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Archive for August, 2010

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. As one of her birthday “presents” she wanted to sit down as a family and pick out a child from the world vision website for us to sponsor financially. She showed our kids the videos about the program. When my little boy, Jude, saw all the sick kids with no toys and food, he cried. When I heard he cried, I cried too. We sat down on the couch to look for a child to sponsor and Jude prayed “Jesus, help us find the kid you want us to help so that your heart won’t be broken anymore” … Geez, you’re killin’ me son!

So we flipped through all the pictures of the young boys in Rwanda who live in areas devastated by AIDS, and we landed on Dieudonne’s picture.  I told them that his name means “God Gives” in french, and everyone said: “that’s him”! Sorry, no pictures allowed for security reasons.

Anyway, you do this kind of thing, and you feel a little good about yourself. A little giving here, a little kindness there, and you know, you feel like you’re “doing your part”.

Well, then I went ahead and did the foolish thing of spending an hour looking at adoption ministry videos for an upcoming event…

God’s been working on me. For that I’m indescribably grateful. He isn’t going to leave me in my hard-hearted and selfish condition. He will “continue the good work” He began in me and see it through to completion. On the other hand, the closer you get to God the more awful and wretched you perceive the darkness in your soul to be. It ain’t pretty.

Specifically, I’ve been deeply and increasingly bothered by my wealth. After spending an evening looking at these kids and the condition of our world I have a hard time feeling good about myself and my meager $35/mth sponsorship program.  Sure, we’re not even as wealthy as most middle class people, but in the grand scope we’re immensely so:

– Having a fridge, roof, and clothes closet puts you in the wealthiest  25% of the world’s population.

– If you make $10,066 per year you are in the top 16% of the world’s wealthiest.

– A net worth of $61,000 puts you in the top 10% of the world’s wealthiest.

– It would cost 13 billion a year to feed the world’s hungry (and there’s plenty of production capability to meet this).

Christians spend annually: 13 billion feeding our pets, 13 billions on diet programs, 17 billion on golfing & boating, 20 billion on soft drinks, 21 billion on cable TV, & 105 billion on eating out

Are you OK with that? I’m not. More importantly, I’m increasingly in fear and trembling that God isn’t either.

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk,  the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.

…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12: 42-46 &48

Our family is in the process of adopting and I believe that “defending the cause of the fatherless” is an issue the church MUST embrace. But I look around at my surroundings and say, “is it enough”? I look at my fellow American Christian families living in our spacious houses with 2 SUV’s in the driveway and beautiful landscaping. I don’t know, maybe somehow we’re all living sacrificially for God in some way, so I can’t judge. But I doubt it.

Yes, every family that is adopting should be highly commended for their sacrifice in loving the fatherless, but can we stop there as though we’ve “done our part”? Indeed God delights in every generous act of kindness we show to “the least of these my brethren”. In fact, I’m so inspired and thrilled at what groups like “Heartwork” started by The Desperation Band/Desperation Ministry are doing to engage youth in ministering to orphans (I’ve included some of their promo videos below to encourage you after I’m done spitting up my own brokenness on you…)

The question for me is, what is His standard by which I will be judged?

We’ll only spend a small fraction of our lifetime earnings to adopt and parent an orphan. God the Father emptied the storehouse of heaven, allowing his only son, to be mercilessly tortured and bear the full wrath of God for the sin of the world  so he could adopt us into His family. Do we have anything to be proud of in the face of such loving sacrifice? Should we stop and bask in the light of our few good deeds for the day?

Suppose I was in a restaurant eating my dinner. On the other side of the window from me was a man in the street who was emaciated like an Auschwitz inmate and was calling out to me “help me please! I’m dying. I haven’t eaten in weeks.” Instead of helping him, I get up from my table and buy another round of drinks for my friends. We sit back down to enjoy ourselves, and an hour later the man is dead on the street right outside the window. Would that be wrong? Would God bring that up to me when we finally meet face to face? I think you see my point…

I have a hard time looking at my wealth and the wealth of our nation (the wealthiest in the history of mankind) on the one hand, then looking at a fatherless generation that is starving and dying (that we largely ignore) on the other hand and picturing that on the day of judgment God will have nothing to say about that. I’m tired of listening to sermons on money where the preacher always feels compelled to say “now, there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of money….it’s the LOVE of money that is the problem”. I’m tired of people talking about how much our country gives to foreign aid like that somehow absolves them personally. I’m tired of all the old “some people are called to have a lot of wealth in order to…XYZ” arguments.  I’m sorry, but somehow I just fail to imagine God is impressed.

Sure, it’s not for me to say “how much is too much” for anyone, but one thing I am certain of – there comes a point  where we have kept to much of what we have for ourselves, no matter what our “calling” is. And we’d better be sure we know what God’s opinion is on the matter for each one of us. We will give an account for how we used what God entrusted to us.

For me, the fact that my dog has a huge bag of chicken and rice kibble and crystal clean water available to her at all hours while 5 million of God’s children die of starvation every year is simply not OK. How can it be?

It’s not OK, and my selfishness breaks my heart.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-19)

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I’m excited about a couple of things.

First, I’m excited to unleash the hummus I’m making for a dinner party on Sunday night.

I will be making full use of my super hot Thai Chili peppers that are now in bloom (pictured here). It shall be an unholy abomination; a fiery evil perpetrated on all dinner guests who dare approach it!

I made the mistake of biting into one of my peppers the other night while in the garden in order to test the “heat factor”. Ouch.

Secondly, I’m excited about the theology of redemption. I know, not a very exciting term in and of itself. But I was reading a great little one page summary online about the redemption of creation and just rekindling the excitement in my heart for the age to come when all things will be renewed. Link HERE.

When I was a kid I clearly remember singing songs in church that said things like “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing though”. Yet in my heart I really loved the world (the grandeur of creation), wanting to see and experience all of it. Frankly, I was not all that excited about the supposed “heaven” where I would spend eternity. A place that I could not relate to, conceive of, picture, or understand.

I remember reading scriptures like “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”(Matt 5:5). Or, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19). I could not understand these passages as a young person. Why would I want to “inherit the earth”? Isn’t it “all gonna burn”? What is it that creation is waiting for? Isn’t creation going to “pass away”? But oh how the scriptures come alive and clear when we grasp the gospel of redemption.

Meditating on a hope that is placed in the biblical understanding that one day Jesus will return and the earth will be renewed in righteousness is so invigorating.  It places life in context. It puts to rest the stress of all of my striving and desire to try and “have it all”  in this life. My “bucket list” has gone from “100 things to do and see” to a short list indeed: To know Him and His word and to serve His purposes for my life. There’s nothing else that matters when we know this life is a short and misty foreshadow; a preparation for the glory to be revealed when he appears. I can take joy in resisting my selfish desires, stop using my resources for my own pleasure and personal gain, and endure the difficulties that life brings us all when I know that one day I truly will “have it all”. The continuity between this life and the next provides a framework for belief and purpose in life. I live with focus and  joy when I have a clear view of the glory and reward that awaits.

This world IS my home! One day I will experience and embrace it’s full wonder, unhindered by evil and decay. What a “glorious day it shall be”.

Of course, my greatest hope and prayer is that when Jesus does come, it will not be like meeting a distant relative who I hardly know or have little in common with. I want that day to be a reunion with an old friend and brother; long anticipated and  full of joy.

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