The River

12 Sep

Last night I attended the first service of a new church being planted in Papillion, NE called “The River”. Their kick-off event was centered around an art show and 9/11 Memorial service. They had 10th Hour Calling as the worship band and used video’s and interviews to remember the events of 9/11. It was a real nice service. After the service, I talked to Pastor Dan Courtney and he reported that there were about 140 adults there – 170 total when you include the kids. That is an awesome showing!

Next week, Dan is begininning a new sermon series entitled, “Will the real Jesus please stand up?” 10th Hour Calling will be there again and will have more of a concert following the service.

If you are looking for a different kind of church – a church for tHIS generation – then check out the River at the Rock, 225 S. Washington, Papillion NE. For information call Pastor’s Dan Courtney or Dietrich Winter at 402-408-6438. You can visit their website at http://www.riverfromtherock.com

Faith or Fundraising

8 Sep

And the next time you consider playing the lottery, remember that God doesn’t need money to do a great work. If your ministry is truly of God, and you remain faithful until the end, you too will turn your faith into an Act of God.

I just received the latest “call to arms” email from Tom Fortson, president of Promise Keepers. It seems that they are looking at a $3 million dollar shortfall this year – “due in part to an unexpected drop in donations these past few months”. It was a nice fundraising letter, addressed directly to me and using my name a few places here and there to make it seem more personal. It even came from the “desk of Tom Fortson” which means that I must be really important!

I also get almost daily mailings (it seems) from Candice Gregory, president of Open Door Mission here in Omaha. Almost every mailing – very nicely done – requests that I send more money. You see, I made a sizable gift to them last fall and now they think they found a piggy bank.

I spent $80 to go to the Promise Keepers event in Omaha this year. According to the mailing, they served 147,000 men in 12 conferences this year. That means that even at the $80 discount rate, they raised $11,760,000 in ticket sales alone. That doesn’t count sales of CD’s, DVD’s, T-Shirts, books etc. That brings it almost over $1 million per conference. I was at the Omaha conference and I don’t think they spent $1 million putting on that event. I know the box lunch wasn’t worth it! 🙂 So, why do they still need to raise more money? Why do they have to spend money on these endless mailings to beg for more money. I wonder what their fundraising budget is? Do you suppose that they spent $3 million on fundraising?

How about our local homeless shelter. I get too many mailings now from them – and these are not cheap marketing pieces. These cost a lot of money. I would guess that they have spent at least $300 trying to get me to donate more money. I am sure that had I given $100 they would have sent me the same mailings. Does that make sense?

John Lindsay produces a new show in Branson, MO called “Act of God”. I had corresponded with him via email and had an opportunity to talk to him after watching a performance. I mentioned to him that I wished I would win the lottery so I could finance productions like his. He told me that he had just written an article about how Act of God came to be. He suggested I read it. The first paragraph says it all.

The lottery is a unique way to gage a culture’s level of faith in God. The number of people attending their favorite lottery retailer would likely rival local church or synagogue attendance. The lottery isn’t evil, but it is clearly a symptom of a problem, as well as an indication of our spiritual direction. Either that or I overlooked the Bible character that was blessed for waiting until they came into money before starting their ministry. [continued…Faith as an Act of God]

I think this applies not only to lotteries but also fundraising. Whether we are trying to raise money to perpetuate organizations like Promise Keepers or Open Door Mission, or trying to build a new church building – we need to stop and think – Faith or Fundraising.

I am involved in an ongoing discussion about the appropriate use of money by Christian organizations. Is it appropriate to utilize debt in a building campaign?[Church Debt: Is It Biblical?] Is it discerning to build big fancy church buildings that will be only used on Sundays? How much overhead is too much overhead? What is the churches role in caring for the poor, sick, homeless, widowed? Are we failing that role in America? Some home church advocates suggest that we don’t have buildings. Some even suggest that churches are embezelling God’s money.

I am not an expert. I don’t have some magical solution to the problems of money and the church. I don’t even have a firm answer on church debt. I do know one thing – I am getting tired of receiving mail from Christian organizations asking me to send them more money. If, as the Promise Keeper letter states, these organizations “believe our purpose and calling is from the Lord Himself”, then wouldn’t the Lord Himself also make sure they had the necessary resources to run the organization?

As Dan Rather once (should have) said – “Faith”.

UPDATE: I just found this site on the internet that rates charitable organizations. I looked up PK and found that in 2004 they made over $24 million and spend a little over $3 million on fundraising. I assume that their expenditures this year are similar to last years which, if I’m not mistaken is the amount they say they are short this year. Hmmmmm

Check your favorite charity at the Charity Navigator

Being Content With Varuka Salt

7 Sep

“I want an oompa-loompa now Daddy! Get one for me NOW!!! I want a Goose that lays golden eggs Daddy. Get one for me NOW!”

How many parents have “Varuka Salts” at home? The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite movies of all time. I like to watch it with my girls. I like to use Varuka as an example of a selfish little girl – a perfect example for my girls on what kind of girl NOT to be. In fact, whenever one of them starts the “begging”, I just say, “OK Varuka. Whatever you want Varuka. ” They get the point.

How many time are we like that in our lives. We see an advertisement of the latest gadgets and we just have to have one. It will save us time, money – headaches. After about a month, it usually ends up in some drawer never to be used again. Twelve months later, you are preparing for your annual garage sale and find it in the drawer and put it on sale for a fraction of what you paid for it.

In hindsight, why do we fall for these “latest” things. Why is it that we buy things we don’t need. I have felt sick helping out at one of our garage sales seeing items that we purchased and never ever used. Some (gulp) even have the price tags still attached! What a waste.

In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

As you look at the verse, notice what Paul said. He said he “learned” to be content. It is not a natural instinct for us to be content. It is a learned behavior.

Why don’t you start “learning” by getting rid of excess “stuff”. There are hundreds of thousands of people down south who now have nothing.

The American Red Cross

Why Is Money Important To Living A Christian Life

6 Sep

We know how important money is. We need it to pay for the roof over our head, food on the table and clothes on our body. How we manage our resources (money) is also very important to living a Christian life for these three reasons:

  1. How we handle money affects our fellowship with the Lord. – Luke 16:11 says “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?”
  2. Possessions compete with the Lord – Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
  3. Much of life revolves around the use of money – During your normal week, how much time do you spend earning money in your job, making decisions on how to spend money, thinking about where to save and invest money or praying about your giving?

Society says: God plays no role in handling money, and my happiness is based on being able to afford my desired standard of living.

Scripture says: As you learn and follow the scriptural principles of how to handle money, you will draw close to Christ and learn to be content in every circumstance.

How can I help?

5 Sep

I am thinking about the disasters in Mississippi, Louisiana, et. al., wondering what I can do to help. I have a goal in mind – To find a way that I can most efficiently and directly help those in need. I begin my analysis by listing all of the possible solutions, factoring in variables like geographical limitations, time, expense, efficiency, who’s involved, existing organizations, costs, materials and many others. I cross-analyze this by Jesus’ command to “help the least of these” and what He meant by that. I also factor in the things that don’t know – danger, disease, etc.. Once I start developing this list, I start a comparative analysis of all possible solutions, ranking these solutions in order of impact and efficiency. As the solutions develop, they are added to the comparatives to produce an dynamic list of possible solutions on how I can best impact the lives of those in need due to the effects of hurricane Katrina and the storm surge that followed.

Ok. I need to stop this insanity. I could spend years analyzing possible solutions and once I come up with just the right one, the need will be different. Isn’t this just what governments do? I am surprised, yet not surprised, that people would wonder why it takes the government so long to respond to crisis situations. Yet, within hours World Vision (a Christian relief organization), had trucks rolling to the devastated area. Locally, a few people here have left with truckloads of supplies gathered within a few days of the hurricane. Already, more trucks are being readied. Just by sending out an email, they collected over $32,000 and 3 truck loads of supplies. People volunteered to drive trucks. Business donated supplies and trucks. All from a small town in Nebraska.

Patti and I had considered the possibility of Patti going on a mission trip to Africa. It would cost about $2,300, maybe more if you include spending money for a two week mission trip. Most of that cost is for air fare to get her there. How much could that $2,300 help people right here in America? I realize that we need people and resources in Africa but how much of an impact would we have on a 2 week mission trip? Is paying that much for transportation costs a wise use of God’s money? See my dilemma?

Two verses that pushed me off my analysis and onto action:

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mathew 25:35-40)

1Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, (Titus 3:1)

There are organizations that are already on the ground – helping those in need:

My brother Darin is working with a group of others to open their homes to refugees from the region. You can read more about what they are doing here.

Discovering God’s Way of Handling Money

5 Sep

Our church is going to be studying Crown Financial’s, “Discovering God’s Way of Handling Money” as a sermon series and also small group discussions. I will be leading a group at 9am Sundays. As I begin to prepare for our first class, here is something I found interesting that I bet most people didn’t know:

  1. Sixteen of the 38 parables of Jesus concerned how to handle money and possessions.
  2. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions.

One of the reasons why money and possessions are so important is that, it is how we handle money that has a significant impact on the intimacy of our relationship with Christ.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?(Luke 16:11)

This is an 8 week study so for the next 8 weeks or so, I will be posting different thoughts on the information I am studying in preparation for leading the discussion at church.