Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

14 April 2014

Seeing an old story with new eyes

Storytelling has been the primary tool of the passage of information, legacy, tradition, custom, and even universal truth throughout the ages.  I've been reading the 1874 classic "The Life of Christ" by Frederic Farrar as the last essay of my 2 year ministry course (It's called Freedom Training Centre if you're interested.) The single most fascinating aspect I found is the fact that it feels like a story being told with the language, poetic flow and flavor of the day.   

It’s as if Farrar was simply doing a writing exercise, that I’ve actually had writing, journalism and broadcast students do before. It’s where you take a familiar text or story and rewrite it using their own language.  History tells me that the book was as popular then as it remains today, but I think today it provides an even greater fascination as you’re given the chance to hear echos of a culture long past… yet strikingly familiar.

One passage that jumped out at me was when describing the young Jesus at the temple:

“Even as there is one hemisphere of the lunar surface on which, in its entirety, no human eye has ever gazed, while at the same time the moon's librations enable us to conjecture of its general character and appearance, so there is one large portion of our Lord's life respecting which there is no full record; yet such glimpses are, as it were, according to us of its outer edge, that from these we are able to understand the nature of the whole. Again, when the moon is in crescent, a few bright points are visible through the telescope upon its unilluminated part; those bright points are mountain peaks, so lofty that they catch the sunlight. One such point of splendour and majesty is revealed to us in the otherwise unknown region of Christ's youthful years, and it is sufficient to furnish us with a real insight into that entire portion of His life. In modern language we should call it an anecdote of the Saviour's confirmation.”  

Not entirely new revelation, just a bit more interesting in the light of our current knowledge that nearly 100 years later, Apollo 8’s astronauts would see the dark side of the moon with their own eyes in '68. In the next chapter, when talking about the little known years of Jesus youthful years in Nazareth

“SUCH, then, is the “solitary floweret out of the wonderful enclosed garden of the thirty years, plucked precisely there where the swollen bud, at a distinctive crisis, bursts into flower.” But if of the first twelve years of His human life we have only this single anecdote, of the next eighteen years of His life we possess no record whatever save such as is implied in a single word. The word occurs in Mark vi. 3: “Is not this the carpenter?”

Farrar’s quote is referencing  Rudolf Stier in his 12 volume work “The words of the Lord Jesus.”  Stier was a German Protestant and Mystic, noted for writing a new edition of Martin Luther's Catechism and a translation of the Bible based on the writings of Luther.  He was another man, telling another story in another era, paying homage to yet ANOTHER era.

But this hasn’t stopped today either.  Let’s even take the scripture that Farrar goes on to extrapolate some deep meaning out of, regarding the early life of Jesus in Mark 6:3.  In 1993, Eugene Peterson turn the Bible world on its head by releasing the New Testament as, “The Message.”   It’s official name is actually “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.”  It’s an known as an idiomatic translation of the original languages of the Bible; idiomatic meaning “words that have a figurative meaning owing to its common usage.”  It’s a story.

Peterson tells the Mark 6:3 story this way:

1-2 He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”
3 But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.
4-6 Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.

It's a very special thing to share in someone else's perspective of an un-changing gospel which we all share. It reminds me that neither of us are, "right" but instead, each hold a slice of understanding... and we need each other. The word of God was made to live inside us and come out of us. You can tell that Farrar had it living inside of him and longed to tell the story... and he did it very very well. 

13 April 2014

What if we ALL tithed?

There is a principle in Christianity and Judaism called “Tithing.” It means intentionally giving 10% of your gross income; in this case to the church. Some Christian circles subscribe fully to it in the modern context, some debate it’s relevance while others have let it slide with the times.  But it’s historical Biblical and Judeo existence in one form or another, for roughly 4000 recorded years is well documented. The Orthodox Jews call it ma'aser kesafim, in partnership with the principle of “Gemilut Hasadim” meaning “giving kindness.” Acts of kindness or “hesed” are said to make this world a more tolerable and better place.  I’m VERY pro-kindness.  Shoot… they call me The Captain.  But, make no mistake that this ancient lifestyle of generosity is about meeting consistent, structural needs through consistent, structured giving.
I know Pastors and leaders who have spent their entire careers avoiding talking about this principle, or giving in general, because it makes them uncomfortable.  However, giving is as important to the individual as it is to the organization.  Ignoring leading others to new levels of generous giving handicaps both on micro and macro scales.
Rich Stearn, president of World Vision USA explains what the title means to him:
"I have often thought of the tithe in a different way, as a kind of 'inoculation' against the power that money can sometimes hold over us. When we are vaccinated against a deadly virus, our bodies are injected with a small amount of that virus, weakened so that it won't hurt us. By putting this small amount into our systems, we develop an immunity to the virus, and it can no longer harm us. Metaphorically speaking, paying a tithe on our income has the same effect. By cheerfully giving away a small portion of our money, we become immune to the corrupting power it can have in our lives. When we tithe, not out of obligation, but out of love and obedience for God, we are making the bold statement that money has no power over us. Even when we give it away freely, we know that we can depend on God to replenish it and sustain us."
And…. bills get paid.  These are days where even stalwart nonprofits, many of which are the glue that hold our communities together, are struggling to make ends meet.  A new phenomenon some organizations are facing is that they have money for “stuff” but not to keep the lights on and the staff fed. There are great, funded programs ready to roll… and no one to drive them. Motivations for giving have changed with the times.  While the “Builder” generation gave out of duty and responsibility, current generations are far more likely to give to a cause, project or an inspiration-of-the-month. And while all giving is good, the least sexy place to give (and the toughest ask) remains the most important.  Non-profits are being tempted to create new tasty initiatives, because people will give towards it, while unable to pay regular bills.  You can see how destructive a trap that can become.
So… what if we all tithed?   Are we even close?  
In 2008, 27.3 per cent of Americans donated to good causes, compared to 23.6 per cent of Canadians, and they gave almost twice as much, according to an annual study on giving by the Fraser Institute. According to the Barna group, whether people believed in tithing or not, the average is about 5% who give 10% of their gross. And according to the Globe and Mail,
“The percentage of Canadians donating to charity actually declined between 1998 and 2008. Clearly, our sense of social obligation is not as fully developed as it should be, which is why, for example, the Ontario government requires high school students to provide 40 hours of community service before they can graduate”
We’re giving less in a world that has more needs.  The only reason Freedom House is able to do what it does in the community is because of the consistent generosity of its members.  The extra stuff (for which we’re ENORMOUSLY appreciative) is awesome but regular giving, we can count on and plan around.  It’s the least sexy form of giving, but the most important in every context.  
This week Captain Kindness was in a 1st Grade class teaching them about being Kindness Superheroes. I heard a young man mutter, "I ain’t no hero." As I continued through our Superhero School presentation where we share with students how they can change their lives, families, schools and communities with kindness… he began to soften as he wrote ways that he could transform his surroundings. Then, to a very general question, he painfully told me "Somebody beat up my parents." I knelt down and quietly sowed this into him, "Guard your heart. You KNOW there is goodness inside you and don't let anyone or anything rob it from your heart." He hugged me SUPER tight.
Amazing right? If I trace it back to the reason why this hesed” was afforded the ability to happen, it was  those who had (in an unheralded manner) intentionally chosen to structure their finances around consistent giving.  In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke of the tithe, brought it to life, and took it to another level.  He scolded those who were nickel and diming people when it came to the tithe saying,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”  

He essentially said, “YES give!  But care!  It’s not a financial thing… it’s a heart thing!  Where your heart is, there your treasure will be.”  

What if we all tithed? I can BARELY imagine it.  But I CAN imagine it.  Incredible things are already being done due to the generosity of many in our city.  But allow me to challenge you to be challenged to budget more, and be a consistent giver to the things that are impact our city for the better.

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