The Unholy Use of Money

An entirely unsurprising announcement came out this week that a mega church in the Dallas area has decided to escrow their mission money. I’m not going to identify the church, but if you type these four words into Google it will pop up quickly – Dallas, church, escrow, money. The reason cited by the pastor is that he felt disrespected. That’s correct, a leader for the Southern Baptist Convention said something he didn’t agree with, so he has instructed his church to hang onto the one million dollars that would have probably been given this year.

At first thought, it sounds like a reasonable decision. After all, why should we support someone who disrespects us, or give to an organization that doesn’t share our values and opinions?unholy-money

What causes me concern is the use of the word “escrow.” The dictionary definition is “a bond, deed, or other document kept in the custody of a third party, taking effect only when a specified condition has been fulfilled.” What this church is doing by escrowing money they had originally intended to give to the Southern Baptist Convention is to allow someone else to hold the money until the issue has been resolved. (I seriously doubt if the money actually goes anywhere other than the church’s bank account.)

In this case, it appears the use of the term “escrow” suggests a threat—if you don’t change we are going to punish you by withholding our money. This money, a significant amount, is being used as a financial club to get their way.

I don’t have any problem if this church decides the Southern Baptist Convention does not represent your values and beliefs and then simply stops the support. Quit giving—plain and simple. However, once they use the term “escrow,” it suggests the money will still be there whenever the Southern Baptist Convention sees things your way.

Don’t try to force a mission agency to do things your way. Go find someone else you can support. Find someone who shares your values and is already doing the things you desire.

The concept of escrowing money intended for the Southern Baptist Convention has been a favorite among churches for decades as they have sought to gain and control power. The big irony for me is pastors get extremely upset whenever church members do the same thing to them. Have a significant contributor to the church walk up to the pastor after a Sunday sermon and say, “Pastor, I didn’t appreciate what you said this morning. I’m not going to give another offering until you apologize.” We would learn quickly if that pastor believed what he preached.

Using money to manipulate people is not right. Money is a tool to help others, to provide for the needs of others. It is not to be a source of power and control. That is exactly why money is so dangerous.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24)

It is next to impossible for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven. It makes me wonder if the same can be said about a rich church.

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Why I Quit Going to Church

 

During the past few years, Sharon and I have visited numerous churches. We were counting just the other day and realized we have been to at least two each of Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Assembly of God, Catholic, and non-denominational, in addition to countless Baptist churches. However, for the last two years, more often than not, most weeks find us not attending any church.

It is correct to say that we have quit going to church.

To be honest, I never thought I would make such a statement. I have been in church from the beginning. Somewhere in the Bible, it says, “In the beginning God created church and Terry was there.”Church storm.jpg

My father was a pastor, so our family life was centered on church. As I grew up, unlike many “preacher’s kids,” I never rebelled and left the church. I stayed with it—through high school, college, and my earliest working days. When I returned to college a few years later, it was to prepare for the ministry. It was time for me to become the preacher.

After seminary, I almost quit church. No church was interested in me being their pastor, and I was discouraged. After a short time, I was discovered and put back to work and once again the church was the center of my world.

Not true any longer.

Although I quit going to church, my relationship with Jesus is as strong as ever. I still pray, read the Bible, study scripture, share my faith, and jump on opportunities for ministry as much as ever. My level of trust in God, dependence upon God, and recognition of God’s presence has not waned.

When this first started happening, I thought there was something wrong with me. Even though I did not feel guilty for staying home on Sunday, I thought I should—at least a little guilt. But I didn’t. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I thought that at least I must be a rare person—an active church member who drops out and doesn’t feel guilt.

However, I came to realize that I am not rare. There are many of us, perhaps even millions of us. I have found a bunch who have traveled a similar path and ended up at the same location. These are people who love Jesus, who have been church leaders or active members and have quit the church.

The real question is why. Why did this happen? Why did I quit going to church? Continue reading

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For Those Who Don’t Make Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, primarily because I’m not great at planning ahead. I used to drive my boss crazy when he asked what I was planning to do at a particular meeting. My reply was usually something like, “Planning is what you do on the way to the meeting.”

Since I don’t do resolutions, I don’t have any suggestions for resolutions you should make. However, I am good at giving advice. Consequently, I have some advice that will serve you well in the coming year. Since I am getting old, you can consider it advice from an old man who has seen much of life already.

  1. Learn to laugh more—especially at yourself. In other words, don’t take life, or yourself, so seriously. Lighten up and enjoy life. If you can truly laugh at yourself, you will not be so offended when someone else laughs at you (and they will).
  2. Don’t get upset or offended at every little thing. To be honest, there are few things that are worth our anger.resolutions
  3. You will survive every near-death experience except the last one. In other words, stop worrying about dying. It will happen someday. Prepare for it, if you have not already, and then get on with living.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be willing to question everything, even your basic religious beliefs. If you beliefs are valid, they will withstand the inquisition.
  5. Live with the awareness that the past world was probably not as good as the present and the present world is not as good as the future. Simply put; things usually improve over time.
  6. Trust God in every circumstance–even when He doesn’t seem trustworthy and especially when it doesn’t make sense.
  7. Strive to be loving toward others, especially those who are unlike you. Jesus understood this when He told us to love our enemies. By the way, this is also a good way to reduce the number of enemies in your life.
  8. Realize that you might be wrong before assuming that someone else is wrong.
  9. It’s ok to disagree, but it’s not ok to be mean and ugly.
  10. Don’t allow traditions to prevent you from appreciating new experiences.
  11. If you try and fail, it’s not the end of the world. Just try again.
  12. Make sure you have someone in your life who will pick you up when you fall. By the way, this person is usually found when you are busy picking up
  13. Understand that it would be an incredibly boring world if everyone was just like you.

I’m going to end my list at thirteen for two reasons. First, I have run out of ideas, and second, I want to demonstrate that I’m not superstitious.

The past year has been a good one for me. In fact, even though I have had some challenges in my life, I can honestly say that every year of my life has been good. That is not because of anything I have done, but because God has been especially good to me. Most of all I pray that you will see what He is doing in your life and experience the joy of walking with Him, even when it seems you can’t walk any further.

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The Human History of Building Fences

There are only two things you need to know about Luigi – he lived in a small seaside village, and he was a painter. Not a house painter but an artist. He spent many days sitting on the hill outside his cottage, gazing into the ocean, and painting what he saw. One day it all came together for Luigi, and he painted the most amazing landscape ever seen.

Being proud of his accomplishment, Luigi hung the painting in the front room of his small house and invited his neighbors to view his work. They did, and they were amazed. The picture looked as real as if they were gazing out the back window toward the real ocean. They couldn’t keep quiet and kept inviting friends to see the amazing painting. It was apparent that Luigi could not keep the painting in his small front room, so he wrapped it up and carried it into town to the local museum.artist

The curator was not interested in Luigi at first, but once the painting was unwrapped, he immediately grabbed it and hung it in the prime spot in the museum. Soon there were long lines of people waiting to see the painting. But there was a problem. The painting was so real that people were tempted to touch it just to make sure they weren’t looking out a window or that the water wasn’t real.

The curator couldn’t have people touching the artwork, so he positioned a small fence to keep people back. Yet the attraction was so great that many would stretch across the fence and touch it just to make sure. So he moved the fence back a few feet but still folks would climb on top of the fence and stretch just to touch. The curator had to build a taller fence, and eventually, he put a clear Plexiglas shield in front of the painting. Eventually, he even put a cover over the top to make sure people wouldn’t try to throw a coin or something else into the picture of the ocean.

Now people could not actually see the painting, so the curator printed brochures that described the painting and provided it for the people to read as they stood in line. The painting was just as beautiful as ever, and people came to the museum from all over the land, but all they ever saw was a nice brochure and a good fence. Continue reading

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Our Church Adventure Continues

The adventure that Sharon and I began a couple of years ago continued today at a Lutheran church. We have attended Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Independent, non-Denominational (although not sure the difference between those last two) and of course Baptist churches during that time. In fact, this was the second Lutheran church for us.

The first was somewhat unusual. It is the closest Lutheran congregation to our house, just a few blocks up the street. Although I have studied a great deal about Martin Luther in college and seminary, I knew little of the Lutheran church today. I expected to encounter a formal, liturgical style of worship, which is something I typically enjoy.

However, this particular Lutheran church was no different than any other church we have visited that is enamored with what is known as contemporary worship. It began with the first beat of the worship team. The base was so loud and the pounding so strong that Sharon almost had to leave.jesuscommunion

The most unusual thing that morning was the announcement that the men’s Bible study group would be meeting next week at a nearby brewery. If you attend and pay the twenty dollar entrance fee, you will not only be able to participate in Bible study, you will also receive two pints of their finest brew. That part does sound like something Martin Luther might have enjoyed, but it is not something I have ever encountered in church before.

But the Lutheran church we visited today was nothing like that. It was extremely liturgical, which I had deduced from their website, and I was looking forward to the experience. Although the liturgy was a little different than what I expected that was not the most noticeable thing about our church experience this morning. Continue reading

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Hanging On to a Prize

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”   Mark 5:35-36

One of the best experiences is living in a neighborhood where there are lots of other kids to play with. At age eleven, our family moved to Thornton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. It was a nice middle-class community filled with kids. On top of the fact that there was always someone to play with was the added bonus that the Lily boys, who lived two doors down, were avid baseball fans.

It is impossible to calculate the number of hours we spent playing imaginary games of wiffle ball and home run derby.  The best arrangement was to make our front sidewalk home plate and the home run marker was the big elm tree in the Carabello’s front yard. If you made solid contact with the plastic ball, it could be lifted over the top branches for a score. field-goal

There was an added mystique about the Carabello house. It was the residence of the neighborhood hero, Bob Carabello. He was only a few years older than other kids but he was a regular on the high school baseball team. That automatically qualified him as someone special.

It was an exciting day when Bob qualified for his driver’s license. Shortly afterward he got his first car, a Chevrolet Corvair (notice I said Corvair, not a Corvette). As I recall, the Corvair was a box shaped car that looked like it had a tumor growing in the middle. The engine was in the back which automatically qualified it as a novelty. It has been listed by Time Magazine as one of the worst cars of all time. In spite of the unpalatable nature of the vehicle, at least it was a car, so we were all envious.  Continue reading

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My Attempt to Offend Everyone

Since the middle of summer I have been suggesting that it is a good option to not vote for either candidate in this year’s presidential election. I have not changed my mind.

However, I have paid careful attention to the campaign for the past year and a half and I do have some observations to make. I will strive to be an equal opportunity offender so if you make it to the end of this article without being offended you might want to reread it because you might have missed something.

First, I have noticed there seems to be three groups of people who support Donald Trump. The first group, and perhaps the largest, is those who hate Hillary. This group has been organizing and planning for two decades, and I’ll be honest, I have never understood the hate and vitriol they possess. These folks will vote for anyone else but Hillary, regardless of the character, qualifications, or politics—Trump has proven that to be the case.

voting-boothThere is nothing that can be said or done to change their opinion. If God Himself wrote with his finger on the side of the Lincoln Memorial and told us to vote for Hillary, these people would not do it. The only way for these people to be happy is for Hillary to lose the election and disappear from public service. However, since it appears this is not going to happen, we are in for at least four more years (or possibly eight) of anger.

The second group of Trump supporters is those who tend to be single-issue voters and that issue is abortion. Trump is the only candidate who is opposed to abortion, although such was not the case just a few years ago. Their hope is that a pro-life President will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate abortion.

However, these folks need to put a little more thought into their position. It is time to reevaluate the idea that government and the legal system is going to solve the abortion issue. I wrote about this four years ago and you can read it here if you wish (nothing has changed). This is a complex issue that has been around a long time and there is no reason to believe that Donald Trump is going to contribute to clarity or resolution. Continue reading

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