Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Prosperity Doctrine Debunked

Originally posted on our MSM blog November 26th, 2008:

If you are much younger than I am, you probably don’t even remember Jim Bakker and the PTL (Praise The Lord Club). Back in the 60s, Bakker was the first host of The 700 Club, then started his own televangelist show, The PTL Club, on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), eventually owning the rights to the show. He used his power and influence to embezzle millions of dollars, which he was convicted of and sentenced to prison. Interestingly enough, the property that Forest Hill Church in Charlotte is on, was owned by the Bakker’s, and it was not only the studio location of The PTL Club which, on a daily average, reached the TV sets of an estimated 12 million viewers, but it was also their home (the staff at Forest Hill called that building “the mansion”), which Forest Hill now uses as office, and small group meeting space.

Now, why am I writing about Jim Bakker you ask? Well first off, let me make it clear, there is no connection whatsoever between Jim Bakker or the PTL and Forest Hill Church. Forest Hill purchased the property long after the scandal, long after Bakker was in prison. The campus is huge, there have been add-ons and renovations. One that intrigued me was in the basement, below the filming studio, where Bakker had installed a pool, with Roman-looking columns and lavish molding and architecture. Forest Hill renovated the pool to create the youth worship room by just laying down flooring over the top of it, yep, just a hollow pool just beneath rowdy 8th graders (good thing none of their parents read this website :)

So, back to the question, why am I writing about Jim Bakker? I couldn’t help but think about Jim Bakker and his cronies lounging around the pool or sitting in the sauna talking about the prosperity doctrine or some other skewed theology that justified his lavish spending and complete disregard for other people. Then, ironically, we had the opportunity to talk about poverty, the homeless and poor in Bakker’s old living room, and on top of his pool. Our God has a great sense of humor. Twenty years prior, in the same room, people were talking about how material prosperity, particularly financial prosperity and success in business and personal life, is to be expected as external evidence of God’s favor. Then last week we had the opportunity to share the true and simple Gospel. Classic.

Here are some scriptures we used in our presentation that I’m not sure were fully understood until Forest Hill took over the property:

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17-19)

If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. (I John 3:16-19)

Whatever you have done for the least of these brothers of mine, you have done to me. (Matthew 25:40)

In all of our travels we have seen very few churches who reach out in more tangible and meaningful ways to the poor and marginalized than at Forest Hill. Thanks Forest Hill for helping debunk false doctrine.

(Additional note: In prison Bakker started to actually read the Bible. He then came out with a book called I Was Wrong where he wrote “The more I studied the Bible, however, I had to admit that the prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet!”)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Big Buster Fiasco

Originally posted September 13th, 2008 on our MSM blog:

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news from Illinois, it is raining in Chicago. Day and night, night and day it is raining. Here is a picture of the flooding.

So we needed somewhere to park Big Buster because we were headed to Jesus People USA for a week, and there isn’t much RV parking in downtown Chicago. We were offered a place to park by a guy who is part of Reba Place Fellowship and owns a vacant lot in Evanston. He showed us were it was and then drove off. The whole place was washed over in mud, so you couldn’t tell where the asphalt ended and where the dirt started. I tried to keep it as close to the right as possible, but about 30 ft. in were branches from a tree that I had to avoid. As I steered left we began to sink. We got all the way up to our axle and storage containers along the entire driver side. The view from the back had us tilted almost to where it looked like it would just tip over. I spent 2 hours digging out the entire driver side so that when the tow truck pulled us out they didn’t scrape the undercarriage. The tow company had to get the “extra-duty” truck, but they got it out. No damage.

I was thinking as I helplessly looked at the back of the RV tilting to one side: What if the earth swallowed up Big Buster? What if this was the end of our trip? His answer: I would point you in a different direction, I would bless you in a different way, the world would not end, and in some ways, it might end up being better, because you would have a story to tell. Big Buster (unfortunately) will be destroyed by moths and rust, our God is much bigger than that box I was putting Him in. The Lord rushed in and gave me a sense of peace and almost tranquility about the situation. God is good – ALL THE TIME!

This is what Serenity and the kids did while I was digging.

And although the Lord didn’t take away Big Buster, we still have a story.

Jesus People USA

Originally posted September 23rd, 2008:

We had a great time at Jesus People USA last week!

We were welcomed by Anna, the gal in charge of hospitality of volunteers and guests, and directed to our humble abode that our family would be living in for the next 7 days.

We then took a couple days to settle in and get adjusted to the new schedule and new surroundings. They provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for all the residents, guests, and volunteers. What a treat! Having our own apartment AND being served each meal was like vacation to us!

During last week we “did life” with Jesus People. Each day was filled with meeting new people, eating with everyone in the cafeteria, participating in the food bag program at the shelter, watching the kids all play together on the playground, figuring out the bus system, visiting some of the Chicago city parks, doing laundry in the basement of JPUSA late at night, and joining everyone for church on Sunday.

One of the biggest things that stood out to us was the diversity of JPUSA. The top three levels of the building was an assisted living community that Jesus People took care of and lived with. A group of students had just been welcomed to start the Project 12 program that is an intensive discipleship program for newcomers. Then there are all the folks who have made the commitment to live there and call it “home”. Many of them had been there for 10+ years, raising their families there and taking part in the common work that supports the financial burdens of the community. All these people consisted of whites, blacks, goths, punks, travelers, children, young families, elderly, jocks, artists, musicians, hippies, and even a pirate who greeted Andy with “Ahoy!”. It was a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God.

Honestly, our time at Jesus People was a place that ministered to us. We were blessed by their gracious hospitality and welcoming spirits. We left knowing that we had made friends and kindred spirits. We were encouraged by their stories and what the Lord had taught them through living in a community of believers. They had experienced ups and downs, times of passion, times of complacency, change, division, mistakes made within their community, joy, heartache, and many, many times of working through differences. Someone made a statement that really summed it up, “You either come and learn or you realize you are not ready and leave.” Community is not easy but can bring more joy than you could ever experience on your own.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This little spot needs some Jesus

Originally posted on October 20th, 2008 on our Mustard Seed Ministries blog:

We went down a few blocks from our parking spot at the Jubilee House to Dorchester Ave. today to give out some free coffee. Most people wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and even more didn’t want anything I was offering. This is what I did most of the morning:

But that was OK. We pray for an attitude of simplicity, and when we keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, whatever comes our way is a blessing. That may be feeding hundreds and praying for just as many, or it could be handing out 8 cups of coffee and listening deeply with those 8 people. I was able to pray for one Vietnamese man named Gree (probably spelled much differently) who had lost his job 7 months ago and was looking for work — any work. With his broken English he told me his story about working hard the past 7 years and always having work. The fact that he lived in the same place for all 7 of the years yet his landlord kicked him out just yesterday. I prayed with him that he would find a job, but that more importantly he would see Jesus revealed in his life, and that Jesus would become the only thing that he truly “needed.”

The most enjoyable friend that I met was a guy named Ron. Ron approached me as I was sitting exactly like the picture above. He didn’t make eye contact until he was a few feet away. When he did I asked him if he wanted some free coffee and his immediate (and I mean immediate) response was “NO!” Then not 4 seconds later he came back around the corner and said, “what did you say?” I repeated the same thing, “would you like some free coffee?” He smiled from ear to ear and a look of disbelief came over his face. “Your just giving free coffee away? Sure, I love coffee, I have no idea why I said ‘No’ I love coffee. Something made me just stop and turn around.” The whole time a huge infectious smile crossed his face. Then he asked, “So, why do you do this?” I simply said “Jesus.” Ron’s face changed to a serious look and he seemed like he was going to cry, not in a blubbering kind of way, but in a way that he couldn’t stop because he was moved. He glanced slightly upward as to look to God and with his hand on his chest he started to tell me about his relationship with God, and as his story went on so did his excitement. Ron was a great encouragement on a day we had to pour out a bunch of coffee.

Ron went on to say that he wasn’t even going to come down the block I was on, but something led him that direction. He also said that the small park we were set up at was the exact ground that a Vietnamese gang had “claimed.” Some stabbings and even some shootings had occurred there in the past months. He mentioned, “This little spot needs some Jesus.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Veggie Oil Ratings

See post below to know why I am reposting from our MSM blog.

Originally posted on September 28th, 2008:

So I'm not sure if anyone has noticed, but a while back we added a segment on the left hand column of our website called "currently running our RVs on vegetable oil from . . . " Next to the name of the restaurant we pumped the grease from is a number in parentheses. Tim and I have a rating system we use when discussing grease. Usually when we pull up behind a restaurant to look in the grease bin, only one of us gets out to look inside. When the lone scout returns the discussion usually goes a little something like this: "It looks like around a 7, about 50 gallons. Do you want to go in and ask or do you want me to?" Our rating system goes as follows:

1 - straight fat, usually makes Tim dry heave

2 - some grease, some fat, probably smells terrible and stays with you for a while

3 - possibly garbage or something else (we saw a dead bird in one grease bin)

4 - some grease, but a fatty sludge floating in it as well

5 - this is the lowest rating that we actually use. A 5 is not fatty, but very dark. The managers of these restaurants get the most out of their grease, but hey, it still drives.

6 - slightly lighter, and no fat

7 - an amber color, looks a little closer to what fuel should look like

8 - similar to a nice pale ale, but I wouldn't drink it

9 - we call a "9" -- Qdoba grease. This stuff looks like honey, and drives just as smooth

10 - SVO or straight vegetable oil -- we've never gotten this stuff for free.

Not all nationwide chains have the same rating. For example, we looked in Sonic grease bins a dozen times and didn't want anything to do with it, but the Sonic in Rock Springs, WY, was an 8. One nationwide chain has continually received the same low rating - Outback Steakhouse. Take it from us, beware of the bloomin' onion.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

School of Radical Christianity

Obviously, if you follow this blog (which the extended periods of time between posts probably assures that nobody is reading this), you know that I have not posted much for quite a while. This was for several reasons. First, I have been busy adjusting to being a full time teacher again, but that is no excuse for the lack of posts this past summer. The main reason, however, is that I have simply had nothing to say. I have not had much creative inspiration, and have not felt like sharing much. I blame Facebook. So, as of last week, I am going to pour my creative energy into writing again and have disabled my Facebook account. I figure my real friends can find me some other way, such as this blog, or our Jubilee website, or calling me, or maybe even if the occasion arises, a face to face discussion!

To spark some creative thoughts, I have decided that I will repost a favorite blog entry from our Mustard Seed Ministries blog (our traveling ministry blog) every few days. Here is the first one I found that caught my attention. . . ahhh, the days we spent at the Holy Family House. . . we can learn a lot from those crazy Catholics. Enjoy. . . .

Originally posted on August 21st, 2008:

We dropped in on the folks at Holy Family Catholic Worker House today. If you don't know much about the Catholic Worker Movement or it's founder Dorthy Day, I encourage you to check them out. Her solidarity with the poor brought on much persecution here in the United States. She was hated for advocating socialist ideals, she was arrested for protesting women being excluded from voting, and for protesting both European wars.

The "Holy House" as it is known in the neighborhood, was a peaceful, welcoming place. The rhythms of life seem simpler, smoother, and in a lot of ways easier, although life in a working poor neighborhood can obviously have it's difficulties. The house opens it's doors 4 times a week to anyone who is interested in coming for breakfast, and 6 times a week for dinner. They have designed and intentional times for community, for prayer, for spending time together in service, and all of it based on the Gospel.

Their website says it best:

We live, in community, a simple lifestyle and are about a ministry of specific works of mercy and works of justice. Community and ministry are necessarily integrated elements of living at Holy Family House. Part of the on-going purpose of Catholic Worker, by tradition, is to be a “school of radical Christianity, an invitation to know, through experience, the Gospel Jesus, who chose to become like, be with and for the poor.”

I saw the prayer of St. Francis today while I was there and I can only hope that we as Christians, and specifically we as Mustard Seed Ministries can, through Christ, be able to do this:

Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.

Where there is error, may we bring truth.

Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.

Where there is despair, may we bring hope.

St. Francis of Assisi