Leftover Sacrifices

What if our churches shut their doors until we decided to give ourselves wholly to Christ? How many would be open today? What example would the ones still open be within our world today as churches full of true disciples? 

“Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands." Malachi 1.10 (nkjv)

The people of Israel were offering moldy bread,  blind, sick, and lame animals to the temple as sacrifices and saw nothing wrong with it (vs 7-9).  Even the priests excused it, so that God would rather they shut the doors than see them give leftover sacrifices. How much more do we serve out of our excess rather than out of our weakness? Do we give the things we can live without our live without that we may give? 

Our churches and we, as believers, need revival. We need a renewed faith, a broken spirit, as a cup poured out, we need a new heart - holy, full of love,  sacrificial, heavenly minded, full of joy unspeakable, abounding with life, speaking the truth in love,  given wholly to Christ. We need to live as true disciples of Christ, living in a spirit of love,  power, and a sound mind. Given to him, not for security or favor of God, but out of a love and acceptance of his precious  offer for us. 

 "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me" 
- Jesus

I was studying this (in Crazy Love by Francis Chan) as i was preparing to teach this morning and can not shake the thought, hope you are challenged too. 

5 Community Partnership Principles

I have been strongly reminded this month that this neighborhood work is a messy work.
Contrary to popular belief, I'm not here to just provide a community service (trash pick-up, put out fires, repave a road...), I am here to empower and equip people to improve their neighborhoods.
These are 5 of my principles that I think makes for a good neighborhood partnership.
  1. Empowerment: If you come to me with your hand out, I ask that you reach into your own pocket first, then take a quick inventory of what and who you know to help you accomplish the task.
  2. Ownership: I can assist you, I can guide you, but you have to do it. It isn't mean to say no, because it is often the only way the effort will last and it will mean something to you for accomplishing it. Start simple and grow as your resources grow.
  3. Respect: Value your partners, when you undermine the work they do, they will not run to your aid so quickly the next time. Stand up for them, respect them, challenge them, and be honest with them.
  4. Unity: It has to be done together and can not be done alone, each person has a role they can fulfill better than most others. Do it, do it well, and do it together.
  5. Adaptability: Everyone starts at a different place, so what has worked for one may not work for another. Treat everyone fairly, not necessarily the same.

White Flight, Christian Separation, And Good Citizenship


So we have been talking a lot lately around the office concerning the influence of financial mobility and its impact on local school choices. Then this article on the Huffington Post pops up and brings up some great points for discussion:
Why White Parents Won't Choose Black Schools:

Many people I know explain these choices based on very inaccurate perceptions of our public school systems. Some people blame the philosophies of "secularism," a need for "separation [i.e. religious focus]," lack of "safety," too many "socialistic teachings," or promiscuously biased "sexual education" as the reason they choose other schooling options [alliteration intended].

But as this article points out, there are often just bad perceptions, unannounced/un-admitted stereotypes, unacknowledged fear, and hidden racism that underlie many of these excuses. Parents that believe in these dangers of their local urban schools and with the financial ability to do so, are often either moving to the suburbs, turning to private/out-of-district schooling [if they can afford it] or homeschooling [if private schooling is not affordable or not readily available or want even more control].

Don't misread what I am emphasizing, I fully support the idea that parents should be the ones to choose what schooling arrangements meets the needs of their child and family. Just don't based those decisions on false conjecture, skewed perceptions, or biased parental fears. We all are part of this community and therefore all have a part of the reason for why "that school" is the way it is. What is that I see quoted all the time: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke) Remember, this applies to our public educational system too, we weren't called to abandon the world just yet, but to be a force for positive change.

We see this in churches and social circles too where we now viewing our public/volunteer lives as a consumer interactions that must meet my needs and desires rather than fulfill our responsibility to be good citizens, meeting the community's needs, and challenging our school/churches to be better because they are "ours" and not some unknown other persons.

As believers we need to get real about our great commission to "go unto ALL of the world" and get ready to be "TOO diverse" in our worships, our gatherings, our fellowships, our organizations, and our relationships.

The Apostle Paul said it often:
"For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom 10.12-14
In full disclosure, my kids do go "out of district" out of convenience to our family's lifestyle. However, I will refuse to bad mouth our neighborhood school, and will do whatever I can to support and promote their success.

As an attendee of a public schools for over 19 years of my life (college included), and in very diverse communities, I can attest to the quality, the values, and the richness that being involved and committed to our community schools can bring. Not to mention the influence of my Christian parents on my friends was an invaluable testimony that many parents often forget (i.e. stop being selfish about public education views, it isn't just about your kid it is about our calling to be "in the world but not of the world").

You see the age old rebuttal was that it "isn't fair to make our kids missionaries in the "lost" public school" is based on the same flawed philosophy that they are "protecting their kids from the bad influence of liberal teachers." This flawed philosophy rest on the belief that teachers are the only ones who are the keepers of the keys to a good education. In fact I agree with many that use this flawed argument: Education is more than just good teachers and yes it does begin at home, but that applies whether you are in public, private, or home-schooled.

We have to stop taking a relatively easy way out and say that "the right school will be the solution to educating our kids." Keep in mind that it is only a small piece of the equation that should look more like this:
(parenting) X (teachers + school + community + friends + students) X (prayer + fasting)
= Student Success

The scary thing for many modern parents is that they are only one part of that equation in which that they have direct influence on, however, it is a vital piece to that equation and defines these results. I have witnessed too many friends who have gone by the wayside or hit some very rough patches in their lives because even our Christian parents forget the principle of community influence and parental foundations.

We must begin to critically look at our perceptions and motivations that drive our decisions. I know for some this is going to be major paradigm shift in worldview, It will likely take them from a comfortable homogeneous society to a very diverse, heterogeneous community that values our differences as unique but unified for the cause of Christ and the betterment of the community.

But for that shift to occur we have to remember who we, as believers, are honoring in those decisions. Am I seeking a parenting award for successfully educating my kids in all things by being everything in that equation? Or am I living a life that puts my family in unique opportunities to be a witness of the good news?

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." 2 Peter 2.9-10
{...steps off of small soap box and goes back to reading..}

Health in Unity, Strength in diversity

So with a day off, I have been doing some thinking (watch out, have about 6 posts almost ready to graduate from draft form). So, just as the counter party offers a response to state of the union, this is my Non-Papal Address...
"...that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light..."
I have come to believe that when a church begins to lack a vision for the fields, both local and abroad, that are ready for harvest, they begin to look only within themselves, at the local body, and atrophy, loading strength and ability to fulfill its calling.
I also believe that we have become way too sensitive with fellow believers. We would rather give up on one local body for another local body than accept our differences and celebrate them together. There are several spots on the spectrum of believers.  Some, it seems, are ready to "help" those that "look less spiritually mature" and it has driven some believers to find less challenging congregations.  Others it seems finds it easier to just seek absolute stability and unity, willing to sacrifice themselves (and others) for the sake of the group, letting others turn away without effort to meditate. And there are those who ache for the unity of others and yarn to see growth and unity, building bridges between church bodies. These are the ones needed most these days, the ones who see the similarities and gifts of everyone and seek to create new connections that strengthen the body.
You see, to me the diversity of how we praise, pray, proclaim, profess, relate, reachout, refresh...is what makes Christianity special and unique. It is in the inclusive opportunity of the exclusive truth of the gospel can we find great, lasting unity.
If I am true to this ideal of what other believers around me should be,  I don't want to see myself replicated, but the beautiful creations of Christ that stand out from the crowd of self made righteousness for their unique love for one another.
Lastly, I believe the greatest risk for today's churches isn't government sanctioned persecution but the internal breakdown of the unity of the believers. It was this unity that Paul continuously wrote about, a unity that transcends the earthly organizations to which we belong but are joined by something deeper, stronger, and more flexible than any other. Yet, our "spiritual body" that we call churches are plagued with an arthritis, a painful inflammation of our "spiritual" joints,  that is keeping us from focusing on the beautiful work we have been called to do.

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

As you relax this labor day,  think about how you have helped your church's body lately. Are you building up and helping to strengthen these earthly fragile bonds with heavenly healing? Or are you creating unnecessary friction in the body in the name of revival? Or are you sitting silently by, feigning helplessness rather than speaking up,  encouraging, and reconciling?
Practically,  we have to stop thinking we can church shop, we have to be real with our struggles, our disagreements, our direction, our hope, our common ground. We have to protect all members of the body, we have to uplift, build up, fortify, and not "give up" on anyone. What if Christ decided that instead of calling out the pharasees, he just went to another city,  what would happen to those in the first city that missed out on his teaching when he gave up treaching there because of the critical few? We are due some serious,  intimate, concerned conversations in our churches. Not Facebook rants, blog posts, or gossiping questions of why, but real sincere conversations that are held in a spirit of unity and growth. We must do it together,  within the congregation, and between congregations. Every day souls are lost, hearts are hurting, members are stumbling, and we continue doing the same thing we have known, it is time for a change.
Hope you enjoyed your day off... now is our time to get real and get busy doing great things together. We have been called to do show the praise of a great God, in a marvelous way... now let's do it.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2.9-10

Charitable Giving: Investing in Solutions, not Servitude

I was watching Dan Pollotta's TED talk on charitable giving practices and I have to agree with his assessment of current misconceptions on compensation for non-profit leadership (this includes public service, teachers, public safety and pastoral/missionary service in my opinion). 

One key business principle stands out, you have to invest more to make more (i.e. money follows money). If we short change our giving practices we are more likely to see short lived change in our "charity" work.

I believe the Apostle Paul understood this principle of giving freely as well...
6Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. 7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galations 6:6-10)
The translation of "communicate" includes the idea of giving more than just words, but also of resources. Give (communicate) good things... give beyond what you are able (Not be weary)... give anytime you are able (opportunity)... give to the benefit of both believers and non-believers (all men). I don't see anything in this passage about giving only to feed the poor, cloth them with the cheapest clothes, or to help them give a cheap apartment. The direction is to give, give freely, give to those who don't deserve it (especially to those who are believers and teachers).

I think the hardest example of giving to follow is the giving that Christ instructed believers to follow:
40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matthew 5:40-42)

(Makes it hard to turn down the cold call donation asks. This kind of living is certainly a measure of our faith, to balance stewardship and to be a generous giver.)

This approach to giving is not a silver bullet to solve all of the challenges we face in our societies but definitely worth considering.

(By the way, Dan Pollotta is speaking on his book in Downtown Norfolk this month. More information here: TCC Roper Center.)

For Dan Pollotta's TED Talk: Dan Pallotta TED Talk