Friday, February 27, 2009

People Magazine in Haiti

My husband recently returned from a short term mission trip in Haiti. The poverty and lack of infrastructure are astounding--no electricity, no running water, no police force, no garbage control or pick up, but because this was his third trip, it's not as shocking as the first time. Mid-week he picked up a People Magazine one of the members of the team had brought along. It's not a magazine we read--he sees it occasionally at the doctor or dentist office. He said he started to leaf through it, then in disgust put it down. What a terrible depiction of our culture--the mindless consumerism, the groveling over entertainers, the glorification of unmarried motherhood. Whose culture is poor?

To read about Haitian culture, see our Pam Mann's Creole Crusts, Lenten Devotions. At the UALC website. You can download it or pick a copy up at any of the church locations. Imagine having your personal items stolen, and then confronting the thief when you see her wearing your clothes, only to be told you should be thankful not more was taken! As a Christian, just where is your treasure?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

God's economy

This probably isn't that. Our church (UALC) after a lot of prayer bought a big chunk of land in a developing, but undeveloped area, of northwest Columbus called Mill Run. We had multiple services on Sunday at our Upper Arlington Lytham Road location (6 I think), the parking lots were crowded, supposedly the experts told us that visitors stop coming when you are 3/4 full on a Sunday, so the solution seemed to be to move further away from our 40 year old suburban location which couldn't expand. The almost 32 acres cost $2.5 million. We were sold the idea of having two campuses--but one church, and that's what we voted for--then. Every step of the way was covered in prayer and endless meetings. We even had outdoor services on the empty land, sitting on blankets and lawn chairs trying to visualize God's plan. We occupied the new building on New Year's Eve 2000 with a mortgage of $11 million, and it was virtually filled from the first day.

There has been some refinancing along the way, and other evangelical churches have been growing in the meanwhile which cuts into our "customer" base. Also, the new building has been a huge draw for young families, who love the music and programming for kids, but . . . support? During the boom times they had so many obligations, new homes, cars, vacations, etc., and now in lean times, things are just tough and some have lost their jobs. We had a huge fund raising effort to prepay the morgage about 3 years ago bringing it from $7.8 million to $1.6 million currently. We added a third campus in a well maintained urban church in a declining neighborhood which provided service opportunities--after a lot of prayer for direction. But that multi-campus, one church, idea? That has recently been abandoned, and increasingly we are moving to separate "communities." And the "extra" land--that's a problem, too. Now we are being asked to consider selling the remaining undeveloped 16 acres (which considerably enhances the park, condos and nursing home neighbors just by being pristine, semi-wooded and undeveloped).

I'm sure I'm not the only one asking this question: Who and where is the God who told us to buy the land in 1991 and 1992? Were the church leaders mistaken then? Are they mistaken now? Who is the God we prayed to during the Jublilee in 2006? The God we were praising when the people responded and so much of the debt was retired. And as an afterthought. Where are the investors who want this land when so many stores are empty in the shopping center next door?

This I know about God, for sure. He's not creating any more land for us to take care of.

Friday, February 13, 2009

These things (Acts 5:32)

"The Church does not exist to entertain the masses. She is unequal to competitition with the theater. The Church does not exist to educate the masses; she must be interested in education, but this is not her supreme vocation. The Church exists to witness to "these things," the risen Christ, the crucified Christ, the enthroned Christ, the living and working Christ. The world does not want the Church. The Church cannot save the world. The world wants the things that the Church testifies of."

G. Campbell Morgan, Westminster Pulpit, v. 2, Ch. 21, p. 173 "Witnesses."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Do you know your gifts?

This Barna Update on Christians who understand or know their gifts is interesting. Our church a few years back used the Network program by Bruce Bugbee. I scored high in Wisdom and Prophecy and Administration (really didn't understand that one, but suspect is the librarian thing since that's what I did for a career). This part of the Barna Update was interesting:
    The survey also found that many people who say they have heard of spiritual gifts were not necessarily describing the same gifts outlined in the Bible. Among the gifts claimed that are not among those deemed to be spiritual gifts in the passages of scripture that teach about gifts (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7-13, 1 Peter 4:10-11) were a sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, compromise, premonition, creativity, and clairvoyance.

    In total, one-fifth of all the gifts cited by respondents (21%) were attributes that do not fit the biblical lists of gifts given by God.

Televangelism empire in financial trouble

Story at One News Now.
    Once one of the nation's most popular televangelists, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller is watching his life's work crumble.

    His son and recent successor, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, has abruptly resigned as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. The shimmering, glass-walled megachurch is home to the "Hour of Power" broadcast, an evangelism staple that's been on the air for more than three decades.

    The church is in financial turmoil: It plans to sell more than $65 million worth of its Orange County property to pay off debt. Revenue dropped by nearly $5 million last year, according to a recent letter from the elder Schuller to elite donors. In the letter, Schuller Sr. implored the Eagle's Club members - who supply 30 percent of the church's revenue - for donations and hinted that the show might go off the air without their support.

    "The final months of 2008 were devastating for our ministry," the 82-year-old pastor wrote. Link.
Churches need to be built on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Not the personality of the pastor.

Story from OC Register on ouster of Schuller's son in October.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

When editing scripture makes no sense

If you read the passage 1 John 4:9-12, the passage makes perfect sense, because it is the Gospel
    9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
However, if you leave out verses 9-10, the cross and the atonement, then 11-12 (edited down) don't mean a lot. There's no clue in the edited version about what God did to show his love (so loved us). Here's how this passage appears in a parent newsletter from our church
    "Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other . . . If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us."
By clipping and editing, the writers of the newsletter have turned this passage on its head, putting a works spin on it, the exact opposite of its meaning. Essentially they say, anyone without Jesus is OK with God, just as long as they are loving. But is that what this passage says?

This isn't a children's newsletter, it is a parents' newsletter. Parents bringing their children to a Christian church should be able to cope with what Paul calls "the stumbling block of the cross," or "the scandal of the cross," or "the offense of the cross." (Galatians 5:11). The cross is the center of the Christian religion. It was offensive and absurd to the Jews Paul was referring to, and unfortunately, many who go by the name of Christian today still find it offensive, or at least try to hide it in the closet, lest someone else find it so. Jesus didn't go to the cross because he was a great moral teacher or led protests against the Roman government or tried to free slaves or instituted a local healing program for his followers. It was because of our sin, and this was God's solution for it.

The name and source of the newsletter is theParentLink, from Erie Christian Fellowship in Erie, PA

Monday, February 02, 2009

Good Sam, the snowman

The street was clear; the side walk slope into the church was clear. But the snow and ice had settled in the trough where street, curb and side walk meet. As I left the Lytham Road parking lot after church I heard the scrape-crunch of shovel against concrete. A man had pulled up, turned on his flashers, opened the trunk and pulled out a shovel. He cleared that dangerous spot, then put the shovel back in his van, and drove off. Maybe he was a member of the church; maybe a passer-by who stopped to help.