Archive for February, 2010

The Importance & Power of Prayer

February 28, 2010

Contributed by John Hellmund, Elder Overseer of Finance at Image Church

First off, I have to say that I never thought I would be a part of a group who blogged.  Not that blogging is a bad thing; I have just never taken the time to read others’ blogs, let alone consider writing my own.  So when I started thinking about what I would write, the first thing that came to mind is finances.   This made complete sense to me, since I am the Treasurer of Image Church.  I also thought it would be a nice way to keep the past series, Mucho Dinero, in our minds.  As I started putting things together in my head and praying over this idea, something else kept popping-up – the importance and power of prayer.

Everywhere I turned, I would hear somebody say something about prayer.  I was at my part-time job, which is doing security for a Christian events center, when I was assigned to be down by Will Call.  At this particular event, a Mercy Me concert, the tickets had been sold out for weeks.  The day of the concert, 40 additional seats became available.  As I sat at Will Call and people would come up and ask if any tickets where left, I think everyone that asked said that they had been praying for a ticket all day.  I know that we can and should go to God concerning the big things, as well as the little things.  Unfortunately, I don’t always take the time to do this.  A day or so later, I was talking with my boys, and my two year old asked me why we were praying before we ate.  This gave me an opportunity to talk to them about the importance of prayer.  The next day, once again, I had a chance to talk to them about prayer, because they were playing around when we were saying our nightly prayers.  I spoke to them about who we were praying to and how we had to show respect.  Then just yesterday, while running some errands, we saw a bad car accident.  I just kind of threw out there that I hope nobody got hurt.  It hit me that it could be another good time to talk to them about prayer.  So while I was driving, I asked Jesus to take care of the people in the accident and their families.  My two year old, once again, asked me why I was praying.  I went on to share with him that we are to pray without ceasing and that God hears us and will always answer us.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes, “Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Now, this doesn’t mean we are supposed to ramble the same thing over and over and never stop praying, but we are to constantly seek God’s guidance for our lives.  In the book of Matthew, it is recorded that Jesus taught his disciples to pray.  He said in chapter 6:7-13, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Therefore do not be like them.  For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.  In this manner, therefore pray:  Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And do not lease us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen”

This prayer is just a model and not something that we need to recite.  It is a simple prayer that can be broken down into many parts and used as an example.  We need to honor and adore God in our prayers.  We can pray for our needs.  We need to ask for forgiveness of our sins and make sure we aren’t holding anything against others. It is wise to seek protection from evil, and then once again give glory to God before sealing the prayer by saying “Amen.”   

One thing that can really encourage you and strengthen your prayer life is seeing God answer your prayers.  My wife Christi and I have seen this done over and over again recently.  I had been working fulltime and going to school fulltime for over two years.  I was feeling really worn out.  We prayed for me to have the strength and drive to continue, and in December, I finally did.  Since I was going to be finishing school, I also prayed about changing jobs so that I would have a job in my field of study (finance), and God answered that prayer for us, too.  I had an interview and job offer even before I had finished my last class.  Now, a request that was most dear to me was for another child.  God, once again, has answered this prayer, as Christi is expecting and due in July.  We pray for the health of both Christi and the baby and continue trust God.

The power to communicate with God through prayer has been given to us.  The Gospels state that Jesus got away to pray and be rejuvenated.  Luke 5:16 states, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” In  Luke 6:12, Jesus once again went to pray.  “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” If Jesus, who is God, spent His time in prayer, then isn’t it more important that the rest of us, who are sinners, need to spend our time in His word and in prayer?

Imagine if we lived our lives on our knees in prayer, lifting up the work of God, our church, family and friends.  Another Great Awakening could happen, and many more could come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Advertisements

Who’s the Boss?

February 21, 2010

Contributed by Brian Knapp, Elder Overseer of Equipping at Image Church

Who is the boss in your life?

I know, its kind of an odd question.  We don’t like to talk about authority, do we? Once we grow up and leave home, we aren’t under anyone’s authority anymore.  We are completely “free” from authority at that point, right?  Of course not!

There are all sorts of authorities around us.  In fact, we can give lots of examples if we really think about it:

  • Our boss
  • The police
  • The government

There is no way for us to ever escape the reality of authority in our lives.

In fact, one of the things many people don’t like about the idea of God, or the Bible, or Christianity for that matter, is that it is … “authoritarian”.  Biblical Christianity is a system of beliefs centered on an authority that is not to be questioned – not to be doubted.  And that certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Defining Authority

Normally, when we use word “authority”, it has to do with someone we answer to for our actions.  For instance, the county court is the authority we answer to when we break the law.  But this isn’t the only way the term can be used.  The term may also be used to express something that justifies the conclusions you come to.  In this sense, the term speaks of that which we appeal to in order to help us decide things.

You know, I was searching the web the other day and came across a great example of this.  I’m going to paraphrase something I found on a site called the “Human Design Institute” – a site which claims to synthesize modern science and the wisdom of the ancients in order to give us insight into our subconscious.

Listen very carefully to what they have to say about this type of “authority”, as I think it expresses a rather accurate view of how most people think about themselves.

Authority – We are our own authority. Each and every one of us is born with a sense of inner authority … to be able to make decisions correctly as ourselves. … It is not possible to recognize who we are nor see our personal value unless we … honor our inner authority. We [should] discover there is an inner authority within us that knows what is correct … for us. We [can then] make decisions that work for us rather than against us. Our life [will] change as we eliminate the confusing power of conditioning. Love yourself by following your … inner authority!

Think about it … we do act as if we are our own authorities, don’t we?

Conflicting Authorities

Nowhere is there more of a conflict between “authorities” than between science and the Bible.  Nowhere is there such opposition over claims of what is real, and what is true.  And do you know why this is?  It is primarily because science (as it is generally practiced) begins with the assumption that there is no God.

You may not hear scientists as a whole make this claim so clearly as I just have (although some of them do), but it is a valid conclusion.  Science, as commonly practiced today, assumes from the outset that there is always a natural answer to every phenomenon it chooses to investigate, if we just look long enough.  And a natural answer to every question means there is no need for a supernatural answer to any question. Thus the conclusion of natural science is that God is not necessary for anything.

While science essentially assumes there is no God, the Bible obviously assumes that there is.  Furthermore, the Bible claims not only to be true, but also the standard (or authority) of what truth is.

In John 17, Jesus is praying for his disciples as he is preparing for what he knows is inevitable.  He makes the following statement in verse 17, as he prays to God:

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Jesus makes a claim here that is astounding.  He states that God’s word itself defines what truth is.  That’s a bold claim indeed – it’s a claim of authority, and a claim that flies in the face of science.

So on the one hand, we have science claiming that truth can be known by empirical observation, without the need for any God, and on the other hand we have the Bible claiming that God’s very word ultimately defines truth for us.

Consider the question of miracles.  Miracles (in other words, supernatural events) just aren’t acceptable in science, are they?  One of the major tenets of science is to continue to look for a natural explanation to the unknown, instead of just giving up and claiming something supernatural occurred.  Therein lies the incompatibility between science and God.

Do you see the quandary that those who hold to the Bible as an authority have?  In a world that is so humanistic, where most everything we do is connected to some aspect of natural science, if you claim to literally believe the Bible, then you have some real issues to deal with.

For instance, what do you believe when the Bible tells you that a man was raised from the dead, but science tells you this doesn’t occur?

What do you believe when the Bible tells you that God created the universe out of nothing, but science says it all started with a big bang?

What do you believe when the Bible tells you that God exists; yet science tells you that you can get along just fine by living your life as if he doesn’t?

You see, the problem here is one of conflicting authorities.  Two authorities are telling you two different stories.  And what do you do to resolve the discrepancy?  Well, you allow a more ultimate authority (something you trust in more than science, and more than religion) to settle the dispute for you.

If you happen to choose science as your authority in these areas, no doubt you will conclude that Jesus never rose from the dead, that God did not create the universe out of nothing, and that we can live just fine pretending that God doesn’t even exist.

On the other hand, if you choose the Bible as your authority in these areas, then you will conclude Jesus did rise from the dead, that God did create the universe out of nothing, and that we need to believe in God in order to live a meaningful life.

Questioning Authority

Let’s say we want to answer a much simpler question – such as “how tall is this chair I am sitting in?”  We can use a tape measure to answer this.  We just take the tape and stretch it out, read it, and voila … we have an answer!

We can view the tape measure as the authority we are appealing to in order to answer the question “how long/tall is this?”  The tape measure tells us how long an inch is, and by extension, how many inches something else is.  But why do we accept that the tape measure accurately tells us how long an inch is?  Literally, because it says so!  It is our authority – at least for linear measurement.

But what if we are skeptical of whether the tape measure itself is accurate?  In that case, we might measure the tape measure against another one.  But what are we doing then?  We are simply appealing to a new authority to check out the one in question.  And in this case, why do we accept what the other tape measure tells us?  Again, because it says so!  The other tape measure is now the authority we are appealing to.

Now, do you see a problem here?  We can continue to check our authority against some other authority, but at some point we have to stop and just have faith that the authority we are appealing to is correct.  That then becomes our final authority for whatever it is we are measuring.

Now although there is ultimately a higher reason for believing that tape measures will accurately answer our question about linear measurement, what about questions pertaining to morality?  What about questions pertaining to reality, existence, or truth in general?

Our Ultimate Authority

There are bound to be different authorities that we appeal to for answering these other types of questions, but all of these are ultimately subordinate to a higher authority – that one thing we would feel comfortable measuring them all against if we had any doubts about them.  That something is called our ultimate authority.

Our ultimate authority is the grand-standard in our life.  It is the thing that everything else is ultimately compared against, in order to determine truth.  It is the final court of appeal, so to speak.

For instance, what do we do when we have a question about morality?  We consult whatever our moral authority happens to be.  But what do we consult when we question our moral authority itself?  We defer to our ultimate authority.

Now listen carefully, because this is so important to understand.  Our ultimate authority in life, whatever it is, is accepted entirely on faith. We accept it on faith because we can never ask for proof that it is correct.  Such an ultimate cannot be proven to be correct.  Think about it … how exactly would you go about proving your ultimate authority, if not by comparing it to some other authority to see how it measures up?  Once you compare against some other authority, then that becomes your ultimate.

This isn’t an easy thing to grasp, so I want you to remember the tape measure for a moment.  What would happen if we continued to try to prove that our tape measure was accurate?  We would end up measuring it against another tape measure, which we would measure against another, and so on, and so forth.  We would never get to the end of the chain – we would be stuck in something called an “infinite regress”, always questioning our authority, and never getting any measuring done!

But we don’t do this in life, do we?  Not at all, no.  At some point, we simply give up the process and say “I accept this on faith, because there is no way to prove whether it is right or not.” And that place where we stop is our ultimate authority.

Now, we have made it this far, and you are probably starting to question everything, right?  I mean, if what I am saying is true, then all the certainty in our lives just went out the window.  If all of those things we are so sure about are ultimately based entirely on faith, then that means they could be completely right … or completely wrong!  The question is, of course, how do we know?  When our ultimate authority is based entirely on faith (and it is), how can we know whether or not it is right?  When our very basis for determining what is real and true is something we cannot prove to be real or true, how do we know whether or not to use it?

Well unfortunately we just don’t have the time to answer this question today.  After all, it is a question that has been dogging philosophers for thousand of years.  But let me cut to the chase as far as our discussion is concerned.  For Christians, the answer to the question of ultimate authority is God and his revealed word to us.  There is no other choice.  Let’s take a moment to see why this is.

The Bible as our Ultimate Authority

So I would like you to ask yourself this question – what do I use the Bible for?  What purpose does it serve for me?  Under what circumstances do I actually pick it up and read it?

For many people, the Bible is something that is referred to in a very limited set of circumstances.  I think most people consult it when we they moral questions, right?  Many people view the Bible as a great source of knowing the difference between right and wrong, but not much more than that.

But how often do people consult God’s word when it comes to financial matters?  There are lots of experts “in the field”, after all.  Lots of books on managing your money, lots of resources on the web – why would anyone need to read the Bible for that?

How about relationships?  There are all sorts of books out there to help out in that area, right?  Why would you consider what the Bible has to say, when there are all these other excellent resources, right?

Make sure you hear this as this is the heart of the matter right here.  The Bible should be the book that you spend the most time in; more so than any other book.  Why do I say this?  Simple.  Proverbs 3:5-6.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (NKJV)

How many of us really understand what these two verses are saying?  I don’t think we really grasp it, really.

Let’s break it down …

“Trust” – that means “have faith in”.  Remember what we said about ultimate authorities?  They require faith.

“in the LORD” – God is the source of truth – his word “is” truth, remember John 17:17?

“with all your heart” – The term “heart” has a variety of meanings, and it doesn’t always mean the physical organ.  In this context it refers to the inner most part of a person, or to their mind.  The command here is an intellectual command – we are to have faith in God, as the source and very definition of truth, when it comes to all our decisions.  Our intellect is to defer to his word.

“and lean not on your own understanding” – Ah, here it is in black and white.  We are not to defer to ourselves, even for a moment, as our ultimate authority.  But rather, we are to have faith in God as all areas of our life.

“in all your ways acknowledge him” – This pretty much covers all the bases, don’t you think?  We are to acknowledge God in all of our ways – everything we do.  Not just in the area of morality.

“and he shall direct your paths” – And here is the promise.  If we submit to God as our ultimate authority, the result will be his guidance.  What could be better than that?

The Final Authority

Consider what God’s word tells us about God as the final authority.

1. Who better to defer to, than the one who created and sustains you?  (Acts 17:28)

2. Who better to give you direction than the one who has a specific plan for your life?  (Ephesians 2:10)

3. Who better to appeal to in all decision making than the one who has the corner on truth?  (John 17:17)

4. Who better to follow than the one who can teach you what real freedom is all about?  (John 8:36)

5. Who better to learn from than the one who is literally the source of all knowledge?  (Proverbs 1:7)

Choose Gods word as the ultimate authority in your life.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking there is any other authority worth following.

The Gift of Giving

February 13, 2010

Contributed by Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Service at Image Church

Sometime in the late summer of 2007,  my wife  Heather and I were at the Spotsylvania Mall with our two boys Pearson and Graham.  Graham was just a few months old, and as luck would have it, needed a diaper change. We had just pulled into the parking lot, and decided to open the hatch of our SUV to change his diaper. As Heather was changing Graham, I was going to throw away some trash, and I was approached by a homeless man asking for money.  He scared me because he came from behind a car, and slipped on some gravel making a loud noise. My first response was, out of selfishness I guess, to say no, and keep going. I mean its hot out, my wife is changing a diaper, and Pearson is screaming his head off for all of Fredericksburg to hear. I had bigger fish to fry.  As I was about to say no, I could see him looking past me at my wife, and naked baby, and could tell that was his next move. If I said no he was going straight to my wife and children.  As a protective dad, I instinctively told him I did not have any money on me, but if he would walk with me to the trash and back, I would get him some. Now to be honest and transparent with you, I did not do this to be nice. I did this so he would not go to my car without me. I was thinking of my family first, and him second. When we finally did arrive to the car, I gave him some money, and he was off to the next person.

That occurred a couple of years ago, and I had not thought about it since. At the time, I thought it was a win/win, since my family was safe, and he got some money. However, God has a way of bringing things back to you when you least expect it.

In December 2009 early one morning,  I was loading groceries into my truck, and it was extremely cold and windy. I was rushing to get home with the milk and cereal to feed our kids breakfast. I had my back turned to the parking lot, and all of a sudden I heard the sound of someone slipping on gravel, and INSTANTLY, the thought of the homeless man at the mall came to mind.  It was extremely weird, but that sound triggered that memory. That happened over two years before, but the sound of that gravel brought his image back to my mind.  It was very early, so I again thought it was someone approaching me. I got defensive and turned around to see it was actually just a car pulling into a parking spot, and rolling over some frozen gravel. Right there in that moment, God humbled me and spoke to me so clearly to the point that I was broken.

God showed me that I not only gave to that homeless man in 2007 out of obligation, but I need to be ready to give whenever someone needs it – regardless of how I feel or my present circumstances.  The fact that I got defensive that someone may have been infringing upon me in a parking lot, and I was not willing to help someone crippled me. More importantly, however, God convicted me that when it came to giving, I WAS JUST DEAD WRONG. He showed me that when it comes to helping and giving  to others in need, WE DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE!!  ESPECIALLY to those in our own community. Right there in the Bloom parking lot, I felt such conviction and clarity at the same time. It was an odd, but peaceful feeling, and I came home to tell Heather instantly. I think she thought I was half nuts and just needed some bacon, and I was even starting to doubt. I mean it could have been just my emotions right?

Wrong. When God wants you to get a point He has a way of making sure you get it. The very next day in my daily Bible reading, I came across this verse that cemented what God was trying to tell me.

Luke 6:30 – Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. (ESV)

Whoa. Coincidence? I think not. I was already reading through the book of Luke doing a chapter a day. I did not go searching for scripture to back up what happened the day before. I actually, sadly, had already forgotten about it. This day was chapter 6, and verse 30 floored me. This was God directly speaking to me through His Word, and cementing what He was trying to tell me the day before. How could I not listen? God’s Word is powerful, and when He reveals its mysteries to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s for a reason.

So I started to dig into this a little deeper. What else did God’s Word say on this topic of “giving to all who begs”? Surely it does not mean that literally? Surely we’re not called to give to all the homeless strangers that beg? I mean we all “know” they are going to buy a 40oz Miller High Life, and have a good time in the back alley. We “know” that…right? Don’t all homeless people have a drinking problem? Surely God, there is a limit to whom I give that begs of me…right?

To fully understand Luke 6:30 you have to look at the entire passage. Lets take a look at Luke 6: 27-45 – But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.    (ESV)

First of all verse 30 comes on the heels of three verses (27-29) that we have no issue taking literally. Those verses tell us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and turn the other cheek. Again, we have no issue taking these literally because they make sense. Verse 30 follows, and that’s where it gets a little tougher to swallow. Verse 30 says to GIVE to EVERYONE who BEGS of you. It does not say give to everyone who asks or requests or inquires. It says give to everyone who BEGS. The Greek word for beg used here is aietò, and in the context of this verse it is literally translated to beg in the ESV. Other Bible versions use the word “ask”, which is also derived from aietò, but in this context, I believe the ESV translation nails the true intent of Jesus. When someone is begging, it is because they are in extreme need and have no other way of receiving income/food/etc. Begging comes when someone has it the lowest of lows and has nowhere to look but up.

If you continue reading Chapter 6, Jesus continues on this topic in three layers: vs 27-36 – Love your Enemies, vs 37-42 – Judging Others, and vs 43-45 – A Tree and its Fruit.  All these verses are tied together because Jesus wants us to get the point.

First of all we are to love our enemies, and all those that oppress us. This includes the beggar that makes us feel uncomfortable and interrupts our lives at the mall. Jesus NAILS this issue in verses 32-36. He says its EASY to love the ones who love you. Even sinners do that. It’s easy to lend to people you know will pay you back, but since when is the Christian life easy? Folks, we are called to a higher standard and doing the things that others won’t is what sets Christians apart, and ultimately brings God glory!!  That is what it’s all about!!!!  Second, and more importantly, WHO ARE WE to judge the homeless person? First and foremost, we are called to GIVE, NOT JUDGE!! Jesus follows loving your enemies and giving to beggars with 6 verses on judging. Now isn’t that an interesting place to start talking about judging people? Of all the times to speak on judging, it follows loving our enemies?  Wow! We have NO RIGHT to judge what we “know” the beggar will do with our generosity.  None.  Nowhere in Scripture do we see to “weigh the outcome” when it comes to giving. We are called to give so that HE may receive glory. Ultimately, the homeless person may very well go buy that Miller High Life, BUT THAT DOES NOT MATTER!! God is sovereign over the receiver, just as He is the Giver. God has a sovereign plan for that beggar, just like He has a sovereign plan for the giver. God’s sovereignty is not to be questioned and is not a matter of debate. Our part, per Scripture, is to GIVE. Not judge. Lastly, and most importantly, in this passage, we see that we are known by our fruit. Ultimately, if the Holy Spirit is directing our lives, it will be on display for all to see. Doing things, like giving when no one else will, reveals Gods glory through us!! That is humbling to think that God will CHOOSE to use us!! Now THAT is a gift!!!

This topic is also addressed multiple times in the OT. Check these out:

Deuteronomy 15: 7-11 – 7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (ESV)

Proverbs 21:13 – 13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (ESV)

Proverbs 14:31 – 31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (ESV)

In Deuteronomy, God had a plan for the Israelites to ease the burden of poverty, and see that the rich did not continually become fat cats. Every seven years, the Israelites could not work their land and had to depend on God that year for food and income. Additionally, they were to cancel debts/interest on debts and release servants. The slate was to be wiped clean, and everyone was to be put on a level playing surface. This was a chance for the rich to give back to the poor what they could not afford to pay. It was God’s design so that Israelites could remain in harmony. That’s why verse 9 above is so powerful. If a friend was in need , and year seven was approaching, I could see how it would be easy to say: “I am not going to give because I will never get it back.” However, God’s plan was put in place so the rich COULD GIVE just for these circumstances so that God’s glory could be shown in the gift, the giver, and the receiver. This was sacrificial, un-judgemental giving out of the blessings God had given them. That is powerful stuff!! When we follow God’s Word, good things happen. Unfortunately, the Israelites did not listen, and they paid greatly, but that’s for a different blog.

Bottom line on this topic is this: God created the beggar, the homeless, our enemies, us, and anyone else you want to throw in this lot. To oppress them is to INSULT their MAKER, GOD!!! We are ALL His creation, and we are to all be used for His glory. Good or bad, according to His sovereign plan. Above all else, we are called to GIVE so that God can be glorified through the giver, the gift, and the receiver all according to HIS plan.  It is about HIM, and not what “we know” to be true.

So the next time we have the oppurtunity to give, THANK GOD that you are a part of His sovereign plan, and cheerfully give to whoever begs.

Living with Urgency

February 6, 2010

Contributed by Chad Seidler, Director of Ministry/Assistant to Lead Pastor of Image Church

I love Winter.  I may be one of the few, but I get stoked for this time of year.  Brisk air, Packers’ football, Capitals’ hockey, and snow.  Yes…snow!  It’s one of the reasons why I love visiting family in Minnesota, Colorado & Kansas this time of year…we’re pretty much guaranteed some type of major snowstorm.

The DC area isn’t considered a “snowy” area.  I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I’ve probably seen 7 or so major storms.  Of course, we get “spits” of snow a few times a year, but usually nothing major.  This year, we’re smack in the middle of our 2nd major storm in two months – very much unheard of in DC.  Radio & TV personalities are calling it “historic, one for the ages.”  And, to make matters more interesting, Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow sighting tells us that we have six more weeks of this wonderful white blanket over DC.

I will gladly embrace six more weeks of Winter.  What I don’t look forward to is the continued “paranoia” that the people of this area associate with snowstorms.  I’ve never seen so much attention and fear surround weather “events” (if you can even call them that).  I have a feeling that people that live in traditionally wintry parts of our country would make fun of us here.  Maybe they already do.  When the threat of a storm is in the forecast, no matter what scope of storm, it seems like it takes up 25 minutes of every 30 minute news program.  It’s exhausting and embarrassing.  I’ve never bought into the hype.  In fact, I try to ignore it as much as possible.

Our latest storm was slated to hit us Friday at 11:00am.  It was to be “the mother of all storms,” or so said 3 to 15 media personalities.  Unfortunately, I had to run a few errands for work on Thursday, leading into the storm.  I found myself at the Sterling Costco when they opened at 10:00am, thinking that I might beat the rush of paranoid people trying to stockpile their Cold War cellars for the “Big One.”  Man was I wrong!  It took me all of 15 minutes to gather what I needed for work, but then I got into one of the check-out lines.  All 17 check-out lines were open, and each line was at least 15 customers deep.  It took me nearly 75 minutes to get through my line.  I enjoyed eavesdropping on the conversations of many a paranoid person.  It made my wait slightly more enjoyable.  I returned to work, only to be asked to go back to Costco to pick-up some additional items that were needed for our office renovation.  Sure, why not…I’ll at least get to hear a few more people talk about how they’re planning to survive this storm with their 15 gallons of milk and 20 cartons of eggs.  I went back, and it was pretty much a carbon copy of the first trip.  My two trips made for some great stories shared with my wife during our commute home that evening.  After dinner that night, my lovely pregnant wife Beth said that we needed a few things before the storm hit, and more importantly, “the baby needs some Oreos.”  So, off I went to the grocery store.  No carts or baskets were available.  People were using boxes to carry around their items.  In most places, the store looked like it was a war zone – food and trash all over the floors.  After 10 minutes of shopping, another 75 minutes in a check-out line, and the police being called for a check-out line fist-fight between two ladies, I was finally glad to be home.

I’ve lived here for 25 years.  Never have I seen so much paranoia and urgency displayed by so many people.  It was an urgency that easily rivals that of a parent who goes to 10 different stores in a two-hour time frame to get that last “must-have” toy for their child for Christmas.  It was an urgency that rivals those people who camp-out at Wal-Mart for the Black Friday deals of a lifetime (yes, I’m guilt of that one!).

The shared urgency of so many snow-scared people got me thinking.  What if this urgency was shared by all of us more often?  What if we channeled this urgency into something that was more constructive?  What if living urgent was the norm?  It was expected and accepted?

As Christians, we are called to live urgent lives.  We are given a few reminders of why to be urgent (or passionate) with our living:

  • Paul tells us “the night is far gone; the day is at hand.” (Romans 13:12, ESV)
  • James tells us “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8, ESV)
  • John tells us “we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18, ESV)
  • Christ tells us through John “the time is near” and “surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation 1:3 & 22:20, ESV)
  • Peter tells us “the end of all things is at hand.” (I Peter 4:7, ESV)

Peter’s reminder is worth noting, especially because of his instruction that follows.  Check this out…  “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 4:7-11, ESV)

It doesn’t take a theologian to analyze what Peter is teaching here.  It seems pretty clear.  If we are believers, we are called to live urgent, passionate lives.  A life of urgency reflects self-control, sober-mindedness/wisdom, earnest love for people, selfless hospitality to those around us, and a life of service – to God and others.

Why?  So that God may be glorified!  It’s the reason we were created in His image.  And, it’s the reason why our vision at Image Church is to be a community of people who reflect Christ’s image. TO BRING GOD GLORY!

Paul, in an earlier passage, encouraged Timothy that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:7, ESV)

Church… Imagine if we lived our lives with a spirit of urgency that reflected Christ’s image and brought ultimate glory to Him.