Thursday, July 06, 2017

Tithing: A Timeless Principle of Discipleship

Tithing: A Timeless Principle of Discipleship

By the number of emails I received recently from groups that want to help me face the summer financial crunch for my church, I am guessing many churches are experiencing major challenges when it comes to finances and budgets. Our church is no exception. It is my opinion that the church does not have a budget problem; rather it has a discipleship problem.

I doubt that there is any more threatening subject than that of tithing, which is why pastors today are nervous about bringing up the topic. However, we need to have this conversation. As Martin Luther put it, “There are three conversions necessary in the Christian life: the conversion of the heart, the mind, and the purse” (Randy Alcorn, Managing God's Money).

Some of the angst comes from people’s negative experiences with previous churches, pastors, and evangelists. We must confess that some pastors, on occasion, have used biblical texts related to tithing in a manipulative manner to raise the budget or to build a building. Such behavior should not be tolerated; however, this does not alter the basic biblical teaching on tithing.

Just so we are clear, the definition of tithing is: Giving ten percent (10%) of our income to God through His church. The original tithe was an offering of one's agricultural income to the Lord as an expression of thanks and dedication. Today, because we live in a monetary society, we give ten percent of our salary.

I recently preached a message at Centerpointe on tithing and its significant role in discipleship. You can find the video and the text at Tithing Message.

This subject is too important to not address.

Because I Care,
Pastor Keith


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Prayer for Hero Dad


In previous blogs, I wrote about things that matter in the life of dads and men. 

Also watch our Father's Day message, "Things that Matter."

Dad’s play many Biblical roles in the home. I pray for you to experience the strength of God as you lead in each of them.

In your role as priest, I pray that you follow Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and model to your family what a Godly man looks like.

In your role as prophet, speak words of encouragement, destiny, and hope. The job of a prophet is to speak, and not be silent or passive. Words matter.

In your role as provider, you are wired to work. Give your best in all things, with integrity and honesty. It's doing your best, even in the small things that will make a big difference.

In your role as protector, like the people who were building the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, keep a sword in one hand and a trowel in another. Work hard, set the boundaries, and defend it against the enemy which wages war with your soul. Stand firm in the authority God has granted you. 

In your role as lover, demonstrate what it means to keep your heart and eyes only on your wife. Love her as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

In your role as visionary, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then everything else will fall into place. We can no longer afford to define our vision just in terms of building a successful career or a business. We need visions of a godly family. We are not going to finish strong by luck. We can’t afford to put our spiritual life on cruise control. You need a vision to finish strong.

Dad, you are the first tangible image of our Heavenly father that your kids see. That’s an awesome thought filled with great blessing and responsibility.

Be the hero you are called to be.

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In Jesus wonderful and powerful name. Amen.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hero Dad, pt 3, Things that Matter cont.

Hero Dad pt 3 Things that Matter, Continued

As a dad, I haven't figured it all out, and am still learning, but I have learned that there are some things that really matter. See Part 1 and Part 2

Words Matter

James 1:11 says, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessings and cursing.”

It is amazing how, as dads, our words can change the dynamics of a room. Out of my mouth we can speak blessing or cursing, peace or conflict, stability or insecurity, courage or fear, healing or wholeness. We really determine destiny. If we are successful at something, chances are someone told us that we were good at it, or challenged us to be good at it. This is especially true if our primary love language is words of affirmation (See Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages). This one happens to be one of mine. I can live a whole week on a good compliment.


Decisions Matter

Big decisions, little decisions, decisions we make while making decisions; they all matter, and our family notices all of them. The best decisions come from a life of discipline, because you don’t have to think to long about them.

Esther and I made a decision before we were married to give 10% of our income to God (tithe). When we are challenged financially, our tithing is not in question because it moved from a a decision to a discipline. When it comes to extra giving, we make that decision every year. We pray and listen to God’s voice and make our decision based on faith, and then we put it in our monthly budget. God has always provided for us. 

There are many other decisions we make that involve discipline: spending time with God, spending time with family, working hard at work, loving our church community, investing in the future, living a life of integrity, etc. They all have a ripple effect and make a difference on our future.

Are we perfect? No. Do we stumble? Yes. Do we fall? Yes. Do we make decisions we wish we would not have? Yes. When these happen, it gives us a chance to discuss the consequences of our decisions and experience God’s grace, seek forgiveness, and make correction.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hero Dad pt 2, Things that Matter

As a dad of twenty-seven years, I have learned that there are a few things that really matter to my family. I have learned these through some successes and a few failures. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but here are a few things I know to be true.

Relationships Matter

Every day we have a choice: relationships or stuff. One friend, Dr. Dick Foth says, “There are two things we deal with in life: money and relationships, and only one of them can make you happy.”

Healthy relationships are based on trust, respect, and love for each other. Life is too short to allow these things to break down in our relationships. If you want to enjoy life, enjoy the people you are with, and that begins in the home. If we would take the same attitude toward relationships as we do securing our future, we would have less stuff and be more content.

When it comes to dad relationships, there is no substitute for time. It is one thing we cannot get back. I can't tell you how many tea parties we had as a family. I ate more plastic fruit and hot doges from the girls kitchen set than I can count. Those days are long behind us; Now, we look for reasons to celebrate together, and when we do, we go to Dairy Queen, and we will celebrate anything. "How was your day?" Someone asks. "It's was ok, nothing special," is the reply. "That's great, you survived the day, let's celebrate."

Presence matters


Some girls play competitive sports, mine did not. They all had very brief softball careers in elementary school. My girls traded in sports for music and dance lessons. So instead of sitting on the sidelines cheering, I was in the seats at ballet, piano, and violin recitals. To be fair, Kristi did have a short cup-stacking season. Let me be clear, I enjoyed every moment, and I was so proud of each level of advancement my girls had in their particular skills. My second daughter, Brittany, did take up gymnastics and cheerleading. At least there was competition; someone won and someone lost, and someone got a trophy. While many were cheering for the football team, I was the guy in the stands cheering for the cheerleaders. When my youngest daughter joined the marching band and drumline team, I was excited again. This time, I had a chance to really get involved. I drove the equipment truck – and loved it. There were some late nights studying in the truck for the next message while the team rehearsed to “take the floor.” But I was present.

My mom demonstrated this to me as well. She was present for me, even when she had no understanding of what I was doing. She was at my baseball and basketball games. She was my biggest fan when, as an eleven year old, I scored a basket for the opposing team. She was at every concert I played in and every play I acted in.

I think the reason why I like the Baltimore Orioles so much is that my uncles took me to the game in old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. It is a reminder to me of the men in my life that cared enough to let me be around them. Although I did not have a dad, my uncles and the men in the church made sure positive male role models surrounded me.

I am thankful for my wife, who reminded me how short our time is with our girls.

She was right.


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Monday, June 19, 2017

Hero Dad


One of the best rewards of being a dad is that I get to be a hero in my girls’ lives. For certain, heroship is seasonal. When my girls were young, I could fix anything or create anything. I could even create castles out of cardboard boxes. I could one moment be a big monster and the next be slaying a big monster. All I had to do was show up.

However, my heroship decreased as they grew up. Not that it went away, it was just more sporadic. I could not fix everything and they realized that the castle did fall down. I took on more of a supportive role, cheering them on from the sidelines or bleachers.

But every once in a while, I get to still be a hero, and over the last two months I got to be super-dad again.

My second daughter had tornado warnings at her home in Virginia Beach. Who did she call? Her dad. I was all over this, “Baby, I got you. I’ll be with you on the phone. Get to a secure place and it will be ok.” For a moment, I was her hero again. She is married and has another hero in her life, but for that hour, it was me again.

My youngest daughter called on a Wednesday morning while I was at my small group meeting. “Dad, something’s wrong with my car.” “Don’t worry Babe, I got you. I’ll be there to get you. I’m right around the corner.” When I showed up, I noticed the problem. I took her to school, came back to get her car, fixed it, and it was ready for her when she got home – and I was a hero again.

That same night, as we were retiring for the evening, I hear a scream coming from my oldest daughter’s room, DAD! COME HERE!” I arrived to see that she needed me to kill a spider in her bedroom. Hero dad, once again.

And finally, the next morning I receive a phone call from my daughter who is away at school. She was going to take some particularly challenging tests that day. When I answer the phone I hear, “Dad, can you tell me I’m smart?” “Babe,” I said, “Of course you are smart. You got this. I believe in you. Let me pray for you right now.” We prayed, and I, for the forth time in a few weeks found out that I was still a hero in their lives.

It is not really the hero status I need, I just enjoy knowing that I’m still wanted and appreciated in their lives. These moments are simple reminders and are very special.

Over the last 27 years of fathering, I have learned to appreciate the things that really matter. I shared a few of them on Father’s Day. Regardless of whether you are a father or not, I think these things can apply to all of our lives. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Show Me Your Friends and I'll Show You Your Future

"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future."

If the above quote is anywhere near accurate, Melanie Edwards has an amazing future ahead of her. Over her high school years, she has developed deep and lasting relationships with, not only the girls in the picture, but everywhere she has been. 

Esther and I could not be happier with the relationships all of our girls built over the years. 

We are about to move into our "empty-nester" years, and although we look forward to a slightly slower pace, and a few more dates with just us, we will miss our girls' presence around our home - the music, the laughter, the meals, and the discussions. What we will especially miss are our girls' friends that come over at random times. They have added life and joy to our lives. We feel like they have all become our kids and we are so proud of them.

Here's to your future girls - go change the world. 

And keep stopping by. 

We will still feed you.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Dig Spiritual Wells Before You Need Them

On Good Friday, I received news that I had a mass located in my bladder which could be cancerous. I saw this on my online medical portal from tests that were run the day before. Without any communication with my doctor, that's all the information I had. Needless to say, Easter was an interesting day for me. Our church was excited. This is Super Bowl Sunday for churches, and we had one of the largest Easter attendance in several years. We worked hard encouraging people to bring guests - and they did. My heart was thrilled with the response. At the same time, Esther's and my mind was racing with concerns about my health. In one moment during our worship time, the thought came to me, "This could be the last Easter message I get to preach." Those of you who had a doctor use the word "cancer"understand some of my thoughts. It's one thing to talk to others who are going through it, it is another when it is in reference to yourself.

The next Monday, I had a chance to talk to my doctor. His voice was concerning and compassionate. He referred me to a surgeon who fit me in the next day, after performing another test he confirmed quickly the mass was a tumor. Here is one thing you never want your urologist to say, "You and I are about to become friends." He informed me that this kind of tumor is one that has a high probability of returning. I don't want to overstate my issue, because there  are so many others walking through more traumatic health concerns, but I do want to be honest and say this made a significant impact on me. I walked out of his office, called Esther, and we wept together.

The surgeon worked hard to rearrange his schedule and I had surgery the next day. Thankfully, he was able to remove the whole tumor and the waiting for the pathology report would be the next stage in the process. I would spend the next couple of days on pain medication, which means I visited LaLa Land many times.

Some people say, and I am guilty as well, that God uses these times in life to slow us down so we can spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word. That was not the case for me. I spent my time sleeping or watching mindless television. I could not think clearly about anything. When I tried to read, I lasted through one sentence before my eyes glazed over and I was in LaLa Land again. When I tried to pray, I was consumed with my own issues - which was not helpful.

After a few days, I was able to focus enough to put a few things in perspective. Here is the biggest lesson for me: dig spiritual and relational wells before you need to draw from them, because, trust me, you will one day need them.

Even though I did not have the strength to study, read, or pray, I experienced the presence of Jesus and his grace. It was like drawing spiritual water from the wells that were dug in my past. I couldn't read the scripture, but the scriptures were very alive in me. I couldn't pray, but His presence surrounded me. I had a level of trust in God that I didn't know existed. I couldn't reach out to others, but so many reached out to me through cards, emails, texts, and phone calls. I couldn't lead the church, but my team knew what to do.

I preach all the time about creating space for God though prayer, scripture, and relationships. When you do this, you are digging spiritual wells; wells that you will one day need to draw from.
When you care for your soul, one day your soul will care for you.

I have now learned that my tumor was a T1 carcinoma. From what the doctor explained, it is the second lowest grade, and for this I give thanks. My biggest issue is going to be ongoing testing in case it comes back.

Here are some points I hope you get from this:
  1. Create space for spiritual growth though studying God's word, participating in worship with your church, and joining a small group. Stop making excuses as to why you can't. Develop and nurture your relationship with Jesus.
  2. Fix relationships before a crisis so you are not suffering alone. Your life is too short to hold grudges and unforgiveness. 
  3. Thank God for every day and small things. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so be thankful for today.
  4. Invest in your friends, family, and church. They are way more important than worldly wealth. 
May the Lord bless you as you live for Him. 

Filled with Thanks,
Keith


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Going Public


In March, I was more than excited to baptize Sean and Dana. These men took the next step in following Jesus: making it public. Each of their stories is unique, but both speak to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. This is why we do what we do. We share the message of Jesus and He changes lives.


It is my prayer that in 2017, we will see MANY people become followers of Jesus and take the next step by making it public

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let the Fun Begin

I have the honor of spending three days with a group of guys whom I've met with for 14 years now. Thanks to Kurt Kinney's birthday, we are now all over 50. We have come to cherish these days together. We love to laugh and solve the world's problems. We rejoice in each others victories, and pray through each others pain. We don't see eye to eye on everything, but we are passionate about the common important things: family, church, prayer, leadership, etc.
I have learned so much from these men. The wells of understanding go deep with these guys.
I freely admit that sometimes I just throw out a topic just to see the fireworks begin. We can go from passive to passion in as much time as it takes to take a sip of coffee.
We are all very busy in our season of ministry, so creating space in our calendars is a challenge, but it's never a question of whether or not we should.
Thank you Larry Hickey for calling us together many years ago.
Let the fun begin! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

So You May Believe

Beginning February 26th, I will begin to preach a series of messages from the book of John. I have read this book many times in my life, but I have to admit, it has never impacted me like this year. 
John is one of Jesus’ closest followers, also known as “John the Beloved”. Decades after Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, John sits down and writes a book about his greatest love: Jesus. In this book he tells us who Jesus is.
  • He is the creator of the world
  • He is the giver of life
  • He is the light of the world
  • He is the way, the truth, and the life
  • He is the provider
  • He is the only hope of the world
  • He is the perfect sacrifice that satisfies God’s wrath
  • He is the forgiver of sin
  • HE IS THE ONE AND ONLY SON OF GOD.
He tells us these things so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in believing we may experience new life (John 20:31).
I can't wait to get started. 
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