Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not For Me


The other day I was in line at a store, and someone’s cell phone started ringing. There were about 12 of us in line, and I can almost guarantee that probably all of us had a phone (I think my goldfish is the only one without a cell phone in America). Yet, I did not even look at my phone. Neither did 10 of the other people. One lady instantly started digging in her purse, frantically trying to find the phone which was buried under the three tons of receipts, pens, makeup and assorted items that women carry in their purses. Why did she look for her phone and no one else did? How did she know the call was for her, and I knew it was not for me?

I did not recognize the ringtone. I have downloaded various ringtones and assigned them to my family, then I have a unique one for general calls. My current default ringtone is “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas. Denise is “This Magic Moment”. Ben is “American Idiot”. Caleb is “Dream On” and Jacob is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. When the phone started ringing in the store, it wasn’t any of those tunes, so I knew it wasn’t for me.

It wasn’t mine. The call was not for me. I will know it when I am called, and until then I don’t need to worry about it. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t being rude to the person calling by not answering—it wasn’t for me. I wan’t being rebellious to an authority trying to get ahold of me—the call wasn’t for me. I was not ignoring or missing something important—it was not my phone and not my call.

Not taking that call had absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever, and I am surprised that I even remember it happening. I wouldn’t if I were not about to get on a soapbox and was trying to find a way to illustrate what I think is a near heretical doctrine that has entered the church. Here it is…(drum roll with fearful anticipation)

We have taken all of the verses that require us to obey God and have made them into CALLS. The great commission is not for me, it is for those unique, highly gifted people whom God ‘CALLS’. I am not doing anything wrong by not going into the world to make disciples, because I was not CALLED to do it. I did not ignore the CALL, it wasn’t my spiritual ringtone. I will know it when God CALLS me, and that wasn’t it. I do not have to minister to, take care of, give to, or provide for the poor. The thousand or so verses in the Bible that teach this are for those special people that receive the CALL. If God CALLS me, then I will answer the CALL because I will know it is for me. I don’t have to help the orphans—I am not CALLED to do that. I am not required to help the stranger, the foreigner, the outcast, the weak, the feeble or the hurt because I am not CALLED.

I can keep virtually all my money (the average Christian gives $20/year to world missions) and spend it on bigger, better, faster, and more stuff because I am not CALLED to give sacrificially. As a matter of fact, unless God CALLS me to give anything, I will do what almost everyone else in American Christianity does and throw a tip in the plate (average Christian gives 2% to church).

I recently heard this horrible doctrine applied to the extreme. Someone was thinking about going on a short term mission trip and they were told, “Make sure that you are CALLED because if you go and you are not CALLED to go then it will hurt your spiritual life.” WHAT? Going on a mission trip is a bad thing unless you have some metaphysical CALL to go? You can go to the beach and surf, but don’t go to the child in Africa and feed them, that could hurt your soul?

This is like me reaching over and jerking the phone out of the lady’s purse and answering it I guess. She was called by her husband, and suddenly I am talking on the phone and telling him that I will run to the store and buy milk. It may not be the best thing to do.

Well, if God CALLS someone to do something, and I try to do it without being CALLED, then I am in a way a spiritual thief. I am listening to your message, opening your mail, taking your assignment. You were the one CALLED but I am the one answering. This is messed up. So, the only solution is for me to just stay comfortable, lean back, relax and use my gifts and resources to increase my comfort level. I need to be ready to answer the CALL if I hear my ringtone, but it would be at least a mistake and at most a sin to do something that I am not CALLED to do.

Only problem with this is that it is not in the Bible. By the way, notice how we assign the verses dealing with the responsibility of self-sacrifice in order to obey our Lord and reach the world to the CALLED, but we think that the verses teaching us about God’s incredible resources and blesses are for everyone. “Come to me all of you that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”. That verse is not for the CALLED, it is for everyone. “Go therefore and make disciples” is obviously for the CALLED not for me. It is amazing that all of the verses telling me that as a child of God I should sacrifice of myself, maybe even suffer for the betterment of others or give generously are for the CALLED, but the verses telling me to receive from God and others—those verses have my ringtone assigned to them. They are for me.

Go back to the ‘CALLED’. How about this? Do a quick concordance search for that word. In almost every case in the New Testament where it is used, it is used in the ‘naming’ sense of the word, like “a man called Peter”. The only time that I can find it used in the sense that we use it is in Acts about God’s unique call for Paul, but taking this example and applying it to every other place in the Bible that requires me sacrificing myself, such as Matthew 28:19-20 is simply a poor method of reading the Bible and no one who just read the Bible would ever think it. We have to come to the verse already thinking that it does not apply to us in order to not apply it. There is no other way around it. We have to decide in advance, that this is NOT our ringtone.

There is no Biblical reason to delegate helping the poor to the CALLED. There is no Biblical reason to say that evangelistic endeavors are for the CALLED. There is no Biblical reason to assign missions to the ‘CALLED’. Does this mean that every one of us should go to the mission field? I don’t think so. I think that we can make a case for serving in a local church and reaching our local community in the Bible. If every Christian left every church, there would be no church anywhere. However, you CANNOT allocate participating in missions, in outreach, in evangelism, in giving, in discipleship, in community or in the meeting the needs of the poor to the CALLED. You can say that you are fulfilling these responsibilities by doing ______ until God leads you to do something else. But not doing anything because it was not your ringtone that went off—as I said at the beginning that is near heresy.

I think this is the most ‘prophetic’ blog that I have written, but I am passionate about it. All of us have the responsibility given by God to minister out of our resources to the world. If we are not doing it, it is not because we were not CALLED….

It is because we are in SIN.

Nuff said on this,

Joe

Leia Mais…

Monday, April 18, 2011

Time Is Money


The other day, Denise and I went to Five Guys and Fries to eat lunch. As we were sitting in the blue collar town that we happened to be in and chowing down on a bacon cheeseburger all the way plus fries, I looked around the room. It was full of hardworking tradesmen. The people obviously did not work in an office environment. Yet, I told Denise this…”There are two things that everyone in this room has in common. The first is that every single one of us is rich, and the second is that none of us think so.”

Let me show you what I mean. I recently came across a great little website, just a thing to think about. I recommend that you stop right now and do this, cuz it gives us some pretty cool insight.

Go to www.globalrichlist.com and enter your annual household salary. For the purpose of this exercise, input the salary of everyone that lives in your home, which you claim as a dependent, in the form. For example, Caleb is making $200/week right now, so I added his annual salary of $10,000 to mine. I also added Jacob’s salary. Punch in the number and see where you rate.

Surprising isn’t it? The fact is, we are affluent CHRISTIANS in a poor world. We are just blind to it. We compare our wealth with the wealthier instead of seeing ourselves as a means of helping the poorer.

There is something else on that website that grabbed me, and I want to ask you to do it, only with our ministry. If you look back, it takes your household salary and gives you an hourly estimate of it, then challenges you to donate an hour to help others. I did this when I worked at General Motors for the United Way. Every month, two hours of my pay was automatically deducted from my check and donated. When I saw this website, I thought, “What a great idea!”

If you are reading this, then you are a facebook friend, a ministry partner, or follow my blog. So, it is to you. If you are not currently one of our regular investors, then why not invest one hour a month to help us reach the nation of Bolivia (the poorest nation in North, Central and South America—second in poverty only to Haiti in the Western Hemisphere)?

Sure, you could do something else with the money. You could grab a latte, rent a couple of movies, eat a burger, purchase a new toy, or get that cute item at Walmart. You could buy a change of season blouse or download a new album. This is what consumerism is all about, bigger, better, faster and more. Madison Avenue spends billions of dollars in marketing to get you to buy their products. So you could spend that money on a gazillion things…or you could invest it in the Kingdom of God and help CHANGE A LIFE.

Time is money. Will you give one hour a month to help someone who needs it?

Go to www.Holmanfamily.org and follow the “How To Give” button. Start your investment in eternity today.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Camera Shy


Denise bought me a really cool camera last year. It is a Canon Rebel digital. It is not only a camera; it is also a video recorder. It has at least 13 settings plus 8 buttons. Not only that, it also has an extra zoom lens. This is the type of camera that professionals use. It will do close ups, distance shots, portraits, and more. Several of the settings have sub-settings, so I think that it has a total of 20+ options and then the eight buttons.

One of the settings is automatic. You just click on it, and it will automatically focus and take the shot with an automatic flash if needed.

I have had the camera for several months. I had it on our Disney vacation and on our cruise. I had it when we took two of our fundraising trips to various states. I had it with me for Christmas, for all of our birthdays, and for our anniversary.

The only setting that I have ever used is automatic. Think about it. This super expensive really nice camera that can do really cool things, and I treat it like it is a $49 point and shoot from Walmart. Why? Because it is easier and I like easy. I would have to learn how to use the other settings. I would have to maybe even, get ready for this, I know it is hard to understand and a little scary….but I might even have to read the manual! Who wants to do that!!

So, I just use the simplest setting. All of that potential, and I choose easy and nice over fantastic.

I picked up my camera to snap a shot of Mercy being goofy, and thought, “This is just like us.” We gravitate to the easiest setting in life. We have so much potential. We could be used by God to do incredible things in the world. We could be such a blessing to others.

If we put effort into it, our marriages could go from ‘not fighting’ to ‘happy’. You know what I mean. Most christian couples describe their marriages as home businesses. Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities and they all work together to keep the ‘marriage’ running. However, few people rarely say that they are happy, joyful, and ecstatic in their marriage. Few people look at their spouses as their best friend in the world and love to hang out together. Why? It is because the automatic setting on our marriage makes it good enough, especially when we compare it to the underexposed relationships of our friends.

If we really sought to improve ourselves, to apply ourselves, then perhaps our parenting skills could take our families from keeping the house clean and finishing schoolwork to the happiest place on earth. But, we don’t have time to read the manual (Bible) or even books on how to improve, so we leave the setting on automatic and do our three meals/day, laundry, and math. No one likes it much, but it takes a good enough picture.

If we wanted to we could cause our lives to go from maintenance to mission. We could start to do more than exist, and really start to live. We could look ahead and grab God’s vision for the world and for us rather than remember when… Consider this, how many of you who are reading this talk a lot about what has happened to you in the past, but rarely about what you are going to do in the future. For most people, when you leave life on automatic, you settle for a print of the life other people want you to have instead of the work of art God wants to create. Life on automatic happens, but it is usually boring. Nice photos of boring events. Like taking a picture of a sign when you are on vacation. Later on when you are looking at your photos you just breeze right past that one don’t you? It is a good photo of a boring event. Like the mundane, routine, ordinary lives of most Christians. Where is our joy? Where is our passion? Where is our excitement? Where is our adventure? Where is our power?

It is all on another setting. A setting in which you stop just living on automatic and start looking at accomplishing God’s incredible purpose for you in the world.

Would you join me on this adventure of being who God made us to be, rather than automatically copying the crowds around us?

Leia Mais…

Saturday, April 9, 2011

World Coffee--I Mean Missions


This is just cool. It is a great idea, and easily reproducible for anyone, and it honors God!

Here is what happened. I was sipping a cup of coffee at the coffee shop and writing when a young college aged man stopped by to say hello. He and I chatted and he told me that he had decided to support world missions (he has become one of our donors, yeah!!!). But his method of supporting it rocks.

He got to thinking about how much he loved coffee and how he drank so much of it. So, he is sharing. Every time he buys a cup of coffee, he keeps his receipt so he won’t forget and then at the end of the month donates that to the mission of God. He said that he anticipates giving $1000 to missions ‘one cup of coffee at a time’. He figures if he can enjoy a cup of java, why not at the same time let someone else enjoy hearing about Christ.

What a cool idea! How about you? Can you buy a cup of coffee for world missions?

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Christians And Illegal Immigrants

I recently commented on a couple of fb statuses that were asking questions about illegal aliens. I was actually shocked by the emotional responses that I was reading. After this, a pastor friend of mine from Texas posted a question on his fb page. It said, “What should be the church’s response towards illegal aliens?” He received over 100 comments in four hours. I commented on his status question, and then because I was intrigued, I put it on my status as well. What should be the church’s response towards illegal aliens?

My fb people were not nearly as emotional as some of his were, probably because he and his church are in Texas, but two things jumped out at me on both of these statuses. First of all, the vast majority of the responses were answering a different question. They were answering the question, “Should the American government give free programs to illegal aliens?” People were talking about immigrants receiving education, health care, and other benefits without paying taxes. They were saying that the laws should be changed and enforced. This word, ‘law’, surfaced a lot. Remember the question, “What should be the church’s response to illegal immigrants?” That question by and large remained unanswered.

The second thing that jumped out at me was how so many people that did not know each other, people from various parts of the country, people with different levels of education, people that were not friends almost all said the same thing. These people were evangelical Christians, the people that you think would be on the facebook friend list of two different pastors, but other than that they had nothing in common. But their responses were like they were quoting each other. They all spoke of the vast amount of money being spent on welfare, Medicaid, law enforcement and education. In some cases, it was almost as if one person copy/pasted another person’s comments…but I know that these people do not know each other. You know the weird thing? I was at a friend’s house and he had Fox News on, and I saw the same comments being used. It was as if Fox News Commentaries got their information from our statuses. J

So, this blog is born. It is NOT POLITICAL, but I will refer to economics in the first part. This is because in one of my comments on my friend’s status, I said that I did not know, but that I thought maybe the ‘illegal aliens are taking all our money’ attack was a scarecrow. I did not know, but I wondered if illegal aliens really are syphoning our taxpayer dollars. In response I was told that I must not watch the news. On another thread I asked the same question and once more the response was about how ignorant I must be, all you have to do is turn on your television and you can see reports about how much money illegals are costing taxpayers.

So, I have done something rather weird. I have researched it on my own without listening to talk radio or having the television on. I looked at several sources as I googled to make sure that I did not report a slant either way. I honestly started off having no information and just wanted to know if illegals really are taking large sums of taxpayers money. This is not an official research paper, my only sources were the internet, but you can easily google and yahoo for yourself. I tried to avoid blogs and obviously biased articles and use only news sources, periodicals, scholarly journals and official government websites for my information. Here are my figures, but please do your own research.

Our total budget is $3.552 trillion. This is our budget, not our deficit or our debt, but estimated actual expenditures. Of that, we spent $10.4 billion on illegal aliens, however much of that was spent on the US born children of illegal aliens—therefore US Citizens. I did not try to factor them out. If you do the math, this is .0029, or .29%--less than 1/3 of a percentage. I arrived at this number using several sources and although there was a little variance, no matter what number you ended up with it was very, very small in comparison to our budget.

Do the numbers support that illegal aliens are taking our taxpayer dollars? No, they are receiving less than 1/3 of a percentage and that includes the legal children of illegal aliens. For argument’s sake, triple that number just in case some of my sources were erroneous. That would take it up to a whopping less than 1%.

So, why are all these people so concerned with illegal aliens taking taxpayer dollars and receiving benefits that they don’t deserve? Why was this the answer to the question of what should the church do? I don’t know. I can only speculate that we all receive our information from the same basic slant and then we just repeat it over and over. I think that I did not know the rhetoric or share the opinions of many people because I don’t watch Fox or CNN. I don’t watch television or listen to talk radio, conservative or liberal. I did not even know who Glen Beck was until a few months ago because I live in Bolivia. I am an ultra conservative Christian, and a proud American, but I am removed from the conservative or the liberal sources. I was just overwhelmed by the similarity of the responses and then by people thinking I was silly by asking if there really was a huge economic burden brought by illegals.

Now, I have NO IDEA what the American Government should do, what laws they should have, what policies should be enforced, or what punishments should be enacted upon violators of the law. I do not even want to argue the political aspects because it isn’t my passion or something that I know anything about.

But I am passionate about what the church, no, about what we Christians should do in regards to helping illegal or legal immigrants. I do not think that it is my job, nor my responsibility to enforce the law. I should obey it. However, I am a pastor and a missionary, not an agent for the US Department of Immigration. It is not my job to enforce the immigration law any more than it is to look at your 1040 to make sure you paid all your taxes or to set up radar and enforce speed limits. I am to obey the law, that does not mean that I must make sure that everyone else obeys it.

Think this through. If I limit what I do as a Christian only to those people who are NOT breaking the law, then in effect I am saying, “Our church will not help sinners. Stop sinning and then come on in.”

Should Christians help illegals cross the border? Wow. Tough question. I think not at this point, but I could see why some would disagree with me. People who appeal to the fact that this is breaking the law are correct, however is there a time when we should break the law? Is there ever a moment when breaking the law is the morally right thing to do? What if the law said you could only have one child so you had to abort your baby when you got pregnant with your second? Would it be right or wrong to obey the law? What about Christians preaching in countries where it is illegal to preach? What about missionaries getting a business visa to enter a country because missionaries are not allowed in that country? How about speeding in order to get to church on time? (I digress).

I do think that there are times when the higher good, the greater law of life is more important than human laws. I know it is a dangerous game to play when you start appealing to this ‘higher’ law, but nevertheless it is there. Is it in place now for illegal immigrants to the USA? I personally do not think so. I don’t think that the church or Christians need to be compelled to break the immigration laws because of following a higher law.

My question is, what should our response to illegal immigrants be? They are here. They have broken the law. I did not break it. I did not help them break it. I am not a coyote smuggling them into the country. But, here they are, so what do I do?

I believe that we do for them exactly what we should do for everyone. Meet their needs to the best of our ability. We should love them. We should serve them. We should bless them. We should help them. We should try to bring them to Jesus. We should disciple them. We should include them in our lives.

We should erase the ‘THEM’ and replace it with ‘US”. THEY should become part of US.

Here are a few verses just to think about.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Mat 28:19-20)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mat 25:34-46)

. . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luk 12:48)

Add all the verses in the Bible telling us to help the poor, serve the outcast, support the weak, and on and on and on.

We need to separate our political idea of what the United States ought to do in regards to making and enforcing immigration laws from our responsibility of loving people to Jesus.


What should our response to illegal immigrants be?

What should our response to legal immigrants be?

What should our response to US Born citizens be?

The answer to all three questions is the same. Love them to Jesus and then help them become more like Him.

Leia Mais…