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Thanks for visiting our website! This month’s picture is of a seminar in Guatemala at Ezell Clinic, December 2018. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Seminar in Guatemala

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 years! (We traveled together to preaching appointments during the year before we were married.) Countless people have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob" or "Hermano Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature as disciples of Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!


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Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

Not All That Hard

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

The young 5-year old girl sat through her mother’s rather lengthy explanation of why they were not going to buy certain things, how saving money made it possible for them to share family vacations each year, and the importance of preparing for the future. After the seemingly interminable lecture, the mother asked, “What did you learn?”

The little girl’s reply sums up life, financially and in many other areas as well: “You can live it up now, or you can live it up later, but you can’t live it up now and live it up later too.”

Some Thoughts About Giving

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

[Note: The following is not original with me. This basic outline provides a framework or structure for developing expanded thoughts (article, sermon, class). Although the biblical texts are all from 2 Corinthians 8-9, there are numerous other biblical passages that could be added.]

This is “Thanksgiving” month in the U.S. Christians talk too little about gratitude. We do not hear many sermons or classes about giving or thanksgiving. Giving is a “touchy” subject in many churches. Here is some “fire starter.”

  • 1. Give Thankfully. [2 Cor. 9:7] At the foundation of my giving is my relationship with God. My life is all about God, I exist for him.
  • 2. Give Generously. [2 Cor. 9:6-11] God’s love for me generates generous, lavish giving.
  • 3. Give Regularly, Planned, Deliberately. [2 Cor. 8:11] The Bible tells us of systematic, regular giving. Some give accidentally, out of the leftovers, sporadically. The Bible teaches that we are to give personal attention to this effort.
  • 4. Give Voluntarily. [2 Cor. 8:4, 14] I can give voluntarily, not because I have to, and beyond my duty.
  • 5. Give Sacrificially. [2 Cor. 8:1-5] How much can I give?
  • 6. Give Excellently. [2 Cor. 8:7] I want to learn to give more, to give more often, and to give strategically.
  • 7. Give Cheerfully. [2 Cor. 9:7] God loves a hilarious giver. Giving blesses three times—we bless God even though he needs nothing from our hands, we ourselves are blessed, and the recipients of our gifts are also blessed.
  • 8. Give Worshipfully. [2 Cor. 9:12-14] Giving should be directed to God before anyone else.
  • 9. Give Proportionately. [2 Cor. 8:12] God looks not only at what I give, but also at what I keep.
  • 10. Give Quietly. [2 Cor. 9:7-8] I give to glorify God, not to impress people. God loves humble givers.
  • Is money for me a blessing or a test? [2 Cor. 9:10-11]

    Crystal Cathedral Bankruptcy: Will anyone learn anything?

    Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

    The news earlier this week that the Crystal Cathedral has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy again raises the question about what it means to be a church, and how churches ought to live out their ministries. The Crystal Cathedral, established over 50 years ago by Robert Schuller, is $43 million dollars in debt with over $7.5 million of the debt unsecured.

    Such news is especially troubling in view of the fact that churches can register as charities, accept tax-deductable donations to support their ministries, and have certain legal protections as non-profit corporations. Unfortunately, more and more churches (and para-church organizations) are creating administrative structures and activities that require significant funding to support the organization even before any ministry is done. Such activities often extend beyond Christian ministry and bring the organizations to the brink of insolvency.

    You may recall that earlier this year, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church, asked his church to come up with $900,000 to keep the church from going into bankruptcy. How is it possible that churches which receive millions of dollars each year and have millionaire preachers can reach such a point? Unfortunately the answer is seldom that they have overextended their finances by faith to fund ministry, or that they have met an emergency need and failed to receive the necessary resources. The simple answer is that riches and wealth are enticing—and impressive in our culture. Most of those who live in this culture prefer to attend that church with the upscale, recently constructed building and all the trappings of worldly success. Churches hungry (greedy?) for more and more parishioners to fund more and more projects may spend as much or more on public relations and outreach as they do on real ministry. Those who teach trust in God often appear to trust in something or someone else.

    If we are not technically still in an economic recession, it feels like it to many unemployed, underemployed, and those with decreasing incomes. It is not clear that the old way of doing church (and missions) is the way of the future. It is not clear that the dependency on more and more contribution dollars is the key to successful church planning. In fact, the church may have to face the prospect of doing more with less, becoming more frugal, seeking the most economic methods for ministry, and cutting the cycle that says successful ministry and missions demands the perpetual and increasing flow of dollars.

    Note: A PDF version of this blog is available as an article: Crystal Cathedral Bankruptcy.

    “I Got Tired of It”

    Monday, May 3rd, 2010

    I recently wrote about the $500,000 pickup. Today I consider a couple of related stories—at least the principle is similar.

    I talked to a Christian last month who had just purchased a new car. (I will call this Christian AB—Abby.) I was a little surprised—the car that Abby currently owned was very nice, only a couple of years old and had very few miles on it. Further, the car Abby purchased was fairly expensive. When I asked about any problems with the previous car and the reason for the new car purchase, Abby said, “I got tired of the other one.” Abby had two choices: purchase a new car to help out with boredom, or put a native missionary in the mission field until Jesus returns. Somehow we who minister and serve and seek to advance the ministry and mission cause of the Master around the world must do a better job of communicating values and priorities in the midst of the extreme wealth with which God has blessed us.

    Coincidentally, on the same day as the previous conversation, a church member told me of an experience she and her granddaughter had shared. (I will call this church member ED—Edie.) Edie’s granddaughter had come to visit for the weekend, and in the course of making up the bed together, Edie mentioned that she would like to replace the bedspread. Edie’s granddaughter responded by saying that she liked the bedspread and asking what was wrong with it. Edie said, “I’m tired of it and would like something different.” Edie’s granddaughter’s response shows how deeply ingrained consumerism is in our society: “I’ll be glad when I get old enough and rich enough to be able to change the things I’m tired of.” Edie confided to me as our conversation closed, “Of course, I’ll never replace that bedspread—I’m too ‘tight’ to get rid of something that is perfectly good.”

    Without being harsh or judgmental (hopefully), and while recognizing that we all have our own luxuries and wasteful moments in the abundance of our country, I ask how we Christians can help one another make better decisions about how and how much to share of the blessings God has showered upon us. We are blessed to live where we do. Did God bless us for a reason? Are we doing what God wants? When we live in a country where the average person makes 100 times what our brothers or sisters earn in a poorer country, perhaps the question is not what we have to give to God, but how little can be we by on.

    I remember another Christian. I’ll call him Al. Al was committed to giving to God as much as he kept for himself. It was not just talk—he was doing it! I suspect you and I could also do it. I am confident we could live on much less that we do.

    My sermon text last Sunday dealt with laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. Am I? Are you? Are we? What is your treasure? Where is it? What are you investing in? What are our priorities? The text (Matthew 6:19-24) is as much about trust as it is about treasures. Hopefully we can grow to where our most intense desires in life are greater than meeting our own wants and making ourselves feel good!

    Ministers and Taxes–Parsonage Allowance

    Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

    Earlier this month, another legal challenge was filed which challenges the government’s provision of a “parsonage allowance” for ministers. As ministers (and churches) make plans for the future–both in church budgets and minister’s housing arrangements, this challenge should be watched.
    Opening briefs were filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a lawsuit against a centuries-old practice of giving ministers a “parsonage allowance” or tax exemption for their housing.
    More details on the initiation of the lawsuit and some of the early questions appears at the website of Pacific Justice:

    Ministers and Taxes

    Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

    As promised, here is the link to new article about ministers and taxes.

    Now is the time to take appropriate steps to make next year’s tax season less “taxing”. Here is help for both churches and ministers who want a basic understanding of the steps in constructing the minister’s pay package for maximum benefit to both the church and the minister.

    Half-Million Dollar Truck

    Saturday, April 17th, 2010

    With tax day past, it’s time to think about how to make next year’s tax day less taxing, and how to make a little more progress toward retirement. I am working on an article about ministers and taxes, and will either post the article as a blog or note when the article is available. Today I want to talk about the importance of saving. Nothing makes a greater difference in one’s financial situation in one’s later years than the ability and commitment to live on less than one makes. One person observed, “If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.”

    A few years ago, a youth minister friend, 24 years old, had just started a new youth ministry position. It was his first ministry job after college graduation. Suddenly, he had more money than he was accustomed to having. He decided that he just had to have new truck. The one he wanted cost only $15000. (I told you this was a few years ago!) He asked me what I thought, and I advised against the purchase, suggesting that his current vehicle was sufficient for a while longer, or that a used vehicle could be a nice upgrade. My friend bought the new truck anyway. When I next saw him, I asked, “How do you like you half-million dollar truck?” “What do you mean?” he responded. I explained to him that the real decision he had made was to have the truck instead of having $500,000 at age 64.

    A simple mathematical rule (the Rule of 72) says that when that the interest rate times the number of years equals 72, the result is that the amount doubles. For example, an 8% investment doubles in 9 years, a 6% investment doubles in 12 years. The interest rates were pretty good when my youth minister friend and I were conversing, and my calculations went about like this:
    8 yrs–from $15000-30000; 16 years–from $30000-60000; 24 years –from $60000-120000; 32 years–from $120000-240000; 40 years–from $240000-480000.

    Such is the power of compounding. When we are young, we have more time than we do money. A young family that forgoes just one new car in the early years, and instead saves the money that would have gone to the new vehicle and payments, takes a major step forward toward retirement funding.

    The first eldership I worked with set aside $5/week and told me it was for retirement. They said I could not have it as salary, but that it had to be invested in a retirement plan. They said they would forward it to another eldership, but they would not give it directly to me. The retirement plan was established, and they put in $5/week during the first year I worked with them, and $10/year the second year. (Incidentally, those amounts were about 3-7% of my salary in those years.) After that, another church put in $10/week for two years. The next church I worked with put in $15/week for four years. When my wife and I purchased our own home, the pay package was restructured and the contributions to my little retirement plan stopped. We have never put in more money, and we have kept the funds separate. You can calculate the amount invested (about $5000), and you can make a close guess at the current balance in that little account after almost 35 years, using the Rule of 72 outlined above.

    My wife and I are now at a place in our lives when we can clearly see the power of compounding from the results perspective. We are retiring this year, and we are grateful for the few dollars that we were able to save early on. We are grateful to that eldership that pointed us down the right path. My mother taught us to save at least 10%. We have done that, but could have done more. Through the years, Jan has worked outside the home from time to time. We have generally saved all of her earnings. Our regret now is that we did not save even more, and allow the value of time to multiply our savings.

    The most important thing is not how much you make, but how much you keep.

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