Archive for February, 2010

Gift of Giving

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 During the 15 and 1600’s a group of Christians known as “Puritans” began migrating across the Atlantic from England to America. They mostly set up shop in the Northeast part of the country, and pre-dominantly New England. They were a group of people who truly desired to live out the Image of Christ, and were escaping the tyranny, and political climate of English churches. At their core they desired to start a nation founded on God, and living out biblical principles as Christ intended. In short they used the early churches of the new testament as their model, and they were wildly successful here in this new land. The foundations they laid led to a Christian American nation, and ultimately led to God being a part of all original American documents in the 18th century.

They were a remarkable group of people who desired to live in community, and see God glorified above all else. Now they had their faults. In their attempt to be “not of this world” they formed colonies, and took themselves out of the world. Ultimately outcasting the “sick” Jesus said he came to save in the Gospels. Additionally certain sects of Puritans  took their desires, and wants a bit far at times as their treatment of women in the church, and the witchcraft trials can attest to. This is what they are ultimately remembered for in society, and I guess it does have its place. However to overlook their view of  Christianity, and especially the bible would be tragic.

As Christians today we can learn a lot from these 500-year-old Puritans. Especially the way they studied the bible. They LOVED the Word, and desired for all their people to TRULY understand it, and live it out. As a result they had an ENORMOUS impact on America, and it all started with the Word!!

Today we love, especially in our church kids programs, to push scripture memorization to the point of absurdity. We give trinkets at church to the kid that can memorize the most verses. However how many of those verses do our kids TRULY understand? How much of that scripture had an impact on their life, and how much of it are they living out? Scripture is God’s word given to us to help us bring Him glory while in our temporal home on earth. The only way thats going to happen is to UNDERSTAND God’s word because you WANT to!! Not because you are rewarded with trinkets. I am not against this or saying its wrong. I’m just saying we have to be careful in what we teach our kids about scripture.

Now I understand there are some key advantages to teaching children to memorize scripture. The bible tells us to “hide the word in our heart”. Teaching kids at an early age to read the bible is always good, and can instill good habits later. Please understand I am not saying that teaching kids or anyone else to memorize scripture is wrong. To the contrary. What I am saying is MEMORIZATION in and of itself is NOT going to help you. We might know the most verses, but if we do not understand what they mean then what good is it? We need to get back to MEMORIZE AND UNDERSTAND!! Understanding scripture can live apart from memorization, but memorization cannot live apart from understanding. They go hand in hand with understanding being the most crucial. Ultimately memorization is the act of the individual, and understanding is the act of the Holy Spirit. We should be teaching our kids to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit,  and to pray for an undertanding of what they are memorizing. Imagine what THAT could do to them when they are adults!!!

THIS is where the Puritans had it right!! They placed an emphasis on understanding scripture, and not just memorizing for recitation and pandering as was common in the English church. Puritan pastors would often take just ONE verse for their sermons, and preach on it. ONE VERSE!!!!! I have had the great opportunity, by the grace of God, to preach a few times, and I need all the scripture I can reference to fill 30 minutes. Puritan pastors had such a thorough understanding of the Word they could preach for HOURS sometimes on ONE VERSE!!!  That is unbelievable, but goes to show their desire to UNDERSTAND scripture and not just MEMORIZE it.

The Word can change lives if we strive to understand it, and live it out. So the next time you read your bible pray that the Holy Spirit guide you to understand what it is you are reading. Then go out and live what you’ve just learned!!!

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Do you ever think about why we do the things at church the way we do them? For instance why do we take communion? Why or why not do we extend an altar call? Why do we not sing any hymns? The apostles did!! Why do we use baskets instead of metal plates for the offering? Why can’t I get a money parking spot like the Senior Pastor? I’m a charter member, and I’ve always gave my 10%!!  Why why why?

Or do you turn a blind eye to all going on around you because you really don’t care?

Churches over time will create a culture based on how things are ran. Some are important, and some quite frankly just are not. No matter how much we may think they are.

Truth is a church, God’s church, the bride of Christ, has one main responsibility above all others: STAND ON THE WORD OF GOD!! Now there are many other things we are supposed to do, but it all starts with a firm grasp of scripture, and doctrine so we can live out all the other biblical commands. Instruction from God through prayer, and sound preaching are THE KEYS in any sound church. Period. Everything we do should flow from scripture as we are to let the Holy Spirit direct our paths. Ultimately we are called to be a missional church, and impact the lives of our community.  

Some things like communion, baptism, and church discipline (just to name a few) are biblically mandated, and are very important. However truth be told some things just ARE NOT important. Offering plates, music style, the way you dress, the way you talk (Good to see you brother!! I mean seriously do you call anyone else “brother” besides a church member?), your church back ground, your church decorations (pastel anyone?),  altar calls (YES ALTAR CALLS), and FREAKIN STAFF PARKING are all not biblically mandated contrary to popular church culture. Those, and many other things go towards creating a church culture whether it be good or bad. Now PLEASE understand I’m not saying all these things are wrong. My point to all this is when your church places its priority, time, money, and even arguments into these things then we have lost sight of our missional purpose. So it all begs the question: WHY THE HECK DO WE DO IT? Especially the staff parking. That one has always rubbed me wrong.

As Christians we should be striving to create a church culture where people feel loved, wanted, and accepted. Just get them in the door, and then let the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word change their lives. Actually it should all start in our communities since that’s where we spend the majority of our time. Love and serve your neighbors.  NOTHING we do will change their life for the good. We can IMPACT their lives by displaying a Spirit filled life, but that will not CHANGE them.  That is and always will be the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit . However because we are all depraved humans we CAN impact them in a negative way, and sadly churches all across America are doing that with their internal culture. When we get to the point we care more about HOW we do things than WHY we do things the church is in trouble.

Thats why the Reserved staff parking has always bothered me. Not that staff parking is all bad, but it points to a bigger issue.  Jesus said it best in Mark 10: 43-45

Mark 10: 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 Jesus talking to His disciples stressed the importance of being a “slave to all” , and even said He came “not to BE SERVED, but to SERVE” . The King of all came to SERVE!! Some how I just cannot imagine Jesus taking the best parking spot. So why should we? How can we be servants to all if we park the closet? Take the best seat in church? Act like ninjas and disappear from church each week without speaking to anyone? What kind of message does that send to visitors who may have NEVER set foot in the church? Servants and slaves folks. Thats what JESUS HIMSELF said in the bible!!!

The book of Acts records the early church right after Christ’s death. They were a radical group of people living Spirit filled lives. They lived together, took care of each other,  and sold possessions when someone needed something. They were truly living in community, and the numbers added to the church daily were unprecedented even to this day. They kept it simple, and as a result changed the world.

2000 years later we have this blueprint yet some churches care more about staff parking, and offering plates than souls. Why the heck do we do it?

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