Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ripped from the Headlines: "Jesus Talks More about Money than Heaven and Hell Combined"

OK.  So this is another rant about giving more money, right?  Well I didn't say it, Jesus did.  It's true that, except for the Kingdom of God, Jesus taught more about money than about Heaven and Hell combined.  In fact, he brought up the subject of money more than He talked about love.  Hard to believe?  Do the research.  Of the 39 parables he taught, eleven of them are about money; nearly one-third. 

Why would Jesus spend that much time on the subject of money?  Because he knew how important it is to us. 

  • Did you know that aside from crimes of passion, the greatest motivation for criminal activity is money?
  • Did you know that the number one reason people get divorced is because of money problems?
 The reason Jesus spent so much time talking about money was because God's people need wisdom when it come to the subject of personal finances.

Statistics don't lie.  Most Christians don't support the work of the local church and other para-church organizations because they are personally living paycheck to paycheck.  They are up to their eyeballs in debt.  Because of this, they are struggling to even put food on the table, much less invest in the Kingdom of God (Which Jesus spoke about the most).

Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV)  19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."

Jesus understood that the things of earth are temporary and that, if we are not careful, we will spend all our time focusing on them instead of the things that are eternal. Many people put too much “stock” in our financial system and “store up” all their money in what is essentially a big game of chance.

Jesus understood this.  That is why the the very next verse in Matthew 6 quoted above states, "21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The truth is, How we spend our money reveals who we really are.  People who are the most financially secure are not only smart with their money but they are also generous.  They don't just save for the next disaster, but they also give generously.  And it seems that generosity is the key to a good balance when it comes to money.  That is one way we can "lay up treasures in heaven".  

As we embark on a New Year, I want to encourage you to take a hard look at where you spend your money.  How are you investing in the Kingdom of God?  If the answer to that question is, "Not very much" then maybe you need a financial overhaul.  

The core mission of Jesus was love, acceptance and forgiveness but now, more than ever, we can appreciate why He spent so much time talking about money. Thankfully, unlike the news, His words are clear. Winning principles are there to not only be read, but utilized as well.1 

1 by Michael Packer, July 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grow Up

OK.  I admit that I am old. In just seven days I will be 59 (December 10th to be exact...hint hint). 

When I was a child, I lived in a world where there were only black and white televisions with three whole channels to choose from, no microwaves, no computers, no cell phones, no tablets (except the kind you could write on and then tear out the page), no energy drinks.  After I was married, my wife and I did get a video game called "Pong" (look it up).  There was no YouTube or Facebook.  We had a party line in our home (look it up) so we had to share the phone line with another family.  In my house, the only room that was air conditioned was my parent's room.  I lived in Florida where the average temperature was 98 degrees in the Summer.  I don't ever remember complaining about how hot it was.  

If we wanted to have a conversation with a friend, we made a visit or a phone call.  If we had a disagreement with someone we had two choices:  we could talk to each other or we could talk about one other to everyone else. But unless we made the effort, most of our other friends didn't know about the problems I had with one particular friend or another.

Fast-forward 50 years.   All those things I didn't have as a child are taken for granted today.  Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Vines are the way we share our lives today.  Technology has also provided a way of advancing the Gospel that has never been seen before but it is also fraught with problems. For example, when we have a random thought, instead of going to our best friend or to God and talking about it or praying about it, we automatically "post" it for all the world to see.  I get that. 

If you are a Christian and you are an active member of a local body of faith, then the problems you have with members of that body are between you, that person (or persons) and God.  I know the default is to go straight to Facebook (Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200.00-look it up) and post it.  But come on, is that really a good way to edify the body of Christ by airing your dirty laundry for all the world to see?

Think about it this way.  You have at your fingertips the ability to promote the kind of faith that is needed by a lost and dying world.   Your thoughts and ideas can travel around the world at the speed of light.  Because of that, we need to temper what we say, but more importantly, to whom we say it.

OK So I have 450+ friends.  If I get mad at Steve, a member of my church (He's my buddy so he can handle the analogy) and I post my thoughts on Facebook and mention that he is a member of my church, I feel better.  But now 450+ people know I am angry or hurt with Steve, a member of my church.  Every time one of my friends posts a comment to help me feel better, every one of their friends also see my comments and the comments of the friend. (I think this is the way it works).  Pretty soon, people all over the world know I have a beef with Steve.  But the second and third order effect of that is they also know that there is a problem with the people of my church.  Now the problem originally between me and Steve is also a reflection of my church.  One of my friends, who was looking for a church to attend, is having serious doubts about visiting MY church because he knows there is disunity there.  

You see the point?

We need to GROW UP!  If you have a problem with someone, the last thing you need to do is to POST THAT INFO ON FACEBOOK.  You have a responsibility to go directly to that person and reason it out.  That is the Biblical method for handling disputes.

GROW UP -- Before I have to smack you around a little bit. (See the cartoon above for the context of that last comment.)

Your loving Pastor,


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who should Lead a Church?

    As I drive through town, I see signs all over stating that a church is meeting in this or that place.  Many of these are storefronts or abandoned business sites that have been rented by someone who has decided to start a church.  While there are certainly no rules for who can start a church, the Bible is very clear about who is qualified to be a church leader.

There are two specific positions of leadership described in 1 Timothy:

The first is that of an overseer or bishop.  Now depending on your brand of Christianity (Denomination) this could be anyone in a senior leadership role within either the local church or above the local church.  For our discussion we will limit our discussion to the local church.  In that case, the term Pastor* or perhaps Senior Pastor or Lead Pastor could be used.  The description would certainly fit that of a senior position of leadership within the church.  
  The requirements? (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
  • They have to be upright in their personal and professional relationships.
  •  They had to be mature in their faith.
  • Their qualification were higher that that of other church members.
  • They are responsible to lead the church (1 Timothy 5:17)
  • They are to preach and teach (1 Timothy 5:17)
  • They are to help the spiritually weak (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14) 
  • They are to care for the church i.e. the people (1 Peter 5:1-2)
  • They are to ordain other leaders (1 Timothy 4:14)
The second level of leadership is for that of Deacons: (Acts 6:1-4, 1 Timothy 3:8-13)
  •  They are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the church.
  •  The qualifications were not as high as that of pastors and the indication was that they would not have to be as mature in their faith but certainly more so than the average Christian.
  • They are to do whatever assigned tasks are given to them in the practical matters of church life and they are to whatever spiritual ministry is necessary.
One thing is sure.  These were not selected because of their position in the local community or their leadership abilities.  Instead, they were chosen based on their level of spiritual maturity.

One other issue that Paul addresses in 1 and 2 Timothy is that of false teachers and gives some "qualifications" for one to be considered a "false teacher":
  • Using the Gospel to deceive others for selfish gain.
  • Their message is binding and burdensome which was totally opposite to the liberating message of Christ.
  • Their teaching or ideas are distorted, or stray away from the teaching of Christ.
So while anyone can start a church thanks to the wonderful freedoms we enjoy as a nation, when you go to join that church, you should check out the leadership to make sure that church is a biblically-sound church, and not one that is lead by a false teacher. 

Think about that this week.  Are your spiritual leaders measuring up? 

*The words "overseer", "elder" and "pastor" are used interchangeably to describe the same men (See Acts 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-2)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting Rid of the Distractions

OK.  I am at the beginning of a new week and God has very clearly shown me that I need to get rid of some distractions in my life.  Amazing things are happening at church and as the Senior Pastor I need to stay focused on where God is leading and stop getting sidetracked by things that always take my focus and attention off those important things and consume (aka waste) an enormous amount of my time.

It seems strange to establish a resolution near the end of the year but here goes:

From this day forward and with God's help:
  • I will focus on God and His Word and my responsibilities as a Husband, Father, and Pastor and not be distracted by all the little things that pop-up every single day.  
  • I will give God my First Fruits by beginning my day with Him in prayer and in the Word.  
  • I will be the man of God that He created me to be.  
  • I will lead my congregation as the under-shepherd by listening to and heeding the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  
  • At all costs I will avoid temptations that can cause me to stumble and fail.
  • I will love my wife as Christ loved the church.
  • I will take care of my body since it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  • I will strive to be more like Jesus in my every day walk.
God let it be so!

What about you?  What things distract you from the important things in life?  Maybe it's time to make your own list.