What Job teaches about money

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I like to do video introductions to sermon series, but the office is abuzz with extra work this week so I’m taking to the blog.

For the next 3 weeks at CPC we will look at some of the Wisdom Literature teachings on money. Specifically, what does the book of Job say about money, then Proverbs, and finally Ecclesiastes (one sermon each). This section of the Bible is often overlooked and misunderstood. But, it is titled this way for a reason – some of the most helpful-in-life teachings are from the Wisdom Books in the Old Testament. And, spending a few weeks zeroing in on the money teachings, which are embedded in especially these 3 books, will greatly encourage us.

The story of Job is not about money. But, he has a lot at the beginning and even more at the end. Therefore, what he says, what his friends say (which is later discounted), and what God says (and does not say), is important as we develop a framework for the Scripture’s teachings on money. From the beginning of the Bible to the end of it, money is seen as neither good nor evil in and of itself. Therefore, the good use and enjoyment of it requires wisdom. In our religiousness, we can often hate money and desire some life where we “just don’t have to worry about it anymore” (this statement has multiple lies embedded in it). And, in our irreligious moments we just wish we had a billion dollars (or 2, if we already have 1), thinking then we could do what we want if we had seemingly unlimited funds and… similarly… we would not worry anymore.

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In the Wisdom Literature, and in Scripture generally, there is a greater freedom than either loving or hating money and I look forward to unpacking these things over the next few weeks at the Barn.

PS – I’m aware that many of us get nervous when a pastor speaks about money. I think I get that. If you do not think I do, please shoot me an email. In the meantime, I agree that pastors often speak poorly about money. But the answer is not silence. It is to speak well about money – because there is freedom and life to be found in the Scriptures. Not freedom to give all of your money to the church, but freedom to learn to steward as God would have us – for His glory, our own enjoyment, and the sake of our neighbor.

Church is a family on mission

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I preached these words a few weeks ago, in the context of the final verses in Colossians.  Last week I teared up because we are sending a family off to Saint Louis for the husband to pursue Seminary training.  In the moment I thought, “Does my sermon matter as much as this moment – which embodies both doing family and remembering our mission?”

However, after church a good friend mentioned that he was sad that I miss Saint Louis so much.  I was confused.  I mean, it’s a great city, but I don’t miss ‘it’ terribly.  When I choked up, that was why he thought that I was emotional.  I didn’t think much about it because this man is not always to be trusted.  ;).  Then, my wife told me she had the same reaction.  And last night another friend told me the same thing.  When I told her the truth – that I will miss the family – she said, “I didn’t know you were that close.”  “We aren’t really.”  But, as their pastor, there is level of emotion and care that bolsters the friendship.  I love them more than I know them.

Church is a family on Mission and we will miss the Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.18.42 PMCarrolls.  I like Saint Louis fine, but that is not why I felt strong emotion last Sunday.  Pastor.  Friends.  Church.  Spiritual Friendship.  Community.  Sending.  Those are the reasons.

Inside Out

There is so much on my heart and mind.  I just re-read something my wife wrote 6 years ago, and it is still helpful, beautiful, and encouraging.

Charleston weighs heavy on my heart.

I’m sad about the number of people that think the sky has fallen due to the SCOTUS ruling.  I’m sad about the number of people that think the world is saved by the SCOTUS ruling.

But, I do know this – you should consider seeing the wonderful movie “inside Out”.  I took my 9 year old a few weeks ago and it gave a depth and breadth to our communication we have never had.  I pray and hope it lasts.  The movie is smart, funny, and poignant.  One of my favorite things about it is set amidst regular life.  The entire movie functions within our frame of reference and experience.  This is one of the reasons it helps Caroline and I talk.  She isn’t relating to talking dogs and a floating house.  Or, my other personal favorite, a robot who makes boxes of trash.

Reposted for your encouragement

My beautiful, futuristically sexy wife (in the future we realize hair is not sexy) is asleep.  Grace amidst pain.  She walked – brave.  She eats and I am grateful.

This is our view.

I was sick a few years ago, and she wrote a few words on my blog.  They apply again, she encourages us again.

“I think we come up with new questions all the time. And there is still fear of the disease as well as the treatment. And there are lots of questions about the future- the impact the surgery & chemo will have on matt’s last semester of seminary, how this will affect his long term health, how this could impact the number of children in our family… and we are still processing how we communicate with each other and how we bring this before the Lord. I think we are much better than we were last week at this time- more answers, less shock, more reassurance, less paralyzing fear. We really feel surrounded by our family, friends & community. And we have the cutest, most amazing children ever, which doesn’t hurt. And we celebrated the living Christ on Sunday- a deep & powerful Love for us that is over every dark & nasty thing we are dealing with. Christ isn’t changing the facts of the cancer in matt’s body- Christ is changing our hearts to hope & trust in His Good-ness through all of this. It doesn’t hurt less, but we know God is acting behind & in & through everything. (Please remind me that i said this- i am sure to forget on a regular basis).

Thank you for all your calls, notes, e-mails, flowers & cookies. Thank you most of all for your prayers- it is really amazing to be on the receiving end of such incredible care. i hope that we love all of you as well as you have loved us.


Jogging through Mark with friends

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.34.56 AMTaking Mark one chapter/Sunday is an interesting endeavor.  On the one hand, we honor Mark’s way of telling the story of Jesus’ earth-time-ministry.  On the other hand, there is a lot of stuff that happens that receives either a cursory mention, or none at all because every instance of speech or action has tremendous power.

Many of the friends who attend Covenant Presbyterian Church with me long for ‘more’.  More on this section or that, more on the book as a whole, or more clarity from another voice as they supplement their prayerful reading of the text.

I don’t like to recommend books without a long conversation because every book has an agenda.  I only feel comfortable recommending if I think that that agenda is one you might benefit from.  But, I do not mind sharing the books that I enjoyed about a topic, or the specific books that form how I am preaching Mark.

1.  There is no substitute for reading Mark, and then re-reading it.  Especially this book, action-oriented, easy narrative division between chapters 8 and 9, with the deliberate hinge in 8:29 “Who do you say that I am?”

2.  Tim Keller’s “Jesus the King” is delightful.  Dr. Keller does not cover every verse.  But, you cannot beat him for clarity about any section of the Bible in light of the Good News of Jesus.

3.  Hans Bayer’s “A Theology of Mark” is a medium-level scholastic book focused on reading Mark in light of Jesus claims about Himself and the ramifications that has on His disciples (medium level means it is theological, but it does not do a lot with the Greek).  Specifically, Dr. Bayer offers 7 repeated discipleship foci in Mark (and elsewhere).  In our series at the BARN each will come up twice in this series.

4.  “Mark for Everyone” A brief and helpful commentary on the book of Mark by NT Wright.  Made for group discussions and study.

Supplemental work I rely upon, but do not consult each week: “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” (Richard Bauckham), “Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels” (IVP), and “Storytelling God” (A terrific New England Pastor/Teacher named Jared Wilson).

The book you might consider reading. Maybe. If you want.

I like Twitter.  But sometimes the promotions get tedious.  Then there are re-tweets.  A few days ago it seemed that a newer celebrity pastor got his first book published.  I’m glad for him, I follow him on Twitter, I’m glad his friends, the other mega-church folk are supporting him…  supporting each other…  supporting the mass-marketing brands and platforms of their particular…  I should stop.  🙂    Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 2.01.17 PM

But, if you want to know what book I think you should pick up it is this one.  Bad sentence, but enough nuance to effectively remove arrogance?  I do not know what book (if any) anyone should read.  To do so means I know them so well, I know which assumptions and argument will help them hear, believe, and believe in their bones the Gospel of Jesus.  Neverthless, buy this book.  🙂

I do not struggle the way Spurgeon did.   But Dr. Eswine writes about emotions and the Gospel with grace and clarity.  Grace modeled.  Grace explained.  Grace in the midst of a terrible burden/disease/struggle/hardship.  You have friends who suffer – and this will help.  Your emotions will change throughout your life – and this will help.  I am enjoying it.  And, I am not enjoying a lot these days – especially books, blogs, etc.

I purposely titled this blog in an uncool way.  I’m not good at cool blogging anyway!  But it would be ironic if I tried.

And yes, I did work with and for Dr. Eswine.  But doesn’t that encourage you?  That he lives the Gospel he preaches?  That I will continue to read his books even though I can call him and bug him abotu this stuff whenever I want?  I hope it does.  It encourages me.  As do his texts, phone calls, and strange puns and pun-like jokes.  If he ever publishes those I will not blog about it.


Yesterday an old friend sent funny cat pictures to make me smile.  I mentioned she should help me a find a version of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” that compares with her own.  She is the worship leader/director/awesomeness supervisor at Riverside Church.  A few years ago she reintroduced the song to me as a folksy hymn.  Sadly for my two girls, I have been singing it for weeks.  She is a terrific singer, and her husband is an excellent masterer of music, guitar player, harmony singer, and the only man I know who can get his dog to play bass (you have to really listen for it though).  After looking around on the internet she found what I found – there weren’t versions as excellent as the Duke Wilson Band’s.

Mahalia Jackson takes 6 minutes to sing it.  David Crowder is great, but he is intermixing another song, and doesn’t complete the lyrics.  Alan Jackson somehow sings it in 1:45.

So, my friends recorded me a version

.  I have listened to it around 20 times today (now yesterday).  Cried 15 or so of those times.  Good crying.  I listened to it while shaving, and held back the tears then…  seemed dangerous.

We are blessed with more than 1 great church praying for us, holding us up, making us food, praying, and loving us.  We are thankful.