Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Stranger

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He owned a single robe. A good one but only one. Jesus who clothed the sheep with fine wool, the fields with sweet grass and the mountains with purple majesty, ate and slept in one garment that was ultimately lost in a dice game. To the uninformed, He lost it all and in the end, His business plan a seeming failure, He was buried on credit.

Church is big business. How could Christ have missed such an opportunity? It took the the selling of Indulgences, Crusades and a prosperity gospel to bring the church to Wall Street. The Savior preferred to put treasure in earthen vessels. His belief was that the Sabbath was made for man not the other way around. He would seem an odd-sock to many today.

I have known pastors who openly declared that they wanted the local church, "their" church to be the life of all who attended. That members should be there every time the doors were open (to affirm leadership). God never intended for his servants to view the beloved as assets in a personal portfolio. They criticize the Pope but secretly lay claim to the Doctrine of Infallibility in their own hearts. Many of us are as full of error. We have replaced Christ-mindedness with church-mindedness.

Christ invested in people. He is still looking for places to invest. For the eyes of the Lord go this way and that, through all the earth, letting it be seen that he is the strong support of those whose hearts are true to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9. The true-hearted have His support, those with His agenda in mind who recognize that all resources are really His and that they are ours only in stewardship.

We live in dangerous days. Our nation is impoverishing itself. Our national treasure is flying out the door. Other nations mock us and we are vulnerable. We have misspent and overspent but we have abandoned the values themselves that provided our stability. God will not allow Himself to be trivialized. We worry about being able to borrow from China and at what rate of interest when the One who established and fostered and protected our nation has limitless resources for the true-hearted.

In government, in church and in our homes less really is more. Bonhoeffer said it with a clarity born of adversity and prison bars, "Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety."

Lighten the load. Clean out the basement. Empty the garage. Buy less "stuff." Open your wallet to the sacred. Pay it forward. The great treasure of our lives is knowing the Son of God and doing His will on the Earth. To plant where He says and harvest where He says. To give with dazzling extravagance and celebration (but with ourselves out of the spotlight). To lay up treasure we will see again one day and to know all the goodness it has produced under His hand. He is trustworthy to keep it and us.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
Proverbs 3 The Message

Let's give to Jesus and not be shy about it. Let's look where we have been investing and see if we can improve. Do we really need a new car? Maybe, if so invest there, but if God's heart is elsewhere then plant elsewhere and change the oil.

Is your church a Kingdom Midwife? If so, pour water on her hands. If not, find one worthy of your treasure. Are you funding the Gospel or another gimmick? I encourage you to prayerfully examine where and what you are offering. I encourage you to search the scriptures concerning the concept of giving.

The tithe was an Old Testament concept. 10% belonged to God. The New Testament church believed that all belonged to Him. Give as you are able, as God prospers your ability to give and fires your heart for the work. (You will leave this life naked. Your wardrobe is purchased here and its embellishments sent ahead so you may want to invest with that in mind.)

Get out of debt so that your treasure is directed back into the Kingdom. Acquire the wisdom that pertains to giving and prosperity will follow.

You're blessed when you meet Wisdom,
when you make friends with Insight.
She's worth far more than money in the bank;
her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
With one hand she gives long life,
with the other she confers recognition.
Her manner is beautiful,
her life wonderfully complete.
She's the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
Hold her tight—and be blessed!

Find a field and give until you feel your very soul shudder with joy. It happens. Delight upon delight as your soul fattens and the One who was crucified is no longer a stranger. This stranger has become our friend. His ways of doing things will become familiar and less strange as well. Friends share secrets and dreams and plans. Listen. I am listening too. I have a garage and a life needing a broom but listening is a beginning and giving is one answer to the poverty of our times.

Let's open our hands and receive.

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