Monday, September 26, 2016

Does Acts 16:31 mean that if I am saved my whole family will become saved too?

A Bible passage without its context is a pretext to say anything you want. The Bible is full of many different types of literature. There is poetry, prophecy, narrative, discourse, letters, proverbs, and parables to name a few. Acts 16 is a narrative passage recording an event in the life of Paul and Silas. When you come to a passage, it is either prescriptive or descriptive. Prescriptive texts are instructive, and they are commands either of what to do or not to do. Confusion often sets in when we bring in the idea of modeling or examples. The Bible is filled with people who modeled great things, and we want to emulate them. But the question is how far do we take it? Should we make rash vows like Jephthah in Judges 11:30-32 or sacrifice our children to prove our faith in God like Abraham (Gen. 22)?

I believe that what we have is a descriptive passage which records an amazing event of salvation for the jailer and his household. A descriptive passage is one that is describing what happened, which may not be emulated or encouraged. Acts 20:9-11 records a young man named Eutychus falling to the ground from the third story to his death. Acts 20 records Paul bringing him back to life. This is a fantastic event for bringing life from death, but it is a unique event to the life of Paul. The story of the jailer and his family is the same. It was unique to that setting and time. While we can certainly walk away with the truth that we must preach the gospel to all households, this is not a passage that guarantees salvation to everyone in our family or household. In fact, look at these passages as well:

· Jeremiah 31:29 & Ezekiel 18 both point to the separating of the destiny of parents and children. A godly parent may have an ungodly (unsaved) child; an ungodly parent may have a believing and faithful child. The destiny of fathers and sons is independently determined.

· 1 Corinthians 7:14 – We are told that an unbelieving mate is "sanctified" by the believing mate (7:14), but please note they are still called unbelievers. A believer in the household will bring blessings to the home that all will benefit from, but that does not always mean salvation for everyone.

· Luke 12:53 – Records that Jesus will divide some families.

· Luke 14:26-27 – Perhaps one of the most difficult passages for many believers. The call is to hate our fathers, mothers, wives, children, and siblings. I believe the call is to love Jesus more than our families.

Bottom line, all are individually responsible for our eternal destiny. And we must love Jesus, obey Him and serve Him, above all others, including those closest to us!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why Don’t We Pass the Plate in the Common Ground Worship Service?

“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
-2 Corinthians 9:7

Each Sunday morning during the Common Ground Worship service we sing praises to God, pray, read scripture, hear the Word of God preached, and have a response time. But one thing we don’t do is pass an offering plate. Offering boxes have been installed just outside the doors of the Oasis. For some this is hard to imagine a worship service without passing the plate, let me give you four reasons to consider on why we did this:

•    To emphasize giving, not the process. Giving in various cultures differs. In some cultures, church members dance down front and place their offering in a bucket or barrow. In our culture, offerings are most often passed around. I wouldn’t feel comfortable dancing my tithe or offering down the to the front! It is similar to the plate; some feel put on the spot. The desire to empathize giving and not the process by which we give.
•    To allow more options for giving.  The addition of the boxes allows church members to give anytime they are in our building.  The boxes give a much-needed degree of freedom for volunteers, those who have to leave before a service starts, or our guests. Jesus reminds us that the right hand shouldn’t know what the left hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). Some prefer this privacy in giving, and there is nothing wrong with demonstrating humility as we give.
•    To duplicate an Old Testament example. There is nothing new under the sun! 2 Kings 12:9, “Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in its lid. He placed it beside the altar, on the right side as one enters the temple of the LORD.”  Notice the box was placed for worshippers to drop their gift in as they entered! We now have the same ability!
•    To simplify. I am a big fan of K.I.S., Keep It Simple! Not only does this take one more item of the lengthy Sunday Morning order of service, but it also frees up manpower!

That all sounds good pastor, but isn’t giving an act of worship? Yes, of course giving is an act of worship with visiting members, feeding the hungry, taking care of widows and orphans. But we don’t do every act of worship when the church gathers together. So these are the reasons why we don’t pass the plate. As a side note, I have heard it said by church critics that church cares too much about money. The boxes instead of passing the plate take away at least one bulletin from our critics. We want to communicate that we care more about them than their money!