Monday, April 18, 2011

Jesus on works vs grace

People today are still very much like those in the New Testament times.  They want the blessings of God more than they want God.  We see in John 6:26-40, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, they begin to follow him wanting more food.  Feed us every day just like when Moses fed us as our ancestors wandered in the wilderness.
We see the same kind of faith or lack of, today in the prosperity gospel churches where people come to receive "blessings".  "Give and you shall receive", the preachers proclaim.  "See how God has blessed me!  You too can have a nice car, a beautiful house and riches untold if only you give to God (me) your money".
The prosperity gospel churches are not the only ones though that rely upon such tactics.  You see it also used in mainline churches, just not as much.  It's not the major doctrinal belief system that the church is built upon like the prosperity gospel churches. But in many mainline churches members are asked to give testimony to the fact that God has blessed them when they give to the church, building campaign, pastors discretionary fund, etc.  It is a manipulatory tactic to get people to give more.  Ironic that we use manipulation on our people by manipulating them to believe we can manipulate God into giving us material wealth, if we give to the church.
It was so in the new testament also.  People wanted to know just what they needed to do to gain the blessings of God, to get a free meal every day.  Jesus didn't say you need to give money to me.  He didn't say you need to pray five times a day.  He didn't say you need to sacrifice a lamb or go to the Temple on the Sabbath.  He said in verse 29, "believe in Me".  "God provided the bread from heaven, not Moses.  I am the bread.  I am the manna.  Put your faith and trust in me.  It is a relationship with you that I want.  Not works, or your money.  Just your time, your worship, your heart."
What would it look like if we understood that Jesus wants our devotion not works?.  How would I live my life differently if I could fully comprehend the depth of that relationship and the grace that Jesus offers?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Like a Good Neighbor, Where Is The Church?

I watched the Secret Millionaire this week for the first time. Or is it Secret Billionare? In this episode, the wealthy owners of the Curves workout facilities go on what is basically a "mission trip" to inner city Houston for one week where they live on $6 dollars a day in an old roach infested house and visit several social ministries and agencies. In the end they put a face to the needs of the community and are moved to help out the social agencies with generous contributions. It is one of the positive television reality shows that have become popular as of late.
I find it interesting that the secular world has co-opted the business of the church and is teaching and promoting principles that the church seems to have abandoned.
Think about how often you see commercials and popular programs promoting community involvement and charity. From the NBA Cares program to American Idol give back show, the world recognizes the benefit and need for one to take care of their less fortunate neighbors in the world.
My brother-in-law while working as a manager for UPS was required to take two weeks off and go on a "mission trip", (his words but not what the company called it). He chose to go work with a church in inner city of Chicago. He described it as one of the most inspirational and educational two weeks of his life, even though he got sick and had to go to the hospital at the end of the two weeks. The only requirement that UPS pbutton their managers was that they had to bring back what they learned from the experience and implement the concepts into their management at UPS. Here is a secular company that values the experience of going on "missions" and yet it is often difficult to get a pastor to promote a mission trip in their own church. Seldom do you see churches who actually instruct, encourage and expect their members to be going local or globally.
I think it is great that society feels the need to promote the idea of charity and responsibility for one's neighbor but isn't it sad that secular society values community involvement more than the church? Wasn't this Jesus' idea? Didn't he instruct his followers to do this? What happened to the church taking responsibility for the welfare of their community?
A good question to ponder; if your church picked up and moved tomorrow would your community or neighborhood in which your church is located miss you?

What Do Nesting Dolls and the Gospel have in common

Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by w...