Monday, August 01, 2011


Just had to share this...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Redistributing the Wealth

I follow the RSS feed for Dave Ramsay's Radio Show (blog). I don't listen to every post, only the ones that are interesting to me. Today, I saw one that was about the concept of wealth redistribution and decided to see what Dave had to say on this. He entitled the post, "This Isn't a Fixed Pie." I couldn't agree more. I had simply never heard it said that way before.

Now, before I begin to explain my position, allow me to start by saying, I am NOT one of the 11,000 families at the top. Within the past couple of years alone my husband has lost his job three times, our house has been up for foreclosure auction, and we've had to sell off some personal items just to be able to afford groceries. However, had someone come to me at any time during that and said, "Tell you what, we're going to go take some money from someone else and give it to you so you can pay your bills," I would have told them "No thanks!"

This is not an issue of pride. I have no problem accepting help freely given (and in fact, I did just that a couple of times). But I don't for one moment think it ought to be mandatory, and I think taking someone's money without their consent is still stealing, no matter if you do it yourself or if you elect leaders to do it for you.

So, do I think poor people should be poor and the wealthy should be wealthy and that's that? Not exactly. As Dave said in his talk show, the problem here is we're assuming this is a fixed pie. To put it another way, we've got a recipe in our hands for making pie, and we're fighting over how to divide a single pie once it's made. Why shouldn't we just MAKE MORE PIE?

To be clear, I'm not talking about printing more money. I won't even start to get into the idiocy of that concept.

What I'm talking about is teaching people how to make money. You don't have to take wealth from the rich to do this. People can make their own wealth without stealing it from others. Lots of people have done it.

Many of you may have seen Dani Johnson on ABC's Secret Millionaire a few weeks ago. (If you didn't, I highly recommend you catch an episode or two. Her episode is still available to view here.) Here's a woman who understands what I'm talking about. She was homeless. She started a business out of the trunk of her car. She is now a millionaire.

But the wealth doesn't stop there. Folks tend to forget when they're discussing this kind of thing, that those people who make all that money are doing good for more than just themselves. How many people do you figure someone like Dani Johnson or Dave Ramsey employ? Even more than that, these two millionaires in particular are in the business of teaching other people to do what they've done and get to where they are.

I should add a disclaimer here. I have never read any of Dani's books or watched any of her videos (other than the Secret Millionaire episode mentioned above), so I can't really say whether I would agree with her methods or not. On the other hand, I have read some of Dave's books and my husband and I took his FPU class and are working through his "baby steps" on the way to our own financial peace.

So, getting back to the issue at hand, what then should be done for the poor? I think the first basic thing is we need to teach people how to handle money. Is this a perfect method? Absolutely not. Is it a good one? I think so. The fact is that most people who have made a mess of their finances have done it because they either didn't know what they were doing or they didn't have the drive, discipline, or sense of personal responsibility to make the most of what they had. Handing these people money won't keep this from happening to them again. If anything, it will perpetuate the problem by teaching them that someone else will bail them out if they screw up.

If we can get as many as possible to be self-sufficient and take care of their own finances and build their own wealth, then the charity of those of us who enjoy helping others should be more than enough to help those special cases where more is needed.

That's how I see it anyway.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Church

So I’m pretty sure we’ve found our new church home. The first place we tried seems just about perfect for us—unheard of. Other times we’ve shopped for churches it has taken months (or years) to find anything, so I was fully prepared for a long, and at times disappointing, search. I’m thinking this must be a God thing. I’m also thinking I should not be surprised.

The new place is pretty amazing so far. We visited on a Sunday morning and filled out one of those little visitor cards that most churches request visitors fill out but never follow up on. The worship music was a delightful mixture of old classic hymns and newer praise songs, but each and every one had lyrics that avoided the typical cliches and instead proclaimed biblical truth about our amazing God.

Then came time for the sermon. They’re currently going through a series on God’s plan for families, and that week was discussing marriages. The pastor pulled no punches, unafraid to discuss the things which are often considered taboo in a church, and also maintaining a balance between addressing the husband’s role and the wife’s. Rather than sitting through the generic sermon it could have been, I found myself taking notes as the pastor drew some parallels and connections I had not heard before and enjoyed the whole service thoroughly.

That evening they were having a “newcomers dessert,” which was billed as a chance to meet the pastor and ask any questions you may have about the church. So we signed up, cause hey, sounds good to me!

When we arrived that evening for the dessert, we were asked to put on name tags and then went through a small buffet-type line where they had cookies and brownies and such and lots of fruit. Very yum. At the end of the buffet line the pastor himself was pouring drinks. For a guy who runs a 1000+ member church, that’s pretty impressive to me. Not only that, but he greeted personally each person to come through, asked their name, and made a little small talk with each.

Pastors out there, take note. This is how you should welcome new people to your church.

Once everyone had gotten some goodies, the meeting began. The pastor asked several questions about topics ranging from “what is your favorite fruit?” to “what is the one factor that is most important to you in choosing a church home?” After each person answered the latter question, the pastor addressed each of our responses (on which he had been taking notes) by scoring the church on each of those items. Surprisingly, he was pretty candid. He spoke honestly about the things he feels the church needs to improve upon and mentioned several programs which are doing well now but may not be shortly (exe., one student said the youth program was most important to him, but the youth pastor just left to be closer to a sick relative and they’re about to go through the long and oft difficult process of finding a new one).

He then opened up the floor for questions from those of us in attendance. Again, he addressed concerns candidly, assessing both the things the church does well and those in which it needs some improvement. He talked about the challenges of reaching out to people in the particular area in which they are located, and spoke about the plans for the upcoming grand opening of the new building (which we have witnessed is sorely needed as the current space is pretty well maxed-out and they’ve had to put some programs on hold for a lack of space).

After the meeting dismissed, the pastor and several of the elders spent some time talking one-on-one with anyone who cared to hang around. Chris asked him about the specific theological issue that had caused us to leave our prior church and his response was well thought-out and very much in line with our beliefs on the matter. He even went so far as to include some evidence for the viewpoint that I had not heard before (which is shocking since I work for a group that specifically studies this particular issue and others like it).

We left feeling that not only did we have a bit of a grasp on where this church currently is, but also where it is headed. We were also informed about upcoming “starting point” classes and the steps laid out to help us get connected and involved. “This might just be the place,” we concluded on the way home.

A few days later, we received in the mail a letter. Wait, you mean they followed up on the little card we dropped in the offering plate? Amazing! Yes, it was a form letter, but I don’t hold that against anyone as I agree that it's the best way to communicate the same information repeatedly as new people come to the church. It said thank you for visiting and mentioned several avenues for getting plugged in, and included contact information for asking any questions we might have. At the bottom the pastor had written us a brief personal note and signed the letter. Again, it was a personal touch that tells us that this church is committed to reaching out to newcomers and helping them feel welcome.

Yesterday was our second Sunday. There were some technical glitches and the like, since they’re currently using their older sound system while the new one is being installed in the new building. These were handled with grace, honesty, and a laugh. (I’d rather see a church that is not afraid to mess up and say “oops,” than one that tries to pretend that everything is perfect.) Again I found the sermon to be both informative and challenging. The people were friendly and we signed up for the starting point class which will begin in a few weeks.

I think we have found our new home and I’m excited to see what next week will bring!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Which way should it go?

Many may know that part of my job entails a certain amount of scriptural study and theological discussion. Even when I am not a direct part of a debate, I often find myself peripherally involved. As such, I see and hear a lot of people read their own (often flawed) theology into the text of scripture. The biggest struggle I face is often to get them to look at a verse and its context and see what it actually says, as opposed to what they expect it to say, what they’ve been taught it says, or what they think it says.

For some reason, just today, it dawned on me. The problem here is that most of us do it backward. We read our message into scripture instead of using scripture to test our message. So simple, yet I had never thought of it that way!

All too often (and I know I am at times guilty of this as well) we look at a verse or passage and think “how does that fit with what I’m trying to say,” when we should be asking “how does what I’m saying fit with scripture.”

Because of the two of us, God or myself, only One is always right.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Casting Your Worries on God

Recently, I've been reading a wonderful blog entitled "Stuff Christians Like" by Jon Acuff. I'm not entirely sure how I happened upon it, but I suspect it had something to do with Acuff's connection to Dave Ramsey. I suppose that's not important though.

Each time I see this particular blog show up in my rss reader, I know I'm in for a treat! Acuff writes well, with enough humor to make reading enjoyable, and enough scripture to make it profitable. Today's topic was on casting your worries on God. The post is entitled "The Wrong Type of Fishing." I'll let you go read it there. (Go ahead... I'll wait.)

Back? Good.

So this post made me think a bit, and I think I respectfully disagree with Acuff's choice in fishing metaphors. Though I do like bits of it, I think that:

  1. If the "cast"ing described in 1 Peter 5:7 is in fact referring to fishing, I think it would probably the common method of fishing in Biblical times, that is, net casting. Peter, after all, would have been most familiar with this method as that was how he made his living prior to meeting Jesus.
  2. I don't think God expects us to continue to take back our worries. As hard as it is for us to manage, I think God wants the casting to be more permanent than that. 
So I got thinking about the net casting analogy. And I posted my initial thoughts as a comment on SCL. Here is that comment:
I have to agree with the net-casting imagery.

Have you ever seen someone cast a net? You have to gather it in first. Gather up all the anxiety, the stress, the pain, whatever. The net, all bunched up looks tense. It looks like a big pile of interwoven, tangled mess.

Then you take this tangled-up, bunched-up, messy net and you throw it away! You “cast” it as far from you as you can, and you have to LET GO of the net. As you throw it, it becomes bigger, takes form, you start to see what is really there. It wasn’t really tangled or messy, it just looked that way when you had it in your hands. But as you let go, you can see it more clearly and it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it was.

And then, once it’s out of your hands, you let it sink in to the water. You let the water (God if you’re following my analogy) take it until it’s completely out of sight and out of reach.

That’s the way I think of it at any rate.
But of course, even after clicking "submit comment" my brain continued to work on the thought.

The gathering up the net, that comes pretty naturally, right? That's what we do as we lie awake at 2 AM, staring at the bedroom ceiling and wondering how we're going to fix the mess we've made of things or avoid the problems we know are lurking just around the corner. That's the easy part.

But the letting go, well, that's another story.

Letting go has to be done intentionally. And really letting go, like properly casting a fishing net, takes practice. We have to grow in our faith and learn to really trust God with these things. It's not something most new believers are capable of doing. Sure, we try, but our fingers get tangled in the net and when we think we're casting it away from us we just wind up dropping it at our own feet.

But with time, patience, practice, and a whole lot of prayer, we can eventually manage to get it into the water and out of our hands.

Then, after the net has been cast, and we've allowed it to sink out of sight, that's not the end of it is it? Of course not! If that were all of it, fishermen would starve and the Sea of Galilee would be full of sunken nets! No, after we've cast our net, given it up to the water and let it sink out of site, we eventually have to draw it back in.

But when we receive it back, it's not the same, is it? No longer a tangled up mess, if we've managed to cast properly and allowed God the time to do His part in this, the net should now be full of fish!

Our worries and cares, those difficult things we've been going through, all the pain and hurt and uncertainty and struggle, we give to God. We allow Him to do as He pleases rather than trying to control the situation. And from this tangled and empty net He brings forth blessing! He turns all the awful, tangled things we were allowing to eat us alive into joy!

I think that's what is meant when it says in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." He can take all the bad things that we go through, all the things that keep us up at night, and make something good out of them.

That’s the way I think of it at any rate.

Verse of the Day