Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saved by Grace...then what?

So i just finished a sermon brief on the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. While researching I found a website that had addressed the church's giving today. So here is the statistic found at empty tombs, inc. you can google it and look around, but here's what they say.

It would cost 30-50 billion dollars to meet most essential human needs around the world.
If church members gave 10% of their income they would raise $65 billion. Today the average giving per member is 3-4%.

We are saved by grace, yes, Martin Luther writes 95 theses and dismantles church authority and paying money for salvation and forgiveness ridding of "justified by works."
I hear this Scripture:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast."

It is by grace that we have been saved...and grace alone. Otherwise I am able to take credit for the work of salvation through Christ. I am able to be the provider and distributor of my own salvation. But what does Scripture say after the previous verse we read?

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do"

So there is an after-party. Something follows justified by grace.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the audience was a group of Pharisees who saw wealth and riches as blessings for obedience and Jesus was showing the holes in this belief system by painting the picture of an ill and dying man who had just had dogs licking his oozing sores being carried to heaven. The rich man dies, is burried and ends up in hell. (note: this particular parable does not have any eschatological weight.) The rich man asks for water on his tongue. Abraham (father of all Israel) delivers the message of his irreversible fate. So, the rich man realizing his paralysis pleads for Abraham (God-figure) to send Lazarus back to earth to tell his brothers about this and prevent them from sharing in his pain.

This is the interesting part:

The rich man says,
"if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." Repent? repent from what?

Abraham answers,
"If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

The rich man realizes that the way he has lived was wrong. He saw Lazarus out in front of his house dying and hungry and had no compassion. For this he is talking about repentance. Isn't it interesting the word "faith" is not mentioned? The message is pointed sharply toward the idea of stewardship and how we use our resources.

So we are justified by grace but "Grace" is a condition. If there are no symptoms of grace then there must be no condition present in our lives. Symptoms, in this story, specifically toward wealth and selfishness.

So what kind of things are mentioned in the law and the prophets(Old Testament)?

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
-Deuteronomy 15:11
There is a lot more in the Old Testament in regard to Social Ethics but I would need a lot more room to discuss this. So for now, Deuteronomy 15:11 i think is ok.

In conclusion: IT IS NOT THE AMOUNT GIVEN, RATHER THE CONDITION OF THE HEART THAT GIVES. WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY GRACE ALONE WITH SYMPTOMS OF Stewarship and helping the poor and needy. This is not to be confused with handing dollars to those on our street corners, it is funding projects in order to heal the root problems of social need wherever it may be.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Please go away!

Prosperity Doctrine...please go away!

Where did the theology come from that if you tithe enough money you will be able to buy a Mercedez Benz? I will tell you how Prosperity Preaching Preachers bank accounts get big...from your bank account! From the money that was "tithed". Of course you have a new house, a new boat, a motorcycle, money to shop with...because we paid you.

"From the external and visible world there comes an old adage: "Only one who works gets bread." Oddly enough, the adage does not fit the world in which it is most at home, for imperfection is the fundamental law of the external world, and here it happens again and again that he who does not work does get bread, and he who sleeps gets it even more abundantly than he who works.

It is different in the world of the spirit. Here an eternal divine order prevails. Here it does not rain on both the just and the unjust; here the sun does not shine on both good and evil. Here it holds true that only the one who works gets bread."
-Soren Kierkegaard

How is it we use a worldly standard to gauge faith? It is absurd that we use what the world uses to exemplify power. Money is to be used, yes, to live; to feed the hungry; to house the homeless; to educate; to give health; to empower; to mobilize; to bless...not to horde.

I have heard preachers talk about the financial blessings God wants to give us if we only pray and read and tithe the right amount. That your financial status and your house size is in proportion to your faith...what in the world??? Does that ring true for the countless martyrs across the world? Are you going to sit down with a believer in India who is about to be killed for their faith, their families infected with starvation, no roof over their head and explain to them that if they only had tithed enough money last offering everything would have been ok?

I tell you, whenever God speaks of "prosperity" it is linked with social justice. God provides so that we are able to give back to those who are in need. God does not give so that you can boast about that new paint job you placed on your H2.

This is my second point...

If God gives us money based on our faith...Donald Trump must have "great faith". Saddam Hussein must have been tithing a lot in order to build that palace. Money does not dictate faith.
Paul leaves the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20 with 2 things before he heads to Jerusalem nearing the end of his life:

1. "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me"
2. "I have shown you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"

If i knew I was reciting my last words I would make them count.

Monday, January 7, 2008


i am reading this book entitled "The Unknown American Revolution" by Gary B. Nash. I can't put the book down. The author's intent is to bring recognition to those who helped establish North America's independence as a nation.

"We cannot capture the "life and soul" of the Revolution without paying close attention to the wartime experiences and agendas for change that engrossed backcountry farmers, urban craftsmen, deep-blue mariners, female camp followers and food rioters--those ordinary people people who did most of the protesting, most of the fighting, most of the dying, and most of the dreaming about how a victorious American might satisfy the yearnings of all its peoples"
-Gary B. Nash

The names of those who did not make the cut into our history books have been short sided. It used to be "unpatriotic" to speak of other men and women who played major roles in the Revolution besides George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Frankline, John Adams, etc. But we see that when we leave out the names and exploits of the individuals who bore a great burden; to see liberty and justice be for ALL. Not just those who are in the "state of society" and not for those who didn't measure up to be included in so.

One of my favorites is a Quaker named Joshua Fisher who in his last years of life, 1776, freed all of his slaves and spent ten years traveling in order to locate and buy the freedom of any of his past slaves offspring no matter where they were geographically. Or Samuel Hopkins who was a minister at the Congregational Church in Great Barrington, where years later W.E.B. DuBois grew up. Hopkins shaped his sermons around anti-slavery and presented them to his congregation who was full of slave owners and slave traders. In 1773, Hopkins and Ezra Stiles sent a letter out to all of the New England Churches promoting a complete ban of the slave trade. Someone who stood up for what he knew was to be truth.

The list will go on and on. So why is it that these names are not brought up when talking about the "independence" of America? Why is it that we hear the great deeds of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson only? These men who owned over 100 slaves and were "treacherous in private" have become the only stories told which is unfair. Yes, these men did great things for our country but they hardly were the only ones who were fighting for independence and equality. Ben Franklin had advocated abolition yet he owned 5 slaves until he died and instead of freeing them upon his death, he signed them over to his daughter.

The question is...Who fought for liberty and freedom?...True justice, liberty, freedom and equality.

If we look at a more rounded picture of America in it's historical movement we find a magnitude of individuals who fought and died for a dream. A dream that came from the hearts of ALL of those who lived and died in America. They saw a nation that was diverse and equal and they were strong enough to do whatever it took to make it happen even if it meant death. There were so many hangings for those who had committed "treason" but in my mind i didn't see it as treason, i saw it as committing true equality. The ones who died for a good cause might have used force, but looking at the circumstances they were in I do not hold it against them when nothing but force had been experienced.

People whose names find their ways into the historical books are not the only ones who made a great impact on this nation and might not even be justifiable. So, instead of looking to do something great that might possibly make it into the history books...desire to be great. Recognize the greatness of seeing the best in everyone you come into contact with. Recognize your ability to make a difference in this country without even being admired for it. This is true greatness...Fighting for what is truth without an audience. God give us strength.