Taking Your Eyes Off God- 4

29 Sep

Turning your eyes off God doesn’t always happen to those who leave the faith. Sometimes those who are believers take their eyes off God and follow after strategies or ideas that may sound good or have been proven to be successful even though they did not come from God. They are borrowed from the secular world and adapted for Christian use.

I am sure my readers can think of many such examples. They come from the leadership so people think it is okay to use them or that God approves.

#1. Building programs

Years ago the church I grew up in was building its 3rd sanctuary and an old friend and I got into a discussion on the issue.

I did not really approve of the move because of the expenditure but her words in defense have always stuck with me not because they were profound but because they illustrated the misguided thinking that takes place in the church. It also shows quite clearly what I am talking about.

Her words were–‘we need to show the unbelieving world how successful we are.’ These words demonstrate quite clearly how far some of us are from keeping our eyes on God and his word. We get it into our heads that God needs  a new building to draw people to him and that building needs to be state of the art.

If we look at what Jesus did, he had multitudes following him not because he had his disciples build grand buildings but because he taught them correctly, he healed their illnesses, fed them and took care of their needs.

I am not saying that believers cannot use buildings or build their own. Sometimes we need our own to protect us from secular landlords who do not follow God’s morality and who participate  in not so honest business practices.

The point is, what is the purpose behind the building of sanctuaries? Is it to meet secular standards of success or to follow secular thinking but Christianize it so we can feel good about taking our eyes off of God and his ways?

It is not the building that does Christ’s work nor should we promote it to such duties.

#2. $113 million!?–

The redesign of Christ Cathedral by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which is set to cost close to $113 million, will feature an illuminated sanctuary and host up to 8,000 people during outdoor mass, new plans revealed.

“Through this innovative design process, an insightful plan has emerged that will establish Christ Cathedral as a place for involvement in the sacraments, a place to hear the word of God proclaimed and a place for personal prayer and devotion,” Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange said earlier this week. “It will be a holy place, where God dwells among us.”

When I was in undergrad school, we used to make fun of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) of the Middle Ages as they spent untold amounts of money on their cathedrals of the backs of the poor.

Then our own people started building such huge multi-million dollar structures and we had to shut up. I am not a fan of the RCC and believe it is a false church even though there are RCs who are truly Christian amongst its ranks.

This $113 million expenditure just adds to my opposition to them and their false doctrines. The last line goes against what Paul tells us about God and where he dwells

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (2 Cor. 6:16 NASB)

LA is a very large city with a very large population of poor people, though I am not talking about the homeless here. There are many who are poor yet can still keep their homes. There are many who are sick or in need in other areas yet because the RCC has taken its eyes off God its priorities have become skewed.

They feel that a large amount of money spent on a building that will not make it to heaven is what God wants. The RCC’s thinking is quite a contrast to how Jesus thought and acted from what we know from the gospels.

“A cathedral, such as the Christ Cathedral when completed, lifts the mind, heart and soul of believers — and perhaps even others — to the love of God and the hope that God has promised,” said Msgr. Christopher Smith, Christ Cathedral’s rector.

Smith added that the design aims to build “a deeper unity of purpose and mission among Catholics within our local Church” in addition to “a renewed commitment to permeating the world with the love of Christ.”

Maybe it is just me but I disagree with such comments. To ‘lift the hearts and minds of believers & others’, to show the love of God and his hope, the money should not be spent on a building. Instead it should  be raised and spent on helping those who need help.

I can think of one good use for that money right now–create jobs so people can save their dignity, their pride and see that God cares about them. It is pretty hard to see God caring when one is left in need while available resources are spent on a building that has no soul to save or help.

#3. Square 1— Hitler and the Cross by Erwin Lutzer

I hesitate to use this work as an example as my criticism of this Christian author almost cost me a 30 year friendship. Mr Lutzer was one of his favorite authors. I was disappointed in the book because I was under the pretense that Mr. Lutzer was going to provide real information about Hitler’s use of the cross, the words ‘ God’ and ‘God is with us’ among other religious symbols and the nazi use for them.

I thought I was going to get the honest scoop handled in a very intelligent Christian manner and one that was going to tell me the truth. What I got was something vastly different from that.

The information was very superficial, handled in the typical evangelical don’t go beneath the surface way and each chapter was geared to present the gospel message.  I am afraid to say that Mr. Lutzer dropped the ball on this topic Instead of providing real food for spiritual growth and provide information so believers could counter unbelievers arguments that Hitler was a Christian, we got square 1.

You have heard of the term ‘preaching to the choir’ well the choir doesn’t need square one any more. They need real food, real spiritual information to grow beyond the gospel message they have already believed and accepted.

This is one of the reasons why the local churches are not as healthy spiritually as God would like. Too many Christian leaders have taken their eyes off God and allowed their priorities to be skewed. They also do not read the people nor the situation very well.

It is one of the reasons why problems in the church are not handled correctly. Church leaders have allowed their fears and concerns to take their eyes off God and place them elsewhere and those alternatives ruin so many people and their hopes or dreams.

We need to allow people to grow beyond square 1 so they know how to obey God correctly and how to administer his will properly. I tink I wrote about how my former denomination was changing the morning worship time to a ‘seeker sensitive’ time and how disappointing it was to hear of the implementation of that strategy.

With our eyes off God our obedience gets messed up and even though we think we are pleasing God we are really missing the boat. Pastors need to grow beyond pop Christianity and delve into the deeper realms of God and his kingdom in order to lead his people to a deeper faith in Christ.

This means putting our eyes back on God and following him while learning our lessons as we go. But we got to get the people PAST square 1. We do not protect them by keeping them there. We are making them more vulnerable to the attacks of evil because of this off-kilter mentality.

They do not know how to defend themselves or their faith because our priorities are messed up. That is not good nor what God wants. God wants his followers to grow up and be soldiers of the faith for him. Not cowering children isolated by over-protective church leaders.

Our church leaders need to stop allowing fear to govern their thinking and activities and get their eyes back on God so they can teach the people what they need to know in order to grow up and be strong in Christ.

#4. Money, Money, Money

Family members of Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, have filed a lawsuit against the church, claiming elder abuse and wrongful takeover of his property, according to local news reports and court records. Smith had been struggling with lung cancer and died last October.

I am not concerned about the spiritual label this person or that church maintains. The article is just used as an example to show what happens when people take their eyes off God and put them on money.

It is not just a prosperity gospel problem  or a t.v. evangelist’s problem, the money focus permeates Christendom. For the last couple of decades the Christian church has gotten into financial planning and have somehow gotten themselves named as beneficiaries in many different wills.

I am sure you have heard or read about this trend. The focus on money is not just for the false believer anymore. One of the reasons for this trend is the church’s desire for more and more innovative programs designed to win souls.

Again, I must point back to Jesus’ ministry to show that he did not teach his followers to create programs. He did show everyone how to be fishers of men but those lessons did not always include an altar call, an evangelistic rally or message every time a believer turns around.

He had a variety of ways to call people to his kingdom. With his disciples it was a simple ‘follow me and they left what they were doing and followed him. For others it was being served both good spiritual and physical food. Then there was the healing ministry, the take time for the children aspect, the individual attention to special cases, the judicial role and so much more.

Today’s world is not that much different from Christ’s time. We may have cars and trucks, they had wagons and chariots. we have tall buildings, they had tall buildings.  Technology may have been a little different but the basics of life never change– people love darkness over light.

They sin and have a sin nature. So it isn’t going to be the innovative programs that bring people to Christ, it is going to be how the people hear the word of God and realize they need to change.

When the Christian church started copying the RCC organization and took their eyes off God and put them on different strategies, needs changed. Raising money and money itself became more important than the spiritual quality of the people.

By extension, the programs became more of a focal point than the words of Christ. The Churches soon became mired in a quandary. How could they save souls if there was no money for the programs? They forgot that we do not need programs to win souls, we just needed to listen to and keep our eyes on God and follow his direction.

Helping a neighbor when they need it plants a seed which can then grow as the neighbor experiences more such godly experiences. We do not need to draw them into the church and have them participate in a program to do this.

Christians just need to love their neighbors as themselves. But it takes a spiritually healthy church that has gotten past square one to do this. It doesn’t take a lot of money.

When I was young I played varsity sports and whenever things were going bad for us our coach would tell us in practice that it was time to get back to the basics of the sport. Time to get back to the fundamentals.

Well the Christian church needs to get back to Christ’s fundamentals. This does not mean we go back to house churches or some  other misunderstanding of the practices of the ancient church.

It means we get back to putting our eyes upon God and following his lead not the ideas of the rest of the world. We need to get back to helping our neighbor, feeding them when they need it, taking care of them when they are sick, helping out when their loved one is in prison and so on.

We need to get back to loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Then we need to get back to the basics of obeying Jesus admonition to Peter–feed my sheep. Not with Christian junk food or distorted priorities but with a balanced and healthy diet of real spiritual food so that the church can grow correctly.

We do not need creative financial planning or lots of programs to accomplish this objective. We just need people willing to roll up their sleeves and get serious about their faith. The money will come when it is needed– from God.

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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in academics, Bible, church, faith, family, leadership, theology


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