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Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category


As part of his chapter on Worldliness in Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges talks about money and how Christians use it.  First, let’s see his definition of worldliness.

“Worldliness means accepting the values, mores, and practices of the nice, but unbelieving, society around us without discerning whether or not thos values, mores, and practices are biblical.”

Pretty good definition.  It is when we are shaped by the world instead of being conformed to Christ in how we approach seemingly trivial matters.  He points to how Christians use money as a place where we are often quite worldly.  We often don’t examine how we spend our money- only if we have enough to get what we want.  We tend to get caught in that self-centered approach to living when it comes to “our” money.

Evangelicals are giving far less money to their churches than they did in years past.  He notes that in 8 evangelical denominations (not mainline ones) people give only 4.4% of their income.  They are spending more money on themselves by keeping up with technological toys, collecting music or movies, big boy toys (boats, snowmobiles..), eating out often, etc.  But here was what disturbed me even more.

“Not only are we giving less to our churches, but it seems that more of what we do give is spent on ourselves.  In 1920, the percentage of giving to missions from total offerings was just over 10 percent.  But by 2003, that figure had declined to just under 3 percent.  That means we spent 97 cents of every dollar on our own local programs and ministries while sending 3 cents overseas.”

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While many relief agencies have left the areas devastated by Katrina 3 years ago, there are some churches that continue to work toward the rebuilding of their communities.  Many of them survive through donations and streams of Christians volunteering their time and skills.  Please consider supporting them as you can.

One is Lagniappe Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lagniappe, MS.  Some teens and adults from the church we worship in went there to volunteer in July/August.  You can also support them financially or materially too.  You can read the article written about their ministry to help restore creation in ByFaith Magazine.

The one my brothers-in-law helped is the Christian Life Center (Christian and Missionary Alliance) in Waveland, MS.  Like Lagniappe, you can volunteer or support them in various ways.

The process of rebuilding this area will take many years (CLC estimates 6-10 years).  Just because the “emergency” is over doesn’t mean people aren’t still suffering in those areas.  People still need help rebuilding their lives.  These are just 2 of the Christ-centered ministries helping that to happen.

Update: How could I forget Desire Street Ministries?  Founded by Mo Leverett it was involved in community transformation long before Katrina hit.  Since the life-changing event, Mo has left to receive a call to a PCA church in Tallahassee, FL (gee, I can’t understand why they chose him over me 🙂 ).  Desire Street continues from a new headquarters in Atlanta and a new quarterback in Danny Wuerffel (yes, the Gator QB).  They hope to replicate what they did in the Desire Street neighborhood around the country.  The academy has moved to Baton Rouge. They are still doing some light construction in New Orleans, and need volunteers.  They are also looking for people willing to move to New Orleans to take part in a new church plant there.  They need financial resources too, obviously.  A new ministry they started, to rebuild affordable housing in New Orleans is CDC 58:12 (taken from Isaiah 58:12).

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I ran across this tonight.  I’m astounded- in a good way!  See, not every big church pastor is interested in big buildings and big programs.

Several months ago I heard the story of the further missional directive of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California. They were set to spend $20 million on a new facility when teaching pastor Francis Chan said, “Nope.” He said he couldn’t in good conscience be the pastor of a church that spent $20 million on itself. He suggested instead that they build a much, much cheaper outdoor amphitheater and community park. And the multi-millions left over? He said they should give it away.

His board agreed. Several hundred reportedly left the church, so unnerved and inconvenienced were they by this decision. But Chan and his fellow ministers committed to giving away millions and millions of dollars. They said that one great message the outdoor space would send is that whenever it was too hot/cold/rainy/windy, it would remind those gathered that there were many people around the world who never have a roof over their head.
Furthermore, Cornerstone Church amended their budget to now give 50% to missions. Half of everything they receive goes right back out the door to the hurting, poor, starving, and dying.

It cost them to be extravagant in this giving (or prodigal…).  The folks who were all about the big programs and big buildings weren’t the staff in this case.  Not every church can build an amphitheater, but many churches can consider giving away lots more money and spending less on themselves (like Element is going to do).  Sounds something like Jesus, who impoverished himself to make us (spiritually) rich (2 Corinthians 8).  Smaller churches have a harder time doing this- as a small church pastor I know this firsthand.  There is not much fat in their budgets.  But as the church seeks to expand their giving it provides an example for the people as they think about their own finances.  We are easily caught in the trap- whether individuals, families, churches, businesses- of selfishness, thinking only of what benefits us.  Love considers what also benefits others.  And the result is compassionate ministry!

HT: The Gospel-Driven Church

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I caught an update on the Steven Curtis Chapman family.  Here is some:

On behalf of Steven Curtis Chapman, his management team thanked the public for the outpouring of support he and his family have received in the wake of their daughter Maria’s death, noting it will be a long road ahead for them. “The Chapman family is struggling with grief and wrestling to come to terms with the new normal,” they said. “And yet, we want you to know that we see them holding on to the truth of Gospel, just as we hope we would, just as you expect they might. It is not a false strength, nor a false hope. It is authentic sorrow and true belief simultaneously.”

In related news, Shaohannah’s Hope, the charity the Chapmans founded to help families adopt children from around the world, has received more than $275,000 in donations in response to Maria’s death. “We are overwhelmed at how many people have generously given to Maria’s Miracle Fund and we have a strong sense of the responsibility we now carry to steward the fund and the calling in a way that would honor God, Maria and the Chapman family,” said Scott Hasenbalg, the director of the nonprofit.

As someone who has adopted internationally (and CavWife wants to do it again), I am so excited to hear about the gifts  that will help many other families bring an orphan into their home.  Many need medical care.  Many will receive opportunities they could never imagine if they stayed where they are.  This is a great gift indeed.

It does not take away the sorrow.  But God is working it for good- for the Chapman family, and many other families.  What an awesome, gracious God we serve.

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Got some less than stellar news last night.  Another interview that didn’t result in a new position.  It was very discouraging.  I’ve seen lots of guys with lots of baggage get new calls reasonably quickly.  I seem to keep coming up short- despite a number of people who value me as a brother and pastor. 

One of the books I’ve been reading is The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (it is a Puritan paperback for a mere $4.90 at WTS).  I knew I would be in “that place” during this transition.  The title is taken from a passage in the Servant Song of Isaiah 42 which is repeated as fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus in Matthew 12.  Part of that prophecy is “a bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick He will not put out.”

This is a great, gospel-filled book about the tenderness and compassion of Jesus toward those who are His.  That they have grace is enough.  That they have even the slightest faith, it is enough to unite sinners to Him.  He does not cast us out for not being strong and spectacular.

The chapter I read this morning dealt a lot with discouragement- and was a needed word from a long-departed brother.  Perhaps some of this will be helpful to others, and perhaps encourage them to seek more of Christ’s encouragement via the ministry of Richard Sibbes.

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While at the Reform and Resurge Conference in 2006, Tim Keller also gave a sermon on Doing Justice.  He talked about the definition that Bruce Waltke gave for the righteous man in his commentary on Proverbs.

The righteous man is one who disadvantages himself for the benefit of others.

The wicked man is one whose selfish desires disadvantages others (that’s as best as I can remember it).

Unlike in our culture, righteousness and wickedness are viewed within the web of relationships.  What I do affects other people.  There are still pockets of America who understand this.  You see it in small towns and tight knit neighborhoods.  But, by and large, individualism rules the day.  Combine that with consumerism and you have a combination lethal to the soul.

Here’s the deal- there is BOTH structural evil (powers & principalities) AND personal evil (children of wrath).  So, there is BOTH corporate responsibility AND personal responsibility.  Liberals focus on the corporate aspect, and nearly deny the personal aspects.  Conservatives focus on the personal, and nearly deny the corporate.

Viewed within this corporate and personal framework, the righteous man gives to all what he owes them.  He also seeks to right wrongs in society (notice, I said righteous man, not righteous government).  We are personally responsible to do good to others when it is within our means to do so, even though it may disadvantage us.

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… to care for the widows and orphans.”  So says James 1.  Yes, he also said keeping oneself undefiled from the world.  And those two go together.  Hang with me.

Anthony Bradley has a great post entitled Orphans vs. the American Dream.  He asks some great questions that we need to answer.  One of th wonders of the early church was how they cared for widows and orphans.  They incarnated the gospel by voluntarily taking care of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.  Non-Christians were amazed because it was not just their own widows and orphans, but they took in those discarded by the non-Christians.

So why are their orphans in America?  In part because the Church has been seduced by the American Dream.  We are so focused on getting or maintaining a standard of living that we refuse to open our hearts and homes to these children.  We can be caught up in image management and the fear of man, so we only adopt kids who enhance our families.  Couples can wait for years to adopt a healthy, white baby.  You can adopt a minority or bi-racial baby in less than a year.  But few Christians seem willing to practice Ephesians 2 in their own homes (God adopting Jew & Gentile into His household).

Thankfully this is not true of all American Christians.  There are churches like Bethleham Baptist (where John Piper is the pastor) and Seven Rivers PCA here in Florida that have developed cultures of adoption.  In my Presbytery, at least 6 pastors have adopted children- some more than one.  In the church I currently attend, there are 2 families pursuing adoption thru the foster care system, with another considering the same thing.  My wife and I are adopting from China, and currently considering a boy with special needs.

Adoption is more than a good deed- it is a portrait of the gospel.  And Christians are supposed to be painting lots of them (showing mercy, compassion, grace, truth & justice to a world gone wrong).  This is different than national health care (sorry Michael Moore).  Christianity is not socialism.  Such acts of love are voluntary, motivated by a delight in God that exceeds our delight in material things.  But we lack the faith- the delight in Christ- because we are so focused on the American Dream.  Too many churches are selling that as the Kingdom.  We need to repent.

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This picture from the Boston Globe is from an Episcopal Church in Framingham, MA.  It is one of the churches in the U2charist movement.   Here is a summary of what it is like:

“Sometimes, Blair and company remove a few pews to make room for “people to cut loose and dance. We call it our mosh pit.” At this service, congregants grooved in pews or poured into the aisles.

“Each song takes the place of a hymn. Between prayers, the breaking of bread, and the exchange of the peace, Blair talked about the Millennium Development Goals that were adopted by the United Nations in 2000 to eradicate poverty and global AIDS by 2015. Bono is ambassador of the international campaign.

“Throughout the service, a slide presentation displayed statistics and photos of children and families suffering from HIV and lack of drinking water. Blair dashed up and down the center aisle, dancing and encouraging people to make a difference — by helping to sponsor a children’s playground in Africa that has rides that pump water to the community, for example.”

I am a U2 fan- and appreciate their Christian witness.  But… I’m not excited about this.  First, most of their songs are not worship songs.  They are from a Christian worldview, but that does not make them appropriate for worship (exceptions would include ’40’).   If we are singing songs about social justice, disconneted from the Gospel, we lapse into moralism (which is not U2’s intention, I’m sure).  Churches do need to address issues of social justice and compassion.  But we need to do this in a way that is built upon and furthers the Gospel.  We need more preaching that does this very thing (and Tim Keller is a model for us all in this regard).

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Yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech caught a nation by surprise, again.  We’ve been in similar situations before.  It’s been on my mind as I prepare Sunday’s sermon on Isaiah 6.  Oddly, I see a connection between the 2.  Here are some thoughts:

1. Sin dwells deep in ‘ordinary’ people.

2. Sin can express itself in ways we could not predict nor foresee.

3. God is not taken by surprise by the evil we do, we are.

4. Mercy is available- though often rejected.

5. Sin rips communities, however peaceful on the surface, to shreds in an instant.

Tim Challies reports that faithful pastors are already hard at work there.  Since the victims’ names have not been released, they aren’t sure if all of their sheep are safe.  I’m sure they feel very much like parents.  Pray for these men as they offer mercy and grace to a community in desperate need.

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Like me, Anthony Bradley loves U2’s music and heart for the poor and oppressed.  Like me, he believes Bono needs to study economics.  I’ve mentioned this sort of thing before regarding Bono.  Sadly, he is not alone.  Most Congressmen and Senators would benefit from an actual economics class or two because they seem utterly clueless about basic economic principles.  Yes, I was an Economics major at Boston University.

I haven’t read much in that field recently, though Thomas Sowell’s book Basic Economics intrigues me.  I may have to pick it up.  At the school where I teach church history, they use Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.  My very brief glance at the book got my interest (yes, I’m struggling to stay focused instead of plunging into the obvious fodder for fun).

Stupid rabbit trail: I once worked for a Christian organization in Boston (yes, sounds rather odd).  We were having a meeting and getting ready to pray.  Across the alley was a hotel.  At that precise moment the window shade opened to reveal a topless (at least) woman.  I’ve heard the hotel was often used by prostitutes.  I had to fight with everything within me not to burst out loud with laughter.  I was distracted from prayer, but from laughter, not lust.

Anyway…. Anthony directs us to his friend Ryan’s article on the problem(s) with the One Campaign.  It is sort of like a sin tax, indulgences or carbon offsets.  You and Oprah can feel better about your crass materialism because some of the proceeds go to a good cause.

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In one of his sermons on Ruth, Mark Driscoll mentioned a program they are involved in at Mars Hill.  This program is designed to help the on-going crisis in Africa beyond just providing ‘handouts’.

In this program, a church will partner with a local African church to establish an orphan village.  It goes beyond an orphanage in that the village will eventually be self-sustaining.  The children are also educated, particularly in the sexual ethics and Christian financial stewardship accompanying the gospel necessary to break the cycles of poverty and AIDs that are destroying Africa.

This sounds like a very good way for American churches to give out of the abundance we’ve been given to help our brothers in Africa.  I’m sure it will then overflow to the rest of Africa as new churches are planted and indigenous missionaries are sent out.  Join me in learning more about One Church One Village.  Oh, James 1:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

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Al got the privilege of writing the controversial chapter entitled Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections for Sex and the Supremacy of God.  He did a great job of staying on point and not engaging in name-calling or knee jerk reactions.

This topic is important because: “The covenant fidelity at the very center of marriage is a picture of God’s purpose in the creation of the world and the redemption of the church.”  As a result, homosexual marriage by its very nature would speak falsely of God and redemption.  This goes far beyond arguing on the basis of tradition and culture.  Mohler makes a good argument for “Compassionate Truth-Telling”.  It is “not only the accurate preseentation of biblical truth, but the prayerful and urgent hope that the individuals to whom we speak that truth will be transformed by that truth and respond to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.”  That is not accomplished by “turn or burn” types of arguments.  This does not mean we avoid the reality of judgment, faith & repentance, but that we see it in the larger context of creation, Fall & depravity, and redemption.

1. “We, as Christians, must be the people who cannot start a conversation about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage.”  How do you like that?  What he means is putting it in a fuller context.  We have to address the presuppositions held by those with whom we disagree on this issue.  In our worldview, morality is a reflection of the character and purposes of God for His glory and our good.  In a naturalistic & materialistic, it becomes mere social convention and part of the evolutionary process (and some advocates will use the term evolutionary in talking about ethics).  Part of the larger story is that gender is a part of the goodness of creation.  God saw Adam’s need.  Adam, apparently was still content.  This is why I believe the problem of his aloneness is not being lonely, but being unable to fulfill the creation mandates.  He needed a helpmate, a complement, to work side-by-side with him.  One aspect of that mandate is to fill the earth with God’s image, something homosexual relationships are not able to do if and of themselves (though many cannot totally suppress the imago dei and desire to have children via adoption, surrogates or artificial insemination).

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“There is an inevitable collision between God and man.  Man is traumatized by and is hostile to the holy presence of God.  Yet we were built for fellowship with God.  We cannot live with God and we cannot live without God.  This is the essence of man’s condition.  All our problems flow from it, and none can be understood apart from it.”  Tim Keller in Ministries of Mercy.

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