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Showing posts with label The Truth As Far As I Can Tell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Truth As Far As I Can Tell. Show all posts

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell... Openness

Matthew 27:51 – At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 

In ancient Jerusalem, the High Priest was the only person who could approach God in the holiest place of the Temple.  A curtain kept everyone else out.  However, Jesus granted full access to God’s presence to anyone who wants it when he died on the cross for our sins.  At his death, an earthquake split the Temple curtain completely in two.  Now everyone may come into God’s presence through Jesus Christ.

We changed the code to the church door recently.  Please call the church office if you need it.  Does anyone remember when we started locking church doors?  It must have been before I was born in 1974.  Doors have been locked for as long as I can remember.  I have talked to some older church members who remember times when church doors weren’t locked.  People could come in whenever they wanted.  It’s kind of sad that those days are gone, isn’t it?  Today, we even keep the church doors locked when the office is open.  People have to ring a doorbell so the church secretary can check to see if it’s safe to let them in.  That’s the world we live in—a place where we need to keep our homes, our cars, and even our churches locked up tight.
I think some churches go too far though.  I was driving the other day and missed my turn.  I saw a church and decided to turn around in their parking lot, but I had to slam on the brakes as I turned in because they had a chain across the entrance.  I almost hit the chain with my car!  There were two entrances to that church parking lot and both were chained off!  I guess they really don’t want people in their parking lot!  Now what does it say to people that you chain off the parking lot of your church? (And no, I checked and that church was not out of business.) 
We try to strike a good balance at Pleasant Grove UMC.  We recognize the unfortunate necessity of keeping our doors locked, but we also wish to be as accessible as possible.  Our code lock is a good compromise.  The code lock helps us to keep the building secure and also allows us to grant access to trusted people.  Furthermore, we can change the code from time to time just in case the code may have gotten into the wrong hands. 
Now, we are never going to be as secure as a bank and I don’t think we should.  We’re not a bank.  We are a church.  Our goal is to be reasonably safe and secure, while still offering access.  Access is vital.  I mean come on, the slogan of the United Methodist Church is:  “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.”
Seriously, Pleasant Grove is not some exclusive place where only a few families or a small group of leaders have access.  Everyone is welcome.  Everyone is encouraged to participate.  Everyone is invited to come.  While we will do our best to keep our facility secure, we must also insist on an attitude of openness.  PGUMC is for everyone, just as Jesus is for everyone.  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell… 

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Truth About Tithing...

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Luke 11:42 - “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 

Jesus talked about money a lot.  He talked about money more than He did Heaven and Hell combined.  11 out of 39 of Jesus’ parables talk about money.  1 out of every 7 verses in the Gospel of Luke refer to money.  Apparently, Jesus knew money was a very important aspect of our spiritual lives.  The way we manage our money is a symptom of our spiritual health.

In Luke 11:42, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for ignoring justice and the love of God, but he affirms their practice of tithing.  Jesus recognized the Biblical standard of giving.  A person should give a tithe, which is 10% of their income (see Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30, 32). 

Today, 9 out of 10 people that go to church do not tithe.  Some people say they tithe (meaning they give money to the church), but they don’t really give 10% of their income.  The median household income in America is a little over $50,000 a year.  So in order to tithe, the average person would need to give about $5,000 a year to the church (or about $100 per week).  Most people do not; therefore, they do not tithe.  They give an offering, but not a tithe.

Some argue that they don’t have to give money because they give their time instead.  That’s twisting what the Bible says, but I’ll play along to make a point.  If you want to give 10% of your time, you would need to volunteer at the church for 16 hours and 48 minutes each week.  If you’d like to do that, I can put you to work! 
            There are other arguments people make to excuse not giving as much as the Bible instructs, but all this misses a bigger point.  Jesus doesn’t want what you have.  Jesus wants you!  Jesus doesn’t want just 10% of your income or your time.  Jesus wants your whole heart.  And if you surrender your heart to Him, you will surrender everything else.  You will stop asking questions like, “How much time, money, obedience, do I have to give?”  You will have an attitude that honors justice and the love of God.  You will ask, “How much can I give?  How much can I honestly justify keeping for myself?”  For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. (Mt. 6:21)

            People who join as members of Pleasant Grove UMC make a promise to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witnesses.  It is not one or the other.  It’s all of the above.  Think how much good the church could do if every Christian started tithing?  Think of the wonderful children and youth programs we would have.  Think of the amazing music and worship services we could provide.  Think of how many needy people we could serve and how many lives we could change.  Think of the difference we could make if we all simply stepped up and gave a full tithe.

Here’s the thing though.  It wouldn’t just help the church.  It would help you.  Our selfish attitudes (about sin, money, gratitude, giving, etc.) only change through practice.  Giving a tithe is like spiritual push ups.  It builds your faith muscles.  Why don’t you start building yours today?  I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but I believe in God’s Word and I trust in His Grace.  And that’s the Truth as far as I can tell… 

God loves you and so do I!