Super Stretch

In 2012, I had made a pledge to our church’s building project.  I finished the pledge in 2014 but even after that, I was moved to pledge anew.  I had known that in order to fulfill this new pledge, I would need to cut back on certain expenses…and yes, it was a very big budget cut on certain items.  There was a time I felt like being tightfisted towards God but the encouragement had always been this faith that God would provide just as He always had, exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine.

So I entered 2015 trusting that I could not ever outgive God.  By the time our midyear bonus was approaching and while a lot of colleagues had been wondering whether there would additional bonus due to the past year’s company performance, I had the quiet confidence that, indeed, there would be additional bonuses because I held on to this:  If you build the Lord’s house, He will also build yours (paraphrase of Haggai 1:9).

 

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And so, on the day of the announcement, God once again proved Himself faithful to His promises because we did not just receive an additional month but two more months to our usual bonus payout….called a super stretch in our company.  Aptly so, I thought, since it was a period when God also super stretched my faith…asking me to give, to bless others, on both times in amounts I did not ever imagine giving.  But today, I am reminded of an evangelist’s word:  God does not need your tip.  I believe that while I continue to strive for excellence at work, God is also teaching me excellence in giving regardless of my circumstances:

2 Corinthians 8:7  New International Version
But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you –see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:2  New International Version
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

 

I remember my small group leader’s words: when you are generous, you are creating a platform for God to bless you.

So I pray that I will continue to learn to excel in this grace of giving…and really, for me to be given grace to do so because without it, my tendency is just to spend it according to how I see fit, and to obey joyfully when God calls me to give because if I seek His kingdom first and His righteousness by doing His will, all these things shall be added unto me.  And this grace I pray for others who seek it also.

Happy Monday, everyone!  Aren’t you glad for the start of a new working week – a week to experience God’s grace so we can excel at work?

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Beauty and the Beast

Reposted from beliefsoftheheart.com…thanks, Farina…

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I Wonder If Sunday School Is Destroying Our Kids

July 23, 2013

Several years ago I met with a woman distraught by her son’s rejection of Christianity.

She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.”

She wondered why he rejected Christianity.

I wondered why it took him so long.

Here is how we destroy the gospel message

Look at almost any Sunday school curriculum. You’ll find:

  • Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham.
  • Joseph was a good little boy (unlike his “bad” brothers), and God made him Prime Minister of Egypt. So be good like Joseph.
  • David had a pure heart (unlike his brothers), and God made him King of Israel. So have a pure heart like David.
  • Esther was an obedient girl. God made her Queen of Persia and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther.
  • Finally, if we fail to be good, Jesus will forgive us (a “P.S.” tacked onto the end).

What’s so bad about these Sunday school lessons?

Nothing really. Except that they lie about God, they lie about these “heroes of the faith,” they lie about the Bible, and they lie about the gospel. Apart from that, they are pretty good. Oh, they also create “younger brother” rebels and “older brother” Pharisees.

Is the gospel our central theme, or is it a “PS” tacked onto the end?

The gospel storyline

The message of the gospel—the entire storyline of scripture—is God’s loving pursuit of people who run from him as fast as they can and who live lives unworthy of his love.

That’s why it’s called grace.

But our Sunday school lessons teach us to be good little boys and girls, and God will love us and use us. It’s the total opposite of the gospel. It’s a counterfeit of the worse kind.

The inside out of the gospel

The wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s when Beauty kisses the Beast.

The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved. Joy doesn’t come when he’s loved for his beauty; joy overwhelms him when he is loved in his hideousness.

If the Beast were loved for his beauty, it would be an unbearable burden. Any day he might be scarred, and soon he will certainly be a wrinkled old man.

So why do we burden our children with the unbearable load of “being good little boys and girls like the heroes in the Bible”? We wouldn’t load a pack mule with the burdens we place on our children.

There’s gotta be a better way

Let’s teach the wonder of the gospel. Let’s show our kids that God loves us … simply because he loves us. In our beastliness. That he loves us before we are good.

That his love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; that the storyline of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.

  • How Abraham was an idol worshiper and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Joseph was a narcissistic boy and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How David was a murdering adulterer and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Esther had sex outside of marriage with a non-believer and God loved her and pursued her.

Our heroes weren’t loved because they were good; they were good because they were loved.

We may believe in the innocence of youth, but our children know better. They see the children in the schoolyard (and they see us at home!). They don’t need the counterfeit gospel of pack-mule-moralism; they need the kiss of the Beauty.

Maybe we do too. Besides, it’s what the Bible in fact teaches.

Sam