Money Mistakes Pastors Make

As a pastor, I have learned firsthand the kind of quality men God has called to the ministry – some of the finest men in the world. I mean that – no tongue in cheek here. The world may think of pastors as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things, but I know too many good men, men who have committed their life to the gospel and the good of their fellowman to give any credence to that kind of thinking. From across America and around the world, I am blessed by the many pastors and assistant pastors, missionaries, church planters, and Christian school teachers who have committed their life to God’s work.  They love what they do. They don’t consider it a sacrifice. If they could live their lives over again, the men I know would choose the ministry over any other vocational calling.  I think if they had nine lifetimes and could choose any vocation to fill those lifetimes, they would choose the ministry.  The “burdens” are a small price to pay for the joy of serving God and His people full time.  Truly we can say of them that “the world was not worthy.”

One thing I have observed about nearly every pastor or missionary I know: they know what it means to give themselves.  I hope you will keep that in mind as I discuss money mistakes pastors make. Most of their mistakes are made on the side of self-sacrifice and a desire to maximize the Lord’s money.

What I intend to address here is not intended to promote greed or cause anyone to stumble into the love of money.  Too many pastors come to the end of their ministry and have little to fall back on.  After giving themselves to God and their people, they find that they are not in a position where they can retire comfortably and still provide for their wife.  And while I realize that many pastors have an aversion to the “R” word (retire), I also think that much of the discussion on that subject is unrealistic. 

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Why It Stinks to Be an Atheist

A man recently told me that what he dislikes about religion is all the absolutes.  “There are no absolutes; that’s just a fact.” 

I try to tamp down the baffled look on my face.  But I wonder what would happen if he ever listened to the sound it makes when his lung-air strums his vocal chords.  One atheist described laughter as diaphragm spasms.  Apparently, our brain sparks occasionally produce an arch, resulting in what some might describe as “rational thought,” though the ration is illusory and ultimately meaningless.  If you know what I mean.

Welcome to the hollow world of atheist thought.  Not that I question an atheist’s ability to be rational.  They manage quite well in certain areas.  I have even had conversations with atheists which they insisted were meaningful and coherent.  I don’t dispute it.  I just want to know how they explain it. 

Because if, as the atheist claims, all the world is a product of impersonal forces – the collision of matter and energy – or perhaps, lightning striking mud, then what we really have going on is this gigantic chemical reaction which members of the press somberly describe as “breaking news.”  Sometimes the chemicals fizz; sometimes they pop; sometimes they experience diaphragm spasms; sometimes they debate.  But the chemical activity from one beaker to the next really doesn’t matter because it isn’t really anything anyway.  Some brains spark rationally, and some quite irrationally, and that is what chemicals do given certain temperatures and atmospheric pressures. 

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Double Standards

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD. (Proverb 20:10)

God hates a double-standard — one standard applied to ourselves or our friends and allies, slanting things in our own favor, and another standard applied to our rivals or adversaries that slants things against them.  The idea of a double standard comes from these divers weights and divers measures spoken of in the proverb. The Hebrew reads “a stone and a stone, a measure and a measure.”  The idea is that you have a large weight and a small weight, a large measure and a small measure. Depending on the transaction, one set would be used for buying and the other for selling.

To this day, this kind of thing is a universal means of cheating your customer.  We do it with or without scales and weights.  When buying merchandise, we point out the flaws and talk the product down.  When selling, we ignore (or conceal) the flaws and talk the product up.  The age-old double standard still carries the freight.

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Why I’m Not Leaving Facebook. Yet.

I think we can apply the familiar maxim to Facebook: don’t take Facebook too seriously – Facebook already takes itself too seriously.  Over the past few months, I have given a lot of thought to my involvement with Facebook, and particularly to the question of whether I should stay or leave.  In frustration, I have threatened to leave and urged others to consider doing the same.  I have opened accounts with Parler and with MeWe.  I haven’t opened anything with Gaab, but that’s only because… well, I just haven’t. I have raged against the censorship, against the glaring double-standard, against the obvious bias of the medium.  I have chuckled wryly (that is a thing, you know) as I scrolled through old posts of mine to see shadow-ban screens covering select posts.  My favorite warning screen, which appears on several of my more recent posts, warns of inappropriate or explicit content.  I found myself trying to remember what it was I posted that Facebook might consider to be “partial nudity.”  If you are curious, just scroll through my old posts. You’ll be shocked to discover what passes for sexually explicit content these days. 

The big question is, do I stay or do I go. Ultimately, I have decided to stay for now.  And since I like to get a little mileage out of these decisions, I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you, the reading audience.  Notice that I said “reading” audience, not the “glancing” audience or the “skimming” audience.  How ‘bout we slow down that scrolling, swiping, and/or surfing for a minute so you can see for yourself.

Here are five reasons why I’m not leaving Facebook YET, followed by a few rules for my fellow rebels who stay with me.  I’m not leaving Facebook…

Because I don’t have to.

And you can’t make me.  Neener, neener, neener.  So there.

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Joy Restored

We have been discussing various hindrances to joy.  We discussed the way emotional pain from sorrow can disrupt our joy, and we gave some thoughts on dealing with depression and the various ways discouragement can affect our joy.  Then, we discussed the way physical pain and suffering can rob us of our joy, and we offered some suggestions for dealing with this in order to overcome it.

Throughout our lives, we will experience varying degrees of disruption to our joy from both sorrow and suffering.  These are a part of the human experience.  “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”

But the most common disruption to our joy will not be from depression or pain.  The most common disruption to our joy will come from our own sinful choices and behavior.  The pain of sin is the greatest interrupter of our joy. 

Pain and suffering piggybacked into our world on the sin of Adam. I do not say that God ever intended for our world to be a pain-free world.  Pain certainly serves a wise and good purpose.  But the suffering and sorrow we experience from pain is a direct result of sin. 

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Joy in Pain

Physical pain quickly becomes all-consuming to us. We become preoccupied with it. At the moment, intense physical pain chases away all thoughts of joy. But chronic pain, which lasts for years instead of days, can strip away our hope for recovery and rob us of our joy. We might wonder what to do about joy in the face of such crippling pain. Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on this challenge. God gives us the image of Job scraping at his boils with a potsherd.

Some Christians believe the answer to debilitating pain is stoicism. I read about a lady who lost a baby and later testified that God’s grace had been so all-sufficient that she had not shed a tear. I find that troubling. Circumstances may require us to set a firm jaw and soldier on. Still, we should keep a firm handle on the difference between firm resolve and a calloused heart.

God made us physical as well as emotional creatures. We are body, soul, and spirit. At various times, we may experience pain in different body parts – head, neck, back, knees, or elsewhere. Because of the connection between body and soul and spirit, pain in one part of your self can lead to pain in another part. God didn’t make you a block of wood. Those pesky little nerve endings are a part of your whole self. It isn’t unheard of that chronic pain would lead to depression, which can, in turn, cause a loss of joy.  

Because we treasure the gift of joy, we should consider when physical pain affects our joy. For this reason, I want to consider a few things towards a Christian approach to physical pain, especially chronic pain.  I say these things in hopes that if you suffer this way, you will be encouraged to battle your pain in the interest of preserving your joy. I trust that you will find these things helpful towards recovering the joy you might be missing due to debilitating pain.

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The Mormon Hope Podcast

A few weeks ago, Pastor Brandon Vaughn from Grace Baptist Church in Logan approached me about doing a podcast with him. His goal is to provide helpful materials to our LDS neighbors as well as apologetic information for our fellow believers who desire to evangelize their neighbors.

The Vaughn Family from Southern Logan

We get off to a rocking start (think rocking chairs) in this first episode. He does all the setup, editing, posting, and promotion, and I provide that wonderful voice of mine along with a few donated brain cells per session. Let me encourage you to listen to this when you have a chance. If you can’t sleep at night, go ahead and turn on our podcast – it is sure to make you sleep more soundly. I intend to share the weekly episodes on Facebook, so I probably won’t write about it much on my blog.

The leash is NOT for my wife

The first episode is available here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1645945

You can subscribe, according to buzzsprout, by copying and pasting the URL from the address bar (provided here) into the podcast app of your choice. https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1645945.rss

I’d offer more helpful advice, but I’m plumb out…

Joy in Depression

Very few people – Christians included – spend much time thinking about whether or not they have joy.  We assume that it is there.  We feel happy from time-to-time, usually because of a special moment or event.  So long as “everything’s going my way,” we don’t concern ourselves much with joy.  We don’t necessarily feel a sense of joy or delight, but we are content enough with our lives and circumstances.  So, we don’t think about joy.  After all, how ironic would it be to worry about something like joy?

But then, things go sideways.  Something comes along – perhaps a tragedy or some challenge – that disrupts the easy-going joy that we have experienced as almost a default setting.  And then we do worry about it.  “I’m supposed to be full of joy: where is it?”  We feel down, discouraged, maybe even despair.  We know that we shouldn’t feel this way.  After all, we are Christians: the joy of the Lord is supposed to be our strength.  But something has happened.  Joy is gone. 

We don’t tend to be concerned about joy until it goes AWOL.  In the good times, we take it for granted.  But then God brings along a disruption to our joy – may be in the form of a trial, but more often by letting our spirit sink. When we are low in spirit, we feel our loss.  And because we haven’t paid much attention to joy, we find ourselves stuck in a rut. How do I get my joy back?  What is it, really?  Where did it go, and how do I find it?  What does joy look like when I am low in spirit? 

We are speaking here of the garden variety forms of what we call “depression.”  Sometimes it can show up in a mild case of the blues, sometimes it can be more severe than that.  When our spirits fall, we experience a loss of joy. 

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What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.

For most of my life, I had been taught certain things about Martin Luther King, Jr. – specifically that he was a communist and an adulterer. Looking back, I wasn’t confident that my sources told me the truth or that those characterizations painted an honest picture of King.  

I decided to study the life of Dr. Martin Luther King for myself. As part of my study, I listened to the audiobook version of Joseph Rosenbloom’s Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. I also read one of King’s earliest biographies, Let the Trumpet Sound, by Stephen B. Oates.

In hindsight, a better choice would have been one of David Garrow’s three biographies of King. Oates’ biography is thorough enough. Questions have been raised about plagiarism in his book, but that has more to do with the “gotcha” culture of acadamia than any legitimate problem with citations in his material. Oates answers these charges here, for reference. I got the overall impression that Oates was a bit too enamored with King to tackle some of the controversy surrounding his life. Nonetheless, I am glad I read this biography since it gave me a better perspective of King’s life and legacy.

When I finished those two books, I checked out from the library two documentaries about King’s life. The better documentary came from The History Channel and featured Tom Brokaw. The footage in that film included some of the most important events in King’s life. I enjoyed watching video of the things I read about in King’s biography.  

What follows is a rundown of the things I took away from my research. I know that we have little tolerance for wordy online articles, but I hope you will “endure to the end!” Perhaps this article will help you better understand one of the truly iconic characters in American history.

He was a great man.

No man is without his flaws, and King had some glaring shortcomings. But King is worthy of honor, and I am glad to celebrate him. 

By design, some men rise above the crowd. Martin Luther King, Jr was one such man. He would have been famous and wildly successful at whatever he attempted. He was a driven man; he had tremendous talent; he had a magnetic personality. The fact that he possessed so many marks of greatness makes it all the more remarkable that he dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. King did not launch the civil rights movement. Men like W.E.B DuBois and others fought for black people’s rights for many years before MLK came along. King drew our attention to the movement, put it in the national spotlight, and forced America to take note. It was the sheer force of his personality, his presence, that caught America’s attention.

He was a brilliant man.

He entered college while still fifteen years old and earned a Ph.D. when he was twenty-five. He wrote his thesis on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” He studied nearly all the great philosophers and almost all the Great Books. He wrote at least four books in his lifetime, the first while still in his twenties. He was conversant in all the great thinkers of Western Civilization, often quoting these philosophers in his sermons. He had a grasp on the nuances of the philosophies that influence our modern era. He knew these philosophies well enough that he could discuss them at length and explain his disagreements.   

He was one of the last great orators.

It has been said that Martin Luther King was one of the last orators to use the grand style properly. I do not believe there has been a man with more natural oratorical skill since King died. 

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Sorrow Turned to Joy

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20)

In John 16, Jesus has His disciples in the upper room, preparing them for His crucifixion.  He tells the disciples that very soon, they will be in mourning.  Pointing to this, Jesus makes a staggering promise: “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

How can sorrow be turned into joy?  The two seem perfectly contradictory, like a square circle or frozen fire.  Yet, Jesus made the promise: “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  Turn a toad into a prince, or a statue into a man, but how can sorrow be turned into joy?  The simple answer is, only by the power of God. 

Somehow, God’s recipe for joy includes sorrow.  I can’t say that I completely understand that.  In my mind, joy consists of the absence of sorrow.  Yet, God calls for our sorrows, tucks them into the cake batter, throws the mix into the oven, and brings forth a masterpiece of a cake.  There must be sorrow, or He could not turn it into joy.

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