Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Love Explosion

You know what I'm talking about.... when your child does something and it's so sweet or adorable you think your heart just might explode from the love overflowing inside. When they do something and you think, "YES! This is the heart attitude I want to grow in my children."

It has been such a relief to see this happening more and more with my firstborn. It feels like forever that we've been teaching him about having a right attitude and we're finally seeing the fruit of our efforts.

Today my mom asked me to pick up some ice cream cones for her at the grocery store. My son told her, "Gramma, you can save your money and I'll share my ice cream cones with you. Then you can use your money for if Papa needs to fix something." It really touched my heart to hear him say this. Such a simple thing but I know that sharing (especially ice cream cones!) is not a natural response for children. This was so sweet I couldn't help but have a little love explosion inside my heart.

With Gramma at the Christmas parade last year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Church Budgets

About 3 months ago the pastor at the church we have been attending began adding little reminders in his emails to the congregation about how giving was down at the church. Nothing tacky or rude, just the usual, "bring your tithe into the storehouse" reminders. (I'll save my tithe/giving views for another post) So finally out of curiosity my husband and I picked up a copy of the church budget that was available in the foyer.

For the record, this is a church of about 200, an evangelical, protestant denomination. After attending church for the majority of my life, I believe it to be a good representation of the average American church.

The church's budget for last year was right at $330,000. Of that, $154,000 went to salaries (Senior Pastor is the only full-time), insurance, pension, and staff gifts. Much of the rest was for building upkeep, insurance, utilities, etc. There was almost $4,000 spent in the a/v department. There was $4,500 for staff mileage reimbursement. $900 for leadership development. I could go on....

But there is this one category..... Benevolence..... and the whopping total for that ministry.... $1,000. One. Thousand. Dollars.

James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

It's embarrassing. Or at least it should be. How have we gotten so mixed up? And what about the Great Commission? Our church sponsors 12 missionaries at an average of $30/month. That's $4,320 for the year. Out of $330,000 only a little over 1% of the entire budget went directly to missions.

But wait, there's more.

Because of the "financial crisis" the church is currently in, about $500/week below budget for the past few months, the Pastor and LBA have approved certain halts in expenditures. What was one of those halts.... missions. They will not be supporting any new missionaries until the financial crisis improves. Ridiculous! What about faith? Or how about we church members toughen up a little. Do we have to sit in a service where it's a pleasant 68 degrees? Why not bump the temperature up a little and save on electricity. Do we need new sound equipment and big tv's? Nope. For pity's sake, the church building is small enough just a simple mic would be enough to hear the pastor. But golly, then we'd miss out on all those cool graphics in the background of the power-point presentation when we're singing.

I've probably stepped on some toes and offended somebody with this (if anyone bothers to read it, that is). But it's been on my chest and I needed to help get it off. I've probably come across and judgmental and harsh, but I'm actually just burdened. I think many churches need to remember the goal, reaching the lost and bringing them to Christ.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Commission

I thought my first post would be lighter. A little more upbeat. When I decided to start this blog (formerly blogging at Sunshine and Open Hearts) I thought I would blog about my daily life with 3 kids, homeschooling, homemaking, etc. I'd even planned on waiting to blog until I got my design finished. I figured if I only had 1 person that ever read my blog, I really wouldn't care. Because I found I've missed the journal aspect of blogging whether anyone reads it or not.

But then Otto Koning, former missionary to Papua New Guinea, turned my world upside-down.

Now I have a hundred things on my heart and mind and I feel like I have to get it out. I have been listening to The Pineapple Story Series and my life will never be the same. (You can listen to a few of Otto's messages here.) I have so much to share but will take this one post at a time.

Matt 28:16-20,
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

What have I been doing to further the Great Commission? Umm.... not a lot. Sure, I pray, I give, I witness when it's comfortable... probably about like most Christians. How many of us have said (or at least thought!) "I'm a missionary right here in my neighborhood." We give a huge sigh of relief that God hasn't called us to go somewhere with weird food and scary people. Now to be honest, some people really are ministering right in their neighborhood. But for most people that's a cop-out. When the missionary comes to our church we throw an extra $10 in the offering to make us feel better. And we think to ourselves, "Sure am glad God hasn't called ME to go there."

I believe that some people definitely are called to foreign missions. And what I am realizing now is that if I'm not the one on the missions field, than I had better be giving and supporting as much as possible. Not just throwing my extra $10 in the offering. I've realized I am way too busy storing up treasures on earth. God has been working on my heart, showing me the emotional value of living simply, but now He is showing me the lasting spiritual value of a simple life. If I can life simply, I can give so much more to the Great Commission. My treasures I build up on earth are really just trash if it hinders me from being able to reach the lost.

Otto Koning puts words to a thought that has been nagging my spirit but I just couldn't come up with the right words myself. He says that our American churches are so busy. We are busy building bigger churches, adding more programs, and getting sidetracked from what the Bible calls us to do, making disciples of all nations.

Sure, I would love a new laptop. Mine is 3 years old, a little crusty, and missing keys. I would love a bigger house. Where we could fit a couch instead of just a love seat. I would love a dishwasher, because right now I am the dishwasher. :) But do I really need these things, probably not. Could my money be much better spent, definitely! Are material possesions wrong, I truly don't think so. I think if our hearts and motives are in the right place, they can be fine to have. As long as we know that it is all God's and we are willing to yield our rights to possessions if the Lord asks us to.

Most likely I have bored anyone reading this. But this time I'm just blogging about whatever it is that's on my heart. Some of it might be light and fun and other times a little heavier. Either way, I'm glad to be back.