Sunday, December 20, 2009
Here's a thought, perhaps the problem is defective economics. Perhaps they missed the simple principle of Divine Economics: that the purpose of God's Grace is not really to fatten our pockets, fill our fridges, or buy us new cars. God doesn't bless us just so we can walk around blessed ... or even so we can stand up in Testimony Service and brag about what He's done. Instead, perhaps God blesses us so we can use what he gave us to BE a blessing to someone else.
Until God sees in us a willingness to give it all away, He can't really trust us with too much: our greedy selves would just go and spend it all on ourselves, like the Prodigal Son ... then be back next week asking for more.
Proof is in the pudding ...
We pastors love to quote Malachi 3:10 on Sunday, but we mess people up by enticing them to focus on the "blessing window," instead of the fact that it is critical for us to make sure God's storehouse is full: it is the overflow that opens the window ... if the storehouse isn't full the window won't open.
I even wonder sometimes if we aren't missing a more subtle truth, being so focused on the getting, and all. I wonder if God never intended for us to spend so much time trying gimmick after gimmick to make Him give us stuff: maybe God gives because He's generous, and the gimmicks are just meant to get us to think if our Father is so generous to us, maybe we ought to do something in return.
Rich human beings provide their children with nice things because they are their children -- not because they did stuff. If a man can be generous to his kids, don't you think God would be generous to His? But the record shows that rich kids who aren't faced with some sort of responsibility often squander what they have ... like the Prodigal Son ... and are back in daddy's face next week, looking for more: THANK YOU, Holy Spirit! So maybe all the "gimmicks" are intended to make us think about our own responsibility to do something with whatever God gives us.
Ask yourself: when was the last time you went up to the line? How many times did you go up, in 2009?
And when you got blessed, what did you DO with what you got? Got a shiny new car in the driveway? How many Saints have to ride the bus, along the same path you drive down going to church? Fridgerator full? Maybe Sister Jones could use a new pair of shoes, or a bag of groceries .. or even a sandwich.
I have always liked how James put it -- right after the part we love to quote about "faith without works."
Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well" – but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? James 2:15, 16 New Living Translation
Friday, November 20, 2009
This is the message of faith that we proclaim:
- if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible
THE SIMPLE THINGS – My big brother in Ministry – Rev. G. Vincent Lewis – first fueled my interest in Theology and Systematic Theology, when he was a graduate student at Virginia Union Theological Seminary.
My little brother in Ministry – Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Jr., as a teenager used to crack me up with his imitations of some of America’s great preachers of the time. He was such a gifted teenager – with such an awesome voice, and spontaneous wit – until the greatness that has shrouded his life and Ministry was inevitable.
My FATHER in the Ministry – Rev. Rudolph W. McKissick, Sr. – is the greatest mentor to preachers on the PLANET, and will always be as much a father in my own mind as my natural father is.
Thirty-five years ago this month, I accepted Christ, sitting on a bench in a park in Jacksonville, Florida. As a gift He turned my eyes and heart toward a church nearby – a church called Bethel, whose slogan is her legacy: a church “… In the heart of the city for the heats of the people!” Everything that I am in Ministry, I owe to the rock-solid foundation I got as a young preacher, at Bethel. I am sure I am not alone in this … and I have made no secret of this, wherever I have gone through all these years.
I mention this auspicious beginning as a segue to a thought that came to my mind a few days ago, as I was reading some clever and “deep” thought some Saint had posted on the wall on Facebook. As deep as it was it made me ponder what it would mean to the Saints worshipping in one of the many “house churches,” here in China.
It was right after this moment of reflection that I posted the “Tub-tism” pictures to my profile. I took them back in 2006, when we baptized 11 young men and women – seven of whom were on their way to France for a year of sharing the Gospel.
The “caption” that came to mind was simply this: “being behind this wall has taught me that the purest truth of the Gospel can be understood – even by those who do not know how to be deep!”
An Apostolic friend of mine who saw the pictures of the baptism asked me if I’d baptized them in Jesus’ Name – I suppose she wanted to know if they were ‘really’ Saved … but I told her in a place like this I am satisfied to know that these young people have a concept about believing in Christ in the first place. The handfuls of seminaries here – and other resources for systematic Ministry training – are connected to the Government – run “Three Self Movement,” and not available to the “silent majority” of Christians here who refuse to become a part of that movement.
House Church pastors – like Pastor Gan, Pastor Immanuel, and Sister Sara – go into every nook and cranny and talk to every live body about Jesus. They stay a day or two, and leave some Bibles, books, and tracts. From there the locals organize “meetings” – sometimes daily – and “share” with each other, based on what they learned when the preacher was there.
Pastors Immanuel and Sara went to meetings that an American lay Christian held in his apartment for three years. When his contract was finished he left Immanuel and Sara in charge. In 2005 I met this brother in Detroit, and he put me in touch with Immanuel. Our fellowship started from there. Back then Immanuel got up at 5:30 in the morning to pray in a park near his home, and then preached in various houses around the city continuously, until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. This was his schedule – SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.
Periodically, he would travel to villages around our Province, or in nearby Anhui Province – where the police are terribly hostile to Christians who belong to un-registered house churches. Same routine: Hold a meeting for 5, 6 … TEN HOURS … leave somebody in charge … come back in a few months to share, again.
For us … more accustomed to systematic discipling programs … this is no way to do Ministry. But for so much of China, this is the best you can do.
More later …