Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Top Ten Lists: Songs

Repo Man - Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs

Heaven Breaks - Sleeping At Last

Perth - Bon Iver

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall - Coldplay

Girl with the Red Balloon - Civil Wars

Cripple Me - Elenowen (I have to admit that I have a vocal man crush on this guy)

Not Over You - Gavin Degraw (check it out - the man has a broken arm and still is rocking it)

Dust Bowl Dance - Mumford & Sons

Colorshow - Avett Brothers

Red Banks - Amy LaVere

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Top Ten Lists: Books

I read a lot more this year than in previous years. Here are some of my favorites for the year.

1. Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldredge. In January we'll begin a series on Jesus, through the lens of Mark's Gospel. Because of that, I've been reading quite a bit on Jesus. This one has been my favorite. It's different from the others. It hasn't so much been new information, but more that Eldredge helped me to get caught up in this beautiful story.

2. The King's Cross, by Tim Keller. This one is also on the life of Christ. If you've enjoyed other books by Keller, this one will follow suit. This book is based on a series of sermons that Keller preached a few years ago.

3. A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. Most books on the subject of prayer make me feel guilty. This one was a breath of fresh air. I would almost say that the word "Life" is a better descriptor than the word "Prayer," because the book is about an everyday life with God. It's messy. It's beautiful. There are good days and there are bad days. And God is in it all.

4. The King Jesus Gospel, by Scot McKnight. I try to read everything Scot McKnight write puts out, which, if you've ever been to his blog, is A LOT. In this book he differentiates between a salvation culture and a gospel culture.

5. Love Wins, by Rob Bell. In case you didn't know, this book, which is about the afterlife, caused a bit of a stir this past year. Our church read it last spring and then devoted a Sunday night to discussing it.

6. Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield. What is resistance and how do we destroy it? Find out in this great little book.

7. Samson and the Pirate Monks, by Nate Larkin. I heard some guys talking about this, and the title alone intrigued me. Who wouldn't like Pirate Monks! This is a book about sexual addiction, community, and God's grace that leads to healing and restoration.

8. The Starfish and the Spider, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beck. I've had this book for a few years, but I finally read it this year. Over the past year our church has been moving towards decentralization. That's what this book is about.

9. Rumors of God, by Jon Tyson and Darren Whitehead. I've been following Jon Tyson and his church in NYC for the past few years, so when I heard he had a book coming out, I got a copy pretty quickly. He and Darren have been friends for a long time, and though their churches look very different from one another, their passions for Jesus and the church are identical.

10. The Cross of Christ, by John Stott. I have begun collecting and reading John Stott's books over the past two years. This one is my favorite so far. Rich in theology and beauty.

Of these ten books, eight were read on my Kindle app, and I listened to two.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Role of Money 3

In the first post I gave an introduction, using Matthew 6:24, on the role that money plays in our lives. It is either a tool that you use or a god that uses you. In the second post I gave ten indicators that money might be a god in your life. In this final post I want to give five indicators that money might be a tool in your life. That's God's intention for our life.

Before going into our list, it's important to point out that money is simply a tool that helps us to accomplish our goals. It's tied to our values. You can determine what a person values simply by looking at how they spend their money (and time - as you'll see, these two are inextricably linked).

1. You have articulated your values, dreams, and goals. To take them a step farther, you've written them out. Two helpful resources are Michael Hyatt's "Creating Your Personal Life Plan" and Mark Driscoll's teaching on Reverse Engineering (audio and notes). Both of these have been extremely helpful to me.

2. You have a handle on money. You know what's coming in and you know what's going out. This is what is meant by budgeting. Budgeting can be as simple as writing down expected income and expenses on a sheet of paper, using spreadsheets, or using an online tool such as If you're not budgeting before the month begins, then at the end of the month you're going to be left wondering how you spent so much money. As it's been said, people don't plan to fail, they just fail to plan.

3. You are content with, and thankful for, the things that you have. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:5). Contentment and thanksgiving without a doubt change your perspective on life and finances.

4. You freely give what has been given to you. This is so much more than tithing. It's stewarding (managing) well our time, talents, and treasure. You're free with those things because you know that you're a manager, not an owner. God, the owner, has entrusted these things to you, and we honor him in how we use them. Not only that, though, we find true joy in doing so.

5. You have margin in your life. This applies to time and to money. Margin is counter-cultural. The tendency today is to max out everything in life. Filling up our calenders makes us feel as important as buying things. Margin is a gift, but it's something that we have to fight for. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was once asked by Forbes magazine what he would do with a $100,000 windfall. Check out what he said (question #9 on the list). This is all about margin.

Compared to the ten indicators I gave yesterday, doesn't this sound so much more appealing? Is it counter-cultural? Yes. Will it take a ton of re-training? No doubt. But it leads to freedom. Freedom is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christianity. We believe that following God confines and restricts us, but it actually gives us true freedom.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Role of Money 2

In the last post I gave the foundation for why we at Neighborhood Church were talking about money. In this post I'll give the 10 indicators I shared on Sunday night that money might be a god in your life.

1. There is constant anxiety about money. It's something you are always thinking about, and you might even be losing sleep over it.

2. Debt determines your decisions. We're told that buying things leads to happiness and freedom, but debt leads to bondage.

3. Most of the arguments you have with your spouse center on money. I know, that's a tough one. In our economy today, lots of people are struggling paying mortgages, looking for jobs, and paying ordinary bills. There's a great deal of tension in that.

4. Discontentment marks your life. Discontentment is simply a dissatisfaction with what you have. Your focus in all about what you don't have.

5. Therefore you're not thankful to God for what He's given you, and neither are you truly enjoying those blessings.

6. Consumerism has a grip on your heart. We've been talking a lot about consumerism as we enter into the Advent season. Here's how you know if consumerism has a grip on your heart: After a hard week at work, you go shopping and buy something, and suddenly you feel ok about yourself. This is why people say that shopping can be an addiction just like drug addiction.

7. You never delay gratification. You see something, you want it, you want it now, and so you go get it. There was a day not too long ago when, if you saw something on tv that you just had to have, you had to get off the couch, put your shoes on, and drive to a store to make your purchase. But today, you just log on to amazon and instantly purchase what you want. And with things like books, music and movies, not only do you instantly purchase it, but you instantly get it. Delayed gratification is so yesterday.

8. You have no plan. This goes for getting out of debt, spending money, saving money, and giving money. No plan.

9. You're stingy with your money. If you're honest with yourself, you're not that generous.

10. You are generous with your money. You might even give 10% away (what the Bible calls a tithe). However, because you do this, you feel that you're free to do whatever you wish with the remaining 90%. You never ask God what he wants you to do with that money. One point here: your theology matters here. If you think God frowns when you spend your hard earned money on things that you enjoy, then you have a distorted view of God. See this Old Testament passage for more. This passage, which is actually tied to tithing, shows us that God wants us to enjoy what we have, and that's it's actually tied to worship.

I'm sure that everyone reading this can check off at least three or four of these. Money plays such a huge role in our daily lives, and we all struggle with it in some capacity. If that weren't the case, Jesus wouldn't have talked about it as much as he did. Rest in the fact that he knows your struggles and wants to help you.

In tomorrow's post, I'll give 5 indicators that money is a tool in your life.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Role of Money 1

On Sunday night we ended our series "Hope, Habits & Hunger" by looking at the role that money plays in our spiritual growth. Talking about money is never a comfortable topic, especially in the context of church. But Jesus believed that money was important, and he talked about it quite often (16 of the 38 parables he told were about money).

We believe that we need to create a culture where talking about money is ok. It's way too private of a matter, and that's unhealthy for us all. We need to create a safe place where there's freedom to share our struggles and also where we've seen God move. That's one of my great hopes for our church in 2012.

I gave a number of lists on Sunday night, so I thought it might be beneficial for me to blog about that.

The big idea for the night was as follows:

Money is not neutral. It is either a tool that you use or a god that uses you.

Thinking of money as a god might be a stretch for some of us, but it wasn't for Jesus. Read this passage. For most of us, money is a god rather than a tool, and the problem with that is that though it promises freedom, all we get is bondage.

In the next three blog posts I'll give some ways to tell whether or not money is a tool or a god in your life. Stay tuned.