Thursday, October 13, 2011

Most of Mike's Blogs Can Now Be Found at

Hello vast, broad, and diverse readership!

I have decided that the majority of blogs I write from now on will now be located at  To jump straight to the most recent blog post, click here.

My intention is to periodically utilize this blog for personal thoughts, much like my recent post on the birth of my first child, a beautiful girl.  However, an intention with more force behind it is that I intend to do most of my blogging on the previously mentioned website, which is the church I am honored to serve as pastor.

See you there!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Birth and Already, Not Yet

Early in the morning on Thursday, September First, I stood by (holding, shouting, coaching, gawking) as my wife gave birth to our first child, Jada.  A few brief observations:

1. I am convinced that she (my wife) is the strongest human being alive.  Strong of mind and body.  It's likely that every husband who has been present for the birth of one of his children shares my sentiment for his own wife.

2. Never have I seen the already and not yet come so closely together - to the point where it is genuinely hard to differentiate.  My little girl came 5 weeks early.  Labor was obviously painful and exhausting.  Genesis says this is a result of the Fall.  And yet, the process in and of itself strengthened my daughter and sparked necessary hormonal responses in her body and my wife's body that help my daughter thrive.  Lactation is a miracle.  The interaction from one body to another.  And yet, lactation can be frustrating and painful.

3. My father likes to ruminate on the way birth is central to our economy - truly, the companies that are barraging us with their services has grown.  Birth has a powerful effect on the economy of relationships as well.  We sense a deep and joyful connection with much of our church community as people have come around us in support.  If only every set of new parents could experience such joy.

Please enjoy a few pictures:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Fear of God

Peter regularly challenges his readers to live in “reverence,” which in the Greek is the word phobos (where we get the word “phobic”), and is always a reference to the Fear of God – a common concept throughout the OT (for example, the entire wisdom of Proverbs is rooted there, based on Prov. 1:8). 

I’ve had trouble with this.  Knowing what we know about the grace and love of Jesus, it is easy to develop a concept of him in which he’s frankly not very scary.  I find myself having to conjure up feelings of fear for a sermon if the passage for the day touches on it. 

There’s a brief mention of fear in the passage I’m studying this week (1 Peter 3:1-7).  Wives of unbelieving husbands are called to quietly influence their husbands through their “purity and fear.” Somehow, this context brought it all together for me, and maybe my thoughts here could help you as you consider it.  These wives may or may not be able to actively participate in the worshipping community – Peter is calling them to honor their nonbelieving husbands, which means some of them would have been restricted from attending.  That means “purity and fear” are a normal part of their lives, a way of connecting with God quietly even if their husbands are angered by their faith.

The point is that the “fear of God” is Peter’s way of describing a life lived entirely conscious of God’s living and active existence, entirely conscious of his involvement in every part of our life, entirely aware of him.  It impacts our choices, our attitudes, and even helps us endure difficulties, because we are more focused on that fear than lesser situations.  Isn’t that the nature of fear?  In my own life there are too many examples of this, so I’ll go to a common fear:

For several years after I watched arachnophobia in the 4th grade, I lived the title of the movie.  A hair moving on my leg as I fell asleep was surely a dangerous spider – sleep, especially camping, was miserable.  And when there actually was a spider in the room, you can be sure that did everything in my power never to lose sight of it (after all, the spiders in the movie waited until people were asleep or not looking).  The point, which can get lost in my weakness, is this: the lifestyle of fearing God is being aware of his activity and presence. 

For Peter this had come alive like never before: not only had he seen Jesus walk on water, raise the dead, turn water to wine, heal the sick and more, but he had also seen Jesus alive after he had died himself.  Not only did he see Jesus resurrected, but he watched him ascend to heaven.  Not only did he see Jesus ascend, but he experienced the fiery tongues of Pentecost and the subsequent power of God pulsing through himself! Not only that, but Peter had seen God strike two believers dead for lying about their donation.  The list goes on.  For Peter, there was no option but to fear God; God had proven to him that he is present, active, worthy of worship.   The metaphor breaks down; God’s presence is one of peace, hope, and love (unlike a spider); although there are some notable similarities: God’s presence is an awareness of the unknown: what might that thing do to me (the question I was unconsciously asking about the spider)? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Simon bar Jona

As we begin our study of the book of 1 Peter, the right place to begin is the author.

There is some significant debate over whether or not it was actually Peter who wrote this letter or someone writing in his name, tapping into his tradition.  I believe there is enough evidence to support Petrine authorship and that it is far more helpful to read and interpret the book as though he wrote it.

So, who is this man?  His birth name is Simon (or Simeon).  He is a Galilean fisherman from the town of Bethsaida, and he is the brother of Andrew.  His brother introduced him to Jesus of Nazareth when they were young adults.  A survey of Peter's life yields six key "chapters."  If you'd rather listen to a message on this, click here.

Chapter 1: Young, Passionate, Over-Zealous Faith.
This chapter covers basically the entire ministry of Jesus and his disciples before Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Simon quickly becomes a very close friend to Jesus, and it is clear that along with James and John he is in Jesus' "inner circle."  Jesus gives him the name "Cephas," which means "Rock."  The Greek word for rock is Petros; thus, he is commonly known as Peter.  He is also the most vocal and passionate of the disciples - he clearly wears his heart on his sleeve.  Luke shows him falling at Jesus' feet when they first met, crying "Depart from me, Lord!  For I am a sinful man."  Peter witnesses many miracles first hand.  He is the disciple who recognizes Jesus' true identity first, saying he is the Christ (that is, the "anointed one"), and the "son of the living God."  Peter walks on water with Jesus (for a moment).  He is there at the transfiguration.   Notably, Peter repeatedly and loudly states his overwhelming commitment to Jesus, and to the victory of Jesus.  He rebukes Jesus for his passion predictions (that's no way for a king to act!), and promises that he will never leave or deny Jesus.  After all, as Peter is quick to remind us, he has "left everything to follow" Jesus.   His faith is fueled by the miraculous, full of passion and fervor, and believes that, by virtue of Jesus, he'll be part of the new government of Israel when the Anointed One seizes his rightful throne.  He always treats Jesus like a king, including refusing (initially) to have feet washed by the Christ.

Chapter Two: Disappointment, Denial, and Shame
This is a short chapter in Peter's life, but a very dark one.  When Jesus is arrested and shows no signs of struggle (he even stops Peter from defending him), Peter's expectations of being a General in Jesus' army are quickly dashed.  It seems he had daydreamed this victory so many times that he lost sight of who Jesus really was - he never understood a passion prediction.  So, following at a distance, Peter is confronted three times regarding his connection to Jesus.  He vehemently denies it - and, while it was lie, perhaps his heart and mind really felt as though he had never really known Jesus.  The Jesus he knew was the one he created in his his daydreams: a victorious king, reigning in Jerusalem, freeing the Jews from the hand of Rome.  All of Peter's young, passionate, over-zealous faith comes crashing down.

Chapter Three: Restoration
The final chapter of the Gospel of John recounts a scene after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, where Jesus approaches Peter on the shore and asks "Do you love me?" Three times in three ways (the English does not reflect the variety of Jesus question). Peter responds with a passionate "yes" each time - the relationship is being rebuilt.  In this moment, Jesus places this man who turned his back on him in a moment of doubt in the place of leadership and purpose for his followers.  It is restoration at it's best: the grace of Christ makes Peter more than what he was before.

Chapter Four: Power and Authority
Peter then naturally becomes the leader of the fledgling group of Jesus' followers.  And, after Jesus ascends to heaven, they follow his instruction to wait.  In an amazing moment, the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, and they are filled with power and boldness not their own.  Peter is the shining example of this: he delivers an impromptu speech to the crowd and 3000 become believers in Jesus and set themselves aside through baptism.  Peter seems to be walking in the Spirit's power the most fully of the disciples, as Acts shows him undaunted by imprisonment; his shadow has healing power, he raises a girl from the dead, he heals a paralyzed man. Peter is quick to say this power is not his own, that it is the authority of Jesus.  This humility is easily connected to the life experience of over-zealous faith, shameful failure, and merciful restoration.

Chapter Five: Mistakes and Lessons
Having been restored and filled with the Spirit does not mean Peter is now infallible.  The key example of this is his confusion and wavering regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Jesus-following community.  He receives a vision which seems to indicate they should be included by virtue of faith and grace; and yet within a couple years it's clear he's re-considered.  Paul recounts the necessity of rebuking Peter face to face for his inconsistency and lack of clarity on this key issue - the heart of Jesus' purpose in the world is at stake.  Peter must learn.  Based on the words of his first letter, it seems he has.  All Christians must continue to learn as he did - even if the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit is directly present in your life!

Chapter Six: Martyrdom
It is said that Peter was executed by Nero in the year 64, and that his request to be crucified upside down was granted.  Peter's last act was his greatest: he shows a full understanding that his Lord's kingdom is "not of this world," and that true victory comes not in the brandishing of the sword (as Peter did in Gethsamene so many years beforehand), but by total sacrifice.

May it be that followers of Christ today would see their own growth in chapters similar to these.  We start with passionate faith, we experience loss or frustration paired with failure and shame (and essentially walking away from Jesus), we are granted restoration, we receive true power because now we're not trying to do it "on our own," but look to God for everything, we continue to grow and learn, and finally we live a totally surrendered life.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Proverbial Takeaway

Yesterday marked the beginning of the next teaching series at Littleton Christian Church, which has yet to find a catchy title, but will be a study of First Peter.

However, before this blog follows suit, I'd like to summarize a few of the most important points from the whole study of Proverbs, so that the information that was most helpful to me can continue bearing fruit for many of you.  My main source for this came from a former professor of mine, Tremper Longman III, in his excellent book How to Read Proverbs.  I adapted his method a bit after drinking enough of the Gospel Coalition koolaid (not to knock it, I really believe it), which presses us to look for the Gospel of Jesus in any text, Old or New Testament, and to read and understand it all through the lens of the gospel.

Without further ado, here are the principles for studying the book of Proverbs:

1. Proverbs is about Wisdom.  Wisdom (which has in its family knowledge, insight, prudence, and righteousness) is the ability to navigate life (and all of creation) well.

2. Proverbs as a book highlights the most important areas in life which require wisdom.  The areas I chose to focus on in preaching were: attitude, relationship with God, relationship with others, marital relationships (and singleness), parenting, communication (speaking and listening), and money (riches, poverty, generosity, and work).  There are certainly more; the skill here is to read the book and allow the key themes to rise to the surface as you read.

3. It is necessary and helpful to focus on each area one at a time.  Read through the whole of Proverbs making note of every statement that seems related to your particular topic.  Create a list.

4. Once you have that list, it's time to start working on what each proverb means.   You'll need to employ interpretive tools here: take note of the poetic imagery, the contrasts, the unique comparisons.  Each one explains something about your topic from a new light.  Take special care to see how proverbs relates your topic to God.

5. Having sought the meanings of the proverbs, what major timeless principles have emerged?  Make a list.

6. What does your list of principles tell you about the gospel?  In other words, do you see in them a need for Jesus?  How did Jesus live according to them?  Do you see anything that connects to any of his teaching?  Would it be possible to live according to these principles on your own strength?  IF you have rightly found the principles contained in the proverbs, you will have found a picture of how Christ in You, the hope of glory, will behave if you surrender your heart to his.

I deeply enjoyed studying Proverbs.  May it be a lifelong lesson for all of us!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Message of the Cross, Foolishness to Those Who are Perishing

[Below, you'll find the thought process that I turned into Sunday's sermon.  From the pulpit, I went off script a bit, thus, adding it here.  It was written to be preached the day after the false prediction that May 21 was the Judgement Day, and I've decided not to go through and alter the words for this later publication of it.] 

As of yesterday, another Judgment Day prophecy has come and gone.  Harold Camping, the 89-year old co-founder of Family Radio, used a complex mathematical formula he believed was present in the scriptures to determine that as the six o clock hour struck yesterday (all across the globe), massive earthquakes would ensue, and the rapture would occur.  While non-believers took it as an opportunity to mock and the vast majority of believers shrugged it off, there are a few scattered mostly throughout the United States who gave literally everything they owned, and all their savings, to prepare for and warn about this coming event, forsaking the clear biblical promise that, while we believe the end is imminent, no one can know the day nor the hour.  As of today, they are left with nothing but a lot of questions.  Pray for them.  As a matter of fact, let’s do that now.

I was moved this week by the response of a pastor here in town, Gene Barron of Valley View Christian Church.  In a pastor’s prayer gathering, we were discussing this prediction.  Gene recounted a conversation he recently had with a member of his church about this.  “I don’t know about it,” Gene said to the person, and then added, “but I hope he’s right.”

That statement gave me pause.  To be honest, I’m mostly frustrated by Camping’s prediction.  I’ve shrugged it off and went on with my life.  Camping added foolishness to the Gospel.  He didn’t need to.  A resounding message of the Bible – both the Old and the New Testament – is this: “live like it’s the end, plan like it’s not.”  To me, this is the message of Proverbs, and it is certainly the message of Jesus.  The concept of the end, without any specific predictions, is strange enough.  But we believe that when it happens, it will be the best thing possible.  That’s a little weird.

Check out 1 Corinthians 1:18-24.  

The gospel itself is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  We spend a lot of time trying to dress it up so that it does not appear foolish.  But the story in and of itself is mind-boggling.  Let’s take a few minutes to remember the story that brings us together every week:

Beginnings: The Self-Existent, All-Powerful, Perfect Being and the Universe
A Self-Existent, All-Powerful, Perfect Being chose to create the universe.  The universe, for those who have forgotten a vast expanse of space, heat, light, and elements.  He created all of that with the goal of supporting a tiny speck (in comparison) floating around a medium to smallish star (we call it the sun).  The balance of every other item in that huge universe somehow made it possible for that one tiny speck to support his tiny and intricate creations on it.  He covered it with water, and then separated out the water so that there could be dry land – but made it so the water functioned in an intricate system of evaporation and redistribution to support growth of all manner of living things on that dry land. 

Beginnings 2: The Creation of Human Beings (Tiny in Comparison, but Imago?)
At the pinnacle of all this stuff which he made just by saying it out loud (“let there be light,” etc.), this Self-Existent, All-Powerful, Perfect Being created a comparatively miniscule entity.  He made this miniscule entity using the other elements he had already spoken into existence, and then he breathed life into this entity and named it adam, which means “of the earth.” The Self-Existent, All-Powerful, Perfect Being, after creating a universe that is at least 28 Billion Light-years (5.87 Trillion Miles = 1 light year… the earth is just under 25,000 miles around) in Diameter (that’s as far as we can see), full of stars and planets, declared that this single entity was the one thing in all of that which was designed to be an image of Himself. Originally, adam was one entity.  But, because adam was made in the image of the Self-Existent, All-Powerful, Perfect Being, he was made to be in community with equals (we believe this Self-Existent, All-Powerful, Perfect Being exists somehow as One Being with Three Persons who dwell in perfect unity and community forever). Therefore, the Self Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being used a portion of adam to create another being who was also in the Self Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being's image, yet was slightly different than adam. So, adam called this second entity ishshah, and said the ishshah was “bone of [his] bone and flesh of [his] flesh,” which is a Hebrew way of saying “the is the very best of all that I am (just like the “song of songs” is the best song, or the King of Kings is the best king). 

Beginnings 3: The Cultural Mandate
These two were instructed by the Self-Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it.  He made it clear to them that he had provided everything they needed.  Their only instruction was that they were to trust the Self-Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being for right and wrong, and not to seek to be the decision makers about right and wrong on their own.  And for a time, we don’t know how long, Adam and ishshah, whom he named Eve, dwelt in this created place with joy and freedom.  It seems they interacted with the Perfect Being easily, freely, and intimately. Adam and Eve had all they wanted. After all, the vast universe was designed to support life on earth, and they were the crowning achievement of life on earth. They were human beings as every one of us imagine when we think of how our bodies, minds, and abilities should be – in perfect control, perfect comfort, perfect strength, perfect relationship, perfect dominion of the rest of creation.  They had no boundaries save one: trust the all powerful, perfect being for right and wrong.  Yet in Perfection, this being saw fit to give these two the opportunity to attempt to decide right and wrong on their own – this was represented by the fruit of a certain tree.  Its presence in their garden gave them an opportunity to trust him… and an opportunity not to. 

Beginnings 4: The Fall
In a moment of mistrust, Adam and Eve became convinced that they could be equals with the Self-Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being if they took the decisions for right and wrong into their own hands, so they ate from the tree.  We call this “the fall.”  The fall initiated a cycle in this tiny blue-green speck in the corner of the vast universe.  Many of Adam and Eve’s tasks continued – they were still to multiply and fill the earth, still to subdue it, but because they had attempted to find a right and wrong, a good and evil, outside of the direct revelation and direct provision of God, God did an interesting thing: he gave them their wish.  Adam and Eve, and their descendants, now had to work the multiply and subdue the land on their own power.  Childbirth became a painful and arduous process for the Woman, and submission of the land for provision became a painful and arduous process for the Man.  The direct revelation of God was no longer readily available, and so a longing developed in the first descendants of the man and the woman to please or appease God, but even that was wrought with difficulty and envy, and it resulted in the first major abuse of the God-Image abilities: one man took the life of another.  Oh, the story spins out of control here - chaos, murder, war, idolatry, adultery... all of it comes sweeping in. 

Redemption Through Israel: The People and their Book
The Self-Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being chose to continue to interact with a select few of the descendants of Adam.  These people recorded his interactions first through memorized spoken words, and then into writing – we call these recordings the Scriptures.  These recorded interactions and stories of the people of God began to weave a story that was building toward something: it was building toward redemption.  But in the strangest of ways: This Perfect Being chose one family line and said “these are my people,” while the rest of the people lived the entirety of their lives worshipping created beings. 

The Son and The Cross
Thousands and thousands of years after the Adam and the Ishshah ate the forbidden fruit, people like us look back on the story of these people and say “ahhhh, I see: God (the Self Existent, Perfect, All Powerful Being) intentionally allowed all of this to happen so that the maximal amount of worship from all of these Image-bearers would be given to himself, specifically to the Person of the Son.”  How, you ask?  Remember how Paul wrote that the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”?  He wrote it because it is mind boggling.  The message of the cross is that God allowed every detail I’ve just described, plus billions more details in between, so that one of the Members of the Three-in-One God could shed his Divine power for a time to become a descendant of the Adam, live a life that was perfectly submitted in trust to the Self-Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being in every way (that is, he never chose to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, as everyone else does), and then to be accused of being a false prophet and dangerous rebel so that he would be publicly executed on a Roman Cross. 

So… what’s the Message of the Cross again?
All this was done so that this descendant of the Adam could be a new Adam, and initiate a new generation of descendants who would have the privilege of the initial perfect relationship with the Self-Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being and ultimately would return to the perfect physical state.  You see, after his execution on the Roman Cross, this man came back to life.  That’s the story we tell.  And this new Adam, according to the “message of the cross,” initiated a process whereby, eventually, all those who decided to bet their lives on the effectiveness of his public execution, would experience the perfect existence that was originally planned for the descendants of the first adam: that is, they would have perfect dominion over the earth and everything that grows in it, and they would dwell in perfect trust of the Self Existent, All Powerful, Perfect Being, who would be so pleased with his plan of sending his own Son to make a way that he would now be totally and completely present with all those who had chosen to give up on the behavior of the first Adam and put their trust in him for good and evil, right and wrong.  The rest would dwell forever in a place that, in comparison to that perfect existence, could be called torment – they would forever have exactly what they want: to be forced to figure out good and evil, right and wrong, on their own… and to be eternally frustrated by the resulting competition, labor, and decay.  Eventually, in eternity, this will have been the only reality, when the infinite dwarfs the finite.  Billions of years make thousands look like a mere moment.  

All that is the message of the cross. We believe that a man named Jesus, who was born to a relatively powerless people living in and around a city called Jerusalem (not one of the major cities of the world even at that time), was totally a human being and at the same time was the incarnated God of the universe, and that he chose to live such a life that through his sacrificial death we would be able to enter back into the perfect relationship with the Creator of the whole universe, where that Creator would completely enjoy our company and we would completely enjoy his, and in that for an eternity we will joyfully glorify him with everything we do, with total ease.  

Why The Mocking Shouldn’t Be Shocking
It should be a bit refreshing to us, with all that in mind, that for the last couple days our whole culture has connected all those who believe what we believe with this man, Harold Camping, and to have mocked the foolishness of the story he was telling. His details and his methods were very wrong.  That ought to be a lesson for all of us who believe this book, the Bible, is totally authoritative for all of life – if we really believe that, we ought to really know what it says.  But the overarching message from Camping and his followers was nervously right: Jesus himself taught that the end, which included the great day of Judgment, was imminent, and that we should live with an urgency and expectancy of the end in light of that fact.  He appointed everyone who believed his message and worshipped him as Lord to become a herald of that very news: the only way to enjoy the fullness of Human Potential is to entrust one’s life to Jesus himself.  And when that day comes, to Pastor Gene’s point, it will be the best possible thing, because it means that God is satisfied with the number of those who will dwell in his perfect presence, and has decided to move the story of this little blue-green dot to it’s final, intended purpose.  For that, our hearts were made to long.  Judgment Day is to be the greatest celebration the world has ever known for believers, for it is the completion of all the justice and redemption that we only see glimmers of today.  

The Message of the Cross is that we are in the in-between time, that the suffering is only for a “little longer” and that there will be a joyful conclusion that far exceeds anything we can ask or imagine.  The message of the cross says to all those who believe it “hold on! Endure!  It will be worth it!”  Not only that, but the message of the cross says “You are now empowered to live in the way God intended for you to live, but the world has not yet been totally redeemed, so you must enjoy the spiritual reality and await the physical manifestation of it.”  That means the original instruction to the first Adam and Ishshah applies to those who believe: multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.   That means people who believe this whole story I’ve told also believe it is our responsibility to bring every part of this world – all the resources, all the stuff, all the animals, all the governments, and especially all the people – under submission of the NEW ADAM, who is named King Jesus. If more people understood the message of the cross, many who think they believe would stop believing, and those who hear it and but don’t believe it would mock it. They should laugh just as the world gripped its collective belly and gave a long hard laugh at Harold Camping and his followers last night and this morning.  That’s the sort of response believers are supposed to expect when we assert our message on the world. 

Were you embarrassed by the blogs, the tweets, the facebook posts, the articles, the talk show hosts, and the conversations on the street?  I was.  I’ve spent the last several months since our church administrator first told me about the billboard on 285 being frustrated, angry, and embarrassed by Camping and his fallacious prediction.  It’s true: he made a mockery of the Bible.  He didn’t need to do that.  He didn’t need to dig deep and apply some crazy formula to it.  The message the Scriptures tell, if you step back and look at them in whole, is wild enough.  It is full of hope and mystery. It attempts to explain how things got here, why things are the way they are, and how all the wrong that everyone can see with all of it can be fixed.  We call that the message of the Cross.  We call that message, as strange as it is, good news.  

Do you believe it? Have you traded your attempted independence for a radical, earth-shaking dependence on the Message of the Cross, and everything it means?   Or, perhaps you’re hearing it told this way for the first time, and realizing that you’ve been trying – perhaps believing you were a Christian all along – to figure out right and wrong on your own, maybe even to imitate this God, when instead all you needed was the power of the Cross applied to your life.  Believers, in this world we understand trades – trading is at the heart of how we interact and provide.  We trade services for goods.  Well, this is that, only it’s a total trade: you apply the message of the cross by giving up.  Trading everything you’re carrying around for a life of submission and trust in this God.  You can walk in that trust by believing that the way he’s given us to live is a better way of subduing the creation than what we were trying before.  It is a total surrender to his priorities, loving what he loves, hating what he hates, trusting what he has revealed, constantly depending on him to empower you to live, and therefore navigating this creation in the rhythm and plan designed by the Creator, which involves being unswayed by  pain, suffering, and disappointment, letting those only feed and fuel our hope all the more in the great story he is telling.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Generosity that Pays

"Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and will be repaid in full." Prov. 19:17

"Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.  A generous person will be enriched and one who gives water will get water.  The people curse those who hold back grain, but a blessing is on the head of those who sell it."  Prov. 11:24-26

Last Sunday, the ideas that come from these two passages formed the core of the sermon I preached.

Here are some conclusions and suggestions.

1.  Giving to the poor, to those who may never be able to pay you back, is the wisest possible use of your money.   Apparently it's just good business... on an eternal scale.

2. Riches and poverty (that is, suffering want) are much more about mentality.  Jesus called the poverty mentality "worshipping mammon."  We call it "Materialism."  The short form of this mentality is the lie that there is never enough.  Try for some perspective.  Here you learn where your income ranks on a global scale.  Minimum wage in Colorado, working full time, yields 15,300/year.

3. If kindness to the poor is the best kind of generosity (so says Prov. 14:20-21, 31; 17:5; 19:17; 21:13; 22:9, 16, 22-23; 28:8, 27; 29:7; and 29:14), then we must open our eyes and learn who the poor are (try

4. Imitate God.  He showed generosity to the poor by adopting us (Rom. 8:12-17).  Seriously and prayerfully consider adopting a child.

5. If adoption is impossible or unwise, then sponsor as many children as you can.  You can sponsor children through these excellent agencies: (food for the hungry)

6. Generously and sacrificially support gospel-centered, strategic efforts to care for the poor.  Groups like world vision are incredibly skillful at stretching dollars to impact lives.

7. Go back and see #4 again.  I was and am serious.  It is terrifying that Christians in this country consider it a better use of money to spend on luxuries when there are hundreds of millions of children in dire need of a stable home.

This coming Sunday, I intend to present Proverbs' perspective on provision - especially provision through the wise lifestyle of faithful, committed, WORK.  This is God's means of provision for his people.  And he provides so that we can be like him and provide.