A large, popular church asked Jesus, “As the head of the church, tell us what we must do to make sure our institution lasts forever?” Jesus said to them, “Why do you call me the head of your church? Isn’t that God’s place? You know what you should be doing…teach your people to tithe, train up your leaders, have a good strategic plan, be culturally relevant.” And the church said, “We have done all these things for years now.”
When Jesus heard this, He said to them, “One thing you still lack. Sell your property and your buildings and everything in them and give all the money to the poor, and you will have treasures in Heaven. Then come and follow me.” But when they heard these things, the big church became very sad, for they were extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that they had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for a big, wealthy institution to change its direction and follow me! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a big church to give up its comfort and really begin to pour into people who have little or nothing to give in return.”
Other churches who heard this said, “If that church can’t effectively minister to the poor, then what chance do we have?” But Jesus said, “If preserving your institution is your highest value, then you will never really make a difference…but if following me is your highest value, you won’t believe what becomes possible!”
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“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. Luke 18:10-11
There is perhaps no smaller thinking in the church than when we start comparing our church to other churches.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are so traditional and so irrelevant.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are so “culturally relevant” they have lost the real gospel.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who use all the wrong versions of the Bible.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are a mile wide and an inch deep.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are uptight and stuffy.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches whose worship is wild and disorderly and worldly.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who welcome homosexuals.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who refuse to welcome homosexuals.
God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches…
No matter where you find yourself in any of these prayers…
It’s ugly. In the kingdom of God, pride always is.
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Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” Luke 18:1-5
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” 1 Samuel 8:19-22
So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5
Persistence, it seems, is a big deal to God. We see it throughout the Bible, over and over again…so much so, in fact, that you could call it a rule: the Rule of Persistence. Simply put, the spiritual rule of persistence is: God’s nature is to reward persistence. Mind you, that does not mean persistence always gets us what we want…it just means, if scripture paints an accurate picture of God, …
Step 1: We admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:22-25
I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.
You want to know another reason why it is so difficult for me to admit that I am powerless over my addiction to self-reliance and that my life has become unmanageable because of it? It is because I am an American Christian…in other words, I am the “rich young ruler” to whom Jesus says, “give it all up and just rely on me, then we can talk.”
We, the church in America, are SERIOUSLY wealthy, not only in material things but in human resources, giftedness, skills, abilities, ingenuity, innovation, strategic thinking, and in almost everything else one might imagine to be helpful in building any organization. Moreover, we have virtually all the freedom in the world to build our churches and to thrive, free from government interference or persecution. We have entire libraries full of books written by our pastors. We can flip to any of hundreds of …