This is Why I Give Online

7.16.14I give online to my church twice a month, and I wish I could say giving online was for a more spiritual reason. Growing up in the church, I’ve always known what the Bible taught about giving a tithe (10% of your income, off the top, to the church), and there’s never been a time where I’ve really disagreed with it. It’s not my money, it’s God’s. I get that. God’s trying to break the power of greed in my life. I get that. The money I’m given is to be used to invest in the Kingdom both here and for eternity. I get that. I’m all about storing up for myself treasures in heaven.

And yet it took years for me to give faithfully, even after I became a full-time minister! Why? The power and lure of money was just too strong. There was always one more thing I wanted to buy. I obligated myself to a lifestyle beyond my means. Since giving online is a relatively new idea, for years I did it the old-fashioned way: drop a check in the offering plate when it came by. But that didn’t work for me. I never carry a checkbook with me. I’d wait till the end of the month to get all my other purchases out of the way, and would always find that I ran out of money before I ran out of month. Pretty soon I’d be six months behind on my tithe, and if I wrote a check to catch up it would bounce. All the while, I felt guilty because I knew better and wanted to be better.

And then online giving came along, and it’s been a salvation to me. This is why I give online: accountability. I need it for me. I get paid twice a month, on the 1st and 15th. I’ve got an automatic debit set up to give to my church twice a month, on the 2nd and 16th. The first thing that gets paid is my tithe. If I miss a week of church, it still comes out. It may not sound super spiritual, but I need that accountability to hold my feet to the fire and honor God the way I know I should.

And guess what? I’ve been faithfully tithing for years now, and I still have a nice house, still have cars and computers and toys, and our family still gets to go on vacation every year. I honor God with my tithe, and He’s been more than faithful to me. And online giving is how I’ve been able to do it.

Trusting God Enough to Give

If you’ve ever given a sick child medication, you know how much they can resist and fight. Yet as a loving parent, you know what’s best for them, even if they don’t. Watch this clip below where I talk about trusting God enough to give.

Trusting God Enough to Give

If you’ve ever given a sick child medication, you know how much they can resist and fight. Yet as a loving parent, you know what’s best for them, even if they don’t. Watch this clip below where I talk about trusting God enough to give.

A Simple (Not Easy) Way to Eliminate 85% of Marriage Fights

6.3.13I’m speaking as a husband, married for eleven years. I’m speaking as a pastor who’s seen and counseled scores of marriages; some that made it, some that didn’t. The only complaint I get about the percentage is that it’s too low.

Here’s the simple (but not easy) way to eliminate 85% of marriage fights: take care of your money issues. That’s it. If you’re married, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The number one thing that couples fight about is money, plain and simple. There’s not enough money. There’s too much debt. You’re upside down on a mortgage. One of you is the spender and won’t stop spending. You’ve adopted a lifestyle that you can’t afford. That leads to fights, fights and more fights.

If you trace the arguments, the pain, the hateful words, it will overwhelmingly come back to purchases you couldn’t afford, trips you can’t take because there’s no money, or overall stress caused by bills that you can’t pay. Is it any wonder that the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10)?

The solution is simple, but it’s not easy. Get out of debt. Stop spending. Stick to a budget. Adopt a lifestyle you can afford. Create financial margin. Painful, I know. But the benefit to your marriage will more than make up for it.

QUESTION: What do you think? Is 85% too high or too low?

image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

(Perhaps) The Biggest Lie We’ve Been Duped Into Believing

Did you know that if you repeat a lie long enough, people will start to believe it? By repeating it over and over, people’s defenses eventually wear down. That doesn’t make the lie any truer, just people more likely to accept the lie as truth.

Here’s one of the biggest lies we’ve been duped into believing: debt can be a good thing. Debt can be managed. Debt can be leveraged. Watch this short commercial and see if you can spot the lie:

It’s hard to root against Sydney. She’s cute, she’s spunky, she’s chasing her dream! But did you catch the lie? “Her valuable assets were staying, and selling her car wouldn’t fly. We helped Sydney manage her debt . . .” In other words, Wells Fargo helped give her a big fat loan and put her in debt. But it’s okay if she’s chasing her dream, right? Next month when the bill comes due, she gets a pass if she’s chasing her dream, right? When you buy a car you can’t afford, you get a pass if your heart is in the right place, right?

The Bible is very clear on this: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 Debt is slavery, with masters like Visa, Mastercard, and your bank. Debt is not something to be managed; it’s something to be avoided. Jesus came to set us free, why would we willingly enslave ourselves financially to other people? If Sydney’s dream was worthwhile enough, she should be willing to sell something to get there. As it is, she’s likely to have to give up her dream to start paying back all the loans she took out to chase her dreams. Debt is bad.

Don’t buy into the myth that debt can be a good thing. Get out of debt, and experience the financial freedom that God intends for you.

11 Ways to Make Your Marriage Awesome

6.5.13On Monday I started a series of posts on marriage in honor of my eleven year marriage anniversary. Today is part two, on 11 Ways to Make Your Marriage Awesome. In no way do I claim that this list is exhaustive or comprehensive. These are simply eleven things you can do to improve your marriage. Hope it helps!

1. Pray together every day. This simple spiritual act will cover over a multitude of hurts and bring you together in ways you never thought possible. Try it for two weeks and see what happens!

2. Get the kids out of the bed. If you’ve got young kids, you know what I’m talking about. They’re going to want to sleep with you. Don’t let them. Wives can use it as an excuse to avoid intimacy. You need that time together, alone. Even if you’re just sleeping. Kick them out.

3. Talk to each other for five minutes everyday. It doesn’t even have to be incredibly deep talk. Talk about your day. Talk about what happened in the last 24 hours. Amazingly, even a little communication on a regular basis can go a long way.

4. Turn off the TV. Television can be an incredible detriment to your marriage if you let it. It will suck up all of your available time, steal your attention and energy, and dry up your conversation. If nothing else, get the tv out of the bedroom. Don’t allow your free time to be consumed by tv.

5. Get on a budget and stick with it. This is for the “spenders” in the family. Money problems are the number one cause of fights between couples. You want a happier marriage? Get out of debt and stick to a budget. It’s amazing how many issues this will clear up.

6. Get rid of the porn. Husbands, your casual addiction to pornography destroys the intimacy you could be having with your wife. Your wife will never measure up to the make-believe standards that pornography creates. Pornography isn’t harmless. Get rid of it.

7. More sex. Wives, I know that the way God created males and females are different, and I know that your sex drive will typically be dwarfed by your husband’s. That’s no excuse to be passive in your pursuit of romance. Initiate. Pursue. A healthy and regular sexual life is integral to a happy marriage.

8. Date each other. Have a date night twice a month, minimum. Once a week if you’re able. You two need to pursue each other romantically, outside of the bedroom. What did you do when you were dating? Don’t lose that.

9. Surround yourself with other strong couples. You need mentors. You need strong friends with healthy marriages. If the only people you interact with are couples with dysfunctional or broken marriages, that dysfunction will rub off on you. Hang around with people with the type of marriage you want to have.

10. Forgive, a lot. Your spouse will hurt you more than any other human being on the planet. That’s what you get for marrying a sinner. The only way to release the toxin of bitterness is to forgive, often. There are slights and hurts that your spouse may never apologize for. Forgive them anyway. That’s what Jesus did for you on the cross (Jesus juke!).

11. Toughen up. Throw out the idea of marriage you see in romantic comedies. That’s a myth. Marriage is tough, tough work. It’s not for the faint of heart. Marriage will challenge you more than almost anything else you’ll experience in life. Toughen up. Roll up your sleeves. Get in there and fight for your marriage.

Friday we’ll finish with 11 Reasons Why Marriage is Worth It.

QUESTION: What suggestions would you add to this list?

Six Traditions That Are Killing the Church (Part 2)

3.11.13Last post I started a three part series on Six (Modern-Day) Traditions That Are Killing the Church. These traditions have nothing to do with style of music, whether the pastor uses a pulpit or round table, or whether the people come dressed in suits or blue jeans. There are great churches on both sides of those divides. These traditions are a little more insidious, a little more difficult to unearth. Here are traditions three and four:

3. Expecting the church to disciple your kids. This used to frustrate me to no end as a youth pastor. A parent would come up, concerned about the lack of spirituality in their child. They didn’t feel confident talking to their kid about the Bible. So they were going to use their 167 hours per week and let their child fill their head with as much worldly influence as possible, then give that child to me for an hour a week and hope that I could completely disciple them. Not gonna happen. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says this, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” The role of discipling your children ultimately belongs to the parents, not the church. Interestingly enough, the epidemic of college students leaving the home and leaving the faith began to track at the same time that parents abdicated their role in the spiritual formation of their children. Coincidence? I think not.

4. Robbing God by not trusting God with God’s money. It took me years to get this right. I’ve been a Christian a majority of my life, yet it took years and years and years to finally trust God enough to begin to tithe faithfully. In Malachi 3:8, God tells Israel, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” Let’s be honest. Most Christians don’t tithe. That may very well include you.

Here’s what I learned after I began to tithe: I don’t tithe because God needs it. God’s not broke. It’s actually all his money anyways. I tithe because I need it. I need to break the power of money in my life. I need to experience the blessings of trusting God with that which is closest to my heart: my pocketbook. This tradition, of Christians thinking it’s okay to rob God, is killing the church today.

QUESTION: What traditions would you add to this list?

How to Overcome Your Fear of Giving

10.24.12BIG Idea: Overcome the fear of giving by faith in giving.

For the past several Wednesdays, we’ve been walking through a series I preached in February called “Going Green.” All about the wonderfully awkward topic of money, it’s a subject that American Christians have a tough time getting right. We know we need to give more of God’s money to the church and Kingdom purposes, but for some reason, it’s tough for us.

Now, I’d love to be able to say that giving money to the church has always been easy for me, but it honestly hasn’t. My struggles started right at the beginning. Growing up middle class, I knew the value of a hard earned dollar. When I started my first part-time job in high school, I knew what the Bible said I should do: tithe. For some reason it was a lot easier to throw a Washington in the plate when my dad had slipped it to me a few moments before. It wasn’t my money. Easy come, easy go.

But when I worked for it, that money was now “mine,” and I didn’t want to let go of it so easily. So, I talked myself out of it. I figured that I wasn’t really making enough to really contribute anything of value to the church. I mean, if my tithe was $8, what was that going to really help? So, I decided that I’d begin to tithe once I made more money and could give something substantial. That would surely be easier, wouldn’t it?

Wrong. For some reason, tithing actually became harder once I started adding zeros to the back of my check. Yet I knew I needed to tithe. So, I changed my approach. I figured I’d spend my hard earned money on number one (me), and give God everything that was left over at the end of the month. Wouldn’t you know it? I always ran out of money before I ran out of month.

Do you want to know how I finally broke through and began to tithe faithfully? It’s real simple. I just started tithing. I just quit using excuses and started to give to God what I knew I needed to give. And God’s been faithful. I’ve never missed any of the money that I’ve given to the church (it’s all God’s anyways). One of the things that has helped keep me honest in this area has been online giving. My church allows online giving, so I set up a recurring debit to be taken out twice a month, immediately after my check gets deposited. That way I know the first withdrawal that happens goes to the church.

What excuse do you need to give up to begin to give back to God faithfully?

How to Break Your Addiction to Stuff

BIG Idea: Giving is the only antidote to greed.

The behemoth of Black Friday is behind us, and as the graphic so aptly states, only in America do we trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what we already have. Now that Black Friday has been pushed back into Thursday, we don’t even wait a day. Underlying our consumer mentality is pure, unadulterated greed.

We want more, we need more. We feel we’re complete until we see an advertisement with something newer and shinier. The American marketplace needs us addicted to stuff to fuel profits. PBS recently ran a documentary on materialism. Here’s what they found:

  • The average American shops six hours a week while spending forty minutes playing with his children.
  • By age twenty, we’ve seen one million commercials.
  • Recently, more Americans declared bankruptcy than graduated from college.
  • In 90 percent of divorce cases, arguments about money play a prominent role.

All this for the pursuit of money. If you stop long enough, you know that money can’t buy true happiness. So how can you break your addiction to materialism and money and stuff? Jesus himself shares how in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

If you want to break your addiction to money, you’ve got to learn how to give it away. Until you do, money will own you. By learning how to give it away (to great causes like the local church, people in need, or great non-profits), you’re storing up for yourselves treasures in heaven and you’re breaking the power that money has over you. Here’s the BIG Idea: Giving is the only antidote to greed.

So as we enter into the materialistic orgy formally known as the Christmas season, don’t be caught up in the lie that more stuff will make you happier. Break your addiction to stuff by learning how to give it away. Trust me, when you’re in heaven enjoying all those rewards for eternity, you’ll thank me.

Live For the Line, Not the Dot

BIG Idea: Live for the line, not dot.

Have you ever encountered someone who lacked perspective? If you have, you’ve probably been amused/annoyed/concerned/entertained by their complete lack of self-awareness. It might be the two-year-old throwing down Armaggedon in the grocery store because his mom wouldn’t get him the candy that apparently his life depended on.

It might be a teenage girl stomping to her room and cocooning herself in an isolated sanctuary of self-pity and grief because her boyfriend broke up with her and apparently her prospects for love in life are now dead and gone. Or maybe it’s the college kid who’s having way too much fun at college, with no idea that real life is about to come crashing down on him.

When people lack perspective, things tend to go wrong. For the past several Wednesdays, we’ve been looking at our relationship with money. Today, we’re talking about money and an eternal perspective. Here’s what Jesus said about money:

  19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20

The picture Jesus is trying to create when he says “store up for yourselves treasure” is the idea of stacking or hoarding. It’s like the tv show “Hoarders” that I watch from time to time as a guilty pleasure. I’m fascinated to see how someone can fill their houses with absolute junk and let their quality of life take such a nosedive.

Jesus is saying, “don’t be a hoarder here on earth.” Don’t live as if this world is all there is. Why? Because everyone lives forever somewhere. There is a life after this life. Eternity awaits us all. And the Bible clearly teaches that how we live our lives affects our eternity. This life is a small dot. Eternity is a line that extends forever. Live for the line, not the dot.

Jesus is saying, “don’t handle your money as if this world is all there is.” Don’t hoard useless stuff in your life that you won’t be able to take to the next. Look at how you spend God’s money. Are you blowing it all on you? Are you hoarding it like you’re going to keep it forever? Or are you using it to invest in the Kingdom, storing up for yourselves treasures in heaven?

Live for something bigger than yourself, and invest your money accordingly. You can thank me when we’re up in heaven.