Saturday, December 23, 2017

Trust God With Your Money

I am grateful to have parents that modeled for me obedience in tithing.

After my wife and I married in 2001 we discussed and agreed that we would tithe 10% from the gross amount of our income out of obedience to the Lord and as a way to worship Him, and also to show our gratitude.

Over the years we have countless examples of how the Lord has been faithful in honoring our tithe and provided for us.

My wife and I both work in education and while we are not wealthy by North Dallas standards we do make a good living, but when you’re raising 3 kids it can seem like you never have enough money.

On one occasion our upstairs air-conditioning unit went out. The repair was going to be expensive and we didn’t have the money to pair for it at the time. Fortunately it was spring and the temperatures were not too hot outside, so we decided to wait until we had we money. Two months went by and the temperature started to get hotter and the upstairs started to get warmer. My wife noticed the kids were sweating at night and although I told her it was building character in them she was a little more sympathetic so we decided to go ahead and get the air conditioner repaired and agreed that we’d just figure out a way to pay for the repairs. The next week we received a reimbursement check in the mail because we had overpaid on our escow from the previous year and the amount of the check covered the cost of repairs for our airconditioner. God was saving the money for us.

You many say, great story, but that just a coincidence.

I’ve got a lot more stories like that one.

On another occasion my wife needed new tires on her SUV. Tires are expensive, especially for an SUV.

In 16 ½ years of marriage my wife and I have always paid off our credit card bill at the end of the month and I initially wanted to wait to buy new tires till we could afford to pay for them, but then I thought, what if it rains and my wife has a wreck because her tires are too slick. Do I really want to risk that just so I don’t have to pay interests? So we had new tires put on her car that day and again agreed we’d figure out a way to pay for them.

A few days later my wife received a phone call from the office manager of her doctor who told her that nearly a year earlier we had overpaid on the birth of our son and they had a reimbursement check for us. My wife said I’ll be right there. She drove up to her doctors office that day and picked up the check and the amount of the check covered the costs for the new tires we just purchased for her SUV. God was saving the money for us again.

Yes, God has always taken care of our needs and sometimes even our wants.

I don’t want to make God and tithing out to look like a slot machine. I don’t believe in the give to get theology.

Yes, God has provided for us, but you know what the greater blessing has been. Through our obedience in tithing God has given us freedom and has increased our faith.

Money doesn’t own us and money doesn’t provide for us. God is our provider.

There have been times the Lord has stretched our money and when we tried to put it on paper it didn’t make sense. But with God it doesn’t have to. A friend once told me that if your calculator causes you to lose your faith you need to take out the batteries.

With all the other stresses in life. It is so nice to be able to lay my head down at night and sleep without ever having to worry about money. Yes, there are financial surprises in life, but I trust the Lord will provide somehow and he always does.

As God has worked in our finances our faith in what He can do with our stuff when we give it to Him has increased and we want to give Him everything.

And we have shared with our children how the Lord has provided and even had them pray with us over our needs as a family so that the legacy of faith and tithing will be passed on to them as well.

Lord, thank you that when we honor and obey you with our tithe you are faithful and provide for all our needs and even beyond. Thank you that you give us freedom and increase our faith. Lord, help us to share these experiences with our children and have a testimony that will pass on a legacy of giving to future generations.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Through a Glass Darkly

Through a Glass Darkly: A Eulogy for Pastor John Petty
by Dr. Phil Lineberger, Senior Pastor, Sugar Land Baptist Church
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at Trinity Baptist Church in Kerrville, TX
John Petty and I were wonderful friends through the years, he was like a son to me really. I’m old enough that he could have been my son. We spent a lot of time together. We were recently with each other at the Baptist Children’s Convention of Texas. I knew John was struggling. I called him and said, “Let’s go to the convention”. He said he didn’t want to and I said, “Neither do I but let’s go anyway”. I flew down to Harlingen and met him. We rented a car, had some good Mexican food, and some good time together. I tried to encourage John as best I could.

There is an overwhelming sense of loss in John’s death. John Petty is gone. He’s not going to come through those doors anymore. He’s not going to bring his bible up here anymore to preach anymore. He’s not going to baptize anymore.

John Petty is gone. But he is just gone physically. He’s still here. When Jesus’ disciples came to the tomb they were told, “He is not here, He has gone on ahead”. John has gone on ahead, but he is still here. He’s here in Kelly. He’s here in Davis. He’s here in Mara. He’s here in his mom. He’s here in his siblings. He’s here in his friends. He’s here in this church. His life and his influence will be here until we are all gone and we’re together again. This is the hope of the Christian faith.

The family has asked me to talk a little bit about some of what John was going through. Patrick asked the question, “Why is John gone?” All of us want to know, “Why is John gone?” We can’t answer all of the whys. Paul wrote in I Corinthian’s 13:12 in the New International, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part and then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. The King James Version says, “For now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face. Now I know in part but then I should know, even as I am known”.

We can know in part. And this is the part we know. John suffered from a terrible illness that we label depression. It is called a time defying sadness. It’s unlike the sadness that you and I, in the normal sense, have when we are sad and then we are glad and then we get over it and then we go our way.
Depression is a time defying sadness. Depression speaks a language of its own known only to those who are depressed. Currently, some 19,000,000 Americans suffer from chronic depression. That’s 1 out of every 15 people in America. In fact, depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States and abroad for people over 5 years of age. Depression, we’re told, may be the biggest killer on earth. It claims more lives than war, cancer, and AIDS together. Twenty-eight million people in America, 1 out of 3 Americans, are on some kind of medication to try to handle this terrible, terrible darkness, time defying sadness, and confusion of mind and emotion.

Depression speaks a language of its own. A persistent and anxious emptiness. A feeling of hopelessness and pessimism. A sense of guilt and worthlessness and helplessness. A loss of pleasure or interest in things that were once extremely enjoyable. Restlessness, irritability, insomnia, early morning waking or oversleeping.

The scriptures refer to depression as “the plague that destroys at midday” Psalm 91:6. Even in those days, in the days of the Old Testament, people would be observed at the height of their career or the greatest time in their life being extremely sad or confused or disengaged. And so the writers would say it is a plague or demon that destroys when the sun is highest at the midday.
The question is often asked, “Is depression a reality for Christians and how does one know if depression is really a reality for him or for her?” Depression is both ancient and universal. In fact, those who study it, doctors and psychiatrists, tell us that depression is the most common emotional problem in America. It has risen to immense proportions. No one is immune to it. It is not a willful fault nor is it a sin.

Why did John go this way? Why did he choose this? He didn’t. The choice was being forced upon him by an overriding and overwhelming darkness. It is not a willful fault nor is it a sin. It is a signal that something is wrong. It is a signal that we need help and we need hope. It is not a disgrace. Some of the world’s most sensitive people have been susceptible to depression. When you read history you read people like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill who suffered serious depression. J.B. Philips, the author of The New Testament in Modern English, suffered serious depression. Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of the greatest preachers of the last century, suffered depression. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great English preacher, struggled with depression to the point that he had to take two or three months off every year to deal with it. In 1866, he told his congregation of his struggle. He said “I am subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go through”. He explained that during these depressions every mental and spiritual labor had to be carried on under protest of spirit. Depression knows no educational, cultural, or financial boundaries. Depression causes people to lose pleasure in daily life. From the scriptures, we find that leaders like Moses and Elijah, Job and Jeremiah suffered from depression to the point of wanting to end their lives. Elijah’s miraculous victory over the Prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 (NIV) is followed in the next chapter with Elijah despondent and trembling with fear. The Bible says, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life and when he came to Beersheba in Judah he left his servant there and went on a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors!” The scriptures refer to that kind of depression as demonic. Job cried out in Job 3:24-26: “For sighing comes to me instead of food, my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me, what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest. I am only in turmoil”. It is very difficult for us to understand. We don’t know why, because depression has a language that only those who go through it understand.

Andrew Solomon, some years ago, who suffered seriously from depression, wrote a book entitled The Noonday Demon taken from the scripture. He said, “Depression is the flaw in love”. When it comes in, it degrades oneself and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or to receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made real. And destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. If good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God. Any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaningless of life itself becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.

I want you to know about your pastor. Depression is emotional pain that forces itself upon us against our will. You heard these men who have known John Petty since he was a youngster, bright, intelligent, fun and fun-loving.
I can remember him when we went to Israel together and we came to the Dead Sea. He said, “I have always wanted to float in the Dead Sea”. I said, “John, you can’t sink. Here, take this cigar and Bible and go float”. And I took a picture of him floating on the Dead Sea. If you know anything about the Dead Sea it stinks like a dead sea. When he came out he could have knocked a cat off a fish wagon with the smell that was on him.

So you cannot understand how someone like this could come to a time like this. Ordinary grief is depression in proportion to circumstance. Depression like John had is grief out of proportion to circumstance. It been described as a tumbleweed distress that thrives on thin air, growing despite its detachment from nourishing earth. It takes time to develop in one’s life as it did in John’s. Every second of being alive hurts. We don’t know that if you don’t suffer from this kind of depression. You don’t know that.

The first thing that goes in major depression is happiness. You cannot gain pleasure from anything. I think of this wonderful church, and I think of these wonderful friends, and I think of the John as a sportsman, and I see this beautiful family. And it does not make sense that John could not be enormously happy except that depression had taken over his mind and will. Soon all other emotions follow; happiness into oblivion, sadness as you have known it, the sadness that seemed to have led you here, your sense of humor, your belief in a capacity for love. Your mind is leached until you seem dimwitted even to yourself. Eventually, you are simply absent from yourself.
The Bible says we see through a glass darkly. We don’t know how dark the darkness is in someone who is depressed. Through the darkened glass they can’t see the light of life or the love of others. They can only feel the pressure of the darkness of despair in their own mind. That darkness is visible to them and often invisible to us.

Tragedy always leaves unanswered questions. Always. None of us are exempt from the troubles of life. All of us are left with unanswered questions when these troubles come. Even people, those of faith, who have the promises of God that all will be OK in the world to come cannot help experience anguish in this one.

Christ himself was a man acquainted with grief. The apostle, Paul, faced many troubles and unanswered questions. That’s why he uses the word now twice and then twice. Now unanswered, then we’ll know.

When a tragedy like this happens, the first question that comes to us is, “why?” We can see no reason for it. We’re overwhelmed by the mystery of it. Jesus Himself asked the question on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In this tragedy, it seems as if God had forsaken John.
John had given his life and energies to serving God. Why then had God forsaken him? Why had God not taken away this darkness and despair? But God had not forsaken John. God was going through this hour with John. God was where we could not be. He was in and with John during these tragic moments leading to his death. Only those who suffer from depression can know the pressures and problems John endured. We don’t know how many times he came to this precipice and walked away. We don’t know how many battles he fought successfully before he lost this one. Life puts more pressure on some than others.

Today, we remember the good person that John was and all the good things he did with his life. These will not be blotted out nor forgotten by this one final, tragic act.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Just Called to Talk

A few weeks ago I received a call on my cell phone while sitting at my desk in my office at work. The caller ID read “Home” and I answered anticipating to hear my wife on the other end. However, it was my five-year old son saying, “Hi, daddy.” I jumped in the conversation with “Hey big dawg, how was your day?” “Good,” he replied. We went back and forth a few times and then I paused giving him an opportunity, because I assumed he was calling to either ask me if he could do something or buy something. After a short silent pause I asked him a couple of more questions about his day and then paused again, giving him another shot at asking for my permission for whatever it was he wanted to do.

After a few moments of silence I said, “Luke, did you call me because you wanted to ask me something or did you just want to talk to me?” He replied, “I just wanted to talk to you.” Oh man, my heart was touched. At that moment he could have asked me for anything and my answer would have been “yes” because he just wanted to hear my voice and talk with me.

On my way home from work I was reflecting over the call I received from my son earlier in the day, feeling both loved and proud he was my boy. Then it was like the Lord gently said me, “When was the last time you spoke with me, not because you wanted to ask me for something, but just because you wanted to speak with me?”

How much more would a God who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills want to bless me out of His abundant riches if throughout the day/week I prayed to Him not because I wanted to ask Him for something, but just because I wanted to talk with Him?

Thank you, God for using children to teach me what is most important in life. "...Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sustaining Christian Education

Upon receiving the Zig Ziglar Servant Leadership Award from Prestonwood Christian Academy, Franklin Graham said “Christian education is the last great wall in America.”

In 2014 we saw increased liberal attacks on Christian education, both higher education and K-12. I’m afraid these attacks will increase, but that should only strengthen our resolve to take a stand for Jesus Christian and Christian education.

There are many ways you can help Christ-centered educational institutions. The most important and powerful way for you can make a difference is to pray for Christian colleges/universities and K-12 programs. Pray that God will give His wisdom to the leaders, teachers, and support staff at Christian educational institutions. Pray for God’s hand of protection over our Christian schools. Pray that our Christian schools will not give in to cultural and social pressures that are contrary to Scripture and that they will remain faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ. And pray that the students will gain a deep understanding of God’s word and develop a sincere relationship with Jesus Christ.

I recently heard that in the next 30 years there will be 2 types of Christian schools: 1) those that are endowed and 2) those that are closed. Another way you can make a difference is to make a financial gift to a Christ-centered educational institution. Establishing and giving to endowments at Christ-centered educational institutions is a great way to ensure your donation will give in perpetuity and the Christ-centered institution will continue to teach the truth of Jesus Christ for years to come.

Let’s make sure there are more endowed Christian schools than there are closed 30 years from now. Join me in making a gift to a Christ-centered educational institution.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Exactly What I Needed

I was 20 when I made a decision to fully follow Jesus Christ. My friends and girlfriend at the time weren’t ready to make the same decision for their life. After a couple of weeks of falling back into old sinful habits, I knew I needed to get myself away from these friends who were a bad influence on me. Otherwise, I would never become the person God wanted me to be.
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) says, “Do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character.” I needed to begin surrounding myself with sincere Christians that would help me and encourage me to live a Christian life.
It was lonely for a while because I didn’t have a lot of Christian friends, but I knew who I hung around in college would determine who I would become over the next few years. Did I want to go back to the person I was before Jesus changed my life? Or did I want to rise above and become a better person in Christ? I had the desire to become better, but unless I put myself around others that were on the same mission as me, striving to be more like Christ, I may not get there.
Over the next few months I did begin to develop some Christian friendships. Including a guy that was in BYX at Texas A&M. He told me about BYX and I was impressed. While on a campus visit to Houston Baptist University that summer, I noticed a BYX flyer on a bulletin board and was excited to know HBU had a BYX chapter. I called and left a message for the president of the chapter at that time and he called me back and told me about the chapter.
After I moved on campus that fall, I decided to go through Greek rush. I was exposed to several secular fraternities and was almost persuaded to join one of them, but I had been to their parties and knew that if I joined this particular fraternity I would fall right back into the lifestyle Christ had saved me from. There was a part of me that said “you can be a witness to these guys if you’re a member,” but I knew the likelihood was greater for them to pull me down than for me to pull them up so I didn’t pledge.
That next spring I pledged BYX, and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made because I built God-honoring, lifelong relationships in BYX. I don’t have to look back on my days at HBU with regret because I put myself around great people. I saw how the secular fraternities negatively influenced some of the men who went through Greek rush with me. One of the guys that I would have been a pledge brother to was kicked out of the school for some of his actions.
I’m not saying my brothers in BYX were perfect. We all had our struggles, but we were trying to get better and helping one another out. We are all in this Christian life together. We need brothers we can count on and look to for support, encouragement and inspiration.
HBU Alum BlogThis recent photo (right) is of me with two BYX brothers that I still look up to. They both had a strong impact on me while in college. The one on the left is Justin Pankow. He was the president of the BYX chapter at HBU when I arrived at HBU and the first person from BYX that made contact with me. While I was not a good student starting off, Justin encouraged me to make good grades in school. His encouragement and example inspired me.
On one occasion in the men’s dorm computer lab, which was notorious for viruses, Justin was on one of the computers and an inappropriate image popped up. He quickly turned his head and jumped up out of his seat. We looked to his monitor to see why he jumped up and someone closed the image on the computer.
It was actions like this that made the rest of us look at him and say, Justin is a man of God. He made a covenant with his eyes. Some people may not have been shocked by the image, but because Justin worked to keep his mind pure he had not become desensitized and was shocked. This is the type of person I needed to be around and model myself after.
On the right is Ross Shelton. Ross was another man I looked up to both spiritually and academically. He became president of HBU’s BYX chapter after Justin graduated. Ross and I also became roommates and his good habits rubbed off on me.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
Both Justin and Ross inspired me to be a better student and Christian. I thank God for these men and I thank BYX for giving me the opportunity to meet them and build a relationship with them. This is what BYX is about; brothers unifying to grow in faith, character, and Christian leadership. I didn’t see these qualities among the leadership of other fraternities on campus.
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” -Psalm 133:1
Please don’t get me wrong, BYX wasn’t like living in a monastery. We had a lot of fun, some of the most fun I’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve had more fun living my life for Jesus than I ever did trying to live for and please myself. But I didn’t get in trouble and I never had to deal with guilt or shame after hanging out with my BYX brothers.
My point is that BYX attracts and helps develop men striving to follow Jesus Christ. If you are a college student wondering what group to join look no further. You will never regret joining BYX. If you are an alumnus, grateful like I am for having had the opportunity to be in BYX, find a way to support your chapter and promote BYX by posting stories of your experience on social media so others will know about the great fraternity and impact of BYX.

*I wrote this post for The BYX Blog posted on June 9, 2014. Here's a link:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top 10 (Plus 5) Reasons to Earn a College Degree

There are plenty of reasons why you can’t achieve your dream of earning a bachelor’s degree, but you only need one reason why you can. Focus on that reason and don’t allow negative thoughts to steal your future. Five years from now you’re going to be five years older, with a degree or without. If earning a degree is one of your goals do something today towards making it happen. Go after your dream! You will have the rest of your like to enjoy the benefits.

Top 10 (Plus 5) Reasons to Earn a College Degree
(In no particular order)

1. Bucket List – Earning a degree is a personal goal lifelong goal and you just want it for self-satisfaction.

2. Set an example for your kids – Great reason. Studies show that children will either meet or exceed the education level of their parents. If you want your children to value hard work and an education model it for them.

3. Reinvent yourself – Perhaps you are tired of your current career or lifestyle and want to make a change. One way to do that is to earn a degree in a new field.

4. Earn a promotion at work – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by different adult students that they are back in school because they were passed up for a promotion for not having bachelor’s degree and someone younger with less experience was given the position because they had a degree. 

5. Build confidence – There is a certain level of confidence gained once you’ve earned a degree that money can’t buy you. The satisfaction of knowing you accomplished this great milestone in life and no one can take it away from you. This intangible benefit will spill over into every area of your life.

6. Gain respect – People that earn a bachelor degree share a mutual respect for one another and those that don’t have a degree admire those that do. Additionally, one reason employers look for applicants with a degree is that they know degreed applicants have the perseverance it takes to stick with a goal through to completion and stick-to-itiveness is a characteristic worthy of respect.

7. Expand your mind – Challenging yourself at an educational level will help develop your mind to deeper levels of thinking including the esteemed ability to think critically.

8. Prepare for unknown opportunities – While we may not know exactly what the future holds for us we should always be preparing for the future. Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “I will prepare and one day my chance will come.” We might not be able to see what doors could open up for us if we prepare, but we never will if we don’t.

9. Expand future choices – Without a degree your choices and opportunities will be limited, but with a degree your entire life could change by the opportunity of one additional choice. You never want to live with the regret of - if only I had completed a degree 10 years ago I could take advantage of such and such opportunity today. One of my favorite quotes is by an unknown author and reads, “The future is that time you’ll wish you had done what you aren’t doing now.”

10. Build a larger network and increase resources – Not only will you meet people in class that may become lifelong friends and even professional colleagues, but you will forever be a part of an alumni network of an academic institution and enjoying the benefits such camaraderie affords.

11. Have more control over job opportunities and your life – A degree will give you more control over what type and level of job you are able to interview for and can open the door for jobs in a specific field or industry for which you lack experience.

12. Stretch yourself – Discover what you are able to accomplish and push the limits of your threshold. You can increase your mental and physical perseverance when faced with scholarly and rigorous academic adversity.  You will be amazed at what you can achieve when stretched.

13. Separate yourself from competition – Make yourself more marketable and desirable to potential employers. All things being equal the applicant with a degree will get the job.

14. Recession Proof – While a degree does not provide complete immunity during a recession, you may survive a layoff given that those without a degree are typically the first to go.

15. Become a professional – Occupations as a lawyer, doctor, psychological counselor, university professor all require graduate level education. The stepping stone for such careers is the bachelor degree. 

If you’re an adult looking for a flexible degree completion program I recommend DBU’s College of Professional Studies.

Trust God With Your Money

I am grateful to have parents that modeled for me obedience in tithing. After my wife and I married in 2001 we discussed and agreed tha...