Monthly Archives: May 2018
Few things test a marriage like money. To be clear, money isn’t the root problem, but it does expose relational deficiencies and priorities. How a couple manages money will reveal what they really treasure and love. It will ultimately reveal the affection(s) of their hearts.
Here are five questions married couples can ask to evaluate whether or not they are honoring God and each other with their money and possessions.
(These questions are mostly applicable to single people, but the impetus for writing this blog is a session I always do on money for those who seek premarital counseling.)
- Do we think biblically about God’s money? The money you possess is really God’s money. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains; the world and those who dwell in it.” (Ps. 24:1) Seeking to build your own kingdom and security by your own power instead of being rich toward God is foolish (Luke 12:13-21). If God is not first place, then something else is, and how you think about God and money will show it. If you don’t see your money in a God-centered way, then money and what it affords will become to you a god and savior.
- Do we practice joyful generosity toward God’s people? The discussion about how much is one worth having, but what is biblically clear is that God wants those who belong to Christ to be generous in giving and He wants them to be cheerful about it (2 Corinthians 6:9-12). God is concerned with both the quantity and quality of your giving. It really is quite simple; God wants us to supply the needs of the saints for their well-being and the work of ministry (2 Corinthians 9:12 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18), and so He asks all who belong to Christ to be generous. God is most glorified when we do this joyfully and not under compulsion. Our giving should be gospel-driven and motivated by God giving the greatest gift of all; His only begotten Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is one of the primary ways to answer the first question: “Are we rich toward God?”
- Do money and possessions produce ongoing conflict and tension in our marriage or other relationships? If there is constantly conflict over money, then there is likely one of two reasons. First, there is no reasonable expectation by which the couple can communicate about spending. This is why a budget is so important. The budget is a visible and agreed upon expectation that both people seek to honor. With a budget, both people know what is coming in, and they both have agreed to a plan by which the money is spent and goes out. The expectation of a budget provides the opportunity for accountability and a shared cause. Second, there is a lack of communication about the shared expectation. Someone has to take the primary responsibility to track expenses and communicate the budget reality in a considerate, clear and kind way. Both people should agree who the point person will be, and then they have to be willing to communicate and agree upon how the money should be spent. When there is no reasonable expectation for expenses and little or no communication, then trust is eroded, and conflict is inevitable.
- Do we have excessive and perpetual debt? Look, with the exception of Dave Ramsey, few people are going to fault you for having a mortgage and reasonable car loan. But if debt causes you to take on more debt when the need for normal expenditures arise like car maintenance and vacations, then you have too much debt. If debt keeps you from being generous toward God and His people, then you have a debt problem. If debt is a constant source of conflict, then you might need to revisit number three. Sure, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and we have to take steps that might create debt. But the truth is this: A lot of debt, if not most, is avoidable. No debt is best, but debt that steals joy, kills relationships and destroys opportunities is nothing less than a slave (Proverbs 22:7).
- Are we trapped by materialism? Again, look at questions one, two and four to get started answering this question. From there ask: Do we have more than we can take care of in time and money? Is our greatest joy found in the stuff that we claim to own? How do we respond when it gets old, dinged, damaged or destroyed? Do we worry about our stuff more than we worry about eternal matters like the souls of people and those who have almost nothing presently? Do we own our stuff or does our stuff own us? Does our stuff cause strife with others that we love and care about? When we look back on our lives, will we have given our best energy and time to the acquisition of possessions that will not last? Are we going into debt to have stuff that we actually can’t afford? Are we able to live within a budget and have delayed gratification if there is something we really want? Will we ever have enough? When will enough be enough? If you can’t be happy without money and possessions, then you will likely never be happy with them – at least not for long.
Money is not bad. As a matter of fact, God can use it for all sorts of good in the life of our marriage and other relationships. But we have to be willing to ask some tough questions and be honest about the place of money in our lives. Get a-hold of your money, or it will have hold of you.
In the not so distant past I was thinking about all the Godly and solid pastors who are slogging away with little or no notoriety. We know about the many dead and living heroes who have thousands of Twitter followers and have prominent platforms, but what about the guy who is doing a great job with little or no fanfare? Don’t get me wrong, I thank God for the pastors and leaders who are faithfully serving and have broad influence to let us know about all the good things happening in their churches and ministries, but what about those who are serving in quiet faithfulness?
And then I had another thought: instead of those faithful and quiet pastors and leaders posting about their own ministry, what if someone else wrote about them. What if someone else sought to honor them and shared about their quiet faithfulness?
For example, I have a pastor friend who quietly and faithfully serves the Lord’s people in Allen, Oklahoma. I have known Chad Kaminski for almost twenty years. We first met at a university disciple now in Ada, Oklahoma. At the time, he was a student and I was his small group leader. I don’t remember a lot about our time together, and I don’t remember anyone else particularly, but I do remember Chad and that he was very intuitive and seemed to be a leader among his peers. Oh, and I think he challenged me a few times in front of the rest of the group. But as you will see if you keep reading, I am over it.
Fast forward to somewhere around the year 2010 when we crossed paths again, serving together on a Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) vision team. Since then Chad and I have built and maintained a friendship as fellow Oklahoma pastors. We interact regularly on social media and occasionally text and visit by phone.
I admire Chad for his faithfulness in one place. He still serves in his first pastorate and has loved the same body of Christ for almost 15 years. It appears to me that more pastors are staying in one place for longer stints, and I think that is a healthy trend, but 15 years in only one place is very impressive. He told me he has endured by being fed by mentors like Tim Keller, Mark Dever and D.A. Carson. Longevity has afforded Chad the opportunity to patiently preach and teach his people through some difficult transitions, moving them away from doctrines that are antithetical to the gospel and mission of Jesus.
During his tenure God has done a lot of work on Chad in moving him away from moralism to a more gospel-centered message and approach to ministry. When I asked him what he meant by this, he said that he now sees that the whole Bible is about Jesus and His saving work and everything in the Christian life flows from that. He said about his early preaching and teaching “I would tell my people that this passage teaches us to do this and not do that, but I would often fail to incorporate a Christ-driven understanding and motivation of the text. Everything flows from the gospel. If we tell people what to do or what not to do without telling them why they should do because of the gospel, then we are teaching them to be Pharisees who try to perform their way to a right standing with God.”
Chad told me that his favorite part of being a pastor is helping hurting people. “It is a delight to help them from the scriptures, showing them that God is for them and He is not grading their performance to see if they are good enough. I delight to apply the gospel to people’s difficulties.”
Like all of us, Chad has struggles in life and ministry. He admitted that he can be prone to make idols out of things he wants to accomplish as a leader, and he said it is hard to love people who seem to always want to keep you in check when trying to lead. He also noted that one of the biggest challenges he faces is trying to lead without “unraveling people” and not getting too frustrated so that the church can move forward to a better future while still keeping it together. Leading change and keeping people together is painstaking work.
Chad is a fantastic biblical thinker. He strategically uses Facebook to pastor his own people and others by writing posts that always start with: “A Few Thoughts On…” Some of the topics he has addressed are:
- Being Extra Tired
- Being the Main Guy
- The School Construction (in Allen)
- Paige Patterson and Battered Women
- Emotional Blackmail
- Ordinary Pastoral Struggles
I find Chad’s writing to be biblical, brave, clear and applicable.
Chad is also very witty as evidenced by a recent post about the royal wedding that many woke early to watch: “In 1776, I stopped caring about royal weddings.” Now I had not idea that Chad was that old, but I see his mind and found myself wondering what all the commotion was about since we Americans have moved onward and upward.
I have already alluded to this, but I very much admire Chad’s courage. Despite his telling me he does not like confrontation, I like that he is willing to go to bat for his convictions when he thinks an issue truly matters. Most recently he has been quite critical of Paige Patterson and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary because of the way they have handled a recent controversy surrounding comments by Patterson. I believe Chad’s criticism is valid, and I admire that he has the backbone to express it in a straightforward and substantive way.
Suffice it to say, I truly admire Chad and I hope it continues to quietly and faithfully serve the Lord Jesus and His people in Allen, Oklahoma. If the Lord should give him a larger church and bigger platform, I trust he will be faithful with it and thankful for it also.
If you are reading this, perhaps God will impress it upon your heart and mind to think of someone who is serving quietly and faithfully, but gets little or no recognition in ministry circles. Maybe instead of tweeting our own successes, you and I could do a better job of honoring and building others up. In the final analysis, the only applause that will matter in the end is that of the Lord Jesus Christ, but until then, maybe each of us could do our part to spur someone else on toward love and good deeds, building them up as a part of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ.
Call me crazy, but I really enjoy mowing and trimming the lawn. I like being able to start something and see it finished to my standard of satisfaction, even if it is only for a moment.
But to enjoy the process and outcome of manicuring the lawn, I have recently been picking up a lot of rocks. You see, we had a house built this past year and the dirt work left a lot of various sized rocks all over the place. Rocks are good for many things, but they are bad for lawnmower blades and windows.
I want to mow the lawn. I like to mow and trim the lawn. I find satisfaction in doing so. But I need to pick up the rocks to do what I enjoy doing.
Such is so much of life.
If we want to do what we enjoy doing, and do it well, then we will have to do some things we need to do. And we may not always enjoy doing what we need to do, but we will do it in order to do what we enjoy.
If I don’t do what I need to do, to do what I want to do, then when mowing the lawn I might lose the enjoyment when I damage my lawnmower and surrounding windows.
So I will continue to pick up the rocks for the enjoyment of doing what I desire to do. And in doing so, perhaps I will learn to value picking up the rocks as a means to a more fulfilling end.
“Rejoice evermore! I wish that it had always been in my heart and on my tongue. Ah, I am filled with an irresistible impulse to fall on my knees in adoration, right here. If only my knees would bend like they used to.”
These are the words of Paul Giamatti in his portrayal of John Adams in the HBO miniseries, John Adams. Adams is at the end of his life, having accomplished much as a founding father and having held both the office of vice-president and president of the United States. At the age of 90 years, he has also experienced much disappointment and loss. His middle son has been consumed by alcoholism, his daughter lost to breast cancer and his beloved wife and friend has preceded him by death.
In this scene he is on a walk with his youngest son, Thomas, when he spots a flowering shrub. This causes him to remember that his mother often said to him that he did not delight enough in the mundane.
He pauses in the presence of his son, and declares with the apostle Paul: “Rejoice evermore! Rejoice evermore!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
This is a bitter-sweet and emotional moment. He longs to rejoice, but reflects that he has lost so much time in which he has forsaken it. He wants to bend his knees, but his knees won’t bend in his aged and feeble body.
Oh, that we would see the beauty of the world while we may enjoy the creator of it.
Oh, that we would bend our knees while they still may bend.
Oh, that we would rejoice on earth as we will in heaven. For even now, in Christ, have we nothing to rejoice about? In Christ, rejoice in the Lord always!
How do we make decisions about what we preach from Sunday to Sunday?
Before sharing how we decide what to preach, it might be helpful to identify who the “we” is. Most of the time I initiate a discussion with Pastor Ryan about what I have in mind, and Ryan gives feedback or offers alternatives. Occasionally, I will ask for input from an Elder or the Elders. The congregation has a role to play in this process, but I will describe their part in a moment.
There are at least eight factors that contribute to how we decide what we preach to the people of Eagle Heights:
We start with the Bible and primarily preach through it, not around it. Because we truly believe the Bible is God’s special and sufficient word to His people, the majority of the preaching we do is through books of the Bible, a section of thought at a time. Do we do some topical exposition? Yes. But the majority of our preaching is sequential exposition to honor what the Spirit has inspired.
We strive to be balanced and Christ-centered. We preach from both the Old Testament and New Testament to show that all the scriptures ultimately point to Jesus as our only hope in life and death.
We strive to be pastoral. This gets back to the role of the congregation that I mentioned earlier. When considering what we might preach through or about, we consider the need of our people. For instance, about two years ago the Elders realized that in order to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:16-20), we needed to explain carefully and thoroughly Jesus’ commands regarding church discipline in Matthew 18:15-18. You often have to first preach what you practice.
We strive to be sensitive to our calendar context. We live in small city with a major university and so there are some very clear seasons in the life of our church. In the summer when most of our university student members are gone and many families are vacationing, we try to do sermons that can stand alone. For example, we have often used the summer to preach through selected Psalms. This summer we will be preaching through various sections of thought that highlight Christology. We also try to start preaching through books of the Bible when school starts so that our university members have the opportunity to experience the full context. We are not a slave to the calendar, but we try to plan through it with the whole church in mind.
We see societal moments as teachable opportunities. Several years ago there were several undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood for selling aborted baby body parts. We took that opportunity to preach on the importance of the sanctity of life and the need to oppose those who prey on those who cannot defend themselves. This past year in Charlottesville, Virginia, racist groups rallied to espouse hate, but we used an opportunity for hate to speak about the biblical dignity given by God to all human beings regardless of ethnicity. These opportunities may come unexpectedly so they require some flexibility in our planning.
We embrace hard topics. God’s word does not shrink back from topics that may assault our cultural sensibilities. The Bible speaks to issues like sexuality, purity, divorce, government, judgment, false teachers, etc. When we see the need for it, we carefully and biblically move toward hard topics because the world needs to see that God has something to say about all of life. The world is talking and teaching about these kinds of things, the church cannot afford to run from them and hope they go away. We will plan sermons to deal with difficult passages and topics.
We are repetitive about some biblical topics. Generally speaking, we believe the doctrine of the church is under-explained by local churches, and so we try to teach about what the church is and what we should be doing. Because Satan wants to destroy God’s design for His people, we also emphasize personal relationships yearly. We also devote a month every year to mission and missions for the sake of mobilization and staying outward focused.
We try to plan several months ahead. Pastor Ryan has helped me considerably with this. It used to be that we would pick a book and we were done when we finished it, however long it took. Using biblical resources and the calendar, we try to plan in advance for the sake of scheduling preachers and helping our small groups decide about content (some small groups choose to follow the sermons). This also helps our people to know how many years they should expect to be in a book like Romans.
As you can see, there are many factors that contribute to sermon planning. If you are a member of Eagle Heights, pray for those of us who lead, that we will do what is best for our faith family. If you are a part of another local church, pray for your lead pastor and Elders as they makes decisions about what is best for the people they will give an account for. May God give us confidence that produces patience, trusting He knows what is best for us when we need it most.