Fix My Eyes Week Day 1- Fearless Love and Unfair Giving

My new favorite album is RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG by For King and Country. The third track on the disc is titled Fix My Eyes and the chorus is serving as inspiration for this week of posts. It is a section of statements that serve as a reminder of the destinations we should be chasing as believers and humans wanting to improve this world.  A lyric video is below.  Check it out and pay attention to the chorus as we’ll be taking it apart a few lines at a time.

Love Like I’m Not Scared

Love scares us.  It means opening up when our instinct is to protect ourselves.  It means acknowledging someone is important and searching for acceptance. A friend of mine recently completed her divorce.  She was talking to me about the prospect of dating again, telling me how she never though she’d be in that position.

We don’t take our marriage vows to break them.

Love scares us on a faith level. Jesus provided the example of perfect and selfless love. The church as political unit gets hung up on the idea of a closed fist and pointed finger, not open hands with nail scars. We invite people in and, as long as they know their place, we are comfortable to have them around. We’ve convinced ourselves that revolutionary love is a thing of the past, confined to Jerusalem a few thousand years ago.

We can be the reps of Jesus, as long as the audience is Republican, moderately wealthy, white, and willing to not discuss their struggles at the dinner table after the small group meeting.

Give When it’s Not Fair

I love these five words and they are worth a book of writing. In the Bible, we read Jesus meeting a wealthy man in the streets.  He’s asked, as the guy looks up from checking his portfolio on his IPhone 6, how do I get into heaven?

The reply is simple and, as he did often, Jesus cuts to the core of the issue.

Sell everything.

He doesn’t say, sell some stuff, set up shop in the market and get rid of your antiques.  He doesn’t say to keep the receipts for a tax write off. He doesn’t say, make sure you give me ten percent and we’re all good, or go to the temple on Mission’s Sunday and put some extra in the pot.

He says, sell it all.

Not an easy statement.

The central idea here is a selfless life. Loving and giving, taking a risk to be there for someone else, taking your time to serve a family, charity, or group in need. 

It is pushing the capital ME (sell it all) down for the capital US (love without fear). It is a concept that can change the world when we embrace it fully and go forward.

~Matt

Also, for the next four days, my novel The City is available FOR FREE on Amazon.com

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If you enjoy some action and post-apocalyptic sci-fi, check it out.  You can download it by clicking here.

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Broke: The Church and Money Matters

I grew up in a traditional Methodist church.  One thing we did every year was put on a Walk Through Holy Week with church members acting out parts of the life of Jesus.  They had segments taken from the Gospels, spanning birth to the crucifixion and resurrection. I had the chance to play Jesus more than once in, what I think, is one of the great scenes in the New Testament:

 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:13-17

It is the one time we read of a Jesus acting aggressively, clearing tables and physically driving the merchants from the temple. He entered the temple and the sights there drove him, the Prince of Peace, mad enough to make a whip and clear the room with it.

In my version, we had fake tables set up on saw horses and I went around the Sunday school room flipping the tables and sending the fake coins flying while yelling, “You’ve turned my Father’s house into a den of thieves.” It was a good time.

This morning, in church, we started a series about Generosity.  I don’t know about you, but I have an inherent physical aversion that creeps up whenever clergy members start talking about money. Val and I tithe what we can on a weekly basis and I still get this bad taste in my mouth.

We attended a start-up church once where the pastor’s wife stood in front of the congregation, probably forty people at the time, with her and her husband’s itemized monthly bills.  She read them off as inspiration for the goal of him being able to pastor full-time and not work a side job.  I had wondered what Jesus would have thought of that experience

In today’s world any church must have a solid budget to fall back on. They need the Holy Spirit to be successful and financial backing to keep moving forward. If it is not there, they must pray for some talented volunteers. Things like media, communication, worship and print materials are easier to produce and acquire than ever before and, sadly, even more expensive.

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The topic of money is a double-edged sword. Check out the contrasts:

Believe and you’ll be blessed –  Oh you will be blessed, just not in the way you imagined.  God doesn’t operate in a box. He made the box.  Faith does not equal riches, prosperity, or seeing your dream come true. Faith is seeing God’s dream come true and doing your part. Faith is dangerous. Faith operates to get you off the sidelines and into the game where you may get hit, hurt, bruised, and battered.  It is the knowledge that He will never leave your side and how this idea impacts your life on a daily basis.

God will provide – He will provide what you need when you need it. Too many churches turn this into justification. They make it the arm on the great slot machine in the sky.  The same God that tells us he will never leave or forsake us, also states to sell our possessions and give to the poor.  He calls us to faith action and he works on his time. The journey is a process. Know that you will never be alone.

Test me in this – The only time we are allowed to test God is with our giving, according to the Bible.  He dares us to give and see what happens. You want his blessing? Give and he will provide.

Condition, condition, condition.

We need less conditions and more grace.  We need less pastors taking in six-figure salaries and more homeless shelters with beds and hot meals. We need less castles that hold thousands of people on Sunday mornings and more feet on the sidewalks, meeting people where they are.

We need to tell the stories, shake hands, open hearts, and reflect the love we’ve found in Jesus.

It is here, when we drop the emotional connection to money, we find the ease in giving. When we remove expectations, we give God room to work. When we serve, we live and are led by his direction into the future.

Money can be redeemed and the church needs to get this message before it is too late.

~Matt

Soundtrack inspiration:

 

Feel Good Friday 9-5-14

On Fridays, in this new blog feature,  I will highlight a positive news story, article, or post. I’ll also highlight a local charity that will be part of Overcome when it is published.

The NFL isn’t always known for life-affirming actions.  Players struggle with the law. They can suffer serious injuries.  They make more in a season than most people do in a lifetime while playing a schoolyard game. This week, the Cincinnati Bengals cut and resigned defensive tackle Devon Still to their practice squad.

This happens all the time in the league, but Still’s story has a twist. His daughter, four-year-old Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June.  The team signed him to help pay for the girl’s medical treatment.  You can see an article and video piece from Good Morning America here.

 

Hope Rescue Mission

645 North Sixth Street • Reading, PA 19601
Phone (610) 375-4224 • E-Mail hopeforreading@gmail.com

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Hope was the first organization to reply to my request for a tour and interview.  The building, a former corporate property for the Reading Railroad, houses almost seventy beds spread over a dorm space and transitional housing. They have a library, chapel, cafeteria, and computer lab. They offer training in discipleship and job skills. I met with Robert Turchi, the director, and Frank Grill, the associate director. Grill took me on a tour of the buildings and his passion for the men they house was evident from the start of our conversation.

Hope also runs a thrift store and wood shop. They refurbish furniture, sell and recycle wood pallets, and operate gardens to supply vegetables in the summer. Every item is donated, from the stock of the thrift store to the food in the cafeteria. The men are trained and given jobs to offset the cost of their housing.  The average water bill for a winter season is around $18,000 dollars.

They receive no government or city support.

As I walked through, I spoke to the men and listened to their stories.  There are amazing accounts of losing everything and redefining their identities. Some of the guys were at the top of their fields and, through addictions or other factors, ended up in jail or on the streets.  Hope is making a difference in the lives of the men it houses and the city it serves. Please consider making a difference and helping them out.

You can find their website here with photos, media, staff biographies, needs, and ways to give.

If you like this post, please share with your friends and family!

~Matt