Saturday, December 31, 2011

62.8 Million Can't Be Wrong

If you are leading a volunteer workforce, you are in good company.  The US Department of Labor reported that this past year (ending September 2011) that there were 62.8 million people that were actively volunteering in some organization. These people came from all walks of life, all economic classes, some college, some not, all races, both genders, young and old.

On average they spent about 52 hours in the past year volunteering, about one hour a week.

While you may not remember all these numbers, remember the "one hour a week".

Studies have shown that in about an hour, the average volunteer can be fully trained to perform the job for which they are assigned.  The church jobs that volunteers fill range from some simple jobs like handing out the weekly bulletin or folding chairs to more complex tasks like supervising a nursery or leading worship.

What is unfortunate is that all too often, we don't give these volunteers the one hour of training that they need.  This is unfortunate because the church is one big volunteer-run organization.  Since the day of Pentecost, the vast majority of the leaders in the Church have been volunteers.  Volunteers provide the invitation, the hospitality, the teaching, the training, the development and also the governance of most churches.

When training is inadequate, volunteers don't get the opportunity to fully understand the importance of their role.  Without proper training they can't lead and without leadership the mission suffers.

Fortunately the best people to do the training is volunteers.  We just need to give them the opportunity and let them know it is a priority; let them find the one-hour to train.  Let them lead.....62.8 million can't be wrong.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why God?

We all want to ask the question, “Why God?” when we find trials, tribulations and suffering.  The Bible makes it clear however that when (not if) we are in difficult situations we are not to think that God may be unfaithful or uncaring but we are to look to Him for guidance and strength.  Jesus was a man of suffering yet His circumstances never dictated neither His attitude nor His mission. Peter the Apostle, who also knew suffering said we are to follow the example of Jesus:

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps: He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)

All too often, our theology is bad. We believe somehow that only good things happen to Godly people and that bad things happen only to the ungodly. Neither experience nor the Bible provides any support for that supposition.  The New Testament records instances where people that were poor or blind or crippled were thought to be cursed by God. Jesus didn’t agree with their theology and brought relief and sight and healing.

Oswald Chambers, the missionary and author of “My Utmost for His Highest” wrote about this.  He said, “Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds.

We often hear about the “time in the desert” but none of us like that journey. At the same time, our faith is constantly being worked out and often we will experience times of testing and trial.  Trials often come independent of discipline that the Lord brings.  The Bible tells us that “Lord disciplines those he loves” (Hebrews 12:6) and I love the very next verse where we are told to accept “hardship as discipline.”  

The writer of Hebrews doesn’t say that the hardship we are going through is actually the Lord’s discipline but our response is to be the same.  We run to Jesus, we humble ourselves and submit to His will for our lives.  At the same time we rejoice as the Apostle James said, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:3-4)

Likely the person most associated with suffering and trials in the Bible was Job.  Job lost everything yet he didn't sin against God.  In Chapter 19:25 Job comments, "I know that my Redeemer  lives and in the end He will stand upon the earth".  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Be Effective; Efficiency is over-rated

Our primary objective should always be to be effective.  Take a look at the dictionary definition of what it means to be effective:  To be adequate to accomplish the purpose; producing the intended and expected result; producing a deep or vivid impression; prepared and available for service.

This definition looks like exactly what we are to be about in ministry.   All too often we strive for efficiency at the expense of being effective.  In ministry, and particularly in our large churches, too much of an emphasis on efficiency can take something that is to be very personal and very hands-on and make it very impersonal and distant.

The church is told to "make disciples".  Jesus demonstrated that one of the ways to be effective in developing disciples was to actually spend three years with just twelve of them.   Jesus and his disciples were together in the desert, on the mountains, in boats during the storm and through some difficult times.

Often there may be short cuts we can embrace but typically while we may be convinced we are being efficient, we aren't necessarily effective.  I lived in Mexico for almost three years and I learned that particularly in Latin America, developing relationships takes time.  It takes time and effective leadership that allows us to transfer skills and a passion for people.  To effectively train and disciple others we need to provide feedback, offer suggestions and demonstrate support.

If our objective in ministry is to train and develop others that are to become effective in ministry then we are following the Biblical mandate.  Christ gave us (who are called to lead in ministry) "to equip His people people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Eph 4:12) 

Now that's being effective!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 90/10 Solution

I always smile when I hear someone that claims they are giving it 150 percent.

I certainly understand why they are making the claim, they are trying to communicate clearly that they are extending every effort to accomplish a task.

Most of us understand that 150 percent is arguably impossible. One of the things I teach as well is that 100 percent is also not a good objective when it comes to church processes, procedures and systems. A more reasonable objective is to achieve 90 percent of what is desired as the additional effort to achieve it all requires a huge expenditure of resources, both capital (money) as well as time that can be better used on other endeavors. In fact studies have shown that often 90 percent of the desired result can be accomplished with as little as 10 percent of the effort: A 90/10 solution.

Let’s assume that you are leading a church that is looking into a computer system that has capabilities that include children check-in, small groups, membership, giving and volunteer tracking. Being a good leader you assemble the heads of various ministries, announce to them that you are going to be purchasing and/or developing a new system that handles the handful of tasks you have already identified and invite them to become a member of the selection and implementation team.

After a few meetings, the newly assembled team now has some very specific requirements that includes all of the above plus: historical giving information, archived membership information, a social-media interface that provides both Twitter and Facebook updates, a project management system, the ability to track an unlimited number of designated funds, the ability to record prayer requests, track class registration, import and display family and individual photos and another twenty or so desirable attributes.

If the team was actually insistent about achieving all of their objectives including a desire for the resulting system to be so flexible that anything forgotten can be easily added on in the future, they would find that the cost of implementing the 100 percent solution would be extremely expensive. 

However, if they selected a solution that would hit the ground running and provide 90 percent of all of the desired attributes, the costs would be about 10 percent of the 100 percent solution.

It is actually pretty simple to understand that the first 90 percent of almost any project can be accomplished or implemented with about 10 percent of the effort. This applies not only to church computer systems but also decisions that we make on a daily basis. A chef may take a trip to his favorite market possibly in a different city to select exactly the right cut for a dinner party while those of us with more modest expectations can stop at the local grocery store and find something already cut, packaged and priced at a much lower cost.

This 90/10 approach also applies to church construction, video and audio equipment, furnishings and publications. It is much better stewardship of resources to understand that being able to provide a 90 percent solution is not only much more economical but also allows other projects, ideas and ministry wishes to be considered and funded.

Give 100 percent to those things that are clearly directed by the Lord. Do 100 percent discipleship, encourage 100 percent unity, and develop 100 percent parents. Do more ministry by embracing a 90/10 solution for those things that are desired but not needed.

Reprint from Church Executive Magazine September 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011


"Can't we all just get along" (quote by Rodney King) seems to be the sentiment that comes from the c-o-e-x-i-s-t symbols, bumper stickers and signs that are becoming common today regarding different world religions.

The answer to that question is likely 'yes' and 'no'.

Yes, in our multi-cultural, pluralist society, we should all get along when it comes to respecting the laws, providing equal access and living peacefully with each other. However, if coexisting and getting-along is something more than agreeing to be lawful or peaceful, when tolerance becomes something that requires a person to change their own personal beliefs and practices, then the adherents of coexist are actually encouraging intolerance.

This C-O-E-X-I-S-T symbol is very telling if people truly understand the religious that are represented. These symbols, arranged in a clever way to spell 'coexist' represent Islam, Buddhism, Science, Judaism, Paganism, Wicca and Christianity.

First of all, I love it that science is finally represented as a religion. For years people that have come to the conclusion that this universe, all of creation and all life on this planet are the obvious result of the Divine, have been discredited by the religion of science. We know science must be a religion for it takes much more faith to believe in cosmological chance and coincidence than to believe in a Creator.

My issue with C-O-E-X-I-S-T isn't as much with science as it is with other religions that clearly worship another god. This became very important to me recently, which I'll explain.

In the Qur'an, Allah is never described as 'father' and true Muslims wouldn't refer to Allah as their father. The Qur'an says that Allah has no son, there is no Holy Spirit and that 72 virgins are awaiting the righteous.

Wicca is a pagan religion that worships the Horned God and the Triple Goddess. While there are many different sects and beliefs, they are altogether the antithesis of our Christian culture. Paganism may not be Satanism but it is still earth-centered. Christianity is Kingdom-centered as we are 'aliens and strangers in this world' (1 Peter 2:11).

Buddhism and Hinduism are groupings of eastern religion that have much in common with each other but little in common with the teachings of Jesus. Both embrace reincarnation or transmigration. On the other hand, Christianity and Judaism embrace the unique creation of man, molded in the image of God.

None of these other religions can appreciate the Biblical understanding of our sin nature, our need for a Savior nor our access to a heavenly Father.

As I mentioned, recently I had to address this issue of coexist. I was invited to participate in an interfaith prayer service. I love to be able to pray at a public gathering and love the unity of the Body of Christ but had to decline this invitation. The prayer service included not only Christians but also a Rabbi. I have no issues with Rabbis and since Jesus was also considered a Rabbi and Rabbis worship the same God, I can pray with a Rabbi.

However, I declined to participate in this particular interfaith prayer service as an Imam would also be praying and reading from the Qu'ran. I didn't see anyone listed that would be reading from the Bible (likely an oversight) but I knew that an Imam couldn't possibly be offering a prayer to the same God that the Christians and Jews acknowledge.

My mission as a Christ-follower is to bring clarity and not confusion. My participation would have left the wrong impression on some people that were in attendance. Light cannot coexist with darkness; we cannot serve two masters. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:11, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."

Coexist...absolutely. Pray for them to come to the knowledge of the way, the truth and the light......daily!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Committees don't work

It doesn't surprise me at all that the 'Super-Committee' that was suposed to be coming up with a way to shave $1.5 billion from the national deficit is going to fail. This bi-partisan Congressional committee was doomed from the start.

Committees usually fail.

It has been said that a "Camel is a horse, designed by committee".

All too often, leaders that are undecided, faced with a difficult task and usually unwilling to make a decision will choose to delegate the decision making to committee. Committees, by definition, require a group. They are subordinate to the governing body or leader that appointed them and because the decisions, recommendations and findings are the responsibility of the group and not any individual, personal accountability is avoided.

Many are familiar with the phrase "Death by Committee". In order to avoid major problems in decision making here are three short pieces of advice:

1) Avoid forming, serving on and embracing committees. If deliberation and investigation is necessary, make it the responsibility of one person who can assemble a team to carry the load.

2) Don't confuse collaboration with the need for a committee. Teams often collaborate and all good leaders are collaborative. Collaboration adds value.

3) Make the hard decisions and own them. Difficult decisions are unpopular but that is when true leaders step forward to move organizations and movements forward.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Outside the Box

Thinking outside the box has gone full circle. From introduction, to use, and's now looked at again as likely a requirement for success.

Maybe twenty years or so it was thought that a person that was able to 'think outside the box' was able to approach problems in unique, new and very innovative ways. The phrase 'outside the box' ultimately became a cliche. Every business, school, church and organization was trying to think outside the box. Taco Bell even encouraged us to 'think outside the bun'.

I didn't know what the big deal was. I had the well-earned reputation of 'LIVING outside the box but visiting it occasionally'.

However, just like all good ideas, the opportunity for re-use is worth the effort. Today, our churches and ministries are finding very creative ways to reinvent the way they minister. When you consider that the move to nondenominational churches started over thirty years ago and that Mega-Churches have been around about the same amount of time, and that 'Purpose Driven' was first published in 1995, it's likely that it may be time to sense or create a new movement.

Start with the end in mind. What is it that is limiting your success in reaching people, of fulfilling your piece of the Great Commission? Have you considering truly changing the methods while keeping the message? If you are thinking that 'Church' is your box, start thinking 'Kingdom' and perhaps you'll find new creative ways to fulfill your calling.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Ask Why?

I've learned the hard way that it's better to ask sometimes even embarrassing questions than to have less than a full understanding of a situation.

There is an old story that is worth repeating. There was a young girl that was watching her mom prepare a large ham for Easter and saw her mom cut the end off of the ham before putting it in the roasting pan. She asked her mom why she cut off the end and the mom answered, "That the way my mother always made it". Grandma soon visited and the young girl decided to ask grandma why she cut the end off the ham before she baked it and grandma said, "that's the only way it would fit into the pan".

Perhaps you have found that asking, "why?" is really the key in unlocking many secrets and wisdom that otherwise would go unfound.

In the Book of Proverbs, there is a lot of advice about asking questions, about getting good counsel before making decisions. It's likely that Proverbs 12:15 sums it up in saying, "Fools think they are doing right, but the wise listen to advice."

Questions are great ways to find out about people, to get instruction, to find out what people really are thinking and to correct misconceptions we have about many things.

There was a time when I had to rely on asking questions in managing and leading others. When I first arrived in Mexico in 1997 I barely knew the language, the laws and the customs. I had to ask lots of questions in order to be helpful and encouraging. It taught me to continually ask questions as a way of leading others and leading myself as well.

Why ask 'why'? Ask 'why' if you are interested in being wise, particularly if you are interested in people and always when you want to be helpful.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Game of Life

I have grandkids now that give me a great excuse to play board games again.

Have you looked at the Game of Life lately?

I'm talking about the board game. It's been updated and for a game that originally came out in 1860, its popularity is pretty amazing. You get married, have kids, get a job and hopefully end up in "Millionaire Acres".
Kind of like what most people think of the real game of life. In any game, there are rules (these tell us how to play) and an objective (how we win). In the Milton Bradley version you take turns, do what the card tells you to do and ultimately end up at the destination.

In the real game of life, the Creator has told us what the rules are. Jesus summarized them as just two: Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Just two rules! Two rules that are pretty simple to remember but not so simple to follow.
However, the objective is not 'Millionaire Acres' but eternal life with our heavenly father. The key to this objective and the entire principle of the game of life however is not the destination but how we play.

By loving God first, with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we find and serve in the many opportunities to love our neighbor. The Bible says very clearly that the destination has already been provided in Christ. It's by accepting His love for us that was demonstrated by His sacrifice on Calvary, we enter into eternal life.

Now that’s a game that is worth playing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Content or Complacent?

The conversation this morning at our men's group was about the headlines of today's newspapers that highlighted Economic Woes, Debt Crisis in Europe, US Debt Crisis. I made a passing comment that I refuse to worry about these global issues. Not worrying is just the beginning, I practice the art of being content. I love my job and my church, my wife and I have a great relationship. These are just a few of the reasons for my contentment.

Later, I was challenged that perhaps I am too complacent. I was challenged that maybe I should be discontent with the status quo and become a part of the solution, both politically as well as socially. I certainly see some value in being a part of the solution. However, the pastor in me had to state that the scriptures clearly say that as believers, we are to be content. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, "it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind." Also the Apostle Paul said to the Philippians that he "learned the secret of being content when he had much as well as when he had very little."

Still, I wondered about this idea of being too complacent.

I think the key difference between the two adjectives, content and complacent is the God factor.
Let's look at the definitions of the two words. To be content is to be satisfied with what is or has; not wanting or striving more for anything else. To be complacent is to be pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, often without awareness of some potential danger or defect. (reference:

To know God is to know we mortals are defective, we are broken. We have a sin nature and constantly struggle with self. We also know that it is not our merits that matter, it is all about God. Particularly, it is the completed work of Christ that sets us free and gives us contentment. When we understand, embrace and model this attitude we reflect Godliness.

It is the God factor that gives us Godliness.

And we know that Godliness with contentment is great gain (2 Timothy 6:6)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Those who can do.....TEACH!

You have likely heard the saying, "Those who can't, teach".

I've never liked that saying. As an occasional teacher at various levels, church, corporate, profit, nonprofit and educational, including undergraduate and graduate, I thought it was not true regarding my colleagues and hopefully not true of me as well.

Over the years, I've become even more certain that the opposite is actually true. For those that consider themselves leaders, people that influence and provide encouragement, guidance and inspiration, it is imperative to understand that you need to be able to teach.

Everyone can discover their teachable point of view. This teachable point of view is how leaders develop leaders. It is often said that the true test of leadership is how well life goes on when you are no longer the one that is leading.

Personally, I've had mixed results. There have been times when I felt that even a relatively short amount of time that I've had to develop leaders actually left a lasting imprint. Things including people, processes and organizations were forever (at least for the foreseeable future) changed. I was able to look back at my short tenure and smile, knowing that I had not only led but taught and developed other leaders that were able to carry on.

Other times, I had no sooner moved on to a new assignment, a new town or a new organization and everything that I thought I had accomplished returned to the state it was before I ever engaged. It's sad but true and sometime disheartening but very few can claim a perfect record.

I've learned from those times however. I don't necessarily have to think of them as mistakes as much as they were lessons learned. When I have the opportunity I develop a stronger and more determined resolve to not only 'do' but 'teach' others so that they have the opportunity to learn from my experiences both good and bad.

I want to be one that not only can do....but also teach.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three Minutes of Stewardship

A little bit of intentionality goes a long way.

Most churches are very intentional. The worship set is typically planned out days if not weeks ahead of the service. The sermon is prepared, often practiced and reviewed. The message is so intentional that it is often a part of a sermon series that has been carefully planned and coordinated into a cohesive teaching season. Even the announcements have been planned to maximize important upcoming events. The bulletin, sermon notes and other weekend preparations are all very intentional.

And then comes the offering.

Typically, the offering is three minutes of random musings, some thoughtful prayer offered at the end of the announcements and the ushers come forward.

The offering can actually be a very powerful and rewarding time for all when it is carefully planned and intentionally delivered. With the right amount in intentionality the time for the offering can become, "Three minutes of Stewardship."

It’s often mentioned that Jesus spoke more about money and giving than heaven and hell combined. This is true; for example, 11 of his 39 parables talk about money in some manner.

Throughout the New Testament, there are a number of principles that are related to stewardship. Just to name a few there is the principle of “storing up your treasure in heaven” (Matthew 6:20), “being trustworthy with worldly wealth” (Luke 16:11), “more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).

Taking the three minutes spent setting up the offering and intentionally teaching one of these reoccurring stewardship principles can transform a local church. Instead of treating the offering as the transition between the announcements and the sermon, three-minutes-of-stewardship introduces one of the most important components of personal worship, teaches biblical principles that cut to the heart of who is Lord of all, and trains new disciples how to not trust in uncertain riches but to trust in the Living God (1 Timothy 6:17).

Over a short period of time, the three-minutes-of-stewardship becomes a powerful weekly reminder that giving is not about meeting the financial needs of the church but a simple and consistent method to keep our hearts aligned with God.

Teaching stewardship for three minutes doesn’t seem like a long time and it isn’t. It is however, plenty of time to introduce one important Biblical principle. Over a number of weeks, the most applicable verses on stewardship can be shared.

In just three months, the three minutes add up to more than an entire 30-minute sermon on how we become true disciples when we understand the manner in which God wants us to honor him with our entire life, including our uncertain riches.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Great Wealth Transfer

I was recently talking with a good friend who served as a pastor for a number of years and is now working with various Christian organizations and churches on planned giving, estate planning and capital campaigns.

One of the facts that he shared with me is something that is hard to fully understand. Many estate planning experts point to a study by Boston College that estimated that more than $40 trillion will be transferred from one generation to the next generation in the coming years.

Considering that charities including churches in the United States receive just over $300 billion annually from all sources, being able to participate in some of the planned-giving piece of that transfer would be a game changer.

There are a number of organizations, both for-profit as well as not-for-profit, who provide estate planning seminars and advice. In the church however we have one great advantage and that is that we can offer those that have the opportunity to give or participate in planned-giving a Kingdom perspective.

The early church certainly had a Kingdom perspective. In the Book of Acts, we see the beginnings of the church. After Pentecost, the gospel of the Kingdom was spoken by the Apostles with much boldness. Then in Chapter 4:32-37 of Acts we read about Barnabas, originally called Joseph:
"Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And the apostles were giving testimony with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed for each person's basic needs.
Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

This is the first time we hear of Barnabas, he went on to be one of the great leaders of the early church. Barnabas was a partner on many of Paul’s missionary journeys and is called an Apostle later in the same book of Acts.

Barnabas sold a field he owned and gave the money to the Apostles. He took a non-liquid asset, a piece of real-estate that may not have been producing income, and turned it into a tangible gift for the ministry.

Gifts to ministry may or may have a tax benefit but they always provide a benefit to the Kingdom. In addition, we can clearly say that gifts given to the church, given to the various para-church nonprofit organizations are all given “unto the Lord”.

Just one example of the Kingdom connection in giving is in the story of the Widows mite; the story of the women that gave two small copper coins. If you recall the widow’s mite, Jesus commended the widow for giving “all that she had”, which Jesus said was more than anyone else had given, though their gifts were more substantial. Jesus commended the woman while at the same time, and as recorded in just the previous chapter of Mark, He severely criticized the temple moneychangers telling them they had turned the Temple into a “den of robbers”.

Keeping a Kingdom focus enabled a man called Joseph, also called Barnabas, the son of Encouragement, to transfer a non-liquid asset, part of his estate, into a gift for the advancement of gospel. Keeping a Kingdom focus not only benefited the early church but took a man named Joseph, also called Barnabas, the son of encouragement and enabled him to become an Apostle of the Lamb.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Belle Glade 2011

This past week, about 450 students and 100 volunteers have been living in Belle Glade, making an impact on the community. In addition, another 100 or more volunteers have been making sandwiches, preparing over 1700 meals daily. It's a big effort but the need is big as well.

These middle and high school students will spend a week of their summer vacation in Belle Glade making a positive impact on the community. Students will participate in projects to beautify the city and will participate in other community service projects. There will be a sports camp and Vacation Bible School for the kids in the community.

One of the great developments in the past few years is the partnership with the City of Belle Glade and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department. These government agencies along with local area churches help rally the community support. This year, we are anticipating that we will be distributing school supplies on our last day to over 700 students. During the week, our VBS program will be reaching 100-135 students. Students are helping to clean up our new Ministry Center, a 18,000 sq. ft. open building in the middle of the city. Cleaning out old tiles, pieces of wall board and hundreds of bags of debris will make room for ministry to the community in the near future.

Watch the video:

The Belle Glade Ministry project is a joint project of Christ Fellowship's Life Mission Department, our Student Ministries and our Children's Ministry that had the opportunity to do some advance work in the community with the 4th and 5th grade students and have been collecting school supplies for the community. Our youth leaders and pastors put on a 're-cap' every night, I've included one from Day Three (above).

I had the opportunity today to talk with Belle Glade Commissioner William Greer who has a great heart for the community. He was born in Belle Glade, served over 20 years in the Marines and is now back to make a difference in the town that his dad once served as Mayor.

Partnerships with the local community will help the Church succeed where others have failed. Please pray for our students and for the difference they will make in the community of Belle Glade. These students will have the opportunity to impact our world with the love and message of Jesus Christ - everyone. everyday. everywhere.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Rule, not the Exception

Many of you have heard the story of the Rich Young Ruler. The story is found in three of the four Gospels. (Mark 10:17-25; Luke 18:18-25; Matt 19:16-24). I believe if it is told once it’s important, if it is told three times, it’s critical that we pay attention to the story.

Here is how it goes. We’ll use the story out of Mark 10:

The Rich Young Ruler

As He (Jesus) was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call Me good?" Jesus asked him. "No one is good but One-God.

You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother."

He said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth."

Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, "You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

So they were even more astonished, saying to one another, "Then who can be saved?"

Looking at them, Jesus said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God."

Some will say that Jesus says this because the man was very unique and that he was looking to the law, trying to earn his salvation. Some will say that the idea of the man being told to give up everything he had to follow Jesus was the exception, not the rule.

I doubt that is the main reason for this passage. I believe, these verses are not about the exception but the rule. Let’s look again at the passage and find FIVE RULES that Jesus emphasizes

  1. LIVE A MORAL LIFE – Jesus said, “You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother." It is the moral code that provides the guidelines for ourselves, our families and our society. This has been the foundation of the Jewish and Christian communities; these are those guidelines that have been given to us by our Creator.

    These moral guidelines are also the bedrock of this nation. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

  2. JESUS LOVES US! We are His creation. He loves us unconditionally. At this time every good religious Jew was trying to earn salvation by works. Jesus points out this very clearly with Nicodemus. You need to be born again, a new work via the Holy Spirit.

  3. FORESAKE ALL ELSE: giving to the poor, giving up everything to follow Jesus, having treasure in heaven is the rule….Jesus mentions these often:

    "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes, even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26-27).

    "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33)

    "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:44-46).

    "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 9:24).

    "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:33)

  4. Jesus say’s FOLLOW ME: This is not an empty challenge but the opportunity for a great reward. Jesus had said it earlier to some fisherman: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

  5. Finally…ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD. Jesus was challenged by His disciples.Jesus had made the comparison of a camel going through the eye of a needle to a rich man entering the Kingdom of God, and the disciples wanted to know then who could be saved? Jesus assures them however that with God, all things are possible. Jesus would soon be entering Jerusalem to pay a price that He didn’t owe, to pay a debt that we couldn’t pay. All things are possible with God.

The Real Virus Is Fear

There is a virus that is attacking and ravaging this country but it is not Covid-19.   It is fear.  This fear is being spread by people ...