Thursday, June 30, 2011

Silly Games in Corporate America

Godliness with contentment is great gain,” Paul told Timothy. Most people turn that around, believing that if they can gain a lot then they must be godly. I work in a corporate environment and all most people care about is what other people can do to help them advance their careers. That takes priority over the product. If producing a good product will advance their career, they’ll produce a good product, but what they really want is to advance their career.

There are times that it’s hard to stay content in that kind of environment. People are always asking what you’re doing to advance your career or why you haven’t reached some level in your career. But I can’t help but think that another statement by Paul is very true in the corporate world as well. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Paul is referring to the fact that we can take nothing we gain in this world into the next, but there is some truth to that in the corporate world as well. Eventually, all these people who are fighting for position in the company will retire. Aside from having a little more money in retirement, no one really cares whether you retire at the top of the ladder or if you fell off the bottom by being “requested” to take early retirement.

So much that goes on in large corporations has the appearance of petty games. People think some of the silliest things are important and they will fight to protect their territory, just because they don’t want to look bad or they feel that it will hurt their career advancement.

But there’s something to be said for being content. It won’t get you a lot of money. Many of your co-workers will think you’re crazy, but the people who are content are able to focus on the job they’ve been hired to do rather than hopping from job to job, never spending enough time on any of them to do anything meaningful.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm Sorry You Have a Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” It’s a question we might ask a person we’re trying to share the gospel with, but would you believe there is a bad connotation to the concept of “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

In some evangelical circles, the personal relationship with Jesus Christ is viewed as the highest form of the Christian life. In other words, a person has a personal relationship with Jesus and they need nothing else. Jesus talks directly to them, so nothing could be better, right? Wrong. The problem is that most elevated relationship in the Bible is that of Jesus and the church, not Jesus and the individual. I’m sure that at this point, some of you are thinking I’m grasping at straws. After all, isn’t it true that all saved people are part of the church automatically and so the only thing we need to strive for is the personal relationship? No, that isn’t true. Aside from a few passages that could be taken either way, all of the references to the church in the Bible refer to a local, visible, body of baptized believers who assemble together for worship. These local assemblies have membership, they transfer membership from one to another by means of letters recommending people into the fellowship of the other church, and they work together as a unit. One Christian off by himself lacks the skill needed to carry out the Lord’s work because the Lord intended for him to partner with his church to do the work of the ministry.

So, while it may seem spiritual to say that you have a personal relationship with Jesus and that’s all you need, the Bible says otherwise. Through fellowship with other believers, we build each other up. We use our talents to fill in areas of weakness that others have and they use their talents to fill in our areas of weakness. While it is true that Jesus could use individuals working alone to accomplish his work, that’s not what he chose to do. Jesus established his church, so that we would have a support group, leadership, and fellow laborers engaged in preaching the gospel to a lost world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hard Issues Concerning Parachurch Organizations

On my way to work one morning, I happened to hear John MacArthur on the radio talking about the importance of the church. In particular, he was talking about the local church, not the big invisible body of believes that some people believe everyone who has been saved is a member of. He got off on things like church membership and lettering members from one church to another, baptism and the Lord’s supper, all of which he is for. I won’t repeat all he said, but he also got off on the issue of parachurch organizations, which is any faith-based organization that works outside the church and/or across denominational lines and engage in social welfare and evangelism efforts.

Perhaps to my shame, this is a topic I’ve avoided. This is partly because I have friends who either currently or sometime in their past worked for one of these organizations. It’s a difficult situation to be in when you end up saying something against the organization a friend works for, especially when it has the appearance of being a godly organization. And I’m reminded Mark 9 in which the disciples saw a man casting out devils in the name of Jesus, but when he refused to follow them, which in essence is that he refused to join the church, they forbad him. But Jesus said, “Forbid him not, for this is no man who shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is on our side.”

And yet, John MacArthur brought up some very good points about parachurch organizations. One is that anyone who wants to can start one and do. There are thousands of them and they invest a great deal of time calling people up on the phone or sending out mailings to request people give them money. “Free a starving child for a few cents a month.” “We’ll be collecting clothes in your neighborhood.” “Help the needy in your area.” While these things are good things to do, men (and yes, even women) who do not meet the qualifications to pastor a church are leading many of these organizations. As a church, aside from not supporting these organizations, there is little we can do about it.

Parachurch organizations draw the emphasis away from the local church. You might ask why that matters. If the local church isn’t doing the work these organizations are doing, what does it hurt if someone wants to start an effort outside his church to do a good work? Well, for one thing, God places the emphasis on the local church. With few exceptions, the New Testament was written to specific local churches, who then passed the letters they received on to other local churches so that they other churches could learn from the letters as well. Even the Book of Philemon, which Paul wrote requesting that Philemon forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and send him back to Paul because Paul needed his help, was addressed to the church as well. The epistles to Timothy and Titus were not addressed to the church, but they were written for the instruction of leaders within the church. Jesus, in his personal ministry, spoke to the church.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Women Should Have Long Hair

I was listening to Dr. Tony Evans the other day and he had a view of 1 Corinthians 11 that I thought was interesting. You recall that this passage talks about the relationship between men and women, but it gets off into this thing about long hair and short hair. I’ve heard some people say that Paul was dealing with the customs of his day so some of what he said might not have the same application today. I’ve never liked that idea because it opens the door for us to ask how much of the rest of the Bible doesn’t apply to us today.

Dr. Evans made the point that this dealing with the man being created before the woman. The woman was created to help the man. The woman is there to fill in the gap of what is missing in the man. Dr. Evans says that is why Paul gets off on hair. The man has short hair and often has a whole lot less of it, but the woman has long beautiful hair. She makes up for what the man lacks in looks. What the man lacks in other areas of life, if wife makes up.

It reminded me of a conversation I overheard at work. The man was talking about how busy he was at work, but then he said, “but because she isn’t working now, I don’t have to worry about anything at home. She takes care of all that. I can just turn off that part of my brain and focus on stuff here.”

I’m not saying that women shouldn’t work outside the home, but for many couples, the best thing the woman can do is to stay at home and take care of things there, so that the man can focus on those things that he must do to provide for his family. Looking at it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have that, I can’t help but think how nice that must be for men who are able to turn all those concerns off and go to work with the knowledge that someone else is taking care of all of that.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why the Earth is Round

Have you ever thought about why the world is round instead of some other shape, like flat or square? I hadn’t really given it much thought, but I found a very strong spherical magnet the other day. It had some metal filings on it. The magnet was about the size of a ball bearing. How do you get metal filings off a round magnet? I tried wiping them off with my finger and then with a tissue, but I succeeded only in pushing them around to the other side.

It made me think. Isn’t that what happens at a much larger scale with our world? There are things that try to wipe us out, like storms or famine or extreme heat or cold. Flood and fires come, but what do we do? We stay here affixed to our planet, but we might move around to a safer location. The shape of our planet keeps us from being wiped off into space.

I did eventually solve my problem. It turns out that the magnetic bonds of the molecules in Scotch tape are stronger than the magnet I found. By rolling the magnet across the tape, I was able to remove the metal and the magnet was clean once more. Fortunately, we don’t have a big piece of tape in the sky that can remove us from our planet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Gossip

How easy it is to say something wrong. The other day, someone asked me a question and I gave an answer, but after she walked away I thought about what I had said and realized that I hadn’t given her the correct answer. It wasn’t an important question. She was asking it more as small talk than anything else. This particular person picks up the trash where I work, so she speaks to many people throughout the day. Now suppose she repeats what I said. That person will also have the wrong information. That information could spread, simply because I misspoke.

We all know that gossip is wrong. We’ve heard that all our lives and yet there are so many people who engage in it. I think what happens is that people don’t see what they are doing as gossip—they’re just repeating information someone else gave them. Of course, we all know that gossip is talking about the personal details of other people’s lives. The danger in gossip isn’t so much that we’re talking about people as much as it is so easy to misspeak or to say something in a way that someone takes it differently than we intended. Just the tone of our voice—which we sometimes have trouble controlling—can change the meaning of what we say. English is very much a spoken language and how we say something is as important as what we say. A person who picks up on a mistake in our tone may repeat what we said and embellish it so that it is clear what you meant by the tone you used. Or we might hear someone say something and take it the wrong way because of the tone.

We must be very careful in how we talk about people. We must also be careful about were and to whom we talk about people. Standing in the hall at church may seem like the perfect place to for prayer for your in-laws who just can’t stand you, but there are many people who may be listening and what they will hear is that you’re fighting with your in-laws again. And what will people think about that?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Less Than 3% of Dad's Are Single

I saw an interesting statistic. In 2010, there were an estimated 1.8 million single fathers. That in itself isn’t particularly interesting until you consider that the same source estimated that there were 70.1 million fathers in the United States. I realize there are problems in the American home and many marriages fail, but the fact that of 70.1 million fathers, less then 3% are considered single fathers ought to tell us something about the value people place on marriage. To be fair, I think the statistics left “common law” marriages out of the single dad figure, but the fact is that people still place value on a man and a woman raising children together. Maybe they’re confused about the need for people to get married and stay married, but they believe that children need the influence of both women and men.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Round Trashcans Are Better

We get upset about some of the dumbest things. I was once told about a man who worked in an area where the janitors didn’t go in to collect the trash, so the people in that area would have to carry their trashcans out and set them outside the door for the janitor to dumb. This man, apparently newly hired to work in the area, came into work one morning and saw all of the trashcans sitting outside the door. Trying to be nice, he collected them all and put them back beside the desks. When his coworkers came in, some were furious. It so happens that in that area there were round trashcans and square trashcans. Only the higher salary grade people were supposed to have the square trashcans and the lower salary grade people were to have the round trashcans. I’m sure the lower salary grade people didn’t mind getting the square trashcans, but the higher salary grade people who ended up with the round trashcans were very upset. As silly as that sounds, it was told as a true story.

The work environment highlights the problem because something as small as the shape of the trashcan or the type of chair a person can have has significant meaning. It isn’t the actual value of these things that’s important, but it has more to do with one’s self-worth. People get concerned about the perks of a position, even if the only perk is the shape of the trashcan because these perks make them feel like they are more important than someone else. In a work environment, that actually makes the other people feel inferior and that’s not good, but what can you do?

If we were to look closely, we would find that salary grade in and of itself isn’t an indicator of how well a person is doing. Some people with higher salaries are so deep in debt that people below them who manage their money well are better off. A large part of that has to do with the blessings of God. When God is in the equation, we may be passed over for promotion many times and still be as well off as if we’d gotten the promotion. But our tendency is to compare ourselves to others.

Naturally, we look at the things others have and question why they receive these things when we have put in just as much or more effort than they have, but we haven’t received them. We could blame our bosses—they’re easy targets—but ultimately, it is God who decides who is promoted and who is not. It is God who decides what blessings each of us receive. We begin to complain and ask, “why not me?”

What we need to realize is that when we do that, we are taking the attitude that we are more deserving of God’s blessings than the other person. We should be rejoicing with the other person and perhaps we try, but all the while we’re thinking “They’re young than me and they have less experience. It isn’t fair.” But have you considered that God wants to bless that person? We want to feel extra special. We want to think that God will treat us differently than he does the people around us. When God gives someone else a blessing we were hoping to receive, even if it is a square trashcan, we question why God is ignoring us. We’re hurt because he gave them something, but not us. That’s not the way it should be. The Bible tells us to esteem others better than ourselves. It also tells us that God knows and wants what is best for us. As hard as it may be for us to believe, maybe having a round trashcan will cause us to live our lives better than we would if had a square one. After all, who really wants the stress that comes when someone takes away the trashcan we’ve worked so hard to get?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nice Isn't Good Enough

There’s a difference between nice people and good people. Often, when people say that a person is a good person, what they actually mean is that they are nice people. A lot of people are friendly. A lot of people will do nice things for you. It wouldn’t surprise you if someone said they visited an unmarried couple who are living in the same house and while visiting them he had an enjoyable time talking to them over a delicious meal. And yet, the Bible tells us that the lifestyle of these people is not good. In fact, it tells us that fornicators don’t go to heaven.

The sad truth is that there are a lot of nice people who are on their way to hell. The day will come when they will stand before God and all they will have to show for a reason for him to let them into heaven is that they were nice people. They will have done nice things for other people. But God will look at them and tell them that the requirement isn’t that they be nice, but that they be good.

We like nice people and we assume they are good people. That is not always the case. But good people tend to be nice people. So be nice, but more importantly, be good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

We Don't Have to Sin

Some homosexual activists sat down with some Baptist leaders the other day and demanded that they apologize for what Baptists teach about homosexuality. The meeting went about like you would expect. It was cordial on both sides. The homosexuals questioned by the Baptists would apologize about what they had once taught about non-Caucasian races and the Baptists essentially told them that they were only teaching what the Bible says. They can’t change what the Bible says because they didn’t write it.

When you consider this issue, the difference between what many Baptists once taught about the various races and what they are teaching about homosexuality is that the racial lines were drawn on the color of a man’s skin, which he is born with and cannot control. On the other hand, what the Bible says about homosexuality is always about the actions. If you define homosexuality as being attracted to someone of the same gender, then it is no sin and any Baptist who is worthy of calling himself a Baptist would not call it such. But that isn’t how the Bible talks about the subject. It is always the action of homosexuality.

There are so many people who have the idea that if there is a desire then one must follow through with the action, so if we speak against the action then we are speaking against those who have the desire. But that misses the central message of the Bible. We are all born with a desire to sin. Throughout our lives, we are tempted to sin. If we sin, then we are separated from God who cannot look upon sin. But the Bible has good news. Our sin doesn’t have to separate us from God. We don’t have to keep sinning. The desire doesn’t require the action.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reap The Excess

The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. But that doesn’t mean that you get rain whether you are just or unjust. Consider how God stopped the rain for three and a half years because of sin. Or consider the great flood. The whole world got wet, but Noah and his family stayed dry. But here’s the thing, if a just person prays for rain and God sends it, his unjust neighbors are going to get part of that rain. You won’t see a selective cloud that dumps rain on just one house.

I won’t got out of my way to stretch this thought more than I should, but if you want to be blessed, hang out with the people God blesses. When their cup runs over, you’ll get the overflow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Authors Don't Like Me

It’s taboo in writing circles to call writing a hobby. Needless to say, I’ve upset a few people in writing circles, but frankly, I’m not overly concerned because I think there are a lot of writer types who think too highly of themselves. What is wrong with calling writing a hobby?

I think the reason it is taboo is because so many people attend writer conferences and hear the so called experts tell them that they should view it as a business rather than a hobby. For tax purposes and expense purposes, I totally agree, but the reality of the situation is that if writing is a business, most writers are pretty lousy businessmen. It takes about three months to write a novel. The author then takes the manuscript and sends it off to a bunch of people, usually only to receive a rejection letter from some and no feedback at all from most. After having had the manuscript rejected, the typical author sits down and writes another and then another. After doing this a few times, a few of them actually get a contract from a publisher. But while they are doing this, they are also spending about $1,000 a year going to writer conferences. No business can survive if the owner keeps losing money. So, if the author is losing money, why keep going?

If instead of looking at writing as a business, we look at it as an activity that someone does for enjoyment, all that money they are dumping into it makes more sense. Of course, I say that while I have to report to Uncle Sam that I am making a profit from writing—very small, but a profit nonetheless. I don’t, however, make enough to quit my day job. I’m fine with that. I’m more than fine with that because there are aspects of my day job I enjoy as much or more than writing and I don’t have the stress of trying to live from my art. But when people view writing as something they do for enjoyment and to relieve stress, it makes sense to tell them to keep writing in the face of rejection. Someday, they may produce something that won’t be rejected and maybe it will turn into something other than a hobby, but until then, most authors should view it has a hobby.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Big G, but Little God

I read an article the other day in which the writer talk about how he had once prayed for $500, thinking that was about all God could give him at that time, but he went to a conference and heard a man talking about praying for the impossible, like a cure for cancer in his lifetime. Since that time, great strides have been made toward a cure for cancer.

The thing is, if we truly believe that nothing is impossible for God, why aren’t we praying for bigger things? By that, I don’t mean that we should be greedy with our prayers and pray for the new Porsche when the used Impala will do. And while it is good to pray for peace in Jerusalem and world peace and freedom to preach the gospel in China—all of which the Lord can do in his time—I question why we aren’t applying this principle to things a little closer to home.

How often do we sit around talking about why God doesn’t answer our prayers rather than being confident when we go to him? If we know we are asking amiss, that is one thing, but when we feel we have a real need or that we are asking for something that is not harmful to us, why spend so much time conditioning ourselves for God not to answer our prayers instead of trusting that he wants to give us what we ask or to give us something better. There’s nothing we can request that is beyond his power. Perhaps we see ourselves as more spiritual because we’re willing to admit our failings and desire for things that we shouldn’t have, but could it be that what we’re really doing is making God too small?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not For the Reason You Think

I’ve heard my pastor say that if there wasn’t a sermon preached, a song sung, or a class taught that he would want to be at church, just for the fellowship. I believe he is sincere in what he says and of course, our church always has sermons from the word of God and good singing, but I wonder how many people across America do exactly that. How many people attend church because they want the fellowship rather than because they desire to hear the gospel preached?

We’ve conditioned ourselves to think otherwise. We accuse people of going to the lake or going to the ballgame instead of attending church. We’re critical of people—and rightly so—when they schedule their family gatherings on Sunday and go to those rather than attending church. But we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that people wouldn’t attend church just because it is fun. After all, aren’t there more entertaining things to do than go to church? Why, some churches even mimic those activities because they don’t believe they can get people through the door any other way. Those of us who aren’t mimicking those activities have the idea that the people who come to our church must really love the Lord or they wouldn’t be there.

We’re wrong to think that. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people enjoy listening to a man give a lecture. Throughout history, this has been true. In every generation, people have gathered in large groups and either stood or sat while they listened to a man speak. People still turn on the television to listen to the State of the Union Address. People actually pay to hear motivational speakers. And I don’t see many people who sit through church week after week saying they are bored out of their minds. People enjoy hearing someone speak.

That being the case, people’s attendance at church says nothing about the condition of their heart. Many people may attend each week because it gets them out of the house, it gives them something to do with their friends, and it is fun. But don’t tell anyone I said that. We want people to go on thinking we’re making a great sacrifice to go to church every week.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Counter the Homosexual Attack

Megan Basham recently wrote an article about "gay marriage" supporters targeting employers and employees. As I read the article and saw how gay activists are expressing their dislike for the decisions that some organizations are making and it is resulting in change in their favor I began to think, “Isn’t that what Christians have been doing for years?”

Over the years, there have been many boycotts by Christians because of something a companies are doing. I was a kid when there was a boycott on Walden Books because they were selling pornography. It wasn’t that long ago that there was a boycott on Wal-mart for supporting homosexuality. Target was boycotted because they wouldn’t let the Salvation Army bell ringers stand in front of their buildings. And then there was all this stuff about Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays.

That fact is, we may not like what the gays stand for and we may not understand why a group that represents less than two percent of the population can wield so much power, considering that Christians account for many times the amount of money gays bring to businesses with the exception of the immoral businesses, but we shouldn’t be surprised when the opposing side uses the same tactics that we’ve been using. This is a spiritual war and as the saying goes, “all it fair in love and war.”

That being said, the article makes the point that what is different in what the homosexuals are doing from interest group boycotts of the past is that the homosexuals are targeting people who make donations to support some family friendly proposition that is going before the voters. Give $1,000 to support a family friendly election campaign and that is all the reason the homosexuals need to try to get you fired. Here again, I may not like it, but I don’t see that we can draw that line and say that it is very much different. All that’s really different is where the homosexuals are getting their information.

The homosexuals are wrong to target these people and they will have to answer to God for what they are doing, but if we look at it as two equal sides in a disagreement, I don’t think we can say what they are doing is much different than what Christians are doing. The homosexuals and the Christians are facing off with some business caught in the middle. Most businesses would like to stay out of that possible because they’re really more interested in selling their wares than taking a stand on the issue of sodomy, but they’re caught in it anyway. Some of these businesses will end up falling on one side or the other. As Christians, I don’t think we should be surprise because the homosexuals are attacking people who support families any more than we should be surprised that the Palestinians attack Israel. What we should be doing instead is finding ways to encourage those businesses and employees who are under attack from the homosexuals to tell the homosexuals to go take a hike. Attacks like this only work if the business has reason to fear a financial loss if they hire people who oppose homosexuality. We need to show them that their greatest success will come from ignoring the demands of the homosexuals.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Junk For Disaster Victims

No more clothing” was the gist of a post I saw on Facebook. It came from an organization that had been collecting clothing for the people in Joplin, but they had reached the point that they had more clothes than they had time to sort through. Granted, it was a small organization with limited volunteer labor, but it got me to thinking. What are we doing making people sort clothing after a disaster?

Think about it. When a disaster strikes a call goes out for donations. Often, it doesn’t come from the people involved in the disaster as much as it comes from people who want to help. But then they run to their closets and pull out all the stuff that is too small, too large, or out of style. It’s the stuff they were saving for the next yard sale or the stuff they were going to give to Goodwill, but they hadn’t gotten around to it. All of that is loaded into boxes and shipped to the disaster area. Once there, someone has to go through those boxes, throwing away the junk and arranging the rest by sizes so people can find what they need. And then, what they have left is clothing that they may wear for a while, but once they get back on their feet, they’re going to buy new clothes and sell it at a yardsale.

Wouldn’t it be better if we wouldn’t give them our used stuff. They’ve just be through a disaster. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would give them new clothes? And why should volunteers have to sort through our junk? Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense for boxes of clothes like department stores receive to be shipped into the area, so that all the workers would have to do is distribute the clothing by size? If we really care for these people, why aren’t we giving them new clothes?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Should We Support Missions Trips?

Summer is upon us and that means that ‘tis the season for church camp and summer mission trips and lots of other things. For those of us that aren’t going, that means there are probably people asking us for money to send them on their way. If you know me, you know that I’m willing to support a worthy cause. My problem is that I can’t afford to support everyone who wants money for camp or to go on a mission trip or whatever cause they have. I don’t want to say that I won’t support anyone or anything, so it comes down to a question of which I should support and which I shouldn’t.

When I look at church camp, I have no doubt that it is a worthy cause. I’ve heard many stories of kids going off to church camp and getting saved. Sometimes it takes getting them away from a familiar environment or immersing them in the gospel for a few days to get them to hear what we’ve been trying to tell them for a long time. So I’m happy to give if it will help kids go to came who wouldn’t otherwise go to camp. But as I say that, I don’t really like the idea of giving money to send kids to camp when their Christian parents have the money to send them to camp, if they would just cut back on spending for things they could do without.

Mission trips are an interesting thing because they seem so inefficient. We send people off on a one week mission trip to support some work. It takes hundreds or thousands of dollars to get them there an back when we could’ve paid someone who lives in that area to do the work they did and even more for less money. So why support such a trip?

I see a couple types of mission trips. Many fall into the category of trips that help to encourage those who go to be active in supporting missions. In the process, they may help someone else, but the primary reason for them is that when the people who go come back, they are enthused about serving the Lord. The other is to provide services that are not usually available to the people of an area. We see this with medical missions trips or trips in which a team of builders go to erect a structure or build a road.

If I’m going to support a mission trip, I find it easier to support teenagers who are going on a mission trip for the first time or skilled professionals who are giving of their time to help people. I find it more difficult to support a mission trip when the people going have gone before and what they are doing would be better performed by someone living in the area for a longer period of time. Some people head off on mission trips as a type of vacation. There’s nothing wrong with that. Spending your vacation helping other people is a good thing, but it gives me pause when I consider that some of them are asking other people to fund their vacation. It’s interesting because they would never ask me to fund their trip to Disney Land, but they’ll call it a mission trip and ask for money to travel around the world.

So here’s my thought. Let’s encourage people who have never gone on a mission trip to go so that they have a better idea of what missions is about. Let’s support professionals who give of their time and money, as well as the support workers on those trips, to provide aid and to share the gospel. And let’s not discourage people who wish to spend their vacation on a mission field from doing so, but if sending them on those trips takes resources from other things, let’s suggest that they should come up with their own money for their vacation.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's Not the Music Silly

Some years ago, I was a music director. It was a small church and an unpaid position, but I took my job seriously. It was during the heat of the contemporary vs. traditional music debate and I had it in my head that if we could just get some newer music into the church services we would see growth. Being the young man that I was, I had this vision of singlehandedly turning that church around and I was going to do it through the music ministry. In my mind, I saw hundreds of people deciding to attend our church because our music was the kind of music they enjoyed.

I look back now and laugh at that, not because I’m against churches using more contemporary music, but because I see now that the music program won’t provide sustainable growth for a church. I won’t say that some people don’t consider what kind of music the church has when they consider a church, but I’ve realized that if a church is going to look like what the Lord wants a church to look like, the church members are going to have a wide variety of tastes. A church should welcome all ages, all races, and all cultural backgrounds. That translates into many kinds of music. But that also means that some people are sitting through some worship services that incorporate music that they don’t enjoy. One person doesn’t like southern gospel. Another doesn’t like music with drums. And yet, they attend the same church and fellowship together. Why?

There are some people who look for a church that has great music, short sermons, and coffee during Sunday school, but I think these tend to be the church hoppers anyway. When they see a church with better music, a better singles program, or whatever, they’ll be jumping ship an moving on. But when you look at the core membership, the people who are the most faithful, these things are a lesser concern. They aren’t looking for what the church can do for them as much as they are looking for a place of service. Isn’t that what church is all about? We come together as one body because we want to work together, side by side.

I see people who are involved in various ministries and I’ve found that when I ask for their help with something related to that ministry, they are eager to help. Take for example a women’s meeting our church had a few months ago. It was during the week and some of the older women were concerned about how they would get there. One of our van drivers volunteered to take them. Sure, it was an inconvenience for him and there might have been things he might have enjoyed more than waiting around while a bunch of women met, but he was eager to do it. That’s true across the board. Christians who are involved with a ministry want to do the work. They want the ministry to be the best it can be. They enjoy doing what they do.

That is what builds a church. Within every Christian is a drive to do the work of the Lord. When we go looking for a church, what we’re looking for is a church that will enable us to serve the Lord better. Yes, that is partly about music, preaching, and children’s programs, but we join a church to work in the Lord’s service, not to be entertained. So, the emphasis shouldn’t be on trying to get people to come because we sing a certain kind of music or because our pastor wears a hat and we sit on hay bales. Just like the call to Macedonia so many years ago, the call we should be sending our is “Come to our church and help us.” Let’s work together, side by side.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Let's Fornicate, but Not Adulterate?

A poll shows that most Americans view homosexuality, fornication, and having a baby outside of marriage as morally acceptable, but they see abortion, pornography, and adultery as wrong. I could have told them that without doing a poll. The poll simply confirms what most of us already knew. But why the split?

My hypothesis is that Americans draw a line between what we do to ourselves and what we do to others. Abortion is wrong because it kills a baby. Adultery is wrong because it unfaithful to the spouse. Pornography is wrong because it often includes images of children who have no control over what is being done to them, not to mention the fact that many people waste their employer’s money looking at it. But when people look at homosexuality, and fornication, I suspect that they think that what two consenting adults do in their spare time is up to them as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone who didn’t consent to it. Something that supports that idea is that I’ve had people tell me that they believe the government should not be involved in people’s lives other than to protect people from each other. Their idea is that secondhand smoke should be a crime, but if people want to kill themselves with cigarettes, that is up to them.

We might ask whether that view is correct. Is it the proper role of government to protect people from themselves or not? An what limits do we place on that protection? But put that aside and consider whether homosexuality and fornication are truly things that don’t hurt anyone other than the people involved. What we might fail to see if we look at the made for TV version of the sins is that they typically involve a sexual predator. (I don’t mean that in the legal sense) Fornication, as well as homosexuality, often starts with someone saying, “I you love me, you’ll sleep with me.” Obviously, the other people involved have the choice to say no, but they may not feel like they do. Also, it steals from future relationships. Someday, they people may meet someone they want to marry. Unfortunately, they’ve already given away something that should belong to their spouse. And the most important reason fornication and homosexuality are wrong is because God says they are wrong. We don’t lack reasons why that is the case, but it ought to be good enough that he said it is wrong.

As Christians, it appears that we have a major hill to climb in the teaching of morality.

Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Be Wealthy

Compared to the rest of the world, most Americans are wealthy, but the funny thing about wealth is that those who are wealthy seldom realize they are wealthy. We’re always looking at those who have more than us. If we have two cars, we’re looking at those who have three cars and a boat, not realizing that some people can’t even afford one car. One of the things that adds to the problem is that people look at the bills they have each month and wonder how they will pay them. It’s hard to feel wealthy when your bank account is empty at the end of the month.

But we’re wealthy. And Christians more so. Christians are heirs to the wealth of God and he owns everything. Unfortunately, some prosperity preachers have tried to tell people that that means God wants them to have a lot of money. I think a better way to look at it is that we have a trust fund of immeasurable value. It is ours, but God is holding it for us so that we don’t use it the wrong way.

Since you are wealthy, wouldn’t you like to feel wealthy? Allow me to suggest some things that will allow you to feel wealthy.

1. Live Below Your Means

People who play the lottery dream of winning big so that they will have money for whatever they want. The sad fact is that many of the people who win big spend it all and are left worse off than they were before. They buy big because they have the money. The relatives come out of the woodwork with their hands out. Soon it is all gone. That explains why some people believe they just can’t live on $50 million.

Rather than trying to get enough money to buy everything you want, it is better to change your wants. Learn to be content with what God has given you. The next time you buy a vehicle, if you are able to pay cash (even if that means buying a used car) and you leave the dealership with money still in the bank, you will feel like you had as much money as you needed when you needed it. You will feel wealthier than the guy who is moaning because he doesn’t have enough money to buy a new yacht.

2 . Be Generous

Another thing we imagine when we imagine about the wealthy is that they would be able to give us less fortunate money if they just would. Hasn’t it crossed your mind that Bill Gates could just give you a couple million dollars and make you instantly wealthy? He has so many millions. He wouldn’t miss a couple of them. In fact, Bill Gates does give a lot of his money away, but that’s not the point.

We see the wealthy as being able to give generously, so if we are able to give generously then we will feel like we are wealthy. Think about the last time a missionary visited your church. I imagine the offering plate came around for you to donate some money to his work. Perhaps you let it pass by because you didn’t feel like you could afford to give money. Perhaps you dropped a few dollars in because you didn’t want people think you weren’t willing to give. But there were probably a few people there who pulled out their billfold or their check book and gave generously. But when they gave their gift, they slipped it under the ones and the fives because they didn’t want other people to feel bad that they couldn’t give as much. Those people are the ones who feel wealthy. If you look at their annual income, they may make less than you, but they feel wealthy because they are able to give generously.

3. Trust God

I’m wealthy in friends. If for some reason I were to lose everything I own, I know I would have a place to sleep, food to eat, and clothes to wear because I have friends and family that would make sure of that. I look at the homeless population and I can’t help but wonder, where are their friends and family? I realize that some of them have alienated their family or the drinking and drugs prevents people from allowing them to stay in their home. But I can’t help but think how wealthy I am in friends.

The greatest friend of all is Jesus. Even if I had no other friends, Jesus has promised to provide for my needs. He went so far as to say that we should give no thought to the basic necessities of life. That ought to make us feel wealthy. No matter what, God will provide for the needs of those who trust him. Isn’t that one of the things we think of when we think of wealth? With wealth, we think will have no need to worry about food, clothing, and shelter because we will always have more than enough for those. With God, even if the bank account is below empty, we still have enough for food, clothing, and shelter.

We have so much. We are wealthy and we don’t even realize it. Instead of being so worried about how we can obtain even more wealth, let’s learn to appreciate the wealth we already have.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Though They Were Dead

Several years ago, I bought a cantaloupe. It was juicy and sweet, so I saved the seeds. I planted a few, with some success, but most went into a plastic bag and the bag went into the freezer. A decade passed, as they do, and I found that I had not only a bag full of those seeds, but a bag of acorn squash seeds and several small packets of seeds of various kinds that I had collected over the years. Because they were so old, I didn’t expect any of them to grow and they were just taking up space, so I dumped them—some in the garden and some in the compost pile. It was hundreds of seeds. They came up. Not all of them or even most of them, but I looked the other day and I have young cantaloupe and squash plants growing. I would say I have about twenty-five or so.

Seeds amaze me. If you’re looking for a miracle, look at seeds. They can lie there looking dead for many years. So much water passes under the bridge. Life happens. The world changes. And then, you drop them on the ground and let the rain water them. Though they are dead, life springs from them. Tiny green shoot come up and before long you have a large plant. All this time, they’ve been doing nothing, but then something amazing happens.

The Bible speaks of resurrection. The day will come that those who follow Christ will live again. Their bodies have lain in the grave for many years, even centuries, but the Living Water will come and He will raise them from their graves. Like a seed that looks like it shouldn’t live, we will rise to a new life. He’s wonderful, isn’t He?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's Time For Mr. Jones

There is a thing that is bothering me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but many young people aren’t taking on the responsibility of adulthood. I’m taking it out of context to use it this way, but I am reminded of I Corinthians 13:11, “Whan I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” A preacher friend, Bro. Fox, once quoted that verse to me. He and his wife were like a third set of grandparents to us and I learned a great deal about leadership and Christian service from him.

I look around and I see young men—and perhaps the young women are worse than the young men—who have failed to mature, as they ought. They reach the age of eighteen, head off to college and instead of taking on the responsibility like they should, it is just like high school without parental supervision. I heard a man that I would guess is in his forties say, “Don’t call me Mr. Smith; that’s my father.” Literary agent Rachelle Gardner once wrote on her blog that she doesn’t like being addressed as Mrs. Gardner because that’s her mother-in-law. But my main concern are those young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five who are in our churches. These are the future leaders of our churches. These are our future pastors and deacons. These are our future Sunday school teachers. But where are they? They aren’t children anymore. It is time for them to put away childish things. We shouldn’t have to beg them to serve the Lord. We shouldn’t have to persuade them that they should be doing something at church other than hanging out with their friends. They should be coming to us and saying, “I’m ready! Put me to work.”

Young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, your time is now. It is time for you to take responsibility. It is time for you to teach. It is time for you to preach. It is time for you to share the gospel. It is time for you to lead a Bible study for your age group. It is time for you to help support the church financially. It is time for you to visit the hospitalized and homebound. It is time for you to find the Lord’s will for your life and to pursue his will with your whole being.

For the rest of us, I offer a challenge. The young people aren’t completely at fault. If people in their forties aren’t willing to take adult responsibility, how can teenagers and young adults see the need to take responsibility? Unless we let those younger than us know that the failure to take responsibility is unacceptable, few ever will. So my challenge is this: the next time you see a teenager or young adult, call him Mr. Smith (or Mr. Jones or whatever his name is). If he is your Christian brother, call him Bro. Smith. While this doesn’t seem like much, this simple show of respect is a reminder to both him and you that he isn’t a child anymore. It affirms that you believe he has reached the point where it is time for him to take on the responsibilities his father and his grandfather before him took on.

Will you accept the challenge?