Christianity 201

October 6, 2017

Priorities and Prayers

Today we’re reconnecting with Melissa Turner at Tin Roof Sky. She doesn’t post often, but she has great insights. There are two posts for you today. Click the titles below to read at source.

Priorities

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 (MSG)

Recently, my good friend Google alerted me that there was an accident ahead on my route to work. My daughter and I had to take an alternate route through a residential section.

She was marveling at the sizes of the houses we passed. (Probably because our own humble abode comes in at well under 1000 square feet). I told her that as adults, we have to decide how much house we NEED versus how much we WANT. We have to prioritize, and make sure we’re meeting the needs of ourselves and our family, without going overboard in an attempt to impress someone or fill a hole in our own selves.

Above all, I told her, our priorities need to line up with God’s.

He hasn’t made a mystery of what’s important to Him. In Micah 6:8, He says He wants us to be fair, be just, be compassionate, and be loyal. Oh yeah, and to be humble before the Lord, instead of thinking too highly of ourselves.

God makes it sound so simple, doesn’t He? Yet we constantly have to be reminded of His priorities, as the ones the world offers try to invade and take over.

Let’s reassess today. Let’s make sure that what we’re doing, for Him and for others, lines up with His words. Let’s set an example for our families and the world around us by the way that we order our lives.

Express Delivery

“In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.”
John 6:16‭-‬21 MSG

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

We serve a God of suddenly. 

Sometimes, our deliverance takes awhile. God is waiting on us to “get it,” to work though a process, to grow to a certain point.

Other times, He shows up and shows out. He comes in and like a the supernatural being He is, saves the day in one fell swoop.

Now, I don’t know why He chooses to make us wait sometimes, and delivers instantaneously others. I don’t know why some people get miraculous healings that doctors can’t explain, and others get their healing on the other side of Glory. What I do know is that God not only has the totality of our lives in view, but everyone else’s as well.

I want all my prayers to be answered “jiffy quick” as my Pastor’s wife is fond of saying. I want Him to bend the laws of gravity, time, and space for me every single time. But I have to remember that He is in charge, not me. And whether He snatches me up out of my problem, or works His plan out through my waiting, He will give me whatever I need at that exact moment.

 

February 2, 2016

Where Compassion Meets the Refugees – Part Three

In Part One, we looked at the similarity between some North American attitudes toward the Syrian refugee crisis and Jonah’s attitude toward Nineveh.  In Part Two we looked at the three categories of our financial blessing and how we’re commanded to allocate these. However, we stopped short of fully fleshing out the third category.

André Turcotte is a Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor and church planter, and a Canadian Armed Forces chaplain. What follows is adapted from his notes, and not word-for-word. (Some sections in parenthesis today are my additions.)

• • • by André Turcotte

Some of the help we’re able to give will come from this third category…

Margins

Leviticus 23:22 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”

(This should remind you of another passage, the story of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 2.)

This is repeated in scripture:

Deuteronomy 24:19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.

Leviticus 19:9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

(This of course bears on the broader topic of margin. Is there enough in your life generally? There should be some discretionary spending money in your budget.)

The problem is that instead of living with some margin or leftover, many of us are living financially beyond our means. (This would definitely include those who make only the minimum monthly payment on their charge cards, or whose cards are already maxed-out.)

In the New Testament Jesus takes it even further:

Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.

Remember the image of a wheat field from yesterday? Perhaps the most compelling argument for what this means is found in

The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

2 Cor. 9:6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

All through scripture, God’s rewards generous, cheerful giving; again, not done out of compulsion or duty but joy.

But the natural human response is to say, ‘What’s in it for me?’

God’s blessing

8 (NLT) And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
    Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity [NIV: righteousness] in you.

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.

(Note: This should not be interpreted as what is currently called ‘prosperity doctrine.’)

Though our motive should be giving joyfullly to the Lord, God promises to supply, multiply and reward those who are His generous stewards. God multiplies our giving for many purposes.

Multiple effect

12 (NIV) This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 

Generosity with our money in this instance helps the refugees, shows the unity of the Body of Christ, bears witness to Christ, honors God, and increases our faith in Christ.

 

February 1, 2016

Where Compassion Meets the Refugees – Part Two

Yesterday we looked at the similarity between North American attitudes toward the Syrian refugee crisis and Jonah’s attitude toward Nineveh. (If you have sensitivities toward the Syrian situation, please note that not all Christians feel this way; we’d like to think it’s just a minority, but the challenge of opening our communities is stretching us and steepening our learning curve!)

André Turcotte is a Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor and church planter, and a Canadian Armed Forces chaplain. What follows is adapted from his notes, and not word-for-word.

• • • by André Turcotte

So what does all in look like when it comes to giving to projects such as this one?

On one extreme end, some could say it means giving all we have to those in need, but practically that would just leave us in that same place (and in some cases diminish our ability to help when future causes arise.)

On the other extreme end, some would just take money they are currently giving to “A” and simply redirect it to “B.”

Obviously we need a new perspective: What it means is realizing that all we have is given to us from the Lord and stewarding all of it for Kingdom purposes is our duty.

To repeat, all in does not mean giving every last cent to others, but rather stewarding every last cent in a way that makes room for the needs of others.

So what do we mean by stewarding everything we have?

‘Everything we have’ can be categorized in 3 ways: First fruits, Middle fruits and margin/leftovers.

Picture in your mind a vast field of wheat. Today not many of us are farmers, so we don’t practice our giving in terms of grain or sheep, but picture a wheat field divided into the following categories:

First fruits

Several times God calls his people to give the first fruits to him — this is constant even at times there were other needs around them.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

This is important: Note that taking the tithe or first fruits and redirecting them to the needy is a violation of God’s directive.

Many reading this will say, what about people in need right here in the United States or Canada? It would be an epic fail on the part of God’s people if we

  • redirected what would normally be our tithes to engage this need, or
  • stopped giving to other local or regional projects to help those who will arrive (or, the current ‘flavor of the month’ charity; the one making the headlines).

On the other hand, saying that we can’t do anything to help those in need because we are ‘tapped out’ or because we have given all our charity money to God is not acceptable either.

This reminds us of the passage where Jesus deals with what were called the Corban rules (which we can cover here as a separate study sometime*) described in Mark 7:

10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.

Rather, our giving should come out of our middle fruits and out of our margins.

Middle fruits

This money is a blessing. It’s the fund that most of us live on. Our family operating budget after we’ve first taken care of giving first fruits to God’s work.

The principle here is to enjoy and wisely use God’s blessings.

Ecc. 5:19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.

Margins

This is a scriptural principle that I haven’t heard as much teaching on but a principle that is clearly taught in scripture. It’s really the meat of the sermon that attracted me to sharing these notes with you.

But for that one, you’ll have to tune in tomorrow!


* In September, 2015, Clarke Dixon looked at an aspect of the Corban laws in this article:  The Conflict Between Tradition and Jesus.

 

January 31, 2016

Where Compassion Meets the Refugees – Part One

For a few days, I want to share some material that was presented as a sermon by my home church pastor as part of a series that eight area pastors are doing in a 4-week rotation as part of our faith community’s sponsoring of a number of families from Syria. The project is called Better Together, though the name predates the present world conflict and was the name of a similar 6-week pulpit exchange the same churches did two years back before coming together as one body for a Good Friday service in which they gave around $50,000 for a Habitat for Humanity project. (The part we’re looking at today was a collaboration with Clarke Dixon, whose name is most familiar to readers here.)

Sponsoring families of a different faith background, different ethnicity, different linguistic set is extremely stretching for some people, especially people in a rather homogeneous small Canadian town. We tend to look after our own or are drawn to projects where, after a clear proclamation of the gospel, the prospects for conversion are high. Our learning curve as a community is very steep with this project, and will probably become steeper after the first family arrives.

André Turcotte is a Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor, a former (and possibly future) church planter, and a Canadian Armed Forces chaplain. What follows is adapted from his notes, and not word-for-word.

• • • by André Turcotte

The situation we face with Syrian refugees is very similar to that of Jonah, a man called by God to engage people different than himself.

The situation also has some geographic coincidences: Nineveh was part of the Assyrian — even the name is a giveaway — empire; the Assyrians were brutal conquerors who destroyed and abused people. Nineveh is incorporated today in the city of Mosul where ISIS activity made headlines and from where many of the refugees originate.

Jonah 1:1 NIV The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.

Tarshish, at the far end of the Mediterranean was not only in the opposite direction, the distance was five times the opposite direction.

Most readers here know the basics elements of what happens next. Jonah would love to see the Ninevites destroyed, even though he doesn’t particularly want to be the messenger; but after his rebellion leads to him being tossed overboard by the Tarshish freighter, he has a three-day time-out to reconsider his position.

Jonah 2:9a NLT But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
    and I will fulfill all my vows.

The overall arc of the story show that Jonah goes and preaches his message while seriously hoping against hope that the Ninevites don’t respond. (This would be like a modern evangelist going to preach in Las Vegas and preparing to give an altar call at the end, but not really expecting anyone to raise a hand or go forward at the end for prayer.) His goal seems to be about himself, about being able to do his ‘prophet thing’ and then, when the city is destroyed, be able to say, ‘See, I told you so.’

It would seem that although Jonah had obeyed is heart was still bent on their destruction.

This raises a serious application point for those of us whose lives have some type of ministry component; those of us who give the money, offer the time, use our gifts, and are busy about church business:

You can be obedient in your action, but your heart is not all in.

Ultimately, Jonah is more concerned with his reputation and personal comfort than the well-being of Nineveh’s 120,000 population.

4:10a Then the Lord said, … 11 “But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

(So does the idea of refugees in our community — especially in small-town America and Canada make us uncomfortable? I’m sure some would answer yes.)

We learn several things about God in this story, not the least of which is: God wants everybody to come to him and he called you and me to reach them. He is looking for people who are all in.

2 Peter 3:9 NIV The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

So what does all in look like when it comes to giving to projects such as this? Tomorrow we’ll look at scripture teaching on first fruits, middle fruits and margins.


We’ve covered Jonah here a couple of times before including twice recently; here are some older ones:

 

 

 

 

August 4, 2011

Keeping Up With The Jones? No, They’re Keeping Up With You

While this isn’t a Bible study or devotional post, perhaps today is a day for putting “feet to our faith.” Trey Morgan blogged this last week under the title, Just How Rich Am I?   It’s short, and when you get to the link, I want you guys to click, okay?

Want some very challenging reading today? I’d love to challenge your thinking for just a moment on how wealthy you and I are.   I’m not here to make you feel guilty, but you may … because I did.

We, as Americans don’t always understand what real poverty is.  A new study by the US Census Bureau shows that of the 30 million in the US who live in poverty still are well housed, have adequate supply of food and have medical care.  The study shows that the typical household, defined as poor by our country, had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the average poor household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.  In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

I’m not down on the poor in America, we’re are all very blessed to live in this country. I’m also NOT saying that there are not some really poor people and homeless people in our country … BUT I AM SAYING that if we only look at poverty in our own country, we’ll never quite understand how the poorest of the poor in our world really live.

Did you know that today 30,000 children will die from starvation? Think about it this way, 30,000 children dying of starvation every day is like six September 11th’s … every day.

Compassion International has created a website called “Who Are the Joneses?” to bring about a better understanding of poverty in America — and then place that knowledge into a global perspective. So, my challenge to you today is see how the poor really live in the world by spending a few minutes on this website …

“Who Are the Jones?”

It’ll only take a couple minutes of your time. So, you up for the challenge?

Trey Morgan


Interestingly enough, last night my wife and I went on the website of Compassion Canada to make a donation to the famine crisis.  Instead we were met with a message that said that while Compassion is active in the countries affected, they are not working in the areas hardest hit by the famine.  Instead, they gave the names of three other charities.  It was late, and we haven’t yet followed up with those three, but I was so impressed I made a small donation to Compassion anyway, simply because I was awed by their honesty and integrity.  Below is the actual text, and for my USA readers, here’s the link to Compassion USA.

…Although Compassion does not work in Somalia, we do work in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, each affected by the drought to some degree. However, Compassion does not work in the specific areas that are most impacted, such as Southeastern Ethiopia and Northeastern Kenya. 

Compassion’s ministry is focused on long-term child development, rather than on relief. Our programs protect our children and families to a very great extent against the crippling impact of famine and drought. Therefore, our response to the terrible drought in East Africa is long-term recovery in the areas where we work, rather than immediate relief. Because we are not responding to this crisis with immediate relief, we cannot participate in the Government Matching Program.

…If you have a heart to give immediate relief to those suffering in the worst-hit areas, please consider giving to trusted organizations that are positioned to respond immediately to these pressing needs, such as: World ReliefChristian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) or Food for the Hungry.

December 13, 2010

From the Intersection of Truth and Grace

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I’ve been asked to review a forthcoming book about homosexuality for my other blog, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry by W. P. Campbell (Zondervan).  I’m halfway through today, but early on, I noted this introductory section from page 13 for inclusion here…

Christ calls us to speak the truth while demonstrating grace.

Jesus did not hide the truth; he called the adulteress to repentance.   But neither did he insult her, condemn her, or throw her out.   His grace embraced her and sent her forth to live a better life.  If he had demonstrated grace without truth, he would have let her stagger down the path of personal destruction.  If he had spoken truth without grace, he would have clubbed her with the law and sentenced her to stoning by the crowd.

Truth and grace — have you ever tried putting those two together without minimizing either?   Without God’s help, it is a daunting task.  Grace without truth pampers, confuses and even deceives.   Truth with grace cuts, wounds, and destroys.   Those who approach thorny matters such as sexual addiction, homosexuality, and adultery with only truth become experts at alienation.   Those who bring love into such discussions but avoid the truth are unable to confront patterns of behavior that hurt self and society.    Both are important; neither can function properly without the other.   Salt is essential for the body, but separated into its two elements, sodium and chloride, it can be deadly.

– W. P. Campbell

October 24, 2010

Unpacking the Meaning of Brokenness

This week I discovered blogger Daniel Jepsen, who does a great job summarizing Nancy Leigh DeMoss; but I’ll let him introduce it…

A year or two ago my friend Gina loaned me a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss titled, Brokenness. I found the whole book helpful, but especially the description of what brokenness is.  I printed this out last week to distribute to the class I am teaching on the holiness of God, and thought I would reprint it here.  Warning: it is very convicting.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

~Daniel Jepsen; source blog link