Thinking Out Loud

June 12, 2016

Follow Up: Christians and Cars

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:42 pm

Once again, we’re late today. Our church did its annual service in the park and this year’s was one of the best in terms of outreach and connection. Sets the bar high for next year, though!


Christian stewardshipMy post two days ago about Christian stewardship and the automotive market got a couple of comments which I felt were worthy of a longer and more visible reply.

The general response I would expect is: Don’t over-think it. In other words, if you live in North America, unless it’s in the heart of a major urban center, you’re going to need some type of motorized vehicle.

Trust me, I get that.

What I wanted to do was simply get people thinking. (Hint: See blog’s title.) In a world of scarce resources where God’s people are called to maintain a distinct identity, are we putting our personal funds to best use to incurring a cost on a depreciating item.

That’s the tension I hope we live in.

So yes, my wife needs a car — and I need her to be happy — but it would also be good to allocate those resources to other things and causes.

By doing the one I can’t do the other.

Our personal finances are extremely limited. So we buy the used car, but it pains me to have  to do it.

I think that tension is a good place. It’s not keeping me up at night, but it’s a better place than simply going through the motions of life without a thought as to the big-picture issues I believe God’s people ought to consider.

One comment said,

a car is not an investment, it’s a consumable good like shoes or a phone”

That’s true. Really each and every expenditure I make, no matter how small, should be done with good stewardship in mind. From buying bananas to garbage bags to socks to dish soap, my goal should be to exercise wisdom with the gifts God has given.

If you have loads of cash available, you might see this differently, but when you are barely scraping by, stewardship and survival go hand-in-hand. And yes, you can strain at a fruit fly and swallow a dromedary. We do all the time. We get a great deal on a $5 commodity and then make a $50 mistake by missing a payment deadline.

I think God wants us to be aware.

I think He wants us to think about our actions.

But I also think He wants us to enjoy the money we work for.

June 10, 2016

Christian Stewardship and the Used Car Market

I don't have a picture of our 'new' car yet, but this is the one we're trading in, taken on the day we got two flat tires in 30 seconds while driving home from camp.

I don’t have a picture of our ‘new’ car yet, but this is the one we’re trading in, taken on the day we got two flat tires in 30 seconds while driving home from camp.

When a Christian is trying to practice financial stewardship, there’s something counter intuitive about buying a motor vehicle of any type. The key word is depreciation, but I think it also has to do with high cost of owning and maintaining a car, van or truck versus the other uses to which those funds could be applied.

Today we’re picking up a domestic, 2009, 4-door sedan. The 2017s will be out in a few weeks — I think; I don’t tract the automotive market at all — which means we’re already model years behind, so this will be the oldest car we’ve ever purchase, but it is all our present bank account will allow us to buy. Even there, we are buying this with family help, given that my current vocation — i.e. missionary — is not providing any income at present; and by “not providing any” I do indeed mean nothing at all.

So we’re waiting for the call that this vehicle is waiting for us. It’s not my dream vehicle — also used; my dreams are modest — but this car will be primarily driven by Mrs. W. to replace the one she’s currently using which is simply not safe to drive.

Yes, there are hungry people in the third world. (Or two-thirds world, or majority world, or whatever it is we’re supposed to say.) But we live here. It’s hot in summer, cold in winter. Temperatures in Canada can vary between -40°C and +40°C. That’s an 80 degree range. 144 degrees in Fahrenheit. Distances are not near. Public transportation between communities is not as sophisticated in North America as it is in Europe. We don’t live in an urban center.

I’m not sure if my social justice friends would approve of my purchase. They might question whether we need a car at all. They might suggest we keep repairing the present one. Or, I hope, they might commend me for buying used.

Bottom line, with the measure of intelligence God has given us, we feel this is the right decision for today. And yes, the car will continue to depreciate until it is basically scrap, like the one we’re trading in today. And yes, it’s counter-intuitive to do this when things that appreciate or are a valid investment seem like better stewardship.

Mixed feelings. Ambivalence.

April 14, 2016

A Call to Keep Christian Organizations Christian

I like to make this space available to other voices on a regular basis and today our guest writer is Steve Clarke, program director for Compassion Canada. This is good reading for anyone who is involved in the overseeing of any Christian enterprise.

Compassion Canada

A Call for Faith-Based Organizations to Maintain Biblical Leadership Principles in an Increasingly Secular Society

by Steve Clarke
Program Manager
Compassion Canada
April 2016

Steve ClarkeI have been thinking about the dangers of mission drift lately. I’m not sure why this theme has surfaced. Maybe it is linked to small group discussions. My wife Dorothy and I are hosting sessions on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Over the weeks we have been examining the Fruit, as described in the Book of Galatians:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

In these sessions, I have become more convinced than ever that the expression of those Fruit – those Spirit-led actions that serve others and speak powerfully of the love of Christ – can only be accomplished through the strength of a daily prayer and scripture relationship walk with the Holy Spirit. The same is true for faith-based organizations. As individuals within faith-based organizations, we must cling to that relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit … or our Christian mission can falter.

Another powerful passage comes to mind:

“… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)

If we do not exemplify these characteristics in the power of the Holy Spirit, then we risk Peter’s caution of becoming “nearsighted and blind” … unmindful of Christ’s redemption in our lives.

In the 1980s consultants encouraged Compassion International’s leaders to “drop the Jesus emphasis” and to instead focus on our poverty-alleviation programming. Rejecting that advice, we devised a ‘plumb-line’ of twelve biblically-driven aspirational Leadership Principles. These principles are posted prominently on the office walls of Compassion 26 two-thirds world countries of activity, and in our 15 funding partner countries.

Recently our Compassion Canada office leaders decided to re-visit them in a series of meetings with our staff. With the luck-of-the-draw, I was chosen to deliver the first address. I was asked to speak on two of the twelve Leadership Principles: “Demonstrate Godly Character” and “Ignite Passion for Ministry.” Whoa! There would be something wrong if you didn’t feel inadequate in tackling such lofty topics. Even so, I discovered it was a rich blessing to explore these principles verbally in a straight-forward manner. The staff warmed to the themes, and the talk prompted some wonderful after-meeting discussions.

At Compassion we partner with local churches and characterize our mission and calling as “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” In my nearly 25 years witnessing Compassion’s poverty alleviation work with children, I celebrate creative combinations of income generation, housing, education, primary health care and training/equipping. But these are, at best, sub-sets of the world’s deepest needs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that ushers-in spiritually transformed lives is the foundation our world craves.

Secular British journalist Matthew Parris agrees, in his breath-taking admission following a trip to Africa:

“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”1

Body, mind, soul and spirit: Our human make-up demands that we must hang-tough in being Christ-centered, regardless of increasing secularization around us. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)


1 Greer, Peter and Chris Horst. Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches. Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2014, p. 36.

April 24, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Isolated rose

Our opening graphic is from the blog Abandoned to God

** Derek Webb, All Sons and Daughters, Robbie Seay Band, Charlie Hall, Shane & Shane and Shaun Groves are among the 45 artists on #SongsForWest, a fundraising album download for West, Texas with a suggested $10 donation.**

Here’s this weeks links:

  • Opening Link: A pastor and his wife in Watertown, MA are caught in the middle of a shootout in the wake of the Boston bombings. “We were trapped, with active gunfire on three sides of our home.”
  • Here’s another new movie to be aware of, opening in US theaters on Friday: King’s Faith
  • Watch (or listen to) a great sermon by Gary Burge preached midweek at Willow Creek a few weeks ago.  Check out Acts 11:1–18. Once you’re 5 minutes in, I guarantee you’ll want to finish.
  • An journalist who had originally interviewed Megan Phelps-Roper in 2011 before her departure from Westboro Baptist Church offered some additional detail and updates on her story.
  • This one is disturbing. Seems that people serving at Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church are being asked to sign some type of loyalty/confidentiality agreement, with legal consequences if you break the contract. Never criticize your pastor.
  • A Minneapolis preacher is still in the pulpit at age 105. “Noah Smith has no plans to retire — ever. He said he tried that once when he was 90 and it didn’t work out too well.”
  • Here’s how one church kid defines his faith. But if you’re in Christian Education or Youth Ministry, his response is somewhat disappointing
  • By contrast, here’s Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason with a 7-minute video describing an appropriate response to the question, What is Christianity? (He actually gets to it at the 2:40 mark.)
  • For those can’t enough of blogging, here’s the direct link to Faith Village’s Java Juice Blog House which we featured here a few days ago…
  • …And if you’ve got friends investigating Christianity or just starting out, here’s Faith Village’s Square One.
  • Pete Wilson’s Cross Point Church has a daughter church in India which he tries to visit as regularly as possible. Last week he suddenly learned his visa was denied, and he was summoned to India’s embassy in Washington, DC. Now he’s been granted a six-month visa, which isn’t quite the 5-year one he had…
  • …And here’s a 2-minute audio clip on YouTube of Pete discussing people who leave his church, or arrive from somewhere else because they weren’t being fed.
  • After ten years of keeping us aware on several social issue fronts, veteran Christian blogger La Shawn Barber moves on to other platforms. 
  • Your church needs to rethink tithing options in a world where nobody writes checks (or in some countries, cheques) anymore.
  • Our blog discovery of the week is Anabaptistly. Established in Spring 2011, recent activity includes a number of Eugene Peterson quotations like this one.
  • Another blogger notes audience reaction to the movie 42
  • The people who use GodTube sure like music reality show clips from X-Factor or [Name of Country]’s Got Talent. Here Simon Cowell is led to believe a man is going to impersonate a whole choir.
  • If homeschoolers aren’t already over-represented on social media, now they have their own theme song.
  • Yea! We made another Top 200 Ministry blogs list!
  • More links all week on Twitter.
  • Finally, in our Truth is Stranger Than Fiction department, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary is breaking all her own rules and going on a women’s retreat. Say it isn’t so!

A closing word from Francis Chan:

Francis Chan Quotation

June 20, 2012

Wednesday Link List

The fine print: By reading this link list I agree to actually click a few links and check out the stories, and not just scan the summaries and leave.

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