May 2010 Archives


| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Image via Wikipedia

Well I've been here 7 weeks and we've done all sorts of topics like Hearing the voice of God, Character and Nature of God, Holy Spirit, lots of stuff. Photography teaching is only once a week, which is not what I expected but I'm still happy I'm here.

I haven't agreed with everything I've been taught here, but that's ok. There's plenty of disagreement in Christian circles and YWAM is multi-denominational so that's hardly a shock. The main thing is we agree on the basics.

On Tuesday nights we go into town and do "Local Outreach". There are various ways we've been told about (Treasure Hunt is my least favourite) but I have enjoyed 
chatting with some of the homeless people around here. I know them by name now and once you can put a name to someone you start to view them differently.

A couple of weeks ago we went to Makapala, which is about 1 and 1/2 hours away by (big yellow school) bus. It was so much like NZ - quiet, windy, small, windy roads, beach within walking distance. :)

Arrival at Makapala

And we had a bonfire and I learned about smores (biscuit, chocolate, toasted marshmallow and biscuit again). So bad for you but so good.

There were also stars, lots of stars! We don't see stars in Kona, the volcano releases steam which fogs up the air (referred to as "vog" (volcanic fog)).

Last Friday the girls in our class organised a dinner for the guys (40 girls, 10 guys) which was lovely for 2 reasons: 
  1. It was such a nice thing to do.
  2. The food here is sometimes terrible. (Spam and rice anyone?).

At other times it's good though, we had burritos today.

Oh, and my highpoint so far was jumping off South Point - which was fricking high.

Jumping off South Point

I wish I had more, but we don't get a huge amount of time off base, evenings are usually busy with something scheduled or assignments. 

Outreach leaves on the 29th June, so just over a month.
I got these photos from my sets on flickr. South Point and Green Sands beachMakapala Retreat and Mystery Dinner.
What are we to make of the church of today? This is a very subjective question since you'll think of your church or group if you're a Christian and you're likely to think of the church whole if you're not. I would guess that in both cases there will be things you don't like; maybe your church is too boring or inward focused or you'll think of the legal cases against the Catholic church and mark us all as hypocrites.

And we are. We're as messed up as everyone else in the world. We're human and we fail. The only difference is we have accepted the forgiveness of Jesus. We should be living like He did, but we often don't.

In The Irresistible Revolution Shane talks a lot about the church today and how he and his compatriots are growing new communities. I would recommend it as an interesting read, just don't try to cram it into 2 weeks like we have. He writes about the Simple Way, how they reclaim old buildings, distribute food, how he went to Iraq and Calcutta and how he sees Christianity today (and a lot more).

Running through all the book you get a real sense of his heart for the poor and I use the word heart deliberately because he goes to great lengths not to present the poor as an issue but as people that he loves. He backs his viewpoints on how we should treat the poor with scripture and for this report I want to dig into some of those scriptures (and others).

As usual I'll preface this with:
  • This is my personal opinion
  • I am not a bible scholar
  • I wrote this in a few hours and haven't had time to properly review it
  • Therefore, this could be wrong
  • I welcome comments and discussion about this
The following thoughts have come from me reading the book and are not the main focus of it. The main focus is on communities and loving others, but Shane does a very good job of discussing this that I wanted to write something new rather than repackage his book. After all, you can read that yourselves.

So, I want to focus on some of Jesus teachings about money, specifically the teachings about selling all that you have and look at what giving is and start to look at how blessings fall into it.

Sell what you have

Luke 12:33 is a rather challenging verse for Christians (myself included). It has Jesus commanding his disciples to sell what they have and give the resulting money to the poor. Now, how many Christians have you seen following this scripture?

Now, we can water this down quite effectively and The Message bible [1] is a good start - "Be generous. Give to the poor." (Note the lack of "Sell what you have"). We can also say that this was a message for the disciples and not us, but aren't we called to be disciples?

The following are my own personal thoughts, though Shane does cover this topic in his book too and comes to a similar conclusion (that's not an attempt to endorse my opinion, it's a clarification so people don't think I'm just rephrasing his book). Jesus had 12 disciples but many more followers. Having 50,000 people following him around would make for a nightmare situation. Even if we assumed 50,000 people could get along and not fight and even if we assumed that these people could move from place to place in an orderly fashion then how would they help others to get to Jesus? They would swamp a town.

Jesus deliberately kept the number of disciples he had small for practical reasons. Right now I'm in a room with 4 other people and the dynamics here are enough to keep things interesting, 12 others will be very interesting (hello outreach, I'm looking at you).

However Jesus and his disciples needed to eat and sleep. During this time and what they ate and drank (and where they did this) largely relied on supportive people in the towns they went to. These people had houses and food, things the disciples had been asked to give up. When the disciples arrived they were looked after (consider 13 people coming to your house in the evening asking for a meal). Without these people they would have gone hungry. The people who supported Jesus in this way were necessary. Jesus didn't call all these people to be disciples, instead they served through hospitality.

In Matthew 19:21-24 we hear of a rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to enter Heaven. Jesus covers the basics, which the man has done, then Jesus says that in order to follow Him he must give his money to the poor. One thing that stuck out to me this time was that if the rich man had given up all his money he would have made disciple number 13. Jesus offered him the same "follow me" that the other disciples had been given and he turned it down, returning to his wealth (and probably family, though we're not told). 

Now, did Jesus love him less than the disciples who had given up everything? No. The same goes for the places Jesus stayed at. These people were serving as they knew best. So, not everyone is called to sell everything they have and give all their money to the poor. That said I believe some certainly are (the rich man was) and I believe those that aren't should practice hospitality and giving.

That said, we don't earn our place in heaven through our deeds[2] and Jesus tells us how hard it is for rich people to enter heaven, what's up with that?

The camel through the needle

I confess I've never understood the camel through a needle analogy. God is all powerful so he can put a camel through a needle and this is the same God who shows mercy to all the sinners on earth[3]. This being the case, he can very easily put a camel through a needle.

Maybe a little context would help though - in this time salvation was earned by obeying the laws, which the rich man had done. He had been earning his salvation since he was young, no doubt through self sacrifice and restraint. If I was in the shoes of this man, able to ask Jesus the question, I'd have asked it with the expectation that Jesus would tell me I had a place in heaven secured so long as I kept doing what I was doing. I'd want to be used as an example of a good Christian.

Instead what comes across as Jesus upping the ante is more of a playing field switch. Jesus wasn't after the money the man had; he didn't need it. He wanted the man to choose to follow him, for which there was a cost (or trade). I can imagine the man walking away grumbling that he followed all the laws and he still had to do more.

Maybe the camel and needle description is referring to our own efforts rather than our eligibility into heaven. Through his own efforts the man followed all the laws, yet he was rich and therefor he would find it hard to enter on his own merit? As I write this I feel like I'm missing something of the story here, but it's all I have right now.


"True generosity is measured not by how much we give away but by how much we have left"[4]. This sentence stood out to me, in fact it's the only one in the entire book that I underlined so I wouldn't miss it when I was writing this 'review'. After being paid and covering my expenses (board, petrol, server rent, etc.) I am still left with a comfortable amount with which to enjoy myself. After I enjoy myself I still have money I can save. I am very fortunate to be in this position, I know this. I find giving easy because I have extra to give.

Mark 12:41 tells us of Jesus sitting watching people giving money - a widow comes up and gives two coins (I don't know how much it translates to, but it could have been less than $1). Despite this small amount, Jesus says she has given more than anyone else from the whole day. This must mean the amount is immaterial, mustn't it?


Now, we enter a gnarly area that the book doesn't cover and to be honest, I'm understanding why. A message I have heard a few times is 'if you give you will be blessed'. I have sat in conferences and been told this. I had a non-Christian friend with me. We discussed this after the meeting and he said he was going to give until this speaker made his comments, then he felt manipulated to give and didn't and I applaud my friend for his stance.

I gave something, because that's what good Christians do, because it had been a fun evening and because I know it costs a lot to rent the lighting rig they were using. I didn't feel particularly more blessed than before I gave and at the time I didn't dwell on this evening. It's amazing what you remember years after the fact and how you can analyse it later.

So where does this view of blessing come from? "Give, and it shall be given to you" and "Blessed is he who acts wisely toward the poor" Luke 6:38, Psalm 41:1 are just a couple or examples. 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 is also another good one.

We should not give out of a sense of "I have to" or a sense of "others are watching me" or as a deposit on riches in Heaven. At home I have a 'Heaven banknote'[5], which you can buy (with real money) and burn so that when you die you have that money in the afterlife. This is a transaction, God becomes an ATM we deposit into with a mind to withdraw later, like a pension plan or social security.

God wants willing givers, generous givers (remember, generosity is measured by how much you have left) but this isn't limited to money - time and energy can also be given. 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 is a favourite I've found: "God loves a cheerful giver". Can we abstract that God doesn't love a non-giver or a non-cheerful giver? No. Love does not require reciprosity.

The bottom line is that nobody should try to push you into giving for blessings. How God chooses to bless is up to him and how that manifests will be different for each person. We should not feel forced to give, we should give because we want to. I don't know how blessings are related to all this but I do believe that if we give for the purpose of receiving blessing then we are giving for the wrong reason. I also don't want to imply that these verses are therefore always misused - they are not.

For your own consideration I also present the Beatitudes, a series of statements by Jesus discussing who will be blessed: The poor in spirit, the meek, those mourning, those who hunger for righteousness, the persecuted and all sorts of people but not blessed are the those who give money.


There are resources on generous giving all over the Internet. I realise that I didn't go into tithing in this post. I deliberately used the word 'giving' rather than 'tithing' in this post - tithing is a form of giving.

I didn't get into Malachi 3 either, which would require another few paragraphs and time.

[1] The Message is not a translation, it is a paraphrase. It can help elaborate points in the bible or water them down. I wouldn't recommend teaching from The Message.
[2] Anyone who tells you otherwise should consult their bible.
[3] Yep, this means all of us, myself included.
[4] The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne, Page 164.
[5] A gift from a coworker as an interesting item from her holiday in Asia. I forget the religion that sells them, but it's not Christianity.

Right, for this report I plan to enact the "creative freedom" ability that PhotogenX gave us and instead of talking about the book content I want to enter into a discussion about servitude, sacrifice, pride and western culture (for clarity, when I speak of western culture I pull very strongly on my own background, which is 13 years living in England and 10 years living in New Zealand). I apologise to Christian, my small group leader because he has to read this and it's not short. I would have liked to do this as a series but the due date is Friday. I keep notes of questions I have and I do ponder them. I hope to write more on these in the future. I am sure that there are things I've skipped over and there may be errors in what I've written, I'm only human.

This has started playing out in my head this week and I must admit the book has grated somewhat in a few areas. There have been statements I've looked at and thought "well that's all well and good for you Loren, but..." you can use your imagination for my counter argument.


The basic premise of the book is that we should become servants to God, giving up our rights to him (all rights, including the right to be alive and the right to be free). Yeah, that grates doesn't it. It's very counter to my culture and who I am. I don't consider myself a servant and the idea of myself having a servant fills me with lots of negative imagery which I have as a consequence of living in a western culture. Part of this is my own linking of servant and slave, two very different word with different meanings. A servant is hired or chooses to work, a slave is bought and has no choice. A slave is property, a servant is not.

By this definition though I am a servant. I choose to work to get money to support my desire to eat and live. Admittedly it's not a difficult choice to make, I like food. I did have a choice of where I worked though, I still do. Even if I worked for myself I would still be in a position of serving others, namely clients. In exchange they would give me money. So really no matter what happens if we're employed we are servants.

We serve when we do something that benefits someone else, not just work. Helping someone cross the street is serving. So if we're serving God we must be doing things that benefit Him. In this is another question - why? God by definition is all knowing, all powerful, all over the place and can't die. What can we possibly add to God by serving Him?

This needs further thought, but I think one aspect of servitude that I haven't touched on is that it's not just about the person served, it's also about the server. When we serve we focus on the other person and think about them. In work we have contracts that guarantee things like pay rate, serving out of our heart offers no pay except perhaps warm fuzzies that you're a good person and even that's no guarantee. The person you help cross the street can just walk off with no appreciation, that's still serving. When we serve God where is our focus? Us or Him?

Western Culture

Western culture focusses very much on the rights and status of the individual. In New Zealand we have the Bill of Rights, a legal document that states the basic rights we are entitled to as a citizen of New Zealand. Things like the right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to not be discriminated against, the right to have a religion and conduct worship, these are protected legal rights in my country and I like it that way. I have protested for the right not to have my Internet disconnected if a company accuses me of copyright infringing, which seems small in comparison to right to worship, but it was also something I believed strongly in. So, I have rights and I fight to keep them.

The other aspect is that we seek to lift up the individual. Be it bands, TV stars or the cool kid at school, we lift up the individual. We give praise where praise is due - I remember awards ceremonies at school for excellence, mostly in sport and academia, things that could be graded and measured. Now, is this bad? What about the opposite? Some people can go through life achieving nothing of real western value. No awards, family or job to be proud of, no real achievements in life. These people are considered to be of little or no worth, or taken even further we consider them a burden on the limited resources of the world.

The book looks at Paul for examples of Christian behaviour. Paul was a Jew who took pleasure in persecuting Christians. He was confronted by God and long story short he became a Christian and planted and advised many churches. He spent a decent amount of time in prison for this, where he wrote letters to various churches, which make up a lot of the New Testament. We do not see Paul demand his right to freedom or his right to be free from persecution. We also don't see Paul lift himself above others. This wasn't very western of him.

Closer to our time both Nelson Mandela and Ghandi spent time in prison as criminals, yet today both those names bring positive images to our minds. But was it the fact that they spent long periods in prison? Martin Luther King Jr. spent less time in prison while he campaigned for civil rights in America, and I don't consider his sacrifice to be any less, so is it the willingness to go to prison for their belief that we regard? If that's the case then should we have any less regard for Paul? He lived 2000 years ago but like these other famous people of our time he was willing to sacrifice his freedom for the sake of his belief, which went against the teachings of the day.


Pride is another part of western culture. I am having a hard time arguing against that. Pride is a feeling of personal worth and I believe people should value themselves. I believe God values us - he paid a price for our salvation - in order to pay a price then something must have a value.

Pride is however something that can manifest as arrogance - an overbearing pride that makes people think they are superior to others. I admit I've fallen foul of this and it is damaging to relationships, both with people and with God. It's a stumbling block I hit more than I'd like. What I do know is the Bible comments on pride in James 4:6 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble simply means lack of pride.

I've discussed how western culture focusses on the individual, humility goes against that. I don't know about you but when I see someone who is humble I respect them but I worry that they're not able to stand up for themselves. Then I think about Mother Teresa (you knew she was going to get a mention didn't you?) and how she showed humility and served others. 

What if we were all as humble as she was? That's not a very responsible thought is it? You need to provide for yourself and your (possible) family. Get out there and make money, now is not a time for humility, now is a time to claim what is yours.


So when the Bible says we are to give up our lives what does that look like? I used to consider the "ultimate sacrifice" to be death, but I'm rapidly learning that's totally not it. Death holds very little sting for me. My biggest sacrifice would be to give up control of my life. What it looks like for me to give up my life will be unique. There is nothing that says we must all do the same thing. We are all wired differently and have different skill sets so why would we all be called to a single thing?

I am under no illusion that sacrifice will be required. Jesus tells us:

"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.""

The Message translation puts it in words that are more emotive:

"Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?""

Embrace suffering? Self-sacrifice is the way? I thought the Bible said we would prosper? Shouldn't we have good, happy lives? Indeed it does - Jeremiah 29:11 has God saying he has plans to prosper us, not to harm us. One resolution for this apparent contradiction is that God believes self-sacrifice and suffering will not harm us. If you're scratching your head right now you're not alone and I don't have all this figured out.

I must admit that when I think about Christians around the world that are imprisoned and attacked for their faith I wonder about this verse and what it means. I would like to know the original word that prosperity was translated from but I'd also like to know what prosperity really means to God. I fully admit that I don't have this figured out, it's not easy stuff.


Making Jesus Lord really got me thinking about this whole area of faith and how aspects of Christianity don't fit well into western culture. This post is my attempt to explore a few of those, but I'm still coming up short for answers in some areas. I think the main thing I've done that has been of benefit is to examine some of my western behaviours and beliefs and ask why I hold them. That's not to say I'm abandoning all my western behaviour and becoming a monk but as you can see, I have been examining my preconceptions and I encourage you to do the same.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2010 is the previous archive.

June 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.