Sell your possessions, and give to the needy… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:33-34
The parable of the rich fool is, I think, a difficult lesson for the American church…a bit like teaching personal hygiene to a rodent…where do you even begin? Let’s be honest here, the American church has taken material wealth to levels never even dreamed by the founders of the New Testament church. “Give us this day our daily bread” was a genuine, heart-felt prayer reflective of a deep-seated daily need by the early church. My church, on the other hand, raised $1.5 Million last year for a new air conditioner in our Sanctuary. I’m not saying God wasn’t in that…I absolutely believe it will bring honor to Him…I’m just saying there is a bit of a cultural divide between the American church today and the early church in matters of material wealth.
There are a lot of benefits which come with that wealth. Churches all over the world pray every day for some of that kind of wealth. It has its perks. But there are some pretty clear downsides as well. And, at one level or another, the biggest downside is its impact on our faith in God. The sad truth is, we just do not need God to meet daily needs when we have material wealth. And when people outside the church look in at us and at our huge buildings and large staffs and extravagant Christmas pageants and decorations, one inescapable question arises:
What, exactly, does our church need God for?
If your church’s answer to that question is not plain…if it is somehow hidden or illusive…then you are not yet finished with your church’s communications strategy. I certainly believe this is true on the …
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21
As a trial attorney, I suppose I have said it to at least a hundred or so jury panels during the voir dire examination of them, when the parties are trying to decide whom to strike from the jury panel. That’s the way our system works. The parties each get to strike a certain small number of prospective jurors, and the first 12 left comprise the jury. It is an examination for one purpose…to determine any relevant bias which may make a juror the wrong juror for a particular case. So, I have said this to all of them: “We all have biases. They don’t make us a bad person. They don’t make us liars. They don’t make us deceptive. In our area of bias, they just make us an unreliable finder of truth in that area.”
Those words rang so very true, I think, as little as 50 years ago in our culture. Truth cannot be found in bias. But, in more recent years, I fear that our bias-rich American culture is making it more and more difficult for us to explore truth without bias. I have stopped watching national news, pretty much completely. Why? Because every single national news syndicate in our country is hopelessly biased, whether by choice or by accident. I’m certain it does not matter which. What bothers me most about that sad fact is that real journalism was our last secular hope for knowing truth. Then again, maybe that was false hope from the …
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22
My dear (now deceased) friend and Board member, Warren Clark, loved telling a story about teaching some of our materials on reconciliation in a church in Eastern Ukraine some years ago. He was in the middle of the teaching when people started getting up and leaving the church building. Not all at once…just a few here and then a few more there. During a break in the conference, he asked the pastor if he had done something wrong to offend them, since they were leaving. The pastor smiled at him and said, “No, brother, not at all! They are hearing a word from the Lord about reconciliation and they are going to reconcile with brothers and sisters. Isn’t that what you want?” Well, of course it is. We in the American church would just never have expected it.
Immediate and complete obedience is really the only obedience. Anything less (delayed obedience, partial obedience, etc.) is just a form of disobedience. That was Saul’s lesson in 1 Samuel 15. And that will be the lesson ultimately for the American church, I fear. We talk a lot about God and Jesus and God’s Word and other such spiritual things…we can argue theology all day long, thanks to 200 years of freedom to study it…we can write books and blogs about building churches and vision and preaching and small groups and creative programming…but in the end, it is going to matter to God that his people followed some social or political or personal agenda first, and His agenda second. Any agenda, you see, which comes before God’s …