Maybe it’s time to give God a raise!

receiptgrabI’m sure by now you’ve heard about the pastor who, when the bill came, wrote on the receipt, “I give God 10% why do you get 18″?  Then she paid the bill and left no tip whatsoever. When the incident came to light (because a photo of the receipt was posted online) the pastor apologized and the waitress was fired.  (read here and here)

At first, my thoughts ranged from:  “This is why Christians have such a bad reputation” to “Why didn’t the pastor come to the aid and defense of the fired waitress?”  Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

However, the one question that keeps lingering in my mind is this:  Why do we give God so little?

It seems to me that it’s God who deserves a raise!  The question shouldn’t be, “Why does the waitress get 18%” Rather it should be, “Why does God only get 10%?”

Last year I wrote a post about this entitled, “How much $$$ are we supposed to give to God.”  (read here)  The point I made was that law always produces less and grace always inspires more.  We need to let grace set us free from merely tipping God.  After all, we live in a society where even our waitresses get 18%–well, sometimes they do.

Top 5 Books on The Ancient Art of the Blessing

3990f6f39768b494b68c85aa9da96b78The Power of Blessing:  Reclaiming the Life-Giving Words of Jesus by David Timms (Twitter)

“Words matter.  A single phrase or sentence can change a life.”

The Power of Blessing by Kerry Kirkwood

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“More than a mere formality, blessing has the power to turn lives around and make us into a blesser.”

The Power of Spoken Blessings by Bill Gothard

psb

“What an astonishing thought it is, then, that God is eager for you and me to have a part in bringing down those blessings to the people around us.  That’s why He takes the initiative, early in Scripture, to show His people how to do just that.”

A Simple Blessing:  The Extraordinary Power of an Ordinary Prayer By Michael simpleW. Smith

“What I sensed from my conversations was this:  almost everyone is looking for blessings of some kind.”

Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson (Twitter)

Childrencover-171x300“Make sure the heavenly Father hears about your kids daily!”

20+ Blessings from the Bible

As Christians, God calls us to speak only words that build up and benefit others (Eph. 4.29).  Becoming a student of the blessings in the Bible is a great way to develop this practice.  Here’s a list of my top blessings from the Bible to file away in your memory bank. As I said in a recent sermon, let us memorize so we can improvise.

Lustrous Wooden Cabinet with Blessings File Label in Dramatic LIght.Numbers 6.22-27

Ps. 29.11

Ps. 121.7-8

Jer. 29.11

Rom. 12.1-2

Rom. 15.5-6

Rom. 15.13

II Cor. 9.8

II Cor. 13.11 & 14

I Thess. 3.11-13

I Thess 5.23

II Thess. 2.16-17

Eph. 3.14-21

Eph. 6.24

Philippians 1.9-11

Philippians. 4.7

Philippians. 4.19-20

Philippians. 4.23

Heb. 13.20-21

II Pet. 1.2-3

Jude 20-21

Jude 1.24-25

Did I miss any of your favorites?  Are there any you would add?

Faith and Shopping–Guest Blogger, Denise Flanders

Shirt Made in China(Tis the season to go shopping!  But how does your faith influence your shopping?  To help us with this question we have a guest blogger, Denise Flanders.  Denise is a lover of Christ and his ways.  She also loves to listen, pray and laugh.  Personally, her thoughts have caused me to rethink how I reflect my values.  Beware, this could ruin your next tip to Walmart!)

Becoming a Pro-Life Shopper

The caller on the radio said, “Why do all these pro-lifers buy stuff from China where they mandate abortions?”  Wow.  As someone who fit that category, the question grabbed my attention, and I was immediately convicted.  He was right.  It was time to ask myself some hard questions, followed by a lot of rationalizations.

Yes, China is a Communist country which means part of the money I spend on their products goes to support a government which dictates reproduction policy.  Even government funded forced abortions.

We cringe at the fact that there are 4,000 abortions per day in the United States, yet there are 19,000 abortions every day in China?  Or the outrage for how women are treated that dare to protest forced abortions and sterilization?  Come to think of it, shouldn’t forced abortions and sterilization be offensive to pro-choice supporters, too?

But it’s not very much, right?  And I can’t afford to pay more or spend time looking for not-made-in-China goods.  People will think it’s stupid.  They’ll think I’m stupid.

Then I asked myself if I would donate directly to someone if they were asking for money for an abortion.  Could I spare just a few cents?  It’s only this one time.

No.  I couldn’t.  Not even a few cents.

So how is it any different if I donate via Walmart?  Are Chinese babies less valuable than American babies?  My “reasonable” rationalizations weren’t holding up.  And that’s what they were – rationalizations.  Hence my little boycott began.

Paying the Price

Admittedly there are times, though rare, I get frustrated with the choices, or occasionally when I have to go to 2 or 3 stores to find an item, but as of yet I haven’t had to do without anything.  I can always find the things my family needs made in any one of a dozen other countries.  So whether it’s a hair dryer from Costa Rica, a can opener from Germany, Christmas lights from the Philippines, cell phones from Korea, electronics from Thailand, shoes from Viet Nam and cars from the USA, there are many choices.

Shopping on-line isn’t a problem either.  There is a wonderful website dedicated to supporting goods made in the US: http://www.howtobuyamerican.com/index.php. Another good one is Sierra Trading Post: http://www.sierratradingpost.com where they list the manufacturing country.  If a web site doesn’t list where something is made, I simply call or email for the info.  Goodwill is also a great resource without the worry about where something was made, whether it’s new or used.  No need to check to labels!  Every cent spent at Goodwill, stays with Goodwill and goes towards community building programs.

Unexpected Opportunity

This adventure continues to be such a blessing.  There have been countless times when I’ve been asked why I don’t buy things made in China, and every encounter has been positive.  Maybe it’s because this is one area where pro-life AND pro-choice people can agree – we are ALL against forced abortions.

Our Budgets Are Moral Statements of Faith

How and where we spend our money directly reflects our values.  I didn’t want my message to be: I am against the killing of unborn babies, unless it causes me inconvenience or costs a little extra money. Stewardship doesn’t equal penny-pinching.  Stewardship means being morally responsible with our money.  And sometimes being morally responsible is inconvenient or costly.

How I spend my money has an impact on people’s lives.  Particularly on children.  My demand to have cheap, readily available goods covered a wide area.  Children were/are exploited in clothing sweatshops, scavenging for minerals needed for computers and phones, mining and agriculture.  There are 215 million children engaged in child labor, 115 million of them in hazardous work.  I felt every child had the right to life, so didn’t I also have a responsibility to make sure I gave that child a fair chance once she was born?

The phrase “a budget is a moral document” is accurate.  Where my money goes reflects my faith and what I value.  My faith is in Jesus and I value life.  All of it.  Sometimes that means I spend more on certain things because to do otherwise is to add pain and suffering to someone else’s life.

Gifts?

When it comes to gifts, I cannot hold others to my buying practices.  If someone is kind enough to give me something, I don’t check the label to see where it’s from.  It’s from a friend and I cherish it as such.

Denise Flanders

Littleton, CO

(As always, feel free to chime in with civility and respect.  How do you connect your faith to shopping?  How have you personally been challenged by Denise’s words?)

Angels of Advent

What do you think about angels?

I’m struck by how intricately involved angels were in the birth of Jesus.  They were essential players during Christ’s advent.  Starting this weekend at Colorado Community Church the sermon series will be, Angels of Advent.  I’ll also post the sermons on this blog.

What questions do you have about angels?

There are many fine books out about angels.  Recently, I read Lifted by Angels:  The Presence and Power of Our Heavenly Guides and Guardians by Joel Miller.  What I liked about Joel’s book is how it evoked my imagination and got me asking questions again about these magnificent creations of our God.

Lifted-By-Angels-Final-Cover-SmallMiller writes,

“Through it all, at every turn, at every encounter, we find over and again that the angels pierce this porous present, this fragile moment of ours that seems so solid and certain.  As with our forebears, so with us:  God sends his angels to live among us and lift our fallen humanity toward Christ.”

Now that’s good news!  It is a humbling thought that the God of the universe created a separate species to lift us toward Christ.

 

My Banner Will Be Clear

The inspiring commitment of a young African
pastor from Zimbabwe

“I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power, my die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of Jesus. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me-my banner will be clear.”

Should Christians Even Choose a Political Party?

Tony Jones thinks that Christians should be politically independent.

His argument goes like this:

  • As Christians, our allegiance is to God alone.  All other allegiances are to be subservient.
  • Both parties are beholden to money, lobbyist and corporations.
  • Christians should only be official members of a political party if they are personally running for office.

(Read the full article on Tony Jones’ blog by clicking here)

Would love to hear your thoughts:  Should we as Christians even choose a political party?

Let’s Talk Faith and Politics: Civility (p6)

Who says you can’t talk politics and religion?

Thanks to all of you who participated in this discussion and for the myriad of you who may not have posted a comment but spent time reading the thoughts and ideas of others.

What we need is for people of faith to lead the way on how to have dialogue in the midst of disagreement.  Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians, says we need those who will lead the way on being, “Civil, Not Divisive.”  He writes,

Jesus came with a very different mission and message.  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

I’ve pondered this statement over the years, and I can’t imagine what Jesus could possibly mean if it doesn’t include engaging in respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree.  How can we love someone we don’t know or understand?…we can’t.  Followers of Christ in a pluralistic society must be willing and able to engage those they disagree with in constructive conversations.

This week we have seen civility on display.  Thank you!

Lyons says that civility happens only when we are willing to bite our tongues “as a neighbor persuasively argues a political point with which you disagree.  Or finding a gracious way to respond that validates the opinion of someone else before firing off your response.  We have much to gain from a posture of listening.  It can transform a divisive conversation into a fruitful one.”

My goal for this week is that we would all take the “posture of listening” so that we might truly understand our fellow brother’s and sister’s in Christ who differ from us politically–we are not enemies, we are those who worship the same Christ, read the same Bible–yet disagree on how our faith should infuse our politics.

A great way for you to continue this process would be to pick up a copy of, “Left, Right & Christ:  Evangelical Faith in Politics,” by Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes.  The authors do not agree on politics.  One is a conservative Republican the other a progressive Democrat, but they have sought to dialogue across the divide.  Their starting point is the common ground they share in Christ.  They write,

“Our chief love is Jesus, and his Word is our rule.  Both of us are Christians.  And so what we have in common is greater than all our differences.  Yet differences there are…How can two people who share the same fundamental Christian principles–profound, life-transforming, world-transforming principles–differ as sharply as we do at times on something that is also profoundly important like politics?”

I highly recommend the book as a way to continue what we began this week.

Thanks for a great week!

rg

Here’s an example of civil dialogue by Sharon Harper & Innes

To watch more click here

Let’s Talk Faith and Politics: Alternative Views (p5)

Today is for those of you who hold alternative views.  By that I mean:  Tea Party–Occupy Wall Street–Libertarian Etc.

I’m assuming that you’ve read this article:  Why I am a Christian and Libertarian

Two questions:

  1. How do you agree/disagree with the article?
  2. How did your faith & study of scripture lead you to your political position?

Again, thanks for your willingness to share and don’t feel limited by the three options that I suggested.

(If you are just not entering into this dialogue please read this first:  Let’s Talk Faith and Politics (p1))

Let’s Talk Faith and Politics: Progressives & Democrats (p4)

Today we’ll hear from those of you who would describe yourself as progressive and/or Democrat.

I’m assuming that you’ve read this article:  Why I am a Christian and Democrat

Same two questions:

  1. How do you agree/disagree with the article?
  2. How did your faith & study of scripture lead you to your political position?

Look forward to your thoughts.

Tomorrow we will hear from those of you who lean toward alternative approaches.

(If you are just not entering into this dialogue please read this first:  Let’s Talk Faith and Politics (p1))