Friday, December 24, 2010

How Much Should I Give?

The thought occurred to me that folks are always asking “Give me a number” “How much should I give” from their pastors or spiritual leaders. When answered with a number, 10%, $50 per week, or whatever, it then becomes a contract or pledge with that person or group. It should be in my opinion a point of contact with my living Lord. An act of worship that is guided by Him and the resources He has given me. If I make a pledge with you then I am happy when I fulfill my pledge. If I give to God out of a heart of love I am never satisfied with my amount as I learn more of His gift to me.

John Piper has a sermon where he mentions three cases when the NT speaks about money. The rich young ruler, sell everything and give. Sell a field and give. Sell your possessions and give. Piper's sermon, magnifying-god-with-money

John Wesley is often quoted as saying “Earn as much as you can, save as much as you can, give as much as you can.” If it truly is more blessed to give than receive then we have to challenge our tendency to horde possessions and money. If love is the mark of a Christian it follows so must be generosity.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Metitation on James 1:21

don't be 

one of those

who look down their nose

at those 

who look down their nose

at others.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top Ten Unanserable Questions from Ask Jeeves

Search engine Ask Jeeves reports that these are the top 10 unanswerable questions from the past decade:
1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Is there a God?
3. Do blondes have more fun?
4. What is the best diet?
5. Is there anybody out there?
6. Who is the most famous person in the world?
7. What is love?
8. What is the secret to happiness?
9. Did Tony Soprano die?
10. How long will I live?
I suppose this is the obvious difference between humans and computers, humans have self awareness and that gives us an advantage over "Ask Jeeves".  Because of our self awareness it also leads us to become aware of our creator. So with my tongue firmly in my cheek I'll submit my answers to the "Unanswerables".

1. What is the meaning of life?
Everyone who has ever read a Douglas Adams novel knows it's "42". Or to put it into catechism format:
 Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

2. Is there a God?
Of course silly. Look in the bible and then in the mirror and you will see you are made in His image.

3. Do blonds have more fun?
Duh, NO.

4. What is the best diet?
I'd recommend a diet of moderation of all the good food God has provided. Then there is always:
The Diet of Worms

5. Is there anybody out there?
Duh, YES. See the answer to question #2.

6. Who is the most famous person in the world?
Uh, go back to question #2 and look in the bible again, find the stories about Jesus Christ. Oh and he is famous for more than just everybody saying his name while they're mad.

7. What is love?
Ah. Yet another question #2 answer. See you've got to be human to pick this stuff out. Jeeves just doesn't get it. So back in the bible we read:
  • Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
  • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
8.  What is the secret to happiness?
 Easy answer is that God created you to enjoy pleasure and that the best pleasure in the universe is God, but most of the time we settle for lesser pleasures and remain unsatisfied. Or to put it into catechism format:
 Q. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

9.  Did Tony Soprano die?
Uh, a simple google brought up: where we are told that Tony Soprano is a fictional character. Fiction sometimes leaves us in the dark. It's called an "open ending".

10. How long will I live?
Well that depends. How well have you treated your parents? How well have you treated yourself? How well have you treated others. Or to go back to the bible in question #2 again:
The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. "Long upon the land" I take to be at least the average years of lifespan of my grandparents, but that is only taking genetic disposition into account.  The flip side of that is what kind of person I am. My morality can influence my physical disposition and short circuit my genetics.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let me call you Sweetheart . . .

I always seem to think that I've been married a long time until I am in the presence of my elders. I have a friend who has been married now for almost 6 decades. He tells me that he has been with his wife (who he always refers to as sweetheart) for longer than he's been away from her. I think I can say the same thing. . . but they've been married longer than I've been alive.

Anyway my friend was sick in the hospital, really sick. He has had several serious conditions any one of which would make me cry with despair. Any one of which could kill him. As he laid there he had to tell me what was really bothering him. "Do you want to know what is the worst thing about all this," he said. I expected to hear him tell me how bad the hospital food was. Instead he grabbed my hand and said "The worst thing about all of this is I can't be with my sweetheart. There were tears in his eyes.

His habit you see was to go to the nursing home where his wife lived and feed her, since she couldn't feed herself. Alzheimer's had taken her mind some time ago. As I stood there looking at my friend I felt an awe, a reverence. Something that is more reserved for things that are holy.

My mind raced. I thought what a perfect thing. At his time of life to be so lost in love for his sweetheart that his physical condition was only a mild distraction compared to the pain of being away from his sweetheart.

My dear friend, I want you to know how much you taught me that day. You have encouraged my resolve so that when I get to the bend in the road where you are now I too will care for naught but my sweetheart. Thank you for taking the time to shake my hand. It was an honor indeed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I am an outstanding sinner

I am an outstanding sinner

Like a scarecrow outstanding in a field

A lifeless corpse of straw

Hanging dead upon the cross

I am an outstanding sinner

Outstanding in a field the birds don't fear me

Hardly noticing I exist

Why do I feel so alive?

I am an outstanding sinner

Where sin is increasing grace is increasing more

I am no longer a slave to sin

Dead in His death yet alive in His life to God

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Which would you prefer, persecution or thorns?

“If it became illegal to be a Christian would there be enough evidence against you to get a conviction?”

This question has been around for a while. I can't remember when I first heard it but, it is one of those phrases that you hear in Christian circles that seems almost ubiquitous. I've heard it on the lips of the study group leader, the Sunday school teacher, the Minister and piously among believers having casual conversation. It's intended purpose I suppose is to encourage holy living. But it has never done that for me. The best that it has done is point out my weaknesses and faults. Not much motivation there. Unlike in the early church.

In the first few centuries of the church it really was illegal to be a Christian. But the law was not always enforced. Sort of like some of our current laws i.e. spitting on the sidewalk but with a much harsher penalty; death. In fact many early Christians lived out their lives in harmony without persecution amidst societies that understood they were illegal. What kept them from being brought up on charges? It seems that the Roman government had made being Christian a capital offense but felt it was too trivial to enforce on a regular basis. I suppose even Rome had budget problems. This law provided much motivation for holy living because Rome would only act on the law if a Roman citizen filed a complaint against someone for being Christian. This built in tension for the early Christians provided an impetus to love their neighbors, because if their neighbors became displeased with them they could call them to the courts. (I am not saying that this is the only reason early Christians lived holy lives, just that it added motivation to their existing desire to please God)

Do today's Christians have any similar “tension” built into modern society? I know that in parts of the world there are Christians being persecuted but I am thinking mostly about my society, American society. Do we have any impetus in our culture or government that turns us toward holy living like the threat of persecution for early Christians? I don't see any. I could be missing some and I would welcome comments on this.

What I do see is the exact opposite. An impetus to live for one's self.

In the parable of the sower Jesus explains the problem I have with holy living:

Matthew 13:18-23 (New Living Translation)
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Although many would point to the government as silencing Christians with laws about public prayer, the current battle over homeschooling in some communities, or to the media and academia with their bias against the Christian world view. I think the bigger danger is in the thorny lifestyle I have come to love more than my neighbors. I will not be pulled into the courts for my faith in Jesus but I have been pulled into the marketplace, the bazaar, the torrent of bigger, better, newer, faster, cheaper, latest technology, consumerism. This is where my challenge lies. My holy living is drowning in an ocean of stuff. I am not being asked to acknowledge Cesar as god and offer worship to him but I am being asked to worship achievements and possessions.

1 John 2 (New Living Translation)
15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.