Monday, November 26, 2007

i smell a lawsuit...

“What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. (Acts 5:4-5a)

What a neuron-bending story.

Can you imagine if that happened today in First Baptist Church of Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico? Lawyers of family members would be swooping in for the kill. The media would stumble all over itself in a paparazzipalooza. Google would have a million search hits by midnight. Michael Moore would be cueing camera shots. And Pat Robertson would be strangely silent.

I’m pretty sure there would be big money involved. Can you imagine if two people died in your church within three hours after they put serious jack in the offering? It doesn’t even tell us who the “young men” were who came forward and dragged the dead husband out and buried him. And without his wife even knowing. Were they Super-ushers? The Deacons of Doom? Elders of Expiration? Or just a really different job description for the young adult ministry?

What vastly different cultures we live in. When people ask me why we can’t be more like the New Testament church, I have to sigh: is it even possible…and would you really like it? We are light-year cultures removed in so many ways. I’m not saying that’s why it wouldn’t/couldn’t happen now; God transcends cultures. But remember: He did pick a certain one and a certain time to become flesh, or as the Bible puts it, “when the right time came, God sent his Son…” And it wasn’t just to fulfill prophecies; that’s silly—He could have had the prophecies written for any year.

Though people are essentially the same through the centuries, that is, sinners,—(I just had a long discussion with someone who believes the world is progressively becoming more moral; how did he miss Auschwitz, the Communist Gulags, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Darfur, 911, or even Abu Ghraib? And that’s just the last seventy years. Yeah, we don’t draw-and-quarter anymore; we’re just more subtle…)—cultures radically shift.

It just makes you think.

There are so many facets to this story. And Big Questions I would have loved to gotten into: why does that apparently not happen today? Or does it, but we’re not intuitive enough to pick it up and too afraid to touch the judgment question for fear of being, uh, judgmental? And how does grace enter into that equation? Or was that an initial necessity in the launch of this fledgling movement? My theory is that it was critically important to God that the authority and power of the Church not be compromised at the start. Plus, there was just a huge open window to heaven and serious power was being released, just based on the next few verses in the story.

I joked about how I would have taken a second offering then, but that bordered on sacrilege. It’s amazing to me that people can get upset about a guy in an elephant suit getting kicked in the crotch in a humorous video, but no one screamed at that lo-fi quip from me. If you ever been around a serious move of the Holy Spirit in a dramatic way—a deliverance, a real prophetic word, or had God convict you on the spot—there is a reverential awe that shatters cynicism and sarcasm in a nanosecond. It was a cheap attempt at humor. And not very smart. When people start laying sick folks on the sidewalk in hopes that my shadow will cross them, maybe then I can spare some humor about power.

I’m starting to ramble here so I better stop; I’ll get in more trouble. But I love wrestling contextually with challenging scriptures; it’s good for the soul.

Maybe this is the bottom line: money and spirituality is way more connected than we think. Err on the side of grace and generosity every time. If Jesus said it was better to enter into the Kingdom with one eye than hell with two, I’d suggest it’s better to enter with an empty wallet as well.


  1. don't stop...keep a-ramblin'!!

    our scriptures are sooo scandalous...and we are most-times blind to it...there is much to wrestle with when we wrestle with the mystery of God...His ways are indeed not our ways.

    i'm wrestling now with why this (this being the power of the Kingdom breaking through...the Holy Spirit at work among us) isn't more prevalent...why do people not bring the sick and afflicted to churches (maybe we don't believe it anymore...and thus they don't either)...i want to believe for big things...and i know i have to start with small things...but it also makes me consider that we have moved again into a time of what carol wimber called: " became a religion for winners...there was no place for the weak..."

    i'm convicted as there is much angst within me...yet, speaking for myself, i laughed out loud at your quip. and thanks...i think God wanted me to lighten my mood...


  2. I loved your sermon on Sunday... and the elephant thing was hilarious, by the way. There weren't any lines crossed there. I always enjoyed how the Vineyard utilizes the talents of its congregation, wether it be in lights, sound, prayer, teaching, or HUMOR, to use it to encourage and bless the other members of the body. I'm finding more and more that churches are becoming increasingly rigid in the mindset that "Christians can't have fun." I always love traveling home to the vineyard because some of the most fun I've ever had was in a church service.

    Along the lines of Ananias(sp?)... holy cow! If I were to be "struck down" because I didn't bring my entire offering, I think I would bring an extra 10% just because. I'm not even referring just to money, but in our service to God as well.

    My mind quickly reminds me how gracious God is though. I know that I'm not one to always give 110% in service, or even my simple 10% in tithes. I'm a college student, money is REALLY tight. However, if I believe God is who He really says He is, and I truly believe it, I should be able to give 90% of my paycheck and rely completely on God for the things that I need on a day to day basis. Going back to God's grace, I have not given Him even 20% of what He deserves, so like Ananias, I should be struck down...
    or... a thought just occurred to me. Because I admit that I am weak in trust, and I admit openly that I haven't given God the service He deserves or requires of me, because of grace, I am not struck down?

    Side note: This is why we have humor in church... as Christians we are battling so many questions, so many tough issues in life that we need something to break up the monotony of such intense struggle.

    in Him,
    -Chris Shrom-

  3. Hey you were on a roll man and I was hooked.

    Maybe we don't see the power as much because we are prety self sufficent and there is little expency of a Kingdom breakthrough.

    Really enjoyed your blog this week.

    Louder, Louder

  4. i'd listen to you ramble any day!

    loved your message sunday, especially the bit at the end about how this whole money series is really not just about money but about surrender. wow.

    God's convicting me about areas where i'm not totally surrendered and it's a good thing. thanks for being the catalyst.

  5. Dave,

    I was away this weekend and missed the weekend celebration. I just now saw THE VIDEO online.

    Are you kidding me? People were actually offended by this? Were they offended by the way Joe creatively conveyed the metaphor of how we are to act about money myths as christians or by the concept of changing their attitudes about money in a radical way? I mean it could have been worse. He could have used some of that dynamite we were fishing with over at the Psychic Fair placed in some strategic places on the money-myth elephant--and well some really humorous cartoon violence could have followed. To those that took offense might I suggest that they store up some of their anger and convert it into productive energy. For instance, maybe they could pick up a hammer and some nails and go help build some of the houses we are now going to be able to build as a result of our changing attitude about money as a community of believers.

    PS: Was that a leather football helmet Joe was wearing in the video?


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  7. Keep up the edge...We gotta stop taking ourselves so seriously (myself at the top of that list!)...I thought the crotch hit video was great and I laughed out loud at your second offering joke.

    Annanias and his wife is one of those stories that not alot of people like to talk about. I heard a message recently in which the speaker pointed out that it puts to rest the notion that the OT and NT God are different. He just dropped two people dead for attempting to deceive Him!

    Yeah, we live in an era of grace, but God is still just. This story keeps me on my toes!

  8. I liked the ramblin' too :)

    I think it would be cool to see the gifts manifested like the NT church. I am, however, much to selfish and guarded to live a NT life. Sometimes I even enjoy going to work to get away from all the Christian chatter. Sad but very honest.


  9. I agree with Jennifer King and Tabitha. Keep on ramblin' Dave! :)

    The story of Ananias and his wife definitely made me think. You brought up many good questions and points.

    The videos with Joe Boyd & the elephants were hilarious. I watched them all on the tackling the elephant website. I can't believe some of the stuff people complain about. Geez.

    Although, some people are just more "old school" and ya gotta love 'em anyway. I had family and friends who attended the last two baptisms at VCC: February and November. Some were people who do not normally attend church at all and others were people of VASTLY different church settings. One of the couples who came was so shocked by VCC that they had no words for me.

    On the November baptism (Sat. night celebration), my Dad was offended that Joe Boyd said that Jesus ate at Burger King. He said Jesus would never eat at Burger King. And he was SERIOUSLY upset. LOL! It was all I could do not to laugh, because I "get" the Vineyard and he obviously does not. God love him. Big God in my Dad's eyes wouldn't put that junk in his body. So unfortunately I guess my Dad got stuck on that remark instead of the bigger picture of the message. Sad.

  10. I myself wrestle with times to show "truth in love" and times to be "judgemental". One of the greatest threats I see today is people compromising Scripture in the name of "truth in love". I guess I am saying the truth sometimes gets thrown out for the sake of not offending. And to be honest this scares the snot out of me. Now I am not advocating fire and brimstone but if you look at the current situation going on in churches (Episcopal Church splits over gay issues, coexisting theology, prosperity gospels etc) I guess a little fire and brimstone is good for the soul. I remember the one sermon Joe Boyd gave when he first came to Cincinnati Vineyard and it had a touch of fire to it. It was a message on repentance. I tell you what that was a good message. It stirred in me a conviction of areas I needed to clean up and while the "seekers" may have been uncomfortable, I believe that is what happens when the Spirit moves. You become uncomfortable in a good way. Okay I will step off my soapbox now :).