Sunday, March 25, 2007

Who Are you Listening To?

Who are you listening to and where are they getting their information? That is a great question isn't it? It's very important. You need to know.

Go to any American school and quiz the kids. Who invented Basketball? They'll say that Americans did. Ask them who invented the light bulb. They'll tell you that their text book says an American invented it. They'll even tell you Thomas Edison did it too. The fact of the matter is that "America's game" and "America's brightest idea" were both inventions of Canadians. Of course the text books don't mention that Henry Woodward, the Canadian who invented the lightbulb, ran out of development money and sold the pattent to Thomas Edison. People don't recite the fact that James Naismith was a Canadian who invented the game as a physical training technique. It's not that the facts are hard to find, they're just ignored. It's not that the people saying that Basketball is America's invention or Thomas Edison invented the light bulb are bad. It just makes it difficult to take a person seriously after being presented with the facts and then those facts are ignored anyway.

So it's obvious. The people controlling the flow of information to other people often tell them what they want them to hear and think. This serves some sort of purpose in the more grand scheme. The purposes may be for evil. The purposes may be for a perceived noble good as well. Nonetheless I see it happening. I don't think the Christian community has been exempt either.

Too many preachers, teachers and authors are missquoting, misrepresenting and misinterpreting the Bible for their own purposes. There I said it. At least that's my opinion. One preacher says poverty is a sin. Jesus said that "the poor you will have with you always." Another preacher says that God provided all of our healing for every disease. Jesus didn't even heal everyone. One author writes a book about "how many steps to do such and such" and Jesus simply says to believe. Case in point, at the last church I worked at on staff, a guest minister from another country said that "God has a special place in heaven for preachers. I really believe that." That made all of the ordinary folk feel great I'm sure. I'm sorry, but I have to politely ask him and the others saying these things, stop making this stuff up!

Let's bring this home to our churches. I even challenge you to put your own church to the test. Ministers across North America are telling us about our personal walk with God, our personal spiritual experience and our personal faith in God. Last time I read the New Testament there wasn't much that was personal about it. It was communal. The church is the eklesia of God. The church is the Body of Christ. It is a collective community of people of like faith, like beliefs with a shared experience. Jesus had twelve disciples. He was virtually never alone EXCEPT in his personal prayer times with God.

The teachings of a personal gospel fly in the face of almost everything Jesus stood for. Furthermore, the teachings of a personal faith gospel are bent toward making the Bible say what we want it to say to fit our personal beliefs. The teachings of a personal faith gospel allows us to relinquish our personal responsibility to one another. I challenge anyone to read the New Testament writings and tell me or anyone that its teachings are NOT about a community of faith. We, me, a minister, teacher or whomever, can't just make stuff up. While I'm not advising we all huddle into a gated community, I am admonishing all to be aware of who and what we are listening to.

Jesus said "my sheep hear my voice". I ask again, who are you listening to?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

God, Patent Pending

Ever watch Christian TV? Have you caught the latest teaching? Have you heard about the newest revelation? Perhaps you've read the latest book. Please understand I'm not being a cynic here. I'm as sincere as my eight year old daughter asking for ice cream. But have you noticed that there are all kinds of people telling us what God wants from us and what we should be doing? Is it me or are there some people out there, people of influence, seem to have a lock on God?

God, "patent pending". It seems sometimes that there are people in the religious world that would hold the proprietary rights to God. People who tell us what God thinks. People who tell us what we should think. All of this stuff unsubstantiated by any contextual scripture or any teaching of Jesus. I've lived long enough to see and hear some outlandish things in North American Christianity. It's not the ordinary God-seeking believer that does and says such things. It's the ones who seem to control what God is telling us or what we should think about him. In essence, they tell us what we want to hear.

Take for instance the minister who told America (and the world for that matter) that he needed to raise eight million dollars before March 1, 1987 for a medical missionary scholarship fund and if the money wasn't raised, God would "take him home". If you are familiar with the story, the money was raised, over a million coming from a gambling institution, and shortly thereafter the medical missionary scholarships ceased.

Then there is the case where a miracle-working faith healer was "found out". What was found was that all of his prophetic words of knowledge were fed through an earpiece from his wife in another room reading from a sheet of paper. What was on this paper were answers to people's questions prior to the evangelistic meeting. While he was telling people what "God was telling him" they were being lied to and were part of the act unknowingly.

If this isn't enough to raise an eyebrow, look at what else is common. The two examples listed above with countless others all boasted multiple millions of dollars in revenue each year. This revenue became properties, free houses, luxury cars, all things that "the ministry" furnished to them. As if "the ministry" owed them anything. So long as these people told the followers what they wanted to hear about them and God, they were willing to keep sending in the dollars.

Well, I won't go on about the lavish lifestyles of some ministers. Alot of people already know and virtually anyone can find out. I simply advise caution to the believer here. Be careful about whose dream your following. It's OK to wait, think about, substantiate and prove things. It's what the Berean believers did in the New Testament. They heard some new teaching about God and didn't just "buy in". Before you go and send in your dollars, and throw your support behind something, make sure that what the people are telling you is what God is saying is what he said in the pages of that Bible of yours. If it's not there, well, buyer beware.