“I’ve got a secret!” –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.
Recently, a man I know wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.
“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place? The guest is impressed. He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”
“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter. If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”
That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.
They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.
It’s about family secrets.
Everyone has them, he said.
“Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40)
Not long ago, I arrived early at the church where I was to preach that morning and found that a Sunday School class was meeting in the auditorium. I made my way to a chair and joined the dozen or so adults of various ages.
Whatever scripture they were studying that day, they had wandered far afield from it. Class members were excitedly speaking against abortion, gay marriage, transgender acceptance, hate crime laws, political shenanigans, the coming world government, the antichrist, President Obama, and the possibility of an armed uprising in America so everyone had better have plenty of ammunition. Also, blood moons, Armageddon and Joel Osteen.
At one point, during a lull, I asked, “So, what is the scripture for today’s lesson?” As far as I could tell, only the teacher caught the irony (and gentle rebuke) of that. He named some place in one of the prophets.
Expecting people to turn loose of a hefty portion of their hard-earned income, even for the greatest cause in the world, without their being taught how to do this and especially why–is not unlike pitching your kid in deep water and expecting him to swim for the simple reason that doing so is in his best interest.
God’s people must be taught to tithe.
Now, for those wishing to quibble about a) whether the Bible teaches tithing, b) whether it’s in the New Testament, or c) whether we’re being legalistic, may I suggest they skip this article.
This is for church leaders who believe that Jesus is Lord of everything, that He has given to the church–His body–the ministry of reconciliation, and that He expects His disciples to give regularly, generously, and proportionately to fund that work.
“Southern Baptists are not even approaching anything close to a tithe of their total income.” –Dr. Will Hall, “The Baptist Message”
The Baptist Message for October 8, 2015 goes into detail about the financial situation facing our denomination. For the first time ever, we’re told, designated receipts are outpacing gifts to denominational causes through our Cooperative Program.
What that means is that our churches–and that means our pastors–are directing larger and larger portions of the offering plate money to the causes they wish to support. As a result, they are slowly beginning the process of defunding the causes they’re not supporting.
Underlying the various aspects of this financial crisis is one huge factor: Fewer of our people are tithing their income through their churches these days.
Editor Will Hall writes, “Southern Baptists are robbing God…. Southern Baptists teach tithing, but whatever we are doing is not connecting with our people…”
That stopped me short.
I appreciate Will’s positive spin on things in saying we teach tithing.
But he’s wrong.
“The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4).
The problem, says a friend, is that the voice of the Lord sounds a lot like me.
Maybe for him. Not for me.
In speaking to my heart, God has a tendency to say things I never thought of, revealing insights new to me, calling me to tasks outside my comfort zone. Not once has He asked if i would “like” to do something or “find something convenient.”. He commands; I obey. It’s what servants do. His way is hardly the obvious, rarely the easiest and never the smoothest, but always the wisest and smartest. My constant prayer is “Not my will but Thine be done.”
I wrote that on Facebook last night. Then, this morning while doing my pre-dawn walk, the Lord kept it on my mind.
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. The way to tell that the voice you are hearing in your spirit is the Lord and not yourself involves the following…
(I send this forth in all sincerity and with the kindness of Christ. If you disagree, please respond graciously also. Let’s see if Godly people can have a serious and Christ-honoring discussion about this hotly debated subject. Thank you.)
Let me set the table with something the Lord Jesus said. When the disciples returned from preaching with glowing reports of amazing victories over the devil, our Lord called them back to earth, so to speak, with this:
“Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you. But rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
See what He did there? The Lord changed the basis of their joy and thanksgiving from something that fluctuates–like the visible results of missions, which can be good or bad, up and down–to something permanent, our salvation.
Jesus thought our salvation was secure. Otherwise, wouldn’t He have chosen some other basis for our joy?
No other conclusion is possible. Jesus clearly thought salvation was a one-time-and-done proposition. Something permanent, solid, irreversible.
As far as I am able to tell, you will not find one place in the utterances of the Lord Jesus that say otherwise.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to virtual church.
You have noticed on your screens that the pews in our building are empty today.
There’s a reason for that.
No one comes to this church any more. That’s the bottom line.
It did not happen accidentally, by the way. But this is the result of a concerted effort from those of us in leadership positions to set higher standards for the membership. Anyway, what happened was this….
“…I know not; God knows.” (2 Corinthians 12:2)
Some things you will never figure out in this life.
Some mysteries you will eventually see–or the Spirit will reveal them to you or someone much smarter than you will explain it to you–but you haven’t so far.
Until then, humility is the order of the day. (And, yes, afterwards, humility is still in order.)
Here’s one that has me going.
In Romans 8:26, one of my favorite “prayer” verses, after informing us that “we do not know how to pray as we should”–I knew it; I’m just surprised that Paul admits it!–and after saying “The Spirit also helps us in (that) weakness”–we read that “the Spirit Himself also intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Okay. That sentence carries mystery enough to occupy me for the next few years.
“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14)
Can I tell you something odd?
Today, as I was surfing through the program containing all the articles in this website from over a dozen years of blogging, I came across an unfinished draft of one called “the last temptations of the aged.” I breezed right past it, in search of something else I was looking for.
A moment later, I was back. That was an intriguing title, I thought. Must have started that article a year or more back. Wonder what it says.
After reading it, I deleted the entire thing.
My friend Pastor Dave has led a congregation in our neighborhood for two thirds of his life. It’s a sweet fellowship and even though our denominational affiliation is different, he has kindly invited me to fill the pulpit in his absence on several occasions.
Recently, over lunch, I asked Dave how he managed to stay in one church over four decades. Were there not times when church members rose up and demanded new leadership? Did he not get the urge to try something new?
“Give me your top three ways to stay at a church for 42 years,” I told him. He did not hesitate….