Thursday, July 28, 2011

Honoring the Wrong Things

Below is an article written by Chase Rotman. This article was published online at Cornerstone Christian Church's website in Shiloh, Illinois where Chase, a student at St. Louis Christian College, is spending his summer as an intern. Before leaving for college last fall, Chase was an active leader in our student ministry at Tomoka Christian Church. I was blessed by reading this article and I know that you will be as well.

When I was younger I had this theory that whatever I prayed for, God would in time make it come true. Sitting at Bible Study Fellowship as a young lad, I can remember believing that God will answer ALL prayers in time. I spent a large majority of my childhood prayers on material items. I believed that if I prayed every night for a PlayStation, God would eventually have to grant me one, just like Santa would grant me any present I asked for. I also wanted so much to be like the celebrities in the world. I wanted to be a star on Nickelodeon (Disney wasn’t cool yet). I longed for what these people had, and even sometimes for what my friends had. I would seek out friendships for what they could do for me over other friends that might have been more beneficial for my spiritual or maturity growth.

In James 1, we see James addressing the church for the same exact reasons. They were becoming obsessed with the riches of the rich instead of caring for the needs of the poor. How often do we struggle with the same problem of prizing possessions over people, or making distinctions between people solely because of what they possess? Let’s take a look at what James has to say on the matter:

James 2:5-7: “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”

James isn’t against the rich, but he is against the rich person’s character. As Christians we shouldn’t be giving respect to persons who own better clothes, cars, houses but we should be giving respect to all Christians in equality and in unity with one another.

If we look at the historical context of the passage, James writes “are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?” The rich are more likely those who are looking to collect their debt from the poor that took loans out and have yet paid them back. James proves here that the rich person’s character is not right. As William Barclay states: “It is not riches that James is condemning; it is the conduct of riches without sympathy.”

James tells us that we have “dishonored the poor man,” by ignoring the poor for their poverty! It’s not so much the treatment the rich person receives as it was the shabby treatment the poor person received. We must accept that our continued focus on materials of this world have brought disunity among us. James is searching for equality and unity within the church!

Likewise, we find that Jesus constantly tried to unify people to one another and to him! If we look at Matthew 18, Jesus gives us the parable of the lost sheep; one sheep leaves the flock and the shepherd reunites the lost sheep to the flock. Jesus also gave us laws about how to reconcile with our brother when he sins against us; Jesus is looking for us to be united! When Peter asks Jesus “How many times must I forgive my brother?” and Jesus replies “70 times 7.” Jesus is constantly looking for us to be united with one another and with God, regardless of who we are or what we have.

In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted and Marshall receive an invitation to a very exclusive party with the richest of the rich in New York City. When the group gets inside the party, Ted begins to idolize these people. He sees people with outstanding degrees, important jobs. He sees wealth, fame, and popularity. Marshall doesn’t see any of this; Marshall would much rather be hanging out with the rest of their friends instead of at this very elegant party. We are not called to be a Ted! We must not favor the rich for their riches, because in the process we can danger relationships with those people closest to us and we can also harm our relationship with God.

In Colossians 3:5 Paul writes “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” When we put to death these things that can be classified as material objects in this world, our walk with Christ gets better. It won’t be perfect but God will work everything for good if we continue to have faith and love him (Romans 8:28).

How then are we supposed to keep our focus on God? How are we supposed to put to death these things that are materials? Paul writes in Titus 2:12 that we should continue to train “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” We should always be looking to make progress in our faith.

Questions to Consider:

1. What material things in your life take your focus off of the church and what Christ is doing with the church? How can you help the church be unified on a constant basis?

2. Read Titus 2:12. What kind of life should we seek to live?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harvest Time International

I want to share with you about a local ministry in Port Orange that provides assistance with food, household, and hygiene products for families who struggle to make ends meet. Harvest Time International has served the Central Florida community since 1994 and recently opened a location in Port Orange at 3350 S. Ridgewood Ave. Participation in the program does require prior qualification by their caseworkers, however, very few are turned away. Those who qualify for food stamps are automatically qualified to participate. For more information contact Harvest Time International locally at 386-526-4736 or check out their website here. Here is a testimonial by my Administrative Assistant, Barb Kennedy, who has participated in this program:

"My experience at Harvest Time International has been great. The registration was quick and easy and the people were very kind and gracious to me. This ministry is basically a grocery store with significantly reduced prices. Items are donated by grocery stores due to damaged packaging, overstock, or expiration dates. Items that are expired are generally only a month or so past the date. They have many different types of items including a huge selection of cereal (ranging in price from $0.50-1.50), cookies, canned fruit/veggies, ready-to-eat meals, pasta, pasta sauce, bread (free - limit 4 per family), toilet paper, paper towels, soap, and other various items. I would highly recommend anyone that who needs help to make ends meet visit this ministry."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Power of Love Ministry

Congratulations to the Power of Love ministry! They have reached their 2 year mark and have grown incredibly since their inception. For those who don't know, the Power of Love ministry's mission is to witness to women working in local strip clubs through monthly outreaches where they give out gift bags and have also done food outreaches. They have successfully reached 7 of the 8 strip clubs on a monthly basis in Volusia County in just 2 years! This year alone they added a new strip club to their mission, began an on-site prayer team to cover their outreach team while on the field, and had 2 food outreaches in 5 clubs. They also began their "Breathe" support group for women who are working or who have worked in the stripping industry. Congratulations to the team on their 2nd anniversary and for boldy taking the gospel to those who really need to know God's love.

To participate in the Power of Love ministry you can email Jen Colella here.