All posts tagged "Theology"

The Gospel, discipleship and orphan care


Care for orphans is mercy at its most poignant, no doubt. But every act on behalf of the orphan also proclaims the Gospel, revealing to a watching world the heart of the God who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6); it re-tells the story of the God who pursued and adopted us when we were destitute and alone. A passion for orphans also plunges believers into discipleship as well.   To care for orphans in any meaningful way most always requires personal, sustained involved in the life of a child.  In the process, we are drawn beyond a comfortable religion of self-actualization to a costly but vibrant faith; and there we encounter Jesus Christ as never before in the need, sorrow and beauty of the orphaned child. – Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans via CatalystSpace.


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5 Myths About Poverty


CNN Belief Blog has a good post by Mark Lutz of Opportunity International which challenges popular misconceptions about the poor: Myth 1: People are poor because they are lazy or stupid. Poor people work incredibly hard, under harsh conditions, frequently seven days a week. With no welfare programs and no social networks, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. That’s reality. My work in microfinance has taken me to some 50 countries. I’ve watched men making bricks in equatorial sun from morning till night in exchange for $10; women hauling five-gallon containers on their heads and in each hand every morning to water their garden-size farm; children rifling through trash for recyclables to exchange for a meal. Despite their efforts, these hard-working people cannot get off their economic treadmills; they pass their generational poverty onto their children and grandchildren. Getting to know them as sisters and brothers, I can vouch that they are anything but lazy or stupid. The only reason for their life of misery and mine of relative luxury is where we were born. Myth 2: Poor people want handouts. We assume that a hungry person wants us to give them something to eat. Sure, if a mother’s children are hungry she’ll gladly accept a free meal. But what that person would much rather have is the opportunity to work and feed her family. Each time she accepts a handout she exchanges a portion of her dignity. In the Bible, God instructs farmers not to harvest the corner of their crops, but to leave it for the poor. God didn’t tell them to reap it and give the money to the poor, but to leave it for the poor to pick and eat. They need food, but they also need and want an opportunity to work. Every day some 25,000 people die from starvation. Disturbing as that may be, the real tragedy is that for 90 percent of them, there is no food shortage. They just can’t afford to buy available food. The appropriate response is not relief but development, including opportunities to work. Myth 3: Our foremost responsibility is America’s poor. The number one objection I hear to our work in the developing world is that we must first solve the problems in our own country. Yet half of humanity barely survives on $2 per day. And they don’t live here. We live in a generous country where last year more than $300 billion was given to charity from voluntary donations. As grand as that is, less than five percent goes to international work, leaving 95 percent in our own country for our churches, university endowments and symphonies. These are worthy causes, but charities that serve the wealthiest nation. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant when in Matthew 25 he told his followers to serve “the least of these.” Myth 4: Jesus said we will always have extreme poverty. What Jesus said in Mark 14:7 was: “The poor you will always have with you.” Jesus recognized that some will always have less than others. But the kind of abject poverty that over one billion people endure—those living on $1 per day—wouldn’t be tolerated by Jesus and should not exist today. I honestly believe we can eradicate extreme poverty. And if we can, then we must. Myth 5: Jesus was concerned primarily about spiritual poverty. I grew up in South Africa, surrounded by missionaries. There was a subtle message that eternity is a lot longer than life. If someone is saved and bound for heaven, it doesn’t much matter how hungry their children are. But when Jesus began his public ministry, he read his mission statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor… To set free the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18). Though we must read on to understand the full gospel, if we seek to follow his example and teaching, we must bring good news to the poor and set free the oppressed. More than 2,000 verses in the Bible deal with the poor. Jesus had special solidarity with the poor and told us that if we love him, we will show it by caring for them. Mark has also authored UnPoverty:  Rich Lessons from the Working Poor which has this description: The poorest people in the world do not just survive–they thrive lavishly. They enjoy rich family relationships, build vibrant communities and exude deep faith. They have much to teach us about life and inspire us with their ingenuity, persistence, generosity and self-reliance… When we hear about the billions of people living on a few dollars a day, do we visualize what that means? These stories put individual faces on unimaginable statistics and bring their reality to life. You may even see yourself in them… Their poverty has more to do with latitude and longitude than with laziness or lack of intelligence. Through no fault of their own they are poor monetarily, but rich in areas many of us are bankrupt. The next time we pray for the poor, it may help to remember God’s definition of the term.


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A Christian View of Labor Day


A great way to commemorate Labor Day is to read this piece from Gene Veith on the doctrine of vocation. Here’s how it starts: God healed me. I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the doctor. The nurse ran some tests; the lab technicians identified the problem; the doctor wrote me a prescription; I had it filled by the pharmacist. In no time, I was a lot better. It was God who healed me, and He did it through the medical vocations. God gave me my daily bread. He did it through the farmer who grew the grain, the truck driver who hauled it, the bakers at the factory, the stockers at the grocery store and the lady at the checkout counter. It was God who fed me—just as I prayed in the Lord’s Prayer—and He did it through the vocations of ordinary people just doing their jobs. God talked to me. The pastor read God’s Word. In the sermon, he drew out of the Bible God’s Law, which cut me to the quick. Then he proclaimed the Gospel of how Christ has done everything for my salvation. When I confessed my sins, God, through His Word as delivered by the pastor, told me I was forgiven. This is the doctrine of vocation. The term literally means “calling.” Read the rest here (.pdf download). Happy Labor Day!


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Jonathan Edwards on giving to the poor


THIS duty is absolutely commanded, and much insisted on, in the Word of God. Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor? – in his message on Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Christian Charity (or The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced). Photo cred:  Photobucket


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God and Haiti


Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment. God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now. A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening. God’s rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment. The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake — at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense — in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption. Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young? Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts — there would be no hope. The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe. The entire cosmos awaits the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord. Creation cries out for the hope of the New Creation. In other words, the earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti — and the Haitian people are the objects of his love. Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone. Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ’s people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ’s people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti? If you have any doubts about this, take your Bible and turn to John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That is God’s message to Haiti. Albert Mohler, via the Gospel Coalition


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Rightly picturing Jesus


To only think of Jesus as a long-haired, gentle man in a robe and wearing sandals has devastating effects on the church.  This perception has permeated the attitudes of many who perceive Jesus as a weak character but a good teacher. The world seems blind to the Bible’s description of the resurrected Jesus, full of power and authority.  This description is highly offensive to the world.  But to worship Jesus as the artists have portrayed him instead of as the Son of Man in all his glory, is nothing short of idolatry. Adrian Warnock, Raised With Christ (Crossway, page 68). Read the book on-line here.


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What orphans need


Borrowing from another good post by Dan Cruver of Together for Adoption over at The Gospel Coalition blog. In short, orphans need Christians who fully understand that God’s pleasure in them is equal to the pleasure He has in Jesus: When Jesus was about to go public with the mission of God, his Father declared over him, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). As Scripture makes clear, Jesus had been sent to fulfill the Father’s mission to redeem humanity and renew creation—which includes, by the way, the removal of the word “orphan” from the human vocabulary. The Gospel writers tell us that God’s Son went forward with the mission of his Father in the strength and knowledge of his Father’s delight (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). What orphans need are churches that are full of people who wake up each morning hearing and rehearsing these amazing words that are declared over them. “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased. Yes, you were once without hope and without God in this world, but I have brought you near by the blood of Jesus. I have embraced you in the Beloved. Live in my love as you move out in mission.” Full post here and worth the read.


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A sense of exile


Dan Cruver of Together for Adoption has a good series of posts on why the gospel is central to caring for the widows and orphans in their affliction (James 1:27). His conclusion from “Caring for Orphans While Soaked with a Sense of Exile“: The gospel takes those who are marked with a deep sense of exile, frees them from the “need” to self-medicate, and moves them out to serve the orphan, the widow, and the marginalized. Only by the power of the gospel can we do the self-sacrificial work of caring for orphans while soaked with the sense of exile. Read how a ‘sense of exile’ is crucial to adoption from the whole post here. Thoughtful and worth the read.


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A solution to seasonal materialism


Struggling with the inherent materialism of the Christmas season? Here’s a simple solution:  Give an amount equal or greater than what you spend on yourself and family. In his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, the apostle Paul ended his address by saying, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  And then he adds this: I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.  You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” – Acts 20:33-35 Observe: 1.  Giving proves the authenticity of faith. Note Paul’s appeal here is not to his teaching but his deeds:  “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.  You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities…”  Essentially, Paul is saying, “Judge the validity of my life and ministry not just by what I’ve said, but also by what I’ve done.”  When we give without expectation to receive, our faith is verified as true to those observing. 2.  Hard work finds purpose when providing for the weak. Now this is not the only purpose of hard work, but it was certainly Paul’s intent here with his labor.  If we work simply to provide for ourselves, we are missing the blessing of giving (which is next). 3.  Giving blesses the giver more than the receiver. Paul quotes here a beatitude from the Lord Jesus not found in the Sermon on the Mount, but one with the same authority.  Matthew Henry says it well:  Giving “makes us more like God, who gives to all and receives from none.” If you want your Christmas: To authenticate your faith To provide greater purpose for your hard work To be blessed by God, Consider giving to ‘the least of these.’ Here’s an easy way to do so.


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