Thursday, November 22, 2007

We gather together ...

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever(Ps. 107:1). What are you thankful for? It's Thanksgiving, and it might seem trite or smarmy to some to think of what we are thankful for, but here's a few things I am grateful to God for:

1. My wife. I never dreamed that I would be married to someone who is so much fun to be with and yet can tolerate me at my worst. Even when we fight - and we do sometimes - we make up. And we love one another. I am amazed that such a wonderful woman would marry me, and would understand the darkness that sometimes plagues me.

2. We have found a new church. After attending one fellowship for several years, we left that church about 18 months ago. From there we went to an Assemblies of God church for about a year, but never seemed to fit in. But now we have found a fellowship where we seem to fit. It has the kind of worship we long for and the preaching is fantastic - which is rare. Most of the time you have to choose one or the other - either good worship or good preaching, but seldom both.

3. We have been reasonalby healthy this year. Cornelia (my wife) still has some physical struggles because of the rigors of her job, but she has been able to keep working.

4. I got my degree from Regent University. Master of Arts in Pratical theology. I still don't feel like I know anything. If anything I learned how much I don't know. But that's good. That way I can't cop an attitude about how much I know.

5. Cornelia and I got to go to both the Bahamas and Paris this year. The Bahama trip was to get warm and the Paris trip was a dream come true. And we didn't break the bank on either one and still had a good time.

6. I still have a job. The efforts of the Bush Administration to eliminate my job notwithstanding, I still have an income.

7. My bass teacher Anthony Wellington. This dude has talent to spare and yet is a great teacher. Again that's rare. Many times players are either great players or great teachers. Anthony is both. Make it funky.

8. I am getting better at piano. I don't always like it that my teacher makes me play recitals, but hey, it's the only thing that motivates me to practice, so that's a good thing.

9. I got to travel a lot this year - to the Super Bowl in Miami, to the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (where I got to hear some really GREAT music) and to Osaka, Japan. I wasn't all that enthusiastic about the long plane rides, but I got to each of these assignments - and most of all got home - without incident.

10. The things we take for granted - the car works, the house is in pretty good shape, no fires, tornadoes or hurricanes wreaking havoc on life, and things are prosperous. Not rich, but not poor. Sometimes that's hard to remember in the stress of everyday life, but there are no guarantees in life. Thanks be to God for the simple things - food, clothes, shelter, transportation, warmth. Not to mention laughter, intellectual stimulation, friends, learning, and growth.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Render unto Caesar ....

that which is Casear's. And render unto God that which is God's. Jesus said that about paying taxes. Jesus and taxes have been in the news this week as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asked several ministries to account for how they spent their money. The ministries involved include some of the so-called "prosperity gospel" teachers - Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar among them.

Let me preface this post with two facts:

1) I serve on the board of a non-profit ministry; and

2) I work for the Federal Government, so taxes pay my salary.

A friend of mine and I had a back and forth over this. His basic premise is that the State cannot tell the church what to do, i.e., the state cannot be all up in the church's work because (a) it has not been given that authority and (b) tax exemption implies sovereignty over someone and the church is supposed to be subject to God only.

Okay, I'll give him that. I don't want the government in all my business either, and I don't agree with everything that Uncle Sam spends my tax money on. But part of the exemption granted under 501c3 status is that non-profit organizations make a full disclosure of their finances (a form 990) if asked. But that's where the rub comes in with Bros Copeland, Dollar and others. They are considered churches, and are not required to file a 990.

Senator Grassley has given the ministries until December 6th to respond.

Constitutional issues aside, I must admit being surprised by all the uproar. If the ministries have done nothing to violate the Federal tax code, they have nothing to fear. They can open the books and say - here it is, here is what we received, what we spent, how we spent it and what we have left.

If there has been honesty, then they will be found to be honest. If they have tried to sidestp the law and keep their exempt status, they should be afraid. Why? Because the government we have is given to us by God (See Rom 13:6,7). I might not like it, I might disagree with its policies, but in the United States the way to express my grievance is most appropriately in the voting booth.

No one likes an audit; I wouldn't like one either. It makes you look dishonest even if you haven't been because otherwise why would Uncle Sam be poking his nose in your business?

But in the age of Enron and other corporations bilking their investors out of billions of dollars, keeping everything above board is not only necessary for financial safety, but to preserve the integrity of all ministry.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I can't believe these people

I heard this story yesterday on the radio, and I shuddered to believe it. But it's true. The God Hates Fags people in Topeka, Kansas are at it again. But this time, they lost. To the tune of nearly 11 million dollars.

Let me say two things at the outset:

1. I am a Bible-believing Christian and a graduate of a conservative Christian school;

2. I have a gay family member.

Now that those two things are clear, let's rap. I don't believe that "God Hates Fags." I do believe that God hates sin. But homosexuality is just one of a LOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNGGGG list of sins the Apostle Paul lists in at least three of this epistles (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians).

But he also mentions envy, malice, anger, slander, gossip, hatred, clamour, evil speaking, greed, pride and several others. Some people want to say one sin is worse than others (they appeal to Paul's reference that sexual sin is a sin against one's own body) but the thing about sin is ALL of it is deadly.

It's like having a little cancer. Or being a little bit pregnant.

And the God whom these protestors allege hates fags is the same God who was bleeding and dying on a cross in Jerusalem.

I find it ironic that these protests were at the funeral of a U.S. Marine and the lawsuit was filed by the Marine's father. A couple of Jesus' miracles were at funerals (Jairus's daughter and the widow of Nain - oh and there was that thing with Lazarus, too). And when he started his ministry, Jesus read the passage from Isaiah that reads:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

I think that says it.