Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GIVING LIKE JESUS

You may wish you could be part of a big production giveaway. Wouldn’t you love to stand on the back of a wagon in a third world village handing out bags of rice while the cameras roll? Could we not get CBC to show up to our Friday mission meal and show a church feeding 160 people every week?

Or would you like to give like Jesus? Oprah and other celebrities have multi-million dollar corporate sponsors to use the events for advertising. I don’t think you will see them give away their widow’s mite.

Jesus de-celebritized to perform the world’s epic giveaway. He entered the world stage not as an actor, but as a humble servant. He laid down the wealth of Heaven and his own life on a cross. Instead of accolades, he received beatings. He died in dishonor.

Here’s what He had to say about giving to the poor.


Matthew 6:
 1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Here’s the thing—giving to the poor is a godly activity. The Old Testament gave lots of encouragement to take care of people. God imagines a world where people see what others need and go out of their way to fix it.

The trip wire is this—it feels really good. Others who see your generosity are likely to give great admiration and respect in your direction. You must be some kind of saint!

Jesus felt the heroics when a miracle or healing would take place from his hands. He watched the numbers grow in the crowd and the positive attention given to Him. He remembered the wilderness temptation when the Devil offered Him the world at his feet.

But, the fear of getting sidetracked was quelled by impetus of love. The generosity of Heaven was expressed through Jesus daily, with or without a pat on the back. When you are filled with the awareness of God’s love, you can give and care extravagantly.

You do not need a camera, Facebook or the world press to be at your giveaway. But Pharisees and attention seekers need to get published. From what Jesus describes, it was customary for religious philanthropists to blow a shofar to gather the poor to receive their gifts.  Of course, other religious people and public figures would also be made aware of the acts of generosity in this way and would certainly take note of their brother’s generous integrity and concern.

Before we use the text to find fault with show-offs, we need to consider what Jesus is really getting at. He is encouraging people to be very generous, but in quiet fashion. It should be a secret when you do something extravagant to help others. You do not need to get the award or be thought of more highly for acts of kindness.

Jesus invites us to become Secret Santas. Maybe you’ve played that gift exchange where you draw a name for which you will secretly buy a gift. Jesus calls us to give in secretive ways, with only God as your witness. Have you thought about that much? You have so much to give to this world and God wants to sneak around with you unloading your treasure.

How does God reward us? Well, it’s a secret. Become a Secret Santa and you will find out. Quiet giving is loud in God’s ears.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

GIVING LIKE OPRAH





It’s hard to believe that Oprah has left the airwaves. After 25 years of history-making, life-changing television, she aired her last show on May 25th, 2011. Like I said, it’s hard to believe that Oprah has left the airwaves. I don’t think we have seen the last of her.

She has often portrayed herself as a woman of integrity and generosity. She is a spiritual role model to millions with her own mix of new-age success thinking.

Did you ever watch any of her fantastic giveaways? She would find someone who needed help and allow millions to observe her philanthropy. Going into her final season, she went over the top in her giving. From her website, it described what would happen heading into the home stretch.


The new season of the Oprah Winfrey Show began on a wonderful note when actor John Travolta escorted Oprah out to the stage where they were greeted by enthusiastic audience members. The audience of 300 was a specially selected group of Oprah's most devoted viewers, who had received invitations to her season premiere show.
John Travolta and Oprah Winfrey did a quick dance before hugging one another. Oprah says that John Travolta is one of her absolute favorite friends, and Oprah Winfrey Show viewers voted John Travolta their "all time favorite Oprah guest." Oprah show clips from the past showed Travolta and Winfrey dancing together throughout the years, and Oprah revealed that Travolta still makes her heart go pitter-patter.
Oprah Winfrey later wowed her studio audience with an amazing season premiere giveaway. Oprah excitedly announced that she and the entire audience would be going all the way to Australia together. The giveaway only got better when Oprah revealed that John Travolta would be the pilot flying their plane. Does it get any better than that? The audience screamed as confetti fell from the studio ceiling. It was everything you would expect from the first show of Oprah's final 25th season.

http://www.everythingoprah.com/2010/09/oprah-sends-her-biggest-fans-to-australia-season-premiere-of-the-oprah-show-with-john-travolta.html


Ellen DeGeneres and a multitude of other feel-good shows get high ratings by giving extravagantly to their audiences and specially chosen needy people. Their tears of gratitude and squeals of delight are inspiring. Boosted ratings mean more success for the show and its sponsors.

I think I may have seen a few tele-evangelists and rock stars publicize in similar fashion with their charity to the poor. Their viewers are inspired to give when they see the needs being met.

This is a necessary part of celebrity culture. The public figures are actors demonstrating what we would all like to do. We experience the joy of giving vicariously by watching them do it.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

TAKE A DEEP BREATH


In the Genesis account of Creation, God took the dust of the earth and formed it into a man. Then God breathed life into the man’s nostrils.

God’s breath is more intimate than His hands. He exhales life.


John 20:
22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said. "If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?"



Receiving the Holy Spirit is not just an experience for Pentecostals. It is the empowerment of God entering your life via Jesus. Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit. This too is how we are empowered to respond to God’s mission in our life.

Jesus ties the empowerment of God’s Spirit to enabling forgiveness. We can forgive at a humanly intangible level when we are filled with God. The child of God who will not forgive is left with a dilemma. How can God’s peace remain in us if we will not forgive? Can you be at peace when the Holy Spirit lives in you and still you harbor a grudge?

You cannot read the book of Acts without encountering people who lived lives empowered by God’s Spirit. There appears to be a distinct experience of the Holy Spirit entering into believers throughout the early Church record.


Acts 8:
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.


In this instance, you had devout followers of Jesus who had been baptized but had not received the Holy Spirit. Jesus was sent to breathe God’s Spirit upon the disciples, and now they were sent to lay hands on others to receive the Holy Spirit.

What about you? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Did you know that Jesus wants to empower you with God’s Spirit?

It’s possible to be baptized and confess Jesus as Lord, but still be needing God’s Spirit to empower you in your mission.


Acts 19:
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.



The ancient believers stood out because of their great love. They suffered much in this world and were not understood. But, the Spirit-empowered mission locked in their hearts kept them on track with the plans of God. They lived in this world filled with God’s Spirit. Let us do the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

WE EXHALE WITH UNCERTAIN BREATH

What is this unconquerable peace that Jesus experienced? Torture and execution are not peace giving. Bearing the weight of the world’s sin is unthinkably horrific.

Jesus knew the peace of God, the true essence of Shalom. You cannot say ‘Peace to you’ with authority unless you are walking in peace yourself. How were the disciples to comprehend the peace of God if Jesus were not standing alive before them?


John 20: (The Message) 20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: "Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you."


In the strangeness of seeing a dead man back to life, Jesus repeats the greeting in case they missed it the first time. ‘Peace to you’.

When we suffer or experience humiliation, we are likely to lose our peace. Left to our own thoughts, we become impregnated with a root of bitterness. The injustice done to us cannot go unpunished. Someone has to pay! When justice is not satisfied on our terms, we desire vengeance.

Jesus was a human anomaly. He faced brutality and treachery with forgiveness and surrender.

How had the Father sent Jesus? He sent the Divine Son as Heaven’s ambassador clothed in full humanity. He sent Jesus on a mission of great sacrifice. If Jesus is to send us in the same way, we will need the peace that He has. We will need God saying ‘Peace to you’ if we are to take up our cross.

Jesus’ peace at this moment was undeniable. After everything horrible, He had conquered death and now knew the certainty of life. His immortality had proven to be true. Everlasting peace was upon Him.

He sends us as earth-born ambassadors of Heaven to walk as He walked. God says ‘Peace to you’. How can we follow Jesus at all if we are not deeply changed?

In the context of their fear and uncertainty, Jesus appears with God’s peace. He informs them that they are being sent into the world in the same the Father had sent him.

Now, how would they last? What would keep them moving forward in obedience to the Father? Was Jesus serious about sending them or us?

If history is any indicator, they were in trouble. They argued about how great they thought they were. They shooed away children when Jesus wanted to welcome them. Peter had cut off an ear and repeatedly lied about knowing Jesus. They all had done and said stupid things. In the heat of spiritual battle, they all ran away and hid.

In the weight of being sent by God, there is a collective sigh.. We exhale with uncertain breath.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LOCKED DOORS & PEACE


Following the trial and public execution of Jesus Christ, the disciples were afraid. If they did that to their leader, what would happen to them? Before the followers knew of Jesus’ resurrection they were traumatized.





John 20: (The Message)
19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you." Then he showed them his hands and side.


When a community or family is afraid, it is common to hide in the shadows. We seek the security of locked doors.

Fear locks doors. Fear shuts you in. Fight and flight are not the only responses to fear. Sometimes fear immobilizes.

What is the follower of Jesus to do with fear? Some would say that your fear is the opposite of faith. If you had more faith you could face your fears. That’s easy to say until you are immobilized by it.

We find Jesus’ closest friends sneaking around worried about the Jewish leaders. Rumours were circulating about Jesus being alive again. What kind of sick, twisted story was that? They watched him die.

But some truth is stranger than rumour. Jesus was alive.

Jesus came into their room. Locked doors did not stop him. Curtained windows and thick walls did not prevent his entry. He came into the midst of their trauma and showed himself.

Did he wait for them to come find him? Did he act hurt because they lacked faith? Did he belittle them for being afraid? He greets them in customary fashion.

‘Peace to you’ was a normal greeting in the culture of Jesus’ day. Implicit in the greeting was the idea of God’s peace ‘shalom’. It is an expression that desires that the ones greeted would experience the blessings of God.

His hands extended to reveal the wounds. He pulled back his gown and showed where the spear had entered his side. It put a spin on his greeting. ‘Peace to you… After what I have suffered, I come to give peace to you. Suffering has not caused me to abandon you. I was dead, but now look at me. Peace to you.’

Monday, June 13, 2011

BULLETS ON SAINT-DENIS STREET

This past week I was in Montreal when two men were shot dead in the street. It happened not far from where I was staying.

(see more details at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebec/montreal-police-face-searching-questions-after-deadly-shooting/article2052688/ )


The first man Mario Hamel was a 40 year-old father of three. He had been separated from his family for the past two years and was living at a shelter. Apparently, he suffered from bipolar disorder and had a drug addiction.

The police were called when Mario was seen travelling down the street cutting open garbage bags with a knife.


It was between six and seven a.m. In the confrontation that ensued, shots were fired and Mario was killed.


The second man Patrick Limoges was a 36 year-old hospital maintenance worker. He was walking to work on the other side of the street, when a police bullet whizzed past Mario Hamel and struck Patrick in the back of the neck. He dropped to the sidewalk and never rose again.





There is public outcry in Montreal as protestors took to the streets with claims of police brutality and inappropriate response.

When these things happen in the free world, people speak up. They protest, they write letters to the editor, they blog and they tweet. It is table talk at break rooms and pubs.

And yet, there are many places in the world where you would keep your mouth shut and look the other way. For fear of reprisal, bullies prevail and bystanders hide.

Friday, June 10, 2011

MERRILY LEAVES



This is Monique Moisenko singing her song 'Merrily Leaves'.

Sometimes I feel like I don't belong
Sometimes then I feel so down
Like a leaf I'm always blowing in the wind
Never know where I'm going

I like to sing by an open shore
Where the sea carries my music along
But I still have to believe in myself
And trust in God to take me there

Oh where am I going
When I'm blowing in the breeze
Oh merrily
Life is 'bout a dream
You just keep rowin' on

I'd like to live on a mountain
And sing my songs to heaven
But I still have to believe in myself
And trust in God to take me there

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SONGS FROM NEW SONG CHURCH


These 2 songs were from our repetoire of worship last Sunday.

* I WANT JESUS TO WALK WITH ME (traditional spiritual)
* SWEET CONFRONTATION (by Karli Rogers)

Excuses leave my lips

As your eyes reach my heart

Lead me again and again and again and again

Here I am your lost sheep

Confrontation so sweet

My head’s down again, chin up kid

Shame turned to relief

Here I am your lost sheep


Excuses leave my lips

As your eyes reach my heart

Lead me again and again and again and again

Here I am your lost sheep


Karli is my daughter and developing into an inspiring singer/songwriter.


Band:

Kevin Rogers - electric guitar, vocals

Karli Rogers - ukulele, vocals

Monique Moisenko - acoustic, vocals

Tom Malone - keys

John Kosti - drums

Don Turpin - bass





Thursday, June 2, 2011

LEAST SENSIBLE LOVING

It feels good when we do something nice for another. When they go to thank us, we sheepishly respond, “Don’t thank me. Thank the Lord!” After all, we want people to more aware of God’s goodness than our own.

As we walk away, we sometimes sense a warm glow just above us. Why, it’s a halo!

But what about those times when you broke your back to help someone and it backfired? Instead of being appreciated, you were dumped on. ‘Why did you do that? You did it wrong. You shouldn’t do that because we have someone better to do it.’

There are times when we focus our service and kindness toward those whom we know appreciate us. But Jesus is calling for a richer, riskier, adventurous kind of loving.

Matthew 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' 
44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 

Jesus is coaching you on how to deal with people who do not like you. He is giving us a challenge to love in a least sensible way. Love by showing kindness and praying for the ones who give you the most trouble.

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