Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where's Your Heart

“Hear this, all you people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world; Both low and high, rich and poor, together, My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.” (Psalm 49:1-3, KJV)

The coffee is good this morning, but God’s Word is bitter sweet. The Lord reminds us of the vanity of riches. God reminds us in Psalm 49 that wealth cannot purchase the salvation of a man’s soul and that in time death strips the riches away and leaves them to another. Verse 20 sums up the chapter with these words, “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.

When I read passages like this in God’s word, I am reminded of the need to “leave a legacy.” There is no sin in accumulated wealth, if the wealth is used correctly. There is great wisdom in leaving ones wealth to a worthy charity. I believe that every born again believer should remember a church or Christian school in their Will. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:20-21 “…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break though nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

When you and I leave part or all of our estate to the cause of Christ by leaving it to a church or Christian school, we provide a tremendous testimony to others of our love for Christ. Susan and I have chosen to remember New Life Theological Seminary in our Will, because we want to make sure that men and women continue to be equipped to shape the world for Christ. Even when we are dead and buried, even when our memory has faded from the living, our work will continue through others who are being trained.

God is telling us that we spend our life accumulating wealth, to various degrees of success, but the person who uses that accumulation of wealth wisely is the person with understanding. With one-third of the residents within this State dying without a Will, I can only assume they had no understanding of God’s teaching of the good steward.

When your life is over, the coffee is no longer brewed and the cups are discarded, will you still be having an impact for Jesus? What one does with his or her accumulated wealth at their death, tells family and friends where their heart was truly at during their life. Christians should take serious their Lord’s full teaching on Stewardship. Let me hear your thoughts, I would love to discuss the issue with you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Taking In Strangers

"Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you...I was a stranger and you took me in...." (Matthew 25:34-35).

The greatest mistake minority churches make is that of trying to teach culture as a part of faith. This is a struggle within the African-American Church, as well as most ethnic churches founded within American in the last few decades. It is not that teaching culture is wrong, but the church is not the place for teaching culture. Culture is like politics in the church, it is divisive and exclusive. The most sincere Christians flinch in church when culture is promoted. Church is for discipleship and worship, not a place to teach culture and divisiveness.

Can you imagine an Anglo-American Church promoting the KKK, teaching white culture classes, and promoting the white race? Such a church would bring protest from various cultural groups, religious and political, to protest at its fronts doors, and rightly so. An African-American man shared a thought some months back that has stuck in my mind. He said, "Any organization that promotes a single race is a 'racist' organization." I believe he is right and I believe this applies to every Church.

There are many dangers single race churches face. When a church promotes a single race, even its own, it both proclaims itself as racist and becomes a breeding ground for racism. Churches need to example for the world an openness for all races and cultures; it is a part of what Scripture teaches as "agape - love." Jesus exampled "agape - love" which simply means, "no matter what you have done to me, I want the best for your." I long to see pastors lead the charge on taking a stand against nonfaith issues that divide our churches. Churches that promote culture offend.

Blended cultural families are not welcome in such churches, and in our culture of interracial and cross-cultural marriage, cross-racial and cross-cultural adoption, and high diversity in the workplace, churches insistent on teaching culture have either plateau or are declining. I remember well an African-American woman, Christy, who joined a previous church I served. She shared that after she married an Anglo-American, they were not welcome in her church, and they were not welcome in his church, but they found our church and felt loved and accepted.

Increasingly, pastors of these congregations are seen as bigots and racists within the mass population of their cities, country, and world. Pastors, evangelist, and missionaries with a "God-heart" will not allow such brazen racism to be a part of their ministry. Church is not for teaching culture (nor politics), but if your church touches on culture (or politics), it should be to celebrate it; churches that celebrate culture must be sure to celebrate all cultures represented in their church and community. Jesus said, ‘I was a stranger...” Chances are good that if you are reading this Blog, you are a Gentile. To accept Jesus means you must accept someone of a different race and ethnicity.

Well that’s my coffee for today. I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you on this issue.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Satan Hinders God's Work

"For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again- but Satan stopped us." (First Thessalonians 2:18, NIV)

Since the Garden of Eden, in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has been an ongoing spiritual experience that Satan hinders us. As a Seminary President, I see it every semester as new students face testing beyond anything they have ever experienced. It seems that as they step out to start Seminary, Satan becomes determined to stop them. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the front line and in the rear, at daybreak and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders Christians. If we labor in the field, he seeks to break the tools with which we work; if we build the wall, he labors to cast down the stones; if we serve God in suffering or in conflict— everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ, and he hinders us every time we move to greater obedience to Christ. Satan is not overly concerned as long as we sit idle in our small boat, but when we raise the sails to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, Satan releases the demons of hell against us, to hinder us from growing more obedient and more faithful to Christ.

Paul and his companions desired to return to Thessalonica on several occasions because of the intense longing they felt for their brethren. The care and feeding of new Christians was not just an obligation those missionaries felt toward God; it was something they longed with all their hearts to be able to do, because of the love of Christ, in spite of the personal danger that faced them in Thessalonica.

Perhaps you are thing that God, or perhaps other people, were responsible for hindering Paul? To help us understand, we have to look at Paul's motive. His motivation for returning to Thessalonica was to provide further spiritual help for the young converts. Therefore, his motive is clearly the will of God and therefore any hindrance becomes opposition to the will of God. Regardless of who was involved on the human level, the ultimate leader of this kind of opposition is Satan. "Whenever the ungodly cause us trouble, they are fighting under the banner of Satan, and are his instruments for harassing us," (John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, p. 351). God permitted Satan to hinder Paul, but God is no more responsible for it than God is for any sin which His creatures commit and which He permits.

Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. Satan checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss God’s blessing. Satan is vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There is never a revival of our faith without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labor, Sanballat and Tobiah begin to hinder them. We should not be alarmed that Satan hinders us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord's side, and are doing the Lord's work, and in His strength, we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.