Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ministry Musings 2009 - Cooperation & Conflict

Check out the last collection of ministry observations through my various Facebook status updates in 2009. The theme for this post is "Cooperation & Conflict"

"If your criticism is truly "constructive" then it should actually BUILD something besides your own point of view."

"If you truly Love the Gift Giver (God), you will Respect the Gift, and Honor the Gifted."

"One's opinion or influence in any endeavor should be based on the amount of effort and resources they are putting into it. Anybody can shout from the sideline, but not everyone is willing to get in the game.

"If you just don't have the time, energy, or initiative to fulfill a commitment, perhaps it's best to just let it go for the time being. It's not worth maintaining a meaningless title just to leave vital work (i.e. people's lives) undone."

"Before you ask for more, consider what you've made out of what you've already been given. Maybe you'll realize that your current level of progress has a lot more to do with your own initiative rather than the unfair treatment at the hands of others."

"Got a Judas in your life? Don't bother fighting him. Sooner or later, he'll hang himself."

elder todd

Ministry Musings 2009 - Calling & Commitment

Check out the second set of ministry observations revealed in 2009 through my various Facebook status updates. Theme for this post is "Calling & Commitment".

"Every so often, we all should take an assessment of ourselves and seek God to discover if we are doing what He's called us to do, where He's called us to do it."

"Not all servants can lead, but every true leader will be a servant."

"Don't be impressed or influenced by people who claim to be called but refuse to be led."

"David was a dedicated shepherd, renowned worshiper, fierce warrior, anointed and eventually crowned king....all by the age of 30. And nothing, not his father's initial snub, his brother's contempt, or even his own king's assault was able to hinder any of those accomplishments. Why? Because God's Will found a willing David."

"There is no weakness in submitting yourself to one who is called and chosen by God. It takes courage & strength to lead AND to follow."

"The "called" stay "on-call". For the truly called there's much more to serving God than Sunday service."

"Excellence. Period. Anything less is unacceptable."

"Doing our very best in any effort will never compare to simply doing what God requires. Truth is, He can do without all of the things we busy ourselves with that we claim are meant to please Him, but He won't stand for disobedience. I Samuel 15:22"

"No amount of showmanship can make up for a lack of substance."

"If you're not giving up something, you're not giving at all."

"All talkers are not teachers."

"When God has chosen you for something you don't have to compete with anyone for anything."

elder todd

Ministry Musings 2009 - Vision & Progress

With 2009 drawing to a close, I think it's a good time to share some ministry observations I've revealed over the past year in the form of status updates posted on my Facebook profile. This post is the first of 3 and its theme is "Vision and Progress".

"We can’t just see things as they are, but what they can be, and how we can help make it happen."

"True vision cuts through the clutter of opinions, arguments, & agendas to see God's purpose for our life and ministry."

"Ideas with the absence of initiative are completely worthless."

"Authentic Vision is realizing what God has shown you, and acknowledging what He hasn't. Doing what someone else thinks you ought to do will always hinder the things God has actually purposed for you to do."

"Don't ask for opportunity if you're not ready and willing to seize it."

"Age isn't always an accurate indicator of wisdom. God bestows wisdom & vision on some beyond their years. So before you cast aside the contributions of someone because they have yet to live the "full life" you have, beware. You may be casting aside the very instrument God has ordained to spearhead a great Kingdom movement that would impact many, including yourself."

"Ministry is something like owning a house: for you to move on, someone has got to move in, and both come with a cost."

elder todd

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

At Your Service

John 13:12-17 (NIV)
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Every Christian is called to serve God and according to Jesus' teaching and example that will many times include serving one another in some form or another. Problem is, few have a heart to serve in our current orientation of Church fellowship and discipleship. Popular thought has it that serving is relegated to Ushers, Deacons (after all, the Greek word for Deacon means "servant" right?), and those not mature, skilled, or anointed to teach, preach, sing, or play an instrument. How far from the model of Christ we have drifted! He himself elevated humble service of others as one of the greatest of ministries that honors God and impacts mankind.

Too often we jump at the chance to do the "stage work", but when it's time to the "leg work" we manufacture a myriad of reasons as to why we can't or won't serve, from supposed time limitations, insisting that we're already doing enough, or the often unspoken but clearly evident attitude that we're just above that kind of thing. Many people, especially those who are used to ministering during public worship, don't realize that service is one of the most effective methods of bonding with those they minister to. People may admire the gifts we display publicly, but what really draws us together is the feeling that we are part of the same team, and that doesn't come through preaching or singing at one another, but in working side by side even in the most mundane duties.

Secondly, we often fail to see how much the "leg work" prepares us for the "stage work". Those we lead around us are not only looking to be led by command, but by example. They want to see that we understand what doing the work we're asking them to do is like, and even more so, that we would not hesitate to join them in completing the work.

When's the last time you performed a simple yet act of service for your church or another individual? When you notice garbage in the church lawn, do you stop to pick it up or do you continue on your way knowing someone else will get it? When services are concluded do you socialize until it's time to pack up your family (or just yourself) and rush out the door, or do you volunteer yourself to help with any variety of things they may need to be done before the building is emptied? When you hear that a brother or sister is ill, do you casually inquire about them or do you take it upon yourself to ask if they need any help completing work around the house.

I love to preach. I love to teach. I love to play the organ. And it appears that people are blessed by my ministry in those areas. But some of the greatest moments of spiritual satisfaction have come from changing the sign outside, vacuuming the floor alone in the sanctuary, or driving folks home in the church van after service. (and that's after I've preached AND played the organ!) So let's recommit ourselves to selfless service. Not only is it a blessing to God and men, but it will be a blessing to us as well.

elder todd

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Bucks Stop Here - Pt. II

Part One dealt with the basic principles of Tithes & Offering and perspective on the many games and gimmicks prevalent in the Church today. But, there several misconceptions concerning tithing and in Part Two, I'll take a look at a few of those while reserving commentary on the collection and use of offerings for Part Three.

The Command to Give
Make no mistake, giving is not just a recommendation for righteousness, it is commanded by God. In Malachi Chapter 1, God demands we honor him as we would any earthly authority. He rebukes the priests for offering sacrifices of sick and blind animals upon the altar by noting that they would not dare do the same in offering tribute and paying taxes to their secular governments. Chapter 3 takes us even further, by describing those who do not tithe as robbers who are "cursed with a curse" and assures those who are obedient in giving as being protected from those people and things that would destroy the fruits of their labor. This clearly indicates that God considers it sin when those who profess faith in Him do not to give as He commands.

The Perceived Privacy of Giving
While the Bible clearly states that each man should give as he is compelled in his heart, it is unreasonable to assume that no accountability in giving can be expected because you sealed your gift in an envelope. Practicality demands that someone has to count the funds that are given and keep track of all dollars given and those who give them. The highly trusted men and women who accept this humble duty are not blind, and should not be expected to pretend so. In fact, a sudden change in one's giving pattern may indicate the giver is encountering a crisis of severe hardship and may allow the leadership of the Church to inquire about and offer assistance to that person while operating in wisdom and the utmost concern for their dignity.

Also, it can and should be utilized as one of several standards by which those who serve as leaders in the Church are held accountable. Remember, the warnings in Malachi were directed primarily at the priesthood. So it is without question that any member of leadership should be faithful in their tithing with the expectation that continued failure to commit in this area may deem one unfit for ministry. This can be expressed in two vital principles concerning leadership and giving:
  • - It is the assumption of the lay members that those who are exhorting them to full submission to God are striving to be faithful in all areas of their Christian walk as they are, even looking to them as examples. This includes the area of giving. So even though what one gives is not made public, it is our duty first to God and then to the Body that we are not misleading in this assumption.
  • - Leaders are decision makers and those decisions will often include the stewardship of Church finances. In this context, it is unethical to contribute opinions or express one's vision on purchases, projects, and ministries while not contributing to the funding that makes them possible.
The Lack of Accountability
Since tithing is a command, there must be some mechanism by which failure to obey God is handled with the same loving grace that would accompany the addressing of any other fault. While this may seem like a foreign concept, think of all the other highly personal sins that we have no problem bringing up in personal (and unwisely, in sometimes very public) moments of counsel and ministry: sexual sin & lust, shacking up, addiction, relationship issues, etc. All such sins are dealt with and spoken of openly. And there are many who would claim that failure to do so would result in sin running rampant in the Church. Is disobedience in giving any different? The Bible doesn't indicate it is, therefore we must be careful not avoid an important aspect of our Christian duty simply because of modern sensitivities. As in dealing with any other sin, whatever method of accountability is adopted should be consistent and entered into with wisdom according to the Word. We should not resort to knee jerk reactions based on a momentary lapse in giving, but we are responsible for seeking to restore one who continues in disobedience.

elder todd

The Bucks Stop Here - Pt. I

I can't think of a more uncomfortable subject to approach in the Church than that of giving. Throughout scripture, God's commands to his people concerning giving are unequivocally clear, yet by many abuses, misunderstandings, and false assumptions we've turned a glorious form of worship into an affair that is tedious at best and scandalous at worst. So Part I will deal with the biblical perspective on giving.

is the English word translated from the original Hebrew and Greek words that both mean “a tenth”. The Tithe is a God-commanded 10% “return” of our increase (income) which is used to support the ministry of the Church and those in His service. Tithing and the purpose of those funds given was formalized in the Law given to Moses. (Leviticus 27:30, Numbers 18:20-21, Numbers 18:25-29). God designed the Tithe to be affordable for everyone by placing it in proportion to each person’s income. Jesus Christ paid both the tithe and civil taxes to the Roman government (Matthew 17:24-27). He also commanded it by saying, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Luke 20:25)

An Offering is a voluntary gift given beyond one’s Tithe to the work of the ministry. Offerings may be requested and distributed according to specific purposes or needs of the Church.God has given us right to be able to make our own decisions concerning the resources He has provided. We can bless God or curse God (and ourselves) with our obedience concerning money. Obedience blesses God, while disobedience is a reproach unto God. (Isaiah 1:19-20) Whether concerning Tithes or Offering, giving is a matter of Obedience to God and Love for God. The two attributes are intimately related by Christ Himself: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) This clearly indicates that are claims to love God and are spoken desires to support the Church are questionable at best if we are not obedient in our giving.

Finally, let's deal with the abuses. It's important to realize that the money grubbing gimmicks we are so familiar with are not a new concept. Since the time of the ancient Hebrews, there has been no shortage of charlatans and tricksters who seem to possess no fear of God and are all too willing to take advantage of the faithful and gullible to satisfy their own greed. Whether it's hundred dollar prayer lines, "covenant" partnerships that promise special access and "point of contact" items (cloths, oil, pendants/jewelry) for a monthly or annual gift, or just the old fashioned pulpit begging, it all reeks with the stench of corruption. We would do well to avoid all such dubious practices, and instead remain faithful to the teaching of giving our tithes and offerings faithfully unto the Lord.

elder todd

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Death of Reverence: We're All Suspects

Whatever happened to Reverence in our worship? Honor, respect, awe, and sincerity in the House of the Lord? They've all been laid waste.

Somebody killed Reverence. I think WE Did. I present my case:

The Evidence:
A quick scan of a sanctuary at any time of a typical worship service and you will likely discover a disturbing display of congregants noticeably whispering (or talking), pointing, winking, smirking, rolling eyes, giggling, and of course, vigorously texting. And I'm not talking about 14 yr olds, either. This type of behavior was once reserved for concerts and musicals with their more lax atmosphere, but now, it could be during the sermon, altar call, and even communion. It could be argued that in the life of today's church, the only time you can expect every person (who knows better) to display tact in church is during the opening mournful moments of a funeral.

Possible Motives:
Boredom, not with church but with ourselves. Too many church people have NO LIFE. So they try to squeeze every life experience out of attending church which is impossible. Church is our place of worship and fellowship, which should be enjoyable, but not become merely entertainment or sport. Yet, we have attempted to implement both of the latter things (some of us successfully) during worship, because we lack real connections, hobbies, and interests outside of the sanctuary.

Information Overload. Many, especially younger generations, just seem to KNOW too much to take church seriously. The previous generation of saints are to blame for this. Our parents and grandparents have many times been WAY too loose-lipped about the faults of the church, it's leadership, and some other saint they "just can't stand". When reverence for a person (ex. Pastor) is affected, so is reverence for what they do (preach). The older saints were able to maintain at least the appearance of respect despite being aware of the seedier aspects of the ministry. The young ones? Not so much.

A Weapon Has Been Found at The Scene of the Crime:
One only needs to visit YouTube and type in "Craziest Shout Ever!" or "Worst Choir Ever!" and you'll discover that in almost every church someone has a camera-phone or pocket camcorder and they're all too ready and willing to use it. Like you, my phone goes with me and gets used everywhere and that includes church. And I admit I've even sent a text or two during church when it was absolutely necessary in a discreet manner. But to check Facebook after service to discover someone has provided color commentary throughout the entire service or merely decided to banter back and forth with someone else (sometimes, in the same room) is a bit much, especially when the post is "Sis. So & So is singing and she sounds a hot mess!", "I wish Pastor would hurry up", or a picture of a style-deficient saint posted moments after the offending outfit was spotted. What happened to talking about this stuff @ Perkins/Red Lobster/Olive Garden after church? Why do we find nothing wrong with openly embarrassing another saint? And let's not even talk about 2 people sitting right next to each other, texting one another. That must be the pinnacle of stupidity. (Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn't get mean about this, but I couldn't help it on that one)

As much as we'd like to place blame on the available technology, the truth is our greatest weapon is our own hearts. We seem unable to set our hearts entirely on God for more than a few minutes. I believe Jesus had a problem with this, and even warned what would happen if we can't maintain our focus (Matt 26:40-41) We have decided within ourselves that it's acceptable to walk and talk while the Pastor is praying. We believe it's ok to openly laugh and ridicule even the most sincere person because they shout funny or sing badly. I'm pretty silly myself and there are always times of levity & laughter when something genuinely funny has occurred and even the pastor has to chuckle. But everything can't possibly be an opportunity for comedy or sport. We act as if it's normal to dance up and down the aisle (supposedly in the Spirit) and seconds later pull out our phone and record our friend doing the same as if it were sport while laughing and cheering them on. We praise Praise, celebrating the style rather than the substance of it.

Yes, all of the above statements are generalizations, but are supported by numerous and consistent examples of offense. This is not meant to bash, but to call ALL of us to self-awareness.

The Verdict?
Guilty. But not without hope. Reminds me of a sermon I once preached "Convicted, but not Condemned".

We should do better and we can. Comments are welcome.

elder todd

Friday, September 18, 2009

Precious Memories.......of Sin?

In this posting, I hope to get some feedback from those of you from the baby boomer era and beyond. As a musician and even sometimes (clean) DJ, I find myself engaged in conversations with Christians mostly of older generations who wax on the merits of "real music" from the days of their youth that was "clean, wholesome, and said something". I frequently hear statements such as: "when we were out doin' our thing, we weren't as bad as the youth of today, the lyrics weren't raunchy and explicit like they are today, and we didn't do all that gyrating and popping when we danced." Yet they readily admit they were living in sin and doing sinful things.

Now there's no doubt that like everything else in society, music has taken a drastic turn toward unrestricted self expression and performances that many people would consider to be unreasonably lewd, sexual, violent, and misogynistic in nature. That truth being established, I feel the need to clear some things up concerning the differences in our generations.

Yes, most songs of years gone by were more discreet lyrically, but most of those artists weren't exactly singing to their husbands or wives, but often times, quite the opposite. ("Me & Mrs. Jones", anyone?) And even though the dance moves of yesteryear pale in comparison to what you'd find on BET today, we can't ignore the highly suggestive intent in the performances of James Brown, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, and others. The truth is, despite the very real positive influences of music, since the 1960's popular music in general has promoted sexual promiscuity, illicit drug & alcohol use, recklessness, and rebellion against authority to varying degrees. But the main point of this thought isn't to create a tit for tat comparison of contemporary versus classic, but to pose this question:

At what point (if ever) is it appropriate to reflect on an admittedly sinful past outside of salvation with a sense of nostalgia? I'm targeting music in particular here because of the strong feelings it induces in people no matter what their spiritual disposition. I love all types of music and I'm certainly not afraid to enjoy the musical merits of any generation. But I have to chuckle a little bit when Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On" and Jame's Brown's "Sex Machine" causes even some usually staid saints to sway and sing along. Is "Superfreak" all of the sudden less suggestive in nature, just because the last 25 years have yielded far more explicit content? Is it fair to expect older generations to condemn those songs from their past just as strongly as the music their grandchildren listen to?

Your thoughts.........

elder todd

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hiding In Plain Sight Pt. II

I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post, but much has transpired and the continuance of this subject required much prayer. So let's get to it!

So what is confession? According to the Bible, it comes in 2 forms: a) A sincere, simple statement of faith in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 12:3), b) An open admittance of one's sins to others in the faith with the desire to be received and corrected in love (James 5:16). Of course the second type should be entered into with wisdom and in an atmosphere of trust. We just can't tell everybody anything, yet on that same token, we cannot continue among our brothers and sisters as if we have no struggles. It is a disingenuous act of denial at best and an outright lie at worst. Neither pleases God.

Why do we need it? Because the very nature of our humanity that is rooted in concern for only ourselves and that desires to be seen in the best light possible needs to be checked by the realization of our sinful nature and the need for a Savior from.....well, ourselves! We find this need fulfilled FIRST in Christ, confessing and repenting to Him. But also, we are to build bonds of mutual concern and desire for righteousness in one another by not hiding the process through which we come to maturity in God.

Let us build God's True Community by engaging one another in sincere love, honesty, with a spirit of humbleness and grace for each other as we share in our successes, failures, God pleasing moments, and trials of sin.

elder todd

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hiding in Plain Sight Pt. I

What happened to confession? Confession is the prerequisite of repentance, yet it has been corrupted, misplaced, pigeon-holed, and ultimately abandoned. The fact is, despite our honest and sincere faith in the Risen Savior, we ALL endure daily struggles with our own sin. But we all too readily ignore the Bible's relational prescription for our failings in vain attempts to maintain a false sense of piety. But avoiding confession does not at all remove the obvious need for confession, since whether we admit it or not, our sins are put on display daily for others to either see or discern.

We as Christians have taken the concept of confession as described in James 5:16 and twisted it in a variety of ways.
  • Only being willing to confess to ordained leaders or "qualified" counselors
  • Expecting only the newly converted, or "messed up" to confess and testify in lurid detail the extent of their sinful lives
  • Avoid confession altogether in fear that admitting failings may harm the Body of Christ and plant temptations in others to sin that were not previously there.
  • Viewing all of our shortcomings as the fault of someone else in a perverted interpretation of persecution. (See my posting entitled "Why We Need Persecution", particularly, the section "What Is Persecution?")
  • Using confession as a remedy for being caught instead of openly and honestly acknowledging our sin, whether it was seen by others or not.
So besides our own vanity, what's the primary cause of our abandonment of confession? I believe it is the lack of TRUST. Confession in its proper use is dependent upon an assurance of sincere concern and security in the one receiving the confession. I've been personally focusing on the biblical concepts of fellowship and community and I have seen myself trending more towards encouraging less ritual in our churches and more relationship. When did we get to the place where every meeting must have a set format and official feel to it? I believe this enduring standard has hampered the organic growth and connectedness of the church. How can you get to know someone well enough to trust them with your life's issues by merely coming to a building and sitting, singing, or praying next to them? Take a moment and think about how in depth your relationships with your fellow church members really are, even the one's you call your closest friends. Have you developed the type of trusting relationship that would allow you to both share and receive in confession and sincerely pray and minister to to one another?

elder todd

1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Recreation Program

The Agape Summer Recreation Program is featured in the Community Section of the Tribune Chronicle. Check out the article at http://tribtoday.com/page/content.detail/id/524496.html?nav=5005

The Agape Education & Development Center's 3rd year of Summer Recreation for area youth is in full swing. The center is open daily from 10am - 3pm with on site activities such as: basketball, football, volleyball, ping-pong, air hockey, table tennis, crafts, movies, board games, and much more! Lunches be served daily to all participants. For more information, visit www.agaperec.com.

Look out for an announcement for the 2009 Agape Car Show to take place on August 22nd!!

elder todd

Thursday, July 2, 2009

You Didn't Say Nuthin' Bout No Kids, Man!

Why don't more Christians adopt? For all the Biblical arguments, lobbying, debate points, and protests of Pro-Life Christians, something is missing. Those you would think to be the primary subjects of the abortion issue are oftentimes strangely omitted from the discussion. The Kids. Certainly the legal and ethical question of abortion is a messy one with many variables to consider. But there is no question that greater familial and societal breakdowns feed the acceptance of this practice. Casual sex, casual marriage (if it actually occurs), and even more casual divorce all in one way or another lead individuals to consider conception as an expendable and deletable occurrence. Adding to this the tragedy of sexual abuse and rape that leaves no easy answers, we are left with a spiritual and moral dilemma of the highest regard. But what is the Christian to do besides argue a point?

We believe life begins at conception, that God "knows" us even before we are formed in the womb, and that life is a gift from God the Creator that no man should destroy. But once this life is realized in birth, now what? The fact is a decrease in abortions will undoubtedly lead to an increase of unwanted children across our nation. Are we willing to go to the same lengths we do to prevent and persuade others from abortion to care for the kids that will be born if they do see things our way? How much time, money, and effort will we devote to the upbringing of these children? Will Christians take up this mantle of responsibility in the way of adoption or foster parenting? Will churches offer the necessary support to encourage and uphold those families who chose to carry this burden?

The Bible tells us faith without works is dead, and that includes making bold proclamations of Biblical principles to our society with no intentions of fulfilling our own obligations in the matter.

Matthew 18:10 (NIV) "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

elder todd

Monday, June 29, 2009

Praise Riot II Recap

For those who missed it, "Praise Riot II" was BLAZIN'!!! I'm so proud of the Agape Youth and all the churches and groups that represented. A quick recap:

Our own Sis. Alysha did an awesome drama of the woman at the well. The Agape Young Flaggers showed out, and the Agape Dance ministry was wonderful, not to mention the ultimate "hype man" Bro. Jarquis!

St. Paul presented a dance to "Seasons", Bro. Sean Elkins did what he does best (worship), while Elder Michael Scott, Jr. brought a powerful Word "Don't Contain Your Praise".

Greater Apostolic dance team took it to another level with "Stomp", 2nd Baptist Praise Squad was awesome (I wanna join the squad!), Min. Carson & Destiny International capped the evening with a moving dramatization of Christ's power to save & deliver! Minister Christina Chisholm kept it moving and the BAND! OH LAWD! LOL

A great job by all. Special thanks to Min. George Johnson, Jr. & Sis. Tamara, Sis. Satora, Sis. Shameika, and of course Pastor Johnson for pushing the Youth forward.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Drink or Not to Drink?

The Word of God seems pretty clear in its stance on alcohol consumption. It speaks plainly of the sin of drunkenness and its consequences, but also describes the moderate use of alcohol as acceptable. The Pentecostal tradition I'm familiar with has vilified any and all consumption with alcohol, and actually that was more a product of the cultural climate of the early 1900's that gave rise to many of our prominent charismatic denominations. Remember, the formative years of most Pentecostal denominations coincided with the rise of the Prohibition movement, which I'm sure contributed to its stance.

Being staunchly opposed to drinking, I never thought I'd be the one to defend the practice, but too many Christians automatically assume that having a drink = not being sober. It also kills me when saints proudly declare "I don't drink", then they proceed to gorge themselves on mountains of food full of fat, salt, & sugar certain to bring more health issues than alcohol ever could! So it's OK to eat yourself to death, which Christians have been doing for YEARS, but heaven forbid someone has a drink!

Biblically, we know that scripture allows for alcohol consumption, but we should also know that:

1) Evidence is pretty clear that the wine of that day was not nearly as potent as what we find now in distilled liquors. Think about it, parties in those days lasted around 3 days (wedding at Cana), while ours last around 3 hours. If they really drank like we did of the same alcohol content, they all would've died fairly quickly.

2) Wine was a more common drink due to the poor quality of water typically available in Biblical days.

3) Both moderation and concern for the weaknesses of the brethren are scriptural keys to approaching the issue. (I Corinthians 8:9-13)

Even for those who feel liberated to drink, you still should consider your witness to the world (where and how you drink), concern for those believers who are weaker (recently delivered from addiction), and respect for the ministry God has placed you in. In other words, If you truly believe God has placed you under a particular leadership or tradition, you should submit to their authority in disputable matters. (Romans 14)

elder todd

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pentecost Lost?

May 31st was Pentecost Sunday. A day regarded as the "birthday" of the Church, a commemoration of one of the most important events in Christendom, a great day of celebration in churches across the globe....except for most Pentecostal Churches. How can that be so? How is it that congregations who proudly display the banner of Pentecostal, Full Gospel, Charismatic, or any other label that describes emphasis on the Gifts of the Spirit given to the Church and first exercised on this historic day in Jerusalem, all but ignore this day?

The reasons for this are varied:

There is a growing disregard for historical Christianity, which places the modern Church in a vacuum, all but disconnected from a legacy of spiritual empowerment spanning some 2,000 years. In other words, we glory in the NOW, the legacies of our own recent and brief heritage rather than the far more substantial impact of the historical Church, of which we are a part above any other affiliations.

Adding to that is the recent lack of concern for genuine Christian education, which provides the means by which each new generation is informed and brought into prayerful and meaningful observation of the Christian calendar, which brings me to my next reason......

Many contemporaries hold to the false notion that the "true" Church is not bound by ancient traditional or even modern observances.... except Christmas, Easter, Palm Sunday, Mother's Day.....you get my drift.

And finally and most tragically, perhaps our Pentecostal/Full Gospel/Charismatic churches aren't as Pentecostal as we claim. By our very own definition, the Gifts of the Spirit should flow freely and frequently in our worship, but do they? The same powerful move of the Holy Ghost that enables our Pastors, Elders, & Prayer Warriors to move forth in Tongues should be experienced by new generations of believers, not necessarily younger aged, but the newly converted and growing in Christ. When is the last time this has occurred in our churches? When is the last time someone who previously did not exercise the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in Tongues, receive the Gift and operate in it?

These are hard questions indeed, and one risks being seen as a mere critic to point them out, but from time to time, it is needed. So perhaps, Pentecost is not lost, but we would do well to rediscover it.

John 20:19-23 (NIV)

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

elder todd

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Agape Now on Facebook

Agape launched a Facebook.com page last week and already, over 50 people have joined, most of which do not attend our church! This can be a great outreach tool to a new generation who communicate mostly online, not to mention, a way to promote Agape events to thousands of people for FREE!Please consider visiting http://www.facebook.com/, creating a Facebook profile, and joining the Agape Assembly Church Facebook Group.

Please rest assured that Facebook.com is a free and secure site and you completely control who may access your profile. You do not have to post pictures or personal information about yourself if you prefer not to. Let's be proactive in using tools such as this to reach our generation and grow our Church.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thoughts on Church Membership & Discipleship Pt II

Discipleship is a lot like parenting. It involves teaching, showing example, correcting, and encouraging individuals from a state of near complete dependency to guided independence. I don't see a difference between the growing perception that parents have abandoned their responsibilities to raise their own children and the belief that the Church has drifted from the proven model of Biblical discipleship. Even the reasons are eerily similar: the caretakers are not properly trained, they were never cared for as a "babe" themselves and were raised to fend for themselves, or they just may be unwilling to invest the time.

I believe an overarching issue in this discussion is the concept of Personal Salvation or having a "personal relationship with Christ". In our modern self-focused society, many in the Church have perverted the very valid scriptural teaching that each individual must take account for their own salvation to deny the very clear and concise teaching of a common community of believers bound together, who continuously engage, support, and walk beside one another in the Faith. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone express how they don't have time for another believer's issues and struggles because they "have to work our their own soul salvation" in either a blatant misappropriation of scripture or as a poor excuse for their lack of concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Fact is, scripture very clearly states that we are accountable AND responsible for one another. This especially applies to mature saints who are tasked with the development and growth of the newly converted and those weak in the faith.

Romans 15:1 (NIV)

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

elder todd

Thoughts on Church Membership & Discipleship

Biblically speaking, salvation is both prerequisite and synonymous with Church membership. When one became a believer in the days of the Apostles, there was no such thing as joining a particular congregation, or searching for a "church home". The person would enter into fellowship with those who either led him into salvation or received him after his announcement of conversion. This was almost always tied to geographic location given the limited travel options. So first and foremost, the acceptance of an individual into full church fellowship as a brother or sister in Christ without any confirmation of salvation is completely contrary to scripture.

Unfortunately, the current opposing method is not much better. Without question, the leading of souls to Christ and making of disciples is the core mission of the Church. But I must question the well intentioned but misguided practice of directing the newly converted to seek direction (from a God they just met) on where they should worship regularly, learn, and grow as a Christian.

For all the "baby" terminology used by the modern church to describe converts, I don't see how this discipleship method makes any sense. These individuals are immature in the faith, vulnerable to discouragement and confusion, and at the beginning stages of spiritual understanding. They need to be spoon fed baby food (basic Christian doctrine), clothed (covered in prayer & encouragement), and admonished to do the simplest things that would spur their growth (continue in fellowship, study the Bible and pray at home). I wouldn't expect them to find their own church home any more than I would expect my newborn daughter to find her own home upon discharge from the hospital. There's a word for that, it's called abandonment. But of course, no responsible caretaker does that with a baby and neither should the church do so with new believers.

elder todd

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why We Need Persecution

If there is one Biblical concept that we simply cannot identify with, it is persecution. We have virtually no experience with any violent or even hostile reaction to our faith. So we just don't understand what would cause devoted a follower like Simon Peter to deny even knowing Jesus or how the disciples could remain in hiding, even after learning first hand of Christ's resurrection. The repeated warnings of persecution from Paul, Peter, and Christ Himself simply do not resonate with us. Why?

Face it, we Christians in the U.S. have it easy. Too easy. While believers in other parts of the world must worship in secret for fear of violent persecution at the hands of governments, sectarian, and tribal groups hostile to the Christian faith, we live in a nation where we can worship our God, anytime, and almost any way we see fit. Even further, we live under the supposed legacy of God-fearing founders and the myth of a Christian nation. It is no surprise then that a relatively effortless pursuit of our religion of choice would result in a rather weak, compromised, and unfocused life of faith in the majority of present day believers.

As Christians we live in our houses rather than hide in them, we can walk the streets and openly share the Gospel (though most of us don't), we're even granted preferential treatment in constructing ornate buildings for the sole purpose of worship. Even then, most professing Christians can't make it out of their comfortable homes, into their luxury cars, and into a climate controlled building with padded seats once a week without thinking they deserve a pat on the back for their "faithfulness".

So what is religious persecution? It is persistent, often systematic, harassment and oppression because of one's beliefs. It may result in personal violence, being ostracized from society, and/or denied basic rights.

It is NOT failing to get along with other people, not getting what you want or think you deserve, or experiencing negative consequences for your own actions.

So why do we need persecution?
  • It builds our faith. (Acts 14:12-22)
  • It binds believers together. (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35) This wasn't just Christian love at work, but also necessary for their survival.
  • It connects us with Christ. (John 15:18-20)
  • It assures us a greater reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-12)
  • It affirms Christ's love for us. (Romans 8:35-39)
One thing is sure. This "easy ride" will not last forever, but the Bible brings assurance that God will use us, even in hardship to bring glory and honor to His Name.

elder todd

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Agape Assembly Website

Well, I'm going to make some minor adjustments to the Church's website homepage. I never noticed how large the type font was compared to other modern websites.
Let me know what you think.

elder todd

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Bottom Line

Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

The Great Commission couldn't be any simpler. Christians are given clear, concise instructions both on what: Go. Make Disciples. and how: Baptize. Teach. But these simple words speak volumes to our expectations and perspective of what the Church ought to be and what God says the Church will be. So often, we find ourselves busy, overwhelmed even, attempting to find success in some area that is near and dear to our hearts in the name of ministry. And to be sure, there are many important works to be done for God, but this Commission is one responsibility that is shared by all yet neglected by so many.

So while we find ourselves running to and fro seeking to accomplish our own goals and vision, let's remember that above every other program, initiative, idea, or campaign, the Lord commands that we make consistent, dynamic, personal efforts to draw lost souls into the Kingdom of God.

God wants souls to be saved. And that's the Bottom Line.

elder todd

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't Touch That Dial!

My mother regularly listens to a Christian radio station as she drives. This afternoon she was enjoying some contemporary Christian music, when she stopped by a store. When she got back in the car to drive home, the station was running commercials. Then the music started again. The song was upbeat, energetic, and lively. She wasn't really listening and didn't notice anything wrong until the lead singer screamed the chorus: "WE'RE ON A HIGHWAY TO HELL!" (by the rock band AC/DC) It only took her a moment to realize that she had somehow changed the station she was listening to by accident, probably when attempting to adjust the volume or some other console button. Instead of her normal Christian station, the radio frequency had shifted just two positions to the classic rock channel. But what a big change that small move made!

She called me to share the story and we both a good laugh, and a sorely needed one at that. (Thanks Mom!) But I couldn't help wonder, what slight, inadvertent changes do we make in life that completely throw our God-given purpose off track? How easy is it for us to allow a seemingly minor, accidental adjustment to move us away from God's plan and vision for our life into a foreign, even dangerous place? And most importantly, will we be alert enough to notice that the station we're enjoying is not the one He set for us before we find ourselves on that undesirable "highway"?

Philippians 4:8 (KJV)
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

1 Peter 5:8 (KJV)
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:"

elder todd

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just Do It!

I've found that the hardest thing about ministry is getting people to actually DO IT! Here's a strange paradox: The more that some people talk about doing ministry, the harder it is to get them to do ministry. It's almost like they feel some sense of accomplishment in developing some type of vision or idea whether God-given or not, to the point that the execution of that vision is all but an afterthought.

We are great talkers, and at times that can be our downfall, since talk without action just piles upon itself. Ask an inactive but great talker for their vision for ministry and they'll rattle off a list of ideas and initiatives so numerous and varied to the point of absurdity.

Here's one bit of wisdom: if you want to do ministry effectively, pick one thing, even a small idea, and do it....well. Then seek God for the next step and repeat.

elder todd

Ephesians 4:1 (KJV)

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,"

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Resurrection Day

The Easter Story is so familiar it hardly needs retelling. But going further than just knowing the story is identifying with it. All of us can relate somewhat to the ups and downs of Jesus' final week before His death, though of course, NONE of us can claim to have endured anywhere near the suffering He did.

Perhaps your life feels like Good Friday, the day of suffering and crucifixion. (or Wednesday or Thursday for you historical debaters out there) Maybe your life has been marked by much suffering, ridicule, rejection, abandonment, and viciously cruel attack at the hands of the same people you may have called brother or sister not so long ago. The pain is so deep and the shame so severe that you're not sure how much more you can take.

Or maybe you are feeling more like a Saturday. The violence has subsided, the damage done, and it appears the enemy has won. So-called friends have scattered and even you family considers you as good as dead. The hole you now find yourself in doesn't appear to yield survivors, only victims.

Hold On......Sunday is coming!!

Fact is, no matter how devastating your Friday or how dark your Saturday, God has a Sunday just around the corner for you. Yes, your very own Resurrection Day! And the wonderful thing is you don't have to wait until Sunday to experience your Resurrection.

Right now, right where you are, you can experience a new life and a new beginning. How is this so? Because our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ has already endured the pain and suffering for you. He conquered Death, Hell, and the Grave and today He is Risen! All you have to do is trust Him. Give Christ your life, your burdens, your sorrows and your shortcoming. Look up....weeping may endure for the night, but Joy; the joy of salvation, the joy of restoration, comes in the morning.

elder todd

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bible Study Update

I had spent the better part of 2008 comparing the effectiveness of our two primary teaching vehicles: Sunday School & Bible Study. I sought to distinguish Bible Study from Sunday School while at the same time, providing an atmosphere more conducive to learning and retaining Biblical knowledge.

So in January, I introduced a new Bible Study format that was more of a lecture style, focusing on 3-4 week series complete with notes and multimedia elements interspersed throughout. After the first series was completed, I also felt the need to distribute folders to encourage the students to keep and review their notes throughout the year. We had our first quiz after a series on the Apostle Paul and everyone seemed to enjoy that.

Overall, the response has been generally positive and I've observed an improvement in study habits which I attribute to attendees having notes to study, the new "series" format, and the implementing of quizzes (which are written to be lighthearted and fun). One idea did die off, however, as it became unfeasible to video each lesson, edit, and post it to our website every week. But our notes are still available for download each week, sometimes in advance. So far we've studied The Trinity, Apostle Paul, and we're finishing up on a 3 week overview of Psalms. In the coming months, I hope to introduce lessons on Angels & Demons, How to Study the Bible, and later, a Study of the Kingdom of Israel.

Change is always a tricky endeavor, but when executed correctly and with the right intentions, it can be very fruitful. The struggle for me was to offer accessible material to the entire range of students from the newest member to the seasoned veteran, since we only have one adult class. I must admit that it takes a lot of prayer, preparation, and wisdom to offer lessons that challenge individuals without totally alienating them, but I love every minute of it!!

If you like, you can check out our recent Bible Study lessons on our website.

elder todd

Monday, March 16, 2009

Holy Wars??

Luke 22:24 "And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest."

What a scene it must have been to witness the bickering and debates of supremacy amongst the disciples as Jesus shared his last meal with them before He would give Himself to be hung on the cross. Today the debate often still rages, though in ever evolving distinctions. Most modern disciples don't attempt to distinguish themselves as greater based on personal virtue. But rather, they proclaim the supremacy of whatever ministry field they espouse to be the most important or greater than all the others.

The preacher celebrates the Word proclaimed as most vital. The teacher stresses the need for understanding. The worshipers speak of their role opening the hearts of the believers through sincere praise. The prayer warriors often think nothing more important than intercession and deep personal communion with God. These, of course, are mere generalities, but we've heard them before. And sometimes, these preferences progress into a far more dangerous atmosphere of competition and feelings of preeminence next to all others.

But the truth is, God never intended for various ministries and those operating in Spiritual gifts to war against one another. Rather, they are to complement one another. We must work together if we are ever going to be effective in reaching the lost and growing the Body of Christ. So remember, what you do is vital. But so is the work of the person next to you who's doing some ministry that may be unfamiliar (and not so important) to you. The Kingdom of God is big enough to hold all of us and our unique gifts together, in the same Spirit, to edify both God and His Church.

I Corinthians 12:4-6

4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

elder todd

Monday, March 9, 2009

Communicating the Gospel

Romans 10:17 (KJV) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Welcome to the 21st Century! This new era presents the Church with countless means of reaching the saved and the unsaved alike with the message of redemption, encouragement, love, and peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ. For centuries there were only two basic ways of communicating the Gospel, by word of mouth or in written form. Today we have Radio, TV, Internet, DVD, CD, and several cutting edge churches are even using holographic imagery to project their Minister into several building sites at one time. This all sounds pretty far out, but as a wise man once said: "The more things change, the more they remain the same." So the basic rules of communication still apply. We must consider our audience, the setting, the tone, and most importantly, the message that is meant to be conveyed.

Communication is a funny thing, though. The same message brought forth one way is interpreted an entirely different way in another format. Take for instance, this blog. This is my 15th post and anyone who has visited has read what would be characterized as my own thoughts, opinions, observations, and perspectives. But I bet you didn't know that 6 of my blog postings are actually near word-for-word sermons that I have preached at my home church in the past 6 years. In each of those instances, multiple people told how "the Lord really used you" and "the Holy Spirit spoke to us tonight!" Once I'm asked to speak, I am entrusted with the burden of seeking God for a message for His people. This blog format is different in the way it is received. It is read, pondered, and reactions are slower an more deliberate, which would lead one to assume that this writing was produced the same way, making for an entirely different experience. So what was once the "Word of God" when I was standing behind the pulpit, can now be interpreted entirely different.

Fact is the Word of God will be, perhaps even needs to be expressed in different forms. This approach is not without Biblical precedent: The Word of God was transmitted orally from the days of Adam until Moses when God chose to record upon tablets his most basic commands of obedience for Israel. Jesus spoke in parables, sometimes explaining them in-depth while other times assuring His disciples that there understanding would come in time. Nathan informed David of his sin and his punishment with vivid, relevant imagery. The prophets of the OT spoke of heavenly visions, not to mention the heavily symbolized nature of the Book of Revelations. And as for technology? We've already mentioned Moses' tablets, but also Ezra spoke from a specially built wooden pulpit and employed a clever system of "sub-preachers" to carry the Law throughout the sea of people present. And Christ Himself commissioned a sea vessel to be launched out from shore so all the people could hear him.

So it is clear that we are to remember that the method of communication is not nearly as important as the message.

elder todd

Friday, March 6, 2009

Back to Basics

What should churches do when ministry programs fizzle again and again? When fellowships have little or no participation? How does a ministry deal when it struggles to gather volunteers for outreach efforts? How can we remedy vast inconsistencies in attendance? How does leadership address growing cynicism, destructive criticism with no constructive ideas offered, and if ideas are given, a refusal to actually contribute to its success? What can be done when professing Christians all but abandon their duty to witness to the lost and invite people to church?

I say: Get Back to Basics. Sometimes we can get so bogged down with the "extras" of modern ministry that we neglect the most important thing: being Spiritually Disciplined and growing closer to Jesus Christ, both personally and as a congregation.

How do we go about getting back to basics? Let's look to the Word:

We must be honest about our current condition. "Psalm 12:1 Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases to be,For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men." - From the positions of leadership on down, it is sometimes necessary to admit that we are worn, tired, dry, listless, and in need of rejuvenation. Until that confession is made, revival and renewal cannot take place. This is perhaps the hardest step. Too often, leaders equate an admission that something is wrong with total defeat. As a consequence, they attempt to portray an unyielding optimistic outlook that is understandable, but not genuine. But there is no benefit in avoiding the truth. Rather, confession and repentance (yes repentance) is an awesome experience that brings freedom from private shame and frustration. In fact, it is something that should happen regularly in the Church.

Commit fully and passionately to vital spiritual disciplines. "Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." It is a hard thing to face, but sometimes we need to release ourselves of the many obligations we've created for ourselves in modern ministry. That could mean suspending all other programs, ministries, fellowships, and clubs in order to focus exclusively on Prayer/Fasting, Worship, and Teaching/Preaching as a congregation. This period of focused commitment is certain to result in the restoration both of individual faith and renewed congregational vigor and excitement as God revives and refreshes the Body of Christ. To be sure, no one desires to abandon the various ministries that all serve a good purpose, but the Church must make clear what is most important according to the Word of God. Besides, not now doesn't necessarily mean never.

Re-Engage in those other ministries with wisdom and creativity.
"Galations 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." It is amazing what an extended and focused communion with God will reveal about us. In fact, we would be rather surprised to discover those things that we invite to bind and hinder us as Christians who are active in ministry. Perhaps some of the ministries we feel are absolutely necessary really aren't and we are too concerned with appearing busy and active or being seen as important or needed. Maybe we simply need a fresh approach to how the ministries of the church can be implemented.

I believe that these times of serious reflection and seeking God's direction will not only restore the Church to active engagement with God and our community, but also allow us to see what He desires for us to do and not what we simply think is a good idea for ministry. Like Jesus' encounter with Mary and Martha, God has His own way of showing us the "needful thing".

elder todd

Note: Psalm 12:1, Acts 2:42 (NASB); Gal 5:1 (KJV)

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Want to Be Like Mike

I'm a firm believer that if you want to be better at something, be it sports, music, art, a career, and even ministry, you should look at someone who is succeeding in that area, if nothing more than for inspiration and encouragement. That was the gist of the old "I want to be Like Mike" Gatorade ads from my childhood, where dozens of kids sang of their desire to play basketball as well as Michael Jordan, considered one of the greatest ever. Obviously, most of those kids were never going to be like Mike. Many would never even make a high school or college squad, but it's the idea that we should aspire to maximize our individual talents and abilities.

This issue came up when I pitched an idea to a friend that would involve drastically changing the teaching ministry at my church. His first response was "only Mega Churches do that." I had already known this, but I begged the question "and what's wrong with that?" Since when did Church become a place where sharing ideas and emulating effective ministry methods were forbidden? I think not only is it acceptable, but something that should be encouraged. Let's learn from others who are doing well, and not be too proud to acknowledge that some other ministry may be succeeding at the very thing we're trying to accomplish. Getting over the false assumption that every church must be unique in every way beyond its own inherent qualities could be the first step in seeing a greater harvest from our ministries. So, don't be afraid to be a CopyCat. Fact is, once you've copied something, you're going to put your personal touch on it anyway..

So last week I visited a mega church with some 16,000 members called the "Word Church" in Cleveland and I came away both Blessed and impressed. Pastor R. A.Vernon is truly a visionary leader and besides the awesome worship experience and the anointed Word that was given, I was amazed at the simplistic approach to worship, which in fact, confirmed a vision God had given me about Agape and it's need to return to a "back to basics" approach. Does this mean that Agape adopting some useful elements from Pastor Vernon will turn us into a Mega Church, a "Word clone" if you will? Of course not. We have our own DNA, our own identity, and we will continue to be the Church God has called us to be.

So if you are absolutely opposed to the idea of adopting the practices and methods of other ministries, that's OK. But remember, its quite possible that one of those kids who wanted to "be like Mike" could have been a little boy from Akron, OH by the name of Lebron James.

elder todd

ps. This should have been posted hours ago, but I couldn't decide which MJ photo to use!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Church, Inc. Part 3 - Money???

The Bible says "The love of money is the root of all evil." This is often misquoted, somehow making money itself evil, but we know this to be untrue. But I'd be hard-pressed to find a subject so widely varied in it's views than the Church's teaching on money. The issues are confused and sometimes contradicting. This often leaves believers and non-believers alike in a stupor, causing most Christians to decide for themselves what they think is right.

Tithing: Some cling to the practice as God's command for today, others denounce it entirely as a part of the Law that could not be kept. I'm in the middle on this. I think there's a strong enough argument to reason that while we are not "law-bound" to the standard of 10%, it is a fair "guide" for those of us who give consistently. Especially taking into account that there are actually 4 different tithes mentioned in the OT, and they usually ended up being closer to 30% of the faithful Israelite's income, not to mention that most didn't tithe with cash, but instead the fruits of their harvest or occupation (material items). But, I humbly submit to my church's teaching in favor of Tithing as God favors obedience over sacrifice.

Personal Finance: Does God want us to be insanely wealthy? Or would he rather we completely forsake material things for the cause of the Kingdom? Obviously, some unscrupulous preachers have taken the "health and wealth" doctrines over the top and led many astray in the pursuit of material things. However, I'm not sure the Kingdom would benefit if everyone lived like a pauper, but I do believe the Word when God says He will supply all of my needs....

Selling in the Church: This particular issue is full of contradictions, inconsistencies, and misinterpretations. So on one side there are people who would sell the pews and auction off the Holy Ghost if it would make them a buck. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who roundly denounce any type of selling by or for the church, including food, CDs, books, etc. My question to those people is "How did you get your hands on a printed Bible? Oh yeah, you PAID for it. In fact, you probably paid some secular ungodly corporation for it."

So obviously, I didn't write this to provide any solid answers. Someone would just debate them anyway. But I am pleading for us to avoid extremes, and carefully consider the Word of God in it's proper context before we make snap judgments and make irresponsible claims concerning God and HIS money.
elder todd

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Old Time Way

"Ain't no harm done, calling on Jesus...... calling on the name of the Lord."

"There's storm out on the ocean, and it's moving this old way, if your soul's not anchored in Jesus, you will surely drift away"

"What do you want the Lord to say?.......'Well done, good and faithful servant.' That's what I want the Lord to say!"

Sound familiar? Maybe. Maybe not.

Those aren't just verses, they're a way of life. These congregational or testimony songs are identified with the old-fashioned sanctified, holiness, and black pentecostal churches (you pick the label), and for good reason...because those people sang often and boldly of their identity in Christ and their desire to live holy and righteous before the Lord in the most plain spoken, sometimes broken, language possible. In fact, what appears to be a simple, uneducated refrain actually speaks volumes unto the saints and unto God, filled with personal significance and theological meaning.

"I'm a soldier in the army of the Lord" - A Declaration of identity and purpose, as well as personal encouragement to endure and press through the trials of life, both natural and spiritual.

"I'm gonna live so God can use me anywhere..anytime".- Both a vow of commitment and a recognition that there's always need for improvement in our lives.

"My soul loves Jesus" - Deep beyond the exterior, far beyond my faults and shortcomings is soul that continuously cries out for God.

"Something on the inside, working on the outside. Oh what change in my life" - "If any man be in Christ"....you know the rest.

"Oh Oh Oh Lord, I just wanna thank You" - Need I explain?

Contrary to popular belief, these songs are not obsolete or irrelevant, but they are direct precursors to the more contemporary forms of worship, providing an appropriate response from the believer who both recognizes who God is and all that He has done for them.

Unfortunately, modern observers erroneously perceive that the saints of old had no real concept of what it meant to be sanctified, that those individuals were more concerned with style than substance. I've heard it said: "They think being sanctified is a beat or a shout". Yes, most of those songs were sung with great exuberance and energy, but these distant commentators must have never took the time to actually listen to the lyrics that were sung . Because if they had, it would have been clear to see that those saints knew very well what it meant to be "set apart" and "separated".

So give the saints their due. The clean, polished worship we enjoy today is a direct result of their commitment and dedication to God and their creative use of music to honor Him and edify the Church. Truth is, it would do us good to return to that old hand-clappin', foot stompin', tongue talkin', noisy, shoutin', and hoopin' every so often. Singing those songs that remind us who we are and who we should strive to be.

elder todd

Ephesians 5:19-20
19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.