Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who Brought the Offense?

"They were offended."

That was the answer we heard most often over the years when we asked why someone left our church. It was the perfect catch-all response because, not only did it make the person who left seem spiritually weak, it freed the leadership of any accountability for their departure. Even if a person knew that it would be in their own best interest to leave, they were keenly aware of the fact that they would be talked about in the same fashion as their unfortunate predecessors. There were those of us who had dozens of legitimate reasons to leave. But we stayed because we believed we were doing a good work for God, and we were under the impression that we were "in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing." But we were wrong.

According to William Arthur Wood, "Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation." Most people do not react well to domination, control, or intimidation. We saw that in abundance over the years. One definition of control is "to adjust to a requirement." Many of those requirements were an unnecessary show of this control that stifled people's creativity, talents, and abilities. Ridicule and intimidation were practiced on a regular basis, usually in a public forum where the person would be the most humiliated. If you were ever hurt or offended, you didn't dare say anything. Then you would be a poor sport. And if you retaliated, you were being rebellious. People's feelings were rarely considered. They just needed to be "tough." Much teaching was done on not becoming offended, but never on not being offensive. It was the ultimate excuse for bad manners and insensitivity.

So, yes, multitudes left because they were offended. But who offended them?

Luke 17:1-2 (KJV):

1. Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

- V

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guard Against Greed

It seems that there has been quite a bit of controversy in regard to some of the most prominent Word of Faith ministers. The U.S. Senate has called their tax-exempt status and their integrity into question because of the outlandishly lavish lifestyles that they appear to lead. People have been captivated by the prosperity message over the years to the point where they have given inordinate amounts of money to these ministers in hopes of becoming rich themselves. It is amazing how these ministers pick and choose from the Bible just what they need to justify their greed, while ignoring basic Bible truths.

Luke 2:15 NIV says:

15. Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

The Amplified says:

15. And He said to them, Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a man's life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above his needs.

The Message Bible says:

15. Speaking to the people, he went on, "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot."

I am definitely not of the belief that ministers should be poor. I don't think anyone should be. But there is a moral and ethical standard that ministers should follow, and financial extravagance is diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches. They are not running corporations or large family businesses. They are living off of people's tithes and offerings. To spend someone's hard earned money to invest toward a standard of living that is far beyond what you need is blatantly disrespectful. It is important for us to stay informed regarding what is going on here. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that this is appropriate just because these people are ministers.

The Bible speaks against pride and greed, and teaches us to be humble in every situation of life.

Humility is defined as having a modest opinion or estimate of one's importance, rank, etc.

Pride is defined as having a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

Greed is defined as an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

Which of these qualities sounds more Christ-like to you? Do you believe that God intended for us to embrace only what we wanted out of the Bible and discard the rest? In this case, it seems as though the message that has been emphasized here is what has best served the messenger.

I have included a link that we have found to be very interesting. Please watch these video clips and note what characteristics you see. Do you see humility? Or pride and greed, among other things? Is this a ministry you want to invest in? You decide.

- V

Are You Being Equipped?

Matthew 23:1-3 in the Message Bible says:

1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer."

I have heard the statement made for years, "I go to church here because my pastor is such a good teacher." In light of the above scripture, being a good teacher alone is not enough. They must also live it. The Pharisees were good teachers because they taught the law of Moses, but they did not help others to live it. Today we have many ministers teaching the Word, but when we really get to know them, we see that they are not truly living the same message that is being taught in the Gospel.

If a minister is truly living out the Gospel, then we should be seeing him help others more than he helps himself. He should be setting the example by personally getting involved rather than always sending someone else. If he is so busy taking care of his personal needs that he fails to see the needs of the people, or does not have time to help them, then he has lost sight of what true Christ-centered teaching is about.

Matthew 9:35-38 NIV

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Jesus saw the needs of the people and had compassion to help them. He was never so busy that he lost touch with them. Jesus could always pay attention to what they needed because he fully trusted that God would take care of Him.

The true fruit of good teaching will be reproduced in the people that are hearing the message. Do you find yourself wanting to help others and promote the Kingdom of God, or are you merely helping build a man's ministry? Good teaching should stir you to serve others and to help them grow in Christ. If you are being fed a healthy diet of good teaching, then service to others takes place over service to self.

Many people today have never found a place of service for God because they do not have someone to help equip them. There are many good churches that are truly helping people get to that place. Make sure that you are in one.

- G

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sense of Entitlement

Many years ago, back in the 80's, a group of people from our church were sent to "headquarters" in another state. They attended meetings there for a week and returned with a new set of instructions regarding some changes that needed to be made. Apparently we had been quite amiss in a particular area. We had not been addressing our pastor properly. It was no longer acceptable to call him by name, but only by title. After all, how can he operate in the office of a pastor if we don't call him "Pastor?" There was no scripture presented to back up this deep new revelation, but great pressure was placed on anyone who did not follow this rule. It was not a choice which could be made by the individual. It was required. Despite how uncomfortable many of us were with this, we complied. Unfortunately, just the act of calling him "Pastor" did not transform him into the pastor we needed. He was just the same person with a new title. People also referred to him and other so-called spiritual leaders like him as their "Man of God" and their "Spiritual Father." It had always bothered me that these leaders demanded such a place of prominence over the rest of us as though they were superior to us. I knew they weren't. The Bible agrees with me:

Matthew 23:1-12 in the Message Bible says:

1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer.

4-7"Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'

8-10"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

11-12"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

It is pretty hard to argue with that. I also really like this translation because I believe that honorary doctorates are a joke. Go to school and earn it. Don't make me call you doctor.

Please understand this. Call your pastor by that title if that is what is in your heart to do. But any man who makes demands on you, particularly to be addressed by a title, does not deserve it in the first place.

- V

Welcome to Clarity Rediscovered

Because of the church we were involved in, we now feel as though were living in a fog for the past several years. Since our emancipation from this church, we have been able to open our eyes and our minds to aspects of life which we had unwittingly been deprived of. We have taken on the task of purging ourselves of the false teaching that we have been exposed to and this has allowed us to view life from a completely new and fresh perspective. It is our hope, that through this rediscovery process, we will enable others to do the same.