Giving Your Minimum

Multitudes of church members are satisfied with giving their minimum to God, not their maximum. I’ve watched men and women during offering time in church. They open their fat wallets and search for the smallest amount they can give. This type of attitude will never do! Jesus gave his whole life for us, and we give as little of our lives, time, and money as we can give back to God. What a disgrace! Repent!

From Brother Yun’s book ‘THE HEAVENLY MAN‘.

What are “labels” except division

So many times I have heard people talk about this denomination or that denomination or this “religion” or that “religion” and so on. The reality is that we are all simply people standing before a living God. All of this talk simply creates divisions; an “us” against “them” mentality.

Having grown up without knowing much about God, save for some time spent in a Sunday School briefly, when I found Him, my life was not spent in one denomination but many different ones. From one to another to another I went, partly because of my family’s constant moving, and partly because I was not looking at the outside or structures, but rather searching for people that lived what they believed. If I found it in a Catholic Church then that was fine for me. If I found it in a Baptist church then that too was fine. As was any denomination that was there.

My belief was not always welcome, but I always found it hard to describe what I felt about all of this to people. Normally I would just tell them that it does not matter where people come from or which denomination or religion they come from, but only that they love God and live this in their lives.

Now, in reading this email, I found this explanation that seemed to be so much clearer in explaining how we are simply people before a living God, nothing more and nothing less. The labels are nothing.

Let me state here and now that man, not God, started every denomination, institutional church, and house church on the face of the earth. Some may be following God’s will, some only think they are following God’s will, and most are just doing what they want to do with no thought to God’s will. We aren’t interested now in explaining how or why they do what they do, we simply wish to state that man does all these things, not God. The Kingdom is within you. There is only One Church, and that is the Church that Jesus is building. There is only One Flock, and One Shepherd. Everything else is periphery.

When we see how much of this is man’s doing we are liable to become upset over it all, but God just bypasses and transcends the boundaries we put up between one another. God is just too big to confine Himself to working within one little sect, whether they are “in” or “out” of the religious system. God has never blessed a denomination, and He never will. He blesses people, not movements. He judges people, not systems. He only sees one thing, and that is His Son. He only gives us one thing, and that is His Son. If you have the Son, you have Life. If you do not have the Son, you do not have Life. This is the only thing God is looking for.

Sent in an email from Glory of His Cross Prophetic Ministries, titled “One Flock, One Shepherd” by Chip Brogden.

The Debate About Christmas

This is a great perspective aligner on the whole issue of Christmas that has been going on this holiday season in the USA. I fully agree too – let’s get back to the core of Christmas and not get bogged down in the trivial.

I am nearly confident that if Christ were born in 2005 the brief verses involving the magi in Matthew 2 would read something like this:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” [But those who believed in the deity of the Messiah prevented the magi from worshipping Him because they were pagan Gentiles and did not call Jesus the Messiah but rather by the Greek name, Christ. Frustrated by their blocked attempt to worship the one who came to bring hope and salvation to all men, they returned to the east.]

The evangelical Christian movement today finds itself deadlocked in an ideological battle over Christmas. The American Family Association boasts nearly 3 million members and has an active campaign to put Christmas back into the holiday shopping season. Bill O’Reilly mentioned on The O’Reilly Factor that businesses should be thanking Christ for the holiday season that boosts their sales. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has ordered that the Capitol tree be renamed the “Capitol Christmas Tree” after it was changed in the late 1990s to the “Holiday Tree.” Never before has there been such an overt war against secularism at the holidays.

Satan is clever, make no mistake. It is possible for us to take our eyes off the deep issue, think we are fighting the good fight, only to discover we have our sights misaligned and are missing the target. Satan spends his time making sure Christ’s birth never gets the attention it deserves. How we play into that process is crucial to the bigger picture of the Church being salt and light to a dark world.

Before Christ was born, the ancient Romans had more holidays than any other culture in history. They were wild partiers who took every opportunity they could to drink, carouse and fornicate. In many ways, their religion was constructed around these opportunities to act like the gods they worshipped. One holiday was the winter solstice festival, appropriately named Saturnalia after Saturn, the god of farming. This celebration lasted from the Dec. 17 to Dec. 23 and was filled with decorating and partying. They even had evergreens that they would chop down and put up to celebrate the life of trees in the harshness of winter. This holiday eventually devolved into debauchery—so much so that the word saturnalia came to mean “orgy.” Early Christians coincided Christmas with Saturnalia to avoid religious persecution.

So where did the gift-giving and Santa Claus come into play? As early as the fourth century, Saint Nicholas, a bishop in modern day-Turkey, was known for a gift-giving lifestyle that benefited those who were impoverished. He once presented three dowries for three poor daughters to avert them from turning to prostitution in order to earn income for their family. There are also links to German and Dutch folklore that trace back to Christianity. Eventually, around the 17th century, these tales evolved into the notion we have today of Santa Claus. It is in the late 1800s that the commercial appeal of Santa Claus and Christmas took off to the astronomical economic figures we see today. It appears, unfortunately, that the birth of the Messiah has mostly played a backseat role to the mythological gods and folklore.

While the war we fight is ideological, we have apparently chosen to fight a battle over semantics instead of lost souls. Whether Christmas (from old English, meaning “Christ’s Mass”) or holiday (also from old English, meaning “Holy Day”) season is employed as the term of choice, Christians appear to have taken issue with the non-use of the term “Christmas” in stores.

While I don’t have an issue with the auspices of the debate, I think the larger war is left unfought.

Tell me, what relevance does Christmas have to a corporate executive who does not have a faith in Jesus Christ? Further, how do upset Christians appear to that executive when they demand that he recognize a holiday that he doesn’t understand or to which he doesn’t ascribe? As believers, why would we even want a corporation who cares nothing for the birth of Christ incarnate to capitalize on His observed birthday and name in their holiday advertising? Despite how duplicitous it is for these companies to fail to mention it altogether, it seems heretical for believers to demand that unbelievers trumpet Christ for financial gain.

It is as if the moneychangers returned to the temple demanding this time that the temple, be renamed a market. That idea is horrifying to us, yet we allow the celebration of our Savior’s birthday—the entrance of hope into the world and one of the holiest days in all of redemptive history—to remain commercialized and more about what Santa may bring the kiddies than about the hope of salvation to all our weary, wayward souls. We have let Christmas become what it is—an argument over semantics. Well, ’tis the season.

There are people who turn away and turn off the magi of today from worshipping because their corporate creed does not fit our warm, fuzzy sentiments about a holiday whose true meaning we only half-heartedly embrace amid the more tangible celebration of gift-receiving and merrymaking. We should be pointing them to the reason we have to celebrate in the first place!

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our salvation. Unfortunately, it’s never been a holiday dedicated solely to its impact on all of humanity. Much of the debate today centers around the narrow-minded and hypocritical view some Christians take toward their perceived rights of ownership on the holiday season. It is almost as if we are trying to be recognized by the world for what we think, and in doing so, we have distracted everyone from what it is we celebrate.

My suggestion is humble and simple: instead of worrying over whether we call it a holiday season or Christmas—neither of which is actually historically accurate given, its unholy origins and current forms of celebration—let’s invite everyone we know to be magi, recognizing the star in the east, the Light of our lives, and coming to see and to worship the King wherein we find hope, joy, peace and life to all.

If we are fighting the ideological battle at its root—the heart—then those who disagree with our choice of semantics or holiday displays will discover that the hope we celebrate at Christmas is universal and relevant to all mankind. We will not have to engage in the battles we are in because our message would be more easily embraced this way. Not through attempts to strong-arm unbelievers into a faith they do not yet understand because they have not been invited to come and see the King for themselves. This year, let’s show them that Christmas (or the holiday season) is about more than an idealogical battle; it’s about a Savior.

Mike Parrish serves as the Minister of Students for Southside Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. He is a visionary communicator called to unite the Church by rethinking its strategic purposes in the world and teaching believers that they are catalysts for cultural change.

Received in an email from a friend but believed to be sourced from RelevantMagazine.com.

The Voice of the Conscience

David Kirkwood sends out a regular e-teaching every month. This month the topic was “The Inward Voice.” Explaining that even though the written law was given to the Jews back in the days of Moses, people already were living by a law that existed since the beginning. This was the conscience. Below is a quote from his message showing that well before there was a written law people followed their consciences…. probably even more so than they do today.

As much as two hundred years before Harkhuf, a grand vizier of Egypt named Ptahhotep, who served under Pharaoh Isesi, in his old age authored a collection of thirty-seven moral maxims that were addressed to his son. At least one thousand years before God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel (the recorded law), he warned his son against both lust and greed. Here are maxims 18 and 19:

If you want friendship to endure
In the house you enter
As master, brother, or friend,
In whatever place you enter,
Beware of approaching the women!
Unhappy is the place where it is done,
Unwelcome is he who intrudes on them.
A thousand men are undone for the enjoyment of a brief moment like a dream,
Then death comes for having known them…
When one goes to do it the heart rejects it. [Note this line!]
He who fails through lust of them,
No affair of his can prosper.

If you want a perfect conduct,
To be free from every evil,
Guard against the vice of greed:
A grievous sickness without cure,
There is no treatment for it.
It embroils fathers, mothers,
And the brothers of the mother,
It parts wife from husband;
it is a compound of all evils,
A bundle of all hateful things.
That man endures whose rule is rightness,
Who walks a straight line;
He will make a will by it,
The greedy has no tomb.

From the ShepherdServe.com website.

Christian Warriors – Or Not

Listening to a seminar today, in the conference that I am currently part of, I heard part of the testimony of a communist warrior who lived in the jungles of South America, fighting for his cause. Converted to Christ, he was unable to return to his group for fear of them now killing him, and could not go near the populated areas for fear of someone recognizing him as the head of this group and turning him over to the authorities. As a result, he could only remain in the jungle, alone.

This was how he spent his first month as a Christian, and since somebody had given him a Bible he read it all day and night, using candles to light the words, during the entire time. Suspended in a hammock high amongst the trees, he simply read, and prayed, for that first month.

Over this time of reading, of discovering the life of Jesus and his disciples, of seeing how strongly these guys held their values and beliefs, this converted warrior started to build up an idea of what this Christian church must be like. He started to conjure up images of a valiant and brave church, filled with warriors. Anxious to meet some of these amazing Christian warriors that he could imagine based on what he had read in the Bible, this ex-warrior jumped at the first opportunity that he was able to visit a church.

Entering the church building, he closed his eyes, just wanting to take in the atmosphere and the amazing environment into which he was entering. They were all singing a warring song, something similar to “Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War.” This was similar to some of the communist war songs that he had been used to singing only one month earlier.

But it wasn’t long before the current state of the church started to become obvious. Apathy, laziness, discontent, judging, and more all started to loom up and show itself. This was certainly not the church that he was expecting. All of these things that the Bible asks of us, he had already lived. Self-denial was part of the communist lifestyle, as was sharing and giving to the others so that they too would have. Love had never come into the equation as a communist, but many of the principles from the Bible were present, including a commitment to the point of death. Now, here in the church, there seemed to be little of this commitment, nor much else.

It was so very different from what he had ever imagined.

It is really disappointing when somebody enters the church to find it in such a state of disarray. A quote I heard once sounds something like, “the problem with Christianity… is the christians,” meaning that many have the name but not the form nor lifestyle of a “Little Christ” as the name implies. If you are part of the church, it certainly makes you think.

What’s This About Martin Luther?

Well I have read a lot of writings on the church history and essays too. I am no professor, only a pleb going about my daily business with an interest in the things of God, but I think I may have hit upon one of the best writings about the history of Martin Luther.

Now if you don’t know anything about him, do not dispair, for all will be revealed if you journey along and read this article (now deleted), written by the 16 year old daughter of the “Real Live Preacher“, a site I found by browsing domain names… you know… when you punch in something like 2b.com or zzz.com etc.

So anyway, in reading this guy’s website I happen upon a reference to this history article by his daughter. It is fresh, unconceited, honest, and fun to read. Best of all, it is a joy to read something written without pretense. Good on her. I loved it. Check it out. You will be sure to enjoy it too.

A Faith Revolution Is Redefining “Church”

It seems that more and more Christians are not going to church anymore. They still love and serve God but church seems to be irrelevant. I have been one of these, although I still go to church, I find it mostly a routine. There has been a buzz lately about some new research that has pointed to a lot of people feeling the same way as this. After going to the Barna Group website who were the researchers, I found the main story about it all, which will soon be published. The findings are interesting.

A Faith Revolution Is Redefining “Church,” According to New Study
October 10, 2005

(Ventura, CA) – For decades the primary way that Americans have experienced and expressed their faith has been through a local church. That reality is rapidly changing, according to researcher George Barna, whose new book on the transitioning nature of America’s spirituality, entitled Revolution, describes what he believes will be the most massive reshaping of the nation’s faith community in more than a century.

Growth of A New Church
Relying upon national research conducted over the past several years, Barna profiles a group of more than 20 million adults throughout the nation labeled “revolutionaries.” He noted that although measures of traditional church participation in activities such as worship attendance, Sunday school, prayer, and Bible reading have remained relatively unchanged during the past twenty years, the Revolutionary faith movement is growing rapidly.

“These are people who are less interested in attending church than in being the church,” he explained. “We found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church – with a small ‘c’ – and the universal Church – with a capital ‘C’. Revolutionaries tend to be more focused on being the Church, capital C, whether they participate in a congregational church or not.”

“A common misconception about revolutionaries,” he continued, “is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church.

Continue reading “A Faith Revolution Is Redefining “Church””

I Don’t Want to Be Like Them

While browsing around on the Internet, I came across a website called PostSecret where people can send in a secret that they have never told anyone via postcards. There is some sad stuff there, but this card was the one that impacted me the most. The sad thing is that in a lot of ways he is right.

It is really sad that there are so many people calling themselves Christian and yet do not seem to live in any way that is attractive to others. If Christ attracted multitudes with his life, and we are repelling them with our life there must be a massive discrepancy between the two. Perhaps we are not even Christians… after all, shouldn’t a Christ-ian be just that… a “little Christ”? So where is the similarity between the two???

Quotes to make you think

I put this up on my main blog at Rob’s Rave, but thought it worthwhile putting here too… (NB: what was two separate blogs are now merged as one)

While travelling around the web I ran into a few quotes that I thought were interesting enough to save because they make you think:

  • Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words. – St. Francis of Assisi
  • Is god willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god? – Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
  • There are two kinds of people: those who say to God: Thy will be done, and those to whom God says: All right, then, have it your way. – C.S. Lewis
  • When you speak of heaven, let your face light up; let it be irradiated by a heavenly gleam; let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of hell, your ordinary expression will do. – Charles Spurgeon

It Takes Courage

Recently a friend sent me an email containing an actual prayer delivered before the Kansas House of Representatives by Central Christian Church Pastor Joe Wright on January 23, 1996. It was not word-for-word accurate but was a fair representation. I tracked down the original (now apparently missing) and have reproduced it below:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance.

We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it moral pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

We have abused power and called it political savvy.

We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us O God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by you, to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the name of your son, the living savior, Jesus Christ.

Amen.