understand all of this in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit and how much human skill is needed.  However, I do know that Paul recognized the need for wisdom and skill (on a human level) when he called himself a “wise master builder” when it came to church planting.  I wrote about this in 2008 here 

So, recognizing that nothing can be accomplished without a sovereign move of God, there are some things that we did get right in our formative years, that, I believe contributed to our longevity.

Here are five of the most decisive:

1.  In terms of programming/activities, we focused on two main things:  the weekend services and children's ministry.  Not small groups, mid-week services, choirs, cantatas, extra programs, foreign missions, or any thing else that may have broadened our ministry but blunted our impact..  We were decidedly simple because we were building from the ground up, and these two became the foundation for everything.

2.  We waited to build a building, using rented facilities as long as possible (about 8 ½ years).  We didn't wait to buy land, purchasing 25 acres after only three years of existence.  This is the crucial interplay.  Get your land as quickly as possible, and postpone building a building as long as possible.  The biggest mistake that new churches make is building too soon.  When a congregation of 75 people votes to build, they will build what 75 people can afford (which is small building and a long mortgage).  Now the shoe is telling the foot how big it is allowed to get.

3.  We put most of our resources and effort into outreach.  Lot’s of churches say they do this, but then they build their paid staff quick and large (instead of training volunteers and laymen), have super nice office space in the executive park, and, well, you get my point.

For the first 5-6 years the church offices were in my home.  Yep, my home phone was the church’s phone.  I worked as a bi-vocational pastor for the first 8 ½ years.  When we added two staff members, they too were bi-vocational.  My point is that we funneled what little money we had into things that would reach people – not serve us.  Still do.

4.  I had a bulldog tenacity in keeping the main thing the main thing.  By that I mean holding to the mission of the church and not allowing mission drift to set in.  We toed the line and made all of our decisions in light of our mission, vision, and values.  We lost a lot of people as a result (i.e., people who wanted to take us in another direction), but God has blessed this church with many more people.  The lesson I learned is this:  Churches grow by subtraction as much as by addition.

5.  Finally, we had a growth bias.  I know that sounds crass and it might invite all kinds of comments about the value of small churches, but let me make my point.  The NT demonstrates numerical growth, physical growth, and spiritual growth.  The book of Acts shows the early church grew by the thousands, and the very reason we know the numbers is because someone counted!

Consider these statistics:
  • There are more than 400,000 churches in America and 50% (200,000) of them run less that 75 people in attendance
  • 25% of all churches (100,000) run less than 35 in attendance
  • And 95% of all churches (380,000) have less than 300 people in attendance.
That means when PCC hit the 75 attendance mark we were as large as half the churches in America, and when we crossed the 300 attendance threshold we were in the upper five percent of all churches in America in regards to attendance size.

One of the most important things we did in the beginning was to establish a preferred vision of the future so firmly in our minds and spirit that we acted upon it, and then made decisions based upon it.  We believed to our core that we would be something other than a small church and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In the very least, it was a vision we worked towards.  Whatever the reason, it seemed to work for us.

Again, I don’t know why these things matter as much as they do.  I just know they do.  It isn't meant to diminish the power of prayer, Biblical teaching, reliance upon the Holy Spirit, and such.  There just seems to be a “street smart” element to the things that really count.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump - November 24, 2013 (Monday Edition)


One word describes today’s service:  Great.

It was a solid day.

That’s one of the things I like about PCC the most; things are solid and well-done. Consistently.

It’s because we have such so many gifted people, committed people, skilled leaders, and multiple layers of talent.

Take today’s service for example – everything flowed seamlessly from start to finish. 

From the opening call to worship – to the teen appeal for warm clothing – to the exceptional song service (really loved the hymn) – to the brief message – to the ushers who served so well – to the receiving of elements – to the closing song – IT WAS A JOB WELL DONE!

Really appreciate the workers who served in the Kids Zone today too – their sacrificial service does not go unnoticed.

The ushers really did a good job.  They always do.  Many of these men are true deacons in every sense of the word.

The last month has been incredible at PCC.

Plus, attendance has been on the upswing the last few weeks.  Glad to see it.

Today we got a firm commitment from a couple to help make Kids Zone the best it can possibly be.

Really love it when people step forward like this.  Thank you.

BTW, I think Gary Weiborg’s sermon last Sunday was one of the best I have ever heard.

I really like it when God sends us seasoned people who get it and get it done.

Do you know that PCC has six pastors who attend here?  By that I mean six men who have served as senior pastors in other churches.  Of those six, four actively serve in some capacity at PCC.

That is in addition to the home-grown pastors we’ve raised up from within our own ranks.

We are fortunate.

December is going to be a great month at PCC.  We’ll hear a couple of speakers from our teaching team; the children’s choir will be performing again; and we’ll have a special Christmas service (with an emphasis on Advent) the Sunday before Christmas.

In January I plan to start a new message series from the OT book of Hosea.  It will be verse-by-verse… and it one of my favorite ways of teaching.

Blessings…


Friday, November 22, 2013

Good Things at PCC


The fruit of being a long-term pastor is really beginning to manifest itself in ways I could have never predicted.  Right now at PCC things are about as good as they have ever been.  I'm talking about the spiritual side of things and the far-reaching influence that PCC has right now into the community.  Sometimes I am left standing in awe.  Only God.  

It’s humbling to me, that in our 17th year as a church, we have witnessed so many people go public in their new found faith, watched believers grow, and accomplished so much.  I think that’s because we have never lost sight of the mission of the Church – to make disciples.  We’ve kept ourselves on tract when so many have tried to side tract us.  As a church family we have made this journey together – in fair weather and in crisis – and still PCC remains - stronger and more influential than ever.

Sometimes I lose sight of the steady kingdom impact we have accomplished over the years.  But when I take the time to look, to really look, I know this is a God thing.  And God willing, there will be many more years to come!

There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right.  Its beauty and power is something to witness…. and experience!  The local church builds bridges to the lost, offers truth to the confused, opens hers arms to the forgotten, and builds up the believer.

To this day I am still amazed at the journey PCC has traveled for almost 17 years.  Thousands of stories are told by real people who have been touched by God’s love.  Each story serves as a vivid reminder of the steady kingdom impact this ministry has had.  I absolutely love everything God is doing in our lives and our church. 

Looking ahead, I could not be more excited than I am right now.  This year is drawing to a close and we will finish well.  The New Year is almost upon us and looks brighter than ever!

Over the years since the beginning of PCC, staff members have come and gone, board members have come and gone, elders have come and gone, key lay leaders and donors have come and gone.  Even friends have come and gone.  Most left because of the unavoidable transitions of a mobile society.  Other departures have been painful and cut me to the core.  But either way, these exits have led to some of the loneliest moments of my life.  Why?  Because losing people hurts.

But after numerous late-night gut checks, I have come to complete clarity on this matter.  By God’s grace, I'm in this for the long haul and I fully intend to pursue the mission God has entrusted to this church, no matter what, no matter who comes or goes.  Whether PCC is setting records and I’m enjoying the enthusiastic support of people or if PCC is stumbling and struggling and I end up alone, still I will pursue the vision.

And I know most of you will continue on this journey too – just as you already have.  Together we are co-laborers for a cause greater than ourselves - Christ and His Church. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pastoral Requirement: The Ability to Teach

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“An overseer (episkopos) then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, ABLE TO TEACH….” (I Timothy 3:2)

The main function of a pastor/elder is to feed the flock.  To do this, he must possess the ability to teach.  He must be skilled in teaching scripture.

In the OT God said through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will give you shepherds after My own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15).  That’s how the flock is fed… with knowledge and understanding that comes from those who are able to teach.

So what’s the difference between preaching and teaching?

You can spend a lifetime trying to figure out the difference between the two and never arrive at an answer.  In fact, the Bible seems to use the two words interchangeable.  Nevertheless, everyone has their own idea of how they differ.  Usually, it goes something like this:

If the pastor is talking in a relatively normal voice, then he is teaching.  But if he begins yelling, then he is preaching.  (And the louder he gets, the more anointing he has).

Or, you can distinguish the difference between teaching and preaching by the location of his necktie.  If the pastor loosens his necktie and is sucking air, he is preaching.  But if he leaves the knot in the middle, he is teaching.

I’m not being facetious, people actually believe that!

When I first began in the ministry, my mannerisms when preaching were much difference then they are now.  I used to pace back and forth on the platform like a caged lion.  I fell into the linguistic trap of trying to sound anointed.  I yelled, and waved my arms as I tried to wax eloquent.

But one day I was listening to another preacher who said something like this:  “The content of your message should have enough substance that you don’t need theatrics.  Look at Jesus’ style; when He preached the greatest sermon ever preached (the Sermon on the Mount), the Bible says He sat down and taught them (Matthew 5:1-2).  He didn’t run around like a cat with His tail caught on fire.”

Then it dawned on me.  The power of the message is in the content, not my platform mannerisms.  Knowledge and understanding of God’s Word is what changes lives and feeds sheep.

That day, I stopped yelling and began to focus instead on teaching God’s Word. I stopped 'working the room.' I stopped preaching to 'get a response' from the crowd. Instead, I started digging deeper into content because I wanted people to learn knowledge and understanding.  I decided right then and there that it is more important to influence people rather than trying to impress them.

That’s why “able to teach” is so vital to pastoral ministry.

Teach them, pastor.
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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump - November 17, 2013


Holy Cow!  Today was absolutely a good day at PCC.

Hands down.

Attendance was way up again… the children’s choir knocked it out of the ball park… Renee Jones & Sandra Brooks did an exceptional job coaching and leading the kids… Nan Castleberry & Philip Polk nailed the offertory… and Gary Weighborg’s message was riveting.

God was glorified… the Body of Christ was edified… and Jesus was lifted up.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Out of the mouth of babes thou has perfected praise” (Matthew 21:16)

I am very proud of the PCC family.