Daily Riches: Scandalized By the Freedom of God (Pope Francis)

Today the word of God surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images…. In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name! Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected. Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing ‘scandal’ are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly ‘intolerable’ scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit! Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for ‘love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us’ first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, ‘Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!’ To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not ‘part of our group’, who are not ‘like us’, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!” Pope Francis

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you sometimes “scandalized by the freedom of God?” Do you see the Pope as a scandalous outsider?
  • Is your God one who “will not be outdone in generosity?” …who seeks us and “waits for us?”
  • The Spirit of God will “blow where it wills.” Does that make you uncomfortable?

Abba, help us to appreciate your work outside “the approved channels.”

For More: The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis

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Thanks so much for reading and sharing my blog!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Unfriendliness That’s Killing Your Church (James Emery White)

“The Technical Assistance Research Program study for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that 96 percent of unhappy customers never complain about rude or unfriendly treatment, but 90 percent of those unhappy customers will not return to the place where that unfriendliness was manifest. Further, each one of those unhappy customers will tell nine other people about the lack of friendliness and courteousness, and 13 percent will tell more than twenty other people.  …Now, we all know that every church thinks it’s friendly. I’ve never met a church yet where the people said, “Yeah, we’re mean and proud of it!” No! Every church thinks it’s friendly. But what that means is …they are friendly to each other …to people they know …to people they like …to people who are like them. That’s not friendliness; that’s a clique or, at best, a club. To prove the point, another recent LifeWay Research survey found that while three out of every four churchgoers say they have significant relationships with people at their church, they admit they don’t make an effort with new people. In fact, only one in every six even try. That’s not very friendly. …If you are going to reach the nones [the religiously unaffiliated], they are going to come to you as a none. That means they will come as couples living together, as gay couples, pregnant outside of marriage, addicted, skeptical. Is that going to raise an eyebrow? Or is it taken in stride in a way that makes the person feel instantly at ease? At Meck [the author’s church], it’s just another day of normal.”

“I was a stranger,
and you invited Me in.”
Jesus in Matthew 25:35

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Stand back and watch people interacting before and after the worship service. Are people being ignored by others? …gathering in familiar cliques? …”stranded” – standing alone in silence, during the time of greeting?
  • Do you make a point of regularly speaking to people you haven’t met?
  • When you attend church are you looking for opportunities to show the love of Jesus to others – or just for your friends?
  • Have you been included – or even worse, in the “inner circle” – too long to remember what it’s like to “break into” a new church?

Abba, use me, and all your people, to embrace others with your love.

For More: The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Everybody Matters, So Love Everybody (Rob Bell)

“The most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church most stop thinking of everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to the ‘un’ and ‘non,’ they work against Jesus’s teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. …Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn’t really love, is it? It’s something else. We have to rediscover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agendas. Because some people aren’t going to become Christians like us no matter how hard we push. They just aren’t. [I obviously love to talk to people about Jesus and my faith. I take every opportunity I can get.] And at some point we have to commit them to God, trusting that God loves them more than we ever could.” Rob Bell

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” James 2:1

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you preach the gospel without words? Can you preach it without love?
  • Is speaking the truth so important that it trumps the need to love?
  • Can you do your part (whatever is the best you can do at the time) and trust God to do his part (what only he can do, and according to his timing)?
  • Maybe having an “agenda” is not so bad. Isn’t it just wanting what you believe is best for someone? After all, Christians are “missional.” So to what is Rob Bell objecting?

Abba, let me share your great good news, but love expecting nothing in return.

For More: Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. Thanks!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: God’s Gift and Our Need of Diversity In the Church (Debbie Thomas)

“In the New Testament Pentecost story Luke tells, the Holy Spirit descended on 120 believers in Jerusalem on the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection. The Spirit empowered them to testify to God’s great deeds, emboldened the apostle Peter to preach to a bewildered crowd of Jewish skeptics, and drew three thousand converts in one day. For Christians, Pentecost marks the birthday story of the Church. And what a fantastical birthday story it is, full of details to challenge the imagination. Tongues of fire. Rushing winds. Accusations of drunkenness. Mass baptism. One could spend years unpacking these details. But here’s the one I find most riveting: ‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.’  ‘At this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.’ Christians often speak of Pentecost as the reversal of Babel, the Old Testament story in which God divided and scattered human communities by multiplying our languages. But in fact, Pentecost didn’t reverse Babel; it perfected and blessed it. When the Holy Spirit came, he didn’t restore humanity to a common language; he declared all languages holy and equally worthy of God’s stories …he wove multilingualism into the very fabric of the Church. …Languages carry the full weight of their respective cultures, histories, psychologies, and spiritualities. To speak one language as opposed to another is to orient oneself differently in the world – to see differently, hear differently, process and punctuate reality differently. …If this is true, then what does it mean that the Holy Spirit empowered the first Christians to speak in an unmatched diversity of languages? Was God saying, in effect, that his Church, from its very inception, needed to honor the boundless variety and creativity of human voices?  That he was calling it to proclaim the great deeds of God in every tongue – not merely because multiculturalism is progressive and fashionable, or because the church is a ‘politically correct’ institution – but because God’s deeds themselves demand such diverse tellings? Could it be that there is no single language on earth that can capture the deeds of God? Here’s another detail I love about Pentecost: when the disciples and their friends began to speak in foreign languages, the crowds gathered outside their meeting place understood them. And this – the fact of their comprehension – was what confused them. They were not confused by the message itself; the message came through with perfect clarity in their respective languages. What the crowds found baffling was that God would condescend to speak to them in their own mother-tongues. That he would welcome them so intimately, with words and expressions hearkening back to their birthplaces, their childhoods, their beloved cities, countries, and cultures of origin. As if to say, ‘This Spirit-drenched place, this fledgling church, this new Body of Christ, is yours. You don’t have to feel like outsiders here; we speak your language, too. Come in. Come in and feel at home.’ …I wonder what it would be like if the Church allowed the Holy Spirit to transform it into a place of deep and implicit belonging – not for the few, but for everyone. I wonder how our ministries would need to change so that the crowds listening outside our doors would hear ‘Welcome!’ in languages they comprehend.” Debbie Thomas

“with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Revelation 5:9

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is there sufficient diversity in your church?
  • Do you make a point to reach out to “different” people with God’s love?
  • How can you be part of God’s “welcome” to outsiders?

Abba, use our many voices in the telling of your deeds.

For More: Against Christianeseby Debbie Thomas

In today’s post I broke my own rule of “400 words” or less. This was just to important and beautiful not to share. Thanks for reading. – Bill