Christianity 201

April 16, 2016

Shane Claiborne Quotations

Isaiah 58: 6-7 (NIV)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Jeremiah 22:3 (HCSB)

This is what the LORD says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place.

Matthew 25:35-40 (NLT)

35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Christian social activist Shane Claiborne may seem a bit young to be included in our quotations series, but he has many good things to say to the church at large and to individuals. In addition to his many books, he writes at Red Letter Christians.

When we truly discover how to love our neighbor as our self, Capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary.


Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful.


shaneclaiborne3.thumbnailThere is a lot to be heartbroken about now, but tears don’t have the last word.


Some folks may be really bummed to find that “God bless America” does not appear in the Bible. So often we do things that make sense to us and ask God to bless our actions and come alongside our plans, rather than looking at the things God promises to bless and acting alongside of them. For we know that God’s blessing will inevitably follow if we are with the poor, the merciful, the hungry, the persecuted, the peacemakers. But sometimes we’d rather have a God who conforms to our logic than conform our logic to the God whose wisdom is a stumbling block to the world of smart bombs and military intelligence.


All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.


We are awake only when we are in touch with the hurting.


How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?


It is a dangerous day when we can take the cross out of the church more easily than the flag. No wonder it is hard for seekers to find God nowadays.


We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy, too. But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.


The gospel is lived out at dinner tables and in living rooms.


The more I get to know Jesus, the more trouble he seems to get me into.


I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor…I truly believe that when the rich meet the poor, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.


Mother Theresa always said, “Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.”


Perhaps the devil is just as likely to wear a three-piece suit as to have horns and a pitchfork. And perhaps the angels look more like the bums in the alley than like feathered white babies.


Liturgy and worship were never meant to be confined to the cathedrals and sanctuaries. Liturgy at its best can be performed like a circus or theater – making the Gospel visible as a witness to the world around us.


Sources: J.R. Woodward, GoodReads, AZQuotesWikiQuote and BrainyQuote.

July 17, 2015

Proverbs on Poverty…

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

dollar sign…and Riches

Today we pay a return visit to the daily devotional blog Christian Blessings. This post is from Dr. Bob Dellinger. Click the title below to read at source.

Proverbs 22-23 – Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s reading: Proverbs 22-23.

Don’t jump to conclusions about riches and poverty. The Bible doesn’t present a simple black-and-white picture, but a full canvas of colorful details. Both conditions have their dangers and opportunities. Read carefully to understand God’s wisdom about wealth.

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

God is the creator of all people and he shows no favoritism. All of them are sinners and need forgiveness. Each one, rich and poor, will live one life and then face judgment, but Jesus died for each one so that they could have eternal life.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Wealth is not the most important possession. Many things are more valuable, including the esteem of a good name. Such esteem is the result of a life lived wisely and righteously. God isn’t condemning riches, however. He’s just pointing out that they aren’t the ultimate goal in life and you shouldn’t let a desire for wealth interfere with a godly life.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Economic facts are as real and unavoidable as gravity. Wealth gives power and influence that inevitably lead to domination of the disadvantaged. A godly and wealthy people could use their power to help the poor, but unfortunately the opposite often happens. As an obstacle to wealth and a cause of further loss of power, nothing stands out like debt.

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

Poverty is a fact of life in every generation. I’ve spoken previously about Bryant Myers’ description of how broken relationships cause poverty. The spiritual poverty of separation from God, the economic distress of oppression by other men, the personal destruction of abusing one’s own mind or body, the hazards of living in a dangerous environment – all these contribute to or cause poverty. God cautions us that there will always be poverty, but also exhorts us to show mercy to the poor.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

I said earlier that God didn’t show favoritism to the rich or poor, but he repeatedly states that he will stand up for those who are treated unjustly. That usually means the poor or disadvantaged. The wealthy who oppress are warned that their day in court is coming, and God will be sure to mete out justice.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Money and possessions are temporary. We may lose them due to the ups and downs of life, but it’s certain that we will lose them when life ends. Even so, money tempts us to do things that we shouldn’t. We work too many hours to the detriment of our family life. We hoard money or else spend it selfishly on ourselves rather than sharing it with the needy. We fail to give back to God. We deal dishonestly in order to get richer. In all these ways and others we lack the wisdom to restrain our interest in money. But, as Jesus said, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? The love of money can blind a person to the spiritual or eternal truths of life.


After formatting and posting this, I discovered that just as we do, Christian Blessings borrows material from other sites. The original post for this was found at Bob Dellinger’s Bible in a Year Blog.

 

July 5, 2015

Blessed Are…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)

Here are two different takes on the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. If you are not familiar with the full text, or wish to do some comparison, click here.

Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:

  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown; one blog notes a citation in The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey.

The Beatitude Creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

November 12, 2014

When God Reads Your Report Card

After a two-week break, regular midweek contributor Clarke Dixon returns to the subject of generosity. Click the title below to read at source where you’ll find previous entries in this series.

Being Sheepish in Our Generosity

Offering PlateThe following is a very familiar passage, so familiar perhaps, that we might skip through it rather than read it carefully. So to help us slow down and read more carefully, let me ask you as you read it to identify what the sheep are and are not aware of:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? ’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:31-40 NRSV)

What are the sheep aware of? People in need and how to help. That was easy, now, what are the sheep not aware of? Easiest to spot is that they are not aware that in serving “the least of these” they are really serving the King. They are also not aware of the potential for a reward through their service. Finally, the sheep are not aware that not only are they serving the Son of Man, the King, through serving others, they are emulating Him. Being generous in a time of need is the kind of thing God does. Consider the exodus from Egypt:

7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10 NRSV)

God saw the need, he heard the distress of the people in need, and he helped. That rescue of God’s people in the Old Testament pointed to an even greater rescue to come for people facing the greatest need ever. In Biblical times, and today there is slavery, there is oppression, there is division and painful dividing. There is addiction, there is violence and violation. There is conflict, international, and interpersonal. What is at the heart of all that? Exactly that which God came to save us from: sin. There are many who are unaware of sin, who are unaware of needing a rescue, but before we are ever aware of our need for God’s love, God knew our need and had the rescue already planned out. Sin separates us from God and destroys our ability to be fully human and in full relationship with other humans, but God was moved to help: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NRSV)

As sheep, we are called to emulate the Son of Man, Jesus, and be gospel people. Yes, sometimes we will sense and know a specific call from God to “go here and do that” or better, “go there, and help them.” But whether we sense that specific call or not, we all have a call to be gospel people. What do gospel people do? Gospel people proclaim God’s gospel, the good news of God’s rescue of us from the penalty and power of sin in Christ. But Gospel people also live the gospel. Having been rescued, we seek to rescue. Having been helped in our need, we seek to help others in their need. How much of ourselves are we to give? How much generosity is enough? To answer that we do well to remember “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NRSV)

Being in the midst of a bathroom renovation I was interested in a recent tv show highlighting some really spiffy bathroom renovations. One such cost over $500,000. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to stand before the Lord someday and explain why I felt that was necessary. Nor do I want to stand before the millions living without running water and explain why I need a loo worth half-a-million American dollars. But are there financial decisions I will be ashamed of? Are you and I really aware of the need and our potential to help? What does generosity look like in your life?

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. ’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? ’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46 NRSV)

September 7, 2013

Everyone Is Welcome

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Occasionally I run into blogs that consist of pastors’ sermon notes involving churches that use the Lectionary as a guide to preaching. In these churches, the Evangelical concept of a sermon series in completely foreign; instead there are three or four prescribed readings for each Sunday, usually consisting an Old Testament reading, a Psalm , a selection from the gospels, and an excerpt from an Epistle.  (These vary somewhat by tradition and some denominations send out an amended version to their ministers.)  One of the texts is required to form the basis of the weekend sermon. I believe that’s the case with the blog ForeWords written by Rich Brown.  This one appeared recently there under the title All Are Welcome.  Click through to read at source (with pictures!) and discover more Lectionary based sermons.


Jeremiah 2:4–13; Psalm 81:1, 10–16; Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16; Luke 14:1, 7–14

Any reading of the Gospels reveals this defining characteristic of Jesus: He loved a party. Of course, that raised more than a few eyebrows back then, as it does for many “good, church folks” today. Jesus was often confronted with the way he and his disciples comported themselves, in comparison especially to John the Baptist and his disciples. But Jesus was not John. His agenda and “gospel” was a different, yet related one. We pick up the action in chapter 14 of Luke’s Gospel:

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely…. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” –Luke 14:1, 7-14 NRSV

The rules for hospitality were pretty strict among the Jews of ancient Judea. An invitation to dinner required reciprocal treatment. Furthermore, there was a definite hierarchy as to who would get the place of honor. Characteristically, Jesus turned all that upside down. It’s not that he didn’t believe in being hospitable or valuing the practices of the day, although he was certainly known for bending rules (if not breaking them at times) when he felt the need. Most likely, though, Luke doesn’t share this little story to enlighten his readers/listeners on eating habits. No, I don’t think this is a story about eating and drinking and partying as much as it’s about who gets invited to Jesus’–and therefore God’s–table.

Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, Jesus tells his audience. And by doing so those issuing the invitation will be blessed. Here in the 21st century we would probably phrase it differently, with the familiar words “pay it forward” to be found somewhere in the mix. Jesus held a special place for those on the margins of his society, the people who were pretty much invisible to respectable folks. Those marginalized people weren’t important to Judea’s Roman occupiers, nor were they valued by Pharisees or Sadducees–or anybody intent on somehow ingratiating themselves with those groups.

What’s remarkable is to consider that the same sort of situation takes place today. We, too, have the rich and the powerful in charge of business, politics, and the social order. And although we have a far larger middle-class than in the first century of the Common Era, it’s also true that our North American middle-class is shrinking as the disparity between really rich and really poor increases.

The marginalized folks in Jesus’ day were identified as the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. To a certain extent we can start our 21st-century list of marginalized with those groups, too. But we can add many more: think of the massive numbers of people (especially in minority groups) who are in prison, those women and men and children who are denied access to adequate health care, the homeless, the hungry (which includes all those who are in various stages of being “food challenged”), immigrants (especially those who are “undocumented”) who live in an underground economy, many in the LGBT community, people who are denied their right to vote, and those stuck in generations-old cycles of poverty and ignorance and illiteracy.

If Jesus were to tell his parable today, he’d most likely include those groups in his list of marginalized. He’d probably have an even more extensive list. Coincidentally, [last] week marked the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. And, amazingly, on that anniversary date the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama, drew on King’s imagery in his own speech, which included these words:

“We must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call—this remains our great unfinished business.”

The question for followers of Jesus in the 21st century remains: Who is invited to God’s banquet in the peaceable kingdom, the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven? Yes, this broad question includes some smaller ones: Who is welcome in our congregations? in our neighborhoods? in our towns and cities and suburbs? in our schools and businesses? ultimately, in our hearts and minds?

Jesus’ first and constant concern was for the marginalized. That would appear to be where we, who call ourselves followers and disciples of Christ, should begin as well.

June 9, 2013

Poverty Will Always Be With Us

Today’s thoughts are from the blog, The Crunchy Christian,  written by Thailer and Amber. This one is by Thailer and appeared under the title The Poor Will Never Cease from the Land.

While driving home from a Bible study for young Christians last night, Amber and I both felt encouraged (as we always do at studies). These studies are a recurring thing and any chance we’re able to attend, we reap the benefits. Granted, it’s hard with our toddler (and another one on the way) but it’s so worth it.  Young Christians need to be active in small groups and frequent Bible studies with many people of differing opinions – it’s healthy and it’s one of the many ways to grow. And yet, as we were driving home, we felt just as concerned as we did encouraged.  The study was aimed at answering the questions of those who are non-believers. As we went through each question, helping each other learn how to ease the qualms of opponents to the Christian faith (not to mention settling the questions and answers in our own hearts), we arrived at question number three: “How does a church justify spending millions on buildings, while people starve?”

As I sat and listened to how the majority of those around me would answer the non-believer’s question, I increasingly began to feel, how do you say…’grieved’? I was taken aback. So was Amber. Now don’t get me wrong – I love these people. They’re my brethren. But I had major concerns with the answers I was hearing. Here are some.

“If you throw money at a problem, it won’t fix it.”
This is true in a sense. But it’s much easier to throw this out as an answer when you’re on the side of the church that ‘throws money’ at their gigantic, ornate sanctuaries. It’s harder for these words to pass your lips when your child is dying of starvation or disease. If only someone would ‘throw money,’ just a couple dollars, to you. One brother made a good observation when he pointed out that, in the New Testament, we see many examples of the church selling their possessions to aid the poor (Acts 4:32-37) but we never read of the church building any kind of ‘worship center’ for themselves. And I don’t think that individuals, who do want to help by ‘throwing money’ to the poor out of the kindness of their hearts, would think to do only that – certainly, a lot of prayer and intercession will be made for the needy as well. And it’s just as important. But prayer without the accompaniment of faith-driven acts of love, by the empowerment and grace of God, will not go very far. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body – what good is that?” (James 2:15-16).

“Well Jesus said ‘the poor you have with you always.’”
Yes, he did. But let’s allow Jesus to finish his sentence: “…and whenever you want, you can do good for them” (Mark 14:7). I understand this objection because I often made it myself – but what do we mean by quoting this in the face of the hungry and the needy? That Jesus is saying it’s a ‘lost cause’? Does this logic come from a man who preached, loved, touched, healed, fed, and cared for the poor – who was poor himself? What’s interesting is that Jesus’ words are oddly parallel to a passage found in Deuteronomy 15:11 where the Lord says, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land.” However, did that mean God thought it was a lost cause and the rich can just keep to themselves? The very next sentence says: “Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” In fact, Deuteronomy 15 continues to speak about the provisions that God would make for the poor; everything from freeing slaves every seventh year to even redistribution of wealth (fairly acquired) every 49th year, the year of Jubilee (Deuteronomy 15:1-8; Leviticus 25:8-55).

“If you follow this reasoning to its logical end, where does the giving stop? If you have two shirts, will you give the other away?” The argument that we will always have something extra to give should not be used to defeat the purpose of giving to begin with. These answers are defensive and the heart is all wrong. And honestly, how often has giving to the needy resulted in them taking us for all we have? It’s not realistic. And the logic of “If you give an inch, they can take a mile” doesn’t hold here, nor should it be allowed to keep us from the godly duty of sacrificial charity. Also, when that moment comes, how will we answer to that question? Will we be prepared to live according to the words of our Lord who said, “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (Matthew 5:40)? And will we judge Jesus and his teaching by our own faulty logic? Can Jesus not ask that we give it all away like he did the rich young ruler? “You lack one thing; go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). Is this so hard to believe, coming from the God-man who left it all (and much more) for us? (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“There will always be poor people. You can’t solve world hunger.”
Does that mean we can’t try? Does that mean we’re content to go on our way as faulty stewards of God’s blessings? You know, there’s a story Jesus told in Mark 12:41-44 of a poor widow who throws two small copper coins into the offering. Though there were many who threw a lot of money out of their abundance, Jesus praised her instead, because she gave out of her poverty everything she possessed, ‘all that she had to live on.’ Now this widow gave so little that she might as well have kept it. She didn’t solve world hunger; she didn’t alleviate any problems by her gift. But that’s not what mattered. She gave from the heart a sacrificial offering to God and that’s what mattered. It made all the difference. And when our hearts prod us to give sacrificially to those in need, Jesus assures us with these words: “Truly, I say to you , as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

When I came to question number three on the worksheet (“How do Christians justify spending millions on a worship building while people starve?”), my answer was: “You don’t.” That’s the problem. We’re trying to justify it. Quite honestly, most of the problems non-believers have with Christianity is not the faith itself but our poor rendering of it in our individual lives. But I would make this point (that I learned from Tim Keller) to the non-believer: We don’t justify the church spending millions on buildings while there are starving people around the world. It’s unjust. And when Martin Luther King, Jr. dealt with the gross injustices of segregation and racism, even (and perhaps mainly) among the white, middle-class, conservative believers, he never said the problem was with Christianity itself; that we needed to depart from the teachings of the Bible in order to have justice. Instead, he said:

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

He didn’t call people away from Christianity but to a truer form of it. And maybe, just maybe, we’d have less antagonistic questions proposed if we just learn to follow the actual teachings of our Lord, not only in word but also in deed. Let’s get our priorities straight and mirror our Lord. Emulate altruism. Give generously. And teach our people it’s importance.

November 5, 2012

Peace… Be Still

If I’m really honest — and I’m going to be today —  I would have to admit that I approached last Monday night’s storm with a great deal of apprehension. Part of it was due to the media buildup and part of it was due to general anxieties being brought on by a variety of circumstances.

As it turned out, the media’s anticipation of the storm was not hype, and people in New York City who failed to heed the warnings to evacuate ended up needing rescue.  If September 11th, 2001 represented the day that war came to America, then October 29th, 2012 was the day catastrophe came to New York City.

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber have had storm-themed devotions at Daily Encouragement all last week, though it’s interesting that the Friday before (26th) they chose this verse:

 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

The day after (30th) they chose this passage,

“And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:37,38).

The passage continues,

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

We sleep at night with a fan on in the room (for the white noise background), but even with that the winds were howling. I’m sure that we’ve had worse winds in several Canadian winters, but this time around I entertained the possibility of the top half of the house blowing away.

So I laid there and in my heart prayed “Peace, be still.” My lips didn’t move and my vocal cords didn’t engage, but inside, the prayer was a scream. I wasn’t expecting the storm to stop so much as I was praying for a stillness of the winds of anxiety and the rains of adversity.

I was praying for a stillness, a calm to inhabit my heart and mind.

And while that was going on, I thought of a song that’s based on the same passage in Mark, Master the Tempest is Raging. There are a few versions of it online, but nothing that matches the passion and intensity that I remember when, in my teen years, I heard it performed by the 120-voice choir at my home church in Toronto.

These are the lyrics, though I had no memory of the 2nd or 3rd verses until I looked them up today:

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled—
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master—
Oh, hasten, and take control.

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.

I think it is significant that in 1874, the writer, Mary A. Baker, chose to take the direction in the second verse that most likely applies to us today, and most certainly applies to me. The winds of fear and the rains of troubles and trials really never stop, but “no water can swallow the ship.”

As I did Monday night, and several times in the days since, reach out your hand toward your circumstances and whisper, ‘Peace … be still.’

~Paul Wilkinson


A more contemporary song that came to me this week was posted here previously, check out Psalm 91 by SonicFlood.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic; but all we tend to hear about is New York City. Here’s an examination of the inequities of media reporting.

June 29, 2012

Finding Jesus

As a general rule here, if we “borrow” a blog post, we at least find an alternative graphic image to go with it; but this time around the original picture really belongs with the article.  I’ve been reading Dean Lusk’s blog, Every Good Band Deserves Fudge for about four years now; and while I’ve linked to him at Thinking Out Loud a few times, this is his first time here at C201.  So, you guys know the drill, you’re encouraged to read this at his blog, where it appeared under the title, Where’s Jesus?


I’m surprised and feel a little silly that I never caught the connection between these passages before. Notice the phrases I’ve emphasized.

Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

John 12:26, NLT

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Matthew 25:34-40, NLT

If we want to be disciples and servants of Jesus, we have to be where He is. Sometimes that “place” is not a mysterious destination we have to agonize about, asking God if this or that is what He’d have us to do. Often it’s right in front of us.

In a very straightforward manner, Jesus told us just a few of the places we can find Him. Are we there?

You can stop reading here if you’d like, and jump right to criticizing me for espousing some kind of exclusively social gospel. However, this was written to expound on one small aspect of living as a disciple of Jesus Christ, not to say it encompasses everything. Read further for bonus content! These thoughts and clarifications came out of a discussion of the topic via e-mail with a friend.

My friend asked, “So we find Jesus where believers are, right? In these passages then, is Jesus talking about helping only less fortunate Christians? How do you find Jesus among non-believers?” My response was something like this (with a few edits for clarity):

“We find Jesus where believers are…” That’s obviously a true statement, but keeping Scripture in mind (like the passage above, Matthew 25, for instance), “Jesus is not among non-believers” may not necessarily be a true statement. When Jesus is talking in the Matthew 25 passages, the believers He was talking about were the ones He was talking to. He never mentioned whether the hungry, poor, etc., were believers. That apparently didn’t matter. That is, we’re never told in Scripture to screen someone to determine if they’re worthy of our help — if they’re a believer, etc. We’re never told the spiritual status of the guy in the ditch that the Good Samaritan helped, for example. He was just “a man.”

And then there’s a different perspective making a similar point: the Church is the body of Christ; He is the head. (“We find Jesus among believers.”) However, Jesus put Himself among non-believers as a regular habit when He was physically on earth. Eating with tax-collecting scum, defending a sexually promicuous woman who was not a believer, doing things that got Him labeled by the religious elite as a drunkard and a glutton. (“We find Jesus among non-believers.”) Therefore, one way we find Jesus among non-believers is for us (believers) to be where non-believers are.

Again, Jesus told us and showed us just a few of the places we can find Him. Are we there?

~Dean Lusk

June 6, 2012

On the Nature of Benevolence

Today, for C201 post #800, we’re featuring the writing of fellow-Canadian, Jamie Arpin Ricci, who recently blogged an excerpt from his book, The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press) available at your local Christian bookstore. To read what follows at source, which we always strongly encourage, click over to Of Love and Charity.

Recently I took part in a lively discussion about the word “charity”.  While the intended use of the word in the discussion was referring to “voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need”, someone else mentioned that the word “charity” is often used as an explicitly theological term meaning love- specifically agape, the unconditional love of God and/or the love we are called to hold for all others.  I argued that the use of “charity” to refer to “love” is the result of the Vulgate translation of agape- a likely use to differentiate it from sexual love. However, etymologically, “charity” has primarily been used to reference benevolence to the poor.  I contend that the very small segment of Christian usage of the term as love does not accurately represent the words original and most common usage, historically or today.

Be that as it may, the intersection of love and charity became the heart of the discussion.  Jesus said:

“When you give to the needy, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is don in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3)

So how should we understand these secret works of righteousness? Interestingly, the Greek word used for “acts of righteousness” is not the same word in every manuscript. Some ancient manuscripts that include this passage use the same word for “righteousness” as the one in the Beatitudes, the righteousness/justice we are to hunger and thirst for. Other manuscripts, though, use an entirely different word meaning “almsgiving” or simply “gifts to the poor.” After shooting off a few e-mails to some Bible scholar friends of mine, I learned that while the best manuscripts use the former meaning (that is, they refer to works of justice), the reason the other meaning is used at times is because the primary “act of righteousness” in the Judaism of Jesus’ day was almsgiving.

The use of both Greek words suggests that Jesus was referring to the Jewish practice called tzedakah, a Hebrew word that loosely means “charity” but has as its root the Hebrew word for justice (tzedek). Rooted in the gleaning laws of their agrarian past, the complexities of the developing economy led to a more sophisticated set of guidelines and requirements about giving to the poor.  However, consistent throughout that development was the central fact that such giving was always to be done anonymously. What we can glean, then, is that while Jesus is commenting broadly on works of justice, most of his listeners would have thought immediately of tzedakah. And given that Jesus continues by directly addressing the practice of almsgiving in the following section, this connection is obviously intentional.

The connection between righteousness/justice and providing for the poor must not be missed or minimized. Its long history in Judaism and Christianity, and Jesus’ clear affirmation of its continued practice, should be more than enough to make us mindful of its significance for the church. As we have explored earlier, it is not uncommon these days for Christians to believe that God calls us to care for the spiritual needs of others, with material needs being of secondary priority (and often a distant second at that). Some even go so far as to say we are not called meet the material needs of the poor at all. However, most would simply minimize such charity as a secondary, less important aspect to the higher spiritual calling of saving souls.

We cannot miss that Jesus makes no such division or distinction between the spiritual and material needs of humanity. The righteousness and justice we are called to hunger and thirst after, and the shalom we are called to create in the world—even in its brokenness—is absolutely concerned with the whole person, in- deed all of creation. The disintegrative nature of sin is being reversed by the work of Christ’s redemption, moving us toward the intended wholeness of creation, reflected in the nature of the Garden of Eden before sin. It was good! Our commitment to Christ and his mission, then, must be equally devoted to the restoration of the whole person and the whole creation.

When we understand the dynamics at work here, we see that Jesus is not teaching anything new in respect to the requirement of giving to the poor (and acts of justice in general), nor are his warnings about doing so to be seen as righteous by those watching us. This was something all good Jews knew to avoid. Something clearly distinguishes Jesus’ admonition. He is not forbidding us from doing works of righteousness before others (which would indeed be a contradiction of his earlier mandate in Matthew 5:13-16), but rather he is warning us against doing such works for the purpose of being seen by others. Once again, Jesus is forcing us to examine the intentions of our heart, for the true nature of our righteousness is found there, not in the act itself. We must live in the tension between the interior formation of our hearts and the ethical behavior it gives birth to. We should not be surprised that this was such a common problem in his day. After all, which of us does not like getting praised for our good works? This is a universal temptation that we all face.

~Jamie Arpin-Ricci

 

Jamie was featured previously here at C201 on January 2nd, 2011 with an article entitled The Biblical Concept of Godly Leadership.

May 4, 2012

Jesus and Justice: Deliverance for the Oppressed

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is a re-blog from Shawn Groves, but you really want to read it at his blog, if only for the pictures.  Actually, the real reason is that this is part five of a continuing series.  You might want to start with the earlier sections…

Luke 6:1-9

While traveling on the Sabbath, Jesus and his students got hungry. They picked grain for lunch. The lawmakers said this was illegal: no grocery shopping on the Sabbath.

Also on the Sabbath, Jesus went to church and saw a man in need of healing. Knowing his critics were watching, Jesus healed the man and asked, “which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, luke 19:45-47, John 2:12-22

Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of Hosanna and entered the temple. There he saw people exchanging foreign currencies so they could buy animals to offer in worship to God. He turned over the tables of the money exchangers, and of the venders selling animals too. He said God’s temple had been turned from a house of prayer into a cave for thieves.

Deliverance from oppression…

Jesus didn’t live in a representative republic. The Jewish nation (even when under Roman rule) was a theocracy of sorts, governed in large part by a religious ruling class – church and state were in many ways one and the same. When legislation/religion resulted in the oppression of the poor and less powerful, Jesus obeyed the higher law/religion of love instead.

Though Sabbath laws stood in the way of filling a stomach or healing a hand, Jesus picked and healed.

When the powers-that-be cheated foreigners exchanging currency at the temple, Jesus turned the tables on them and demanded love for God and neighbor.

Nagas & Thraou

In the Old Testament, in passages like Isaiah 58, the word “oppressed” is a translation of the Hebrew word “nagas.” It means “touches” and is translated elsewhere as “strike”, “reach”, “bring down”, “crush”, “ruler.”

When Isaiah foretold times of prosperity for the nation of Israel, he wrote…

Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and well-being your ruler (nagas).
-Isaiah 60:17

When Isaiah predicted the torture of Christ he wrote…

He was oppressed (nagas) and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
-Isaiah 53:7

So, in the Old Testament, “nagas” is the exercise of power or strength over another, whether that power is for peace or violence, prosperity or persecution. “Oppression” is negative “nagas.”

In the New Testament the word “oppressed” only appears once in the New International Version – in a passage we’ve already mentioned in this series…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” – Luke 4:18

There, the Greek word “thraou” is translated “oppressed.” It means “to break into pieces, shatter.” The bible says again and again that God is close to the broken-hearted, but God is also overthrowing the systems that have held down and broken them.

Jesus delivers, and promises more deliverance is on the way, to those struck and shattered by the powers and systems at work against the disadvantaged.

~Shawn Groves

If you’ve got the time, I strongly urge you to read the rest of the posts in this series, as linked above.

November 2, 2011

The Occupy Protests: Don’t Store Up Treasure

This devotional thought by Shane Claiborne appeared last week at Out of Ur, a Christianity Today website.   You’re encouraged to read it there; but whether you stay there or here, it reads better if you’ve heard Shane and can imagine his voice speaking…

A reporter recently asked me, “As a Christian leader, does your faith have anything to say about Wall Street?” I said, “How much time do you have?”

Theologian Karl Barth said, “We have to read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” For too long we Christians have used our faith as a ticket out of this world rather than fuel to engage it.

In his parables, Jesus wasn’t offering pie-in-the-sky theology… he was talking about the real stuff of earth. He talks about wages, debt, widows and orphans, unjust business owners and bad politicians. In fact Woody Guthrie breaks it all down in his song “Jesus Christ.” The song ends with Woody singing, “This song was written in New York City. If Jesus were to preach what he preached in Galilee, they would lay him in his grave again.”

The more I read the Gospels, the more they seem to confront the very patterns of the world we live in. At one point Mary, pregnant with Jesus cries out: “God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly… God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty…”. You can’t help but think if she were alive in contemporary America some folks would try to accuse the Virgin Mother of being Marxist or promoting class warfare. But all through Scripture we see this–over 2000 verses about how God cares for the poor and most vulnerable.

What would Jesus say about Wall Street?

It doesn’t get much better than Luke chapter 12. Jesus begins by saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And then, as per usual, he tells a story. The story is about a rich man whose business makes it big. He has so much stuff he doesn’t know where to put it all. So he decides, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones… and I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” But Jesus says God looks down and is not happy.

God says to the rich man, “You fool! This very night you will die–and what will happen to all your stuff?” And Jesus ends the teaching by saying this is how things will be for folks who store up stuff for themselves.

It does make you wonder what to do about 401k’s and pensions. But it seems pretty clear that Jesus isn’t a big fan of stockpiling stuff in barns and banks, especially when folks are dying of starvation and preventable diseases.

One of the constant threads of Scripture is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Nothing more, nothing less. Underneath this admonition is the assumption that the more we store up for tomorrow the less people will have for today. And in a world where 1% of the world owns half the world’s stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed. Lots of folks are beginning to say, “Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.”

Maybe God’s dream is for us to live simply so that others may simply live. Maybe God’s dream is for the bankers to empty their banks and barns so folks have enough food for today.

Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.

~Shane Claiborne

October 28, 2011

Confronting Greed

As I write this, the “Occupy” protests are spreading around the world, and sadly, becoming more confrontational, as neighborhoods try to take back their public spaces, and police grow weary of trying to keep the peace, and the costs associated with so doing.

At the root of the protests is corporate and personal greed.  In many ways, the protests are borne out of the situation in the U.S., the other locations are merely copycat protests.  I don’t know the source of the stats which follow, but they purport to show the ratio between the take home pay of the average worker, and that of the average CEO:

At his blog, Dream Awakener, J. R. Woodward posts this classic prayer against greed in a blog item titled, Praying With Occupy Wall Street.

O Jesus, Who chose a life of poverty and obscurity; 

Grant me the grace to keep my heart detached from the transitory things of this world.

Let it be that henceforth, You are my only treasure, for You are infinitely more precious than all others possessions. My heart is too solicitous for the vain and fleeting things of earth.

Make me always mindful of Your warning words: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?”

Grant me the grace to keep Your holy example always before my eyes, that I may despise the nothingness of this world and make You the object of all my desires and affections.

Amen.

What should the Christian’s response be to the Occupy movement?  I believe the answer is rooted in Micah 6:8

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
   to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

 

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.

July 25, 2011

The Least of These

This very powerful, very transparent article appeared earlier in the month at the blog, Faith in the Margins, under the title Listen to Lazarus.

As most of you know I have had a hard time in Institutional Church. The IC tends in the main to run as a business with a hierarchical model – much like the ‘world’ Also much like the world the poor, the outcast, the socially inept, the single parent, the uneducated, and the homeless get mistreated, ignored and deprived of having any real voice or influence. As a poor divorced single parent from the wrong side of town I have suffered untold and told abuse at the hands of those who supposedly are shepherds of the flock. It has been the same for every other person from my background that I’ve taken to church. So what’s that all about?

I was praying this morning and asking God why he allowed myself and my children to be treated this way in ‘His’ church? Surely anyone with only a minimal knowledge of the Bible knows that much is said about protecting, nurturing and leading the widow and fatherless gently….
So why God why did you let us be so viciously treated at the hands of your very own ministers and leaders?

If your face and background fit you will never see or feel the abuse. That’s the problem. IC can be a great place to be an ‘acceptable christian’ – if you find favour with the leadership because your lifestyle, family and background are considered ‘acceptable’ It’s also a bonus if you have some hard cash to ‘give’ on a regular basis. This is the truth.

One day those who abused me, ignored and shunned me because I didn’t have the ‘right’ credentials will have to give an account to God for their actions. The thing is I don’t know anyone else personally who has spoken up about the way they have been treated by IC – I have watched so many from my background go to church and leave quite quickly – but they don’t have the courage to speak out. The middle classes scare them. They baffle them with eloquent speech and long words. They have money and power and influence.The poor are aware of their shortcomings. The IC causes the poor the uneducated and those who don’t ‘fit’ the required and acceptable mold of a believer to feel even more inadequate. The last thing they will want is a confrontation – on every human level they know they would lose – so they leave.

I hope and excuse me if this sounds a bit harsh…. I hope that on judgement day Jesus will bring every poor, rejected, lonely, outcast, homeless and desperate person I took to church into the great hall. Then he will bring the leaders of the church in who rejected, ignored and shunned them and then I hope he will ask them for an explanation and then I hope he will judge accordingly. Sounds to me a bit like a story Jesus told here about the rich man and Lazarus – but of course institutional church portrays this as a mere parable which ‘doesn’t have to be true in all its particulars………..’!!

We – all of us are without excuse if we mistreat the poor. The Bible is clear as to what awaits for those who behave this way…

What surprises me is the way so many Christians concentrate on showing and telling the world about their blessings of wonderful husbands/wives and families and Gods provision of their amazing church/house/car/holiday/promotion etc etc. Now this I agree is ok as long as it’s used as a vehicle to reach out and tell those who don’t have all the above that God can intervene in their lives and give the same things to them. All too often the church keeps the blessings to itself. The members keep the blessings within the confines of the church family and congratulate themselves for being so holy and worthy to receive these gifts. Bullshit.

Do these Christians ever stop and think what their boasting does to those in the gutter who have lost their spouse, their homes, their jobs, their self respect and are struggling to survive?

I don’t recall Jesus ever going on like this. Hang on, I know, remember the time he walked right up to a disabled, homeless guy on the pavement and told him how God had blessed him with amazing legs so he could walk run and skip. Of course then Jesus went home and wrote all about it on his blog telling the world about how God had blessed him….. I think not. Jesus was too humble and thoughtful to do that!

If I ever do get ‘blessed’ with a spouse and my own home and the regular comforts all my christians brothers and sisters consider ‘blessings’ I will not speak about them as I would not want to cause even more pain and heartache for those who have not or worse still, had but lost.

These are the blessings Jesus spoke about so I have no problem with anyone boasting about these…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich!
For you have received your consolation.
Woe to you, you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe, when men speak well of you,
for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets.

Well I didn’t plan for this post to go this way… but it has got me thinking about all those happy blessed, full and highly regarded christians out there…… who like to write endless blog posts showing just how much they have and how richly God has blessed them….. Taking into account the above verses the ‘blessings’ they so want to ram down our throats are not from God at all!!! I’m not saying christians shouldn’t write about Gods provision or Gods healing power or Gods intervention in their lives – that’s fine and good as testimony is always uplifting. But ‘bragging’ about a ‘blessing’ that God doesn’t even call a blessing is wrong and very hurtful to those who are struggling and suffering and ‘have not.’

I recently had some correspondence with a christian (no-one who reads my blog!) who constantly goes on about ‘his’ and ‘his’ families ‘blessings’ I challenged him about this and explained how it could be very hurtful to those who had nothing. He disagreed and was very self righteous with me so much so it had me quite tearful, I deleted his last message as I am not clever enough to respond using the kind of language he uses and also as a woman who has already been so abused and downtrodden by the IC I just don’t have the strength to fight what he says. He has a huge following in the States and is well respected, maybe I’m wrong or misguided – i don’t know, all I know is that Jesus measures our Christianess by how it impacts (for the good) on the ‘least’ among us. (Matthew 25:31-46)

This is an unfinished post which has sat in my drafts for 6 months. I’m posting it anyway today as it is as I continue to grapple with the issues mentioned here myself.

May 21, 2011

Henri Nouwen on Social Progress

This is a long weekend here in Canada, and the tendency is to kick back spiritually as well, to get into that “summer mindset” or what we call here “cottage mentality” and forget that our relationship with Jesus doesn’t take a day off or a weekend off.  (Read more about churches that “power down” in summer here and here.)  Nevertheless, I’ll grant that today’s piece is a little lighter, or at least it is on the surface.  We tend to worship doctrine, but don’t think that items about the outworking of that doctrine, or orthopraxy, or ministry ethic is really all that deep.  Perhaps it is really most profound.

Next Page »