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Richard, I fully identify with what you are saying.  On the one hand you feel obligated to read the stuff.   On the other hand, its like the local hardware store advertising flyer... should you read it if you don't feel like it?   If you are busy with other things?   If you don't recall any need for hardware items?  

we might assume that most churches are not entirely healthy.  Yet God uses them to bring the gospel.  They may be missing one aspect or another of these ten signs of health.  But just as a man with a broken leg could still write a book, so a partly unhealthy church can still demonstrate grace, or speak truth to power, or provide solace for the hurting.  God used Jonah, a spiritually unhealthy man, to bring the message of repentance to Nineveh, and God used Israel, an unhealthy nation, to bring Christ to the world.  Signs of health are important, but not as important as the good news of the gospel itself.  

Almost everyone thinks they are pleasing God....  some think they can please God without being obedient to him.  

Gwyneth, I wonder if your statement is a bit too broad.   I mean where you say, one-size fits all obedience creates gaps or separations.  It seems to me there are times when that is true, and times when it does not apply.  If we say that murder is wrong, and hatred is murder, are you saying that only applies to some people and not to others?  Or that it is okay for some people to commit adultery while not okay for others?  Are there legitimate gaps and illegitimate gaps?  

On the other hand, I agree that the way we love our neighbor or our wife is legitimately different in many circumstances; one prefers roses, the other prefers candy or a kiss, the third prefers a shovelled sidewalk.  

A few basic things before the periferals.... read the bible with your kids.  Discuss it with them.  Don't wait till they are teens to do this.  Sing with them.  Pray with them.  Don't flaunt your relationship with God or make it a show.  Don't hide your relationship with God or be embarassed by it.  Confess your obvious sins.  Repent.  Let your feelings and sincerity and priorities be obvious.  Pray for them.  

While ministry shares provide efficiency,  and security, and seem to lead to being able to talk about the 'numbers" statistics(countries, languages, missionaries), the greatest lack often seems to be the personal connection.  

We have a small church.  About 90- 100 attend every week, including small children, and children are about half the church.   Yet we had a collection two weeks ago where we contributed an amount equivalent to about half the ministry shares, in one single collection, to a non-ministry share foreign mission project in Kenya, mostly because we knew the people who were going there, and had seen videos and slides of the work that was progressing there.    Ministry shares may be good, but they often seem to end up in never-never land, being absorbed into the large soup pot of the church collective, and we are never quite sure what difference our particular contribution makes, or who uses it or spends it, or who is affected by it.   

It is not psychologically possible for people in most churches to observe or connect to 200 countries and 200  missionaries.  Small churches can handle one or two, and large churches maybe  four or five.   And somehow they have to connect themselves.   A connection handed down from above (perception) will not work so well, particularly if the connection is to a chaplain when they may be more tuned into foreign missions... or vice versa. 

Ministry share might be important, but not for their own sake.   They are important only for what they accomplish.   If the method of raising funds needs to be adjusted for some things, in order to accomplish more, then perhaps we should not be too reluctant to try something different. 

Mr. Invisable, I hope and pray that you will get some company, some visitors.   Are you also the same mr. "nobody"?   It is difficult to be lonely, but perhaps you can find a way to help others somehow, and also perhaps a hobby that you might be able to share with others.   I hope   that you will find some soul-mates soon.    

Perhaps it is poor giving leading to lack of ministry shares....   but maybe it is good giving, sacrificial giving, but not necessarily to ministry shares.   We maybe have to be careful not to assume that not giving to "service"  shares is the same thing as poor giving.  There may be other avenues of service.  We all make choices about what we donate to.   So for example, if I have two universities and two colleges asking me for donations, I may decide to donate more to a Christian college than to a secular university, and also more to a Christian college that follows scripture than a college that appears to be only nominally christian or one that is less closely aligned to my view of christian committment and witness.   Or if  several organizations are asking for funds to support children in third world countries, how does one make a choice about which ones to support or use.   Or  if several missionaries or mission fields (foreign and local) come to my attention, how do I decide to support one or more, or do I decide to abdicate that choice to someone else?  

Giving money is one thing, and perhaps relatively easy.   But tying in personal committment and action to the giving of money is much more difficult (it can hurt sometimes).   So getting involved in local missions and relief is often a lot less fun (and sometimes more rewarding and more fun), and involves a whole lot more work and sacrifice than just writing a cheque.  

I am not at all saying that it is wrong to have ministry shares.   But there is a danger that a few actions by one or two agencies might hurt the entire panorama of ministry shares.   A parallel example is where many people do not donate at all to United Way campaigns simply because Planned Parenthood is in the mix, and they support abortion.  The other organizations in the mix kind of lose out because of it.   But perhaps they still benefit as well, due to the efficiencies of collection of money by one organization. 

We ought not to get angry about how other people donate or contribute financially.  They should be encouraged to give back some of what God gave them financially, and perhaps about 10% is a good guideline for most people.  But ultimately it is part of their relationship to God.   Giving uncheerfully or grudgingly or is not what God desires.   He doesn't need nor want our sacrifices, as the prophets clearly indicate.   He wants our hearts.  Then the thank offerings will come. 

Does your local church have a missions program?  local missions?  that requires money to support it?  Local ministry is the first line of the wider ministry.   Every wider ministry has a local ministry aspect, local for them, wider for us.   Or local for us, wider for them.   Local ministry is very valid, and can be the most effective, if the effort is there and the spirit is right. 

 Is the amount allocated for facilities disproportionate to everything else?  Perhaps too much building for too few people?   Would you estimate that people are donating 10% of their income to church or kingdom causes?   or other charitable causes that fall into the category of caring for the widows and orphans (sick and needy).  or is it dramatically below that 10%?  

It may be that giving is low for spiritual reasons.   Perhaps we must be careful not to look at the amount given to the denomination as a potential mark of pride, nor as meeting some kind of criteria that we can meet the approval of God in it.  

God has given each church many talents, many minas.   Some of those talents and minas are money.   What are we doing with it?    

Hi.  You talk about not praying for healing....   But you seem to think that you are a better tool as a sick and broken man, a better tool for Christ.   However, if you are a tool, you should leave it to God to decide whether a broken tool is better than a 'fixed" tool.  Of course, we are all sick and broken, in the sense that we all need God's forgiveness and sustaining power of the spirit.  But our brokenness or illness cannot be a full blessing, I think, if we revel in it, or if we lack the ability to desire ultimately for the completeness and complete healing that God eventually gives us, if not in this life, then in the next.  

It would be sad if you were afraid to pray for healing....   Of course, God may decide to answer no.   But maybe the real healing is not a physical or even a mental healing, but a spiritual healing.  A healing of the spirit by the Spirit.   Where your illness becomes secondary, and does not provide the focus of your life, even though you may have to deal with it everyday.   Where hurts are forgiven, where repentance is real, where you are truly renewed.   Where the illness is seen as part of the sin of this world, and yet where God may turn evil for good in some way that you and all of us can be thankful for. 

I am glad to hear of your willingness to participate in so many ways to help proclaim the good news of the gospel of Christ!

John Zylstra on May 10, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The confessions are, and should be, a summary of what God tells us through scripture, about who God is, and who we are in relation to God.  The confessions are not the church order, which is what we tell each other about how we want to behave within the institution.  The church order can be ignored, or changed, without imperilling our faith and witness.  The confessions cannot really be ignored or contradicted without denying the significance and unity of our faith.  Even if there were a necessity to revise a 0,1% of the confessions, that would not invalidate the 99.9% that speaks from scripture to us.

To use the excuse that our confessions are limiting change is to not understand or know the confessions.  It would be similar to saying that scripture is limiting change.  Well yes, it limits some things, and not other things.  Some things need to be limited, while others things scripture does not speak to, and in fact in some things, scripture has encouraged change.  A blanket generalization on this is inappropriate. 

The confessions do not prevent various musical instruments from being used, or various classes and conventions be held to teach, or various ways of loving your neighbor, etc.   To use someone's attachment to a program, and compare our attachment to a confession, is inappropriate and illegitimate.  

Confessions are not primarily a means of coercion.   They are a means of teaching, a means of summarizing, a means of unity.   Coercion is merely a by-product of a level of unity.   Without the confessions, there really is no denominational identity.  In fact, without the confessions, there is really no denomination at all. 

Perhaps also marriages often fall apart because of a lack of understanding of sacrifice and love in general.   If sacrifice and committment are not modelled by parents and the church, then we should not be surprised that children will not learn what those things are.  Our society, including christian society is often more influenced by a humanistic (self-directed) attitude towards marriage, as towards life in general.  In fact, this humanistic philosophy tells us that sacrifice is absurd and ridiculous, and that self-fulfillment is the answer.  We demand to be happy;  it is our right, or so we say.   If we are not "happy" then we start to look for a way out.   A way towards happiness of our own making.   Self-fulfillment.  Which at a certain level is not much different than selfishness.   The irony is that in our search for happiness, we usually lose it.  Even if we were to sacrifice for others, merely to make ourselves happy, we would still not find happiness.   Only our pleasure in serving the God who made us, the God who redeemed us, can really be lasting and whole. 

The other influence or accompanying factor with so many failed marriages is the lack of respect for "marital relations".  By stealing these relations from the institution of marriage, and treating them as mere experiments and trials and testing periods, we have created an atmosphere of trialling that carries over into marriage itself.   Here the irony is that premarital sex is a really good indicator of failed marriages (although there are exceptions).   Premarital sex, including cohabitation prior to marriage was supposed to reduce divorce, but it seems to actually increase the level of divorce and marital insecurity.   Of course, it does not do this by itself;  it is really the attitude that permits stealing sexual activity out of marriage, which continues its battle against marriage later for those who do get married. 

God is greater than the mistakes we make before marriage, and in our time of marriage.   Therefore these trends and our mistakes do not have to determine   our future behaviour, provided we understand forgiveness, sacrifice, and committment. 

While it is true that we are not perfect as our Father in Heaven, yet God asks us to be holy (every Christian), and so we are to try to model our marriages after the love and grace that God shows to us sinners through his mercy, love and forgiveness  through Christ.  If we did that, our rate of successful marriages would be much higher than the present rate.   And it starts with us, with me, not with the "other".   And when we pursue obedience, we will often find   unexpected happiness. 

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