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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Miracles

A couple years ago, this band called Insane Clown Posse came out with this song called "Miracles."  I knew very little about this band, and actually only heard about the song because it was parodied on SNL.  And with good reason.  While this creepy hip hop group, whose genre is also described as "horrorcore," was actually being very serious about their amazement at miracles, some of their examples of miracles were hilarious.  Pet cats, rainbows, dirt and magnets are just a few of the many things described as miracles in the song.  The music video is super entertaining, so you may want to watch it for yourself.  But I will warn you that these dudes are pretty bizarre and the song definitely has some explicit lyrics.  So, for example, Mom, you won't like it.

While I'm not sure that everything from ICP's song should be considered miraculous, I'm glad they find wonder in the world.  As much as those guys creep me out a little, I have to agree that miracles happen.  Often times I think the discussion of miracles focuses on whether or not miracles exist, what constitutes a miracle, or how they happen.  I have thought about these questions as well.  Recently, however, my thoughts on miracles shifted from the if, what and how to the why.

About a month or so ago, Andy Root came to speak at a training for youth workers that we held at Youthfront.  He had great insights on the struggles of being youth and of course on the role of youth workers in the midst of these struggles.  It was great stuff, and in my "glad to be done with seminary" phase of life, I of course neglected to take notes.  But I did pull out my phone and type one note that really hit me.  Andy addressed miracles in his presentation, and basically said that miracles are for the church, to remind us of the future hope we have of a world where suffering doesn't exist.  Whenever something bad happens, people pray.  And it seems that no matter how much people pray, sometimes the bad wins, but sometimes something miraculous happens.

When Andy spoke about this, I was immediately reminded of my not-really-but-basically niece, Ellie.  Over two years ago, when she was 4, Ellie swallowed a penny.  As time passed and the penny did not, Ellie had an x-ray to see if it was still in her body somewhere.  The x-ray surprisingly revealed that Ellie had a large tumor wrapped around her spine.   Long story short, doctors were able to remove the entire tumor and Ellie has had no trace of cancer for about two years now.  I really believe that it was a miracle.

But Andy's talk put this in a whole new perspective for me.  That miracle was not just so that Ellie could live, or so those of us that love her dearly would not lose her.  The way that God flipped around that circumstance should cause all of us as believers to see the future hope of a life beyond this one where death no longer exists.  Under normal circumstances, Ellie may have died because of that tumor, just like terrible situations like that happen all the time.  But her miracle points me to a God who has a bigger plan for all of us.

When miracles happen, it is tempting to think it's because we all prayed enough, or because God is on our side, or because we deserved it.  But instead, miracles should cause us to stand in awe of the God of the universe, who is our one and only hope.

Friday, November 30, 2012

What's mine is yours

Note:  This post is actually from September of 2012, but it was the first of a new way I'm planning to blog, so I transfered it from my old blog to this one.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 2:42-47
Oh the early church. I have heard people cite this passage in churches and conferences so many times over the years, myself being one of them, that I practically memorized it without even trying. In May, I gave a farewell sermon at 4Cs and used this verse to talk about how the church should look. And today, this passage came back to me as I'm trying to read through the book of Acts. Clearly haven't gotten super far yet, but I'm on my way. This passage always stops me in my tracks though, probably because I think we are so far from this in America.

I am reading my old seminary textbook while reading through Acts, "From Pentecost to Patmos" by none other than the brilliant man that almost scared me away from seminary in my first semester, Craig Blomberg. He, like many pastors I've heard, said that this passage describes the four things that should be included whenever a church gathers: "preaching or teaching God's word, fellowship, the Lord's Supper (Communion or the Eucharist) and prayer." What struck me today was that he went on to say that fellowship is "far more than simply small talk over a meal! Rather, it involves communal sharing, particularly of one's material possessions." Wow. I'm not sure that my fellowship involves that. So is it really fellowship at all?

I know I am guilty of this. Like many Americans, I grew up believing that what's mine is mine. I can remember going to the mall with friends in middle school, and we usually each had some money, obviously not ours at all but our parents'. If I were to buy something and my friend did not contribute monetarily, then she did not get to share in the pretzel or whatever it was I just bought. I don't know that I was ever actually taught that explicitly (I doubt it), but the way that the world deals with money was ingrained in me from a young age.

As I have grown up, I have tried to become much more generous with my money by not hesitating to buy people meals or coffee or whatever, but I still feel that sense creep up in me that says, what's mine is mine, so make them pay for their stuff. I hate it. Because I think it goes completely against the teachings of Jesus.

I have been contemplating this a lot lately, as I am in a season of raising financial support so that I can join the staff of a non-profit Christian organization called Youthfront, which does wonderful ministry to youth and youth workers in the Kansas City area. I believe in what they do, and I am excited to work with them, but support raising is the very difficult but necessary first step to joining staff. During this process, I have been convicted of my own issues with giving people money in the past because I think with something like support raising, that evil "what's mine is mine" monster rears its ugly head the most. I am not saying this because I am judging those I'm asking, but because I see it most in my own life.

We have such a poor view of money. We want to accumulate it and then we want to hide from everyone else how much we have so that they don't come asking for it or judging us for it. "It's a private matter," people will say. But is it? Do we really think Jesus would say, "Oh yeah, make as much money as you can, and then don't tell anyone what you have. Give away just enough so you don't feel guilty about it, and then spend the rest on a bunch of really really nice stuff that you don't really need." Nope. Jesus told people to give away all they had, to leave possessions behind, and said good job to the woman who only had two coins to her name and gave them both away.

I know I have a long way to go, because living in the generosity that the Bible calls us to is an uphill battle against the current of our culture. But I have seen glimpses of this generosity in my own life in the past from people who knew what it meant to share in what they had. My prayer is that those kinds of people will step out again and willingly join my team of supporters so that I can work to try to bring Jesus to youth in Kansas City. And my other prayer is that I will be completely transformed in how I deal with my own finances. It's one of the hardest places to seek what Jesus wants as opposed to what the world wants. But I want to live in the mindset of "what's mine is yours."
"You won't become poorer, you will become richer by giving." -Henri Nouwen