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The Bible Blotter

Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Religion and Spirituality

Fat, Greedy, Money-Grubbing Churches

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you ever get sick of greedy, money grubbing churches always asking for your money? For some reason many people have the impression that churches are always asking people for money. Churches have reputation for being money hungry; for trying to squeeze every red cent out of the people who attend. Shoot – I would get tired of that kind of behavior!

In all honesty, though, churches probably ask for money a lot less than you think. I’m not talking about the weekly routine of collecting money. Different churches call it different things:

–         Taking the collection
–         Passing the plate
–         Time for tithes and offerings
–         What else have you heard?

Though this has become a standard feature in many evangelical churches it’s not quite the same thing as “asking for money.” It’s not like the Christian radio station that has a bi-annual fundraiser telethon. In the Christian worship service, giving becomes an extension of worship – something we do in recognition that what we have is a gift from God and through our giving we say, “I value God and his kingdom and want to express it through my finances.”

So giving becomes an act of worship (assigning worth to something) and a practical way of making sure the needs of the ministry are met.

I had a friend tell me the other day:

The church doesn’t need money. Jesus didn’t need money.

But the truth is that the church does need money. Ministry requires money. And yes, Jesus did need money. Jesus had a group of financial backers that helped make his ministry possible:

And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1-3)

Jesus and his staff were provided for out of the means (income) of these women.

Once the Apostle Paul was trying to raise money to do ministry to Christians in Jerusalem. He was collecting it from the Corinthian church:

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:2-3)

There are many different financial needs for a church to do ministry. Some are related to physical location: rent/lease/mortgage, utilities, salaries, etc. Some are material needs for people: rent assistance, utilities assistance, food/clothing aid. Some are for spiritual ministries: materials for communion, children’s church, Bible studies, etc.

Ministry requires finances. And how will people in the church ever know about the need unless the church tells them? It’s plain logic, really. It’s not about being money-hungry, it’s about letting people in the church know that, in order to do what God has called the Church to do, it’s going to take some backing.

If you don’t want to give, no one is twisting your arm.

Paul says:

The point is this…each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)

To honor God and to participate in what he wants to do through my church my wife and I give. But that’s between us and God. Your giving is between you and God.

Whatever you decide to do, do it with joy for God, not for anyone else.

BE HEARD! How have you seen churches handle money well? How have you seen them handle money poorly?

Why You’re Going to Hell: Part II

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In Part I we looked at how a person isn’t saved by reciting magic words – it’s a matter of faith. While saying the Sinner’s Prayer is a great way to express one’s faith, it is faith that saves and not the prayer.

We also talked about what Christians mean when we use the word “saved.” It’s an understanding of the condition of your soul in relation to eternity. Life as we know it is merely one part of our journey. Death does not stop the journey but continues it.

Those who are “saved” (i.e. have faith in Jesus) will be spending eternity in the presence of God – this is heaven. To be totally honest the Bible doesn’t give explicit details about the nature of heaven. There is a lot of symbolism and imagery when people describe it (streets of gold, etc.), but no solid, “This is what heaven is like.” The most we can say about heaven is that it is the opposite of hell – it is the presence of God and a place that is wonderful, enjoyable, and the place where we are free from any problem, care, or worry.

Those who are “lost” (i.e. have no faith in Jesus) will be spending eternity outside the presence of God – this is hell. And, again, to be totally honest, the contemporary image of hell is not from the Bible as much as it is from the imaginations of writers, artists, etc. The most we can say about hell is that it is the opposite of heaven – the absence of the presence of God and a place that is generally unpleasant, uncomfortable, and not a place you want to be 😉

But the question I hear most frequently from non-Christians is:

Why would a loving God send people to hell?

People have a hard time hearing the message that God loves them when we simultaneously send the message that God will punish them if they don’t become part of the faith. While some Christians do send that message, the Bible does not. The Bible is clear:

God is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

The verse speaks for itself – God doesn’t CHOOSE to send people out of his presence. He wants everyone to be in His presence (heaven). So then…who goes to hell?

Hell is for those who do not choose God. He doesn’t send – we decide. The Bible says:

The works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance-as I told you before-that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

For know and recognize this: no sexually immoral person or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God. (Ephesians 5:5).

Hear me out – I’m not God, and the Bible doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of a lot of these. The point is, though, that certain behaviors and actions are not acceptable to be in the presence of a Holy God (holy means set apart or different).

It comes down to love and punishment. I think about it as a parent. I love my kids. But I have certain standards for their behavior. There are some things that are not acceptable. Because they are human individuals they are going to choose to do things with which I disagree.

Sometimes their behavior warrants being put in time-out. What is time-out? It’s removing the child from the family system – they cannot be part of the family system because of the choices they made to behave the way they did.

My children want to live by their own rules (or lack thereof). Then they’re always surprised when they go to time-out. Adults are no different. We want the freedom to live our own lives the way we want and then complain when we are told that there are eternal consequences for our behavior.

The Bible says:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Ultimately, we all deserve the BIG TIMEOUT (hell). But Jesus paid the price for our brokenness. Now we can once again be in the presence of God. But we can only approach him through faith and repentance.

When all is said and done, God is the one to judge our hearts and behavior. Not me. Not you. Not any human. I fully believe there will be people in heaven that will completely surprise us. Similarly, there will NOT be people in heaven that we always expected to be there.

In the meantime, we do our best in this life to live the life He has called us to live.
That means I may not do some things I want to do because it goes against what he wants me to do.

Because his way is supposed to come before my way.

Related Posts:
Why You’re Going to Hell: Part I

The Mighty 100!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of television and movies. Often times after a tv show has been running for a while it will save production costs and time and commit a whole episode to clips from previous episodes – it’s called a clip show.

Today is my day. I hit 100 posts on my blog and I wanted to take some time to look back over the last 4+ months of writing. In that time I’ve had nearly 8,000 views and over 200 likes (thank you all for reading and liking).

Rather than highlight the most popular posts, though, I wanted to share my person Top 10 – the posts that I liked the most even if they weren’t the most popular to readers (although many were). So without further ado, here is my list:

My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black ~ In this post I talk about race relations from the standpoint of my kids. I find that there are a lot of ignorant people out there who say and think stupid things, especially when it comes to race. This was the first post where I literally felt compelled to write. It kept me up thinking about it – I couldn’t sleep until I sat down and hammered it out.

Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple ~ Here my wife and I look at racism from our own perspectives. As much as I know her I’m always reminded that her take on racism comes from a very different place than mine. I loved writing this post because I got to co-write it with my wife. I keep trying to get her to write more, but no success yet.

Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty ~ Christian freedom is one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated issues in the church. What are we allowed to do? What are we not allowed to do?

Patriotism vs. Faith ~ We often confuse the two. It’s a personal pet peeve that many Christians equate patriotism with Christianity. You can be one without the other.

THAT OFFENDS ME! ~ Another pet peeve – people who try to manipulate other’s behavior through mishandling the Bible. Just because something offends you doesn’t mean the other person must stop doing it.

Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent ~ Oooh, this one got me into some tense conversations. It seems that my own view of Gay Marriage was not clear. I had people question me as to why I was going against the Bible (I wasn’t, but people get hot-headed over sensitive issues).

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf ~ A personal favorite of mine, this was a post where I was responding to another blogger. It doesn’t matter whether your Bible is leather-bound or on your smart phone – it’s still Scripture.

Shirt Sleeves ~ I love my son. Tremendously. I can’t even think about him without warming over on the inside. He’s my little dude. I love writing about him, too.

Jesus Loves Dinosaurs ~ This was just a fun post to write (and the idea of Jesus hugging a dinosaur always makes me smile).

Confessions From a Pastor: The Real Me ~ This is it: me.

So…how about you? Do you have any favorites from the Bible Blotter? What are the?

Related Posts:
Hitting Your Goal

Do Gooders Rock

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every once in a while someone does something so extraordinary that it shocks our senses and reminds of what humanity is supposed to look like. Today I read just such a story.

A man was in a restaurant when he overheard someone nearby receive a terrible phone call that shook her up. The man wrote a note to his server:

Do me a favor and bring me their check, too. Someone just got diagnosed. Don’t tell them

Wow.

What an example of a caring heart for others. The Apostle Paul once wrote:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10)

Too often we get so caught up in our own needs and wants that we completely neglect those around us. If we stop and think for a minute we might recognize that God’s grace is active all around us and that, no matter what we’re going through, God is present and is blessing us. Someone always has it worse than we do.

So keep your eyes open. Keep your ears open. Keep your heart open. How might you seize the opportunity to good towards others today? Tomorrow? Every day?

Related Posts:
You Are Not an Island: Created for Community
Robin Hood Lives: Taking Care of Others
Are You Making a Difference?

Do Your Friends REALLY Care?

Ain't Nobody Like This Buddy
Ain’t Nobody Like This Buddy

Are you a good buddy? Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person? What’s the difference between acquaintance and friend? Do you have a close friend? Do you have a friend that is so close that the friend is, in some regards, closer and dearer to you than family? Now, how far would you go for a friend?.

Would you go out of your way and drop what you’re doing in order to help out a friend? When our oldest child was born, we had several friends who went out of their way to help us out. I was at the hospital with my wife while friends went to pick up my mother-in-law at the airport. That night, I stayed at the hospital with my wife and the baby. We gave my wife’s car keys to her mom who was going to sleep at our place.

After her mom had been gone for about 15-20 minutes I realized that her key ring didn’t have our apartment key on it. Mom couldn’t get in! One of my closest friends and his wife lived around the corner of the hospital and he was kind enough to drive me home so we could let Mom in the door and then drive me back to the hospital. There is something humbling about asking and receiving help from friends. But I have found that many times friends don’t mind helping out if you genuinely need it!

Would you be willing to destroy someone else’s property in order to help out a friend? How far would you go, and where do you draw the line? One time Jesus was back home from his travels, probably to rest before getting back to work. But people had heard that he’s back in town and they swarmed Jesus’ house. And some guys bring a crippled friend and, in an effort to get to Jesus break through the roof and lower their crippled friend right down in front of Jesus.

Now we’ve got 5 major players here: Jesus, the crowds, the crippled man, the crippled man’s friends, and the teachers of the law (who were there probably to evaluate and assess who Jesus was and what he was doing and saying. Listen to the story and specifically think about the story from the teachers of the law’s point of view.

Several days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and it was reported that he was at home. So many crowds had gathered that there wasn’t any room left for them, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them when some people came and brought him a paralyzed man being carried by four men. Since they couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where he was. They dug through it and let down the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some scribes were sitting there, arguing among themselves, “Why does this man talk this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

At once, Jesus knew in his spirit what they were saying to themselves. He said to them, “Why are you arguing about such things among yourselves? Which is easier: to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, “I say to you, get up, pick up your cot, and go home!” So the man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and went out before all of them. As a result, all of the people were amazed and began to glorify God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

It would be great if we could really get inside the heads of the people in this story. Can you imagine being able to ask them questions about what they experienced that day?

Jesus, it seems to me that you simply wanted some peace and quiet at home. Maybe put your feet up, munch on some fish and chips…. How did it feel to have so many people pressing around you invading your personal space? How did you feel when these yahoos ripped apart your roof so you would see their friend?

Teacher of the law, why were you there? What did you expect to find? Why were you so offended at Jesus’ comments about forgiving sin?

I’d have to ask the friends of the crippled man, “What were thinking when you carried your friend over to Jesus’ house?” Do you think it was fair to be cutting in line when so many people wanted to see Jesus that day?

To the crowd, “What was it like being there on that day?”

I’d ask the crippled, well, formerly crippled, man, “Did you have any idea what your friends were planning that day? How does it feel to have such good friends that they would go to any lengths to get you in front of Jesus?

I guess it really comes down to this; with whom are you going to choose to identify? Clearly, we can be Jesus. Many of us have had an encounter with Jesus already. That means we are left with 3 characters with whom we could identify. You can be 1) the spectators, 2) the judging legalist, or 3) the friend who stops at nothing to take his friend to meet Jesus.

Don’t be the spectators. They’re just coming to see the show. They don’t really care about what is happening. Don’t be the judging legalist. He’s never understood what Jesus was up to. I love the line where Jesus says, “Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk?”

Which is easier? What happens if you say, “Your sins are forgiven” but you’re wrong? Who notices? What happens if you say, “Get up and walk,” but you’re wrong? Who notices? It’s MUCH easier to SAY your sins are forgiven. But Jesus doesn’t hide behind anything. He says, “So that you know that I have authority to talk about the forgiveness of sins, watch this – Get up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the teachers of the law are left with egg on their faces.

We don’t want to be mere spectators. We don’t want to be the teachers of the law. We want to be the friends. How far would you go to take your friends to meet Jesus? Would you carry them? Would you break through buildings? We all know hurting and crippled people who need Him. How far are you willing to go to bring your friends to Jesus?

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