Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Consumerist or Religious Reading

Frederick Neidner, with some creative feeding from Paul J. Griffiths, wrote about the consumerist reader and religious reader of scripture. Which sounds more like you? The consumerist reading “makes us users, buyers and sellers of texts. Consumerist readers are interested primarily in moving quickly from one text to the next in search of things that will excite, titillate, entertain, empower and give them some advantage over others.”

“Religious readers, on the other hand, assume they have come into the presence of a text with inexhaustible depth. They read with reverence, humility, obedience and the presumption that difficulty in understanding reveals more about their limitations than the excellence or effectiveness of the text. Religious readers incorporate, internalize and memorize texts. They read slowly, hoping not to miss anything.” [“Forming Students Through the Bible,” The Christian Century, (April 18-25, 2001) pp. 16-20].

Since scripture is God’s communication with us, shouldn’t we read it hoping not to miss anything? Scripture has the power to light our paths, soften our hearts, convict our minds, and change our lives in the present and in the future. Don’t pass over it too quickly. Read slowly to incorporate, internalize and memorize. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

There Are No Friends Here

Lost Boys of Sudan follows the lives of young African refugees who start life fresh in America having been crushed by the civil war in Sudan. These young men, most of whom are under 18 years old, struggled to survive in Africa where they faced lions and local militia—and they continue to struggle in America where they face loneliness and learning an entirely new way of life.

The documentary focuses on a group of boys who are relocated by the U.S. government into an apartment in Houston. After job training, several of the boys head into the workforce, trying to become self-supporting.

In one scene, Peter Kon Dut goes out to lunch with two coworkers from his factory job. Peter talks openly with them about his struggles in America. Over the lunch, Peter unveils deep and piercing insights into American culture—which are all the more fresh since he's only lived in America for one month. Over his first-ever hamburger, Peter says, "I see different things. Everybody is busy. You can't get friends. Time is money—but in Africa, there is no 'time is money.' Everybody is busy here. How am I going to find friends here? I feel like going back and saying, ‘There are no friends here.’” (Edited summary of Bill White, Paramont, CA for Preaching Today)

Notice the similarity of these passages early in Acts:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47).

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. (Acts 4:32-34).

The church of Jerusalem made a concerted effort to live in unity and with a mutual concern. Though they would experience some problems later when the Hellenistic widows were being neglected, even then the problems were recognized and resolved in a wonderful fashion bringing about incredible results (Acts 6:1-7).

We should follow their example so that no one should ever come crushed by the world and say about their church experience, “I feel like going back and saying, ‘There are no friends here.”

The truth is, it happens. What will we do, what will you do, to ensure that no one will say that when they have been among us. That's Life at Work!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Gambling and Griefs

Paul wrote to Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”
(1 Tim 6:10). Those of us in “people helping” roles see those who have “pierced themselves with many griefs” way too often. I have seen husbands who spend more time playing cards online than they do with their wives and children, and their marriages are destroyed. Far too many men and women have secretly gambled all their money away and have wrecked their lives and their faith. The National Council on Problem Giving (www.ncpgambling.org) offers self-diagnostic tools to get you thinking about your gambling habit. Here are a few of the questions:

· Have you often gambled longer than you had originally planned?
· Have you often gambled until your last dollar was gone?
· Have thoughts of gambling caused you to lose sleep?
· Have you used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid?
· Have you made unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling?
· Have you gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations?

Paul warned us by the Holy Spirit that loving money would bring disaster. Ask yourself these questions, consider what you do to gamble, and remember that you can’t serve God and money (Matt 6:24). That’s Life at Work!