Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Confident in the Care of the Father - Matt 6:25-31

In our first post, we looked at the Challenge of the Teachings of Jesus. Jesus teaches us saying, and I paraphrase, "Do not store up treasures on earth", "Do not seek these things like the pagans do", and "Do not worry about them". These sayings are quite literal and quite challenging. How can we meet the challenge Jesus and voluntarily live a materially vulnerable life? How can we live in a world filled with uncertainty and not store up our own own safety net of financial "security"? This challenge is truly the road less traveled. It is all extremely challenging.  

How to Meet the Challenge
We can meet this challenge of Jesus only if we are confident in the care of the Father. 
In this passage, Matt 6:25-31, Jesus teaches us saying, 
25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30"But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'
Jesus teaches us that the only way to live a life unbuffered with wealth is to be aware of the fact that the Father cares for lesser creatures and that, by comparison, we are exponentially more valuable than a bird or a flower to Him. "If your heavenly Father cares for them, will He not MUCH MORE care for you"
In order to know of the Father, we must accept that we are valuable, important, and precious to the Father. All humans see a regal mountain or an awesome sunset and our whole being responds with "Wow, that is beautiful". By comparison, Jesus teaches us that we are far more wonderful and valuable and beautiful that these things. It is hard to say, "I am beautiful", when throughout our whole life we have been conditioned to criticize ourselves and to live in fear of other people's opinions of us. But the fact is the Father clothes us with more beauty and majesty than Solomon was able to cloth Himself.
Not only does God value us, but He is aware of our every need. Jesus teaches in Matt 10:29-31,
29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
We are to fear nothing because our Father is aware of every hair that falls from our heads. He thinks we are precious and valuable and He is aware of us and conscious of every scratch or bruise we might experience to both our bodies or our emotions.

Only if we understand these truths can we live as Jesus challenges us to live. Is it possible to live with no wealth stored in a bank or without any unnecessary luxury items as Jesus teaches us? Following Jesus in this way is the only way to live in a manner that displays our faith in the care and power of the Father. If we trust in wealth like the world, what distinction do we have? Our religions is impotent to glorify God. But if we  give wisely to the needy and if we give when we behold our brother in need, then the world will see the good works of Christ through us to the glory of God.

We can only meet this challenge if we are, by the Holy Spirit, aware and confident in the care of the Father.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Matt. 6:19-24 - Do Not Store Up Treasures On Earth

The teachings of Jesus are the most neglected scriptures in the bible. Of all the central passages of scripture, the clearest and most neglected and misunderstood of all is Matthew 6. Here is close to 50% of the central teachings of the Messiah, here is the path to blessedness and yet the church by and large has entirely neglected or worse refused to preach the simple truth of the way of the Savior.

Jesus, our Christ and Lord, teaches us saying, "Do not store up treasures on earth where moth or rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal". The treasures Jesus is telling us not to store up, or amass, are treasures that:
1. Moths can eat.
2. Rust can destroy
3. Thieves can steal. 
This teaching is simple in its clarity. Jesus indeed was brilliant in His ability to illuminate and illustrate His principles. Moths eat clothes, so do not store up clothes in your closets. Rust destroys metals so do not have valuable items in your garage or other so called semi-durable goods. And do not acquire the type of treasures that thieves can break into our houses or our banks and steal. Christians are to amass none of these type of things. We cannot have assets in banks and homes and cars and clothes. We are to not store up or amass monetary assets at all. Why? Because we are followers of the Messiah. If moths can eat it. Don't have a storage place with a lot of it. If rust will destroy it. Don't have an expensive one. If a thief could steal it, do not have much of it. 

Is this what Jesus means by these teachings. If we are not clear, Jesus clarifies and explains. 
Jesus continues to illustrate His way of blessedness saying, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. And if the light in you is darkness. How great is that darkness?"
Jesus is clear. Our vision for our life is what directs our life. If our vision is single and focused and correct, then our entire life will bring glory to God and the spirit in us will be Godly. But if our goals are mixed and double-minded or double-sighted, then our whole life will be one big deception and our spirit is actually evil. If our spirit is evil, trust Jesus, it is worse than you could imagine. 

Do not be deceived. Jesus continues just in case we do not yet understand. Do we think we can have two goals in life. Can we emus wealth and serve Jesus. Can we have expensive homes and closets full of nice clothes and fancy luxurious cars? 
"You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money or the god of wealth".
Serving money and seeking wealth is like serving an idol. Is there a buddah in your home? Is there a buddah in your church? At the alter? Of course there isn't. Well, then in the same way, there must not be wealth and greed in the church. You cannot have it both ways. You either hate wealth and love God or you hate God and love money. There is no safe middle ground. You cannot love God and kinda like money. If you kinda like money, you hate God. If you really love God, you must hate wealth and greed like you would hate an idol in your church. 

Therefore, do not store up treasures on earth where moth or rust destroy. Do we believe Jesus? Are we followers of the King? Do we teach and observe these commands? If we do not we are like fools who built our houses on the sand. But if we observe these teachings of the Christ, the Son of God, and teach others to do likewise, like Jesus, then we are wise indeed. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Matt 6:19-34 – Safe in the Care of the Father

Matt 6:19-34 – Safe in the Care of the Father
In order to meet the challenge of the teachings of Jesus, we must know how to abide in the safety of the Father’s care.
The Challenge of the Teachings of Jesus:

1. Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy or where thieves break in and steal.
a. What are the treasures on earth that moth can destroy?
b. What type of things (treasures) that a thief might steal?
c. So what are examples of the treasures Jesus is speaking of?

2. For where your treasure is there your heart is also.
a. This saying can mean one of three things. Which option best fits the grammar of the saying. For where your __________ is there your __________ is.

i. Where your love is there your wealth is?
ii. Where your wealth is there your love is?
iii. Where your love is there your love is?
What can we do to meet this challenge?

Safe in the Care of the Father

In order to meet the challenge, we must have faith in the care of the Father.

What does it mean to be clothed better than the lilies which are clothed better than Solomon?

How will God cloth us better than Solomon?

Why does it matter that we are more valuable than sparrows and lilies? (What is the promise Jesus is making?)

Jesus teaches that “the very hairs on our head are all numbered”(Matt 10:30). What does this say about the Father’s care for us?

Are you actually safe enough in the care of the Father to not store up treasures on earth?

Do you believe in your “heart of hearts” that you are safe enough in the care of the Father to not store up treasures on earth?

What can we do to know that we are safe in the care of the Father so that we can resist the temptation to store up treasures on earth?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Immigration Reform - Compassionate Solution Needed

Immigration is the next big issue on the policy front. I think this issue is far more straight forward than health care. Christians began a protest today for a compassionate solution. 

I have had a great deal of fun learning more and more about the health care issue but solving that broken system always has pros and cons.

On the other hand, immigration is pretty straight forward. People come here to work. We need to find a much simpler way to help them come here legally. The demand for the jobs is here. We are all immigrants. We are all aliens. We need to find a far more compassionate system.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Labels - Discipleship

I linked a lot of labels today, but because I still use a very old template and do not want to change out of fear of losing all the old links and stuff, I do not have a labels section on the right hand column.

So here is a link to the DISCIPLESHIP label as an example

Health Care Related Bankruptcy

Consumer Reports Health Blog: Health care related bankruptcy is on the rise, study says
Americans are increasingly at risk of financial ruin due to illness and medical expenses, according to a new study released yesterday by the American Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that illness or medical bills contributed to nearly two thirds, or 62 percent, of all bankruptcies in 2007—before the major impact of the housing collapse and current economic downturn. That’s a 50 percent increase over a similar survey in 2001 by the same researchers.
Why do people go bankrupt when they get sick? Is it because they do not have health insurance or that their insurance coverage doesn't actually protect them when they need it by denying coverage or increasing the out of pocket costs.
Just over three-quarters of people who suffered a bankruptcy due to illness were insured at the onset of their health issue. But the total out-of-pocket medical costs for those who had insurance when they became ill was a steep $17,749, on average. For those who didn’t have insurance, the average debt was $26,971.

These figures underscore the need for improving our health insurance system.

Why is this? Because, we do not properly regulate the insurance companies. Again, capitalism requires regulation to function properly. Unregulated business is fine for investors but not for citizens and consumers. It is the governments job to protect its citizens from unregulated power.

Small Groups as an Enabler of Discipleship

(I am writing some stuff for our church and thought I would share my thoughts here)

In everything we do as a church, we function to expand the kingdom by making disciples. This purpose focus our community and gives us a way to reflect upon whether or not we are “doing church” according to the way Jesus has directed us to “do church”. The same purpose directs our meetings in small group and in our 1x1 discipleship relationships.

Even more foundational than the purpose of small groups is the faith that motivates our meetings as a church and as small groups.

We believe that the kingdom is within reach. we believe through faith in Jesus Christ that people can find a path to an abundant life. We believe that Jesus provides the way to live a life of righteousness, peace and joy in the holy spirit. We believe this is expressed in joy-filled families, love filled life long monogamous marriages, and lifelong mutually supportive and fulfilling friendships.

We believe that these are the outcomes that the discipleship process delivers for people . These outcomes of health lives and healthy loving relationships glorifies God.

We believe that discipleship is the process to deliver these fruit and these kingdom experiences to people that they may from the heart have a testimony of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their life. These kingdom testimonies are the fuel of our mission. It is through our testimonies of the joy and satisfaction that Jesus has given to us that we are compelled to serve Jesus by sharing His compassion and grace with others.

Small groups are a central part of this discipleship process and our understanding of how Jesus taught us to make disciples informs the way we will do small groups. So in summary, the following beliefs inform how we do small groups:

  1. We believe that the kingdom is available
  2. We believe the kingdom is experienced through discipleship
  3. We believe small groups are a central place to implement and model discipleship and
  4. We believe discipleship, the application of the teachings of Jesus, is about:
    1. Heart Management (Matt 5-7) - inward
      1. in small group
      2. 1x1 relationships
      3. in devotion
    2. Encouraging devotion - upward
      1. In small group
      2. in devotion
    3. Leading in service and the gifts of the spirit- outward
      1. as a congregation
      2. as individuals
      3. in 1x1 relationships
      4. as a small group

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jonathan Gruber - Speech on Health Care Reform

C-SPAN Video Player - Speech on Health Care Reform
Great Explanation of costs and cadillac tax and how the Health Care Bill will be funded. Jonathan Gruber is easy to listen to. His explanation of why costs are high due to over testing and over selling of health services is compelling.

What will happen if we do not reform health care.

Universal Health Care in Israel

I always wondered why republicans never use Israel as an example of evil government funded health care. Israel has had socialized medicine since 1948.
Hmm, maybe it is because health care in Israel works.

Who's in play: House health-care whip count

Who's in play: House health-care whip count washingtonpost.com

This is really cool with stats and graphics on the $$ of campaign financing from the insurance industry and % of constituents that are uninsured. Neither seem to actually correlate much but interesting anyway.

Health Care - Access, Access, Access (updated)

Health Care - Access, Access, Access - NYTimes.com

Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a great article yesterday on Health Care. What is striking to me is how a Christian heart of compassion ought to have a passion for increased access to health care. The link between increased access to health care and decreases in infant mortality and mortality in childbirth and pregnancy mandate Christian support for increased access to health care. This is a no-brainer.

So the question is. Why are conservative christians against health care reform? I think this is another case of ideology getting in the way of practical solutions to real life problems of human suffering.

Kristof does make one misleading statement about low abortion rates in Germany. The abortion rate in Germany is even lower than stated in Kristof's article. Germany has 35% the per capita abortions compared to the United States BUT the real reason appears to be that abortion is very restricted in Germany. Abortion is technically illegal with many loopholes in the first 12 weeks but still far more restricted than in the USA. Germany does have the oldest universal health care system in Europe.

Nonetheless, the benefits of universal health care on the well being of the society makes support for universal health care a moral mandate especially for Christians.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Life of Being Surprised By God

I have once again been surprised by the unbelievable grace of God. Lately, I have noticed that my prayer life is at a very low ebb. I know as well that as I look at my life, I have quenched the Spirit. My experience of God is suffering as well. Lately, I have been reflecting on the fact that not only is my spiritual condition low but my faith in a better spiritual condition in the future is quite low.

So in the last few days, I have been asking the Lord, “Can you help me out even though I have no faith and no merit to commend Your response? It is almost if I am praying, “Lord, help me out here but I will understand if you don’t”. So what I decided to do was to go through a time of praying and blessing whoever comes to my mind. ….These are very tiny little random prayers of forgiveness and blessing. I also spent some time (very little time like 10 minutes) reflecting on how God has shown compassion to me in my life. I have been doing these tiny prayers of giving and receiving compassion for about two or three days….

Well, today at work I have been surprised, once again, by the clear presence of God. For me this experience feels like being in the zone feels to an athlete. If you have ever played basketball for example, there are times when everything just seems to go in. It is uncanny. As the game progresses, you just seem to get more and more confident. Athletes call this being in the zone. Well, today, I am experiencing this but with respect to being kind and joyful. Then, as always happens in such situations, the moment I reflect and say to myself, “Wow, I am in a loving, joyful place. I love this feeling”. At that moment, I sense the presence of God and the clarity that, “Oh my Lord, this is You. This is the answer to those prayers”. The Spirit bears witness with my spirit that God is a God who answers small weak prayers and the result of this grace is a joy unspeakable and full of Glory.

I have had this happen literally every time. I find that every time I move a little toward God in the exercise of faith in the Grace of God in Christ and obedience to the simple path of unconditional love that He surprises me with an unspeakable joy. So truly I can say, faith in the Christ and His path of love is the key to life.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Joshua Redman Trio - Los Angeles - "Identity Thief"

My son and I and a few of his friends saw Joshua Redman last night. It was absolutely wonderful.

One thing I could see is that Joshua Redman plays without any self-consciousness. This one thing makes music so freeing. We are free to be in the moment.

There is always discussion of who is the greatest jazz player of our era. For me, what makes Joshua Redman in this conversation is his melody writing. His tunes are as beautiful as Mozart. For artistic expression and melody, Joshua Redman is as good as it gets.

David Hightower - Sax Concert

Last night was a big jazz night as David had a concert with his high school jazz band and then we went to see Joshua Redman

David's solo is the second solo (Tenor Sax)