Archive for November 2009

November 24, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. November 23, 2009
TO: The Church
FROM: Ira Tator
RE: Abusive Giving
I’m writing this letter because there is a disturbing trend that is emerging in the church. I feel that I must address it now before everything gets blown out of whack. We are playing with fire, and people are about to get burned.
My concern involves abusive levels of giving. People are doing insane things!
For example, last week I had no freezer space left in either refrigerator at the house. Both of them are crammed full right now with steaks and chicken breasts, and a few gallons of ice cream that happened to be on sale the week before last. I bought a frozen Dutch apple pie to go with the ice cream, but I didn’t have room for it! So I decided to bring it to the church and store it in one of the freezers there, but, good Lord Almighty, when I opened up the freezers they were full of frozen turkeys for some poor families in the community. I couldn’t count how many turkeys were in there frozen solid and taking up space. I had to take that Dutch apple pie back home and my husband, Dick, commanded me to bake it. He had three pieces that night and was sick for three days. Too many turkeys caused it!
If we want to give turkeys to poor people do they have to be frozen? If it’s in our church building, shouldn’t our freezer space be for people from our own church who are in desperate need of a little room?
And then there was the offering a few Sundays ago! When the offering plate got to our family’s pew there was so much money in it my sister Hesi didn’t know what to do. There weren’t any one dollar bills in sight. It was all twenties and fifties and even a few hundreds. It was embarrassing! She sat there staring into that plate for at least ten seconds before she finally tucked her dollar bill underneath, but then she turned beet red! And my other sister Emma followed the crowd and almost emptied her purse of all her money. If I hadn’t stepped in and stopped her she wouldn’t have had any money left for lunch at Red Lobster.
That is just another sign that things are getting out of hand!
A couple of weeks ago the pastor told how many people had been helped this year by our church with groceries and other basic needs. I couldn’t believe the figure he said…and look how much good it’s done. We still have poor people around us. In fact, doesn’t it say in the bible somewhere that we will always have poor people around us? If we keep trying to help them out of poverty pretty soon there will be no poor people, and therefore, we will be going against what scripture says…since they are ALWAYS suppose to be there!
My sister Emma hopes to land a man someday, and have little ones, but what’s going to happen when a few Tator Tots are learning bad habits like sharing with the other children.
People need to cut back a little bit. If we take care of everyone in need we won’t have money for IHOP, and that will put them in jeopardy of closing, and then there are all those people who will be out of work. As you can see, generosity is a tool for evil. There will always be the haves and the have-nots, and if we are the haves we’ve just got to grin and bear it.
If we help people in our community too much the church won’t stick out as the light of the world because everyone else’s lights will be shining brighter.
I’m sure this all made sense to you. We’re all about proclaiming the name of Jesus. That’s why we believe he has made us prosperous- because we’re such good living witnesses for him.
One more thing! Someone keeps parking in our family’s parking spot that we’ve had for years. We know it’s not marked, but everyone knows that’s where the Tator family backs up the wagon. It’s ours and we’re not giving it away!
See you Sunday!

Mrs. Ira Tator

November 16, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. November 15, 2009
“Scripturally Evasive”

One of the things I enjoy doing, besides being a pastor, is officiating basketball. This will be my ninth year doing high school basketball, and I’m first year doing junior college games. As you become more experienced and, hopefully, better the games you referee become more intense, and the coaches more demanding. After all, for many of the junior college coaches this is their occupation.
An important part of being a good, and respected, official then is to know the rules. An official who says “It’s in the rules, coach!”, but isn’t quite sure where in the rules it is will quickly be discounted by a coach. As officials we have a saying, “If you don’t know the rule, don’t call it!” In other words, better to not call something than to call something wrong.
I find that more and more Christians are becoming less and less knowledgeable about what the Bible says. One of the ripples of that is an increase in the amount of scriptural evasiveness. Decreasing use of the Bible is resulting in decreasing use of, as we used to say, “the address”.
And so we find people saying things like “According to scripture…” or “It says in scripture…” I’m guilty of this myself. In reflecting on my messages and writings I’ve realized that I used the phrase “Scripture teaches…” more often than a teenager uses Clearasil.
To put it in a different conversation of life, it would be like a 7th grader coming home from school and saying, “Hey! No school tomorrow!” The parent’s response no doubt would be “Who said?”
“One of my teachers.”
“Which one?”
“I don’t know. It was someone I had in some class today.”
People are being intentionally evasive about where scripture says what, We’re known as “the people of the book”, but we seem to be forgetting that we’re there are 66 books in “The Book.” We’re getting more generic, even as our culture is getting more specific and inquisitive.
Evasiveness will cause us to lose a grip on what is truth.
It’s always interesting as we get towards Christmas at how “what scripture says” (There I go again!) gets mixed together with what we’ve added to it. When you read the Matthew and Luke account of the birth narrative you begin to realize how much of view of Christmas has been shaped by Chjristmas carols instead of scripture.
On-going evasiveness may blur the picture of the Bible even more. Pretty soon Hezekiah will become more frequently quoted than Isaiah; and Madonna will be sung more than Psalms.
George Barna reported that eight out of ten Americans believe the phrase “God helps those4 who help themselves” is in the Bible. Actually, it was Benjamin Franklin who said it…about 1,700 years after the Bible was written.
Bottom line, being scripturally evasive will lead to being spiritually irrelevant.

November 5, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. November 4, 2009
“Having A Starbucks Image”
I recently read a new book by Bryant Simon, a professor of History and American Studies at Temple University, entitled Everything But The Coffee: Learning About America From Starbucks. I frequent Starbucks, so it was an interesting book exploring different emphases of the business.
Simon makes the point that everything a person sees and encounters in any Starbucks establishment has a purpose behind it. The seating arrangement, the placing of overly-expensive espresso machines, the CD’s situated by the cash registers, the language that is used to order a drink . . . everything has a purpose behind it.
The purpose of each element is pointed towards the main strategy of creating a certain image in the customer’s mind. Starbucks wants each person to feel special. It puts within the reach of a large part of our population certain products, and sells us on the idea that purchasing these products will make us feel . . . special.
To understand that best let me use a different business establishment. Think fast food hamburgers! My guess is that every one of us has been in a hamburger place and felt like we were imposing on the employees in just being there. There was an absence of specialness . . . even if what we ordered had “special sauce” on it.
Starbucks sells us on the idea that we are special, “and these are the things special people drink and buy.”
Bryant Simon visited 425 Starbucks outlets in nine countries in his research for the book. I have to filter his observations a little bit because of his increasing irritation with the company, but the one observation that stuck with me is that Starbucks creates an image, protects that image, but sometimes keeps the image propped up when there is no commitment to its messages.
Starbucks touts itself as eco-friendly, but I can’t remember the last time I was in a Starbucks and they asked me if I wanted a coffee mug that could be washed afterwards. It’s always a Starbucks cup that is just 10% recycled material. In other words, for a business that trumpets “being green” there isn’t much substance underneath the statement.
This article, however, is not meant to be a Starbucks bashing session. (I took my own mug there this morning for some java!) It’s meant to be a teachable moment for the church.
We need to ask ourselves “Are we conveying an image that we really aren’t willing to live out?” The church of Jesus Christ can communicate how wonderful we are, but are their feet underneath the veneer?
A number of years ago a friend of mine had a picture of himself standing next to Ronald Reagan. It was a great picture, and I wondered where he and the former president had been in the same place for the photo op. But the closer I looked at it the more I realized he was making a life-size cardboard cut-out of the president look like real life. It was as fake as a three-dollar bill.
The body of believers must have deep-rooted commitment to what we say we’re about and what we really are about. Otherwise we risk being a spiritual version of Starbucks- all fluff and foam but limited authenticity.