Thursday, January 31, 2008

Caution: Don't Read (part II)

"Yeah, those bits from Jesus were tough, but what do you expect? He's perfect. Nobody else, not even people that love Jesus, would say or do anything like that." [If that's your best defense against the stuff in the previous post, again, don't read any further--the following was written by actual people who trusted Jesus and his words.]
  • "But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root [a] of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith (A) and pierced themselves with many pains. 11 Now you, man of God, run from these things; but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, (B) endurance, (C) and gentleness."
  • "Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. (AQ) 45 So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. [j] 46 And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, (AR) 47 praising God and having favor with all the people."
  • "But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. (A) 2 For people will be lovers of self, (B) lovers of money"
  • "For an overseer, as God's manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money"
  • "Your life should be free from the love of money."
  • "Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant (E) or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, [a] who richly provides us with all things (F) to enjoy. 18 [Instruct them] to do good, to be rich in good works, (G) to be generous, willing to share"
  • "But the one who is rich [should boast] in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a flower of the field. (A) 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities. (B)"
  • "Therefore, it is already a total defeat (F) for you that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? (G) Why not rather be cheated?"
  • "And I say this, brothers: the time is limited, (S) so from now on . . . those who buy [should be] as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use the world as though they did not make full use of it. For this world in its current form is passing away. (U) 32 I want you to be without concerns."
  • "For we brought nothing into the world, and [a] we can take nothing out. (B) 8 But if we have food and clothing, [b] we will be content with these."
  • "You ask and don't receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure. (A) 4 Adulteresses! [a] Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world's friend becomes God's enemy. (B) 5 Or do you think it's without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit He has caused to live in us yearns jealously? (C) [b]"
  • "Do not love the world (W) or the things that belong to [d] the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to [e] the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, (X) the lust of the eyes, (Y) and the pride (Z) in one's lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world."
  • "If anyone has this world's goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God's love reside in him?"
  • "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich."
  • "And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God."

Is it just me, or do even the conservatives read the New Testament a little less literally when it comes to money?

Caution: Don't Read

An interesting self-inspection: I'm wondering if what we really love and trust has anything to do with how we 'interpret' these bits from the gospels, mostly from the Man himself:
  • "No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money."
  • "[Jesus] instructed [the apostles] to take nothing for the road except a walking stick: no bread, no traveling bag, no money in their belts"
  • "Don't be afraid, (A) little flock, (B) because your Father delights (C) to give you the kingdom. (D) 33 Sell (E) your possessions and give to the poor. (F) Make money-bags (G) for yourselves that won't grow old, an inexhaustible treasure (H) in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
  • "He also said to them, 'When I sent you out without money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?' 'Not a thing,' they said."
  • "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous money so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings."
  • "The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at Him."
  • "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! (A) 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.'"
  • "Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours. . . .But woe to you who are rich, because you have received your comfort."
  • "As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit."
  • "Someone from the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, (Z) tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' 14 'Friend,' [d] He said to him, 'who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?' 15 He then told them, 'Watch out and be on guard (AA) against all greed (AB) because one's life is not in the abundance of his possessions.' "
  • He also said to the one who had invited Him, 'When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. 13 On the contrary, when you host a banquet, (L) invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. (M) 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid (N) at the resurrection of the righteous.' "
  • "But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (X) 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, (Y) offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don't hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don't ask for them back. . . . If you do [what is] good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? (AB) Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do [what is] good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. (AC) For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil."

I told you not to read it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where have I been?

It's been a while since my last post, but life has been continuing, surging even. I've probably got a few posts 'built up' in me now, so we'll see if I increase my 4 posts-per-year average. Much is afoot.

A few highlights from the last several months, that I hope to explore more fully in some upcoming posts:
  • On a personal note, I continue to be drawn to the core of Christianity. I love keeping the main thing the main thing. That, of course, begs the question, but more on that later. Suffice it to say for now that Jesus, the kingdom he announced (and leads), the way of living he taught and modeled, the real help he offers in this world and the next--I'm still amazed and pulled by that Core. I love hearing and thinking about what he's really offering us all.
  • The (12) steps are back. Well, they never totally went away; I just semi-stalled in doing them. The fact that I was largely doing them on my own may have had a bit to do with that, and the return of traveling partners is part of their resurgence. More on that later.
  • Ecclesiology is also on my mind (i.e., how the heck can we be most helpful to each other? i.e., once we collectively accept a 'get Christ fully formed within' goal in place of a 'get your ticket to heaven' goal, does anything stay the same in corporate life !?!, i.e., if . . . you get the idea). Much more to come.
  • Relatedly, A new book released by Frank Viola and George Barna called Pagan Christianity? is going to be shaking things up all things 'church' for a while. There's already a lot one can read about it online--it's an explosive book. Personally, I'm not as interested right now in deconstructing typical church patterns and paradigms (the goal of this book) as I am in constructing helpful ones. Regardless, this book is and will continue to be an important piece. More on that later as well.
  • I've been deepening my connection to the folks at Urban Youth Impact for some time. The small church, of which I am part, that was recently born out of this 'parachurch' ministry is, right now, trying to follow Jesus into restructuring ourselves around a shared goal of maturity, of "Christ formed fully within." We're also finding some ways to pursue this without constantly leading from the top down. Very exciting.

Anyway, it'll be good for me, I think, to flesh a lot of these things out--and soon. Maybe even more helpful to get feedback. And yes, other than the Pagan Christianity bit, all the above are related.

God's love to you.