A Faithful Flow

In three-plus decades of pastoring, this Money has learned a bit about the significance of money in the life of a church. First fact is that ministries must be funded, and God’s way of doing that is primarily through the voluntary gifts of the people of the church. Second fact is that people have varied views on what is spiritually and biblically required of them. Or put differently, are the motives and opportunities to give to the Lord through the church uniquely theirs to own and claim? In a recent podcast, Thom Rainer discussed the radical difference between “church giving” and the perception of paying one’s “church dues. “ Here’s how he broke it down.

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Bring a Friend

Marketers, strategists, and consultants everywhere are still looking for the secret to attract folks to whatever it is they want them to have, be, or do. In the world of social media, posts, tweets, Instagram, and Snapchat are the order of the day (of course this changes so fast I’m sure I have missed a new big one in just the time it takes to write this blog!). Oldies but goodies like TV and its 187 different points of delivery or audio with its 73 are still a staple. Print media these days involves very little ink and lots of cyber-whatever. I still get junk mail and doorknob hangers all the time, most of which don’t make it to the kitchen counter.

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What Took Us So Long to Get Here

For the better part of the summer, we have been having a pastoral conversation about what makes God happy. More specifically, as his children, how we can make making God happy our life’s defining mission and most passionate pursuit.

None of our nine happy places really are hard to understand and affirm. But my Lord, how often we fail and flail in the opposite direction. God likes his people to live in unity and community. It’s hard to argue that. We are taught to say thanks as toddlers, but often find gratitude choked out by contentment and coveting. God likes to be trusted and obeyed; we even have a hymn about that one. He gave us the ministry of reconciliation, yet poorly-handled conflict has often proven more damaging than the conflict itself. Learn what is good is good advice. We are called to be generous and faithful people in hopes of outliving our lives both on earth and in heaven.

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Finding Fulfillment Three Times Over

Every once in a while the longtime title of my weekly blog and its content share the billing. Yes, like all pastors I wrestle with what to say and how to say it when Money Talks talks money. Oddly, the Bible generally and Jesus specifically shares no such reticence. That happens when one’s views and practices regarding personal finance find their place within the broader mantles of Christ follower and child of God. It is self-evident that God, specifically as He is revealed in his son, is generous, caring, faithful, loving, giving, and self-sacrificing. When those of us who bear his name are at our best, we are too. That’s a tall, almost impossible order outside the faith we claim and proclaim, and the grace flowing from it. But through that identity, with God’s help, it is natural to think and act that way. Mutual faithfulness defines the lives of persons of faith in a way nothing else really can.

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What a Week

When you wake up on a Monday you never really know all you are going to see and experience before you do it again. But when you pay attention, each collection of days sing with its own tone and tenor, drawing your attention to certain well worth noting things. This week has been especially like that.

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A Seven-Mile Journey

Conflict. Disagreements. Differences of Opinion. Assumptions about people’s motives. Grudges. Turf wars.

Well, I’ve written one line and am thoroughly depressed, uncomfortable, anxious, afraid, and flummoxed. Only sort of, but you get the point. Truth is, that’s where most of us end up when the opinions are different, emotions are strong, and the stakes are high. It’s especially uncomfortable if you are a peaceable people pleaser, and I am guilty as charged.

Handling conflict in a way that is healthy and honors God starts with understanding that conflict is inevitable if you are in close proximity and moving. Kinda like the time Jordan had an encounter with a wakeboard wipeout that resulted in 19 staples and the loss of some football playing time. Had he been on the shore, nothing happens – but that’s kinda the point. Who wants to live a life where nothing happens? Fortunately, the Bible gives us a lot of instruction on what helps – and what clearly doesn’t – when conflict comes around. There is way more to say about that than one blog, sermon, or book for that matter can hold. But here is a picture of a seven-mile journey to handle these things well.

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Conflict Happens

Conflict happens. In relationships and rivalries, in places of work and worship, in venues as public as politics and as private as family, it is inevitable. Our human condition creates it. Competing agendas will call out for it. Living in shared space makes these collisions a staple of everyday life. Knowing and accepting this should absolve us of a lot of guilt, frustration, and anxiety. But it rarely does. Why? Because we get very little instruction on how to resolve conflict and even less encouragement to give it a shot. For most, deeply conflicted relationships seem inevitable, and sadly, for many it’s enjoyable.

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Make God Smile

For the next few weeks at FBC we are asking, and trying to answer the question “How can we make God happy?” I’m a father of two pretty fine sons and three pretty much perfect granddaughters. I know what it feels like to be made proud by progeny. In fact, in the past week both my boys have done some things to make my heart soar. (Catch me in the hallway and I’ll be glad to fill you in.) I’m not so self-centered to think for a minute that they do it for me, but I get to be the joyful benefactor anyway. They succeed; I smile and brag. It’s a sweet deal. On the human front, it is an easy correlation to make. But it can be hard to imagine, let alone believe, that the creator of the universe responds personally and emotionally to the highs and lows of our lives. But He does. And even better, our lives work demonstratively better when we pull off the things that bring him joy. We smile a lot more when God is smiling at us.

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The Starting Five

When I graduated high school I had no idea that I would be a minister. Honestly, the two pressing possibilities were singer/songwriter and baseball coach. I loved weaving words and feelings together to tell a story, make a point, and move the listener. And I likewise loved strategically thinking my way around the diamond, reading the situation, making decisions, and setting folks up to succeed. Turns out that as a senior pastor I get to do a lot of those things almost daily. The same passions and pursuits come in more than handy in the daily office that I treasure and take very seriously. But no frontman or skipper can do it alone. And if he could, what would it matter? Loving what you do and the people you do it with is the secret to good music and good baseball.

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Welcome to the Team, John and Sara

As I jot down these lines, there is an Allied moving truck unloading boxes and furniture for the newest addition to our ministry team, Rev. John Rice and his wife Sara, dog Presley, and a three-legged cat whose name escapes me. (What are the odds that your senior and associate pastor would both have a three-legged Maine Coon? A sign?)

I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I feel to have John and Sara ready to call St. Pete and its First Baptist Church home. As you may have heard, Rev. Rice is a graduate of Southern Seminary, which has a special place in my heart and history back in the day. He has served churches well from Florida to D.C. to Kentucky and back to Florida again. He is deeply respected in ministry circles and has a proven track record empowering churches and their staffs to maximize their ministry potential. That’s a good thing because that is what we are asking him to help do here.

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