Archive for January, 2013

Misappropriation of Funds

Misappropriation of Funds
Back in my Navy days, there was a form of theft that was prosecuted called “misappropriation”. It occurred when someone would take something that belonged to another work center or division and use it for their own division. It was different than larceny because the person didn’t take it for personal use. The money or items never left the ship. But it was still a crime because as a result of the misappropriation, supplies would have to be reordered and money was wasted.

Sometimes, I wonder if misappropriation is happening in the Christian community in America. Jesus Christ set out what the priorities of the church were to be, and our use of church funds ought to be a reflection of those priorities. After all, Jesus said “where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The priorities, as set forth in the New Testament, are evangelism, care for orphans and widows, and ministering to the needs of others. But is that where our money is being spent? Or is the priority in the American church the comfort of the members, building bigger ministries, and marketing a user friendly inoffensive message? Have we turned from being fishers of men to being keepers of the aquarium?

In light of The Lord’s priorities, how do we justify multimillion dollar building projects? There was no such thing as a church building for the first 300 years of the Church and they changed the world! Lets see what could be done with the money used for a building expansion at a cost of $20 million if it were not spent on the comfort of the flock.

The average cost for sending a missionary from America is $6032 a year. (It is even less for support of indigenous missionaries). That $20 million dollars would support 300 missionaries for 10 years and result in the salvation of those who otherwise would have no Gospel witness. Instead we make the church larger and offer more programs to attract spiritual consumers that will be called "Christians" because they sign their names on a card, or slip their hand up for prayer when no one else is looking around.
Ideally, we could have a two for one special and support missionaries that not only preach the Gospel but care for orphans and widows and feed the hungry in Jesus name.

Speaking of orphanages, $20 million would run 7 orphanages for 100 years! Not only would we be ministering to "the least of these" by giving the poorest of the poor food, clothing and education, we would be raising up a generation of champions for Christ that would penetrate their culture with the Gospel far more effectively than a mass crusade every couple of decades or so.

And yet the American church goes on spending its time and treasure on itself. We use 96% of our finances at home and neglect the Great Commission. Why? So we can have a nicer facility to bring our friends to? To have the best fitness center and yoga classes in town? To have bigger and bigger congregations? It is very telling when a senior pastor has to be more of a CEO than a shepherd. I don't mean to be harsh, and I do want to speak the truth in love. But how do we expect God to ignore our extravagance here while missionaries have to spend time begging for the crumbs from the American church's table or risk having to come home?

Instead of building bigger churches, how about getting to a certain size and then planting smaller churches where people can grow in a healthy spiritual environment where they can't go and be anonymous. Wy the desire for spiritual empires? In the First Century they didn't bring people to church to get them saved. They could all tell someone about Jesus and salvation. They went out and made disciples, and brought them to the congregation so they could be shepherded and grow. The church growth program of the first church is still the only church growth program God approves of. Lift Jesus up so that He draws all men to Himself, and co-labor with Christ to add to the church daily as many as should be saved.

On the flip side, it is also wrong to spend money on orphanages that refuse to teach children the Gospel. Or to support programs that amount to little more than sending a social worker that don't tell anyone how to be saved. It is just as wrong to preach to a hungry person without feeding them as it is to feed someone without telling them about Jesus!

This seems hard, and in some ways it is. But please know that I love the American church. Over the past few centuries America has been a launching pad for literally thousands of missionaries and evangelists. But we have to wake up and get our fiscal policy in line with His. After all, it is supposed to be The Lord's money, right?

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What Is Truth?

What is truth? That is a big question, and one of primary importance for mankind. There is much debate among thinkers and non-thinkers about the very existence of absolute truth. The non-thinkers are those who would say, “there is no absolute truth” since they would see the logical corner they have placed themselves in. For that statement to be true, it would need to be absolutely true and would thus be claiming its own nonexistence.

Even the Roman governor of the province of Judea, in his unregenerate mind, asked the question of Jesus.

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18:38 NKJV)

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He made a statement that answers that question.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

So the first, and primary, thing we must understand is that the truth is a person — Jesus Christ. The ramifications of that are tremendous! In making that statement affirming His identity as “the Truth” Jesus was also saying a lot about what the truth is NOT.

1. The truth is not a set of teachings. Before you react, let me explain. Jesus and the Apostles taught many things, all of which are true. They are factually without error. But they are true because they come from He who is “the truth”. The correct teachings of the Bible are there to tell us ABOUT the truth, and as far as each of them goes, the provide illumination on a part of the picture of Christ. Don’t mistake what I am saying. False teaching is a big deal, because it draws us away from Jesus, who is the source of truth and paints a false picture for us. One good way of discerning truth, especially if someone is using Bible verses on us, is to ask whether or not the teaching in question magnifies Christ Jesus or magnifies us.

2. We can know the truth. Yes, we can have an intimate, personal relationship with the Truth. But that does not mean we will have the full, clear, perfected set of doctrines in our little brains. Full illumination is reserved for the eternal state. For now, we must follow after Jesus and take in pieces of truth for spiritual nourishment along the way. That means putting up with people whose plates look different than our own. They may see some things more clearly than we do. Paul, when talking about the eternal state, put it this way:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:12, 13 KJV)

On our best day, when we are most attuned to the Spirit and are the most receptive, we still see through a glass darkly.

3. We must follow after things in their proper order. Jesus is the way to truth and life. We find the truth by following Jesus Christ. We don’t sit down and try to once and for all figure out a perfect doctrinal set of teachings and use them to find Christ. No, we follow after Christ and He gives is spiritual food and teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10 NKJV)

4. Jesus is the full revelation of God, and we need seek nowhere else for truth. God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Holy Spirit uses the power of the Word to draw us to Christ (John 12:32; Romans 10:17). As long as we are putting first things first, and following after Jesus, the Truth will reveal truth to us through the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Be patient with yourself. There have been many times I have been frustrated by my lack of discernment or by not being rock solid on exact definitions of everything I believe. But that is okay. As long as I am following after Jesus, and nurturing my relationship with Him through prayer and feasting in the Word, my dark glass will slowly become easier to see through. Remember that we are not following after a philosophy, but after a person — the person of Jesus Christ.

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Arriving At Your Predestination

There some words that can stir up strong opinions when discussing matters of Christian faith. Predestination is one of those words. I am a big fan of word pictures that help to explain things, and there is one that I have rolled around in my head and want to share. It has to do with “in Him” and its relation to what “predestination” really means.

There is an airline, and all of its flights are on time, are never too full for one more passenger to come along. (Okay, remember this is only an illustration)
The planes are scheduled ahead of time for specific destinations. You could even say they are predestined to go there. By default, all of the seats on that plane are also predestined to go to the same destination as the rest of the plane, since they are bolted in.

We all have the opportunity to get a ticket, but they cost more than we could ever hope to pay. Flights to heaven, via stopovers in justification, sanctification and glorification, are not cheap! We could give up hope, but someone has been kind enough to point out that there are all the tickets we need, and the price for them has already been paid. The tickets are being offered to us, and all we have to do is believe it, go get the ticket, and proceed to the gate, where we will board the plane.

Well this is Good News, so we do just that. We go accept the ticket and go to the boarding are, where we then get inside the plane. You see, the plane has been prescheduled, or predestined, to go to its destination. And so are we, by virtue of the fact that we are in the plane (i.e. in Him). Before the foundation of the world, it was determined that all who were on board would go to where they needed to go.

Unfortunately, there are some people who don’t make it onto the aircraft. Some didn’t believe that anyone would be so generous as to pay for such an expensive ticket. They don’t believe the announcement and never go and take the ticket. We’re they destined to be left out? Collectively, yes they were, since it was determined that all who did not board the plane would be left.

There is another group who went and got the tickets, but thought they could go on staying inside the safe and comfortable terminal. They run around telling everyone that they got a free ticket, but since they never act on it and obey the instruction to get onto the plane, they are left behind as well. Plus, those who did not believe the message in the first place see them as fools, since in the end they are no different than the ones with no ticket at all.

So when you get a chance, read about what it is like on the plane. Read Ephesians chapter 1 and look for the phase “in Him” and remember what privileges and benefits there are to being onboard with Jesus.

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It Will Never Lose Its Power

I have had some experience with pharmaceutical sales, and one of the questions asked by doctors about a drug is whether or not it loses efficacy over time. In other words, does the medication work well at first, but over time loses its effect on the condition that is being treated? What I want to talk about is something that definitely does not lose efficacy over time. In fact, it is still the most powerful cure in the universe. It is the blood of Jesus!

The apostle Peter talks about the blood this way:

knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (I Peter 1:18, 19 NKJV)

The blood is something precious. Its value is far above that of silver or gold. This blood is the cure for the most deadly disease in existence. It is used to bring spiritually dead people back to life! You may wonder if we baptize dead people. I would say that, yes, we do. Every one of them starts of spiritually dead. They are then made alive by the blood of Christ!

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13, 14)

Our sin had separated us from a holy God. We were without hope of curing ourselves, and were completely alienated from God. But the blood of Christ changed all of that!

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 NKJV)

Even though we were enemies of God, Christ died for us in order to demonstrate His love for us. We have gone from being enemies of God to having peace with God! (Colossians 1:20)

There was a song written by Andrae Crouch many years ago ago the blood of Jesus, that said that the blood would never lose its power. Even though it was shed for us nearly 2000 years ago, it is just as potent as ever. It will save the worst sinner today the same way it would save one back then. The words of the chorus say, “it reaches to the highest mountain“. Even when we are on the mountaintop and have intimate communion with God, we still are only there because of the blood that was shed for us back at Calvary. Then it continues with “and it flows to the lowest valley“. No matter how far we have wandered in sin; no matter how far into the depths of wickedness our life has plunged, the blood of Jesus will still reach us right where we are if we will only appropriate it.

The words of John at the beginning of the Revelation some it up best:

and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5, 6 NKJV)

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Receiving Answers

Let’s take a look at 1 John 3:22 for a moment, because I believe there are some things here that we can discover if we are careful and take our time. For context, I will begin at the previous verse.

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. (1 John 3:21, 22 NASB)

On the surface, if we don’t read closely enough, we can misconstrue what John is saying here. He is not saying that we earn our answers to prayer from God. Well then, what is he saying here?

First of all, lets see what is meant by keeping his commandments. The statement itself implies that we are in a saved condition. Over in chapter 2 John has said,

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 John 2:3)”

If we know Him, we are going know what kinds of thongs to ask Him that would be in accordance with His will.

Another thing to notice is that John separates keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight. That is because what John means by keeping His commandments is stated in the following verse. We are to love one another. This fits in with what Jesus Christ said are the two greatest commandments — love God and love neighbor. In addition, it meshes nicely with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 about everything we doing being useless if it is not done in love.

So rather than a cold legalism and getting our prayers heard by keeping our spiritual checklist filled out, he is talking about doing things that are pleasing in His sight that spring from our love for God and each other.our love for each other will keep us from selfish prayers. Our love for God will cause us to pray “not my will but yours be done”. When we ask for things that are within the will of God, we receive them. When we submit our prayers to the Father’s will, we are confessing that He knows best and will give us what is for our good, even though we may not know what to ask for.

So prayer that is a conversation between those in relationship with Christ, who are walking in love, and asking for God’s will to be done, will always be answered. As our knowledge of God grows, we will not only love Him more, but be even more eager to please Him in all we say and do. When we ask from that foundation, we will have all that God wills for us to have and will rejoice that He knows what is best for us.

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