Friday, March 19, 2010

Open Up in the Name of the King!

In medieval times a loud banging on the door followed by the above phrase would evoke sudden fear or at least worry. Your first thoughts may have been that a Musketeer was outside coming to fetch you to debtor’s prison because of the current financial crisis.

The last thing you would expect is your neighbor using that phrase to make you come out and move your oxcart from in front of their driveway or even the Musketeer asking to borrow some money.

Everyone knew that the only legal reason someone could invoke the king’s name was that they were on the king’s business, and any other use of his name was illegal and might land your head in the stocks or even worse, in a basket.

This medieval example came to mind recently while I was considering how some Christians use the phrase “in Jesus’ name” as some sort of blanket incantation to make their oftentimes selfish or even bizarre requests come to pass. They later suffer shipwreck in their faith when the formula doesn’t work.

However, asking something in Jesus’ name is very powerful when the person who is asking is a servant of the same King and is also on an errand for the King. Any other use of His name is basically spiritual corruption.

When we use Jesus’ name the doors that we are knocking on are the nations and the hearts of mankind. The doors that we close are those that lead to or allow evil. Along the way it is quite safe for us to ask for personal provisions to support us. Musketeers called this a per diem, and Christians call this, “Our Daily Bread.”

It is also safe to use God’s name as did soon to be King David when he stood before the intimidating Goliath, but it is extremely unsafe to use it when we don’t personally know Jesus as in the case of the seven sons of Sceva. Acts 19:11-17

We should never abandon the authority that we have as believers, but the church would find herself in much better shape and amply supplied if she only used the King’s name while on the King’s errand, namely the Great Commission.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 1 Jn 5:14,15

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Best Offering Message Ever

All Christians who are serious about advancing the gospel know that it requires money, and the bigger the vision the more money that is needed. Some things of course should never be funded especially when it is really someone’s personal ambition being promoted in the name of God.

However, when we consider the unreached and uncared-for millions of souls on this planet it becomes easier to divide the good goals from the bad ones. Once we determine how much money we need and what we need it for we then have to find out how to get it, and from the very beginning of Judeo-Christian history that method has been the offering.

My first understanding of the offering from childhood was when a group of men wearing the same color sport jackets came to the front of the church during a certain song, prayed, picked up shinny brass or silver plates and then proceeded to follow a simple crisscross choreography of passing those plates from front to back as people dropped in change, checks or envelopes.

My next exposure to the offering was basically the same thing, but this time there were no matching coats, and someone actually taught on the principles of giving. But the more I became exposed to other churches and movements, the more I noticed that some leaders spent quite a bit of time trying to motivate people to give.

Great incentives and many promises of God’s generous reciprocity were used to pry the needed sum from people who were not convinced or motivated enough to give. “Don’t worry, you will get it all back.” was the usual statement to soften the blow of giving. Oftentimes the pressure was greatest and the message longest when the reason for giving was in doubt. You know: theme parks, golden faucets and a faster jet.

The worst offering message I ever heard was from a woman who for some reason altered her voice to sound like a cat in torment when she took the microphone. She screamed some unintelligible hyper-something message for 5-10 minutes. Of course I knew that she was mimicking another screaming-cat preacher that she had seen on TV, and they both probably lost their voices.

But then there is the best offering message I have ever heard, and it went something like this:

“If Christians really understood the pearl of great price there would be no need for long messages on giving.” Wow, that was short!

This phrase resonated in me and still does. This is not only the motivation to give, but it tells us what we should give to. We might get something back, but then again we might not. We can definitely be sure of one thing. If we give something of value then someone else in need will receive something of value. And yes, God will take care of us and meet our needs along the way.

The pearl of great price – and if you haven’t guessed by now it is Jesus - is also the motivation to give one’s life to advancing God’s kingdom either where you are or to go where you are needed. Jesus because of love gave all that He had to get what He valued, us. If we also give because of love others will get what we value, Him. Is there really any other motivation to give?

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matt 13:45,46

for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:21