Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Day in DC

Today I had the privilege of visiting a few significant places in Washington, D.C. – the WW2 Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, and the Capitol.

I have some strong feelings as I reflect on my visits today:
1. We live in a great country.
I am so thankful to live in a country where we can travel freely, pursue our dreams, and worship as we chose. There is no doubt God’s hand has been on this country.

2. It is important to remember the past.
I love history, and I love the rich history of this country. Lessons abound in history – both good and bad. Each of the monuments and museums in Washington are filled with lessons. We must learn from the past and seek to be vessels of godliness for the future.

3. Freedom always has a price tag.
Freedom is never free. Our national freedom has been paid for with the blood of many soldiers. At the WW2 Memorial there is an inscription, “The Price of Freedom.” Behind it are 4,000 gold stars representing the 400,000 American soldiers who gave their lives in that war. As I observed this part of the memorial, I was reminded that Jesus gave His life to purchase our freedom from sin, Satan, and slavery.

4. The capacity for evil is great in the sinful heart of man.
What Hitler and others did in seeking to exterminate the Jews is horrific. The pictures, videos, and descriptions of human suffering at the Holocaust Museum make your mind ponder, your stomach turn, and your heart grieve. During my entire visit I kept thinking of the verse, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (Jer. 17:9?” The only cure for this sinful condition is the blood of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit to change a person from the inside out.

5. Though our country is not perfect, we have been a huge force for good in the world.
Despite the heaviness of going through the Holocaust Museum, I left proud of my country in helping to bring an end to WW2 and the Nazi atrocities. If it were not for the Allied forces, who knows what else Hitler would have done. Furthermore, our history is rich with Christian influence and the greatness of democracy.

6. Biblical Christianity has played an enormous part in shaping our history.
Everyone you go in Washington there is evidence of the enormous influence of the Bible and Christianity on this great country. Just today I saw scripture on every wall in a certain room at the Holocaust Museum, as well as paintings in the Capitol rotunda of the baptism of Pochohontas and the Pilgrims arriving with Bible in hand.

I love days like this – rich in thought, deep in emotion, and motivation for the will.

I desire to be a history-maker, but not for my glory or fame. Instead, I want my mark to be eternal for the glory of God.

Let’s give our all for Jesus in the few years we have on earth!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Biblical Principles of Financial Stewardship

1 Chronicles 28-29 provides us with some amazing principles of financial stewardship. I love this passage and used it as my guide in leading my former church in four capital campaigns. "Raising money" can often be seen as a necessary negative of ministry; however, I have come to see financial needs as a wonderful opportunity for a church to experience God in tangible ways. This can be accomplished by following these biblical principles:

1. Humility ("my son, Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced" - 29:1. Humble dependence on God is the first and most important principle. Experience is not what God is after, but rather a heart that is totally dependent upon Him. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, and we certainly need His grace when it comes to a capital campaign. Are you walking in humility?

2. Vision ("I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark" - 28:2). Vision is affected by the past, rooted in the present, with a picture of the future. King David had this vision for the Temple. God put this vision in his heart. Though he was not the one to actually see it fulfilled, God still used David in the process. What is your vision? Put it on paper and share it with others.

3. Purity ("The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man, but for the Lord God" - 29:1). David's vision was pure in that he wanted something for God's glory. It is very easy for a building project or capital campaign to be for the glory of the pastor. We must have no part in such endeavors. Instead, we must pursue a vision that is truly for the Lord's glory! Is your vision for God's glory?

4. Sacrifice ("With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God" - 29:2). David personally invested in this project. He did not call others to do anything that he was not personally willing to do. Each time our church did a capital campaign, I had to personally sacrifice. During one campaign the Lord directed Dede and me to give three months salary for three years to the campaign. Therefore, I signed over every paycheck for the months of October, November, and December (for three years) to our campaign. To this day, there is no explanation but God for how we made it during those three years. I love this definition of sacrifice: "Giving up something you value for something you value more!" Pastor, ask God what He would have you commit to the campaign, and then wait expectantly for His provision and power.

5. Leadership ("then the leaders ... gave toward the work" - 29:6-7). Because of David's example, the leaders gave sacrificially. If you are in leadership, ask God what he would have you do. Your example is crucial to the overall success of the campaign. Lead by example, and as you experience God in your sacrificial giving, be willing to share your story with others. Testimonies are so powerful in a campaign.

6. Participation ("The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders ... And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you" - 29:9, 17). What a great progression we see here: David gave, leaders gave, and now the people follow suite. This is the way it usually works. The congregation will follow the example of their leaders. Notice also the joyful and willing participation. This is because of our next principle:

7. Lordship ("we have given only what comes from Your hand" - 29:14). The essence of stewardship is lordship. When we truly believe that all we have is God's, then we are willing to offer it freely to the Lord. We are merely managers (i.e. stewards) of what God owns. It is not mine. If God says, "Give back to me ___", then we must give back to Him what He says. Pray and obey is a great theme to have in a capital campaign. If everyone prays and obeys what God's says, then whatever God wants to provide will be there! Is Jesus lord of your life? Of your money?

8. Eternal Perspective ("We are aliens and strangers in Your sight ... our days on earth are like a shadow" - 29:15). A huge piece of stewardship for me is having an eternal perspective. What is really going to last? I want to invest my time, money, and possessions in that which will last forever. Giving to kingdom ministry is an eternal investment, and will yield eternal fruit and rewards.

What a privilege to give toward a capital campaign that is for the glory of God and rooted in biblical principles! I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Have I Learned Since High School?

Last night was my 30-year high school reunion. Wow - that is enough to make you feel real old! The planning committee asked me to share a brief message at the main event. I was extremely honored to be asked to do this; however, it was very much out of my comfort zone to do so. I was more uncomfortable doing this than any sermon I have preached. Therefore, much prayer went into it. I had two goals: to not be preaching and to keep it way under the 20 minutes they gave me. It was actually about 12 minutes and here is what I shared:

It is a great privilege to be here tonight and share a few thoughts with you.

I want to introduce my wife of 23 years, Dede …. we have 4 children and just moved back to GA after 18 years in the frigid state of WI. Someone put on Facebook yesterday that they wanted to put up Christmas decorations because it was getting cool – it is not cool in GA right now.

I don’t know about you, but isn’t it kind of weird to come to an event like this? I mean, it makes you feel old. I told some people this week I was coming to my 30 year high school reunion they said, “Dude, you are old!” Thanks a lot!

Here is what will make you feel old, do you know how much a gallon of gas costs in 1961? 31 cents; and a postage stamp? 4 cents

But as weird as it might be to come to a reunion like this, these kind of events are actually good for us, because they make us reflect on our lives and hopefully consider what is most important, so what I want to do tonight is share with you:

The 4 Most Important Things I Have Learned Since High School. This first is this:
1. Time Flies.

It seems like yesterday that Mike Bush had the big club hand and the spirit stick was being fought for!

You know the country song “Don’t blink”? We’ll; we blinked, and all of sudden we are nearing 50 years old, some of us have kids in college, and some are even grandparents. By the way, how many grandparents do we have?

Billy Graham was interviewed recently on CNN and they asked him what is one of the most important lessons you have learned, and he said, “The swift passage of time.”

Time flies. Life is so short.

I have a sobering habit of reading the obituaries and I am amazed how often I see people who are 18, 26, 40, or my age: 48. I read the obituaries to remind me of how short life is.

Even tonight we have remembered those from our class who have already died. None of us are guaranteed another day!

The 2nd thing I have learned is this:
2. Life can be painful.

As a pastor I come in contact with pain on a regular basis. I have done the funeral for small children, even infants, seen a good friend die at 40 from bone cancer; just this week one of my best friends’ divorce was final, and in about a month I will see my wife’s brother go back to Iraq for the 3rd time and he is scheduled to leave one week after his 2nd child is due.

Many of you here have probably been through or are going through some serious health issues, the death of someone close, divorce, cancer, depression, anxiety, or any other number of painful situations.

Well it was Jesus said, “in this world you will have much tribulation…” I like the way Jesus always tells the truth.

And those painful situations will either make us better or bitter, and I have sure seen both. I have seen people get bitter through pain and then try to cover it up with all kinds of things that end up being very harmful and sometimes addictive.

And I have also seen others get better through pain. And these are the ones who are amazing agents of help to others who are hurting. Mike Broom, you are one of those people. I cannot imagine the pain you had in losing Beth.

The 3rd thing I have learned is:
3. Success is not determined by what you have.

Our culture often tells us you measure success by the title you have, your position in the company, or the toys you own.

It’s like the person who said he spent his whole life climbing up the ladder, only to realize at the end it was leaning against the wrong wall.

The problem with living for material things is that you can’t buy happiness and it is all so temporary, it can be gone in a moment, and ultimately when you die, you can’t take it with you. I have never been to a funeral where a U-Haul followed the Hearst.

The family of John D. Rockefeller was asked when he died, “How much did he leave?” And they said, “All of it.”

The 4th thing I have learned and this one is by far the most important and makes a huge difference in the other 3, and that is this:
4. God is real and He wants us to know Him.

Some of you might be thinking, “Now don’t get religious on me.” Trust me, this is not religion, but rather a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and there is a huge difference.

I have had the privilege to traveling to the Holy Land twice and to Greece where so many biblical events occurred, and it is incredible to see firsthand the accuracy of the bible and tangible proof for the historicity of Jesus.

I did not become a Christian until our senior year at Clarkston, largely due to the influence of a Bible Study held in the home of Rene Walker Harris. Thanks Rene. And I can tell you Jesus Christ has made such a difference in my life – to give me purpose and joy.

So as I wrap it up, I want to go back to the first three lessons and show how God can be real in each of those:

1. I mentioned that Time flies and our lives are so short here on earth,
But when you are a follower of Christ, He promises you eternal life and your life here on earth can be lived with an eternal perspective, so that whether you live to be 14, 48 or 90 your life can make a difference for all eternity.

I love that scene in the movie the Dead Poets’ Society where Robin Williams takes the students to the trophy case and shows them the picture of past athletes and heroes, and he says, “Look in their eyes; think back to what it must have been like for them – so young with the world before them, but now their bodies are being eaten by worms.” And then he gave hem this challenge: “carpe diem. Seize the day.”

And our lives are so short that we must seize the day, and live for what really matters – God matters the most.

2. Life can be painful but God wants to be there in the midst of our pain to help us through it.

We never know what life may throw us, which is why we need One who is bigger than life.

It is often through pain that we can experience God the most. C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain…. Pain is God’s megaphone.”

The Bible says, “Caste all your care on Him, for He cares for you.”

God wants you to get closer to Him through your pain and then be able to help others in their pain.

Earlier I quoted Jesus when He said, “In this world you will have tribulation” and the second part of that verse is, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

3. Success is not about what you have but rather it’s about who you know.

It’s all about relationships – with God and others. That’s what matters the most, and not how big our house is or the car we drive.

This is why Jesus said the 2 greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

I love that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey opens the book the angel left him and written inside was this message: “He is not poor who has friends.”

That is why events like this are so good, because they help us deepen relationships.

Not to be morbid, but who will come to your funeral and what will they say? Will they have to lie or will there be a long line to get to the microphone and talk about how your life impacted them and made a difference?

Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

I don’t want any of you to forfeit your soul!!!! So I want to end with some really good news; our world is filled with bad news, but here is the best news ever given to human beings:

Jn. 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever trusts in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Jer. 29: 11-13 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope, and you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

I pray that God will reveal Himself to each one of you! Thank you!