Sunday, August 05, 2012

God's Blessings are Conditional

I wonder if watching the Olympics is as much fun in some of the other countries. 

The US, China, the United Kingdom, Korea, France, German and a handful of other countries are winning most of the events. 

Gabby Douglas, the 16 year old nicknamed the 'flying squirrel" won the Gold in the gymnastics all-round and became the first African-American gymnast to be an olympic champion.    She testified of her accomplishments, "I give all the glory to God.  It's kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me". 

Blessings from God.....but conditional on commitment, performance and perseverance. 

The US swim team has dominated this Olympics, winning a majority of the events.  Michael Phelps with his record 22 medals continues to amaze all of us with his accomplishments.  Phelps was a product of a huge United States competitive swimming program that trains young people and provides opportunities for them to test themselves and compete on a national level.  Phelps starting swimming at age 7.  He has parents that supported him and encouraged him and he had a personal coach, a special diet and a scholarship to the University Michigan that provides an environment of academic and athletic excellence. 

In the very first verses of Deuteronmy 28 God says, "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God twill set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.

Are we carefully observing all His commandments?   Just as these Olympians carefully listed to their coach we need to listen to what the Word of God says to us today.   These accomplished athletes, competing at the highest international venue have dedicated their very lives to their cause.   Their discipline to embrace those things that benefit the cause and avoid those things that are a distraction was the reason for their success.  They have been blessed but their blessing was conditional upon their observing the voice and the words of their coach. 

What will it take for us to be blessed?   When will be be careful to observe all that He commands so that the blessings of God literally overtake us?   Then we will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. 


Saturday, August 04, 2012

But the Sabbath was made for man


Jesus helped clarify a lot about religion. We now know that it’s not about rules and regulations but about a relationship with God. Many times, the Pharisees criticized Jesus and His disciples, claiming they were breaking the rules including the Sabbath. He said to them “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Today, we continue to keep a vigilant watch over creeping legalism in our churches, as it’s easy for the symbol to replace the substance.

Our churches have gotten bigger!

As our churches have gotten bigger, we’ve added some new roles including the roles of the executive and administrative pastors.  Men and women who in addition to a calling to ministry also had extensive business training and experience filled these roles. They were instrumental in adding processes, systems and procedures that helped the church grow larger. Glass ceiling lids were broken as many churches grew beyond 500 and 1,000 to over 5,000 in attendance.

These new processes, systems and procedures came often from business and industry where multimillion-dollar budgets are common and where government and public scrutiny require exactness, full disclosure and a good paper trail.

A little bit of control goes a long way!

For years I’ve championed financial accountability, transparency and good governance for both nonprofits as well as churches.  At the same time, I’ve cautioned both nonprofits and churches to be careful to have only enough controls in place to provide proper management reporting and appropriate governance without being overburdened with time-consuming and expensive financial, system and procedural controls.

A little bit of control and procedure goes a long way.  Churches with a few million dollars or less in contributions and 40 to 50 employees should be cautious about embracing systems and controls designed for multimillion-dollar and multinational corporations.  Often there are compensating and more appropriate controls for these churches that don’t require the extensive and expensive systems.  Even smaller churches can still be managed very successfully with a little separation of duty and a simple spreadsheet.

The sayings of Jesus are ever appropriate, even in this situation.  The Church was not made for financial controls and systems, but financial controls and systems were made for the Church.

Reprinted from ChurchExecutive Magazine.  July 2012 http://churchexecutive.com/archives/but-the-sabbath-was-made-for-man

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