Archive for July, 2016

Poor Solomon

What would it take to make you feel content? Maybe a lot of money, perhaps a comfortable lifestyle? Likely many different mental snapshots are floating in your mind, things that you’ve seen and heard about. I suspect that they would all be your personal fantasy version of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”!

Perhaps the riches of Solomon come to your mind? That would really do it, huh? He was likely the richest man that ever lived! I say that you already have way more than King Solomon. Solomon didn’t have air conditioning, electricity, indoor plumbing or even toilet paper. He had a chauffeured 2 horse chariot that never went much faster than a modern bicycle. All of Solomon’s money couldn’t get him anywhere faster than a kid on a moped today. In fact, we all can walk into any grocery store and buy fruits and vegetables from around the world, fresh, at any time of the year. Solomon sure couldn’t do that. Since there was only primitive food preservation and no refrigeration, he could only eat what was in season locally or what was just butchered. He had no jeans, no cool t-shirts and no skateboard shoes. He just wore silk pajamas all day. Boxers or briefs? None of the above! No television, internet, facebook or even magazines, just hand drawn pictures. How would you like to be stuck with 700 wives and 300 concubines? If he only quarreled with them 1% of the time, that’s 10 women hollering at him all the time! Could you afford to have all of them taking a shopping trip to Tiffany’s? All the clothes and jewelry, and the sound of 1000 chattering women? My head hurts already! Is that really what you want? Would that make you content?

Ok, I can’t be content with all that. Still, we want to be rich to be content, right? Being a nobody in the top 1% sounds pretty good. The television news people are always talking about how easy the 1%’ers have it. Fair enough, lets try that; to be in the top 1% in the world you must earn $32,400 per year. Not as much as you thought? That will likely be quite a pay cut for most of you.

So what about the other 99% of the world? 22,000 mothers will watch their child starve to death before their eyes today. Every single day. Try to explain to them how hard your life is. See if they will feel sorry for your plight. 4932 kids will die from diarrhea today. 6027 kids will die from lack of immunization shots today. 25% of the world doesn’t have electricity. 22 million people are in total slavery, more than at any point in human history. That dusty Bible you have on your shelf is illegal to possess in roughly 52 countries. Some places, there are people willing to risk death and torture for a copy. Yours may be unread because you’re too busy thinking about all the stuff that you should be entitled to have. We’re busy coveting everyone else’s stuff, no time for that” God “stuff. Does that make you content?

Americans have all that, and we are only the 12th happiest country in the world and that figure is dropping. So how can this be? We are an overfed bunch of crybabies that are just never content. We sure do love our greed, don’t we? Its the insatiability of greed, always more, more, more. So why is contentment so elusive?  Friends, we just aren’t looking in the right place. Grab that dusty old Bible off the shelf for a minute. It tells us that greed and covetousness wont make us happy, it actually tells us that we are heading down a doomed path when we make “stuff” our god. We already have plenty of stuff, our poverty is in the unseen and greed blinds us to our greatest need.  The Bible sure has that part figured out, but where is the ever elusive happiness?

You must start with thankfulness. 1Thessalonians 5:18 says ” In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you.” Those were Paul’s words. Here’s what Jesus said, Luke 12:15 ” Then He said to the people, ‘Beware! Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when a man has more than enough, his wealth does not give him life.'” How about Paul teaching the young Pastor Timothy, 1Timothy 6:8-9,  “We brought nothing into this world; for that matter we can take nothing with us when we leave, but if we have food and clothes we may rest content. Those who want to be rich fall into temptations and snares and many foolish harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and perdition.” My, there isn’t much question there, is there? Do you see any foolish harmful desires in your heart? I have to raise my hand there too. I can get distracted with all the new stuff that marketers are shoving in my face. That’s when I lose perspective in what I really do have and contentment drifts away.

Now that we have a little perspective, knowing that we did nothing to earn this easy life, are you grateful? Have you considered that maybe Jesus didn’t put you here to just pile up cash and buy bigger houses to store all your crap? Those things didn’t make you happy anyway, you’re still miserable. I think that one of the ugliest conditions a person can have is being ungrateful. Just turn on the TV and watch the greed. That’s how your kids are being trained to live unless you give them something better. Most parents are too busy though to teach them better because they are on their own little greedy lust binge. How do you think they will turn out? Contentment is a stranger there too.

So where is the value in life? Thankfully, Paul didn’t leave us wondering. Consider his letter to the church in Phillipi,  Phillippians 2:2-4 “If then our common life in Christ yields anything to stir the heart, any loving consolation, any sharing of the Spirit any warmth of affection or compassion, fill up my cup of happiness by thinking and feeling alike, with the same love for one another, the same turn of mind, and a common care for unity.  There must be no room for rivalry and personal vanity among you, but you must humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interest and not merely to your own.”

To love and care for each other isn’t what a post-Christian society teaches.  We know that the worlds way doesn’t make us happy. Greed has made us broke and miserable. Jesus’ way is so countercultural that the world can’t even make sense of it. In our misery, we ridicule the answer.  We aren’t living in poverty of subsistence, but we are destroying ourselves with our insatiable desires. What we’re stuck with is a poverty of character and of kindness and of empathy.

I’ll leave you to ponder Mother Theresa’s words: ” We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

Give thanks and give yourself away, friends.

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Getting What You Need

Have you ever noticed how prosperity preachers often take the Word of God out of context? For example, we’ve seen a big smiling grin quote Luke 11; 11-13

” If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

That big toothy grin is trying to imply is that God will give you whatever you ask for and to buy his book telling you how to get more. Feed the greed. They are called “The blab it and grab it” crowd. Yet if we look at what the text really says, it doesn’t say that the father in question gives his child bread, fish or an egg either. The child just doesn’t get something bad that will hurt him. In fact Luke 11; 1-13 is about the Holy Spirit and how they ask for that saving gift like John the Baptist teaches his followers.

John had the Holy Spirit from conception (Luke 1:15), but Jesus’ disciples were asking how to pray like John taught his disciples. Jesus said that what God would give them was the Holy Spirit(Luke 11:13) and implying that the Holy Spirit was a good gift, not harmful. Seems like more of an assurance that, even though they may be overwhelmed, God loves them and He knew that this is what they needed most. What they had asked for wasn’t enough. Since the Holy Spirit enters us when we get saved, it suggests that “The Lords Prayer” is, in part, a prayer of salvation and Jesus is telling them how to get saved. It has nothing whatsoever to do with getting a good job, new car, or hot girl. He won’t save you from those flashing red and blue lights when you’re going 40MPH in a school zone. Maybe the Holy Spirit will convict you enough to slow down and obey the law!

So am I saying that God isn’t going to give us stuff when we ask for it? That isn’t quite the point, although I will say that the greatest things that God has done for me is to take stuff away. I sure didn’t see it that way at the time and its taken many years to see Gods plan in hard times. Sometimes a valley is needed to allow us to go higher. God is good all the time. God isn’t Santa Claus. Don’t confuse the two.

Luke 11: 1-13 is telling us that God views the Holy Spirit to be the greatest gift. That’s what we need before anything else is relevant . Folks getting healed from illness, people with the talent to make money, a happy comfortable family, and all the things that we view as the answer to prayer, are only of God if they turn people to walking closer to God and getting saved. What value is supernatural healing if that person doesn’t see his Savior? A healed older man may likely die in a few years from something else anyway. A young cancer survivor gets healed and may get killed in a car accident in two years in the new car she prayed for. See, those things are all for nothing without bringing folks closer to Jesus.

Everyone dies, even Lazrus died and Jesus was the one who directly healed him. Jesus likely healed thousands of people while He walked the earth and every one of them is dead. What was the greater purpose of their supernatural healing? Glory to God and a closer walk with Jesus. Their healing a couple thousand years ago help us walk closer to God today. I’ll bet those folks weren’t praying for that, they just wanted the hurt to go away. Its for Gods purpose, don’t ever lose sight of that. Try to see the greater good in answered prayer. Often its there as a window to share the love of Jesus. A window for them to get saved and have the Holy Spirit enter their lives, perhaps at a time they might otherwise be closed to all that ” Jesus stuff”. When you feel that God has directly answered prayer, look for that window of opportunity. Don’t waste the real gift.

As for those prosperity preachers taking Gods word out of context to sell her latest and greatest book, that crabby looking gal that promises you, that if you follow her formula, you can grab everything you want? She cackles out to buy her book and learn the secret, even though she’s written 30 books (she must have a lot of secrets that God only tells her, hmmmm?). God already did a compilation of 66 books by 40 authors, all the answers are there. Don’t give that opportunist a penny! Save the money and put it in the offering at church. Give it to a needy cause, not a greedy cause.

Think critically friends and pray hard.

 

 

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Attention Seekers

Romans 16:17-18  I implore you, my friends, keep your eye on those who cause divisions and lead others astray, contrary to the teaching you received. Avoid them, for such people are servants not of Christ our Lord but of their own appetites, and they seduce the minds of innocent people with smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve

Titus 3: 9-11 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once, and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self condemned.

Its an unfortunate that all church attendees aren’t there to learn and to serve. Its also unfortunate that some also choose to make a spectacle of themselves. For them it really isn’t about Jesus, its about being seen and making noise and dividing. This isn’t a new thing, obviously Paul had to deal with it in the church from its infancy. Unless its an issue of doctrinal malfeasance, the group or individuals doing the dividing are doing the work of Satan. Pretty harsh words indeed, but who else’s bidding are they doing? Paul didn’t seem to concern himself with the feelings of the offenders, they were attacking his friends and he laid it out clear.

I’m a pretty kind and empathetic person till a troublemaker comes along. Those are my brothers and sisters being torn apart, and animosity is being created with only one affect; to destroy Gods people. There have been some that I’ve met who take great pleasure in hurting members of a church that they once claimed allegiance to. Don’t let these people walk out of the church, throw them out!

To be perfectly clear, we aren’t talking about debates over music or what flowers are appropriate for the sanctuary. We all have latitude to disagree. However when the powers that are in charge make a decision, we must accept and support that decision. Always support your Pastor. Don’t ever forget, we are there to serve, not stomp around like an impetuous little child if everything doesn’t play out as we’d like. Servanthood in church, servanthood at work, and servanthood at play are what set Christians apart from the rest of the world. The world already has enough self centered, me-worshippers, take a stroll through Walmart if you don’t believe me!

It should be said however, that when someone,  who Paul described as warped, leaves under these circumstances, we still need to pray for these folks. Paul is pretty rough and doesn’t offer any kindness to division artists. They still need Jesus and Jesus still loves them and He wants us to bring them home. From my years of experience, I can say without exception, that folks who pleasure in division are some of the unhappiest people you will ever meet. They also love to bring people into their drama, family, and friends, and the larger the misery, the happier they are. They often move from church to church leaving nothing but destruction behind them, ultimately proclaiming that everyone else is messed up and only they are righteous. Some put on a glossy finish, but they are lonely and hollow inside. They need to feel the love that only Jesus can provide. I’m pretty sure that when you read the Scripture above, someone came to your mind. You may still even be angry with them, but at least show them enough grace to pray for them. They’re just messed up like the rest of the world.

Friends, I sure wish that you had no idea what I’m talking about, but I’ll bet you do. The goal is to protect the body, our brothers and sisters. If its necessary to remove part to save the body, it must be done. After its done, we need to heal, apologize and forgive fellow believers caught up in the mess. We aren’t enemies and God has a purpose for us, both individually and as a unit. Move on and refocus back on servanthood. We serve a great God and he has a plan for us and we can’t stay bogged down in the mud. That just wastes precious time. Lets pray for focus and strength to get through these things. Keep your eyes on the prize, and pray hard friends.

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Death to Church Culture

Yup, that’s what I said and I mean it. Christianity cannot survive or have any useful function until Church Culture dies. Church Culture is something that is the direct result of sin. Man quickly replaces and twists the gifts and instruction of God and turns them into something corrupt and evil. Sex, for example, is a gift that man has turned into something filthy. Humans like the filth, so we just legalize it to ease our conscience and force people to accept our particular degradation.

The Church was such a gift, and as usual, we’ve corrupted it into uselessness and vagueness to distance ourselves from Gods will. Modern Church Culture has no discernable difference between its teaching and moral relativism . Its people behave no differently, they tell the same raunchy jokes, cheat on their spouses, and lust for every person or product they can’t afford, often acquiring them anyway. While walking with an attitude of piousness (because after all, they gave God a whole hour and all the change in their pocket), they have become functionally impotent in the modern world. Most do more harm than good and earn the “Hypocrite” title. Believers have become what the unbelieving world can’t believe. Church Culture is not what God intended.

Lets consider the Amish Culture. Forget about the horse and buggy stuff for a minute, lets look at the culture that they gladly adhere to.  They are dedicated to each other. If someone’s house or barn burns down, or someone becomes hurt or ill, their neighbors will drop everything and build them a new place or takeover the workload on the farm.  It’s second nature to them and they are glad to do it. They save their money and don’t idolize material goods (which is why they have plenty of money). Living simply has provided them with financial security and an ability to keep focus on what’s important to them. No shipping kids off to daycare so the parents can buy more crap than they can afford. No sending them off to a college, that corrupts their little minds, so they may be able to afford more material goods. That’s idolatry and selling your kids into idolatry. It’s financial and moral slavery. Amish kids are with mom and dad till they get married. Most are educated at home and learn real world skills. Most important is that they learn unswerving integrity and non-adjustable morality. The parents take responsibility for the children instead of passing them off to a government institution to indoctrinate them with the latest morality. Being humble and kind are priorities, as are the value of hard work. Amish divorce doesn’t exist and the communities rally around couples with marital discord.  Disease and sickness is rare because they eat what they raise and are physically active.They sure know their Bible. Its probably easier without all that other worldly crap taking up their time like TV or the internet. I’m very fortunate to live with the Amish as neighbors, and I can tell you that they are far kinder and far more intelligent than you can imagine. The Amish will survive.  Amish Culture works!

When you read Paul’s letters to the church’s of that day, its seems like he is warning them against the same things that the Amish are guarding against. Idolatry, church division, immorality, straying from Scripture, becoming like the world of that day. Paul was warning them and us about Church Culture. Church Culture winks at all those sins as long as you show up for an hour and throw some change in the pot. Church Culture doesn’t actually “Do” anything. Again, Church Culture must die!

So am I saying that to be a true Christian you have to sell you car and buy a horse and buggy? Do you have to have the power company unhook the juice? While I may think that would be pretty fun for a while, its not really the answer, nor does it address the problem. Church Culture must die and be replaced by something, I say we need Jesus Culture. Now to be clear, Jesus Culture won’t save you, it’s the result of being saved. Don’t get that out of order. Imagine if your Church community adopted Jesus Culture. We would take care of one another (no government programs needed), not just physically, but spiritually. We wouldn’t allow idolatry into any of our homes. We would raise, truly raise our children and teach them Scripture and morality. They would have far more value than those spoiled little me-monsters that we see in grocery stores (who grow up into big me-monsters). Most importantly, we would know Gods message, our Bibles. The outcome would be the kindness and humility that our Amish brothers and sisters have mastered.

Oh friends, Church Culture must die and we have to get back to Jesus Culture. That’s how the gift was designed. We weren’t made to live the way we are, God had a better plan that we corrupted. We cannot survive without Jesus Culture. To a post Christian America, we don’t really look any different from them. We aren’t showing them that our God is a good god and a kind god that loves them. Only Jesus Culture can do that, by transforming us back to the purity of His gift. The saved need to live together as a tight community, not mega church where people can be lost and non-functional. We also can’t  continue to compete in the world of buying useless products, just to keep up with people that we don’t even like. Its made most of us broke or barely hanging on and we really can’t afford to help anyone or miss a day of work. Idolatry is a consuming fire. We need to stop being marketing sheep!

Well friends there you have it, I hope I was able to give you something to think about. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to make some changes or at least some adjustments. I would sure love to hear some Jesus Culture stories from you. If you decide to sell your car and buy a buggy, well I think that would be kinda cool too!

Pray hard friends!

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