Too Small A Thing, Part 2

One common question that I did not address in my talk last Saturday is: Do I have to sell my stuff and give to the poor in order to follow Christ?

Where does this question stem from?

In Luke 12, we find a provocative series of remarks from Jesus. First, addressing the crowd, he tells a story of a rich man who built bigger barns for himself, collecting more possessions that he might enjoy his life. Jesus calls the man a fool and the story ends with the rich man's life being suddenly taken from him in judgment of his greed.

Jesus follows up this story with a personal address to his disciples, instructing them not to be anxious about material things, such as clothes and food, but rather to trust in the daily provision of their Father. He then instructs them, " “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

A second place we find this radical call to "sell your possessions and give to the poor" is found in Mark 10, where a young, rich man approaches Jesus and inquires as to what he must do to receive eternal life. He vouches for his own moral integrity, saying he has kept all of the commandments of Scripture (really??). Jesus, looks deeper inside the man, he "felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

There are two common extremes of response to Jesus' instructions found here for his disciples and this young, rich man. The first is to universalize the teaching and say that to be a true disciple of Christ, one must be completely obedient to sell everything. The second extreme is to entirely minimize and depersonalize these words of Scripture and say that it was a specific instruction for specific people at a specific time and we are not bound to Jesus words. The truth is, both of these extremes are incorrect applications of God's Word.

Now, as David Platt says in Radical, if you breathe a sigh of relief at this acknowledgement, thinking "Phew, good, I can keep my stuff," then perhaps Jesus' words here are for you personally. Ultimately, we each have a discipleship call from Christ. He knows the idols of our hearts, our motivations, our fleshly weaknesses. As his followers, it is not just righteousness by faith that is our gift from him, but we also "share in his sufferings" as Paul so clearly states. 

We must each look at Christ and his Word and ask: Am I willing to go as far as he asks me to? What is he saying to me?

Thankfully, our Father looks compassionately upon his children and is patient with us. But he is also so jealous for our undivided allegiance, that he is willing to ask us - require of us? - difficult endeavors. Greed and worldliness will kill us and he cares too much about us to let us get numbed and killed by them. For some, that will mean selling everything and giving to the poor. For some it will mean moving to the inner city. For some it will mean befriending very difficult people. For some it will mean risking getting fired at work or losing the affection of your co-workers because you had to stand on the side of integrity rather than greed.  

But, remember, we must each look at the cross and empty tomb, the only place we find the hope, grace and joy to willingly lay down our lives for the glory of God and the service of our neighbors. 

Is Jesus asking you to sell your possessions and give to the poor. Maybe. Just maybe. He cares more about our devotion than he does about us having lots of stuff and comfort. He says to each of us the same thing he said to his disciples, "Do not be afraid."

Too Small A Thing

For my Christian History course,  this week we are reading Martin Luther's letter to Pope Leo X in which he provides a powerful discussion of Christian Liberty. The timing of this assignment is significant and has incited many follow up thoughts for me from Saturday.

This past Saturday, I was called out of the bullpen to teach at our church's large group meeting on the University of Illinois campus - Saturday Night Grace. My assignment: take week two in a three part series taken from Prophet Isaiah's words in 49:6, where he shares a word from the LORD:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,   that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Israel's vision of God was and is doing in the world was too small and the people of God today are prone to similar small-mindedness. Specifically, we chose to highlight three ways in which God is sending Illini Life students: to campus (it is where we are, after all), to the urban poor and to all nations on earth. 

For me, I spoke on the ever-light subject of the poor. Specifically, we talked about 
Why are we concerned about the "urban" poor?
Who are the poor?
Who cares about them?
What are our emotions and motivations?
What can we do in response and how do we choose?

You can find the audio of my message at

So, what's the Luther connection? 

As we discussed on Saturday, faith in Christ alone is the necessary foundation and only enduring motivation for caring for those under the weight of poverty and injustice. 

Luther says: "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works. Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works. Thus it is always necessary that the substance or person should be good before any good works can be done, and that good works should follow and proceed from a good person." 

Who is this "good man"? Only the person who has realized there is nothing from within of his own  substance or merit that would make him whole, holy and at peace before our perfect, beautiful, supreme, Creator God, who has then accepted the free gift of adoption, forgiveness and wholeness that comes through faith alone in the crucified and risen Christ Jesus. 

Then, and only then, is a man or woman established as a new tree which can bear good fruit. The good tree must come before good and enduring fruit can be born!

What Love Is

According to St. Paul, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

P2PU School of Webcraft

Once upon a time there was a young boy who was amazed by the internet. He landed his first ever job with the University of Illinois extension and his task was to create their first website. He embarked on a journey to learn HTML and successfully completed his objective. Now, sixteen years later, after having lost the wonderment that accompanied his early days of web sojourning, he is embarking on a new mission: to brush up on over a decade's worth of web progress and create his own website where he can display his photography portfolio and other creative works. Yes, facebook, blogger and the like still serve their purpose, but the curious artist in me would like to rediscover the art of web design which surely has redefined how we interact with our world. Onward...I will be using P2PU's School of Webcraft for said project.