Month: November 2017

Four Things I’ve Learned About Money From Proverbs

The Bible has a lot to say about money, possessions, and riches.  Nowhere are these topics covered more thoroughly than in the book of Proverbs. For over 30 years, I’ve found myself immersed in these passages – first as a young man trying to make a living for his bride, then as a father wanting to take care of his children, and now as a middle-aged man wanting to leave a legacy of generosity and integrity.

These four trusted sayings have been instrumental in forming my ethos about work, money and the things money can buy. Even today, these succinct passages speak strongly to me as I wander through the financial wilderness of adulthood. I hope these lessons are helpful to you, as well.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 

God is a generous giver. That, I am certain. We cannot know God without bumping into his kindness and his extravagant gifts of grace, forgiveness, healing and hope. He gives to us, and when we start following Him wholly, we are compelled to give all we have. We do not give to get something from God, we give because we are following God. We give as worship, as a response to what we’ve already been given. We give because we have been given so much. Generosity with our time and money is one of the first signs of spiritual maturity and one of the first indications that we’re speaking with and hearing from God.

Those who work their land will have abundant food,  but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11

Very few people get rich quickly. Most wealth is earned because we spend less than we make for a really long time. Sure, there are some speculative opportunities that might flush out a quick profit, but I’ve found that people who chase quick wealth usually end up quickly broke and disappointed. If it sounds too good to be true, ask more questions, talk to wise people and proceed with extreme caution. Be faithful in the land God has given you, for a long time. Time is our friend. Do not chase fantasies or trust those who do. Lazy people look for shortcuts, but faithful people are willing to put in the work.

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17

I’ve been poor and I’ve known poor people all my life. I remember my parents giving to others when we had very little ourselves. I also discovered early in life just how much Jesus cares about the poor. He lives and moves among them in the most remarkable ways, listening to their cries and lifting their heads.

When we use our abundance to serve the people that Jesus is living alongside, we get invited into a journey with Jesus. We realize the poor are not a problem to be solved but a people to join. (Eugene Peterson) When we engage with his work among the poorest in our communities, we find a Jesus incarnate, active, alive and speaking. The Jesus we find here cannot be found anywhere else.

One more thing. Every time we get serious about caring for the poor, we’ll always have enough resources to help them. I can tell you scores of stories of miraculous provision when the poor were being served.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1

How we get our money is much more important than actually obtaining more money. I know so many people who have traded away their integrity and reputations in the pursuit of wealth. I have heard excuses like, “This is just business” or “Only the strong will survive.” It seems, many can justify any bad behavior if it makes them another dollar.

We must always do the right thing, for the right reason, even if it costs us a profit. Our integrity is more important than any financial gain because we’re first called to be ambassadors of the Good News, carriers of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the greatest temptations we will ever face as followers of Jesus. We must get this right.

I’ve learned to ask some questions before any financial deal:

1. Is this fair to everyone, not just me?

2. Will this help or hinder my witness?

3. Will this deal open doors or burn bridges?

4. Can I tell my kids and grandkids about the details and not be ashamed?

 

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Some Thoughts on Church Security

Ten years ago, our church suffered through its darkest day when a gunmen came on our property, opened fire with an assault rifle, killing two of our teenage girls, injuring others, before taking his life in the hallway. This Sunday, I was taking a special guest to our memorial site to tell her the miracle story of our healing, when the news broke that another church in South Texas had just experienced the same horror.

A military trained man with an assault rifle with the intent to kill unarmed people is almost impossible to stop. No amount of training could have prepared that tiny church in Texas for this evil. We’re now living in a violent society where even small town America and small rural churches are not insulated from assault.

Church security was something I never heard discussed while growing up in North Louisiana. Guns were plentiful, but there seemed to be no threats to our safety in the sanctuaries of my youth. Today, the world has changed and violence is seemingly always at our doorsteps.

The sad reality is that every church should have a strategy to protect its members when they gather. We had a great plan on December 9, 2007 that saved scores of lives and today, we are even more prepared. In fact, our church may be the safest public gathering place in our city. We take it seriously.

We have learned some valuable lessons. First, every church should hire at least one uniformed police officer to be visible in the main lobby and parking lot. Every Sunday, there is a police car parked in front of our church. These off-duty officers are paid by us to be present. They are now our friends and we see them as part of our vital team each weekend. Most crime studies show that criminals can be deterred by the physical presence of the police on property. If local police are not available, hire a very visible security guard.

When we first employed uniformed police, people were concerned that church would feel unsafe, but actually the opposite has happened. So many people have personally thanked me for having the officers present, because it is so reassuring. That is a huge testimony to our local police and sheriff’s department, who both have stellar reputations in our community.

Because we live in a military town, we’re able to recruit and train dozens of men and women to serve our church as volunteers. They spend all week protecting our nation and they love serving their church the same way. They dress in plain clothes, but walk the property during our worship services, serving our people.

We live in a state that allows most people to carry concealed weapons and to carry openly if they choose. We discourage our members from bringing guns into the church. In fact, if we know someone has a weapon, we escort them out to their car and watch them put it away. We have plenty of trained and qualified people who are appropriately armed, so extra weapons are not necessary and can actually cause more harm should there be a violent episode.

We train our team to be watchful and diligent, but not obtrusive or aggressive. In fact, most of the 10,000 or so people who attend our church are not even aware of the security team, other than noticing a police car out front.  We are a church, not a sports stadium, so we do not have metal detectors, and we are not checking handbags as people enter.

Most of the violence that happens in a church is a spillover of some sort of domestic issue. Families target one another at church because they know they can be found at a certain time and place each week. Our pastors are sensitive to families going through divorce or some type of custody dispute with their children. If there’s a problem at home that could affect our church, we alert the police officer on duty. Many times, that officer has diffused conflict before it ever turned ugly and violent.

With all this attention to violence and securing our worship space, we have made sure that we have not lost our innocence along the way. We are not fearful, but we are wise. We are not downcast, but we are watchful. We gather every week, to pray our songs, to sing our prayers and to learn the Scriptures. We have chosen to forgive those who wish us harm and to bless those that speak evil against us.

Church is a holy gathering of imperfect people. People wrestling with mental health and those struggling with relationships come through our doors every day. Our security team makes it possible for them to find hope and healing in a very safe environment.

 

 

 

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