Of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and Matthew 6

icebucketbreeBy now everyone knows and many have participated in the so called “Ice Bucket Challenge” with the intent to help charity.

It is absolutely wonderful that someone helps charities and, often, the motivations and ulterior motives for one doing so, are ignored on behalf of the end result of an act of charity, regardless as to whether such act is sincere or just a stunt.

One of the greatest marketing campaign in my opinion, in the field of charity as a skillful way to make people publicly demonstrate their charity by using the proverbial “blowing the trumpet” through getting an icy self inflicted shower, this cleverly planned campaign made people who otherwise are not attracted to charitable giving finally show some interest in altruism.

Now, even if one for the gift sake, or the cause it benefits, may ignore the fact that self-serving, opportunistic giving is not “real” giving, I really can’t say that the benefits of genuine Christian charity can be ascribed, to those who participated in such a public manner. Jesus told us to practice our charity in private. As God privately rewards those who pray in private, He will reward those who give in private; as men reward with accolades and recognition those who do it all in public, no reward will be left to those who find public approval and acceptance.

I know that, for many the Bible is a book to be questioned, ant it is only a part of other sources of religious authority, but, if these apologists of plurality of Christian authoritarian teaching could tell me, I would like to see any of their own para-sources of authority that teaches that our charitable acts should be practiced in public… Oh, but it is all for fun, intended to combine charity with fun… I’d say that I own a company, inactive at this moment, called “FunRaisers” whose slogan is “We put the FUN on FUND RAISING”, so, I am for having fun in giving, but, when the fun of giving becomes a buffoonish way of being ostentatious about your giving and attracting the attention to you more than to the cause you’re giving, then, YES, giving can become and exercise in the futile violation of Matthew 6.

Am I splitting hairs? Am I being demanding and legalistic? Well, saints, the little foxes spoil the vines, and often the things that we consider to be unimportant, and faddish, perhaps even innocent, but massively practiced, are the ones that will ultimately water down and dissolve good and traditional Christian teaching and trivialize the cause of those who truly depend on charitable donations. It will be not so far fetched for me to say that henceforth it will be very hard to motivate people to give to a great cause without somehow affording them some type of public recognition even if it includes something as innocent and clownish as wasting cold water! It is already happening! People get naked in the streets for the protection of animals, radio stations offer donations for each cockroach one can eat (as it happened in So. America) etc. So, where is the good old secret and worshipful giving?

I congratulate all of those who risked so much with a bucked of iced water being poured over their bodies, specially in summer, who sacrificed so much for the cause of charity. I give you my recognition and so do many Facebook and Tweet readers and the overwhelming majority of the population. Now with mine and the world’s recognition, plus the thrill of the cold water suddenly changing your body temperature, “you have received your reward”; expect none other!

I.R.S. to monitor sermons now? Yoohoo, they may be saved!

Read here

If the article linked is true there will be many interesting and rather unexpected results. The immediate one is that some black churches will be hurt the most as they are the ones who invite candidates that not necessarily share their faith,  but promise (and never fulfill) to fight for what African Americans consider to be their issues. However, if this becomes a manner in which Pastors will dedicate their very short time with their congregation to the exposition if the Gospel exclusively, it may not be such a bad thing. The problem is that most pastors who resort to political speech from their pulpits often choose to do so because of their lack of theological preparation to do anything other than to rant on Sunday mornings against issues that are not exactly leading to “eternal life”, and do not pertain to “life and Godliness”.

The poster of the article on Facebook, makes the following pertinent comment, to which I agree:

This whole article is based on the assumption that 501c3 is even necessary for churches. As the author noted but didn’t fully explain, churches are automatically tax exempt. But they don’t need to file for 501c3 status. The disadvantages are they there is not certain “liabilities protection” that come with the 501c3 status since they would not be a “non profit organization.” The other disadvantage is there is no “tax exempt number” to allow the churches to not have to pay sales tax on purchases. Everything else is the same including the right for congregants to deduct their tithes and offerings if they qualify for itemizing on their annual tax returns.”

I decided that my church that I pastored in the past would not apply for a 501(C3) because I felt that the government has no right to “recognize” an organization as a church when the people who congregate together calls their congregation a church; I also believe that the only motivation for a Christian to give to the work of the ministry must be exclusively the love and interest for the work of the ministry. Do not give to my church expecting a tax exempted letter at the end of the fiscal year. I also believe that it is not the role of the government or the I.R.S., or through the I.R.S. or any other governmental organism to police and censor what is said by a group when they decide to assemble enjoying the constitutional right to assemble. So, I have mixed feelings about this measure (if proven true, again I say) since I think that God prompts men to enact certain laws and rules when He feels that it is necessary to keep His people within the boundaries of that which they are called to do. Not everything that man does that appears evil is evil resulting… remember the story of Joseph… but let’s wait and see. What thinketh Thou?

 

Jude

Jude 1:1 “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to the ones called in God the Father, having been set apart, and having been kept by Jesus Christ:”

I will admit that I have a special affinity for Jude. I think there is a lot packed into a very short letter and that it is often neglected. My favorite part of Jude though is really the first verse. Jude is introducing himself and actually makes the bold claim that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Let that sink in. In your introductory line would those be the first words that come to mind? Is that how you would start your letter? Is that how you would identify yourself to anyone for that matter? Would you have both the boldness to proclaim such a thing and the confidence that it was true? I hope so, but I fear most of us would not.

Jude goes on to talk about how he wishes he could write about the common salvation but instead feels the need to encourage people to contend for the faith. He says the hard stuff. He encourages us to do the hard stuff. My understanding of Greek is limited, but I believe that he instructs us to struggle for the faith. Contend is often used in translation as well. Struggle is forceful. Struggle is not a peaceful vocation. It need not, and most often should not, be violent, but it is forceful. It is forceful in the way that Christ was forceful. Forceful in love, in truth and in honesty. It is being willing to say the hard things in the difficult times. It is not for the feint of heart, and and can not be done without the spirit. It is nothing less than the conviction that if the entire world were to push telling you that there was no God and Christ were a myth, that you would stare the world in the eye and say, no, you will move. I know Truth. Would you do this? Would I? I hope so, but I fear not.

So much more great stuff in Jude and I encourage you to read and study it, but I am going to fast forward to the end. Jude 1:24-25 ” Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy;  to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty and might and authority, even now and forever. Amen.” Is this how your letter ends? Are these the thoughts at the end of every conversation and interaction? Don’t we all think “thank God it is over” to much and not “thank God it began” enough? Don’t we try to praise ourselves, and each other for a job well done to often and not God enough? Don’t we often roll our eyes when we hear people give God the credit and be secretly thankful we are not one of “those Christians”? Jude starts by identifying himself as a servant of Jesus and ends by praising God as deserving of glory and, in fact, being the ultimate authority. Is that how your letter would end? Is it how mine would? Perhaps a rewrite is in order for most of us. a rewrite that  follows Jude’s beginning and ending and having a healthy dose of what is in the middle.

 

It’s all in the space

God Father

(Photo credit: NeilsPhotography)

There are a numerous amount of prosperity, believe it and achieve it type pastors out there, and I want to begin by laughing at them and their flawed concept of scripture. They would have you believe that if you are “good” you will somehow be rewarded and if you have not been rewarded you are not good enough, have not given enough etc. I am going to be talking about positive attitude, but not in that framework.

I do believe that a positive attitude is valuable for the Christian faith. God is love, light, truth. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, so maintaining a positive attitude makes those things easier to find in the world. I don’t mean to minimize the sinful nature of the world, but rather to glorify God as He has revealed Himself to us through Christ and the scriptures, so that in the n=midst of the sinful nature of the world, we find the things that are of God. A positive attitude makes this easier as we view the world through our eyes. Our attitude will affect what we see. There are those who will say that God is no where to be found, but we, with a healthy and positive attitude can see Him much easier and refute the claim.

Some will tell you that a positive attitude will change things. They are wrong. No matter how positive your attitude, you will not make more money (although you may become a better employee and advance further), you will not stop hunger (although you may see the beauty of the hungry and become possessed of a desire to ease their suffering), it will not stop disasters (but it may allow you to see the opportunity to show God’s love by aiding in the recovery). The trend here is pretty simple to follow really, a positive attitude will not change anything…except you. I won’t say that a positive attitude is necessary in order to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, but it is a big help and makes the process of transformation much easier.

Finally, our attitude, whether positive or negative will slant how we view the world around us. Some of the cliches are true. Do we see problems or do we see opportunity? Are we overcome and paralyzed by suffering or do we see the chance to show love? Do we pray hoping for answers or do we pray that God will send us as the answer? These things and so many more are the results of something so basic as our attitude.

So to the overall topic really…the space. How do we fill the space in our lives? When we allow God to fill those spaces with His word and His mercy (both are necessary) then that space is filled with truth and love and our attitude naturally reflects that. When we do not allow God to do this, then our attitude sours as does our view of the world. People will notice. We claim to be Christians, then we need to represent that all the time. In the grocery store checkout that is to long, at the red light behind the car that won’t go on green, on the highway when we are cut off, etc. Those around us are going to notice and by our actions each and every moment, they are going to consciously or unconsciously make one of two observations. They are going to look and think “God is nowhere” or they will look and think “God is now here”. The witness that we show the world will be one of those two things…and if you look closely, it is all about the space.

 

 

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What I want in my church

I suspect that there have been many blog posts similar to this, so figured that I would take my crack at it. The idea is interesting really. We move to new towns or neighborhoods and search for a church. We become dissatisfied and look for a new church. We tire of politics or positions of a denomination and look for a new church. We don’t like a difficult to hear sermon, and look for a new church. We hear about sin and look for a new church.

When looking at a church we examine the children’s program and if it will fit. We look to adult classes and if we agree with them. We gauge how friendly people are and decide if we want to stay. We look at the types of cars in the parking lot and see if our’s measures up. We hear a couple sermons and decide if they challenge us just a little, but not enough to truly encourage change. We listen to the music and decide if it is traditional or too traditional, just contemporary enough or not quite edgy enough. We look at the groups available and we decide what the church can offer us. We decide what church we want and then we go about trying to find it. It’s funny really, because we go looking for the church that we want and very rarely is God on the list that we judge the church by.

So, what do I want in my church? Here goes. I want a church where the word of God effects people as it did Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:9)…not just the leaders or the pastors, but everyone. I want a church where I am part of the solution and not part of the problem. I want a church where Christ is savior, but also sovereign. I want a church where there is swearing in the halls (because that means that we are not pretending to be perfect) followed by the slightly embarrassed look after (because that means the Spirit is conforming us even in the small ways). I want a church with pipe organs and electric guitars because there are so many ways to praise God, why limit yourself to just one. I want a church where communion is welcome to all and is not some tradition that we uphold, but is a ritual that transforms us. None of us should leave Christ’s table the same as when we came. I want a church where the presence of God is both a soft still whisper and also speaks from the storm. I want a church where the entire image of Christ is taught. Not the fluffy love everyone with no expectations Jesus, and not the man’s man hyper testosterone Jesus, but the entire image of Jesus…the savior who loves us, and the savior that expects our obedience. The sovereign that welcomes anyone, but who demands that we choose Him above everything else.

There is no perfect church, we all know that. There probably isn’t even the church I want. There will always be a problem somewhere. The thing is that the church I want requires some work on my part. It requires me to be actively engaged in what is going on. To serve, perhaps to lead if necessary. It requires some flexibility and willingness to accept that there are many people who all want their church too. Truth is that it will probably never end up as the church that I want, but God is in it, so it will end up the church that you need. That’s how God works most of the time anyway. We will have our needs met…even while complaining that it isn’t what we wanted.