Friday, February 23, 2007

The Lord of Meaningless

The Lord of Meaningless

She was a little apprehensive at first. Walking to the temple was intimidating. After all this was the House of God. Furthermore, there were large crowds surrounding them. She was afraid she would be trampled or harassed by any of them; especially, the Roman soldiers, the temple guard, or one of the Pharisees. They intimidated her. But, she was impressed to continue. She felt something was leading the way. In her heart she felt the conviction that she was doing the right thing. This comforted her. She walked her way through the crowd of merchants, foreigners worshiping, and finally to the door of the temple. She looked inside. She saw men majestically dressed, speaking loudly and arguing ever matters she knew little of. She found her way inside to the treasury. There men were boisterously bragging about how much money they were giving. The crowds cheered as they learned of how much money were in the bags of these men. She felt discouraged. What could her two little mites do? She felt that she and her offering were insignificant. But, a voice in her heart encouraged her to go forward. This gave her courage.
Focused on her pursuit, she did not notice a Man that was looking at her. She approached the basket and dropped her two mites. Silently she whispered a prayer, than turned around and walked away. No one but this Man noticed her. Mark 12: 41 – 44 describes in this way, let us read,

Mark 12: 41And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
Mark 12: 42And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
Mark 12: 43And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
Mark 12: 44For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

What we consider insignificant God considers significant. What we shun and dismiss, God emphasizes and praises. What a contrast to the way mankind views things. Man’s efforts to the preacher are always “vanity, a striving for wind.” Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7: 29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Man has abandoned the simple ways of God. He calls them meaningless and insignificant. IN its stead now pursues his own ways and boasts about them.

There is a sentence in the teachers edition of the quarterly that says this, “God’s narrow way, while not always obvious, will get us to our final destination”. It is not always obvious because, this narrow way is made up of decisions or choices that seem little, small, meaningless, or even insignificant. What small things build the narrow road? Those things that the Holy Spirit impresses us to do that at the time seem meaningless; only worth two mites. Probably, because they seem inefficient, out of our control, and to slow. We want control and instant gratification. God’s ways may seem slower and inefficient, but they are always effective.

Today we may not boast about how much money we give. It does not look good. (However, many use their giving as a right to make demands in their local congregation.) Today, there are many who boast about their ministry. How many Bible studies offered, how many books and tracts distributed, how many visitors brought to church, and how many people were baptized, are some examples of how we boast. But, it is the little old sister with her two mite smile that keeps you coming to church. When the old sister dies Jesus dies with her, because He does not abide in those who resist his dwelling. No one else can see Jesus smile since she died. Then there is the gentleman who always has two motes encouragement for the youth. He had to leave the area. Jesus left with him. The youth is no longer greeted by Jesus; the others do not have Jesus in them. They are too busy fighting over policy and the way things should or use to be; things that they consider significant. The love of God is not in them. They have more important things to do. Praying, studying the Word of God, and yielding to the Spirit’s prompting is too much of a hassle. They want action and entertainment. And, what does God say about all their inventions: programs, policies, trainings, social events, etc? It is all vanity, striving after the wind. Not worth two mites.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

What A Modern Idol

A local church was going through a major crisis. The church was divided about different issues. Among the issues was a strong discontent with the Pastor. They did not think he had enough leadership skill to run the congregation. Another issue was that of discontent with three members and their preaching. Many thought that it was offensive, others thought it was heresy. Not too much time passed by before these three brethren were feeling persecuted and chastised by the others in the congregation. The Church board met to discuss the situation. After a few minutes of discussion it was obvious that most of them did not agree with the beliefs of these three members. The Board decided that the Pastor should talk with them. The three members were impressed that this would happen, so they were not surprised when the Pastor called on them for a private meeting. In fact, one of them was strongly impressed that the Pastor would probably also suffer from persecution, just as they were; since the sentiments against the Pastor by the others members was well known.

The conversation was serene and friendly. Although the Pastor and the three brothers disagreed in their beliefs they were very cordial and respectful toward each other; even when the one who was impressed that the Pastor would suffer persecution told the Pastor, so. The Pastor kept his posture. Reflected for a few seconds and replied to the three. “Well, I can see how that can happen. I am however not concerned. The denominational conference office will protect me. They always look after the Pastors. They will not let me down, even if this congregation turns against me.” The three looked at each other with sadness. They looked at the Pastor and one of them said to him, “I hope you are right, Pastor.”

Time passed by. The three chastised brethren were forced out of the local church. The Pastor remained with that congregation until he received notice from the conference office that the conference was going through financial hardship. Because of this they would have to let some Pastor’s go. Unfortunately he was one of them. The Pastor put his trust on the organization, which eventually let him down. Could it be that he made the organization to be his idol?

The passage in Isaiah 44: 9 – 17 makes a vivid description of how a man transforms half of a piece of wood into heat to cook his meal and warm himself up. The other half he builds into a statue. We read this in Isaiah 44:17,

Isaiah 44:17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.

The pastor of the congregation may have not manufactured the conference he worked for, as the man in Isaiah did, but he trusted the conference to deliver him as if the conference was his god. Like the Pastor, many choose gods of their own making and expect these gods to save them and deliver them. The examples can be many and diverse. It is normally the thing or things that you believe will pull you through and make you succeed, as long as you can acquire them, have them or keep them. For example: the job, the degree, the connections, the law, the system, the looks, etc. Many of these things are not bad in and of themselves. However, when you put a greater amount of trust in them than you should, you make them into idols.

Another point needs to be made, not one of us is exempt of this danger. Every single one of us will make an idol out of anything; sometimes imperceptibly. Unless we follow God’s advice in Isaiah 45:22,

Isaiah 45:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

It is only in Jesus that we find salvation, deliverance, and success. A continual looking at Him will save us not only from idolatry, but from any other Sin. But, you do not have to force yourself into looking unto Him. If you allow yourself to experience His unconditional love, you will be so grateful to Him and will in return love Him so much (1 John 4:19), you will not be able to take your eyes off Him. All the things of this world will never save you, and many will forsake you. However, Christ promises to save you and that he will be “with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Community vs. Oneness

Community vs. Oneness

A buzzword is a stylish or trendy word or phrase connected with a specialized field or group that usually sounds important or technical and is used primarily to impress laypersons or one’s audience with the pretense of knowledge. They are often used in managerial, technical, administrative, and sometimes political environments. Though apparently ubiquitous in these environments, the words often have unclear meanings; making them easy to use to make an impression. For this reason, buzzwords are often universal. They typically make sentences difficult to dispute, on account of their cloudy meaning. A buzzword may or may not appear in a dictionary, and if it does, its meaning as a buzzword may not match the conventional definition. Buzzwords can also function to control thought by being intentionally vague. In management, stating organizational goals by using words with unclear meanings prevents anybody from questioning the directions and intentions of these decisions, especially if many such words are used. Some examples to this are: proactive, momentum, sustainability, holistic, empowerment, etc.

Does the church have buzzwords? Try these terms: Cultural relevance, diversity in unity, seeker friendly, intentionality, etc. These are often used in board meetings, business meeting, seminars, conferences and literature about church growth and evangelism. Another such word is community. We often here church leaders talk about the church is a community of believers. What exactly does that mean? Well, I have yet to here anyone ask – myself included – so no one has attempted to answer. However, I believe that if anyone was asked what that community is, not one of them would have a definite answer and neither will at least two agree on their definitions.

The word community comes from the Latin communis, meaning "common, public, shared by all or many." The Latin term "communitatus" from which the English word "community" comes, is comprised of three elements, "Com-" - a Latin prefix meaning with or together, "-Munis-" - which means "the changes or exchanges that link" (Both municipal and monetary take their meaning here), and "-tatus" a Latin suffix suggesting diminutive, small, intimate or local. In simple terms a community usually refers to a group of people who interact and share certain things as a group. A community of believers is a group of people that worship in the same building. This community will follow certain guidelines, such as: paying tithes, not doing work on the Sabbath, go to Church on the Sabbath, participate in potlucks, etc. Whether or not they are all doctrinally and theologically in agreement, that is not what matters. But, is this what the Bible teaches?

Often the basis for calling into community comes from two sources in the Bible. One source is Genesis 2:18, which says, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” In this quarterly Ecclesiastes 4: 8-12 is used,

Ecclesiastes 4:8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
Ecclesiastes 4:11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him;

The conclusion: man is created a social being made for community. In Genesis man is given a woman to become one with her. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Do we become one flesh with a community? No, we just share common interests. But, woe of the man and woman who marry for community; when the one falls the other will not pick him or her up, and when the one is cold the other will not warm him or her. How many couples have sadly discovered this?

The next source that is used to support community is 1 Corinthians 12. Paul says in verse 4 that, “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” He adds in verse 11 “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” Paul then continues on verse twelve to develop a metaphor that illustrates how this all works. There is One bode and one church. The body has different organs with different functions, just as the church has different members with different functions determined by the gift given by the Spirit. It would seem that the organs of the body work in coordination with each other for the good of the body. But, in reality, the one organ does not really work with the other organ; it is the brain that coordinates them. There is oneness between the each organ and the brain.

To use another metaphor: airplanes whether flying or on ground are not in community. Why are they coordinated? They must be some type of coordination; otherwise we would have planes crashing into each other. The answer to this enigma is there is oneness between the pilot of the plane and the traffic controller. It is the traffic controller who coordinates everything. For the church to function as it should there needs to be oneness between each member and Christ. This can only happen when we are totally yielded to the indwelling Spirit of God. In other words for the church to be one, working as one body, even when each member works in a different function, its members must let go of self and Sin, and choose to submit totally to God.

There are those who ask me, “What is wrong with the church?” The answer is that leaders and laity alike are pursuing community instead of oneness with Christ. Those who choose oneness with Christ will be one with Christ and with all other that choose oneness with Christ. They will feel fulfilled with peace, joy and agape. Those who choose community will never be one with anyone, and forever feel filled with despondency, sadness, hurt, anger, and hatred. They will use community to mask this. Which one will you choose?

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