Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why is it "good" to help the poor?

I am currently knocking out some reading for a class on Ethics, and I have floating around in my head many fragments of the reading I've done lately. These fragments are being brought in slowly into my worldview, and I don't think I'll ever be the same... at least I hope not. This class has given me a new set of goggles with which I'm looking at the world, and as a result, I'm noticing ethical problems and issues everywhere.

We are a people who make great ethical claims all the time, and I am seeing that though we all know some things are good and other things are not, most of us have only a very vague sense of why this is the case. I'm thinking about three specific things I've seen lately: the presidential press conference last week, every episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and a documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer I watched last night. All three of these productions had ideas of good, evil, hope and despair. The question I'm most interested in is why the idea-makers behind these three events think these ethical ideas are valid and true. Why is a particular idea 'good'?

Lately, I have been very curious about the ethical base of the people in my city and in my life. I wish I could just stop every person I see on campus or at the store or on the street and ask them: "Do you believe there are things that are essentially good and things that are essentially bad? How do you believe those things? Do you love your family? Why? and why does it matter?" (I know that not all of these questions are ethical in nature.) I just want to get in their heads.

While I can't do that, I can ask you. So, if you're reading this, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
And just so I don't get responses that ramble all over the place, I'd like to narrow the discussion to one particular question. So please post, if you are able:


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Prayer of Dedication

Let all of me be Yours.
Let my aim be love
from a pure heart,
from a clear conscience.
Let my day be sacrificed
to You,
to my wife,
to my family,
to my flock,
    to the poor,
    to the hurting,
to the world.
Let your glory be made known through me:
may I be less,
may You be more.
Let my eyes, hands, ears and feet
be moved by your Spirit,
be clean from sin,
be instruments of your love and redemption.
Let your help, comfort, and discipline come to me
because I am a creature,
because I am weak,
because I am sinful,
because I am yours in Christ,
because You are the only true and living God,
Father, son and Holy Spirit.
Who alone can hear my prayers,
Who alone can help me,
Who alone is full of mercy, 
But who will by no means clear the guilty.
Let your mercy fall on me,
Let Christ's blood clear my guilt
In His Name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"Without love, I am nothing"

When someone asks you what the Christian life is about, does love enter the top three things you mention? I have to confess that very often I have not given love its important place in my life and teaching, and this is simply not biblical.

"The goal of the commandment is love from a pure heart and from a clear conscience and from a genuine faith." (1 Tim 1:5) Paul's instructions and the instructions of all the teachers of the Old Testament have a primary goal in mind: that we might love God and others (Matt 22:34-40). Paul states the goal of his teaching clearly in 1 Tim 1:5, and prays for this goal in Philippians 1:9-11: "And this is my prayer: that your love would abound more and more..." It is important that he does NOT say: "I pray that your Bible knowledge would abound more and more... that your wealth would increase more and more... that you'd feel better more and more..." He prays that God may increase their love. Even in letters where Paul is teaching so much about knowledge and true doctrine, he is careful to say that these things are means by which we adore God more and love more. (Eph 1:15-23; 3:14ff). Knowledge may come, and it should, but love is above it (1 Cor 13:8-13).

But what do we pray for our churches? Do we pray that they may grow in love? Or do we pray that our churches and friends and family may grow in Bible knowledge? in numbers? in health? in success of wealth? or other things. Of course, these are not bad and we should often pray for them... but what place do they have in my prayer life? and how often do we pray for others love to increase? How often to pray for our own love to increase?

What if all the things we prayed for came true? What if God gave all the happiness I've asked of Him, for myself, my family and my church? What if God granted that our churches grew in numbers? What if He granted my prayers to finally understand Him better, to finally be able to put together all these things in Scripture so that I could understand them? What if I became all that I've hoped for: as a man, a husband, a pastor? What if all my family and friends were successful and healthy? What if our churches were the great churches of our communities?

The Lord gives us an answer to these questions:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, if I deliver up my body to burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13:1-5).