Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"As for the Rich..."

Are you rich? You might be surprised by the real answer to this question.

There is a fun and instructive tool on the web that let's you know where you stand in relation to the rest of the world at

In light of your findings I offer I Timothy 6:17-19 which says the following:

"As for the rich in this present world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wisdom From the Life of Henri Nouwen

My friend BJ Georgian in Dallas sent me the following devotion written by Dr. Gary Klingsporn. If we would follow Henri Nouwen's lead the quality of our lives would be much richer. Enjoy!

Henri Nouwen was a successful university professor, writer, and lecturer. At the height of his career, he left the prestigious world of Harvard to live and work among the mentally handicapped and seriously disabled people at the L'Arche community in Toronto. From the competitive world of the best and brightest, he moved to powerless people of few words, considered marginal to society.

The move changed Nouwen's life.

"These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self," he later wrote, "the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things—and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments."

Living among the poor and powerless, Nouwen rediscovered his true identity.

In our culture, my personal identity typically is measured by what I produce, my position in the workplace, the wealth I accumulate, my social status. But all the externals beg the question: Who am I? What gives my life ultimate value and meaning?

Christian faith offers a counter-cultural answer to these questions by saying our worth and identity come not from ourselves or what we do, but from God.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized. "As he came up out of the water, a voice from heaven said, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased' " (Mark 1:11, NRSV).

Before Jesus had said or done anything in his ministry, the heavenly voice said, "You are my Beloved."

Other voices tell us our identity is found in what we do or achieve, but the same voice that spoke to Jesus at his baptism says to each of us: "You are my beloved."

Throughout the Bible, God's voice speaks in many ways, inviting people to live in relationship with The Holy. Isaiah gives us this word from the Lord: "I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you"

(Isaiah 43:3–4). The apostle Paul says that by faith "we are children of God, and if children, then . . . joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16–17).

Underlying pain and loneliness, compulsive behavior, the need to perform, is the fear that our lives will have no meaning. But identity ultimately is not found in jobs or success, in what we do or accomplish. Our true identity lies in the fact that God says to each of us, "I love you; you are my beloved child."

This gift God offers us, the gift of "belovedness," can change us forever. To hear the voice of the Holy and to live as beloved children of God infuses new meaning into our lives, relationships, and the work we do each day.

Questions for discussion:

Do you ever find that you define yourself solely by what you have done or achieved?

Why do you suppose it is difficult in our culture to have a healthy sense that our true identity comes from God?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another Inconvenient Truth

One of the many important truth's to communicate to children, whether 4 or 40, is the principle that, "a degree of adversity is necessary for all human development". Counselors and psychologists offices are full today because 'adversity' is something our culture tells us to avoid. I have heard more than once, "I don't want my children to have to 'work as hard as I have'. But we know that in order to grow physically stronger we lift heavy weights which put a strain on our current muscles in order for them to grow stronger. We cannot grow intellectually without applying our minds to strenuous work. But when we begin to consider hardship or the difficulties of life how often do we have a world view that points us towards an opportunity instead of simply avoidance. Pain, C. S. Lewis often stated, "can be Gods mega-phone". Pain is a reality in a fallen world, and can be instructive when seen as opportunity. We have a model in Jesus of capturing the moment to share this truth at his final supper with His disciples.

Jesus broke the bread at the last supper and said, "This is my body which is broken for you (and for you I will known pain)". His plan for change in the lives of his disciples, and the world, started with a decision to enter into a form of suffering, or discipline for our sakes. And the fruit of His pain has changed us and changed history.

If there are places in our life, or the life of our family, that need to be developed, let us embrace the pain of change and adversity that may follow the decision to make positive change. Christ's pain was not to make us happy but to make us holy and similarly lasting change that ultimatley yields good fruit will not be painless. What ways can we learn, and teach others to learn, to grow in grace and Christian discipline? Is our vision for life one that is shaped by the cross of Christ, or do we weep over our personal losses more than we weep for 'the lost'? Ouch! When I answer that question I know there is 'a degree of adversity' in my future.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Living Stones

Down the corridors of time symbols have always been important. For countless years a "family crest" has been an identifying mark for everyone from Royalty to the pub owner and his family down the street. In light of my own growing family, and some of the families I serve in my practice, I have often wondered how we could more clearly identify who we are as followers of Christ in an affluent culture. It is, for me, a constant battle to capture the hearts and minds of my children with the reality of the gospel, so I believe we need to take advantage of creative opportunities that will capture our children's hearts and minds - and may change ours in the process.

So, our family along with several other families are creating a 'mark,' or 'identity' that will act as a reminder of the blessings and responsibilities of affluence.  (This is not a new church or non-profit....I promise...this is simply an exercise, or opportunity to disciple our children and create family unity.)

Because the culture we live in, and our children are growing up in, has such a heavy influence on even the strongest of Christian families, we need ways to help encourage one another as brothers and sisters in Christ - and as fathers and mothers who wish to help our children to identify with Christ. To that end I suggest families and small groups, perhaps even churches, create, along with the support of a few friends, a group we will call something like New Living Stones (I know the name isn't new or creative, and frankly the name itself isn't that important). However, for my family, Living Stones are a title given to Christ and His followers in I Peter 2:4,5 which states:

As you come to Him (Jesus Christ), a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In this lifetime exercise, we encourage one another to "be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in His love, as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." As "imitators" of Christ we will be offering, hopefully in one more way, as a family, "a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Since most people reading this blog are already givers to their church perhaps New Living Stones can be done through the church or by simply choosing a few ministries you know that are faithfully serving the Lord by ministering to widows, orphans and the poor to help support them financially. Our families giving will be strategic, utilizing collective wisdom from others in our New Living Stones group, and our churches mission's committee, to identify where we know work is being done well and in the name of Christ. I recently heard a great quote, "Social work done in Christ's name becomes Sacred work." I believe this is true.

As an 'identifying mark' and as a witness to our world my family will wear a bracelet(Sort of like Livestrong or the others that have come along) made by hand in the areas we choose to support (Or made in that part of the world). In this we are creating economic development and creating a symbol of solidarity (which kids love!) as well as following a principle of scripture. Deuteronomy 6:8 says of God's law and the principles of communicating a generational and covenantal system of belief, "
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes."

And, as a group of followers of Jesus, we do this we may even encourage our brothers and sisters, as well as a world that there is great joy and power in following Jesus. As His children we seek "to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9

The final principle I believe would be a good idea to articulate throughout this process would be that your family, or giving group, wish to see manifest a spirit of generosity, and hopefully this will strengthen, or begin a course of following Jesus in the area of giving of your life and not simply your money.

Giving is a private act but can be used in community to demonstrate acts of love and obedience to our children. So perhaps if we ask others to participate we would be wise to articulate the following principle from 2 Corinthians 9:6,7:

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

It's not necessary to "join me". I hope you can use this idea as inspiration or as a catalyst to think of ways your family can more clearly identify your calling and mission. I see this as one more opportunity to show the love of Christ within our families, churches, community and the world in a creative and fun way I think our kids might like.

For more information email me: or just come back to the blog often.

"A Christian should not follow the crowd, but rather show them the way!" I like that.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A New Declaration of Independence

The United States Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 announcing that the thirteen American Colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire. It was at great cost that the Representatives attached their signatures.

In our day as you scan the channels on TV it appears that our country places our greatest value on comfort and financial independence. This is not true of 'everyone' yet many in our culture intentionally order their lives in a way that their lifestyle and financial condition is paramount above all else, therefore risking family and community in order to achieve financial independence. This is in contrast to our Founding Fathers who risked all to throw off a Ruler, or King, they considered a Tyrant.

In the Declaration the founders state:

"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

How true! Yet many of us--and at times it appears our entire culture--have willingly submitted to the tyrant of materialism without a fight. Wherever you turn our culture leads us to sell all for the rewards of "wealth, prosperity and independence." Yet, like so many before us, we find we have sold out to a tyrant for something that does not truly exist: peace and happiness apart from a life in Christ.

Paul, in the New Testament, said he willingly made himself a slave for the sake of others unto Christ and in that found his calling and purpose. I guess we are all slaves to something. As we spend our days in our community and our family what are we telling them about who we have chosen to follow? Are we chasing the illusory goal of worldly wealth and prosperity even as we profess our commitment to Christ and His church? Or are we on a journey to Independence from the things and concerns that would keep us from following the One who denied Himself the riches of heaven in order to make us rich?

Perhaps we need a new Declaration of Independence for those who follow Jesus and labor under the burden of affluence? A restatement, or Declaration, that states that we will no longer follow "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a
Tyrant..." and that we make it our Declaration to follow The Prince who sets men free to Life, Liberty and True Peace and Happiness. God is calling us to follow Him and He has Declared great blessing to those who follow. May it be said of us that we, in our generation, like our Fathers before us "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence... [will] mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." This commitment means we are throwing off all that would hinder us from following Christ so that together we finish the race of life hearing from our Heavenly Master: "Well done good and faithful servant."