Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Putting the Giving in Thanksgiving

In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, Paul spends significant time laying the theological and ethical foundations for giving to the poor.  You see, the church in Judea was suffering from extreme poverty.

Paul decided to spearhead a huge fundraising campaign throughout the churches he had planted.  And he called the Corinthians to excel in "this grace of giving" (2 Cor. 8: 7).

Grace is a very broad term that denotes the favor that is bestowed by God on us, regardless of our merit.  And, having become recipients of God's grace, we are called to become conduits through whom God's grace is administered to others.  We become "stewards" of God's grace, faithfully administering it to others (1 Pet. 4: 10).

Having received God's grace by way of His abundant provision, we are now responsible to become stewards of that grace through us to others.  Another name for this charisma is "generosity."

Of course, the greatest example of the administration of generosity is God Himself, giving His One and Only Begotten Son.  He did it, not based on our merit, but based on our need.

Paul tells us that our generosity becomes a source of thanksgiving and praise that builds and multiplies.  "This service that you perform not only supplies the needs of God's people, but overflows in many expressions of thanks to God" (2 Cor. 9: 12, slight paraphrase).

This last weekend, our little church poured out their resources in a Spirit of generosity to supply the needs of our brothers and sisters in downtown Los Angeles.  I know I felt a kind of joy and thanksgiving as we gave of ourselves.  And the believers in Los Angeles expressed thanksgiving as well when we delivered our gift.

We can multiply thanksgiving by becoming generous in the same way as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor. 9: 15).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I had an opportunity to go to an advance screening of the upcoming movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I have to say that it exceeded my expectations and may be the best movie rendering of Narnia so far.

One of the characters says roughly, "Before you can conquer the darkness out there, you must overcome the darkness inside."  The movie is about facing our inner darkness.  When we do, the monsters on the outside can be conquered.

I was totally impressed with Will Poulter who plays Eustace, the young, snarky cousin of Edmund and Lucy.  His transformation through personal pain is at the heart of the movie.  Reflecting on the experience of being transformed and healed by Aslan near the end, he says that it was painful but good.  Like pulling out a thorn.  It hurts but feels better afterwards.

Also, for young children, the sea serpent is really scary.  Parents, you should judge your own kids' ability to handle a big monster.

When Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund that this is indeed their last visit to Narnia, he also says that he exists in their world by another name.  The purpose of their visits to Narnia was so that they would get to know him there.  And what a great truth.  We make a big mistake when we stifle children's imagination, thinking that it will lead them into error.  C. S. Lewis' imaginative fairy tales help us to understand the wonders of God and eternity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Simple Instructions

I think the most complex set of instructions I've ever had to struggle with were for my patio barbeque.  And it didn't help matters that the English was probably translated by a non-native speaker at a factory somewhere in Asia.

It made me think, "What are the simplest instructions in my house?"  The truth is, I deal with them every day.  They are on my shampoo bottle:
1.  Lather
2.  Rinse
3.  Repeat

In Matthew 22, a teacher of the law asked Jesus what the greatest single law from the Torah was.  Jesus answered, "Love God."  And secondarily, "Love your neighbor."  Jesus wraps up his discussion by saying, "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matt. 22: 40).  Or to paraphrase it, "This sums up the Torah."

So, you could say that the entire ethical imperative of Torah may be as simple as that bottle of shampoo.
1.  Love God
2.  Love People
3.  Repeat

What would our world look like if the Church were involved in fulfilling those two simple commands, and then kept doing it over and over again?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Timing Is Everything

The Greeks had two key words for "time"--chronos and kairos.

Chronos denotes the passage of time.  That's why a watch is called a "chronometer."  It measures the inevitable flow of time, like a massive river.  55 years of my finite amount of chronos has slipped by.  How much do I have left?

Kairos denotes a moment in time.  An appointment with the doctor is written in my calendar at a specific time. My airplane ticket has a time-of-departure (kairos) written on it.  A groom asks his best man to "get him to the church on kairos." 

Kairos can be seen positively as "the opportune moment."  But negatively as "the moment of crisis."  Opportunity and crisis.  If I miss the appointed time, it is gone forever.

So what's the point?  How much of my chronos is wasted because I am not recognizing the kairoi that are presenting themselves to me?

Our modern lives are full of time-wasters. And those time-wasters are becoming more and more high-tech. TV, the Internet, texting, video gaming, etc., etc. Involvement in so many things tends to numb my spiritual senses to God's promptings.  Those kairoi keep slipping by as the chronometer keeps ticking.

Are you making the most of your chronos?  Are you paying attention to God so that you don't miss those kairos moments?