Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our cruise to Mexico on the Carnival Ecstasy

Hey, we're back from our cruise to Mexico on the Carnival Ecstasy! Many of you have asked how this went, so here is the low down.

Monday - We got on board about 1:00 PM. Got into our room. Looked around, saw the ship. When we went to eat in the evening, Becki was sea sick.

Tuesday - A day at sea. Spent the day reading mainly. Tuesday evening was formal night. Took some pictures in our formal wear. Becki made it through dinner.

Wednesday - Port of call at Progreso, Mexico. Took a bus out to see the Mayan ruins. Ate some good Mexican food out at the ruins. Spent a short time at a beach.

Thursday - Port of call was Cazumel, Mexico. Took a cab to "Paradise Beach." Ate some good nachos at the beach. I watched some of the Dallas Cowboys-Seattle Seahawks game while Becki read out on the deck. Slept through dinner.

Friday - Day at sea. Read. Saw some of the Mumbai bombing. Watched movie (Ironman). Saw a musical in the evening that was a strange mix of The Wizard of Oz, WW II, Barlem and Bailey, and music through the decades.

Saturday - Back at Galveston.

There were a lot of good things about the trip. The service on board was great, the food was pretty good (I think I gained a couple of pounds, unfortunately), we had a decent cabin, and the Mayan ruins were interesting. Becki and I spent some time together, and for once, I didn't work for a week.

There were some things that were a little disappointing. Becki struggled with getting her "sea legs" (or sea stomach) for much of the trip. There was just one small adult pool on the ship. I guess we have seen too many commercials and too many episodes of the Love Boat, because we both thought that this would be a lot bigger and where we would hang out. The beach at Progresso was not that pretty, and the one at Cazumel was packed (probably because we were on a free beach). Because we went on Thanksgiving, there were a ton of families with older kids there, but not a lot of young couples. We missed out on not having more people our age to hang out with.

Overall, while it was good for us to get away, our trip was a bit different than expected. But hey, we're not complaining. We rarely get to spend a week away without our kids, and we certainly had an experience that many people will never have. There were people working on the ship from all around the world working service jobs. They were so wonderful, and I could not help but think how blessed we were.

If we go on another cruise, it will be with some friends, which would be a lot of fun! Probably try out another cruise line too. Thanks for all of the well wishing and for thinking of us. We're now ready to see you again! :)

Have you been on a cruise? What was your experience?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Becki and I are on vacation!

Hey guys. Just letting you know that Becki and I are on vacation this week. We are going on a cruise! We leave on Monday from Galveston on Carnvial cruise line. We'll go down to Cazumel and Progresso, where the Mayan ruins are.

Becki and I wanted to go on a cruise for our 10 year anniversay. We are now in our 13th year of marriage, and this is our first cruise. Hey, we've tried. Recently, we were delayed by two hurricanes and ministry stuff. But not this week!

I am pretty amazed at how inexpensive cruises are for what you get. It looks like there is a ton to do. Maybe we won't come back . . . :)

Check in with you guys in a week!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How does change and transformation happen?

I have had very little down time this week during my class, but I wanted to get in a quick post. Keith Matthews, our teacher, asked us to share what the circumstances surrounding a transformative experience in our lives.

Here are the answers:
  • Cross-cultural experience
  • Lack of purpose to purpose
  • Crisis/loss of job,/loss of call/disorientation
  • Spiritually dry
  • Uncertainty/searching
  • Holy Spirit work
  • New opportunity/vision
  • Lack of family relationship
  • Loss
  • Victimization
  • State of exhaustion
  • Someone has challenged

These can be boiled down to two things that cause change:

1. Level of dissatisfaction/discomfort/or pain in current situation propels them to seek change.

2. A new compelling vision for a different reality

Matthews made the great point that so much of the time, we do everything in the church to help people avoid these states. Thus, lack of transformation.

Think of a transformative experience in your own life. What were the circumstances behind this experience?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Check out the Blog - Reclaiming the Mission

Here is a website that we were turned on to in my class on ministry in the postmodern matrix, Reclaiming the Mission. David Fitch is an author and church planter who really has a lot of good things to say. Check it out!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Class I'm Taking RIght Now - Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix

Hello friends. I'm in Pasadena, California, taking a Doctor of Minstry class on "Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix" at Fuller Theological Seminary. Originally, Brian McLaren taught this course.

My teacher is Keith Matthews, who used to teach this class with McLaren and who was a pastor with McLaren at Cedar Ridge Community Church. Keith has a great spirit about him. I think that it will be a great class.

We'll be looking at what is going on in our culture, and how to do ministry effectively today in light of our culture.

After this week of class, Becki and I are going on vacation. This should be a great two weeks. I love learning, and I love my wife!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sharing a meal with a man who used to make $80,000, now living out of his van

Yesterday a man named Bradley came in needing some financial help. We gave him food and talked and prayed with him. He almost has a masters degree and used to work in the finance industry. He is out of work, and currently living in his van.

Bradley had applied at various places, but his cell phone was almost out of minutes. Unless he could be contacted, he could not get phone calls from prospective employers. Clearly he was trying hard to get work. So I took him up to the AT&T store and put some more minutes on his phone. Jason's Deli was right next door, so I asked him if he would like to eat together. He said that he would.

In our conversation, he explained how he came to his current state. At one time he had been making $80,000 a year doing various types of loans. With credit dried up, he longer had any clientel. He was about 50 probably. When I asked him if he had any children, he started to tear up and say, "No, I have never been married." His mother had passed on, and he was estranged from his brother. He said that he had to "prove himself" to his brother in order to come back into his life.

He was raised Roman Catholic, but said that he realized that after catachism in 3rd grade that Catholics did not study the Bible. He said that "Christians--whatever that means--" seem to do more Bible study. I asked him if he would like to study with me, and he said that he would. I told him that I would start studying with him after I got back from my upcoming trips. He said that he would also come and worship with us on Sunday. He needed to be around people. And he was touched by our dear Linda, who had offered to have him come and have Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family.

On the way out, I told the manager at Jason's Deli who I was, that we were trying to help Bradley and thought he was a good guy, and that I would appreciate it if they gave him a good look. (Bradley had applied there, and clearly had spoken to the manager). I prayed for Bradley, and then we parted.

Last night, Bradley called me and said, "Because of you, I was able to have a good conversation with my brother tonight." I'm not sure how I helped in this, but I was glad to see some reconciliation begin.

I could not help but feel how blessed I was as I heard Bradley's story. I think he is legitimate, and I am glad to be a part of a church that God is using to help those who need it. This is the Lord's work.

What do you think of this story about Bradley? How should we respond to these types of circumstances?

Giving should be purposeful

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. At our congregation, we will be purposing our regular giving tomorrow, as well as thinking about all of our types of giving that we will be doing throughout the year. It should be a great day. To enlarge the devotional, click on the image to the left.

This series has been good for our family, and I hope that these thoughts have been helpful to you.

What do you think of purposing our giving? Does this help you in being more consistenly generous?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Giving helps spread the gospel of Jesus Christ

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

Studies show that in the average church, the level of giving is 2.5%. In most churches, there are probably about 1/3 who give quite a lot (percentage wise), 1/3 who give some (percentage wise), and 1/3 who give little to none at all. Imagine how many good works could be done and how many local and foreign missionaries we could support in sharing the gospel if 100% of God's people generously!

We must make our church budgets reflect what we say our priorities are--reaching the lost. Churches that are growing evangelistically tend to devote at least 10% of their contributions directly to local outreach. Unfortunately, most church budgets are devoted almost exclusively to members. If there ever is a debate about whether to hire someone who works in outreach or to hire a children, youth, congregational care, etc. minister, the outreach hires almost always lose. Usually, there is not even a debate.

My D.Min. director has a saying: everything that we do is theological. This is so true. Our giving and spending as a church and in our personal lives says something about what we believe. I hope that we believe that reaching lost people is important.

What do you think that our giving says about our theology?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

God makes those who give rich in every way--so that we can be generous on every occasion

Today I came home and my girls ran up to me. Gina said, Daddy, we have to do the giving book now. Last night you were gone, and so we haven't done it!
Yesterday I had meetings from 5:30 PM on, so I did not get to come home and do the devotional with Becki and our girls around the dinner table. This has become our "new habit," and I was glad that they looked forward to it. They really have hearts for God. I am thinking about checking out some other daily devotional material to continue the practice. (We have songs and prayers and Bible stories at nighttime, but this is a bit different.)
To enlarge today's devotional thought on giving, click on the picture to the left.
What do you think of this promise of God to "make us rich"? How is this different or the same compared to the "health and wealth" doctrine?

Pastor Leaves His Church

This is a story I found entitled, "Pastor Leaves His Church."

From the Associated Press –
Hiam Shatir may look like your average pastor, but he’s not acting like one. In a nation filled with expensive mega-church buildings popping up, Hiam instead chose to sell his mega-church, Crestview Community Church, and attempt to live into what he says is the call to “be the church.” And although many doubt him, Hiam just knew it was the right move to make.

“We just felt it was the right thing to do,” said Hiam, a businessman turned pastor, from his converted basement where he now administrates the church. “We couldn’t put our foot on the problem. People were sitting in the pews and not doing anything. They would come and sit and leave. And we began to ask if this is the Gospel.”

Crestview was known for its amazing stage productions, heartfelt contemporary worship, and relevant sermon topics often based on current events and pop culture. It quickly grew in numbers—adding two satellite “video campuses” and a recently launched online church campus—and was cited as one of the fastest growing churches in the nation. “Having someone validate what we were doing like that was really cool at first. We were really good at creating the ‘Wow’ factor that would have them wanting more,” Hiam says in reflection. “But I would go home exhausted and consistently wonder what difference we were making. I didn’t like that. And I just reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore.”

In what many would consider a stunning move for a 8,000-member mega-church, Hiam and the board of elders chose to sell their recently developed $12 million dollar campus to a local technology company, which is now planning to convert the sanctuary into a manufacturing facility. “Selling the building was easier than we thought,” one elder stated.
So what made this ultra-successful pastor of one of the city’s largest suburban communities take such a radical step? Hiam shared that it was faith. “One day I walked into the main sanctuary, and it was empty. It was this huge building that we were paying a mortgage on and it was dark. I just had this sense of wonder if this is really what Jesus would do. Would he have created this building? And then when the economy took a downturn, paying the mortgage became our primary concern. But everyone was hurting. We had to let people go from their jobs. All of a sudden paying the bills became our primary motivation.”

Hiam shared that his messages became motivated by how much those people could give to the church rather than the Gospel. And then a moment of clarity hit me. “I was standing there on a Sunday and, right in the middle of my sermon, I just stopped. I looked around and just realized that, if we let go of this burden, everything would change. It was at that time I started to really question our intentions. At the same time, some really good people asked if we were living ‘missionally.’ Were we really releasing people to minister to their neighbor? I didn’t have a good answer to that question.”

Hiam began to doubt his own faith and purpose. “It was a dark time. More than once I told my wife I wanted to quit and go back to business,” Hiam said. “I felt like I was losing my soul. But the board of elders stuck with me, and they began to ask how we could begin to use money to solve real needs when we saw them. We suddenly realized we had the power to release people to be ‘missional.’”

Hiam wrestled with the decision over a six-month period. He knew that letting go of the building meant doing things in a completely different way. “The show would be gone, and, in some ways, that was hard for my ego to let go. It essentially meant trusting God to work in the people and not being everything to everybody. It was like we had new glasses on. We quickly realized that, before, a small majority of people were doing almost everything. They were burned out and completely exhausted. Now everyone has responsibility and purpose. So many people came to me, thanking me,” Hiam said.

When the building was sold, many felt lost in the transition. “We immediately lost about 30% of the people who attended our church,” Hiam shared. That number roughly translates to almost a thousand people. “Everyone called me and told me they just wanted a place to go on Sunday. They didn’t want to go out into the world. People’s primary concern was the loss of our children’s program.”

In talking with several families that had left, one woman expressed what has become a common refrain of ex-Crestview members, “Who will teach our children about Jesus? We just felt we needed a good children’s program and didn’t want to lose that.”
Life for Hiam and the church is now more complex but, he says, more rewarding. To accommodate the lack of facilities, Hiam took the radical step and converted his basement into an administration center. “We slimmed down everything and focused on following Jesus into mission. We asked what it would mean to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. We now meet once a month for a large gathering and meal, and put all of our focus on meeting in homes. It meant really getting serious about discipleship and putting our trust into the hands of our gifted leaders.”

Once a regular speaker at evangelical conferences on topics such as leadership and church growth, Hiam says the invitations to speak have all but dried up. The shift has allowed Hiam to focus almost exclusively on meeting with leaders. He now meets almost daily with those who run discipleship groups in their homes. One leader, Bill Jarvis, liked the transition, “For the first time, I feel like I am understanding what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Go and make disciples.’ And I like it.”

The lack of mortgage has allowed the church community to give almost 80% of their tithe away. “We’re now seeing people take initiative where they wouldn’t before. We’ve empowered them to be Jesus right where they’re at. And they like it. One part of the community is using their money to help single mothers get through college. Another group has renovated an old warehouse and turned it into a community art complex. A third group builds fresh water wells for third world countries almost every month.”

Hiam is now more aware of his impact on the community and can’t imagine going back. “Someone just yesterday came up to me and said, ‘I don’t have to drive to the church to feel like a Christian anymore. I just have to go out my front door.’ That right there told me we made the right decision.”

This is a work of satire. We hope it causes some reflection and sparks some good discussion about how we steward the church in the midst of this economic crisis.

What do you think of this "story"?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Out of Severe Trial Can Come Rich Generosity

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

What is the most difficult thing about giving out of "poverty" and "severe trial"? What is the easiest?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable.

One of the new members of the Missional Outreach Netowrk, Jimmy Jones, posted this video. It is pretty funny and too true.

Tuesday's Devotional Thought on Giving

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. As we approach the Holiday season and think about the different kinds of gifts that we will be buying for others, it would be good to think of the different kinds of gifts we will be giving to God.

To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

How does thinking of our giving as a "present" to God change our heart towards giving?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday's Devotional Thought

Here is today's deovtional thought on giving. To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

This devotional talks of Christ's sacrifice as being the motivation for our giving.

How do our "sacrifices" compare to Christ's sacrifice(s) for us?

Sunday's Devotional Thought on Giving - We should give our firstfruits to God.

Here is yesterday's devotional thought on giving, sent out today. Sorry for the delay. To enlarge the devotional thought, click on the picture to the left.

I was encouraged on Sunday to hear stories of people using this devotional booklet with their families and in small groups.

The devotional talks about giving our "firstfruits"--the first and best of our income to God.

How does giving to God first work in setting a budget?

Church told obvious lies, gay activists allege

An article came out today citing protests against Saddleback, where Rick Warren is the pastor, for its support of Proposition 8. This proposition was an amendment to the California constitution, defining marriage as being between a man and a womn. See the article, Church told obvious lies, gay activists allege.

I suppose that I am glad that the amendment passed. Ironically, the high turnout of African-Americans to vote for Barak Obama helped this amendment's passage, since 70% of African-Americans voted for its passage. Since the measure passed by 52%, in a normal election, it probably would not have passed.
Laws can only be enforced if the will of the people is behind them. Currently, this is the will of the people--but only just barely. I'm glad that right now this is the people's will.

I do wonder that once support for amendments like Proposition 8 falls below 50%, whether it really is productive to the Christian cause to seek to enforce morality. Will we reach more people by passing laws, which creates protests, or by loving people and sharing Christ?
What do you think of the passage of amendments and laws that seek to define marriage as between a man and a woman? How long will this be helpful to Christianity?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Giving Devotional Thought - The rich should be extravagently generous

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. To read the devotional, just click the picture image on the left and it will enlarge the image.

As I say in the devotional, I never think of myself as rich, but compared to people around the world, I certainly am. God has richly blessed us.

Why do we not think of ourselves as being rich?

I came across this video on giving on YouTube. Powerful stuff, showing what our spending here in the United States could fund around the world.

What do you think of this video?

Obama's impact upon federal judges

Here is an article, "Federal Judgeship Openings Await Obama," that details Obama's possible impact upon federal courts. He will probably impact court decisions through these appointments for many years, and Jo Biden's long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to make this a certainty. As you may recall, Biden was one of those who "Borked" Justice Bork.

What concerns do you have about these upcoming judicial appointments?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Today's Devotional Thought on Giving - Sacrificial giving is based upon Christ's sacrifice for us

I love the historical reference in this devotional, explaining why Christianity thrived and pagan charities failed. Only Christianity has a giving God!

Our girls—and Becki and I—have benefited from going through these devotionals thoughts each night. I pray that they might help shape all of our hearts.

How does Christ's sacrifice motivate you in your giving?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Giving Thought for Today - We are happier giving than getting

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. (Click on the picture to the left to enlarge the picture.)

Why is it so difficult for us to believe Jesus' words that "it is more blessed to give than receive"? Do you have any stories to share about how giving has brought you joy?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Today's Giving Thought - We cannot hold onto material things

Here is today's devotional thought on giving, taken from the devotional booklet on giving that I recently wrote, Giving: Shaped by God's Heart. To enlarge the picture, click on the picture.

What thoughts or comments does this devotional thought bring up for you and your family?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Post-Election Analysis--Why Obama Won and Where Conversatives Go From Here

Barak Obama, the freshman senator from Illinois, tonight became the next president of the United States. The historic nature of this election cannot be overstated. Forty years after the death of Martin Luther King, the US has elected its first African-American president.

So why did Obama win? There are many reasons. First, this was the worst political environment for a political party (the Republican party) perhaps ever. President Bush is at a 27% approval rating. Ninety-two percent of Americans believe that the US is on the wrong track. We are fighting two wars, one of which (the Iraq war) has been hugely unpopular. We are in the midst of a recession. And the stock market has dropped 5000 points in the last month.

I believe that these factors made it virtually impossible for any Republican to win this year. McCain was probably the one Republican who actually would have had any kind of chance this year due to his "Maverick" reputation.

Obama worked with an extremely positive environment for him. He also helped himself in many ways. His team ran an excellent campaign. He was discipled as a candidate. And he was able to tap into the hopes and dreams of younger Americans.

As a student of culture, generations, and communication, I can say that Obama absolutely "speaks the language" of younger generations. It is not only what he says--talk of bringing people together, a positive message (yes we can, change you can believe in)--but how he says it. He comes across as thoughtful, carefully weighing different sides of any issue--a stark contrast to Bush's cowboy, shoot from the hip perception. He is respectful of his opponents, vowing to listen to them. And he speaks with humility. In his speech tonight he said that he would have false starts and make mistakes. Again, this is in stark contrast to Bush, who in a press interview could not or would not come up with a single mistake that he had made as president.

I say this not in support of Obama, but in explaining his appeal.

Conservatives are in disarray tonight, with the Republicans losing not only the presidency, but also incurring major losses in the Senate and the House. They can take solace in this only: that despite all of the things in favor of the Democrats this year, McCain still won 47% of the popular vote. This is still a center right country. Part of the reason McCain lost is that conservatives are actually upset with the Republican party. Bush, while strongly conservative culturally on social issues, proved to not be conservative at all on foreign policy or fiscal policy. The country seems to not necessarily rejected conservatism, but to have rejected Bush--his decision to go to war, his spending, and his perceived lack of reflection. It is very possible that if the stock market collapse had not occured in mid-September, McCain might have been able to squeak out a victory.

On the other hand, the Republican party faces serious challenges in the future. The US is becoming more and more diverse, as evidenced by not only the election of an African-American president, but also by his very diverse constituency. Meanwhile, the Republican party is overwhelmingly white and aging. Sarah Palin may be the future of the party, but there is no evidence that she has any appeal outside of the shrinking Republican base. Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader from Kentucky who survived re-election, has the role of seeking to pick up the pieces of the Republican party. Republicans may still have 43-44 or so seats in the Senate, which means they still can filibuster some bills to provide a bit of a check on an absolute democratic agenda. But what does it mean to be a Republican today? This is the question for the Republican party.

In truth, I have no idea who we have just elected. Obama certainly speaks in a way that sounds very unifying and bi-partisan. However, his voting record is the most liberal in the Senate. He has so little history that this voting record is the only thing by which we can get a sense of how he would govern. With a Democratic Sentate and House, it is rather disconcerting to think what kind of legislation might be pushed through--legislation that would be far at odds with a center right nation.

The one real positive from this election that probably all sides can agree upon is this: electing an African-American for president is a good sign of racial progress in the US. Many are eager to put this issue behind us.

I am uneasy right now mostly because of the huge unknown concerning Obama. Will he govern center left and help heal some injustices of the past, or will he align with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and push through a far leftist agenda?

Whatever happens, we should pray for soon to be President Obama. He faces many challenges. And we should remember that our faith is in God, not presidents or Congress.

What should a Christian's response be to this election?

A Bible study and election watch tonight

I have a Bible study scheduled tonight, going through part 7 of the Story of Redemption with a young man named Russell. I will then rush home and catch the election results. The first should be great. The second--well, it should prove interesting! I'm praying for both tonight.

Today's Giving Thought - Giving Should Cost Us Something

Last night, Becki and I sat down at the table for dinner, and after eating, we went through yesterday's giving devotional. This was very appropriate, for yesterday's Scripture starts out by saying, "After you have eaten . . . Don't forget the Lord your God ".

Today's deovtional thought is on giving as a sacrifice.

2 Samuel 24:21-24
David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Devotional Thoughts

David’s words here--“I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”--have always stuck in my mind. A sacrifice should be, well, a sacrifice. Giving should cost us something.

Giving is often something that we give out of our “extra” funds, rather than a choice gift that really causes us to give up something.

I did an image search on the word “sacrifice” on a general photo site, and I was surprised to find that most of the images were of a cross. This sort of makes our sacrifices for giving look rather small, does it not? But we must start somewhere.

Questions to ask yourself and/or your family
What could we give up in our spending that would really be a sacrifice so that we can give more?

Prayer - Father, help us to not just give you our extra, but to give sacrificially.

What comments or questions does this devotional thought on giving spur with you and your family?

Monday, November 03, 2008

A caution on exit polls

Here is an article from the Drudge report on exit poll data. Historically, exit polls tend to overstate the Democratic vote--something which voters probably remember happened rather dramatically in the 2004 presidential election.

Giving Devotional Thought - By giving we acknowledge God as the source of our blessing

On Sunday, we began a two week series on giving. As part of this series, I have written a devotional booklet on giving entitled "Shaped by God's Heart." This devotional is intended to be read with one's family, with a couple of questions and a prayer for each night. Below is today's devotional thought.

Deuteronomy 8:10-14, 17-18 (The Message)
After a meal, satisfied, bless GOD, your God, for the good land he has given you.
Make sure you don’t forget GOD . . . Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up—make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget GOD, your God,
the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery;
the God who led you through that huge and fearsome wilderness . . .
If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that GOD, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.

Devotional Thought
Where do material blessings come from? It is easy to think that our hard work or skill brings about wealth. But we are living in houses we did not build and eating food that we did not grow.

All that we have and own, God has given to us. He is the one who has given us the “strength” to produce material blessings. People sometimes call the money that is given through the church, “the Lord’s money,” as if this money is to be spent carefully but the rest is “ours,” to do with however we please. This passage tells us that all money is “the Lord’s money.” By giving, we acknowledge God as the source of our blessing.

Questions to ask yourself and/or your family
- If we believe that God is the source of wealth, how should this affect our giving?

Prayer - Father, help us to remember that it is you who gives us everything, and to acknowledge you as our “source” in our giving.

What thoughts or conversations did this devotional thought spur for you or your family?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sarah Palin and Barak Obama both make huge blunders in final days of election

Okay, again, I place no faith in politics to change the world, but I follow it "religiously." In the final two days before the election, there are two news stories that stand out that could hurt each candidate.

1. Fox News and some Netherlands newspaper is reporting that Obama told a San Francisco newspaper that he would bankrupt coal plants (due to new environmental regulations) and that electricity rates would sore. See news story on Obama, coal, and electricity. This is the first YouTube video clip. I have heard the fuller news clip, and it is rather shocking to hear a politician make such an admission. This could be very damaging for Obama in the critical Rust States (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia).

2. Sarah Palin was prank called by a Montreal radio station, with a comedian pretending to be French President Sarkozy. This is the YouTube video. At first I thought that this was some user generated video, a spoof. It is not. Palin really got duped on this, and it is not at all flattering. Frankly, listening to the call, it is hard to believe that she fell for this.

Probably most people's minds are made up about Palin, one way or another. The Obama interview is potentially more damaging, since it is an economic issue that hits at the core industry of some critical swing states.

However, this is very late in the campaign, so it is hard to tell how much impact either of these blunders will have.

What do you think of Obama's and Palin's political blunders?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Giving Series Begins Sunday

Tomorrow we'll begin a short series on giving. I always grow through these series, and as much as anything, they help affirm in my own mind God's promises and teachings on giving.

Money is the alternative God in our world. We are too sophisticated to bow down to anything else. But our media saturated culture constantly pushes us to consume and buy more. This shapes our heart towards material things.

So this series is called, "Giving Shapes Our Heart" (see the nice artwork by Rebecca Hope). As part of this series, I have written a short devotional book with a daily individual or family devotional thought for each day of the series. It is a combination of biblical teaching and personal reflections on giving. On November 16, we will purpose our giving for the year.

How does our culture shape us towards material things? How can we best resist this shaping?