Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Giving

As I'm watching TV with my mother at home, Oprah is preaching. Not only is she preaching her particular system of thought and counsel, but she held a contest recently. It was called 'the Biggest Giver'. The point of the competition is for the contestants to out give one another to various charities or organizations. And so, I guess, for weeks, this competition got done. Until there were three people left.

And then something happened. It showed a clip of the three finalists standing together with envelopes. Oprah told them to open the envelopes; two had a substantial amount of money in them (I don't know if the third person got hosed or not). The guy who won was very excited when he found out he won; so excited he screamed with sheer excitement (and so did Oprah). Note: This contest happened in 2008.

The catch was that half the money received was to be given away to any organization this winner so chose. And he chose a Rwandan based organization.

I have no problem with this contest at all, except for two things: First, there had to be a contest in the first place. The competitors are apparently well off and they didn't HAVE to participate to make a huge difference. In fact, I'm sure Oprah could buy a nation, but that's neither here nor there.

Why there had to be a contest is beyond me. Why the man had to celebrate is also beyond me. He won a contest? On giving? If the contest seems absorb, his end zone dance was just as much so.

Secondly, the man actually won a million dollars. Half of it had to be donated as per the rules of the contest. That means he got 500 thousand to keep…? To do what with? Add to his large bank account?

I'm not jealous, nor am I angry. This man did give so much and he did give away his money he had to and he was rewarded. He is heading up a noble cause for Rwanda education. But why was this contest necessary? Why did it take an Oprahatic (see what I did there?) act to get all this giving done?

On Unity

Abraham Lincoln said, in response to the imminent Civil War, that, 'a house divided against itself cannot stand'. This isn't just a cute saying to give meaning to community; it's a natural law. If something that was once a whole structure is divided, it will fall. This is the nature of gravity and the nature of matter in space. If you cut a tree at it's base, it will fall. If you try and cut your house in half, it will fall. I don't advise either action if you're in the fall zone, because you'll inevitably hurt yourself.

This law applies to families and communities. The community is, in this case, a church. Paul has a lot to say in the Bible on community. But, that will come later. For now, I'll start with chronological order.

1) Psalms 133:1

1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

The Psalmist is very open and about this statement. He goes on to say, "2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, 
   running down on the beard, 
running down on Aaron’s beard, 
   down on the collar of his robe. 
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon 
   were falling on Mount Zion. 
For there the LORD bestows his blessing, 
   even life forevermore.

It is like precious oil on the head. We all know, in the days of David, oil was a very precious commodity. And it is like this that David compares unity in brotherhood!

2) John 17:20

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
   24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
   25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus prayed that we would have unity like He has with the Father. Friends, I believe that there is a reason why God is manifest in a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Unity is a necessary part of life. Before everything, God was eternally preexistent: the Father in perfect love and unity with the Son, the Son with the Spirit, the Spirit with the Father. C.S. Lewis described it as a dance of perfect love and unity in Mere Christianity. He has give us an example to follow; we, as His people, are obligated to follow His example for it is right. He is God. He knows our heart and He knows what is best for His beloved creation.

3) Romans 6:1-5

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin."

It seems, many times, that we put a Dan Brown twist on our crucifixion with Christ; like our old man never died. This is not unity! It's a lie! Shall we go on proclaiming Christ, but live in sin? No! It is impossible. If you continue in habitual sin, you were never in Christ. If you are in Christ, habitual sin becomes harder to do. We are to exhort one another in love so that we can walk together in unity! But watch out for planks in your own eye. Removing a speck of sawdust from one brother's eye isn't worth whacking him in the face with the plank in your own eye.

4) 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

IS Christ divided? Can we take one part of Scripture and ignore another? No. That is the making of a cult tantamount to that of Westboro Baptist. If there is a problem with the leader of a church, test what he teaches against the Scripture in the fullness. The Bible is our foundation; we base our principles and leadership off of these living words. Are we going to say, "I follow Bob" or "I follow Johnny"? Or are we going to follow Jesus Christ, our God, in the fulness of His revelation to us through the Word which became flesh?

4) 1 Corinthians 12-26

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

5) Ephesians 4:1-3

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Make. Every. Effort. If every effort has been expended; if multiple chances have been given, what can one do? Nothing! If the person in question is unwilling to change, then that's that. What can the leader, or the congregation with a bad leader, do? Exhort your brother, in love, to turn from sin. It is not loving to let someone you love to live in sin, because it is destructive to the spirit. Do you let your children do things that are destructive to yourself? No, you love your children.

6) Ephesians 4:11-13

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

We are to mature spiritually in a healthy unity through Christ Jesus. If we aren't maturing, we cannot be in unity: some people are growing apart from those who won't mature. There becomes a spiritual generation gap. This is NOT conducive to spiritual unity. Eventually, there must be growth. If not, there will only be schism.

7) Colossians 3:14

14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

8) Philippians 2:1-3

1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

This is the tallest command that can be made of a human, besides Jesus's commission to 'be perfect'. It is to overlook your pride and self-conceit. Love is not prideful. Love your neighbor in a pure fashion; unconditionally.

Trusting God for Everything: Easier Said Than Done

This is actually a really ironic thing for me to write, because like everyone else, I scramble around like a chicken with its head cut off when something doesn’t fit into my plan. At this moment in time, I am very short on cash with two bills coming up and no cash inflow coming until February. In an earthly kind of way, I’m what they call, “so very poor”. And so I can do nothing for myself.
This is the condition God finds us most useful; broken and poor; in one word, destitute. When we’re not in this condition, we’re happy (or at least not in lack). We don’t need God to provide us for everything we need; we’ve got this. And then a storm hits; we lost a large sum of money, our significant other or spouse has left us, everything seems to go wrong at just the right time. And so we get on our knees and say, “Hey, God. It’s me again. I’m in that situation again…”

This is not a Christian walk; it is a lie. You have friends whom you talk to daily; but you have ‘friends’ whom you talk to when you’re in need of their specialized talent. He wants your needs spoken to Him. He doesn’t need it because He is God; not in need of anything that we can give. He wants it; no, desires it.

‘Ask and you shall receive.’

This verse trips a lot of people out. They expect immediate gratification from God. But often we forget that He lives in a realm not harnessed with time and space. We get impatient because we have a biological clock that ticks closer to expiration every second.
Will you trust God to provide what you need? Will you ask it of Him in time of need, or thank him in time of prosperity? Will you talk to your friend? Trust in Him; He knows what He is doing because He’s been around the block before.

'I Want Thyself; Only Thyself'

As the story goes, St. Thomas Aquinas was praying one day in a cathedral. During his prayer, he had a vision of the Christ-statue, which hung crucified, detaching from its cross mounting. The statue spoke to him and said that he has written well and He would give him one thing that he desired most.

Thomas was an avid reader and was grateful most that he ‘remembered and understood every page he had ever read’. However, the humble man knew exactly what he wanted. He replied, “I want Thyself; only Thyself.”


Whether this vision really happened or not, wow. How often do we think, ‘I really wish God would throw me a bone… Or a corvette… Or a girlfriend… Or a boyfriend…’? How many things do we place on our list of desires in front of the One who can fulfill all of our deepest wants and all of our deepest needs?

Thomas hit the nail on the head. He saw his depravity, and kept his carnal wants in check. He saw that he needed the One who can give him everything else. Do you desire this same outlook? Do you want to go deeper than a new car? Do you fully desire the One who has truly earned the first spot?

Distractions, Distractions

Recently, I fell in love with a girl who seemed absolutely perfect. She could keep up with my intellect and understood my sense of humor. And she, herself, was funny as well. All the things that make a girl dateable, she has. However, we didn’t go through with it and are still only good friends today, which is fine because in hindsight, I see why it is good that it didn’t work out. Through all the pain and sorrow, God had a purpose and it came into fruition through months of working out the ‘whys’.
There is one thing people of the opposite sex seem to always come with; the pure ability to distract us from our God. There are plenty of other distractions: video games, music, Facebook, books, school, family, friends. Dating just happens to be the easiest thing to distract us.

God made us a sexual people; He placed that desire for high relationship with another human of opposite gender in us. That relationship isn’t to take His place though. It is to strengthen our relationship with Him. Our response to marriage should be, “Thank you God, for You have blessed us very highly.” As far as the dating saying can take us, we must ‘leave room for Jesus between us’.

The good things in life can turn bad when it keeps us from the best things. We can only allow a relationship so far as we can continually keep Christ on the forefront of our thoughts; all else is only a distraction.