Author Archives: Jim
The Church Up The Street handled finances differently than most congregations: We didn’t take offerings or have a church bank account. We could legitimately say we didn’t want people’s money. We got asked a lot why and how we could operate this way. Here are several answers:
First, we believed the Gospel would be more effectively communicated to the lost if we took away the constant complaint of non-Christians: “They just want my money!” We didn’t, and our philosophy about that gave proof.
Secondly, we wanted to free people to use the money they would normally give their church to minister to others. If their neighbor or co-worker was in financial need, we wanted them to be able to give to meet that need, in the name of Jesus.
We also wanted to free people to tangibly meet the needs of fellow disciples who were in need. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and this view of giving helped us do it. We encouraged everyone who was a part of The Church Up The Street to open a special checking account. We called them “Kingdom Accounts”, and each person could regularly set aside whatever amount God put on their hearts and give as they were led.
Let’s face it, many people are torn between giving to their local congregations and giving to others in need. Often we can’t do both. We’re forced to choose between one or the other. By telling people we didn’t want their money, they were free to give to whatever need God put on their heart: a fellow Christian, a neighbor or family member, or any worthy ministry.
How could we possibly do this? It was simple. Think about how much money is spent on church meeting facilities, overhead expenses and salaries. The amount is staggering. We eliminated these, and that’s why we didn’t need to take offerings. We met in places that were already paid for: Business and homes. Our leaders volunteered because they had other sources of income.
This is impossible for the church building kind of churches. The good news is, any house church can do it! It works!
What do you think would happen if more churches found a way to approach finances like this? Would you support it? Would you be against it? Do you think it could work?
Does He want you to believe the right things or act the right way? Does He want you to hold, and defend until death the “correct” teaching about Him? Or is God more concerned with how you live your life?
Let me put it to you another way. What do you think pleases God MOST about your life?
Is it when you’re diving into the deep end of the pool to study Him in all his glorious ways? When you’re learning more about Him? Or is it when you love your neighbors as you love yourself? When by faith and through choices you’re transformed into the likeness of Jesus?
What matters MOST to HIM?
Sorry, you can’t have it both ways
The easy answer is to say it’s both. God wants us to know the truth about Him and then to live out that truth. But that answer is not allowed in this discussion. I am asking which one takes priority? I am NOT asking us to discuss this in relation to soteriology.
Job, the man God brags about
Consider Job. Man, did he ever impress God. In fact, he brags about him to Satan. He may be holding Job up as the most eminent among all living humans. What was it that grabbed God’s attention and made his head turn?
I don’t think it was Job’s systematic theology, do you? Not if you asked his friends about it. According to them, Job was practically a heretic! They’re the ones who understood the deep things of God. But God wasn’t too impressed with them, was He? No, it was his blameless and upright life. And we don’t have to guess about this. God tells us in His own words:
“And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
Job knew enough about God to radically alter the way he lived. THAT’S what impressed God.
What did Jesus believe?
When they asked Jesus to sum up God’s entire moral code into one command, he gave two. They both deal with how we live: Love God and love your neighbor. God wants each of us to have Him as King and then to treat every person around us the way our King commands. Both of those broad categories have behavior as the key component. The Epistles and the early church fathers all say the same thing. God wants us to live a certain way.
It appears American Christianity is more concerned with understanding the ways of God than living by them. We want to examine all facets of every doctrine. We search for more and more insight into the very deepest corners of the infinite mind of God. Of course we NEVER even get close! It’s as if God has drawn a line in the sand or posted a sign that says “No Trespassing!”
We can fall into the trap of thinking God’s goal is that we have more information about Him. But is that what He wants? Is that the object of the Christian life? Does God want us to have more and more information about who He is? Simply for the sake of having our theology wrapped up in a nice box and stored on our bookshelves?
Ask your Neighbor
I heard a missionary tell a story about a primitive culture they were working in. When a new convert came to Christ, they’d teach them to love their neighbor. They taught them what it meant and how it looked and how they should do it. Then then they sent them out to do it.
In a week or two, the people of the church would ask the unbelieving neighbor how the new convert was doing. “Is he treating you like you want to be treated?” If the answer was “NO!” then they would go over the lesson again and send him back out to live his faith. When he finally got it right, they would move on to the next thing.
How’s that for a discipleship course?
Don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE theology! It’s so much easier to study about God and the Christian faith than it is to live it. Isn’t it? But imagine a world where Christians live out what they already know about God. There would be a lot more Mother Teresa’s than theologians.
That’s my take. Now it’s your turn. What do you think is most important to God, how we live or what we believe? Why do you see it that way?
If you liked this post, you should check out this one: Does God Care about Our Theology?
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
My friend stared at me in disbelief. How could I say something like that? We’d been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)
“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!
I can’t argue with that!
What perplexes me though, is there are so many different types of churches. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That’s a big difference. We don’t agree on how many books are actually the official “word of God”. That also seems significant. Some churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with salvation, while others teach that it has everything to do with it. That’s a HUGE deal, right? Others are somewhere in-between.
We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.
Then we have us Protestants!
Protestants agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We agree in the “Atonement”, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe people worked miracles, but don’t agree on when or IF that has stopped.
- We don’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship.
- We don’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ.
- We don’t agree on what it means to follow Christ.
- We don’t agree on a host of important issues.
The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects. Groups that argue amongst themselves and can’t agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is wishful thinking.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion. The Father gave a big “Sorry Son, no can do” answer on that one. At least Jesus knows what it’s like to have his prayers go unanswered!
Why did God allow it to happen?
Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost. And God let the Gospel be lost for 1200 years? That leaves more questions!
If purity of doctrine matters so much…
- Why didn’t God step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Gospel?
- Why would God allow His church to proclaim a false gospel? One that would consign its followers to hell?
- Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.
To be fair, Catholics believe the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther come along. It’s understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.
Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. If God is omniscient then he knew what would happen if he did nothing. God foresaw the doctrinal mess that would result. He knew what would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!
He stepped in before, why not again?
We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.
But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split in 1054. It’s not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. He still hasn’t done it. In all these cases, God allowed it to stand. He had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to.
You may counter and say that God NOT acting isn’t proof He doesn’t care. And I’d agree with you 100%. His non-action doesn’t prove anything on either side of the question. What we know from the Bible is that God has acted in human history. At key moments and in powerful ways, he’s intervened to ensure his plan moves forward as planned. But not on this issue. When you consider how significant the Church is to God’s plan, I think his inaction is worth considering.
It matters to us, but does it matter to God?
This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Obviously, the doctrinal differences we’ve killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God? Personally, I don’t think so.
Before you get the kindling and tie me to the stake consider what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that God doesn’t care about the Gospel or the church, or the world of lost souls. He does. But our petty little arguments?
This isn’t simply a thought exercise. The church in the USA could be heading into a very dark period. The culture is shifting. Their opinion of the church is souring even more. They’re calling some members of the church terrorists. They don’t like that we want to gather together for worship. New political leadership is rising that doesn’t care about religious freedom. What lies ahead? I’m not sure. But it sure seems like dark clouds on the horizon.
If dark days lie ahead, we’ll need to circle the wagon of faith. We’ll need to set aside our petty theological differences. We’ll need to unite around the basic essentials.
Who am I kidding? That will never happen! That would take a miracle and miracles don’t happen anymore. 🙂
That’s my view from the cheap seats. What’s yours? Why do you think God has allowed so much diversity to exist in His Church?
Read another thought provoking post on worship: God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!
As I’ve said many times in this blog, dead people speak to me. Not their ghosts, but their words. One of my favorite things to read are the sermons and letters of the earliest church fathers. I’m talking about the guys who wrote while some of the Apostles were still alive and immediately after their passing. This excerpt comes from a sermon delivered 1900 years ago to the church in Corinth. Somewhere between 100 and 140AD.
The Corinthian church was facing problems again. Their big issue? It’s the same one the church in the United States is dealing with: They talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. The people of the day we’re laughing at them and calling them deluded.
We’ve become very vocal about what we believe. The problem isn’t what we believe. It’s that we don’t really believe it. Why else do you think we’d proclaim something so boldly and then choose not to live by it?
Have you read the oldest Christian sermon outside the New Testament? Read it here
Does He want us to believe the right things or act the right way? Is His primary concern that we believe the right doctrine or that we behave the way he created us to behave? Does He want us to hold to and defend until death the “correct” teaching about Him? Or is God more concerned with how we choose to live our lives?
Think about it before you gather up the kindling to burn me alive for the heretic that you think I am.
Mother Teresa or John Calvin?
Does it please God more when we give ourselves to study every facet of his character, diving into the deep end of the pool to contemplate God in all his ways or when we devote our lives to living according to those ways? Put another way, do you think that God was more pleased with John Calvin Read the rest of this entry
My friend looked at me in utter disbelief. We had been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I have lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)
“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!
I can’t argue with that!
What perplexes me though, is that there are so many different types of churches. Clearly a lack of unity within THE church has eluded us.
Read the rest of this entry
It is both rewarding and frustrating.
You will see it as a good investment of your time and a gigantic waste of your time all in the same week.
You may want to give it up and you will think you can’t live without it.
Welcome to the world of blogging. Can we sign you up?
I started this blog back in 2010 with my very first post, Whatever Happened to the Message of The Cross? Since then, we have posted hundreds of articles and had thousands of comments and conversations. I have experienced every single one of the things mentioned in the first paragraph of this post! Yet I am still here, typing out my thoughts. Even after all this time, I still love blogging!
If you are reading this, you are either new to blogging or you have been doing it a for a while. Either way, I want to help you become a better blogger. I am not talking about writing better blog posts. Rather, I want to share my thoughts on how YOU can become a better blogging person! I am going to assume you already know what your topics are, and where to go to get help to become a better writer. I want to help you become a better blogger so that your experience blogging is as enriching and rewarding as it can be. So here is my advice: Read the rest of this entry
That’s right! I said it, and for God’s sake SOMEONE had to tell you! You still don’t get it, do you? Your theology is warped, your view of worship is flawed, you are too worldly, you never share the gospel, you don’t give enough and you certainly don’t serve enough. I could go on and on and on with your failures to live up to the standards of Christ as I see them. What is wrong with Christianity you ask? It is you, you are the problem.
I feel a LOT better now, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!
I want to say that on one hand, I am not being serious. But on the other hand, there is some truth to what I am saying. Let me explain… Read the rest of this entry
Perhaps it was out of anger. Maybe a little bit of frustration or a deep despair. Many of our friends just couldn’t handle a Trump victory. So they lashed out at their Facebook friends who did vote for Trump and impulsively did what they felt was the right thing to do: They unfriended them. Now they realize what they have done and regret it but are too ashamed of their own intolerance to ask to be friends again.
Don’t worry! The National Re-Friend Day has been set for February 14th, 2017. Come back friends, you are all welcome!
Start Your Day Off Right with this 1600 year old Prayer! (You can do it, and you’ll be better off for it!)
It’s old……but it is STILL good!
I often find nourishment for my faith when I read and pray through old prayers. Sure, the church has changed over the years. What it means to follow Christ in a fallen world hasn’t. Those who have faithfully walked the walk before us down through the ages, though gone, can still minister to us. One of the ways this can happen is when we read and prayer the prayers they left behind.
Today, I share with you a 1600 year old prayer from Basil The Great. I have updated it for the modern reader. The Thee’s and Thou’s have been changed.
O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation,
Who, because of Your clemency and incomparable mercy,
did send Your Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind,
and with His venerable Cross did tear asunder the record of our sins,
and thereby did conquer the rulers and powers of darkness;
receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication,
and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression,
and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us.
Nail down our flesh with fear of You,
and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil,
but pierce our souls with Your love, that ever contemplating You, being enlightened by You, and discerning You, the unapproachable and everlasting Light,
we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to You:
The eternal Father,
with Your Only-Begotten Son,
and with Your All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Or so the saying goes. In essence it means that those who don’t consider the past, when making choices in the present, will likely arrive at similarly bad conclusions. This phrase strikes a chord with many. Perhaps it is because we tend to always look forward, seldom pausing to consider the past. Part of our DNA seems to include the belief that the next best thing is just up on the horizon. Who can blame us? Isn’t it often true? At least with technology it is. The next generation computer, or Iphone or IPad is going to be better than the previous one. Things we build seem to improve over time, as we discover new ways of making them faster, smaller, bigger, cheaper, and more reliable.
Many within the evangelical Christian community seem to adopt this same belief when it comes to understanding Christianity and how that applies to our corporate lives. We are often looking for the next thing, God’s next move, a “new and improved, better than the old” way of Read the rest of this entry
That’s how much your worship of God adds to God. Your “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him. Put another way, God doesn’t need your worship. In fact God doesn’t need anything from us: our money, our time, our dedication, our service.
Theologians refer to this as God’s Independence:
“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.” Grudem, Systematic Theology.
The New Testament states it this way:
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25
Is God An Egomaniac?
Think about this: If God does not need our worship, why does he require that we worship him and him alone?
Is it because he is the ultimate egomaniac?
Is it because he loves to hear the sound of his own name on the lips of his adoring fans?
No. When we look at God’s acts in history that is not the picture we see. It must be something else.
We All Worship Something
Humans are pretty predictable. We are the ultimate evaluators. We evaluate everything in life and prioritize them according to what we think is best. For example, I highly value guitars. But I value my wife and children more. There is really no comparison; I rank family higher in importance. What do I value more than family? Whatever the answer to that questions is, I may value something even more than that. I can keep going up the ladder of importance until I finally reach that one thing I esteem more than anything or anyone else.
Whatever that thing or person is, that is what we worship. We all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves!
God Doesn’t Need Our Worship…We Need It!
I submit to you that God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him. I think that is why God demands our devotion. There is no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him. It has been said that we become like that which we worship. God, in his mercy, created us to become like him. If that is going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most.
Looking at worship this way means leads us to conclude that worship, though directed at God, is truly meant to serve humanity.
We are to worship God, not ourselves.
But God demands our worship, NOT for himself but for the good of his people.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
On a side note, that is one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship. It has the potential to truly shape us, but we often squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.
This blog was a sort of therapy for me. It allowed me to discuss the absolute frustration I had (and still have) with the utterly misguided modern church and her “worship”. Though she is still misguided and making herself increasingly irrelevant, I have come to accept that I can’t change it. I’m OK with that.
I am hopeful that this new generation of leaders will run their course, and not do too much MORE damage to Evangelical Christianity and that the next leaders will right the ship.
Until then, I will just arrive late to church. Feel free to assign whatever word for this you feel is appropriate. I am extremely comfortable with the compromise arrangement that God and I worked out: I show up AFTER the concert. Honestly, I think God agrees with me, because even He shows up after the band’s last song. Honestly, does anybody think God can handle one more G – D – Em – C progression with silly, incoherent lyrics?
It sounds a lot like surrender, and I guess that is a good way to look at it. It is what it is, and it will stay that way until some later time. I still love Jesus, and his people and love the gathering, but feel no need to lead the charge for change.
I have been busy though. I have been building several businesses, and helping out my wives ministry. She now has 3 books published, the fourth is almost done and the 5th is ready to go as well. She has been traveling and speaking to Hispanic women all over the world. While this blog is more of a negative focus “Let’s talk about the Problems in the Church”, her ministry is more about positively impacting the lives of helping Spanish speaking women who follow Jesus. If you speak Spanish, or know a woman who does, check out her ministry over at El Rinconcito De La Paz.
I am toying with the idea of starting a completely different blog, totally unrelated to this one. I’ll keep you posted.
Young people, please remember that one of the most cherished values of America is our freedom of speech. You don’t have to agree with everyone, or even like what they have to say. To publicly encourage others to sign a pledge that will “Shut. You. Down.” is one of the MOST un-American things one can do.
I hope you have the foresight to realize that living in a country where we can all share our views is better than a country where only certain people can share.