Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Tithe Today

The current debates relating to the tithe are focused on whether or not the tithe is part of the New Covenant or is it applicable today? Those who desire that the tithe be eliminated today always use the fact that it was limited to Old Law.

What many miss is the fact that no where was the tithe ever done away by Jesus himself nor is it fully understood as to how GRACE applies, thus fits within the total scriptural teaching of the tithe and stewardship. For those who have wondered when I would get around to scriptural application, we are here. This is actually my favorite part of the study. We will explore the New Testament model and see what is often omitted from the discussions of today.

We begin with the New Testament church as seen in the New Testament. We see Paul. A man sent out to share the Gospel. In fact repeatedly we read that Paul was supported, financially and prayerfully, by the churches. How was he supported by these churches if tithing/giving to the church was not taught and lived? In the letters that Paul wrote, he commended the churches for their giving (2 Cor 9:2 and 1 Cor 16: 1-4). The conclusion is thus simple, they collectively gave and the church then gave. In fact the church in Jerusalem was one of the benefactors of many churches giving.

How did the people give to the individual churches?

It is clear in the New Testament that GRACE raised "the bar" when it came to giving as a whole. It stands to reason that a person who was a recipient of the GRACE of God would out of love, devotion, and thanksgiving give far more than the tithe required under the law. It is here that the tithe is seen in the New Testament as a standard that acts as the starting point in our giving.

Giving to our churches is easily seen and cannot be ignored in the New Testament. The needs of people, poor and hungry, the spreading of the Gospel, the care of the servants, all are there. As mentioned in previous posts, the huge disagreements that are often mentioned relating to giving to local churches today are weak at best. Yes there are churches that are poorly handling the money that God's people give. Yes there are issues that each church must deal with. Those issues DO NOT lay the basis for one neglecting the giving to one's church. To do so is violate the whole of scripture.

The giving today of God's people should be far above the requirements of the tithe. The Bible is also very clear that churches who were in poverty gave out of their poverty and the blessings of God were seen. The joy and thanksgiving in our hearts should permeate our giving. And this giving should be done based on our first fruits.

And we will continue...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Defining the Tithe

As discussion grows in modern times concerning the tithe, the definition of what actually was and is the tithe moves to the front of the arguments. There are those who would specify that the Old Testament tithe was restricted to items grown and raised. Some will say that it was "asset only" driven and that regardless of the mentions in the New Testament, it ended with the cross.

It is this position that reveals what a few call the New Covenant application. In this approach the tithe is out because the Law is out in the New Testament. After the cross, according to this thought, GRACE is the deal and thus giving the tithe is replaced with giving what ones decides due to our being under grace. Also out in this thought is giving to the church. The reasoning here is that the tithe, according to this thought, was specific for the law and the temple and the government and ... and does not thus apply to the New Testament Church.

As I have raised some questions previously, I feel it is important for us to understand the abuses that DO take place from many who teach the tithe is applicable today. It is these abuses that often cloud the issues and actually rally the cries for adopting a GRACE Giving approach (which I will define Biblically in another post).

The tithe is abused when:
  • Churches beat the people over the head
  • Churches spend money frivolously
  • Churches ignore the Biblical model for teaching and encouraging
  • Churches teach that one will prosper from giving the tithe
  • Churches make it a requirement of membership
  • Churches fail to do ministry and missions
  • The full teaching of Stewardship is ignored
  • Grace Giving is seldom emphasised and taught

These are just a few. Yet how does one answer the questions and challenge the issues? Defining the tithe must start with the Bible and it must stay with the Bible. Prosperity preachers and those who want to diminish the tithe will always bring the above into their defense of NOT tithing while ignoring that though abuses do occur, the Biblical model is NEVER subject to change due to culture or abuse.

And we will continue on with our study Monday...!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Common Arguments Against the Tithe

As our discussion moves forward we must pause and look at some of the current reasons being given for NOT tithing. Most of the justification for this stand against the tithe is rooted in human secular materialism and spiritualization of will full manipulation of scripture. Maybe that is a strong statement but when the reasons are viewed I can think of nothing better to describe.

I will not spend too much time on these but I will share some of the "best of the worst":

1. The tithe was "cold Law" and thus no one outside of Israel and definitely no one from the point of the cross forward should be tithing. We are under grace. We are free from the law!

2. The tithes discussed in the Old Testament are not applicable today.

3. The churches mentioned in the New Testament were never commanded to tithe or teach tithing.

4. With all the growth of Mega and Super Churches and the high salaries of their Pastoral Staff, the people who give a tithe to the those churches are wasting the money.

5. A person should place their money where they think it would serve best.

6. The Free Will offering is the offering of today.

7. Pastors and churches who teach tithing (storehouse) are abusing their people.

8. And the list goes on and on...

The problem with these are that some interesting forms of hermeneutics are used as "theological" justification. One may hear terms like "New Covenant" and "Dispensational" that lead many to believe that the one advocating the change in understanding related to tithing is actually valid.

And the "poor" are actually being used while NO definition of poor is ever given. The approach is that Pastors and church leaders DO NOT care about people.This subject is obviously one that goes far beyond Bible Interpretation and Theology. The fuss and confusion actually prove that man can create a mess of what God has been clear about only because man does not always like what God says.

And the fun will continue...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Questions on Tithing

No doubt that a subject like Stewardship would bring about questions and even some heated debate. One of the things that I hope this series does is to bring about a discussion when often in the past discussion was tough. The reality of the tie that Stewardship has with basic Bible doctrine has always intrigued me. Vigorous debates always flow from this discussion with Doctrinal issues spreading quickly into multiple areas.

Here are some questions that I think will highlight the challenge with this subject:

1. Was the tithe only for Israel?

2. Though much is said in the New Testament about giving and even some mentions of tithing, is it true that after the cross the tithe was to cease?

3. Does "grace giving" mean that NO standard of tithing exists?

4. How is it that there is so much confusion over the subject of tithing?

5. Why do things like adultery get certain treatment in the OT that tithing does not get?

6. Is there a Biblical Standard for those of us alive today in regards to tithing and giving?

The danger with a subject like tithing is that often people approach it from a position that they hold or would like to hold and thus they set out to prove their case. Some may even suggest that I could be approaching the subject from a "I believe it" position and thus that I am setting out to do the same. Before anyone jumps to conclusions I simply ask that you follow along and watch and read and pray! You just might be surprised in the whole of the series.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tithing and Stewardship - Praying It Returns

I will begin a series here that highlights the Biblical call to tithe and what a return to Biblical Stewardship will and can do for America. I realize that many today are questioning this doctrine and might challenge the truths made. That is fine. Good discussion and debate actually leads to learning and prayerfully conviction.

If America is ever to be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ we must realize that Lordship will move to the forefront of our daily lives. Stewardship is one of the key truths that gets our attention when we grasp Lordship.

We begin with the words of Jesus:

Matthew 23:23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." NKJV

Clearly Jesus taught and one might say reinforced the tithe in this statement. The words here are spoken in a clear lesson being taught to the multitudes. The Pharisees are being called out for their lives which were not lived in surrender to Jesus as Lord. Interesting here is that as the "wrong approach" to life is being called out, the right disciplines are being taught.

So why do you think that with Jesus clearly teaching the tithe people today desire to belittle or do away with it?

Do you teach Biblical Tithing? Does your church believe and practice Tithing and Stewardship?

Just think of the changes that could occur when we return to this Biblical Doctrine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2010 Budget - Up or Down?

Most churches have completed or are in the process of completing their 2010 Budgets. There is no doubt that many leaders are trying to discover how to handle the economic situation of our day and the needs of ministry in the budgeting process. What some may miss is the simple truth that God is not bound by tough economic times. In fact, He thrives in them when His truth is taught.

Eklund Stewardship is seeing some of the greatest days of tithing and giving resulting from the teaching of God's Word on money. Look at these examples:

  • A Baptist church in a rural town that has been hit hard with layoffs and cutbacks in employee pay has just committed over $1 million to a building campaign while seeing their weekly giving increase by over 12%.
  • A Methodist church in another rural community that has 200 attendees (mainly Senior Adults) has just committed to an increase in their 2010 Budget of over $10,000 while committing to give over $450,000 to a relocation (their 3RD back to back campaign).
  • A Baptist church in Tennessee is experiencing a $30,000 increase in 2009 giving compared to 2008 levels.

God honors the teaching and living out of His Word. This is true of Stewardship as it is in faith and love. The One Month to Live study and book written by Kerry Shook get s it right when he writes:

"If I am connected to my Creator with constant conversation and constant confession, then He'll give me the power and the self-control I need"

Truly our people need to hear truth from us and they need to hear it without fear. They need to be reminded and taught about self control and obedience in the disciplines that produce fruit in their lives.

God works regardless of the economic storms of man. In fact, He works through them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When Economic Times are Tough - what to do?

For the past few months we have been receiving emails and phone calls asking how a church can promote giving during tough economic times. During the conversations and interactions with these ministers of the Gospel the issue of the tithe is always one that brings both positive and negative responses, fears and apprehensions.

The first and most important value that must be utilized is the power of the Word of God. This means teaching the Biblical tithe. Many words have been substituted in place of tithe. In fact, the whole teaching of tithing is being lost in many churches today. We much about generosity and investing. Though the terms are good, they do not present the Biblical model of the tithe. To set aside a tenth of ones income is basic and commanded. The discipline of tithing actually produces the ability to be generous and to invest. But the terms in and of themselves do not produce faithful tithing.

Tithing must be taught and it must be modeled. Leaders must humbly lead in the giving of the tithe. To share the experiences with people is to actually accomplish more in the way of teaching than many of the other approaches. People hear the older generation discuss it but often discredit the truth due to "changing times". When the leaders of the church actually live the truth, the truth is caught.

Third, it is important that GOOD STEWARDSHIP be practiced by the church. Wasteful spending and sloppy record keeping will negate in the minds of people, the teaching of tithing. The secular approach is in full view with the average person in the church - need gets attention. When the truth of tithing is taught and yet sloppy and wasteful stewardship is practiced, Satan has clear path to confuse and corrupt the subject being taught.

These are tough times! Live tithing, teach tithing, practice good stewardship, and watch as God blesses you, your people and His church for His glory.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recession could not stop God

A church in Camden Arkansas that needed to remodel a major portion of their buildings began the process two and half years ago. Just as the giving had started to flow, the economy hit bottom. But God is not tied to Wall Street or Banks. It is also important to realize that this area of Arkansas has been impacted greatly before and during the recession.

Here are the specifics:

Church Ave Attendance: 200
Campaign Goal: $1.6 million
Commitments: $1.8 million
Actual Dollars Given: $2.2 million and 5 months to go!
Budget Giving: Over budget income each year with increase budget each year.
Missions Giving: Up 1% each year (now 3%) on top of the above

God can work in ways man cannot understand! When a church does what God's Word shows and says, He will bless - and He will do it greatly.

To God be the glory!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Your Personal Financial Bailout

The following is a list of certain things that many families in America are missing financially. In fact, making adjustments in these areas can be like getting a raise! It will not be the government bailing you out but you providing the relief that you need. And don't miss the part that actually teaches children self discipline and focus. One of the greatest needs among teenagers today is the proper understanding of money and how easily it can be wasted. We are raising a whole generation of self indulging people that will not find the life of adulthood easy unless we make major changes.

1. Extended Warranties - Generally, they’re not worth the money. (The only thing I now have a warranty on is my laptop computer, and that’s because I practically beat it to death.) If a new gadget or appliance is going to fail, research tells us it will do so during the manufacturer’s warranty period or long after the extended warranty has expired. That makes extended warranties, which can cost anywhere from $5 to hundreds of dollars, a big profit center for retailers and a pretty useless expense for consumers.

Get Smart: If you’re worried about a breakdown, take the money you’d spend on a warranty and stash it into a special savings account. If your item fails, you’ll have the money to repair it. If not (which is more likely), in three or five years when everything’s gone well, you’ll have stashed away a nice little nest egg.

2. Gym Fees - The sales pitch is compelling and the promise of better health is hard to deny. But getting roped into a legal obligation to pay a big monthly fee for the next two or three years—whether you use the gym or not—makes no sense.

Get Smart: Find a gym or health club that requires no contract (you pay by the month if and when you desire). Or don’t pay at all: There’s a big wonderful world out there where you can walk, jog or run for free!

3. Fast-Food Runs - You know how ridiculous it is to spend $3 or $4 for coffee—over and over, day after day. But how about the other snacks and food purchases that can cause your bank account to evaporate? A morning egg sandwich here, an afternoon bag of chips there…before you know it, you’ve spent $20 or more a week.

Get Smart: Before you leave the house in the morning, figure out how much cash you’ll need for the day, then take only that amount with you. Bring your own snacks and pack a brown-bag lunch to reduce costs even more.

4. Cell Phone Apps and Ringtones - OK, so it’s cool to have ringtones, apps and games on your cell. And sure, $2 to $3 a pop or $10 a month may not seem like a lot of money for so much fun. But watch out. You can blow through a lot of cash in no time.
Get smart: Make a hard-and-fast rule that you do not pay for ringtones, apps or games—then find them for free. They’re out there; you just have to search for the ones that work on your particular phone and with your service provider. Check out
Phonezoo.com or Myxer.com. You can even make your own ringtones for free, using MP3s you already own.

5. Fees (Late, Over Limit or Worse):Not paying attention to your bills is a big mistake these days, when banks are doing all they can to boost their profits. Getting credit card payment in late can mean a $39 whack on the wrist. Being sloppy with your bank account and bouncing a check can cost you around $27.

Get smart: Find your inner private detective. Go over every statement and question every entry. Don’t know what it is? Find out! Get bold! If you’re charged a fee for something silly like allowing your balance to drop a few bucks below the agreed-upon minimum or sending your payment a day late, call customer service. Explain that this is so not like you, as evidenced by your clean record. Then ask them to waive the fee or reverse the charge if it has already been assessed to your account.

6. Landline Extras - Have you looked at your home phone bill lately? I mean really carefully? You could be paying for features you never use: call forwarding, call waiting, who knows what else. Those add-ons could be costing you $15 a month or more.

Get smart: Can’t find a recent bill? Pick up the phone and call customer service. If you use your mobile phones more often than your home landline, consider canceling the bells and whistles to get your home service down to the bare minimum.

7. Rental Car Insurance - Saying yes can add anywhere from $9 to $30 or more per day to the cost of the car. That’s a waste if you carry insurance on your cars at home, or if you pay with a credit card that offers rental car insurance as a perk. Your existing auto policy may be all you need if it includes third-party liability, collision and comprehensive coverage for rentals (most do!).

Get smart: Before you even get to the car rental counter, call your insurance agent to make sure you’re covered.

8. Computer Software - You got a great deal on that new computer, so why go broke loading it up with software? Before you spend a dime, take a look at all the freeware out there. You’ll find programs written by enthusiasts and distributed with no strings attached: games, graphics, office suites, fonts, every kind of desktop tool and gadget imaginable.

Get smart: Check out
FreewareHome.com, an index site that lists more than 5,500 programs that really are free. No request for money in the documentation, no nag screens asking for payment or donations, no time limits!

9. Unlimited Texting - Most cell phone plans include a certain number of texts with the basic service. Texting is fun, but it can get out of control in a big hurry. Upgrading to an unlimited plan can add $15 (about $180 per year per phone on your cell plan) just so you can engage in a lot of meaningless chatter. How dumb is that?

Get Smart: Forget the upgrades. Scale back to a limited number of
text messages for you and the kids, too. A little selfdiscipline could be a good thing for everyone involved.

10. Bottled Water - You’ve got to hand it to the bottled water industry. They’ve managed to convince otherwise rational people to pay around 800 times more to purchase water in a bottle rather than get it from the tap. These days a 16-oz bottle of “spring” water goes for about a dollar, which works out to about $8 a gallon—twice the cost of milk, and roughly on par with soft drinks. Home delivery is less per gallon, but still around $40 a month, according to online averages. However, 16 8-oz glasses of tap water cost about a penny. Bottom line: You’ve heard it before, but now you have to do it. Lay off the bottled water!

Get Smart: The next time you feel thirsty, turn on the tap. Don’t like the taste of your tap water? Invest in a filter pitcher or install an inexpensive faucet filter. You’ll still come out ahead.
Music DownloadsUnless you’ve got money to burn, paying 99¢ or more per tune can add up. But not to worry. There are plenty of ways to get free music downloads, all totally legal and easy to access.
Get Smart: Check out the free classical catalog at
ClassicCat.net. Or take advantage of the free downloads section at Rhapsody.com. Want country? At CountryWeekly.com, click on “Free Music Downloads” under “Music.” At Amazon.com, click on “Digital Downloads” from the lefthand menu, then “MP3 Downloads.” On the left under “Browse MP3s,” there’s a Most Popular category. There you’ll see an option for “Free Songs & Special Deals.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

Your weekly giving can increase!

Article after article reveals that some of our church in America are experiencing a drop in giving during this tough economic time. A few Pastors have shared that they are experiencing some feelings of despair as they seek to lead their people. Vision requires money. Can your church still grow and increase in vision and ministry during this time in our nation.


Example #1 - a small new Texas church trying to get in position to build their first building just finished the intensive part of their Capital campaign. The results in budget given are incredible. A new staff member has already been hired as giving has increased over 50% as a result of the campaign. The giving to the campaign is above this number is setting a record.

Example #2 - a church in Minnesota that needed to lower it's debt experienced a 25% increase in giving as a result of their intensive time of the Capital Campaign. In fact, they raised one time their annual budget with no other motivation than to pay off debt. And to top that off, over $50,000 has already been given in the first month. The church runs less than 200 on the average Sunday.

Example #3 - a large Oklahoma church in it's first year to lower debt has already seen given to it's campaign over $600,000 in it's first six months. Again, debt was the only motivation.

These three are just a sampling.

God is blessing in huge ways. Are you wrestling with a decision on vision and stewardship. We can help. Let us know how we might be able to partner with you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

God works even in BAD economy

As the Spring campaigns are winding down Eklund Stewardship is seeing some wonderful works of God. All of our campaigns have met their goals and many have exceeded them. To God be the glory. One of the key points in all of this is that we did not lower expectations due to the economy. Not at all.

God works regardless of how a nation or even the world is doing. He is not bound to economy. His economy is full and always abounding. Pastors are telling us that spiritual awakening is really taking place among their people and the excitement for the things of God are building like never before.

Our Fall schedules are beginning to max out. Surely people are sensing the need for churches to move forward. Let us know how we can partner with you and your people.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Christian Blogs

Check out the link on the left to find great blogs to enhance your thought and challange you in your walk with Christ!

Thanks Tony for providing this!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Steward Culture

While reading articles on the current economic perspective of the average person I discovered a great statement that reveals a "turning" in the mindset of people that is actually the foundation of a great culture of stewardship.

Here it is:

"A consumer culture invites us to want more than we can ever have; a culture of thrift invites us to be grateful for whatever we can get. So we pass the time by tending our gardens and patching our safety nets and debating whether, years from now, this season will be remembered for what we lost, or all that we found."

Call it thrift or steward - they both imply the same. Americans are beginning to see the difference and the foundation is being laid for stewards. It is a great time to teach stewardship. People are hungry for it and actually willing to learn it.

Are you teaching your people to be STEWARDS?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stewardship is thriving today!

Over the past year we have all heard and seen the comments that appear to mark the death of Christian Stewardship in America. The main thought being expressed is simple; we have lived past the days when people are willing to give the tithe and we must accept this fact.

The great news is just as simple; churches across America are seeing an increase in Stewardship in all areas even during these tough economic times. How? When the biblical principles are taught, God works in the hearts of His people and the result is His! The promises of God are as active today as they were two years ago. God is still God and God is not bound to any economic system or collapse of such.

From the North to the South, East to the West, God is working in many ways as leaders lead their people to live obediently to God. Three churches in the past 4 months have seen a 30%+ increase in tithes weekly as God has worked during Capital Campaigns. Those same churches have met or exceeded the norms that Eklund Stewardship has witnessed for years during such campaigns. Young and old are seeing that God can use them and that their finances can get straight with Him in the lead. Churches are reducing debt loads and paying for new buildings and ministries. All that is needed is Steward Leaders! Are you experiencing this move of God?

Yes, stewardship is thriving. Give us a call and we will gladly share with your how you and your people can experience the work of God in your finances. God's churches should never experience a shortfall - He owns it all. We simply must be good stewards.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Time For Leadership In Stewardship

As the economic conditions continue to make headlines in America it is important for us to remember and implement true LEADERSHIP! As I write this I am hearing from Pastors all over America excited about what is going as they lead with clear Biblical teaching in the area of Stewardship. Many of these Pastors are reporting increases in giving of upwards 40%.

Eklund Stewardship Ministry is experiencing some of the most remarkable fruits in churches conducting Capital Campaigns for buildings and debt reduction. Yes, churches are moving forward from Minnesota to Texas, Tennessee to Washington State. What is most remarkable is the response from the people in the pew. Families are making adjustments beginning with tithing and then in areas of spending. Families with children and teenagers are discovering God's plan for finances and are excited to join their fellow Christians in moving the ministries and missions of the forward.

It is important to remember that the greatest days of Stewardship development often occur during difficult times. People everywhere are looking for the church to assist and advise. Leadership in the area of Stewardship Development can not be over stated. Pastors need to embrace the precepts taught in God's Word. Then these precepts need to taught apologetically to their members. The results are what God promises - people hear and respond as the Holy Spirit applies the truths to the heart.

Anyone can be negative and go with the media flow. A Leader steps up and says there is a positive and then walks in the path of the truths of God's Word. It is our prayer that God is raising up true leaders in the pulpits of America for this critical time. The greatest days of ministry are here now. Let us lead in obedience and then praise God with thanksgiving as He does what He has promised - Blesses Us!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Making a great call!

A head with a heart
By Kevin Cullen, Globe Columnist March 12, 2009
It was the kind of meeting that is taking place in restaurant kitchens, small offices, retail storerooms, and large auditoriums all over this city, all over this state, all over this country.
Paul Levy, the guy who runs Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was standing in Sherman Auditorium the other day, before some of the very people to whom he might soon be sending pink slips.

In the days before the meeting, Levy had been walking around the hospital, noticing little things.
He stood at the nurses' stations, watching the transporters, the people who push the patients around in wheelchairs. He saw them talk to the patients, put them at ease, make them laugh. He saw that the people who push the wheelchairs were practicing medicine.

He noticed the same when he poked his head into the rooms and watched as the people who deliver the food chatted up the patients and their families.
He watched the people who polish the corridors, who strip the sheets, who empty the trash cans, and he realized that a lot of them are immigrants, many of them had second jobs, most of them were just scraping by.

And so Paul Levy had all this bouncing around his brain the other day when he stood in Sherman Auditorium.

He looked out into a sea of people and recognized faces: technicians, secretaries, administrators, therapists, nurses, the people who are the heart and soul of any hospital. People who knew that Beth Israel had hired about a quarter of its 8,000 staff over the last six years and that the chances that they could all keep their jobs and benefits in an economy in freefall ranged between slim and none.

"I want to run an idea by you that I think is important, and I'd like to get your reaction to it," Levy began. "I'd like to do what we can to protect the lower-wage earners - the transporters, the housekeepers, the food service people. A lot of these people work really hard, and I don't want to put an additional burden on them.

"Now, if we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice," he continued. "It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits."
He had barely gotten the words out of his mouth when Sherman Auditorium erupted in applause. Thunderous, heartfelt, sustained applause.

Paul Levy stood there and felt the sheer power of it all rush over him, like a wave. His eyes welled and his throat tightened so much that he didn't think he could go on.
When the applause subsided, he did go on, telling the workers at Beth Israel, the people who make a hospital go, that he wanted their ideas.

The lump had barely left his throat when Paul Levy started getting e-mails.

The consensus was that the workers don't want anyone to get laid off and are willing to give up pay and benefits to make sure no one does. A nurse said her floor voted unanimously to forgo a 3 percent raise. A guy in finance who got laid off from his last job at a hospital in Rhode Island suggested working one less day a week. Another nurse said she was willing to give up some vacation and sick time. A respiratory therapist suggested eliminating bonuses.

"I'm getting about a hundred messages per hour," Levy said yesterday, shaking his head.
Paul Levy is onto something. People are worried about the next paycheck, because they're only a few paychecks away from not being able to pay the mortgage or the rent.

But a lot of them realize that everybody's in the same boat and that their boat doesn't rise because someone else's sinks.

Paul Levy is trying something revolutionary, radical, maybe even impossible: He is trying to convince the people who work for him that the E in CEO can sometimes stand for empathy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Economy and our children

With the news growing more negative each day as banks and businesses continue to reap the fallout of the financial disaster, before us is a golden opportunity to teach in a vivid way the financial precepts of God's Word to our children. We have a picture similar, and possibly worse, to that of the Great Depression. The years following that time period were ones of fiscal restraint and biblical obedience in the area of finance.

Should Jesus tarry His coming, we can lay a foundation for our children today. The world has changed drastically in the past nine months. Are we as Parents and leaders finally waking up to the need to teach Stewardship? Do we see the opportunity we have before us?

In the coming posts, I will share some insight into how we can better teach what we have ignored for years. The challenge is now a MUST. People need to hear what God's Word says about Stewardship. The world needs our churches to be strong financially now more than ever. Are you doing more than helping with the budget needs of your families? Are you teaching Stewardship to your children?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dr. Johnny Hunt on the Financial Crisis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In the midst of the nation's financial hardships, Southern Baptists have a prime opportunity to show unbelievers that what they've embraced is not fair-weather Christianity, Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Feb. 16."I thank God that what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in our lives will go the distance. The truth is ... it's not what's going to come against us that's going to make us or break us, it's what God has placed in us and what we choose to do with it," Hunt told the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn.

During a recent speaking engagement at the Georgia House of Representatives, Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, said government officials lined up to ask him whether the Bible says anything pertaining to the financial difficulties Americans are facing.Hunt said the Bible is the oldest collection of wisdom, and he called it the church's stimulus package."If we're looking for something from out there to help us, really what we're saying is that which we've received in here is not sufficient," he said, holding up a Bible.The first chapter of the Book of Job holds the answer for how believers are able to endure hard times, Hunt said. Satan asked whether Job feared God simply because God had put a hedge of protection around him, and Hunt said the same question could be asked of Southern Baptists and of Americans."In other words, it's easy to serve Him as long as we're in our fine Southern Baptist churches, our fine offices, wherever you may be serving, and we're being taken care of," he said.But the true test comes when the sun is no longer shining down and the road is marked with suffering. That's when the world is watching to see how Christians will respond, Hunt said. As Job asked, Southern Baptists need to ask themselves, "Will we accept good from God and not accept adversity?"

Hunt then transitioned into eight prayer requests derived from Psalm 119:33-40, in which the psalmist asked God to help him cope in life."He's crying out to God, and I see it relating so well to where we are as a denomination," Hunt said.First, there is a prayer for education, he said, noting that the psalmist is teachable and has a desire to learn. "Also note in this petition a tone of humility and dependence," he said. "He sees God as a path to be followed, and he's saying, 'God, I so desire for You to educate me.'"In verse 34, there is a prayer for illumination, Hunt said. Three words predominantly used in Psalms and Proverbs, he said, are knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Knowledge is education, but understanding is knowledge that has worked itself out in the realities of life. Wisdom, he said, can only be given by God, and it can be given to people with no formal education.The psalmist prays for direction in verse 35 as he asks, "Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it." "That's the psalmist's paradox," Hunt said. "Why ask the Lord to make you do what you like doing? Because he knew there was a war between the flesh and the spirit. He understood a little something about Romans 7. Is that not true in all of us?"Next comes a prayer for inclination, in which the psalmist is asking God to establish a pattern of consistency in his life and to help him avoid covetousness."If there's any place that America has bowed and formed an altar and stayed there, it's in the area of the idolatry of covetousness," Hunt said.

The psalmist also sets forth a prayer for attention, Hunt said, when he asks God to turn his eyes from looking at worthless things."Do I need to say any more? My attention needs to be focused on the Word of God," Hunt said. "... Sinful things have a great attraction for us, and the psalmist said, 'Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things.'"In verse 38, there is a prayer for realization."When Isaiah saw God for who He was, the very next thing that happened was he saw himself for who he was," Hunt said. "... We'll never see ourselves the way God sees us until we see God for who God is. And then when we do, we won't think near as much of ourselves."The psalmist also prays for protection when he asks God to turn away his reproach. "To bear reproach is to bear shame. The psalmist is asking God to protect his testimony. He so desired to never disgrace the Lord and bring His name dishonor," Hunt said.

Finally, the psalmist prays for aspiration. In other words, he longed to live the kind of life laid out in God's Word, and he longed for the life-giving transformation that only God could produce in his life."The man that's making the request is so dependent that unless God does what he asks, it won't get done," Hunt said. "... He's sitting idle without the potential of getting where God is in order to be revived, and it's like saying, 'Unless You come to me where I am and breathe Your transforming life in me, I will be right here when You come back.' "

I feel like sometimes that's where we are as Southern Baptists. We need the life-transforming breath of Almighty God to come to where we are in our decline and breathe into us and help us to stand again and be a mighty army, a force for the glory of God."As the economic crisis has unfolded, Hunt said he has told people repeatedly that he believes God is still in control."God's still on His throne. He's still ruling. He's still reigning. There's no vacancy. So if that's the case, God's still in charge, He's allowing us to go through what we're going through," Hunt said."And in my estimation, if He were going to hit America anywhere to get our attention, the best place to begin is in the pocketbook. And if by taking us from recession to depression He could get us on our knees again and help us to realize a need for Him and bring revival, if He could do that and will do it, I'll be the first if He'd like to bankrupt me first," Hunt said."

You say, 'Talk is cheap.' We're not just talking. This is something we've prayed through over and over again and just begin to say, 'God, whatever it takes in my lifetime.' Some of you have prayed far longer than I have. Some of you have been preaching longer than I've been a Christian," he said."But to really mean it, whatever it takes for God once again to wake this nation up to the fact of who He is in the name of Jesus, I pray He'll do it. That's my prayer, and may God do it."

--30--Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dr. Hawkins gets it right!

The following is reprinted from Baptist Press. It is a great balanced perspective on todays economic conditions.

DALLAS (BP)--The headline called out from newspapers around the world -- the ongoing credit crunch had claimed another victim. This time it was German businessman Adolf Merckle. A bespectacled and balding 74-year-old family businessman, Merckle lost hundreds of millions of euros last year in the financial markets, according to The Wall Street Journal. Distraught over the difficulty in obtaining a 400-million euro loan from a consortium of German banks to help right his business interests, he chose to end his life along a rail line near Blaubeuren-Weiler, Germany.

News articles noted this was far from the first suicide tied to the current economic crisis -- a French financier who lost a reported $1.5 billion on behalf of his clients, with a suspected Ponzi scheme involving Bernard L. Madoff, was found dead in his Manhattan office before Christmas.

From my years as a pastor, I can testify that comforting a grieving family is always a challenge, but when the family is grieving over a suicide, it can be even more difficult to find the words to console. However, one truth can always be agreed upon: Whatever reason someone thinks warrants suicide, it's too high a price to pay.

For that reason, allow me to remind us all that in God's economy we are worth far more than what shows up in our bank account or financial statement. How valuable are we? We are so valuable to God that we were ransomed (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) with the blood of Christ. God thought us so important that He sent His Son as a ransom for many. That makes our wealth and account balances -- whatever their size -- pale in comparison.

These are tough times. In a recent message to our GuideStone trustees, we shared from Deuteronomy 11:11-12, which says, "But the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year."RESOURCES AND PRACTICAL TIPSThough we have walked through the valleys during the recent months with volatility in the financial markets, we have been through these experiences before.

The 90-year heritage of service by GuideStone Financial Resources means we've survived some valleys before -- the Great Depression, world wars, terrorist attacks and multiple recessions. It is during these valleys that we learn the real lessons of life. Ups and downs in the financial markets are a reality. Whether we are in an up cycle or down cycle, we must remember that God is our resource. His eyes are always on us.During these tough economic times, GuideStone has prepared an online resource to answer participants' questions and concerns. Whether you're a GuideStone participant or not, we invite you to visit our website at www.GuideStone.org/marketwatch to read our articles and watch the helpful videos.

During these challenging circumstances, we would do well to remember some basic tips: -- Maintain your investment discipline; -- Prepare for emergencies; diversify so your investments are appropriately allocated; -- Remain rational; and, perhaps most important, -- Don't neglect your tithes and offerings. In uncertain times, nothing makes us more content than giving.We know times are tough and economic indicators don't point to a quick resolution to this recession -- already the longest in a generation. Layoffs are mounting and people with once-secure careers are finding themselves out of work, sometimes for months on end. If your trust is in a new president, or a new Federal Reserve policy, or new congressional action, you will surely be disappointed. If your trust is in the Lord, you never will be disappointed.The challenges we are facing globally may not subside soon. This may be a longer valley than we've experienced in our lifetimes, but we know who holds the future and we must trust Him to provide for us yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our God is the Sovereign Lord whether we are in a recession or in a rebound. As we lead in our respective places of service, may we encourage one another to see God's guiding hand "through it all."